August 16, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Therefore, since we have these promises [of the full presence of God with those who sincerely believe in Him so as to be different from the world], dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates the body and spirit; in so doing we perfect our holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Corinthians 7.1)
As followers of God through Jesus who is the way, truth and life of righteousness on earth as He is in Heaven, we are called to “hold our own against the enemy.” God does not intend for us to hold “alone” but to stand against the enemy. We have been sanctified; that is, called out to be a separate people from those who are “in the world and of the world.” We must make the efforts and take the strides to walk by faith and not by sight. How often is the expectation of Christ followers to “let God do it, let Jesus do it, let the Holy Spirit do it”? It will become such a desperate pursuit that soon it will be a return to spiritual infancy. By that I mean, we will expect God to feed us, nourish us, bathe us, clothe us, cuddle us and perhaps even in such weakness of will hope God will even breathe for us. Why are we selling ourselves so short? Why do we make a mockery of faith and the God we claim to have faith in? The promises of God are not intended to do “life for us” but to do “life with us.” Immanuel, God with us, is the very declaration of Jesus of Nazareth to be the Christ of God and the Messiah of the people. We are intended to be a people on a mission and not the mission of God. We are not God’s cause in the living out of our days. We are caused by God to live in these days until their conclusion with the strength of our true nature which is of Him.
Why am I saying this? Well, in the words of instruction from Paul to the community of faith in Corinth, we read his recitation of passages found in the books of 2 Samuel, Isaiah and Ezekiel. These are the promises he was speaking of in the verse for today which comes in “chapter 7, verse 1.” It seems to me that the call to “be and do” is an ancient calling. It is not something that was new to the first century community of faith in Christ. Paul urges the Corinthian community to purify themselves in order to perfect their holiness and do so out of reverence for God. He does not say or repeat a former saying which teaches “just be a lump of clay and let God do with you whatever He desires.” To adopt such an attitude denies the spiritual gift of freewill. And freewill is a gift. It was actually the first gift God gave after calling Adam and Eve into being. No sooner had God created them in His image but He called them to live a life of meaning and purpose. Then He engaged them in an environment where the meaning and purpose would be discovered and owned to honor, revere and glorify God. The story of creation is awesome in this respect, if for no other reason but it is awesome for so many reasons, that God and humanity lived together on earth as did God and His angels in Heaven. God was equally at home on earth as He is in Heaven. It was His choice to give us a choice even when we had no understanding of the consequences of such a choice. We learn by doing and becoming. We are the people of God but we have to become the people of God in order for it to be authentic for us and in us. God’s expectation is that we will “be” His people as He “is” our God. We “are” His sheep and He “is” our shepherd. Notice He is not His people nor His own God anymore that He is His Sheep and He is His own shepherd. God isn’t going to live life for us. God is going to live life with us. Immanuel, God with us.
With that being said, I use this understanding, or frame of reference, to hear the words of Jesus to His disciples. How many times, I wonder because I haven’t sat down to count, did Jesus command His disciples in particular and His followers in general to “go and do.” Generally, the only time I can recollect Jesus saying “I will go and do” was in prayer and in the pursuit of spiritual justice in Jerusalem via the cross. I do not remember a time when Jesus said “Sit here, while I go and heal, teach, battle Satan, promote justice, secure righteousness, set the captives free, etc. Don’t worry that you feel incapable because you are. So, instead I will just do everything for you. You don’t have to do a thing but sit and watch. I pray with gratitude that you were given to Me by My Father in Heaven to be My earthly audience to cheer and wonder from a safe distance without fear of failure on your part.” No, He was constantly directing because He was constantly teaching, the disciples, the followers, the seekers and even the demons how to respond to the very presence of God- Immanuel, God with us.
How can faith be real if we do not put faith in action? How can being God’s people have true meaning if we do not live by faith? How can being one in Christ bear fruit if we are not one with Christ? It is time for the believers in God, followers of the way of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, God’s only begotten Son, our Savior, Lord and friend to “step up, step in and step forward.”
Step up: When the challenge is extended asking “who believes that stuff about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit,” STEP UP (physically, vocally, boldly) and say and show your faith affirmation with “I DO!” Wow, how many marriages would not end in separation and divorce or worse if those who pledged “I DO” actually DID? How can we be believers in ourselves, one another and God if we DON”T?
Step in: When the challenge of fault, failure and disaster rises up against you, your family, your friends, your enemies, your community of faith and the community-at-large, STEP IN. We can certainly throw our money, well wishes and prayers into the mix but in so doing they may too easily fall into the category of “good intentions.” We, as disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ, are called to intervene with the cultivation, promotion and sanctification of the people and situation. There is no greater enemy of you than yourself. Fear of self and others is not our identity. Fear [read “reverence”] only God is our identity. We are called to be “in the world” and not “of the world.” We are called to be “in love” and not “of love.” We are called to be “in the service” and not calling “room service.” If we are true believers, then we must be “all in.”
Step forward: We must have a sense of urgency in our walk of faith. Either we trust God or we don’t. We don’t have to see the future to grasp it. We have a choice to either be in a collision with the future as it runs into us or as we run into it. There is going to be trouble. There is going to be heartache. There is going to be pain and suffering. God said so because humanity chose itself before God. Jesus said so because we chose eternal life over eternal death. The Holy Spirit says so because “no pain, no gain.” That which does not “kill” us only makes us stronger. I have always said, “A baby’s first step is not walking because generally it is an accidental occurrence. When the baby takes the second step that is walking by faith.” But, the truth of the matter is in our walk of faith we are not walking if we are not stepping forward with Isaiah to say “Here, I AM, send me!”
We are now in the season of true testing for the Church. God has prepared us for the conflict and expects us to “hold our own against the enemy.” In fact, using the words of Paul, “we are far more than conquerors, we have been made victors.” That sounds like a whole lot of “step up, step in and step forward” to me. Beside, we already have been promised that we will not be doing or going this alone. Jesus said, when He told the disciples to “go and do likewise,” Lo, I AM with you always until the work is done!
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
Father, You are all about the meaning and purpose of life which is love; love in action. By the power of the Word and the understanding of it, we will step up, step in and step forward to demonstrate our faith in “not my will but Yours be done” in Jesus’ name. AMEN.