Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Speaking with Passion on What's Most Important

Recently I preached a series of messages on the Christian’s relationship to the governing authorities. It is not a subject that I am deeply endeared to but felt compelled to preach on as a result of encountering Jesus’ statement, “render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar” in Mark 12. In this statement Jesus legitimized human government, and in Romans 13 Paul expanded on it to teach us that government is something that God has sovereignly established on earth for the purpose of governing society, rewarding the good and punishing the bad, while providing a sense of restraint to evil and order to a sinful world.

His was not a statement of endorsement of all that an earthly government does, but merely an affirmation that God is the One who has established it for his sovereign purposes. Surely though, government exists for our good in the general sense even when it is not operated by godly people or is advocating biblical perspectives and policies.

It seems that on every street corner in this country the subject of politics, postmodern cultural warfare, economic and foreign policy, and health care are on the lips and minds of all who are alive and breathing. Opinions are as varied and strong as ever. The past two elections have seen more participation than in much of recent American history, and the intensity of the conversations and emotional weight that is thrown into them seems to be at all time high. I am a bit jealous of the intensity, to be honest, wishing that all Christians were mimicking it in our righteous living and in our conversations to all about how the cross saves believing sinners.

In a time like this, I believe that Christians have reached some fertile soil for sharing their faith. The firm foundation of absolute truth is a needed ointment to the disease of cultural relativism. People are longing for something stable, something true, something to believe in that is a much needed fix to the brokenness they are experiencing in the world, and they are fast coming to the conclusion that no political entity or process is going to be their salvation any time soon, no matter who is in charge.

We know the real truth however, that there is no salvation to be found in any earthly institution or authority, but rather true salvation is found only in the name of Jesus Christ. We don't need political salvation, but spiritual salvation. And this is where the blindness of Satan has captured many. For they think that if the economy is right, war is eradicated, and their political preferences all line up and are in place, that their lives are going to be profoundly fulfilled. They forget that spiritual matters are more important than anything else. And they don’t see that the personal sin issue is the biggest one of all.

All of what we see in the world comes right back to this. The spiritual nature of these earthly battles cannot be overlooked. There is a spiritual war going on here. The economic, cultural, social, and literal wars we are going through are merely symptoms of that greater spiritual warfare that hovers over them all. And without the right spiritual resolution, these things will only get worse. It could very well be that the common grace that God has used to restrain sin is being lifted a bit so that our world system is all the more in line with that which is described to come at the end.

I am no predictive prophet, but the feeling I have is that the time is short. The ground is fertile, and Christians need to be speaking God’s truth with a little more courage, purposefulness, and intensity than before. Come on Christian! Stand up. Proclaim the truth – speak the Gospel daily. Talk about the cross. Talk about forgiveness. Show unbridled love, a contagious joy, and an excitement about Christ.

Don’t despair. Don’t lose hope, and don’t place that hope in earthly temporal processes and institutions. Should we be voting and talking to our leaders about matters of right and wrong? Absolutely. We should do this as God has given us the miraculous freedom to do so. We should use the resources given to us to speak about matters of truth in areas such as abortion, medical ethics, marriage, and so on. Since these effect areas where we live, we must be engaged. Not consumed, but engaged. God’s truth is timeless and eternal, and is the standard by which all will be judged. So we better be speaking it with regard to all the practical areas of life. And to do this effectively we must also know our Bibles and know what God’s truth is (a plug for more biblical study).

There are some who spend all their days on the computer forwarding emails about political issues that bash this or that leader while their Bible sits on a shelf and their neighbors suffer in silence because no one is relationally loving and reaching out to them. My brethren, these things should not be. Merely making the world moral through political policies is not our ultimate goal – saving souls who are hell-bound without the Gospel of God’s grace is. This does not dismiss us or silence us from engaging on moral issues, it just rearranges our priorities so that the spiritual comes first in our minds before the earthly and temporal. And don't you think it might be important that before we speak one word about political issues in the coffee shop or the workplace, we must have already spoken ten words about Christ to our family members – our fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandchildren, and anyone else in our close quarters.

Remember this, God is in control of history. And He may be setting this world system up for His return. He is not responsible for evil, man is – but God orchestrates everything for His ordained ends. And He has commanded us to “hold on loosely” to this world and to go preach the Word! Go Christian – get up, get out there, and live and love radically for Christ. Fear not! The Lord is with you. He is mighty to save! (Zeph. 3:17)

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