It’s getting very close.
A night full of the scariest things you’ve ever seen.
A night that you might cover yourself with a blankie as you watch spooky things on TV.
A night filled with treats, and quite a few tricks.
Yep, it’s almost time…for Election Night.
(Did you think I meant Halloween?)
I guarantee that there are many more people fearful of the Election than Halloween this year. Halloween is make believe. People wear masks. But the Election is real life! What will happen? How will we survive if so-and-so is president? Is this the end of America?
Today our goal is to take a look at God’s Word and we want to do 2 things: (1) see why it is this election is not nearly as scary as some websites would have you believe and (2) see how it is Christians should react to whoever is president next. But before we study God’s Word, let’s say a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. A Not-So-Scary Night
I direct your attention to Romans 13. Romans is a book that a disciple named Paul wrote. It was actually a letter to Christians and future Christians in Rome. In fact, it’s a good letter for all Christians. It talks about sin and our Savior. Then, it discusses Christian living. Finally, in Chapter 13 – there’s this directive about the government:
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. (v.1)
Take a look at that word “authority” to start out with. Authority means to “be in charge of” or “to have power.”
There’s a lot of different authorities in this world. There’s the “authorities” as in police officers and highway patrol. In each family, parents have authority – although sometimes husbands joke that the “wife” has authority. You might have authority at work to do some things that others can’t and you might not be able to do some things that others can.
There’s lots of different authorities. Even in the government. There’s the President of the United States. There’s the Vice President. There’s the governors and senators and representatives – there’s the mayor and district representatives and even the city clerk! They are all very different in size of authority, shape of authority, and form of authority.
But they also have one thing in common.
There is no authority except that which God has established.
Have you ever seen ‘est’d.’ on the front of a building? Usually it’s on cornerstone – or in some easy to see spot. It means this is when the building was made and this is who paid for it. We’ve got a plague in the hallway that says something similar about our fellowship hall. Maybe we’ll have something like that for the new Precious Lambs building.
Do you understand what Romans 13:1 is saying? If someone is in authority – no matter where the authority is – no matter when the authority is – no matter how the authority is – God is the one who set it up. Because God is the ultimate authority.
And that means – that on the morning of November 9th – we will know who is in control.
No matter who wins the election. No matter who becomes President of the United States (POTUS). No matter who is elected – you can envision a little ‘estd’ on the name badge above their breast pocket.
Established by God.
Do you believe that? Imagine for a minute that it’s November 9th. You are waking up the day after the election and after you grab your coffee and you read the headline on the newspaper OR the tweet on your phone – the other candidate won.
Not the one you voted for – who you maybe didn’t even like all that much – the candidate that you didn’t vote for because you were terrified of that candidate becoming president.
How do you react?
Add a little spike to your morning coffee?
Immediately tweet about how America is over?
Do you go online and start searching for the price of houses in Canada?
When less than 40% of America is behind a candidate, November 9th is bound to be a scary day. Someone will be in authority that more than 60 percent of the country doesn’t even want!
We'll start thinking!
This is because our no-good country elected that person.
This is because of the no-good media.
This is because other countries interfered.
This is because it’s rigged.
Some – or all of that might be true. But there’s a bigger, deeper reason behind the Next President.
Romans 13:1 again: There is no authority except that which God has established.
II. God’s Choice
But that’s hard. Because it means that whoever gets elected on Election Day, will do so under God’s authority!
And if we were to end the sermon there, you’ll probably leave thinking:
That was crazy. Because if so-and-so wins, that one is an awful no good unbeliever – How could God be behind that?
To be fair: It was hard for the people who were hearing this message originally. Because at that time, the Roman government was in charge. The Roman government was the authority. The Roman government wasn’t Christian. In fact, Romans didn’t like Christians all that much. Romans viewed Christianity as a cult that would lead to a revolution and loss of authority for the Roman government.
One of the worst offenders was a guy called Nero. He’s gonna show up very early in the history of the Christian church – shortly after the letter to the Romans is circulated. Nero hated Christians. There are accounts and records of Nero burning Christians at the stake and throwing them into the Lion’s Den. Christians were probably very wary of the Roman government and very nervous about what it might bring them!
Then, they read this letter form Paul. I bet they thought: Here’s the section about government. I can’t wait to read it. I can’t wait for him to tell us about how we should fight back against Roman soldiers. I can’t wait to read about how we should burn Nero’s palace down. I can’t wait to hear about how this is all a bit misunderstanding and God will give us a new ruler soon.
So…let’s see. It says, “The authorities that exist have been established by God?”
Is this a typo?
But this must be true! If we believe in an all knowing, all powerful, all incredible God, then we believe he has all authority. Otherwise you make him into some feeble, old ruler who can’t prevent his own overthrow or some non-caring, jerk, who doesn’t care about you.
God establishes authority.
And no, we don’t always know why God establishes the government that he establishes. If you look at Bible history, there are some reasons that are explained --
(1) Sometimes it’s for good order. To keep believers and unbelievers and people of different cultures, races, belief systems and backgrounds from beating each other up.
(2) Other times it’s for prosperity. God used kings like David to bring prosperity on the nation.
(3) Sometimes? It’s for discipline.
Take Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was a Babylonian ruler. He didn’t know God. He didn’t care for God. He didn’t consult God. But God used them. He used them to punish his people. He used them to bring them to their knees. He used them to discipline his children and bring them back to faith in him.
Here’s the truth. We don’t know why God establishes the authorities that he does. But we do know that whatever the reason – It’s for our eternal good.
Check out this passage from the same letter to Rome – “All things work for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Here’s a second truth: We don’t know why God will establish the authority that he does on November 8th. But…we do know that whoever he established, “All things – including the American election – will for your good.” For your, eternal good.
Like Pontius Pilate. He was a Roman. He didn’t care a lick about the Jewish people. He could be harsh and uncaring – like the time that he allowed an innocent man to be crucified on a cross just so that he wouldn’t lose his authority.
