Tuesday, September 27, 2016

It is never pretty when we try to glorify ourselves

HOW TO BE EXALTED BY GOD


When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast ... go and sit in the lowest place so that when your host comes he may say to you, "Friend, move up higher."  Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.  Luke 14:8ff

AS the Lord has two natures, human and divine, Christians also have two natures, earthly and the heavenly.  The first we inherit from our parents, the second we obtain by faith in Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.  

In the person of Jesus the Lord's two natures worked together.  They shared the qualities that each possessed thus making it possible for Jesus to be born of a woman, experience temptation, and suffer death on the cross, but also to conquer the devil in the wilderness, read the hearts of Pharisees, and rise triumphant from the grave to win life and salvation for us.  His two natures joined together make one Christ, one Savior, one Lord who is above all, through all, and in all.

Our two natures, on the other hand, do not work together!  The sinful self does the only thing it knows how to do:  it produces a flood of sinful thoughts words and deeds, and is beyond repair or reform.  Based on today's lessons we should think specifically about the sin of self-glorification, of self-exaltation.

Old Adam never rests, but is fully engaged in establishing his bona fides, exhibiting his superiority over other people, and exalting himself as lord over all.  This means that as long as there is a sinner left on earth the race for status and dominance will never end, and that spells trouble for us all -- big trouble!  Seven billion people, each with something to prove!

Yet self glorification is not any old sin, but the chief sin of all.  It is sedition!  Mutiny!  An act of treason; a declaration of independence from the One who is factually God and Father over all!  It is the sin that got Satan ejected from the heavenly council; a breach so egregious that the fitting sentence is everlasting punishment in a place specially prepared for the devil and for his angels, and as we learn in St. Matthew chapter twenty-five, for anyone whom he might deceive into following him there, and it would have to be a great deception indeed because who in his right mind would knowingly choose death over life, misery over happiness, everlasting gloom over eternal gladness?  Yet, it would have to be a powerful lie, but don't forget that Satan is the Father of Lies, and for him such mendacity is no problem at all.  He is more adept at spinning credible tales than we are at sorting them out, so hear the Word of Christ, the world of truth, the word of clarity that exposes all the devil's ploys, and is a lamp unto our feet and light to our path.  As well, always remember your baptism where you renounced the devil along with all his wicked works and all his wicked ways and every sinful pleasure that would distract you from the love of God.  

Let us humble ourselves because Jesus says that whoever humbles himself will be exalted, not by men, but by God!  Beware of man's admiration!  Beware of his approval, appreciation and approbation.  The esteem people dole out serves them, not you.  It takes more than it gives.  It is sticky, conditional, temporary and always dependant on your latest performance.  Rather look to be exalted by the Lord Jesus Christ who will say to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master."  That is praise you can rely upon, the approval that will lift you up to the highest seat at the feast.

Therefore let us be warned again today against the sin of self-exaltation, and the distress and disunity that follows in its wake, that destroys churches, families and friendships.  Instead let us endeavor, by the New Man, Christ in us, to maintain the unity of the Spirit and bond of peace in our hearts and in our homes.

"When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast," says Jesus, "do not sit down in a place of honor..."  Yet this parable is more than a parable because you have been surely invited to the most royal wedding of all, the wedding feast of the Lamb, with this unexpected surprise:  that when you arrive on the last day you will find yourself not as guest, but as the bride, washed with water and the word so that you will be without spot, blemish or any other wrinkle.  You will find yourself exalted in ways that words cannot express at this time, except to say that your days of sorrow will come to a sudden halt, and your joyful eternity will begin.

The mystery, though unfathomable, is the one that Christians believe none the less; not only believe, but anticipate and participate in every Sunday when we come to the Lord's altar to be joined in holy communion with Christ.  Here the two are made one flesh.  Here we are glorified in ways that defy explanation.  We are cleansed of the sins that so easily beset us, released from their shame and guilt, and many times by God's mercy even delivered from their stinging temporal consequences.  Here we are exalted far above any admiration that the world could ever give or hope for, for here we are made one body with the one Lord.

Though you may sit in the lowest seat imaginable at this present time, hear this excellent word of St. Paul.  "Set your affection on things above not on things on the earth.  For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.  And when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in Glory."  Amen.

~  Rev. Dean Kavouras

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