It’s definitely summer. Grass and weeds are growing. The kids want to be outside, whether they should be or not. We probably rather be outside too, not working inside. The green of the grass that stains their knees surrounds us in church too. They’re growing bigger, stronger, and smarter, but they aren’t the only ones growing. We all are to be growing, not in size and stature, but in faith and good works.
That’s what the green paraments teach us. We are to grow. During the first half of the Church Year we’ve learned what our Savior Jesus did in order to save us. During the second half of the Church Year we learn how that affects us right here and now. He died to save us from sin, death, and Satan. Therefore He wants us to be holy, to live like we’re saved. He doesn’t just want us to be holy in the life of the world to come. He wants us to lead a holy life today, tomorrow, every day!
Two weeks ago we learned the sanctified life began for each of us in Baptism’s waters. There the Holy Ghost pulled us out of the jaws of Satan and tore off us the shackles of sin. He rescued us from the devil’s domain and led us into the kingdom of Christ our God. He started to give us good desires, something the sinner who doesn’t have Christ doesn’t have. And if you don’t have good desires you can’t do anything good.
Last week St. Paul talked about fruit, but he wasn’t talking about the apples or pears growing on your trees. He was talking about your life. He was talking about the results of your actions. Good deeds have good results. Bad deeds have bad results. The bad shame us. The good commend us. Sin earns us death, but God gives us eternal life. Live like you have eternal life.
That leads us to today. The Epistle and Gospel seem to be about different things. The Epistle continues the idea of last week’s Epistle. Don’t live according to the wicked flesh. Live according to the Spirit of God. The Gospel tells us to avoid false prophets – don’t listen to preachers and teachers who don’t preach solely Sacred Scripture, but instead add to it or subtract to it to preach not Christ and His salvation, but something else, perhaps how to have a better life now or how to be the best you can be. He says you will know them by their fruits. If they don’t preach Jesus, ask if they believe in Him. If you observe their lifestyle, figure out what matters most to them: God’s will or their own desires.
If it is that way with preachers, if you can tell what matters most to them by how they live, then you can surely see that about others too. Most importantly, you can see what matters most to you. What matters most to you? Sports? Work? Some device? Family? Christ? What matters most to you? How often do you think about that?
What matters most to you? Your flesh or your God? That’s the question St. Paul poses today. What matters most to you? Do you live according to the flesh? Or do you mortify the flesh? We sing: “Let us mortify, while living, Flesh and blood and die to sin; And the grave that shuts us in Shall but prove the gate to heaven” (TLH 409:3). Are you struggling with your sins, or do you let them control you? That’s not to say you better never sin or else you will die, but it is to say you want to do better, you struggle to do better. Yes, you will fail in battle and will sin, but at the same time you find your sins abhorrent and pray God to rescue you from them not just in the future but right now. You are a sinner. You can’t help but sin. God knows that. That’s why He gave you His Spirit at Holy Baptism. He didn’t just come and go. He dwells with you. You are His Temple. He is your Help, not just in time of need, but at all times. Why does He want to help you? Because you belong to God. More than that, because you are God the Father’s own dear child!
You are God’s own dear child. It’s not just because He created you. It’s true, we are His creatures, and that should make us God’s children. Scripture calls Adam God’s son; that means you are too. But St. Paul talks about something else today. He doesn’t talk about creation. He talks about adoption. That’s something we know about! Some of you are adopted. Others of you have adopted. Others of you are related to people who have adopted or who have been adopted. My Great-Grandmother was adopted. Adoption means somebody is legally taken out of one family and joined to another family permanently.
You have been adopted by God. He wrote His Name on you when you were baptized. Two weeks ago when Judah was baptized I mentioned this. The sign of the cross was made on his forehead and heart. A week before it was done to Margaret. This may have been done to you too at your Baptism. This showed that Baptism marks you as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified. Baptism also marked you one of God’s beloved family members. The Cross is shorthand for His Name. He is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost precisely because He is Savior. The Father sent His Son to die and rise for you. The Father and the Son send you the Spirit to bring you to eternal life. And you are God’s own dear child. You have all the rights and privileges of a son.
That makes you God’s heir. How can God have an heir? How can you be a joint heir with Christ? God doesn’t die. Heirs only are heirs because somebody, a parent or grandparent, died. But God doesn’t die. He can’t die. He’s eternal. He’s holy and a spirit so He can’t die – unless He makes it possible for Himself to die. That’s what God the Son did. He made it possible for Himself to die. He took on your flesh and blood and died. He became man in order to die for you on The Cross.
That gave you your inheritance. A will only takes effect when somebody dies. I only received the inheritance that allowed me to buy a house because my grandfather died a year before. You only receive the promise of eternal life because Jesus died. His will is that those who trust in Him receive eternal life and that they be God’s children. You are baptized. You are God’s family. Jesus died to give you eternal life.
You belong to God. You are His adopted child. So live like it. That’s what St. Paul tells us to do today. You belong to Christ. So don’t be a bad tree, a rotten tree, producing bad fruit. Be a good tree producing fine fruit. That’s what God has made you. Baptism made you a good tree. It washed the rottenness out of you. It made you a new man, a human being with God’s own will and desires. It made you God’s own dear child, somebody who wants to please God just like you wanted to please your parents when you were little. You can’t do anything good without God’s Spirit. He enables you to live according to His will.
Children grow up, don’t they? Parents, you raise your children to be ready for life as an adult, right? God is raising you. He’s getting you ready for eternal life. That will be a life without sin, a life completely focused on Him and your neighbor, a life where you will always think and do what is right. So get ready for it. Make that life your focus. Make the One Who gives you that life the center of your life on this earth. Don’t be a bad tree, because you know what you do – and what God does – to bad trees. Be a good tree producing fine fruits.