But God had a purpose. An eternal purpose. Your eternal purpose.
That innocent man that he killed just happened to be the Son of God – Jesus Christ. The one of whom it was prophesied, would die on a cross. (Isaiah 53) A cross that the no good, unbelieving, Roman government used as a punishment.
God used Pontius Pilate to fulfill his plan.
God used the Roman government to sacrifice the Savior.
God used those authorities – to save you.
God will use the next president for your good—your eternal good.
III. What Now?
Because there might be a Next President that you don’t like. A president that you don’t trust. Even if you vote for that person, you might not trust them.
But Trust God.
It doesn’t matter what earthly person is in authority, they can’t out-authority God.
They can’t take away the salvation that Jesus won for you on a cross.
They can’t pass a law that says "You aren’t forgiven."
They can’t change legislation to make you into an enemy of God.
They can’t amend history and keep Jesus from dying and rising from the dead.
God is in control.
So…here’s what I think you should do. Before you open up your newsfeed on November 8th. Before you check Facebook or the news. Before you watch the news later that night after you vote --- Open the Bible. Find Psalm 46. Read “God is our Refuge and strength and ever present help in trouble; Therefore we will not fear, though the earth quakes and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. God says, “Be still and know that I am God.”
2) Don’t Rebel
Ever had a babysitter? Me too. I, like many young boys, didn’t think that I had to listen to my babysitters. In fact, one of my first babysitters – I refused to listen to. I stayed up late. I jumped on my bed. I ate way more cookies than she said I could have. I rebelled against her authority and I thought that it wasn’t a big deal. I figured if I wasn’t disobeying my mom and dad, then it was okay.
I was wrong.
The same is true with the next president: if you rebel against whoever it is – you’ll be rebelling against God. Look at what it says in verse 2, “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” You’ll have to answer to God.
You might be thinking, “I’m not gonna rebel. I’m not gonna grab a sign and go downtown to picket…because I don’t know where to buy picket signs.”
But that’s not necessarily rebellion. Rebellion means “to go against authority.” To attack; to fight against; to tear down.
So here’s something to ask yourself about your action. Is it building up? Or tearing down?
Ask yourself. Is this email joke really building anybody up?
Is this SNL skit just attacking someone?
Are my swear words really a blessings?
Is this illegal way that I’m trying to not pay so many taxes, really supporting our government?
Not so much? Then, you’re rebelling. Against authorities and God.
3) Give Respect.
Instead, give what you owe the next president. Look at what Romans 13:6 says, “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
Instead, give respect. Give honor. Give prayers. Give kind words.
And if you’re having a hard time doing that – please look at God! Because God is the one who established that person. I know you want to give glory to God. He won salvation for you; he forgave you; he loves you; and he’ll take you to heaven.
Treating his representative with respect is treating God, your Savior, with respect.
4) Remember Where you are “of”
In John 17, Jesus says this about his disciples, “They are not of the world any more than I am of the world…Protect them from the evil one.”
Because the truth is, we are in this world. While we are in this world, we will always have sinful human leaders. Because there are only sinful, human leaders to choose from.
While you can’t avoid that, you need to remember that you are more than that. You are in the world; but you aren’t of it.
Be different this election.
When others are frightened, be confident.
When others are complaining, give praise.
When others are planning rebellion, show respect.
When others think the world is following apart, show them God’s World and how he put you back together.
No matter what's going on -- remember that your kingdom is not of this world.
Your kingdom is God's kingdom.
That kingdom is above.
Did you watch the latest Presidential debate?
Call me old fashioned, but I remember a time when candidates talked about issues and policies and how they would address those issues and policies. This latest debate?
Here’s why you’re terrible.
And here’s why you’re terrible.
And here’s why you’re even more terrible -er.
It seemed a bit more like I was watching an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
I don’t think I’m alone. According to the latest polls, neither candidate has a majority. In fact, they are barely hovering around 40%. That means – the eventual winner will have more than half the country against them! It’s is going to be one of the largest third candidate votes in American history. Time and time again – I see people’s reason for voting for Hillary or Trump as – They’re bad – just not as bad as the other one.
What’s a person to do?
What’s a Christian to do?
Who should we trust to make our lives better?
Today we are continuing our series called God & Country. We’re looking at the Christian and voting. I wanna say right off the bat: I am not endorsing any candidates. You can give me a lifetime supply of Nacho Cheese Doritos and I’m not endorsing any candidates. I’m a pastor; not a politician. I care about spiritual -- way more than temporal.
Yet there’s a spiritual aspect to casting a vote. Because there’s trust involved in casting a vote.
Today we want to look into God’s Word and see (1) who should we trust while casting our vote and (2) what principles do we keep in mind while voting. But before we study God’s Word, let’s say a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Voting & Trust
Our lesson for today comes from 1 Samuel 8. That's actually before where we were last week in our God & Patriotism lesson. It's before David was king. In fact, it was before Israel even had kings or a human government.
Which is what makes this biblical studying on voting for a political candidate difficult. There isn’t any democracy in the Bible. Democracy is relatively new. In the Old Testament – most governments were Monarchies – that means – they were governments run by kings.
But not in Israel. Not in 1 Samuel. At that time Israel was different. Israel was run by a theocracy. Theos is the Greek word for "god." That means a theocracy is a government run by God. Literally. God, their heavenly Father, was actively involved in the government of Israel.
He would give guidance to a leader -- Moses or Joshua -- who would then lead the Israelites in battle and citizenship -- How to live, what to celebrate, what's good and what's bad. This system went well for Israel as long as they listened to God. When they listened to him, they were blessed. When they didn't listen to God, they were in trouble.
The same thing happened when Samuel (the person for whom the book of 1 Samuel is named) became the go between for God and the people. Things went well. The Israelites had been in captivity, but after Samuel led -- they were not.
People were generally happy with this theocracy.
Until one day….
