Sermon Bit: Why Did a Man Die?

In our recent sermon series we have been considering ethics and have concluded that Christian ethics consists of the following:

  1. Walking with God the Son.  We are not a people who just follow rules in our ethics, but a people who think through ethics creatively with ‘God tuned hearts,’ as Jesus did.  He inspires us to attain to a righteousness that ‘surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law.’
  2. Kneeling at the throne of God the Father. We are not a people who just follow rules in our ethics, but a people who are inspired by the glory and holiness of God.  Ethics is not just a rational endeavour, but a relational one.  Rather than merely being focused on not breaking rules, we are focused on not breaking God’s heart.
  3. Being led by God the Holy Spirit.  We are not a people who just follow rules in our ethics, but a people who are being transformed in our character.  Indeed a person with solid character does not need rules!
I don’t normally tune into American news, but one night recently I did looking to get an American perspective on the economy (not that I have any stocks to be concerned about!).  Instead I got a new perspective on something else.A story came on about a group of white youths in Mississippi who set out to rough up the first black man they came across.  Before too long they found a victim, beat him up and then fled.  The last white youth to flee decided to take it a step further and ran over the black man with his truck.  CNN showed the horrific video shot by security cameras, capturing the man’s last moments of life.  To quote the CNN, James Craig Anderson died ‘just because he was black.’

Did a man die recently just because he was black?

Had the white youth in this story been walking with Jesus, a man would still be alive.  A righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees, does not hate.  We follow the One who picked up his cross, who told us to pick up ours and follow Him.  We walk with the One who was nailed to his cross for us, all of us, people of every colour, from every nation.

Had the white youth been spending time before God’s throne contemplating His holiness and glory and grace, a man would still be alive.  With God there is no partiality.  He created us, in rich diversity, and in His image he created us.  If the fear of God is in us, how dare we hate someone created in His image?

Had the white youth been led by and kept in step with the Spirit, a man would still be alive.  The evidence of the Spirit’s transforming work in our lives is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (see Galatians 5:22,23).  People with this kind of character don’t intentionally drive over other people.

A black man died, yes because he was black, but also because a white youth needed and needs Jesus.  Christian ethics goes hand-and-hand with evangelism!

Not so common anymore are signs that declare “Jesus is the answer.”  I can remember one of my colleagues snidely asking “what’s the question?”  The question is:  What do we do about racism?  What do we do about pornography?  What do we do about marital unfaithfulness?  What do we do about addictions?  What do we do about fraud?  What do we do about prostitution?  What do we do about gangs?  What do we do about societies where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?  What do we do about totalitarian regimes fraught with corruption?  What do we do about democracies fraught with scandals?  What do we do?  We go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us (Matthew 28:19,20).  In the Great Commission, Jesus himself teaches us that evangelism and ethics go hand in hand.

Christian ethics is not an exercise in thinking philosophically about right and wrong, it is a matter of life and death for millions.  Evangelism is not about comparing worldviews to see which might bring us the greatest sense of inner peace or whatever we think religion should do for us.  Evangelism is about partnering with God who is bringing about a complete transformation of the world as He brings His kingdom.  And it happens in the transformation of each disciple.

The day is coming, it is described in Revelation, when we will be walking with Jesus, we will be  before the throne, we will be led by The Spirit.  And “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 NIV)  And we reach forward to that future, not just striving toward it, but grasping hold of it and bringing it back to our time and place.  We start  living it now, calling and inviting others to do likewise.

Evangelism is not “smile, Jesus loves you,” but, and I do mean this in a positive sense, “Jesus loves you, now get a life!.”  Get the life God wants for you, get the life that beings blessings to others, not curses, get the life that brings joy to others, not suffering, get the life that brings life to others, not death.

It is time for a renewed confidence that evangelism is important, crucial indeed, yes because it impacts a person’s eternal destiny,but also that it is in fact life changing.  People are dying because other people need Jesus!  How the history of the world would have been different if so many of the shady characters of history (including those who would call themselves Christian by the way), had responded to Jesus and taken Christian ethics seriously.  How the history of the world can and will be different as we reach out with the Good News of Jesus Christ!

We are at that point in the summer when we start seeing “Back to School” signs around and about.  For many of us, September almost feels like a fresh start.  Are you ready to make a fresh start, to take Christian ethics seriously this coming year?  Are you committed to walking with Jesus?  Committed to spending time before the throne of our Heavenly Father? Committed to following the leading of the Spirit?  Are you ready to go, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them, teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded?

(from a sermon preached August 14, 2011)
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