Trinity 8, 2016

 

The Epistle. Romans 8:12-17

The Gospel.  St. Matthew 7:15-21

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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The Prayer we prayed this morning has an interesting concept in it.  We recognize in this prayer God’s providence.

 

This is his care, His guidance, His directing, His managing power that He exercises over the all things in the universe…not just on earth.

 

In saying this, we are acknowledging that all things, even the things we each individually do every day are overseen and guided by the Hand of God.

 

In saying this, we are also saying that nothing happens accidentally. 

Nothing happens randomly…. although we use both of those terms all of the time to describe events.

 

Car accidents. 

Random acts of violence. 

Both are true in a sense when viewed in a very narrow way, but the reality is, when we say God is providential or operates providentially over all things, we are saying that His hand is in the car accident and the random act of violence in some way.

 

We as finite creatures don't understand fully how and in what ways God is involved.  People are very nervous about assigning to God fault in things that are bad or evil. 

 

Theologians have wrestled with this concept for millennia and not all have come to the same conclusion as to the how…if at all.

 

 

God is Holy, He is Wise, He is all powerful, and  He governs all of creation and the creatures therein and their actions.  That is a standard answer from the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

 

We further find passages that tell us just that.  Psalm 145 says, “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.” (Psalm 145:17 ESV)

 

Psalm 104 says, “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” (Psalm 104:24 ESV)

 

“The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” (Psalm 103:19 ESV)

 

And from the New Testament, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.

But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew 10:29-30 ESV)

 

That is just a small sample of Scripture passages we can take into account when working through the puzzle of God’s providence over all things.

 

The prayer goes on after that, once we have acknowledged God’s never-failing providence and that He orders all things both in heaven and on earth…we then humbly beseech God that He would put away from us all hurtful things, (because He can) and that He would give us those things which are profitable for us. (because He can)

 

So we desire that God would move in such a way, or order things in such a way that we live in safety and security…that things which may hurt us in both body and soul may be kept away from us and that only things that are deemed by God to profit us may be put in our way.

 

This is how we ought to live and think all of the time. 

God is there. 

He is here now. 

He orders all things that happen.  Bad and Good. 

He is in no way evil or sinful, but He in some way governs the universe and even our individual lives that the good things, the profitable things, but also the bad and evil things are under His control.

 

Yet He remains sinless and Holy in all ways.  Recall Joseph telling his brothers many years later, as they all are discussing and recalling how badly they treated him, he tells them that though they meant evil as the outcome, God intended it for good.

 

And He not only intended it for good, but He made sure good came of it.  Those events turned out for the good of Israel for hundreds of years to come.

This can be helpful if we can recall this in times when we are going through very difficult situations.  When everything feels like it is going wrong and falling apart. 

However you want to describe it.

 

God is in the midst of it and He is governing it so that we will prevail over it…or we will survive going through it, or even if it consumes us, we belong to Him and all points of the event are somehow working for the good of those who love Him.

 

Even saying this, to some, this is hard to handle.  It is hard to comprehend and it is hard to accept.  The “why” questions begin to come to mind. 

Why does God do this? 
Why does God allow this?

Or cause this?

Why does He work this way….it seems so painful at times…and unnecessary….especially if He is all powerful.

 

As Christians we are encouraged by what we find in Scripture, to work through and pray for wisdom and understanding and acceptance, but it doesn't always come easy for us.

 

So with this in mind about God and His governance we now can look at our lessons for today and hopefully understand them better and learn how this all falls into place.

 

The key to tying the lessons today to the Collect lies it seems, in the last lines of the Epistle for today.

 

The Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  And if we are children of God, we are also heirs of God…heirs in receiving what He has to give us.

 

And we are fellow heirs with Christ. 

 

 

 

As Christ is an heir of all of the benefits of salvation because of His work on the cross for our redemption….we too are heirs in that when we are in Christ….followers of Christ and trusting in Him, we are fellow heirs…fellow inheritors of all that Christ has won for us.

 

We will share in the spoils of His victory.  We are heirs of the Kingdom of God.

