Sermon: Do You Make Men Thirsty?
Scripture: Matthew 5:13
In this week’s lessons, we learn what it means for a Christian to live for Christ in the world.
Theme: A Decaying World
This is of great significance for our understanding of the nature of true Christianity, and it has never been of more significance than in our present day. Jesus was saying, “Those who are my disciples should affect the world positively by the way in which they live.” But as I view the world today I would say that although there seems to be a very keen awareness on the part of many people that something of this nature is precisely what the world needs, even though they may not look to the disciples of Jesus Christ for the answer, there is not nearly enough of this positive action in the world for good by Christians.
At the end of the nineteenth century there was a feeling of confident optimism in the western world, based on the belief that an ongoing biological and philosophical evolution would eventually solve all of man’s troubles and lead to something closely akin to the Greeks’ “Golden Age.” The idea was that all of human life was advancing and rising upward. One commentator on these times, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, writes perceptively of it:
It is indeed pathetic to read the prognostication of the thinkers (so-called), the philosophers and poets and leaders towards the end of the last century…Wars were going to be abolished, diseases were being cured, suffering was going to be not only ameliorated but finally eradicated. It was to be an amazing century. Most of the problems were going to be solved, for man had at last really begun to think. The masses, through education, would cease giving themselves to drink and immorality and vice. And as all the nations were thus educated to think and to hold conferences instead of rushing to war, the whole world was very soon going to be Paradise. That is not caricaturing the situation; it was believed confidently.1
Today, however, there are not many people who think like that. Where there was once a confident optimism, there is now real pessimism and acute despair. And even the ones who are still confident in some areas express their more limited optimism guardedly. There is an awareness that something more than a theory of progress is necessary, that there must, in fact, be something akin to a new life embodied in a new breed of men.
This is what the gospel of Jesus Christ offers. And yet, what do we find? Instead of the active, permeating, preserving, and transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ always operating in the world through all Christians, we find too many Christians sitting on the sidelines without the “savour” provided by the Lord Jesus Christ and fit only—if we are to take Christ’s words literally—“to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”
I am well aware that there are good historical reasons why an evangelical church that once gave fuel and impetus to the greatest social movements the world has seen has come to be outdistanced by others and at times even to be hostile to the applications of the gospel to the contemporary world. Daniel O. Moberg, author of the book Inasmuch, lists ten reasons in his historical study of the neglect of the social aspects of the faith by evangelicals: a preoccupation with valid theological battles, a misinterpretation of the prophecies that in the last days things on this earth will get worse to mean that they will never in any circumstances get better, a belief that social concerns are antithetical to a concern for the salvation aspects of the church’s message, a concern for personal piety, the idea that politics are intrinsically “dirty,” a growing conformity to the world’s standards in business and political life by Christians, and other things also. But the explanation does not excuse the situation in which we find ourselves today. Nor does the situation itself negate the moral imperatives of Christ’s teachings.
According to Jesus, the Christian is clearly to influence his society. And this must be true wherever the principles of the gospel impinge upon the religious, political, economic, or social issues of the Christian’s community.
1D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1967), vol. 1, 150-51.
Compared with the optimism at the end of the nineteenth century, what do you think has happened to bring about so much pessimism today?
Review the reasons given for why evangelicals as a whole neglect the social aspects of the gospel. Can you think of specific examples for any of these reasons?
Application: Look for opportunities to share with those in despair and without hope the joy, blessing, and purpose that only the gospel can provide.
Key Point: According to Jesus, the Christian is clearly to influence his society. And this must be true wherever the principles of the gospel impinge upon the religious, political, economic, or social issues of the Christian’s community.