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18th Sunday in Ordinary Time: “Walking in Accurate Analysis”

Jeremiah 23:23-29

Psalm 82

Hebrews 12:1-6

Luke 12:49-56

The gospel today is a little bit controversial in that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, said that He did not come to bring peace on earth but to bring division. We thought that division came from the devil, which is the meaning of his name. So what does Jesus mean when He said, “I came not to bring peace, but division? From now on, father will be against son, son against father, daughter against mother, and mother against daughter; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Jesus meant something different. He used the figure of speech to emphasize His message.

There should be a marked difference between people who follow Him, and people who don’t; for people who walk in His ways and for people who don’t. There will be division because some will follow and obey Him, and it will not sit well with others for they will be offended and not understand. Some would initially reject Jesus. Jesus said, “Analyze this present time.” For the time being, people will not accept all that Jesus is preaching, but there are others who would open their eyes and ears and incline, listen, and obey Him. Jesus said in another gospel, “Wide is the road that leads to destruction and many are those who take that road to destruction.” We should not understand it to mean that there is nothing that can change a situation. I believe that our God is a God of restoration. Maybe at that time, for the time being, many were taking the road to destruction; but after 2000 years, since then, many people have been following God and obeying Him. They were less than 10,000 in the first century. Now, we have over two billion believers in the world.

In Psalm 37, the Psalmist said, “In a little while, the wicked will be no more.” We should not understand that to mean that our God is a God of destruction that will destroy the wicked. Rather, we look at it this way: in a little while, their wickedness will be no more. They will not be wicked anymore but they will be converted to righteousness. Psalm 12 says, “Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be.” It means man ceases to be godly, so it is an intercessory prayer asking God to convert because God’s heart is not extinction but conversion. God’s heart is not exclusion but restoration.

The division is there so that there is a clear distinction between God’s ways and man’s ways – the ways of righteousness and the ways of the world. God’s will is for no one to perish. Division is not for exclusion but for conversion; it is not for extinction but for restoration.

We are called to be holy, set apart, but paradoxically, we are set apart not to be apart, but to draw all men to Him. St. Peter said in 1Peter 2, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that you should show forth the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” This is the reason why we are set apart so that we can show righteousness, and show God’s character, virtues and excellencies. God called us out of darkness, now, we are put into His marvelous light in the kingdom of life.

We are a chosen generation. We are elite and special but we are not exclusive. We just happen to be pioneers and called ahead of others. Others are called ahead of us! We became a believer because somebody ministered to us. Somebody introduced us to a relationship with God. They were ahead of us in the kingdom of light, and they were used by God to take us out of darkness into His marvelous light. We are not favored over the others. It is not that we are special and the others are excluded. It is a matter of us being first. Jesus is called the first born. I would like to call us the second born but there will be others who will follow us.

Israel was a chosen race, a chosen people, but God only started with them. The whole plan from the beginning was for all the world to know God, but He had to start with a group of people whom He called out of darkness into His marvelous light so that they can demonstrate and show forth the virtues of Him who called them. It is a privilege and an honor. We should be thankful for it, but not arrogant about it. In our selfishness, we think, “I am a child of God and the others are not.”

St. Paul asks in Romans 14, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master, he stands or falls and he will stand for the Lord is able to make him stand.” If we see a brother weak at this point, failing at this point, unrighteous at this point, disobedient at this point, remember that he is the servant of the Lord not ours. God is able to make him stand and change. For the time being, we may see the weakness or failures and we may have a reason to complain about, but God can change them like He changed us. It is a matter of time. It is also had to do with their response to God, but I believe that one day, every knee shall bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord! One day, the glory of the Lord will cover the whole earth as the waters cover the sea.

God uses one person to influence another for the good. This is the process of restoration. It is an honor. The blessing doesn’t stop with us. We are blessed to be a blessing! We have been called out of darkness into light so that we can be used by God to call others out of darkness into His marvelous light. It is through our display and showing forth of the virtues of Him who called us so that God can stir up others to jealousy.

A prophecy in Isaiah 2:3 says, “One day, in the last days, the mountain of the house of the Lord will be the chief of the mountains.” The people of the world will come to their senses and would say, “Why are we wasting our time following the ways of the world when we see the people of God with joy on their faces, the ways of God working for them? Come, and let us go to the mountain of the Lord and let Him teach us His ways?” They are stirred up to jealousy and encouraged and challenged to learn from God themselves. It may be radical, but this is our calling. It implies that we have a higher standard that we need to show. We, as His people, are the showpiece of the kingdom of God. We are a city set on a hill. We are to be different. There should be mark distinction, a division of who God’s people are and who don’t know Him yet.

The norm, the standard is and always will be God’s ways and God’s righteousness. It will always be the ways of the kingdom because we are created in the image and likeness of God. It is sin that is the anomaly and the irregularity. Sin is what is abnormal. Righteousness is the standard. God created in His righteous image and likeness. God is the Creator; the devil is the “pervertor”. The devil has no originality for all came from God. Seen and unseen, God created all and He created them good. It is the devil’s work to pervert things. The world’s ways are abnormal although they are prevalent.

We, in the kingdom of God, have a different culture and this culture is peculiar because it is against the prevalent pop culture – the ways of the world. God’s starts with a chosen people to eventually restore the whole world and all things. Our task is to show God’s virtues and the culture of the Kingdom that we belong to.

Patriarch Craig Bates’ Church of the Intercessor has a mission statement that says, “Forging the future, winning the culture.” It is by being the people of God and showing forth His virtues and excellencies. It is not ambitious for parents to raise their children in righteousness and make them radical and cause a mark difference between their ways and their peer’s ways. The bar should be set high for righteousness and morality because what we value is what shapes our culture.

Culture comes from a Latin word ‘cultus’ which means worship. What we value and what we worship is what will shape our culture. Where our treasure is, there our hearts will be. Our habits will be formed by what we treasure. Whatever icon we have in a culture, that is what we will be. Our culture depends on the icon, the leader and the image they project. Our music, our fashion, our weight, our speech, our morals, our habits and our character are formed by whom we looked up to. We become what we worship and we become whom we worship.

Hebrews 12 says to us, “Fix your eyes on Jesus who is the Author and the Finisher of our faith.” He is who we should worship because when we look to Him, we eventually become like Him. If we look to Him constantly and fix our gaze on Him, and we behold the face of God, we eventually become like Him. We were created in His image and likeness in the first place. Why do we have to look to somebody else or somewhere else?

We are the true image of God. It is a culture of giving and of mercy. Our culture hinges on how we view God and how we see Him. Sadly, some of us see God as Somebody who hurts people and we think that He does it in His righteousness. We think He kills people because He is too righteous. If this is our image of God, then, we will believe in hurting people and killing them. God’s image is love, giving, blessing, ministering, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and humility. In short, look at Jesus Who is the perfect representation of God and we will be restored back to His image and likeness. Lay aside every encumbrance that keeps us from attaining into that image and likeness.

We are called to be holy and there should be a distinction and a marked division. If there is none, then, we are no different than the people in darkness and the world. Then, we are not a chosen generation and a royal priesthood. We are called forth to show the virtues of God! Jesus said, “You are to be holy as your Father is holy. You are to be perfect as your Father is perfect.” This is so because this is just the way it is in the kingdom of our God.

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