Saturday, February 23, 2019

C, Epiphany 7 - 1 Corinthians 15:49-50 Psalm 37:4 "Birth, Death and Resurrection"

Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15:49-50)

We are being saved by the Gospel.  The Gospel is Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection over sin and eternal death. This is the purpose of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the Gospel books of the bible.  The other New Testament writings also point us back to Jesus’ work in the Gospel books, as do the Old Testament writings point forward to Jesus.
So you turn up here week after week to hear about Jesus, to sing about him and what he has done, in the hope you will not have to experience eternal death.  That’s what religion is all about; avoiding death and eternal suffering.
Looking into yourself, what do you see?  Perhaps you don’t like looking in there very often. Maybe it’s bad enough looking in the mirror!  Possibly you don’t have to look within because what’s in there keeps bubbling out, like indigestion tries to gas its way up and out!
So we turn up here, hiding the reality of ourselves or denying it and putting on a good show.  Yet the Holy Spirit continues nibbling away at us, not to look into ourselves, but, to look out of ourselves.
He wants you to know your reality but he doesn’t want you to try to figure it out for yourself.  He wants to lead you to Jesus.  He wants you to know, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  He wants you and me to be Christians.  He doesn’t want us to be religious at all.
Being religious focuses us on what we have to do, must do, should do, or haven’t done.  Being a Christian focuses us on what we cannot do, and instead on he who does it.  That’s Jesus, the New Adam!  But being active always sounds better to us than being passive.  Being active usually makes us feel good about ourselves… most of the time.  I suspect like me many of you like to be active so there is not time to stop and reflect on what’s really going on within.
Looking out of ourselves to Jesus, and his word, actually helps us to get a better grip on what’s going on within ourselves.  It enables us to understand how we tick; what we do and why we do it!  Jesus and the word of God enables you not to be afraid of who you are or your sin.  It destroys fear of eternal death and it keeps us focused on Jesus’ promise to us in the face of dying and death.
God’s callings have a birth, a death, and then a resurrection. [1]  Our day to day living in Jesus Christ is as much about daily death and resurrection as is our last day.  Daily drowning the old nature to have Christ put on.  Taking up the cross and following Jesus.  Trust not in yourself.  Rather make the sacrifice to trust what the Holy Spirit places on your heart as you hear, read and reread God’s word.  Search and pray for the truth of the situation from God’s point of view.
In Psalm 37 we hear, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4 ESV)  What are the delights and desires of your heart?  If you are like me there will be many.  And if you are like me it takes God to come and sort them out.  
I end up not sorting out any of my delights or desires because I get caught up in myself.  Just like a child sent to clean its room ends us playing in the mess rather than cleaning it up. In the same way like a parent who has to then clean the child’s bedroom, God has to come and clean up my delights and desires.  God removes the rubbish of our religion to reveal the cleanliness of Christianity. What do I mean?
Christianity deals with death first and life then comes after resurrection.  It’s been that way since your baptism.  Dying to sin and being raised to life.  Our lives from then on look towards life as a Christian.  The Holy Spirit is the active one who moves us to Christ and keeps us in Christ.  And he’s the one who makes you feel guilty when you seek to ignore hearing and reading God’s Word, and gives you the yearning for forgiveness and peace.  In this life God is making us holy for heaven.
But the Old Adam within looks back to the self for justification, pleasure, delight and the deeds it thinks it needs to perform to be a self inflated hero.  Yep, the Old Adam is a narcissist. He or she within thinks he or she is the best person to deal with the self and having done so is then better than anyone else.  But this self-appeasing Adam within is a worrier, and warlord against anyone who seems better.
The Old Adam is a deceiver. He or she says, “You can’t really die, that’s only for the “old” or for the “bad people.”    And, “Why do I have to suffer, if God really loves me, my senses should not have to suffer anything?   Since the fall he or she says, “I’m like God I know good and evil, I decide what is good and what is evil, and pronounce judgement.”  The Old Adam loves the dos and don’ts of religion.  Jesus’ holiness has no eternal home in this haughty hero!
