Church Blog

Seek Justice in Christ and Live Justly in Christ.

These were my words to you as an application to Revelation chapter 6 where God lets us in on the high cost of justice in a world made up of sinners. The passage shocks us and causes us to cry out to God for mercy – both for us and for the sins of the whole world. But what are we asking for when we pray for mercy to triumph over judgement?

We are praying for these two things. First, we are praying that God will accept the sacrifice of Jesus (His propitiation as in Romans 3:25) as a substitute for our own sin and guilt. That is, we are asking God to give us mercy because Jesus has justly carried aware our true moral guilt. This first prayer humbles us to pray the second prayer for the sins of the world because we understand that we are one with them, not “us versus them,”

Second, we are praying that God will bring the justice of heaven to earth even now through His church preaching the gospel and walking in justice daily.

How do we at SMCC live as a justice oriented people? Let me say three things to you pastorally.

  1. We must define “justice” biblically in regards to every issue at hand. In other words, who gets to say what is just and what is not? This is always a religious question and it always starts with what it means to be human. We are taught by revelation that every human person has value because they are created in the image of God. This is true regardless of race or social or economic status. It is true regardless of age or location in relation womb. It is true regardless of chosen sin or present consequences. It is true for the president (whether or not he/she is the one you voted for) and it is true for the prisoner. Each culture develops its own idea of justice and it is for us to say, but most importantly to do, that which is revealed in Scripture, consistent with it and corresponds to reality as we find it.
  2. We must act consistently with that biblical justice. We hold to the value of all people and then seek to live consistently with that, both treating and defending the treatment of all people as valuable. This will always bring about the best because it always corresponds to reality as we actually find it and the world is as God said we would find it. People are actually valuable and this is the reason why. We also act consistently the gospel of free grace in Jesus for those who repent and believe. The first justice, as we have said, is the grace that comes when the sacrifice of Jesus is applied to their true guilt. Do our justice actions require the gospel or are they just like everyone else’s? We are enculturated (to make up a word). We will begin to assume that our culture is right and judge the church or the bible by an ungodly standard. The trouble? It is not true and it will lead to destruction. People will not flourish because it is not reality.
  3. We must be careful when becoming involved in justice “issues.” It is the rich have the privilege of seeing poverty as an “issue to be solved.” We are a local church filled with broken people (rich and poor), redeemed by Jesus and we live where we are in the world so that the justice of God can literally be acted out by you in your house, in your school, in your work and in your town. Start there. “Issues” are transformed when another real person is involved, not just an idea. Yes, walk to raise awareness and money. Yes, share the campaign on Facebook. But, most of all love, right now, today. Love enough to seek the justice God desires for the real people in your lives through the Gospel and through stepping in between them and injustice wherever it is found.

As a church, we will continue to preach the gospel, every Sunday and every chance we get. The good news of Jesus is the only way that real justice will happen in this world because it is the only honest grounds for forgiveness. And we will help prepare you to live in the real world.

Some of you are called by God to love individuals who are suffering, like Mother Theresa who became a poor woman in Calcutta to care for the poor men and women in Calcutta. Many of you are already doing this our neighbors who are poor, in prison or are discriminated against because they live in a womb. Go. Serve. Love. And we will support you in any way we can.

Others of you are called to address where are current systems are unjust and foster injustice. God bless you, you are joining a long line of Christians who have created systems for economic opportunity, environmental health, education for all, healthcare and the end of slavery. Many of these systems are still there under the surface, but just like Genesis 3, they will fail and cause destruction when we try to exercise our dominion as if it is outside of God’s dominion. Justice actions without justice Gospel will soon lead to another kind of tyranny. Take the time to think biblically and act consistently in the real world…and may justice roll down like waters (Amos 5:24).

Your Pastor,

What I Would Have Said If I Had More Time

Every single Sunday, I leave more unsaid that I could ever possibly say about the passage in front of us. My hope, at the end of the day, is that the single aim of the Spirit of God when He authored that passage would be true in us. From Revelation 4 and 5 that aim is that we would sing the songs of heaven into each other’s hearts, because worship changes everything.

