13 August 2023 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
Tenth Sunday after Trinity
LET thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and, that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” (Romans 12:1-9; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
The entirety of the life of Christ was a continual sacrifice for the Elect.
Paul’s Epistle for today takes on that old besetting and very formidable enemy of the souls of men – PRIDE. I might add that it was PRIDE that also led to the fall of Lucifer from Heaven along with a third of the angels who rebelled with him. But for every admonishment, God also provides and edification.
You will note in the Prayer of Collect that the mercies of God are besought for those of a HUMBLE heart. Once more, as in the Lord’s Prayer, we pray that God will give us the mind and will of Christ in asking for those things that accord with His Will, and not our own. If our hearts and minds are fully reconciled to God, all that we desire will also be precisely that which God wills for us.
The verse that I wish to expound upon most particularly from today’s Epistle is the third: “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”
The devoted Christian is a tool or vessel in the hand of God. He can take no credit for the artwork God has used in making him and, since his very hands belong to His Maker, he can take no credit for whatever good works they perform. The Christian should be very much like a magnifying glass to enlarge the very Person of God with his mouth, with his works, with his thoughts, and with his desires. A magnifying glass is only a tool that helps enlarge detail so that we might know more of the object it magnifies. If we are close to God, His image will be magnified and enlarged. If we view him, even through a magnifying glass from a distance, His image will be small in our hearts. We must “draw near by faith” as in close and constant Communion with our God. In looking through a telescope, we see images brought nearer. But if we look through the same telescope from the opposite end, all images are made to look smaller and insignificant. Our lives should magnify that image of God and diminish our own image. That is the right relationship we should have with God. As the Psalmist has said: “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.” (Psalms 69:30)
If we are erudite in wisdom, we will know that it is faith that enables us to know God – and this faith comes from the attending grace of the Holy Ghost in opening our eyes to the Word which we have both heard and read. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) And even in the hearing and believing, we may take no credit for it is the grace and power of God drawing us by the efficacious working of that Holy Ghost in our hearts. Did you choose Christ to follow and believe? “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.(John 15:16) Paul makes the point very clear that we may boast of none of our virtues for they are from God and granted by His Grace. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)
Paul opens this chapter with great plea: “…..ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” A sacrifice takes no account of its own desire, but is made and given solely to the love and praise of God. A sacrifice to God is given with no intent for personal benefit but only to the glory of God to whom it is given. The Temple Lamb would have preferred to forego its sacrifice, but it had no means of enforcing its own will. When our wills are subdued and given over to that Mind that was in Christ, we, too, will have no carnal will to defy that Will of God. His Will becomes ours. This is not a great accomplishment of the Christian – it is simply the LEAST he can do: “….which is your reasonable service.”
Paul also issues a dire warning to the Church as well as to the individual Christian. The Church is just like a great ship. A ship is designed and created to be seaworthy – to navigate the Ocean Seas with its cargo and passengers. Its designers have made it to be secure from the waters in which it sails. It is provided with water-proof hull and sails that will enable it to take advantage of wind currents for movement. It also is equipped with a tiny instrument that will determine success or failure in navigation – the compass. The rudder, being less sizeable than the main sail, is nonetheless, extremely vital to the ships direction and handling.
The ship is made to be in the Sea, just as the church is made to be in the world. The Church also has a compass – the Word of God as its chart & compass. It has mighty sails to take advantage of the gentle winds of the Holy Ghost to give it movement. And the Church has Jesus Christ as its anchor and foundation to keep the world from seeping in. The Church is made for the world. As long as the Ship is in the sea, all is well and good, but when the sea gets into the ship, disaster follows. As long as the Church is in the world, and separate from it, all is well. But when the world seeps into the Church, all is lost in SHIPWRECK! Today, the world is not seeping into the Church – it is flooding into the Church. The philosophy of the world, the music of the world, the PRIDE of the world, and the false ministers of the world have entered into the Church and abide as the fowl of the air (demons) in her branches as in the Mustard Tree of Matthew 13:31-32.
What has allowed the world and her demons to take such possession of the modern church? I believe it may all be traced to the PRIDE of the flesh to which Paul has alluded in verse three. We think of ourselves more highly than we should. We desire, not only the acceptance of God, but the acceptance of man as well so that we will be respectable and accepted. We desire, as did Israel, a king like unto all the other nations round about – instead of having God as our King. The Church has willingly accepted every abominable sin including homosexuality and the murder of innocent babies as the norm. As we read in Revelations, Jesus is no longer inside the modern Church but rather stands at the door without and knocks. At the conclusion of His words to the Seven Churches, see what Jesus says to them: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”(Rev 3:20-22)
How is it possible for the body to hate its own heart, lungs, stomach, brain, etc.? The Church is the Body of Christ and should remain not only Holy, but One with Christ. If the Church is ONE with Christ, how can there be divisions? Christ is not divided against Himself, so how can the Church, being His Body, be so divided? It is because the larger Church has ceased to be the Body of Christ and grown many cancers that destroy its soul. “4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” Does the heart perform a most vital function? Yes, for without it the heart, there would be no blood supply to all other cells and organs of the body. Do the lungs have an indispensable function? Yes, in providing life-giving oxygen to every part.
Each Christian servant is gifted with unique gifts of service that will benefit the entire Body of Christ. There is no Christian that stands in some greater office than the least of these. Without kidneys, the body will perish. Without lungs, the body will perish. Without a heart, the body will perish. The eye of the Body is the Holy Ghost. The ears are for hearing the Word of God. The mind is for giving over to that Mind which was in Christ Jesus. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. (Phil 2:5) The prophesying referred to is the preaching of truth. Faith engenders greater desire and hunger for the Word of God. The greater the faith, the greater the zealous and diligent study of the Word – not in pride of knowledge, but in love of sharing that most valuable possession.
A much neglected gift in the church is that of exhortation. Our friend, Mr. Webster, defines exhortation as “…to incite by argument or advice: urge strongly.” Please do not be taken aback by the term incite, for to incite action is to urge by the facility of the spirit or emotion. Of course, we often think of mob violence when we think of incite, but when the full body of reason, truth, and spirit are combined in convincing, no power shall stand in the way. After all, what did Christ say to the Samaritan Woman at the Well concerning worship? “…..the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24) Knowledge of the truth is not enough. That knowledge must be acted upon in humility and faith.
One last point of great importance: The Christian and the church should ABHOR evil! There should be a far greater righteous indignation over the evil that has befallen our Church, the nation, and our children than is obvious today. (Abhor that which is evil.) Instead of an uncompromising abhorrence of evil, we see, instead, the modern Church embracing evil. How can this be? Perhaps it is because the Church has ceased to“..cleave to that which is good.” Can we not judge sin according to the clear Word of God? Have we become impotent of truth and naïve to sin? Where is the red blood of indignation at evil of the Christian today? Perhaps they have followed their blind guides, who seem so silent over the evils of our day, into the ditch of deception!
So both the members of the Body, as well as the Body as a whole, need to be humble in our worship, reverent in our communion with God, faithful in our living and witness, preferring the feelings of others to our own selfish desires, hospitable to all, intolerant of sin in the sanctuary of God (church discipline), and pursuing all things in the same Mind and will of Christ. Reading the Bible straight through 50 times will not avail – though that would be commendable if the Spirit of God attends the reading. Boasting of our studies is an undesirable side-effect of such an approach. Loving the God who has written His Love Letter to us will INCITE us on to a deeper knowledge and understanding of His Person. He will be magnified and glorified in all that we say, do, or think. That is our object of today’s message. “A word to the wise is sufficient!”