Sermon Thirty Eight Original sin

john                                                             audio clip

 

Wesley speaks a lot of sense about original sin. It is that which is in us that comes from our past life before we were transformed by Holy Spirit. So overwhelming is our human nature that sometimes our first thought comes from there and not of God.

It is like driving a car with a lean to the left, you are driving forward but in order to go straight you must adjust for the leaning. If you do not adjust you end up in a ditch. And that’s what happens to us. A family member struggled with pill addiction for some time and eventually kicked the habit. One day he was invited to a friend’s house, a friend from those pill days. If he had been adjusting his steering he would have said no, but he had forgotten and bang straight into the ditch. The “friend” made tea and lined up loads of pills and said “it’s your choice.” He sat staring at these brightly coloured jewels of mind control, then his friend got some coke out and arranged it in a beautiful clear white line and then he got his own drug paraphernalia out, a spoon, some tubing, a syringe and his delightful white-ish delight. Again he said “Your choice.” And my dear, dear friend and family member succumbed to his temptation and he is living in it now.

This sermon has one of the first words I did for http://thewritepractice.com/ Antediluvian. Now I know that when you get used to a word it becomes part of your vocabulary, but although it is a lovely word I prefer to say, ‘before the flood’

Before the flood God found that everyone was wicked. Their thoughts were evil all the time. Their inward spirit, their heart was rotten to the core. I have picked my two apples this year and one was sweet and lush and the other looked good on the outside but inside was black and brown all the way to the middle, the core.

We can lead, ostensibly ‘good’ lives but our core can be a putrid nuclear waste dump. Our outside conveying to the world someone who is righteous honest and true but on the inside, yuk.

We have to acknowledge, not just mental assent, but with our hearts that without God we are like the antediluvians, we are rotten to the core. When God opens our eyes to the stinky mess that are lives are, we realise we have been living in our own strength. We don’t know God. We may or may not have heard of him. I know there is president of the united states, I know his name, I have heard him speak but I don’t know him well. I don’t know him well enough to invite him to my house. But if I did I would get the troops in to clean the place, make it spotless. I don’t know him well enough to invite him into my home as it is today, with one warm room, broken heating system, dust piling up everywhere, a spillage in the kitchen, don’t even think about the bathroom and don’t go looking in any rooms. I know it is a tip, a mess, a putrid stinky hole. I don’t know Obama enough to invite him into that. When we don’t know God or with only mental assent – we are saying to him come and have tea but let me clean myself first. Do you see that – me   myself.

The Lord meets us in our putrid mess, he tells us it is a putrid mess and he gives us the tools needed to clean it up BUT he stays with us, rolls up his sleeves and gets stuck into the cleaning.

There was a historian, I so hate the experiments done to people in the name of science and this is further evidence that learned people do not consider proles to be as human as they. This historian arranged for two new born babies to be brought up in the wild by themselves to see if they developed language. They didn’t.

A child who is brought up without God in their lives will not know Him. Wesley states that to know God is not innately within us. We have to experience Him to know Him. We have to experience His love to know his love and even then we may be so full of the world we don’t notice it.

We separate God from our lives, He is there and we are here. If he had to go through what we are going through he would lie, cheat, steal, rape, murder too. We make it out that we are going through some awful thing that cannot possibly be described. But even if today we are sitting in a prison cell, being urinated on, being beaten whatever it is, we are never going to go through what Christ did.

He was blameless, perfect, without sin, he didn’t have this innate ability to veer off to the left. He had a mission, he came and saw out that mission living on earth as we do, he understood the human condition and then he died a horrific, tortured, naked, vulnerable death not for himself. He could’ve taken himself to the Father at anytime. He died so we might live. He died to atone for all our sins, he died so we might know the undeserved favour of the King, that we might know the incredible mercy and the endless pure love he has for us.

Jesus came to this world because of the Fall, and the fallen creatures – us. God knows us, knows us well, it is time for us to reciprocate, to spring clean our hearts and minds with him, because of him, only through him.

He came as a physician to heal, he meets us in our spiritual sickness and he ministers to us. He holds us in his loving arms and lets us breathe in his sweet, sweet perfume. He gives us strength to get rid of the sin in our lives. All the time, loving us to the utmost. He loves everyone, he wants for everyone to know him well. So we can invite him into our messy lives and sit with us.

