Living Our Lives No Matter Whats Around Us

As the days get shorter and cooler I can’t help but think back to a couple of weeks ago and the kind of absolutely beautiful weather we had, sunny and 80 degrees! I couldn’t help but wish that it would stay that way the rest of the year and I know there are many of you that feel the same way.
See I’ve lost much of my tolerance for cold weather and all of the nonsense that goes along with it. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived with it all my life but I’m tired of the snow, icy conditions and all the fun you have driving with all the smart and considerate drivers that crowd our highways! All of you snowbirds that head to a warmer climate for the winter months, I get it and I don’t blame you in the least bit.
But I realize that some of you crazy people like the cold weather. You enjoy the beauty of a fresh snowfall and the change of seasons. Personally I could live without it, give me warm and sunny every day. But it’s OK to disagree about the weather, you like cold, I like warm, that’s fine. But there’s one thing I think we can all agree on. I look around and realize we live in a dark world.
I see the pain of sickness and death. I try to watch the news but I find it difficult because we are constantly bombarded with political divisions, devastation from natural disasters, murder, terrorism, hunger, homelessness and much more. The suicide rate is at an all time high and that breaks my heart because that tells me that people have no hope.
All of these things we’ve mentioned cause us to ask questions and one of the most important questions we can ask is, “How do we live our lives in light of all that is happening around us?” What better resource than God’s word to help us answer that question. Part of the answer is found in Micah 6:1-8.
First, Micah spends the better part of the first 5 chapters calling Israel out on its’ sins; Idolatry, failure of civic leadership, failure of church leadership, and the thinking that personal sacrifice is enough to satisfy divine justice. And if we are honest, we will admit that not much has changed since Micah wrote this nearly 3,000 years ago. The sins that Israel struggled with are still rampant today. We are just like the Israelite’s. As a matter of fact, anywhere your see Israel in the text, you can substitute us, because we are Israel! We are the people who God is speaking to through the prophet Micah, so when Micah calls out the nation of Israel on their sins, he’s calling us out today.
Micah begins Chapter 6 by calling out Israel, “Stand up, plead my case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. 2 “Hear, you mountains, the LORD’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the LORD has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel.” So God, in a sense, is taking us to court. He’s telling Micah to “…plead my case…” In verse 2 the NIV says “The Lord has a case against His people.” The ESV translates it “The Lord has an indictment against His people.” We’re being indicted by the God of the universe!
And the jury is all of creation, the mountains, the hills, the everlasting foundations of the earth He’s taking us to court and He has a case! Micah has begun the framework of the case in the first 5 chapters but God then goes on to lay out that case. He asks two questions in verse 3, “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you?” Don’t miss this because He calls the nation of Israel (and us!) “My people…” He’s reminding us of the kind relationship that we are created for. We are His creation, His people and He asks us, “What have I done to you that is so burdensome?” And He challenges by saying, “Answer Me!” God then goes on in the next few verses to remind them of some very important things. First in verse 4, “I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.” God is reminding them that it was Him who saved them from slavery. He was responsible for all that happened during the Exodus. It was God who brought them up, redeemed them and lead them. What He’s asking is, “Don’t you remember what I did for you?” And it’s the question He’s asking us today.
Don’t you remember what I did for you? How I sent my Son to pay the price for all of your sins? How He allowed Himself to be tortured and hung on a cross, brutally killed for you? How He arose on the third day and reconciled you to Me? Do we remember all that God has done for us? I can’t help but think of my own life. I grew up in a good Christian home but I turned my back on God. And I began to search for meaning in my life. Unfortunately, that search took me down some very dark roads; alcohol, drugs, inappropriate relationships. Then early one cold morning in October I was involved in a head on collision. I should have been killed. No way should I have survived that but by the grace of God, I was spared. And that one event set me on the road that has taken me to this place today. God saved my physical life but He also saved my spiritual life. Do we remember?
Then in verse 5 God reminds the Israelite’s of two instances that prove He’s on their side The story of Balek and Balaam, from Numbers 22-24 and the journey from Shittim to Gilgal into the promised land. God is reminding them of these events, as He goes on at the end of verse 5, “…that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.” Now we come to the question for the ages in verse 6, “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God?”
Really, the question is “What can I give in exchange for God’s presence, for God’s saving grace?” The end of verse 6 begins an attempt at answering the question, “Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?” Verse 7 ramps it up quite a bit, “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” What Micah is doing here is using a bit of hyperbole; he’s exaggerating to make a point. He’s exposing the incorrect belief that grace and forgiveness can traded for, that there is actually something that we have that can be bartered in exchange for God’s presence, for entry into heaven. Friends, nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing that we can bring. There is nothing that we can sacrifice. There is nothing that we can do that will gain us the grace and forgiveness that we so badly need. It is only by the shed blood of Jesus Christ that we are saved. It is the death and resurrection of Christ that reconciles us to God and allows us to come into the presence of the Most Holy One, the Creator of all, the God of the cosmos. It is Christ and Christ alone.
