Home > Lent > You Have Escaped from the Corruption In the World. Ash Wednesday 2015

You Have Escaped from the Corruption In the World. Ash Wednesday 2015


Ash Wednesday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

2 Peter 1:2-11

February 18, 2015

“You have Escaped from the Corruption that is in the World”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

The world is corrupt because of sinful desire, Peter tells us in the Epistle for Ash Wednesday.  It’s corrupted the way a car is corrupted by rust.  You have to stop rust or it spreads.  But there comes a point where you can’t really stop it anymore.  The whole car is corroded.  It will still get you around, maybe.  But the day is inevitably going to come when the whole thing is going to fall apart.  The world is corrupted like that.   It’s ruined.  It’s riddled with disease.  It’s already dead and it’s on its way to final destruction.  And what is the cause of the corruption?

 

Sinful desire, Peter says.  Sinful desire was let loose upon the earth when the devil tempted Eve to desire the fruit God had forbidden.  Then like a chain reaction, the explosion travelled, the contagion spread.  Adam sinfully desired his fallen wife more than God.  Then they were expelled from the garden and the tree of life and the presence of God to live out their lives under the curse of death.

 

And the world today is thoroughly filled with this corruption caused by sinful desire.  People want, desire what hasn’t been given to them.  Their thoughts, words, and actions reach out to take what isn’t theirs.  Children sinfully desire the honor and authority God has given to their parents and teachers.  People desire to bring vengeance in word and deed on others who have sinned against them.  They desire to look at or lie down with men and women God hasn’t given to them in marriage.  They sinfully desire the time and wealth and possessions of others.  All of this desire works death and the wrath of God.  And the world is full of it.

 

But you, Christian, have escaped from this corruption.  Peter says that you have been cleansed of your old sins.  You have escaped the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  How have you escaped?  Through the very great and precious promises of God.

 

He has promised that your sins are forgiven on account of the shed blood of the true God and man, Jesus Christ.  He has promised in your baptism that you have escaped from the world and its corruption, having been crucified and buried with Christ and raised with Him from the dead.  He has promised that Christ has been made sin for you who knew no sin, so that in Him you might become the righteousness of God.  He has promised that you have all the fullness of God in Christ.  He has promised that you are in Christ through Baptism.  And since you are in him, you are a new creation.

 

But to our fleshly eyes it doesn’t appear true that we have escaped the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  We still live in the world.  Every time we turn on the television or start playing with our phones the corruption that is in the world through sinful desire comes pouring out.  So how have we escaped?

 

And even if we were alone with just quiet in a bare room with no media, we’d find that the corruption in the world through evil desire comes pouring out of our hearts.  It is in us too.  That’s why we’re so quick to get angry and seek revenge, so quick to criticize, to resent authority.  We live in the corruption and it lives in us. So how have we escaped?

 

The answer is, again, through the very great and precious promises of God.  Because in His promises God declares that our sins are not counted to us.  They have been given to His only Son and removed from us.  Through faith in these precious promises we escape from our sins.  They are no longer counted as ours; only Christ’s righteousness is counted as ours.  And where the root of sin has been cut in this way the branches and fruits begin to shrivel up and die too.

 

So what should you do with this incredible gift that has been given to you in Christ, the promise of the forgiveness of sins?  Use it!  Use it not as an excuse for sinning but to become what you are in Christ, as Peter describes:  “He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”

 

See, beloved, we have already escaped.  We have escaped through the blood of Jesus which has been shed for us; we have been washed in that blood and made clean when it was poured on us in the Baptismal water.  It has been sprinkled on us in the preaching of the Word and the Absolution.  It has been given us as our spiritual drink to cleanse us within in the Holy Supper.  We have already escaped.

 

Now through the promises we are to press on and daily partake of God’s nature.  That is why we were redeemed by Jesus.  So that we would be Christians, that is, little Christs.  We would not be just students of Jesus, the way followers of Karl Marx or Hitler bought into their philosophies.  We were redeemed so that we would share the very image of Christ, so that we would be human beings in Him the way we were human beings in Adam.  We are to become little Christs.  And in eternity we will be that way.  We will be like Jesus.  We will be ourselves, but in the image of Jesus.

 

God has promised us that what we will be, we already are in His sight by faith.  So by faith in His promises we take hold of Jesus’ nature and make it our own nature, so that His characteristics begin to show in our earthly bodies.

 

That means that we should be zealous and joyful over the promises of God that declare our sins forgiven apart from our works, apart from our own holiness of life.  But we should also be zealous to imitate Christ, to live like Him and become like Him now in this earthly life.

 

A very sad fact is that we have often lived in such a way as to deny that we are little Christs, that we are in Him and He in us.  We have not been zealous to put on Christ and show His virtues in our lives.  Peter says that when a person is not growing in the image of Christ he is “so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his past sins.”

