Posts Tagged grace
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. [NRSV]
Three perspectives about sin:
- I determine my reality and morality, you are responsible for your own.
- I occasionally sin, but not the “big ones” and if I do Jesus will get me out of hot water.
- I am a sinner, but Jesus covers me with Grace, so its ok to continue to do as I please and let Jesus step in when I need him. (Oh, that’s basically the same as number 2)
- I am a sinner and no matter how hard I try I will continue to be a broken vessel, in a broken world, and totally rely on God’s grace in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to renew and guide me, every hour of every day.
Most of the world lives with the confidence of option number one. I am the master of my own life and sin is either the infraction of a moral code or the ignorance or carelessness of someone else.
First John is a letter appealing to us in our weary state of sin to remember that sin is more than breaking rules, disobeying the law, or having anything to do with our definition of appropriate behavior.
We Confess Our Sin
Genesis 1:27 asserts that we’ve been made in the image of the Creator. Like God, we have the capacity to love and care, to communicate, and to create. Like God we’re free, and we’re responsible. We’ve been made, says Psalm 8, “a little lower than God” and crowned “with glory and honor.” We believe that the entire created order has been designed for the well-being of all its creatures and as a place where all people can dwell in covenant with God.
But we do not live as God intends. Again and again, we break the covenant relationship between God and us. We turn our backs on God and on God’s expectations for us. We deny our birthright, the life of wholeness and holiness for which we were created. We call this alienation from God, sin.
A distinction should be made between sin and sins. We use the word sins to denote transgressions or immoral acts. We speak of “sins of omission and commission.” These are real enough and serious, but they’re not the essential issue.
The issue is sin in the singular. Sin is our alienation from God, our willful act of turning from God as the center of life and making our own selves and our own wills the center. From this fundamental sin, our various sins spring. Sin is estrangement of at least four kinds:
Separation from God
Sin is breaking the covenant, separating ourselves from the One who is our origin and destiny. It’s trying to go it alone, to be out of touch with the God who is the center of life. Based on the story in Genesis 3, the church has described this break in dramatic terms: the Fall.
Separation from other people
In our sin, we distance ourselves from others. We put ourselves at the center of many relationships, exploiting others for our own advantage. Instead of loving people and using things, we love things and use people. When confronted with the human need, we may respond with token acts of kindness or with lip service or perhaps not at all.
For some people and some groups, we’re totally indifferent or actively hostile. Sin is a denial of our common humanity and our common destiny on this one small planet.
Separation from the created order
In our sin, we separate ourselves from the natural environment. Greedily we turn upon it, consuming it, destroying it, befouling it. As natural resources dwindle, as possibilities increase for long-term damage to the atmosphere and seas, we pause to wonder. But our chief concern is for our own survival, not for the beauty and unity of all God’s creation.
Separation from ourselves
We turn even from our own center, from the goodness, happiness, and holiness that is our divinely created potential. Sometimes it seems that there are two wills warring within us. As Paul put it, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15).
Paul continues: “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). Like Paul, we discover that we are powerless to extricate ourselves from sin. Though we work ever so earnestly at various means of saving ourselves—being good, going to church, reading the Bible—these in themselves cannot save us. Sin is not a problem to be solved. It’s our radical estrangement from God, a separation that only God can heal by a radical act of love. We yearn for this reunion, this reconciliation, this redemption, this salvation.
From United Methodist Member’s Handbook, Revised by George Koehler (Discipleship Resources, 2006), pp. 74-75
Sin is the reality of three important pillars/foundations:
- Sin is I think and act in ways that separate me from God and God’s people.
- Sin is the evidence that I am choosing and behaving in ways that distance myself from God and others.
- Sin is the evidence that I am not trying, working, trusting God to ‘save’ me in my daily life.
These correspond to the three rules of what it means to be a United Methodist:
- Do no harm
- Do all the good you are able to do
- Practice being in love a loving and trusting relationship with God and the people of God.
We live in a broken and sinful world.
- When people, groups, governments, cultures, businesses, families, parties, agenda organizations, classes, families couples, and individuals declare and decide they know a better way to order and understand our self, our world, God and all in the universe that is OTHER than God’s design and purpose, we distance ourselves, we move away from God and this separation is sin.
