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TEXT: Isaiah 43:1-7
SUBJECT: The Gospel Changes Everything #8: The News
With God's help, today we will move on in our Sunday afternoon study called, The Gospel Changes Everything. The Gospel changes our eternal destinies-from hell to heaven-and that's not all: it also changes our lives in the here and now. And not just a sliver of our lives-for example, what we do on Sunday mornings-but our whole lives: family, work, vacation, spending, saving, reading the paper, listening to the radio, surfing the Net, and watching TV.
I mention the last four last because most of us spend a lot of time reading the paper, surfing the net, watching TV, and listening to the radio. Some of the turning and tuning and clicking is pure entertainment-we're going to watch a movie or listen to the game, read the comics, or laugh at a funny cat on Youtube. Fine.
The Gospel has something to say about these things, but that's for another time. What I have in mind for now are the other things we watch on TV, listen to on the radio, read in the paper and surf the Net for. I mean the news and news commentary. Theoretically, the two are separate things, but we all know they're not. FOX puts a Republican slant on the news; MSNBC is biased on the other side.
What the news and news commentary, conservatives and liberals have in common is need for ratings. And this means, they all have an interest in keeping things as stirred up as possible.
Suppose fifty Americans soldiers are killed in the Middle East. Terrible news, and everyone is sad to hear it. 'Sad', however, doesn't boost ratings-that takes anger. How do the media get that?
They bring in the Talking Heads. The conservative says, 'This means we've got to get a new president!' The liberal rejoins, 'This means, we've got to back the president more than ever'. What makes it laughable is, a couple of years earlier, the same Talking Heads took opposite sides in the same debate, and they were as mad then as they are now!
The millions who watch them every night are also mad and frightened and desperate. Some of these people are Christians, and I'm of the opinion God is not pleased with us living in the same state of mind as everyone else.
I know He doesn't want us to be afraid, for the Bible's most frequent commandment is-Fear not. Were the prophets naïve men, thinking everything was always fine? Read them and you'll see otherwise. They were deeply concerned with the state of the nation and the world. But they did not live in fear and rage, and they sure didn't pin their hopes on men and then wring their hands when the men they pinned their hopes on let them down.
This is how we should be. Most of us are not called to spend our lives thinking about foreign policy or tax rates or civil rights. If these are your callings, God bless you, and have at it!
But every believer is affected by the news, and we need a way of staying as abreast of things as we have time for, while at the same time, not living in anxiety and bitterness, frustration, and false hope.
How do we do this?
THE GOSPEL AND THE NEWS
We remember the Gospel while watching the news. The Gospel-you know-is a three-point plan:
Remembering these things will drain off a lot of the anxiety and anger you feel when watching the latest crimes and follies from around the world.
Let's use the President for an example. What is he? If you look at the bumper stickers and posters, you'd think he was the Savior of the World. For many, he is the symbol of Hope, the man who will rid us of tired and corrupt ways, and lead us into a world of justice and hope, equality, and plenty for all.
Many voters felt this way in the Fall of 2008, and not only voters. The President won the Nobel Peace Prize only a few days after taking office. He got it for the Hope he inspired in so many people both here and abroad. At last-
Old things have passed away,
Behold! All things become new.
This is how some people saw him and still do. Others went to the opposite extreme. Some of them put up a billboard linking the president to Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler. I think it read,
Two of the great criminals in world history were linked to the first two, and the President to the third. But if you ask them where the death camps or the labor camps are, they say there aren't any-yet. The President hasn't put people in ovens; he hasn't started a world war; he hasn't intentionally starved people or set up a huge internal spy-ring. Yet they link him to Stalin and Hitler!
What does the Gospel say about the President? It says he is part of God's good creation, and that he is also fallen, as the rest of us are. This means, he is a mixture of good and bad, of wisdom and folly. Consequently, we can look at his policies with open minds and judge them with even hands.
It keeps us from thinking everything he does is wrong, and that his opponents, therefore, are right, or the other way around: that everything he does is saintly, and that anyone who opposes him must be of the devil.
The Gospel tells us the truth about the President. And that's what you won't hear very often in the media, on either side.
If the President is made in the likeness and image of God, we can pray for him in hope, for the Lord does not promise to redeem devils or give them the gifts of wisdom and courage, but he does promise to save men and give them what they need to make the world a better place-not perfect, but better.
