Speaking at the Urbana 15 Student Missions Conference, which being held this week by InterVarsity in St. Louis, Mo., pastor and author David Platt urged attendees to seek a life of intimacy with Jesus Christ before advocating for social justice in his name.
The focus of Platt's address was Matthew 26:1-16, which tells the story of a woman who poured an alabaster flask of expensive perfume on the head of Jesus Christ, much to the indignation of the disciples.
However, Jesus responds by saying,"Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."
These verses make it clear that selfless love for others "springs from supreme love for God -- a point that we are all prone to miss, just like the disciples in this passage," Platt said.
He explained: "When we think of social injustice today, we think of an issue like sex-trafficking. Entire movements have risen among college students to combat the sale of men or women and children for sex around the world. It's right to fight injustice like this; it's altogether right to stand for the enslaved."
"At the same time, we go to conferences, listen to speakers, watch documentaries, and raise money across college campuses to stop sex trafficking, but almost 90% of college males and 30% of college females are viewing pornography in dorms and apartments on computers, tablets and phones," he continued, adding that such statistics aren't limited to secular campuses.
"Need I remind us of the clear link between pornography and sex trafficking? the Alabama pastor asked. "Not only do all who indulge in pornography disregard Christ by degrading women, children and men made in his image, in the process, they also create a demand for more prostitutes, which in turn promotes sex trafficking around the world. Do we see the hypocrisy of our own hearts?"
There lies a capacity to convince ourselves that we are fighting injustice when we are actually fueling it, Platt charged.
"There is something within each of us that is prone to passionately defend a cause while we personally disregard Christ," he said. "You see it in the disciples, you see it in yourself -- I see it myself -- the subtle propensity in all of us to advocate for justice while ignoring Jesus."
The woman who poured perfume on Jesus knew two significant truths that the disciples didn't acknowledge, Platt explained.
First, she realized the significance of Jesus' death: "For every other religious leader in world history, their death was the tragic end of their story...the deaths of those leaders marked the end of their mission," he said. "Not so with Jesus -- it's completely the opposite. Jesus was constantly talking about his death and anticipating his death and foretelling his death in such a way that the central symbol of Christianity...has been the cross, a portrait of death."
The woman realized that Jesus' death was not an unfortunate ending, but the focal reason for which he came in the first place -- to sacrifice himself to save humanity from eternal death.
"All of us have turned from God, we are guilty before God, and we deserve judgement from God," Platt said. "A politically-correct culture and church balk at this idea, but it is crystal clear. Judgement is coming, and an eternal hell and an eternal heaven are real...God is good, and holy and just, so when he comes to us in our sin, he can't just pass over it...if God simply overlooks sin and acquits sinners, he is neither good nor just."
The only way for sinful humanity to be forgiven and restored is through the blood of Christ; He bore the wrath which we warrant. That is why the cross is the climax of all history, the pastor said.
However, the story doesn't end there: "Jesus Christ rose from the dead -- sin has been conquered, death has been defeated, and everlasting life is available to everyone in the world," Platt said, explaining that the woman's story is a call to everyone to seek the significance of Jesus' death.
Second, the woman realized the purpose of her life: "She realized that the purpose of her life is to pour out her heart in sacrificial, selfless, satisfying devotion to Christ," the pastor continued. "This woman knows that love for Christ costs. She would have nothing to do with the comfortable, lukewarm, casual commitments to Christ so prevalent in North American Christianity today...she didn't care what others might say about her."
Even though following Christ meant rejection from family and friends, the woman risked her reputation and humbled herself by pouring her offering on him in sacrificial love and devotion.
"She believes Jesus is worth it," Platt said of why she took such a risk. "Jesus is her reward....Jesus is someone worth losing everything for...He is worthy of so much more than casual acceptance or nominal adherence, he is worthy of total affection."
There are many professing Christians who manufacture a heart for missions, but do not have a heart for Christ, the pastor warned. "Do you care for Christ?" he asked. "I plead with you -- don't miss him...Christ is intended to be your life. Missions is the overflow of a life that is hidden with Christ."
He concluded: "The life that counts is the life in love with Christ. Is this your life? Does your heart belong to Jesus?
Urbana combines worship, seminars, speakers and exhibitors for five days among 16,000 participants.