ST MATTHEW Sunday Aug 9 2015 | Pentecost
1 Kings 19:1–8; Psalm 34:1–8; Ephesians 4:17–5:2; John 6:35–51
Grace, Mercy and Peace be multiplied unto you from God the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
THEME TEXT: Ephesians 4:20–24 (ESV) 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
THEME/TITLE: “Offload that Junk, Get the NEW SELF!”
“But that is not the way you learned Christ!--” (Ephesians 4:20, ESV). This is where our thought for meditation begins. This thought raises a very important question that reaches right to the heart of the visible church on earth today. This portion of today’s text, verses 20-24, does not assume that anyone learned Christ forthrightly or correctly. Yet it does assume this: “as the truth is in Jesus,” then, as His truth is taught, people will have learned Christ as He is—not some caricature or simile of the Lord—but Christ Himself.
That teaching is learned in rather humble and simple ways. How many of you remember the old flannel boards with the flannel figures? Sunday School teachers used to tell the bible stories of Creation, Moses, the Flood, Jonah and the Whale, and about the life and times of Jesus using these boards: the miracles and works He did; the calling and sending of the apostles; the response of people healed; how disastrous lives were completely altered and renewed by Jesus; the feeding of thousands through a miraculous blessing and distribution of bread and fish; His forthright words with those who just could not, or would not, hear Him or believe Him. Oh yeah, I remember those flannel graphs very well. … High tech, in their day!
I remember being intrigued by the stories, and how the teachers related those stories to our lives. What I walked away with was this: “Jesus is very important!” I didn’t know it then, but I was learning Christ through the prophetic and apostolic Word of God. It’s really no different today. The materials and the methods might have changed, but the message is still the message, God does not change, His Word does not change and applications to even modern-day lives are still relevant and important.
Even so, in the modern mind, which is very much like the mind of the unbelieving world of the first and second centuries, because they are filled with what I refer to as a lot of junk, just doesn’t hear or understand the saving message of Jesus Christ partly because the church has kept its old junk to try to reach a different mindset. It doesn’t work well. Here’s what I mean: A quick comparison would be like trying to use an old wind-up phonograph for music to reach a generation raised on tiny gadgets that can plug into your ears and you can run with. It doesn’t work anymore. It has had its useful time. Try to use it now, and it gets in the way of the message. So other than memorabilia, and its antique awesomeness, it becomes but junk in the trunk.
Likewise, the sinful lifestyle that we are so accustomed to accepting as being okay if a person says they love Jesus. Trying to keep what belongs to the old sinful nature gets in the way of the new nature, the new self, so that it cannot thrive and advance. Eventually, if such behavior persists, there will no longer be a new nature at all. Just the old deluded nature happy in its cultural norm that is on its way to death.
This is why St. Paul is given these inspired Words for us to learn Christ: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:25–32, ESV) In this regard, let us pray: Forgive me dear Lord for the junk in my trunk, and help me to “Offload that Junk, Get the NEW SELF!” Amen.
We get the new self through the same message God has handed down by the prophets and apostles, so that those whom the Eternal Father leads to Jesus, come to Jesus, and in Jesus they find new life, a meaningful and grace-filled life that is unexplainable in its power, and needs no justification to the world, or anyone in it. This life is governed by a mind that desires to be like Christ and looks at things above. It is not governed by the past, but by the leading of God’s Spirit through life wherever that life leads. And we know where it leads; to a new heaven and a new earth where there is no sin or unrighteousness. Just the truth of God exists and those who belong to Him.
So how did you learn Christ? Did you learn that He was a lover of self; a lover of money; that He was proud, arrogant, abusive, or disobedient to his parents; that He was ungrateful for the work His Father sent Him to do; that He was unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control; a brute who did not love the good; a treacherous, reckless man who was swollen with conceit; that He was a lover of fleshly pleasure rather than a lover of His God and Father? Did you learn Christ as a person only having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power? … I don’t think so!
Yet, that is precisely the way those who have learned a caricature or facsimile of Christ portray Him in their own lives. They don’t see that junk as a problem. We ourselves don’t have to look beyond our own skin to see how much junk we have accumulated so fast and so easily in our lives, and didn’t even realize it. Satan’s traps are masterfully crafted, appearing to be very useful and necessary to hang on to by the sinful old self that likes to hoard junk.
