Sermon 2 – Ruling with Justice
From the very beginning, God’s desire has been to partner with His people to rule over His good creation. The Hebrew Bible is full of prophecies looking forward to the day when God would undo the damage of sin and reconcile humanity to Himself. Those prophecies were fulfilled in the person of Jesus. But what many of us don’t realize, is that there are prophecies in the Jewish Scriptures that we are meant to fulfill. Luke’s depiction of the early Church in Acts tells the story of the early Christians fulfilling those prophecies by bringing shalom to chaos. Unfortunately, at some point, we lost our way. But thankfully, all of us can step into our rightful place as partners with God and play our part in His redemptive plan to rescue people from sin and restore creation.
Bible Passage: Acts 5:12-16; Isaiah 32:1-4
Big Idea of Message:
You have been called by God to rule with justice.
Feel empowered to partner with King Jesus in his plans to bring shalom to chaos. Feel hopeful that they can make a difference right where they are.
Rule with justice by choosing to disadvantage yourself for the good of others and resisting the temptation to disadvantage others for the good of yourself.
Segue – What am I good at? What do I love? What does the world need? The idea of Calling.
1) Intro & Tension (10 Minutes)
In a world that is full of injustice – here’s a question I wish people spent more time asking: What does real justice look like?
Why? Because right now, there are so many different definitions of what justice is, what it is supposed to be, and how best to achieve it. There are those who primarily define justice as punishing those who do wrong, while others define it as helping those in need, and some who define justice as whatever is best for them.
Unfortunately, for followers of Jesus, there are so many of us who have such radically different definitions of justice that we’ve allowed it to create division.
But, as people who have chosen to align ourselves with our crucified and risen King Jesus, we’re entrusted with the task that is far more important for us to allow division to get in the way. That task is to bring shalom. What is shalom? Peace, wholeness, flourishing; the way things are supposed to be. Shalom is the bringing together of God, humanity, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and goodness.
Because of Easter – because of the resurrection of Jesus – we’ve been called by God to bring shalom. Shortly after Jesus walked out of an empty tomb, he stepped into a locked room filled with his disciples. He looked at them and said “Peace [shalom] be with you… as the father has sent me, so I am sending you…” And then he breathed His spirit into them, filling them with the Holy Spirit so that they could be empowered to do the work of making wrong things right, and bringing shalom to chaos. And that same invitation has been extended to every single on of us.
But here’s the problem. Too many Christians today have been so focused on all the OT prophecies that Jesus fulfilled that they never realized there are prophecies that we are supposed to fill.
Remember, how we are to read the Scripture, because most people suck at it. 1) Jesus is King; 2) Context is everything.
Now, let’s look at one of the OT prophecies that was looking ahead to the Day of the Lord, the day when the Messiah, the Chosen one of God, would show up and bring shalom to a chaotic world:
32:1 Indeed, a king will reign righteously, and rulers will rule justly. 2 Each will be like a shelter from the wind, a refuge from the rain, like flowing streams in a dry land and the shade of a massive rock in an arid land. 3 Then the eyes of those who see will not be closed, and the ears of those who hear will listen. 4 The reckless mind will gain knowledge, and the stammering tongue will speak clearly and fluently.
The king who will reign in righteousness – that’s Jesus – God in human form who willingly died in the most shameful and humiliating way possible, to rob sin of its power and conquer death.
But who are the rulers who will rule with justice? That’s us. You and me. The people of God living out the will of God.
Another important principle of wisdom is established when Isaiah reports that the princes rule with justice: Righteousness precedes justice in the equation of good governance. It is false to assume that a leader can do justice without being righteous. Sooner or later, there will be moral decisions that test the caliber of the leader’s soul and expose the flaw. Conversely, if the leader is right with God, he or she will respect the rights of others. Another principle of wisdom is established for us: Righteousness not only precedes justice, but righteousness guarantees justice. The king who reigns in righteousness, then, has princes who rule in justice. In the clearest terms, Isaiah has laid the stone of justice upon the cornerstone of righteousness for the building of the nation and the guidance of the people.The Preacher’s Commentary – Isaiah 32
You have been called by God to be a shelter from the wind, a refuge in the storm, a stream of water in the desert, and a shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land. You have been called to rule alongside King Jesus – to continue His work he started of bringing shalom to the chaos. Do you understand the significance of that? Can you feel it? Every single one of us has a part to play.
So, what is justice? Doing justice means making wrong things right.
But who defines right and wrong? This is SOOO important for us to pause and reflect on because we live in a world where everyone and their grandma has their own opinion about what justice is. And sometimes, their ideas are great, but often, they are terrible.
Right and wrong are not defined by our preferences, our political party, or other people. Right and wrong are defined by the character of God revealed in the person of Christ.
Do you think most Christians realize the part they’ve been called to play?
What does real justice look like?
When you think of Vinton-Shellsburg-CenterPoint-Urbana-CedarRapids, where is one place you could start bringing justice to?
At some point, as Christians, we lost our way. The very first Christians – were called Followers of the Way. Because from the beginning, Christianity has always been so much more than just one more religion – and it’s completely unlike any other relationship. Christianity has been about a way of life, a way of being human, a way of relating to God and others. Following Jesus has never required part of you. Following Jesus requires ALL of you, and that’s a lot to ask for.
So, through time, we’ve taken the invitation of Jesus, to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him. But we’ve reduced it to: go to church every once in a while, pray a prayer to invite Jesus into your heart and try to be nice to people…
The way of JEsus is so much bigger and better than that. The way of Jesus is about becoming a new creation, being adopted into God’s family, and participating in God’s redemptive plan to bring shalom to a fallen world. The first Christians understood this. Luke, who wrote one of the four gospels, also wrote Luke part 2 – known as Acts of the Apostles. Acts tells the story of the first Christians living out the way of Jesus, empowered by the Spirit of God, building communities across the known world and bringing the Gospel everywhere they went. In Acts 5, we get to see a peak of what those first Christians were about.
Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles. They were all together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared to join them, but the people spoke well of them. 14 Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers—multitudes of both men and women. 15 As a result, they would carry the sick out into the streets and lay them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 In addition, a multitude came together from the towns surrounding Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
There’s one part of this passage that seems strange…
15 As a result, they would carry the sick out into the streets and lay them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 In addition, a multitude came together from the towns surrounding Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
You’re telling me people were bringing the sick into the streets and laying them down on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall on them? That’s some weird superstitious voodoo stuff. At least, it seems like it until you learn what Luke was doing. Luke is very intentionally including that detail to clue us in to what is happening. To help his readers understand that in the days, weeks, and months after the resurrection -prophecies were being fulfilled, the Kingdom of God was being built, and the people of God were playing their part. You ready for this? What does Peter’s name mean? Rock. And what did we read earlier?
32:1 Indeed, a king will reign righteously, and rulers will rule justly. 2 Each will be like a shelter from the wind, a refuge from the rain, like flowing streams in a dry land and the shade of a massive rock in an arid land.
Do you see it?! Luke is including the detail about Peter’s shadow to make it clear that this prophecy is being fulfilled! Jesus is reigning in righteousness, seated on the right hand of God. And His disciples are ruling with justice. They are continuing the work He started by being shelters from the wind, refuges in the storm, streams of water in the desert, and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.
At some point, we lost our way. It’s time to find it again. It’s time to get back to our work and partner with our Righteous King by ruling alongside Him with justice.
As people who have been justified by the grace of Jesus, we have been called to do justice wherever we go.