Archive for February 22nd, 2016

18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ..

“Enemies of the cross”, not because they were Jews who killed Christ but they did not believe His death on the Cross was for them, for us all, Gentile and Jew.  The reality of the cross is for them, this they did not believe, that there on the Cross He bore the sin of the world, the sinless lamb of God. They believed in their own good works to save and thus were self-saviors.  Not, the Lord is our salvation.  There on the Cross the Good Shepherd in His resurrection is the door of the sheep.  “Enemies of the cross” perish because they contradict God’s salvation for them through His Son Jesus Christ.  Salvation for them is for this world alone.  This describes many in our day:  see presidential election promises.  Those promises are not even close the promises of God fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In a similar vein, the Apostle Paul wrote, 1 Cor. 15:  “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”  This is the sum of the preaching of many televangelists, the promises of many politicians, the allure of advertisements is that hope in this life is all there is.  It is not: 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  When all hope is in this life alone, then their “god is in their belly”. Their end is destruction. We have herds of belly preachers and belly politicians.  “god in their belly” is an idol. Set on ourselves we war against each other. The end is destruction.

“Their god is their belly” describes many in an everyday  way.  We are supposed to eat to live, not live to eat.  Or as St. John Chrysostom preached,

“Your belly is given to you so that you may nourish it, not so that it may burst. Your body is given you that you may rule it, not so that you may have it as a mistress. It is given that it may serve you for the nourishment of the other members, not so that you may serve it. Do not exceed these bounds. The sea in flood does not so much harm to the boundaries as our belly does to our bodies and our souls. The flood overwhelms only part of the land. The god of the belly overwhelms the whole body. Set self-constraint as a bound to it as God sets the sand to the sea.”

Don’t you know, wrote the Apostle Paul, your bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost?  It was said in Corinth, as Paul quoted, “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. Soul and stomach both were made for Lord. We glorify the Lord who made and loved us with soul and body. And Paul warned about those “who glory in their shame”.  Sin, so that grace may more abound.  We’re covered.  So glory in their shame, what should not see the light of day, is seen as good, as in greed and lust.

Then we have intense navel gazing, the daily swirl and swill of the daily news, the endless polls, the talk shows, the blogs, the endless Facebook postings.  It is all the spirituality centered on the self, not on Christ Who alone loves us perfectly.  Jesus warned about treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrode, and treasures in heaven which last.  Where your heart is, there your treasure will be, taught our Lord.  Our hearts set on earthly things is our hearts in the gutter. Lift up your hearts, we lift them up unto the Lord.

The Apostle Paul was an enemy of the Cross.  He knew the judgment of God was upon him when the Lord revealed Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. The Apostle knew he had been part of the Lord’s enemies.  Jesus taught, Love your enemies, and He did and He does.  Love does not mean accepting wrong and wickedness, but in His love to transform an enemy into friend of the Cross.  By His Cross, Jesus has befriended you.

Even though the Apostle does not use the phrase, “friends of the Cross”, I think that phrase is appropriate.  Who is a friend of the Cross? 

First, the man or the woman who by faith knows he is saved by grace alone, in Jesus’ atoning once and for all sacrifice upon the cross and through the tomb.  As did the Apostle Paul: This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life(1 Thessalonians). Jesus saved by longsuffering, us, sinners.

Second, by the Lord finishing the race, today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course, as it is written, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Romans 8). Jesus prays with His faithful sons and daughters as they pray.

Third, by the Lord finished His course for us and for our salvation, He gives us the fruits of His once and for all atonement, as it is written in 1 Corinthians 11, “This is My Body” and “This is  My Blood”.  Jesus is the host of this amazing banquet.

Fourth, by the Lord finishing His course for us and our salvation, sent His apostolic Church to teach and to baptize, so that as it is written, Romans 6,

Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Jesus is our baptism into and by the Name of the Lord so we can walk free.

There are only two ways, two walks:  the world or the Lord and straddling the middle of those two roads is man taking control of what he thinks salvation is.  The middle of  any road is sure destruction. There is no art of the deal with Lord.  He has put us on the right way, the good way, the way of the Lord, by His grace alone. The Apostle invited his fellow Christians in “imitating me”.  Imitating Paul because he had achieved such holiness by his effort or work? No, imitating Paul as a friend of the Cross by which the Lord comes to us in Word and Sacrament.

“But our citizenship is from heaven…” St. Paul knew a thing or two about citizenship. Twice in Acts, Luke reports that either Paul was beaten or about to be flogged, and he reminded the Roman soldiers, he was a Roman citizen.  The second time, the soldiers are aghast and they apologized to Paul and his apostolic company:  all Roman citizens.  With Roman citizenship came privileges, such as no torture or beatings.  Roman citizenship was obtained one of two ways:  born into it because of one’s parents or paying a hefty price for citizenship. Paul was born into it.  We can not purchase the price of citizenship of heaven by any financial means on earth.  The Lord freely paid for our citizenship by finishing His course for us by His blood shed upon the Cross and in Holy Baptism we are not born, but born from above into His rule, citizens of the Kingdom of God. The Lord does not willingly grieve or afflict His children; but they, as the apostles and martyrs can tell us, thi is a disputed citizenship.  We have not papers to prove our citizenship, except the page of the Bible pointing us ever, as a compass, to our true homeland by His grace through the Holy Spirit.  Friends of the Cross, the Lord by His resurrection has prepared our citizenship as we await Him from heaven.  Our salvation is fulfilled and on the Day will be completed.  Our bodies transformed to be like His glorious body. We ain’t seen nothing yet. When the Apostle wrote this to the Philippian Christians he used the full title and Name of the Lord:  the Lord Jesus Christ, the true ruler of our citizenry. His Name is the stamp and seal our citizenship.  Friends of the Cross, He is our strength for the journey by His love and mercy to finish our course.  Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.”


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