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A Message by R.C. Sproul

Are you a productive member of society? Are you getting a fair wage for your work? Sometimes it seems that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Is there something wrong with the way we measure the value of our work? Karl Marx thought so. But his solution to fix the struggles of the working class went far beyond economics. In this message, Dr. Sproul discusses the foundational doctrine of Marxism and the disastrous effects it has left in its wake.

From the series: The Consequences of Ideas

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  1. article

    Seeking the Welfare of the City

  2. article

    It's the Little Things

  3. article

    The Good Life

Seeking the Welfare of the City

Danny Wuerffel

Cities are complex organisms. In an effort to truly seek the welfare of an entire city, it's a daunting task to determine where to begin or where to focus. I'm no expert at cities. Others are far more qualified than I am to bring a level of coherence into the multifaceted discussion of what makes a city thrive.

But I have served in many cities for almost twenty years, and I know this: for a city to truly thrive, people with resources and influence must commit to seeking not only their own welfare, but also that of the poor and those who live in the distressed and impoverished neighborhoods with in their city.

Simply put, people (and groups of people) are naturally inclined to take care of themselves, to seek their own welfare and self-preservation. Unfortunately, they almost always leave someone behind in the process.

Seeking the welfare of the city, from a Christian perspective, is largely about a commitment to love and serve the parts that are struggling. With a physical body, it would be silly to express a commitment to overall health and ignore a fever or broken ankle. Likewise, it makes sense to give proper attention to the parts of the city that are struggling or hurt.

I'm told the early Christians shocked the world not simply with their theology or piety, but also with the way they cared for and loved the poor and sick in their communities. The gospel in action sparked the birth and growth of Christianity.

After graduating from the University of Florida in 1996, I was drafted by Mike Ditka to play football for the New Orleans Saints. Though still a young man, I arrived in New Orleans not only looking to play football but also open to see how the Lord might use me in the city during my time there.

Like many Americans, I was unaware of the harsh realities of life facing those on the fringe, what many would call the bottom of society. I recall driving into New Orleans from the east one afternoon, crossing over the industrial canal, when I heard something on the radio about poverty. In my mind, I began to imagine a hungry child in Africa or a Third World country. All the while, I was driving over the Ninth Ward of New Orleans completely unaware of the Desire Housing Projects that lay beneath me. I envisioned poverty as something bad, but far away. I had no idea of the depths of the struggle for many who lived only a few miles away from where I played professional football.

I don't think many of us are inherently against the well-being of the poor who live in our cities. I think we don't have much of a clue. We're busy, distracted, and just don't often notice.

Shortly after I learned about Desire Street Ministries, I took my first visit, eager to learn about this group of people committed to living in the neighborhood and bringing true transformation to the community through spiritual and community development.

As I drove into the Desire neighborhood, the old apartment projects loomed large. They were built in the 1950s, and I couldn't understand how they hadn't been torn down. Then I saw a little girl walk out of a door. She was holding a little doll, and I realized that these apartments weren't abandoned—she lived there.

I went to the Desire Street Ministries facility and began to meet the precious children from the neighborhood. Poverty was slowly changing in my mind from being an idea to being a person. Tevin, Greg, Levy—they had names, faces, hopes, and dreams. They also had considerably more obstacles in their way than I ever did.

When we bring an open heart toward hurting people, we change. Any effort to seek the welfare of the city must involve the effort to love, serve, and help those in need. But how do we know if our efforts to help are really helpful?

Unfortunately, they often aren't. We often bring our arrogant attitudes along with us and can end up demeaning the inherent dignity of those we think we're helping. Sometimes our efforts to help relieve people from their struggles leave them dependent on outside help rather than helping them develop the abilities to help themselves. Sometimes we forget that although we may have more nancial resources, there are vast reservoirs of resources that the poor have that we don't. I'm often reminded that many of the people I'm going to serve already know, love, and trust Jesus at a far deeper level than I do. They might just need a place to live.