…Samuel heard a rock tumble down his gravel walkway. He looked up from his morning devotion and went to the front window: A group of men was walking up his driveway. He recognized them. They were leaders from various tribes and various families in this Israelites nation. A congress of elected officials – that was neither elected nor official.
Samuel went to the front door to let them in. It was always good to see them. Together they enforced God’s Will. They helped pass on God’s Word of wisdom. God talked to Samuel; Samuel talked to these men; these men talked to the people.
Together they guided Israel.
And it worked! 30 some years earlier, Israel was a broken mess. Various sections of the country had splintered off and been captured by the Philistines and the Amorites. They were oppressed, taxed, and beaten. But, after the country repented and listened to God’s leadership through Samuel – Israel was at peace. The country was restored. The nation was blessed and had been for years.
Maybe the guys are here to talk about the good old days OR maybe they want me to speak at a high school graduation again.
But the people didn’t come for high fives.
They weren’t bringing him a gift of appreciation.
They didn’t even want to take selfies with him.
v.5 “You’re old." You’re not young. It’s a new era; a modern era. You don’t connect with the younger generation anymore. You can’t keep up like you used to. You should be in the hall of fame; not on the front lines.
"You’re sons aren’t like you." They aren’t. They just want money and they only care about themselves. They aren’t doing a good job doing the legwork for you.
"Appoint a king to lead us, just like all the other nations have."
Samuel’s smile faded. He nodded and listened as they spoke. “OK, Ok. I hear you.” But his heart wasn’t in it. Why were they rejected him? Was it something he said? Was it something he did? Was he not wearing the right clothing? Did he need a new hair style?
Samuel excused himself for a moment. He went out back to a private room. He got on his knees and he prayed to God. God, is this right? Should I listen to them? God why are they rejecting me?
God responded – with one of the truest statement Samuel had heard in a long time.
v.7 Samuel…It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.
Do any of you know who Chumbawamba is? They’re a one hit wonder from the nineties. But…I remember back when I was a preteen, all of my classmates were obsessed with Chumbawamba’s number 1 hit song: Tubthumper. It goes “I get knocked down, but I get up again; you ain’t ever gonna keep me down.” (Sound familiar?)
So here’s what I did. I found a BMG Music ad in the newspaper. I ordered the Chumbawamba CD. I had to order another 10 CDs (based solely on whether or not I had heard my classmates talking about them) and I spent my whole allowance to get them.
The CD came. And Tubthumper was alright…the other songs? Awful.
All so I could be like the other kids.
Essentially that’s what the Israelites were wanting. They were willing to give up the leadership of their holy, perfect, all loving, never failing, completely on their side, miracle making God – all for the sake of being like the other nations.
They wanted someone they could see.
They wanted someone that was like them.
They wanted someone who was invested in the human race.
They wanted to be like other, sinful, godless, heading toward hell people.
But then again – this is what Israel had always done. For years, they had been rejecting God’s rule. For years, they had been doing the opposite of what God said. For years, they had been appearing to follow God – but really following sinful human beings.
God and Samuel finished their campaign meeting. Samuel returned to the Israelites with some talking points. He had a chance to debate; to give a final warning as to why God was a way better leader than a human being. His defense is found in verses 10-18, but here are the highlights:
1) Take your kids and make army fodder. Instead of having the hand of God doing the work for you, protecting you and keeping you safe, he’ll grab your sons. They’ll be maimed and die in battle. And it won’t always be for your best interested. It’ll be for the king’s interest and the king’s legacy. For his own, selfish, human reasons.
2) You’ll lose your freedom. You won’t be able to choose your lifestyle and choose your occupation. If the king needs a farmer, you’ll be a farmer. If the king needs a baker, you’ll be a baker. If the king needs a outhouse repairman, you’ll be an outhouse repairman. He won’t keep in mind your desire and dreams for this life – he’ll give you a job…for his own, selfish, human reasons.
3) The Taxes… Oh the taxes will increase. You’ll give up a portion of your food and your goats, and your oxen and chicken, and everything that you have. Some will go to protect you, but once that king gets a taste of wealth, the majority of taxes will not happen to improve your life, they will happen for the king’s own, selfish, human reasons.
4) You’ll be slaves. Because eventually, eventually someone will become king whose sinful, selfish human reasons overtakes his policies. He’ll make you serve him – not your country and not yourself. He’ll be filled with vengeance and a complete disregard for you – and you shouldn’t be surprised! That’s what sinful, selfish, human beings do!
And you’ll call out to God for help. You’ll regret the decision you are making right now. But, v.18 the LORD will not answer you.
The Israelites thought about it.
They pondered it.
They deeply considered the thoughts of their holy, perfect, all knowing God.
…for about 2 seconds.
v.18 “No! We want a king over us! We want to be like the other nations.”
Did you see the problem? The Israelites trusted humanity more than God. Soon, they’d put their trust in Saul – their very first human king – more than God.
It’s foolish to do.
God is holy; humans are sinful.
God is all loving; humans love themselves first.
God is all powerful; humans are weak.
God is all knowing; humans know whatever their very biased advisors tell them to know.
But this trusting of humans more than God is something that was happening back then…
…and is still happening now.
Who do you trust this election?
Hillary? Donald? Do you trust Jill or Gary or Scott?
Are you panicking because you don’t trust any of them?
Do you expect a president to completely change your life?
To fix your problems? To fix your money situation? To improve your job and heal your health issues?
If you do, your trust is in the wrong place.
Hillary Clinton will not fix your life.
Donald Trump will not make your life great again.
A third party candidate will not put your life in the right direction.
The only one who can do that; is not on the ballot.
Isaiah 43:11 says this, “God is the Lord and there is no other Savior.”
Cause when you look at our lives apart from God – there’s been a Great Recession.
And you know how good candidates are at lying? We’re good at it too. Telling ourselves “I’m fine. Everything’s great. I have no spiritual problems.”
But we’re wrong. It’s a mess. And it's beyond any human being!!
But it isn't beyond God.
Here’s the truth:
Your Savior isn't on the ballot; he's on the cross.
