Monday, July 3, 2017

Blame’s Four Applications

Micah 6

Welcome to our walk through the little-known book of Micah. The basic thrust of the book is that God is upset with His people, Israel, as a result of their sin, and so He sends Micah to preach to them of warning and judgment.

Last time we examined who bore the responsibility for Israel's sinful condition and arrived at three answers – every Jew corporately, bad Jews individually, but especially Israel's political and religious leadership. Having carefully apportioned the blame, let us take a few moments today to draw some applications for us in 21st century American Christianity.

First, we are all of us somewhat responsible for the spiritual condition of our city and nation.

Naturally, we would prefer to pretend this is not true, yet the case for corporate blame is laid out clearly in Scripture and we cannot avoid it. Conversely, when we stop trying to shift the blame onto the really (we think) guilty people around us, and accept the portion of the liability that is our due it adjusts our behavior. It forces us to begin to take seriously our responsibility to exercise as much influence for right as we possibly can.

I am responsible to live right. I am responsible to teach those within my influence to live right and to influence others to live right. I am responsible for praying for the greater spiritual needs of our country, rather than isolating myself and caring about only what I can see in my immediate vicinity. I am responsible to confess the sins of my nation. I must needs exercise my right and duty to vote in view of Proverbs 14.34. I must be willing to become engaged with the problems in my community. I cannot bury my head in the sand and say, 'Well, I just don't pay much attention to the news. I have no interest in politics.' I had better take an interest; I am partially responsible for it whether I like it or not.

Second, let me counsel those of you who are younger, those of you who are itching for your chance at the tiller, those of you want to lead - don't desire the trappings of leadership, rather desire the responsibility of it.

In my formative years of ministry preparation, I positively itched to lead a church of my own. I wanted to tell other people what to do. I wanted an office. I could see my name on the sign out front, and the respect that comes with the position of pastor. I dreamed of the day when overflowing crowds would come to hear me preach.

Twenty years ago, this summer that dream became a reality. Curiously enough, while the intervening two decades have not diminished my desire for ministry they have radically altered my perspective on it. Things are re-arranged. Now I find myself simply wanting to serve my people. I want to prepare them to face tomorrow. I want to strengthen their faith and their walk with God. I want to help them raise their children to love and serve God. I want to teach them the good and the right way. I want to influence as many people as I can to believe and practice scriptural truth. I want to edify those around me in the faith, and I want to advance the kingdom of God. Most of all, I want my life to be a platform from which God displays Himself.

What kept me awake at night twenty years ago was my dreams of ministerial success. What keeps me awake now is my fear for the sheep on the fringes of my flock who like to wander away from the Shepherd, a passionate desire for my children to grow up to love and serve God, and my concern for the increasingly carnal direction of the American Christianity I love. I used to dream of opportunity; now I eat, sleep, and breathe responsibility. I would have been well advised to have entertained more of this latter perspective in my former days.

Third, as a leader, if I don't like what I see in my group then I had better look in the mirror. I set the agenda and the pace. I possess the bully pulpit, so to speak. The flaws I so casually dismiss in myself are much harder to dismiss when they show up as wider gaps in the organization for which I am responsible. The princes, prophets, and priests in Israel – her leadership – were directly assigned the blame for the bad condition in which God found her. Why? Because that political and spiritual leadership had caused, provoked, or allowed that bad condition to flourish. As a leader, I must understand the short answer to the question, 'Who's fault is it?' is almost always, 'Mine.'

Fourth, as followers, it is absolutely critical that we ensure our leaders are true to God's Word.

When I watch pastors routinely butcher scriptural context, display a towering ego, or embrace a carnal approach to ministry I wonder why no one in the church stands up and says, 'Hey! Hold on a cotton-picking minute here. This isn't right.'

Perhaps the follower doesn't know any better, but for a long time Christian that's a lousy excuse. Maturity involves a depth of understanding of Biblical doctrine and practice that can discern error.

Perhaps the follower doesn't care. If that's the case the church is in sad shape indeed. Apathy never produces sound Christianity.

Perhaps the follower saw something concerning but did not wish to risk their position, their power, or their reputation. Such is nothing but a lack of faith in the God who alone determines our opportunities and advancement.

Perhaps the follower was hoodwinked by the personality of the leader. Yet even here there is responsibility for Scripture is clear that I am to follow my church's leadership based upon their doctrinal adherence to Scripture combined with a life that genuinely lives it out. I cannot plead the force of a persuasive personality as an excuse. I'm not supposed to follow personality, but rather righteousness.

Who is responsible for the condition of my church, my city, and my country? I am. Those directly involved in doing good and evil are. And the leadership is.

…which means I've simply got to stop waiting for someone else to do something. I'm responsible. It's my job. I must act.