Not all sin has the same immediate consequence, but all sin is a movement away from God.
In God’s grace, we have the ability to repent,
1. to acknowledge that we are wrong, incomplete, not the designer but the created, and we choose or ‘re-choose’ to follow, trust and seek God’s way. Turning away from our own strength, heart, soul, and mind and affirming our reliance on God and the people of God who are also following God.
Repentance is our way of returning to God, move from separation from God, moving back, thinking back toward God.
While we might need to repent every day. The hope in 1st John is that we might not continue to sin the first place
The Three Rules of Methodist Theology are intended to help us keep from sinning.
- Do no harm
- Do all the Good you can
- Participate in worship, studying, and serving and practicing the things of God so that we continually grow, moving and living in God.
The great divide in our culture is who is on the ‘correct’ side of what God is doing and believing and revealing.
We look at scripture as our first and primary resource. Jesus is our best example and our means of repentance and grace we discussed above.
Jesus preached to groups and to individuals without regard to sin, rather because all are sinful. God is revealed and shows up in Jesus because we are separated from God.
With every person, who comes to Jesus, or Jesus reaches out to be with, he accepts in sin, forgives, and calls them to sin no more.
God loves us no matter what, and is ready and willing to forgive us, but expects us to not living in the safety-net of grace.
Get back on the high-wire and live life fully, trusting God to be the source of balance, force, and function.
The three rules are simple enough to learn and remember, but built into them is the affirmation that we know without God, we are lost in sin/ we are separated from God, our purpose, our meaning, and our fulfillment.
- If someone says that don’t need God, they likely don’t know God and cross the boundary into resisting God’s grace.
- If someone says that DO need God, they try to trust God at times, but generally, wing-it their own way until that breaks down or becomes overwhelming. [ The need to practice the three rules is key ]
- If someone says that need God but are not reflecting God’s heart, they may be saying or thinking they need God but are further over the boundary from God than they suppose.
1 John is affirming that Jesus is working on you, and me and all of us and the whole world.
Keep in mind that Jesus offended many people, ‘followers and ignore-rs.’ [Our culture is lost in the murky waters of what is offensive to the destruction of us all.]
1 John reminds us that Christ is interested in loving, saving and extending grace to us all. —All who will refrain from moving away.
- Is my way of living, thinking, acting revealing my trust of God’s word and God’s love?
- Is my way of living, thinking and acting revealing my self-awareness that without God I am alone and lost.
- Is my way of living, thinking and active revealing God’s desire to rescue and prevent, but not without choosing God’s saving help.
Examples: Am I loving rules more than a relationship with God?
- Am I loving my comfort over your discomfort?
- Am I loving my interpretation compared with what God is about to reveal to me through your faithfulness?
- Am I loving my understanding of love more than God’s word call me to go and sin no more?
- Sin is walking in the dark with saying “I can see fine.”
God is the light that exposes the darkness in all of us, calling us to trust Christ actions AND words.
Our culture is in a relentless attack on the body of the church, the scriptures, and the understanding of what God’s will and purpose for us truthfully is.
There is a collective and corporate sin, darkness leading into darkness for fear of the light. For the light of Christ may reveal that those who love without the Word and those who trust with Word without love are both wrong.
Back to the three rules:
The first two are directed toward our personal actions, how we love and avoid hurting.
The third is the affirmation that the Bible, the church and the traditions of the faith filter and keep us away from sin.
The key is not to keep one or two of the rules to faithfully balance all three.
- Am I faithful in following Christ?
- Am I a sinner?
- Am I a United Methodist?
Practice all three rules and you will find the grace of Christ drawing you toward God and your enemies in love. This is the measure. God is not only interest in you, God longs for us all.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.. You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want.But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. [NSRV]
Love is KEY
Paul’s “if you only hear one thing I say” phrase piggybacks Jesus answer to the question about the greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Some people don’t love themselves, don’t respect themselves, don’t value their life so are they excused treating others the way they view and treat themselves? No. For all the easy to remember, foundation principles, core sound-bites are an oxymoron. Therefore Paul follow that with an example: If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
A clearer explanation is to:
- Love others first
- Love others the way you would want to be loved
- Love others first, the way you want to be loved and you will Love as God loves.