To be fair, this may not mean that you make more money. It may not mean that your health care payments go down. It may not mean that you get all of the benefits that you t think you deserve.
But what you’ll get; is beyond your wildest imagination.
Jesus said this, “My kingdom is not of this world.” That means he’s concerned with your life on this earth, yes, but he’s even more concerned with your spiritual, eternal life in heaven. His decisions, when it comes down to one or the other, are always going to be in favor of your heavenly glory.
Because that's better.
Because that lasts.
Because that's how He fixes this broken world.
Because that's how He fixes this broken you.
II. Principles for this Election
Jesus is the only Savior. But he's also not on the ballot. I'm not suggesting that you write in his name. (He wouldn't take the job and sadly, he probably wouldn't win anyways).
What are you to do? What does the Bible encourage us to do in an earthly election? Keep in mind that the Bible doesn’t exactly address voting. Democracy isn’t a part of the Ten Commandments and it was never a part of Israelite government. There's not even a mandate to vote! But there’s a few Biblical principles that I think you should keep in mind.
The Bible tells us to pray continually. It doesn’t say, “Pray continually until an election comes up; then stop praying and start making decisions on your own without seeking God’s help.” Nope. God tells us to pray about big things and little things – to help grandma get over cancer and to help me do well on this 10 question math quiz.
The presidential election fits under the category of things to pray for.
Won’t you keep it in your prayers?
Pray for God to bless America.
Pray for God to bless your heart.
Pray for God to guide you toward the best decision that you can make.
2) Use the Wisdom God gave You.
That really has a twofold meaning. The Bible says that God made us "Fearfully and wonderfully." Therefore, we should use that wonderful mind that God gave us and the wisdom he bestowed on us.
But also he gave us wisdom beyond that. Wisdom within his Word.
Now, there is not a Bible book called. “2nd What-to-Do-in-the-2016-American-Presidential-Elections.” It just isn’t there. That means this will take some time. You'll need to learn about the candidates and then search in God's Word for what a godly leader looks like. You'll find examples of godly leaders and godly characteristics of leaders. You'll learn godly morals and godly mandates.
It takes some time, but it's worth it.
Don’t just do something cause all your friends are saying so on Facebook.
That’s what the Israelites did and it didn’t work out to well for them.
Take time to think about the issues and vote using the wisdom God gave you.
DID YOU KNOW: There will be some friends, some family members, even some church members who vote differently in you?
Kick them out pastor! Right?
You do realize that every candidate in this election is a sinner?
Every candidate has sinful human reasoning?
Every candidate has sinful human motives?
There is no perfect candidate. If you’re going to disown a friend because they voted for a sinful candidate, then you’ll have to disown yourself.
Relax. Christians can make different choices for President; just as they make different choices for what type of car to drive and different choices for different types of chewing gum. You don’t need to crucify them or call them names. You don’t need to send them angry blog post after angry blog post.
You need to pray with them. You need to work with them.
You need to share God’s Word to them and with them.
And you have important work to do:
4) Move on.
Which leads to the final point – after you make your vote – move on!
Because God didn't call us to sit around and wring our hands and worry about our government. Nope.
God called us to share the Gospel of Jesus.
We’ve got way too important of work to keep doing together. We need to Gather to the Garden. We need to share Jesus with our community. We need to keep telling others about our incredible Savior, Jesus Christ.
And you need to be a part of that.
Here’s where God helps with that.
Because the more our trust is in him, the more we calm God gives us.
To be honest, this election is quite the opportunity for trust in God. Because if I think back to the elections that I can remember – people were voting because they were confident in the candidate to do the good job. George W. Bush will fix things. Barack Obama will fix things.
This year – They won’t mess it up as much as the other person.
Which means – when trust in the candidates is at all time low – we have an opportunity to place trust in God at an all-time high.
Put your trust in the Lord, the Only Savior.
Share your trust it the Lord, the Only Savior.
Today we want to start our series called God & Country. We’re looking at how a Christian balances God and Patriotism. Our goal for today is to see (1) when patriotism can become a danger (2) what good patriotism looks like. We’re going to do that by focusing in on a section from 1 Chronicles. That’s old school. It talks about the nation of Israel and its relationship with God. If you want to open your Bibles to it, it’s in the Old Testament close to the books of Kings. You can also search for it on your iPhones.
But before we study God’s Word, let’s say a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Bad Patriotism
King David took the final steps out of his palace into the early morning streets of Jerusalem.
It was quiet. Quiet because the city had been partying late into the night. There had been another victory. Another victory for Israel. With that victory came another welcoming home of the victorious soldiers. Chants of “Is-ra-el! Is-ra-el!” had filled the streets. Street musicians played “I am proud to be an Israelian!” as little old ladies waved Israelite flags to the beat. Little kids held up their GI Israel action figures and older teens had pledged to ‘join the army’ when they were a bit older.
It was a good time. A time of national pride.
A time of Patriotism.
With good reason. Under King David, the nation had expanded its borders; it had defeated its enemies. They had gained national wealth, improved the economy and brought prosperity for even the poor. They were the United States of the Ancient World. Other countries feared them; many wanted to be them; no one dared cross them.
David knew that. He knew that and yet…he knew the worries. He knew the nervousness that comes with the economy. He knew the whispers of terrorism and war. He knew that some didn’t think Israel was as great as they thought they were.
A pile of confetti blew past his face. David needed something. Something to comfort the people. Something to dispel their doubts. Something to assure them they were safe. Something to assure himself he was safe.
Then, David had an idea. In a brilliant, politically tactical move, he would order a census. He’d number the fighting men. He’d get a count on how large his army was. He’d post that census on billboards throughout Jerusalem. He’d let himself and his country know how great the land of Israel really was!
David returned to the palace and called for the general of his army to stand before him. “Go; gather your commanders. Set into motion a census. Find out for me just how great the Israelite army is.”
Joab protested. “Majesty -- the country is huge. The army is great. Why do you need a census to prove that? Why do you need to boast? Whose ego are we trying to feed? Mine? Theirs? Yours?”
