Readings for the day (Lectionary 18 – Sunday, July 31, 2016):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Do you ever struggle with living for God or living for this world? Do I go to church, or go golfing? Do I pray and give thanks, or just dig in and eat because I’m hungry? We are constantly faced with this challenge of living for God or submitting to the desires of this world. I don’t know about you, but for me this is a daily struggle. There are temptations all over, and the more secularized our world becomes, the harder it gets to resist those temptations.
Paul is writing to a group of Christians that are faced with this similar struggle. They are Christian in a very secular culture, and Paul tells them that they ought to be putting aside their earthly desires and only focusing upward towards heaven. In theory that’s good and easy, but living that is so much harder. It’s hard to follow Christ while resisting all of the temptations that try to pull us away from Christ. We live in this world, and yet God has claimed us as his children.
Did your parents ever set some expectations for you? I expect you to be home at a certain time. I expect you to be respectful in public. Did you always meet your parent’s expectations? Probably not. The expectation was set at home and then you go off to school for the day and there’s all of these temptations from other kids. And you want to fit in so you start acting, dressing and talking like these “cool” kids. God has set some expectations of us as His children. So we hear them in this place. But then when we walk out those doors, we’re going to look different to the rest of the world if we follow God’s expectations. So we allow ourselves to be molded into what the world thinks a Christian looks like and sounds like.
So how do we continue living for God, faithfully following God, when this world does everything it possibly can to pull us away from God through temptations and other distractions? Do we just sit here and take it, complaining about it without taking any action? For me, I wish I had a truck. Just ask my wife, I ooh and aww over trucks. I find myself eyeballing those nice, new 2016s. I’ll even do research and check out what all the new features are on the new upcoming trucks that are coming out. During one of the 2015 Super Bowl commercials, Chevy released an ad that ended the 30 second spot with “You know you want a truck.” And I looked right at the TV and “You’re darn right I do.” Of course there is nothing wrong with looking, but in our ever growing secular world, it values money, sex, and power more than grace, forgiveness, and holy living for God, the secular culture certainly makes living in this world harder and harder for us as Christians. “You know you want a truck.” Well of course I do, and you see, that’s the point. Our secular culture doesn’t care about helping us live our lives following the expectations that God has given us as His children. Rather all the secular world cares about is making that sale, pulling us away from God through temptations and other distractions. I’m not saying that buying a truck is a sin. Rather, what pulls you away from faithfully following God? That’s sin! That’s what needs to be stripped away, as Paul says. Rid yourself of those things that tempt you and distract you from living your life for God rather than satisfying the desires of this world.
And part of living your life for God is in how you treat each other. Remember those expectations that were placed on you before you left the house. God expects you to treat each other in a loving way. That’s why Paul says that there is no distinction between us. Because at your baptism, a cross was marked on your forehead and that cross is all that God sees. That cross is all that is used to define who we are. God doesn’t see us as male or female. He doesn’t see what denomination we are, what race or color of skin we are, what ethnic background we are, what town we live in, or even what kind of vehicle we drive. God doesn’t see us that way. God only sees you for who you really are – a sinful, broken, lost person who He has claimed as His child, who He has forgiven, and who is now righteous in His eyes.
So today, as our secular world is arguing, fighting, and even killing each other because of the distinctions that are made between us. Remember that you belong to Christ, and that my friends is all that truly matters. You have been claimed by God. You belong to Him. You are God’s and God is yours. And Paul says that since you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is.
So even though when we walk out of these doors, we walk back into this world that DOES show distinctions, that does define us by how much money we have, by what brand of vehicle we drive, by the location we live in, by our skin color, by our age, by the level of our education. We all are defined and labeled in this world. And how do we reconcile that? How do we continue living in a world when we come to church and hear in scripture, that God doesn’t view or define us by our characteristics, but by the cross that was marked on your forehead at your baptism? How do we reconcile that with this world? By setting our minds on things that are above and not on the things of this world. You belong to Christ, and nothing that this world says or does can change that fact. It’s not always easy, but let the hymn we are about to sign be our prayer for strength, wisdom and courage in the days ahead. For God alone is our hope and our strength. Amen.
© 2016 Anthony Christoffels. Used with permission.