Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (cf. 9:10). Do you see an interesting connection? Knowledge of the Lord’s ways dispels fear, but the beginning of knowledge is fearing the Lord? Could it be the more we fear displeasing God and approach Him with reverential awe, the greater He will appropriate Himself in our lives? And the more we have of God, the less we will battle the short-lived, trivial fears of the world? Could it be that if we fear God there will be no one and nothing else left to fear? Wasn’t this the teaching of Jesus? “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt. 10:28).
Augustine rightly said, “Fear is the response of the human heart when its one thing is threatened.” God has blessed all of our lives with many good things. We are to enjoy them and acknowledge God in gratitude, but we dare not make these good things our “one thing”, for in doing so, they become idols in our hearts. Like Augustine said, when we foolishly make these good things our one thing, fear will result when they are threatened. As a matter of fact, fear, worry, and anxiety are a good indication that we have created idols and feel in danger of losing them. Therefore, Christ’s goal is to pull our heart away from these false gods and place our heart on the true God. Do you remember how Jesus praised Mary over Martha? Why? Because she chose God as her one thing. “But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things [and they were good things!]; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her‘” (Lk. 10:41-42). So when God is our one thing, we never need to fear because our one thing is never threatened nor will He ever be removed from our presence.
Satan hates God’s children. It is his utmost ambition to see us fail in our spiritual responsibilities. Specifically, his goal is to do whatever it takes to take us off the spiritual front lines. Doubt. Distractions. Greater love for other things. Sin. Laziness. It’s subtle, its strategic, it’s sinister. His methods are predictable, but missed by those spiritually asleep and not alert. That’s why we read in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Grace is not just necessary for salvation but also for our living on a day-to-day basis. God’s grace gives us spiritual strength, encouragement, direction, hope, and wisdom to persevere with our eyes on the Lord resulting in joy, peace and spiritual productivity.
God has a fixed will. The world is not governed by theoretical possibilities. Yet we are commanded to pray, and our prayer has value. It’s woven into His sovereign will. We joyfully bring our desires to the Father. However, we submit ourselves to Him for the outcome. Like Jesus in the Garden, we pray His will, not our will be done.
God loved the unlovable. We show the love of Christ in us by loving all people, especially the one we vowed to love until parted by death. Especially the one, that between the two of us, models the Gospel (Christ’s love for His bride, the church) for the whole world to see.
As Christians, we are told to be evenly yoked, specifically, to marry another believer. There are many talented, sacrificial, hard-working, and kind unbelievers out there. But the reality cannot be overlooked. The unbeliever in biblical terms hates your Savior. There is no neutrality with the Lord. How could you ever what to spend the rest of your life with someone how hates the One you love the most? How could you ever come to agreement on any key worldview issues. It’s impossible. Wait for God’s best!
When it comes to fighting for Christ’s cause, the only sword we should be wielding is: Ephesians 6:17, “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Our offensive weapon is the Bible. We don’t swing it broadly like Peter. We handle it with precision. We apply and share specific verses to specific situations as Jesus demonstrated when temped in the wilderness. The power is in the Word of God “for [only] the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). This is how we advance our Lord’s kingdom unlike the world and many religions today.
Satisfaction will never come if we claim to have God, but then quench our souls on the short-lived, inadequate pleasures of this world. These “thirst quenchers” are really spiritual poison and are condemned by our Lord. Through the Prophet Jeremiah, God said, “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Our only hope comes if we can “thirst” and “yearn” to drink from the living God. As Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (Jn. 7:37).
We are all searching for satisfaction and we will never find it until we seek and savor the Lord. Our heart demands an infinite satisfaction which can be supplied only by an infinite Person.
