Sunday, June 30, 2013
Proper 8 Galatians 5:1, 13-25 Don't Look Back
"Don't Look Back." That was the name of our class song in 1984, soon after "Comfortably Numb" was summarily rejected. It was fitting then because we were leaving High School, and moving forward to college, careers, new places and families. Don't look back seems to be the theme for our lessons today. Elisha was kind of tempted to go back to his family, but he didn't. The man who wanted to follow Jesus was likewise tempted to return back home. But another "don't look back" is our concern.
Inspired by the Spirit, Paul reminds you not to go back to your former ways of slavery to sin. Don't look back on your former sinful ways from which you have been forgiven. Don't go back to your former life from which Jesus has redeemed you. Don't turn back to the yolk of the Law that binds you to a life of permanent frustration. Don't look back to your own flesh and its evil desires, be they lusting, drunkenness, carousing, jealousy, provoking fights, or any other immoral activity. Just don't look back.
Yet this admonition "Don't look back" is easier said than done. You have a fondness for the things of the past, even those you know weren't healthy for you. You are a creature of habit, and those habits of your flesh are so easy to fall back into. You have very strong feelings and emotions, wants and desires attached to those old memories of how you have acted in the past. You have old friends who still do many of the sinful things you used to do, and how easy would it be to slip back into your old ways.
But your former ways of thinking, God has changed! Where you used to think only about yourself, now you think of God's love, and the needs of your neighbor. Those old heresies you believed have been replaced by faith in Christ to Whom you now belong! You have experienced God's love for you in Jesus which has freed you from your sins through your baptism, washing them in that filthy flood from the font to the cross. You are freed from sinful behavior too, made a servant of God's love to others.
So if you don't look back, then where do you look? First, you look to the here and now, and what God has made you to be in Jesus. You came to faith through the Holy Spirit's work of calling you to become a believer through the Gospel of Christ's love for you from Calvary. Now as a believer, Jesus' Own Spirit dwells in you so that daily you walk in the Spirit, and no longer according to what your sinful flesh wants. You are no longer led by God's Law which increases sin. You are led by the Spirit!
In the Spirit, you love with God's Own agape love. His joy is your joy. You have peace with God the Father through His only-begotten Son Who gave His life to ransom you from death! So God's Spirit makes you patient to wait on God's timing, kind and good toward your neighbor, faithful to God in your behavior, gentle, with your self controlled by the Holy Spirit. None of this is of the Law. It is of God Himself, loving other people with His love which He gave you from the cross of Jesus, to give to others!
So following God, be it like Elisha after Elijah, or one of Jesus' disciples back in the day, is all about what God is doing. That's why you Don't Look Back to when you were in charge of things, with sinful attitudes and evil behaviors. God draws your attention forward to Him and what He does for you. For you are of the Christ. For sinful you was crucified with Jesus on Good Friday. A new you is raised in Jesus on Easter to walk in new life, a life which isn't according to the Law but in the Spirit of Jesus..
"Um, pastor, what if I do look back to my old sinful ways?" Then repent, confess and receive God's forgiveness in Christ. For the same Jesus in Whom you have been crucified offers Himself to you in His Supper regularly, for He knows that you sin daily. So Jesus feeds you with His body given for you, and gives you His shed blood for you to drink, a new testament for the forgiveness of your sins.
Hymns for today from LSB: