Verse of the Day

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Third Sunday in Lent

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Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
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 must choose wisely, and we can only choose wisely with the help of the Holy Ghost! We must use a small bit of the wisdom we do have, to choose the help of God, through the Holy Ghost.

Today’s Epistle and Gospel share the same theme.  You must not only talk the talk, but you must also walk the talk.  

Thus, when Paul tell us to live our lives as we represent our desires to God, he tells us to make our actions match our stated desires.  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.  Believing and saying you are believing can be diametrically opposed.  Note how many people claim to be Christian, yet do not actually act on the principles of Christ and follow His Instructions. This theme 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. 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. All that matters is that we get the job done, and work as a cohesive team with other believers to spread the Good News the best we can. 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.  Any feeling of safety there is illusory.  We must take sides.  And, we cannot keep with those who oppose the side we choose.  It is the natural part of the history of the Bible. 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. One man cannot serve two masters, also fits here I find. We cannot say we love and serve one side, but serve another truly. We have to choose which one we are going to love or serve, God or mammon (things of this earth/Satan).  We cannot be wishy-washy here, we must take a stand and declare it unto the world, and let them know that we are not for their ways, but we are against their ways. We have to make it crystal clear in our actions, to tie it into the theme of acting. We have to let our faith shine in word and in deed to make it count. 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. He came to divide, that is that we would choose the opposite side of the world, which for them is mammon, and our side is that of God and righteousness. He came to light up the world that was for Him, and that which was against Him, to identify friend from foe. 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.  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. 

When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and repent of the sins of your former life, you are forgiven of your sins.  But, you must understand, this is not a signal to keep on sinning and keep on saying you repent.  You must truly change 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.

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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