“RISK” – PART 2
A “TALE OF TWO CITIES”
In this life there are two kingdoms warring against each other: the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of the World. Let us never forget the battle that we are in on a daily basis. Although the victory of the Kingdom of Heaven is assured, yet the present battle remains hard. It is time that we risk our all.
And it is a “tale of two cities” in that the HOW we “risk” all could be seen to be very different depending on whether we are fighting in the “Kingdom City” or “the City of the Saved” – which is the Church, or the “Worldly City” or the “City of Satan”, which is the Godless society in which we live in the natural.
- RISK IN THE CITY OF THE KINGDOM OF THE WORLD
At this time of world-wide fear of Coronavirus; in this time of godlessness where “everyone does what seems right in his own eyes” (Judges 21: 25) let us:
- RISK BY SHOWING THE WORLD A BETTER WAY –
- through focusing on all that is good rather than on all that is bad (Philippians 4: 8)
- Through taking the risk (which is really no risk) of offering to pray for the sick in the world, through feeding the hungry, through empathising with the hurt and the lonely and the emotionally battered – through bearing the “fruit of the Spirit”
- Through remembering to say, “What if???” when we see a need, or asking “What would Jesus do?” when we relate to people in the workplace or the home.
- RISK LIKE JESUS RISKED –
Jesus turned the Roman world upside down – not by telling the Romans how bad they were, but by showing the Romans how good God was. He taught. He healed. He fed the hungry. He gave His life for the world.
Rather than criticising the Roman world, He resisted being sucked into criticising the Roman world.
The religious leaders of the day expected a Messiah who would be a revolutionary warrior who would lead Jewish armies to throw out the Roman occupiers. They didn’t believe in a man who was not a political extremist. So, they taunted and tempted Him as we read in this account of Matthew in chapter 22:
15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the poll-tax to Caesar or not?’
18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’
21 ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.
Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’
22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
Jesus refused to criticise the obvious sin of the world. Rather He turned the focus back onto Godliness – onto the positive: whatever is the world’s is the world’s – our job is to give to God our honour, our obedience, our very lives. And the world will see by our lifestyle that following the way of the LORD is the better way.
This example was taken up by the Early Church. As Paul and the other apostles spread the Good News around the Roman world, we see that they did just what it “said on the tin”. They spread Good News – they told a people living in sin about the love of God for them. Rather than “banging on” about their evil ways, they spoke about the forgiveness of Christ and His atoning sacrifice for them. How clearly this was seen when Paul spoke to the Athenian Greeks on the Areopagus (Acts 17: 16-34) – he did not tell them how “bad” they were but encouraged them to look at the spiritual thoughts and feelings that they had (verse 22) and showed them the BETTER WAY of the love of God and Grace of Jesus – calling them to repent (verses 24-31).
- RISK IN THE SOCIETY IN WHICH WE LIVE –
Here it is harder. Here it is a bigger risk.
To live as a true disciple should live is risky. You do risk mockery, rejection or even persecution (especially if you live in other parts of the world). But, it’s 2022 – it’s time to take that risk of living a right life when all those around you are not. And the blessing that you will receive from God is a hundred-fold what you will lose by taking that risk.
We are promised this in Mark 10 –
29 ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – along with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life
And it might be an even bigger risk…you might be challenged on what you believe; you might be asked what you believe. It’s 2022 – it’s time to take that risk of giving an honest answer. Yes, you might shake and stumble with the anxiety of it all but remember what Jesus tells us in Luke 12 and verses 8 and 12 –
8 ‘I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.
11 ‘When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.’
- RISK IN THE CITY OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
- RISK BY YOUR LIFESTYLE
A few of us will be called to “put our heads above the parapet” – like the advocates of “Christian Concern” and the “Christian Institute” and the “Evangelical Alliance” and individuals like Dave W who are driven by the Spirit to speak out against moral and religious error.
But, for most of us, “RISK” will take the form of simply focusing on simply doing what is right and pure and admirable – whatever is going on in the world around us. Here’s a typically wonderful pithy quote/mnemonic from Jim which helps here:
“God can do something extraordinary in the ordinary”
- RISK IN RELATIONSHIP
“When a man loves a woman” (as Percy Sledge would say) he is willing to take risks in the security of knowing that he is loved and valued. He is willing to tell his woman that he loves her without fearing that he is going to be laughed at; he is going to take the risk of not shaving and staying late in his pyjamas on a Saturday morning without fearing that he is going to be rejected.
