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Avoiding the Wrong Right Side of History

29 Mar

 

Ben Shapiro has a new book out called The Right Side of History where he maintains “As a society, we are forgetting that almost everything great that has ever happened in history happened because of people who believe in both Judeo-Christian values and the Greek-born power of reason.”

Ben Shapiro is a religious Jew who has recently had prominent Christian spokesmen like Jon MacArthur on his popular radio program to discuss not only politics but theology. Interestingly, David Horowitz, a secular Jew, also has released a recent book titled Dark Agenda: the War to Destroy Christian America.

Interesting times we live in to be sure!

In any case, all of this put me in mind of a recent message I wrote “Avoiding the Wrong Right Side of History”.

And why did I write this particular kind of message? Because I preached it. And why did I preach it? Because I have been finishing up getting my Masters of Divinity degree through the AALC (the Association of American Lutheran Churches) and I had a preaching class. In addition, I am now getting some more experience in some local congregations in the Twin Cities area and beyond (If any of you have more questions about that, feel free to ask in the comments below).

Here’s the message, based on the texts for last week’s 3 year lectionary:

 

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“Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just..”

 

— Ezekiel 33:17

 

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“Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just..”

 

How can we in the church avoid such confusion? Where we come to believe that the words given to us by God to believe and do are not just?

 

How can we be sure we are among the godly ones whom the Lord hears?

 

The text from a few weeks ago, from Jeremiah 17, gave us the right advice: “…the man who trusts in the Lord… is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green…”

 

This morning, to better comprehend how to avoid saying “The Lord is not just,” let’s begin with our Prime Example of a Good Tree.

 

I am speaking, of course, of the tree, the roots, and the leaves of our dear Lord Jesus.

 

You might recall the beginning of the book of Luke, in that story where Jesus, as a 12 year old, gets accidently left behind in Jerusalem by his parents.

 

There, He was amazing the teachers in the temple courts, listening to them and asking them questions.

 

There, we are told, in His “Father’s House,” “ everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers….”

 

In other words, Jesus wasn’t just interested in memorizing the right answers for the test, but He was engaged in this content, content that helped Him to grow as a human being….

 

As the text goes on to tell us “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man….”

 

Like that tree, planted by the water, producing the wonderful green leaves.

 

Let’s take a step back, and try to relate this to us: Do you like to learn things? Well, it depends on what you’re learning about, right?

 

For example, am I learning how to be better at something I enjoy? We all like to learn sometimes.

 

And evidently, when Jesus was almost a teenager, there were certain things that he was really interested in as well.

 

For example, He loved the Holy Scriptures passed down to God’s people….

 

But here is the question that might nag you: Why does God need to learn?

 

Why does He need to grow?

 

How is it that “very God of very God,” could increase in Wisdom?

 

How is it that the Son of God (who became sinless man in Jesus Christ) could increase in favor with God?

 

Before we move on this morning — getting to how I’ve titled this message — we need to deal with a little challenging theology.

 

Hold on, because I don’t think it will be too bad.

 

The short answer is that this text mainly refers to Jesus according to his human nature, not according to his divine nature.

 

As you know Jesus Christ is amazingly 100% man AND 100% God. So as God, yes, Christ did know everything, but as man, He did not.

 

Still, don’t the Scriptures also tell us that this baby boy, born of Mary, even now this budding teenager(!), was sinless?

 

If this is the case, why would Jesus need, even as man, to learn?

 

To grow in wisdom? Even to grow in favor with God?

 

Here we need to remember that even if we were sinless, that wouldn’t make us omniscient.

 

That is, if we ever found ourselves to be without sin, that would not mean that suddenly we would know everything that we needed to know, or even that we had matured into what we are to be.

 

The angels, after all, have no sin, bur are they all-knowing? No.

 

Now here as Christians, interesting enough, according to our New Man, we are, like the angels, without sin.

 

In other words, our New Man in Christ simply does not like sin by definition.

 

Our old Adam does of course, but not our New Man.

 

But even though that is true, it doesn’t mean that our New Man knows everything it could or should know.

 

Nor does it mean that our New Man has matured into that which it should ultimately be.

 

How can we better understand this?

 

Think of a sapling of an apple tree that we would plant in our yard  — no doubt some of you have done just this.

