Monday, June 24, 2013

Cloth Yourselves With Christ


Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
June 23, 2013
Fr. Philip Eberhart

CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH CHRIST
(Audio Sermon File)

Have you ever been to a hotel or to a spa or gone for a massage where they have these big, fluffy, plush robes. My wife has several of them, both for herself and for clients to use, as they change in and out of dresses for fittings. You know the ones, that kind of engulf you and you sink into them – and just forget all your troubles!!


I want to explore this morning the phrase we hear in Paul’s mouth a lot, and we see it in our NT Epistle reading from Galatians this morning:
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

What does it mean for us to be clothed with or to clothe ourselves with Christ? To Put on Christ - Paul uses this phrase over 20 times in his teaching about the life of the disciple – the follower of Jesus.

Our reading here seems to indicate that it is initiated at baptism –

Have you ever moved and had to have everything forwarded to a new address.
We have had a change of address! We are no longer “of” this world; we are now citizens of a heavenly city – we have a new address, a new home – and I might add, one that is not local!

Tied very closely to this concept in Paul’s thinking is his concept of our being “IN CHRIST.” If we have PUT ON Christ then we are IN Christ, by default. There is a whole bunch of this kind of language throughout the NT in regard to what has happened to us in our salvation experience. We are in Jesus and Jesus is, by His Spirit, IN US. The best definition I’ve seen is in one of the lexicons I looked at:


“TO BECOME SO POSSESSED OF THE MIND OF CHRIST, AS IN THOUGHT, FEELING AND IN ACTION, AS TO RESEMBLE HIM AND TO REPRODUCE THE LIFE HE LIVED”  (Thayer’s Lexicon on the Greek word ENDUO)

Over and over throughout the NT we hear this kind of language:

Let  this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…
It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me …
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh…
All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has be created in righteousness
      And holiness of the truth
Put on the new self, which is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the
    Image of the One who created him

All of these passages speak of a change of address!  In Jesus Christ, Paul Says, we are a NEW CREATION – Old has gone!  New has come!  Paul was so excited by this reality that he camps on it throughout his letters to the churches.  It pops up in almost every letter he writes – why?   Because it is a central reality of who we are now and is the key to what we are becoming, by faith in the Grace of God!

The central picture and the reality of baptism is that we have been consumed – swallowed up – buried if you will in the act of baptism – going under the water, and we have come out of the water a new creation.  A new being emerges from the water of baptism.

The new creation is a gift of grace.  This is God’s idea, from start to finish – and His work, from start to finish.  In fact the work is already done!  That is what Jesus cry on the cross was all about – IT IS FINISHED!           

Your new creation was finished on the cross – and now the task at hand is appropriation of that finished work as we PUT ON Christ.  There is a mystery in the language here – the work is both finished in Jesus and ongoing with us, every day, every moment, as we make a choice to live IN HIM.

This is also plain in Paul’s usage of this imagery in other places in his letters:

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, PUT ON a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  Beyond all these things PUT ON love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 
Let the peace of Christ rule IN YOUR HEARTS, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful
Let the word of Christ richly DWELL WITHIN YOU, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

What a picture of the Christian’s life IN JESUS!  And the life of Jesus IN THE CHRISTIAN.

“It is no longer I who live,” Paul says, “but Christ who lives in me!  And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.”

We have been talking about faith in Sunday School for the past few weeks, and this is something that has dawned on me – that faith is coming to rest in the finished work of Christ Jesus on the Cross, and not trying to add to that work of salvation by the works that I do.  This is what the Sabbath Rest is all about – we are called to Sabbath, in order to put the work that we do in the name of Christ in the right order and perspective.  We are not working for Christ or for our salvation  -- we are working WITH HIM in his work of salvation in the world, in an extraordinary grace that allows us to partner with Jesus, day by day in every moment and every breath. 

Finally, in that work there is one more place we need to look at what we must PUT ON:  Would you like to turn with me to Ephesians 6

PUT ON the full armor of God!  Why?
So that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

We are all familiar with the passage in Ephesians 6 about the Armor of God:
Anyone who is living this life IN CHRIST will come into a position of opposition to the world, to the flesh and to the devil!  And so we need protection, which has been provided:

  1. The Belt of Truth
  2. The Breastplate of Righteousness
  3. The shoes of the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace
  4. The Shield of Faith
  5. The Helmet of Salvation
  6. The Sword of the Spirit (The Word of God)

Of course this is a whole sermon series in six lines!  Truth, Righteousness, the Gospel of Peace at all about Jesus!  He IS the Truth, He IS our Righteousness and He IS our peace!  Our Faith is IN HIM – Our salvation is FROM HIM – and it is HIS WORD, by HIS Spirit, that we have at our side and in our hand as a sword, the only offensive weapon we own.

