Friday, July 2, 2010

"The Essentials of the Bible"

 [I'm not blogging about books.  This is just a devotional book, not a real book.  This is just a real short thing.]

This devotional book  has many advantages.  It's not so big.  I keep it in the car.  The devotions have a short Bible passage and then a couple of paragraphs from Luther.  In no time and effort flat you have gleaned something wonderful.

I usually read it at odd times and at random.  I haul it out when someone should have prepared a devotion and did not and give it to them to read out.  Voila, the meeting has been graced with scripture and exposition, at least a minimum of it.  It's also a book I've given away a few times over the last year.

Last time, the page opened to this one.

Nov. 6

You know the commandments:  Never commit adultery.  Never murder.  Never steal.  Never give false testimony.  Honor your father and your mother.  LUKE 18: 20

God has so ordered matters so that a Christian who might not be able to read the Bible should still learn the Ten Commandments, the Apostle's Creed, and the Lord's Prayer.  The essentials of Scripture and everything else a Christian needs to know are summed up in these three.  They are written so briefly and clearly that no one has an excuse.  No one should complain that it's too much or too difficult.  In essence, a person only has to know three things to be saved.

First, he must know what he should and shouldn't do.  Second, when he sees that he isn't able to do good or refrain from doing evil in his own strength, he must know where he can find the strength.  Third, he must know where he should look for this strength.  It's similar to being sick.  To begin with, a sick person needs to know what his illness is and what he can and cannot do.  After that, he needs to know where he can find the medicine that will make him well.  Finally, he must want this medicine, obtain it, or have someone bring it to him.  So the Ten Commandments teach a person to recognize his illness.  They help him see why he cannot do or refrain from doing.  They help him see himself as a sinner.  Then, the Apostle's Creed shows him were he can find the medicine--the grace--to help him become faithful so that he can keep the commandments.  The Apostle's Creed points out that God and his mercy is offered in Christ.  Finally, the Lord's Prayer teaches a believer how to desire and obtain all this through orderly and humble prayer.  In this way, he will receive the cure and be saved.

I was struck by this one, because we have been talking about law and gospel and  the limit of the law, etc. and it is always difficult to get this right, largely because different things apply to different people at different times.  This is why the whole daily emphasis on catechism, and mediation on the Essentials, needs to be ever fresh.  This is something to be lived daily more than it is a matter of systematics.  I am only beginning to understand by what Luther meant by going over and over the same stuff.  It is ever meaningful in living an always repenting Christian life, fearing and loving God so that we will treat our neighbor in a right way, so help us God.

The other thing that struck me is that through the "humble" and "ordered" way of praying the Lord's Prayer, we will receive that we ask for--grace and all good things.  We always say that prayer or singing/music is not a means of grace, but is only not in the way in that it is not physical.  We are promised that we will receive if we ask in the right way, in Christ's name.  The Lord's Prayer always counts as a right prayer.  It also happens to be "Word", having come from Christ's very lips.  And we should believe when we pray, that we will receive, including the forgiveness of sins.  It's good to pray things from scripture.

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