Sunday, August 27, 2006

August 27, 2006--Half-Heartedness, Love is what its about....

Note: Post based on loose outline notes of the pastor, actual delivered sermon may have video available...sorry...

Text: Matthew 22:35-40

If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest virtue was, 19 of them would undoubtedly say unselfishness. However, if you had asked any of the great Christians of old, they would have replied, Love. You see hwat has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than just semantic or even philosophical importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love.

The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. WE are told told to deny ourselves and take up our crosses in order that we may follow Chrsit; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern thought the notino that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, then that is due to some false teaching and faulty thinking.

IF we truly consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum becasue he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased by the quick and easy fix.

We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of reward. There is the reard which has no natural connection with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that outght to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love, that is why we call a man a mercenary if he marries a mwoman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it....The school student beginning Grammar cannot look forward to his adult enjoyment of reading as a lover looks forward to marriage or a general to victory. He/she has to begin by working for marks, or to escape punishmment, or to please his parents, or at best, in the hope of a future good which he cannot at present imagine or desire. His position, therefore, bears a certain resemblance to that of the mercenary; the reward he is going to get will, in actual fact, be a natural orproper reward, but he will not know that til he has got it.

Likewise, God calls us to leave the mudpie pit. WE don't want to at first, but we want to get God off our backs, so we start to do what he says. As we clean off and move closer to Him, we begin to get closer and closer to understanding, and our overall desire for eternal happiness begins to come closer to fruition. That makes us want it more. The Christian, in relation to heaven, is much like the student. Those who have attained everlasting life in the vision of God doubtless know very well that it is no mere bribe, but the very consummation of their earthly dicisipleship; but we who have not yet attained it cannot know this in the same way, and cannot even begin to know it all except by continuing to obey and finding the first reward of our obedience in our increasing power to desire the ultimate reward. As we move out of the mudpie pit of the quick fix, God gives us hints, glimpses of that eternal life of peace and joy. That makes us want it more.

It reminds me of the film Major Payne. In it, a Marine major has been called in to lead a JROTC group at a boys school. The group is a bunch of slacking misfits who don't want to do what the major says, and want him gone. He finally says that in order to get rid of him, they must get the JROTC olympics trophy from the rival school. So, the boys go to get it. They fail in their attempt to steal it, but they see it right in front of them, and revealed is the goal we should attain to--instead of taking the quick fix of stealing, we should instead strive to earn the trophy. The ringleader of the group goes to the major and says he wants to earn it. Likewise, when God gives us that taste or that glimpse, we get a desire to persevere and continue onward, to move forward with eternal happiness and leave the mudpie pit. What we are after, is much more and much better than a simple trophy, but rather eternal joy, happiness, and love.

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