But David was king. That was that. Joab went out. He travelled. He counted. He tallied. He added. He subtracted. He numbered and reported:
“There are over 1.6 million soldiers in the army of Israel.”
David smiled. David swelled with patriotism.
The others who heard; they smiled. They swelled with patriotism.
But God didn’t smile. He didn’t swell with Patriotism.
“But this command was evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel.”
This seems strange at first. David took a census. Is census taking sinfully wrong? Is it as bad as theft and adultery? Should we feel as uncomfortable around census takers as we might around pornography directors and terrorists?
No. Of course not. Census taking isn’t wrong.
The problem wasn’t the census. The problem was the motivation behind the census.
It’s kinda like eating yogurt. There’s nothing wrong with eating yogurt. There isn’t a commandment that says, “Thou shalt not commit yogurt eating.” If you’re eating yogurt because you’re hungry, no worries. If you’re eating yogurt because you like yogurt, no worries. If you’re eating yogurt, because there’s nothing else in your fridge, no worries.
But if you’re eating yogurt, because your wife implied that you’re a bit out of shape and you’re upset at her for doing that and you hope she sees you eating yogurt and feels bad about the fact that she was being such a meanie – That’s wrong.
What was the bad motivation behind David? Pride. Pride in himself as King. Pride in his country. He trusted the great number of troops; the awesomeness of his army; his nation more than his God.
Because did you notice, there is no mention of God in his request. He doesn’t tell the people – “Be calm; everything is good in Israel because of God.” Nope. With the census he was saying, “Everything is good in Israel because of Israel. Because of our nation. Because of our patriotism.”
That’s bad patriotism. In fact, you might call it “Patriolatry,” – the worship of nation…rather…than…God.
So. I ask. At the time of this election – where’s your trust?
Recently there’s been a controversy around Colin Kaepernick and the national anthem. Did you know this? He and some other athletes have been kneeling during the national anthem. And I’m not here to give a long winded reaction to all of this.
Yes, it’s important to show respect to the men and women who serve our country in war and standing during the national anthem is a way to do that. But it’s also important to listen to a large portion of the black community (our family) when they are telling us about struggles that we might not know anything about.
But I’m more interested in the reaction that I’ve seen these past couple of weeks to it. People have been downright vengeful. There are comments on social media and in the mainstream media about how awful anyone who doesn’t put their hand on the heart for the flag is awful. About how they are traitors About how they are the worst. About how they are “swear word; swear word; swear word.” About how there is nothing more important than showing respect to our flag.
OK. I’m gonna challenge you.
If you’ve got that outrage over a lack of respect for our sinful country, where is that outrage over lack of respect to God?
Where’s your outrage over the family member who doesn’t show God respect and devote one hour a week to him at church?
Where’s your outrage when someone takes God’s name in vain?
Where’s your respect when you can’t even stay awake for a 20-minute message from God’s Word?
Why is there post after post after post (and conversation after conversation) about America and Debate and Vote this way, but there is no mention of God – no mention of our Savior?
I heard someone say this recently: “The thing you defend the most passionately is the thing that you love the most passionately.” I’ll say that again. “The thing you defend the most passionately is the thing you love most passionately.”
There’s truth there.
Think about your love. What’s that for you? The USA? Or God?
Scripture says this. In fact, it’s one of the Ten Commandments. “You shall have no other gods.” You shouldn’t trust anything more than God. You shouldn’t love anything more than God. You shouldn’t fear anything more than God.
This isn’t God being a big jealous jerk! It’s God loving you. It’s God reminding you that He is the only one that can save. Because the truth is:
The United States will not pass some law to get you to heaven.
George Washington didn’t die for your sins.
Abraham Lincoln didn’t rise form the dead.
Uncle Sam isn’t your Savior.
God did and God is.
And if you ignore this truth. If you stay at the temple of Patriology and your country is more important than God, then that’s bad patriotism.
And God will act swiftly.
II. Good Patriotism
Just like he did with David.
God sent a prophet. The prophet told David, v.10-12 "This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options…Take your choice: three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies…or three days of plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord ravaging every part of Israel."
Now. If I were David and I thought that my nation was so great (and it was), I might pick option one. Three years of famine would be no problem for the booming economy of Israel. He could tell his secretary of agriculture to start gathering food the very next day and start rationing the day after that.
Or I might pick option two. Because three months of enemy combat…After all, they had over 1.6 million soldiers in their army. They might be able to fend off these attacks. They might be able to defend the country.
But option three, three days of plague in the land? If that started immediately, Israel could do nothing. They wouldn’t be able to set up vaccination sites. They wouldn’t be able to combat it. They’d be entirely at the mercy of God.
Which is exactly why David picked it:
v. 13 “Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”
Notice the change in trust. No longer does David trust his country. He doesn’t trust his army. He doesn’t trust his nation.
He trusts God. He trusts God to be merciful simply because he’s merciful.
So the pestilence starts. The angel of the Lord stands like a stalwart statue with his sword directed over the land. Soldiers start dropping. Heart attacks. Strokes. Other sudden illnesses. 70,000 people died. It looks like more will die. It looks like a terrible decision. And the angel of the Lord approaches Jerusalem – and the capital city was about to experience the complete wrath of God. But then….
That’s what happens when you trust God and his mercy. God has mercy.
And if you read a bit farther it says that God commands the angel to put his sword away and the angel does. Because God was in control the whole time. Not just at the beginning of this story. It was about God the whole time. From the start of the Israelite nation and throughout King David’s reign, to the kings after David and even the destruction of Jerusalem way in the future. Israel was ok. But God was Great!
It doesn’t depend on the size of the army. Remember the size that David came up with? 1.6 million soldiers? That’s huge. It wasn’t even everyone. Joab had intentionally not counted the men of Levi and Benjamin – probably to keep people from being so prideful.
But God has never needed millions to win battles.
With Gideon he used 300 men to defeat close to 120,000.