When skeptics have tried to disprove Christianity, they most often aim their gums at the Resurrection. Disprove the Resurrection and our entire faith crumbles. Even the Bible supports that! But yet when under close and critical scrutiny, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ has the greatest support. Many knew the right tomb to enter as eyewitnesses of Jesus’ burial. The disciples were not hallucinating. They didn’t steal the body. How could they have overcome the guards? Moreover, they didn’t even believe there would be a resurrection. The Romans were masters at killing people. They ensured Jesus was dead. They had no reason to steals the body. Their reputation was on the line. And the Jews actually feared a fake resurrection. They would have been the last ones to remove the body. Everyone wanted to see the body in the grave that Sunday morning, included the women who first visited. No one could produce the body once it disappeared. As possibly the silliest belief – the so-called “Swoon Theory.” That Jesus never died, was revived from the cold air in the tomb, pushed aside the massive stone by Himself from the inside and as a weakened and bloody mess convinced the disciples He was the victorious risen Lord.
I love to analyze Jesus, the greatest teacher in action. For Him, it was not just about “dumping” information. He engaged His students with gentle love and masterful skill. Finding out where His audience stood and having them express it for themselves. Allowing them to share their thoughts, feelings, concerns and questions. Talking them through their situation. Taking passive listeners and creating active listeners. Instilling a desire to know truth. Always guiding the conversation to a spiritual emphasis. Using an appropriate and strategic economy of words.
Christian, it does not need to be this complicated! Do you really think the infinite lover of our soul has neither the desire nor power to keep you from despair? Didn’t He promise you His joy (Jn. 15:11)? Didn’t He promise you true life? So, not to minimize any of our trials, but when we despair, we can’t blame God. The trial is only made worse through our own choices and ignorance or unwillingness to do it God’s way and His ability to bring joy despite and through the trial (Jas. 1:2). We choose the bad attitude. We choose the unhealthy conversations. We choose to the bad theology. We chose to be ignorant of biblical teaching. We choose to exhibit unbelief in the promises of God.
We begin with receiving and then rightly understanding Scripture in our minds. But before we apply the Bible, it must first engage our hearts. Without the mind, biblical application is based on flimsy and deceptive emotions. Yet without the heart, biblical application is based only rote duty and obligation. It’s never hearts informing our minds, but rather minds informing our hearts. Then when we obey, it’s a correct application of Scripture that comes from the affections – loving God with all of our hearts.
Maybe we need to realize our sins are more numerous and more offensive to God than we’d like to admit, but at the same time realize His power to forgive, simply on the basis of grace even further exceeds the enormity of our offense. Maybe we are far worse than we ever thought, but He is far more merciful than we ever imagined.
Though every other world religion teaches it, and there are many false churches under the guise of Christianity that are willing to accommodate it, the Bible knows nothing about earning God’s favor. The reason is because we can’t. God is so perfectly holy. He simply can’t accept an ounce of sin in His presence. He’s not looking to bestow eternal life on those who think they are righteous as some sort of a reward. He’s looking for those who acknowledge their own rebellion and look to Him to receive His righteousness as a gift by running to Him for complete rescue.
The clear commands in the Bible trump the prerogatives of society, the power of feelings, the precedence of experience and the persuasiveness of others.
So, God wants you to have a convictions. God wants you to love Him with all your mind and seek to live for His glory with a clear conscience in all the gray areas of the Christian life that we are dealing with these days. But remember, our convictions must not contradict Scripture and should be in line with general biblical principles. They should be wise and not unnecessarily ruin our relationship with unbelievers. And they should obey God-given authority and not cause another believer to sin.