Much, much, much more can be said about the armor of God, but for our purposes this morning it is important for us to hear the word PUT ON the full armor of God.
And Paul finishes these thoughts by adding, in v. 19,
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me, in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.”

Friends, if Paul needed prayer for boldness, how much more do we need to pray for boldness for each other and for ourselves?!!  And how much more do we need to be clothed in Christ?

We are clothed in Him in Baptism – it is a positional reality given us by Grace.

We are to PUT ON Jesus in our day to day walking and talking – it is a daily appropriation of His Grace for our moment-by-moment living IN HIM.  Jesus looks like the Fruit of the Spirit:  Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Long suffering, etc
We add to our faith, virtue; to virtue, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, unconditional love.   We PUT ON the character of Jesus in cooperation with the Holy Spirit who is growing these things inside of us!  It is a synergy – a partnership with Jesus in the work of a new creation --- YOU!

Finally, we are to PUT ON the full armor of God – prepare for war!  You are a soldier and you are in an army.  The only way to get out of that is to go AWOL.

And so much of the Church is ABSENT WITHOUT LEAVE!  If we are serious about the work of God in the world and our part in it, then we must be aware and prepared for the opposition we will and are facing, from the world, the flesh and the devil.  But there is a chasm between this reality and most of our experience in the American church.  We have never had to go to war.  We have never had to be on the defensive for our lives – few of us have even been very inconvenienced by our faith in Christ in America – for which we can give thanks!  But it is a double edged sword, friends.  It is easy to go to sleep, standing a post where there is no perceived threat!

But the time, they are a changing.

I want to invite you to come next Sunday, as we participate in the Call2Fall – a national call to prayer by the church on the Sunday before Independence Day.  We must recover the vitality of our faith, for the sake of the nation and the future of our children and grandchildren.  Friends, the problem is not THEM, IT IS US!  As Henry Blackaby once said, “The problem is not with the darkness – its just being dark!  The problem is with the LIGHT”

Friends, we are the LIGHT of the World.  Jesus said it, and it is time for us to live into it.  We are a city set on a hill, giving light to the nation.  Come next week and pray with us for the health of our nation and for a return to God as we Fall on our knees together in prayer.

So let us pray:
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the Cross, that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace.  SO CLOTHE US in your Spirit, that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do no know you to the knowledge and love of you, for the honor of Your Name.   Amen

Sunday, June 2, 2013

PULPIT FREEDOM SUNDAY: ON MARRIAGE


On Marriage
June 2, 2013
Fr. Philip Eberhart


This morning I want to explore the Word and our human and our religious history around the subject of marriage.

As we begin a wedding we are greeted with these words, familiar to most of us.

Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of 
God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and 
this woman in Holy Matrimony.  The bond and covenant of 
marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord 
Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and 
first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  It signifies to us 
the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and 
Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.

The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is 
intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort 
given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is 
God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture 
in the knowledge and love of the Lord.  Therefore marriage is 
not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, 
deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it 
was instituted by God.

I want to consider just a few of the phrases here as we begin as this paragraph forms the basic teaching of the church on marriage:


BOND AND COVENANT, ESTABLISHED BY GOD IN CREATION

It is evident from any kind of reading of Genesis and the creation accounts that the intention of God in creation was for the man and woman to be together, to form a union and to bring forth children.

This was God’s idea and His design.  And we can argue from the very physical design of men and women, that these physical features were intended for God’s purpose, and are so designed to propagate the race and assure the ongoing joy and pleasure that is inherent in marriage.
Our sexuality is a gift of God!  It is clear that though God is spirit and as such has no physical sexual characteristics, we can see from scripture that the IMAGO DEI, the image of God includes both male and female,
According to Genesis 1:26-27:

“Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

The image of God is a reflection of the persons of the Trinity and contains the essence of both male and female.  It is in the coming together of male and female in marriage, an indissoluble bond between a man and a woman for a lifetime – created by God – that we see the most complete picture of the life of the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit!  A Holy Family if you will.  A true unity into which we are introduced by Jesus and by His Spirit, as we are given authority to become the children of God (Jn. 1:12). 

So marriage is important as an icon of the life and unity of God in our world.  It is an icon – a picture window – into the bond and covenant that forms the unity of the Trinity!



IT SIGNIFIES TO US THE MYSTERY OF THE UNION BETWEEN CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH

Paul, in Ephesians 5, is clear that there is a direct correlation between the institution of marriage and the union of Bride and Bridegoom that we read about in scripture, between Christ and the Church.

Paul is clearly talking about the relationship of a husband and wife in the same terms as he speaks about Christ and the Church.

Submission is obedience that is based on the love given and the respect that is earned by a husband.  One does not exist without the other.  These are reciprocal realities.  The proverbial “two-way-street.”

