“The Family of God: In the Kingdom of Their Father”
July 23, 2017
The Sixteenth Sunday In Ordinary Time
Isaiah 44: 1 – 8/Psalm 139: 1 – 10/
Romans 8: 12 – 18/Matthew 13: 36 - 43
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
I proclaim what I believe I received from God and understand that way to be in the kingdom of God. I preach a lot on unfathomable grace. I am just a fan of the grace of God, which is inexhaustible and beyond our understanding. His love, His grace is scandalous, probably, be accused of being heretical if we preach accurately the love of God. This is because it will blow people’s minds, and they would like what the Pharisees said, “That cannot be.” It can because it is the way in the kingdom of our God.
Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. The natural question that follows is, “Do we have a license to sin?” Of course not! Grace means all God and no “us”! Grace means it is all His doing. By grace, we have been saved through faith, not of ourselves. It is the gift of God. We have nothing to do with what He provided for us, which is life and salvation. It doesn't mean we don' have a responsibility. We have to have a response because we have been given ability. We have an ability to respond to God’s grace.
We, as children of God, have been predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. We were created in the image and likeness of God. This image was damaged, defaced, marred, and stained, but God is in the process of restoring this image, that is why He predestined us to be conformed back to the image of His Son, who is the perfect and exact representation of the Father. He gave us free will because if we don’t have this, we cannot be in the image and likeness of God. If we have no free will, we will not have the ability to love. Love is a choice. Love is a decision. Love is not a feeling.
We can only love when we have free will, and we can only be in the image and likeness of God if we have love. This is because God is love. Our voluntary response demonstrates our likeness to the Divine nature. There is an obligation. St. Paul says in Romans 8, “So then, we are under obligation, but not to the flesh.” 2Corinthians 5 says that the love of Christ compels us, not the consequences of the law. If we fear for the consequences of our actions, that is love of self. I am not obligated to provide for my family, not to hurt my wife because there is a law against it or there is a penalty if I don’t. What compels me to do things for my family is first, the love of God, and then, the love for family. We are under obligation not to the flesh and the law, but we are compelled by the love of Christ. To be compelled by love means that we live by the Spirit. If we are compelled by law, this means that we are led by the flesh.
In the gospel today, God sowed good seed in the world. Have you been asked a question, as a Christian, “Why is there evil in the world?” If God created everything, it must have come from Him; but no, God sowed good seed. It was the devil who sowed bad seed, who has free will himself. We can sow bad seed ourselves because we have free will. Sin entered because of the disobedience of man. We cannot be like God if we don’t have the ability to choose to be like Him. We can also choose evil, and man sinned by doing this.
The wheat and the tares look alike, until a certain point where the wheat produces grain. This is when they are distinguishable. We will know and distinguish them by their fruit. We have been told that we will be known for our fruit, and sometimes people say that in condemnation and judgment. Even Jesus was accused of not having good fruit by the Pharisees. Jesus was sinless, but He was accused of producing bad fruit.
There will also be those who would be tares. They are not being judgmental or condemning, but they are simply, plainly, and truthfully evil. They are not judging, but they are undeniably tares. There are tares who will also see you as a tare because they are evil, biased, negative. Nevertheless, the message of Jesus is: let your light shine in the midst of darkness. The righteous and the sinner both look alike; they are both human. Let your light shine not just so the difference would be evident, but hopefully, so that the darkness would be drawn to the light and to the truth.
We are wheat! God sowed good seeds in us. Sometimes, we sin, but it doesn’t mean that we are tares. We may stumble, but we must pick ourselves up and remind ourselves, “ This is not me. I should not be doing this.” We are not supposed to sin, because we are good seed. The old is gone; behold, the new has come. We are a new creation. We need to remind ourselves of this. We may fall, but our nature is good. Sometimes, the old nature shows its ugly head, but it doesn’t mean this is our nature.
Remember, that we are a new creation! We are good seed. We are wheat, and we are a new creation. If we continue to stumble, we will experience the consequences, which I believe is God’s way of reminding us, “You are not supposed to be this way.” We will experience hell, death if we detach ourselves from the life source.
Romans 8 says, “If you live according to the flesh, you must die to yourself.” In the margin of my Bible, it says, “You are going to die.” God is the Source of life, and if we detach ourselves from the Source, then, we cut off ourselves from life as well. But if by the Spirit, we are putting flesh to death, then, we will live. Again, we have been created good by the Sower. Simply abide; simply remain there. God has sown good seed in us and we are a new creation.
