Fifth Sunday after Epiphany (A)
February 7, 1993
The Power of Salt
In the ancient world salt was one of the most precious and valuable commodities around. In the climate of Palestine, a bag of salt was as precious as a person’s life. Salt was valuable because of its three basic qualities: salt has the power to heal, preserve, and flavor. It is these three qualities which Jesus lays across the shoulders of the Church like Elijah’s mantle.
1. We Have Preserving Power
Before the recent invention of refrigeration, salt was used to preserve meat. Meat, fish and poultry all spoil quickly, especially in the heat of the Middle Eastern desert. Meat had to be preserved in some manner, either by smoking it or by salting it. Salting the meat kept it fresh. It kept it from going bad.
As the Church, we are called to be a preservative, too. Through our faithfulness we can also preserve the integrity of God’s creation, the integrity of our faith, of the word of Christ, and Church. As faithful Christians, we become a moral and ethical influence upon those around us. By living as faithful Christians, we can make it easier for others to be good.
One of the church’s greatest contributions to the world comes when we live out our faith in such a manner as to influence the lives of others for Christ. We do that best by living out our commitment to Christ and thereby preserving the integrity of our faith.
II. We Have Healing Power
Another aspect of salt was its use in healing. Salt was used for medicinal purposes. It was used as an antiseptic. Because of its antiseptic abilities, salt was often used to clean wounds. It was especially useful in cleaning out wounds in which there was decay or corruption. The process was painful but the wound was cleansed and healing could begin to take place.
There are many folks in our world today whose lives have been wounded by some tragedy, some trial, some betrayal. Their lives are filled with continuous pain because many of those wounds are still open. All around us the wounds of people’s past — the wounds of their sinfulness — are festering and threatening their lives. Homelessness, AIDS, divorce, drug abuse, alcoholism, child abuse, and a hundred other wounds are eating away at the soul of society and devouring person after person, family after family. We have a curative. We have a restorative. We have the healing power of the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are called to be the salt, to be the healing agent for change in others, through Christ.
Mrs. Wilson hands Dennis the Menace a plate of cookies and a glass of milk while Good Old Mr. Wilson looks none too pleased. Dennis looks at Mr. Wilson, then turns to Mrs. Wilson and says, “Mr. Wilson looks like he could use a good tickling.”
Sometimes we need people like Dennis to see that we need a good tickle or some other healing aspect of life that will bring encouragement. We are the bearers of a great healing elixir. There are so many wounds and so much pain, that we each need to find someone to tickle with the healing power of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
III. We Have Flavoring Power
Salt adds or enhances flavor. Can you imagine popcorn without a little salt? It would be bland. But add a little salt and the flavor is enhanced.
So, too, with living out our faith. The world would be considerably less without the influence of Christ. Many of the world’s greatest ideas came through the influence and flavor which Christians added to society.
A campus minister said a group of the college students, some of whom were international students, were having a discussion one night about this text from Matthew, “You are the salt of the earth.” He said one suggestion after another was made as to the meaning of salt in the verse. All the old standards came out, the ones that they’d heard in Sunday School and worship: “Salt enhances the flavor. Salt preserves from decay. And salt can help heal.” Then a girl from China said, “Salt creates thirst.” The whole room got quiet as everyone, including the campus minister, wondered “Have I ever made anyone thirsty for Christ?”
Does your flavoring of life through Christ invite others to “taste and see that the Lord is good”? (Psalm 34).
As John A. Huffman, Jr. said, “Each sanctuary can be a salt shaker. We can come to church once a week, have a lot of fellowship with all the other salt and think our job is accomplished. Instead, God wants to pick up this sanctuary and shake us out all over the world. God has brought us together as His salt only to scatter us. God wants us to be an influence for Jesus.” (BDS)
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany (A)
February 14, 1993
In the hit movie The Money Pit, Tom Hanks and Shelly Long portray a young couple who buy a beautiful two-story mansion in the country. Outwardly, the house is a thing of beauty, and they feel guilty for having “taken” the kindly old couple from whom it was purchased. But shortly after that they discover why the house was so cheap. While it might look absolutely exquisite, on the inside it is falling apart. Nothing works. The stairs collapse. The master bedroom medicine cabinet opens to the outside. Everything needs to be repaired. The house is nothing like it appears to be.