- Even with this clarification, the advice is given to walk by the Spirit.
Walk By the Spirit.
Admonition: Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
In a culture that prefers shades-of-grey rather than black-and-white, yes-or-no, we have more trouble with Paul’s teaching than we dare admit.
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever you want.
Walk where every you want to walk, as slow or fast, jumping or crawling, BUT
stay on the path.
Follow the leader.
Walk by the Spirit.
When what I want is lined up with what God wants there is no problem. But what about when:
I have such a good idea.
Such a simple deviation?
When everyone else is taking that road not taken that diverges into a yellow wood, who wants to follow the Spirit then?
One of Frances’s teacher was giving them instructions on social media, she said, if it would make your grandmother happy AND proud, then it’s probably ok to post your words and pictures.
Paul states: It should be clear, it ought to be obvious, BUT it is difficult to see the obvious when our hearts and minds are set on ourselves, our fears, our brokeness and that of others.
Paul offers himself as a role model on many occasions, but most of us are not too quick to travel the known world to support others, reject family and traditions that were misinformed and misguided, and to be run out of town, ridiculed and imprisoned for our faith and trust in the Spirit.
Therefore: He gives us a sample list:
“And the like”
- sexual and physical immorality
- Impurity –
- debauchery -allegiance to corruption
- selfish ambition
- emotional immorality
- hatred, jealousy, fits of rage
- Community/Social immorality
- and the like.
- This list is not prioritized
- While we might be clear about sexual and emotional immoralities, what about Social immorality? When we step off the path to the “Left”, we are not spiritual progressive. When we step off the path to the “Right”, we are not spiritual conservative.
- The List is not exclusive
- The catch-all is “and the like.”
- There are others, so don’t be legalistic and thing these are our only temptations and points of sin
- The List is NOT a Check List to try either,
- These let us know when we are out of bounds. It is grace that gives us a way back on the path, on the wagon, and in the heart of God. The Spirit will give us power and guidance if we trust and follow.
FRUITS of the Spirit.
- Relationship with God
- Relationship with Others
- “And the like”
Like the obvious OFF-THE-PATH, these are the obvious “On-the-Path” fruits.
- This list is not prioritized
- Those that relate to our relationship with God and Others are equally important.
- The List is not exclusive
- Too many over time have tried to make this an exclusive list, when there are as many ways to be fruitful in the spirit as their are ways to not.
- Don’t be legalistic and thing these are our only points of evidence.
- The List IS a Check List to try,
- It is grace that gives us a way back on the path, on the wagon, and in the heart of God.. The Spirit wil give us power and guidance if we will trust and follow.
So WHAT? Paul’s advice is to “Keep in Step”
In step with the spirit, not our neighbor.
Hiking at Glisson is “point” and “tail” most experienced hikers setting the pace and keeping the group together.
Bookends of protect accountability and ???
Stay on the path Bilbo Baggins.
Luke shared with us that the graduates practices marching out of the tunnel and into their seats at graduation for four hours to make smooth turns the 812 graduates to enter and be seated in less than five minutes, as compared to the 60 faculty entering single file over 8 minutes)
When you get out of step or off the path there is uncertainty.
Freedom comes on the path of the Spirit.
Stepping out is dangerous. Slippery and obviously out of bounds of the spirit and the law
Love us the freedom to be in the heart of God
(MissionInsite: Demographic Report: Baptist and Methodist in a ten mile radius are down 1-2 percent and people who report spiritual but not church are up 2-3 percent.) Who is leading whom, where?
Hear the Good News: God loves us even though we get out of step. God’s spirit is in direct connection with our spirit. Paul’s advice is to trust God, find our purpose and freedom in God. Trust the Spirit and walk in God’s direction.
Still not sure which direction? Join us every Sunday, find a class, study or small group, open your bible, read-study-share-question-grow; ask for direction and support in praying, serving, sharing…
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ “ [NRSV]
Shootings, terror incidences, oppresses and abuses!! It feels as if each day brings terrible news of violence and tragedies. We either struggle to renew our claim to hope or add to the calluses built on the previous tsunamis of chaos and generations of apathy.
