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Image of Christ

Concordia Lutheran Church
Sixth Week of Epiphany, February, 12, 2012

The Imitation of Christ
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace, that mercy and peace of God our Father, transform us into the Image of Christ, reflecting His light to a world that is in darkness!

The Sign of the Cross, the Upraised look, the Tebow
When do we get to give God the glory?

In a few weeks, Major League Baseball’s spring training will begin. Men will, sometimes consciously and often unconsciously, make a public proclamation of their trust in God, as they step into the batter’s box.

They will pause for a moment, take one hand off their bat, and do Lutheran aerobics. They will make the sign of the cross, asking God to bless them in that moment. Like I said, some will do it in a conscious prayer, others, perhaps do it out of routine. Heck, I even know some golfer’s who bless their golf balls prior to teeing off! Much like in any church, it is easy to judge them cynically, but God knows their hearts, and our. Either way, I will rejoice, for there is some kernel of trust in God that is on display.

Similarly, athletes in many sports, especially after a “heroic action” will take time to praise God. They will fall to their knees – or point to the sky. They will say that all the glory goes to Jesus Christ, while millions applaud them. There is actually a stance now – the “Tebow” which many mock, but seeks to spend a moment with God. I imagine in a few weeks, there may also be one based on a young second generation Taiwanese pro basketball player, who also humbly is testifying to his faith, and many are seeing it, because of the fame afforded him because of sports.

I have to admit, part of my cynicism comes from envy and covetousness. I would love to have fifteen minutes of fame – and use it to tell of the stories of your faith in God, and God’s faithfulness that I have witnessed in the nearly four years I have pastored here. There are millions of people who need to know what you’ve experienced – and when will we get to give God that kind of glory?

When we hear Paul’s words, “do it all for the glory of God”, I think most of us think it means things of great importance, as If the glory of the acts equals the glory that it gives God. What would we give, for that 15 minutes of fame – and to be able to tell everyone that it is not us that deserves the praises and adoration, but it is God.

But doing all for the glory of God isn’t about doing something glorious for God, but in doing everything in a way, in a manner that brings glory to God. Whether it is slamming home a basketball, or making pancakes for someone you love. Whether it finding the cure for cancer or undergoing the treatment for it. Whether it is writing a dove award winning version of the Lord’s prayer, or struggling to sing that song in key, while taking a shower. It all can be done, it is all done, for His glory.

We don’t have to wait for our fifteen minutes in the spotlight to praise and adore God, Paul encourages us to live as he did, as he struggled to live life as Christ did.

Not doing what is best for us, but doing what is best for others, Paul tells us, that they may be saved.

We are to be the image of the one who gave up heaven, to humbly live and die that many would be saved.

Imitation of Christ is not natural
How many of us enjoy trying to please everyone?
How many of us do what is best for others, that they may be saved?
We are often the stumbling blocks

It sounds like a tall order doesn’t it – to 24/7/366 be an imitation of the Lord Jesus. To keep our lives focused on His work, to being His hands and His feet as Theresa of Lyseux would encourage us. It doesn’t seem possible, or even natural…

I mean – how many of us have tried all our lives to please everyone? That phrase sounds a bit odd, so let me offer another translation,

How many of us try to live in peace with everyone, to be completely reconciled to them?

How many of us are willing to constantly not look to our own needs, but instead to look to the needs of others, putting ourselves out there, with the specific intent that they may know God’s love?

And how often do I strive not to become offensive, how conscious am I as to whether I am the brick wall that separates them from Christ, or is presently becoming a stumbling block in their journey with Jesus?

If we even take the time to think about it, and many do not, being like Christ, being Christ minded is challenging – and not naturally who we are. We would love to be like Jesus, and many of us try to keep up with the illusion, while others simply just give up trying. Here Paul talk about it in the words he wrote to the church in Phillipi,

1 If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— 2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. 5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 6 He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. 7 Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! 8 Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.
Philippians 2:1-8 (MSG)

That is the same exact thing Paul is talking about in our reading from 1 Corinthians, and like I said – it seems that it is not natural to us… to be that Christlike.

Imitation of Christ is Supernatural!

Which is actually okay! (move towards baptismal font)

It is not natural – but it is supernatural. It is what happens here, as God marks us as His new creation, His children. It is what happens to us as He cleanses us, and declares us righteous, holy, and adopts us as His heirs, co-heirs with Jesus! As we are united in Jesus natural death, so that we have risen with Him eternally.

That’s what happened to Paul, the man God sent and called to write a good portion of the New Testament. How could he have gone from being an arrogant, condescending Pharisee who rejoiced in persecuting the church, to the man who would endure shipwrecks and beatings, stonings and imprisonment, just so he could tell people about his Master – the one who loved him enough to die for him – even enduring that death looking towards the joy of redeeming Paul…. And us!

It is even more miraculous than the healing of the lepers in the other two readings, for the healing we read about there seems mostly physical – but they would learn to adore God as well.

Like Paul, we have been transformed as well. For that is the basis of the word repentance – not just our sorrow over sin, not just an apology – but literally in Greek it is to have a changed mind –a complete transformation of how we think and live. It is there, in understanding God’s love for us, that we learn to reflect that love, and our lives take on His image, the image in which He created us, and re-creates us.

Again Paul’s words

8 God saved you by his grace when you (trusted Him). And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)
The Image of Christ

Here is the challenge – its not about us trying to force ourselves to look to others benefit first, that they may be saved. That describes how our actions will develop. But as 2 Corinthians 3 tells us,

18 And all of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the image that we reflect in brighter and brighter glory; this is the working of the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NJB)
Mirrors can’t reflect what they aren’t focused on, and neither can we. We need to grasp what happened there, (font) what happens here (altar) Where God comes to us, and makes us His. This is the love of the Lord, the sacrificial love that looks to others salvation before our own comfort that must be reflected to this broken world.

So be a mirror, be still and know that He is God, Be still and as you are, you will begin, whether in your fifteen minutes of fame, or in a place where no one sees you, you will begin to reflect to the world your Lord’s love. And you will do everything to His glory, as people praise Him as you reveal His love to them, and they are saved.

Joining us who dwell in a peace that is beyond all comprehension, in which our hearts and minds are guarded by Jesus Christ. AMEN? AMEN!
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