 

Often we worry about our life together as a church.  We see fewer people come to church and we wonder about our congregation’s future.  But behind this is a different worry.  We’re really worrying about whether we are bearing fruit in Christ, or whether we are being lazy and unproductive—whether we are like the seed that fell among thorns in Jesus’ parable from a few weeks ago that never bore fruit because it was choked by the pleasures and cares of this life.

 

This word of God from Peter does not tell us to measure our Christianity, our fruitfulness, by how many people come to our church.  It tells us that if we strive to participate in the nature of God through His great and precious promises, it will keep us from being unproductive or unfruitful in our knowledge of Christ.

 

No, if you are growing in the image of Christ, you will be making your calling and election sure, and Peter says you will never fall.

 

So how do you grow in the image of Christ?  You first of all listen to the Gospel and receive the Sacrament of the Altar and holy Absolution.  These will strengthen your faith in Christ that you have been set free from sin’s guilt and power through Jesus’ suffering and death.

 

Then you, as Peter says, ‘Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

 

These are the characteristics of Jesus.  Peter is saying, “Not only have faith that Jesus died for you, but make every effort to grow up into the image of Christ.”

 

That means that in addition to your faith, you strive to add moral excellence to your character.

 

And in addition to moral excellence, you strive to grow in knowledge—that is, knowledge of God and His Word.

 

And in addition to knowledge of God and His Word, you strive for self control—to be driven not by your impulses, emotions, and desires, but by Christ’s will.

 

In addition to self-control you strive for steadfastness—the ability to persevere in doing God’s Will despite suffering.
In addition to steadfastness, strive for godliness.  That means that in everything you do, you do it not according to your own will and desires but out of fear and love of God.

 

In addition to godliness, strive for brotherly affection, that is, love and kindness particularly for other Christians for no other reason than that they are Christians.

 

And finally love.  Strive for love, the kind of love God has.  Love that sacrifices self only for the good of the person loved.  Love that seeks nothing in return.

 

You may already be a moral person, a dependable person, a self-controlled person, at least compared to others.  Peter doesn’t tell us to aim at being more moral than others, more self-controlled than others.  He tells us to aim at perfection, to be like Jesus.  That is what we have been promised that we are in God’s sight.  That is what every Christian will be in heaven.  That is the standard we are to aim at, because it is what we are becoming.  It is what we will be when the Lord is finished with His work in us.

 

If we aim to be like Jesus—to be virtuous like Jesus, to be self-controlled and steadfast like Jesus, to love like Jesus—we will find that we do not at all measure up to what we should be.  There will be no place for pride and complacency among us.  There will be great need and desire for the forgiveness God gives in Absolution and the Sacrament of the Altar.

 

To be like Jesus is actually what God requires of us in the law and what we have been called to be in Baptism.  It’s not just an impossible ideal, a nice thing to aim at.  It’s what God requires for righteousness.

 

We will spend Lent fruitfully with this standard before our eyes.  God calls us to be conformed to the image of Christ.  Anything less is sin.  Even if we have great virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, so as to move mountains, to be like Jesus we would also need to forget about all that and love our sinful neighbors more passionately than ourselves, putting all our righteousness to work for them.

 

That’s what God requires of us.  That’s why today is a day of repentance.  We have fallen short of God’s law and fallen short of the image of Christ.  We put ashes on our head not as a pretty religious gesture but because we are so far from meeting God’s requirements that we should be burned to ashes in His wrath.

 

But we have been set free from God’s wrath.  We have escaped from corruption and death.  That is what we meditate on this Lenten season too.  We have been lifted out of the ash heap and seated with Christ in His glory at God’s right hand.  This is because Jesus, the virtuous, all-knowing, self-controlled, steadfast, godly one who loved His brothers and even His enemies—He gave Himself to be burned to ashes by God’s wrath for us.  He took our guilt before God and was punished for it.  Now, due to His love alone, we are forgiven our trespasses and given the right to share in the divine nature by the Holy Spirit who lives in us.  We have been given the right to become little Christs, little sons of God.

 

Now as we meditate on Christ’s passion this Lent, we are seeing the assurance of God that we will not be damned or lost.  We are also seeing a picture of what our lives will look like as we are being transformed into the glorious image of Christ.  We will be dying to the corrupt old self—painfully dying, so that Christ’s image can be put on.  But we need not despair or be frightened at this.  The proof that we will wear Christ’s glorious image is not found in our success at dying to the old and putting on the new.  It’s found in His success.  Jesus successfully was plunged into the depths of God’s wrath for us and He was successfully raised from the dead.  Because He has completed this work we have God’s great and precious promises to assure us that He has already made us in the image of Christ, and He will also complete this work of transforming us, so that we participate in the divine nature forever.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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