Thursday, March 30, 2017

URGENT Appeal for the South Sudan

Bishop Garang Issues Urgent Appeal for Aid

Mar 27, 2017


Food relief is essential for the most vulnerable populations--the pregnant, the elderly, and the young.

In recent months both the ACC website and The Trinitarian have reported on the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.  Though many have responded, the situation remains dire, leading Bishop Wilson Garang to make the following appeal.

In February 2017 the United Nations formally declared famine in South Sudan.  According to a recently released report, 4.9 million people are in need of urgent food.  This is more than 40 percent of South Sudan's total population.

The total number of food insecure people is expected to rise to 5.5 million at the height of the lean season in July if nothing is done to curb the severity of the crisis. The UN report also notes that more than one million children are currently estimated to be acutely malnourished across South Sudan.

The Diocese of Aweil has also been severely affected by the famine since last year.  Many have migrated from Aweil to North Sudan in search of food. Others have resorted to collecting wild fruits and leaves for food. 

I am therefore appealing to well-wishers to donate funds to provide famine relief.  Donations will be used to distribute food to the most severely affected and the vulnerable--pregnant mothers, households with children below five years of age, and the elderly.  Items to be distributed will include sorghum, maize, beans, powdered milk, Unimix, and Plumpy'Nut.

Your brothers and sisters in South Sudan pray for aid.  Those who are in need will not forget what you do. May God bless you.


Donations for famine relief may be made through the Saint Paul Mission Society.  Click here to find out how.

Tagged: aweilfoodfaminereliefdonationssaint paul mission society

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Fourth Sunday in Lent at the URL below

Saturday, March 18, 2017


For the Third Sunday in Lent             

He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. (Luke 11:23) 

What does it mean to gather with Christ? It is possible that the word "gather" was meant to convey the idea of kibutz (קָבַץ), a word that the modern world became familiar with because of the early Zionists and the state of Israel. Or it may have been meant to convey adah  (עֵדָה), which means congregation, for which the Greek equivalent is the word ekklēsia (κκλησία), the word translated as "church" in the New Testament. The Greek word actually used in the verse is of great interest, synagō (συνάγω), from which we get the word "synagogue." No matter how we approach it, that verb form of "synagogue," used by Luke when quoting Christ, must bring to mind the assembled local Church.  

It is also significant that this line is recorded in a context about spiritual warfare and the attack of the Kingdom of God, a frontal assault to take back territory formerly siezed by Satan, and to set hostages free. Going back to v. 20, we see that context:  

But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.

And what follows is about spiritual warfare also, with a warning.  

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. (vs. 24-26) 

Gathering with Christ and His Church seems to be one and the same, at the very least inseparable. When on his way to die in a Roman arena, St. Ignatius wrote several letters to various churches (circa 110 AD). Though he knew that he himself would never return to his bishopric in Antioch, he wrote for the good of all churches everywhere and for all generations to come. In his Letter to the Smyrneans, he said: “Wherever the bishop appears let the congregation be present; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”  

The alternative is to be part of a great scattering, a life of isolation where it is all too easy to avoid the clutter of prayer, worship, sacraments and sound doctrine. In that scattering an individual becomes such a house as Christ describes, "swept and garnished," ready for the habitation of evil plus more evil times seven. That last state is worse than the first.  

Another word that is relevant to the subject of gathering with Christ and His Church is the word translated as "fellowship," which is koinōnia (κοινωνία). "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship (κοινωνία) with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." (I John 1:4) Here we see that this fellowship is impossible without the truth of Apostolic doctrine, the word of God in Scripture.

This same word, koinōnia, is translated "communion" speaking very directly of the sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion (κοινωνία) of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion (κοινωνία) of the body of Christ?" (I Cor. 10:16) 

A form of this word is used also to say we are partakers. That is koinōnos (κοινωνός).  

"But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers (κοινωνός) of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." (I Pet. 4:13) 

"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers (κοινωνός) of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (II Pet. 1:4) 

Contrary to that is a kind of fellowship from which we are told to turn away. 

"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them (Ephesians 5:8-11)." 

In that passage we see a form of the same word translated "fellowship," sygkoinōneō (συγκοινωνω). With what have we fellowship, that is communion? The Body and Blood of Christ, or the unfruitful works of darkness? With whom have we fellowship, that is communion? Christ and His Body the Church, or "the world, the flesh and the devil?" Choose. 

One can see the skillful use of words in our Service of Holy Communion when we come across such lines as, "humbly beseeching thee, that all we, who are partakers of this holy communion, may be fulfilled with thy grace and heavenly benediction." The scholars of the Church of England were second to none, and they knew exactly what they were saying in light of the Biblical use of words that formed their thinking. 

We partake, we communicate, we have fellowship; this is with Christ and His Church; and it is across all barriers of time and space. As St. John tells us in the larger context of his words quoted above about our fellowship, going back to the first verse and taking it from the top:  

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (I John 1:1-4)  

Our Synagogue
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Heb. 10:22-25) 

That word "assembling" is a translation of yet another form of the word "synagogue." It is episynagōgē (πισυναγωγή).  

I do not know what value each of you place on the fellowship of God's Church, especially in countries where the choices seem endless, and where it is so free and easy to gather together. Unlike the ancient Christians under the Roman persecution before 313 AD, and unlike many Christians in various countries where the Church suffers persecution, modern western Christians do not take a risk or pay a high price for the opportunity to assemble. But, to understand the value everyone ought to place on the fellowship of God's holy Church, let us summarize the points we have learned in this brief study. 

When we gather as the Church we gather with Christ Himself. If we do not so gather or assemble together, we scatter and become prey for the enemy. If anyone doubts the reality of that peril, let us look at the very next verse from the portion we have quoted of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Vs. 26, 27 tell us, "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." Why does the writer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, warn that forsaking the assembling together of the Church leads to a state of willful sin? Need we really ask this question?

When we gather as the Church we have fellowship. This is not merely social; more than that it is also sacramental and theological. That it is sacramental is obvious, as we have seen from the passage about the communion of Christ's Body and Blood. That it is theological is obvious, because of what John tells us about the doctrine of the Apostles who touched, who heard and who saw the Incarnate Christ (especially as they again touched, heard and saw Him after He had risen from the dead). Our fellowship and communion is in the truth of God's word and it is sacramental. It is with God, and it is with one another. Across barriers of time, we have fellowship with the Apostles themselves by believing their testimony and doctrine; this fellowship is with God and with His Son. We have communion with Christ's Body and Blood; we have fellowship one with another; together we look forward to the day when we may be partakers of the Divine nature. 

I hope you are not planning to sleep late this Sunday.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day."

Then the mother of the sons of Zeb'edee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom." But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?" They said to him, "We are able." He said to them, "You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." – Matthew 20:17-28 RSV
For the above quotation I have chosen to use the Revised Standard Version (RSV) translated in the 1950s rather than the Authorized Version of 1611, strictly because I wanted the word “servant” rather than the word “minister.” Granted, in 1611 it was understood that “minister,” as a noun, and “servant” were synonyms, and that “minister” as a verb, and “serve,” were also synonyms. The word translated “servant” in this passage is διακονω (diakoneo) from which we get the English word “deacon.” It may seem doubly ironic that I chose a word other than “minister,” that is, for any who either never knew or have forgotten that when we call a man a deacon it is the same as calling him a servant.    In a sermon I once wrote for Palm Sunday, expounding on the great Christological passage in Philippians chapter two, I related this story: “In a rather unhappy conversation with a man who aspired to be a priest, I asked the question, ‘What is it that you want?’ He answered me, ‘I want to be a priest; in fact, I want to be a bishop.’ He even said, ‘Isn’t it right to want to get to the top of your field?’ I told him that he should forget the whole idea of Holy Orders for himself. I said I would not help him with it at all. I went on to explain to him that this is not about ambition. Every priest, including the Archbishop, is forever a deacon, that is, a servant. He said that he had never heard that before. Had he not read what Saint Paul tells us? ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.’ In fact, that is for everyone.”
          What we see in the Gospel passage, in the way that St. Matthew placed these two events together in succession, is a very clever use of irony by the former tax collector turned Apostle. In the much the same way St. Luke writes about the other passage in which Jesus said much the same thing to the Apostles as in what we read above. That is because, after telling them that He was about to be handed over to the Gentiles, and that one of them would betray Him to the terrible suffering and death that was now upon Him, we read, “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest (Luke 22:24).”

Lifestyles of the rich and famous – and powerful
          In the 1980s, or perhaps 1990s, a weekly television series caught the attention of people who, as I overheard from time to time, discussed it in their places of employment. The name of the program was Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. I never saw it, but I recall people being enraptured about what they had seen. The world, after all, has a value system in which riches, fame and, if I may add one more category, power, are in themselves the zenith of success. Or, to mention the same things, in terms of their spiritual substance, with the words of St. John, “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.”
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (I John 2:15-17).”
          It did not escape Patristic notice how those three things line up with the very first temptation mentioned in scripture. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat (Genesis 3:6).”
          Those things must be overcome in our hearts if we are to be Christ’s disciples. As much as modern Americans see the Church in terms of shopping and selecting only desired items, and as much as the clergy are tempted here to become competing salesmen in this awkward sort of emotional-religious retail, in reality the Church, wherever she is true to her Lord, has but two things: Discipleship and sainthood.
And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch (Acts 11:26).”
“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours (I Corinthians 1:2).”
          The Christian life is a call to sainthood, which means simply holiness. Holiness means two things: Both that we avoid willful sin, and that we cultivate the virtues that grow in us by the grace of God, given to us by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). The only method is discipleship, and we cannot be disciples without taking up, each of us, our own cross and following the Son of Man. “And he said to them all, If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23).”

Blessed Subversion
            It is not possible to be Christ’s disciples if we have the same value system as the World; that is as St. John uses the word “world,” both in the Epistle passage we have read, and in the opening of his Gospel: “He [the Word or Logos] was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not (John 1:10).” In our own time I see a troubling confusion among many American Christians. I have written quite a bit about the problem of churches that are given over to overt heresy, immorality and apostasy. But many American Christians who remain either orthodox, or traditional or Evangelical, demonstrate by their public statements an inability to distinguish between the spirit of the world and the Spirit of Christ. In a world that prizes riches, fame and power, taking up the cross of Christ is entirely contrary. We follow Christus Contra Mundum, that is, in terms of the world’s upside down values, Christ against the world.
          Beginning a few decades ago American Evangelicals began pushing the idea of “Leadership.” In daily mail to the church, among colorful glossy advertisements that I throw away every week are items about conferences with high sounding names like “Raising the Next Generation of Leaders.” How very contrary to the Lord who said, “It shall not be so among you.” Where are the conferences for Raising the Next Generation of Servants? Churches advertise (in a manner most insulting to traditional liturgical churches) their “Passion,” their “Power,” and their “Lively” services – which appear to be mostly entertainment. But disciples have no power in and of themselves, put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3), and must take up the cross daily to overcome themselves.
          The irony about which Matthew and Luke wrote, which Jesus corrected with His words that the greatest among us is a servant, is in striking consistency with the times in which we live. The twentieth century was a time of severe persecution for the Church, and it has grown more so since the turn of the millennium. Every day Christians face persecution, and in many cases poverty. Many are imprisoned, beaten, tortured or killed for their faith. In Touchstone, a Journal of Mere Christianity, every issue presents news about “The Persecuted Church.” How ironic, then, that in modern times many American Christians believe they will be “Raptured” before some seven year period of a “Great Tribulation” comes on the earth. Not only is that idea based upon a very poor interpretation of Scripture, but it is also a clear symptom of moral failure. If the Spirit of Christ is in them, how then can they fail to empathize with their persecuted brothers and sisters who live and suffer in other parts of the world?*
          It is essential that we become utterly subverted, from the world’s upside down point of view, by the cross of Christ. It is impossible to prevail in the spiritual battle unless we accept His call to take up our cross, and follow Him as disciples. We cannot overcome the power of evil by the arm of the flesh, or by the methods of the world. We must despise the value system of the world, and become servants. We must take the lowest place. We cannot overcome the world unless we become incurably subverted by that which is eternal, the Kingdom of God.

* About that error I have written before. See “Why I want to be Left Behind,” available in our own archives, and also on Virtue Online.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

