The Pattern of ResurrectionThursday, April 16, 2020
In all the pages of Scripture, there is no more important event than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It establishes that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, it confirms that His death on the cross was effective in purchasing our forgiveness, and it gives us the hope of eternal life. Without the resurrection, we have no reason to believe, and the church has no reason to exist.
Most of us are aware of these things, but there’s something else that the resurrection does that is just as important. It provides a pattern. In the churches of Christ, patterns are very significant to us. We want to do all things according to the pattern that has been shown us.
We think of the pattern as being important in comparatively small things: the way we worship God, for instance, or the way we spend the Lord’s money. However, we are governed by a pattern in the essentials of our faith, too, and it is a pattern that goes back to that Sunday morning 2000 years ago when the disciples came to the tomb and found it empty. This morning, then, let’s turn to Romans 6 to see what we can learn about the pattern of resurrection.
First, the resurrection of Jesus establishes a pattern for OUR SALVATION. Here, look at what Paul has to say in Romans 6:1-7. For many of us, this is an extremely familiar text. I’ve heard teaching all my life on baptism from this passage, particularly focusing on the image of baptism as a burial with Christ.
I can recall preachers pointing out that this shows us that the proper mode of baptism is immersion. After all, nobody buries a corpse by sprinkling a handful of dirt on it! Likewise, it shows that salvation does not precede baptism. If somebody is saved before baptism, baptism is burying them alive.
I think those arguments are valid, but we also must recognize that Paul did not write this passage to prove those things. Baptism is the beginning of Paul’s argument, not the end. He takes something that the Romans already believe is important—baptism—and goes on to explain why baptism is important.
What he reveals is that the baptismal process—going down into the water, being submerged, and coming up out of the water—unites us with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. When we are baptized, we have done what Jesus did. We have followed His example, so we will receive His grace.
This, I think, is the single strongest critique of the other things that people claim save us from our sins. They don’t look like the resurrection. Where is Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection in the sinner’s prayer? That’s not following the pattern. Neither is being sprinkled as an infant. Speaking in tongues doesn’t look like the pattern of resurrection either. There is only one way that we can rise with Jesus to walk in newness of life with Jesus. That happens to us if and only if we have been baptized for the forgiveness of our sins.
Second, Christ’s resurrection establishes the pattern for OUR RESURRECTION. Consider Romans 6:8-10. Notice first of all that this passage is about those who already have died with Christ. This is about Christians. It says, though, that we believe that we will live with Him. Having been united with His death, having been united figuratively with His resurrection, we will be united literally with His resurrection. As Jesus will live forever, never to die again, we will live forever too.
Because the resurrection of Jesus is the pattern for our resurrection, His experience tells us something vital about the way we will be raised. His resurrection was a resurrection of the body, and our resurrection will be too. I think a lot of brethren haven’t thought this through. They think of resurrection as what happens when our bodies die and our spirits float off to paradise or torment.
Biblically speaking, that is not resurrection. Instead, resurrection is what happens when our spirits return to our bodies, as Jesus’ spirit returned to His body, when what is dead comes to life once again. Our bodies will take on a form that is very different from anything we have ever seen, but it is our bodies that will be raised.
This has especial relevance when it comes to our evaluation of the doctrine of hyper-preterism, otherwise known as the 70 AD doctrine. This doctrine, which many brethren believe, holds that every prophecy of judgment in the New Testament was fulfilled when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70. As a result, they do not believe that there will be a general resurrection or a final judgment. Instead, when we die, our spirits go off to heaven or hell individually.
I respect the brethren who believe this, but I’ve got serious problems with it, and the most serious is that it breaks the pattern. Just like the sinner’s prayer doesn’t conform to the resurrection of Jesus, the 70 AD doctrine doesn’t conform to the resurrection of Jesus. His bodily resurrection prefigures our resurrection, and if we conclude that we actually will not rise like He did, our study has missed something vital.
