Sunday’s Sermon

036 Proper 5 Year B
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We have all experienced moments of doubt, haven’t we. Self-doubt can come from within or without. It could be from an event, or a even a comment from someone challenging your competency.

Self-doubt is incredibly destructive. And it is one of the weapons used against the Church and Christians by the enemy.

Genesis 3 tells us that the serpent was cunning, more cunning than any beast of the field. He does not come against God and what God had said directly. No – he is subtle. What he does is to begin to sow seeds of doubt into Adam and Eve’s mind. I say Adam and Eve because Adam is almost certainly standing next to eve as this conversation takes place as v6 shows, and he does not intervene.

The doubt that the serpent sows is very, very powerful. First he slightly twists God’s words to Adam. “”Did God say, `You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” Now the serpent knows full well what God actually said. What he is doing is setting Eve up. The issue is not WHAT he said, but WHY he said it. Eve corrects the serpent, although her correction is not right – she too misquotes God. And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden;
[3] but God said, `You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'”

Of course, God did not say that to touch it would result in death. Eve shows she is not certain what God has said. And so the serpent lowers the boom:

“You will not die.
For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Satan effectively questions God’s motive in forbidding Adam and Eve from eating the fruit.

The serpent has now placed into Eve’s mind doubt. And what is that doubt? That God is holding back on them. She is doubting the fullness of God’s word to her. Satan has weaved a suggestion into her mind that the reason why God forbids them to eat from this tree is because it would benefit them to do so in a way God does want to them to experience.

And when that thought hit home for Eve and then Adam the horrific damage was done – they doubted God’s word to them and they doubted God’s goodness to them.

If the enemy can force us off the path of complete trust in God; if satan can get believers to begin to doubt God – to get them to think that God is holding back something – whether it’s a blessing, or a healing, a job, or a baby, or a spouse, or finance – if we get tot he point of thinking “why is God holding back this blessing from me” then the enemy has done his job.

I have said this before – satan is not looking so much to have Christians lose their faith – or to turn them so that they would become unbelievers. For the most part that can’t happen. What satan wants to do is for us to live our life without deep, trusting faith; without the peace of God ruling in our lives; without joy; without happiness; without experiencing the destiny and fullness God has for us in this life.

If we can become ineffective, fearful, oppressed, joyless, pessimistic and doubting then we have become useless for the kingdom of God. We ourselves will go to be with the Lord when we die, but we would have wasted the life God had given us on earth and satan would be delighted with that.

This is the tactic that satan used against Jesus and his ministry. Our gospel reading shows us two ways that satan went after Jesus. The first was to try and sow seeds of doubt into the hearts and minds of those who SAW Jesus’ ministry. Throughout the gospels, the opposition of the pharisees and the sadducees was extremely significant. Because they were the established religious rulers – the historic episcopacy if you like – their opposition to Jesus caused people to doubt Jesus’ claims and even his signs. In this account satan is using the scribes. The accusation was that Jesus’ ability to drive OUT demons was in fact a demonic gift. In the light of how Jesus’ responds to this issue; if a kingdom is divided against itself how can it stand; we may think this is a somewhat lame and pathetic attempt. Yet consider who the scribes were. These were the teachers of the law – the experts in the law. ALL they did was study the hebrew scriptures and they were entrusted as judges in the sanhedrin. If 95% of the senate and 95% of the house of representatives and the president all said that a particular personw as wrong – would you defy them?

The fact that Jesus’ response blew the Scribes argument out of the water is somewhat irrelevant. Doubt has been sown into peoples hearts, simply because the scribes rejected Jesus.

You see this in the fourth gospel, chapter 7 – the people are looking for Jesus at a feast: The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?”
[12] And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.”
[13] Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.

The fear of the Jews – the fear of being thrown out of the synagogue; the fear of being ostracized.

The second way that satan attempts to derail Jesus’ ministry is through his own family. Having sown deeds of doubt amongst the people, Jesus now is confronted with the doubts of his own family. V21 says that the family had come to ‘seize’ him because he was beside himself. Well, the RSV is being polite – the more literal rendering is “he is out of his mind.”

Again, imagine the situation. Your son, your brother is causing ripples amongst the highest levels of your nations hierarchy and saying things which sound as if he is the Messianic hope which had been promised by the prophets!

They had begun to doubt Jesus, they had begun to doubt his state of mind, and their doubt was an attempt to make Jesus doubt his own ministry and calling – something which never happened.

From the moment Jesus left the peaceful refuge of the workshop where he had learned his trade as young boy and the quite village of Nazareth to begin his public ministry, Jesus was bombarded with doubt and accusations and attempts to discredit him, to derail his ministry and, through the temptations by the devil, to deny his destiny.

And yet Jesus never once had doubted his ministry, nor his Father’s goodness to him, nor his destiny.

My friends, the enemy will do all he can to bring your faith down to a point of being ineffective. And he will use many things, including disillusionment, troubles, disappointments and, of course, doubt.

We are all going to experience the waves of doubt. But we must be both prepared and equipped to fight those waves off.

We begin by keeping our focus on Jesus and his ways in every area of our life. In our epistle reading look what Paul says – if you have your bulletin at hand follow me as I read it: knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.
[15] For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
[16]
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day.

[17] For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
[18] because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Now the context to what he says here is found at the beginning of the chapter. He is telling the Corinthians not to lose heart or to doubt. Yes, the Christian life is hard. Yes, the ministry is hard. The gospel can seemed veiled because people do not see it. But Paul encourages them to keep preaching the gospel of Christ. And Paul contrasts the fact that our bodies while fragile, earthen vessels, have the excellence of the power of God in them.

So, even though We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;

[9] persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
[10] always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies, we must not give up – nor are we to not lose heart.

The key for Paul is to focus on what is NOT seen. We have become so conditioned to simply look to the natural, even as Christians. We let the natural have supremacy in our thinking and we too often ignore the spiritual realities. This means that when we focus on what we can see, we can doubt the promises of God because we start to try and work out HOW something can change. But our own working out usually does not work. How can anything good come from this mess? How can this situation EVER be turned around? From our own perspective, it can’t – we see no way out and this leads to despair and a lose of peace and even panic.

But that is when we must look into the eternal, spiritual realm. We look into the promises of God and then we see that our God can do all things – no economic situation, or national crisis limits our God or reduces his power. Therefore we can trust in him – have faith and trust in him to do what he has promised to do, and to lead us, take care of us and uphold us.

Paul says that even our suffering – our affliction is but for a moment compared to eternity. We have eternity inside of us by the Holy Spirit. We are being renewed spiritually every day. What most of us SEES every day is our bodies growing old and failing with aches and pains and grey hairs. But the REALITY is that we are being prepared for life in the presence of Jesus and we will live for eternity. DO you feel this morning that you will live forever?

When we hold that vision front and center – when we see the glorious wonders that our trust in god has given us – then we can face the waves of doubt head on and then say – “No – I do not doubt because what I know is true: He who raised Jesus from the dead WILL, WILL raise you and I up WITH Jesus and present us into the presence of our lord and Saviour!!

So when doubt comes, when the enemy seeks to rob you of your peace, joy and hope, look to the Lord – look to the eternal – As our Psalm proclaims:

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
[6] my soul waits for the LORD
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
[7] O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is plenteous redemption.

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