Midweek Fellowship – April 27, 2016
“The Result of Hunger”
Fr. Gary W. Thurman
If there is one irrational fact in the universe around us, it is this: God has enemies. Think about it; how could a God of infinite kindness, love, power, wisdom, and mercy have a single enemy? What has He done, what could He do, to make somebody mad? To alienate anyone? This just makes no sense at all. And yet, it is an undeniable fact that God has enemies. The Bible mentions the fact about forty times. Forty times it specifically talks about God’s enemies. How could this be? Who could be against God?
Actually, there are over three hundred thirty times where the Bible mentions the enemies of God’s people. And that is one source of God’s enemies. In Exodus 23: 22 the Lord makes the Israelites a promise: “If you will truly obey his (Moses’)voice and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” In other words, as God told Abraham, “I will curse those who curse you.” (Genesis 12: 3)
But there is another reason why people consider God their enemy, why they want to have nothing to do with Him. It is because, when they hear the Gospel of the Kingdom, the good news of how things work in His realm, they hear “all that God says”, and they make a decision:
They don’t like the way it is in the Kingdom of God.
Strange, but true. Perhaps when you and I see the Kingdom of God we see a Kingdom of no death; a place of no mourning, or crying, or pain. We see a realm of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. We see a place of true, genuine love. But others see a Kingdom of inconvenience. They see a Kingdom where they have to love their neighbor, even the ugly ones, where they have to consider others as more important than themselves, a Kingdom where they must prefer others over themselves. They see a Kingdom where God expects repentance and change in the areas where they don’t quite meet the way of a Kingdom lifestyle. They see a Kingdom where we must weep with those who weep, and associate with the lowly. They see a Kingdom where meekness, and poverty of spirit, and self-control, and yes, hunger, are virtues. They see a Kingdom where forgiveness is not an option, but a mandated necessity.
They see a Kingdom where they don’t always get their own way. They see a Kingdom where they are not in charge. And they definitely don’t like that.
They don’t like the way it is in the Kingdom of God. They become anti-Kingdom, which is to say, anti-Christ.
So why bother? Why not just chill until Jesus comes back, and then the real system which God has for us will come into effect, the one we will have for eternity, and not this temporary stuff? Because, “As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.” In other words, “His Kingdom will know no end.” Or, as it says in Psalm 145: 13, “Your Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations.” As Jesus made clear, “As in Heaven, so on earth.”
So someone will say, “Oh, I thought that God’s Kingdom was forever, but all these things He tells us to do and be in the Bible are just temporary. In eternity, it’s a different system altogether.”
Sorry, the things He told us in the Bible IS the Kingdom of God. The Sermon on the Mount - Do not judge, do not be angry, do not be consumed by possessions, love your enemy, bear good fruit - that is the Kingdom of God, and it will never go away. At the second coming of Christ, those things are still in effect. Only more so. In fullness, in their entirety. So, we had better get used to it.
Actually, that’s what this life is all about. We are here in this age to see who is up for the Kingdom lifestyle. First comes the decision: do you accept the Kingdom Way, or your own? Because if you really don’t like the way it is in the Kingdom of God, you won’t be happy in eternity. If that’s really the way you want it, God has other arrangements for you. But be forewarned, life outside the Kingdom of God is no life at all.
After you make the decision that you love God and His Kingdom, then the real struggle comes: making you fit for it in eternity. It’s not like you can live your own way, be as mean as a snake, and then when Jesus comes back you suddenly turn into a little angel. Nope, that’s what this life is for. Gradually, the work of God is to bring us from where we are to where we should be; we go from glory to glory. We have to purge all the attitudes, the things that are not of the Kingdom, from our lives. We can’t take them with us into eternity, anyway. If we insist on holding on to them, we just keep ourselves out of the Kingdom. If we insist on walking that broad path that Jesus talks about, we bring ourselves to destruction, rather than into life.
So the enemies of God are those who choose not to follow His ways. But in our own lives, in our own hearts, we have our own enemies: the attitudes, habits, and ways that are not of the Kingdom. God has forgiven them already, but now they must be purged. This is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit within us. He is setting us apart for the Kingdom of God.
A couple of Scriptures:
Romans 12: 2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This is post-conversion, post-salvation, a conscious effort of learning to live in the Kingdom of God, even before its consummation. Our lives are about combating, defeating, and overcoming all that is not of God and His Kingdom within us.
2 Timothy 2: 20-23: “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.”
Notice how St. Paul associates the pursuit of righteousness, faith, love, and peace - all keystones of the Kingdom of God - with calling on the Lord. Also notice he says to refuse speculations. Something I have noticed: most of the things related to Christianity on social media are just speculations. There’s not much truth there. If you are getting your primary information, or, Heaven forbid, your theology, from social media, you might be a long, long way from the Kingdom of God.
Now we can see what this has to do with prayer and fasting. Everything! How do these changes come about in our lives? How can we even help bring them about in the lives of our loved ones, that we, and they, can defeat the anti-Kingdom, anti-Christ habits and attitudes within us? If St. Paul says for a man to “cleanse himself,” how do we do that? I think you know the answer - partly, through the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting.
This takes us back to where we were in the first teaching on prayer, back on January 13. Why pray? To grow in our righteousness, love of God, and relationship with God. To put in another way, to be Kingdom people. And why do we want to be these things? Because it’s the future. It is what will be expected of us, always. This will never change. And prayer is one of the ways God has ordained to get us there.
Think of what we have learned already the last couple of weeks - prayer and fasting breaks the yoke of the enemy, the yoke of sin. It can be for our own sake, or for that of others. Prayer and fasting are vital tools the Lord gives us to help prepare ourselves, and even others, for the life of eternity in His Kingdom.
So, we pray and fast - for the sake of God’s Kingdom - in us, and in every corner of the universe. Now, and forever. Amen.