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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, “…grant thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil; and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee, the only God …”
When you hear the word GRACE, what do you think of?
· Heavenly dispensation;
· A gift freely granted;
· The free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
The word can be any of these, it comes from Middle English: via Old French from Latin gratia, from gratus‘pleasing, thankful’ and is related to grateful.
In this case we are asking God’s help, for which He charges nothing, except our faith and loyalty to Him, to withstand the temptations of this world. It is impossible to resist the temptations of this world on our own. The Collect notes our temptations come from three different enemies, the world, the devil and ourselves. We are asking for God’s help to help us resist each of those temptations from those sources. In order to resist those temptations, we need the Holy Spirit in our heart. In order to have Him in our heart, we need to invite Him in and then once He is in, listen to what He says and then act upon it.
So, when Paul writes the people of Corinth, it is not just them, but us, for whom he thanks God we have been the beneficiaries of His Grace, through Jesus we might have salvation, through Jesus our sins would in the end be forgiven. This is true of all Paul’s letters, his messages in them are not just speaking to the people of those churches, but to us, the wider part of the Church in general. We are not made perfect by Jesus. That is a common misconception among non-Christians. It would be convenient if we were made perfect. This is an issue which sorely needs to be addressed in today’s church, to combat the misperceptions of the non-Christians.
People who have the misconception Christians are made perfect are shocked when Christians act less than perfectly, so they just presume the faith is false. Nowhere in the Bible does it say when we become Christians, we are magically made perfect. These people fail to realize Christians are no more perfect than non-believers, as we are all human and all are sinful creatures. We just happen to realize this fact more than non-believers do. The world is blinded by the riches and cares of mammon and Satan and does not realize we do know we are not perfect and are doing our best to follow God’s word. This is an important reason to have our actions match our diction, so those who are lost may see our example and follow it to Christ Himself.
Which takes us to Paul’s next point; if we follow Christ in both out words and deeds, as the testimony of Christ is confirmed in them, through our actions, we will be “In every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge…”
But, not everyone is content to take Jesus at His Word. After the Sadducees lost their round with Jesus, the Pharisees, feeling they were superior to the Sadducees, came together to trip Him up. However, as we know ourselves, one cannot trick God and if you try, you will fail every time. An expert in The Law, of which Pharisees were very fond, asked Him a question, trying to trick Him, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus answered, “Thou 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.” Thus, He provided the Summary of the Law we hear every Holy Communion.
The Pharisees made their earthly living providing guidance on how to get around the 613 Mosaic Laws with as little inconvenience as possible. They were astounded when Jesus boiled the intent of those laws down to two sentences. They were much more comfortable getting around laws than complying with ones which might inconvenience them.
Apparently tiring of the game with the Pharisees and wishing to confound them instead, Jesus asked them, saying, “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He?” They say unto him, “The son of David.” For the scripture is clear He should be of the House of David. As God, Jesus has been from the beginning, so he queried them, “How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” Not grasping the concept that God was, is and always will be, they could not answer and “from that day forth” no one would “ask him any more questions.” They realized they could not trick him with any more questions and it only made them look bad when He answered them.
There have always been and always will be people who want to pick nits with the intent of avoiding doing what should be done, thus making it seems acceptable to do what they want to do. You can see people every day who fill the shoes of the Pharisees, insisting on complying with arcane and useless rules and regulations while studiously avoiding doing what God so clearly asks: to be a Christian and do as Christ asks us to do. People are always going to avoid doing what God wants us to do, that is in our nature. We can see this today in our country, as it replaces God with the rule of man. We are to be Christians, not “good”, to do what God asks, not Go with the Flow! When you think about being a Christian, consider these quotes from GK Chesterton:
· Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.
· The word good has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.
· The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.
· Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.
· A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.
G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
We are called to a new and different life, we ask the Lord, in His Grace, to lead us and follow us, to keep us always. Our goal is to do the Lord’s will, not to avoid 613 laws or to replace Him altogether. To do what is right, no matter how hard that may be and be humble. This is the summary of what the Christian life should be all about.
Action, not diction, is what counts. It is by your actions you are known.
Be of God - Live of God - Act of God