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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:God's Recipe for Reformation
Text:Micah 6:8 (View)
Occasion:Reformation Day
Topic:Mercy
 
Preached:2023
Added:2023-12-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 24:1-3

Psalm 19:6 (after the Law of God)

Psalm 45:1-3

Psalm 116:1,7,9

Hymn 7

Scripture readings: Micah 3, Matthew 23:23-36

Text: Micah 6:8

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

Vishal Mangalwadi was born and raised in India.  India has a long history.  Like in many places, that history tells the story of rulers like emperors, sultans, and princes.  While the reading the Bible as a young man, Vishal Mangalwadi noticed a big difference between Indian history and biblical history.  He said, “Our folk history told us of great and glorious rulers.  This Jewish book, in contrast, told me about the wickedness of Jewish rulers.  Why?”  He came to realize that the Bible is different because the Bible is revelation from God.  Revelation interprets and evaluates human beings.  Mangalwadi said, “It stands above us, judges us, and calls us back to sanity.”  Revelation leads to reformation. 

Micah was a prophet used by God to bring revelation.  He lived during corrupt times.  The corruption was pervasive in Israel, in the Old Testament church.  Many times the rulers were wicked and the people were too.  Even though there was still religion, people still outwardly worshipped God, their lives were showing that they were actually far from God.  In times like that, God would send his prophets to bring revelation.  God’s revelation would stand above them, judge them, and call them back to sanity.  Revelation was intended to lead to reformation. 

With Reformation Day [coming/just past], this passage speaks to all of us about how the work of Reformation is never done in this life.  There’s always a call to continuing improvement in our lives and in the church.  So let’s listen to God’s Word this morning from Micah 6:8.   What we find here is God’s Recipe for Reformation.  We’ll see how it includes two ingredients:

  1. A renewed approach to our neighbours
  2. A renewed walk with God

The prophet Micah lived about 700 years before Christ.  It was a dark time for the church.  Oppression and injustice were rampant and unchecked.  We read from chapter 3 and there the prophet exposes the extent of the issues.  The rulers of the people were corrupt.  They hated good and loved evil.  Bribery was common.  If you were in front of a judge, if you had enough money, things would go your way.  According to verse 9 of chapter 3, the rulers detested justice and made “crooked all that is straight.”  People could lie, cheat, steal, and even kill with no consequences.  Yet says verse 11, they said, “Is not the LORD in the midst of us?”  In other words, “Aren’t we the church?  God is among us and he’ll stay among us no matter what we do.  He’s obviously okay with us.”

But Micah reveals in chapter 6 that God is not okay with them.  Look with me at verse 3 of chapter 6.  God asks, “O my people, what have I done to you?  How have I wearied you?  Answer me!”  These people are rebelling against God.  Is it because they’re reacting to some way in which he’s done them wrong? 

Well, rather than doing them wrong, he’s blessed them so much.  That’s what verses 4 and 5 are telling us.  God refers back to the Exodus from Egypt and how he liberated his people from slavery.  That was the main redemption event in the Old Testament and it pointed ahead to how Christ would free his people from slavery to sin in the New Testament.  The important thing for us to note here is that God had done this out of his grace.  Sometimes we have the idea in our minds that the people of Israel were in Egypt for all those years and they were just faithfully worshipping God alone, while their Egyptian neighbours worshipped their false gods.  But Scripture tells us that the Israelites worshipped the Egyptian gods too.  It’s in Joshua 24:14.  Right before saying “Choose this day whom you will serve,” Joshua said “Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.”  The Israelites served false gods in Egypt.  Yet God delivered them from their slavery.  That’s called grace.  They didn’t deserve it.  They deserved the opposite.  But God graciously saved them, not only from the oppression of Pharaoh, but also from the false gods they were serving.  We too have been saved in this gracious manner.  God didn’t send his Son to save us because we were so obedient to him, but despite the fact that we were disobedient.  That’s grace and it’s essential to understanding what God says in our text in verse 8.

