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Sunday, October 2, 2016
Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction.
Consider the words of the Collect, “…without thee we are not able to please thee; Mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts …”
The collect continues on the theme from last week, that without God’s mighty help through the Holy Spirit, we are not able to understand what we need to do to be one with God, to follow His Will; we need Him, through the Holy Ghost, to direct us in our endeavors, beliefs and understanding.
This trend is evident in the Epistle, where Paul writes to the Ephesians, Chapter 4, Verse 17. Yet henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened and alienated from the life of the God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.
Paul basically is saying we should not do as the world does and look into ourselves for guidance for our spiritual lives. If you look into your inner self, you will find blood, guts and bodily fluids. Looking there for guidance is a bad idea, and we would find this out when we die and wake up from our death to find we are not only physically dead but have died a spiritual death, a permanent separation from God, as we are on the other side of that “fixed gulf.” There is a reason that Jesus illustrated this concept of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. To illustrate that without God’s help and guidance, we will be separated from Him for all eternity. Make no mistake, that fixed gulf is very real. There is a way to avoid this fixed gulf, and that is to accept His spiritual help and guidance and to let the Holy Ghost into our lives.
To do that, we must openly accept Him into our hearts and let Him guide our thoughts and actions. This begins by allowing His guidance to enter into our actions and to make His Way our way, so that we are in alignment with what He wants us to do here on Earth. St. Paul tells us that we must begin to live our lives anew, to leave off the old sinful ways and thoughts of our old lives, to reboot as it were, and to start afresh by being honest, not prone to anger, to work hard, and think, speak and act kindness and to forgive as you would have God forgive you. The saying of do unto others as you would have them do unto you comes in mind here. We must work to clean our slate, and the Holy Ghost can help with that, then we can began to minister effectively to others.
In short, we are to act on His Instructions and our lives will change as the natural result of doing what we are supposed to be doing. Simply saying you believe changes nothing. Change your actions and your heart must in the end follow, with the help of the Holy Ghost. Your heart will be renewed through the entrance of the Holy Ghost. This will show up a little later on, but it is an important message that bears repeating. It is the same with many changes you will need to make in your life, you have to make them, not just say that you are going to make them. In other words, to perform the action and not just say you are going to. Many people never get past the stage of saying they will perform the action, but we need to go farther than that and actually do the action. To be a better person, to grow in the Spirit, you have to perform actions that are consistent and that the Holy Spirit guides you to do.
To be successful, Paul says we need to fix ourselves upon the waypoint of Christ and God and not use ourselves for a moral compass. For if we use our sense of direction, we shall not get far and indeed we will be in much distress, though we would not think of it otherwise due to our easily corruptible minds. However, if we rely on Christ as our navigator, He shall never fail us in His directions, if we will but listen to him. He, unlike us, will never let us down or withhold anything that we need to know, but the catch is that we have to be willing to listen to him. We have to know that He truly knows the way, and that without following His guidance, we cannot have any hope of finding the way on our own. We have to be willing and able to listen to Him and then willing and able to act on what He tells us to do.
Paul also gives very practical and simple, though hard to follow, directions on living our lives:
· Be honest;
· Avoid anger;
· Do not let anger linger over night;
· Follow not the guidance of the devil;
· Quit stealing;
· Work hard;
· Think kindness;
· Speak kindness;
· Act kindness;
· Forgive as you would have God forgive you, which He hath done in Jesus Christ!
These are all fairly common sense concepts that when applied are the recipe for a successful and wonderful life here. While there may be hardships here, if we but hold fast to these prinicples that St. Paul gives, we will find that they not only benefit ourselves, but they will help the people around us. And that is what the Gospel is about, spreading the Good News and helping the people around us to become better people and followers of God.
We move on to the Gospel, where Jesus, attending to a sick man, picks up on the evil thoughts of the temple scribes, who think to themselves Jesus blasphemed. However, if they realized who truly the Son of God was, Jesus, they would be shocked if they realized they had just accused God of being a liar and blasphemer. However, their darkness in their hearts, like the vanity of the Gentiles minds that Paul talked about, prevents them from seeing the truth of the person of Christ. Then he asks them, which is easier, to say that the sins are forgiven, or to actually say “Arise and walk”, or in other words, the command or the actual physical action of the healing, of which is more important?
The command is important, but we find Jesus doesn’t just talk to hear himself talk, unlike some of the more modern “Christian” televised preachers who do. He talks to make a point and acts in accordance with the point He makes. If we believe His commandments, we will keep them, which means our behavior, our actions, will match His Words. The book Acts of the Apostles, isn’t “Meditations”, “Philosophies” of the Apostles, but Acts. Jesus puts forth emphasis on “Actions speak louder than words” through his actions. Actions truly show where a person’s heart is set. He may profess to be a member of Our Lord’s church, but if his actions do not match his profession then we shall clearly know he is not truly our Christian brother. We must make sure our actions match our claimed beliefs in Scripture. If our actions do not match the Scriptures, we are not truly following Christ. We will all struggle with this from time to time, but as long as we return to Christ with true repentant hearts, all will be fine with our souls.
If we profess to be Christians, then we need to act like Christians, not just say that we are Christians. The ending sentence at the end of the sermons I have given thus far goes, “Be of God”, “Live of God” and finally, last but especially not least “Act of God.” We have to Be of God, and Live of God, to live our lives in a Godly and Christian way, which means as Paul said “Henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk”, so should we not walk in the ways of the world but that of God and His Heavenly Kingdom. Our actions which make up our lives need to be in alignment with the principles of Scripture and it needs to be clearly seen. If our lives are not in alignment with Scripture, then we are not living the faith as God has called us to do. Though originally, the term Gentile meant non-Jews (Ephesus was an early Gentile Christian church), nowadays Gentiles are those who conform to the world’s philosophies, including Christians that are Christians in name only and not in deed/actions, who do not follow “Be of God, Live of God and Act of God.”
To Act of God, we must follow the commandments of Christ and act according to them, loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. If we do the three step process “Be of God”, “Act of God” and “Live of God”, we will find ourselves in a much better position than walking in the ways of the World.
The time to act is NOW. Will you act? For whom will you act? Will you count the cost before you act?
Action, not diction, is what counts. It is by your actions you are known.
Be of God - Live of God - Act of God