Does it pass the “Good Test”? Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” So, when you consider your belief about a particular issue is it true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise? Does it pass the “Love Test”? 1 Corinthians 16:14, “Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 13:2, “But do not have love, I am nothing.” As much I would like to do so, probably not a good idea to blast music at my neighbor’s home this morning to get them back for their loud party that when until 3 am. Does it pass the “Conscience Test”? 1 Timothy 1:19, “Keeping faith and a good conscience.” There is so much in Scripture about being careful to never violate our conscience. For example, everyone in the church can talk about watching a certain movie, but if you begin watching it and you begin feeling spiritually uncomfortable, regardless of how innocent the movie many be intended, you must not go against your personal conscience because the more you compromise your personal conscience, the more you will sear the spiritual sensitivity of your heart. Does it pass the “Profitable Test”? This means, just because something is not expressly commanded or forbidden in Scripture, it does not mean that action is necessarily profitable for your walk with Christ. We avoid legalism, but we also avoid the “can’t find anything against it in the Bible” to support all our decisions. 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” And 1 Corinthians 10:23, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”
Because we are in Christ, there are no longer any hostilities in us that will always exist between those in the world. Ephesians 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” We don’t employ the trite, superficial and flawed tactics of the world. Many of them are now championed more than ever in our day. We understand that the blood of Christ has cleansed us from our sin and has adopted us into His family. Thus, we see others different from us as part of the family of God, forgiven as we have been forgiven. We accept each other because God has accepted all of us. Our unity is not what we look like, but rather who we are in Christ. “[Christ] Himself [made] the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity” (Eph. 2:15b-16).
The unity of the church is to be a reflection of the unity of the one God upon which the church is built. As God is perfectly unified within Himself and we are perfectly unified in Him and with each other in Christ, the church should model that oneness in all our actions. Church unity flows from the fact that we are bound to God and to one another by the Gospel.
- We must exercise our privilege and responsibility to vote.
- We must educate ourselves regarding the platforms of the candidates (what do they believe?).
- We must pray and cast our vote in good conscience.
- We must trust God that in His sovereignty, ultimately is the one who appoints leaders.
- We are not to let politics divide our church or hinder our Gospel outreach.
- We must remember that God can use evil leaders to accomplish His eternal plans.
- We must trust that God will in all things bring good to His people.
- We must submit to whomever is appointed to be our next President.
- We must remember that our highest King is the Lord, Jesus Christ.
- We must vote not according to feelings or popularity, but rather biblical principles.
- Law and order. According to Romans 13, this is God’s calling for civil authorities – to reward good and punish evil.
- Sexuality. Where does he/she stand on the biblical definition of marriage between one man and one woman, gender as created by God and the curriculum introduced to our children?
- Character. Though we are not electing a pastor, does the man/woman keep his/her word, respect others, deal justly, promote biblical virtues, help the needy, make wise decisions and act as a peacemaker?
- Effectiveness. Is he/she a proven leader? Will he/she do what is best for the economy, military, environment, education system and health care. Will he/she appoint conservative justices and strictly follow the Constitution?
- Religious Freedom. Does he/she support the church respecting our freedom to worship? Will he/she support our religious convictions, free speech and private education? Will he/she aid Christians persecuted oversees?
- Sanctity of life. Does he/she stand for the sacredness of life extending from the unborn to the elderly? Will he/she seek to abolish tax-payer funding for abortion?
When Christ raises the bar in the New Covenant to love others as He loves us (John 13:34-35), He provides the Holy Spirit. And that power, in the Person of the Holy Spirit is reigning in the life of every believer. As we yield to the Spirit, He bears fruit in our life enabling us to obey and hence fulfill the commandment to love one another because the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love (Gal. 5:22). Displaying this love then becomes no longer a duty or a chore, but rather the natural overflow of God’s love already in our heart vertically given, flowing back to God and horizontally from us to others.
Most humans have it backwards. Salvation does not exalt the goodness of our heart for God, Salvation exalts the goodness of God’s heart for us. And salvation is not based on our works for God, rather salvation is based on God’s works for us.
Christ shed His tears for those who shed His blood!
If you really wish to follow the heart of God, be merciful! Luke 6:36, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” If you really wish to get mercy, be merciful! Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” If you really wish to do what is best for yourself, be merciful! Proverbs 11:17, “The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.” If you really wish to show wisdom, be merciful! James 3:17, But the wisdom from above is…full of mercy.”
