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<p>Lev 20:1-2 “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Again, you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who gives any of his descendants to Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones.”
<p>Today it is acceptable to kill our children, by abortion, we call it choice, we say that the woman has the right to choose whether she wants that baby or not. We do not say that it is a sacrifice to our own selfishness but it might as well be to satisfy Molech. I ask this question, why do we kill the innocent and yet give murderers life? In the time that Leviticus was written, the people of the land that would become Israel, were practicing human sacrifice, they would throw a child into the fire before this god to placate him.</p>
<p>Lev 20:10-13 “The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death. The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death. They have committed perversion. Their blood shall be upon them. If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.”</p>
<p>Here we see sexual sins adultery, incest, and homosexuality all call for the death penalty. Today we do not kill people who commit these sexual sins, but up to the 1970’s we still condemned these as perversions. As time went on it became a victim-less crime if you committed adultery. Then divorce became no fault, so instead of adultery, there was not any cause for harm and of course this caused the laws to be changed so you could still divorce but it was a no fault, just incompatibility. In the case of homosexuality, it became an alternative life style, and today the courts have caused this to be an acceptable way of life and ordered that marriage was also allowed.
Sin however, is still sin, sexual sins are not victim-less, there is much pain in this type of activity, marriage between a man and a woman was supposed to be something you entered into for life. It was not something that you entered into with the expectation of sex outside of your marriage. Of course the really terrible part of all this loosening morals, comes to the forefront with the advent of incest. We now have at least one group who wants man boy love to be acceptable, and at least once or twice in any given month there are news stories of men or women having affairs with children. Then of course we all have had to see and hear reports of some priests and pastors having abused young boys and girls.
<p>Lev 20:14-16 “If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is wickedness. They shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you. If a man mates with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. If a woman approaches any animal and mates with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them.”
<p>Polygamy is also not tolerated, yet it too has raised its ugly head in some parts of our nation. Men marrying more than one woman, sometimes even a woman and her daughter. Now that we have begun to allow in our country for different types of marriage, there has been at least one case where a woman wanted to marry her German Shepherd, so far that one has not gained traction, but I wonder, in a society where sexual perversion has become the norm, can it be far off?
<p>Lev 20:21 “If a man takes his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing. He has uncovered his brother’s nakedness. They shall be childless.”
In the Hebrew law there is one instance where a man shall take his brother’s wife to be his wife. If the brother died and there were no sons born to carry on the name of the family, the brother would marry his brother’s wife and hisfirst born son would be named after his brother in order to carry on the name of the family. One of the crimes of Herod was that he married his brother’s wife, Herodias, and his brother was still living.

 

 

Lev 20:22-24 “You shall therefore keep all My statutes and all My judgments, and perform them, that the land where I am bringing you to dwell may not vomit you out. And you shall not walk in the statutes of the nation which I am casting out before you; for they commit all these things, and therefore I abhor them. But I have said to you, “You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the people’s.”
<p>Lev 20:26 “And you shall be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.” The Israelites were to be a people separated out from the world, they were to show that God had a way for people to live, they were to possess the land of Canaan, (Israel) and destroy the people of that land so that the perversions they had practiced would be eradicated from the earth. They were to follow the dictates of the law, and were to also proselytize those of the lands around them to bring them into the family of God. They were to do this by living holy lives by hating that which God hated and loving one another. They were also to treat others in love not in hate, they were to show that God was the God of all people and would welcome any who would accept His way of living. We see that there were people who actually did come to accept Yahweh as God of all, but as time went on there were many things that were placed in the way of people becoming a part of the Jewish tradition.
<p>When the time was right, the scriptures say, Jesus was born, and 30 years later began to preach and teach. He was God in human form, he healed and taught, and died and rose from the dead. He defeated sin and death, and when it was all done and He returned to his rightful place in heaven, the men and women he had walked with and taught began to reach out to others and invite them to join the Kingdom of Heaven. In just 300 years they changed the way people perceived God, the Church was formed and began to supplant the pagan religions of the world with the truth of The Way of Christ. Along the way things got out of sync and today we have many groups claiming to hold the truth.
<p>However, we can see that for all the claims, the one thing that is sorely missing is this: Mat 5:48 “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” We are far from perfect, we have allowed ourselves to become as the ancient Jews. We have made our own rules and laws, and ignored God’s way of life. We who call ourselves Christians seem to have abandoned the way of Christ, and have decided that we are not in need of the rules that Christ set forth. The greatest of the Commandments is that you shall have no other gods before me, yet we have many gods. We worship at the altar of power, money, possessions, and worst of all, perversion. Many have also thrown out the 2nd greatest commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself.”</p>
<p>Many people these days don’t even know their neighbor’s, much less care anything for them or about them. How many of your neighbor’s go to Church, or even if they go to Church, do they know Jesus Christ as Lord? We have been tasked with completing the work that Jesus started and showed us, he sends us and gives us the abilities we need to touch other hearts and lives with the gospel that he taught his disciples. How many “Christians” are actually living for Christ, how many are living lives of love for others?</p>

1Pe 1:15-16 “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written,

“BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” “ How many of those who call themselves Christian actually, work at being holy? If what we concentrate on and what we work for is possessions, or fame, or fortune, are we working on holiness or are we just like everyone else in this world. We are called apart, not of this world, but of the Kingdom of God. God has set us apart that we might be his people and not of this world. Apeople that are set free from sin and living for Christ. Like Paul we should be people who are running the race to claim the prize, eternal life in the presence of almighty God. Just as the people of Israel were surrounded by pagans, so too are we this day. We can choose today to follow the world and its perversions, taking on the sickness of our society, or follow Christ and take on his persona, his way of living.

 
<p>As we have been called to be holy as God is holy, means we are to strive for holiness in our own lives. We shall not become perfect for we are not God, but we are to strive for that perfection, as Paul writes, Php_2:5 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” in other words, spend time and effort in becoming like Christ. God has given us the Holy Spirit to help us in our walk with Him, to give us that which we need in the situations of life, to show that we are not carnal, not of this world but rather, children of God.

We are to oppose sin where and when we can, we are to stand up for the downtrodden, the infirm, widows and orphans as it says in the scriptures. One other thing that Christ has said is important for all of us to remember, Mat_10:33 “But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” When the Israelites entered the promised land, they were challenged by this: Deu 30:19 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;” The same invitation is given by God today: Choose life in Christ, not life in hell.

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Rom 6:12-23 NKJV ” Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.  (13)  And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  (14)  For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.  (15)  What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!  (16)  Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?  (17)  But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  (18)  And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.  (19)  I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.  (20)  For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  (21)  What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.  (22)  But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.  (23)  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Paul today challenges those who claim the name of Christ, to Holy Living. He says that we must make Holy Choices as we go through our daily living. He says that you don’t want to allow sin to have dominion over your mortal bodies, do not sin just because you are no longer under law but under grace.

Through baptism we have been freed from sin and are now servants of righteousness. Paul also says that following God yields eternal benefits, at the end of our journey is total sanctification and eternal life with God and our fellow believers. Paul ends by telling us that sin pays a wage, that wage is eternal death eternity in the darkness away from the light of God, better known as Hell, but that salvation comes to us as a free gift, through Jesus Christ.

Paul here talks of slavery, slavery to sin which means we obey sin as our master and live sinful lives. We have given our minds and hearts to sin. Yet here is the truth of life, it is that we have been freed from slavery to sin, we no longer live enthralled by sin. Know that Jesus by his death and resurrection has defeated death and has freed us from sin which leads to death, instead we are now free to live Holy lives. Of course we still live in our mortal bodies which are subject to temptation and therefore we cling to the cross and to the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross for our sins. In baptism we died to sin in likeness to the death of Christ, and were raised from death to new life.

Living that life is a choice we must make daily. There is a story told of a man who says to God, “Lord, I have not sinned today, I have not done anything that would bring shame to your name, I thank you that this is the case, but now Lord, I pray you will be with me this day, as I leave my bed to begin to live in the world today, help me to remain without sin.”

That is a story, but it illustrates the need for us to realize just who we are and of course that we are mortal, subject to sin because there is much sinfulness around us. So, we need to start our day in conversation with our God, acknowledging His sovereignty over us, and that we are in need of His guidance as we move through our day. Secondly, as Christian people we are to offer ourselves to God as available to be instruments to His will for our lives.

I know that some folks who call themselves Christians also say that they are allowed to do what they want, the scriptures say that they are no longer under the law, but, are under grace. If they sin they can go to God and ask forgiveness for that sin that they enjoyed doing and because of grace they will be forgiven. The problem with that is we are not under the law, but the law is still there to identify that which is sin for us.

What we have here is that we are free from sin, but, by the same token we are to become willing servants of righteousness. In order to embrace that liberty that is ours by faith in Christ, we must also surrender ourselves to the righteousness of God, we cannot neglect the surrender part so that we can continue to sin. If we do then we are in essence saying to God that we appreciate the freedom of liberty, but, we don’t want to be tied to righteousness either, we want to be our own god. That is the consignment of ourselves to an eternity in Hell. An eternity in the outer darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. In other words, an eternity divorced from God and his righteousness.

One truth that we seem to forget at times, the devil has no ammunition except what we give him. In other words, the temptations that are thrown at us are just that, they have no power over us unless we allow it.

Paul tells the Roman church, “No longer present yourselves.” In other words don’t allow your personality to be tainted by sin, don’t succumb to lust in your flesh and don’t allow your mind to become corrupted by your position or power. We have seen Governors, and Representatives brought low by their inability to perform their duties properly because of what they had become when they began to lust after others. It almost brought down a presidency, and that is a difficult thing to contemplate, but lust is powerful.

In place of giving yourselves to sin, Paul says we are to present ourselves to God. Present ourselves as willing instruments to live holy lives so that those we once were sinners with, will see that we have indeed changed we no longer live life as we once did, we are free from that life. We are now people who have a new way of living and a new way of dealing with life. Lust and anger and pride are no longer a part of our lives, we instead practice a different way humility is our cloak, grace our conversation and love for neighbor our walk. God is our sovereign we no longer walk in the shadow of false gods, nor are we walking with the emotions and distractions of the false gods of the world. We walk instead as citizens of heaven, we walk in the knowledge of Christ Jesus, and the free gift of eternal life through His sacrifice for us at Calvary.

Paul speaks of slavery, in our day and age that word has connotations that we don’t very much want to have to think about, yet, it is true that whatever way we decide to follow, that way is our master. We were enslaved to sin and now we are slaves to righteousness. We were at one time willing followers of sin, and are now willing followers of life. In essence, we have changed masters. One thing is for sure, there is no middle ground. We follow the Sovereign of the Universe. He is our Lord, and our Savior.

Paul then speaks of the advantage that is ours, first though he speaks about sin and what advantage we receive from sin. For many who get deep into sin they reap only shame and guilt, for even those of us who only venture into a little sin, there is still that guilty feeling. That worry that someone will find out and expose our sinfulness. We see it happen on a larger scale of course with politicians, and teachers who are caught in sexual sins, but also those who steal from their employers, just a few years ago it happened in our County, for just a few thousand dollars. Sin does not pay a very good wage. That is what Paul says in verse 23. For the wages of sin are death, that death is eternal, but it is not sleeping it is living in HELL, .

Paul does not let up in this message, he continues to hammer away. Even the thought that many of us have, “I wonder if that is really fun?” “I wonder if I can just buy one lottery ticket?” He assaults these thoughts and behaviors. He worries us and shakes us up You are Christians he says. Sin no longer has control over your lives, sin no longer reigns supreme as it once did. You say you follow Christ, yet you continue in sin. Stop excusing lapses in living holy lives by saying it’s OK we are under grace. You say you are Christians, if you truly are, then you belong to Christ, so act like it!

The wages of sin may be death, but the FREE GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Sovereign, our Lord. Let people see your love of God in all that you do, for then they will say, “wow, you sure have changed.”

 

 

Joh 6:47-58 NKJV Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. (48) I am the bread of life. (49) Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. (50) This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. (51) I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (52) The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” (53) Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. (54) Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (55) For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. (56) He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (57) As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. (58) This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

I have to say, that I can understand why this is a difficult saying for those who heard it. Cannibalism is not something that anyone can work through very quickly or easily. The early church had a very hard time with this, because the folks who were not members of the church heard that they ate the body and drank the blood of Jesus. They of course accused the church of being cannibals, eating flesh and drinking blood. The Eucharist was not clearly understood, and of course the explanation was not available to those outside the church. We do have a problem with that, we speak of the Nave, the Chancel, which includes the Altar. The Nave is actually the area where you are sitting today. Behind you, in the entrance hall is actually what is called the Narthex. The Chancel and the Altar are of course here.

When things get in the way of understanding it becomes a stumbling block to others.

Many folks have no idea what you are talking about when you refer to the table as an altar, the Nave is really the congregational sitting area. The Narthex is an entrance hall. Much better to use language that is understandable. It is the same thing with the Eucharist, Holy Communion, or, the Lord’s Supper. When we forget that Jesus, spoke in ways that people understood that he told stories that they saw as life stories. He spoke of farming, ranching, merchants and of course other parts of life such as tax collectors and priests and lawyers.

