Sermon Thirty One How Christian faith upholds the moral law

john                                         audio clip

Wesley suggests that people are very vague over what Law it is we are to follow.

Now anybody who watches crime drama on television or is aware the story of Al Capone’s capture, knows that successful criminals keep the law of the land apart from their one area of expertise.

It may surprise the world that I have never been arrested, I have never been in the room with the table, three chairs and a tape recorder. The police or Garda Siochana have never arrived at my door to take me or indeed my husband.

Most people break the law, some don’t know they have broken it, others are more flagrant. Paying taxes, giving full disclosure on all financial transactions – do we do that? Keeping to the speed limit, all the time, not just when passing through a town or when someone flashes us to slow down for the speed camera. When we think the law is unjust so we go on our turf bank and cut the sods. When we have an illness that Cannabis helps to alleviate the pain so we grow our own. Drink is so expensive so we distill potín in our shed. We can’t afford fuel so we use the red fuel for the tractor. We cross the road – not at a crossing, jaywalking.

We break the rules or flout them in some cases. “How dare the government tell me I can’t smack my child!” Sadly I have heard this often.

But if we are vague on government laws, rules and regulations, imagine how we are with God’s rules when we no longer, or have ever picked up a bible and read it.

Some of us Christians see the commandment of love and we know God’s grace so we think that it extends to all the world. And it does but it has to be picked up. We have to cry out to Jesus to be our Saviour.

I am thinking this week about the testimony I will give on Friday. Packing all the mercy of God that was needed into two minutes is a feat I am not capable of, it took me weeks to go through every box in my attic head and ask for forgiveness. I had done so much wrong, and had had so much wrong done to me.

Last night, when I expected to sleep soundly after delivering the message (yes with mistakes and omissions and yes I did get tongue tied but in the room, there was such love for me that graciously they saw pauses) but I expected to sleep. Instead another sleepless night. Tormented by the past, remembering the face of human judgement when I told someone my story, do I want to bring that on me again? Why is there a call on my life? I have been the worst of the worst.

About five o’clock this morning a rainbow appeared in my thoughts, a rainbow of power and might, that cut through all the boxes I was lining up. That is the past and there it will stay.

That rainbow, that covenant that God has made with me through Jesus Christ, his blood shed for me at Calvary has washed me clean. There was a fair amount of scrubbing to get every last stain out but I am now clean in him. He looks at me and loves me, just as I am. And I know that is why I have a call on my life because of the conversations I am able to have with those people who think they are the worst of the worse or have had the worst done to them.

The moral law that Wesley talks about, it is the way Jesus described it, not about ticking boxes – I do not murder but in the heart being able to say, “I have had no ill thought against anyone,” and maybe it was only for a minute before an ill thought came again and then we have to throw ourselves on God’s mercy again. Live such beautiful lives that the Jesus is seen through us.

Sermon Thirty Christians must be law abiding

john                                     audio clip

This is weird to me because I remember that moment when the law that was binding me fell away. And yes as Wesley said, I behaved badly, but in doing that I realised to be lawless, unbound by the fetters of Almost Christianity, was not what was intended.

I was clearly shown two routes, one led to heaven, one to hell, one narrow, one wide. Once we are infused by the love of God, the law becomes part of it and it seems like no law because we desire to follow it, we follow it because it is written in our hearts and we can’t help but follow it. To turn away from the law and from God takes effort, physical effort to turn the head and be distracted by the world. If we are not focused on Christ that movement becomes easier, and that is why we see people drifting away ever so slowly rather than “right that is it I want to be a sinner in sinland now”

Wesley is having a theological argument at the time this is written to those called Antinomians in general and various church denominations down through the ages for example Mennonites. The argument is whether you believe you have been justified by faith alone and then can do anything or that you have been justified by faith and because of that you follow the law, I think.

To quell Mosaic law though is to quell the ten commandments among other things. One thing that fascinates me is how one verse is universally abolished and the next causes rifts in the fabric of many churches. In 2015 we shall see how our church fares. No doubt when that time comes I will write voluminously so I won’t here.

I suppose I look at the sermon and the arguments from the outside, this doesn’t really apply to me. Now there are very personal reasons why I ensure I follow the law innately, not least because I am called by the Holy Spirit to do so, because as a member of an established church with covering we are called to and because of this very tentative next step. I am not Pharisean  in my following, I have done that in the past when I didn’t call myself a Christian, I am not judgemental on those who cannot for whatever reason follow a particular law, I know my weaknesses and now I ensure I keep away from the distractions that lead me on to the wide road.

