Sermon 14 ~~~The Repentance of Believers

“Repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

Mark 1:15

Following on from “On sin and believers” and quite rightly because if we are to say we still sin as believers then we have to explain this through to its conclusion so we can stay believers.

That’s the tension: we come before the throne of grace, ask for forgiveness and accept the forgiveness and then we spend a few moments without sin in our lives, but we live in a broken world so to think we don’t sin is arrogance. It is to suggest we are totally sanctified, totally perfect and therefore in need of no god, let alone the God.

Wesley was preaching at a time when people were hungry to have a personal relationship with God against a backdrop of the latter part of the Enlightenment. The world was suddenly changing at a rate of knots and religion and the way “church” was done, was being discussed and debated across Europe. A charismatic preacher could turn a crowd to Christ but equally could turn people to anything they chose. Wesley stood close to Scripture, he spent many hours pouring over the Bible in devotion not just in order to preach but in personal devotion. Whenever he heard what he considered heresy he had to act on it and this comes out in these two parallel sermons.

During the Enlightenment philosophers and intellectuals yearned to know everything about everything. One on his deathbed allegedly said “Light, more light,” they wanted to reason and rationalise everything and religion was one of the topics that was debated.

Wesley was the voice of reason for the common person. He preached for middle ground between differing views. This is how I historically have viewed Methodism, as the middle ground, “friend of everyone, enemy of none.”

Sermon 13 ~~~On Sin in Believers

This is one of those sermons that gives you an “a ha” moment. Like we pray all the time asking for forgiveness in general terms, going back to Adam and original sin. We say we are a bunch of sinners but when we say it, are we really saying:

“Well you lot might have done something wrong this week, but me, well I am living above reproach. There is nothing in my life that is sinful.”

And why do we think like that >>> Because we have been baptised by the Holy Spirit, we are free from the chains of sin. So sin isn’t in our life, is it?

Wesley nails this, absolutely. Yes there is sin in our life, we get frustrated at being in the wrong queue in the Post Office yet again as people sail in ‘counter number 1’ but we are in ‘counter number 2’ queue and the guy two in front not only has a humongous parcel for Outer Mongolia and needs a receipt in triplicate and did we mention it is “FRAGILE” and the toddler with the woman behind him is taking all the cards out of the display and stamping on them whilst mother, blissfully unaware is on the phone getting the latest goss. The man in front of us is coughing and sneezing like he should be in bed, rather than spreading germs and does he have to turn around every time and apolgise with candles of snot hanging from his nose as spittle leaves his mouth in a trajectory course for our face and we smile sweetly as we notice “Outer Mongolia” man is paying in coin, not even silver but copper, 1,2,3. Of course we get frustrated and angry.

For that moment.

That is the difference, here. That is the difference, we are angry for a moment and then we ask the Lord to take that thought captive and free us from it.

We are not seeped in sin, but we do sin. If we were seeped in sin, we might take out our wee .22 and lose the queue entirely or when it is our turn at the counter we might attack verbally the counter assistant, who is entirely blameless.

Now there’s a point. Someone, totally blameless getting in the neck because we are having a hard time.

Someone, totally blameless, died in excruciating agony so we might live, so we might be free from the chains of sin.

What a Saviour!

Sermon Forty The wilderness state

john                                                    audio clip

Being a reader, editor and proof reader I have come across many “wilderness” books. The wilderness years of Winston Churchill and Adrian Mole (now there’s a contrast!) come to mind immediately. Blood Meridian is a novel based on real life events in the desert of the Mexican border with the States. But another one of my pastimes is film. In films deserts are sandy places not unlike Inch beach without the water. The sand scours the skin. My favourite wilderness in film from a cinematography point of view is the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Dying in a hail of bullets in a remote chapel someplace along the border previously mentioned. So desperate, so caught in a corner, that there is no place left to hide, they were hunted down and then killed.

Sometimes in our peachy happily clappy Christian life something happens that makes us doubt everything, including God’s sovereignty in it all. We are floored literally by some life event and we end up in the wilderness. Immediate desert after a time of abundance. What floors us is as individual as to how long it takes us to rise again. Some of us don’t languishing in a place not fit for human habitation, where breathing in and out is a chore that we want rid of. Not every Christian goes through this so if someone tells you we all do, we don’t. It is a specific time for specific people.

There is more than one wilderness, though. Sometimes a sin that we hadn’t brought before the Lord, by omission rather than design, rears up and causes us to enter this state. For others it is the realisation that something has got to change. Whatever causes us to enter, the losses are the same and interlinked.

The first is loss of faith, people no longer trust God, after putting all their trust in him they suddenly find they have lost their spiritual strength and have become as weak as non believers. So they lose the love. Where is the love? The love is in the connection, when we sever the connection the love is still there but we cannot feel it anymore, we are not plugged into that personal relationship. And so to joy, with no faith and no love there is no joy, not the temporary happiness that abounds at a tea party but that deeply rooted joy that comes as a gift from the Spirit. Where peace was, there is now a chasm as wide and as deep and as long as can be. Where once the person was basking in the glow of the love of God, now there is turmoil, insecurity, doubt and all measure of devilish thoughts. And finally we lose the power of Jesus Christ, that power over sin.

What does cause it? Sin committed deliberately can darken the soul in an instant. Like there is a boy who when he was eight years old I swore that when he was a grown up I’d give him a beating for all the bullying he inflicted on one of my children. He is twenty now, still walking, still has a pretty face. Why? Because in the meantime my heart was softened by the love of God until I could say clearly from the bottom of my heart I loved this boy. My clucky mother hen natural instincts supplanted by God’s love. We love because He loves.

We can quite easily wander into the desert by omitting things in our spiritual life and this is possibly why John Wesley was so diligent in this area.

Just like there are many wildernesses and deserts there is equally only one way out. It does make sense. Wesley says there are a variety of cures but I say one. The lying down of oneself at the Cross, hand it all over to Lord, ask for forgiveness and ask for the strength to forgive. Let go of the “what if’s” If it surrounds a death, be assured no one knows when the time will come for our earthly hearts to stop whether we are ninety or nine hours old. If it surrounds a sin get rid of it. A relationship, healing. Whatever is causing you to doubt God’s sovereign rule in your life, get it out of here because it is not of God.

I was once placed in the wilderness for my own good and it was a very enlightening period. I discovered lots of things about pink, I discovered a lot of things about God and me or me and God too. I was not there from doubt or fear, but I was there for a reason and I had stuff to work out before I could be brought out of the wilderness through the refiner’s fire, a shinier person than before, ready to hear what he had in store for me.

[and then I wanted to go back to the desert!] briefly before I was given tools to proceed.

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 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