But from these witnesses of evil we look and hope for the good. We hear people ask:
- Is the racism of the systems that cause police to unjustly do their jobs or is it the lawlessness of thug culture to blame? Which is the evil and which is the good?
- Are we to blame drugs and alcohol, those who produce and traffic them, or those who use them for the death and mayhem associated with their abuse, or those who stand by and watch to only direct blame? Which is the evil and which is the good?
- Are those killed as victims of holy wars made especially righteous for their martyrdom or are they only casualties of evil. Where is the good? Are we safe? Are we Saved?
- Why do bad things happen to good people?
- Why do bad people seem to get away with anything?
- Why do the good die young?
- Did those faithful and innocent folks loose salvation because their deaths were tainted with the evil acts of an oppressive government? This question, like those above are put to Jesus for understanding:
A Question, An Answer. A Warning, and a Parable.
Jesus is asked a question. He gives a straightforward answer. He adds a warning and teaches with a parable.
- Is the life of a faithful person of more value than the life of a criminal?
- Is the life of a victim more important than the life of an oppressor?
- Is the life of an innocent person of more worth than the existence of a thug?
- Is the life of a politician worth less than a… well you know what I mean.
Jesus gives an answer:
Are you ready? The answer is.. No!
Not complicated, not filtered, not qualified, no need for interpretation. Just, No.
No the life of the innocent, the victim, the faithful one is no less valued to God than the life of the criminal, the oppressor, or the thug.
- Which leads to Jesus’s warning.
- Our salvation, value/existence are connected to our relationship with God in this life.
- WARNING: Worry about repenting more than blaming.
- Worry about grace instead of rules and laws
Focus on God instead of yourself or anything that leads you away from God.
Crazy Questions: This warning leads us to ask questions:
- Are the Jews Going to Heaven?
- Are the Muslim Lost?
- If someone has not been baptized are they saved?
Answer is not about words and thoughts as much as it is about actions
Jesus answers with a WARNING:
- Were they trying to live a life that leads to God?
- Can you look at their lives and see God at work in them?
- Were they working with the hope of finding God?
- Were they working to assure themselves an entrance ticket or a relationship with God?
- Was God an add-on to a host of things they did?
- Was God the reasons they woke up live and lied down to rest?
- Are you more worried about what you can’t control
- or more assured with what God CAN control?
The Warning: Don’t live or die without repenting.
REPENTANCE: Turning one’s life toward God’s heart.
- Repentance is not about the words we speak and the thoughts we think
- Repentance is the fruit of a searching heart
- Repentance is the evidence of our struggle toward God and overcoming evil.
- Repentance is active, observable and gives at witness to others and encouragement to ourselves.
The Parable: Jesus uses a time of worry, fear and evil as a time for faith and fruitfulness.
The Fig Tree
It should be cut down, but it is not, because the gardener has patience and grace
The prescription is for intentional work, nutritious effort and waiting for fruit.
The Goal is fruit
- The Process is Grace
- The Danger is to
- Not work
- Not Study, Struggle and Share
- To end up empty
- This is a day to work on the relationship
- This is a day to study, pray, serve, forgive, love, teach, question, grow
- This is a day to look for the presence of God bearing fruilt
- If there is not fruit, the get to work.
BECAUSE: No fruit waists the soil, wastes the trust, wastes the grace, wastes the time.
- The question is not about are we saved?
- The question is God’s presence obvious in my life, thought, words, and actions?
- The question is what am I waiting for, if not for God?
- Are the things and thoughts that consume me, bringing God closer to me and closer to God’s people, or not?
- If you don’t see the fruit, get to work, add some fellowship, worship, study and service and wait for God to work through God’s process.
Begin by the act of spiritual inventory:
Do I need to repent? Do I need God? Want God? Have I got it covered?
Ask your neighbor: Where do you see God at work in my life? Tell your neighbor the truth because their salvation weighs in the balance.
Or keep to yourself, mind your own business, assume the best and stay away from your enemies the best you can… that is not what Jesus said.
