State of the Church Address 2023
January 8, 2023 Speaker: Brian Wilbur Series: State of the Church
Topic: Church Health
STATE OF THE CHURCH ADDRESS 2023
By Pastor Brian Wilbur
Date: January 8, 2023
Series: State of the Church
Note: Scripture quotations are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For the second consecutive year, I am delivering a state of the church address on the second Sunday in January. The mindset behind this message is that, from time to time, it is valuable for a congregation to hear a pastor’s biblically-shaped perspective on the circumstances facing the congregation. Next week we will return to our series on Genesis. But in today’s message, I attempt to survey the situation in which the church finds itself, and then offer some biblical counsel to guide us through the year ahead.
This address will unfold in three parts:
- first, the evidences of God’s gracious work in our midst;
- second, one big challenge facing Christ’s church in America;
- and third, Scriptural counsel for faithfully navigating the big challenge.
THE EVIDENCES OF GOD’S GRACIOUS WORK IN OUR MIDST
Let’s begin with the evidences or indications of God’s gracious work in our church family. When Paul wrote his letters to the various churches, he sometimes began these letters by calling attention to the blessings that were apparent in the congregation to whom he was writing. For example, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul said:
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfast of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)
These Thessalonian believers had that faith which works, that love which labors, and that hope which steadies. Paul didn’t praise them as if they were the ultimate source of their wonderful qualities, but instead Paul’s response to their good fruit is thanksgiving to God. This means that God is the ultimate cause and cultivator of whatever good fruit is produced in and through our church family. Therefore: “We give thanks to God”.
What about South Paris Baptist Church? What good things is the Lord producing in our midst? I could speak at length in answering this question, but let us be content with a number of snapshots. These snapshots are obviously selective, not comprehensive.
After the Christmas Eve Service, a young man came up to me with a great doctrinal question that had been prompted by the message: What is the decisive cause of our salvation? A few days ago we met for lunch, and I had the opportunity to address his question and a second question that he had also brought to the table. Our time together over lunch included visits to the Book of Job, the Gospel of John, Romans 9, and Hebrews 12.
A day earlier I had lunch with another young man, and the bulk of the conversation revolved around the attempt to define love biblically. The Letter of 1 John, Romans 13, and Hebrews 13 framed our discussion.
One day earlier I met with a third young man, and that conversation focused on the will of God. First Thessalonians 4-5, 1 Peter 2, and Daniel 5 gave us much to ponder.
It is a sign of health in our community that there are young men among us who like the idea of meeting with the pastor in order to discuss the things of God. These five guys haven’t been tricked into meeting with me in order to do penance for past demerits. They want to meet, and what they get out of it is a lot of Bible, and if they didn’t want a lot of Bible, I’m not sure why they would bother to keep meeting with me (since Bible and the attempt to live it is the only thing I have to offer them).
These young men, by the way, are really young – not the way someone might refer to me as a young man. I’m old compared to them: of the three mentioned above, one is in his early 20s and the other two are still in their teens.
It is a sign of health in our community that young men are not only pursuing Bible, but are also pursuing marriage. Another young man, Andy, graduated from high school last spring, blinked, and got married to Lydia. Another young man, Jeremie, just completed high school, half-blinked, and got engaged to Grace. When people give up their idols and start getting a biblical mind, they stop wasting their time on a thousand trivialities. Instead, they get married and build households.
Lest anyone get the wrong impression, I am not suggesting that every young man should get married immediately after high school. I haven’t forgotten that I didn’t get married until I was thirty-three years old. We don’t live cookie-cutter lives, and one person’s journey differs from another person’s journey for numerous reasons. What I am saying, however, is that in a biblically healthy church, marriage and family will be held in high regard, and there will increasingly be young men who step up and assume the responsibility of becoming a husband and father in early adulthood.