From the man’s side in the relationship come a love, like unto the sacrificial love of Christ – the love that initiates the relationship, that pursues the beloved, that sacrifices for her wellbeing, that “honors and keeps her, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, is faithful to her as long as you both shall live.”  Remember those words.  That is what they meant!

From the woman’s side in the relationship comes an enduring respect, based on the experience of that kind of love!  The man in the marriage is to be the hero to his wife – the Imago Dei – the image of God, the Father, the Provider, the Protector.  If he is these things, then the respect is a natural by-product.

The problem is that we are fallen – we are broken!  And so the image is broken and marred.  But because it is marred is no reason to discard it as we are in danger of today.  Even marred the institution of marriage is the basic building block of our society.

Let’s look for a moment at God’s intentions for marriage:



INTENDED BY GOD FOR THEIR MUTUAL JOY

I’ve heard some say that that they have been happily married for X number of years – out of X+ of marriage!  We laugh because we have all been there, or are there.  Marital bliss is over-promised and under-delivered!  So today, we have stopped promising it for the most part.  Half of all marriages in our nation end in divorce.  In the church, sometimes its even more.  With such a track record, many have simply given up on the institution – given up on the idea of marriage.  Many just decide to live together to see if they can do it – live in harmony with one another, before making the “big” commitment.

This places the proverbial cart before the horse!  You see, the horse in marriage is the commitment to the relationship – that promise to be “faithful till death us do part.”  It is the power behind our coming together, and without it we are in danger of wrecking our lives, especially if we get on a downhill run – the end is usually the wagon ends up toppled and in shambles or going off a cliff.



FOR HELP AND COMFORT GIVEN ONE ANOTHER IN PROSPERITY AND ADVERSITY

No one knows me like my wife!  She is my first line of defense, when I am hurting or confused, I ask her help and prayers.  Likewise, she asks me the same.  Assuredly we can go and do go to others for advice, but that is all it is, advice.  From one another we glean the words and emotions we live by – a Word from God on occasion, and together we seek His guidance for our life, our home, our children and our church.

We are partners in this adventure!  No matter how it twists or turns:

Will you love him, 
comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health; 
and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you 
both shall live?

Were you serious?  Love, comfort, honor , keep!  Be faithful.  All of these are action words that have definite implications for our behavior along the pathway of our relationship, day after day, month in, month out, year in, and year out.

Marriage is the best picture we have, the best lab that we have, for what Peterson called “a long obedience in the same direction!”

And finally:



WHEN IT IS GOD’S WILL, FOR THE PROCREATION OF CHILDREN AND THEIR NURTURE IN THE KNOWLEDGE AND LOVE OF THE LORD!

Sex has a purpose!  Why do you think that its so much fun?  God created it and purposed it for the creation of the species, the propogation of the races and the population of the planet!  That is its most basic definition.

Today our culture has corrupted it and contorted it into the reason for almost everything, from the kind of car you drive to the kind of toothpaste or mouthwash you use!

But I just want to make one point here this morning about our sexuality.  Ready?

If sexuality is the fire, then marriage is the fireplace. 

The life long commitment of a man and a woman to be together in fidelity to one another for the whole of their lives is the only proper place for the expression of our sexual nature, because of the power that it has and because of the destruction that it can wreck.

Fire is a good thing, in its place at the center of the home, controlled and contained in its proper place.  It is a great thing in fact!  But let the fire out of the fire box and it becomes something else.

It is actually one of the most destructive forces known to man.  And that is probably enough said about FIRE.  Friends, the parallels are striking and frightening – sobering for our future in this culture.

Finally I want to simply add that there is a difference between a long term relationship and one that is purposed and blessed by God.  I have married many, many people who have been together for years, some who had their children first and then came to me seeking a marriage.

WHY?

As we explored those realities, what I discovered is that God has planted within us both the capability and the unfulfilled need to have such a long-term, committed, covenant relationship.  Just as it is a picture of the love of God for us, and the love of Christ for his Church, it is the fulfillment of a part of our purpose in creation.  Marriage is the vehicle that God ultimately and deftly uses to fashion us into the people He has designed us to be – if we are obedient and faithful to seek him in the midst of our marriage.

When I do weddings, I often tell couples that the reason for the blessing of the marriage is that this is something that Only God can do!  Our best intentions fall short, just like most of our lives.  We all “fall short” of the glory of God, Paul told us.  It is only by His help and intervention in the course of a marriage that we see marriages that last 10 – 25 – 50 or more years.  Many here can testify to that fact.

Marriage is not a magic formula, it is a life-on-life process, through which God forms us into the kind of people we are meant to be – and then through which he uses us, together, to bless the world.  Just as in the original covenant God made with Abraham, we are “blessed to be a blessing” and “in us, all the nations of the earth, will be blessed.”

So let us press into the design of God for our life-long relationships –
Into His IMAGE as Male and Female, together for life and love.

Amen.