Jesus said, the harvest is coming, surly. Where’s fruit? (Where’s the beef? dated, ref)
-When we gather with one another at the funeral home or around the pews at times of shared grieving, we struggle for comfort and perspective and utter questions
-As each day grows closer to the November election, the shouts and rants of politicians and publicists point rear-view fingers of blame, current insults of shame, and future dreams of promise filled salvation for those on their side. Some are compelled to take sides, while others retreat into the camps of apathy and indifference.
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder’; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. “You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. [NRSV]
Q: So is marriage a matter for church and preaching?
Marriage is a relationship founded and grounded in God and has been a faith relationship before it ever was a legal conversation.
A: And for that alone, it is forever an appropriate conversation for worship, study and defending.
June 26, 2015, The Right to Marry
The recent court decision, made by the majority of non-elected-legislative-judiciary, have create a new right to marry that includes all adult persons to marry the adult of their mutual choice independent of genders. Five people have changed an institution they did not create.
If you are celebrating or if you are angry about the new definition of marriage, I ask you:
What are you doing strengthening marriage before June 26, 2015?
- 40% of children live in single parent household. What of marriage, independent of who can marry whom?
- 33% (Barna) of US marriages end in divorce. [The 50% includes people who have been divorced more than once, which skews the overall numbers.] But if one in three divorce, is that an acceptable number we live with as those who so highly value marriage?
- 1% of those who marry commit suicide
- 2% of those who never marry take their life.
- 9 % of married couples deal with alcoholism.
- 24% of married couples deal with mental illness
- 86% of unhappy couples deal with domestic violence
We don’t have a lot of room to talk about marriage, never the less, the court’s decision encroaches on our faith identity of marriage that is thousands of years in the making.
First know this: This is not the end of the church or our country or our society.
- We are people of God and God remains with us.
- Things might change, but God will not church.
- God’s love for us will not change.
- God’s presence with us is unchanging and
- God’s call for us to hear and follow Christ will not change.
Secondly, Remember marriage is not a requirement. [A big shift in the court’s action is to name marriage as a right.]
- 75% of adults do get married. 25% do not marry.
- It has been the responsibilities of each state to license those who get married.
- The government cannot force us to marry to nor force us to be single.
Where Are We, What’s Next?
These past two weeks have indeed been a challenge to our faith. And while I am disappointed at Friday’s Supreme Court’s decision to “legally” redefine what Christians, Jews and Muslims, have believed the covenant of marriage to be for millennia, remember that the court’s decision does not change our Biblical and theological worldview nor does it change our denomination’s stance on the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage as expressed in the church’s Discipline.
Only the General Conference speaks for the entire United Methodist Church. The General Conference of the United Methodist church will convene in May of next year in Portland, Oregon to discuss this and other issues that face the church. It has the potential to be divisive, but it also holds the opportunity to be a time of faith renewal.
How should we best respond to the court’s decision: Be Not Afraid.
God is Good, All the Time, RSUMC likes to affirm. Remember that God is still at work redeeming the world to Himself. Trust that even though we do not understand all of God’s ways, God is involved in the events of human history…even as hard and unclear as they may be.
Teach by Loving
Love your neighbor. Let our words, witness and response to all people be loving. A loving response will always be our strongest example of leadership. You will be drawn into conversations and discussions of “winners and losers.” Be respectful to those with whom you disagree. Be slow in anger and even slower to speak, email and post.
Its about God, People and Relationships not rules and laws
Know that you are always talking about someone’s child, grandchild or sibling. It is easy for us to objectify a conversation and forget the laws and commandments are for broken and sinful people in a broken and sin filled world.
Be Faithful in your intentional spiritual growth
This is a time for us to step up our faithfulness in the Christian life. Don’t let other people’s words or actions cause you to do harm to others or to compromise your Christian witness. We are accountable to Christ for what we do and say. We are not responsible for what other people do or say. Trust the Holy Spirit to lead you and do the best you can to express your hope in God’s redeeming grace for us all. (Romans 2.23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.)
The Government is not God
Remember: the Supreme Court, even it follows the constitution properly, does not speak for God and does not speak for the United Methodist Church. The General Conference Speaks for the church and the Discipline guides our practices. Our stance on these issues and our practices have not changed. The church only allows me to conduct and attend marriage of one man and one woman. The church values every person with equal value from God, who creates us all.
