Trinity 19, 2016

 

The Epistle. Ephesians 4:17-32

The Gospel.  St. Matthew 9:1-8

 

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

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The Collect for today calls for renewal.  We prayed to God acknowledging that we are not able to please God without His grace granting us that gift, and it coming through Christ, perfected through Him….and enabling us to do so.

 

We prayed for the Holy Spirit, who is constantly at work in us, silently, slowly, gradually directing and ruling our hearts and minds to grow us into the God-pleasing people we are called to be.

 

But the entire cause of this and the entire process of this is our sanctification. 

We are slowly sanctified to be like our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

To be sanctified is to be renewed.  It is to be set apart….to be made holy…to be consecrated.  That is what is happening by the power of the Spirit at the Consecration of the bread and wine in the prayer the priest says.

 

At the Invocation, where the Spirit is invoked to do His work, God works to bless and sanctify His gifts and creatures of bread and wine, that we, when we receive them, according to Jesus’ direction, and in remembrance of His Death and Passion, we become partakers of His most precious Body and Blood.

 

In a similar manner, God sanctifies us, sets us apart, changes our desires, and alters our thinking. 

 

 

 

In the Evening Family prayer in the back of the Prayer Book there is a line where we pray that God would “Reform whatever is amiss in the temper and disposition of our souls; that no unclean thoughts, unlawful designs, or inordinate desires, may rest there.

 

Purge our hearts from envy, hatred, and malice; that we may never suffer the sun to go down upon our wrath; but may always go to our rest in peace, charity, and good-will, with a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards men; that so we may be preserved pure and blameless, unto the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

 

There is our sanctification prayer.  This sanctifying of God in us, again, sets us apart and it renews us. 

We might ask at this point…

Set apart from what? …or from whom?

Set apart for what?

We are set apart by God because there has been a renewal.  We have been washed in the waters of baptism.

We have been fed the Sacraments of Christ’s Body and Blood.

We have been catechized in the doctrines of the Church.

 

And consequently, we are renewed and set apart and we are sanctified as new creatures.

 

Paul reminds us again this morning in his letter to the Church in Ephesus.

 

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.”

 

We can quite easily understand this as a command not to walk as those who do not know Christ. 

Do not walk according to the world is the command. 

We must no longer walk as we once did before we were set apart, sanctified and renewed.

 

Why not?

What is the problem? 

Are we that much different?

 

Yes.  If we belong to Christ, we are now different and we are to act differently as well.

Paul goes on to describe those who are not in Christ.

 

He says they are “darkened in their understanding.”  Meaning they do not reason correctly about many things.

 

They do not reason about God correctly. 

They do not reason about Christ correctly. 

They either are indifferent to these things or hostile or they are in error about these things.

 

The unsaved, unsanctified person does not know God, therefore, he cannot think properly.

Their minds are darkened.

 

Only in Christ are we walking in the light.  We are walking in the light of the Spirit of God.

Only when we are trusting in the Words of Scripture are we said to have a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.

 

Paul says unbelievers…un-sanctified people are alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.  They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”

 

These are the things of Gentiles.

These are the things of unbelievers.

These are even the things of those who, even though they are separated out by God, continue to practice….and we should not. 

Then Paul says, “But that is not the way you learned Christ!”

One commentator notes the oft-used phrase “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”  This is a misleading piece of advice.  There might be a time and a place to conform to cultural norms or traditions, but when it comes to the sanctifying change that God is working in us, this cannot be always true for us.

 

It might win us friends and help us to influence people but that also is not our call as Christians.  We are set apart precisely because we no longer walk that way….or we strive at least to no longer walk that way.

 

It should be said that we do still walk in this manner from time to time….and more often than we would like or should.  But Paul knows this.  He is not blind to the fact that we are simultaneously justified and sinful.  We are counted righteous and yet remain very unrighteous in thought, word and deed.

 

 

But Paul is here admonishing us that this is not what is to be so.  This is not the way we have learned Christ. 

