Psalm 107:1-3 (NRSV) O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. By John Grimm […]Redeemed from Trouble — Methodist Life
I have a new term for the world. The term I want to introduce us to is “systemic sin.” We have heard much about systemic racism over the past year. I think the problem goes deeper than that. If there is any systemic racism in our church, at whatever level, or in our community, at whatever level, it does not describe the problem. The more accurate phrase is systemic sin.
In the past two millennia, we have heard the term original sin. This term describes the deplorable state of humans after the Fall in Genesis 3. John Wesley and early Methodists were familiar with the term original sin. As I have read some of John Wesley’s work, he would use the term “inbred sin” in place of original sin. Both terms help us see how depraved we are before we realize God’s grace has gotten hold of us.
Systemic sin, original sin, or inbred sin all describe you and I before we accepted God’s forgiveness. God had warned Adam to stay away from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. For when Adam ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, then he would die. In Article VII, Or Original or Birth Sin, states that Original Sin is not from following Adam. Original Sin happens because when Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, their death to God comes to each of us when we are born. We are born this way, to have original sin.
Yet, that is not how God intended it to be. God created us for fellowship with himself. Disobeying God’s will is how we express our original sin. Continuing to live in the dead state of sin continually separates us from God. Are we without hope? Is there any way to overcome original sin?
A. What is original sin?
a. Fallen creation – our sin and sins infect our relationships and the world around us
b. Entire corruption of our nature – dead to the ways of God
i. John Wesley – “In Adam all die; that is (1) Our bodies become mortal (2) Our souls died; that is, were disunited from God and hence, (3) We are all born with a sinful devilish nature. By reason whereof, (4) We are children of wrath, liable to death eternal.” (Found in Kenneth Collin’s book A Faithful Witness: John Wesley’s Homiletical Theology)
c. Inbred sin (John Wesley)
i. Atheism (unbelief) – Adam’s sin – unbelief
ii. Pride – even being proud of our nature/choices
iii. Self-will – wanting what we want when we want it
iv. Love of the world
- Desire of the flesh – it feels good, I must have it
- Desire of the eye – it looks good, I must have it
- Pride of life – I have it and I am going to keep it
d. From our evil heart come evil works – James 1:14
e. Yes, God did create us to be good. Indeed, God called the creation of humans as being very good. Yet, we want what we want, even it opposes what God wants for us. Like the first man and woman, we have fallen. Their innocence was lost, and our innocence is lost. On our own, we would be beastly, horrible creatures. Yet, even after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, God was still working with them.
B. How do we overcome original sin?
a. God’s grace has not left us!
b. God’s grace protects us so that we may return to him!
c. We see God’s grace guiding the Chosen People, Israel, throughout the Old Testament
d. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can be restored to God
e. God’s grace restores us – God is doing the work of salvation
f. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God come in the flesh, and we receive forgiveness for our sins and our sin
i. God justifies us through Jesus Christ, therefore we repent of our sins
ii. God sanctifies us through Jesus Christ, therefore we repent of our sin
iii. Sins – those thoughts, words, and actions that cause harm to us and others, thereby separating us from God
iv. Sin – even the nature that is in us, the original sin, can be forgiven as we are made holy through and through
g. We were created good. We have fallen because of original sin and the sins we have enjoyed. God restores us through faith. All along we have noticed God working in our lives. That is grace. Through grace, God restores us to himself. We become holy in such a fashion that even systemic sin does not drive us away from God. It is faith in Christ that drives us closer to God.
We were once thoroughly wicked. It took a word about faith in Jesus to turn our attention to God. It is the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all unrighteousness. It is the blood of Christ that cleanses us from systemic sin.
Are there still wicked ways harming our relationships? Are there still evil desires in our hearts? Are confounded how as Christians we still sin? There is still hope for us!
When we place faith in Jesus, we repent of our ways and turn to God’s ways. As we live faith in Jesus, we repent of our ways and continue to turn to God’s ways. Let us confess our sins and our sin to God. God can and does forgive our original sin. Inbred sin need not keep us from being holy as God is holy. Let us all repent of our sin today.