That’s because verse 8 is the answer to a question:  how should we respond to this overwhelming saving grace?  Verses 6 and 7 tell us that it’s not with sacrifices and offerings of any kind.  God doesn’t want superstitious religious activity – as in “If I do these religious things, I’ll twist God’s arm and get him to do good things for me.”  God doesn’t want empty religious rituals – just mechanically going through the motions, thinking that’s all that God wants.  If we translate verses 6 and 7 into today’s world, we might say, “How shall I respond to God’s gracious salvation in Jesus Christ?  Shall I go to church twice every Sunday?  Shall I give 10% of everything I earn to the LORD?  Shall I go to Bible study faithfully every week?”  Done with the right motivations, all those things can be good things, just like the sacrifices of the Old Testament could be good things in that time and place.  But are those things the main thing God is expecting from people who’ve been showing his amazing grace?  Are those the things God wants us to prioritize?

So what does God want his redeemed people to prioritize?  First of all, notice in verse 8 that he has told it.  What is good has already been revealed.  If they know him through his Word, God’s people should already know what’s required of them.  It’s no great mystery. 

In Matthew 22, Jesus was asked about which is the greatest commandment in the Law.  To summarize God’s law he strung together two Old Testament passages.  The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our being – that was from Deuteronomy 6.  The second great commandment like it was from Leviticus 19:  “love your neighbour as yourself.”  So we should notice how Christ himself has said, “He has told you, O man, what is good…”  And Jesus did it in the same way as Micah – by saying that it involves both God and our neighbours.  You see, the law of God has always been structured like that, always directed to both the horizontal plane and the vertical. 

With regard to our fellow human beings around us, Micah tells us that God requires of us to do justice.  That refers to actions which make things right for those around us and also keep things right.  The opposite of justice is oppression, abuse, and corruption.  When we do justice, we stand up for the oppressed and if we can, we deliver them.  We see to it that the injustice is addressed.  Doing justice means putting love for our neighbour into action.  Remember: we’re to love our neighbours as ourselves.  That means that just as we instinctively take care of ourselves, we’re to instinctively take care of others – also taking care that they’re not oppressed, abused, or being taken advantage of.   

Scripture tells us that God loves justice.  Psalm 37:28, “For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints.”  When Christ appeared on earth, he revealed God’s love for justice too.  He came to deliver those who are oppressed.  More than anyone else, Jesus showed us what it looks like to do justice.  A classic example is found in John 8 with the woman caught in adultery.  The Jewish religious leaders set her up so they could entrap and kill Jesus.  But Jesus did justice.  He put them in their place and sent the woman on her way.

Now because we’re disciples of Jesus, we’re meant to be like him.  In the power of his Holy Spirit, we’re to do justice like he did justice.  We’re to love justice like he did and maintain it. 

One area where we’ve sometimes gotten this wrong in our churches is with respect to how we handle abuse.  We have to be honest.  Tragically, there have been instances where there’s been injustice.  For example, abuse victims have sometimes been placed under discipline while abusers face few or even no consequences.  That has happened and there’s no point in denying it or minimizing it.  Scripture calls God’s people to do justice, to stand on the side of the oppressed and condemn all injustice.  We’re to condemn all injustice, whether it’s violence, abuse, oppression, bullying, racism, fraud, or corruption.  We’re to do justice – we’re to actively do what we can to make things right and keep things right.

There is another area where we can all do justice.  That has to do with sex trafficking.  People are being bought and sold for sex.  So how can you do justice when it comes to sex trafficking?  It’s really simple:  don’t watch pornography.  When you watch pornography, you're helping to create the demand for sex trafficking.  You might be inclined to call it a victimless sin.  You might think you’re not hurting anyone by just looking at some pictures.  Yes, God condemns it as wicked, but at least you’re not physically doing anything to anyone.  Look, this is a rationalization and it doesn’t work.  It’s proven that many of the people portrayed in porn have been forced into it.  You’re keeping them in it.  When you watch porn, you’re part of the problem.  Loved ones, we’re to do justice – as part of that, hate porn and stay away from it.     

