As He Is, So Are We In This World
“As He Is, So Are We In This World”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 4, 2016
Readings: Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Psalm 1
The beauty of our God is He doesn’t change. If you want to know His will and purpose, go back to the very beginning of creation. His will and purpose have not changed. It is still His will for us today. It is we who have changed, and not God. Most of us have moved far away from Him and His ways.
In Deuteronomy, the children of Israel were getting ready to enter the Promised Land. Moses was in the last days of his life and had passed on the leadership to Joshua. Before they entered the Promised Land, Moses repeatedly told the people that they must obey God. What Moses said to Israel in Deuteronomy is also God’s message for us today. God gives us instructions and if we obey them, we will live. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” (Deuteronomy 30:19). If we walk in God’s ways, we will prosper; but if we rebel and walk in our own ways, we will die. We may not be passing through Canaan like the children of Israel were, but we’re entering a new Kingdom and God is telling us today, “I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it” (verses 15-16). God’s blessings will come to us today if we will listen and obey. “But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish….” (verses 17-18a). All of creation and the things around us know who God is, that He is the Creator of all things, and if we violate His laws, they will know and they will come against us.
Choose life. This is a command from God, and if we choose something else, if we disobey, we will suffer the consequences. We’ve twisted the meaning of life. When things go wrong, we say, “That’s life”. But a difficult life is not the life that God meant us to have. The bad things come because we don’t listen and walk in His principles. “Choose life that you may live.” This life means wholeness, soundness in mind and body, provision for our needs, joy. “Hold fast to Him for this is your life and the length of your days….” Every choice we make is judged by the direction that Moses gave. When we make wrong choices, we turn against God and we suffer the consequences.
Before we left for Europe, Janie was sick so I had to step up and buy the supplies for baking. One of them are cake plates with cover, and I had to get the 10-inch ones. When I went to the store in Cubao, I saw the plates with a sign that says 10 inches and got 100 pieces of these. When I got home, they asked me why I got the 11-inch plates. The label on the plates says “11 inches”, but I didn’t check and so I got the wrong plates. Now they have to cut the plates to size – a difficult consequence of a wrong choice. This is a simple example of how wrong choices can make our lives more difficult. Our choices can either give us a blessing (and make our lives easier) or a curse (and make them difficult). Making the wrong choices will mean we suffer the consequences.
Philemon 6 “I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.” God did not just give us forgiveness of our sins because Christ did not leave our hearts empty but filled them with righteousness and holiness which only God can give. Now He expects us to live out this holiness. He gave us, not only holiness and righteousness, but also grace, faith, mercy and the ability to do what we must.
St. Paul asked Philemon to handle the issue with Onesimus with love; to forget that Onesimus stole from him; to receive Onesimus not as a slave but as a brother. Onesimus would later on become a bishop, having been forgiven and transformed from a useless slave to a man of God because of his obedience.
In the Gospel, Jesus brings out something which could be confusing. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26). Jesus talks about hating our own family when elsewhere, He tells us to love even our enemies. But what He’s really saying here is if we think more of our parents or children or spouse or anybody else more than we think of Him; if we put others ahead of Him, we cannot be His disciples. Christ should be no. 1 in our hearts and lives, as reflected in our commitment to Him. Making Him no. 1 is reflected in what we give to the Body or the Church.
The night before we left for the Convocation in Monaco, I fell ill. I was throwing up and had a high fever and Janie said that maybe we should postpone our leaving. I said no; we would go as scheduled. My fever was gone when we got to the airport, but my voice was also gone, maybe because of the acid from all the throwing up. When we got to Monaco, my fever was back. Father Fernan brought me to the ER of a hospital and for a while, I was thinking that I had contracted dengue from the farm. They said in the ER that I didn’t have a fever but my blood pressure was high. It was 185 and they gave me a pill, and then asked me to lie down. After an hour, my BP shot up to 198. After another hour, it was 203! They did a blood test but couldn’t find anything wrong. By then my BP had dropped to 172 and they sent me home. I was determined that my physical condition would not hinder me from doing what I went to Monaco for. We were there for ministry and that’s what we did. We put God first in all that we do, even when we don’t feel well or like what we need to do.
God has given us healing. When I went to visit Ponch Santos in the hospital, I told him that God healed him many years ago. I told him, “You may be weak now but God is your strength when you’re weak”. Don’t think of the negative. Instead, think of what God has done for us. Man has been restored, but are we walking in this restoration? Are we walking in what God has given us in Christ? This demands an invincible fortitude. Even if they said my BP was high, I didn’t believe them. Instead, I put my faith in what God has done for me. This kind of faith gives glory to God. Our hope and confidence is in what He has done for us.
Colossians tells us who we are in Christ. We should put this deep in our hearts so we won’t have anxiety about whatever comes our way. We don’t have to worry about anything. He’ll take care of whatever it is that concerns us. Sometimes we just have to be stubborn about our faith. “….as He is, so also are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17). We have to believe this! This is our potential. We shouldn’t listen to what our mind tells us but focus on what God has done for us. Sometimes we have to tell our mind to shut up! God gave us so much so that we can be a witness to the world. Israel wasn’t a trained army with weapons, but God was on their side when they walked around the walls of Jericho. They didn’t need to fight; they only did what God asked them to do, and this caused the walls of Jericho to collapse. This is what happens when we obey God.
How do we know when God speaks? How do we know what He’s telling us? He speaks to us through His Word and to our hearts. The other night, God spoke to me so clearly. He said, “Every choice you make is either going to bring a blessing or a curse; peace or turmoil.” God wants us to know how important our choices are. We must be certain that we make the right choices. Read Proverbs; God gives us many instructions and words of wisdom in the Proverbs. “Hear my son and accept my sayings, and the years of your life will be many. The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day. My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings; for they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. Watch your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:10, 18, 20. 22-23). If the heart is right, you’ll know what to do. For major decisions, we ask God for direction. Israel had to go through the River Jordan to enter the Promised Land. They were warned that there were giants in the Promised Land but this did not stop them. When we walk with God, we can face any giant and still come out standing and strong.
I believe that if Christians today were walking in the ways of God, it would be a different world we’ll be living in. In Monaco, the bishops and I were saying that it’s amazing how God is revealing all this to us now. It’s the time we’re in. There is no peace in the world, but when we meditate on the God and His Word, we will have peace. His grace is greater than any. The challenge to us today: “Choose you this day who you will serve.” “As He is, so are we in this world.” “Everything that I have done, you will do also, and even greater.” We must believe. We must be alive in Him!