Jesus was addressing that very issue in this passage from Matthew. This passage has nothing to do with Jesus re-writing the law and making it more stringent. Jesus is not tightening the noose of God’s law on anyone. Jesus is addressing the underlying problem, the inner problem, the spiritual problem. The problem being addressed is how the law has been lived out. Jesus addresses the two-fold problems of the “intent” of the law and the “intent” of the individual in obeying the law.
I. Outward Deeds are Important
In addressing the issues of “intent” Jesus is not saying that what we do is not important. On the contrary, what we do is very important. But often we deny the truth we profess to believe or the ideal we say we hold by our actions. What others see is false advertising and nothing is more damaging to a product than false advertising.
In a recent Snuffy Smith cartoon by Fred Laswell, Elviney is at the fence where she and Aunty Loweezy do their gossiping. She tells the little boy, Jughaid, “An’ don’t tell NOBODY but yore Aunt Loweezy!!”
Jughaid says, “NO, MA’AM!! Cross my heart. Shell prob’ly let me go to th’ movin’ pitchers for this BODACIOUS GOSSIP!!” And off he runs to tell his aunt.
Running home he meets the Parson who asks, “JUGHAID!! What’s yore HURRY??” Jughaid says, “I got some GOSSIP fer my Aunt Loweezy!!”
“GOSSIP??” says the Parson. “You ought to be ‘SHAMED of yoreself!!” When they get to the house, the Parson looks angry and Aunt Loweezy looks shocked. “MY JUGHAID!! Bringin’ me GOSSIP?”
The Parson turns and leaves saying, “Handle it in yore own way, Loweezy.” And Aunt Loweezy hollers, “I SHORE WILL!! We’re headin’ straight for th’ woodshed, Parson!!”
The final frame shows Aunt Loweezy and Jughaid standing in the woodshed. As the Parson gets out of hearing range, Aunt Loweezy bends down and asks, “What’s th’ scoop, honeypot?”
We laugh but the sad truth is that we are exactly like that. It’s almost too close to home. We all keep hollering for “family values” and for honesty in politics. Honesty from our physicians when we are given bad news. We want honesty from everyone else yet we do things just like Aunt Loweezy. We say one thing and do another. How can we expect anyone else to be any different? How can we expect others to live up to the standards when we don’t? No wonder some people look at the church and holler “hypocrite!” No wonder some people look at the church and laugh in derision.
What’s the answer? A renewal of mind and spirit that moves us to the “intent” of Jesus’ message. A revival of biblical values in our lives, not everyone else’s. Only then can we be concerned with everyone else.
II. Inner Attitudes are More Important
Beneath the outer manifestation or action is the inner motivation, the inner attitude, the inner intent. The major thrust of Jesus’ teaching wasn’t to establish more stringent family, lust, oath and marriage laws. Jesus was concerned with transformed human motivation in light of His presence and God’s grace in their lives. Jesus was looking for a righteous intent in relationships.
For example, one of the schools of teachers contemporary with Jesus claimed that a cause for divorce could involve anything that displeased the husband. This could range from bad looks to bad cooking to too much talking. It really didn’t matter — the severity of the infraction was in the eye of the husband.
Jesus questions this and says this is not the intent either of marriage or of the option of divorce. To Jesus, divorce was only permissible for infidelity. Jesus looked at the inner motive of all these relationships mentioned here. Jesus relates what takes place outwardly with the inner spiritual foundation.
III. We Are Called to New Life in the Kingdom
New life in the Kingdom, a life of resurrection, calls for a radical purity of intent, righteous intent. This has to be built upon the knowledge and admission that we, alone, cannot live up to the law. It acknowledges and admits that we are all desperately in need of God’s saving grace. Only by God’s saving and redeeming grace can we even begin to live like Christ.
Yet with God’s grace, with Christ’s presence empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can live intentionally with a Christ-like spirit. Our relationships and actions can and will have character and quality. Our lives can both appear to be and be what we say we believe. (BDS)
February 21, 1993
When Worship Becomes Dangerous
Have you ever heard of having too much of a good thing? If not, you were obviously never a child who trick-or-treated on Halloween! I remember returning home with a precious treasure of candy bars and other sweets — I would empty the bag out on the living room floor and survey the spectacle. It was a religious experience for a seven-year-old boy! Left to my own devices, I would have eaten those goodies until I made myself sick.
It is possible to misuse something that is otherwise good, isn’t it? That is even true with worship.
I. Real Worship Puts Our Focus on Christ
Can you imagine what it must have been like that day on the mountain, as these followers of Jesus had a glimpse of the glorified Christ?