My time at Desire Street has caused me to start paying attention to what the Bible has to say about poverty. As I've grown as a Christian and continue to study the Scriptures, I've realized it's one of the major themes throughout the Bible. It's everywhere—if only we would have the eyes to see.

James 1:27 says, "Religion that is pure and unde led before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." We often put lots of energy into our Christian lives, seeking to grow in our sanctification and personal relationship with Christ. James teaches that for our efforts to be "true religion," at least part of it will include an intentional effort to care for the "least of these." Any attempt to truly seek the welfare of the city will involve thoughtful and loving ways to engage the more distressed neighborhoods and those who live there.

It's the Little Things

Nicholas Batzig

You probably wouldn't see him doing so, but he's faithfully hanging the church sign every Friday night and taking it down every Sunday. You probably wouldn't see her doing so, but she's faithfully coordinating with others to ensure that there will be enough food at church gatherings. You probably wouldn't see them doing so, but they're faithfully arriving early on Sunday morning to set up the hospitality table, the book table, and the sound equipment and to make coffee—making sure that everything is in place for the worship services. You probably wouldn't see her doing so, but she's faithfully cleaning her home hours before she opens it for a church small group. You probably wouldn't see him doing so, but he's faithfully making hymn schedules and arrangements for the music for the worship services. You probably wouldn't see her doing so, but she's faithfully lining up volunteers for the nursery, training others, and making sure that all the nursery needs are met. You probably wouldn't see him doing so, but he's faithfully keeping track of giving records for the members who themselves faithfully give to the work of the gospel ministry.

The list could go on and on, but the point is simple: it's the little things that members of a church or church plant do that help the ministry thrive—and without which the growth of the local church would be greatly hindered.

During His earthly ministry, our Lord Jesus taught His disciples this principle: "One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much" (Luke 16:10). The New Testament gives us several examples of individuals who were faithful in small things, and yet whose faithfulness in small things aided the advancement of the gospel and brought great glory to Christ. Just consider the following:

At the wedding in Cana of Galilee, Jesus commanded the servants to "fill the water pots with water" (John 2:7). As Stephen Burch has observed, "Disobedience would have robbed them of wine; half-hearted obedience would have yielded them half of the wine. However, the servants' faithfulness in something so trivial ended in their receiving 180 gallons of the best wine for the entire wedding party." Additionally, Jesus' glory was manifested in this first miracle, which showed forth the joy-imparting blessings of the new covenant.

The boy who gave Jesus his five loaves and two fish (John 6:6–14) was instrumental in the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. Additionally, twelve baskets were taken up to nourish each of the disciples for their subsequent ministerial labors. Thousands were fed and ministers were supported by one boy's small sacrifice. More importantly, millions have spiritually fed on Christ by means of this inscripturated account of His miraculous power and grace.

The widow with the two mites (Mark 12:41–44) seemed to have given far less than what those who put in large amounts had given. Yet, Jesus said that by giving all that she possessed, she had put in more than all. Consider how many billions have been given to support gospel ministry throughout the new covenant era on account of this woman's act. Her faithfulness in something seemingly small has encouraged others to give in sacrificial abundance for two millennia.

Finally, Joseph of Arimathea gave Jesus a dignified burial in his own garden tomb. While it took enormous courage for Joseph to ask for the body of Christ, it was a relatively small thing for a rich man to give up a tomb. In this small act, Joseph played a role in the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:9. Christ's body was not thrown in a fire pit with the criminals next to whom He was crucified. By embalming the body of Jesus (John 19:38–42), Joseph participated in the fulfillment of Psalm 16:10–11 (see Acts 2:22–32).

What more could we say? Time would fail me to tell of the two disciples who prepared the upper room; the man who gave Jesus his donkey for His entry into Jerusalem; the individual who brought the imprisoned Apostle a pen and paper with which he wrote the letter to the Romans; Timothy, who brought Paul his cloak to keep him warm and books to keep him spiritually nourished; the women who opened their homes to the churches that met and worshiped in them; and the individual who hiked to the seven churches spread throughout Asia Minor in order to carry John's Revelation to them.

