The World Needs Jesus
Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that we are living in a tumultuous time right now. Americans, who were already feeling the frustrations of the coronavirus related restrictions and the related economic pressures, were further inflamed when we all saw the video of a white police officer further restraining an already handcuffed black suspect by kneeling with his knee on the back of his neck for nearly 9 minutes as he claimed he couldn't breathe before passing out and eventually dying. This has led many Americans to take to the streets in protest - some violent, some peaceful. Questions of police brutality, systemic racism, and the need for sweeping and decisive sociopolitical change are at the forefront of the conversation in our media, in our communities, and in our homes.
In our own small town of Marietta Ohio, a predominantly white community, a peaceful demonstration was organized that gave local minority citizens the opportunity to share their experiences with others. Headcount estimates of around 1300 people, again predominantly white, attended the event. What that says to me, as a white Christian male, is that people are seeing and listening and they want to be a part of change.
The problem is that I don't think this attitude is all-together novel. If you ask most Americans if they think racism is bad, they'd likely answer favorably. It seems like a cause most people can get on board with. Does this mean that I am naive enough to think racism isn't a serious problem. Absolutely not! It is a huge problem. So is abuse, lust, theft, murder, adultery, divorce, abortion, pornography, drug abuse, and the list goes on and on and on and on. We have a systemic problem at the root of all other problems, and it is the problem of sin. We live in a broken and fallen world; and no amount of legislation or social activism can change that. The question that proponents of movements like the #metoo movement and the black lives matter movement are asking today is the same question man has been asking since the garden. We know something is wrong with the world around us, how do we fix it?
Please hear me when I say, I am not deriding social activism. I'm not negating that policy change can help. I'm not saying that we as American's don't have not just the right, but the responsibility to participate in our government by voting and speaking out for change. I'm not saying that I am against giving every opportunity for the marginalized, victimized, and oppressed to be heard. I want to see justice and equality prevail this side of eternity. Every man and woman on this earth is created in the image of God and as such, their life is of great worth. Christ died on the cross for them, for you, and for me, and that makes us more precious than gold. I pray for peace, I pray for change, I pray for freedom, I pray for justice...because I know God can and I know that he does! Please, hear me when I say that!
At the same time, as a Christian, I seek to see the world from a biblical worldview and what scripture tells me is that God can, God does, and God will; but not always in the time we want or the way we expect. I also read in scripture that the heart of mankind is desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). Sin is the disease and everyone's got it (Romans 3:23)! So my heart is hopeful, but my mind and my eyes remain vigilant because I know my enemy is still hunting me.
I listen to the rhetoric just like so many. I want things to change, just like so many. I remain hopeful, just like so many. And yet, my optimism is always tempered with reality. I know God can, but I don't know if he will. You see, our world is dying. Our prognosis is grim. Our disease is terminal. Treatment may buy us more time, it may make us more comfortable, but the end is inevitably coming. There is a cure, but time is short and the workers are few. Mankind has made our bed, and God's patience will not endure forever. A day of reckoning is coming and justice will be served for our sin.
The gospel teaches us that the only cure for man's disease of sin is the blood of Christ. As a Christian and student of scripture, I know the solution to our world's problems. I'm not special. I'm no genius. But I have the word of God, the creator of Heaven and Earth, and he tells us clearly that Jesus is the cure (John 14:6, Romans 5:17, etc.). This means that even the best man-made plans will fail us because they are insufficient and impotent to fix what is ultimately wrong with our world. We need a might movement of the Holy Spirit. I know God can, but I don't know if he will.
As a Christian, and moreover as a pastor, I have been wrestling with what I am seeing transpire in our country right now. I know people are hurting, they are afraid, they are angry, and they are confused. They know something's wrong and they want to fix it. The problem is that we are still looking inside of ourselves for a solution to our problems, when the solution lies outside of us. We don't need sweeping reforms to our systems and/or government, we need to reform our hearts...one person at a time, day by day, through the transforming power of Christ and his gospel.
I can't help but feel like it is such apt timing for us as a church family to be studying through the book of Hebrews. As I reflect on this week's passage, I can't help but be moved by it. First in verses 12-13, we are reminded of the power of God's word to pierce through our tough exterior to reveal the truth of what lies inside. We can hide from one another, but not from God. Before him everything is exposed. All of our hopes and dreams, but also our deepest darkest secret thoughts and desires. When we see ourselves for who we truly are before a holy God, we can't help but be overcome by shame. We see this play out with Adam and Eve in the Garden. Once they sinned, we are told that their eyes were opened, they saw their nakedness, and they were ashamed. They tried their best to cover up their shame, but it was still there. They couldn't escape it. This is the bad news.
But then in verses 14-16, we are built up with the good news. God didn't see fit to leave us in our shame, instead he sent us a Savior. And Jesus isn't just a priest who can make atonement for us, he is a Great High Priest who carried the weight of our sin and shame upon himself and bore it on the cross. This is good news because it means that Jesus doesn't simply know our pain in an impersonal way and from a safe distance, rather he has entered into our shame and guilt personally and has walked in it with us. Because of this we can draw near to him with great confidence, not with fear and guilt. Do you see how that makes all of the difference?
Our country needs this hope, the hope that only Jesus can offer. The healing that can only be found in him. And we are his hands and feet. This means that we need to step up right now for our families, for our friends, for our communities, for our country, and for our world. This is the great commission we have all been given by our Lord (Matthew 28:18-20). We need to listen to those who are hurting, and then we need to fervently pray. We need to be slow to speak, but when we speak let it be the truth of the gospel. We need to seek to be peacemakers, not simply peacekeepers. We need to step out onto the front lines armed with the truth of scripture and the power of the gospel; knowing that the cost will be high if we act, but even higher if we don't. Many people will reject Christ's offer, his word even promises us that (John 15:18, Matthew 7:13-14). But for everyone that doesn't it is a life saved and transformed. It is another brother or sister in the fight!
If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
Part 10 - Painfully Accurate
Questions discussed in this sermon:
1. What is the "word of God" referring to exactly?
2. How does God's word cut us like a sword?
3. What does it look like for the guilty to demand justice?
Next week's lesson: Hebrews 5:1-9