In Egypt, he used the wind and the waves to destroy the thousands of Egyptian chariots chasing the Jews.
In the small town of Dothan, his prophet Elisha was trapped, but not a single human soul came to save him. For that God used chariots of fire and angels of vengeance.
But none of those are anything compared to his greatest battle.
Jesus fought millions of billions of sins and death and the devil, all by himself.
He didn’t use a sword. In fact, as the battle started he told his disciples to put their swords away. They did and they ran away. He was betrayed, abandoned, beaten, scorned, whipped, and crucified. He died!
But – with that dead body, he won a war. He came out of the grave and won salvation.
It means that if you have been trapped in Patriology, if you have been trusting in nation rather than God, God is ready to forgive. He defeated your sins. By faith in him, you are forgiven. You are victorious. You are a part of his heavenly kingdom.
III. WHAT NOW?
1) Redefine Patriotism
Webster’s dictionary defines patriotism as (sorry if that sounds like a lame segue for a speech) “the love of one’s country.”
You are American. Love your country. But you are a part of a country much greater than that. A country that you’ll be a part of, if you travel abroad, if you move to Mexico, if you retire in the Caribbean, even if America ceases to exist.
You are a part of God’s kingdom.
Take pride in that. Make that the conversation you have at work. Make that the encouragement you post on the internet. Brag on God’s kingdom and brag on your God.
God’s Word is often described like a mirror. A mirror shows you where you need some help. It tells me where I missed shaving and where I have some asparagus in my teeth. But too often in America, as Christians in America, we pick up the mirror and hold it like this. We run around telling others to look in the mirror and forget to look in the mirror ourselves.
Turn the mirror around. Reflect on your own attitudes and reactions. Reflect on how you’ve done wrong. Like King David – cry out: “Oh dear Lord, forgive me! Forgive me for my wrong doing.”
And then? Hear God’s Word of forgiveness. Reflect on his love. Reflect on his mercy. Reflect on how you can show his love and mercy to other citizens closest to you.
3) Get on Your Knees
That’s what King David did. When he saw the destruction that was coming on his country, he got on his knees and prayed. He prayed because of God’s mercy. He prayed for God’s mercy. God gave it.
Let’s do the same thing. Rather than getting on our feet and arguing with one another – let’s first get on our knees and pray. For God’s kingdom – for our country. Prayer for the salvation of souls in America. Prayer for the coming to faith of our leaders. Pray for opportunities to share his love in our land of North Raleigh.
Pray for God’s blessings on our nation.
Which is actually the very prayer that we will say in the very last hymn for today. Maybe you peeked. It’s God Bless Our Native Land.
Notice something about song. We are asking God to bless our native land.
Not our army.
Not the president.
God bless our native land. God bless the USA. God bless all of us in the USA.
Angry protests. Tens of arrests. Molotov cocktails. Smoke bombs. Tear gas. Riot Gear.
Nope, we’re not talking about gang violence. We’re talking about people desiring political change. And I’m not just talking about ISIS, Ukraine, or parts of Gaza. But even the heartland of America – Ferguson, MO has turned to violence to get answers.
Is this the way to deal with political problems? Is this the way to get answers from the government?
If it is, don’t you think we Christians should get to marching? Certainly you could make the case that government is turning against Christian values. There is a fear out there that this is not as Christian a nation as it used to be and it’s just plain harder to be a Christian than it used to be.
So should we join the trend? Do we need to make up degrading signs and march around the city? Shall we mix up some Molotov cocktails to throw at the limousines of government workers who vote against Christian values? Maybe we should break church early and go load up on assault rifles, take a Humvee to D.C. and attack the White House in the name of God?
Before we start a rebellion, let’s check to see what our leader wants us to do. When it comes to the government, you’ll find some of his marching orders in 1 Peter 2:13. Read it with me what the LORD inspired the apostle Peter to write, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority.”
1. What To Do.
Look at verse 13 again. It says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority.” We see that word “submit” and immediately think that there must be some kind of mistake. It should probably read “Sub…merge yourself in armor so that you can quickly attack the government,” or, “Sub…stitute your own ideas when you don’t like the ideas that the government has.” The Holy Spirit must have made a mistake.
Not so much. The Holy Spirit is God. He’s perfect. There is no mistake here.
Besides, this is not the only time submission to the government is listed in the Bible. It is repeated in Romans 13 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities.” It is a theme showcased by Daniel as he respectfully refused to pray to the King Darius. It is a theme lived out by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as they respectfully refused to bow down to a statue of the King of Babylon It is a theme modeled by Jesus himself as he dealt with Pilate. It is a theme of peace and respectful disagreement.
Peter repeats this theme and makes it more specific.
He says, first, to submit to the emperor or to those who rule. At the time Peter wrote this he was referring to the Roman emperor. An emperor who was non Christian. An emperor, who soon, would hate Christians and violently put them into jail.
What about us? We don’t have a king or an emperor. We have a president, a governor, and congress. You know…the people that our society and media encourage us not to submit to.
Those are the ones God encourages us to submit to.
Second, it says submit to those who punish. For first century Christians, this meant the governor. Think Pontius Pilate the guy in charge of crucifying Jesus. For us, it refers to police officers, the military, even judges. From the comical Judge Judy to the royal Supreme Court Justices.
Finally, it says submit to those who commend or praise those who do right. Think of the DMV who rewards you by not imposing fines on you if you keep the speed limit or the IRS who rewards you with tax breaks for installing eco friendly lighting throughout your home.
Submit to any and every authority on earth!
Notice that it doesn’t say, “Submit to every republican authority,” nor does it say, “submit to every democratic authority,” nor does it say, “submit to every authority that you agree with.” There is no difference to God. Authority is there because God placed it there.
But what if they do really, awful, anti-Christian things? What if they bad mouth God? What if they are unbelievers? …What if I don’t like them!