First Sunday in Lent

II Corinthians 6:1-10  *  Matthew 4:1-11
Pelagius was Britain's first- sadly not last- heretic, and he taught that man was not really dead in trespasses and sins by Adam's transgression. His doctrine was that one could pull himself up by his own bootstraps, and become holy by sheer will power. Never mind everything St. Paul wrote about the weakness of the flesh. Never mind the words of Jesus: "Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world."1 Well, in my lifetime a new kind of Pelagianism captured the imagination of some twentieth century clergy. Because they had embraced, essentially, a quasi-Unitarian view of God, they were unable to accept the Gospel.
          To accept the Gospel you must come to a very simple recognition of fact: Life is not a test. Those who teach, in the name of religion, that life is a test, and at the end you get a passing or failing grade, will never understand the portion of the Gospel according to Matthew that we read this first Sunday in Lent. Like Pelagius of old, his modern followers cannot see that Christ came in the fullness of his divine nature, taking our finite and mortal human nature into his uncreated eternal life. They cannot see that He reached down and saved us from sin and death, that His cross and passion were the sacrifice by which we receive forgiveness of sins, and that He was raised again for our justification; that only by His cross and passion, and glorious resurrection and ascension, are we given life and immortality. They cannot see that He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. Life is not a test; it is a shipwreck. Christ did not come to prepare us for a test; He came to rescue us, to pull us out of the sea of sin and death and place our feet on solid ground. If life were a test we would all get an "f" and be cast into Hell. But, the Gospel is this: "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."2     
So, the message of today's Gospel is not, "imitate Jesus: if he could do it so can you." Yes, try to imitate Jesus the best you can by doing always what pleases the Father. But, when, not “if” but when, you fail, confess your sins and be forgiven. This is one area in which you cannot imitate Jesus, for he had no sins to repent of. We have no power in ourselves, of ourselves, to save ourselves. The temptations of Jesus in this passage from Matthew are strange to us. They exist on a higher level than the carnality we must wrestle with. I have never been tempted to use divine power to turn stones into bread. Have any of you? I have been tempted to eat when I was fasting, and tempted to satisfy the body in ways that are outside of God's will; but, never to turn stones into bread.  We need to examine these temptations in light of what they were for Christ, and in light of what they mean for us. Two things that come to our aid are from St. Paul. One is the line, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." 3 The other is, "But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many."4          
With these passages in mind, let us think of the temptations Christ endured, first in terms of their meaning in his life, and then what they mean for us. Always remember this; Christ being holy and sinless was not a fallen creature. Modern English usage gives us the mistaken idea that temptation implies something in us that is weak encountering what is alluring to us. But, it simply means, as used here in scripture in its original Greek, that the devil tried to put Christ to the test. Now Jesus was the Word made flesh, the fullness of the Godhead dwelling bodily among us, fully God and fully man. It was not the fullness of His divine nature shrunken down into humanity, but the raising of human nature into His infinite Divine Person. For us, the temptations that come are common to man. To the holy, righteous savior, born of a virgin by the Holy Spirit instead of the seed of a fallen man, He is the pure and perfect man. These temptations we read about in this chapter of Matthew were not common to man, in one sense, but were common to man in another sense.
The first temptation was this: "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." The temptation was to use His Divine power in a way that was foreign to his very character as God. In everything we see from creation, God always used his power to make, that is, to give. Everything is grace, including life itself. The creation of life, including human life, met no need of God, for God has need of nothing.5 All of God's creative work was because of His love, by which love He gives, seeking nothing for Himself.6 The Son of God came into the world because of God's immeasurable love, with the intention of sharing the humility of a creature, and suffering the death of the cross as the Atonement, that which no sinner could make either for himself or as a ransom for his brother. The will of God foretold by the Prophets, that Christ rose again on third day, was for our sakes; by His resurrection He meets our greatest need, the gift of eternal life to save us from the full power of the grave. With mighty signs and wonders He went about "doing good, healing all who were oppressed by the Devil."7 But, here, in the desert wilderness after forty days of fasting, He was tempted by the Devil to use miraculous power strictly for Himself. But, that creative power had only been used in charity, that is, agape- the love of God.         
The second temptation was to throw Himself down from the temple, that is, to put the truth itself on trial. It is this temptation that demonstrates the cunning of Satan in his misuse of the very scriptures themselves. Notice how he misquotes the Psalm, taking it out of its context that teaches us not to fear death as an ultimate power, so that its meaning is reduced to something no bigger than this mortal life. Notice too the addition of three words not in the real Psalm: "lest thou strike thy foot against a stone" becomes, in the Devil's mouth, "lest at any time thou strike thy foot against a stone." At any time?  The condition is taken away, and the promise mis-stated. This temptation was to place the word of God on trial, and to do so by using an arbitrary and false measure, one forbidden by the Law itself, namely, testing God. 
The final temptation is subtle indeed. "The devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto Him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." It is the plan of God that all nations serve and obey Christ when he comes in His kingdom 8. When He comes again in glory, this will happen, and will happen in a way far beyond our present ability to perceive. Understand the nature of this temptation for what it was: This temptation was to avoid the cross. Remember one day, as we read later on in the Gospel According to St. Matthew, when the Lord predicted his coming suffering and death, that Peter, "…took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, 'Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.' But He turned, and said unto Peter, 'Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.'"9      
The temptation was to arrive early at the goal by abandoning the Father's will, by avoiding the suffering and death which alone could reconcile man to God without any compromise of His holiness, and which in making sacrifice also shows the seriousness of our sins to change us morally. Retire early, avoid the suffering, do not take up the cross. Such a decision would have been to turn away from the Father indeed.      

