It Matters to Jesus

How Do We Work for Justice and Not Undermine Evangelism?
Mike Wittmer

Everything hinges on how we answer the question, “Why justice?” or “Who is justice for?”

We fight for justice in part because we want to stop the perpetrators of evil and violence. This is why the most satisfying part of a Chuck Norris movie is the last ten minutes, when the smirking gangster takes a boot to the face.

A better answer, especially for pacifists, is that we seek justice to help the victims of oppression. We care about the widow being scammed by a conniving contractor and we grieve for children who are forced into prostitution or maimed to enhance their begging.

But the best—and only Christian—answer is that we seek justice not only to pay back the perpetrators and to rescue the oppressed but because we love Jesus Christ. No one weeps over injustice like Jesus (nor has anyone been treated so unjustly), and he has been taking names for a very long time. Unlike Chuck Norris, who returned each week to battle new bad guys, Jesus will return to settle things once and for all. He will “set the world to rights” (see N.T. Wright), for his words will become swords that “strike down” evildoers and he “will wipe every tear” from the eyes of his suffering children (Rev. 19:15; 21:4).

We are committed to justice because it matters to Jesus. But if we fight for justice for Jesus’ sake, we will never be satisfied with justice alone. We will not rest until every perpetrator and victim bows before his name, the returning King who gave his life so every unjust person who repents and believes in him may live forever.

This requires evangelism, and it flows naturally from the Christian passion for justice. If justice is primarily about Jesus, we will eagerly tell others about their need for him. If we forget Jesus, it won’t be long until we also lose our passion for justice. For without the promise of his glorious return, really, what’s the point?

Link: Complete Blog Post

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Pure and Undefiled Religion

How Do We Work for Justice and Not Undermine Evangelism?
Russell Moore

Is Ahab’s acquisition of Naboth’s land (1 Kings 21:1-19) a matter of personal sin or social injustice? Well, it was both. Was the sin of Sodom a conglomeration of personal sins or societal unrighteousness? It was both (Gen. 18:26; Ezek. 16:49).

The prophets never divided up issues of righteousness as neatly as we do in the “personal” and the “social.” Isaiah speaks of God’s judgment both on personal pride and idolatry (Isa. 2:11) and the “grinding” of the faces of the poor (Isa. 3:14-15). Onward to Joel and Micah and Malachi right through John the Baptist the witness is the same.

The new covenant church continues this witness. Even after the public ministry of Jesus, his apostolic church continues a message of both personal justification and interpersonal justice. James directs the churches of the dispersion both in terms of their personal speech (Jas. 3:1-12) and the unjust treatment of wage-earners (Jas. 5:1-6).

James defines “pure and undefiled religion” as that which cares for the widows and orphans (Jas. 1:27). Of course he does. His brother already has (Matt. 25:40).

For those who might seek to pit James against Paul, the New Testament allows no such skirmish, either on personal redemption or on ministry to the vulnerable. When they received Paul, the apostles, Paul says, were concerned, of course, that he proclaims the correct gospel but also that he remember the poor. This was, Paul testifies, “the very thing I was eager to do” (Gal. 2:10).

Link: Complete Blog Post

Social Justice and Spiritual Power

How Do We Work for Justice and Not Undermine Evangelism?
Ray Ortlund

It’s a good question. But I would also ask, “How can Christians neglect the work of justice in the world without undermining evangelism?” And I am not thinking only of our credibility in human eyes. I am thinking of God. He said to us in Isaiah 58:9-10:

If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.

Jonathan Edwards, in his “Thoughts on the Revival”, when discussing how to promote the awakening, quoted Isaiah 58. Then he wrote this about serving the poor and defending the oppressed:

Nothing would have a greater tendency to bring the God of love down from heaven to earth. So amiable would be the sight in the eyes of our loving and exalted Redeemer that it would soon, as it were, fetch him down from his throne in heaven, to set up his tabernacle with men on the earth and dwell with them.

Social justice and spiritual power are bound together by Christ himself.

Link: Complete Blog Post

As the Father Sent Me

[21] Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” [22] And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. [23] If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

– John 20:19-23

When you were a child, were you told that you can be anything you want as long as you work hard and believe in yourself?  If so, someone lied to you. haha

Of course, working hard is good and having ambition is good, but I cannot be anything I want to be.  A sample of things I cannot be include president of France, an NBA player, and an astrophysics professor.

There are many, many things we can be, but we can’t be anything we want.  However, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be everything that God wants us to be and God calls His followers to be things we would never dream of being apart from Him

We are tempted to think that Jesus loves, saves, and blesses us so we can do whatever we want with our lives as long as we try to be good people.  But blessing is not to be used however we please.

Verse 21, Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”  When the Father sent the Son to live among us, He said more than “Have fun!”  The Father had a purpose and plan for Jesus, and Jesus understood this.

John 4:34  Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

John 5:30  “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 6:38  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

As the Father sent Jesus with purpose, so He send us with purpose.  The question, then, becomes what is His purpose?

Verse 23 reads, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus does not give Christians the power to say to those who want God’s forgiveness, “No forgiveness for you!  I don’t like you!”  Rather, this verse is saying that those who believe in Jesus are given the power and privilege of telling people about the way of salvation and forgiveness, the only path of being right with God.

What is the greatest thing you could ever accomplish?  Being a millionaire?  Being respected by all?  Being comfortable?  These are not bad goals necessarily, but if it’s the ultimate goal of our lives, it’s too small.  God Almighty invites His children to be in the business of eternal life, of calling people from every country, every race, every people group to worship the one, true, and living God.

He is Chasing Us Down

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship.

– Acts 8:26-27

In the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, we see a sovereign King orchestrating all things. He rules with single-minded purpose. God desperately wants this Ethiopian man to know Him.

In v. 26, an angel tells Philip to go to the desert. At the beginning of Acts 8, Philip is ministering in the midst of a revival in a Samaritan city and God tells him to leave and go to a barren wasteland.

acts-8-ethiopianIn v. 27, God arranges to have the Ethiopian on the road, returning from Jerusalem, restricted from temple worship and eager to know how he can meet God.

In v. 29, the Holy Spirit commands Philip to chase down the Ethiopian’s chariot and God talk to him.

In v. 30, the Holy Spirit amazingly gives Philip the heart to do it.

In v. 32, we find that the Ethiopian is reading a passage in Isaiah 53 that explicitly speaks about Jesus.

In v. 34, the Spirit works in the Ethiopian’s heart in such a way that he asks Philip to explain the text to him.

Philip proceeds to introduce the Ethiopian to a Savior who was humiliated and rejected and endured such things so that all people could find acceptance in the very presence of God. This is exactly the message the Ethiopian needed to hear. As a eunuch, he was a social and religious outcast.

God labors for those who are far off, weary, or even hard-hearted. He pursues those for whom religion isn’t working. Jesus is chasing us down.