2 Timothy 3:12-17
If we desire to make it out of this world, then we need a way to make it out of this world. Indeed,
there is one way out of this world. It is through faith in Jesus Christ that we can make it out of
this world. It is the Holy Bible, the Holy Scriptures, which tells us how we make it out of this
world alive. And we United Methodist Christians believe this stuff!
One of our predecessor denominations, the Evangelical United Brethren Church, stated: “We
believe the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, reveals the Word of God so far as it is
necessary for our salvation.” Even the Methodist Church agreed by saying: “The Holy Scripture
containeth all things necessary to salvation.” Both statements can be traced to the Church of
England, onto the Catholic Church, and even to early ecumenical councils.
Knowing that we believe in the Holy Scriptures, we turn to what they contain for us. Since we
desire a way to make it out of this world, our reason for this desire must be founded upon
something. As Paul is writing to Timothy, he says, and I paraphrase, “It is going to get a whole
lot worse before it gets better.”
How then are we to make it out of this world since it will be getting a whole lot worse? This is
where Paul instructs Timothy in the means of living a godly life. It is through knowing the Bible
that Timothy did live a godly life and could make it out of this world alive. As we have faith in
Jesus, we can live a godly life. It is the Holy Scriptures which shows us what salvation means.
It is through searching the Scriptures by ourselves and with others that we can know eternal life
that comes from believing Jesus is the Son of God (John 5:39). How then do we search the
Scriptures? What is so great about studying the Bible with other people?
A. How do we search the Scriptures?
a. Know the sacred writings – Old & New Testament
i. Paul and Timothy studied them
ii. For instruction of the ignorant – just because a preacher says it, does not
make it true – check for yourself!
b. Bulletin insert – John Wesley’s ideas
c. Pray about what you are going to read (James 1:5)
d. Our hearts may grow greater than the Grinch’s heart did when the love of God
i. Salvation comes through Jesus Christ
ii. We can become ready to do good work
iii. God’s grace is ready to work in our lives
iv. Opening the Bible gets us open to God’s grace
v. The end is that we can know Jesus & have life
B. What is so great about studying the Bible with other people?
a. How can we teach the Bible unless we know it?
b. How can we make sure our reproofs are not just our feelings?
c. How can we correct someone’s faith unless we know God’s Word?
d. How can we train others unless we first have been trained?
e. What we learn in the Bible can be lived in our lives, now
f. We can raise our children to know God – Sunday School
i. Instructing/training up the children of God – We can be godly, holy, and
righteous, as we as learn what is in the Bible.
ii. John Wesley’s Journal, July 18, 1784 –
- “Before service I stepped into the Bingley Sunday school of 240
children taught every Sunday by several masters and
superintended by the assistant minister. So many children in one
parish are restrained from open sin, instructed in a few things
about good manners and taught to read the Bible. I find these
schools springing up wherever I go. Perhaps God has a deeper
purpose than people are aware of.”
g. We can raise our teens to follow God – UMYF
h. We can be disciples of Jesus – all adults
i. God can use us for his good work (3:17)
j. When our heart gets changed, we can speak about God. We can let others know
the one who has redeemed us. We can be working out our salvation with fear
and trembling as we study God’s Word. We may learn something about our
friend’s faith that we had not realized before. We can find encouragement for our
own faith when we search the Scriptures together. Who knows how many people
can be changed by the good work that God can do through us?
At Resurrection 2010, Justin Lookadoo ripped a Bible in half. When we refuse to search the
Scriptures, we are doing the same thing. When we are searching the Scriptures, the whole
world will change for us. We are the ones who are changed.
Do you want to follow Jesus? Do you want to know what it means to have salvation because of
your faith in Jesus Christ? Read your Bible. Search the Scriptures with prayer. Our church can
do good works when we know whom we are serving.
God has a way for us to make it out of this world alive. If we follow Jesus Christ, then we can
live. We trust Jesus because we know God’s forgiveness through Jesus. This forgiveness leads
us to do the good works God knows we can do. Once we repent of our ways, we take up God’s
ways of living. Just as God did good in creating us, we do good as God created us. We will not make it out of this world unless we believe in Jesus. We can read the Bible and see for ourselves. Then, let us start living what we read in the Bible.