Finally, the resurrection of Jesus establishes the pattern for OUR LIVES. Let’s read Paul’s conclusion in Romans 6:11-14. Here, we see what he’s been driving at this whole time. Our old selves were crucified with Christ. Our old selves died so that we could be freed from sin. Because we are freed from sin, sin and death no longer have any power over us. Put together, all of that means that we can live the God-centered life that He always wanted us to live. We have been resurrected to be righteous.
This gives us the answer to the rhetorical question that Paul asked at the beginning of the chapter. If the grace of Christ glorifies God, shouldn’t we sin all the time, generating more grace and more glory? Paul’s answer is an emphatic no. Grace is the means, not the end. The end is for God to have a righteous people belonging to Him, a people that obeys Him in everything.
Just as it is possible to depart from the resurrection pattern when it comes to salvation and beliefs about our resurrection, it’s possible to depart from that pattern here. A Christian who practices sin betrays everything for which Christ died. We have been freed from the law, yes. Sin no longer rules over us, yes. However, grace does not put us under our own authority. It puts us under the authority of King Jesus.
Throughout this coming week, then, let’s resolve to live like resurrected people. That means that we don’t offer any part of ourselves to sin. Instead, it means that we give ourselves entirely to God, weapons in His hands, serving His purposes alone. If we don’t do that, it shows that we fundamentally do not understand what Jesus’ resurrection should mean to us.
God, Our StrongholdTuesday, March 24, 2020
Never in my lifetime have I seen an event have as significant effect on daily life as the coronavirus epidemic. I remember the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9-11, but in both cases, it was business as usual almost everywhere. Not so with the coronavirus! Indeed, it even has affected our worship here.
I don’t know how most feel about this, but I myself find it profoundly unsettling. Lots of things that I thought would go on unchanged suddenly have changed. Dealing with a crisis like this is outside the experience of even our oldest and wisest elders. The future is uncertain and may be bleak.
However, despite the uncertainties of life, one thing does remain certain. Stores may have closed, schools may have shut down, but God is still God. Indeed, He is still the same God He was thousands of years ago, a God who protected His people from every calamity and disaster so long as they trusted in Him. This morning, then, I would like to go through Psalm 46 to see what we can learn from its depiction of God as our stronghold.
The first thing that we see here is the importance of TRUSTING GOD NO MATTER WHAT. Look at Psalm 46:1-3. I have to say, I really love the CSB rendering of v. 1 here. It tells us that God is a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Not part of the time. Not even most of the time. All the time. When things are worst, that’s when God is closest!
Because that is true, we as His people don’t have to be afraid. People in the world, sure. Frankly, they should be afraid. They’ve put all their hopes in this life, all that they worked so hard for is being disrupted, and even life itself may end much sooner than they were expecting. If I were in that position, I would be terrified!
However, we have not put our hope in this life. We have put our hope in God, and that is very different. We know that as long as we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. He will be with us through every day of our lives, and He will continue to be our strength and our protector even after our lives are over.
This doesn’t mean that we should abuse His protection by being heedless and foolish. God expects us to be wise, plan for the future, and take precautions. However, we do not rely on those precautions. We rely on God, and He will not disappoint us.
God will protect us, and that is true without exception. In vs. 2-3 here, the psalmist is envisioning essentially the destruction of the physical creation. As God once separated the land from the waters, the psalmist is imagining the earth collapsing back into the waters, so that everything becomes formless and empty again. Even then, says the psalmist, God’s people don’t have to be afraid. It is still true today that no matter how bad things get, we can continue to trust God.
The second portion of Psalm 46 concerns GOD’S HELP FOR HIS CITY. Let’s continue in Psalm 46:4-7. This is about the city of Jerusalem. The psalmist expresses his conviction that she will never be toppled. Why? Because she is the dwelling place of the Most High. She might endure some long, dark nights, but when morning comes, God’s help will come with it.