In these days before the events of Holy Week — when Jesus would be arrested, tried, and crucified — it was important for His disciples to understand who Jesus was and that the victory would ultimately be His. That is why the Father allowed them to experience this remarkable event, which would refocus their attention on Jesus.
When Peter suggested building three tabernacles — one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah — the voice of God intervened to call their attention back to Jesus alone. Although these two prophets were faithful servants of God, they were not be be considered equal to Christ. He is the One who must be heard.
That is what authentic worship does; it helps us renew and strengthen our focus on Jesus Christ and His will for our lives. It quiets our own spirit so that we can hear His word for us.
II. Real Worship Prepares Us for Service
Even in the midst of a great spiritual experience, there is danger that it can be misused to divert our attention. Peter thought this event was so wondrous that he wanted it to go on forever — a perpetual revival service!
Real worship is always followed by a willingness to “come down from the mountain” and give ourselves in service for the Lord we worship. The time we spend in His presence prepares us to carry His presence into a lost world.
A football team spends many hours in practice — learning the fundamentals of blocking and tackling, of passing and catching — yet the same team only spends about three or four hours a week in an actual game. But without those hours of preparation, they would be unprepared and ineffective on the field. Likewise, the hours of practice would be meaningless if they were unwilling to actually enter the game at the end of the week.
Worship and service are inextricably linked in the plan of God. We must have both if we are to experience God’s best in our lives. (JMD)
First Sunday of Lent (A)
February 28, 1993
Story and Plot
E. M. Forster, a student of the English novel, distinguishes between a story and a plot. A story, he says, is “a narrative of events arranged in time sequence.” A plot, he says, is “also a narrative of events (but) the emphasis (falls) on causality. ‘The king died and then the queen died.’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief,’ is a plot. The story answers what happened next; a plot tells why.”1
It seems to me that you have another example of story and plot here in Romans 5. The story is of sin — specifically of one man’s sin. The sin of Adam. The story is of Adam’s disobedience, and of what happens next, after that first sin: “death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned ….” (5:12, NRSV).
Theological speculations abound as to the ways and means of sin’s dispersal into the whole realm of creation. Some explain the virulence biologically, some in other ways. And yet the story itself pretty much leaves that secondary question unanswered.
Suffice it to say that Paul is quite rabbinical here, echoing the notion of the corporate distribution of consequential retribution, as it were. The First Testament, of course, abounds with examples of the sins of the fathers being visited upon the heads of the sons (and daughters). And given that, in the biblical view, we are all the sons and daughters of Adam, the consequence of our father’s sin is the mutual truth of our human condition.
That’s the story, and like a story told around the campfire, it doesn’t explain, it just reports. Paul just gives us the sequence of events. The one man sinned, and death reigned in all.
What happens next? More story — that Jesus Christ has come and offered us the salvation of God, release from the dominion of death. And if sin and death may be construed as virulent and contagious, curiously, so may righteousness and life. Once righteousness is manifested in Christ, it spreads.
Theologians may speculate here, too, as to the ways and means; the story does not. Some explain its spread organically, some in other ways. And yet the story itself pretty much leaves that secondary question unanswered. It simply reports what happens next. Just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all (5:18, NRSV).
The story here in Romans 5 just gives us the sequence. And what of the plot, the why?
Take a step out of the assigned reading, and jump back to verse 8. There you see the why: the why of the gift, the why of Christ. Here, in Forster’s view, you have the causality behind the events — the love of God.
Fashion it this way: The king died and then the queen died, and so did everybody else. Now the king lives and the queen lives and so does everybody else, because of love. (TES)
1. Cited in Robert Hughes, “Narrative as Plot,” in Wayne Bradley Robinson, Journeys toward Narrative Preaching. Nashville: Abingdon, 1990, p. 57.
Second Sunday of Lent (A)
March 7, 1993
The Roots of Faith
One of the most popular television programs ever was the mini-series Roots. This mini-series, and the book from which it was produced, grew out of author Alex Haley’s research into his own family history in an attempt to find his own personal and spiritual roots. What he discovered was a magnificent story that enthralled some eighty million viewers when it was shown on television.
Christians, too, have and should be aware of their own spiritual “roots.” Our Judeo-Christian heritage stretches back through time and the lives of countless faithful persons. The Bible is clear that succeeding generations owe much to those who have gone before. The Lectionary readings for today remind us that the beginning of our own spiritual “roots” may clearly be traced back to Abram (who will later be re-named Abraham in Genesis 17:5) and his faithfulness. Throughout both the Old and New Testament, Abram is celebrated as one of the great spiritual “models” for the faithful to emulate. Indeed, the companion text for today from Romans 4 builds significantly upon his example of faith.
