July 15, 2011

Christians Have A Destiny As Children Of God

We live in a time when many people do not know who they are and where they are going. In contrast serious Christians know they are children of God and they are eventually going back to God. They also know that they have an enemy described in the Bible as Satan or the Devil; and a spiritual helper described as the Holy Spirit. Our lives are a struggle to overcome the temptations and deceptions of the enemy of our souls. The good news is that we are protected by God and guided and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. In the Parable of the Weeds, Jesus is giving us both wise advice and hope. The advice is to not get tangled up with evil people. The hope is the harvest, when we will go home to Jesus.

 1. Christians have a destiny
Most of us spend a lot of time trying to figure out what we are supposed to be doing. The Parable of the Weeds reminds us of an obvious but important truth. Seeds grow into what they are intended to grow into. If you plant wheat, wheat is what you get. Last Sunday, in the Parable of the Sower, we were reminded how fragile and vulnerable this process is. The idea of an enemy was introduced as one of the many ways in which the seed of the Word of God in the Bible can be lost or prevented from growing. The Readings for today help us understand our destiny and the challenges we face on the way to that destiny. In Genesis (28.10-19) we are reminded that we are not alone. We follow in the tradition of Jacob who had an encounter with God. He was told that he had one God and that that God would protect him and bless him with land and children. His destiny was to live under the spiritual protection and blessings of the Covenant with Abraham. Our destiny is the same except we are also promised forgiveness, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and eternal spiritual life if we live out our Covenant.  In the Romans (8.28) Reading, the Apostle Paul refers to this as "the redemption of our bodies". The seed does not remain a seed. It dies and gives birth to something much greater. It has a destiny and that destiny is to become a child of God. The Good News is that as a child of God, we will inherit what the Father has - eternal spiritual life with God.

 2. Christians have an enemy
One of the key differences between what I call 'Cultural Christians' and 'Serious Christians’ is that the latter really understand and believe in Satan and his dark angels. This is a part of the Bible that theological liberals tend to dismiss as primitive superstition - to their peril. Theological liberals do not believe in evil as a real, active and guided spiritual force. This is a key issue in Biblical interpretation and the current re-forming of the worldwide Anglican Communion. In the Parable of the Weeds Jesus gives us some important basic teachings on how to deal with the problem of evil in the world. First we are told that Satan is also in the world planting a different kind of seed. His seed also grows up and also has a destiny. His seed would include lies, deception and temptations designed to get people to rebel against God. We are taught that Satan's seed grows into weeds that are "…the sons of the evil one." (Matthew 13.38) These people have a very different destiny. We are told their destiny is to be "… thrown into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (v. 42) This is a very sobering worldview. It directly challenges those in our society who think that they can get away with anything that is not illegal or harmful. This is warning us that there are consequences, even for very nice, loving people; who cause sin or do evil (v. 47). This is why we always include the Confession and Absolution in our liturgies. It is a sign of a very different worldview when more liberal clergy skip over this part of the service. The second thing Jesus teaches us is to not engage or try to root out evil ourselves. This can be a real trap and get us entangled and drawn into spiritually destructive patterns of anger. We are to let God judge other people. We have seen how destructive arguments over the ordination of women or blessing of same-sex relationships have been. This is perhaps the modern equivalent of trying to pull up the weeds without destroying the wheat crop.

 3. Christians have a helper
The Good News is that we are not alone in this struggle with deception and temptation. The Holy Spirit is there to guide us and strengthen us. The Apostle Paul puts it very clearly. "… if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live." (Romans 8.13) It is that little word "if" that should wake us up. Eternal spiritual life is not automatic for all the Baptized. There is a condition. That condition is that we work with the Holy Spirit to root out our 'misdeeds' - the specific instances in which we have rebelled against God in thought, word and deed. This is a life-long project. The Good News is that we have a helper who will guide us. The Holy Spirit opens our personal spiritual eyes so that we can see things we never saw before. This helps us identify specific things we may need to repent. Each time we repent some act of rebellion against God we die emotionally to it's power over us. This makes us stronger and more able to resist the temptation next time. This is how we work with the Holy Spirit to redeem our bodies and ensure we reach our destiny as Christians.

4. There is a spiritual law of sowing and reaping
There is a dramatic story of two American families that were studied over a period of five generations. Researchers found that the Jukes family, traced back to the marriage of two alcoholic athiests had resulted in over 200 criminal convictions including 16 for murder and 180 families on welfare. In contrast the marriage of a Christian couple, the Adams had led to one President, two Vice-Presidents, four Attorney Generals, 5 university presidents, 40 lawyers and 35 doctors.
These Readings remind us of our destiny and challenge us to work with the Holy Spirit in us to overcome the challenges in our spiritual life.

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