In the same way, let us be secure in our church family – secure in knowing that we are loved by our “brothers and sisters in the LORD”. When we meet together:
Each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation (1 Corinthians 14: 26)
Risk – in the safe environment of the church family – will always be fostered by encouragement – when we have stood up and said something and, likely as not, feel that we really “made a mess of it” and someone says to us “well done!.. You were so brave… That was so helpful…Really proud of you..” then we are encouraged and more likely to take the risk again as their words help us to grow in the faith.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5: 11)
Risk together in relationship means no longer using the excuse “I can’t [pray a prayer, read a passage of Scripture, give a testimony of what God has done for me] because I am just not able”. Remember the wise saying that “God does not call the equipped; God equips the called”. Step out in the safety of the church family. Take a risk in 2022 – God will bless you – and you will be a blessing to us.
Now here it gets very hard – and this final section looking at RISK is going to link with our next session where we look at RESIST – for within the city of the Kingdom of Heaven we need to begin to lovingly risk saying to those amongst us (ie IN the Kingdom of Heaven) that they need to stop being weak, start being strong; stop compromising with the world and start living fully in a Biblical manner as disciples of Jesus Christ. Let us remember, as we do this, two things:
- Christ was very vocal against those “religious”, legalistic, Jews whom he called “hypocrites”
- If we see the “speck” in our brother’s eye, remember that you might have a “plank” in yours (Matthew 7: 3) – so let’s not be too judgemental, but rather full of love for one another…
We read some things that are very important in Ezekiel:
3 He said: ‘Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says.” 5 And whether they listen or fail to listen – for they are a rebellious people – they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. 7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. (Ezekiel 2: 3-7)
17 ‘Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked person, “You will surely die,” and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for[b] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.
20 ‘Again, when a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling-block before them, they will die. Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sin. The righteous things that person did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 21 But if you do warn the righteous person not to sin and they do not sin, they will surely live because they took warning, and you will have saved yourself.’ (Ezekiel 3: 17-21)
Jesus did not criticise the Romans…but He had very strong words to say to the hypocrites of the faith – the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Scribes and the teachers of the Law. And it was a BIG RISK for Him to speak out against them – to tell them that they were doing wrong and needed to repent. It can be said that His risk cost Him His life!
We have rightly said that our role is to show a world without God how much better it is to be with God; that it is not our role to criticise.
But maybe it is our job to take the risk of being very straight with Christians who are living weak lives of compromise with the world.
- RISK LIKE EZEKIEL –
Many, many, years ago I worked in teaching with a really lovely man who was clever, and wise, and good at his job. But he had one, very debilitating, problem… “he didn’t half smell”! His BO problem was unavoidable due to a physical condition – but he was so used to it that he wasn’t daily aware of it. Not so his students! And they used to hurt him terribly by placing on his chair cans of deodorant and bars of soap…how they chortled…but it wasn’t funny. And what did I do to help??? Nothing…I was too afraid to get involved; to afraid to be honest with him and then help him. But I had another friend – not a Christian – who had the courage and the care to sit down with him and gently talk him through the issue; who then had the kindness to support him in a daily battle to manage the problem. What if (as Jim had said) I had taken the risk to stand with him and gently guide him at this time of difficulty? But, I didn’t and so it was left to someone else.
And the relevance of this to our passage? Well…we all “smell bad” sometimes. We so easily fall into sin, which could be saying or doing or living in an unbiblical way. We are brothers and sisters. We are called by God to speak the truth to them, to guide them back to the right way of living – to GENTLY challenge them and support them and guide them back.
Do you remember the story I told you a while back? The story of a church Elder who had fallen into adultery? When it was found out, two fellow-Elders were dispatched to go and face him with his sin. While travelling together one said to the other that it was a disgraceful act and they had to come down on him with the full force of church discipline. At this the other man pulled the car over and asked the first one to get out – he would travel to the fallen man’s home alone. Once there he went in, embraced his dear friend, wept over him as he revealed that the sin was now known, told him that “there by the grace of God go I” and gently, lovingly, led him to a place of repentance and ultimately restoration.
Like Ezekiel, the risk that we might be asked to take this year is to challenge one another in our Christian lives to forsake compromise with the world, to purify ourselves and resist the pull of society to conform with ungodly values, and to rebuild the church.
So, whether we are taking the risk of showing the world a “better way” or whether we are taking the risk of challenging those in our own church, all should be done with love and compassion and a desire to see the Kingdom of Heaven finally triumph over the Kingdom of the World. It is a “tale of two cities”.