Reflections for the Week of Sunday May 14, 2017 Fifth of Easter

Gospel: John 14.1-14 says that Jesus is going to prepare a place for us so that where He is we will be also. It is common to think this means in a disembodied heaven, but the New Testament says Jesus will return at the Last Day, and the earth will be renewed (Rm 8.18-26) and a new heaven and new earth will replace our present earth (2 Pet 3.10,13) and we will receive resurrection bodies and live with the Lord forever in an embodied state. In the meantime believers who have received the Holy Spirit through faith will become new people, becoming fully human as we become more like Christ and are able to implement the kind of world that Jesus envisioned. It will be a world where people have died to themselves, have taken up their crosses, bear one another’s burdens, and love one another as Christ loved us.

The Holy Spirit enables us to grow into this maturity as we strive to fulfill God’s vision for us. 1 Cor 15.58 tells us that whatever we accomplish or achieve in this world will not be lost in the age to come. The kingdom of God has arrived with the first coming of Jesus, but it is not completed, so there is an aspect of ”already, but not yet.” We can enjoy some of the fruits of eternal life at present because we are part of the new creation initiated by the Lord on the cross, but there is more to come. Through the working of the Spirit we are growing in maturity, which is called sanctification. This process is partly the Lord’s work and partly ours as we strive to grow into the kind of people He wants us to be. Phil 2.12 says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” This truth of God working along with us is referred to as “synergy”, or “concurrence.” It is the power of the Holy Spirit, or grace, making us into new people. Rm 12.2 says we should not be conformed to this world but we should be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Elsewhere Scripture speaks of our having the mind of Christ which is the goal we are pursuing. As we grow in maturity we can experience more joy in spite of the hardships of this world. Joy is the result of fulfilling our purpose and knowing that we are doing the will of God for us. We become able to overcome difficulties that are part of life. An example is we can become progressively able to forgive others and ourselves for injuries they (and we) have done. Forgiveness means that we let go of a desire for revenge, abandon bitterness, anger, hatred, and come to accept others (and ourselves) as children of God. This can be the inner state of our heart regardless of whether the other person is willing to accept us and our forgiveness or not. A state of peace and acceptance on our part is the result. This is a way of overcoming the evil of the world and replacing it with God’s purpose for our lives. Reflect on the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Mt 18.21-35). Something that is necessary for us to grow into this truly human Christian life with its Spirit-led attributes of patience, humility, meekness, kindness, forgiveness, chastity, love and self-control is Christian fellowship. We cannot grow into maturity in isolation. We need the help of other Christians meeting in small groups, committed to honesty, confidentiality, mutual responsibility, and commitment to the goal of growing into maturity in order to be successful. We need what we may call community–other Christians willing to help us grow. Christianity is about living with others, loving them as Christ loved us, bearing their burdens, and learning to forgive them as they forgive us. This is why Christ spoke so much about the kingdom of God and left the church as the means of teaching us.

Memory Verse: …forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3.13b-14).

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