Lent 3 2019 Oculi
What is Proper among the Saints
March 24, 2019
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Beloved children. This is our place in God’s church, children, who are really loved, really forgiven and accepted, through the sacrifice of Christ. This position makes a high calling. We are to be imitators of God the Father. Children often imitate admire and imitate their fathers, for good and sometimes for bad. This is only natural. Children learn by what they see and what they hear. They learn what it is to love by being loved. So as God’s children, we are to imitate our Father especially in His love, but also in His purity, generosity, wisdom, and greatness.
One of the greatest tragedies in our culture today is the absence of fathers in home, the absence of role model who models himself after God the Father. Recent surveys by the Barna Research group indicated that children are 60% more likely to remain faithful in church attendance, prayer, and identifying as Christians when their father is regularly involved in church and their formation of faith in the home. The role of the father in bringing up of children in society in general, and church in particular, is extremely important. And our culture’s current war on men and masculinity makes things even worse.
The answer to this is that we are also to be imitators of God the Son. We are to walk in love, as Christ has loved us. Imitate His love in a very real, practical, self-sacrificing way. Christ’s love is our example, and even more, our motive, to follow that example. Christ is our calling. And while the world may be full of hatred, the children of God are to breathe an atmosphere of love as defined by and exhibited in Jesus. This love fills our hearts, our words and actions; and it is a holy thing, not mere sentiment or emotion, or good ethical behavior.
There is more here than just morality. Paul is concerned with our holiness, which is not just a matter of morality and behavior, but of closeness to a holy God. God’s holiness is a consuming fire burning up unholiness and uncleanliness, which separates people from God. This is why Paul states that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Eph 5:5). Sin, as well as the out of place talking about these things which tempt and lead us astray, separates people from God.
What’s the answer? It’s more than just be good and avoid sinful living, though these are important. Again, the answer lies in Christ and who you are in Christ. You are a saint, a holy one, made clean by the blood of Jesus, and you are light in the Lord. You were darkness, not you were in darkness, but you were darkness. But now you are light. You have been made saints, people set apart and consecrated by God Himself through the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ has set you apart from this wicked generation. In Baptism, you have been stripped of the old Adam. Its old ways are not yours anymore. You have been clothed in Christ, in His holiness and righteousness, holy ones washed in the blood of the Lamb, justified before God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. You are to walk as children of light because that’s who you are as saints. Do what is proper among the saints.
The deeper we enter Lent, the more intense we see our struggle between sin and righteousness, between sinner and saint. We see it in the life of Christ as He approaches the cross, and we see it in our lives evermore clearly.
The point is this: the world and the devil and your sinful flesh will rage against you. As saints we are to avoid the sins of the flesh, the sins of the tongue, the sins of covetousness. These are all related. It’s a very interesting thing that in the New Testament letters when sexuality is mentioned, it is always directed toward the behavior of the saints. There’s a great danger in sexual immorality beyond the sin against the body. For the Ephesians, who were steeped in Roman religious practices, it was a path back to idolatry. We may not have Roman god and goddess worship, but we do have idolatry of the body with its passions. Sex and sexuality contrary to God’s design and will have become an idol and our world covets and craves this idol. The devil doesn’t want you married, nor chaste. The enemy is relentless, a strong man, the prince of this world. He has been dethroned by Christ, who is stronger than the devil. The world revels in perversion and tries to make you think it is normal, or good. But don’t fall for it. Don’t be so gullible. Do not partner with them in your attention, your words, or in your actions. Remain chaste, devoted to your husband and wife, to your children and family. Your call to be holy means that you are extraordinary. As someone once said, “The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman with their ordinary children” (G. K. Chesterton). Whether you are married or single, guard your body against sexual immorality, guard your soul. These sins are deadly, eternally deadly, for those who are sexual immoral or impure, those who are idolatrous through coveting, those who have no repentance over their sin and therefore deny Christ and His forgiveness have no place in His kingdom.
Children of God, we must shake off our indifference, a destructive tolerance of evil. Since the fall into sin, we all have a disordered heart, a heart that desires the wrong things; sexual immortality, impurity, covetousness, filthiness and foolish talk and crude joking. These are sins that we are to avoid. These are inconsistent with our calling. We must learn again and again to have what St. Augustine so aptly coined, “A well ordered heart is to love the right thing to the right degree in the right way with the right kind of love.” We must be willing to focus upon, to speak, and to love what it good, what is right, and what is true. This begins and ends with hearing the Word of God and keep it. You were not made to fit in. You were born again to stand with Christ. He is the stronger man, who has invaded this sinful world in His incarnation to snatch you out of the grasp of the devil and your own sin, to gather you to Himself. The grace of God keep you steadfast in that true faith in Christ.