Sixth Sunday after Trinity, 2011
Readings: Is 66:1-2, 10-24; Psalm 98; I John 3:1-8; Matthew 24:23-31
16 February a.d. 2011
LOVE, SIGHT, JUDGMENT
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer. AMEN.
Three thing jump out at us from this passage: Love, Sight, Judgement.
BEHOLD! Hear! Look! Listen! Ponder!
God our father is so determined to encourage us with his love that he sends his holy Apostle to make this announcement:
“Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.”
We ought to feel never-ending astonishment in these words, at this love so complete, so great, so transforming, that men and angels and God himself call us “sons of God.” How can this be, since by nature and inheritance we were God’s enemies, sinners and sons of the devil?
By the gift of Christ. We have been made sons of God by Son of God, by the gift of Christ. By his only begotten Son the Father himself has made peace with us and has removed all barriers removed and given all gifts.
What barriers removed?
- Guilt of sin
- Power of sin
What gifts bestowed by this mighty love?
- Not only peace with God,
- but we are also adopted as God’s own children, “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ”. Romans 8:15-17
Everything that was his alone is now ours together. Everything. What manner of love is this, that leaves nothing out, withholds nothing, not even his own Son? Romans 8:32
What about the world? It does not know us, cannot recognize us, because it refused also to recognize Christ. John 1:10.
Truth is, world does not WANT to know us. Two different worlds exist, one world Christian, and one world ungodly. The one knows not the other.
The world derides those who lead godly lives. The one despises worldly things; the other gives himself to them. The one lives for the Superbowl, giving itself to spectacles and entertainment, the prizes of pride, drunkenness, money, anger, lust, power over men. The world scoffs at those whose heart is fixed on the prizes of Christ’s unseen kingdom.
And least of all do these lovers of the world want to know the Lord Jesus Christ, because he reproves all sin. Since they love sin, they must despise him, because where Christ enters in the devil and sin flee and the Spirit rules in holiness and righteousness, and they don’t want to let go of their beloved sin.
St. John tells us how to distinguish the godly from the ungodly: “every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” The godly keep their eyes on the unseen prize and the unseen Christ, and purify themselves. They put sin to death, and if a person is not putting sin to death, however slowly the warfare drags on, that person is not a Christian.
ALREADY & NOT YET.
“It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him.”
God does not change Christians instantaneously. When he regenerates us, we become truly the sons of God adopted as completely as we will ever be, possessing all his love, but the change, the regeneration, has only BEGUN in us and is not yet complete. We are not yet perfect, and will never have shed all our sin until we behold Christ in glory.
How do I know this is what St. John means? How do I know that he is not arguing that Christians all live in sinless perfection?
By his own words opening this epistle.
- John 1:8 ¶ If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- John 2:1b:2. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins…”
“We shall be like him.” That is, we shall be as he is, but “as” is not “equal.” We will never be the equal of God in his being, wisdom, justice, holiness, goodness, and truth. Even in glory we will never be perfect as he is perfect, but still we will be like him, we will be “little Christs,” as the model is like the original, because right now the Holy Spirit is conforming us to his image. Romans 8:29.
SIGHT: THE BEATIFIC VISION
The greatest promise of the Scripture, the thing most longed for by fallen and redeemed mankind, is to once again see God face to face as Adam saw him in the garden. That is our greatest desire. You find it throughout Scripture
Moses begged God that he might see him, but told him he could not see him and live. God put him into the cleft of a rock, shaded him with his hands, and let him see only the backside of his glory passing by. Exodus 33:18-23
Job consoled himself with these words, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and though worms devour this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Job 19:26
The Psalmist echoes the same promise, “I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness. (Ps. 17:15)
And how many Christians on their death beds have said with St. Paul that their deepest longing is “to be with Christ, which is far better.” Philippians 1:23.
But think on, “We shall see him as he is.”
- Not as in this world, “through a glass, darkly.”
- Not merely the reflection of him through his creation and his Word.
- Not in the readily-wearied weakness of our flesh.
- Not with our frail attention.
- Now with a will weakened and an understanding clouded by sin and emotion, but
As he is.
Triumphant. Shining as the sun. Glorious in the favour of the Father, no longer veiled in the weakness of his flesh. Perfect beyond all our ability to conceive perfection. We will see what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered into the hearts of men, a vision surpassing all earthly beautifulness.
- More beautiful than a new calf,
- more beautiful than gold, than silver,
- than forests and fields,
- than high mountains and great plains,
- more beautiful that the stretching sea,
- more beautiful than sun or moon or stars or angels,
- surpassing all those
Because from Christ’s beauty all other beauty flows.
But what we will see when we see Christ does not stop there, because what we see will also change how we see.
We will no longer be looking at a reflection, a promise, a hope, but the reality, the source, the original. We will see not the truth we imagine, or reason to, but Truth itself, because Christ is the Truth. And when we see the reality of Christ, all our understanding will be changed because then we will see everything through the lens of Christ himself.
We will be like those angels who longed to look (I Peter 1:12) into the means of the salvation of mankind, who for ages wondered and pondered and guessed at this mystery past finding out, and then at the birth of Christ stood gazing in wonder at this babe with their hands over their mouths, whispering, “THIS is the mystery! This is the Father’s great salvation!”
After we see Christ, the way we see everything else will change. Through his perfect holiness we will see our sin, and at last with a full understanding grasp what his forgiveness has done for us. When we see Christ, we will see all else clearly, and understand perfectly.
Finally, this passage teaches us that there are two kinds of men, and only two – no third group: the sons of God and sons of the devil – and that a sure and certain judgement is coming.
Sons are called sons because they act just like their father.
SONS OF GOD live not in sinless perfection, never sinning ever, but they are not given to sin. They are not habitual sinners. They do not embrace sin as rule of their lives, but they are fighting it, they are becoming more and more like Christ, dead to sin and alive to righteousness. When they fall down in sin, the stand up in repentance. That is the pattern of the Christian life, sin and repentance, not sinless perfection. Everybody knows whose sons they are because they act like their elder brother and their Father.
SONS OF THE DEVIL. Don’t think the devil is some sort of god equal to the real God. He’s not. God created him, and he fell away to evil. We call them sons of the devil not because the devil created them or has begotten them, but because they act like him. They hate God and fall away from him and rebel against him. They embrace sin, they wallow in sin, they alibi for sin, they glory in sin.
The devil wants us to think of him as the comic “man in red tights.” Thus we we will underestimate his power and his hatred, we discount his power, and thus he more easily fools us, even God’s elect. But whatever silly ideas the world has for the devil, God warns us about him in the sternest terms: He is a roaring lion who roams the whole earth looking for souls to devour. 1 Peter 5:8. That is the reality of the devil.
But that does not mean that we are doomed to be the devil’s victims. Listen to what St. John teaches us: “The Son of God was manifested for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”
At his resurrection Christ already triumphed over the Devil and all his angels. Colossians 2:13 says he “made a show of them openly, triumphing over them.”
Christ has already made a definitive end of the devil. He has already broken the power of the devil and all his works, his chief work being the fall and damnation of mankind. Now, we, the sons of God, are involved merely in Christ’s mopping-up operation.
And lest you forget the Father’s love for you, lest you forget Christ’s triumph over the devil, lest you look at the evil in the seen world around you and forget the unseen Christ that awaits you, Christ himself has given you a reminder, a token and pledge and sign of his love, a vision of himself: his own body and blood.
And as you partake of that body and blood today, and every other day of your life, you must remind yourself with St. John, “BEHOLD! What manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!” ?