Today, of course, God’s promises do not apply to the earthly city of Jerusalem. Instead, He is concerned with the Jerusalem above, which is His church. As we sing, the kingdoms of earth pass away one by one, but the kingdom of heaven remains. The kingdom of Christ is an everlasting kingdom that will not be destroyed.
As a result, we can be confident that God will continue to support and sustain His church through this time too. I don’t think that’s a confidence that we can place in any merely human institution. I don’t know how, but I suspect that the coronavirus is going to change our society in some significant ways. Things are going to be very different a year from now than they are now.
However, the Lord’s church is one of the things that will not change. I fear that a number of businesses will fail in the coming economic downturn, but that won’t happen to our congregation. In fact, I think that the months and years ahead will offer many opportunities for the church to grow. There are an awful lot of people out there who have been trusting in other things and now are in the process of realizing how foolish that is. We always need God, but that fact is more obvious when nothing else is working.
Finally, look at how powerfully God will exert Himself to protect His city. All of the things that the psalmist said earlier were the worst that could happen, those are the things that God will do to protect His people from their enemies. Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. I don’t think that’s true. The only thing we have to fear is abandoning God. He will take care of everything else for us.
The psalm concludes by urging us to KNOW THAT HE IS GOD. Consider Psalm 46:8-11. Here, we finally see what problem the psalmist is concerned about. At this point in time, God’s people are facing an enemy invasion. However, he predicts that God will defeat the invasion so thoroughly that His people’s enemies will lose even the ability to invade. His victory will proclaim His deity and glory.
Today, we need to consider the works of the Lord. Death is currently ravaging our nation, but that is only happening because God has given death permission to do so. Even the great enemy of God is ultimately doing His will. Illness makes us suffer, but it also reminds us of how powerless we are.
I think that most people in our country feel entitled to live to a ripe old age and even beyond. However, our apparent control over aging and death is only illusory. None of us can do anything to add so much as a cubit to our lifespan. The force that God unleashed in Genesis 3 is as much beyond our power to control as the earthquake or the hurricane.
From this, we must learn that God is God. He is not like us. We cannot attribute our understanding or our limitations to Him. He is vastly beyond us, vastly greater than we are.
If we are not numbered with His faithful, that thought should be terrifying. There is this devastating force out there that surely will destroy us eventually. However, if we belong to Him, it should be incredibly reassuring. His word will shake everything else, ultimately bringing this physical creation to an end, but His kingdom and His people will not be shaken. Truly, He is our stronghold, the only defender we will ever need or could ever hope to have!
Managing Toxic RelationshipsTuesday, March 10, 2020
About three weeks ago, a minor tragedy occurred. Evernote, the program on my phone that I use to keep track of everything, including my sermon and blog-post ideas, crashed. Post-crash, I discovered that Evernote hadn’t synced since June 2019, so all of those ideas are gone forever. That means that if you asked me to preach a sermon on something and you haven’t heard the sermon yet, you probably aren’t going to unless you remind me of the request! For that matter, if you’d like to hear me preach on something and haven’t asked, I’d love to hear your question!
However, since the Great Evernote Crash of 2020, I have had other requests trickle in. This evening’s request actually comes from a sister who lives out-of-state, but because I know that this is relevant to people in this congregation too, I decided to turn it into a sermon. She wanted to know how one should deal with toxic people in one’s life, particularly close relatives who are toxic. Let’s consider, then, how to manage toxic relationships.
Here, I think the first thing that we must do is to RENEW OUR MINDS. Paul makes this point in Romans 12:2. Here, he tells us that there are two ways we can think. We can have a worldly mindset, which will conform us to the world, or we can have a spiritual mindset, which will lead us to be transformed into the image of Christ. Perhaps the most global struggle we engage in is the struggle to renew our minds, to daily think less like the world and more like Christ.