The Bible is chalked-full of verses that describe our Creator as a God of mercy. “The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:8-9). The Bible describes His mercy as “great” (1 Pet. 1:3), “abundant” (Psm. 86:15), “tender” (Lk. 1:78) and “everlasting” (Psm. 103:17). God is forever extending mercy to His children and even to those who blaspheme His name (Psm. 145:14-16; cf. Mt. 5:45; Lk. 6:35; Ac. 14:17; 17:25). We should thus not be surprised that the Bible calls God the “Father of mercies” (2 Cor. 1:3).
God created sound and creation glorifies the Lord by the noise that it makes from the beautiful singing of a bird to the loud roar of a lion. This is about created purpose whereby God has created a symphony of praise to Himself. And who should be sitting “first chair,” following the divine conductor with the most specific and most intentional song? The thunderclaps? The raging ocean? It is those whom He has created to enter a personal relationship with Him – humans! Unlike the rest of creation, we have experienced His love. We have received His Word. We have feasted upon His goodness. We have understood His glorious attributes. We have rested in His promises. Our only response to God is to burst into songs of praise.
Creation, as done often in Scripture, is personified as always responding rightly to God. Verse 13 and 28 of Psalm 104 talk about creation being satisfied, creation obeying God (verse 19) and creation waiting on God (verse 27). Verse 32, “He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they smoke.” This speaks of a reverent response from creation simply due to a look or touch from its Creator. Obviously, creation does not think for itself, but the point is that God has hardwired creation to bring Him glory. And that not only shines light on God’s glory but is also casts shame on the human race. Reason being is because we have been created above the rest of creation with the ability to think for ourselves and for the distinct purpose of glorifying God. And while inanimate creation is satisfied with God, obeys God, waits on God and respects God, quite often humans, who should be first in line for the aforementioned do exactly the opposite (cf. Gen. 6:6).
God has given us creation not to ignore it or to worship it. Rather, God has given us creation to reveal, Romans 1, “His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature.” Creation is a means to display God and to behold His glory. Creation leads us to worship of God, praising Him for His greatness, beauty, order and design, just to name a few.
God’s sovereignty does not negate our responsibility. Just as sovereignty teaches us to reject chance and luck, sovereignty also must teach us to reject fatalism.
If someone or something holds any sway over God, if one atom is rebellious to God’s will, one bit of knowledge is unknown to God’s mind, one law is forbidding God’s desires, if anything prohibits God from accomplishing His universal plans, He is no longer sovereign. And if He is no longer sovereign, that which is able to oppose His will has now become greater than Him.
Prophets in the Bible are often outcasts, not rock stars.
According to Proverbs the wise individual is cautious, prudent and acts with knowledge, fears God and receives counsel. Whereas the fool ignores God, is arrogant and careless, delights in airing opinions, lacks sense, despises wisdom and instruction, is right in her own eyes, ungracious and abusive and is hasty in his words.
It might be stretching it a bit, but when we intentionally choose not to attend church, we are in effect “church disciplining” ourselves – removing ourselves from the collective safety of the church and handing ourselves over to Satan’s domain (cf. 1 Cor. 5:5, 13).
Our security is not in our own strength or feeble freewill, but in His strength and His will, it is not (as much about) us holding on to Him but the Good Shepherd holding on to us (Psm. 18:35).
Consider God’s faithfulness to His promises: We learn that all things do work together for good (Rom. 8:28). We learn that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). We learn that nothing will separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:35). We learn to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). We learn to trust in God’s character and not our circumstances. We learn no detail of our life is outside His loving purpose and sovereign control. We learn His solution far surpasses our most creative imagination. We learn God is often closest when we least feel His presence. We learn Hebrews 10:23 which calls us to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
Psalm 89:8 says He is clothed in faithfulness. Psalm 96:13 says He judges in faithfulness. Psalm 119:75 says He afflicts His children in faithfulness. Psalm 143:1 says He responds to prayer in faithfulness. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says He permits our temptations in faithfulness. 2 Corinthians 1:18 says He is faithful to His Word. Isaiah 25:1 says He is faithful to His plans. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 says He is faithful to protect us from Satan. 1 John 1:9 says He is faithful to forgive our sins. Psalm 145:13 says He is faithful to fulfill His promises. Psalm 119:86 says He is faithful in His commandments. 1 Peter 4:19 says He is faithful during our suffering. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says He is faithful to sanctify us. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says He is faithful to keep us saved. And 2 Timothy 2:13 says He is faithful even when we are not.