 

“Christians are to live holy lives, not just because morality is good in itself (though it is) or because it promotes happiness or success or anything else (though it does), but because of what God has done. Because of what we believe about God’s actions toward us through Jesus Christ we should live as God wants and requires us to live.”[1]

 

But this is not the way we have come to know Christ.  Living in the old life is not the way in which we learned anything regarding life in Christ or even Christ Himself.

 

Many people have tried many things over the course of human history.  Scientology, EST, self-help programs, motivational speakers. 

These all guide a person to supposed enlightenment. “Some think that a change can be found through personal enlightenment. They seek it through mysticism…[2]  They seek it through this new resurgence and fascination with Eastern Religions. 

 

He goes on. We are to put off our old self, which belongs to our former manner of life.

 

This former manner of life is corrupt through deceitful desires.  We are to put away falsehood.  Sinful anger is to be put away from us.

 

Rather, “The inward nature must be manifested in outward conduct. Certain evils are to be cast off and opposite features of good are to be put on.” [3]

Here is Paul’s call to us for good. 

There are not just don’ts but do’s.

We are to be renewed in the spirit in our minds. 

We are to put on the new self, which is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

 

What a difference here.

 

His list goes on.  We are to speak the truth with our neighbor.

We are to not let the sun go down on our anger.  Meaning we are to seek to resolve any issue we have with a neighbor or brother before the sun goes down because we might not have the opportunity when day comes. 

Or the devil may have opportunity to further deepen the division that is there.

 

We are to work honestly with our hands. 
We are to labor honestly, not cheating the office out of hours, or doing personal things on company time.  All of this is stealing.

 

We are to keep our conversation uncorrupted.  How very difficult that is. 
Our conversation is to be only for building up, and not tearing down.

 

Now it is not fair to the text today to try to make it a text explaining the giving practices the members are to engage in.  My letter sent out a few weeks ago was clear as to the commitment each of us is bound to…. to the Church and its ongoing mission.

 

However, in much of what Paul tells us here, in the way of conduct, we can at least on the very outer edges here see direction and implication… for a proper way to manage our lives….and in turn manage our finances….drawing on just the simple manner of the sort of conduct we are to engage in.

 

If we are new creatures because we are in Christ….and we are.

 

If we are renewed and redeemed through baptism, and faith….and we are.

If we are not to walk or conduct ourselves as we did in the past….since we are no longer Gentiles in the theological sense..

 

And since we are created in the likeness of God and are to reflect His righteousness and holiness in all things….but also His gracious generosity and sacrificial nature.

 

Then these are the things we to engage in.

 

Paul does mention the fact that in honest work and honest labor we do so in part so that we might have something to share with anyone who might be in need.

 

This is one of the major components of the Church’s mission.  Support for her members first and foremost.

 

But it goes out from there. 

We are to look for anyone in need as Paul says here.  Not just our closest friends or family members. Anyone. 


We are to be always looking for opportunities to help others…. and finances, according to Paul, is an important way in which we can do so.

 

Because without them we can do very little.

 

So much of what Paul writes is very much aimed at how we conduct ourselves.  So that we may show love to one another, but also to show what we believe and what we are committed to and what we say Amen to…not only among ourselves but to an watching world.

 

We will never satisfy the world in all things.  Our very conduct in righteousness only angers and frustrates the world many times.

 

It brings conviction down on unbelievers and they in turn recoil at our lifestyle.

Being not only physically present in Church and an active member of the Church, but a sacrificial financial supporter of the Church is just as much the call to the renewed Christian….as a witness to his belief.

 

So our prayer again today was to acknowledge to God that we are not able to please Him without His help.  So we can see here first and foremost that we need to ask for it.

 

More broadly, we are not able to do anything that we should without His grace.

 

In prayer we are to approach all things.  Asking God mercifully that by His Spirit he would direct and rule our hearts in all decisions and even commitments. 

 

All in order that we may bring glory to God in all that we do, and that we may show forth our joy at the renewal He has wrought in us by His mighty power.

 

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

 



[1] Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (p. 153). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.

[2] Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (p. 160). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.

[3] Excerpt From: Melville Scott. “The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/YQ09A.l