Monday, May 24, 2010

Good News & Good Deeds

[This entry follows a sermon preached at Gray Road Baptist Church entitled "The Men Who Missed the Meaning of the Miracles". Click on the title to get the audio.]

If you follow the disciples through the gospel of Mark, you will see that the author is constantly reminding you of their inability to fully comprehend the identity of Jesus. This is very clear in Mark 6:45-52 and 8:1-21. After two large-scale miraculous healings, the disciples are exposed as not understanding what these miracles really meant...specifically, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

As Jesus goes about the region teaching, His message is that people must repent and believe in order to be part of God's kingdom. The miracles He performs are meant to amplify this message. If you think about how a sound system amplifies a pastor's voice, then you have an idea of the role Jesus' miracles served. The purpose of the sound system is to take the message and make it more audible and understandable for those in the congregation. In the same way, Jesus miracles are meant to make His teaching clearer. So, the good deeds of Jesus (i.e.- the miracles) amplified the good news of Jesus (i.e.- the message).

In the same way, our preaching of the good news should be accompanied by good deeds. We could just state that the Scripture commands certain behavior...certain deeds...from followers of Jesus. However, there's more. Our good deeds can either open a door for our good news, or our good deeds can put a few exclamation points at the end of our good news. There is a distinct connection between our good news and our good deeds.

There are times when a church may choose to emphasize one of these over the other...or, a group of believers may even define what the 'real church' should look like based on one or the other. Take the fictional "Good News Church," for example. The emphasis in all the church's activity is the proclamation of the good news. They produce their own tracts, they buy radio space for the preaching of the Word to get to more people, and they work hard to make sure the gospel permeates everything they do. There is nothing wrong with any of these activities, is there?

Now, think about the fictional counterpart..."Good Deeds Church." This church is always doing. They have a clothes closet, a food pantry, and a weekly meal for homeless men and women in their city. They open their gym to house the homeless one or two nights a month. They have a strong orphan care and adoption ministry, and their pews are littered with families who either foster or adopt. They have a ministry to bring meals and visitors to widows and widowers, and at every major holiday, they make sure none of these people are alone. There is nothing wrong with these activities is there.

Both of these churches are doing good things...godly things...things which fulfill the Scripture within the life of a church. Sometimes, within a single church body, you may have a segment of 'good news' people and a segment of 'good deeds' people. Each group's motivations are good and ideas are often godly. However, what I would suggest (and the pattern Jesus has laid down for us) is that good news and good deeds are not to be mutually exclusive. They are meant to co-exist in every church and in every believer.

A commitment to the truth of the good news without a commitment to the action of good deeds is empty, and vice versa. Odds probably lean to one side or the other. Which would it be for you? Do you love teaching the gospel and participating in personal evangelism but shy back a little when it comes to physical acts of service or ministry? Would you jump head first into a pro-life ministry but shy away when your church offers to train you in personal evangelism or in how to study your Bible?

The argument may be given that these things are a matter of gifting by the Holy Spirit. In some sense, this is true. Some of us are gifted in service, while others are gifted in teaching. Some are gifted in mercy, and others are evangelistically gifted. However, various giftings only indicate where our greatest strength is, not where our only participation in the body lies. After all, we cannot eliminate our personal responsibility in the Great Commission based on gifting...we cannot by-pass our responsibility to teach our own children just because we aren't especially gifted at it. Likewise, we cannot do away with commands about how we treat the least of these and and the necessity of showing mercy based on gifting. While some may excel in each of these areas, all must participate.

Now...let's remember the point. Good news must be connected to good deeds, and good deeds must be connected with good news. Where are you in all of this? What 'camp' are you in? Where do you need to grow? What are you going to do about it? Don't let your good deeds be hollow and voiceless...give them the voice of good news. Don't let your good news seem hypocritical, Pharisaical, or muted...amplify it with a life of good deeds. May we all endeavor to be men and women of the good news who do good deeds.