Satan, “the ruler of this world” (Jn. 16:11) is the (John 8:44) “father of lies” who (2 Corinthians 11:14) “disguises himself as an angel of light.” Therefore, following the world is subtle. It feels right. It brings approval from others when we do and condemnation when we do not. Yet following the world – the philosophies, the agenda, the trending narratives – are often contrary to God (1 John 2:15) and considered to be spiritual adultery toward God (Jas. 4:4).
When God created the world, Genesis 1:27 tells us that He “created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” We have been created with gender distinction, but not race distinction. We are all in the human race. And unlike the rest of creation, all humans have been made in God’s image. To elevate animals above humans or to elevate one skin tone above another, reveals a failure to understand and appreciate the intrinsic God-given value of all human beings.
The world can pull us into its grip. If we are not careful, Christians can allow the world to dictate our causes and our beliefs and our attitudes. We can easily get squeezed into its mold and while we intend well, the powerhouse of our actions becomes feelings, experiences or whatever is currently trending.
Emotionalism often only sees one side of a situation. Wisdom is able to look at a situation, carefully examine it from all angles and then present a comprehensive opinion. Wisdom is always looking to declare the bad, but seek to redeem it for good. After all, this is the process of God. Isaiah 5:20, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil.” While at the same time, our God brings good out of all situations for His glory and the benefit of His people (Rom. 8:28).
Perhaps most of all, our children need to hear that we love them. And why do we love them? Simply because they are our children. Period! They do not earn our love, nor can they lose our love regardless of what they do. This is modeling the divine love of God. Why does He love us? Because He chooses to do so. The love is unconditional and not based on our performance. And the Bible says the only reason we love Him is because He first loves us (1 Jn. 4:19). And how did He show that loved? Through His own sacrifice. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Children can easily see where your priorities are and where your love is directed.
In one sense we must demand the respect of our children as God commands it. But in another sense, we desire that we should earn the respect of our children. How do we do that? We trust them with the appropriate levels of responsibility. We guide, but permit them to make some of their own decisions. We pick them up when they fall. We commit ourselves to their mother. We do what we say. We confess our failures, asking for their forgiveness and admitting we do not have all the answers. We make them a priority with our time. We provide the proper boundaries. We protect them physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. We show that we believe in them and are pleased to have them as our children.
A good father would rather be seen unfavorable, than compromise what he knows to be right for his child’s well-being. It’s more about leadership than friendship. Greater trust is then given to the father as time proves the father not perfect, but often wise with his directives. And greater reception of the directives is received when children know it comes from a man who truly loves them, has their best interest in mind and practices what he preaches because that is the direction he is pursuing.
Parents, by nature, your children want to feel special. Will they learn that from you? And will you reject the superficial spoiling, self-esteem movement, permissive attitudes and worthless flattering in your efforts to achieve it? Start with God’s image. Then cultivate their love for God’s image. Then show Christ as the solution to repair God’s image. Nurture their relationship with Christ toward His causes. Only then will our children find their worth in life.
When Moses before the burning bush asked God His name, God replied, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14). We have an origin, but God has none. We must say, “By the grace of God, I am who I am,” but God can simply say, “I am who I am.” He is outside the realm of His creation and owes His existence to no one. God is self-existent.
Knowing God quenches the thirsty soul, satisfies the inquisitive mind, feeds our instinct to praise and directs our daily actions along the proper path.
