I started a new sermon series this week and thought I would post the sermons each week. It is called “God and Fences: Our lives in the hands of the Builder.” I hope you enjoy, of course the sermons are not verbatim, but you get the jest…
Back in 2002 I was led by the Spirit of God to take a break from college and move in with my aunt in Elida, NM. I had not yet responded completely to the grace that God has given me, but I knew that if I was going to seek God I could not do it in college where all my sinful stumbling blocks would be in front of me. During this journey of seeking God, I found myself in a job of building fences. I was hired by a Father-Son operation. Lyn (Chub), his son Wade and I would build fence all over eastern New Mexico. From sun up to sun down we built fences, mostly barbed wire fences, but occasionally we did other kinds. Looking back on these experiences I find myself finding connections between building fences and God working in our lives. For that reason for the next 5 weeks I will be discussing these connections I have found. This week I would like to talk about corner posts.
Every time we started a new fence the first thing we would do is set the corner posts. This is very important. The corner posts gave the fence its strength and direction. Now Chub would build the corner posts out of metal. We would first dig the post holes to set the foundation pipes in cement. Then on site he would weld metal pipes together to form the corners.
The reason why Chub would do this is because when we would start to drive in the t-posts Chub would use the corner post to line up the t-posts. You see Chub needed to know where the fence was going before he started to build it. From these corner posts Chub would also stretch out the barbed wire and make it tight so that the fence would be strong. To hold up the tension of the wire the corner posts needed to be strong. The whole foundation of the fence rests in the corner posts.
Our lives with God also need this same strength and direction. In the Christian Church our direction has always been focused on salvation. Salvation is a huge part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are being saved by God through grace. We always talk about salvation as being saved “from” something, however it is less talked about in the terms of being saved “for” something. A lot of our conversations about salvation center on the destination of heaven. As if this is the goal of life in Christ. But, I don’t see this as the goal. What is the point of life if the goal is just getting to heaven? Did Christ go through the torture and pain on the cross just so we can get to heaven? I don’t know about you, but that seems to me anti-climatic. Where is the greatness in this understanding of salvation? Where is the power? Where is the Good News? Why would the Ultimate God create such an amazing universe if the point of it all was to “get to heaven?” Why did God create such a beautiful Earth when our goal is to leave earth to go somewhere else?
It seems that when I read scripture, “going to heaven” is not salvation. Heaven is a part of salvation, but not its goal. When we think about salvation we must remember that we are not just being saved “from” something, But also being saved “for” something. Listen to the prayer that Jesus prays to the Father, “Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. I made myself holy on their behalf so that they also would be made holy in the truth…I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me.” (John 17:17-19; 21) Going to heaven is not salvation. Salvation is about being made one with God. Salvation is about being sanctified, holy, or set apart. We are being saved from sin, for a life which is holy. Maybe salvation is not about where we are going, but about who we are becoming.
This is extremely important to understand because if our corner posts are off then the fence that God is building will be off. The direction will be wrong. All of a sudden life bent on going to heaven becomes a static destination where all we care about is ourselves. Think about it, if all we cared about was getting to heaven then everything we do is centered on our own destination. Is this loving our neighbor? Is this loving God? This seems more like our love for self. We sometimes get the attitude of, “We need to punch that one way ticket.” “We need to say the right prayers, do the right things, and say the right statements so that we are in heaven when we die.” This should not be our attitude. Our salvation must be greater than just going to heaven. If Jesus wants us to go to heaven, why didn’t he pray for this? Instead, Jesus prays that we stay in the world not escape it.
You see heaven is not so much about a place, but about a reality. When we encounter heaven in scripture it is usually discussed in the sense of Kingdom. Heaven is the reality of God’s reign. It is the realm where God’s full glory is seen and experienced. It is where nothing hinders God’s love. It is where reconciliation happens. Where forgiveness happens. Where hope, faith, and love find true meaning. Heaven is not the final destination it is the realm where God’s will is done. Just to bring up this into mind, if heaven is the completion of our salvation then why would we need a “new Heaven?” In Revelation 21 it speaks about a “new heaven and new earth.” Would we really need a new heaven if that is our goal, if that is our corner post? Our salvation cannot rest in something that also needs to be renewed.
No, when Jesus laid the foundation of our salvation he put in corner posts that pointed to something greater than we could possible imagine and yet we witness it all the time. Jesus wants us to be holy. This is salvation. You see our complete salvation must be about being saved “from” something, “for” something and they must complete each other. We are saved from sin. We are saved for a sinless life or holy life. We are saved from death, we are saved for life. We are saved from an incomplete life, we are saved for a complete, whole, renewed life.
The whole premise of Jesus’ prayer is that we are made “ONE”; one with God and one with each other. To be “one” means that there is no barrier between each and everyone of us. Our sin must be dealt with so that we can be changed to sin no more, so that the barriers between us and God and us and each other are broken and removed. We need to be holy as our Heavenly Father is Holy. Why is this? Because God created us to be His image.
When God created humanity, He created us in His image (Genesis 1). In fact this was really good. He created humanity to reflect God’s goodness, kindness, holiness, and love. He created us so that all of creation would benefit. He created us to be unique. He created us to be like Him; holy.
Throughout scripture holiness is talked about as God’s presence. God’s presence is unique and completely separate from anything else. In other words, God’s presence is set apart. This also coincides with God’s glory. Glory as the object is the presence of God. We see it in the burning bush, the pillar of fire, the cloud of smoke and specifically in the Temple. It was God’s creative intention that humanity would be the place that creation would see God’s presence. After sin entered the story a wall was put in place that keeps God’s presence from shining on His creation through humanity. But God must be revealed to us.
For the Israelites the climax of Gods presence rested in the Temple. It was the center of their religious life. They knew that this is where God was reveled. But, having the Temple was not good enough for God. So He took it upon Himself to reveal His presence in a different way. Knowing that the best way to reveal His presence was through Humanity, God sent His Son to correct this problem. So now enters the understanding of salvation. We are saved from sin so that we can reflect God’s presence as we were created too.
Jesus, who is the Incarnation of God, became human to reveal God’s complete image. Jesus became human so that God would be revealed and humanity could be renewed in their created image. Humanity was now able to become God’s image once more and holiness would be restored to humanity. Salvation is being saved from sin because sin is not the image of God. Salvation is being saved for holiness because this is the proper and true image of God. Through the Holy Spirit we are becoming the image of God or the Temple where God dwells (1 Corinthians 3). What is the image of God?
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4)
Here is the image of God in full revelation; LOVE. When God establishes our corner posts it is not about where we are going, but about who we are. Are we becoming the image of God, the image of Love. This is the image of Jesus Christ, this is the proper image of humanity. If our fence is not strengthened and if it does not find direction in Love our fence will be off and good for nothing. As God aligns our fence if it is not focused on Love we are working against God (1 Corinthians 13). We need to realign with God’s corner posts. We need to live in the reality that Salvation is not about where we are going, but who we are becoming…