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So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, "Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?"He replied, "The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere--in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." -- Acts 1: 6-8 (NLT)
This one was not hard to see coming. The Christian leadership landscape has long been beholden to the Republican Party in American politics. It seems for decades now God has tested His church to see if they will turn away from hoping in man and once again hope in Him. Not for any temporal aspirations but rather for the eternal life we should enjoy as citizens of heaven. The unfortunate reality is that for many Christians our heavenly citizenship is treated as something yet to come while we spend our energies still believing we are citizens on this earth first. The idolization of America is one of the fundamental lies destroying the body of Christ in this country and this is never more apparent than during a presidential election season. The notion that this was ever a Christian nation is to deny the Bible and American history. We are not charged with saving this nation. We are not charged with preparing it for Christ's return. We are not charged with occupying it. We are like Lot. We pitched our tents towards Sodom because we were enticed by its excess and the next thing we knew we were living in it. Wait a minute preacher! Are you saying we are not citizens of this country? No. I am saying God has said that:
Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. -- Philippians 3: 17-21 (NLT)
The Apostle Paul had a very simple leadership style. It did not require seminars and annual conferences. He did not tap into the brilliance of secular leaders in the many successful countries he visited. It was "follow me as I follow Christ." Patterns your lives after mine and learn from those who follow this example. To behave otherwise is to live as an enemy of the cross of Christ. To constantly defend and place your faith in the men of this world is to head towards destruction. I have seen over the last few weeks an exponential explosion of pastoral and church leadership figures flocking to prop up Donald Trump as the man Christians should be voting for. Bragging about shameful things as these verses indicate. Concerned only about our lives here on earth. Beloved we are citizens of heaven! We eagerly await the return of our Lord Jesus Christ not some pie in the sky vision we have of what this country once was. He will bring everything under His control and here is this week's deep theology -- He doesn't need our help. It is only human arrogance that would think He does.
So it really seems that God has been testing us. In 2012 He gave Christians an unwinnable choice. Another four years of one of the most liberal Christians this country has ever seen or a member of a satanic cult. Mitt Romney is a living descendent of one of the 12 founding apostles of Mormonism. This false religion was founded by a pedophile who claimed that an angel led him in the woods behind his upstate New York home to golden tablets that had a new gospel written upon them that only he could read. Joseph Smith created Mormonism based upon this lie. He added this new false gospel to the written Word of God and even today Mormons consider the Pearl of Great Price and the Book of Mormon as more important than the Bible itself. Mormonism believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers, that God came from another planet and that we can become Gods. These are the beliefs held by Mitt Romney. So what did Christians do? They voted for him. Christian leadership bragged about voting for him. They celebrated it. They posted memes all over Facebook disparaging or even lying about the current president. Articles came out fast and furious about the dire nature of this election. False prophets started declaring Romney was God's choice. That the Mormon was God's choice. Even the legendary Billy Graham removed Mormonism from his list of cults. Remember what God Himself said about new gospels, even if given by angels!
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. -- Galatians 1: 6-9 (ESV)
Do not tell me God does not see all time. These verses seem to be writing about the tall tales of Joseph Smith thousands of years before Smith was born. Beloved please understand me. This writing does not mean that I suggest that Barack Obama was any more of a Christian option than Mitt Romney. No more than Hillary Clinton would be. As always Christians are left with choosing between the lesser of two evils. Spurgeon once said that when forced to make that choice he chooses not to. That choosing evil is always unacceptable. At the very least we should not be seen celebrating our evil choice. We should not be in the business of trying to convince other Christians to choose our evil choice as well. We should not be defending our evil choice. Oh and for all of those pastors and Christian leaders who think they are cute by only posting negative things about one candidate the same standard applies. Constantly destroying one candidate is your tacit approval of the other. Be careful what you are caught endorsing beloved. I have said it before. This country is the Titanic and we are arguing over who is best fit to navigate it into the icy depths. It doesn't matter!
There are always interesting parallels that can be drawn from the narratives found in the Bible. In the days of Jesus Christ the Jewish people were occupied and oppressed by the Roman Empire. While the government of the United States is not a totalitarian regime, they are just as foreign to the church as Rome was to the Jews. Or at least they should be. As pilgrims and sojourners through this world, the church's existence is similar to the Jewish people living under Roman rule. Please, I am not saying this from a standpoint of real oppression but rather of political oppression. What we ought to believe as Christians is simply rejected by the country we live in. We are essentially occupied by a force that rejects us. In the days of Jesus it was so bad that the Jewish people were desperately seeking their Messiah as someone who would deliver them from the rule of Rome. They wanted a secular deliverance. Their leadership was compromised though. Their leadership was in bed with their oppressors in many ways.
The church today is also seeking a Messiah to deliver them from their perceived oppression from our occupying government. The problem is they keep looking for the Messiah from the political choices the world gives us instead of the Messiah we already are supposed to be serving. During the time of Jesus' ministry on earth the disciples constantly were hoping and asking if He was going to deliver them from Rome. But He had a far more important mission than carving out some temporal peace. Jesus came to deliver His people from their sins. He came to restore their eternal hope. But like the church today is so enamored with the world, so the Jews were enamored with their secular situation. Matthew 16 shows us a dramatic juxtaposition of eternal thinking versus carnal thinking:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." -- Matthew 16: 13-16 (ESV)
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." -- Matthew 16: 21-23 (ESV)
Realize that these stories are back to back in the same chapter. They more than likely occurred right after each other. The first exchange shows Peter properly focused on God instead of his own situation. The result is Jesus saying that He would give the keys to the kingdom of heaven to Peter. Before Peter can even feel good about answering this question correctly however, he is rebuked by Christ as being influenced by Satan himself! Why? Because the true cause of Christ was not as important to Peter as the temporal cause of deliverance from Roman oppression. Jesus tells them that He must face the cross and Peter says no. What is truly interesting is within the rebuke of Peter Jesus reveals the issue is that Peter is focusing on the things of man instead of the things of God.
So it goes today with the church and modern politics. We have a far greater responsibility than picking the next King of Sodom. We have the keys to the kingdom of heaven beloved! We have the Gospel of Jesus Christ which the Bible teaches us to the only power of God unto the salvation of man! And we withhold those keys by focusing on our earthly considerations first. Not to mention the damage done to our witness towards the lost. The Bible explicitly warns us:
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. -- 2Timothy 2: 23-26 (ESV)