As I mentioned on Sunday,
much of our society is built around dualistic thinking.
Good – Evil
Righteous – Wicked
Hot – Cold
In – Out
Saved – Condemned
Right – Wrong
It is natural for us to talk and think in this way.
It is normal to understand things in light of their opposites.
We are beings who are constantly evaluating the world that we live in.
We are curious.
We like to define who we are and where we are.
And much of the time,
this is in direct contrast to something or someone else.
This can be a problem when we are talking about spiritual things.
Spirituality can be a little messy.
It doesn’t fit the dualistic paradigm very well.
It is not very black and white.
We like to think it is.
Define who is “in” and who is “out.”
Make sure we are “right” and not “wrong.”
But there are examples from Scripture that show we need to look deeper to understand spirituality.
Jesus is both human and divine.
He is both God and man.
Paul writes about this in Philippians 2:5-8
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.”
The incarnation of God is something that has always been and will always be difficult to wrap our heads around.
Sin and righteousness were, in some way,
present in Jesus during the incarnation.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
For sin to be dealt with, sin had to be taken on.
It wasn’t His, but it was His to own.
This was because we could not own that which was rightfully ours.
Like I wrote earlier,
either or thinking can get in the way of growing spiritually,
The story of Joshua from last Sunday’s reading gives us a clue.
Once when Joshua was by Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you one of us, or one of our adversaries?’ He replied, ‘Neither; but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’”Joshua 5:13-14a
A simple question: “Whose team are you on?”
It never occurred to Joshua that it wasn’t an either/or proposition.
God is for God.
God’s angels are for God.
God’s messengers will do as God directs
and be “for” whomever God directs.
The question Joshua should have asked himself is,
“Who am I for? Am I for God or for myself?”
James says it like this,
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”James 4:7-8
And the same thinking is present in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Big brother does what is right.
He is justified.
Little brother does what is wrong.
He is not justified.
Little brother knows he was wrong
and asks for forgiveness of his father.
He receives a celebration.
Big brother thinks he deserves a celebration.
Questions the celebration given to the little brother.
The father reminds him that his brother has come back.
His brother made amends for his actions.
And reminds the big brother that he can ask for anything he wants to
Which, if he asked for something because he thought he deserved it,
Would have been no better than the little brother wanting his half of the estate.
In other words: Check your motivation son.
The little brother’s spiritual stagnation
was that he took something that wasn’t his.
The big brother’s spiritual stagnation
was that he thought he deserved something that wasn’t his.
Both had expectations of their father.
Both were wrong.
Both needed to repent, at which point, the father would celebrate.
Why is this important to think about?
Because when we have decided that we are one way or the other,
then we close our minds to understanding things as they are.
We have to allow ourselves to lean into the spiritual.
We need to strive to see the complexities of our journey.
Whoever wants to be first must be last.”Mark 9:35
No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”John 3:3
Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up.”James 4:10
Sometimes the spiritual life feels like upside down thinking.
It feels like that because it is so hard to get away from our own minds and allow ourselves to be changed. The world will always try and convince us of either/or thinking.
We must resist.
As Paul writes in Romans 12:2,
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The best thing we can remember along the way is that we are “already but not yet people.”
Through the shed blood of Jesus,
we have been brought into the family of God.
But we are called to a steady walk, in faith, towards righteousness.
Wow. Excellent follow up to a great sermon!