Wesley concludes “Now go on further in your Christian life until your spiritual sickness is completely healed and you have the same mind Jesus had – Philippians  2:5

Amen

Sermon Thirty Seven Satan’s tricks

john                                     audio clip

 

Have you ever had a trick played on you? It is horrible isn’t it  – the moment when everyone else know the joke and you are the butt of it. Sometimes we can feel like our entire life is someone else’s joke at our expense. We lose our job so we can’t pay the rent then because of that we end up on the streets and then because we don’t have an address we can’t get help. So we spiral down into an ever dark world, hope leaves us, depression descends.

What if you knew Christ and all this happened, how would you cope with all this. With each thing that happened Satan would be telling you that he can give you joy. It would take a strong faith to withstand all the above and not to succumb to the devil in thought.

Wesley in this sermon points out all the different ways (more than there is stars in the sky) that Satan tries to turn us back to the world and away from God.

Satan as killjoy, trying to take the joy out of us. Have you ever taken a body blow, emotionally. They hurt, really hurt. But they can floor you without Christ in your life. With Christ they might knock you but you can get back up again. Well Satan doesn’t want you to back up again so he tries to tell you to not bother about that devotion, sure it won’t make a difference will it?

Satan attacks our peace, “you are not holy enough, you are too sinful, you need to do better first” Well of course we know we are not good enough, only God is good and we have that propensity to sin. But if we wait until we are clean we will never get there. We are only cleaned by the blood of Christ we cannot do it on our own.

Satan knows scripture and he will attempt to skew it to his advantage so we must hold fast to the truth and if we feel overwhelmed find someone to help you. That is why fellowship and community is so important. I was talking to someone who got saved in 1973 last week and they were saying how they needed to go to prayer group on Tuesday, they needed that fellowship and community.

When we get sick or we are in pain, Satan chooses this moment to really hone the attack. Whatever he has tried before and failed, he rallies his troops now, in your weakened state you can listen to the lies or you can choose not to.

Satan is a tricky tricker, but we just need to hold fast to the Truth. Don’t ever complain about God, talk to him, if you have a complaint take it to him. If you grumble outside of that, you might send another believer off on a tangent. Some questions cannot have answers yet. There is mystery around them. We have to learn to be like Job happy with the unanswered questions, content to sit in a desperate situation but know the joy of Jesus. Our lives are more arthouse than hallmark. We have to learn as ask the right questions and thank full for it. We are here for such a short time and we have the assurance of knowing we will have answers one day.

Sermon Thirty Six Wandering thoughts

john                                                       audio clip

Well this one was written for me without a shadow of a doubt. My mind wanders all the time. Even whilst I was recording this sermon and putting effort into the pace and tone I was thinking of other things.

To me they are the distractions that stop us from being fully focused on Kingdom work and the King. So for me as I write this, or the reading, or the recording, it is the things that stop me from achieving the end.

Today has been a really tough day. On paper I was gifted an entire day from 8:50am to 7:45pm to study and get many sermons done however my blue legs began to itch so I took an antihistamine on an empty belly and I might as well of passed out because I missed four hours, not sure where they went.

I don’t think of these distractions as things of the devil. It is usually something I do or read reminds me of something else and I go following that rabbit into the warren. If we imagine thoughts as bubbles, when we are focused on God each bubble that collides with another makes a bigger bubble. So we could have seen a passage of scripture many times but suddenly it makes sense in another way that we hadn’t thought of before. This association of ideas and sometimes that is where new imaginative ways of doing things or saying things can come up.

Now if these wandering thoughts took us into sinful thought that is entirely different and should be avoided. I have a friend who gave me a very simple cure because he knew I struggled in one area and it really does work. I like JB Philips paraphrasing of the verse 2 Corinthians 10:5 –

We even fight to capture every thought

until it acknowledges the authority of Christ.

So my friend says physically reach up to your forehead and imagine capturing the thought and asking Christ to imprison it. So as soon as the mere hint of it starts I give to the Lord to take care of.

In this world there are so many distractions, so many things to take us away from our focus. But no one said it would be easy and so as long as we are moving forward and not distracted by the world those wandering thoughts will be sound thoughts that pop into bigger ones.