 

Now there is nothing wrong with that sapling, it is exactly what it should be as a sapling.

 

But as it grows into a mature tree, what does it do but provide shade for our lawn, beautiful flowers in the spring, a place for birds to nest, and squirrels to hide, pollen for the honey bees, ultimately fruit, good fruit for us to eat.

 

Better yet, right?

 

And yet, was there anything wrong with the apple tree when it was a sapling, when it was just not fully matured into a fruit bearing tree?

 

No, not at all!

 

In like fashion, there is nothing wrong with our New Man when it is created within us by grace through faith in Christ.

 

But, we must say like the boy Jesus, Jesus according to his human nature:

 

“There is room to grow, room to bear fruit, room even to do those things which are pleasing to God.”

 

Like that tree, planted by the water, producing the wonderful green leaves.

 

So we grow. We increase in wisdom and stature with God and men. We progress.

 

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And what does this look like as far as the big picture?

 

Where, in other words, are we going?

 

What is the real end to which God is leading us, and would have us see?

 

If we are to believe the prophecies of the Old and New Testaments, God ultimatley means for His world to know not only true order… true hierarchy… but beautiful harmony as well!

 

A peace where everything knows its place and everything will come together as one — just like Eden again only even better!

 

More mature!

 

He means for us to increasinlgy know what the Old Testament calls shalom! Here, Scripture often gives us the picture of a grand feast, a great wedding party that all enjoy in full.

 

And this shalom, this abundance, is something he means for us to begin to know here as well. In our families, our churches, our neighborhoods, our towns, our states, our nations… and beyond…

 

As Revelation 7 beautifully puts it, giving us a picture of heaven:

 

 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

 

Worldly politicans want to recreate a similar kind of picture. They cannot.

 

How is it that we get there? What makes for such joy and unity? Where is the blueprint for this?

 

Remarkably, we’ve heard it all before, and maybe, unlike pre-teen Jesus, we are sorely tempted to think we don’t need to know it better…

 

Why, God has given us the 10 commandments! Let’s take a brief look at these again with that picture from Revelation in mind.

 

“You shall have no other Gods before me.” He is the Maker of all human beings, from Adam and Eve down to today.

 

We are all, not just Christians, brothers and sisters — ultimately “one blood” because of our glorious God who demands of His offspring their worship, their fear, love, and trust.

 

Their all.

 

“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God.” This is the Name He has commanded us to put on all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; claiming them as His own.

 

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

His words alone are Spirit and Life! Rest! Abide! Be at peace! You–along with all the nations–at Jesus’ feet.

 

And, of course, there’s the second table of the Commandments: Honor your father and your mother,

you shall not murder,

you shall not commit adultery,

you shall not steal,

you shall not give false testimony,

you shall not covet your neighor’s house, wife, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

We know we don’t follow this blueprint. Even if we know we should and make the effort to do so, we fall short of the glory of God.

 

Because of our sin, we simply do not love the way that Jesus Christ loved, and that God requires we love.

 

It is ultimately because of Jesus’ living in accordance with God’s law — the law of love — and His great sacrifice, that this sin is forgiven us.

 

And… we can begin to know in our own experience that picture of heaven, that picture of people united in praise of their King.

 

Because of what He has done, our good works really are acceptable in God’s eyes, and take on eternal significance, producing not just earthly blessings but blessings that will persist in the life to come as well.

 

Our work is very, very meaningful…

 

And so driven by the Gospel of Jesus Christ — the glorious truth that through His perfect life and innocent death we have peace with God — we can know what makes for the beginnings of real peace in this world.

 

So act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God… and entrust final judgment to the Lord, not the world…

 

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After all, how does our world, living off the fumes of Christian influence of days gone by, look at the matter?

 

There are times where we might feel some real discouragement over the lack of growth we see…

 

Or, in the world’s opinion, not “progressing” or “evolving” like we should.

 

These are not always the same things. God means for us to grow in one way, producing the leaves and fruit that is pleasing to him, and the world, perhaps another.

 

We might hear powerful and compelling voices around us, talking about how we have failed, because of what we have done or have not done.

 

We might even hear of the failure that is our family line or or our town or our nation or our race or our class or our religion.

 

Some might look and say:

 

“I don’t see much good there.”

 

“It looks to me like you have real privilege! And that you are only interested in feathering your own nest!”