We ourselves are prone to cling to what we know rather than seek God where He is. God doesn’t live in the past. He never has. God is leading His people through this life into the next life where there is no sin, no health issues, no financial issues, no death, and nothing that causes sin. So why do we hold on to the junk that drags us from that glory? If we let ourselves get hung up on the junk of life, we miss the mark of where He is and where He is going. That isn’t the Christ the prophets and apostles taught. That isn’t the Christ we learned.
The Christ we learned is not stagnant or satisfied with the status quo. Thus, our life in Christ is filled with challenges and changes and difficult choices and rough roads. That’s what the cross of Christ looks like in real terms. And perhaps the hardest part of a believer’s life is offloading that junk that accumulates so easily--“putting off the old self and putting on the new self,” as St. Paul states it. It all occurs because of the active agent in the written Word—God’s Holy Spirit.
An amazing thing occurs as the WORD of the LORD grows. As people are led by the Father to the Son through the Spirit in the WORD, the CHURCH grows. There is no other way provided by God that makes that happen. All the people on earth could be gathered under one belief system and it be hailed a huge and glorious success for all mankind, and yet, if it is built on junk and not a renewal of the mind in Christ, it has no connection to Christ or His Father in heaven. Even Jesus says: “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me--” (John 6:45, ESV) So, … “Offload that Junk, Get the NEW SELF!”
So what is so good about the NEW SELF that anyone among us should desire it? Listen again to the WORD of God as given through the apostle: “the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS and HOLINESS. What does this mean?
Well, first of all, if it is TRUE, it can’t come from us. We are anything but true. Second, if it is RIGHTEOUSNESS and HOLINESS, it can’t come from us either, because everything we think, say, and do is tainted by the sinful human nature. That’s the junk that we keep needing to offload. And right here is the point: Our life in Christ is an ongoing life of renewal and transformation. (Romans 12:1-2); of putting off the old, and putting on the new self.
If we could take a selfie of our natural self at any point in time, we would see clearly what we look like before the Righteous and Holy God. It isn’t pretty, in comparison with the Holy and Righteous One! Yet, because of True Righteousness and Holiness, if Jesus were to take a selfie of Himself with us, all that God the Father would see in that picture is His beloved Son and a train of righteous people with Him all wrapped in the garment of His own Holy Spirit, His Righteousness and Holiness; Bright and beautiful, without spot, wrinkle, or blemish, all. That’s just what happens as we “Offload that Junk, and Get the NEW SELF!” Even so it is not perfect; not this side of heaven.
But this is what the believer yearns for, and strives for, not an acceptance of who I am just as I am because I am. No sir! That isn’t how we learned Christ. People who have learned Christ aright don’t like the junk in the trunk of their life. They most heartily desire the purity of true righteousness and holiness that is only found in Jesus Christ. And that is where we find our solace and comfort and joy and peace and assurance and forgiveness. You have heard the old cliché, “God don’t make no junk.” Well, the saying is true, though not biblical. Sin makes junk, junk, not God. And that is why the life lived in Christ wants to … “Offload that Junk, Get the NEW SELF!” The thief can become a useful productive servant part of the Body just like each and every one of us here today.
God has given us exactly what we need to make that happen. He has given us His Son, Jesus Christ, the bread from heaven, the Word made flesh, the True Righteousness and Holiness of God given to us through faith in Him. We are not dumpsters for the world and its darkened understanding to let its inglorious trash rot. We are the vessels of the glory of our God! The World has no connection with God, but are aliens and foreigners to Him in their hardened hearts. We are Christ in this world to give voice to God’s redeeming grace to the world in Christ. There is only more of the SAME OLD THING that comes from the world. But we are the NEW THING Created in Christ Jesus for the world! Even if it means we too must become a blood sacrifice for it.
Jesus offers Himself as life giving bread and drink to renew the mind so that people can see the junk, turn away from it to where real life is, the bread of life, Jesus Christ! What He gives in His own Body and Blood is TRUTH, RIGHTEOUSNESS, and HOLINESS for ourselves and for those whose lives we touch with the same gracious offering.
In this regard, I am very happy and proud to be in a Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod congregation seeking, "to know Jesus and to let Him be known," by ... reflecting God's love, teaching God's children, and serving our community. But just saying this won’t do a thing. Christ knows that. And we learned Christ will raise up people to provide the fruit He is looking for. He will help us “Offload that Junk, Get the NEW SELF!” Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep our hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus now and unto life everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet