Updated: Jan 30
Today’s lessons focus on choices.
Esau chose to sell his birthright for a bowl of stew because he was “famished.”
Jacob chose to make a bargain of food to his hungry brother, rather than give him what he needed.
Paul told the Christians of Rome you have to choose between sin and righteousness, to pick either the flesh and death or the Spirit and eternity.
Jesus said you have to choose what you want to understand of the word.
Do you not want to understand the meaning, to only hear it and prefer to plead ignorance?
Are you okay with receiving understanding with joy, as if allowed to hold something holy; but then have that joy fall away when troubles arise, because you do not see how the holy meaning is applicable in today’s world … to you specifically?
Do you want hear the word and pretend to care for the world, by misunderstanding the intent of the word; then be lured away from caring by the choking hold of material goals and objectives?
Or, do you want to understand the word so you can tell others and teach them how to understand and bear good fruit and yields?
The choices we make today are what will create our future.
Choices are important.
Who here buys a car because you have the utmost faith that car manufacturers would never make an unsafe vehicle, would never overprice a vehicle unnecessarily, and never lie and mislead in their advertising? Who walks in to a dealership, points to a car, and pays cash on the spot without even a test drive?
The answer is nobody.
We typically put much more time and effort into deciding what car to buy, which house we can afford, what cell phone or computer we want, than we put into understanding what the Book of Genesis says … what the letter to the Romans means … or seeing how there are hungry birds, wilting heat, and choking thorns all around us.
“Why should I understand the word, when I have a priest to tell me the meaning?” Some might think that.
Jesus said, “Let anyone with ears listen!” The exclamation point means that instruction should be emphasized.
It really says, <screaming> “LISTEN UP PEOPLE!!!”
“HEAR THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER!!!”
But, when we are born of sinful flesh … as everyone here is, as every human being on earth is … we have to deal with sin.
Paul wrote that Jesus, God’s own Son, was made of sinful flesh, the same as we are. Jesus knew how to avoid all the mistakes of choosing sin … unlike everyone else during his life. We have the same difficulty everyone else had.
If only our sinful flesh came with a sensory organ that could make us so aware of sin that we would be repulsed and go away from it, rather than be attracted to it.
If only sin stunk to high heavens.
If only sin tasted sour and bitter.
If only sin felt slimy and dirty.
If only sin looked ugly and grotesque.
If only sin sounded alarms and made unwanted noises, like chalk on a blackboard or a vuvuzela’s blast.
But, sin is not unattractive. It smells like perfume, tastes like candy, feels like satin, looks alluring, and sounds like what we want to hear.
Sinful flesh is found clinging to the bones of the politician you adore so much. Without having ever been close enough to understand exactly what he or she does behind closed doors, you give them votes of confidence.
Sinful flesh is found under the robes of the theologians whose books you read, who writes so many explanations about the meaning of Scripture, those that, no matter how hard you try, you can only memorize so many before you begin mixing up one story with another.
Sinful flesh is covered in makeup and costumes on the movie or television actor who you idolize so much that you can barely wait to see his or her new show. It surrounds the directors and script writers, whose interpretations and adaptations you could sit at a café for hours dissecting.
Sinful flesh is on everyone who follows false prophets, like the children of Hamlin followed the Pied Piper.
Never do any of those sinful flesh influencers grab you by the arm and force you to submit to their will.
You choose them, because they know what makes you tick. They know what allures you, so they promise you what they know you want. When you have studied what they have to offer and become filled with the imaginary selfish delights they propose, you choose them.
“Will it be the BMW? Or, the GM?” The choice is yours.
As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”
As far as “understanding the word” goes, you get back what you put in towards understanding. Just put in a little and find your seed has been sowed in all the wrong places. Put in a lot and find your seed has found good soil.
You get what you work for.
When you have been planted in good soil, you grow strong and tall, bearing good fruit, which turns into many seeds. Those seeds can then be planted and allowed to grow in the same good soil, themselves producing good fruit. The result is a bountiful yield, with crops that satisfy many.
So, the metaphor is this: God makes the first seeds – you … us. You sow them where you see best – either in the world of sin or in the spirit of righteousness, which is Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the good soil.
Wherever you plant your seed, you become a plant. We call plants “plants” because they do not have legs and feet, with which to walk about and travel from place to place.
When you place your seed in the good soil of Jesus Christ, you stay put. You grow as a true Christian. The nutrients you digest come from the Word. The understanding you generate comes from the living water that enters your roots. You produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Now, human plants do have feet and legs, so it is possible for us to move all around the world. We can be globe-trotting plants, depending on how well we can afford the travel expenses. We can be local plants or international plants.
The analogy of us being plants then asks how deep our roots are in Christ. How deep does the Holy Spirit grow within us, so that we may endure the temptations of the sinful flesh world, and still choose Spiritual life over worldly death?
Paul said, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” “No condemnation” means we live “according to the Spirit.” Paul wrote, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
When he says “set the mind,” we must have an “understanding of the word,” such that we realize “set the mind” is not meant as a declaration of will. It means more than simply hearing how living “according to the Spirit” must be, and believing what we hear, being filled with the joy of hearing how wonderful it is to live “according to the Spirit” …
… and then wandering out into the world, setting the mind on the flesh, and acting in deeds that are “hostile to God,” and “cannot please God.”
Paul clarified the meaning of “set the mind on the Spirit” by saying, “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Your mind can only be “set on the Spirit” if “Christ is in you.” If Christ controls your thoughts so your actions are righteous. Only if you are the resurrection of Jesus, in the flesh, can you be righteous.
That is why Paul said, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”
You are planted in the Holy Spirit, and you do not walk away from that soil … ever.
Now, take the example of Jacob. He was born of sinful flesh, so he tricked Esau into selling his birthright for stew. That is not having the mind set on the Spirit. It is having the mind set on the flesh.
Jacob did a lot of sinful deeds of the flesh. Jacob also faced one trial after another; including fearing that his brother Esau was hunting for him, wanting to kill him. Can you see that story being retold in the Israeli-Palestinian discontent?
We have to understand the word and see how Jacob had an epiphany. He wrestled with an angel all night long. He came away a changed man. He took on the name Israel, to proclaim that change. He let Esau have the land of his original birthright, going into Egypt and dying there.
We read that Jacob was of a quiet nature. He wasn’t always on the move and actively aggressive, like Esau. Because he was quiet, he was capable of listening. He had ears that could hear.
As Israel, his mind understood the word and his mind became set on the Spirit. He accepted that he must face his troubles, not run from them. He became the seed God would plant, which would produce fruit and yields.
We are sown from those seeds of Israel, which God sowed. Jesus was one of those seeds, through the fruit of Mary, a descendant of Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, and Adam. We are descended from the seed where mind is set on the Spirit, through Christ.
Still, as human beings born of sinful flesh, it is ultimately up to us to choose our fate. We are not the firstborn. We come into this world clinging to someone else’s heel. We have no birthright that will save us from death of the flesh. We must wrestle with our own angels and come to the realization that we will be measured by the fruit and yield that comes from us. We must determine where our minds will be planted.
“Let anyone with ears listen! When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart.”
“The one who hears the word and understands it, [is him or her] who indeed bears fruit and yields,” many times over. That is all who are planted in the Holy Spirit.
We need volunteers for Bible Studies next Sunday. We need those who understand the word, and we need those who want to be taught to understand.
Will you be there? The choice is yours.
#Matthew13123 #Psalm65114 #Isaiah551013 #Genesis251934 #Psalm119105112 #SixthSundayafterPentecost2020 #Proper10 #FifthSundayafterPentecost2014 #makingtherightchoices #sinisattractive #parableofthesower #Romans8111