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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Living Life God's Way- An Introduction to Christian Perfection

Today we start a series entitled: Living Life God's Way.

Our readings are Luke 4:1-13 and James1:1-15

Living Life God's Way.

Right up front we have to ask and answer the question: Is it possible to live life God's way?
What is God's way of living…. to answer that we need look no further than the life of Jesus as recorded for us in the Gospels.
Is it possible to live as Jesus lived?
We as Methodists have a very specific and unequivocal answer to these questions and the answer is……. Yes.

Is it possible to live life God's way?
Can all the Methodists answer me please…….. yes.

Is it possible to live as Jesus lived………. yes.

If the answer is no…….. why bother with a series entitled: Living Life God's Way?
That would be like setting a high jump at CEILING level and saying to you: Jump over it.
Such a God would be a devil and such a preacher would likewise be the devil in skin.

So: do you believe that you can live life God's way?
Do you believe that the God who throughout the Scriptures says: Be holy as I am holy…. means it, or is He laying before you and me an impossible task?

When Jesus said: “you must be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect” in Matthew 5:48,………… did he mean it, or was he, is he, laying before you and me, an impossible task?
I wouldn't serve a God like that, and I don't serve a God like that!
We serve the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are baptised into His Son (we looked at that last week), and we have received the HolySpirit, and we are a people who believe that in Him….. we can do all things….. because He…… strengthens us.

Methodism is a holiness movement, called into existence for one purpose and one purpose only (said John Wesley) and that was and is:
To spread scriptural holiness throughout the land.

And so we can with absolute integrity preach a series entitled:
Living Life God's Way……. because we believe that it is possible to live life God's way.
This doctrine has a name which terrifies some, confuses others, and makes others very angry:
It is our doctrine of Christian perfection, unique to us as Methodists (as you will all remember from your confirmation or  your orientation into Methodism) and it is our greatest doctrinal  asset and gift to the world…… we spread scriptural holiness through the land.
So we can preach and teach about living life God's way and our subheading this morning is:
Dealing with Trials and Temptations.

Let's look at temptations first.

Satan is not very original in the way he tempts us. He tempted Jesus in exactly the same way that he had tempted Adam and Eve so many years before.
In 1 John 2:16, three categories of temptation are mentioned…… the cravings of sinful nature, the lust of the eyes, and the boasting of what we have and what we can do.

Let's remind ourselves of the Fall:
 when the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.
She saw it was good for food…... this is the craving of the sinful nature
and that it was pleasing to the eye…… the lust of the eyes
and desirable for gaining wisdom……. look how clever I will be…….. this is boasting of what we have or do.

Now let's look at how Satan tempts Jesus:
turn these stones to bread…….. the craving of the sinful nature, trying to tempt the hungry Jesus to give in to the craving for food after 40 days of fasting;
he showed Him all the kingdoms of the world…….. he is appealing here to the lust of the eyes hoping that Jesus would think: I want that
throw yourself off this building…… he is appealing here to the desire to boast of what we have and do, hoping that Jesus will think: look at me, people,….. I can fly.

Satan tempts Jesus in the same three ways that he tempted Adam and Eve; he is not very original. He tempts you and me in the same three ways,….. think about that at home.

The difference is that the first man (Adam) did not resist the temptation, but the last man (Jesus), [these are Paul's words for Adam and Jesus], the last man did resist temptation.

Jesus, the human, shows us that Satan and temptation, can be resisted.
Do we have to sin? The sins we have committed this week….. did we have to, was there no other alternative?
We all know that the truth is we didn't have to commit the sins we did this week. That is true for me and I know it is true for you.

Who is your role model….. Adam or Jesus?
Who is it that we are baptised into….Adam or Jesus?

Now there is a lot more to say regarding temptation, but the one truth that I would like you to meditate on is this: Jesus the man has shown us that temptation can be resisted.
This is good news, isn't it?
You and I don't have to sin.
Can I maybe get an “Amen” to that?

You and I don't have to sin, that is what our Scriptures teach us today about temptation.
 Now let's look at trials and what our Scriptures teach us.

James, in the very second sentence of his letter says this: Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perserverance.
Yikes!!!!!
There's a verse we would like to rub out of our Bibles, together with: you must be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect…….. only……. we can't remove the bits we don't like, can we?

This verse is not saying that those in our midst right now who are going through the most dreadful trials….. it is not saying that they should be jumping up and down saying: Yay! I'm going through hell right now. It is not saying that.

It is saying, just as I told you last week, that there is a bigger picture.
It is saying: God is still on the throne, even though it doesn't look like it.
It is saying: God is and was with you through your trial, even though it looks like He's deserted you.
It is saying that God is going to work through this trial, in fact through all things, for the good, but you might not see that for a long time.
And it is saying that these truths should fill you with that deep emotion called joy which, when it works its way through us, brings calm and peace even in the midst of the storm, and leads to perseverance.

And James goes on and says: Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
The word James uses for mature is teleios which means perfect, and it is the same word that we find in Matthew when Jesus says: you must be perfect (teleios) just as your Father in heaven is perfect (teleios). James is saying that your and my perseverance through trials is part of the process of becoming teleios…. perfect.

So our prayer, often through the tears and pain that trials cause,… our prayer is:  Lord, please do your maturing, completing, perfecting, teleios work in me through this ordeal, this trial, that you haven't caused, but that you can use for my perfection.

Living life God's way: Dealing with Trials and Temptations.
                We can live life God's way;
                we can resist temptation;
                we can survive our trials and even be made perfect through them.

Yes we can!

Amen

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