Life in the Scriptures is a plan of daily Bible readings used by millions of Christians around the world. Based on the ancient cycle of prayer and worship known as the Church Year, it takes us through the Old Testament once, the New Testament twice, and the Psalms several times each year, building a growing storehouse of Biblical knowledge and understanding. The readings take us into the Bible; the Bible takes us into God.
February 24, 2013
Second Sunday in Lent Sermon
Keep Psalm 86, 142, 1 Kings 8:35-43,
Colossians 3:8-17 Second Sunday in Lent February 24, 2013
is a beautiful old word that was a favourite of Christians in past generations. It is not used very often today, I hope that
is not because people no longer believe in it.
The word is "Providence."
Providence is the activity of the Provider. It refers to God providing
for our needs. From Him we receive our creation,
preservation, all the blessings of this life, and all the means of grace. All things needful for happiness in this
life, and the next come to us freely as gifts from God. Providence also refers to God's direction and
protection of us. It refers to His
guiding our lives toward His intended goal.
Under His Providential guidance, as St. Paul wrote in Romans 8:28;
"all things work together for good to those who love God."
is one of the many doctrines addressed in today's Scriptures and Collects. Instead of "Providence," the
Collect uses the word, "keep," and, it seems to me that it uses it in
the sense of the Old Testament Hebrew word that is often translated as both
guard and keep. It refers to God to
guarding and protecting us, both physically and spiritually. I think there is another meaning to the word,
"keep," and that is to fence.
So to ask God to keep us is to ask Him to build a fence around us that
will keep us in the place where we ought to stay, and out of the places we
should not go.
we looked at the reading in 1 Kings 8, I saw Solomon asking God to keep Israel out
of places she should not go. That prayer
is coupled with another petition, repeated several times in the chapter, a
prayer for forgiveness, a prayer that when Israel does sin, does stray into
those places she should not go, God will have mercy upon her, cause her to turn
to Him and seek Him in His holy Temple, and bring her back to faith and to God. "Hear Thou in Heaven," Solomon
prayed, "and forgive the sin of Thy
at the reading in Colossians 3, I see a prayer about keeping us in the place
where we should always be. The passage
expounds and explains the meaning of two earlier verses, not officially
included in the Lectionary, but which I read today because they are integral to
understanding and practicing the message of Colossians 3. They are verses 9 and 10 which tell us we
have put off the old and put on the new.
The old refers to the unGodly thoughts and actions identified in verses
5 and 8, things like fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil
concupiscence, covetousness, anger, wrath malice, blasphemy, and filthy
communication. These are not the only
unGodly things we are to put off, if we are Christians, but they are certainly
some of them, and we are to take them off and throw them away like ragged,
maggot infested garments. We are to
throw them in the trash, and not allow them to characterise our lives
anymore. In fact, these things are so
wicked that we are not even to give the appearance of endorsing them. In their places we are to put on the pure,
new, and holy garments of the righteousness of Christ. So, instead of fornication, we are to put on chastity. Instead of inordinate affection, which is a
burning desire to have something, it could be a boat, a horse, or a lifestyle
of self indulgence and luxury, we are to put on self control, moderation, self
discipline, and even a certain amount of self denial, in the realisation that
even good things are not always expedient.
don't misunderstand me here. I am not
saying we should not enjoy the fruits of our labours. We should enjoy them. God wants us to enjoy them. I am saying that having wealth and
possessions and pleasures is like living with lions, there is an element of danger
in them. There is always the chance that
they will consume you.
goes on to exhort us to put on, that is to dress in and have as our defining
characteristics, things like mercy. You
know what mercy is. Mercy is what you
want from God on the day you stand before Him and He reviews all your
sins. Let mercy characterise us here and
now. You know what kindness is, it is
what you want God to have when you see that you cannot atone for your own sins,
or make yourself acceptable to Him. You
know what forbearance is, it's what you want us to have when you say or do
something foolish or inappropriate, or even mean. Be kind to one another. Let forbearance characterise you.
at the way Paul contrasts the old things with the new. The old is characterised by fornication; the
new by charity, love. The old is given
to covetousness, the new is given to longsuffering. The old is given to wrath and malice, the new
is given to kindness, forbearance, and forgiveness. The old is given to filthy communication, the
new speaks in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in the
heart. The old is controlled by
inordinate affections and covetousness, the new, and for this we will go back
to the very first verse of the chapter, for it is the main point of this whole
passage; the new seeks those things which are above. It has set its affections on the things of
God, not of earth (Col. 3:1-2). It lives
in a state of continually mortifying, or crucifying sinful desires, and living
for Christ in this life.
trying to say today, that these things of Godliness, things like forbearance,
kindness, forgiveness, and love need to become habits in our lives. They need to become the habitual ways we
respond to situations and people in life.
That won't happen unless we intentionally cultivate them. We must train these things into ourselves
until they become habit. And then we
must continually reinforce that training day in and day out for the rest of our
lives. Otherwise we will slip back into
the old, unGodly habits of anger, inordinate affections, and filthy communications. These old habits are natural to us. they are like weeds in a garden, they grow
naturally, and we have to fight them to control them. It is Godliness that is foreign to us. Like flowers and vegetables, Godliness must be
planted and nurtured, or it won't grow.
We all know it just takes a couple of weeks of neglect to turn a beautiful
garden into a weed bed. Let us not neglect to cultivate Godliness in us.
pondering the doctrine of the Providence of God, we are asking Him to use His
power for our benefit. We're asking Him
to keep us from all things that hurt body and soul, which also means to keep us
in those things that aid and heal us. The
words of Psalm 86:11 express this prayer well.
Let us close with theme.
me thy way, O Lord, and I will walk in thy truth. O knit my heart unto thee, that I may fear