“Purity of Redemption”
June 10, 2018
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 5)
Genesis 3:8-15/Psalm 130/2 Corinthians 4:13-18/Mark 3:20-30
Bishop Ricardo Alcaraz
We are grateful to God that we can come back before Him. We are grateful that God did not just leave us guessing which is the right way and that which is not. He did not just find out through trial and error which are our ways and which are not. God gave us His Word. He made sure that He has given us His Holy Spirit that we may receive what He has for us. God wants us to know His ways.
We have heard the different readings today and there are many things that we can really talk about. God’s Word is full of wisdom, but on the many things, this is something that God has given me to be able to share to you. I believe that the lesson is this: let us come in agreement with our God that we may walk in fullness with His plans and purposes.
None of us are accidents. We are here because God willed us to be here. We are not here just as an afterthought, and because of this, we know that there is something that God has given us to do at this time. Psalm 139 says, “You have seen my substance even before I was formed and the days you fashioned for me before I even saw one of them.” Even before we were born, God wrote a book about us. He did not leave it to chance. He said, “There is going to be a plan for your life. This is your divine destiny.” All of us have a book in heaven. We have a divine destiny that God has given to us, and according to Jeremiah, the plans that He has for us are not plans for evil, but good plans designed to give us a future and a hope.
When I talk about having a divine destiny, it doesn’t mean that it is something that will happen to us whether we like it or not, whether we cooperate with God or not. God designed to work through the earth with a connection between heaven and earth. In the beginning, God created man in His image; God ruled the entire universe. God designated man to rule over the earth and He wanted to move in conjunction together with man.
We know that God can do anything and everything because God is sovereign. God has chosen to work here on earth together with His Church. I have questions like, “If God is so powerful, how come He doesn’t do something about what is going on in Africa or in the Middle East? What about the hungry children?” It is not that God won’t or wants to. It is not God can’t for He has all the ability. God wants to work together with His Church. Sometimes, we think that He should do things alone, but He has chosen to work with us. When we are in agreement with Him, then, it is easy for us to walk in the pages of what He has written about us.
I pray every day, “Lord, I pray that I will be sensitive to Your voice. I pray that my heart will yield to Your nudges, so that what was written about me today might be fulfilled.” The question comes, “Won’t it get fulfilled if God is the One who planned it?” God created us in His image. It is not that God is helpless that He can’t make it come to past whether He likes it or not. It is just that He has chosen to work together with us.
There is this testimony given by a Pastor about a mother and a daughter. The daughter was very sick and her sickness was getting worse. It seems like that if things don’t let up, the daughter would die. The mother said to the Pastor, “I have done what you have told us to do. I have prayed and clung to my faith. I interceded and I fasted, but nothing is happening.” The Pastor visited the daughter and they prayed. The Pastor asked, “God, I need wisdom in this particular situation.” While he was praying, a name of another woman came to his mind, and so he asked the mother, “Does this name mean anything to you?” The mother reacted, “Yes, she was the one who destroyed my marriage. She was the one who divided our family and because of that, we were left on our own and many things happened to us.” The Pastor said, “Well, you’ve got to forgive her.” The mother said, “Why will I forgive her? She destroyed my family.” The Pastor said, “If you don’t forgive her, your prayers aren’t going to go through.”
I understand the pain of the mother and what happened to her, but she was not aligned with God at that point. The Pastor said, “What is more important to you? To maintain your grudge and anger to that woman or for your daughter to get healed? If you forgive her, you suddenly extend grace because you are a recipient of grace.” The mother finally relented and said, “Lord, I am really sorry. Forgive me for holding on to this day what I felt.” The moment she did, the result was that the daughter recovered. It is a good thing she responded and aligned herself to God. What if she said, “You mean to tell me that if I don’t forgive, my daughter will die? At least, she will be in heaven and she won’t experience the problems we have today.” Some people would have this kind of attitude. If the child dies, some people would say, “Oh, that is the will of the Lord.” This is not true. We know that the mother had to cooperate with God. God would not do it in violation of His rules.
