â€œ1st Corinthians 9:16-23â€
â€œThere is no other wayâ€
Last week we talked about how the virgin birth of Jesus plays out in our lives and for those not present, or those present but catching up on some well-deserved rest, I would like to start by re-affirming Â that message again, being: that back in the day, should two kingdoms be at war, sometimes in the desire to bring peace. One kingdom would give a Kings Son to be married to the other Kings daughter. Problem is that should things flare up, each is still tied by blood to their relevant family and kingdom. But when they had a child, that person could truly unite both kingdoms because he/she had the blood of both within them.
So too the virgin birth of Jesus. Born a human in a human body but not of human seed but of God Himself.Â Jesus born of both kingdoms of earth and heaven. Jesus 100% human yet 100% divine and Jesus the Son of God, of One with the Father and of one with us, that we are of one with Him.
I mention this again in response to todayâ€™s epistle reading from St. Paul. Paul who when still called Saul was leading the charge against Christians to silence them, persecute them and even kill them. Hardly the one we would think to be chosen as a great disciple for Jesus Christ and yet as we know, Jesus pulls off a master stroke by converted this driven man, who once converted continues as before in his full frontal, lay everything on the line driven manner, only now not to suppress the gospel, but to bring it to the attention of any who will listen. The gospel he breaths and lives by, and the gospel he understands implicitly having been against his desires pulled from the way of salvational ruin and be given faith, forgiveness, and eternal life.
Paul stakes his life on the gospel because he knows that he had absolutely nothing what so ever to do with having either received or believed it and if we remember back to Christs words to him in his conversion experience Jesus gives him a great truth up front and centre when he says â€œSaul, Saul, why do you persecute me?â€
Not why do you persecute, Billy, Joe or Jane. But why do you persecute me? And in that one question again we see God our Father send His Son to this earth the mend the fracture from sin between heaven and earth, between God and humans, between life and death. A little baby, born a human in a human body but not of human seed but of God Himself.Â Jesus born of both kingdoms of earth and heaven. Jesus 100% human yet 100% divine and Jesus the Son of God, of One with the Father and of one with us, that we are of one with Him.
A truth that should once and forever take away our human made legal gospel of:
If you really have faith, God will care for you.
If you are sincere, God will be on your side.
If you give up this or that you can be regarded as a true Christian or,
If you trusted more in God your troubles, worries or sickness would be over.
Statements of a legal gospel that is no gospel at all and ifs and buts that are the greatest enemy of the gospel of Godâ€™s grace in Christ for it then makes what God does dependent on what we do.
Paul knows these lies for what they are because he, like us have received the gospel and continue to receive it like the pious Christian man who on his death bed and under the attack of his conscience sees his thin veneer of eternal life through good works and deeds taken from him to be replaced by that which he sought to hide from himself of a life of jealousy, revenge and self-righteous pride.
The truth he sought to suppress from himself, yet the truth that saw him know the true gospel for the first time when in the last moments of his consciousness and asked by his daughter if he was still thinking of Jesusâ€ replied â€œI am not able to, I canâ€™t think any longer. But I do know that Jesus is thinking of me.â€
A situation I have witnessed and up front and personal in a dementia ward where though I know that they probably wonâ€™t remember our service or the message, you can see and feel Christ there with them and when you are there, though they may forget the whole event, the able minded donâ€™t as they see Christ still with these people holding them close.
That is the Gospel and that is the Gospel that the great apostle Paul knew when the light of Christ entered his soul not to reveal Paulâ€™s greatness, but rather his cobwebs and see the truth that in Christ alone are we saved.
In Christ alone as seen in one of those services in the dementia ward where a lady upon taking Holy Communion asked who I was and where I came from. Either hard of hearing or off having never heard of the Lutheran Church and after my three attempts to explain were made in vain, the nurse jumped in and replied for me that â€œI was a Pastor from the Presbyterian Churchâ€ to which the elderly lady responded oh, thatâ€™s O.K. resulting in the nurse then turning to me and saying softly â€œtoday we are all things to all people.â€
It was a funny and endearing moment for me and while I believe and adhere to the confessions of our church, the Church is Christ and Christ is the church and in Christ, when you came to faith, that for each of you though you did not hear it, we know from scripture that the heavens erupted in joy and praise to God for you that one sinner saved.
The same joy and praise given light in the book of revelations that though you still fell to sin, again we hear of all the company of heaven with trumpets playing, angels singing and praising God that you having been kept in faith by Christ have made it through the great tribulation to join them in eternal worship as described in chapter 21: verse 22 â€œ(and) I did not see a temple in the city, because itâ€™s temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. The city has no need of the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God shines on it, and the Lamb is its lamp. The peoples of the world will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their wealth into it (and) the gates of the city will stand open all day; they will never be closed because there will be no night there.â€
Our earthly Christian Churches are the start of that reality, and while nobody in the church will object to faith, self-sacrifice, prayer, trust, social concern or true doctrine, God does not accept us because of these because they are the results of the gospel and not its conditions.
WE ARE SAVED IN CHRIST, So saved in Christ we like Paul can be all things to all people, not to simply try and please everyone by being someone youâ€™re not. But by being what you are and that is a forgiven sinner who knows the unwarranted and undeserved grace of God.
The grace that though our hearts were closed, we received because the Lord held the gates open till we saw His light, and the gates of his earthly home that we hold open, shining His light here from this building, and shining His light from the open hearts of forgiven sinners that others not see the glow of righteous pride or judgement, but His radiant light shine refusing to be restrained by the dark cobwebs of our lives, but shining through and made even brighter by its contrast that others follow it to your witness. To your story that is Christ alone.
Praise be to God. Amen.