Remember, we have been given free will. Choose the way of life compelled not by the consequences of law, not by threat, or by fear, but by God’s love, and bear His image and His likeness. Shine forth like the sun because this is our calling, our God-given nature in the midst of the darkness. We don’t say, “Lord, take me out of the dark,” because this is our purpose. Before Jesus’ crucifixion, He was being tempted internally. He was asking, “Should I say, ‘Lord, deliver Me from this hour?’” Then, He tells Himself, “No, it is for this hour that I was sent. Father, glorify Your Name by Me obeying and fulfilling My mission.”
It may not be easy to always deal with something that is our opposite or resisting to our nature. The creation has been subjected to futility because of sin and we are participants in God’s plan, in God’s business of restoring all things. This takes courage and willingness to work against something that does not necessarily cooperate with us. We have the grace of God and we have the responsibility – the ability to respond, which is our God-given nature and our calling. This is because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.
Bishop Ricardo Alcaraz
As we have heard the readings today, there are so many things that we could really talk about. I believe that of the many things we could talk about, God wants us to hear this: believe more in the Lord’s power to bring about good than in the enemy’s coming in causing evil. Holy Scriptures say that our God is constantly moving. His Church is always moving on. God has good plans for us. We saw this from the interpretation of the parable.
We did not read the parable, but we went to the interpretation immediately. The Lord is sowing sons of the Kingdom, but there is also the enemy that is trying to distract us from fulfilling what the Lord does. What the enemy wants us to do is for us to get our eyes off the Lord, off of the purpose of God, off of the calling of God and put our eyes on what he is doing in the earth so that we can get distracted and probably get discouraged and frustrated, and not continue with the call of the Lord. In our first reading, the Lord emphasized that He is the Lord our God. There is no other. He says, “Is there any God just like Me? If there is, let him prove himself. Let him declare and order the thing that he wants to do.” God says, “I know of no other.” When He says that, He wants us to focus on Him. Our faith must be on Him. Our God is infinitely greater than our enemy. The reasons for believing are infinitely greater than for the reasons for fearing. God is great! The enemy is not even equal. He pretends to be by trying to create an image that he is equal to our God; but he is not! God says, “There is no other.” He is our God and we are to put our eyes on Him.
The second reading tells us that the way we put our eyes on Him is to follow the principles of God. Instead of acting in the flesh, we are to give of ourselves to the Spirit of God. We are to put our faith in the principles of the Almighty. Scriptures says that, “For as many as are led by the Spirit, they are sons of God.” We started as children, and as children, we were concerned about ourselves – our wants and what is important to us. But then, as we grow up, we learn to become responsible. We become sons of God. This means we’ve come to the point where we say, “Father, I thank You for the many things that You have done for me. What can I do, Father? How can I be part of what You are doing on the earth? What can I contribute?” It doesn’t mean that you stop depending on Him; it doesn’t mean that you stop asking for what you need. It simply means that you are not just living for yourself anymore, but for God.
In the world, it says, “Me first. I am number one.” But then, we begin to grow up in God, and we say, “Christ first.” “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then, all these things will be added unto you.” To seek the kingdom of God is to make sure that you see the King of the Kingdom and His righteousness to see how He works in the Kingdom. The world operates on fear, but we operate in faith. The world operates in hate, payback, and revenge; we operate in love and forgiveness. The world operates in despair and depression; we operate in hope. We want to focus on Him! We are no longer self-centered, but we become Christ-centered. As sons, we do not pretend that there are no problems. We do not say, “There are no ISIS, no abortion, no LGBT, and the rest.” We do not pretend that they do not exist. We see them, but at the same time, we put our faith in God and we say, “God is able to turn evil into good.” God has the power to reverse what the evil is doing. In the story of Joseph, what was meant for evil, God turned it around for good. This is where our faith should be: in God’s person, in God’s greatness. Yes, we have an enemy that is coming and scheming, but we should not be worried about these things as long as we focus on the Lord.