One of the characteristics of our worldly society is its love of labeling people. You’re black, you’re white, you’re straight, you’re gay, you’re rich, you’re poor, and that’s all I need to know about you to know who you are. All of these labels divide and create hostility, and that’s the work of the devil. By contrast, God calls us to be one in Christ Jesus, to love one another and love Him so fully that all these labels recede into insignificance.
When we’re talking about toxic people, or we’re talking about their close cousins, the narcissists, we must recognize that we are labeling others, and we also must recognize how deceptive and dangerous that is. “Toxic” and “narcissist” are worldly labels that people in the world use to dismiss and condemn others. “Narcissist” is at least a clinical diagnosis, but it is widely employed by people who learned all they know about psychology from a Buzzfeed article. I don’t even know what “toxic” means, except maybe, “Here’s somebody who does things I don’t like.”
The thing is, though, that once we have concluded that somebody’s a narcissist, that somebody’s toxic, our society gives us permission to write them off. We no longer have an obligation to try to understand their bad behavior, except maybe by reading more articles on Buzzfeed that tell us how awful toxic people and narcissists are. We don’t have to try to help them because toxic people and narcissists are irredeemably evil. We can shun them with a clear conscience because, well, they’re toxic and narcissistic! Perhaps most of all, we don’t have to examine ourselves and ask how our own unloving hearts and bad behavior have contributed to the breakdown of a relationship. Those labels do a great deal to help people who want to be self-righteous, but they do nothing to help us be more like Christ.
Instead, as Christ’s disciples, we are called to seek to understand others and have compassion. In many cases, we begin by remembering THE POWER OF FEAR. Consider the words of John in 1 John 4:18-19. According to John here, the opposite of love isn’t hatred. The opposite of love is fear. In my life, I can’t think of anybody I know who did awful things because of hatred. However, I can think of plenty who sinned egregiously because they were afraid.
This should transform our understanding of people who tend to get stuck with those labels of toxic and narcissist. Often, they seem very powerful and strong to us. They say shockingly hurtful things to us that we never would say to anyone. They make decisions that seem calculated to make us suffer. Indeed, they make us feel like we’re a helpless animal in a cage, and they’re taking joy in tormenting us.
However, if we could see the world through their eyes, we would see something very different. They don’t feel strong and powerful. They feel vulnerable and weak. All of those behaviors that seem so offensive to us, in every sense of the word, seem defensive to them. They are trying to protect themselves from being hurt, from losing something they love, from appearing as a failure, from becoming valueless.
I don’t say any of this to minimize the evil that fearful people do or the damage that they cause. Make no mistake: those who let fear rule in their lives are letting the devil rule, and they will not inherit eternal life! Instead, I say it so that we can understand them.
Most of us don’t know what it’s like to hurt others because we are feeling strong and powerful. I think all of us, though, if we are honest, will admit that we know what it’s like to hurt others because we are feeling hurt and weak and afraid. We don’t get to write off all those toxic narcissists because, on some level, we are the same as they are.
Ultimately, then, we must deal with the hurtful, destructive people in our lives by CONSIDERING EACH PERSON. For an example of this in action, look at Jude 22-23. Jude knew that people who were wavering in the faith did so for their own individual reasons, so it wasn’t right to treat all of them in the same way.
Likewise, we have to try to understand the flesh-and-blood people who are in front of us rather than cutting them off because their behavior displays the Ten Infallible Signs of Narcissism. If we react to them by striking back, which is what all of us instinctively do, most likely, we are only going to confirm them in their fear and their ungodly behavior, unwittingly confirming our own fears.
Instead, over time, we have to show them that they don’t have to be afraid, so that they will see that the sins they think are defensive really aren’t necessary. We can’t minimize their sin, but we also must make sure that when we speak truth, we do it out of love rather than a selfish desire to elevate ourselves at their expense. Additionally, we need to remember that the ugly coping strategies that they’ve spent years learning will take years to unlearn too—even if they’re working on it.
Sadly, some don’t want to work on it. They are sunk so deep in sin and fear that the pain of confronting the truth about themselves is too great for them to consider. We have to be honest about that too. Helping a sinner is one thing; throwing pearls before swine is another.
Finally, we have to recognize when we’re dealing with someone who isn’t motivated by fear. A couple of years back—let the reader understand—I got to know somebody pretty well who did not hurt people because he was afraid. He hurt people because it was exciting to hurt them, because all the resultant commotion was interesting. Those people also are beyond us. It’s a cliché to say that somebody needs professional help, but those people truly do.
Sex, Identity, and ScriptureThursday, March 05, 2020
Last week, Josh Collier preached for the congregation here about the challenges facing young people and their parents. He described the typical progression from churchgoing child to atheist: teenager has questions, gets fluff instead of strong Biblical answers to those questions, and looks for answers from YouTube skeptics instead.
I have to be honest, brethren. That sermon convicted me. It made me want to be sure that I, personally, was a preacher who tackled tough questions head-on instead of spouting feel-good claptrap from the pulpit.
In particular, Josh mentioned that many teens have questions about gender and sexual identity. I think Clay did a great job of laying out an entire philosophy of Biblical sexuality during his sermon series late last year, but this morning, I want to zero in specifically on those questions. Our society has all kinds of things to say about sexuality that are completely at odds with what Christians have traditionally believed. What does the Bible say about these things? Over the next several minutes, let’s consider sex, identity, and Scripture.
I think this discussion must begin, though, with an exploration of LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR. Paul lays out what this means in Romans 13:8-10. Here, we learn that as Christians, we are responsible for treating those around us in a consistently loving way. With respect to our subject this morning, it means several things.
The first of these is that love means respecting others’ choices. God has given all of us the gift of free will, and as part of that, we have the freedom to make the wrong decision. Those around us are entitled to their choices, even when, and especially when, we don’t agree with them.
Being a Christian means that we don’t try to coerce others into doing what we think is right. It means that we don’t harass, bully, insult, or belittle them. It means that we always speak of them respectfully, even in our conversations with one another. It means, in fact, that we treat them with the same kindness and consideration we hope they would extend to us. All this is true whoever the other might be.
However, love doesn’t mean approving of others’ choices. This is one of the big lies that the world tells. They try to get us to believe that loving someone means endorsing their behavior, and if we aren’t willing to endorse their behavior, we don’t actually love them. In fact, says the world, we hate them.
I reject that, and I reject it emphatically. The Scriptures tell us that love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, and if I love someone, and I see them being unrighteous, how could I rejoice in that? How can I pat someone I love on the back and tell them they’re doing right when I know that their feet are set on the path to hell? That’s not love. It’s selfishness and deceit.
The flip side of this is that love speaks unwelcome truths. This doesn’t mean that all of us have to march down the street telling passersby that they’re going to hell. It does mean, though, that we must remain steadfast in proclaiming Biblical principles that others find offensive. It also means that when those we love are entangled in sin, we must have the courage to speak up. All of this is universally true too.
Now that we’ve reminded ourselves of our duty to treat everyone in a godly way, let’s consider the Bible’s teachings on GENDER IDENTITY. Our analysis here should begin with the words of the Lord in Matthew 19:1-4. The question of transgender, of course, is not one that had arisen 2000 years ago, but the principles that Jesus lays out here tell us which way we need to go.
He reveals that male and female are not social constructs. Instead, they exist because God created them male and female. Gender is a biological fact. If you were to test my DNA right now, you would find that I have an X chromosome and a Y chromosome. If you were to test my wife, you would find that she has two X chromosomes. This is because God intended for me to be male and for her to be female.
Everybody knows that biological gender is a fact and, if pressed, will acknowledge it. However, many in our society will insist that one’s feelings about maleness or femaleness are more important than that biological fact. From a Biblical perspective, this doesn’t make sense.
