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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Some things this election has not changed!

 We have just completed a long and tiring election season.  Typically I look forward to end of such so that the commercials and mailings will end.  As with so many elections, it is clear that our nation is seriously divided.  Whether or not that will change in the coming years remains to be seen and depends upon many things.

Regardless of whom you voted for and why (and this lesson is NOT intended to take sides), one thing is sure: As Christians we ought to be very concerned at the direction this country (and the world) is headed morally.  It is no secret that we are in trouble spiritually.  Our moral compass is broken on many fronts.  Many of the decisions that are being made are based upon greed and selfishness.  Ungodly conduct such as homosexuality, abortion on demand, substance consumption, pornography and gambling are winked at or tolerated as the “new normal”.  Such things grieve me as a Christian because they are the types of things that lead to the destruction of societies and souls.  Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”  Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; Who put darkness for light and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

WE are blessed to live in a country where we have a say in who leads us and the laws that are established.  Our constitution is set up in such a way that every qualified citizen (and it is an overwhelming majority) can vote on both their representatives and various laws that will govern us.  It truly is one of the blessings we enjoy, as we can have a say about the moral direction we are headed in.  Over time, we are going to win some and lose some.  Sometimes these elections will be ugly and divisive.  BUT, no matter how an election turns out, there are some things that have not changed.  This morning I would like to discuss a few of these.

NOTE:  In this lesson I am not seeking to discuss who or what you voted for.  That was your decision and we each have to live with whatever that is (i.e. there are some who think you shouldn’t vote at all), but I certainly hope that when it comes to some of the issues we have mentioned above there is agreement in favor of God’s moral will.  This lesson is a message about some things that ought not to change.

 I.                    God is in control

a.     He always has been and always will be.  God created this world by His word and He sustains it by the same word.  When things don’t go the way we want them to, we need to remember this.

b.    Rom. 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Now I realize that the ultimate message of this text is dealing with spiritual matters and God’s will, but the reason that is so is because He is in control.
Job 42:2, when Job was finally humbled one of the first things he said was, “I know that you can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.”

c.     But that doesn’t mean that He is not going to allow ungodliness and its consequences.  We are creatures of free-will. Prov. 21:30 says, “There is no wisdom or understanding or counsel against the Lord.  When we look at moral decay we know that the statement is not saying man cannot choose to reject God’s counsel in his life, but ultimately, he will NOT defeat God’s purpose for mankind. 

d.    Friends, it is the purpose of God that needs to govern our lives.  What is that purpose?  Consider 1 Tim. 2:4 says that God, “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  (cf. Matt. 18:14, etc.) 

 

II.                  Our duty to honor, submit to and pray for those in authority –

a.     In this world there are many different types of governments – democracy, republics, socialist, communist, theocracy, etc.  The times in which the Bible was written involved different types of government – yet the type of government did not change the charge to obey the laws and show respect for its leaders.  As you study God’s instructions concerning governments, you find that the idea of government came from Him (Rom. 13:1-2) and is sanctioned regardless of its structure.  We may not like the direction our government is headed or our leaders, but they are still our leaders and it’s still our government.  WE have to render due respect.

b.    1 Peter 2:13-17 – we are commanded to submit to “every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good...Honor all people.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God. Honor the King.”   Friends, we are subject to our rulers, whether we like it or not.  And we are to submit to our leaders and to treat them with respect, whether we like THEM or not!

c.     1 Timothy 2:1-3 – clearly calls for us to pray for all men, and “for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence…

d.    Acts 5:29, of course we understand the one exception to that is, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” 

III.               Our loyalty to Christ above all attachments

a.     Acts 5:29 leads us to our next point – our loyalty to putting Christ FIRST ought not to change.  The world is filled with selfish pursuits.  It is amazing to me how many people vote based upon selfish pursuits.  In other words, they ask, “What’s in it for me?” and vote themselves entitlements, permission to commit sin, etc.  And that is the way many live as well.  They give little consideration to how their actions will affect others both now and in the future.   But as Christians, such ought not be our goal.

b.    Even in this crooked and perverse generation, we must never forget to put Christ first.
 In Matt. 6:33, Jesus taught, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” 

c.     Paul in Philippians 3:20-21 reminds us that our citizenship is in heaven.   This comes after he speaks of having given up those things of earthly gain. 

d.    2 Cor. 5:1-8, esp. vs. 1, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…”

 