In the gospel in verse 36, it says, “Jesus sent the multitudes away and went into the house and the disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares in the field.” If Jesus was to explain the meaning of the parable of the tares, then, He should be aware of the parable of the tares. We find this in verse 24 where Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. While people slept, his enemy (not his friend, not his covert partner) came and sowed tares among the wheat.” Tares look like wheat in the beginning,except that there are toxins in them, and one can’t know which one is which until they begin to change color. When this begins, their roots become entangled, and you have to be careful not to pull out the tare because you might accidentally pull out the wheat. “When the wheat began to grow, tares began to grow, too. So the servants said to the owner, “Sir, did you not sow good seed in the field? How come there are tares? If God is so good, how come we see evil in the world also?” The owner said, “An enemy has done this,” and the servant said to him, “Do you want us to go and gather them?” The owner said, “No, lest while you gather up the tares, you also uproot the wheat with them.”
I would like us to look at God’s grace and mercy. We need to be very, very patient. We want instant results. When we pray, we want the answer right away, but it doesn’t work this way. Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive.” He did not say, “Ask and you shall receive after one minute.” He didn’t also say, “Ask and you shall receive after one week.”
He did not give a deadline. He just said that if you ask, you shall receive. If you seek, you will find. If you knock, it will be opened to us. God did not give us a time when it was going to happen. How long are we going to believe God? Jesus said, “Whatsoever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them.” The moment we ask, we believe, but how long are we going to keep on believing that we will receive it? Scriptures didn’t really explain it.
During this particular time when we are in the in-between period, from the asking and the receiving of the answer, we have to keep our eyes on God. We have to keep our eyes on the promises of God. This is what keeps us connected with Him. When the disciples were on a boat during a storm, Jesus came to them and He was walking on the water in the midst the storm. The disciples thought that He was a ghost, and they got scared, but Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, it is Me.” Peter said, “Lord, if that is really You, command me to come to You.” Jesus Christ said, “Come!” He did not say, “Peter, only you will come.” Peter or any of the disciples could have step out of the boat, but of all the people who stepped out of the water, you would think that Peter would be the last because he was a fisherman who was familiar with water. He was familiar with how things happen during a storm. Peter, who was familiar when it comes to swimming in the water or wading or splashing suddenly found himself walking on it.
I wonder how Peter felt! Probably, it blew his mind at that particular time. He was walking on water going to the Lord, and he was looking at Jesus, and I wondered what was in his heart and his mind; but then, there was a flash of lighting, a roll of thunder, and then, Peter suddenly got conscious of the wind. He started looking away from Jesus and he started sinking. He took some steps! I know how to walk in the water, not on the water, but one day, we will. Peter started sinking after walking on the water. What happened? Was there power failure? Why was Peter sinking where at one point, he was walking on the water? Water had no power over him. The power of God was holding him up, so how come it was not holding him up now and he was sinking? Was it a power glitch? If it was, Jesus would have sunk, too, because both of them were on the water.Jesus did not. We might say, “That’s the will of God for Peter to sink because he was very proud.” The power of God was still operating, yet at this point in time, it was not holding him up that way it did. Did it lose its effectiveness? Peter disconnected with Jesus. He was no longer looking at Jesus, but at the storm, the dark, at the surroundings. Peter started sinking and said, “Lord, help!” Then Jesus came along, and grabbed him by the hand, “You were doing so well, why did you fear?” How did they get back to the boat? Probably, they walked back. We know that Peter sank, but he sank while he was trying. Why did he sink? He was looking at something else. This is going to be the same thing with us. Yes, the enemy is working, but we have to keep our eyes on the Lord, not on the storm. We’ve got to keep our eyes on what God has promised on the call of God in our lives. Yes, we may have been disappointed and had some failures in the past. Maybe, some of us were hurt. Maybe, some of us made a commitment and we asked what is the point of trying? Maybe, we say it is not worth the sacrifice. Maybe, it is like a little kid who remembers the wrong things that was spoken to him, and he is pouting and he doesn’t want to join the game because he remembers the nasty things that was done to him. Instead of being a player in God’s kingdom, bringing the gifts of God that is in you and allowing it to bless other people, we sulk.
When we care about something, and it doesn’t turn the way it should turn out, we get disappointed, frustrated or hurt. We can keep and nurse these hurts, and yet, nobody is listening to us. The only one listening to us is the demon who was assigned to us, and he is boasting that we, the warriors of God’s kingdom, are no longer engaged in the game because we have been taken captive by him. It is time to rise up from this. It is time to let go of this, and say to God, “God, I am sorry. I got my eyes off of You. I am sorry I got my eyes off of the Kingdom. I am going to go ahead, and I am going to fulfill what you have done for me.”