I realized many decades ago that I cannot do it alone. I cannot be a Christian on my own. I need other Christians nearby. I need older Christians to encourage me. I need younger Christians to inspire me. I need the Holy Spirit to be in me so that I can be a Christian!
Ever since I have publicly stated that I believe in Jesus Christ, I have needed the Holy Spirit in me. Along the way and at various times, I have realized that I have not listened to or followed the lead of the Holy Ghost. It has also occurred to me that being a Christian is not the easiest or simplest way to live. I usually figure that out when I have not been paying attention to the Holy Spirit!
What does it mean to have the Holy Spirit in us? What are we to do so we can be Christians in this world? What happens when we realize the Holy Spirit is working in us? These questions and other questions might be answered today. We may even leave this time discovering that we have even more questions than when we had before our time together!
A. We can live by the Spirit (8:12-15)
a. Who is the Holy Spirit?
i. Holy – pure – check out 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8
ii. Spirit – power of God, working in our lives
iii. Paraclete – “one who is called to one’s side for help”
iv. Comforter – John 14-16
v. An Instructor, a Witness, a Convincer, and a Glorifier
vi. The Spirit that hovered over the waters of creation
b. What does the Holy Spirit do with us?
i. Possessed Gideon – Judges 6:34 – “The Spirit of the Lord clothed himself with Gideon”!
ii. When seeking the Holy Spirit, we are seeking to have pure lives
iii. Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it!
c. What do we do with the Holy Spirit?
i. Remain flexible
ii. Harry Denman – Methodist man who won many to Christ –
- When asked what is the unpardonable sin?
- Denman’s answer – “inflexibility”
iii. Puts our egos out of a job
d. When we become disciples of Jesus Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit. We change from wanting what we want to wanting what God wants. Our thoughts, words, and actions become pure. Well, they will if we keep listening to the Holy Spirit tell us about Jesus! It was Augustine who recorded his prayer in Confessions: “Lord, make me pure, but not entirely.” If we are to follow Jesus, it will take the power of God to make us holy. When we are asking Jesus to be our Lord, we are also asking the Holy Spirit to make us pure. That is what the Paraclete does!
B. The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit (8:16-17)
a. Started living full-time in believers on Pentecost
b. He is the Spirit of Love – love is expected of every Spirit-filled Christian
c. We know we are children of God because of the Holy Spirit being in us
d. As the Spirit instructs us, we live
e. As the Spirit is a witness to Jesus, we witness to Jesus
f. As the Spirit is a convincer, we convince people about Jesus
g. As the Spirit is a glorifier of Jesus, we glorify Jesus
h. The Holy Spirit is given to all who believe in Jesus
i. When we cry out to God, it is the Holy Spirit who testifies with our spirit that we belong to God. As we suffer for believing in God, the Holy Spirit enables us to know that we will make it through the suffering. We are children of God. The Holy Spirit helps us live as children of God.
God is holy. As we believe in Jesus, we become holy. Jesus was with us to let us know that God wants us to be with him the rest of time. It is the Holy Spirit who is with us so that we can be holy and with God for the rest of time.
Will we be pure like God? Will we pursue holiness so we can be with God for all time? Then, we call upon the Holy Spirit to come to us. We place faith in Jesus Christ. We start following the Holy Ghost in glorifying Jesus. Suffering will come, but the Holy Spirit will get us through the suffering. The Holy Spirit is the power of God that helps us to live like Jesus. Is today the day we all decide to be holy as God is holy?
There is one matter for the church that is as important now as it was on that first Pentecost. This one matter caused much anguish and much growth for the early church. What is that one matter that was important then and now? What is that one matter that can cause anguish and growth for the church?
The resurrection is that one matter.
The Jewish religious leaders jailed the early Christians for preaching and teaching about Jesus’ resurrection. We read later in Acts about how God was able to release several apostles from the jail. God did this work so that more people could see his power and believe in Jesus Christ. In Peter’s sermon, we find that the resurrection informs our belief about Jesus and about eternal life.
We only have the birth of the church on Pentecost because of the Jesus’ resurrection. We only have hope for a future with God because of Jesus’ resurrection. For just as Jesus was resurrected from the dead, we who believe in Jesus will also rise from the grave to live with God for all time on the new earth.