From God’s perspective, there is much in us that makes us lovable. But since God has chosen to love us, He will continue to do so as long as He is love (1 Jn. 4:8). Remember beloved by God, God now accepts you not because of what you do but because of what He has done in Christ on your behalf.
Why is our union with our spouse the most important human relationship? Do we dare assume another human relationship is more important than our union with Christ which marriage represents? What’s wrong with adultery? Does that display the covenant fidelity that God has with His people? What’s wrong with fornication? Does intimacy with Christ happen before we have a covenant relationship with Christ? What’s wrong with homosexual or polygamous so-called marriages? Do those display Christ and His bride? Why do we have marital roles within marriage? Does the church lead Christ or does Christ lovingly and sacrificially lead the church? Why must spouses love and forgive one another? Does Christ do any less for the church? Why does God forbid divorce? Does Christ divorce the church or the church divorce Christ?
Marriage an earthly institution. It is a very good institution, but it is earthly, temporary in that is applies only to life in this world. Marriage is a sign to point to something far greater. So, when the fullness of time comes and evangelism ceases and we are perfectly redeemed and we are living in the reality of the gospel promises, there is no longer any need for the sign. We have already arrived at the destination.
Marriage is all of God’s doing. It is His institution, His definition of one man and one woman and His mysterious weaving of two people together as one. Marriage is from Him. Marriage is through Him. And marriage is for Him. The primary purpose of marriage is that it exists to display His glory. The primary purpose of marriage is to put on centerstage the relationship that He in Jesus Christ has for His bride, the church. Marriage is a visual illustration of the Gospel.
What is flattery? It is superficial, selfish pandering often used to get what someone wants. The goal is to elevate someone in their own mind in order to get them to say what you want to hear.
- Our Savior is Jesus Christ, not government. Government is not designed by God to provide our ultimate hope. It is to corrupt the mission of the church to think government can advance the cause of Christ. Throughout history, the church was often the strongest under repressive, pagan regimes. Our trust must be in the Lord. He is Lord over government. Only He is the Savior of the world.
- Our goal is evangelism. Though I understand the context is different, there is nothing in the Bible of the Apostles trying to overturn Rome. No calls to civil disobedience. Our primary goal is to see people transformed by the Gospel. Jesus Christ changing hearts is the greatest way to change a culture. As Jesus said, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Mt. 24:14).
- Human government is only a picture of Christ’s reign.
The government is called by God to punish evil, protect the innocent and reward good. But we all know there have been many regimes throughout history that have done just the opposite. They have punished good, hurt the innocent and rewarded evil. What God intended for good actually becomes the enemy of the people and often the church. Jesus in speaking of world leaders in the finals days said, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name” (Matt. 24:9). So is the institution of government bad? How do we view bad governments? This is a dilemma. The great theologian Augustine said that government is a necessary evil and that it is necessary because of evil. And most theologians in the history of the church have said that human evil is the reason even corrupt government is better than no government at all. Because it is run by sinful man, government will never ultimately be what God commands. Even the Kings in Israel and Judah barely got it right. However, because we are sinful, if government was removed there would be little restraining us from total anarchy. James Madison put it this way, “If men were angels there would be no need for government.”
What is our responsibility to government? First, Titus 3:1 – we are to be in subjection to their laws (cf. Rom. 13:1-5; 1 Pet. 2:13-15). I believe you have heard before that when the Apostles wrote for the need to submit to governing officials, the evil Roman leader Nero was in power who made it a pleasure of his to torture and kill Christians. Second, Romans 13:7 – we are to respect them (cf. 1 Pet. 2:17). I am always saddened when people make vile comments and threats to leaders. I feel that way about our current President and I felt that way about our former President. Even Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the Book of Daniel respected the King, despite his call for them to engage in idolatry or die. Third, 1 Timothy 2:1-3 – we are to pray for them. Fourth, Romans 13:7 – we are to pay our taxes (cf. Mt. 22:17-21). However, since God is our ultimate authority, we are never to obey when they demand us to violate His commands (Dan. 6:10; Mt. 2:7-12; Ac. 5:29).
