What God Has Actually Said
Wednesday After the Baptism of our Lord
16 January 2019
Self-invented good works are the bulwark of false religion. Such works are always connected with great pomp and show. People are "wowed" by the glory of such works. People come running to see what is happening when they are displayed. Often churchly institutions are tempted to succumb to this false religiosity that puts the emphasis on the greatness of our works. And yet every work that is not commanded by God in the Ten Commandments is hollow and useless. God condemns even church rites offered to placate His wrath, because Christ alone is the propitiation for our sin, even the sin of the whole world (1Jn 2:2). Our church works can never substitute for our Substitute and His work.
Besides the claim that such works are pleasing to God in and of themselves, it is also thought that such church works are superior to the humble service given by Christians in their daily vocations as mother, father, employer, employee, student, teacher, and so on. For example, it is not God pleasing that we should neglect the Christian instruction of our children in favor of leading a Bible study at the office for our coworkers. God has commanded that we see to the religious instruction of our family. He will bless the humble work of teaching little children the Creed and the Lord's Prayer, even if it does not earn us the praise of the office Bible study. We know that we should focus on teaching our own little children because the Ten Commandments explicitly state our responsibilities over against our own families according to the fourth, sixth, and tenth Commandments (at least!). Therefore, let us seek only the humble works that God has actually commanded.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"I am of the opinion, indeed, that here one will find his hands full and will have enough to do to keep these commandments: meekness, patience, love towards enemies, chastity, kindness, and other such virtues and their implications (Gal 5:22-23). But such works are not of value and make no display in the world's eyes. For these are not peculiar and proud works. They are not restricted to particular times, places, rights, and customs. They are common, everyday, household works that one neighbor can do for another. Therefore, they are not highly regarded.
"But the other works cause people to open wide their eyes and ears. Men aid this effect in the great display, expense, and magnificent buildings with which they adorn such works, so that everything shines and glitters. There they waft incense, they sing and ring bells, they light tapers and candles, so that nothing else can be seen or heard. For when a priest stands there in a surplice embroidered with gold thread, or layman continues all day upon his knees in church, that is regarded as a most precious work, which no one can praise enough. But when a poor girl tends a little child and faithfully does what she is told, that is considered nothing. For what else should monks and nuns seek in their cloisters?" 

 Martin Luther, 
Large Catechism,
Galatians 5:16-26

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (ESV)
O Lord, You who adorn our good works with the righteousness of Your only begotten Son, grant that we might seek to provide humble service in our vocations according to your holy Ten Commandments by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.
For Preceptor Joel Humann and the community at Westfield House, Cambridge, that God the Lord would guard and keep them under the wings of His mercy
For the family of Elda Kieschnick, whom the Lord took to Himself, that they would grieve with hope in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come
For Ted Krey and all our missionaries in the Caribbean, that the Lord of the church would grant His gifts to them that He might be made manifest to the people whom they serve
Art: RENI, Guido  Baptism of Jesus  (c. 1623)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2019
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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