One time, I was listening to a prayer by a priest where he said, “Father, we have done, and we have fulfilled all that is biblically required, and yet the child died. Help us to understand Your sovereignty.” In the natural, the prayer made sense, but I was troubled by this prayer. I couldn’t shake it. I went to God, and asked, “What is the matter? Why am I troubled by this prayer?” God told me the statement, “…we have fulfilled all that is biblically required, and yet the child died.” Is it possible for us to fulfil everything that God required of us and for Him not to fulfil His? If God says, “Forgive,” then, we will be forgiven. We forgive, so do we receive our forgiveness?
When we say that we have fulfilled everything He required of us, and if I am reading the Holy Scriptures right, there is simply no way God will not fulfil His part! The testimony of Holy Scripture is this: not one word of all His precious promises have failed. The Book of Hebrews says, “That by two immutable and unchangeable things of God.” The two immutable things are: He gave us the promise and He swore an oath that He would fulfil the promise. All God has to do is speak the Word to us, and this would be more than enough because the moment that God speaks something to us, it is a commitment on God’s part. If God’s gives us the promise, we don’t need anything else because He has already spoken it. God swore that He will fulfil His promise to us and why did He do this? Hebrews says, “That by two immutable or unchangeable things, God can show to the heirs His promise.” This shows His willingness and His desire to do things for us.
When we are dealing with God, we are not dealing with a hesitant entity. We are dealing with someone who is pre-disposed to do things for us. Jesus Christ said, “It is My Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” In the story of the prodigal child, when the father saw his son, the father run out from his house and embraced his child. He met his child even before the latter got to the house. This is our Father! This is our God! He wants us to heal us. He wants to help us. He wants to meet our needs. He wants to fulfil the very potential that He has for us. He made a plan for us and He is not second guessing Himself. He wants us to achieve everything that He created us for.
If we say that we fulfilled something and that God doesn’t fulfil His, isn’t that an indirect accusation that God is not faithful? We say, “God is Sovereign; He can do whatever He wants to do.” Sovereign means He is the highest. He is overall and He is the most powerful Being there is and nobody can tell Him what to do. But the way people use the word sovereign in a situation like this becomes a code word that sometimes mean that God reserves the right to break His promise. God IS NOT this God! He sent His only Son for us! What makes us think that He would not fulfil the other promises that He has given us?
In the prayer that I was sharing, when the child died, we could say, “Lord, we believe we have done everything we know to do, but if we are missing it, Father, show us where we are missing it.” In a situation, we would rather think that He is the One at fault instead of us. Our God is not like this. Sometimes, we just give a little bit, and He gives more.
In the Gospel, we find Jesus doing the will of God for Him. We know that Jesus was meeting opposition. “When He was in the house, His own people wanted to get Him out of there because they thought He might be losing.” Sometimes, there are well meaning people who want to help us. They may not have the same kind of information, but they want to help us. I remember when I said “Yes” to God and that I will serve Him as a Pastor in Kalibo. I told my relatives about it and some of them said, “Why don’t you think about it.” I told them, “I already prayed about it.” They said, “What if we send you abroad? A relative will get you a job; get you a house and a car. Work there and pursue the American dream probably for five to seven years and after this time, come back and see if you still want to do the pastoring thing.” However, there is a reason why God says, “Guard your heart for out of it will flow the issues of life.”
I was aware that if I had taken their offer, I might get lukewarm on my desire for God. I am not going to abandon Him at that time, but I am not going to be pastoring. I will be a Sunday Christian, at least. We are in Ordinary Time, and it does not mean that it is insignificant. Ordinary Time means we serve God, we worship God, we follow God, not just on a Sunday inside the Church, but every day of the week and at all times. God is not just a priority in our list, but rather God is the center around which our lists revolve. He is our all in all. We are to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. It is everything. It is all or nothing with God and God is merciful.