Trust and Follow the Holy Spirit
In conversation with our D.S. and Bishop I was reminded that as our United Methodist Church is a global body, a global church, and not simply a U. S. church, and it is not at all unusual for the legal, moral and spiritual to be in tension in our various countries. We continue to be the church even though we might be in contrast with the laws of many lands.
We are in this together
As your pastor, you are in my prayers, and as your pastor I ask for your prayers in this matter. We might be tempted to allow anger, fear or ignorance to rule the day, but I ask that we constantly seek to help each other live with current reality. Life is not easy at any time, but we must live trusting in the Holy Spirit’s guidance to enable us to minister to all people in the light of
God is with us.
So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. [NRSV]
In reading this passage we find no parable or stories, no historical travel plans to orient or date the occasion. This is part of a larger lesson or even sermon about Jesus Christ.
The book is called Hebrews and was most likely written by someone who had excellent writing skills in Greek, who knew the Greek version of the Old Testament but was not so concerned about Jesus being the messiah as much as Jesus being the Christ, the Son of the Most High.
The audience seems to be those who might have a mental understanding of Jesus as the Christ, but lack a motivation to have relationship with the Christ. The heart of the book seems to be 4:14 “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.”
- Jesus who has been made perfect, [whole] for our brokenness.
- Jesus becomes our source for salvation.
- We connect to this source through obedience.
- With obedience, we can expect suffering.
- Through suffering we can expect to find Christ.
- Therefore, Trust the Jesus with all things.
- In suffering, joy and eternity
So let’s get to the trouble spot: Obey?!
To obey is to respond in direct relation to command, instructions, or restrictions.
WHY? Would we give up our will to choose God’s?
The resume’ of resume’s
- Christ was appointed by God for you and me
- Christ’s kingdom is eternal one, high priest of the order of Melchizedek.
- Christ who suffered for you and me, died and lives for our benefit
- Christ modeled the power of obedience as child of God
- Christ connects us to God as children of God, joint heirs
Bottom line: in a world that is tearing countries, families and lives apart. We need to know our Savior is near!
Melchizedek is this mystical priest that shows up with Abram in the midst of a 4 nations against 5 nations battle, when the larger forces raid one of the nations in the night, Abram takes his trained special force folks at night and brings back the people/families, animals and other possessions and returns them to the king who was defeated. For Abram’s since of justice and restoration, King “Mel” shows up, offers up bread and wine and blesses Abram for his graciousness. (Sound familiar?)
Abram is lead by the creed of grace and is blessed.
It is through the same priesthood that Jesus the Christ is sent by God to give us grace and to bless us in a world that is dividing families and nations and resources.
Why do we obey Jesus?
- Because he has come to us as a Son
- He has suffered for our benefit
He has come to bless us who are fighting and divided
Who needs to hear about Obeying Jesus
- Those who would run from such a request.
- Those who have not hear or have lost faith that Jesus coming to suffer has anything to do with us now
- Those who might have heard but don’t see the personal benefit Jesus affords us.
- Those who are closed to seeing and experiencing the blessing of following, trusting and obeying THE highest of priest. The one who came to seek and save the lowest and the greatest. Me and you.
The Greatest Threat: is to Obey ourselves in the name of God or in the place of God. (don’t fool yourself, God or anyone else)
This week: Break bread and bless someone this week. Remind them that Jesus died and lives for them and the suffering that threatens their life and joy.
This week: Break bread and bless someone this week. Remind them that Jesus died and lives for them and the suffering that threatens their life and joy.
You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. [NRSV]
Before you found salvation
- You were walking dead
- Traveling on a dead end road
- You were like zombies, those who thought the only thing real in this world was themselves, their own efforts and failure, their own riches or poverty, their own reality and rules.
- DON’T Go Back To That Pace!
We once were children of wrath
- You love to push the limits of both God and yourself.
- How many people hate God because one or two people in the church act inappropriately
- How many people run from God because we never explained why God/Jesus/Spirit are vitially important to our own lives (We just hope they see the testimony we live and say nothing.)
- Say that one again: (We just hope folks see our intended testimony of our actions and we teach, explain, tell folks nothing to confirm they got the correct message.) SAVI
But we are no longer on the dead end road.
