The Inconvenient Christ
1st Peter 2: 11-17
“Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deed and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
The phrase that most captivated me in this lectionary lesson, the Epistle of the 3rd Sunday of Easter, was “as aliens and strangers in the world.” This passage is truly a lesson in .means to be set apart for God’s holy purposes. They should be able to tell you – I’ve drilled them on this for over a decade! The reason that I have so drilled this into their minds is because the concept of sanctification is the bedrock of our theology. So what does it mean to be sanctified?
In St. John 15:18 – 19, Jesus tells His disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” Have you ever noticed how when some celebrity does some outrageous thing, it is sensationalized and the world loves it? These acts are of the world and, truly, they are loved by the world. When a Christian dares to speak out against ungodly behavior, they are demonized by the world (read as the media.) Why? The words of Jesus explain it all – He said, don’t be surprised when the world hates you, because you are not of this world. This teaching is the beginning of understanding of the concept of sanctification.
St. Paul, in Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This renewing refers to our thoughts and will related to obedience to the will of God in our lives. Please note that this renewing is not an event – it is a process. That is, we will not achieve a completion of this goal in our lives. It is a journey upon which we embark; every evolving and maturing.
St. Paul further states, in 2nd Corinthians 3: 17-18; “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is Spirit.”
Here St. Paul makes two things clear about Christian sanctification:
1. Sanctification is an ongoing process;
We cannot enter into this process of sanctification based solely upon our own efforts. We are doomed to failure without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is a partnership between us and the Holy Spirit – a cooperative effort. It is by this continual operation (that is action) of the Holy Spirit and our yielding to that process that we become increasingly less conformed to the thoughts, behaviors and practices of the world, and more transformed into His likeness.
The title of this blog posting (and my sermon) is “The Inconvenient Christ.” He is, indeed, inconvenient, for He commands us to do things we don’t want to do and forbids us from doing things we want to do. That is a reflection of the war between the old Adam to which we were born and the new Adam, which is Christ the Lord. Yes, there is a war within us, but He has given us the ability to overcome the old Adam as we walk closer and closer with the Lord and begin to reflect His light to others, as Peter told us in today’s lectionary lesson.
We live in a world of religious convenience – people who pick and choose that which feels good and call it “spirituality.” We are not called to that convenient and comfortable “spirituality.” We are called to obedience. We are called to the Lord who gave His life for us. We are called to be different – basically, to have the guts to march to the beat of a different drummer – that drummer being Jesus Christ the Lord. We are called to sanctification – to be set apart for His holy purposes.
May God richly bless you in your journey, and may you embrace the blessings of sanctification in your journey with the Lord. Let us go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord!