Over the past few weeks, we’ve had a desire to provide hope and help during all the craziness. As I mentioned at the outset of yesterday, our goal has been to shed some light on the reality of the craziness…a historical battle about the supremacy of Jesus. We have a real enemy, who’s doing damage at every turn. And if we’re not careful, we will miss what the battle of really about. So, what I’ve hoped to do over the past several weeks is first, give us hope. We must see the end-game is myriads from every nation gathered around worshipping the Son of God. Every knee is going to bow to our King. But I also wanted to shed light on the reality of the spiritual battle. My concern over the past few months is that we, as Christians, are attempting to fight with the same weapons of the sinful world and it’s causing more harm than good. It’s high-time for us to engage with faith, using the weapons that God has given us, which are spiritual and powerful.
A question about clarity from a sermon:
I was asked a great question at our visitors’ reception, that I think bears repeating. Someone asked, “if there’s something unclear in a sermon, we need clarification, or we may not agree with, how do we approach that?” That’s a great question and here’s my answer: For me (and I can’t speak for every preacher), I don’t mind you approaching me after church to ask. Things are usually pretty fresh in my mind and I’m comfortable (normally) to answer those kinds of questions. Now, I will say, if it’s something you’d like to debate with me, then let’s set a time to get together to chat over that at a different time. But generally, I would rather you gain clarity, rather than walk away confused or unclear.
From the cutting room floor:
In a sermon like this, there is so much information to cover. I literally needed to cut several things out of the sermon because it could’ve gone on for quite some time. I had to ask myself, “what needs to be spoken and what needs to be written?” Here are some things that I think will serve you, in written form:
- One of the challenges of our time is that this spiritual battle, is being played out so vividly before our eyes. The unique difference of our time now than from eras of revolt or cultural wars in the past, is the pace at which which information travels. Everyone has a video camera on them now in the form of a phone and most everyone can post something instantly and things spread like crazy. If, by chance, the Watts riots in 1965 or the Los Angeles riots in 1992 were covered on social media, it would’ve felt like the world was coming to an end (just like it is now). My point: we need to keep lots of this stuff in the historical timeframe that we’re in…is this a monumental time in our history? Absolutely. Can we say it’s the worst time? I’m not sure…time will tell.
- Another challenge about seeing the spiritual battle so clearly, is that there are people who are intent on doing evil. We must be honest about this. Just like our spiritual enemy is intent on doing evil, there are people who are utilized by him to do evil. The bible says they’re consciences are seared and they’re blinded by him to do his will. Where this gets hard to deal with is believing that everyone who believes differently from us, is intent on the same evil. In other words, we think we must deal with all people in the same way. But I think, noticing how Jesus dealt with different types of people is really helpful. For instance:
- To the woman caught in adultery, He forgave her and offered her hope. To the hypocritical Pharisees who accused her, He strongly rebuked.
- To the crowds whom He saw as “sheep without a shepherd”, He had compassion. To the scribes who put heavy burdens on those same crowds, He strongly opposed.
- To His disciples, He taught, exhorted, and persevered with them.
- Different folks needed a different response. One guy put it like this: there are sheep in this world that need a shepherd and we need to feed them. There are swine in this world that are hypocritical and they need to be rebuked. There are wolves in this world that are intent on doing evil and they need to be exposed as evil and removed from the sheep, sometimes forcefully.
- Now, the reason why this is critical in our cultural moment is that we cannot deal with people who are intent on doing evil, the same way we deal with a person who might have the same worldview as those folks, but not the same heart. Sometimes, we could be harming sheep and feeding wolves…
- This reminds me something that a pastor friend told me years ago…there are different “fools” in this world. The bible says that the “the fool has said in his heart there is no God.” But, there are different “fools”…some are militant, with no desire but to harm; some are willing to listen and have a heart for discerning truth. It is really important to us to understand which type of “fool” we’re dealing with because while they will need to be dealt with differently. And from experience, spend more of your time dealing with the second one:). Even though this statement is not complete, I think it speaks to this: “Teach the teachable and reach the reachable.” It’s incomplete because all people, by the power of God, are reachable. It’s helpful in that if you’re dealing with someone radically hardened to truth, you might need to change your approach with them or the time you spend with them.
- Another challenging issue during this time, is who do we have these types of dialogues with? Here’s something I’ve learned through the years and something that I need to remind myself of often…your sphere of influence matters immensely in your role in the Kingdom of God and your role in this spiritual battle. For instance, one person can change the course of human history, we all know this. But, what you’ll find, is it is normally done by those who are simply being faithful in the spheres of influence that God has given them. At the beginning of this crisis, someone said to me, “Pastor, you should be leading us in the fight against this tyranny, just like Abraham Lincoln did.” My response was, “Abraham Lincoln was the President.” I got no reply from the other end…My point is not, that I want to abdicate my role and responsibility. My point was, the President has a completely different sphere of influence than I do. It is my job to be as faithfully responsible in my role and sphere of influence, as the Lord desires. And…it’s those around the President to influence him. That doesn’t mean that in non-normal times, one person rises out of nowhere to change things. It does happen. But normally, God uses people like you and me, in our spheres to speak to those in our spheres, about the truths of God. Keep this in mind. That’s why social media is so hard to have debates on…most people are not in your “sphere of influence”…but they really tick you off when they write something that disagrees with you and you feel compelled to respond to those folks. And when you do, things seem to blow apart and go a direction you never intended. My response is…don’t respond to those you don’t have a relationship with or those that you cannot call or visit with verbally or face-to-face.
- Finally, there’s another area of division that I didn’t speak about on Sunday that might be helpful. It’s in the area of justice. It’s fascinating, if you look at the kings of the Old Testament, that God wanted them to rule with justice. This meant doing what was right and just according to the law. And then in Romans 13, it was critical that the civil authorities see themselves as using the “sword” for justice: rewarding those who do right and judging those who don’t. In biblical justice, it was always understood as, evidence, facts, and truth revealed if something were just or unjust. So, let’s take a very modern issue and look at it:
- Does God care about injustice? Yes. But why does God care about injustice? Because He is the God of justice & He’s given us authorities who are to reflect His justice. And justice in God’s mind, matters because justice reveals His care for us. But in God’s view of justice, all the facts, evidence & truths must be laid bare, in order for true justice to be administered. So, is it an injustice for a white police officer to kill a black man (or vice-versa or any race)? It depends on all the facts, evidence & truths. But, to go farther, is it unjust for the “public court of opinion” to castigate a white police officer (or any officer of any color), before all the facts, evidence, & truth is known? Yes it is.
- Justice must only be administered, when all the facts, evidence & truths are revealed and known. Therefore, if we want a society that is truly just, we must allow for all the facts, evidence, & truth to be revealed, before making a judgment.
- We do not beat injustice, by creating another injustice. We beat injustice by elevating true justice, by doing things that are truly just, and by administering true justice. We must expose injustice, but must must be cautious that in doing so, we create another injustice.
This week, we’re going to jump back into our study of 1 Corinthians. Remember that?? We’ll be looking at 1 Corinthians 7:1-9.
From the Cheap Seats:
- Welp…bad sports Sunday…Manchester City 2 Leicester City 5 (only time in Pep’s career that his teams have allowed 5 goals)…Dallas Cowboys…don’t need to say anything else.
- The World Series will be played at Globe Life Field!!! If you don’t know, that’s the home of my favorite baseball team…but, my favorite baseball team won’t be playing in the World Series. “Dad, why do your favorite teams stink??” Yeah, I know.
- This commercial is hilarious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Wz7VmqWg2g.
To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.