So what does God require of us? I’m glad you asked because the answer is in verse 8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” So let’s quickly break this down to the three elements.
“Act justly”. What exactly does that mean? Some translations word it a bit differently, “Do justice”, “Do justly”, “Be fair to other people” (I really like that last one) Most commentaries on this verse are pretty much on the same page with regard to what it means to act justly. I like Matthew Poole’s commentary. He says to act justly is “…to render to everyone what is their due, superiors, equals, inferiors, to be equal to all, and oppress none, in body, goods, or name; in all your dealings with men… do according to equity.” So our human response is to work really hard at this but the end result is that we really can’t do this perfectly on our own.
“Love mercy.” The Hebrew word for love here, love mercy is a verb that implies both action and attitude. Most commentaries agree on this point as well and I offer up Gill’s commentary because it sums it up nicely. To love mercy is to “not only to show mercy to miserable objects, to persons in distress; to relieve the poor and indigent; to clothe the naked, and feed the hungry; but to delight in such exercises;” So it’s not enough to do these acts of mercy but we are supposed to delight in them! Again, this is something that we cannot do perfectly on our own.
The end result of all of this, not just the fact that we cannot live up to acting justly and loving mercy, but that coupled with our sin and our inability to bring any sacrifice worthy, and in the light of all that God has done for us, the end result is that we have no choice but to humble ourselves before our God, and admit that we need grace. And the only hope we have of ever coming close to “acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God” is to place our trust in the saving work of Christ and tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that will transform us and make us into the people that God intended.
We have established and agree that there is much darkness in this world. There’s pain and sickness and death and devastation and divisions. We’ve been over all of that but we are called to be a light in the darkness. In Ephesians 5:8 Paul reminds us, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” To shine that light we need to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
Friends, we are called to this as individuals but we are also called to this as a body, as the church, and here at Hope Church, we take this seriously. Our steering team has spent quite a bit of time in prayer and discussion and we have developed a mission and a vision statement that we believe reflects God’s will in this regard: “To honor God by loving our neighbors, sharing the Gospel and caring for each other”. We will strive to love our neighbors by acting justly toward all, “…to render to everyone what is their due” to borrow words from Matthew Poole once again. We will strive to love our neighbors by loving mercy. Not only showing acts of mercy to the least the lost and the broken but delighting in those acts as well! We will strive to love our neighbors by sharing the Gospel, helping them to understand all that God has done for them. We will help to show them the way to God’s mercy and grace. And we will strive to honor God by walking humbly with Him by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Does that sound like something you want to be a part of? It does to me. See I know what God has done for me. He pulled me out of a life of darkness and saved me from sure destruction, from certain death. He set me free from the bondage of sin and set me apart as His child. I have no choice! What else can I do, except to offer my life as a living sacrifice to God? Not because my sacrifice is going to save me, or gain me favor with God. No, I do this because of what He’s done for me! I want to put all of my effort into this mission. Athletes talk about giving 110%, about leaving it all on the field. I want to leave it all on the field! I’m all in and I ask you to join us in this mission. Can you imagine what Lowell and our surrounding area will look like because of our mission?! Well, that’s where our vision statement comes in; “Lives changed because Hope Church cares”. Imagine the surrounding community saying, “Man, I’m glad Hope Church is here.” “They care and they have made this a better place to live.” “They helped changed my life.” “They’ve given me a hope in this dark world. Hope Church saved my life” I can only imagine the other things that people will be saying a year from now, two years, five years, ten years from now!
Cold weather is coming. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not, it’s coming. You can run to Florida, go ahead, run away and leave me here. I’m just kidding, but the reality is this, cold weather, warm weather, it doesn’t matter. Hope Church is on a mission to shine the light of Jesus in this community and beyond. Friends we can make a difference. We have something that our neighbors need, the love of Christ expressed to them in a way that they have never experienced before. We can do this if we come to terms with all that God has done for us, acknowledge our sin and seek His forgiveness, tap into the power of the Holy Spirit, act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
*  Andrew Wahlstrom is a speaker, a member of the Hope Church Steering Team, regular contributor on Hope Church’s blog, active in getting our sound, projection, lighting systems and also serving on the Worship Team here at Hope Community Church.

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