We find Jesus in a situation where He was given ideas that were totally different from what He was hearing from God. He was in agreement with the Father. He said, “The words that I say to you, these are the words I heard from My Father. I came down not to do My own will, but to do the will of My Father in heaven.” He did not say, “My Father is a big shot. I do not like to stay in His shadow. I want to do My own thing.” What He said was, “I will do the will of My Father. I will say what He says.” We know that this pleased the Father. The Father said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
Another way that Jesus’ enemies make Him to walk away the path that He had agreed was to say, “He does all these things by the power of Beelzebul. He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.” Jesus Christ said, “How can Satan cast out Satan? A kingdom divided against itself is a kingdom that cannot stand. A house that is divided against itself is a house that cannot stand. If Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand.” What Jesus is saying is: division is the place of weakness; agreement is the place of power. We know that Jesus said it this way, “If any two or three shall gather together, and you shall agree on touching anything you should ask, it shall be done for them by My Father in heaven.” We have seen this happen many times for us.
For as long as Adam and Eve were in agreement with God, everything was working fine. They were lords of the Garden. God said to them, “There is only one tree that you are not going to eat from.” If there are 999, 999 trees, and from that one tree, we won’t eat, we won’t be thinking of that one tree, right? Normally, we want to focus on the good things that God has done for us, but then here comes the serpent, and that one thing that Adam and Eve were not focusing on is the one thing that he focuses on. “Did God say not to take from that tree?” Why do you think the serpent said this? To deceive them to say, “It is because their eyes will be open, and then they will know that they are going to be like God.” Now, the serpent puts something between Adam and Eve and God. They trusted God. God had nothing against them. There was harmony between them and God, and there was harmony between Adam and Eve; but when they started believing another voice, the voice of the serpent, the harmony was broken. God comes into the Garden and instead of them meeting Him with gusto, they hid from the appearance of their Father. There was now a division between them and God.
The first couple may have been sweet in the beginning, and God said, “Well, did you eat from that one tree?” Here comes Adam, the man of the hour, saying, “It is the woman that You gave me.” They were divided! What would have happened had they resisted the temptation? What would have happened if Adam said, “You know, serpent, what you are saying is different. You are not allowed in this Garden. Get out of here!” The serpent would have left. Adam and Eve would have lived their lives; they would have multiplied; they would have filled up the Garden, and when the Garden is filled up, they would move the boundaries; they will expand the boundaries of our Lord until the whole earth is filled with glory of God. This did not happen because they followed another voice.
In the story of Moses and the Israelites, the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. They cried out to God, and God gave them Moses as their messiah and through a series of powerful miracles, all of Israel was delivered. Everyone left Egypt and finally, they come to the Jordan River, and just across that is the Promised Land. I ask you: Was it God’s will at that time for them to enter into the Promised Land? Yes! Was it the will of God at that time for all of them to enter the Promised Land? Yes! Did they enter the Promised Land at that time? Did all of them enter the Promised Land at that time?
God says, “That is the Promised Land. I am bringing you there. You can take that. But first, you send spies so that they can come back to you and tell you and give you the coming attraction.” The spies went there and they came back, and they said, “What God was saying was true. One cluster of grapes, you need to carry on a pole so that two men can carry them together.” Then, they said something that they should not have said, “But there are also giants in the land. They are bigger than us. We look like grasshoppers and it is going to be suicide to go in there. We can’t do that.” God says that they can take that, but they said they can’t. Joshua and Caleb said, “Look, guys, they may be bigger, but remember where we came from. God delivers.” They won’t take it and they wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb. God says that they could; they say that they cannot. God says it’s possible; they said it was impossible. God said that they can win over their enemies for He was with them; they said that their enemies are far too powerful and bigger than they are. God said, “Because you absolutely refuse to enter and obey My voice, this is what is going to happen. For forty years, you will wander in the wilderness, and this generation will all die except for Joshua and Caleb.” Therefore, they did not enter at that time! When they finally entered, the first generation was not able to enter.
God could have done it by Himself, and He really wanted to, but He has chosen to work together with us. This is the reason that we have to be in agreement with Him. We need to see things from His point of view. We need to think about things the way He would think about things. He sees differently, and He says, it is not hard because God says, “As the heavens are higher, so I bring down to you My word so you can learn to think the way I think.”
Jesus talks about Satan, the adversary, and said, “I am not using the power of Satan to do what is good.” We need to understand that if we need to fulfil God’s purpose in our lives, we have to do things God’s way. If we do things God’s way, we will get the result that God tells us we will get. If we fulfil what He says, we will get one hundred percent all the time what He has promised us.