A. Peter preached about Jesus’ resurrection (2:22-36)
a. 120 had been gathered to pray in the upper room (1:12-15) – including Mary the mother of Jesus!
b. Fifty days after Jesus rose from the grave, God’s power comes upon Jesus’ believers
c. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, all the believers spoke about God’s deeds of power
d. People from the known world visiting Jerusalem were talking about how they heard in their own native language
e. Peter clarifies what is going on
i. Joel 2:28-31 – call upon the Lord and you will be saved
ii. Jesus of Nazareth – crucified by the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman authorities
iii. God raised Jesus from the grave
- The Lord gives hope to David so that his flesh will live
- God did not abandon Jesus to Hades or decomposition
- The Lord’s presence gives gladness to David (and us)
- David is still in the grave
- David had been told that one of his descendants would be on David’s throne for all time
v. The believers are witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection
f. Jesus, who had been crucified, is both Lord and Messiah
i. Sits at the right hand of God the Father
ii. The believers have received the promise of the Holy Spirit
iii. Jesus’ enemies are becoming his footstool, thanks to the Father
g. What a stunning time for the people visiting Jerusalem for Pentecost! The visitors and the residents of Jerusalem were able to hear about Jesus rising from the dead. Hearing about God’s deeds of power changes our perspective. As disciples of Jesus Christ, it can be our normal life to hear and see God’s deeds of power. Has God given us strength to get through a rough patch? Have we noticed how God heals our loved ones? Have we paid attention to how God answers prayer? Through our Wesley Fellowship Groups, we aim to focus on God and hope to see more of God’s deeds of power as we make disciples. Knowing that Jesus rose from the grave, we know that neither death nor the grave will defeat those who are in Christ!
B. What should we do when we hear about the resurrection of Jesus? (2:37-42)
a. Those attending the Pentecost festival wanted to know what to do
ii. Be baptized
iii. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
iv. This promise is for you and all the Lord our God calls to him
b. God added to the believers – 3000 on that day!
c. God can add to our numbers when we speak about our hope in Jesus
d. Having our life radically changed by knowing Jesus Christ, we can repent of our sins. Whether everyone knows our sins or only you and God know your sins, we can repent. Being baptized in Jesus’ name and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to be disciples of Jesus Christ. When we live our faith in the one who has been resurrected from the grave, we will see more believers added to our church.
There is one matter that drove the early church to be the church of Christ. There is one matter that drove the church to continue even when they were persecuted. That one matter is the resurrection of Jesus. There is life with God after death for those who believe in Jesus Christ. It is called the resurrection.
Just as Jesus rose from the grave, as God’s kingdom is fully established here on earth, we too will rise from the grave. We have the hope in being resurrected. God wants us to be with him in his kingdom. Being resurrected allows us to be with God for the rest of time and beyond time.
Have you repented of your sins? Are you ready to be baptized? Will you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? God is working in this world. God’s deeds of power are being done even today. Will you believe that Jesus rose from the grave? Will you believe that Jesus is the Lord and the Messiah of the whole world, of your life? Today is the day of salvation. Believe in Jesus Christ and live the resurrected life!
by Chris Ritter The Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation has created strange bedfellows in the UMC. The two primary legislative caucuses mustered to oppose one another at previous General Conferences now find themselves oddly aligned. Both the Renewal and Reform Coalition (Good News/WCA/Africa Initiative/Confessing Movement/IRD) and Love Your Neighbor Coalition (Reconciling Ministries/Queer Clergy […]Four Protocol Leadership Approaches
I like where Jesus is now. As Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father, Jesus gets to ask God to help me. Whether I am forgetting someone’s name or facing temptation, Jesus is talking to God for me. I am glad that Jesus is my advocate with God the Father!
How did Jesus become my advocate with the Father? How did Jesus become our advocate with the Father? Jesus fulfilled all that was written about him in the Old Testament. By Jesus being obedient to the Father, we recognize Jesus is the Son of God. Since we can believe in Jesus as the Son of God, then Jesus becomes our advocate.