We can find encouragement for our own spiritual journeys in examining the experience of Abram. In particular, it was Abram’s action in response to the call of God that provides not only the foundation of the nation of Israel, but later provides key support for the Christian community.
I. God’s Call Often Comes Unexpectedly
There is no suggestion in our text that Abram had any advance warning that God would call him to leave the comforts of Haran for the uncertainties of Canaan. Genesis 12 simply states: “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you'” (12.-1, NIV). This message or call from the Lord is short, clear, and seemingly a complete surprise.
Yet the call of God does not seem to surprise Abram, as we might expect from such a dramatic communication from the Lord. This lack of surprise suggests that Abram had prepared himself to be open to hear and heed God’s call, however and whenever it came. Perhaps this is because Abram is an older man (4b). He would have accumulated much wisdom and experience in handling life’s unpredictability. How many of us are prepared personally and spiritually to hear and follow the call of Cod when it comes our way? Are we open to the new and unexpected? Are we even listening for God to speak?
II. God’s Call Means a Change in Our Lives
A second dimension of God’s call to Abram is that a faithful response comes at a personal price. For Abram it meant packing up, leaving familiar territory, and moving to a new land (Canaan). That would be traumatic enough, but there is more: in following God’s call, Abram also must leave behind his father’s household and the rest of his people. This would be no small sacrifice in an ancient culture that treasured family and extended relationships in a way difficult for most moderns to understand. The price being paid for faithfulness to God’s call was steep. Yet it appears Abram pays that price willingly as an act of faith.
In our own lives, how ready are we to pay any true personal price to be faithful followers of the Lord? Christians claim that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 10:27). Yet how many of us are willing to make even a small personal sacrifice in response to what we perceive as God’s call today?
Abram’s experience sets before us a truth about faithfulness that is eternal and unchanging: to respond fully to God’s call and direction in our lives always involves personal sacrifice. Indeed, it might be suggested that if we cannot clearly identify areas of our lives where we have paid a significant personal price to follow the Lord, then we are not being truly faithful.
III. God’s Call Asks for a Decisive Response
One last observation about this account in Genesis 12:1-4a is to note Abram’s decisive response. He hears the call, a call which includes significant personal and family sacrifice, yet acts decisively. No “contingency plans” were made in case things do not work out. There is no bargaining with God over the terms of this call. The action is straightforward. The call is issued by the Lord. It is heard. It is understood. And Abram acts upon the call decisively.
A valid criticism of much contemporary Christianity is our reluctance to take action. Even when sensing the leading of God into some area of ministry, or when confronted with some pressing human need, Christians are more likely to form a committee to “study” the matter, or put the entire issue “on hold” until some future date, than take immediate and decisive action.
This is in stark contrast with the example of Abram. Not only in this Bible passage, but on several other occasions (Genesis 22), Abram is shown to be a person of decisiveness due to his great faith. How many of us are willing to act decisively when we hear the call of God to do something?
In the youth musical “LIFE!” there is this exchange: “I’m planning on going God’s way … someday. He’ll still be around.” The reply: “Yeah, but will you?” (SRF)
Third Sunday of Lent (A)
March 14, 1993
The Source of Hope
One of the finest movies produced in recent years was based on the story of Eric Liddell who won a medal in the 1920 Olympics. Chariots of Fire told the life of Liddell, son of Presbyterian missionary parents, whose running earned him the nickname “the flying Scotsman.” Liddell would return to the mission field in China and die in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
In one dramatic scene of the movie, Liddell addressed the crowd who watched him compete in an athletic contest. The film dialogue goes this way:
“You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me! But I wanted you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard. Requires concentration of will, energy of soul ….
“So where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, ‘Behold, the kingdom of God is within you. If, with all your heart, you truly seek me, you shall surely find me.’ If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.”
Paul, writing to his friends at Rome, seeks to encourage them in their daily struggles. In explaining how these Christians can have peace and joy in their lives, the Apostle promises that our lives can be transformed. He outlines the process by which such personal transformation can take place.
I. The Promise
We live in an age of promises. Retailers promise that if we buy this or that product, we will be better off. Chambers of Commerce promise their community is better than others. Realtors promise home buyers the house of their dreams. Politicians at every level of government promise that, if elected, they will do something about our economic and social problems. Promises, promises, promises!