- We are on the alive for evermore road
- We are on the alive road with Jesus
- We are on the alive road together with one another, we are not alone
- We are on the alive road that is paved with grace, paved with the sacrifice of blame, sin, curse, and judgement that is due us, but has been taken on by Jesus instead.
- Don’t be rude, but don’t get lost in political correctness,
- Reach out to the lost and show them, tell them, plead with them the way of grace in Christ.
- So in at a future time, when we leave this earth and this physical body is no more
- So when Christ returns to claim us and clean things up for the fresh start.
- So at a time in the future of God’s own choosing we can look back and see that God is not nearly as concerned about where we have wandered, as much as God is ultimately concerned about our being with God for today and the time from NOW on.
- God is kind enough to judge us, give the sentence to himself, and restore our relationship.
- For we are what he has made us,
- We are created in Christ Jesus for good works,
- To become the people God has hoped and dreamed we would be
- for the way of life intended from the beginning.
- for the relationship that was at the start, God opens to us,
- because God operates from a bedrock, foundation of love and kindness.
COUNTER Point: There are those who will be so quick to respond.
- Why did my parent or child or sibling have to suffer and/or die.
- Why did God take them?
- From a loving point of view, which would you rather God be interested in your life:
- The absence of a family member for four to forty years or for them to be absent in eternity?
- GOD is not punishing up with death.
- If God is so good and kind, why doesn’t God stop evil in the world? hunger, disease, acts of terror, etc?
- The presence of evil in the world affirm that we still have choice to live for God.
- If evil were removed from the world without our our choice in the matter, then life and relationships would not matter.
iii. The reality of evil is evidence that God is still wanting us to choose to be in relationship with God.
- If I give up to the dead end road and allow evil to consume my heart and intentions and actions, then I don’t need God.
Go back to the key verse, the heart of this passage to the church and community at Ephesus:
***STAR (by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is God’s gift.)
Step you through… Tab A into Slot B:
- 1. Our life and relationships are entrusted to us from God. God made each of us, and declares we are good.
- 2. Before, Christ, you and I were walking dead…like zombies
- 3. We lived like we had no choice and no help.
- 4. Because God operates from Love, God has not forgotten nor forsaken us.
- 5. Evil is still present because God still wants us to have a choice in the matter of our lives.
- 6. By Faith, by intentionally choose to live in God and grow in God, the gift is opened and realized.
- 7. We are in this together. See a zombie, open the love of God to them in kindness.
- 8. God is more concerned about who you now than who you were, God makes us all new.
- **Because God operates from love for us, God takes the time, for settling our crime.
- God love us, the whole world, God waits patiently for us to want to travel with God…
- Q: What road are you traveling? dead end or life transforming?
- Q: People are going on the dead end road and we have news that will save them.
- There are people who are living as though they are not spiritual people in a physical body.
- Do go back down the road that dead ends
- Do go back, Don’t give up
- Turn town God, even at a crawl. baby steps before we run.
Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. [NRSV]
Learning the Commandments (Commandment: This defines us, Chain link fence a school)
- You shall have no other gods before me. (What about gods after, is it ok to have God number or but not exclusive, so we can have God’s cake and eat our icing?)
- You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. (What if we use images made by nature that God has created, unmodified by human hands, can we worship a rock or natural formation?)
- You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. (What name or names of God does this apply? What is Wrongful use? Is this limited to liable and slander but does it include thoughts or expressed?)
- Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. (Is this Saturday or Sunday? Does Tuesday count if I keep the others days for work and rest on Tuesday? What is work? What about cousins, volunteers, pets and enemies?)
- Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (What if parents are not keeping the commandments? Son go steal? Daughter lie for me?)
- You shall not murder. (What if I think about or talk about it but don’t carry it out?) BTW: I thought it was don’t kill, who changed it? What trimester? Is capital punishment murder or justice?)
- You shall not commit adultery. (What if we are engaged? What if we use protection? What if everyone is doing it? What if you are intoxicated and don’t know what you’ve done?)
- You shall not steal. (So God would rather we starve to death, than take food off the table of the rich?)
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (What about their neighbor, your enemies?
