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F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA 09/12/24 - CBS, Placentia, CA 12/12/25
The 30 or so year life of Jesus, the Son of God, on earth was a turning point in human history. The turn began with the Incarnation which we now celebrate. We who are longtime Christians, especially if raised as Christians, might miss the significance of the Incarnation -- we are just too used to hearing of it. It gets commonplace.
But it was not common place then, and it is not now, because, despite Christian apathy and ignorance, the meaning and significance of the Incarnation continues without diminishment. When God shows up, something is going to happen, and God means to use His Church, which we call "The Body of Christ", to continue showing up.
But that requires that we know what God is up to in our own lives so that we can be lightning rods for the Spirit of God to touch down on earth again. God means to be incarnate through us now. That is the meaning of the Church, the Christian community, being the Body of Christ, or, the Bride of Christ. We are the only Christ some persons may have a chance of knowing.
We prayed in the collect for Christmas Eve that "we... may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit..." That renewal means our becoming like Christ, our acting like Christ, our relating to each other and to the world like Christ related to the world, and now relates to us in the 21st century.
A renewed, stabile, and mature Body of Christ is more
than a match for anything the world, the flesh, or the devil can throw at us. That is what God wants us to become. He wants us to take the offensive against
the works of evil, of rebellion, of ignorance and deception.
Much is not spelled out in the Bible about those events in the Garden of Eden, including much about what God had in mind for Adam and Eve, and what He had in mind for Satan. We read of a Garden in which God created Adam and Eve, in which He gave them the authority to be the keepers of the Garden. We read of two particular trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Of all the plants, only the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil was forbidden. The only thing forbidden to Adam and Eve was eating from that tree.
That tree represented rebellion against God, choosing disobedience. God was not saying that they should not seek knowledge about good and evil. The phrase "good and evil" was a Hebrew idiom meaning "everything from a to z", i.e., everything. Knowledge from good to evil meant universal knowledge -- which only God can have. Satan promised Adam and Eve this universal knowledge as bait to tempt them away from God. If you want to be independent of God, you want universal knowledge because you are on your own. God told them not to eat of that tree because they cannot attain that knowledge and will find themselves in way over their heads -- leading to collapse and self-destruction -- the Fall.
Satan, we read in Revelation 12:7-12, was cast out of heaven down to earth. So one might surmise that God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to raise them up to take the world back from Satan, to finish his defeat.
The other tree in the Garden was the Tree of Life, which appears also in the Book of Revelation, the leaves of which were for the healing of the nations. But even more importantly, the cross upon which persons were crucified was also called a "tree". And with the crucifixion, that tree of death became a "tree of life", life through the death of our self-centeredness and self-will.
So the Tree of Life in the Garden can be considered a precursor and symbol of the cross life which God meant to teach Adam and Eve in preparation for their spiritual war against Satan. But they jumped the gun because they got embroiled with Satan before they knew how to take him on.
That meant that God had to teach Adam and Eve (the human race) the Way of the Cross as His enemies, rather than as His friends. He had to go through the long and tortuous process of winning them (us) back from the world, the flesh, and the devil so that we could be spiritual warriors to defeat Satan and his minions, as Satan had already been defeated in heaven.
It is significant that spiritual warfare, taking on
the forces of darkness, was almost unknown in Old Testament times. It is only
with the coming of the Son of God in the flesh that the people of God begin to
take on Satan directly and with success. The disciples were astonished to see,
not only Jesus casting out demons, but they themselves, as Jesus sent them out
to preach and teach.
Jesus is the Son of God by eternal generation. There is no time when Jesus was not the Son of God. He is the face of God turned toward the creation. "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father". "The Father and I are one..." Jesus understood Himself to be the self-expression of the Father and the Holy Spirit. We will never see the Father, we will never see the Holy Spirit. They are incarnate through Him. Jesus is a sacrament, an outward and visible sign, of the unseen Father and Holy Spirit.
That is the personal nature of our triune God. Understood so, it is easy to see why there can be one and only one access to the Father or Holy Spirit. We must relate to God through His own self-revelation, that is, through Jesus.
There are three essential qualities of children which are expressed by Jesus' relation to the Father. 1. Dependency; 2. Obedience; & 3. Bearing the Image of the Parents. Every child is in that situation. Our success in them resides in how obedient we want to be to our parents.
Jesus relied totally on the provision of the Father and the Holy Spirit for meeting His essential needs. 1. He did not rely on anything in the created order for His ability to be Himself, only on God. 2. He looked totally to the Father for His sense of direction, purpose, and meaning, that is, His moral order.
Jesus thus received His two essential stabilities from God and God alone: 1. His ontological stability, His ability to be Himself in the face of conflict, and 2. His moral stability. That is why He could also then do #3, bear the Image of God fully and completely in the midst of our fallen, insane, and self-destructing world. He could bear the fullness of the Image of God because He Himself, as our creeds say, is of the same substance with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus, unlike us, is uncreated. He is eternal within the life of the Holy and Undivided Trinity.
