Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Barnabus Goes For Paul

19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists [2] also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. (Acts 11:19-26 (ESV)
Barnabas, it’s odd, as many times as I have read Acts, I’ve never before noticed, until doing this running commentary, just what a critical role this man played in the beginning of the church. He is still respected in Jerusalem and he is from Cyprus himself, a Jew raised among the Hellenists with intimate knowledge of their culture, customs and language. In that matter, he had a similar background to Paul who grew up in Tarsus where he is now hanging out on ice as it were. So it is Barnabus that the church in Jerusalem asks to go check out the operations in Antioch, the birthplace of the name Christian.
Quite some time has elapsed since the persecution of Stephen. We are talking a minimum of four years, possibly as many as six. Paul was a part of this persecution, but when he converted he spent three years in Arabia, we know this from Galatians, then he worked in Jerusalem and opened up the old controversy, before being sent off to Tarsus. After Paul is sent off to Tarsus all this other stuff with Peter happens in Joppa and Caesarea. Meanwhile Paul has been off the radar. Barnabus has to go looking for him in Tarsus and it doesn’t seem he has an easy time of it. Indicating that during this time Paul isn’t very active in Evangelizing. On top of this you have this new church sprouting up in Antioch, both among the Jews and the Hellenists.
Hellenists could be just Greek speaking Jews, but the manner in which it is contrasted with Jews here indicates that these men are witnessing directly to pagans in Antioch, the third greatest city of the Roman empire, after Rome and Alexandria in Eygpt.

When Barnabus gets to Antioch to conduct his investigation he is overjoyed to see the gospel at work, and realizes that he needs someone to help with the work load of instructing and caring for all these people who are turning to the Lord. And he does something that will change the shape of Christianity forever, he seeks out Paul, to bring him back into service of the church. This is where Paul is called to shine, to learn from everything that has happened and put it to good use. This is an environment in which he will swim. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

God Grants Repentance

11:1 Now the apostles and the brothers [1] who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6 Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. 13 And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:1-18 (ESV)
“Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” This is finally the confession of the circumcision party in regards to this event. But now they have made their appearance. Peter may have held the keys, but you can see from this he did not lord it over the congregation. He did not expect his word to just be accepted and the congregation to just go along with whatever he said.  It’s hard for me to comprehend all the details hinted at here. But there was a circumcision party, and they were part of the church. They were concerned about Peter, and why Peter had done what he had done.
It had to be hard for these Jewish converts, who really did not think of themselves as converts. After all, they believed in the Jewish messiah. They believed the messiah was coming, and now they believed he had come. There wasn’t a conversion here. Not as we normally think of conversion. And all the implications of the messiah had not yet been worked out. However, the first thought of a Jew upon being baptized would not have been “Yippee! Now I can eat bacon!” Their identity had been molded for centuries by laws and customs that were meant to set them apart from the unbelieving gentiles. And to now give up those laws and customs, and to let gentiles in with disregard to those laws and customs was something even Peter needed convincing of, and more than once in his life.
The circumcision party criticized Peter. It’s a harsh word. You went to the uncircumcised and you ate with them! You can hear the Pharisees speaking about how Jesus received sinners and ate with them. This will always be the criticism of Christians in one way or another. They accept sinners, take them where they are at. What’s even more remarkable is that Peter is concerned enough about the souls of sinners in both ditches that he does not come down hard on the circumcision party. If he takes offense at their criticism, he doesn’t blow back hard on them, he doesn’t say “who are you to question me, I’m an apostle!?” But rather he takes time to explain to them what had happened, why he did what he did. He understands that their criticism comes from weakness on their part, even if they think it is strength.

Then again, the circumcision party is also willing to listen to Peter, and hear what he  has to say. God grants them repentance too. When Peter explains all that has happened, they see that God grants the gentiles repentance that leads to eternal life. God grants repentance. We can never forget that. Repentance is not something we do, but something that is done to us. It Is the flipside of faith in reality, because you can’t have one without the other, even as you can’t have justification without sanctification. Repentance is given. It is not the same as giving up one sin or another, though often this is accompanied with repentance. Any  sinner can choose not to do this or that particular sin. Unbelievers have been known to abstain from sexual immorality, from drunkenness, from murder, theft, bearing false witness etc. That isn’t repentance. Repentance though is centered on the first commandment, and the only way to repent of breaking the first commandment is to believe, and they only way to believe is to be called by the gospel, and be given the gift of faith that comes by the work of the Holy Spirit. And this is the repentance that God grants, repentance that leads to eternal life.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Seven Time Seventy