Whatever our experience with such promises, however, there is a promise which has been and is still being fulfilled every day of the year. It is the promise that through faith we can “have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1-b). Note that this peace does not mean that life will be without struggle and difficulty. Paul does not promise Christians an easy life. He gives only the assurance that — regardless of what happens to us here on earth — “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8-b) and therefore we can be assured that God will not disappoint us.
II. The Process
Paul moves from this “promise of peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” to outlining the process by which Christian character and hope is developed in the daily grind of life. Speaking out of his own life, Paul reminds us that the very trials and difficulties that we often face are, in fact, the means by which God provides the “hope that does not disappoint us ….” (5:5a).
To understand this process, examine the words used here (see William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible on Romans for more detail):
“… suffering produces perseverance ….” The Greek word for suffering literally means “pressure.” The pressures of human life, which are inevitable, are the means by which women and men can develop perseverance or fortitude. In the original Greek, perseverance means more than simple endurance. It is the attitude which actively faces and overcomes trials and tribulations of life. Such perseverance is seen in the attitude of Beethoven who, confronted with his impending deafness, said “I will take life by the throat!” Christians, when confronting suffering, do not lay down and give up. They press on.
“perseverance, character ….” Out of this endless struggle with life that develops perseverance, our inner character is formed. The imagery of the Greek here is of a metal substance which has refined in the fire, thereby removing any impurities. Paul suggests the difficulties of this life serve to refine us and make us better. This purifying draws us closer to God.
“character, hope ….” Paul knew from harsh personal experience that only true Christian character resulting in learning perseverance in the face of trials would enable a person to have hope regardless of the present situation. Even the most desperate or complicated situation can be faced if one does not give up and continues to have hope. This is especially true for Christians who know that their hope is based “on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” (quotation from the hymn The Solid Rock).
What is described by Paul may be considered a circular process: We are justified by Christ and brought into right relationship with God. The sufferings which come to us produce perseverance. This perseverance produces a purer and more solid Christian character. The purer, stronger Christian character which results enables us to have true hope for today and tomorrow. And that true hope cannot disappoint us, because it is sustained by God’s love and is poured out on us by the Holy Spirit, which acts to draw us ever closer to our Lord Jesus Christ. As we are drawn closer to Jesus, the cycle begins once more. (SRF)
Fourth Sunday of Lent (A)
March 21, 1993
The Center of a Miracle
It started as an average, routine day in the life of one blind beggar; yet the next several hours would be anything but routine! He would become the center of a flurry of activity, excitement, controversy, and miracle.
I. The Blind Man Becomes the Center of a Miracle (vv. 1-12)
The blind man was on center stage for a miracle in the making. His blind eyes were to be healed by the power of Jesus.
While preparing this sermon I had to stop and take my son’s car to the repair shop. I walked home so I thought I’d try and place myself in the role of a blind person. I closed my eyes, but only for a few seconds. Cars whizzed by as if they could not see me. Not being a physician I cannot comment on the technical aspect of this healing, but let me share with you what I discovered walking along the highway.
I saw various shapes and sizes of houses, automobiles, and people. My bank was on the route home so I stopped to withdraw money and signed my name to a counter check. Walking over a small bridge I peered down the twenty feet into the chilly waters of the river. The beautiful and colorful trees of Michigan loomed large on the well-manicured lawns.
It was interesting watching the curious stares of people as they passed me on the major state road as I walked in my dark blue suit, long sleeve shirt and tie. As I neared the church I saw my day-care director run out to see if I was all right. Had I been blind I would have missed all of those sights.
This poor chap in the story had never seen the landscape of Jerusalem, the chariots of Rome, the colors of a robe, the beauty of a child. He had never peered into the face of his parents, never seen his name in print, or looked at the starry sky, or the waters of Siloam. Jesus changed all of that! The miracle was the healing of the physical eyes, the man could care less how it was done; but that it was done. Jesus made it so that he could see for the first time in his existence.
We need that kind of a miracle spiritually so that we can see God and life clearly.
II. The Blind Man Becomes the Center of Controversy (vv. 13-34)
Who would have guessed that a miracle of such magnitude would gather such controversy? The religious leaders complained instead of rejoicing. “This man (Jesus) is not of God … and others said, How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” (9:16, RSV). We would call them crackpots, jealous, pitiful leaders.