If the President is fallen, we won't feel shocked and betrayed when he does something wrong, or that the hopes of the world are now shattered because he failed to win the war or nominated the wrong person to the Supreme Court.
One station will tell you he's an angel, another station will save he's a demon. The Gospel says what he is, no better or worse than you and I, and therefore, in need of our prayers, praise when he does the right thing, and respectful criticism when he does the wrong.
By remembering the Gospel, you can follow the news without losing your mind. Even the news from Washington, DC!
THE GOSPEL AND THE ENVIRONMENT
If politics leads the news most nights, it won't be long until it gets to the environment: global warming, oil spills, the destruction of the rain forest, and other disasters both real and imaginary.
How do we keep from worrying about these things all the time? Some Christians do it by saying the world doesn't matter. Why spend time polishing brass on the Titanic?
This view is diametrically opposed to the Gospel. The Gospel says the world was made good and it will be good again. Thus, the air and the water and the icebergs and, yes, the rainforests, matter to God. Like the bodies of God's people, the whole world will be resurrected on the Last Day, and share in the glory of God come to earth.
The world matters, and, within our callings, we ought to take care of the world, be the stewards we were meant to be, and not exploit the material creation.
But, if the Lord wants us to love and care for the earth, how do we respond to the news that some people are destroying it to make (or save) money?
Let's go back to the Gospel. The Gospel says that men are bad and selfish (that's why they need the Gospel). Most of us are too small to do much damage to the world. But giant business is not too small. Conservatives, not wanting to sound 'socialist' sometimes give business a free pass. But why should they?-
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
This includes both businessmen and bureaucrats. Therefore, we mustn't assume that every story about pollution is put out by a bunch of tree-worshiping neo-pagans.
Some Christians take every 'greedy businessman' story as true and rant against all things corporate; others take every 'greedy businessman' story to be politically-motivated, and denounce all who speak up for clean water or air. The Gospel comes in and says-both businessmen and their critics have fallen away from God, and therefore, from the truth. Neither can be trusted implicitly, and therefore, instead of fuming over the issues, we need to study up on them to do something constructive, or leave them alone.
THE GOSPEL AND THE FEELING OF HELPLESSNESS
Setting aside specific persons and issues, one of the most worrisome aspects of watching the news is its overwhelming nature. One disaster follows another-the rise of militant Islam in Indonesia is followed by the banking crisis in Greece is followed by the spread of AIDS in Africa is followed by the nuclear threat of North Korea, and all in one night! Others dangers will be added tomorrow night, when a car bomb goes off in Jerusalem and a riot breaks out in Los Angeles.
What does the Gospel say to the chaos of the world? It says, God is at work to set things right! And the Resurrection proves that nothing is too hard for the Lord.
The Gospel allows us, therefore, to enter in to the sufferings of the world without giving up hope or looking to men and parties and ideas to save the world. They won't save the world, but the world will be saved, by the God who named His Son Jesus, because-
He will save His people from their sins.
Work is a wonderful place to witness, but only if you do it wisely. In most places, handing out tracts will be ineffective, and make conversation harder not easier. The same is true with the Christian who feels he has to always nag people about their language or loudly give thanks for his food in public or lace his conversations with 'Praise God' and 'Hallelujah'.
A lot of people are interested in the news, and since the Gospel has taught you how to take it in, you've got a chance to discuss politics or economics or the war in a Gospel-centered way. Don't settle for conservatism! Don't confuse the FOX network with the New Testament! Be better than Rush Limbaugh!
If someone tells you he's pinned all his hopes on Barack Obama, tell him you're praying for the President and wishing him well, but you're trusting Someone Else. And be ready to explain why.If someone tells you he's worried about Global Warming, don't tell him there is no such thing. Chances are, neither one of you really knows the truth, but are both relying on TV or magazines who have an interest in affirming or denying it. Say you share his concerns, because-
The earth is the Lord's
And the fullness thereof;
The world, and they who dwell
Because the earth has been given to Jesus, you're doing what you can to take care of it and trusting Him to do what is beyond your powers.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is the bottom line. The news scares us and worries us and makes us mad because one fact is never reported. God is at work in the world, and though bad things are always bad, He is also using them to set things right once and for all.
If you want to be an informed person without losing your mind, you've got to add that report to every article you read and every news show you listen to or watch.
God help us all. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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