Holy Trinity, Proper A1
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Deuteronomy 4:2; 39-40 Sermon
June 15, 2014
Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal & With One Voice):
TLH 246 "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty"
TLH 541 "O Blessed Holy Trinity"
TLH 250 "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name"
WOV 734 "Softly & Tenderly Jesus Is Calling"
YOU CAN’T TALK THE TALK, IF YOU DON’T WALK THE WALK
TEXT: “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you….Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.”
A pastor by the name of A. C. Dixon tells the story about a little girl in his congregation, by the name of Sarah, who was 8 years old. Sarah was a bit of a problem, as she would act up and disrupt others, throw temper tantrums if she didn’t get her own way, and generally would either ignore, or do exactly the opposite of what anyone would tell her.
As you might have guessed, Sarah’s parents did not believe in discipline, or teaching any sort of obedience. They thought that she should be allowed to express herself freely, and learn things for herself in her own way, rather than being forced into any sort of behavior patterns.
Well, it was winter time, and very cold; and Sarah, like many other children contracted the measles. Fortunately however, she wasn’t very sick with them; but she still had to stay home from school and stay in bed. Of course Sarah didn’t like that very much, and it was all that her mother could do to keep her there.
One day, Sarah’s mother had to run next door to the neighbor’s house for about 15 minutes. She left very strict orders for Sarah to stay in bed and keep warm. Sarah promised that she would; but as soon as her mother had gone, she decided that she wanted to get some toys from the unheated attic in the house. She never had to obey before, why should she now? She could go, get what she wanted, and get back before her mother returned, and nobody would ever know the difference.
But Sarah got a bad chill from what she did, and in her weakened condition, she contracted pneumonia.
Pastor Dixon concludes his story by saying, “Just a little over two weeks later, we conducted Sarah’s funeral.”
A famous pediatrician also makes a related observation: “When it comes to serious illness, the child who has been taught to obey stands four times the chance of recovery that the spoiled and undisciplined child does.”
This is quite a lesson in obedience, isn’t it? It is not only necessary to have various rules and regulations, but there also needs to be some sort of directive or demand to comply with them.
Our text for today is from the 4th chapter of Deuteronomy. He heading above this chapter in my Bible simply reads, “obedience commanded.” And that is the topic of our sermon for today. Obedience. And on the basis of our text for today, I’m going to use as my theme something that is very cliché. It's a phrase that’s probably been used way too much, but I’m going to use it anyway: “You can’t talk the talk, if you won’t walk the walk.”
Our text for today is an address Moses is making to the Israelites. Remember, these Israelites were a disobedient and rebellious bunch of people, and why God ever put up with the likes of them is beyond me. They could talk plenty. They could come up with all sorts of religious terms and prayers and words. They could converse freely about God.
But obedience? Now that was something entirely different. These Israelites could talk the talk all right, but the command for obedience meant they also had to walk the walk. And this was something they balked at time after time. They wanted to be God’s chosen people. They talked about it and they enjoyed it—as long as nobody asked them to do anything. They liked talking the talk, but bitterly complained about walking the walk.
And so, Moses gives them the command of the Lord, and says in our text from Deuteronomy 4: “Do not add or subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.” And then he gives the promise: “That it may go well with you and your children after you, and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.” Yes, the Lord promised to bless them if they would walk the walk.
But that’s what Moses is telling the Israelites. What does Jesus have to say? In our Gospel lesson for today from the very last chapter of Matthew, where he is giving the Great Commission, Jesus tells us that part of the process of making disciples of all nations is to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” In John chapter 14, verse 23 Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Do you hear the word “obey” here? There are many more instances as well where Jesus asks his followers to obey! “Take up your cross and follow me;” in other words, walk the walk.
How do Christians observe this today? We can find a lot of people who bear the name “Christian” in one form or another, who are more than eager to bear the name and talk the talk, but are not prepared to walk the walk.
Sin is not a popular topic. We live in a society that is very permissive. The world has set standards that don’t agree with God’s standards. And so, people want to adapt and change clear Bible teachings in a way that will agree with society’s standards. This happens so abundantly that we experience this at about every turn.
It’s sad to see, but this is the type of relationship that people want with God. They want to call upon him and enjoy his blessings. They want to take everything that God has to offer, but only on their terms. They want to talk the talk, but they don’t want to walk the walk.
Oh, rules, rules, rules! There are so may! We live in a society with libraries full of law books, and we can’t figure them out, so we have to hire a lawyer to figure them out for us. But they’re important. We couldn’t exist as a society without them, and having them put into practice.
For example, most of us drive; and getting a driver’s license isn’t the easiest task. Before you’re given the privilege of driving, you have to know the rules of the road. After you’ve gotten your license, you are expected to obey those various road signs and rules. To not obey them, or to make up your own rules would be very dangerous. So if you want a driver’s license, you have to know the rules; and if you want to keep your license, you have to obey those rules. If you talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.
And what about us, sitting here today? We stand, we sing, we confess our sins, we listen to Scripture, we pray, and we confess our faith with a creed. We’re Christians, and these are the things Christians do when they gather together for worship. We say things like, “Yes, I believe the Bible…yes, I believe in Jesus Christ as my Saviour…oh yes, I’m a good Christian person." We can all talk the talk, we’re experts at it! But are we ready to walk the walk…are we ready to do what Scripture says…are we ready to put our faith in to action?