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. [7] 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. [8] 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. [9] 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant [10] fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, [11] and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, [12] until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35 (ESV)
“And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” so Jesus delivers the parable’s punchline, and the illustration of the kingdom of God is made complete.  What’s left to say?
On the one hand, this is something that we instinctively understand as Christians. We have been forgiven and so we are supposed to forgive. And yet of everything the Lord asks us to do, this is perhaps the hardest for our sinful nature. Seven times seventy Jesus says, that’s how often we are supposed to forgive our brother who sins against us. Even here Jesus contrasts the kingdom of heaven with the world. The seventy fold does not come out of nowhere. It was meant to bring to mind the Lament of Lamech as he tells his wives that he has killed a man for wounding him, a young man for striking him. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, mine is seventy seven fold.” A metaphor for the realities of the sinful world we live in. The dog eat dog, tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, justice to be served. But then everything escalates. And satisfaction of our slight we want even more than simple justice, retribution. But it isn’t ever slaked, the thirst never quenched.
No, and the grudges. Why do we hold on to these things? Yes, we know we ought to forgive. We understand what Christ says about forgiving from the heart. We even tell each other that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die. And that is precisely what it is like. How often is a grudge like that? How often have we watched grudges turn into bad choices that would otherwise not be made? How often hatred or a perceived slight has clouded judgment and torn a family apart? A congregation apart? And yet why? We hold onto these grudges like a two year old clinging to a blanky. They are like teddy bears the way we hold onto them a brood a venomous vipers, the rattlesnakes in our sleeping bags. This is the world of Cain, the reality of Lamech who knows the vengeance of this world is never satisfied with justice but bleeds over into revenge, and escalates to 70 fold.
And yet we would be forgiven, you and I. We beg God for mercy. I’m not sure we always realize what it is we are asking of God. Whatever the sins our neighbors have committed against us, multiply it by seventy times seven, and we haven’t even come close to realizing our transgressions against God, which also include our refusal to forgive our brothers and sisters from the heart. Parents possibly understand this a bit more than others, how disappointing it is to see children who can’t get along. The pain it causes. Again, multiply it by seven times seventy and perhaps you start understanding the sin against God. Here’s his creation, his beloved image shared on the earth, and we think nothing of slandering them, seeking revenge upon them, causing their downfall, wishing their death. This is what God forgives us, his unworthy servants. This is what he forgives us. A debt that couldn’t be paid with any gold or silver, such an astronomical debt it could only be made right, the account justified by the blood of Christ, his innocent suffering and death, the only things that could make atonement, the death of God himself. Yes, when you ask for mercy, when you ask for forgiveness, you ask for his death!
But you? Are you willing to die? Are you willing to suffer death? Or even the slight to your pride? Jesus dies for you, but can you die for him? And it is death that is required. He who loses his life for my sake will save it, Jesus says. This life, the life of your old Adam, the sinful self- inside you that can’t take injury or insult. This is the life you lose. And how often must you lose it? 70 times 7 as many times as your brother asks forgiveness. Because God’s kingdom to which you belong, it isn’t about revenge, it isn’t even about justice, it’s about forgiveness. In God’s kingdom forgiveness is the air we breathe, it is the only thing by which we live. And so it is to forgiveness we are called in daily repentance drowning the old Adam in the waters of baptism and rising to the new life we have in Christ. No, it isn’t easy. And we fail at this too. Perhaps it is the greatest sin for which we need ask forgiveness, for mercy, and for grace to realize the extent of our debt to Christ for his mercy that we might also be able to extend that to others. No it isn't easy. It is death, and death is never easy, but it was done for you.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The House of Cornelius Baptized.

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. (Acts 10:44-48 (ESV)
While Peter is speaking the Holy Spirit falls upon the people as is evidenced by the speaking in tongues through which they extolled God. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding just what it means to speak in tongues, but what we do know is that it was not unintelligible. Peter and the believers of the circumcised were convinced by it that these people, who were not circumcised had received the Spirit. So Peter comes to the conclusion that they should be baptized. This is the point of the whole story. What is great here is that the people received the Holy Spirit even before baptism, where as in the previous chapters the Samaritans received the Spirit after they had been baptized. In both of these cases the Spirit is used as confirmation of baptism and the validity of the faith for these people.

In fact there are only three cases where the Holy Spirit is given out our poured out on the people in this manner, Pentecost, for the whole church gathered together, in Samaria amongst baptized believers together, and here in Cornelius’s home. Never is it heard of that the Holy Spirit falls upon or is given out to an individual believer apart from his baptism in the New Testament. In the New Testament this is not an experience of the individual, but the experience of the church marking milestones in the direction the church should go when faced with decisive decisions. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Forgiveness in the Name of Jesus