In fact, there was no danger that Christ would yield to this. But we see important things for our own edification. The book of Genesis describes the Fall this way:

"And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat."10 

Look at these three things: 1) Good for food. 2) Pleasant to the eyes. 3) Desired to make one wise. Compare this to the words of St. John:

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."11  

Compare the two lists: "Good for food" to "the lust of the flesh." We forget that the lust of the flesh is not only sexual lusts and passions, but also all other things that drag us away from God because of their direct effect on the desires of the body. This includes abuse of sex and of food, but also, for example, the abuse of drugs and alcohol that destroys lives and families. Beyond the obvious, read the fifth chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians about "the works of the flesh" that are the opposite of "the fruit of the Spirit."
          Compare "Pleasant to the eyes" with "the lust of the eyes." Remember the words of St. Paul: "For I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet."12 The lust of the eyes is what Jesus spoke of when He said that it is the sin of adultery to look on a woman to lust after her. He was simply driving home the point already in the Law of Moses, in the tenth Commandment: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, etc."13 The lust of the eyes is never content with the gifts that God has given, and is the opposite of that love that "seeketh not her own." It wants more, even if your neighbor is deprived or diminished. The lust of the eyes does not give thanks to God for what He has given, but finds fault with Him for not trying to spoil us to our seemingly infinite satisfaction – that bottomless pit of increasing desire. As the writer to the Hebrews put it, "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content  with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."14 Giving in to the lust of the eyes is like drinking seawater. It never satisfies, and indeed, each drink of the seawater (that is, saltwater) only makes one thirstier and thirstier, leading to death by dehydration, and only after madness.

Compare "it was desired to make one wise" to "the pride of life." Pride requires an illusion. The truth makes a man humble. The truth is the very opposite of Pelagianism; for the fact is, you cannot go one day without committing sins if only in your thoughts. The truth is, you cannot keep your own soul alive. The truth is contrary to "Motivational Seminars," which teach the sin of pride a thousand different ways. Every day, in every way, it is not getting better and better; no not at all. You are aging, and as your eyes fail, and your hair gets gray or falls out, and your skin wrinkles, you are reminded that, however long you live, the body is subject to the dying process 15. This is part of the Fall. Pride says life must be a test, and we can pass it. Humility says, "God I have earned no better than an a failing grade. Save me from sin and death." A man trying to stay afloat in a shipwreck has no time to impress anybody; he must, with the humility that realism brings, accept salvation from his rescuer.   Christ overcame the things that are in the world. "The world" in this sense, that has only these three sinful categories: The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. The world, in that sense, is best described in the first chapter of John's Gospel: "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not." The world is fallen into the state of not knowing its Creator, even in His Incarnation.16  This season of Lent, learn the humility to take seriously these three enemies: The world, the Flesh and the Devil. Learn to fight the temptations that come through "the things that are in the world." Jesus used the scriptures, the sword of the Spirit; so, you need to know the word of God, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it.17 The disciplines of Lent are useful indeed. Fasting is a way to humble our souls before God,18 and giving is away to show gratitude to the Lord.

Let us have a holy Lent, knowing that without Him, we can do nothing.19

1) John 8:23

2) John 3:17

3) I Corinthians 10:13

4) Romans 5:15
5) Acts 17:25
6) I Corinthians 13:5
7) Acts 10:38
8) Psalm 2
9) Matthew 16:22, 23
10) Genesis 3:4-6
11) I John 2:15-17
12) Romans 7:7
13) Cp. Exodus 20:17 to Matthew 5:28
14) Hebrews 13:5
15) See my sermon for Trinity XVI.
16) John 1:10
17) Ephesians 6:17, in context.
18) Psalm 35:18
19) John 15:5