Deuteronomy 30.15-20; Psalm 119.1-8; 1 Corinthians 3.1-9; Matthew 5.21-37
How many of you have a fitness watch? They seem to be everywhere, warning us to do more exercise, tell us if our performance has been satisfactory and even reduce our medical aid premiums if our exercise regime is good enough.
What if there was a Godwatch that we all wear once we are baptised? It could measure the good work we are doing, help us to make the right choices, and warn us if we are about to step into an area that we really should not be entering.
Would it be great – I think it is a bit WEIRD! It would make us into something like robots and not creatures who have free will.
Free will was given to us by God as his special creation, made in his image:
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. Genesis 1.27
We are made in the image of God to be his companions, he stewards, his friends. We need to learn to walk in his will, not be coerced and forced. This is a great paradox – learning to walk in God’s will is the greatest expression of free will but it sounds like it is taking free will away from us.
Walking in God’s will is the way to fulfilment and wholeness. Walking against his will is a way of frustration and darkness.
In the beginning in the first garden, we decided to listen to the voice of the Deceiver and doubted the goodness of God and his love and delight in us. We created a battle of wills that has gone on ever since.
And the battle is between our human nature, our ego, our flesh, call it what you will, and God’s will, causing conflict so that we become out of alignment with God’s will.
The body that was given to us as a vehicle for our Spirit, a container that should serve us, becomes our master.
Jesus tells the people that they can be so much more than their selfish, ego centred selves. The people of God are measured by far high standards, the standards of Jesus. Jesus says I have not come to abolish the commandments but to fulfil them, and: the commandments say this, but I say this.
For example, outwardly I may be complying with the letter of the law, but my heart is dark and my motives impure. A man says to himself: well I have not touched that woman, I am a good man; but Jesus knows that he has fanaticised over her every day for a week. A woman says to herself, I have never murdered somebody, but how many times this week has she gossiped and criticised and judged and condemned?
This life that God offers is not a life of denial and abstinence of poverty and meanness. It is a life of abundant living a life of blessing! In Deuteronomy we are told that good choices that turn us to the will of God will invite his blessing. Bad choices cause us to suffer. It is up to us as it was to the Israelites.
And we read in John 10.10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
The thief is the deceiver, the prince of darkness and lies, and as he did in the garden he comes to convince us to make poor choices that will bring us to confusion and misery.
1 Happy are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord.
2 Happy are those who keep his decrees,
who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways.
O dear, but the world in the control of the devil is so seductive. Somebody said to me once that the devil never shows you the gutter. The party that is so glitzy and glamorous doesn’t look so great in the morning when we wake up with a hangover, stricken by the foolish things we have said, possibly lying next to a stranger or even where we fell in the street. The drug that gives a major high never fulfils that again – that’s why it’s called chasing the dragon! The money that is stolen or got by dishonest means or exploitation is never enough.
A gnawing hole lurks inside the human being who chases after the things of the world. However much we get it is never enough. The things of the world never can be enough because they are an illusion. They are a counterfeit of happiness and fulfilment. They are not real because they are not of God they are created by deception and lies.
Paul is frustrated with the church in Corinth, because they are so easily deceived and influenced – he calls them infants in Christ:
1 Corinthians 3 1And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?
A spiritual adult is one that is not influenced by what the world has to offer.
A spiritual adult is not necessarily one who knows their bible back to front and inside out – impressive though that might be. But think of it this way, the Bible is not a reference book like a car manual, to be picked up when something needs to be fixed. It is more like a diet plan, we need to live and breathe it; feed on it and meditate on it. We absorb the word of God like we breathe in fresh air and eat good food – it satisfies our soul and revitalises our spirit. It tunes our spirit to God’s Spirit.
We become spiritually mature when our spirit is tuned into Gods Spirit; when it becomes obvious and natural to do his will; when we are walking with the Lord being his eyes and ears, heart and hands in the world.
Infants need milk, the young need rules and boundaries. As adults we live and die our own choices. And as we do we grow up. As we become more spiritually mature we grow up into God’s will, walking in love and unselfishness because we walk AS God in the world.
Paul keeps having to remind the church about the truth of the gospel – the milk of human kindness if you like. He despairs of their cruelty and spitefulness, their selfish deeds and competitiveness. But he also despairs of the misery that they are bringing on themselves by feeding their human natures at the expense of their spiritual beings.
This body that we are in is simply a vehicle for learning how to love God and how to love each other. As we grow up, we become its master. As we find true happiness in God’s will and work, the affairs and temptations of the world look less attractive. As we are filled with light we are less easily seduced by the darkness.
Our relationships become based on giving and not taking, our work becomes an act of loving service and not grudging.
And as we grow up we become one with others, we become united in our purpose. We do not compete for recognition for our contribution but see it as building the whole – working towards a higher purpose; God’s purpose.
But it is not easy, we know that we need to be constantly vigilant. The victory is won but the battle is still raging – another paradox! The battle for our souls and spirits and hearts and minds and bodies is very real and can overwhelm us.
We do not have a spiritual Godwatch to keep us on the straight and narrow spiritual path – nagging us to make the right choices, do righteous deeds and avoid trouble.
We need to polish our spiritual antennae, unplug our spiritual ears, consciously and consistently act with love, resist judgement and condemnation, stand up against injustice.
God asks us, needs us, to become spiritually mature. He does not need us as children fighting and complaining in the playground of our egos, but grown up and by his side transforming the world.