The enemy is sowing seeds, and these are the wrong kind of seeds – of self-doubt; bitterness; anger. The gospel is talking about what we are sowing to ourselves. What we sow our lives, we will bear fruit. We can sow love or hate; anger or forgiveness; fear or faith. Whatever we sow, we get. There is a time of sowing; a time of reaping. We become what we sow into our lives.
We need to continue, in faith, God’s grace and mercy. Not only are we to understand this in our lives, but we also need to understand our brothers and our sisters in the Lord. Sometimes, we have expectations and if we don’t get it, we want some radical actions. Jesus said, “Be careful that you do not pull out the tares too radically before its time because you might pull out the wheat.” St. Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament readings, once killed Christians. He was behaving like a tare. Even when he got converted, some of the Christians did not want to believe him. He was considered an enemy of the Church, but because of his encounter with the Lord, this tare became one of the finest wheat that we know of. How many of us would get a chance if God immediately pulled us out as we rebelled again Him? We have what we call the grace period. How many of us are grateful that we have experienced grace despite the fact that we made some mistakes in our lives? Extend that grace and mercy to others. This is what you are sowing. Scriptures says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Judge not that you may not be judged. We determine these things in our lives, and God is telling us about these. Focus on God’s grace and mercy in our lives. We don’t ignore the other things, but just understand this is the way God works and we want to be able to work together with God. We don’t want to second guess Him. Eventually, there will be a time when the tares will be taken out. Let God be the One to do this.
In the explanation of the parable, Jesus said, “The one who sow the good seed, that is Me; the field is the world; the good seeds are the sons of kingdom of God; the bad seeds are the sons of the evil one.” We need to understand that the seed doesn’t automatically become like that. We become the son of the Kingdom if we keep sowing the seeds of the Kingdom in our life. In Romans, we were told that we are to follow the Spirit and not the flesh. To continue to follow the flesh will lead to death, but to continue to follow the Spirit, we are going to have life.
We have the choice, Church. God is a God Who wants to deal with us as mature sons. Mature sons choose God. They choose what God has for us. They don’t trivialize, they are not complacent concerning the grace of God, but they take this very seriously in their lives. Sometimes, we think that there is nothing happening, and that God is too slack. St. Peter says, “God is not slack concerning His promises, but He gives us a grace period not because it is okay to continue in our transgressions, but so that we can finally come to Him, and say, “Lord, I am really sorry. I have been doing this, but I want to be reconciled to You now. I want to walk with You now.” God is more interested in saving lives rather than seeing them destroyed. One day, there is going to be the judgment where there is going to be the gnashing of teeth. We choose not to be there by following the Lord.
Before the final judgment, there are seasons that happened. I am sure that before, that before the final judgment, there will be a very, very clear manifestation and demonstration of the kingdom of God. It is so clear you cannot mistake it that when you say, “No,” you have a clear mind in saying it. Scriptures say that times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord. They give us a glimpse of His goodness, a taste of His compassion, and of His mercy. It makes it very hard for us to say “no” to God. Scriptures says that it will be the goodness of God who will lead men to repentance. Yet, there are those who choose to go against Him. In the parable explanation, the Son of Man wills send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom things that offend and those who practice lawlessness. These are people who have made a decision that the ways of God are not as attractive to them as the things of the world. They have made a determination that no matter what, they are going to live against the law of God. These are those who are intentional, and who have made practicing lawlessness their lifestyle. There is an awareness what they are saying “no” to. Jesus Christ says that they will not be with us in the kingdom of God because they chose it for themselves God doesn’t want this for them, but they chose that for themselves.
I have been studying some of the moves of God in the past. Somebody pointed out to me that God moves in patterns. From 1950, there is a pattern of eleven years where God begins to show certain things. In the year 1950, there was a healing movement. It showed God as Someone who would like to heal His people. It showed our Lord, our Healer. He was Someone who has compassion on us and Who wants to fix us on our sicknesses. This was a movement that was marked by people like Oral Roberts, William Branham, and A.A. Allen. It was a move punctuated by miraculous healings. At this time, healings happened automatically on a high level. God is showing us that He is a healing God who loves us. Then, this began to wane.
