Every time I listen to another message by Tim Keller, I am more impressed with his teaching abilities. He has a gift for laying things out in both a spiritual and practical way.
Here are my notes on a message of his in which he talks about justice–Biblical justice–of which we are all responsible for.
* Whenever there is a revival, the Christian church is doing all the different things it ought to be doing successfully. You’ll see the churches doing evangelism, building strong Christian communities, working with the poor, impacting culture, etc…
* But what always seems to happen is what some call a “Delta Affect”–where once before one church was doing all the different things it’s called to do, it is now only doing one or two of the things. Just like one large river will be flowing strong and unified, it will break into many small rivers. Each church tends to focus on one or two things, and neglects the other things.
* So you’ll have churches that focus only on teaching, or evangelism, or developing a strong inner community, or helping the poor, etc…
* Only with the power of the Holy Spirit can churches do all these different things at once. And yes, each church should be doing all these things all at once.
* In this message we will look at the church’s, and the individual Christian’s, role at seeing justice done in society.
* Salvation is the restoration of both the spiritual and the physical.
* When you get to the end of the book of Revelation, what do you see? Christians being taken up to heaven to live as spirits? No, you see Heaven coming down to earth as a great city, where the saved people will live in new physical bodies. The whole world will be restored to how God wanted it in the first place.
* Saving souls is a means to an end: to a new world, a world restored and perfect.
* Think about Jesus’s miracles–Why didn’t Jesus do more spectacular miracles to prove to everyone who He was? Why didn’t He call fire from the sky, or shoot lightning from His fingers? Wouldn’t miracles like that have been more impressive to the people, rather than say, doing miracles with bread and fish?
* We need to understand God’s whole plan for salvation when we look at what Jesus did when He was on the earth.
* Jesus did not do miracles to simply prove He had power–the point of His miracles was not to show the naked fact that He had power, but rather, the point of His miracles was to show the redemptive purpose of His power. He performed miracles, not to impress people, but to put things back to the way He wants things to be.
* Jesus’s purpose in miracles was to put things back into the proper natural order. Sickness is not natural, so He healed. Starvation is not natural, so He fed.
1) What is justice?
2) What is doing justice?
3) Who should do justice?
4) How can you be one who does justice?
* Look at the book of Proverbs…
1) What is justice?
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
And all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who retain her.
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
By understanding He established the heavens;
By His knowledge the depths were broken up,
And clouds drop down the dew.
~Proverbs 3:17-20 NKJV
* In the passage above we see the word “peace”.
* The word “peace” here is actually the Hebrew word “shalom”.
* “Shalom” is a much deeper word than what we would call “peace”.
שׁלם / שׁלום
1) completeness, soundness, welfare, peace
1a) completeness (in number)
1b) safety, soundness (in body)
1c) welfare, health, prosperity
1d) peace, quiet, tranquillity, contentment
1e) peace, friendship
1e1) of human relationships
1e2) with God especially in covenant relationship
1f) peace (from war)
1g) peace (as adjective)
Or we can define shalom as:
-The webbing together of God, humans, and creation
-A universal flourishing
-Gifts fruitfully employed
-All things being as they ought to be
* Shalom is the design of God
* Psalm 102 talks about the world being woven together like a garment…
Of old You laid the foundation of the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
They will perish, but You will endure;
Yes, they will all grow old like a garment;
Like a cloak You will change them,
And they will be changed.
~Psalm 102:25-26 NKJV
* Everything is woven together, and inter-dependent.
* For example…
When your body’s parts are all working together perfectly, you have physical shalom. But if one of your body parts ceases to work properly, your whole body is affected.
When your passions, your conscience, and your reason is all working together perfectly you have shalom in your soul. But when your passion wants you to do one thing, but your conscience and reason want another thing, your soul is divided and is not at rest.
When people who have wealth and power in a society invest and interweave what they have into the rest of society, they create social shalom. But when these same people hold back their resources for only themselves they end up breaking down society–a social unraveling.
* Justice and Shalom are the same thing.
2) What is doing justice?
* Doing justice is repairing the fabric where it is tearing apart.
* Look at things from a different perspective…
Why shouldn’t I tell lies?
Because it is morally wrong or because God says it’s wrong.
Okay, but are those the only reasons?
Lying is actually withholding truth from other people, and in doing so, you destroy shalom.
Why should I be generous?
Because God says so.
Yes, but withholding your wealth from the poor destroys shalom.
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
When it is in the power of your hand to do so.
Do not say to your neighbor,
“Go, and come back,
And tomorrow I will give it,”
When you have it with you.
~Proverbs 3:27-28 NKJV
* Suppose your neighbor is an old lady who can’t shovel the snow from her own sidewalks. If you are able to help her, but don’t, you are guilty of injustice towards her.