Yes, we have a responsibility to vote! “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan” (Prov. 29:2). Because we do live in a republic where our voice counts (“We the people”), we need to know what is most important according to God’s will and determine the politician that best will uphold it. It’s impossible to say that religion and politics do not mix. Being “salt and light” does not exempt us from the political world. We should influence it. When Christians choose not to vote we open a vacuum to unrighteous legislation that now provides a greater opportunity for evil to thrive and be imposed on the will of the people, including ourselves and future generations. In the Bible, Joseph and Daniel heavily influenced governing leaders and it greatly benefitted God’s people. Likewise, we are called in Galatians 6:10 to “do good to all people.” Why would we want men and women in the office that will introduce and perpetuate unrighteousness in our society? With the blood-bought freedoms we enjoy as a country, thanks to our military heroes, we cannot sit back and refuse to exercise our rights only to further individuals in the office that will not submit to Divine Law or the Constitution.
While Christ presently reigns over human governments, we see how even the best men and women in leadership fail to provide the perfect kingdom. We are primarily citizens of Christ’s kingdom, Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven.” But for the time being, we also dwell in a lesser sense, as citizens among this world too. So we long for the day when Christ will overthrow all these puny human leaders and rightly take to Himself what is rightfully His and reign over His kingdom that is without end (Dan. 2:44) where and when “EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11; cf. Rev. 7:9-10).
So what are the issues government should be concerned about? There are many, but personally speaking, none are greater than the need to protect the lives of the unborn. Though I know of Christians that disagree with me on this, but if a man or woman supports abortion, I believe he or she, in my opinion, is immediately disqualified from office. I compare it to a dynamic leader that could be our greatest President in history but wanted to reinstitute the institution of slavery. Immediate disqualification.
What is God’s Purpose for Government? In other words, according to the Bible, what does God expect from the leaders He establishes?
Number 1 – Restrain and punish evil. Consider Romans 13:4. “For [the civil leader] is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” Or 1 Peter 2:13-14. Kings and governors in authority are “sent by [God] for the punishment of evildoers.” Leaders are responsible to bring lawbreakers to justice and exert punishment. At the deepest level, they are responsible to wage justified war if necessary.
Number 2 – Protect life and property. God puts the highest premium on human life. I know we love our pets and want to save the environment, but nothing is more valuable to God than you. Why? Because only human begins are created in the image of God. That was the very reason God gave Israel permission to terminate life when the Sixth Commandment declares “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Gen. 9:6). Moreover, the highest responsibility of government is to protect our weakest members, especially the ones that can’t protect themselves.
And number 3 – Recognize and encourage good. Good, law-abiding citizens should be recognized by their leaders. Romans 13:3, “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same” (cf. 1 Pet. 2:14).
Is Jesus your Master? Is He your Lord? The answer for every human being is “yes” to that question. However, the real question is do we acknowledge Him as such? He is God and when God commands we honor Him by trusting Him shown in our obedience to Him.
I wonder how many blessings I have missed out on in life because I have refused to obey the Lord?
True disciples do not have a neutral reaction toward Jesus. True disciples walk an almost paradoxical life of wanted to be around Him more than anyone or anything else, but also experiencing a fear that intensifies the more we are in His presence. It’s love and it’s respect. It’s intimacy and it’s reverence. It’s loyal friend and it’s holy God. Like Peter in Luke 5:8, both clinging to His feet and asking Him to leave.
A true confrontation with the living God is a direct confrontation with His holiness. And when we really understand His holiness we are never more convinced of our sinfulness. We instinctively know that sin cannot remain in His presence without being judged. And that is the most fearful thing we can ever imagine and that is what draws us to Christ for refuge.
It’s the people that fear the presence of God that ironically will truly find comfort to be in His presence through Christ.