Think about this: If you have a boss that you like who is going on vacation and while he’s gone he puts someone else in charge. If you don’t like them, you might not listen to them. When your boss returns and asks why, you might say, “I didn’t like him being in charge. He was a bad choice.”
Who are you really complaining about? The guy in charge or the guy who put the guy in charge?
When we complain against the government, who are you really complaining about? The guy in charge or the guy who put the guy in charge?
Listen again to what Peter wrote: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority.” Not “Because I agree with them,” Not “Because they speak well.” Not “Because they hold my political perspective.” Submit to them because of God!
But shouldn’t the government have to submit to God?
Yes. Of course. They are to govern justly, fairly, and right in God’s eyes. If they don’t, they’ll have to answer to God.
But this section isn’t talking to the government. It’s talking to you. Don’t try to make it about the government. God’s Word today says, “Submit to the government out of reverence for God because God placed them in charge and he wants you to submit to them.”
When you think about it that way, it changes things. Because while a particular government official might not care much about you personally and your issues, God does. In fact, he cared so much about the biggest and deepest issue that you have – the issue of sin – that He came down to earth in order to save you from that sin. He personally –as the Almighty King above—walked into the fire of the problem. He took on sin and he defeated it for us with his death on the cross.
Talk about love!
By the way, He didn’t die for you to abandon you and stop loving you. Instead, He still cares for you – even through His choice of government. All He asks is that you trust Him.
2. But Why Do It this Way?
You might be asking, “OK, fine that’s what God wants. He wants me to submit to the government. But why? Why would God want us to do that? How can we have a Christian society if we don’t hostilely take over the things that aren’t Christian and make them Christian! Crusades style!”
Listen to God’s reasoning. In verse 14 it says, “It is God’s will that…you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” Because the truth is that there are a lot of unChristian views of the world. Both the Republican and the Democratic party have been fused with sinful ideas and attitudes.
God’s goal is to silence those. It is to turn off mouths, turn on minds, and open hearts to hear the message of Jesus. 1 Timothy tells us, “God our Savior wants all humans to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” That includes political parties, government officials, even that guy at work who thinks differently than you on political issues!
But listen to how God accomplishes silencing these mouths. He says, “by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.”
Unfortunately, that’s not how Christians usually read this verse. I fear that instead of trying to silence others with our actions, we usually to silence them with louder foolish talk.
That doesn’t work.
Sometimes the preschoolers get to talking at lunch. They get to talking and making funny noises that are so loud they totally forget to eat lunch. So – what I tried once was to make louder and sillier noises! I thought it would shock them into being quiet and eating their food.
That was probably one of my worst ideas of all time.
Why? It wasn’t quieter – it was louder. My voice added to the noise and they simply raised their voices in order to be heard!
Here then is the truth: Louder foolish talk doesn’t silence foolish talk. It just makes more noise. Think about how that works in America today. We think:
But here’s the scariest part. The devil loves angry words – especially when they come from Christians. He uses them to cloud an unbeliever's judgment. He uses angry words to say, “That Christian is a jerk and so is their Christ. What would I want to do with their Jesus?” He uses these words to harden an unbeliever's heart.
He uses you to harden an unbeliever’s heart.
Instead, deal differently with people. Respond to hateful political talk with loving actions. “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.”
Think of Jesus. The Pharisees and teachers of the Law bring Jesus to Pilate. They accuse him of being a rebel and inciter of hatred. They tell Pilate that Jesus is a danger to the Roman empire. They tell Pilate Jesus is a danger to his job. They tell Pilate that Jesus needs to die.
But Jesus didn’t throw the Pharisees under the bus. He didn’t call them names. He didn’t attack Pilate for being a pansy who didn’t stand up to the angry crowd of his citizens.
He remained silent. He remained gentle. He spoke patiently and lovingly to Pilate. He walked to his own death.
Why? Because Jesus always had his goal right. His goal was dealing with sin. His goal was saving you from your sin. His goal was winning for you eternal salvation at all costs – even if it cost Him a chance at political power! (Something that was never really on his mind in the first place.)
The point? Make your minds like Jesus’ mind. Make the salvation of others the most important part of your conversations – not Christian political power – but Christ’s power. Not a kingdom on earth – but the kingdom of heaven. Not Jesus’ reign in America – but Jesus’ reign in your neighbor’s heart.
Then, imitate Jesus. And perhaps your neighbor will begin to think, “You know, I used to think Christians are a bunch of judgmental, bigoted jerks. But…maybe Christians aren’t so bad. I like how kindly and nicely they have spoken to me about their differing opinions on politics. I’d like to hear more.”
Live lives of love. Silence foolish talk. Share Jesus.
3. How Do we Do it This Way
This is all easier said than done. The normal human reaction to vengeful words is to speak vengeful words back. How can sinful human people like us ever be expected to overcome our sinful attitudes and respond with graciousness?
Listen to God’s reminder: “Live as free people.” (v16)
Focus on that word ‘free.’ Remember this was written to Christians living under the Roman Empire. They weren’t free. So that word “free” isn’t referring to being in political freedom of democracy like we Americans are today.
What does it refer to?
Jesus said this at the start of his ministry, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim…freedom for the prisoners.” (Luke 4:18) But Jesus spoke to more than just prisoners. He spoke to merchants, market workers, farmers, fishermen, even church workers.
That’s because Jesus wasn’t proclaiming political freedom. He was proclaiming spiritual freedom. This is why he went from human to human proclaiming, “Your sins are forgiven. You are free from your sins.”
This is the same freedom Jesus speaks to you hear today. “Believe in me. Trust in what I’ve done. I have freed you from your sins. I died as a ransom that you would be released from your sins, from their eternal consequences, and from guilt…forever! Sin no longer rules you, I do!"
Think about it. Without Jesus, sin would rule over us. When people disagreed with us politically, sin would tell us to call them names. When the government upset us, sin would tell us to complain. When the president did something we didn’t like, sin would tell us to curse Him!
But Jesus freed you from that! Sin no longer rules over you. You are free! And how you use that freedom is of the utmost importance to God. Verse 12 says, “Do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; but live as God’s servants.”