Instead, we must regard our DNA as God’s decree about who we are. Because we are created as male and female, God expects us to conduct ourselves according to His laws for male and female. If we do otherwise, we are deceiving ourselves about our true nature, and our conduct does not honor Him.
Some attempt to rebut this argument by pointing to genetic exceptions. There is some extremely small percentage of people out there whose DNA has become mutated so that it is not obvious whether they are male or female. I acknowledge that these exceptions exist. Unlike Adam and Eve, none of us have perfect DNA, and no one has had perfect DNA for millennia. Mutations are part of living in this fallen world.
However, we should not allow this extremely rare biological ambiguity to justify uncertainty about God’s will in cases where no ambiguity exists. The vast majority of trans people are unambiguously male or female in a biological sense. Their problem is not confusion. It is unwillingness to submit, and we must consider them accordingly.
Finally, let’s examine the subject of SEXUALITY. Again, the words of Jesus are extremely relevant here, this time in Matthew 19:5-6. As Clay observed several months ago, this passage lays out the God-approved pattern for sexuality. Godly sex involves the joining of husband and wife. Anything that is not husband and wife coming together is not godly intimacy. This involves various forms of heterosexual immorality, but it also includes the practice of homosexuality. Those who practice any of these things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Notice, though, what it is that is outside of God’s will. Today, the issue of sexual practice has become confused with identity, so that people who never have been intimate with anyone will describe themselves as gay. In the Bible, though, “homosexual” is not some kind of global human identity. Instead, the Bible is entirely concerned with temptation and whether we give in to it.
It is not a sin to be tempted. Jesus Himself was tempted. If there is some Christian who is tempted to homosexual acts throughout their life, but they resist that temptation, they are righteous in God’s eyes. Admittedly, those who are inclined only to their own gender must be celibate, but that’s no more than we expect from any unmarried Christian. Only husband and wife have the right to be intimate.
Being tempted is not a sin, but giving in to temptation is. When we repent, we can find God’s forgiveness, but if we don’t repent, we never will be right with Him. Our society today endorses all sorts of sins, but in the end, we know that God will judge the sexually immoral.
Voting and the ChristianTuesday, February 11, 2020
Some of the topics that the brethren here ask me to preach on are fairly innocuous; others are downright radioactive! So it is with this morning’s subject: how it is that Christians should vote. Obviously, 2020 is an election year, so voting is on everyone’s mind, and it is probably true that the outcome of the presidential election, especially, will have a significant effect on the country’s direction for the next four years.
In reaction to this significance, brethren have taken a variety of extreme stands. For instance, I know Christians who believe that unless you vote, and unless you vote in a certain way, you are sinning. At the other extreme, David Lipscomb and a number of other brethren in the 19th century believed it was a sin for Christians to vote or participate in government at all. These are some pretty strong views, but what does the Scripture actually teach? This morning, let’s consider the connection between voting and the Christian.
In this regard, the first thing that we must do is to HONOR THE CONSCIENCE. Here, consider Romans 14:1-4. On its face, this passage is about how Christians should handle disagreements over eating meat. However, the principles that Paul sets out here govern our interactions in any matter of individual judgment. Anytime the Bible doesn’t spell out clearly what we should do, Romans 14 tells us how to handle it.
Though this is not obvious to many Christians, voting is just such a matter of individual judgment. Here’s why. Unlike the Old Testament and the Qur’an, both of which have much to say about good government, the New Testament is a moral code meant for Christians and churches, not nations. When we try to turn it into a code for nations, which it was not meant to be, we end up using our judgment to pick and choose which parts apply.
Now to this, some might say, “That’s not true! When I’m in the voting booth, I vote the Bible and the whole Bible!” That might be our self-perception, but it’s not really what we’re doing. Let me give you an example. I think all of us here this morning are agreed that adultery is a sin, and it’s very important for all of us to avoid adultery.