Before we cast the first stone we must ask ourselves how often we have not believed, or complained that God did not do it our way. I like the man’s answer to the disjointed Pharisees, “One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see” (9:25, RSV). We can quell so much controversy if we just point people to Jesus and what He has done in our lives.
III. The Blind Man Becomes a Center for Faith (vv. 35-41)
The glory of God which Jesus displayed by changing the man’s physi-
The blind beggar became the man of faith as his sight both physically and spiritually was restored. This is seen as he says, “Lord, I believe” and as he worshipped Jesus (9:38).
Have you been healed of your spiritual blindness? (DGK)
Fifth Sunday of Lent (A)
March 28, 1993
The Spirit of Power
Over fifty years ago, A. C. Dixon visited a granite quarry in North Carolina. The manager boasted that his quarry supplied the granite for the Municipal Building in New York City. The manager told Dixon that they could lift an acre of solid granite ten feet thick to almost any height they desired in order to move the granite. It was done by compressed air. Dixon said that the Holy Spirit has the power to lift a heart toward God, though it is as hard as granite.
After he visited the quarry Dixon went to the Municipal Building that was under construction. He watched as the great artists chiseled cal ailment is to be a sign for all times of the glory of God as it shines forth in mankind whenever He opens the eyes of the spiritually sightless.
R.V.G. Tasker, writing in the Tyndale Bible Commentary, states: “Christian faith begins when men and women come to see that sin robbed them of spiritual vision, that in this sense they are all blind from birth and are wholly unable to free themselves from their predicament; and faith comes to maturity when they accept Jesus as the One who alone can recreate in them the faculty sin has destroyed.”
those same solid granite pieces into shape. He stated, “Their instruments cut it round and round, carving that flower and that great pillar as if it were cheese.” He asked those men how they could produce such beauty and again the answer: compressed air. It moved the instruments which, guided by the intelligence of the artist, can chisel the hard granite into any desired shape. Dixon then said, “Oh, that God, in the quiet power of His Holy Spirit, would not only lift us up, but chisel us into shape, the very form and image of Jesus Christ our Lord, after we have been born from above!”
The Holy Spirit is demonstrated through power in this scripture in three different fashions.
I. God’s Spirit of Power Works Through Re-creation
At the outset of creation “the spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:26, RSV), creating a new world. Just as there was chaos at the beginning of creation, the life of man was filled with chaos stemming from the sinful carnal nature. William Greathouse, my former seminary professor, wrote: “The fleshly (carnal) life is an existence in, by, and for oneself as a creature who has separated himself from God.” This life is characterized by being: 1. self-centered; 2. absorbed, satiated and fascinated by the baser things of life — the outgrowth includes pornography, extreme violence, illicit and divergent sexual acts, destruction of people, character and attitude; 3. the maker of its own morality; 4. greed.
It is a life, as Barclay summarized it, controlled by passion, lust, pride, and ambition.
As the Spirit moved upon the waters to change the world, so the Spirit of God moves upon man to change us. No longer do we have to live in this chaos of sin, because of the re-creating Spirit of God!
II. Christ’s Spirit of Power Works Through Residence
D. Stuart Briscoe, in The Communicator’s Commentary, penned: “… the indwelling presence of Christ through the Spirit, far from being the preserve of the few, is the birth-right of all believers and the authentic seal of their redeemed status.”
The Christian’s heritage is holiness. Christ has been made our justification, redemption and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). Greathouse states, “He (Jesus) died not only to make possible our pardon and acceptance, but also our purification and restoration to the divine image. He has made propitiation for our sins, and He has pronounced the doom of sin itself.” He goes on to say, “The holiness Christ pronounced for us by His life, death, and resurrection may be reproduced in us by the Spirit.”
III. God Spirit of Power Works Through Resurrection
The crowning act of God’s achievement which verified the claims of Christ was the resurrection of Jesus. It firmly epitomized the power of God made available to mankind. A life dominated by the spiritual matter is characterized in us by: 1. Spiritual Desire; 2. Christ Centeredness; 3. God Focus, and 4. Godly Action.
Do you live in this resurrection power in the life of the Spirit? You can! All you have to do is ask, accept, and act! (DGK)
Sermon briefs in this issue are provided by: Billy D. Strayhorn, Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Highlands, NC: Steven R. Fleming, Pastor, First United Presbyterian Church, Westminster, MO: and Derl G. Keefer, Pastor, Three Rivers Church of the Nazarene, Three Rivers, MI; and Michael Duduit, Editor of Preaching.
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany (A)