In John 15:7, Jesus said, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” Someone who was studying Greek says, “That translation is okay, but there are some things that are missing from this. I am going to tell you the way I understand this and this is what the Lord is saying, “If you maintain a living communion with Me, (a relationship), and My words find a home in you (not disagreeing with the words), I command you right now to ask something for yourself, and if I do not have it in heaven, I will create it for you.” Do you think God will lie? He won’t! If we do it the way He said to do it, there is nothing that will stop God from fulfilling His promises to us. It is one hundred percent all the time! No exceptions!
God is sovereign, which He is, and the Scriptures also say that He is not a covenant breaker. Scriptures says that He is a faithful God and His faithfulness endures from generation to generation. His dominion is forever, so when we use sovereign, it cannot mean that He reserves the right to sometimes not fulfil His word. This is not God!
God made a covenant with Abraham. One evening, Abraham split an animal in two and there was blood all over the place. Abraham walked on that and he made promises to God. “I make my promises to You and I will be Your covenant partner forever, and I will do whatever You say. If I choose not to do what I said that I would do, may it happen to me what happened to this animal.” It was a self-imprecatory oath that he took in order to show that he wanted to do it. But Scripture says that evening, there was a torch that walked through the split bodies. If we were Abraham and we understood covenant the way he understood covenant, he is looking and saying, “If at one point, he plans to change his mind, he should not have done that because now, He is committed to me.” God will never ever break His word. God will never ever break His promises. When something doesn’t happen because we think we have done everything we could, it cannot be Him at fault. We have to resist what the enemy is trying to tell us that God is the one at fault.
When Jesus set people free from demons, He said, “You could not plunder the strongman’s house unless someone stronger than him comes in.” Jesus Christ is saying, “I am the stronger One. Demons don’t stand a chance against Me.” This is why we need to agree with Him. We would say, “Why can’t God just kick the devil out?” God already did that in heaven. Satan is not a challenge to God. Do you believe that the tip of the little pinky finger of God has more power than all of hell? Do you believe that the tip of your little pinky finger has more power than all of hell? Yes, but we don’t see it yet! God is itching for a fight, and He is going to prepare power encounters and He is going to use the Church.
Jesus Christ worked on the cross, finished everything; we are dealing with a defeated foe, but He has not stopped fighting. He is still waging guerrilla tactics against us. What God wants is for the Church to finally wake up for who we are. We are children of God, but we are being trained to become sons of the Kingdom. One day, we will stand side by side with God ruling together. This is what He wants, and if we will follow the plan that He has for us, this is where we will go. He wants us to kick the devil out. He wants to put our feet upon His neck. He wants to show the enemy who dared sin against Him during perfect conditions.
Today, we know that we fail because there is a tempter, but who tempted Satan in the beginning? He was the most perfect cherubim that was! He was the most beautiful angel that was! He was so impressed with himself. He was taking ‘selfies’ all the time, and he decided he would fill his throne above God. God kicked him out, which was no problem with God. God wants to show him that His Church can do this. God wants us to strike fear every time the devil sees us. We need to understand who we are in Him. We are not there yet, but we are getting there before Jesus Christ comes. He is coming for a bride without blemish, without spot. We know that Jesus defeated the devil already, so it shouldn’t be hard for us because we are dealing with a defeated one.
St. Paul says in Corinthians that we are not ignorant of the devil’s devices, but many in the Church today just don’t want to talk about him. It is not that he is an exciting topic, but if we don’t ever talk about him, we pretend that there is nothing going on. There is warfare going on. Somebody would say that there is no warfare because he is already defeated, but how come St. Paul says, “We have the armor of God. We have the sword of the Spirit!” Why do we need the sword for if there is no more war? Spiritual warfare is not hard. Sounds scary, but it is not hard because we are working from a position of advantage.
We need to be in agreement with God so that we might be able to fulfil what He has for us! If things happen, repent and go to God! God has a way of bringing things, and God is able to make all grace abound towards us and He can turn things that are bad to good. I don’t know how He does it, but He does it. It doesn’t mean that we need to be careless. When we walk with God, walk with an agreement with Him. Say what He says; see things from His point of view because there is more than just existing. God wants us to become the Church, and we are moving into this right now!