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The Rev. Roger Salter: “Lost Connection” (Colossians 2:19)

November 30, 2007

From the Rev. Roger Salter of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Birmingham, here is a sermon titled “Lost Connection” that uses references from Colossians and 3 John to bring to us a warning about being wary of false teachers, and about our need to remain connected to the Lord Jesus, who is the very Source of our spiritual health.

It’s an interesting and deliberate trick on the mind to view something or someone familiar as if they had never been soon before. Our “pre-set” focus on an object of vision is quickly content with the mere identification of the known and often fails to notice other features unobserved at first sight. The eye observes expected details without lingering to discover other aspects of the phenomena presented to it. It’s a useful discipline or practice to “take a fresh look”, and in doing so things often appear differently. The mind forms habits of perception that can inhibit. A fixed view becomes comfortable and it contributes to our sense of self and security giving us our place in the scheme of things. It can be beneficial to attempt the experiment of taking a sidestep in order to gain an angle on things through the eye of another beholder. The exercise is full of surprises and yields an expanded appreciation of reality.
Often in the investigation of a subject the mind is unconsciously looking for something compatible with, or confirmatory of, “pre-et” preferences in order to establish our security and exclude that which we instinctively fear. Our pursuit of knowledge and information is not open, impartial, and exploratory but really intended to buttress an already existing bias within the subconscious that organizes evidence to fit in with our pre-formed convictions and “wishful thinking”. This inclination to see things according to our preferences, our point of view, probably lies behind the term “vanity” so prevalent in the book Ecclesiastes. Our native outlook is possibly so skewed, so foggy, and so awry that we are scarcely in touch with reality. We contrive to twist things to suit ourselves. Our perception is so distorted, and we overlook data to such a degree, that we are, in effect, blind. The self-centred, self-regarding outlook, which we accept as normal, is a consequence of our moral defectiveness and alienation from God. We exist, in spiritual terms, in an environment of darkness. Our way is errant because our will is evil. Our heart creates a lie (or complies with the lie manufactured by the father of lies) according to which we live. We adopt a series of choices that cause us to stray further and further from God. We are hostile to him and hopelessly lost in the entanglements and inventions of our own unruly imaginations. Our grotesque egotism busily shapes our own “reality” for our own convenience in order to satiate our own base desires and fulfil our self—serving ambitions.

This is why Jesus Christ comes to us as the Truth: to reconnect us to God, to readjust our perception, and restore us to reality. Our own free-will and ignorant choices have led us into the quagmire of delusion and death. Through the light of Christ’s truth we rediscover the way that redirects our course from the dread culdc-sac of eternal separation from the Lord.