  IV.                Our mission to proclaim that Jesus is Lord

a.     I sometime am amazed at how excited some people get about politics, or other worldly pursuits, such as sports or some hobby or business venture.  We sometimes comment, “If only they were that enthusiastic about proclaiming the message of the Lord.”  AMEN!  The election is over and we can’t change that.  Will we dwell on it, or will we seek to glorify the Lord by proclaiming His word?

b.    Ephesians 1:20-22 speaks of how far above the world our Lord is.  Do we share this with others?   As people become bothered with immorality around them, there is opportunity to proclaim something much better than what those of this world have to offer.

c.     I’m reminded of Paul in Acts 17:16-19 where Paul in Athens preached Jesus and the resurrection to both Jews and Gentiles.  Wherever he went, the first thing he did was find a place to proclaim Jesus. (cf. Ac. 17:1-4)

d.    We ought not to depend upon our government providing us the right circumstances to proclaim Christ.  We preach Christ Jesus crucified to all mankind and that IS our mission.

 

  V.                  Our need to be a godly example

a.     Never underestimate the power of a godly example.  As we have already noted, we live in a selfish society. But that doesn’t change the way we ought to treat others OR the results of living a godly example.

b.    Ephesians 5:8-9 reminds us to walk as children of light which means being influenced by the fruit of the Spirit.

c.     Philippians 2:14-16 reminds us to become “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life,…”  Matt. 5:16 reminds us that by our godly example, God can be glorified.

d.    Friends, if we are bothered by the direction our society is headed, the answer is not going to be merely in exercising our right to vote, or even engaging in activism.  While those things serve a useful purpose, the best way to change society is one person at a time, by winning them to Christ.  AND that requires a godly example.   And that includes our emails, social media posts and conversations.

 

  VI.                Our need to expose wickedness when we see it.

a.     This is one area where some may fall a little short.  As we defend our Lord, we need to speak the truth, even when it is uncomfortable or unpopular. 

b.    The scriptures speak of  the persecutions and sufferings Christians will face.  In 2 Tim. 3:12 bluntly says, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecutions.” 
Peter dealt with this in detail in 1 Peter.  Warning the brethren that they might suffer, Peter observed that such can bring glory to God.  1 Pet. 4:1-3 speaks of what Christ suffered for us (as an example).  This is followed by Peter’s challenge for us to give up the ungodliness of this world, even that which we used to be engaged in.  Then in 1 Pet. 4:12-16 he speaks of suffering as a Christian.
Friends, while these texts do not tell us to go looking for trouble, we are told that if we stand for what is right, trouble will find us.  And we need to stand for what is right. 

c.     We CANNOT let the fear of reprisal keep us from exposing error.  Consider:
Eph. 5:11-12 which says, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.  For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.”

d.    Acts 19:18-20, 21-27 – In Ephesus, Paul exposed the sinful practices of idolatry and witchcraft.  He was successful as he preached the truth.  The result was the burning of magic books totaling 50,000 pieces of silver.  BUT, as you continue to read, those affected by Paul’s preaching did not take it lightly.  Instead they caused trouble for Paul and those with him.  MY point: Don’t let wickedness around you keep you from speaking up against it!  It doesn’t matter how wicked a society becomes a part of our message is to condemn evil.  How truly sad it is that many churches have lost this trait for fear of consequences.

 

 VII.             Our need to treat one another as brethren

a.     The final point I want to notice is to remind us that we are brethren.  And we need to act like it.  Heb. 13:1 says simply, “Let brotherly love continue”.  Jesus taught His disciples, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:24) 

b.    We need to cherish our relationship with one another as brethren above all other things.  The book of 1 Corinthians was written to a church consumed with problems.   Paul began that letter pleading for their unity.  (1 Cor. 1:10-13).   He told the churches of Galatia, “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another.”  (Gal. 5:15)

c.     One thing we must all reluctantly accept as a result of this past election is that we are a very divided nation.  We are divided politically and socially.  BUT, will we let political and social differences interfere with the way we treat one another as brethren? WE better think long and hard before we let such things divide us.  As I read the scriptures, I do not find Jesus endorsing one sect over the other.  He wasn’t a member of any of them either.  I simply think this is something for us to consider before we jump to conclusions about the motives of others.  The nation is bitterly divided over these matters – I do not think that they need to see brethren acting ungodly toward one another over these things.  Just think about it please!

As I began this lesson I mentioned a number of things that OUGHT not to change.  Clearly, these things are God’s will and that will NEVER change.  But many of the things mentioned we have control over how we execute them in our lives.  Are we standing with God or against Him?  Joshua 24:15.  Think about it.