Forget None of His Benefits
“Forget None of His Benefits”
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
Third Sunday of Lent
February 28, 2016
Readings: Exodus 3:1-15, Psalm 103:1-14
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
During Lent, we are to focus on the love of God given to us through Christ. We are not to exalt the suffering but embrace the love that goes with the suffering that we may be set free. For too long we have focused on fear and dying that we have missed understanding and embracing the love of God for us. Psalm 103 reminds us to remember the benefits that God has lavished on us: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits.”
In the Old Testament, God speaks to us in symbols. The burning bush that Moses saw was not consumed. The bush represents humanity and the fire, the Holy Spirit. The fire of the Holy Spirit purifies; it does not destroy. “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world may be saved through Him.” (John 3:17). God said He would never leave us nor forsake us. He never deserts us; He’s always here for us. Psalm 139 tells us that God is everywhere; we can’t get away from Him. This is God’s commitment to us which are reminded of at Lent.
The sons of Israel stayed longer than necessary in the wilderness because they did not believe Moses; they rebelled against God. At the burning bush, God asked Moses to go to Pharaoh that he may ask Pharaoh to set His people free and out of Egypt. Moses asked God what he shall say if the sons of Israel ask him what God’s Name is. God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM….I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). “I AM” means He is everything we will ever need. Why then are we still anxious? It’s either because we don’t understand who God is to us and what He has done for us or we just don’t believe.
When God led Israel out of Egypt, He split the sea so they could pass thru and flee from the pursuing Egyptian army in chariots. This is symbolic of baptism; God destroyed the power of Satan over us in baptism, in the process empowering us to overcome him, just as God used the sea to destroy the Egyptian army. Psalm 103 tells us that God pardons all our iniquities and heals all our diseases. “By His stripes we were healed.” (1Peter 2:24) It is done! We’ve become members of Christ’s Body and therefore, the benefits of His Body are also ours! Christ was never sick; therefore, sickness doesn’t belong to us. He heals all diseases. He is the strength and power that overcomes diseases. We may go thru the fire, but even in its midst, Christ is there, just as He was there with the three children of Israel in the fiery furnace. Even when we find ourselves in fiery situations, God will be with us to deliver us.
Lent is a reminder to us not to forget the benefits God gives us in Christ. Sin brings fear into our lives. In Christ, we have hope, regardless of what happens around us. We are not our own; we were bought with a price. “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me….” (Galatians 2:20) We can’t accomplish anything on our own. We need God who gives us the ability to accomplish our tasks. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). We are the Body of Christ. His power is flowing through us. There is no room for fear and anxiety in our lives.
Lent reminds us of what Christ did for us. If we focus on this and live it, fear will have to go. Meditate on the price Christ paid, what He suffered to give us new life. God Himself metes out justice. We shouldn’t take revenge on our enemies because God Himself will deal with them.
God is slow to anger. He forgives us and restores us to right standing with Him. In the wilderness, God took care of Israel even when they repeatedly rebelled against Him. This is the heart of God. (1 Corinthians 10:6) “Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.” Life comes out of a relationship with God. The burning bush tells us that God purifies us with “fire” but He won’t destroy us. If God says He won’t destroy us, where is hell? This is a food for thought. God is a God of mercy. Even in our darkest moments God is with us, and no one can touch us. “The thing that you fear the most will come upon you.” This should be a warning to us. It is only God that we must fear – with a reverential fear, not the anxious fear that destroys.
“….Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) We have the hope of glory in us, not defeat and failure. Everything pertaining to life and godliness has been given to us. The problem is we don’t use them. Instead, we moan and groan as if we were helpless. We should have the faith to use these gifts. If we lose hope, there’s no life to look forward to. People flocked to Jesus everywhere He went because He met their needs. The Lord said that everything He did we can also do because He dwells in us. The Word was made flesh in us.
In the Gospel, the owner of the vineyard was frustrated with the fig tree which, after three years, still wasn’t bearing fruit. He told the keeper to “Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?” The vineyard keeper replied, “Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.” Such is the heart of God. He gives us another chance when we fail. He knows our frame; He knows ahead that we will fail, and He is already giving us another chance to make up for it.
In this season of Lent, our challenge is to recognize the benefits that God has given us. He restored us to right standing and relationship with Him when Christ went to the cross. He died and we died with Him; but He rose again and we rose with Him to a new life. Think of the price He paid. We don’t want to turn away and reject this precious gift; we don’t want to spurn His love. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits.”