If you were listening carefully, I just said what young men will be apt to do in a biblically healthy church. What I didn’t mention is that young men and young women who hunger for the Word and who want to offer themselves as living sacrifices to the Lord, ordinarily come from strong families with faithful Christian parents. Not perfect parents, but faithful ones. At South Paris Baptist Church, we don’t believe in pursuing a healthy congregation at the expense of healthy families. Likewise, we don’t believe in pursuing a healthy congregation in lieu of healthy families. Instead, we believe in pursuing a healthy congregation that is made up of healthy families. The family unit is the foundational vehicle of Christian discipleship. The fruit that we see among our young people is, in large measure, the fruit of parental diligence to raise children in the ways of the Lord. Over time, this diligence generates an abundance of fruit in subsequent generations – and one way that this beautiful fruit will be displayed is in an increasingly intergenerational congregation that has within it extended families that span three or four or even five generations. If the Lord wills, I would be happy to be here long enough – say another thirty years – to see this strong intergenerational family vision work itself out in beautiful ways.
So, our strategy for building a healthy church is not to pull you away from your family, exhaust you, exasperate your family members that we’ve pulled you away from, and then insist that you all put on a nice plastic smile so that we can fool ourselves into thinking that we have done well. I have no interest in a congregational dynamic that leaves families dry. We want your family life to be vibrant, rich in grace, learning the Bible, growing in love, serving together, and then gladly linking up with other families, and thus the experience of congregants is that South Paris Baptist Church is like an extended family pursuing God together.
In speaking like this, I know that what I have said might strike a sorrowful note in a widow or widower, or in a single person who aspires to marriage, or in a young person who comes from a stressful home environment. These sorrows and heartaches are real. And so, I remind all of us that we have a responsibility to fold such people into our lives, to invite them to be part of our family, and to be family to them. “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9) must certainly be applied in the direction of the brokenhearted who ache for meaningful relationships.
In addition to the examples already given, there are other contexts in which I discern healthy engagement with God’s Word. Several months ago a man told me that he was spiritually leveled by what we were talking about in Sunday School Class, and this leveling moment spearheaded a several month process of repentance and renewal that has continued up until the present time. That is the work of God, not the work of any man. In Monday School Class, two different people – one man and one woman – have told me with great appreciation that they’ve never received instruction like this before. And they welcome this instruction. There is no secret, by the way, regarding this instruction. We open up the Bible, pay careful attention to what is written in the text, and discuss its meaning and significance. What we do in Monday School Class should simply be normal operating procedure for a church’s ministry. You are welcome to come.
One of the regular participants in Monday School is Trish DuBrule, who is the wife of Pete DuBrule, who preached last Sunday. Trish is a diligent student of Scripture, and a few months ago she started a midweek Bible Study for South Paris Baptist Church ladies. Several of our ladies attend this study and have an opportunity to dig into the details of the Sermon on the Mount. So, we have some ladies meeting with Trish on Thursday to study the Bible, and we have other ladies meeting with Brenda on Wednesday to study the Bible. Additionally, we have Children’s Sunday School, Jim and Goldie’s midweek group, and the Youth and Young Adult Groups.
Although we have our share of imperfections, the great strength of South Paris Baptist Church is a principled commitment to make God’s Word central to our ministry. Without God’s life-giving Word defining and shaping everything that we are, all programming and strategizing is a complete waste of time. Attentiveness to Scripture is not something that we have achieved by our own wisdom and strength, but it is a gracious stewardship that we have received from God. Therefore “give thanks to God”!
The final thing I’d like to mention as another evidence of God’s gracious work among us is the number of people involved and serving together in the various ministries of the church. What a blessing that so many of our people worked together to develop an in-house Vacation Bible School last year! What a blessing that so many people worked together to launch the Last Saturday Supper ministry last year. Jon Washburn stepped up to serve as the Interim Youth Director, working with Tom and Mary and Charity. We launched a Young Adult Group, and the McGarveys and Richardsons stepped up to provide leadership. Nancy and Brenda teamed up to re-start a monthly Ladies Fellowship. In addition to our official ministries, there are all kinds of informal ministries that are hugely important and hardly anyone knows about – ministries of prayer, ministries of encouragement, ministries of hospitality, ministries of making dinners for people, ministries of meeting needs and providing practical help – and these mostly invisible ministries are essential to a healthy church. Even if I have said this before, it is worth saying again: South Paris Baptist Church is richly blessed that 80% of the work doesn’t fall on 20% of the people. Scripture says:
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
The body of believers is its members who make up the body, and “God [arranges] the members of the body, each one of them, as he [chooses]” (1 Corinthians 12:18). Therefore “give thanks to God” for the good works – the works of service and labors of love – that you see manifest in and through our church family.
