Sunday, March 22, 2015

Let Our Hearts Be Fixed

Fr. Phil Eberhart
5th Sunday of Lent
March 22, 2015


Every once in a while the collect / the opening prayer that we use for the day captures a phrase or lets us say what it is that we are about in a clear, crisp set of words.  That is the case this morning:

"Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found;"

I don't know who wrote this one, but it captures so much in one or two phrases that I want to spend a few minutes looking at them, and our scriptures and others that take us toward the realization of this prayer.

This morning, as we always should, we start with GRACE!
Some have called grace "God's Riches At Christ's Expense" -- I prefer to think of it in other terms - God's Riches AND Christ's Extravagance!

I don't know if you've stopped in the whirlwind of what the prayer calls the swift and varied changes of the world - in the whirlwind of life - to consider the GRACE of GOD in your life.  If you have, in almost any circumstance you will uncover a well of gratitude.  I can't think of all that God has done in and through my "illegitimate" life without breaking down in weeping and thankfulness for His GRACE and His Love.

We start with God's Grace mediated to us in Christ's Extravagant Love, His body broken and His blood shed for each of us.  Enough for the whole world - and it was the fulfillment of our prophet's word this morning: 

 I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah...
 I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the LORD," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Paul lines out the difference between the old and the new covenants in the early chapters of Romans.  He captures the change in the middle of the third chapter:

[Rom 3:19-23 NLT] Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.


Before it was us, But Now... GOD.   GRACE!  It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, Paul tells the Ephesians.  And not even that is from yourself, it is a gift of God. 

But the gift of grace is not a freedom to do what we want!  It is a freedom for the work of God in your life and through your life.  Let's look again at our prayer from the beginning:  Grace "to love what you command."  Where do we find what God commands?

Let's look for a second at our Psalm this morning:
in the first and third verses we have the key, and these verses themselves are memory verses in the Navigators' Topical Memory System. Read  vss 9 and 11 with me...
How shall a young man cleanse his way? *
By keeping to your words.
I treasure your promise in my heart, *
that I may not sin against you.

I memorized it in the KJV
    Wherewithall shall a young man cleanse his way? 
    By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word.
    Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.

Friends, you remember the hand, right?  I want you to remember the hand...
Hear, Read, Mark, Learn and Inwardly Digest. The only way to be able to "grasp" the Word of God is to 'inwardly digest' this book.  The Prophet Jeremiah, in the midst of his wrestling with the nation of Israel says to God:

[Jer 15:16 ESV] 16 Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.

Do any of you have a favorite food?  One that you call "comfort food"?  Some of you see the recipe posts that Valerie, my wife, puts on Facebook from time to time.  Those are "comfort" food - I'm not sure who is getting the comfort, cause I am sure not!  But if you have a favorite food, you want to eat it ... right?  You want to fill up on it.

How much more this food?  The Word of God!  The Bread of Life. The Living water! all the things that Jesus said HE was!   

What is it that you truly desire?  The Grace of God is given to us to "love what You command"  and to "desire what You promise."

Do you desire what God promises?  Our knee jerk reaction is probably, "Well, duh!"
But can you name some of the promises of God?  What promise are you holding on to right now?

>  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

>  He will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus !

>  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.

>  Trust in the Lord with all you heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

How about this one?

>  "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Oh, I think let's stop there - we kind of flinch at that last "promise" - Isn't it so?  For us in the west "the promises of God" has such a positive ring.  We, even today, know so little of suffering for our faith.  Those times are changing and we need to be prepared to change with them.  God give us your grace so to do.

Let's finally turn to this last phrase:

that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found

Just three quick things:

1.  Swift and varied changes of the world?   Anyone?  Hands?
        ... yeah I thought so.  We are experiencing a world that is changing at an exponential rate right now, and not for the better.  The belief that if we just keep on keeping on that things will get better and better is a lie.  The humanist manifesto is built on sand!  And we can see the hurricane coming!

2.  So where is your HEART FIXED?  Is it fixed WHERE TRUE JOYS ARE TO BE FOUND?
      In our Psalm from this morning David repeats this formula:
v. 6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

Or how about the promise of Prov 3 again:
v. 5-6  Trust in the Lord with all your heart;  Lean not on your own understanding;  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.

Or how Paul expressed the realities of his ministry in 2 Cor 4
[2Co 4:7-11, 15-18 ESV] 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. ... 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So [therefore] we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Or the writer to the Hebrews, in the face of their struggles:

[Heb 12:1-3 ESV] 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

So let our hearts surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found!  Looking to Jesus the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith.  Consider HIM, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Friends, we are given the gift of Grace - God's Riches And Christ's Extravagance - through faith in Jesus, and God even works that faith in our hearts, it too is a gift.  So let us hold fast with a firm grip on God's Word, which is 'fixed in the heavens' and is the place where Jesus Christ reveals Himself to us day by day.  He is the only "source of eternal salvation" and it comes "to all who obey him." 

Let's pray the collect again one more time:

 Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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