November 14, 2019

We Grow Spiritually As We Overcome Lies, Temptations and Persecution (Proper 33)

 In the Gospel Reading (Luke 21.5-19) Jesus is asked about the End Times. He gives a warning about false teachers and persecution. The Good News is that the Holy Spirit will guide and strengthen believers so they can overcome both false teachers and persecution. This helps us grow spiritually.

1. Our lives on Earth are a time of spiritual testing and growth

·      Each person will face a final judgment  - when they die or when Jesus returns at the End Time
·      Some people spend a lot of energy trying to figure out when this will be – a waste of time
·      Important point is our need to be ready – will come suddenly – no time to start reading the Bible and get your life together
·      End Time will be a time of Judgment between those in right-relationship with God and those who are not
·      Those who are not in a right relationship will not be able to stand in God’s holy presence
·      Sin guilt makes a person spiritually unholy, separated from God
·      Like a can of gasoline that cannot be near the holy fire of God’s love
·      Jesus warns us that temptations, deceptions and persecutions will come – but can lead to spiritual growth – if we stand firm

2. Christians will face false teachers
·      New or different teaching must always regarded with suspicion – Jewish fundamentalists opposed the Apostle Paul
·      Any teaching that is different from what the Apostles handed down must to be rejected – liberal religion of inclusiveness etc.
·      Debates over false teachings have been very destructive to the Church – bishops failed to protect the Faith
·      Debates caused many people to loose their faith
·      Satan used to false teachers destroy the Church - Sunday schools and youth ministry has been neglected
·      Good News is Holy Spirit guides us in discerning false teachings and spiritual growh

3. Christians will face opposition
·      Just as Satan entered Judas to deceive him into betraying Jesus, Satan continues to tempt and deceive people into sin
·      We live in a time when Christians are being oppressed and even killed – in Indonesia, Pakistan, China, Nigeria etc.
·      We live under Human Rights laws that make proclamation of the Good News and unique claims of Jesus potentially illegal
·      We live in a time of rebellion against all forms of authority – particularly Christian religious authority
·      Good News is that Holy Spirit will give us words to rebut

4. Our Spiritual Life Grows As we work to overcome false teachers, temptations and opposition
·      On my way to Sundre I was reviewing my sermon - Not happy with the Conclusion 
-    During my preparation I was struggling with the Epistle assigned - Thess. 3.5-13 a warning against idleness including "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat" (12) and the fact that the Lectionary omits verses 1-5 which include "protect you from the evil one"
- Holy Spirit prompted me to add the words "work to" overcome...
- Penney dropped - as I realized that just like in the parables of Jesus physical things like eating are used to illustrate spiritual things like spiritual nourishing and strengthening
- Reminded me of the 4 pillars of spiritually thriving churches (Chapter 8) 
- Orthodoxy - need to read and study our Bibles to stand against false teachers
- Community - need to gather, share experiences of Jesus and Holy Spirit and learnings - and be accountable to each other for questioning new teachings
- Outreach - need to work at serving the needs of the community to experience Holy Spirit at work and grow stronger against opposition
- All of this is work - the work itself nourishes and strengthens our spiritual life

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