It is in Article II of the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church that we acknowledge that Jesus reconciles us to the Father. To reconcile us with God, Jesus must advocate for us with the Father. Jesus does this work of speaking on our behalf as he sits next to the Father. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is advocating with us so that we can be reconciled with the Father. Being in a righteous relationship with the Father allows us to be Christ’s witnesses here on earth.
A. The Father is sending power to Jesus’ disciples (24:44-49)
- On the 40th day after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus gives instructions to the disciples
- It is by our minds being opened by God that we understand the Scriptures
a. Law of Moses
- You are witnesses to these things
a. Witness = martyr
b. The Messiah suffers and rises from the dead on the third day
c. Repentance and forgiveness in Jesus’ name are proclaimed to all people groups
d. Starting in Jerusalem (for us, right where we are is where it starts)
- The Father will send power to Jesus’ disciples (to us!)
a. That power is the Holy Spirit
b. God promised his Spirit to be upon all flesh back in Joel 2
- It is through Jesus’ words and actions that we recognize Jesus as the Son of God. The authority in which Jesus spoke is unlike any other. The deeds of power, miracles, are only work that God can do. It is recognizing that it is the Scriptures which speak of Jesus, the Messiah, that we recognize Jesus as the Son of God. One greater than Moses has come our way. One who would suffer to take away our sin has come our way. One who sits at the right hand of the Father has come our way. Jesus is the Son of God, come in the flesh. Jesus has come so we may change from our ways as we receive forgiveness from God. Jesus is the one who works in our lives, even here in Pennington Gap! As the Holy Spirit, the power from God, works in us, we are Christ’s witnesses here in Pennington Gap. What could the disciples do?
B. The disciples were blessing God (24:5—53)
- Bethany – across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem
- Jesus blessed his disciples then (and now)
- Jesus was carried up to heaven
a. Like Enoch, Elijah, and Moses
b. Acts 1 tells us that Jesus is coming back the same way – from heaven!
- This scene is the first time the disciples worshipped Jesus
- Knowing that they will have power from the Father brings joy to the disciples
- The disciples continued to bless God in the Temple
- It is good to examine what the disciples did while and after Jesus was lifted to heaven. As we are disciples today, we too can be filled with joy as we are given power from God to be Jesus’ witnesses here and now! We disciples get to bless God. It is God who sent Jesus to us. Jesus is the Son of God, come in the flesh. We can go from here today, blessing God for Jesus.
Jesus’ Father has promised to give power from on high to those who believe in Jesus. For us to understand this promise, Jesus can open our minds to what the scriptures say. On this Sunday that we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, we want to understand the scriptures. It will be good for us to focus on God so Jesus can reveal the Scriptures to us.
As we recognize Jesus to be sitting at the right hand of God, we too can have joy. We know the Holy Spirit is in us so that we can be witnesses to Jesus. We know that Jesus rose from the dead. We know Jesus gives us forgiveness as we repent of our sins. Maybe we are witnesses to Jesus because our joy causes other people to want what we have.
Let us pray: Jesus, thank you for opening the minds of your people. May the Holy Spirit, the promise of your Father, give us power to live fully as your disciples. Thank you for being our joy during these days of uncertainty. Help us to witness to Jesus’ resurrection as we speak and live repentance and forgiveness. Amen.
I find faith in God fascinating. When we think we know how God will work in a situation, God
does something different. Yet, what God does is what is needed in each situation. Our God is
holy. Our God is loving. Our God is strong. Thinking we know how God will work in any given
situation reminds us that we need not become too familiar with the holy.
For the god we serve is holy. We see God as being three persons in one. We say that God is
the triune God. That is, God is a holy trinity. The cooperation, love, and grace known by God
the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are more than we can grasp. We are not able
to know how the three interact as one. We can believe that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit
are one God because we have evidence of God working in our lives.
We have heard that God the Father creates, God the Son redeems, and God the Spirit
sanctifies. Throughout his lifetime, John Wesley did not see this being accurate. When we
begin to ponder Genesis 1, we realize the Trinity is there at creation. Then when we consider
Jesus being here on earth, we recognize the Trinity is involved in redeeming us from our sin.