All through life, though, God seeks to free us of the Old Adam.  The reality of this is pain and suffering and perhaps even shame, but thankfully resurrection.  Our callings are various and many, from position in community, to family, to work career, to church, to God.  For the Christian all of these involve dying and death so resurrection can take place.
I am a son, a father, a husband, a citizen, an employee, a leader, a church member, a pastor, a child of God.  Death and dying is a normal part all of these.  As my kids grow things about them and my fatherhood die and are resurrected as something else, a career dies and is resurrected.  As a pastor I come and go and congregations receive and lose pastors.  Our congregations die, and God raises up his church.  The body wearies and we retire.  The aches and pains of ageing take the place of our active lives and new ways of living seem to come about.
But more specifically as I get older, closer to the day of my final earthly death, I learn from all the other deaths and resurrections in my callings that they are pointing me and teaching me the reality of who I am and what I am really capable of, or rightly, what I am not capable of.  The Old Adam wants to get angry at the corruption in the world and blame everyone else.  But this does not bring any sort of peace that lasts. If I am honest I have exploited just as much as the next person because of the narcissistic Old Adam within. 
I challenge you to ask God to give you a desire to hear and read his word.  To ponder what God has done for you.  You will be delighted when you realise God has placed many “Joseph situations” in your life.  Where God has used, what you have deemed, evil for his good and your salvation.  You will find the more you read and hear his word the more you will want to hear and read it.  When you sin, you will understand why you do, and you won’t explain it away, but rather confess it and thank God for the forgiveness he won on the cross for you. 
When you delight yourself in the Lord you will find the desires you once had will become less desirable.  Delighting in the Lord will aid in the death of self and the resurrection of something better; delight in the Lord.  The gods your Old Adam seek to serve will eventually seem less important and there will be a greater yearning within for more and more cleansing.  And the Holy Spirit will oblige and keep bringing you to the Word of God, both the Written Word and The Word made flesh.
However, the Old Adam within won’t like it one bit.  He or she will kick up a big stink. And you will find yourself being led back to the old self, to the old way of thinking.   A war will ensue within. The Old Adam will seek to restore your hero status.  You will be tempted and taunted, and sin will occur.
But do not fear, do not let the evil one trick you and lead you away from God’s word and God’s work.  He will tell you you’re too bad, you’ve been away from the word of God too long, you’re better off trusting in yourself once again, you can work off your sins! God doesn’t want to know you anymore!  I am sure you know what I’m saying, we’ve all been fooled before.  But even when we are fooled, let the Holy Spirit lead you back to the source of eternal life and the forgiveness won there for you.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.  Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.  (Psalm 37:3–7a ESV)
What is the good we are to trust doing in the Lord if the Old Adam can deceive within?  Doing good is looking out of ourselves to Jesus, being still and letting the Holy Spirit lead us to him, our risen Saviour.  Befriending faithfulness, does not trust our faithfulness which often wanders, but, trusts and befriends God’s faithfulness towards us, which is promised in his word.
At the birth of a sin it’s time for another death and resurrection, one of the many we undergo as a Christian.  Trust God has got you covered with the blood of Jesus and believe the Holy Spirit busies himself calling, gathering and enlightening you together with all Christians in repentance.   Don’t be deceived or afraid!  Jesus died for sinners, so let Jesus save you from your sin.
The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.  The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.  (Psalm 37:39–40 ESV)
The Lord saves us from the wicked, that is the wicked without AND the wicked within.  That is his promise to you; he will save you from the Old Adam within, so take refuge in him.  Amen.

[1] “Ed Amies, one of my oldest and closest friends, told my simply that: “So often, God’s callings have a birth, a death, and then a resurrection.” Bear Grylls (page 216) Mud, Sweat and Tears