” Flat lining yet alive to live “

“Flat lining yet alive to live”

John 8:31-36

 

Mike Holmgren, who in 1997 led the American Grid Iron team the Green Bay Packers to four consecutive finals series play-offs and to their first Super Bowl victory in 30 years, grew up in a religious family in San Francisco.

He went to church every Sunday and at age 11 made a public confession of Jesus Christ as his Savior.But later, in pursuit of a football career in high school and college, he said, “I left God on my bedroom shelf, right next to my dust-covered Bible.” After playing for his college he was drafted to a professional team and then another but never made it.

In his pain of rejection, he went back to his bible and recommitted himself to the Lord and after marrying a committed Christian and coaching football in the high school and college grades he became coach of the Green Bay Packers and after realizing his victory in the Super Bowl he said that: “Win or lose, I now realize what really matters: It’s not winning the Super Bowl prize-it’s the crown of eternal life that Jesus Christ has won for us through His victory on the cross.”
A sentiment, a truth that displays the same knowledge that Martin Luther came to know when he said:

“A person may carry their money wrapped in paper, or they may transport them in an iron chest; yet the treasure is entirely the same. Though you or I have a stronger or weaker faith in Christ, Christ is, after all, the same, and we have everything in Him.”

Wikipedia describes Martin Luther as a “German friar and professor of theology who was a seminal figure of the 16th century movement in Christianity known later as the Protestant Reformation who strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God’s punishment for sin could be purchased with monetary values assigned to indulgences and taught that salvation and subsequently eternity in is not earned by good deeds but is received only as a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin.” Finishing with “Those who identify with these and all of Luther’s wider teachings are called Lutherans even though Luther insisted on Christian as the only acceptable name for individuals who professed Christ.

Punching in Reformation in the online dictionary gave me the meaning of “the act of reforming, and/or state of being reformed”. I like Luther because he well and truly knew that outside of Christ he was certainly no saint which begs the question of why was he given the job by God to reform the Church because as he said himself that “if it wasn’t me and I just sat back drinking Wittenberg beer, God would have still got the job done through someone else”.

So why Martin Luther? I’m sure he had many attributes like courage, heart for the poor and communications skills and so forth, but for me one of the greatest “tools” he had was his knowledge of himself and in that knowledge, his absolute need and necessity to find the Gospel for himself.

God over time has seemingly worked through for want of a better word some “interesting people” and situations, and just as Jesus seemed to gravitate to the poor and outcasts, as my Vicar Father said God seems to not pick from the top of the shelf and if that be the case, we Christians come with some baggage. Baggage that God deals with and prunes over time, but baggage that the dark side knows of and how I heard put so well one time, that for us in Christ, it’s like we are surrounded by a picket fence to keep us in the world but not of the world, but like a lion the powers of darkness prowl around the edge looking for one of the railings becoming weakened, and that is where the attack will take place. The take this thorn from my flesh railings like pride, love of money, jealousy, weakness of the flesh to fight an addictive nature and so forth. The things we know are always nagging at us, and the things that we fall for again and again.

The things that get in the way as we try and follow in the words of Hebrews 12:1 and “Run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The race that is marked out in Christ with the final destination of heaven as our eternal home and of life in Glory with Him.”

The problem is while we in Christ have already passed the finish line, in ourselves we find that we are still trying to get fit enough to make the journey and if you’re like me and unlike in the Melbourne Cup where they put the most weight on the strongest horse, it feels like the weights been put on the weakest, never mind coming from a bad barrier draw. Thankfully we’ve got the right Jockey whose knows his “horse”.

Hebrews 12:1 goes on, so “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”

If only we could because it seems that as soon as we nail back in place the loose picket, another one starts to weaken and so, we like in the Church in Luther’s day are in a constant form of reform. The reform he brought to himself and back to the church which was to re-find the Gospel in unadulterated clarity.

Our personal reformations of seeing things clearly. Of seeing that all have sinned and that being the case, our personal sins are not too great to be forgiven and that is the truth that has set us free.

 The truth as experienced by these people:

 One of the criminals (on the cross next to Jesus) who was hanging there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

And “When Jesus had entered Capernaum; a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralysed, suffering terribly. Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”  The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

And when she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”  “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

A thief, a leader of the opposition allied forces and a lady in a crowd who did nothing much more than acknowledge who Jesus was and what He could do: and Jesus replies: your faith has healed you, I have not found a person in all of Israel with such great faith today you will be with me in Paradise.

Does that not seem overly gracious, it is but we shouldn’t be surprised because John 1:12 tells us:

But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on His name.

Martin Luther penned the famous quote of “sin boldly.” Not to tell us to purposely sin, but to say that when we do and the devil starts telling us of it, we know that he can never back up his allegations of being lost with the truth.

The truth that sets us free that is Christs never ending well of forgiveness.

Free as I once had so well said to me by a fellow student at the sem. who heard me singing and he said I should join the choir. He was probably tone deaf but that’s not the point. The point was I declined as I said I’m a bit shy about such things and he replied “what being saved in Christ not enough for you.”

He was right. Free in Christ why take myself so seriously and not put it out there. But also free in Christ to remain shy in such matters because all that matters to Christ is you.

The world judges us and we each other. Oh she is so successful and I’m only a grape picker.

A bank manager I knew quit his job to work on the production line at Holden’s in Elizabeth. I wonder what some people said behind his back not truly believing the truth of his statement when he said he had never been happier.

It wasn’t so long ago that to be in the Church was to try and look somewhat a devout sort of person and then sneaking into the bottle shop under the cover of darkness. Or of going to Church like butter wouldn’t melt in our mouth and then going home to be our selves again.

Colleagues and I were put through a leadership course where we were asked a series of question that would show the difference in our actions between work and private life. The gaps varied as they should. Except for one which flat lined. The instructor was somewhere between mystified and uncomplimentary and upon remarking that this shouldn’t be the case, I simply remarked-why?

Would I have manipulated my answers for a more pleasing result if I was going for the job instead of already having both the job and the runs on the board? Most probably.

Yet though flat lining, did I still try and be better at my job? Absolutely.

Do we as Christians try and live better lives turning from sin, helping others, being more welcoming and charitable? Absolutely, because we are free to do so because we already have the job and the runs on the board.

The Job Christ did for us on the cross and though you or I have a stronger or weaker faith in Christ, Christ is, after all, the same, and we have everything in Him.”

And should we carry around our faith in rags or a suit, as the CEO or the candle stick maker, believe boldly in who you are. And that is a child of God. A child of God so loved and special that he has given you to be alongside us and all the people he brings before you. So special that as he hung on the cross and was taunted to come down, he saw your face and felt your very being and remained steadfast in the Will of His Father knowing that “tomorrow”, He will greet you in paradise.

The surety of tomorrow that gives you the freedom to be the special person you are today-however that looks. Amen.

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