Finally, when we study how God makes us holy, all the Trinity is working so that we may be holy
as God is holy. John Wesley and other Christians have called the Holy Trinity, the “Three-One
Jesus’ own words help us see how God is at work in this world. Though Philip spent years of
his life with Jesus, he did not recognize how God the Father was evident in Jesus’ work. Jesus
has been preparing his disciples for his suffering, death, and resurrection. Now, before Jesus is
betrayed, he tells his disciples reassuring words. These words are also for us.
A. We want to be like Philip, we want to see the Father (14:8-14)
a. Philip (and the disciples, including us) will be satisfied when we see the Father
b. When we see Jesus, we see the Father
c. Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus
d. In other words, God is doing the work (the Father works through and in the Son)
e. The works Jesus did are the works that only God the Father can do
i. We will do greater works than Jesus’ works
ii. Jesus is with the Father, now we heal, cast out demons, and raise the
iii. We ask for help in Jesus’ name and the Father receives glory
f. We get this part of Jesus’ teaching to his disciples. We understand the
relationship between a father and a son. We see a resemblance of our fathers in
our face and our mannerisms. That only touches the surface of how God the
Father and God the Son are together. We can be close with our mothers. We
can be close to our fathers. That helps us to understand a little bit of how the
Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father. The same God who worked in the
Old Testament is the same God who works in the New Testament. We see the
Father working in the Old Testament. We see the Father working in the New
Testament. It is in the New Testament that we realize the Father is working in
and through Jesus for our benefit. It is God himself who is with us so that we can
live this life. How far will the Three-One God go to be with us?
B. We receive another Advocate (14:15-17)
a. Do you love Jesus, then keep his commandments (same commandments that
came from the Father!)
b. When we do not know how to keep Jesus’ commandments, then we need help
c. God the Spirit is our helper, our Advocate
d. Just as Jesus is at the right hand of God, advocating for us to God and
advocating for God to us, the Holy Spirit does this work
i. The Holy Spirit advocates to God for us – with words we cannot express
ii. The Holy Spirit advocates to us for God – reminding all that Jesus taught
e. The Spirit of Truth lives in those who know God the Father through God the Son
f. Every believer in Jesus receives the Holy Spirit
g. The Spirit of Truth is with us as we gather together
h. We are Christians because we have received the Holy Spirit. In John Wesley’s
sermon, “Spiritual Worship,” we find this truth: “Christian religion consists not in
outward acting or duties or concepts, but more directly in the knowledge and love
of God, as manifested in the Son of his love, through the eternal Spirit.” We
know some of the Trinity because some of the Trinity lives in us so we can live
for all time with all the Trinity. In other words, we know some of God because
God lives in us so we can live for all time with God.
We have discovered that we cannot assign a particular role to each person of the Trinity. We
do know that the Father creates, redeems, and sanctifies. We also know that the Son creates,
redeems, and sanctifies. Further, the Holy Spirit creates, redeems, and sanctifies. All the Holy
Trinity takes part in creation, redemption, and sanctification.
As United Methodists, we believe in the Holy Trinity. We believe this Three-One God is the only
god we need. We meet the Father through the work of the Son and the presence of the Holy
Spirit. We know the Son through the gifting of the Father and the Spirit. We receive the Holy
Spirit by the Father and the Son not leaving us alone.
Knowing what we believe and whom we believe in, are we ready to do greater works than
Jesus? All we do is ask and the Holy Spirit will work through us so that God the Father is
glorified in the Son. Maybe this week we can spend some time with the Holy Spirit so we can
know what to ask from the Holy Trinity. Our families and community need to see our faith in the
Trinity. Will you believe in God and receive all that God has for you?
It is coming up on five months since my mom died. I do miss her. Keeping in contact with my family of origin had been a good benefit during these days. We each mourn for her and our loss of her life with us in our own ways. Somehow, life keeps on happening, day after day.
Recently, my wife, Maria, and I heard a sermon on grief. The preacher reminded me that lament is a good means of grieving. The grief did not stop after the graveside service was completed. Grief does not stop even after the three allotted days American companies give for a family funeral!
The preacher mentioned denial. She was speaking about how we “Don’t Even Know I Am Lying” as we grieve. This denial is in collaboration with saying we are fine. Fine is short for “Feelings I’m Not Expressing.” Wow! These words seem familiar.