Micah 6:8 says God’s people are also “to love kindness.”  If you look in your Bible there at the word ‘kindness,’ you’ll see there’s a footnote at the bottom of the page telling us that the word could also be translated as “steadfast love.”  It’s a Hebrew word I’ve mentioned before, chesed [pronounced ‘kesed’].  Chesed is a rich term speaking to us of steadfast love, kindness, mercy, and loyalty.   This is what we’re to love.  Notice how this is an internal thing, about how our hearts are inclined.  Doing justice is about an action, loving kindness is about an attitude. 

To help sharpen our understanding of what we’re to love here, you could think of it again in terms of opposites.  The opposite of chesed is treachery.  The opposite is betrayal, infidelity, unfaithfulness.  Really it was everything the people of Israel were doing in the days of Micah.  Other people in the church just could not be trusted.  That was a horrible situation and God condemned it. 

He condemned it because that’s not what he’s like.  God isn’t treacherous or unfaithful.  He’s the epitome of loyalty and steadfast love.  God has made promises in the covenant of grace and he can be depended on to always keep his promises. He has loyally kept all his promises.  As Scripture says, not a word the LORD has spoken will fall to the ground.  Not only that, but Micah 7:18 says that “he delights in steadfast love.”  That’s what he takes pleasure in, that’s what he loves.  God loves to be that way himself and he loves for us to be that way too.

And the only way for us as believers to be that way is in Jesus Christ.  Christ exhibited and exhibits perfect chesed.   He is always loyal to his covenant promises and to his people.  He is always faithful to his bride, never philandering or adulterous.  His love is always steadfast, never fickle.  Jesus was betrayed, but he has never betrayed anyone.  You can always trust Jesus and his love for you.  When we’re Christians, we’re united to him.  We have his Holy Spirit living in us.  So we’re called to reflect the one to whom we’re united.  Jesus showed a love for kindness.  We’re to show a love for kindness.  And by asking for the help of the Holy Spirit, we can begin to do that in our lives. 

We can look back at our lives and see times where even as Christians we’ve fallen woefully short of what God requires of us.  I’m sure some of you have been thinking about your failures as you’re listening to this.  I was certainly thinking about my failures as I was preparing this.  I haven’t always done justice and I haven’t always loved chesed.  As a result, I haven’t always been loyal, kind, and full of steadfast love.  Instead, at times I’ve been treacherous, preferring sin over love.  But we all have to remember that amazing grace of our God again.  Look with me at Micah 7:19 [read].  There’s forgiveness for all our lack of justice and love for loyalty.  There’s forgiveness at the cross of our Saviour Jesus.  Loved ones, I urge you to again find your comfort in knowing that his blood has washed away all your sins.  In Christ you are forgiven and in Christ you are being renewed. 

God’s grace also leads us to renewal in terms of our walk with him.  The last line of Micah 6:8 says that God requires that you “walk humbly with your God.”  That’s the traditional translation of this line and it’s still found in every major Bible translation.  However, the most recent version of the NIV gives an alternative for “humbly” in a footnote.  That Hebrew word can also be translated as “prudently.”  Or you could also say, “wisely,” or “carefully.”  However, walking wisely or carefully with God will include walking humbly with him.  After all, the Bible is clear that humility is an essential part of what it means to be wise.  Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”  So humility and wisdom go hand in hand.

To walk with our God means to live with him.  It refers to a pattern, a habit, a way of life.  When we walk with God, we are self-consciously taking him into account each and every day. 

And our text says we’re to do this humbly, wisely, carefully.  Our whole life is to be one of living in humility before God.  That means at least two things.  These are two things the people of Israel weren’t doing in the days of Micah.  These are things the leaders of the people of Israel weren’t exemplifying in the days of Micah.  But these are things that we should all be doing today and especially those who are leaders.

