B.C.P. Septuagesima - 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Use illustration of 1965 Man Utd side. Bobby Charlton, carpet slipper to work on weak foot, disciplined life style.
Epistle Paul is defending his position and rights as an apostle, but he makes it clear that he is not resting on his laurels. He continues to discipline himself so he can reach the prize. Of being with Christ in heaven.
So today we will be thinking about the need to continue in our devotion to, and service of God. What we can call sanctification, becoming more holy. Holy means set apart for God. This does not mean that we will ever be perfect until we go to be with Christ, but there should be a maturing in our walk with God. We should be able to take the Labour Party song of "Things can only get better" !
Ephesians 2:8-10 :"For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves it is the gift of God. Not by works so that no-one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do."
Our faith, or trust in Jesus is a free, undeserved gift from God but we should not sit back and be complacent. Because if we have given control of our lives to Christ this must affect the way that we live our lives. Faith without works is dead, says James. It is not a real faith unless it touches our lives.
It should affect our prayer life, our Bible reading, our conversation, our actions, our thoughts. This sanctification is brought about partly through the work of God's Holy Spirit who lives inside every believer, but also through our deliberate choices. We have to co-operate with God's Spirit. This has to involve a continuing renouncing of our old way of life, and consciously deciding to follow the ways of Christ.
In the Sermon on the Mount and in Paul's epistles we do not have teaching that we just have to rely on God's Holy Spirit. Again and again God's people are encouraged to live holy lives by turning away from what is wrong. For the Corinthian church Paul tells them to stop being divided, to stop being sexually immoral, to stop suing one another, to stop flaunting their religious freedom, to come together at the Lord's Supper, and to use spiritual gifts properly. Disciples have to exercise discipline.
The athlete used to discipline himself to win a crown of leaves that would soon be gone. Paul says Christians should discipline themselves to gain an eternal prize that will never perish or spoil. It is not that we earn this, but we need to show ourselves to be grateful for the salvation God has given to us. It is like the litmus paper that shows whether our faith is genuine or not.
Today there are many people who call themselves Christians yet do not show this type of discipline. Their priorities are wrong. They strive for things that are temporary at the expense of their devotion to and service of God. They rest of their laurels, and seem comfortable to do so.
We are involved in a spiritual battle. God has provided us with Spiritual Armour to help us in the fight. But we need to stand firm and fight for God. To fight against sin, the world and the devil, as the Baptism Service says.
Throughout the history of the church there are examples of Christians who ran the race like Paul.
Thomas Cramner who was largely responsible for the B.C.P. in the reign of Edward VI. When the Catholic Mary came to the throne he was imprisoned with solitary confinement for long periods. He was brain washed into denying doctrines that he believed in. But at his trail in 1556 he put up a magnificent defence and died bravely at the stake. He stretched out the hand into the flames that had signed the paper denying the doctrines that he held dear.
Christians today need to show the same devotion to Jesus that Cramner, and others throughout the history of Christianity have.
Although we must fight this battle ourselves we should be encouraged by a number of things.
1) God will help us. By giving us the strength and armour we need. He will not allow us to undergo more than we can bear.
2) We are on the winning side. Jesus on the cross has defeated the devil. The war has been won. We are just involved in the mopping up skirmishes afterwards.