However, for few of us does that carry over into politics. We don’t make their position on adultery a litmus test for candidates. Indeed, we even may be willing to vote for candidates who have committed and are still committing adultery. We have used our judgment to decide that something that is very important to us religiously is not important to us politically.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that’s a problem. It’s impossible for us to vote without making these kinds of judgments, and I think that God gives us the freedom to vote as long as we do so according to our conscience and best judgment.
We must acknowledge, though, that we are following our conscience and our judgment, and therefore must not judge or despise brethren whose conscience leads them to vote differently. I recognize that there are brethren who are passionately committed to Candidate X and cannot understand why another Christian might vote for Candidate Y instead. However, our passion does not give us the right to condemn another’s conscience. Even if we think their choice is terrible, we must respect their right to make it.
Second, when it comes to electoral matters, we must SPEAK WISELY. Consider Paul’s admonition in Colossians 4:4-5. Even though this is specifically about outsiders, it surely applies to the way that we speak to one another as well.
In particular, there are three elements of wise speech that I want us to consider. The first of these is that wise speech is truthful speech. Sad to say, there are many Christians who are not careful with the truth when politics is involved. I think the problems come when we do get too attached to candidates and parties. We become so passionately convinced that our candidate is the best ever and the other candidate is the worst ever that we become willing to believe every slander that is made against them. We’ll see some meme on Facebook and click “Share” because it feels true to us even though a little digging would reveal that it came straight from a Russian robot! Brethren, repeating slander is slander too, and it’s a sin. We have to be careful!
Second, we must speak graciously to speak wisely. This too is the result of misplaced zeal for politics. We become dead sure that we are right, right, right, and anybody who disagrees with us is wrong, wrong, wrong! It becomes our goal, especially on social media, to shove the truth down the throats of the folks on the other side. Well, guess what? That’s contentiousness, and contentiousness is a sin too! Over the past several years, I’ve seen far too many cases of brethren who aren’t friends anymore and won’t even speak to each other because of political disagreement. Make no mistake: that’s tragic and wrong.
Third, we speak wisely when we remember our true goal. We are called to be Christians first and political partisans second, and nothing we say as political partisans ever should interfere with our work as Christians. Offending people with the truth of Christ is one thing. Offending people over politics is quite another! Here’s a good litmus test: If somebody from the other political party read what we have to say about politics on Facebook, would they still want to go to church with us? If the answer is “No”, we have gone too far.
Indeed, the last thing that I want to encourage us to do this morning is to PUT THE GOSPEL FIRST. Look at Paul’s great statement of faith in Romans 1:16. It is the gospel that is the power of God to salvation, and only the gospel. Politics and voting never can be.
This has implications first of all for our congregation. Let me be clear. This is not a Republican church. This is not a Democrat church. This is a church that belongs to Christ. In the work of this church, we are wholly devoted to Him, and that means that we have neither time nor attention to spare for dabbling in politics. It also means that regardless of how they voted, all who seek the Lord are welcome here.
Second, no matter how attached to our political causes we may be, we must acknowledge that politics can’t save souls. Only people who are willing servants of Jesus will inherit eternal life, and no government, no matter how powerful, can make the unwilling become willing. Through the threat of punishment, the government can change actions, but it can’t change hearts. Only the gospel can do that, one heart at a time.
I’d be the first to admit that our country has a lot of problems. Indeed, we live in a world with a lot of problems. Given those problems, I understand why so many look to politics as a savior. In reality, though, the only Savior is Jesus Christ. If we want to change the world, we do that by proclaiming Him, first, last, and always.
This is why, for so many, social media represents a giant missed opportunity. They’ll share all these memes and get in all these political arguments, but when it comes to the gospel, they have little to nothing to say. Brethren, is that right? Let us never put our hope in voting, politics, or the government. Let’s put it in Christ where it belongs.