Wesley finally points to law of love as opposed to the law of fear. He is on middle ground between the “Law and nothing but the Law” and “Grace and nothing but Grace” Methodism often finds itself there, rationally sitting on the fence, others call it. Rather I call it, keeping the door open for all to come in.

Sermon Twenty Nine The moral law

john                                             audio clip

 

Wesley says the moral law is a necessary tool of the Holy Spirit to convict us when we are straying. He himself admits to falling short of Jesus’ command on you shall not commit murder even in a bad thought.

The Law as in the ritualistic ceremonial law is gone, the ten commandments are still there. Two more were added Love the Lord your God with all your mind… and love your neighbour as yourself.

But what if you don’t feel much for yourself. One of the first things you are told in counselling is talk to yourself in a mirror. I tried, oh I tried but I could not look myself in the eyes and speak even nice pleasantries to myself. I was unworthy of being spoken to. Worthless.

As I was attending church at this time and listening to these scriptures. I had the loving your neighbour down. Of course I loved everyone else, I could even see God’s mercy extending to repentant murderers but I just couldn’t see it applying to me. I tried to change, turn my back on the sins that were ever present. Work on one and another would appear like the bashing moles game at the seaside.

Out of the blue behaviours surfaced that I had left in my mid twenties or late teens. I became obsessed in an unhealthy way to my appearance and dug holes in my flesh, I began to control the bits of my life I could, going on a very strict dietary intake, forbidding this that and the other but it was no good. I was spiralling into the darkness when I had a small peak of the light.

I was healed in time, in God’s time, and I can look at myself though possibly not as God sees me. I see what’s wrong, he sees a child he loves.

In the law as Wesley sees it we are free. We are free from the yoke of sin, we are free from Mosaic ceremonial law, free from the guilt of sin, free from the fear of hell. He says “continue to obey the law of freedom and so every day you will grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”

Sermon nine The spirit of slavery and the spirit of adoption

john                                       audio clip

 

 

In sermon nine Wesley has another three point sermon

  1. The state of “natural man”
  2. The realisation of God’s majesty
  3. The person in a state of grace

Now I am (very briefly) going to go through each point because I suspect I am going to keep coming back to this sermon simply because it outlines my own life and how it moved from one state to the next to the next.

I am not going to use the phrase “natural man” because then it doesn’t apply to half the world instead I am going to use different phrases that all mean the same of similar. Basically though we are talking about a person who is not under the law or grace. A person who does not know there is a God or who knows and chooses to ignore the fact that there is a God. Many people live their whole lives in this state. There is comfort in the surroundings of this person, they have a kind of peace in their dark world. Wesley suggest that educated people who pontificate on life the universe and everything dabble at seeking the truth but without knowing the Truth how can they? The sinners that form this group sin daily in every way and have no guilt about it because the y do not know God. So their conscience is not imbued with the Holy Spirit. They feel nothing. They are happy in a worldly sense and in their darkness are blind to the light of Christ

God can reach the human hearts of these people and one by one they are moved to search, to seek the God of the bible. Somehow God touches the sleeping persons heart and they are awoken to the realisation that they are in danger, condemned to death.

Quoting Wesley – “And thus, in every point, he feels the word of God “quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword.” It “pierces even to the dividing asunder of his soul and spirit, his joints and marrow.” And so much the more, because he is conscious to himself of having neglected so great salvation; of having “trodden under foot the son of God,” who would have saved him from his sins, and “counted the blood of the covenant an unholy,” a common, unsanctifying thing.”

This person is now under the law, a wounded spirit who is in despair, fearing God and judgement and struggling to leave sin behind. But it a work, it is hard toil and there is ever present torment because there is much back sliding, much guilt and they are half way between two worlds, a foot in each. However if we say light and dark or white and black for these two worlds. If you add a bit of white to black it remains black, if you add a bit of black to white it can never get back to white, it will always be grey or off white. A person cannot live, in the Christian sense, live, in this state, this is a state of not living. Awake but not moving.

The torment causes the person to cry out to God, Abba Father, and then the person enters a state of grace. Confession of sins and sins forgive, the guilt gone, over. Past life gone. A new life, transformed heart, mind and soul. A new creation.

Ignorant (natural man) Under the law Under Grace
No fear of God, No love of God Fears God Loves God
Spiritual darkness Sees painful light of hell Joyous light of heaven
Enjoys false peace sleeps in death Awake with no peace Peace of God filling heart
Fancied liberty that is permissiveness Enslaved by the law Glorious freedom as child of God
Sins willingly Sins unwillingly No sin
Neither fights nor conquers Fights with sin but cannot conquer Complete victory through Christ who loves him

He then has a few notes on sincerity…