Verse of the Day

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Fourth Sunday in Lent

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!

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:

… we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace may mercifully be relieved …

In the Collect, as is oft the case, we acknowledge to God our sad state, our evil nature, and then ask God to grant us His Grace to be relieved of being accounted as evil, rather accounted as perfect, even though we are so far from perfect.  This is a constant refrain, so many of the collects have this same theme; we are imperfect, perfect only in our imperfection; yet God is with us and is willing to help us, but only if we let Him.  This is because this a truth that remains constant. We are failed beings who need the help of One who is not failed, that need His Grace to be relieved of our many offenses and a renewed sprit. He is the One we must turn to for Help. To let Him help us requires us to let Him into our hearts.
To gain eternal life, to leave this Shadowland world for the real world, the world of Eternal Life, God’s World, that is to say Heaven, requires us to be perfect.  For only those who are perfect at the final accounting can gain entrance into heaven.  Actually, we don’t need to be perfect to get into heaven which is very handy as we will never in fact be perfect, no matter how hard WE try, inasmuch as by our very nature we are imperfect. 

How is this possible?

Death is oft referred to as the “Final Accounting”, and as one who has studied accounting, I can tell you that things can sometimes be accounted as what they are not, legally, too! 

At that final judgment day, imperfect creatures that we are, we can be accounted as perfect through God’s Grace of His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, Paul is right on point when he talks about the two sons of Abraham, one of the bond, one of the free.   Being accounted as perfect requires us to become adopted into the freewoman’s family or God’s. It requires us to follow Him and His guidance. This gift of eternal life is not free. It was paid for by Jesus’ death on the Cross and it requires us to actively following and working for Him here on earth.

The one of the bondwoman’s represents the state of God’s people before Christ and also those who choose not to follow Him. They are stuck in bondage to their own sins and to Satan and will never truly be free. They are in essence slaves of their own will. We have free will, let us exercise it in the way God intended, that is to follow the path of righteousness to Him.

These two are representative of the two covenants with God, the bond under The Law and the free under The New Covenant. 

The people of old are The People of The Law.  Six Hundred Thirteen Laws each of which by which they must abide.  A very complex and even more difficult life to live, with trying to comply and uphold those laws and failing. We still fail miserably at times, but we only have two laws, which we will hear about in a second. They are still hard to uphold, but if we manage to, easier to remember. Perhaps more properly said in practice 613 laws that they must live around; not so much as comply with, but avoid breaking.  Yet, they cannot comply with all the laws nor even work around them.  They are doomed to failure absent help from God.  The 613 laws could not accomplish what Christ has accomplished through His death on the Cross, His Resurrection and His Establishing of the New Covenant, which is eternal life for us in heaven with Him. The Holy Ghost helps us along the journey to this goal, to bring us to that eternal life.

The New Covenant is much less complex than the Old Covenant.  It is much easier to remember the ways of the New Covenant than the Old Covenant. However, the Old Covenant had to come first to get people’s hearts ready to follow the New Covenant.  For the New Covenant could not be introduced, or in other words, Jesus could not come to Earth until the people were ready for His Teachings. The Old Covenant was a stepping stone to the New Covenant.

Remember this from Holy Communion:

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith:

HOU shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Under the New Covenant, we have only two laws with which we must comply.  But, there is a catch.  We are not to just avoid breaking those laws, we must actually live them in our hearts, souls, minds AND bodies.  We must actualize them. It is the common theme of Action not just Diction, that appears in the sermons past here. The only way in which we can follow these two laws is we have to put them into practice in our day to day lives, which requires Action and not just Diction. We have to actually perform those actions in order to back up our faith. Faith without actions to back it up is a hollow faith, a non-existent faith.

Hey!  That is way harder.  We are imperfect creatures with free will.  That is a combination doomed to failure.

True, but we have the ultimate Get out of Jail Free card – Jesus Christ the righteous and He is the propitiation for our sins!  Remember that?  He accounts us as perfect at our final accounting!

There are two choices, two covenants, we can choose either to be people of slavery, enslaved to sin and Satan; or to be free people, under God and Jesus. These are the two sides that Paul speaks of. We can be either enslaved to sin or we can be truly free and under God.  One side leads to eternal freedom and happiness and the other leads to eternal suffering and death. I know which side I want to be on, but the question is do you? You, and you alone can make this choice, nobody else here can make it for you. This is one of the actions you have to act on, and not just say it.

We always have a choice, it is upon us to choose and decide. To paraphrase a quote from Gandalf, All we have to do is decide what to do in the time that we are given. But we must pick a side.  As I quoted last week, “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.

We cannot have one foot standing on the slavery side and one foot on the free side. We cannot just be fence sitters, we must have our feet planted on one side.  From rational viewpoint, there is only one side to pick, and that is the side of freedom, of the New Testament offered to us by Christ himself. As people of The New Covenant, the original and real New Deal, we have only to comply with those two laws or rules; To love the Lord with all our hearts and to love our neighbor.  While it is true that those two are much harder to fully comply with than avoiding the 613 laws of The Law, we have the key – Jesus Christ.  He came to earth not only to lead us to heaven, from the front; but to be a propitiation for our sins, to make us account as perfect to God to allow us to come into His Land.

Now, think about the Gospel.  When we need help, how about instead of worry, we substitute trust and action?  Trust that God will give us what we need.  And, then act based on what we can and should do, not what we want to do.  Acting on what we should do gets results.   These results may or not be obvious right away, but they will be soon enough. And this may be a hard principle for us to follow, but in the end, it is worth the struggle to trust God instead of worrying and or doing what we want to do. Whereas if you never do anything, you’ll never see any results of your actions, for you are doing exactly nothing. If one is disillusioned enough by the fact he does not need to do anything, I suppose it probably doesn’t matter to that person. But to those of us who feel the acute need to do something, if we do nothing, we are going to feel that lack of action. Therefore, we are compelled to act upon our faith. Perhaps not what we want right at the time, but certainly what we need then and in the eternal future.  In the middle of nowhere, two thousand years from the nearest McDonalds, the disciples looked to Jesus to fill the needs of their congregation.  Jesus took what they had and gave them what they needed; “for he himself knew what he would do.”  He acted to help them.  Do ye likewise:


Heaven is at the end of an uphill trail.  The easy downhill trail does not lead to the summit.

The time is now, not tomorrow.  The time has come, indeed.  How will you ACT?

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Third Sunday in Lent

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!

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?

As always, we have a choice. We can only serve one Master, God or Satan. It is a pretty clear choice to all who have the Holy Ghost in our hearts. With the Holy Ghost in our hearts, we can spot darkness for many miles away to use a metaphor. The Holy Ghost is like a really bright flashlight that God gives to us to discern the right choices to make. He is a tool that we can utilize to further the Great Commission and spread the Gospel to all nations. Not only that, He is a tool that we should be using daily in our own lives.  He will help us to stay on the path that God has set for us.

Today’s Epistle and Gospel share the same theme.  You must not only talk the talk, but you must also walk the talk.   This is a very common theme within our sermons for the reason that it is very true. In order to have faith, you have to show that faith through living it.

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, 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.

 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. Each of us has been given a specific talent by Our Lord to help further His Cause here on earth. When we work together, we can chain those talents together and achieve remarkable things.  We need the Holy Ghost’s help to make us truly work together with our fellow believers. He will help us overcome any obstacles to working together. The Church of believers is a mighty army that through the amazing and wonderful leadership of Christ, will achieve many great things for Him on this 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. 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.  There is no neutral option in this great worldwide spiritual warfare. Sooner or later we are going to be forced to take 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 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