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (What about your neighbor’s neighbor, who is my neighbor? what about my enemy’s stuff?)
- No Other Gods
- Make No Idols
- No Name Misuse
- No work on the Sabbath
- Honor your parents
- No murder
- No adultery
- No stealing
- No false witness against your neighbor
- No coveting your neighbor and their stuff
One God, No Idols, Defamation, Work on Sabbath, Honor Parents, No Murder, Adultery, Stealing, Lying, Nor Coveting
Back to One
One Rule in the garden
10 Commandments on the mountain
613 Laws of Moses
Over 40K Laws, Codes, Statutes, Regulations, Policies, Case-law, Executive Order, Standing Rules, Binders, Contracts, Covenants on Federal, State, County, City and HOA levels of legal action, intent and guideline that are ever growing
Rather than look for loopholes, look for God
Rather than be constrained by laws, trust grace that completes the law
You and I are not worthy, we are not perfect, but Christ is Worthy and through him we move toward perfection.
Toward becoming most fully the people God created and hopes we will become in this and each day.
TAKE this time of JOURNEY, to memorize the ten commandment, to see how they DO apply to our lives and do provide the boundary.
Instead of trying to think how will we make it snow to get a day off of school, focus on learning how weather patterns work and make learning
Same with the big 10.
Keep them, don’t write them off has too few, too old or too incomplete..
Keep them, through grace of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of God.
So Paul’s words to the church, In Rome and in Rock Spring and everywhere, is a great leap of history, covenant and faith. He takes God’s covenant with Father Abraham and looks back at how God comes to bless and covenant with him to explain how God also related with us.
Imagine Paul is making a grand movie, right up their with the 10 Commandment, Ben Hur, Lawrence of Arabia… He’s telling the great faith story of Abraham. Father of Nations and Founder of Faith for generations and generations. The Covenant of Covenants. Opening in a theater this Spring!
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. [NRSV]
Suffering: Physical Suffering for a Spiritual Purpose: The Lenten Season
Jesus’ prime example is suffering death on the cross, exchanging his life for our life.
Peter’s instructions DON’T LIST
- Don’t give up, even when tempted, tested and tired
- Don’t be afraid, even though there are things, powers and people to fear
DO BE DO BE DO…
- Do have patience in suffering for Christ
- Be ready to explain your hope
- Do so with kindness
- Keep your conscience clear
- Don’t give in to what broken world dishes out
- Remember Jesus has already suffered for you.
- Return the example, as a RESPONSE to LOVE not a duty.
- SUMMARY OF THE GOSPEL 1PT 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,
CITIZENSHIP: THEREFORE: Live like you are a baptized person..
- live like your saved
- live like God’s Spirit is in you…
- live like Jesus and all power, authority, angels and powers are at your disposal through Christ.
We begin a holy Lenten season of practicing..
We are Baptized, (Claimed, Saved, Empowered and Loved Children of God) Who we are,
We are encouraged by (Suffering in Faithfulness) what God has done through Jesus
The Lenten Test
- If you were a extravagantly generous wealthy person: How would you treat other people
- If you were a passionate lover of God: How would you express your devotion?
- If you were a radical host and friend: How would you welcome a stranger?
- If you were risk-taking servant: How far would you go to help someone who is hurting?
- If you were purposeful and intentional about growing your Spiritual self, What exercises would you do?
If you let yourself off the hook and say none of these are for me, this is the season to pick just one and practice.
Practice trusting Jesus.
Practice telling about our hope in the life Jesus promises.
Practice singing about the Good News that God continues to love us
Practice giving like God’s heart is your heart.
Practice looking at strangers as new best friends
Practice looking at suffering in the world is a place for you to personally plug in and be involved making one-on-one change
Practice your faith OUT LOUD, not just in your mind and not just with your friends and family.
PRACTICE giving power and grace to those who don’t deserve another chance.
is forty days plus Sundays between this past Wednesday and Easter for us to begin practicing what it means to be Easter people, BECAUSE the truth is we are not there yet.
We begin this journey acknowledging this is a journey
- it is not easy
- it is not quick
- it is not over
- it is not fair
- it is vitialy important and
- it is worth the time and faith to try…