ONE BIG CHALLENGE FACING CHRIST’S CHURCH IN AMERICA
The second part of this message is to reflect on a big challenge facing our church family. What I plan to talk about in this section is not specific to South Paris Baptist Church, but could well be applied to Christ’s church throughout these United States of America. I am not at all suggesting that this is the only challenge that we face, or even the biggest challenge. But it is enough to say that this challenge is a big one, and we must get our biblical thinking caps on.
The challenge I have in mind is that we have entered into a morally inverted age as a society. To invert something is to put it upside down. To invert morality is to call what is morally good ‘immoral’, and to call what is immoral ‘morally good’. To invert righteousness is to regard true righteousness as unjust, and to regard unrighteousness as true and right. To invert wisdom is to look upon actual wisdom and describe it as crazy, and to look upon actual insanity and describe it as sensible and enlightened. Everything is turned upside down. Decency is turned inside out. The light of truth is exchanged for a legion of lies. Dictionaries are rewritten, words are redefined, and everyone is supposed to play along. Evidence doesn’t matter, logic doesn’t matter, careful inquiry doesn’t matter; objective reality doesn’t matter. Truth is out, and what’s in is catering to people’s feelings. Common sense is out, and what’s in is big government and big media keeping everyone safe from the old morality. The old liberties are out, and sexual liberty is in. Responsible freedoms are out, and reproductive freedom is in. Natural marriage is out, and unnatural fancies are in. All this breaks down the family; leaves a train wreck of guilt, frustration, loneliness, and mental illness; and makes more and more people dependent on a bloated central government. When people exchange true liberty for sexual license, the resultant slavery is well-deserved.
To put all this another way: we have entered into the type of society that is described by the prophet Isaiah. He wrote:
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)
And beside the woe of Isaiah 5:20 let me place the distressing assessment of Isaiah 59:14-15, which says:
“Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.” (Isaiah 59:14-15)
In such a society, when you look into its heart what you see is evil, darkness, bitterness, injustice, unrighteousness, and deceit. But here’s the tricky part: the people who govern and support such a society do not confess that their wickedness is wicked. Instead, they “call evil good”, they call darkness light, they call bitterness sweet, they call injustice social justice, they call unrighteousness equality, they call deceit truth. With a straight face they tell you that religion doesn’t belong in the public square, but then they enforce their ideological belief system with religious-like zeal. With a straight face they tell you that they follow the science, but then they abandon the science when it comes to male and female. With a straight face they tell you that they are decidedly pro-women, but then they advocate policies that de-value women and allow mentally disturbed males into spaces typically reserved for true women. With a straight face they tell you that they embrace diversity, but then they show remarkable intolerance toward opposing viewpoints, even to the point of censorship and de-platforming.
As a very recent example that illustrates the moral inversion of our times, consider the case of our Christian brother Kirk Cameron, who recently wrote a children’s book entitled “As You Grow”. The description of the book includes these two sentences: “This fun story with brilliant art teaches the Biblical truths of the Fruit of the Spirit. Follow Sky Tree's journey from a small acorn to a mighty tree that provides shade, sustenance, and lodging!” The publisher of the book sought opportunities to have the author Kirk Cameron read his book in public libraries throughout the nation. Now from the vantage point of the 18th century, where it was recognized that public morality undergirded by religion was vital to a healthy republic, one might assume that the public reading of Cameron’s book would be a refreshing wellspring of moral sanity. But not in a morally inverse society. The book reading request was routinely rejected by our public libraries. They much prefer serpentine story hours that degrade public morals. Of course, they consider this degradation of public morals to be progress: bitter is the new sweet.
