(Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1:1-18)
The last Sunday of Advent, I preached about the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she would become pregnant via the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Son of God. The sermon explored how the spiritual and worldly realms are not separated by an impenetrable boundary that cannot be passed; instead, the boundary is penetrable. It is not a hard boundary; it is a soft boundary. The divine passes into and out of our world, and we glimpse and experience the spiritual world through these divine visitors. As the apostle Paul stated in 1 Corinthians, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; . . now [we] know in part” (13:12). While we walk the Earth, we see God through a glass, darkly, and we know in part, but God sends us divine messengers to assist us in seeing and knowing him.
We have a phrase for this seeing and knowing God: “the mind of Christ.” Mary gave birth to Jesus – the Word through whom all things were made, who was with God in the beginning and who was, in fact, God – who was the ultimate divine messenger who passed the boundary between the spiritual and material worlds and lived among us as one of us. As his disciples, we have the mind of Christ, as stated in 1 Corinthians 2:16. Since the mind of Christ is accessible to us, we can see and know God. Of course, being human, we do not have the mind of Christ perfectly, nor do we see and know God perfectly. We have to be active disciples, which means we have to be disciplined (another form of the word “disciple”) so that we grow in Christ. My favorite Bible passage that describes this disciple discipline is Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
We are not to conform to the pattern of this world; rather, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We are to have the mind of Christ and, in this way, we can see and know God more clearly. This sounds simple enough but, as we live, we are sorely tested and tempted to be conformed to this world! There are obvious ways to be conformed to this world. We can become materialistic, selfish, self-serving, impatient, self-pitying, arrogant, prideful, lustful, jealous, envious, angry, despondent, greedy, lazy – oh, so many obvious ways to be conformed to this world! But there are subtle ways to be conformed to this world, too. One of the subtle ways that we are conformed to this world is when we become negative. Instead of seeing blessings, we see curses. Instead of seeing beauty, we see ugliness. Instead of seeing the good, we see the bad. Instead of seeing grace, we see judgment. Instead of seeing hope, we see despair. Instead of seeing love, we see hate. Instead of seeing peace, we see war. Instead of seeing faith, we see fear. Instead of seeing gratitude, we see ingratitude. Instead of seeing praise, we see condemnation. You get the picture. We become negative and see only the negative. We have become conformed to the pattern of the world.
The Bible teaches us powerful spiritual laws. Spiritual laws are, basically, statements of the way the spiritual world – the world of God – works. For example, Galatians 6:7 states, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” This is the spiritual Law of Balance. Another example is Jesus’ teaching, “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them” (Mt 13:12). This is the spiritual Law of Abundance. And there is Jesus teaching, “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it” (Lk 17:33). This is the spiritual Law of Higher Will.
There is another spiritual law that reveals that the negativity of the world that we conform to is not from God and his world. The understanding of this spiritual law allows us to see as God sees and know as God knows; it allows us to see and know with the mind of Christ. It is the Law of Perfection, and it is stated in the Letter to the Ephesians in verse 3: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” We have been blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Through and in Christ, we have already received every spiritual blessing of the kingdom of heaven that we can possibly receive. Here, on Earth, it is hard for us to remember that, but it is true. While we live in the world, we will be pulled by the world to forget this truth, but the mind of Christ will help us to remember it. The mind of Christ will re-mind us – day-after-day, if need be, because we often forget day-after-day!
In order to explain what I am saying, I am going to quote information about the Law of Perfection.
“From a conventional view, this world is a place of suffering: crime in the streets, the hungry, the homeless, the oppressed. Even without the daily news, in our own lives, when we get what we don’t want, we suffer; when we don’t get what we do want, we also suffer; and even when we get exactly what we want, nothing lasts in this realm.
From a [spiritual] perspective . . . all of it, the joys and sorrows, the suffering and pleasure, and everything going on in this moment on planet Earth, is absolutely, completely perfect in terms of a great process of evolution.”
This is the same thing that the Letter to the Ephesians states! In and through Christ, we have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing even when it doesn’t feel like it! In addition, God’s plan for his creation and its creatures is evolving even when it doesn’t look like it! What does the Letter to the Ephesians state?
- “For he chose us in him before the creation of he world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (1:4). (God has a plan which is unfolding.)
- “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ . . .” (1:5). (God has a plan, which is unfolding.)
- “And he made known to us the mystery of his will . . , which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (1:9). (God has a plan, which is unfolding.)
The challenge for us disciplined disciples is that we live in the tension between the spiritual reality and the material reality. That is why we pray, each week, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” We KNOW – somewhere in our hearts and minds – that all is well and God is in charge, but we DOUBT because God’s kingdom has not come fully to Earth, and God’s will is not done fully on Earth. The challenge is to remain FAITHFUL in the midst of turmoil; to BELIEVE in a world that doubts; to TRUST that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ even when we don’t feel like that is true. The boundary between heaven and Earth is porous and permeable; the divine has crossed the boundary; we may see in a glass darkly and know only in part, but we have the mind of Christ and can be re-minded, day-after-day, as we seek to do God’s will and walk in God’s way. Let us not be conformed to this world; instead, let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds. In this way, we journey with God to the future he is preparing. Amen.
Sermon preached by the Rev. Amy Johnson at the Canton Community Baptist Church, Canton, CT, 01/03/2016, the Second Sunday After Christmas.
 Millman, Dan. The Life You Were Born to Live: A Guide to Finding Your Life Purpose. H. J. Kramer: Tiburon, CA, 1993, 358.