Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Increasing in Favor with God and Man

Luke 2:52 (ESV)
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

So Jesus grew up as other boys do. He wasn’t all knowing but had to learn as we do. His growth was like that of other men. But with each passing day, he also grew in favor with God and man. He was respected.
I shy away from the word sanctification in these contexts. I think it is too often misunderstood, and Wesley did the world a disfavor by implying that sanctification was something you earn. But I think there is something to the concept if we take salvation out of it. And that is the problem with the term sanctification in this context. One cannot be saved if one is not sanctified. The New Testament uses the term interchangeably with justification in places. It has a slightly different meaning, but in the end it is salvation that is at stake, and Jesus accomplished that for us on the cross.
Yet one can and does grow and increase in favor with God and Man. Jesus did. And so can we. Of course the first thing one has to do here is get his priorities straight. First God then men. When our focus is on increasing in favor with God, then men will follow. People can gain favor with men for all sorts of unsavory business. One only need to listen to the talk in a men’s locker room to figure that out. Men respect other men for the stupidest of reasons. And even knowing that too often we find ourselves trying to impress other men with stupid antics. Men have been known to respect other men for their ability to consume beer, or bed various women, for instance. This is not the kind of favor with men, Christians should try to gain. This sort of favor with men comes at the expense of favor with God, who in his infinite mercy is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The truth is if he wasn’t that none of us would have any favor with God. It is just as true that men think they gain favor with God, for the stupidest of reasons, such as one’s ability to avoid a bar or conversation with anyone outside the church he or she goes to. Or their ability to be shocked and “scandalized” by the behavior of their fellow man, and even Christian. This too gains favor with a certain sort of idiot, but not necessarily with God, who again is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. We Christians might try that approach, being slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. We could practice that. I think it might be called forgiveness.
If first we seek God’s favor, if first we seek the Kingdom of God, all these other things will be added, including the favor of men. It won’t be all men mind you, but it will be the men who matter. Anyone can win the favor of a fool. But to win favor with men who know what it means to be men, that is something different, and this follows when one increases in the favor of God.
Increasing in the favor of God, it comes when we first seek his kingdom. The old saying is that theologians are created by meditation, prayer and suffering. And the truth is we are all theologians. Suffering will be given on behalf of the world. We don’t need to self impose it. It comes in the life of family, sickness, work etc. But it is prayer and meditation I think are most often lacking. Meditation can take on a few different forms, but it has to do with dedictating yourself to the apostolic teaching. In one way or another meditation is about studying God’s word. if God’s word is not being studied than meditation is not happening. So it happens at divine service when we here a sermon, or when we read devotions, or just read the Bible itself. Prayer, but follows on the heals of meditation, the two are almost synonymous. In doing this we increase in our faith and love, the favor of God, we grow stronger. It requires work, and one might be selective regarding the trough one feeds from when it comes to interpretation of God’s word. There are ungodly interpretations of God’s word.

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