God loves to bless the little things His people do. Sometimes they are small acts, and sometimes they only appear to be so. Jesus cares deeply about the little things that His people do to bless others in His church. He takes note of them as precious acts of service. He uses the little things that His people do to carry on His work in the world through His church. May God give all of us grace to cultivate faithfulness in the little things that we do.

The Good Life

Trip Lee

I am a lover of hip hop. I fell in love with the music form when I was 10, and I've never been the same since. As a child and a teenager, when I wasn't in class or asleep, I was listening to my favorite rappers. I hung on their every word, and they had a lot to say. Most rappers don't intend to be teachers, but that doesn't mean I wasn't learning. I listened closely to their ideas about the good life—and I liked what I heard.

With albums in my CD player such as Get Rich or Die Trying, are you surprised my idea of the good life was having a wallet so stuffed it wouldn't even close? It wasn't all about money, though. I can't forget the lessons I learned about status (chase it), women (chase them), and happiness (chase it by chasing the first two).

Don't get me wrong, though. Hip hop music was not the problem; sinful lies were. The rest of the culture told me those exact same lies in a more subtle fashion. And my self-centered, glory-hungry heart ate them up. All of us live by faith, and sadly, I believed the lies of the enemy over the truth of God. But when I was still a teenager I met Jesus, and what I heard from Him challenged every idea I had about the good life.

I remember being puzzled by something I read in Philippians for the first time. Paul spoke about death in a peculiar way. At the time, I'd heard many quotes about death. I'd heard it said that death is certain, and even that death should be accepted, but the Apostle Paul took it a step further. He said, "to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21).

Death is when your brain, your heart, and your lungs stop doing their job. Death means you're separated from family and that your life work is over. Unlike our other trials, death is, for the deceased, literally "the end of the world"—the end of this one anyway. So how could death possibly be gain? It just didn't fit with my old views of the good life.

In order for us to understand what Paul meant by these four words, to die is gain, we have to understand the four that came right before them. In Philippians 1, Paul explains why he seems to be okay with either staying alive or dying at the hands of his persecutors. He writes in verse 21, "to live is Christ" (emphasis mine). With those words, the apostle told me what life is really all about—Jesus. How could my self-centered, status-obsessed worldview survive next to that truth?

To live is not wealth. To live is not worldly success. To live is not sex. To live is not family. To live is Christ. We were created by Jesus and for Jesus, the merciful Savior who stood in our place and offers us new life. Jesus is our mediator before the Father, the motivation for all our decisions, and the driving force behind our every move. It's all about Jesus. There is no good life apart from Jesus, because without Jesus life has no meaning.

This is why Paul could say, "to die is gain." Whether he died or lived, Jesus would be honored. Life meant he got to serve Jesus and death meant he would get to be with Jesus—and there's nowhere he would have rather been (v. 23). We can learn from Paul here. The truth is, it's better to be dirt poor in the presence of Jesus than to be filthy rich in the presence of men.

Even though Paul was imprisoned and suffering when he wrote this, he was living an abundant life. He was living a satisfying life. He was living the good life. After reading those words as a teenager, I could no longer see the good life as just living it up. I began to see the good life as a life renewed by Jesus, driven by Jesus, and lived to the glory of Jesus.

There are many differences between the picture of the good life I learned from Paul and the picture I learned from the culture. But one of the biggest differences is how we get there. The world sells us a "good life" we have to earn. Yet this life remains out of reach even for some of those who work the hardest to achieve it. The biblical picture of "the good life" is different. It's a free gift that's available to all who believe. In John 11:25, Jesus says: "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die." That is good news.

As long as I believed the lies the culture told me, I wasn't living the good life. But when I began to live by faith in the good God, my good life began. The man who lives for himself gains nothing lasting in this life, and he will only experience devastating loss in the next. But the man who lives for Christ gets a taste of the good life now, and his death only brings him what he desires most.

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