If you were a slave under a tyrannical empire, waiting in solitude, gloom, and pestilence to be set free for years, then you are set free as an opposing army breaks the power of the empire. Would it make any sense…any sense at all to say, “I’m free! So I’m going to find that tyrannical leader and ask him, if he can mistreat me and I can be his slave again!”
Of course not! Why then would you return to sin and evil after having been set free from it!?
Instead, remember who rules you. It isn’t sin. It’s Jesus, your Lord of love.
This means you don’t have to listen to your sinful desires. They aren’t in control of you.
Peter concludes with a final imperative for the People of God. In verse 13 he writes, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”
Think about what Peter is saying as he lists ways of honoring God. Honoring Government = Honoring God.
But it isn’t as if the Spirit isn’t calling us to battle. He is. Just with different weapons: the Sword of the Spirit. The helmet of salvation. The love of Jesus.
Stage a rebellion then. In America – in Raleigh – start a rebellion with God’s Word. Use it. Live it. Share it.
Is there a dirtier word in the English language?
"They cheat us. They take more than they need. They use it for what I don't want them to use it for. They use it foolishly. There are billions of dollars they owe. They can't expect me to pay for it."
This was the same attitude of many Jews under the Roman government. In fact, a certain sect of men had been teaching that because the government was foreign and heathen, they shouldn't have to pay taxes to Caesar.
The Pharisees knew this. They knew people hated taxes. They also knew the government hated people who didn't pay taxes.
So they made a plan:
20 Keeping a close watch on him, the Pharisees sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Tricky, huh? Get Jesus to say "no taxes" and that means he's a rebel worthy of arrest. Get Jesus to say "pay taxes" and that means he's upset his own crowd. He would be no longer worthy to be followed.
But Jesus is smarter than that.
23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent. (Luke 20:20-26)
Jesus shows his divine wisdom. He knows that his followers are called to serve in two kingdoms at once. He knows that they are citizens of the government and citizens of God's kingdom. This is true even if the government is non Christian like the Roman government that Jesus lived under.
Romans 13 tells us "No authority exists except that which has been established by God." That means God put our government in place for us. They are his representatives. They are to care for us and protect us.
In return, God asks us to support them. To pray for them. To respect them. To obey them. To...yep...pay taxes.
You get paid for doing your job? Shouldn't they get paid for doing theirs? To do otherwise, would be to slap God in the face and say, "I don' t like what you have established."
Because as Jesus said, "What is God's is God's."
And what is God's?
Yes, when the government rebels against God and promotes goes against God's plans -- that's on them. And in a democratic society where you have free speech and a vote that counts, you should certainly exercise it.
But today Jesus calls you to give what you owe the government to the government-- support, honor, respect, even taxes.
Why listen to Jesus?
Because that's what you owe Him.
PRAYER: Lord, thank you for my government. Thank you for the freedoms you have given me to worship you in the United States. Please bless our president, our congress, our governor, our military, and all the public servants who serve us. Lord lift up my heart to give them honor and respect even when I disagree with them and please, Lord, guide them to govern as Godly men and women with Godly hearts. When I am nervous about how things are going, then, Lord, help me to turn to you. Because you are always in control as my all loving, all knowing, all caring and all powerful Savior. To you be all glory, praise and honor. Amen.
If you haven't heard by now, the United States Government has "shutdown." The House and the Senate were unable to agree on a spending plan and so...without this plan in place...government jobs have been temporarily cut.
National Parks are closed. You have to wait to get a Federal home loan. You won't be seeing many work site inspectors on duty. You won't even be able to get your tax questions answered by the IRS hotline.
From all the pundits and news sources available, you will learn that the longer the shutdown goes on the more we will be affected.
This all may be a bit disheartening and extremely confusing. With less people working under Homeland Security, will the government be able to thwart attacks? Will the Center for Disease Control be able to spot dangerous outbreaks? Will people still receive all of the support and benefits they were promised? How long will all of this last?
Thankfully there is One Ruler who is still at work.
Jesus said it this way, "My Father is always at work to this very day even now as I too am working." (John 5:17)
In other words: God is NOT shut down.
His all powerful hands are still protecting us from all evil.
His incredible knowledge is still guiding all things for the good of those who love him.
He is still healing diseases of every variety.
He is still providing rain and sun when necessary.
He is still ready to answer any and all cries for help.
He is continuing to pour out all of the benefits that he promised in Jesus: forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation.
And he will always be doing this!
He never tires, because he's eternal. He never makes poor decisions, because he's all knowing. He never is unable to do something, because he is all powerful! He keeps blessing our nation even when the majority of people want to give him a disapproval rating, because of his intense love for us!
For example, look at one of the roughest days of work that God ever had: While still controlling the weather, feeding the birds, taking care of the atmosphere, commanding tens of thousands of angels, and repeatedly defending against the devil, he also was slated to die. He dealt with all of your sins and mine. He worked through hell on earth in order to save you and me. He died!
Yet, he didn't stop working. The earth still revolved around the sun. The stars stayed in their places. Photosynthesis still was in production! For goodness sake: EVEN DEATH COULDN'T HOLD GOD BACK!
And on the third day, God in Jesus came back to life. He proved that his work wasn't in vain. He proved that his work on Good Friday would bring about eternal life to all who believed in him. Then, 40 days later, he ascended into heaven where he sits on the Eternal Throne to rule all of our universe.
What's the point?
If you're nervous about the government shutdown, look at the bigger picture. Look at the Incredible Ruler of the Universe. There's no job he can't handle. He'll never malfunction. He's totally trustworthy. He absolutely wise. He'll never come to an impasse in which he has to shut down his love.
He's always working for you.
PRAYER: Dear Lord above, please take care of us. In the midst of this strange political climate, bring peace. Guide us all with your incredibly loving hand. Show love to our nation because of your mercy. Forgive our sins. Watch over us with your eternal palms of power. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.