34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”(Acts 10:34-43 (ESV)
“Truly I understand that God shows not partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.“  This has to be spoken up front. It’s the point of the gospel that Peter is going to preach, that God accepts gentiles.  Now Peter is going to explain how he arrives at this conclusion concerning the gospel. It actually makes for a great sermon outline, gospel, law, gospel, if you will. Not as trendy as the law gospel law, but much more helpful in communicating the gospel. Peter doesn’t mean that one makes himself acceptable to God by works. But by fear of God he means faith in God, which always has an aspect of fear to it. And this faith isn’t of our doing but is a work of God in and of itself, it is something he works through the gospel. Works apart from faith are as dead as faith is that is separated from works.
So he recounts in short order the life of Christ. He knows that they have heard of him having had lived in this vicinity, he doesn’t go into great detail here. He recounts that Jesus was anointed by  the Holy Spirit and went around doing good. This is an important look into the motivation of Christ. Miracle means sign and we often are trained to think, “Look Jesus did a miracle! Here he is showing us his divinity! Look at his power!” All well and fine. Jesus does show us his divinity in miracles, but the divinity isn’t shown so much in the supernatural power he possesses but in the good will he shows to man by going around and doing good. Jesus wasn’t trying to show off his power so much as he was acting out of his divine goodness and mercy apart from any merit or worthiness in the people. That’s because we have not merit or worthiness in us by which we deserve anything but the hell of fire. He went around doing good and healing those oppressed by the devil because God was with him. And it is in the nature of God to love, and care for his creation. He shows us this in many ways every day that we suffer in this evil world as he showers us with our daily bread, giving us all that we need to support this life, and often times quite a bit more than that to boot.
Then Peter recounts our thanks for all the good God does in our lives. “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.” You have to be a little bit careful when you recount who they are, Jews and gentiles alike conspired for this to happen. Those who find Jesus to be a stumbling block, and those who find him to be folly. Whatever side of the coin you fall on there, this is your reaction to Christ. You kill him. We were all part of it one way or another, all having sinned and falling short of God. If you had opportunity to be there, you would have driven the nails, cracked the cat of nine’ tails, thrusted the spear. But God raised him up, and commanded the disciples to preach the gospel.

And that gospel is what all the scriptures testify of Jesus Christ, and here is meant the Old Testament, that all who believe in Jesus Christ receive the forgiveness of sins in his name. This means you, whether gentile or Jew. This means that whether you are inclined to think the whole gospel to be folly, and can’t make sense of it, or are scandalized by the forgiveness of sins. Still, despite your sinful inclinations, You have forgiveness through Jesus Christ. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Not the Will The Father that Any Should Perish

18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, [1] it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! [2] For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! 8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell [3] of fire.
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. [4] 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my [5] Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed [6] in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:1-20 (ESV)

“So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
Thus Jesus ends his parable about leaving the 99 and searching for the one.  About what it means that we don’t despise the little ones, cause them to fall away from the faith, or let them stray without any concern. It’s the central thought that pulls all four of these collected sayings of Jesus together. The Father’s love for little ones, the Father’s love for you and yours. The Father’s love for all those who have been humbled in the waters of baptism and  like little children and have entered the kingdom of heaven, to be adopted by  our father in heaven, through the death and resurrection of his son, who  purchased  them with his blood because they were unable to redeem themselves.
No, God does not will that any of these little ones should perish, should lose the faith and die in despair. And it is a very real fear. And it happens for so many reasons as the result of so many scandolons and temptations. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! It is necessary for temptations to come, but woe to him through whom they come!” These are the words of Jesus speaking of how one despises the children, the little ones of God. And the sin he speaks of is the sin of unbelief, the sin of false belief that leads to despair, and from despair, every other great shame and vice known in this world that spurns the love of God. The temptations that drive the children away, to think that God himself despises them and does not cherish them, because his church does not love them and will not forgive them, places obstacles and stumbling stones in their way, perhaps even requirements for their repentance to be good enough after humpty dumpty has had his great fall and all the kings horses and all the kings men can’t put humpty dumpty together again. And life is so often that way when it comes to the relationships through which these temptations come. And the children come to church and no longer feel at home, because the Lord’s Table of Grace is about as comfortable as thanksgiving dinner at the in-laws.
But it is precisely then, that the Lord would leave the 99 behind and go search for the one who has strayed off the path, and found themselves lost amidst the cliffs and crags of the desert of death. It is precisely then that he says to the church, to the disciples, to his children, if your brother sins against you, if your sister trespasses and strays from the path, don’t be the stone that causes them to stumble. Rather go to them, try to reconcile. Go to them that is in a spirit of forgiveness and try to win them back. If you can’t do it, then take two or three others, if that doesn’t work take it to the church. All the while remembering that the goal is to win for yourself a brother, to gain a sister in the faith, to see one humble himself like a little child, and that means the difficult, the hard, the unpleasant task of humbling yourself. Difficult, yes. Impossible?  Perhaps if it is left to you alone, but then what ever you ask in the Lord’s name, where two or three on anything agree, when you are gathered together in his name, well then it is Jesus there in the midst of you, granting whatever you ask, because you ask for what he desires, because you ask for him to do what he wants to do, to go and find the lost sheep of Israel, to restore unto them the joy of his salvation.  Because it is not the will of our Father in heaven, that any of these little ones, any of them humbled in the waters of baptism, buried into the death of his son and raised in his resurrection to the newness of life, any of those for whom his son shed his blood on the cross, should ever perish. No, not even you.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Consider No One Common Or Unclean! No One Includes You!

