Verse of the Day

Monday, March 5, 2018

Third Sunday in Lent

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Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion
Descanso, California
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly contained in the forewords above. 

Consider these words from the Collect:

… look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all our enemies …

In the Collect, we ask God look in to our hearts, see our desire to be His children and defend us against evil.  That also means we are looking for His Help in the form of the Holy Ghost for the changing of our hearts to actually have “hearty desires” to do His Will and to be “humble servants”, not our usual and customary self centered selves.  Quite a combination of thoughts in a small bit of verbiage! It is amazing how much we can put in a short sentence if we use our words right! If we will be follow Him, He will defend us in all assaults of our enemies[1]  If we will not accept His Help, He will not force it on us.  Back to that old, “Thy will be done.”  The question once again rises, from whose mouth does it proceed, ours or God’s? 

We need to desire that which would place us walking on the path towards God and not away from God. That is we need to refrain from malicious, self serving acts that are incongruent with the message of Jesus and need to instead embrace more Christ like behavior, and more loving our neighbors as ourselves. If that is indeed the backbone of the Law as Christ explained, then we should be focusing our energies on serving our neighbors and behaving in a Godly manner. While this seems like an impossible task, we do have heavenly help, that is, the Holy Spirit. 

Today’s Epistle and Gospel share the same theme.  The theme is that in order to be a Christian you have to act like a Christian and not just say we are. It is quite easy to say we are Christians, it is quite another to act like we are. Again, that is where the Holy Ghost will come in, if we let him, to help guide and direct us. 

In His Epistle, Paul tells us in order to live out our faith, we need to make our actions match our stated desires, very much in line with the thought above.   Actions! Not just Dictions, but Actions! There can be a distinct difference between the two.  If you actually believe, you will act.  If you just say you believe, you will not.  There is a distinct difference between the two states, action and in action. Faith requires action, unbelief is equal to the state of inaction.

There are how many people claim to be Christian, yet do not actually act on the principles of Christ and follow His Instructions. To be Christian, we have to actually follow those said principles. The key word here is following or acting. Action is the central theme of the Christian faith, which was first shown with Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection. He came to act for us, not just to talk or meditate, but His great plan involved action, though it was painful, it was His action that released us from the wages of sin. He gave us an example to live by, that is to live out our faith through not just the right words, but the right actions as well. We have to live our lives in a manner that reflects we believe the Gospel and is consistent with how we should act, which is contained within the same Gospel.

Think about the Gospel.

It is very important to be unified in our worship and maintain mutual support; a team always beats individuals.  That is not to take away from individuality, but rather to note that we need to remember whose side we are on and work together with our teammates. Each of us has been given a specific talent by Our Lord to help further His Cause here on earth. In order to truly serve Him, we must be willing to put aside our old selves and truly accept the regeneration that He offers us and become the New Man that Paul talks about. 

The satisfaction of doing a job well done should be enough for our reward. It does not matter who gets the credit, all that matters to our Lord is that we work together with other believers to get the job done and to get it done right. In the end that matters is that we get the job done. If people refuse to hear the Good News, it is not our problem. We just shake the dust off our feet and move on to the next group of people. 

There are two phrases particularly worth remembering, “a house divided against a house falleth” and “He that is not with me is against me.”  Middle ground exists, but it is quicksand.  Eventually one has to choose a side. It is very clear to us what side we should choose. The only rational side to take is that of God, that side that will lead us to eternal life not that of eternal death.

And, we cannot keep with the opposition.  It is the natural part of the history of the Bible and of life. We have to choose to follow God, as there is no other reasonable option, which will give us the result following God will result in. We must decide who we will follow. We do not have true faith if we do not act upon the words that we speak on our lips, of believing in Christ and His Father.

Christ himself came not to unite the world, but to divide it, father against son. The Jews mistakenly thought He came to unite them against the Romans. They could not be more wrong. He came to divide, to find those that would follow him and also to identify those who will not follow him. Through the Scriptures we can easily tell who is for Him and who is against Him. It is simple, who holds to the principles of Scripture is for Him. They who do not hold to them are not with Him. 

You must keep constant vigilance against backsliding, for a fallen Christian is in worse shape than one who was never exposed to The Word. In order to do that, you have to be always constantly acting upon your faith. The Epistle and Gospel both talk about the curious dichotomy; you are saved by faith, Jesus’s faith, and your faith alone saves you, not what you do; yet if you have faith, you must act on that faith.  

To be a Christian and not a Christian in name only, you must truly turn a new leaf and start on the new course of life with Christ, and not slip back into the old man. This is one of the most difficult challengers as a Christian, but with the help of the Holy Ghost, we can do it. You must receive the Word, hear it, and act upon it and spread it joyously to others, in order for your faith to have any meaning at all. Otherwise we will have been for the worse than if we never had heard the Good News. It is not a gift to selfishly lock up, but to share and give to others. That is the true joy of the Good News. It is most certainly more blessed to give than to receive in this case.

You must grasp that your acceptance of Jesus Christ as your savior and your repentance is the beginning of your life as a New Man in Jesus.  

Will you slip? Without doubt.  But, when you do, will you again repent and continue to do your best to follow the Word of God, the Light and the Truth?  All that matters is that you get up and do your best not to do what you did to slip. Life is a continuous learning process. Indeed, if you are a Christian that is what you must do.  We will always slip up in our lives, that is in our fallen nature. But we have to get up and get back on track, using the Holy Gospel to guide us like the instruments in an aircraft.  We cannot trust our feeling, but only our instruments (God’s gift of Holy Scripture). You are called to believe and act on those beliefs to the best of your ability.  If you do not, then prepared as you were for life, you will so be prepared for the pit.  As you read Luke, remember the second half of the Book of Luke is The ACTS of the Apostles, not thoughts, wishes, prayers or meditations. 

For, “blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
It is by our actions we are known.

[1]A Collect for Peace – 1928 Book of Common PrayerPage 17

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