+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Mark: 8:33
Theme: Forewarned Is Forearmed
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Forewarned is forearmed. Perhaps you’ve said it yourself. If we know in advance the threats we will face, we have opportunity to be prepared. We can direct our energies to mitigating or avoiding the danger. If we fail to heed the warning the consequences should not be surprising. Lent is surely a good season to consider how this is true in our walk of faith. On the one hand, the Scriptures warn us constantly and clearly about the menace of sin and the consequences that follow. But on the other hand, God doesn’t fail to come to our aid, rescue, and support. Jesus, the Suffering Servant, intercedes for us. The Holy Spirit attends to us. And we are fitted with the only weapon necessary which the Bible calls “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.1”
Being forearmed, however, is no reason to be apathetic, falsely secure, or foolishly self-confident. Nearing the end of a three-year intensive apprenticeship, Jesus and Simon Peter knew each other pretty well. Peter was impulsive, but passionate and loyal. He was seldom remiss in expressing his convictions or sharing his opinions. He had confessed Jesus to be the Messiah saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”2 But now we see clearly that he didn’t know what that really meant. Peter was looking for the strident path to glory. Jesus was leading him by way of the cross. The agendas were irreconcilable. Peter would need to concede, of course, he just didn’t understand how harrowing or painful it would be. The apex is reached today when Jesus responds to Peter’s rebuke saying, “Ge behind Me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”3
Peter envisioned, in some measure, an earthly kingdom established by Jesus in which he would have a high-profile position. He felt very strongly the martyrdom of Jesus was not the way to achieve it. He was self-confident; but He was misled. The passion of his convictions didn’t prevent them from being proven false. He truly thought his assessments were godly. Herein lies an important lesson. If you have an intuition, a feeling, or a sense of what you think God is telling you or wanting you to do- perhaps you’ve seen a sign that supposedly affirms your instinct- don’t automatically assume it is the voice of God speaking to you. Anything and everything that conflicts with God’s revealed word is not a prompting of the Holy Spirit.
If I have a strong feeling that it’s okay to be unfaithful to my wife because I think the circumstances warrant it, that is not the stimulus of the Holy Spirit, but of my own selfishness. If I am convinced that it’s permissible to deceive a business partner because we haven’t been seeing eye to eye on things, that attitude is not being provoked by the Holy Spirit. If I have been hurt by someone in a relationship and now I’m plotting my revenge, my motivation is not from the Spirit, but from my sinful nature. The Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Commandments don’t make exceptions for me. My judgment will never be more righteous than God’s. In the context of today’s gospel account, Peter was so self-confident he actually accused Jesus of being off track. Such wrongheadedness cannot be mitigated or re-directed. It must be ousted. It must be defeated.
And this is precisely how the Holy Spirit deals with our sinfulness. He doesn’t try to refine or revise our sinfulness. He doesn’t make the best of an undesirable situation. Sin cannot be reformed, only the sinner can be. Ungodliness cannot be civilized. It must be rebuked. Conviction of the heart and will must occur so that repentance will lead to revival and new life. When you receive God’s forgiveness, He is not condoning your sin. He is not overlooking your transgressions. The Spirit works to crush your sinful motives, so that godly ones can leap to the fore. God does not tolerate sin, He atones for it.
Dear friends, our Lord goes right to the crux of the deepest concerns of existence when He says to the crowds today, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”4 Posed as rhetorical questions, they have very definite answers. It’s doesn’t matter if we have everything imaginable in this life, no one can save their own soul from God’s just wrath against sin. We have nothing to offer Him worthy of reconciliation. But Christ does, and He has offered it: His own holy, precious life. This priceless gift results in a favourable exchange for us.
The divine pardon proclaimed to you is not hypothetical or abstract. Your forgiveness was purchased with Christ’s blood, the blood from His thorn-pierced brow, the blood from His hands impaled by nails driven into a cross. It is the price of redemption rendered by the Holy Son of God. When He speaks it is with the Father’s authority. There is no caveat you can raise, no complication you can assert, no exception you can claim that He is ignorant of or too impotent to address. He’s heard all the reservations. “But my sin was different!” “I did it intentionally.” “I did it viciously.” “I don’t deserve to be forgiven because I’ve committed this same transgression so many times.” “I can’t get it out of my mind or out of my heart so that must mean I’m not forgiven.” “I’m beyond help.” No one is out reach of His mercy. Dear friends, don’t waste any time trying to assess the severity of your sins compared to others. Don’t spend a moment doubting whether you could be the lone exception. Throw yourself on the mercy of God in Christ. He welcomes you like the father welcomed the prodigal son.
The capacity of Christ to forgive is far greater than our wickedness. The law of God reveals the depths of sin, thus opening the way to recognize the mercy of Christ. The Scripture says, “Now the law came to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”5 You cannot be a greater sinner than Christ is a Saviour. Peter denied Him, yet he was restored. Thomas doubted Him, yet he was reconciled. David committed adultery and murder, and yet He was absolved. Can you really believe God is unable to forgive you?
God does forewarn us against the danger and consequence of sin. Those who hard-heartedly separate themselves from God can expect darkness and judgment. Forewarned is forearmed. Still, knowledge of the danger alone cannot save us. But God doesn’t leave us to our own resources. He doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves. We are His baptized. We dine at His table. He clothes us with His armor. The outcome of the war is not in doubt. Satan is silenced. Death is defeated. The life we have now is only a shadow of what is to come. We pray that during this Lenten season our faith will become more firmly grounded in God’s unshakeable truth, so that the prayer of St. Paul which says, “I pray you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,”6 will be realized for us too! Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Second Sunday In Lent
25 February 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Ephesians 6:17 2 Matthew 16:16
3 Mark 8:33 4 Mark 8:36-37
5 Romans 5:20-21 6 Ephesians 3:17-18