All of this entered our human realm on that Christmas
night some 20 centuries ago. You would not suspect it from looking at a tiny
newborn baby (which is probably why He came that way), but something big was in
the making -- nothing less than retaking the world for God.
We are sons and daughters of God, not by eternal generation, but by adoption and grace. Jesus is the natural child of the Father, we are adopted children. We have a beginning in time, and, though we can inherit eternal life, we can also die.
Remaking our fallen human nature into warriors for Christ requires first that we be saved, that is, that we get our two fundamental stabilities back under the law and grace of God.
We must first get our ability to be ourselves from God and God alone, no longer from resources in the world. We must move our dependency for our selfhood, our personhood, out of the world to God Himself.
And secondly, we must place our ultimate loyalty and obedience in the Word of God, in the Command of God, in the purpose of God for our existence. Only as we are dependent on God and obedient to Him are we capable of making any serious dent in the kingdom of Satan here on earth. Unless we, the branches, are regrafted into Jesus, the Vine, we can do no lasting good.
The Way of the Cross is the bedrock of all Old Testament teaching. Jesus comes to bring it front and center, to prepare the way for our spiritual warfare -- the Kingdom, as Jesus said, is now among us. He came to complete the reversal of the Fall, the loss of our three stabilities, personal, moral, and bearing the Image of God, and thus be able to retake the world for God.
"He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But, as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."
What is that "power to become sons of God" if not the ability received from God to be fully and wholly our real selves in the face of any possible opposition? The only way to get that power from God is to give up getting it from any other source. If we get our power from a source in the world, we are then children of that power in the world, dependent upon the goodwill and approval of that source. If I get my ability to be myself from your opinion of me, then I am dependent upon you, not upon God
But if we are empowered by God, then that power is coming from a depth which no force or opposition on earth can touch. We become invulnerable to the works of the evil-minded. Even if we are hurt or die, the effect of our witness will be to raise up new witnesses, and we, ourselves, will carry on with Jesus in His Kingdom in heaven. The other side had no defense against the offense of the righteous. The blood of the martyrs is still the seed of the Church of God.
But people notice that the children of God have that stability mostly when the children of God are speaking for God, when they are sharing the truth which God has spoken which sets men free from domination by the world, the flesh, and/or the devil. It is the truth of God which shines the offending light into the darkness -- which then creates the ugly response to shut down the light. And it is then that we are tested as to whether we are standing on the eternal Hand of God, not on any earthly platform.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...." God sent His Son into the world not only to be, but to say something, to issue a command from the highest source in all existence. The Son came into the world to sift the obedient from the disobedient, to cement together that community begun with Abraham some 19 centuries earlier, which would contain and speak the Word which God has for us to hear.
Jesus comes to place us on that rock of solid ground upon which to rest our dependency, the power of the Holy Spirit, from which we can speak the Word of God with freedom and conviction. No one can pull the rug out from under us, and the spoken word will reach into the hearts of those who have not so seared their consciences that they can no longer hear truth or choose life.
And just so, the kingdom of Satan will be plundered.
Souls will be released, and set free to be truth-seekers, to be restored to
their true Source of Being, and true Giver of their reason for existence.
So, how is the Church doing? Not well. Not well in Western Civilization.
The Church lost its public testimony over a century ago. We built our testimony on sand, and the storms of secular and now pagan fury swept our testimony from the public arena. So-called "conservative" leadership have consistently stood on unstable ground, with no clear understanding of that to which God is calling His people in modern times. And many of them have sold their ministries to empire building and raking in funds, rather than to the mission for which God had called them.
The results are appalling. We have hardly a politician who understands Biblical government. We have given over our children to a system of dis-education, which is little more than a brain-washing for the forces of secular humanism, and now neo-paganism. We Christians are losing our children at the rate of about 85% -- who, when they leave home, also leave what Christian faith they had, and never return. Failure to prepare our children for the Kingdom of God is child-abuse. And the fault stands with the clergy of the Church and with parents who are more interested in their financial assets, or whatever..., than in raising children for God. Or maybe who just never heard that there is a better way.
But God has not fallen off His throne. The Word of God is still there to be read, the sacraments of God are still there to minister to our deep need for communion with our Creator, the Holy Spirit is still available to undergird us with the power of being which no man can remove. Nothing has diminished of what Jesus has provided for us.
So, a challenge.
If you are disturbed at where the Church, America, or Western Civilization are going, if you think that the little baby whose birth we now celebrate might have a helpful response for you, if you might want to become a Christian, or renew your Christian faith to be effective for Christ in the world, then, in your heart make that commitment to God this morning, as you pray, as you kneel at the altar, so that we singly and bound together, can become that Body of Christ on earth, the visible, tangible witness and testimony to the word and power of God to change all things .
Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us Your only begotten Son to take our fallen nature upon HImself, and as at this time, to be born of a pure virgin: grant that we, being regenerate and made Your children by adoption and grace, might become that living, visible, tangible, audible testimony, the sacrament of Your presence in the world -- which might rightly be called the Body of Christ on earth.
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