The first thing is self-awareness.  In particular, we have to be aware of our own sinfulness and foolishness.  Walking with God means we have to be aware of who we are before him.  We’re sinful human beings who deserve nothing from God except his eternal wrath.  That’s all we’ve earned for ourselves.  And of ourselves, we’re not wise.  Left to ourselves, we’re foolish and we do self-destructive stuff.  All sin is ultimately self-destructive and when we do it, we’re being foolish.  We have to be honest with ourselves about these things.  We have to be honest with God too. 

The other thing we need is God-awareness.  By that, I mean we have to be aware of who God is.  Unlike us, God is perfectly good.  He is holy – which means he’s totally set apart from evil.  And unlike us, God is perfectly wise.  He always knows the best things to do and then he does them.  He has a perfect measure of wisdom and he’s revealed wisdom to us in the Bible. 

Taking these two things together, walking humbly with our God means putting ourselves to the side and having God and his Word in the center of our lives.  It means to take God seriously.  Walking humbly with your God means you say, “My ideas about how to live are full of sin and foolishness.  Instead, I’m going to listen to the good and wise God.  I’m going to listen to the Bible and try to follow God’s ways.”  That’s how you walk humbly with your God.  Put yourself to the side and have God in the middle. 

The Jewish religious leaders in the days of Jesus thought they were doing this.  They gave the appearance of being very religious men.  They were the men most serious about God in their day.  But when Christ came, revelation exposed them, judged them, and called them to repentance.  Jesus pointed out how they had neglected the weightier matters of the law:  justice and mercy and faithfulness.  The true nature of their relationship with God was exposed in how they treated other people.  They appeared to be righteous, but they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.  They bullied people, manipulated them, and oppressed them.  That all came to a head in what they did to Jesus to get him on the cross.  Ultimately all this happened because they weren’t really walking humbly with God.            

But what about us?  If we know we’re sinners, then we know how much we need God in our lives, we need his grace in Jesus Christ.  And knowing that grace has to bring us all onward to the weightier matters of the law.  Being a Christian isn’t in the first place about the law and our keeping it.  It’s about the gospel and God’s grace.  But having experienced his gospel grace, he calls us to share it.  He calls us to share what he is like with others around us – and that’s what draws us to what Jesus calls the weightier matters of the law.  These are the same matters that Micah 6:8 speaks about:  justice, mercy, faithfulness.  Loved ones, these should be our priorities as Christians.  Other things matter too, things like attending church regularly and giving.  But what has to always be central is what God wants to be central:  do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.

When the Reformation happened in the early 1500s, the church had become corrupt in so many ways.  When Martin Luther went to Rome in 1510, he was shocked to discover that the city even had brothels especially for priests and monks.  Back home in Wittenberg, he was soon disturbed to see the Church taking advantage of the poor through the sale of indulgences.  But what brought about Reformation was a rediscovery of the grace of God in our salvation.  Knowing grace brought about real change in the church, real Reformation.  After seeing that gospel grace, a lot of the corruption and oppression disappeared.  Loved ones, today we’re members of a Reformed church.  But we can’t sit on our laurels, feeling all smug and self-satisfied, as if we’ve arrived.  Reformation has to be an ongoing thing in us personally and in our church life too.  It starts with God’s grace in Jesus Christ.  We need the gospel preached to us and we need to believe it personally.  When we do, the gospel leads us onward to prioritize the weightier matters of the law:  doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.  AMEN. 

PRAYER

Our just and steadfast loving God,

Thank you for the grace you’ve shown in liberating us from the slavery of sin.  You sent your Son to be our Saviour and we’re grateful for what he’s done for us.  Please help us with your Holy Spirit so your grace is never out of our sight.  Help us to keep focussed and to always remember that our relationship with you isn’t based on what we do, but what you have done in Jesus.  And Father, we also pray for a richer measure of your Holy Spirit so we can live out of our union with Christ, that we may live as his disciples.  Please help us to do justice.  Father, we also ask that you’d always help us to walk humbly with you.  Help us to know our sin and foolishness.  Please help us with your Holy Spirit to be self-aware.  But also help us to know you better from your Word as our good and wise God.  We pray that in all these ways you would be at work in our lives.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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