Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Giving Thanks for the President
So the election is over. For many, their dreams are literally shattered, their anxiety has increased and fear will continue to rule their lives. Fear of immorality. Fear of debt. Fear of the government. I believe that on election nights in America if you listen hard enough you can hear the sounds of idols crashing down. It seems that for a time, many will put their hope and their dreams and their worship into an idea, an ideal, a country, a leader, a man. Let me ask a question - what does your dream country look like?
Have you put your hope in moral reform and "Christian values?" Would your mission be complete or even on target if your candidate (Mormon or not) had been elected and cleaned up the streets, cleaned up the debt, and cleaned up the moral fabric of our great country? Do you think that God's rule depends upon the election of a candidate? Dr. Michael Horton writes, "What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city? Over half a century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio. Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia (the city where Barnhouse pastored), all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday . . . where Christ is not preached." It doesn't matter if our country is morally sound if Christ is not preached. I really, honestly and whole-heartily believe that if just as many Christians were captured by the Gospel as they are by their favorite news station that the Gospel would be explosive.
I am quite certain that many Christians would agree that the Gospel is the most important issue. But I wonder if our rhetoric, our discussions and debates and our passions really reflect the importance of Christ preached above all things. I recently heard a pastor say that we are all intrinsically evangelists. We love to talk about the things that we are passionate about. We say things like, "I just saw the greatest movie ever! You must see it!" "I went to the best restaurant in the world! You must go there!" "My political party has all of the answers and will keep our country from being ruled by demons, barbarians and Satan himself! You must vote for him!" We are all heralding news. The news we are called to herald is not that a president can keep us from harm, but that Jesus Christ was harmed even unto death in order to keep us from eternal harm. Does your dream country include the Gospel going out to all people and changing hearts and lives?
Second, do you believe that God is truly sovereign. And I don't mean the kind of belief that says, "I know God is sovereign but I am angry, fearful, and unwilling to let go of my idols!" I mean a real understanding that electoral maps, political rhetoric and parties have no bearing on whether or not God is ruling. A President, a Senator, a Representative, a state comptroller, regardless of political affiliation or even doctrine and faith does not determine whether or not God is in control or ruling the world that God created. One who believes God is sovereign has peace and joy and is motivated by the Gospel. God still rules on the first Wednesday of November in America of every election cycle. The person that God appointed is in office. If God's candidate did not win then God is not God. If you believe God is sovereign then you can pray for the person that God has placed in authority over you.
In his first letter to his young pastor friend Timothy, Paul wrote, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for ALL people, for kings and ALL who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, GODLY and DIGNIFIED in every way. This is good, and it is PLEASING in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time."
Paul must have written this while under a good Christian leader right? No. Paul wrote these words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, while Nero was in control. This was the same Nero who tied Christians to streets poles and lit them on fire to light Rome's streets at night. This was the same Nero who was a product of incest and involved in incest. This was the same Nero who had most of his family killed out of fear. This was the same Nero who had Rome burnt to the ground. This was the same Nero who ruled over an empire where babies were routinely aborted, men kept boy slaves, marriage was in the toilet, immigrants weren't sneaking in but at war with the Empire, taxation was oppressive and you could be murdered in an arena along with your children for not calling Caesar god. What does this mean for us?
First, you must pray for President Barack Obama and every elected official. God has placed them in authority. His will was not overturned by the will of the American people.
Second, you must intercede for President Barack Obama and every elected official. Ask God to give him wisdom and to bless Him as He rules. Do you trust God enough that He can work all things together for His glory and purpose?
Third, you must thank God for President Barack Obama (to the sound of evangelical republican boos everywhere). Read the Scripture again. Thank God for the leader that He has placed over this country. I do not agree with many of our President's positions or many of the leaders of this country. And yet Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit says I must give thanks. Giving thanks for someone you disagree with can only come when you are at peace. Peace only comes through Jesus Christ. You cannot follow this command if your heart has not been radically changed by the Gospel.
Why must we do these things even if we voted a different way? So that you can live a peaceful and quiet life and that you might be godly and dignified in every way. Every way? Yes! Even on facebook, and twitter and at the family dinner table. Why is this so important to be godly even in political discussion? Why is it so important to pray for men and women that you do not agree with at the deepest levels? Why must you thank God for the men and women you wish to never hear from again?
First it is good and pleasing to Jesus Christ. Isn't that enough of an answer? And the reason it is pleasing to Jesus Christ is because you have been called to something greater than political rhetoric. You have been called to be an ambassador not of an elephant or a donkey, but an ambassador of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is simple, when we spew hatred and disrespect, we shut people down to the truth of who Jesus is and what he has done. When we are worshiping someone other than Jesus and then try to preach Jesus, people can read us like a badly written book. They see through the thin plot line.
Second, there is one God, and one mediator between God and man. That is Christ Jesus - not any elected official, dictator or ruler. If you really believe that there is one mediator between God and men, then you will have no problem praying for, interceding for and thanking God for the leaders He has placed over us.
I am not a political man. I don't believe that the change we need will ever come from laws - laws may restrain human sin but it will never save anyone. I love our country. I love that I can preach the Gospel freely. I love the concept of democracy. But what I hope drives me and what I hope to share with you is the good news that there is one God in control and that we have access to God through Jesus Christ. This is good news indeed.