 

“It looks to me like you are only concerned to retain your own connections and the power they bring you!”

 

“It looks to me like you are only concerned about caring for your own….”

 

Nevermind that you know that you are already not the kind of father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, church member, citizen, or neighbor that you should and could be!

 

Like those directed againt the prophet Jeremiah, the attacks can be relentless and unmerciful.

 

And now, the accusation that is greater than them all:

 

“You make yourself out to be a victim?” “You, the oppressor?” “You the vicitmizer….”

 

“What — are you the poor? Are you hungry and thirsty? Are you the one weeping now? Give me a break!”

 

Perhaps such persons might even accuse God of playing the victim when, in His word, He complains about spurn and betrayal from His people!

 

This is wrong.

 

And yet, it is very possible that many, hearing such things, begin to wonder: “It is true? Am I, by virtue of my blessings, my accompishments, my status… uniquely evil?”

 

It is even possible that some who are Christians might begin to doubt that they are Christians…. “Maybe if I do what they say, maybe I can still be saved…”

 

In this world of constant accusation, “Who should we listen to? What should we do?”

 

Take the world’s accusations with a grain of salt, and flee to the Word of God.

 

There is no doubt that an element of the truly righteous life, or good life, is that it is characterized by real love and compassion which does not think about rewards, comes spontaneously comes from the heart, and shares the love of God with all people (see, e.g., Deut. 11).

 

That said, here is the answer you will be hearing from evensome quarters of “Bible believing” churches–more and more:

 

The truly righteous life, or good life, is always about compassion (acts perceived as compassionate!) which never thinks about rewards, always comes spontaneously from the heart, and never fails to indiscriminately share the love of God with other full human beings in equal measure.

 

Do you see what I did there? There is so much that is wrong with that kind of assertion. There are so many Scriptural truths that that kind of statement “throws under the bus”…

 

I won’t go into detail now, but the point is this: even those in the church may turn against you.

 

Don’t be bamboozeled by the world and its “right side of history”.

 

Don’t buy into just any “arc of the moral universe [which] is long, that bends toward justice.”

 

Don’t just buy into any notion of “social justice” and fall for the smiley face hiding the venoumous tongue.

 

Don’t say “The way of the Lord is not just,” when it is man’s own way that is not just..

 

There is no doubt that all of us need to feel the conviction of God’s law, for our Old Adam — not our New Man — would like nothing better but to remain and wallow in its hatreds, and prejudices, its arrogances, fears, and envy.

 

We need to feel the weight of His demands… we need to be brought back to the realization of what he has created us for.

 

That we might be “in the groove” as one theologian has put it.

 

You cannot, however, trust the world to do this convicting rightly.

 

The Bible speaks of the searing of the conscience that occurs when a people abandons the word of God and His “natural law,” that is, the law which is in accordance with how we were made, what we were designed for.

 

The world can, to say the least, be “off the reservation”. They will assert that there is no God ; they will call evil good and good evil ; many will get to the point where they will not even be able to detect their sin…

 

They will get the law wrong.

 

And when they give you their law, they will not do so to help you, to “judge” you like your dentist might in pointing out your cavity, but in order to write you off at the drop of a hat if you question them… or if you do not immediately submit to their authority.

 

They will get the gospel wrong.

 

The world wants us to grow in one way, our Savior another.

 

In the face of this, do not ever despair. “Cursed is the man who trusts in man!” And remember, “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind.”

 

So do not discount everything the world says, but also hold it lightly and go to the Word of God that you might discern what is right…

 

…for by it you can trust that you will not only find peace with God and other men there, but you will find the growth–the critical growth–that the Lord intends for you and all persons.

 

So, let us grow and increase in knowledge!

 

As Jeremiah says,

 

“let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth!”

 

For He, and only He, is the friend of sinners. The One who is compassionate, who forgives, who even lifts you up to His throne — to reign with Him forever.

 

Rich and poor, powerful and not powerful, black and white, privileged and outcast, good and bad, come to the feast!

 

All you who are poor in Spirit.

 

Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting, Amen.

 

FIN

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

Posted by on March 29, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

2 responses to “Avoiding the Wrong Right Side of History

  1. Delwyn X. Campbell

    March 29, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    Very nice!

     

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