We live in a society that has abandoned its Christian heritage and has turned almost everything upside down. Wherever you look – politics, government bureaucracy, education, media, business, and entertainment – you will find powerful people and significant momentum to underwrite the new morality with propaganda, distortion, and legal pressure. I went into detail about these matters in the three-part “It’s Time to Get Real” series of midweek thoughts last year, and it's not my intent to repeat all the details here.
But I would like to make a clarification that will help you understand the challenge. When I say that we have entered into a morally inverse age in our society, someone might respond by saying that this sinful world has always been morally inverse. The sinful world system has always been contrary to and totally incompatible with the values of God’s kingdom:
“For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world.” (1 John 2:16)
“We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19)
Yes, the sinful world system has always been alienated from God and at its root has always been morally inverted (see Romans 1:21-23).
But this doesn’t mean that every society is as corrupt as it could be, or as corrupt as it was four generations ago, or as corrupt as some other society in some other part of the world. Because of God’s common grace to all mankind, and because sinful men are still affected by the vestiges of their being created in God’s image, and because the demands of God’s moral law are written on people’s hearts, even unbelieving societies may reflect what is good and right and true in certain ways and to certain degrees. Furthermore, when the gospel enters into that society through faithful preaching, and when that gospel takes root in people’s hearts and faithful congregations are established, then the church’s salt and light influence goes to work in that society, and much positive change results.
A Good Heritage Thrown Away
If you consider the arc of Western civilization over the course of two thousand years, the impact of God’s common grace and the influence of the church and its teaching have been written large on the shape of Western society. While at the individual level many people remained unconverted, our society as a whole understood the dignity of humankind, the basic meaning of manhood and womanhood, the holy institution of marriage, the blessing of children, the centrality of the family, the virtue of hard work, the welcome influence of the Christian church, the importance of the objectivity of truth, and the need for ordered liberty – that is, the need for people to exercise freedom responsibly within the framework of objective moral truth – and the corresponding good of a limited government. The Creator has endowed human beings with unalienable rights, which means that these rights are pre-political. A just government recognizes and respects these rights; an unjust government believes that people have rights only at the pleasure of the government, and such a government assumes a godlike role that sovereignly decides to give or take away, blessed be the name of the wealthy bureaucrats. What a heritage you had – to have been born in 1950s America instead of 1950s USSR! This is your heritage. You don’t deserve the privilege of this honorable and esteemed heritage. But it is this heritage that our contemporaries have thrown away. They despise it. They despise any trace of divine authority. They despise any claim to objective moral truth. They despise any influence from an uncompromising Christian church.
We have entered a morally inverted age in our society in which so many basic things have been turned upside down. And the people who insist that things should be returned right-side up are labelled as bigots. What has changed? God’s standard hasn’t changed. The church’s teaching hasn’t changed. The objective moral structures built into creation haven’t changed. Society has changed, and now we’re considered the bad guys. But we should take it in stride:
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)
Even so, because we grew up in a society that had been extraordinarily touched by God’s common grace and by Christian influence, we have to adjust our thinking and expectations to this morally inverted world in which we now live. It is my growing conviction that over the next few years, few things will be as important as thinking biblically about how to order our lives as Christians in the midst of all the moral meltdown.
SCRIPTURAL COUNSEL FOR FAITHFULLY NAVIGATING THE BIG CHALLENGE
The last part of my message is to give you Scriptural counsel for remaining faithful Christians in this post-Christian, irrational, morally insane society. How do we pursue faithfulness and godliness in a society that calls “evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20)? How shall we keep our heads on straight and keep making progress in our walk with the Lord? Let me share with you five nuggets of biblical wisdom.
Immerse Yourself in the Truth of God’s Word
First, in a society that calls “evil good and good evil”, it is doubly important to immerse yourself in the truth of God’s Word so that you are able to differentiate true good from true evil. When society itself has been Christianized in many ways, then you can get away with being sloppy, because society itself reflects some of the objective moral values that God built into the world that He made. But when society is de-Christianized and gutted of moral wisdom, you will be swept away in the nonsense unless you are diligent to study and obey God’s standard, which He has given us in the form of sacred Scripture. You’re either going to drift downstream with the progressive culture, or you’re going to hold fast to Christ.
