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Sunday, October 22, 2017
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. We cannot be successful without the help of the Holy Ghost.
This theme is continued and amplified 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 we look to ourselves for inner guidance, we would only have a life full of pain and misery and would find out that 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 Jesus illustrated this concept of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus showing 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; 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. We are making His picture of the world our Picture, and so we act as He would have us act to align ourselves with His Picture. Saint Paul tells us 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, 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 to mind here. We must work to clean our slate, and the Holy Ghost can help with that, then we can begin 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. And our lives will most certainly change for the better if we act and continue to act on His Instructions. 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 which bears repeating. It is the same with many changes you need to make in your life, you have to make them, not just say 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 consistent with those the Holy Spirit guides you to do.
To be successful, Paul says we need to fix ourselves upon the guiding lights 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 it 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 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; then willing and able to act on His Direction. And we need to always be remembering this in good times and bad and to always trust in God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost and do our best to follow their instructions to the best our abilities.
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 principles which Saint Paul gives we will find they not only benefit ourselves, but they will help the people around us. And that is what is so wonderful about living life in accordance with the Scriptures. 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, the darkness in their hearts, like the vanity of the Gentiles minds Paul talked about, prevented them from seeing the truth of the person of Christ. Then He asks them, which is easier, to forgive the sins or to have the man “Arise and walk”? Jesus is making the point that words are nice, but actions are what really produces fruitful fruit in the end. We could talk about spreading the Gospel all day long, but if we never actually go out and do it, it means little.
As always, Jesus’ words are important, but only as His actions always match those words. Jesus doesn’t just talk to hear himself talk, unlike some of the more modern “Christian” televised preachers. 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. Words do not reveal much about a person’s character alone, you need to look at a person’s actions to see where his heart truly lies. 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 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 who are Christians in name only whose deed or actions 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”, “Live of God” and “Act 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