Prayer is a powerful weapon against sinful thought, whenever we feel our thoughts wandering we should pray, this gets us back on right thinking. Other people can distract us, things can distract us. Surrounding it in prayer, along with the fruit of the Spirit, just tap into what we have been given to deal with this wandering thoughts.

Don’t squander

The mind you’ve been given

Thoughts wander

Do they need to be forgiven

Before you digress

Capture that wandering  thought

Give it to Jesus to oppress

Think of the change that’s been wrought

 

 

Sermon Thirty Five Christian perfection

john                                                             audio clip

This is such a long sermon, even in comparison with other long ones of Wesley. And I have to say not very helpful. I feel like the child who just can’t reach the cookie jar. In one sermon he has put a downer on everyone who considers themselves Christian.

WHY?

Because he says that if we are guided by the Holy Spirit we cannot sin. He uses lots of scripture both from the Old and New Testament to back up his argument. And it sounds peachy. We are Christian and therefore we do not sin. But hands up those who don’t. Never have even the beginning of a bad thought about someone?

He outlines how we are not perfect and uses the example of us not having full knowledge, the Trinity is a huge mystery to us for example. We are fallible, God is not. The Bible is infallible, we are not. We make mistakes.

Actually I feel like the cookie jar has been taken out of my hands. If I follow with Wesley’s theology I should be perfect. And I am not. I follow the law of the land, I follow the law of God but I live in a state of grace which means that my way of following those laws is different to a non-believer.

I follow them as part of the love that pours down on me, as I live with the gifts given and the fruit of the Spirit there are some sins that I couldn’t do without wrenching myself from the Lord’s arms. So why would I do that?

Everyday I am honed a little bit more, another aspect of my character needs some work. Today it was my propensity to sit and sleep rather than do something active to freshen my dull mind. I was struck by lethargy at the very time when I need to be sharp.

Wesley wrote a book about Christian perfection too, it was a major focus of his life. He believed we could attain perfection.

Now when God looks at us through the lens of Jesus we are washed clean and spotless, we are perfect in His eyes because he is looking through the blood of Christ.

God is not grim or a cosmic killjoy, if I were to get hung up on the Law, the sins I would lose my joy, that beautiful gift from God. We are free from the chains of sin and when we do sin we are immediately sorry, we throw ourselves on God’s mercy.

God gave to us a new nature, He put another principle into us, a third part of a perfective constitution; we have the spirit put into us, to be a part of us, as properly to produce actions of a holy life, as the soul of man in the body does produce the natural. God hath exalted human nature, and made it in the person of Jesus Christ, to sit above the highest seat of angels, and the angels are made ministering spirits, ever since their Lord became our brother. Jeremy Taylor 1652

Wesley therefore was not the only one talking about perfection. I get images of people not quite walking on the ground and ice cream. Taylor is talking about the perfect Spirit living within us and Wesley suggests that because the perfect Spirit is within us we cannot sin if we want the Spirit to stay. There is a tension within us, our human nature and the Spirit guiding us. We are sinful living in a broken world but the Spirit gives us the option of a new way of living.

It is but a very little while that our spirits shall be crusht and clogged with these heavy and sluggish bodies; at the resurrection they shall be refined from all dregs of corruption, and become spiritual, and incorruptible, and glorious, and every way suited to the activity and perfection of a glorified soul and the ‘spirits of just men made perfect. Tillotson 1652

Tillotson argues that it is at death this perfection occurs, I think but open to others interpretations. He goes on:

‘Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make us perfect in every good work to do his will, working in us always that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever. Amen.’ Tillotson 1652

There is a movement here, a progressing. My friend has the phrase, “Work in Progress” always in her mind and quotes it frequently when we mess up. I can just see the words forming on her lips. God forgives us so much, I know he has endless mercy and grace and sometimes I understand that in a very personal way. It isn’t fair, if things were fair I would be heading to hell.

Recently I have discovered there are public sins, the ones that put you in the spotlight, that people have an opinion about where you went wrong, what you should do about it etc. Lots of human judgement and tsk tsking. And then there are ones that no one human knows about. Those are the ones that are a barrier to even attempting to reach perfection.