Eleven years after, in 1961, it was the coming out of the Charismatic Renewal. Before that, only the Pentecostal enjoyed the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But in this year, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was spread to the Catholics, the Presbytereans, the Baptists, and the Methodists. It showed that God wanted to renew us. God wants us to see that He is a God Who is present in the world. He was not a God that we just study in the books, in the classroom, or a God that we discuss; but He is a God who is alive today. In the Charismatic Renewal, one of the songs that came out was “Alive, Alive” because suddenly, He manifested Himself to say, “I am alive and I am in your midst.” It is not just theology or theory or an abstract concept. God was saying, “I am alive and I am here in your midst.”
Eleven years after, we get to 1972 and this is what we call the Jesus People Movement. There were hippies during this time, and the flower power people, and the people who coined the word psychedelic. There were people who were disgusted with this system. They walked out and dropped out of this system, and many people looked at them as outcasts, hopeless people, into drugs and free love and just doing their own thing without rules. Then, the spirit of God reached out to them, and they got turned on to God and they started worshipping God with their energy. They went to churches with the kind of clothing that they had – the bell-bottoms, long hairs, with the flowers. Some of the churches did not recognize this move of God and rejected them. God was showing that He was not just for the people who are straight, who had it together, but He showed them He loved also these people who went out of society.
Adding eleven years, we get to 1983, which is known as the third wave Charismatic move of God, and this particular move brought a recognition of realization that ministry did not just belong to anointed leaders. The gifts and the power of the Holy Spirit did not just belong to special leaders, but rather, they also belong to the whole Body of Christ. It was always there, but it was never emphasized, and this time, God was saying, “I can use you.
You may not have a theology diploma, or you may not have gotten a good education as others, but if you are available, I can use you.”
In 1994, we got an unusual move of the Lord of what we call the Toronto blessing where the Holy Spirit began to emphasize the joy of the Lord. God doesn’t want His people depressed. He showed that during this time, it is the joy of the Lord, where one can find his strength. This was the time when people broke out in holy laughter. Yes, there were the excesses. This was the time the Hillsong songs came out. There was this wild joy, and I remember reading an article about someone who was trying to cast out a demon, and this demon would not leave. They asked the Lord what they were going to do, and the Lord said, “Laugh.” They laughed and the others followed His lead, and that person got delivered. We kind of miss this because we criticized it, but it was part of this.
Eleven years after, in 2005, it was probably a sobering time because this was a time of purging. Others referred to this as the wilderness movement. God allowed us to be purged from our weaknesses. It kind of felt like all of our momentum stopped. God is simply teaching us that we need to become faithful to Him during this ‘dry season’. He is not absent; He is always watching us. During this time, there were people who got impatient, they lost track of what they were doing, and there were many casualties. People with potential, leaders, fell away from the church because of sin and mistakes.
I was ministering in the church of Bishop Raymundo, and in the sacristy, there was the original poster of all the bishops in the CEC, especially in 2004. Some of them were no longer there for some reason or another. CEC was not spared from this time of purging. God is serious when He says that judgment must begin at the house of God.
I believe that after a season of cleansing, there is going to be a season of refreshing. If you add eleven years after 2005, you will get 2016. We are in the infancy of God’ s move. It could be the greatest or the last, but it is bringing out the hidden ones. Here is the move where God is saying, “What the world has cast out, considered trivial, not important, God uses them to shame the wise, to shame the mighty, and to shame those who think they’ve God in all. All we’ve got to do is follow this. This is all-hands on-deck kind of a movement of God. God is going to call out people who are retired and bring them back to the kingdom of God because we are going to see manifestations of heaven in our midst.
Patriarch Craig Bates said, “The veil seems to be getting thinner and thinner.” The veil is what separates heaven from earth. God is using people today who have been hidden. God is using people in bringing forth things from the kingdom of God. God is using people with visions of Him. If God can use them, why not us? God wants to use all of us. During this particular time, and knowing this, let us not get sidetracked with what the enemy is doing. Let us not allow the enemy to tell us, “You want to do that again? You want to get hurt again?” This is part of serving God.
It is time to dream again. It is time to push forward again. It is time to trust again. It is time to follow our calling again. Whatever it is that is holding us back, leave it there. The glories that will follow will make it seem that what we have to endure today is such a little thing. It is nothing compared to what God will show. Have faith in God. Don’t get distracted by the enemy. Forget your pains. Forget your disappointments. Forget all of these things. Push again and follow God. Amen!