* If I have the resources to help poor kids get an education, but I don’t do that, I am guilty of an injustice towards them. I am withholding good from those to which it is due.
* Your resources need to be sent out so that you can re-weave the fabric of shalom.
* Westerners have a real hard time thinking like this, as we are so individualistic.
* But remember this: who you are is not primarily a result of the decisions you’ve made in life.
Who you are is primarily the result of your environment, and your community.
* You did not chose to be born where you were born or when you were born. If you were born in Canada you automatically had a huge advantage over someone born in a third world country. You didn’t chose for that to happen.
* You don’t need to feel guilty about being born in a wealthy country, but consider your place in the world, and how you are to do justice (restore shalom) in your society.
* Western definition of justice: You have the right to do what ever you want to be happy.
Biblical definition of justice: We all owe each other.
* My neighbors have a right to my resources, influence, and power. (And no, we are not talking about communism!)
* Think about poor children living in Cambodia…
-They didn’t chose to be born in the situation they were born into.
-Without some outside help, they will be stuck in that situation all their lives.
-I didn’t chose to be born in the situation I was born into.
-I must plow my resources into these children.
-I didn’t create my own resources–neither do they.
-I weave my resources, power, influence into them…
-Justice is done.
3) Who should do justice?
When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices;
And when the wicked perish, there is jubilation.
~Proverbs 11:10 NKJV
* Who are the righteous? Through the work and person of Christ, Christians are the righteous.
* Ask yourself this:
Does the non-believing community in your city say: “We don’t believe in what that church believes, but we would be very sad if that church were gone from our city, because of all the good they do here.”
Are people saying this about your church?
* Here are a couple of definitions of righteous and wicked according to the Bible…
Righteous: Those who are willing to disadvantage themselves in order to advantage the community.
Wicked: Those who put their own personal resources before the needs of the community.
* If your church is truly full of righteous people, your city will rejoice that you are there.
4) How can you be one who does justice?
* You may feel guilty at this point…but you can not do justice in your community if you are motivated by guilt.
* When you help the less fortunate you will be taken advantage of, you will be used, you will be betrayed and lied to, you will get burned. If you’re simply motivated by guilt, you will quit as soon as someone you are trying to help does you wrong.
* But, consider these verses…
He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord,
And He will pay back what he has given.
~Proverbs 19:17 NKJV
He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker,
But he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.
~Proverbs 14:31 NKJV
* Lend to the poor–lend to God. Insult the poor–insult God.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
~Matthew 25:31-46 NKJV
* God relates Himself to the poor.
* Think about this story:
A wealthy woman has no children, and her only potential heir is her nephew. Whenever her nephew is around her he is very sweet and kind. But, she wants to know what he is really like, so she disguises herself as a homeless woman, and sits on the front steps of his apartment building. When the nephew sees her sitting there he is cruel to her, and tells her to go away. He loses his inheritance.
* Jesus is like that woman.
* So it is obvious that God expects us to be kind to those lesser off than we are.
* But how can I be someone who truly, from the heart, wants to be kind to the less fortunate?
* I need God’s grace.
* Religion says: If you do good, and live a good life, God will invest into you. God is like a banker.
Christianity says: God knows you are a bad investment. But because He is a God of grace He will invest into you infinitely, knowing that He will not get a full return.
* When you understand God’s grace, you will see the poor from the proper perspective–you will not feel superior to the poor.
* You will look at the poor and realize that you are looking into a mirror.
* If you understand God’s grace, you will know you are poor in spirit.
* If you understand God’s grace you can say: “I don’t know if the people I’m going to help deserve my help, but I’m going to do it anyways, because God helped me when I surely did not deserve it.”
* If you don’t care about the poor, you might say you are a sinner saved by God’s grace, but you really are not.
* Jesus was a victim of human injustice when He died on the cross. But He endured it with joy.
* Jesus was a victim of injustice so that we can receive justice.
Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
~Romans 8:33-34 NKJV
* Jesus intercedes for us at the right hand of God–He is not asking that God have mercy on us because of all our sins. Jesus already paid for all those sins. Jesus is demanding justice for us. This was Jesus’s mission on the cross–to take away our sin, and give us justice (shalom).
* If you understand what Jesus did to bring you justice, you will bring justice to others with joy.
* Justice and evangelism are two wings on the same airplane.
* Of course we must always be telling people the Good News. People need to hear about who God is, who mankind is, what sin is, and what the work of the cross is.
* If you or your church are only focusing on the message, there’s a good chance no one will even listen to your message. But, if you are doing justice, creating shalom, in your community there is a much better chance people will stop to listen to your message. And even if they choose not to believe, you’ll have at least been able to bless there lives in some small way.