The important thing for us to remember is that we are living in this world, even though we are part of the Kingdom of God, we have to do those things that will make folks want to be a part of our Kingdom, not scare them off with $10 words.

Salvation, is very simple, there is only one thing that is a prerequisite to salvation, that is belief in Christ as Lord and God. We see that those who he was speaking to in this portion of scripture had a real problem understanding what he was talking about. When he told them, some of them decided they could not follow him any more. I would rather tell folks plainly and simply about Jesus and the church and what they mean to me and to those who are followers of Jesus. There are enough problems for those who follow Christ today, without muddying the waters.

So to make clear with the issue of the Eucharist, it is really a service of remembrance and thanksgiving. We remember the grace of Christ, his action to bring salvation to all who will believe. We remember too that he has promised to return for the Church. We eat the bread which represents the body that was hung on the cross, and drink unfermented wine (grape juice) which reminds us of the blood that was spilled by our God for us.

In other words if someone hears us talk of the service of Communion as a service of remembrance of the acts of grace that the Lord performed for us, makes it easier for others to understand what it is we are doing, and then if we explain that it is a remembrance of the last meal that Jesus ate with his disciples, before his death, it makes it even easier. If we want people to come and be a part of our fellowship, we need to make it as easy as we can for them to do so. Once someone begins to come and worship with us, they will begin to get a better picture of who we are, and how Jesus has changed us.

I used to play a lot of golf, I don’t play since I had some physical problems, but I still love the game and watch it when I can. When I started to play, I had a friend who showed me how to play, he would tell me that I was slicing the ball, and I finally had to ask him what he meant. My ball kept going to the right, usually into the trees or the high grass, he explained to me that this was known as a slice for a right handed golfer. I asked then what if I sent the ball off to my left, and he told me that was a hook. Then I began to look for what was going on when a golfer would hit the ball, and I began to understand that golfers would cut the grass from under the ball when they hit it on the fairway, that was taking divot, looked like ripping out some grass to me, but to them it was a divot. In other words we church folks aren’t the only ones with our own language.

I enjoyed the golf a lot more when I understood better what it was they were talking about, just as I think people who are not familiar with church, are much more comfortable when they understand what Church folks are talking about. So when we talk about these things, we need to put them in language that folks who may visit our Church, will be able to understand. It makes them comfortable and I personally think it is better for you and I as well. After all we don’t refer to the entrance to our home as the narthex, it is just the entrance. We sit at a table, or in a living room, not in a nave, and our dining or kitchen table is just a table. When Jesus and the disciples ate their meal, they sat at a table, not at an altar. Why don’t we speak and act as they did?

Well of course for one thing, we are not just a bunch of people enjoying a meal together, we are the CHURCH, and we have our own way of remembering the actions of our Lord. That is true of course, but I think we may have gone a bit overboard, and it is much better to make things simple for those who don’t have a clue what we are about. Listening to what Jesus says in today’s reading makes it clear that he made it as simple as he could, then he explained to them in even simpler terms. They understood and some left, while the others stayed.

It was even clearer to them at the supper that they celebrated, and we remember, bread represented the body of Christ that was literally ripped in shreds by the whipping he sustained. Wine represented the blood that was spilled by that whipping and by the cruelty of the crucifixion. So we celebrate by eating the flesh (bread) and drinking the blood, (wine) so we can remember what the disciples remembered. This was the first actual celebration or holiday for the church.

Holy Week, the celebration of the entire week from the triumphal entry until the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Thursday night is the celebration of this last supper, the teaching of the new passover if you will. This is the night that Jesus changes the passover meal into a meal of remembrance of his mighty acts of death and resurrection. This is God’s next step in the story of creation, the movement of God’s plan for those who will be His people in His kingdom. The final sacrifice, there can be no more for this is THE perfect sacrifice.

Let us then remember, that Christ died that we might live eternally, and that our eternal life is not sometime in the future but it is now, and eternally in the presence of God, who gave Himself that we might be reconciled to Him, and join again with Him. As it was in the beginning, and will be forever.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, as you gave the first man life, and loved all of your creation even when we walked away from you, may we today begin again the journey we shall be on with you for all eternity. We have seen your grace in our lives and we praise you for all that it means in our lives. May we reflect always your love for this your creation, that your creation may see you in us. In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

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Pastor and Wife

John & Yvonne Quigley, John is a retired Pastor in the UMC. This blog is about the journey I am on with Christ.