Our preferences, shaped by our sinful nature, lead us to perversion and peril. Everything depraved, destructive, and disruptive in human life occurs because of our severance from God. His holiness and wisdom no longer govern and guide our lives hence the discomfort, the conflict and chaos of human experience, and the resultant divine condemnation of our contamination of the universe. Wilfulness, self-will, will-worship, our sinful wills, our warped selves, are the source of all our ills and woes. We choose to please ourselves. Our flawed thinking leads to mistakes in perception, misbehaviour in our practice, and the missing of goodness in our goals. We have “come out from under” the beneficent sovereignty of God, trading his rule for the ruinous tyranny of Satan, sin, and self, a threefold thrust toward disaster that is the blight upon all humanity, originating in the rebellion of disobedience against the divine will and word. Now that same will and word are our only hope — God’s gracious will to rescue us; God’s gracious promise of salvation we call the gospel.
Man’s plight is man’s own fault. Man’s hope is the undeserved, intervening mercy of God. Our deliverance through the reconciliation effected through Jesus Christ in the sufferings of his cross brings us to reconnection with source of life and safety — God himself. Our departure caused the sufferings of mankind. The lack of connection explains the woes of the world. It is the same lack of connection that threatens the wellbeing of the church. The wilfulness, selfish individualism, and prideful personal preferences of folk within the church are a constant danger to the gospel of truth and the souls of men. Heresy* and immorality are the bitter fruits of the prevalence of our own choices over the will and word of God. Just as in our first sin committed representatively in our first parents, and in the immeasurable series of all our sins since, folk continue to opt to “come out from under” the sovereignty of God and adopt their own way under the guise of godly profession and service. They select (Greek. Hairesis * — to take, Chamber’s Dictionary) how they will believe and behave, not in conspicuous defection from the gospel necessarily, but in subtle distortion of its tenets and truths through adjustments and additions and dominating activity. The inroads of such attitudes and actions are clear in the wamings and refutations of the apostolic documents preserved for us in the New Testament. Peter, Paul, and John contend earnestly against the errors that so readily invaded the life of the early church through. “super apostles” (Corinthians) and elitist spirituality (Colossians). That these influences could be so plausible and so influential at such an early date is a warning to our need for watchfulness. Seemingly credible people of personal charisma and appealing but unsound convictions are a recurring hazard to the church’s health and they need to be discovered and guarded against. We need to discriminate between Diotrephes (3 John 9) and Demetrius (12). Once again, the cause of the distemper they spread is in their disconnection from God through their own self-infatuation and self —gratification. Paul describing the character of the troublemaker, perhaps a particular person known to him, distinguished by an un-spiritual mind, puffed up with idle notions — that is immaturity allied to unprofitable ideas — speaks of him as having “lost connection with the Head” (Col 2:19). This is both an accurate description of the state of the false teacher (disconnected) and a salutary reminder of the exalted status of Christ (the Head). Every ill among the people of God may be attributed to our lack of connection with the Lord Jesus through neglect of the word, prayer, or humble dependence — the forgetfulness that he is our Sovereign to whom we look constantly and uninterruptedly at all times and in all situations. We are saved subjects under the direction and protection of heaven’s king. To be sure, we are never endued with infallibility in our reference to him, but we are guided adequately by his wisdom, and enabled sufficiently by his power to perform his will if we keep close to him in reliance and obedience. The maintenance of this connection is vital. The neglect of it is harmful. It is a corporate and individual responsibility — to keep the link intact and alive for the health of the soul and the unity of our fellowship. Forgetfulness of the headship of Christ and the oneness of his “faithful company” is the cause of our weak contemporary ecclesiology. We are not simply believing individuals at liberty to “do our own thing”, but members incorporate in the “mystical body” — an unfashionable notion in our time.

I’d say Rev. Salter here touches on the very essence of true communion among believers; as well he shows the reason we have churches that are so weak, both individually and as part of their greater provinces and denominations: we have indeed forgotten the headship of Christ, and so many of our “leaders” are truly no longer connected to Him.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 30, 2007 9:37 pm

    I found most of the first paragraph difficult to track (kind of rambling and uninteresting) but then the Rev. Salter really gets going. He is a very good preacher…I must make a point to listen to more of his sermons.

    Will, I see that Saint Matthew’s is in Birmingham. Just curious…have you ever been to services there? I wonder why the AMIA has not been more active in the Houston, Texas area…they certainly have been in the Southeast.

    I think they have only two congregations in Houston.

  2. November 30, 2007 9:58 pm

    I would have to agree about the first two paragraphs of the sermon. But when he got going, as you said, Rev. Salter had a good sermon!

    Yes, I have attended St. Matthew’s a couple of times–was pretty impressed with them. In fact I have considered them as a church home.

    My theory as to the relative absence of the AMiA from Texas (there are seven AMiA churches in all of Texas, while there are seven in Alabama, nine in Georgia, and fourteen in Florida) is two-fold. I think that for one thing, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth under Bp. Iker is seen as being a relatively sound body, and even the Diocese of Texas compares well to the Dioceses of Alabama and Atlanta. So–not nearly as many people in Texas have felt compelled to flee to the AMiA. And secondly, the REC is in fact a lot stronger in Texas than it is in Alabama, and perhaps the people who HAVE fled ECUSA/TEC tend to go there if they don’t leave Anglicanism altogether. But that’s just my theory based on observations I’ve made.

  3. December 1, 2007 3:38 am

    I would have to agree with your observations relative to the REC in Texas. Very quietly growing at a very healthy pace. I would observe, however, that alot of folks in the Houston area who are departing ECUSA are heading for PCA congregations. Interesting times, what?

    Blessed weekend to all.

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