Being busy with work does not allow time to grieve. Packing away feelings cannot allow us to grieve. Saying I’m fine does not assist us in mourning. Of course, recounting our painful time with complete strangers is not healthy either! Thankfully, God hears us and walks with us through our grief.
I learned quickly after mom’s death to say, “I’m okay.” I know I am not fine. The wound is too fresh. One day, I will be able to say I’m fine. Then, there will be days that I can say, I’m doing good. But, I am not at those points yet. That is alright.
I remember a widow speaking about her grief. She and her husband had been married for decades. About the time of the first anniversary of his death, she told herself that she would not continue to be sad. She misses her departed husband. Her faith in God helped her to grieve. As I remember this saint, I remember how bubbly she was. Maybe in time I can have similar bubbliness about life.
I am not there yet. During this time of grief, I know God is with me. He sure is giving extra grace to Maria as she knows how I am doing. She was there the night that I stopped a movie so I could grieve, loudly. I thank God that she allowed me to grieve.
2 Corinthians 13:5-13
It would have been nice to be a fly on the wall in Corinth when Paul came for his final visit. Paul has acknowledged that it is his third visit with the Corinthians (13:1). We know it was his final visit because after his third visit, Paul later goes to Jerusalem and appeals to Caesar for how he was treated. Paul believes it is necessary to visit the Corinthians for a third time.
Paul has spent the entire letter confronting the Corinthians about correction, reconciliation, and the power of Jesus Christ. At the end of this letter, Paul informs the Corinthians that he is on his way. Paul wants to find the church in Corinth in better shape than on his last visit. Paul also wants to renew his relationship with them in person.
After we have read this entire letter, we realize Paul is also talking to us. While we have been living in this COVID-19 pandemic, we have been reexamining how we live as Christians. For our lives as Christians is about being prepared for Jesus’ final visit to this world. When Jesus comes again, Jesus will be looking for those who have been living in the faith.
A. Are we living in the faith? (13:5-10)
a. Examine yourselves
b. We pray that you may do right
c. We do everything for the truth – Jesus!
d. You may become perfect (holy, mature, complete)
e. Paul does not want to be severe with the Corinthians
f. Are we living in the faith? We take our SUVs to the garage to get the oil changed, to get new brakes, and to make sure it is in running order. Maybe Sunday morning is our time to examine ourselves to see if our faith is working fine. Much like there are times that our SUV’s need a more thorough going over, we too can give ourselves a more thorough going over than what Sunday morning can entail. Being aware of the need of doing right to other people can be on our minds. We can do everything for Jesus – from the tone we use with each other to the willingness to check on those we have missed seeing in person. It is a sign of God’s grace working in us that we are maturing in our faith by taking care of each other, even when we have better things to do. Living in the faith, following Jesus, takes our entire life. How then shall we live?
B. We live as saints in this fashion (13:11-13)
b. Listen to my appeal
c. Live in peace – with each other
i. Holy way of being with each other
ii. Mature Christian attitude
iii. Completes our growth in Christ to give peace to each other
d. Greet one another with a holy kiss – make the move to greet each other
e. How is this all possible?
i. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ – we grow in Jesus to be like Jesus
ii. The love of God – the Father creates so that we can live
iii. The communion of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit sustains us, together, with each other
iv. Be with all of you
f. These directions help us to live as saints, as holy ones. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we follow Jesus so we can be holy. The name of “holy ones,” being saints, reminds us how we are to be. We do not become angels, but we do become like Jesus. We have placed aside our sin and inclination to give into temptations so we can live with God for all time. Paul is wanting to build up the Corinthians, so they live as holy, mature, complete believers in Christ. As we read 2 Corinthians, we find that we too can be holy, mature, complete believers in Christ.
I hope this morning is not the final time you visit with 2 Corinthians. For we each can grow up in Christ to be holy. God has this expectation on us. The Holy Spirit enables us to live holy lives. Many saints who have gone before us had become mature in Christ before their deaths.
What do we do? We fix the problems we have with other Christians inside and outside this congregation. We make peace with those we have a grudge. We stop being petty and start being holy.
What say you? Are you ready to be holy? Are you ready to grow up in Christ, to be mature Christians? Then let us all live in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit. Amen.