KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–In an age of ethical decline evident in popular views on abortion and same-sex unions, Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, called for Christians to return to a scripturally based spiritual ethic.
Drawing on Micah 6:8, Richards laid out three principles of a spiritual ethic in chapel at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 3.
Comparing the role of Christians to worldly authorities, Richards emphasized the higher calling of Christians and the standard to which they are held.
“We have a higher calling even than the president of the United States,” Richards said. “We are called by God to represent God to people who need to know God.”
The way to effectively do this, he said, is to be authentic.
Christians must live the truth, Richards said. Living the truth comes from knowing the truth in the Word of God. This leads to a public holiness in which Christians stand for the sufficiency of the Word of God against the evils facing society today, he said. Public holiness is necessarily preceded and fortified by private holiness, or the reading of the Bible and prayer within the family at home. But even before private holiness must be personal holiness, Richards said. Personal holiness involves individual confession of sin before God alone.
“Our liberty can impact and cost the lives, ministry and effectiveness of others,” Richards said, adding that before joining together with family and standing publicly for truth, a Christian must stand before God in personal confession and maintain that relationship first.
The second element of a spiritual ethic that Richards drew from Micah 6:8 is loving people. He suggested several aspects of the kind of love involved in a spiritual ethic.
“We give people the Gospel because we love them,” Richards said, “but we also give people our integrity.” Furthermore, Christians owe it to the people around them to show love to and for their fellow Christians as a testimony, he said.
Richards’ third principle of a spiritual ethic is longing for God. Those who understand that only God can do the necessary spiritual work in their hearts should feel nothing but humility before Him.
“We [Baptists, all of Christendom] must come to a place of brokenness,” Richards said, “or God will remove His hand of blessing from us.” With all that Christians are faced with in the world today, Richards told students that having a spiritual ethic will enable them to stay faithful to Jesus Christ and His Word.
At the end of Richards’ message, R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern, presented Richards with a citation in recognition of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s generosity to the seminary. Roberts also gave Richards a framed copy of a page from the Gutenberg Bible, the first chapter of the Gospel of John.
Immediately following chapel, a ceremonial dedication was held for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Room at the William Koehn and Martha Myers Center for World Evangelism.
“The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention have done a great deal for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Roberts said. “Their faithful support for the Cooperative Program is the most vital contribution that they have made. We thank God for their executive director, Dr. Jim Richards, and his ministry to us.”