As I’m sure you all have heard by now, a heartbreaking tragedy befell one of our sister churches yesterday. While we were in the midst of worship, a man walked into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, TX and opened fire on the congregation, killing right at half of the congregation and injuring at least 20 more. This tragedy hits so close to home that it’s impacting all of us. As Pastor Ray Ortlund has said, “The San Antonio shooting prompts two sobering thoughts. One, it could have been any of us. Two, it was us. In Christ, we are one.” It is right for us to be impacted because we are the Church; these are our brothers and sisters in Christ. It was us, it was our people who were attacked…
As Joe Carter has said, “In the wake of this tragedy, Christians are likely to experience two competing emotions—grief and fear. The appropriate response to the news is to grieve. We should mourn the loss of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and weep with their loved ones. We can also soberly reflect on the fact that it could have been us who were directly and intimately affected by the massacre. What we should not do, however, is let this act of terror cause us to be afraid of gathering with our fellow believers in worship. While it may be tempting to give in to the fear, we should recognize that church shootings are extremely rare events.” You can read about the statistics HERE.
Dr. Russell Moore said it well when he said, “The day of the shooting was, for many churches, a day of remembrance for the persecuted church. Christians do not see as victims those around the world who are rooted out of their churches, even lined up and executed. We see in them the power Jesus promised us: the power that is made perfect in weakness.
To eradicate churches, our opponents will need a better strategy. They should see that Christianity can be easier suffocated with comfort, to the point that we forget who we are, than it can be terrorized with violence. Those who try to confront the church with the threat of death only remind the church that we were dead, and are now alive in Christ.
The days ahead will be awful for the grieving community of Sutherland Springs. But one thing is certain: Come Sunday, they will be gathered again, singing and praying and opening the Word. That church will bear witness to the truth that shaped them: Eternal life cannot be overcome by death…”
Persecution, even execution has always been a reality for the church; but we come together and make much of Jesus, knowing that to live is Christ and to die is gain. But even so, that doesn’t mean we are foolish and don’t take proper precautions. Last night and this morning, as you can imagine, I’ve been having some conversations with different leaders in our church on how we can do our best to prevent tragedies like this from happening at Cornerstone. So know that your safety is our concern, and we will do all in our power to make sure that we are being safe and responsible when we gather together. But our ultimate security should come from the God we serve, who is good and sovereign. At times such as this, it is not always easy to see or to confess the truth that God is good and sovereign; but as Charles Spurgeon once said, “When we can’t trace His hand we must trust His heart.” We must trust His character. And as His Word tells us, “he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (2 Chronicles 5:13). I’m reminded of the sermon that Tim Keller preached in New York the Sunday after 9-11. Perhaps you might find it comforting. You can listen to it HERE.
Beloved, don’t let the enemy pull you away from your brothers and sisters in Christ. As I preached yesterday, “God’s chief design in the universe is the public display of his manifold wisdom in and through local churches” (John Folmar). The church is central to God’s plans and purposes in this world. And if the church is central to God’s purpose, it must be central to our lives as well. We dare not allow the enemy or fear, or anything else to get us to push to the perimeter what God has placed at the center… We need the church and the church needs us; and it is through the church that God has planned for His glory to be magnified in this world. So instead of allowing the darkness around us to scare us off, let’s commit ourselves to shining all the more brightly as salt and light; for light always pushes back the darkness.
I love you all, and I know you are joining me in praying for all of those involved and hurting. But let’s also pray that every church would be all the more committed to our mission of pushing back the darkness by advancing the gospel. Why do things like this happen? Ultimately because of sin… And what’s the solution for the sin problem in this world? Jesus… The gospel… For the gospel is the power of God for salvation… Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners and to fix what’s broken. And one day all that is broken will truly be fixed, every wrong will be made right, and He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away. Oh what a day that will be!!!
Christ is all!