As things stand right now, our society and its institutions like to promote confusion, doubt, and skepticism on moral issues, thus paving the way for the sexual revolution to take root in people’s hearts and minds. In such a world, it is doubly important that you know who God is, that you know how God has designed the world, that you know the objective moral principles by which God intends you to live, and that you know who you are and how you can be in meaningful fellowship with the Lord God.
When the Lord God says in Isaiah 1 that you should “cease to do evil” and “learn to do good” (Isaiah 1:16, 17), the assumption is that evil is identifiable and good is identifiable. These categories are not fluid. God has given us His standard, and if we meditate on His instruction – on His law – day and night (Psalm 1:2), then we will not walk “in the counsel of the wicked” (Psalm 1:1). “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to live kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) “The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil” (Proverbs 8:13). The psalmist prays in Psalm 119:
“Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good and do good; teach me your statutes…. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” (Psalm 119:66-68, 71-72)
Don’t make the mistake of consulting the Bible for how to be saved and then consulting the popular culture for how to live. That is a catastrophic error. Yes, search the Scriptures for how to be saved, but in doing so you will discover that the God who saves His people teaches His saved people how to live: after the gospel has been proclaimed and converts have been baptized, Jesus tells us to “[teach] them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).
Educate Your Children in the Truth of God’s Word
Second, in a society that calls “evil good and good evil”, it is triply important to educate your children in the truth of God’s Word. The reason I said ‘doubly important’ in the previous point but say ‘triply important’ on this point is because children are, by nature, undeveloped and vulnerable. There have been time periods in our country when parents could send their growing children out and about into society with the confidence that some basic standards of morality and decency would be reinformed by many people in the society. But the year 2023 doesn’t fall into such a morally safe time period. Therefore, parents must not get sloppy and carefree and assume that the wider society will reinforce biblical moral teaching to your children. It won’t. In fact, it will do just the opposite: it will undermine it. If children are taught that they are complex physical matter but not image-bearers of God, if children are taught to enthrone subjective feelings and to disregard the objectivity of rational truth, if children are taught that life is an accident and not a purposeful gift from the hand of God, if children are taught that marriage and family matters are socially constructed arrangements and not divinely arranged institutions with definitions and boundaries, if children are taught to manage appearances instead of to engage with reality, then don’t be surprised when they live according to how they have been taught.
As parents, we must not utilize the Bible as a brief source of inspiring bursts of heavenly-mindedness, and then leave their overall worldview and lifestyle development to the Harvard-approved experts. When Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), what he means is that fathers must see to it that their children are brought up into the understanding and practice of everything else that Paul wrote about in his letter to the Ephesians. Fathers – and mothers alongside them – must see to it that our children understand the preeminence of Christ and His gospel that brings salvation (Ephesians 1-2); we must see to it that our children understand the glory that God has invested in the church and their responsibility to live as worthy members of the church (Ephesians 3:1-4:16); we must see to it our children understand God’s moral standard and what it means to live truthful, righteous, holy, pure, kind, loving, and dignified lives in every sphere of activity (Ephesians 4:17-6:9); and we must see to it that our children are equipped to wear and wield God’s armor so that they are overcome the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10-20). To give but one example, we must equip our children to obey this instruction:
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)
In this upside-down society of ours, we will have to give our children more than ten minutes of heavenly mindedness if we are going to get them to “understand what the will of the Lord is” in the rough and tumble of everyday life. There is no quick-fix parenting. Slow down, connect with your kids, and clothe them with the teaching of the Lord.