Some people sit with these secret sins, thinking that if no one human knows, sure it will be alright. Some people worry themselves about them but do nothing about them. Others struggle with them being unable to be free of them and others fall at the feet of the Cross and move onward and forward to that hope of perfection, the way the Lord sees us.

So no, at this moment in time on this issue I do not concur with John, would love to talk it over with him so he could explain it better so I might understand. Doctor, I need a lift…

Sermon Thirty Three Don’t be a bigot

john                                      audio clip 

 

Most of the titles for Wesley’s sermons are bland or kind or inoffensive but here we know he is going to be digging deep into our hearts. Bigotry is rife in the world and in the church and even in this sermon. There are some 18th century, empire thinking, sweeping statements made about whole swathes of populations. Giving Wesley his due, he does mention the atrocities done by his own country in the name of God, but mainly he focuses on others.

Can someone cast out demons? Do people have demons within? Wesley argues that there was a time for demons and now in his modern world there is no need and the Devil has changed his methods instead of superstition and idolatry he points us to self worship, pride, greed and gluttony.

He argues that the Devil, who we know rules this world, uses different ways of ruling depending on the country. The Devil chains us to sin, not allowing the light, who is Christ be seen in our lives.

I will ignore his pontifications on different populations because to me they don’t sit right and also his ideas on how others ought to preach, I don’t see the relevance in a sermon for this.

I will however focus on what for me is the main point of the sermon.

DO YOU BELONG

The scripture reference is from Mark 9:

38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,

He was not one of us. Not in our club. Not part of our sect. Not European. Not English speaking. Not Irish. How often in your life have you felt you don’t belong?

I hate it when groups norm because I am never in the norm. I like chaotic, disparate groups that come together for a common aim and then disband. I used to play football (oh I love that game) and brought some of my fitter mates along. One of my mates wouldn’t come at all. I am not part of that, she said. Another one was kicked out because she was not “one of us.” Should I have tried to reason with them, ask them why me and not them? Perhaps I should’ve put up a fight, or aided them in their fight. They didn’t belong, they were outsiders and not allowed to participate based on one criteria. I, the non-national, the unfittest of the three was accepted but they weren’t.

They were the women that in those days were talked about in hushed tones, the ones who were not invited to anything. One more thing to set them apart from everyone else. I have another mate and we concur that it is better to go in smiling and talk about the weather and be grateful for each crumb of a kind word we receive. We each time we have to face this brick wall of hostility, smile, because over time brick walls crumble and nature tumbles into the space. We may never be accepted, but we are tolerated.

I went to a funeral, I travelled to another country and took a place in the pew. Behind me, my childhood best friend’s parents turned to each other and said “What’s she doing here?”

I love now because first the dead person whose funeral I attended loved me. Loved me in spite of the impossible situation we found ourselves in, loved me in spite of the horror of the situation that neither of us understood, it was not of our making but we were on different sides of a chasm of hurt and lies and betrayal and abuse and horrific, horrific things. But we still loved.

I love now because God loved them and they showed that light of Christ to me which enabled me to turn and seek that love of God for myself.

I was in a church and a place where I did not belong, that was made perfectly clear to me. But the person I was remembering was a person who I could turn to when my whole life turned upside down, who would sing lullabies to me of Jesus’ love for me. We belonged.

Belonging is important, I have found my belonging  now, safe in the arms of the King.

The casting out of demons is still a contentious issue because there is the need for proof, even John Wesley calls for that. He says the proof is 1. That the person was a notorious sinner 2. Now they are not and living a Christian life and 3. The change was made by hearing someone preach.

What is a notorious sinner?

I am not going to answer that. What a responsibility on those who preach! But that is what we do, we preach to bring lost souls to Christ. People can’t know they can be saved if we don’t tell them.

Wesley goes on to extoll the virtues of the laity in preaching. His mum, Susanna, strongly suggested (you have to read about her to know what this means) the use of lay preachers, ecclesiastically unordained people to preach the word of God in their itinerant ministry. Now John Wesley could’ve said no but he was open to it and open to women preaching. Psalm 139 –

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

We are all part of one big chaotic family, made up of people with differences who come together ignoring the differences to love to fellowship to belong because God first loved us. We love