I will sing of lovingkindness and justice,
Have you ever seen a manifesto? Down through the years individuals or groups have drawn up papers that make their statement about where they are at, what they believe. Luther’s 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in 1517 is widely regarded as the primarily catalyst for the Protestant Reformation. The United States’ Declaration of Independence is a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain were now independent states, and thus no longer a part of the British Empire. Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration is a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has a Statement of Faith, which summarizes the basic beliefs needed to be ascribed to by member churches and denominations. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a bill of rights entrenched in the Constitution of Canada. It forms the first part of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Charter guarantees certain political rights to Canadian citizens and civil rights of everyone in Canada from the policies and actions of all levels of government. It is designed to unify Canadians around a set of principles that embody those rights. The Charter was signed into law by Queen Elizabeth II of Canada on April 17, 1982.
In order to become a member of the Church of the Nazarene you need to sit down with me for a couple classes where we talk about the church and its statement of faith and statement of membership. This helps us all get on the same page, and contains in part our manifesto as a church.
As you look at this Psalm, you also see a manifesto of sorts. Some scholars will suggest that this is also a royal Psalm, used at the coronation of Solomon. As you look closely at the text we see David writing ethical and spiritual standards for both the personal life as well as the throne. It really is a remarkable document. Listen to the kinds of things the Psalmist has made the commitment to:
Verse 1: Praise God
Verse 2: Following God – choice
Verse 2: Personal integrity – even in the privacy of his home
Verse 3: Be choosey about what he watches
Verse 3: Learn from others’ mistakes
Verse 4: Avoid bad friends (especially those who gossip behind people’s backs)
Verse 5: Stand up for others, and for humility
Verse 6: Look for good friends – in the faith
Verse 7: Not put up with liars
Verse8: Believe they can change the world
We have talked a lot about commitment and surrender to God. This kind of commitment to God is exactly what I understand the New Testament concept of salvation to be. The modern church has made the Gospel too simplistic with an emphasis on heaven so that our message becomes “Pray the prayer and you will be saved.” The problem is that is not what Jesus said. He said blessed are the meek, the pure in heart and the persecuted. He said to seek first the kingdom of God and all the “stuff of life” will be provided. Jesus said one must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Jesus if He was to see God. What Jesus was talking about was making the kind of commitment that this Psalmist had, that they would be a champion of the Kingdom of God, that they would pursue holiness. So some 1,000 years before Jesus lived and died, and some 2,000 years since then, we still have the message that God is calling for us to surrender ourselves to Him, and this is what it looks like. This manifesto tells me a couple things.
The first thing it tells me is that we can partner with God in holiness. There are those who say we cannot participate in this. They are afraid that when we say we have a choice, what I know as free will, that we are saying we are adding to the work Jesus has already finished at the cross and the grave. They are wrong, and sell short their understanding of what it meant to be created in the image of God. God created us with choice, because that is part of His nature. As children of God, followers of Jesus Christ, we were predestined to be conformed to Jesus’ image. That is the work of holiness, of the Holy Spirit working in our life, which only happens as we surrender our lives to God. That is the partnership – the obedience, the surrender. It is not a “work” that adds anything to what Jesus has done, but a reception of the grace of God in our life. I keep getting inappropriate gifts for Ben. He’s nine, but I think he is capable of stuff that I experienced in my adolescence. A couple years ago I gave him a little model tank. He is only nine now, so you can imagine how successful that gift was. His hand/eye coordination isn’t there to deal with something about the size of a fly’s wing, let alone try to glue that to some other tiny piece without getting that plastic model cement all over everything else. And of course he gets into it when I am not around – just to look – and just enough to lose a few small but important pieces. In our partnership, I don’t always do a good job of getting what he needs. In your partnership with God, though, He will never let you down. He knows what you need and don’t need, and as long as you follow His lead, your life will be a living testimony to God’s redeeming grace. God invites your participation in this thing called life.
This manifest also tells me we can choose how much power we give to others regarding our life. You don’t have to listen to someone gossiping or beaking. You can tell them that that is not who you are in Jesus; that Jesus speaks of love and building people up, not tearing them down. You give power in your life to whomever you listen to, and you choose whom you will hear. Do their words match up with what Jesus said? This isn’t an issue of loving or not loving them; but rather it is about having people in your life that speak words pleasing to God. Seek those people out – pursue those who encourage your faith, not just an institution.
This manifest also speaks to me about moving with the movers. Jesus sent His disciples out with instructions that if a town didn’t accept their teaching, to kick off the dust and move on. Jesus was telling his disciples to work with those who were interested with the Gospel rather than sit there and argue with stubborn people set in their ways. Do you have movers in your life or “immovables”? Do you have people actively growing in their faith in your life, or just people who are stalled and back-slidden, and only talk about what is wrong?
Today is the day to choose. Today is the day you can renew your commitment as a follower of Jesus to make a statement about just how important following Jesus is to you. Have you ever made a memorial of your commitment to God? The Old Testament people were always piling stones and naming things so they would remember those kind of events. Here is a piece of paper with this Psalm written out. As you leave today, I want you to sign your name to this manifesto if that is truly your desire and place of dedication. This is not an “I should do it because others are doing it”, or “I think the church or pastor wants me to do it” thing. I only want you to sign this if it is your desire to be all you can be in Jesus. You are covenanting with others who have signed this that together we are making our stand and saying, “Today Jesus is my all in all, He is all I need, and I am pursuing Him with all my heart, soul and might.” This church, this community stands for something, and we are all in it together.