4th Sunday in Lent – C LSB #’s 608, 720 tune 437, 595:2-5
Text – 2 Corinthians 5:16a
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.
ACCORDING TO THE FLESH
Completely exhausted – weak, powerless & frail! Sleep deprivation will do that to you. It was not uncommon when we were “running drills” on the submarine. One of the ways we trained, for problems occurring at sea, was to go through about three days of almost constant drills. Varying pieces of machinery would be shut off & then the crew would have to react.
Some of these drills were quite dangerous, in that, if we failed in a significant way there was at least a small chance that we would not survive. The training was meant to prepare us for accidents that could actually occur, or for damage resulting from an enemy attack. At any rate, there were times when I was awake, constantly, for 30 or more hours.
Completely exhausted – weak, powerless & frail! Maybe you’ve felt that way too, even without serving on board a US Navy submarine. Life in a sinful world will do that to you in many different ways. Completely exhausted – weak, powerless & frail!
That’s the extreme, of course, & we don’t often spend time in that state of despair. Fortunately, sleep usually takes over; however, it is more common that we look at our neighbor as weak, powerless & frail – even dead. When we do so, we may be regarding them according to the flesh. We’re looking at our neighbor from a totally non-spiritual perspective.
In the Epistle reading for today, St. Paul is writing that now, as children of God, we no longer look at our neighbor according to the flesh. We could say that, as children of God, we should no longer look at others from a non-Christian perspective. In truth, our saintly nature does not look at people in the way that our sinful nature looks at them.
And if you are recognizing that there is tension built into that, you are correct. Our
sinful nature wants to look at people in a way that is centered on ourselves, & on our needs. I’m number one! Our saintly nature looks at people in ways that are centered on Christ, & then looks at people in ways that are centered on them, & on their needs. They are number one! You can feel the tension in that, do you not? As God’s children that tension never goes away in this life.
It’s easy right now, to use Vladimir Putin as an example of someone viewing others, like the people of Ukraine, according to the flesh. He’s obviously not looking at them in ways that are centered on Christ. There’s also the observation of what happens when two small children have only one toy to play with.
It’s much more difficult to recognize specific moments in our own lives, while we are experiencing this tension, so that we can make choices which are helpful to others rather than hurtful. And that does not always mean giving everyone else what they want. Our neighbors, whom we are called to love, also regard others according to the flesh.
In Christ, all believers are a new creation, but the old sinful nature still clings to us tightly. We need the word of God in our hearts & in our minds in order to see when we are making choices like the old creation wants us to. Making choices in line with the new creation requires living by faith, because we seldom see godly results immediately.
No matter who you are, no matter what you are, there are times when the Word of God interrupts the flow of your lives as it speaks, “Stop, turn, that you may hear & know righteousness & holiness, directly from God.”
But the hard & inconvenient truth is that sometimes we’d rather turn our backs on God & keep living according to the flesh. I believe that many who fall away from the faith do it for that reason – & this is not an indictment on them. God puts that information before us as a warning to us. People who once loved God turn away from Him because they never learned how to deal with the tension that a child of God feels as they live in a sinful & broken world, with their own sinful & broken heart. Satan is constantly tempting us to relieve that tension in our lives by ourselves, through ignoring our sin, or through giving up all hope because of it. When we bump into a word of God telling us “this ain’t right,” there is another way that God calls us to.
Satan tempts us to drift away from God or to put our head down & work harder, but Jesus knows intimately well what Satan’s temptations are like. Jesus experienced them Himself after not eating for 40 days. So Jesus paid, on the cross, for all the guilt of all mankind throughout all history. He took death into the grave & emerged victorious on Easter morning.
When God’s begotten Son came back to life He recreated human flesh, & when He returns on the Last Day, He will make the heavens & the earth new again. This new creation will be without temptation & without sin & without guilt. There, we will perfectly, never again regard anyone according to the flesh. Our sinful nature will be gone completely.
Until then, we are faced with the daily struggle against sin. The OT reading gave this method of coping with the tension. If we find ourselves weak, powerless & frail, here is one antidote from the Holy Spirit: “I will trust, & will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength & my song, & He has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2 ESV)
The Lord is our strength & our song because He is the One who has made us new. We struggle so much in trying to live the Christian life because, without God, none of us are capable of it. We cannot earn our way into God’s favor. It has to be done perfectly & 100% of every day & every week throughout our entire life.
God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to accomplish what we could never even begin. At our baptism Jesus begins to make us into a new creation, one that is by faith & not by sight. At the resurrection, He will complete that work as He gives us new flesh, untainted by sin or selfishness. All the weakness & failure, of the flesh you have today, will be gone. No more looking at others, like the older brother looked at his younger brother in the parable of the prodigal son. When heaven arrives we will see everything perfectly, & everything will be holy.
We will no longer need to live by faith because we will be able to truly see, & we will see everyone in heaven for whom they truly are – holy & guiltless children of the Almighty God. Amen.
We walk by faith & not by sight, no gracious words we hear from Him who spoke as none e’er spoke, but we believe Him near. Help then, O Lord, our unbelief; & may our faith abound to call on You when You are near & seek where You are found. For You, O resurrected Lord, are found in means divine: beneath the water & the Word, beneath the bread & wine. Lord, when our life of faith is done, in realms of clearer light we may behold You as You are, with full & endless sight. Amen. LSB 720:1, 3-5.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet