+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: John 6:63
Theme: ‘Spiritual’ In Christ
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Vigilance is an inescapable consequence of Christian life. Popular characterizations of God and His truth must constantly be assessed. Today many turned away from Christ. Jesus upset the apple cart nearly everywhere He went. The image of Him as a congenial, easy-going sage whose tolerance encompassed all manner of human sinfulness is patently false. To confess that God is love does not mean that Jesus came to excuse and legitimize every pursuit of wicked humanity. That such a belief is so widely held speaks of the shallowness of Christianity today. If there were no need for forgiveness there would be no need for a Redeemer.
Perhaps for many this is exactly the sticking point. Are humans sufficient unto themselves? Can they be self-authenticating in regards to their purpose and self-controlling as to their destiny? The answers in the positive are both overt- those who publicly assert a philosophy of life conspicuously absent of God; and evasive- those who, while not actively defaming faith, go about their life as if God were not part of the picture. These temptations strain the believer also.
The sinner is never ‘out of the woods’. The moment we begin to assert our independence from God (even if it is subconsciously) is the moment God’s law needs to call us again to repentance. You come here every Sunday because you are a sinner. You are dependent on God and His mercy. Typically God uses mundane circumstances to drive our contrition. How often God has to use the lever of adversity. Prosperity more often breeds apathy or arrogance than it does an attitude of thanksgiving. Adversity gets our attention and makes us call out. When you experience adversity be sure that God is ‘working’ on you- shaping, refining, renovating- from the inside out. Remember you are always a work in progress. Only God can see the final product.
Of course, being a work in progress is often taxing. Some are just beginning their journey of faith. Others have been on the road for some time. Some are stumbling. Others are lost. Still others are moving in fits and starts. Some of us may feel like we’re going in slow motion. Most will experience different phases across a range of experiences; confusion, apathy, frustration, but also excitement, inspiration, and consolation. A number of you may feel like you are ready for the journey to end. And not everyone will finish the race of faith.
What we are certain of is that God Himself both initiates and tends to the process to the very end- from font to grave. The Bible says, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”1 And the Lord says today, “The Spirit gives life.”2 Where there is life, there is hope. He who has called us to be His own does not fail to nurture our faith according to our needs. Some need milk like infants, others solid food for maturity. The Spirit is in the milk as well as the meat. Christ is the Bread from heaven with which we are fed.
In Him we “are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices.”3 This is a holy but mostly hidden truth, counter-cultural to the pursuits of the world. How much of what is praised as spirituality is actually a deeply subjective, emotive, and personal romanticism mistaken for religious devotion? An interest in supernatural, magical, or mystical phenomena doesn’t automatically make a person spiritual. Neither does a resonance with and sensitivity to the feelings and emotions of others. Are we spiritual people of our own shaping? To the extent that we are, we are in need of deconstruction and renovation. We have no resources of our own with which to build our spirituality. But the devil will gladly supply what is ‘lacking’.
The Holy Spirit makes people spiritual. He does this by communicating to us the gifts of Christ. You see, it’s not even that you possess spirituality per se. Rather you have fellowship with Christ who is spiritual in the most complete and proper way. “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”4 Your participation in Him is your spirituality. The Scripture says, “You are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.”5 In baptism you are clothed with His clothing; righteousness, holiness, purity. You are named with His name. You are endowed with His inheritance. You are naturalized into His kingdom. These blessings you have by faith.
An unbeliever cannot be spiritual in the biblical sense whatsoever. To the degree that we speak this way about people we know to be unbelievers- kind and well-meaning as they are- we do them an injustice. We do them an injustice because we confirm in them a false sense of security. We misrepresent the absolute necessity of Christ. No one is inherently spiritual. Rather, we are inherently sinful. And no one can achieve a state of godliness or altruism that will be sufficient to gain access to the next life. In fact, the attempt to achieve godliness by one’s own merit is the highest expression of sinfulness precisely because it eliminates the need for Christ’s sacrifice. Therefore, that which can appear most pious in human eyes is actually the most depraved in the sight of God.
Jesus spoke to many crowds who were vulnerable, confused, and misguided. His burning desire was that they find life; its meaning, its purpose and its fulfillment in Him.
We often think that our greatest challenges involve the day to day struggles of relationships, parenting, finances, health, and career. Yet during all these activities Satan is seeking to undermine and destroy our faith. It’s easy to get things out of perspective. And that’s exactly what the devil wants you to do. When we lose perspective we forget which battles are most important. It’s like the Kentucky mountaineer who while fighting overseas in WW1 kept getting nagging letters from his wife back home. He was too busy fighting to write letters, even to his wife. At last, angered by his wife’s scolding letters, he sat down and wrote her: "Dear Nancy: I been a-gittin yore naggin letters all along. Now I want to tell ye, I’m tired of them. For the first time in my life I’m a-fightin in a big war, and I want to enjoy it in peace as long as it lasts."
Dear friends, you do battle against “the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil.”6 In baptism you are wrestled from the kingdom of darkness and Satan wants you back. Christ Himself tells us not to fear those who can harm the body only. Look at the armor with which He supplies you! Righteousness! Peace! Faith! The gospel! The word of God! And the Holy Spirit Himself! You are fitted with sacred weapons and defences of such caliber that Satan, death, and hell cannot overpower you. You are under the protection of the crucified and risen Lord. He is your master. He is your servant. He is the Living Bread from heaven that serves you now with His own body and blood. He seals you with His Spirit for eternity. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
26 August 2012
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Titus 3:5-7
2 John 6:63
3 1 Peter 2:5
4 Colossians 2:9
5 Romans 8:9
6 Ephesians 6:12