The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”
 30 And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, [3] and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” (Acts 10:24-33 (ESV)
Peter finally makes it to Cornelius’s house. And Cornelius is so excited he has assembled everyone, his family, relatives close friends, all are there to hear what Peter has to say.
Cornelius falls down to worship Peter. It gives you an insight to the Roman mind. They were not as skeptical as we are today. They assumed gods could manifest themselves in human form. This gets Paul and Barnabus into trouble later. Cornelius knows that this man has been sent by God, and so he is very careful to show what ever respect is possible. He oversteps this just a bit. And Peter gently corrects him.
Peter himself is a bit taken aback by all the people who have come to hear what he has to say. Immediately he recognizes God’s time has come. This is an opportunity that God has prepared, and he will seize it with everything he has.  “God has shown me that I should not consider any person common (profane) or unclean.” And this is at the heart of mission. Rather, every person is sacred.
“God has shown me that I should not consider any person common or unclean.” This is such an easy thing to comprehend, and yet such a hard thing to actually put into practice. I suppose much of this is because the actual fact is we are all unclean, and none of us really want to admit that either. But we are. We are sinners, and if we are clean it is only because of the forgiveness of Christ. That same forgiveness he has given to all. We are made clean and holy by the blood of Christ, which he shed for the world, for all. We have then no ability to separate ourselves from others in such a way as to think we are better than them, or that they are worse off than us because their sin manifests itself in a different way in their lives than it does in ours. Consider no one common or unclean. Consider them all sacred. I mean if anything our reaction to these people should be that which Cornelius shows to Peter. These people are sacred, and the needed to be treated with the respect of the sacred. The fact that we don’t do this, shows all the more the misery of our sin and our own need for the same forgiveness that has made them sacred in God’s eyes. But it also shows that we don’t much consider ourselves sacred, or holy. And yet we are! You are holy! You are sanctified!

And that is precisely the biggest problem in the popular theology of today, the Weslyan blight on the American landscape. It attaches sanctification to your ability to follow God’s law. It wants to quantify progress in sanctification one way or another by how well you or others follow God’s law, (as interpreted, added to and detracted from by men posing as theologians, but that is another story all together.) Hey Look! I found my hobby horse and I’m going to ride it! No seriously this is the problem with modern ideas of what sanctification, holiness and purity mean. And it is all hogwash. It’s backward. The concept is that you make yourself holy by following God’s law, and abstaining from premarital sex etc. And the biblical concept alla 1 Cor. 6 is, you are holy, so don’t profane yourself by profaning others, don’t throw your pearls before Swine. Love yourself! Love yourself, God loves you, so love yourself. The problem as we often see it is that we don’t love others as we love ourselves. The commandment actually takes for granted that you love yourself. And the real problem comes down to that you don’t. Not really. Not in the way you should. We can be selfish, egotistical and narcissistic, but these are really a perversion of love for self. It’s a shadow of love oppressed by sin and death. But if you are going to love others as yourself, you really have to love yourself first. And this is a problem. How do we learn to love ourselves? Luther’s answer was through daily repentance in which we drown the Old Adam in baptism and rise to live a new life. In other words, return to the source of your sanctification, that which sanctifies you and doesn’t profane you. And that which sanctifies you is your baptism, your burial into Christ and your resurrection to new life in him. Or one might say, the love of Christ for you that is manifested in baptism. We love because he first loved us. We dump our sins, and refuse to hold on to them, but in so doing we see that we are not so different than our neighbors, we actually share their sins, and if we look hard enough we find we are so depraved as to covet their sins. Most of our outrage against other sinners is a thinly veiled jealousy that we haven’t been able to do the same thing and get away with it. And when we finally grow tired of our own pet sin, we confuse that with sanctification, when really all we have done is found some new sin to occupy our time. But we think we are somehow getting to be more holy, more Christ like, more sanctified. As Gerhard Forde says, “don’t confuse senility with sanctification.” No, you can never be more sanctified than you are the moment you are baptized. It’s a state of being. You are holy, just as God is holy, and God considers no one and nothing to be common or unclean. It is part of his holiness to consider his creation, including you, to be holy and sacred, so we too, in sharing his holiness, bathing in his love, bathe others in his love and consider no one to be common or unclean.