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“Our Inner Nature”: Sermon 6/10/2018

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sermon Text: 2 Corinthians 4: 13-5: 1

This week, in my Devotionals, I’ve looked to see the workings of our inner natures. Much of what I have found has not been of a positive nature. We human beings have a way of wanting much for ourselves.

Take for instance our Complimentary reading from Genesis 3: 8-15. Yes, it all begins in the Garden of Eden. That wily old serpent knew what “button” to push to get Eve (and consequently Adam) to eat of the forbidden fruit. He said: “When you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” What? Like God? Knowing good and evil?  How bad can that be? Besides, the fruit looks good to eat. One little bite and we’ll see what happens…. Oh, temptation and our egos can get us into a heap of trouble! This wasn’t the “I’ll eat a brownie---it can’t hurt---I’ll just take the stairs rather than the elevator” type of temptation. This was the BIG one---it’s okay to BE LIKE GOD. Translate that to “let’s be god.” Of course, we want to be “like God”---loving others, being compassionate, generous, kind, along with all the other fruits of the Spirit. We just are NOT God---and thank goodness!  Remembering that Jim Carrey movie Bruce Almighty where God lets him experience being God just reminded me how much I need God to be who He is!

In 1 Samuel 8, the people of Israel wanted to be just like everyone else---they wanted a king. We like to “fit in”, to be “part of the crowd”, to “keep up with the Joneses”. We might want a hot tub in the backyard because the neighbor next door has one, or a big truck because that’s what real Texas men drive, or have expensive Jimmy Choo shoes to impress one’s friends. To want a king to go before them and to fight their battles was the reason the people of Israel gave to Samuel (and to God) for wanting a king. In other words, they did not want God as their King. And so Saul was chosen. Saul was “was a head taller than the others.”

In Mark 3, we are reminded who is to come first in our lives. Naturally, we think “in earthly terms”. We think of our families—our spouses and children. I read an article the other day in which people were asked the question: “Who is most important in your family?”  Straight off the bat, the parents said: “our children”. That’s understandable---we love our children. But what happens to them if something happens to the parents? The children don’t thrive---they need their parents to teach them and to show them how to be capable, responsible adults, to provide for them, and to show them God’s love. If the parents die or divorce, the children are negatively affected. Much can be overcome of course, but the parents are the most important members of the family. The children wouldn’t be there in the first place, if they weren’t.
The crowd wanted Jesus to know that his family was there. His family thought Jesus was crazy because he hadn’t taken the time to eat. The teachers of the law just wanted Jesus “out of their hair”.  Jesus said: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Have you noticed yet that all of our inner struggles have to do with “getting our priorities straight”? We want to be LIKE God not god ourselves. We want Jesus to be our King not some human who will “lord it over us.” We want to be as Jesus commanded---“loving our neighbor as ourselves”---not in love with “MOI” (me) as Miss Piggy the Muppet’s character would say.

Our inner nature also dwells on our adversity. I’m not going to belabor the reasons behind the choice to commit suicide in the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. We hear about them but not about the many others who are not celebrities who make that decision. I’m not going to condemn or judge because that is not my place---thank goodness! I will pray for them and for the many others to have the light of Christ in their lives. Because this is the point of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4: “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

Now, this is an example that we don’t care for---because NONE of us likes hard times. For two years, scientists sequestered themselves in an artificial environment called Biosphere 2. Inside their self-sustaining community, the Biospherians created a number of mini-environments, including a desert, rainforest, and ocean. Nearly every weather condition could be simulated except one: wind. Over time, the effects of their windless environment became apparent. A number of acacia trees bent over and snapped. Without the stress of wind to strengthen the wood, the trunks grew weak and could not hold up their own weight. Though our culture shuns hardship, we would do well to remember that God uses hardship “for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” (Hebrews 12: 10)

From the moment we are born we are on the “road to death” meaning that our “outer nature is wasting away.” For some that time comes sooner, for others later. We do not know “when our time will come”. As a society, we do not talk about death like we used to do---and that is to our detriment. In days of yore, families had their loved ones’ remains at home. Children may have played in the same room as Grandfather lay in repose. These days, people don’t talk about death, funerals are prepared for “at the last minute” as if it’s a crime to think about and make preparations for something that is a part of our existence. No, we don’t like to think about our demise, but it comes to all of us.

One student from another country said that what he perceived about his time of listening to sermons in America was that he had not yet heard a sermon about heaven. He guessed that might be due to the fact that people in this country have so much. In his own country, people are very poor---so they preach on heaven all the time. He said: “We know how much we need it.”  Now the question to us is: Do we know how much we need heaven? Do we realize that our outer nature is wasting away? Do we understand the hope to which we should be living our lives? Do we know that there is a place for waiting for us?

Carl Holladay wrote: "Our earthly existence is now comparable to that of a tent, the very symbol of transcience; for, like a tent, our human existence finally folds. In contrast to the earthly tent of our existence, however, God gives us a “house…not made with hands…eternal in the heavens.” Notice his use of transcience.

Heaven is not a Christian concept alone. Anthropological evidence suggests that every culture has a God-given, innate sense of the eternal---that this world is not all there is. Australian aborigines pictured heaven as a distant land beyond the western horizon. Mexicans, Peruvians, and Polynesians believed they went to the sun or the moon after death. Native Americans believed that in the afterlife their spirits would hunt the spirits of buffalo. The Gilgamesh Epic, an ancient Babylonian legend, refers to a resting place of heroes and hints at a tree of life. The Romans believed that the righteous would picnic in the Elysians fields while their horses grazed nearby. Although these depictions of the afterlife differ, the unifying testimony of the human heart throughout history is belief in life after death.

C.S. Lewis wrote that “creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger---there is food. A duckling wants to swim—there is water. If I find in myself a desire that no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably, earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”  (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Our inner nature was meant to reach beyond temptation and pride and ego, to reach out for God and our life beyond this one. Our life here changes when we focus on the life to come. It makes many things irrelevant. God has given us forgiveness of sins and the fullness of His grace. He is with us in our trials and in our rejoicing. He has given us eternal life in His realm which has no end. He has given us the guiding light of eternity---just like a lighthouse leads the ship to the safety of harbor. Amen.