Verse of the Day

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Third Sunday in Lent

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, and see our desire to be His children and defend us against evil.  That also means we are looking for His Help which comes in the form of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost will assist us in the process of 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 to their best advantage! 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 arises once again, from whose mouth does it proceed, ours or God’s? 

We need to desire God’s goodness to enter into our hearts, so that we will be walking on the path towards God and not away from God. That means that we need to become more like God as best we can and refrain from malicious, self-serving acts 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. This theme is centered around action. In order to be a Christian, you have to act as a Christian and not just say we are.  Saying we are Christians and actually being Christians are two different states of being. It is quite easy to say we are Christians, it is quite another to act like we are.

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 inaction. Faith requires action, unbelief is equal to the state of inaction.

There are too many people who claim to be Christian, yet do not actually act on the principles of Christ and follow His Instructions. They do not truly understand what it means to be a Christian. A Christian is called to a life of action and not just diction. 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; His great plan involved action, though it was painful, it was His action that released us from the wages of sin. We have to follow His Example that He set for us and live our lives in a manner that reflects we believe the 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 we need to remember whose side we are on and work together with our teammates. We have to remember that we need to utilize specific talents given to us 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 He offers us and become the New Man Paul talks about. 

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 our lips speak, of believing in Christ and His Father.

Christ himself came not to unite the world, but to divide it, father against son.  In Matthew 10:32-34 he says “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” He is saying here that he has not come to unite the World, for the World is not on our side. But to clearly divide the world to show who is with God and who is against God. For as earlier explained, one man cannot serve two masters. And also the saying of where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. In this life by reading through Scripture 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 maintain the constant vilgilence 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 maintain your Christian course, you must truly turn a new leaf, and not slip back into the old man. This is one of the most difficult challenges 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 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.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God
[1] A Collect for Peace – 1928 Book of Common Prayer Page 17

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