And yet, there were several topics touched on in the passage that I would have loved to speak to if I had more time.

I would have said more about the sabbath, Lord’s day, worship.
The call to join the heavenly song is the first vision God gives to the suffering churches of Asia Minor. That is, before He gives them practical advise on how to stay strong in the midst of worldly opposition, He calls them to stop and worship. This sounds just like the original Sabbath day of Genesis 2, doesn’t it? Do you remember what we said about that day?

We said that the goal of creation is the rest of the sabbath day. God created at the universe as the majestic theater for meeting with His people. We said that the rest has become our basic rhythm because God has already finished His work of both creation and redemption, you are His people in this place. That second part – redemption – is where the last day of the week turns to the first day of the week. What began in creation has been renewed in redemption. We now gather as God’s people on the day that celebrates resurrection and leads us to the last thing w said about sabbath rest and worship. We said, regarding Genesis 2:1-3, that we continue in patterns of worship because there remains a future rest for the people of God on that day when all things will be made right. Between now and then, we gather as God’s people, on the Lord’s day, so that the good news of what Jesus has done and the certainty of what He will do can launch us out into the world for good.

Very specifically, if I had more time, I would have said that God’s pattern has always been to prioritize the day of worship as a means for shaping the hearts of His people.

I would have said more about pragmatism.
Now, what about that practical advise? Are we against being practical? No, but we are against pragmatism. Pragmatism is that belief that the truth of an idea can be measured by its success or its practical application.

It is better for us to understand truth as starting with God. God has spoken truth to us in the Bible, so truth is revelation before it is practical. For this reason, we gather every Sunday, open the Bible to the place we left off the previous week in order to hear what God has to say and then ask how we might apply it to our lives.

With that said, believing and living into God’s true revelation will always be the way that brings about the best in our lives and in the lives of the people we touch. God’s way will always be best, the most pragmatic – it will lead people to flourish.

And it will often confront our cultural understanding of success. In that sense, it is impractical. In Sunday’s passage, the call to worship together even before I try to fix the problem is presently impractical, but in the long run it will transform both us and the world. It will transform us by transforming our imaginations.

So, I would have said that Sunday worship is divinely pragmatic, but not in the way that the world counts as successful.

I would have said more about singing and imagination.
When we sing truth, we join in with reality. I mean both in the lyrics and in the musical forms itself. It use to be said that music was good, beautiful and true when it resonated with reality, with the universe as God created it. Now we say that music is good if it resonates with my personal experience or emotions at the time. That is quite a dramatical shriveling of views. Actually, that is pragmatic and probably accounts for much of the loss of the rich experience of sabbath worship.

We are learning to sing the songs of heaven. We have the words from the scriptures and have asked our musicians to think, pray and lead us in the tunes that best harmonize our hearts with those lyrics. The music of heaven transforms our imagination. The old poet John Milton once said,

For if such a holy song
Enwrap our fancy long,
Time will run back and fetch the age of gold,
And speckled Vanity
Will stricken soon and die,
And leprous Sin will melt from earthly mould;
And hell itself with pass away,
And leave her dolorous mansions to the peering Day.

He goes on in the poem to tie the songs of the “one day” to the songs of creation and to the songs that accompanied the baby born in a manger.

What I am trying to say is that the songs we sing in sabbath worship are transforming our imaginations and transformed imaginations will transform our lives and our world. Why? Because if the best world that I can imagine is one in which a rising economic tide raising all boats, then I will live into that economic vision. However, if the songs of heaven have trained our hearts (imaginations) to sing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,” and “Worthy are you because you were slain and purchased for God men from every tribe, tongue, and nation,” if this is our vision of the good life, then we will be a community of people living towards a world wide healing of nations and we will seek to bring it about by the good news that the Lamb was slain and by our laying down our lives in kind.

That is what I would have said if I had more time: our Sunday, sabbath, rituals of singing together impractically heals the world. See you next Sunday.

Your Pastor,