 

And all of this is provided that we suffer with Him in order that we may be glorified with Him.

 

All of God’s people…all of us are His and belong to Him because He makes it so.  It is not accidental.  We are God’s because we have received the Spirit of adoption.   God has adopted us and therefore we are His.

 

Now in the life of the Christian there is suffering. 

 

 

All people suffer, but the Christian is reminded over and over about His suffering not only because it is a fact of His existence as a Christian, but also to train us to expect and accept what God providentially designs for us.

 

Again, if God is providential in all His ways, then our circumstances, our lives, our sufferings and our triumphs are set before us as things that will deepen our relationship with Him….deepen our reliance upon Him.

 

The Scriptures refer to the things that happen to us…the trials we go through, as discipline.  Not random discipline, but carefully, lovingly measured out by God to each one of us according to His good pleasure and in proportion to our need.

 

Its unfortunate that so many today see or hear the word discipline and immediately think it's a bad word.  Discipline, correction. 

 

These are the very things God uses on us precisely because He loves us and cares for us.

 

The Book of Hebrews says this, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons.

 

For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

 

Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them.” [as a side note, conversely we can draw from this that withholding discipline from the child will bring disrespect and resentment]

 

The author of Hebrews goes on, “Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?

 

For [our earthly fathers] disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but [God] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:6-11 ESV)

 

This is how God demonstrates His parental care for us.  It would be wise for parents to learn from this passage and not think other more lenient ways are better than God’s ways.

 

Notice discipline here is equated with training.  Discipline from God trains us in righteousness.  Discipline from our earthly fathers brings the same fruit.

 

This is the direct link between Christ and us. Between Christ and our discipleship. 

 

 

We know this because we read back in Hebrews 2, “For it was fitting that he, [Christ], for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” (Hebrews 2:10 ESV)

 

So Christ, even in this, is our Head, our Firstfruits, our example.  “…God intended not only to perfect Jesus as Son through His suffering, but that Jesus was to be the pioneer of “many sons” whom God would lead to glory, that is, to God’s own presence.”[1]

 

The suffering by Jesus was an important part of His obedience and faithful response to God.  In the same way, we too, are providentially chastened by God and are being educated, corrected, into the status of “sons” just like the Son of God, Jesus Christ was.

 

In fact when we are told that God is treating us as sons, He means that God is treating us as He treated His own beloved Son.

 

That is how close we are related to both Christ and God.  Our discipline is directly related to God’s discipline of Christ.  As He learned discipline at the hand of the Father through the circumstances He endured…including the cross, so we too learn discipline.

 

The good news for us is that we don't have to endure the cross.  Taking up our cross may have similarities, but Christ’s crucifixion was a one time, unique event never to be repeated…thankfully.

 

This is why we ask God to give us things that are profitable and keep from us all things hurtful and at the same time do all that we can to understand that all things that come to us…. because they come to us under the loving and guiding hand of God for our good.

This is not pacifism.  We rightfully defend others and ourselves.  We rightfully organize governments and police departments to curb crime, protect lives and punish criminals.  But even the success of those depends on the Providence of God.

 

      “The LORD looks down from heaven;

            he sees all the children of man;

      from where he sits enthroned he looks out

            on all the inhabitants of the earth,

      he who fashions the hearts of them all

            and observes all their deeds.

      The king is not saved by his great army;

            a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.

      The war horse is a false hope for salvation,

            and by its great might it cannot rescue.” (Psalm 33:13-17 ESV)

      “Unless the LORD builds the house,

            those who build it labor in vain.

      Unless the LORD watches over the city,

            the watchman stays awake in vain. (Psalm 127:1 ESV)

 

All things, even if they are hurtful or sorrowful….are all ultimately profitable for us…and can be best endured… if we view them through the lens of God’s never-failing providence.

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In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

 



[1] Johnson, L. T. (2012). Hebrews: A Commentary. (C. C. Black, M. E. Boring, & J. T. Carroll, Eds.) (1st ed., p. 321). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.