Expect to Suffer
Third, in a society that calls “evil good and good evil”, we must expect to suffer at the hands of evildoers. If a society respected God’s moral order, then it wouldn’t trouble us for delighting in and living according to God’s moral order. But when a society has inverted the moral script, don’t expect it to play nice. As I read earlier from Isaiah 59:15 – “he who departs from evil makes himself a prey”. When the communists are calling the shots, departing from the evil communist regime puts your life and livelihood in grave danger. When the Islamists are calling the shots, departing from the evil Islamist regime puts your life and livelihood in grave danger. When the secular progressives are calling the shots, departing from the evil secular progressive agenda puts your life and livelihood in grave danger. So, don’t expect governments to play nice. God has placed upon the governing authorities an obligation “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:14; also see Romans 13:1-5). Governments ought to uphold God’s moral order, and we ought to call upon them to uphold it. But if they go down the path of rebellion, then you can expect unjust governments to punish those who do good and to praise those who do evil.
The apostle Peter envisions that there are times when Christians will “suffer for righteousness’ sake” (1 Peter 3:14), will “suffer for doing good” (1 Peter 3:17), and will “[suffer] as a Christian” (1 Peter 4:16). For example, Peter recognizes that sometimes unbelievers will malign us because we “do not join them in the same flood of debauchery” (1 Peter 4:4) and “lawless idolatry” (1 Peter 4:3) that they are caught up in. 1 Peter 4:3-4 expresses the basic Scriptural teaching that we must not be participants in evil. Sometimes the cost of non-participation is being called unsavory names. At other times the cost of non-participation is loss of certain job opportunities. John Piper, a preacher and author from whom I have learned much, has a podcast called “Ask Pastor John”. The last episode of 2022 featured this question: “Can I Be a Nurse for a ‘Gender-Reassignment’ Surgery?” (available online: https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/can-i-be-a-nurse-for-a-gender-reassignment-surgery). The answer, of course, is no. But right now I’m simply pointing out that in a society that calls “evil good and good evil”, you’re going to be presented with numerous instances where governments and professions are promoting and performing evil, and you’re going to have a steel-like resolve to say, ‘It may well be the case that this evil is going to come into the world, but by God’s grace this evil is not going to come into the world through me’ (I have patterned this resolution after a quotation from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn). And so, you walk away, and you keep your heart true to the Lord, and you remember that you have an abiding possession stored up for you in heaven, which will never be taken away from you. The great reward is coming. In the meantime, expect to suffer.
Be Resolved to Suffer Graciously
Fourth, in a society that calls “evil good and good evil”, be resolved to suffer graciously. When evildoers threaten us or harm us, or when they attack us precisely because we are pursuing what is truly good in God’s sight, we must not sink to their level. We must not play their game. We must not allow ourselves to be corrupted by their evildoing.
Peter instructs good servants who suffer under unjust masters to remember the example of the Lord Jesus: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23) Peter counsels all believers to follow our Lord’s example: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9) How can we have a disposition to bless in the face of evil? By having “a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8). And by treasuring the Lord’s instruction:
“For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”” (1 Peter 3:10-12)
Remarkably, in the context of 1 Peter 3:9, 1 Peter 3:10-12 indicates that doing good includes doing good to those who do evil against us. This is exactly what the Lord told us to do: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28) In order to get traction on this, we have to discover the mercy of God. Jesus said: “the Most High… is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” (Luke 6:35) Then He commanded: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) So, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:20-21) Suffer graciously; suffer humbly; suffer purposefully; and suffer triumphantly: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35) Answer: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
Embody God’s Goodness Together
Fifth, in a society that calls “evil good and good evil”, we ought to think of our church family as a community where God’s goodness is embodied practically in our relationships with each other. Paul wrote to one church, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14) By God’s grace, true goodness takes up residence in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Further, we must recognize that God’s message to the nations is not only the proclamation of Scripture, but also the presentation of a vibrant church that has been transformed by Scripture:
“See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so hear to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)
Although the predominant worldview of a society is morally upside down, we are display true moral beauty by living right-side up. We are to visibly demonstrate God’s wisdom at work in and through ordinary people like us who have been set free by the gospel of God’s grace to the end that we walk in humble obedience and thereby function as God’s salt and light in the world.
Brothers and sisters, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:9-12)
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