November 15 2020
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of our hearts, be acceptable in your
sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen
So Paul is writing to a church in the 1st Century
a church that was going through all kinds of
debates about who belongs and who doesn’t
and what you had to do to be a real Christian
and he is writing that the disputes they are having, are all to do with what is the driving
engine in our lives.
What drives us,
what controls us
what motivates us.
And I would suggest that the same is true today.
And he seems to be saying that there are two forces competing
to be the driving engine
in your life and mine.
One is our human nature
the other, is the Spirit of God.
Basically, he is saying, our human nature is to do with selfishness,
and the Spirit of God is about love.
And these two are opposed to each other
you can’t be selfish and love at the same time;
you can’t love and be selfish at the same time.
And so he lists a number of things that
our human nature is prone to
is the cause of all our problems.
“It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions; (20) in worship of idols and
witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and
ambitious. They separate into parties and groups; (21) they are envious, get drunk,
Don’t get bogged down in the list
rather understand that Paul is suggesting that
in this whole mess of things
relating to the culture of the day
there is one overriding issue
and it is, selfishness.
Life is about me;
life revolves around me
and what I want to do
regardless of anyone else.
Once you have selfishness
you have division.
Thinking differently is not a bad thing
but when the attitude is
it’s my way or the highway
then it is a bad thing.
So you see how countries like Yugoslavia that are created out of
different ethnic groups
how they hold on to their culture
and their old
I was talking to some Americans from the southern states
and they assured me
they weren’t yankees
they were Confederates
and they still flew the confederate flag.
And of course as long as they do that
they won’t see themselves as the united states of America.
And it doesn’t take genius to see that all around the world
our culture and our past grievances still define.
the middle East
China, the US
I would say that everywhere you go
our past, our ethnicity
defines our attitudes to one another.
Paul would say, that’s what human nature does.
It was the same in Jesus day.
And the wonderfully, amazing, difference
the gospel of Jesus made
was, as the apostle Paul could say,
in Jesus the walls of division are broken down
as Jesus makes of diverse and different people.
one new race.
One new culture.
One new people
who define themselves not as where they were born
not their country of origin
not their heritage
not their national identity
rather as one family in Jesus.
This is why as Christians we never get to anxious about who wins the rugby .. right?
And I have found this in the church
when the church is at it’s best
that we can come from different
cultures and races
and backgrounds and we become
one people, a new race.
At times I make a big deal about being from Canada
but there are a lot of Canadians I struggle with
and feel alienated from
and New Zealanders of course
and that’s my problem
but I find myself
more at home with Christians
and if it’s possible
as I think it must be, this life in Christ
is my true home
and my true identity, if that makes sense.
Over the years I found my family not in my siblings
but in men and women
who were and are, my brothers and sisters
mothers and fathers in the faith.
And maybe that’s what Jesus
meant when He asked
who are my brothers and sisters?
Those who do the will of my Father in Heaven.
And this is what Paul seems to be saying.
The church at Galatia
were people from all backgrounds
and they and their views of what a Christian should be
was in part, based on their cultures.
Paul is saying, your culture, where you have come from,
should not define you.
Because it will always be a cause for division.
You will separate in parties
And then there will be contention
because that’s what human nature does.
Instead, Paul writes, there is a better way to live
and that is to be controlled by God’s Spirit.
Or as Jesus says:
We must be born again
or born from above.
We cannot be the church of Jesus
unless we are born of the Spirit of God.
I understand that to be, not the cliched version that we hear of so often,
but a surrender
to the love of God
that will burn out of us
all the divisiveness of our human nature
till all that is left in us
is pure unadulterated love.
That’s the goal.
That’s what you and I are to be striving for.
The community deserves,
needs such a people to be a light.
But what we tend to do
is read our Bibles more, that’s a good thing, but ..
Jesus said to the Bible experts – you search the Bible but you still don’t find what God
would have for you.
Or we attend another course on discipleship,
or buy the latest book
on how to do whatever;
attend another conference,
but really brothers and sisters all they tend to do
is conform our prejudice. Right?
What we are called to do – is put to death our human nature.
Now Paul uses an interesting term here.
He writes: those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all
its passions and desires.
The word translated, put to death, in some of our Bibles, is the word for crucify. Paul is
writing of the crucifixion of the human nature.
Why the term crucifixion?
Paul, as any in the Roman Empire,
knows that a person who is crucified is not dead.
That’s the goal, but it can be a long process.
I wonder if he is suggesting that
the transformation he is speaking of
is a process.
It can take time.
So we can go, yeah, I’m crucifying my human nature
on a metaphorical cross
but then when someone crosses us, we hope down off
and give whoever a swat
and then get back on.
Maybe that’s why Paul writes:
go on being filled with the Holy Spirit.
It’s an, every moment of every day
openness to the healing power of God’s love.
Maybe our prayer could be:
Lord, I surrender myself to your arms of love
that your love may burn out of me
all things that cause division
that I may know my true identity - your beloved child.
Now unto God the Father, God the Son and God, the holy Spirit, be all the honour and
glory, world without end. Amen
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