I believe that we have many instances in our lives where we have to, as the old saying goes, “put our money where our mouth is,” or in more vernacular terminology, “put up or shut up.” And that’s the way it is with our faith as well. James writes that “Faith without actions is dead.” Jesus says, “Blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it,” as well as “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” By all means, talk the talk; but also be ready to walk the walk.
We get terribly uncomfortable when we talk about obedience, don’t we? That’s because we’re human, and disobedient by nature. By nature, we would like to have a “Wal-Mart faith,” where we look for those “specials and sales” and where we can select what we want to. We want a religion that isn’t going to cost us too much, and that we can tailor make to suit ourselves.
That’s nature, that’s the will of man, and that’s the way that so many churches of today are going. There are so many religions where their intent is to cater to the will of man, and not to the will of God. We want the will of God to be our will, and not the other way around. We want it easy, without any effort. We want to do the popular thing. Okay, we’ll walk the walk, God, but it has to be the way we want to go.
But like I said, we all get a little uncomfortable when we talk about obedience. And that’s because we see our disobedience. Some will try to rationalize this away; however this is our recognition of sin in our lives. And when we see this, then we must look to God.
Here is where I’d like to turn this whole thing around for a minute. Let’s apply this same principle to God. “Okay God, you’ve talked a lot of talk. You’ve given some 38 prophecies in the Old Testament about a Saviour. You’ve promised forgiveness. Are you ready to send your Son, Jesus Christ to this earth? Jesus, are you ready to walk the walk in my world? Are you ready to walk the walk in my shoes, being tempted in every way as I am, and yet be without sin? Jesus, are you ready to walk the walk to Calvary, for me?”
These are rhetorical questions. Of course we know the answers. God talked the talk, and he walked the walk. Jesus Christ walked that walk perfectly, so we could be the righteousness of God. The forgiveness of our sins is the result of that perfect walk of Christ. That perfect obedience of Jesus justifies disobedient and wandering sinners like you and me. And God gives us faith to believe and to make this wonderful walk of Christ’s our walk too.
Yes, God talked the talk and walked the walk. And do you know what? He hasn’t stopped either. God continues to talk and walk. He talks to us through his Word and the sacraments, and he walks with his children always. God the Holy Spirit talks to us and walks with us today, right now!
God asks something of us. He tells us to be both hearers and doers of his Word. If we’re going to claim to be Christians, if we claim to be his children, if we claim salvation by grace through faith in Christ, then we’d better be ready to walk the walk if we’re going to talk the talk.
I know that all of this sounds rather demanding. After all, we aren’t perfect. Our sinfulness in comparison to God’s requirements of perfection can make us despair. Things can seem so futile at times. How can we walk and talk the way God wants when we are sinful?
This always leads us back to our Saviour and his walk for us. God has given us the faith to accept him. God has forgiven us for all those times we have stumbled on our walk of faith. If walking the walk seems like a grim prospect, it shouldn’t, because every step of that walk is with Jesus who loves us and blesses us and keeps us always.
In our text for today (as well as in other places in the Bible), God promises to bless those who obey his commands. He tells us to obey his commands “So that it may go well with you and your children…” That’s a tremendous promise, isn’t it? Sure we look to do the God pleasing thing in our lives out of love for God, and what he has done for us; and that should be enough really; but then God promises to bless those who obey his commandments too!
If you remember 8 year old Sarah, had she been obedient, she would not have caught pneumonia and died. But due to her disobedience, and her parents’ lack of discipline, she couldn’t see the blessings of obedience. And it cost Sarah her life.
And so, if we’re going to talk the talk, we have to be not only ready, but also willing to walk the walk as well. Obeying God may not be the popular thing to do. People may ridicule us. Saying, “Thus saith the Lord” might go against popular opinion. But God promises to bless us, and not make us popular.
We don’t know where walking the walk of God will always lead us. Sometimes we may not see the sense in God’s ways. Sometimes we might think we know better than God. And sometimes the path that God has given us to walk looks hopeless.
But we know that Jesus always walks with us. He forgives us for those times we stumble, and he sets us right again. God has promised to bless us and do what’s best for us when we walk down the path of obedience.
I’d like to close today with a little poem by George McDonald entitled “No Flowers but a Crown.”
I said, “Let me walk in the field.”
He said, “No, walk in the town.”
I said, “There are no flowers there.”
He said, “No flowers, but a crown.”
I said, “But the skies are black,
There is nothing but noise and din.”
And he wept as he sent me back,
“There is more,” he said, “There is sin.”
I said, “But the air is thick
And fogs are veiling the sun.”
He answered, “Yet souls are sick,
And souls in the dark undone.”
I said, “I shall miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say.”
He answered, “Choose tonight
If I am to miss you, or they.”
I pleaded for time to be given.
He said, “Is it hard to decide?
It will not seem hard in heaven,
To have followed the steps of your guide.”
I cast one look at the fields,
Then set my face to the town.
He said, “My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for the crown?”
Then into his hand went mine,
And into my heart came he,
And now I walk in a light divine
The path I had feared to see.
No, you can’t talk the talk, if you won’t walk the walk. You can talk all you want to, but if the walk isn’t there, it is all but meaningless. We’ve got the talking down to a fine art; and now it is time that we all start walking.