As we grow in Christ, we feel more unworthy to be in His presence, at times wanting to run, but more assured of His eternal commitment, His promise to always hold us close to Himself in His arms of love.
If we love Jesus, never should we feel safer in the presence of the One we should fear the most!
When we find our identity in the opinions of others, we will be man-pleasers to get them to say what we want to hear. And since we cannot program people, there is no guarantee they will do as we desire. Thus will no longer love people, but continually manipulate people for our own selfish gains to hear their praise.
Oftentimes Christians place their ultimate identity in the same things unbelievers do – occupation, ethnicity, accomplishments, health, body composition, personality, station in life and interests. Possibly your identity is not based on what you think about yourself, but entirely by what others think about you. In other words, we think we are who what we think others think we are. All of this is subChristian!
When we seek to find our identity, our core value, in the things of this world, we will always feel empty, insufficient, unworthy and insecure on one end or proud, boastful, smug and self-righteous on the other end. Basically, as we see with most people, there is no satisfaction on either side of the equation.
Finding our true identity as a Christian is not about turning to what is inside of us – what we think about ourselves or what others think about us. It is about God recreating us (2 Cor. 5:17) and bestowing upon us amazing promises from His Word when we trust Christ by faith. Therefore it is about ignoring our feelings and the opinion of the world and accepting what God has to say about us. This is about what God does to us. This is about how He now defines us. And since He is God, there is no greater verdict when it comes to our true reality.
If you are looking for some good sections of Scripture to determine your identity in Christ, check out Ephesians 1 – chosen, loved, adopted, redeemed and forgiven by God and seen as holy and blameless and Ephesians 2 – alive, saved raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly places and 1 Peter 2 – a chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation and people for God’s own possession.
Are you finding your core identity in Christ? 1. Am I a Christian redeemed by Jesus Christ who is my Lord and Savior? 2. Am I finding my worth in external circumstances or God’s truth? 3. Have I given control of my life to God or someone else I am trying to impress? 4. Do I allow the words of others to sink deeper into my heart more than the words of God? 5. Is my identity rooted in the worship of idols or is it rooted in the worship of Christ? We become what we worship. In whose image am I growing more? 6. Is God’s opinion the highest standard and the only verdict that ultimately matters to me? 7. Is my self-image shaped by the media, experiences, feelings, relationships or culture? Or do I understand who I really am in Christ based on God’s promises from His Word? 8. Is it my desire to tell others about Christ increasingly because the more I understand who I am in Christ, the more delight I have to make known who He is through my words and actions? 9. Have I discovered God’s identity for me? Is it now a committed choice? 10. Am I continually examining where I am defining my true identity? If it is not in Scripture am I repenting? “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).
It’s all are welcome as they are, but when you come change is expected. Or it’s not clean yourself up before God will accept you, but when God accepts you He will clean you up. Or it’s God loves sinners, but He loves them too much to keep them sinners. Or as I like to say, God doesn’t clean His fish before He catches them, but after He catches them He always immediately starts cleaning them.
Oftentimes we do not know where the path leads, but when we obey we trust the One who leads.
Spiritually segregating people as those less worthy of God’s acceptance is still a problem today. And while racial unity is still not where it needs to be, we still segregate people based upon other intangibles (such as wealth, education, attractiveness and convictions) that we might consider impure. We still have a tendency to look down upon others different from us and believe they are less deserving of God’s grace than we are.
If you want God’s empowering grace you must have a humble heart. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6). First, this means that you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, and second it means that you admit you have room to grow and need God’s strength, His help to succeed. Run to God for that grace to battle sin and not away from Him in your sin.
God displays righteous jealousy (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2) that desires faithfulness from His spouse. If God cared not for His people, there would be no jealousy. But it is because He values an intimate relationship with His bride, the church, He is deeply grieved when we pursue other lovers. True love is rightfully jealous. God loves His people so much that He wants us totally for Himself in an exclusive relationship. He will not stand for spiritual adultery.
Faithful service does not exalt me or change my role as God’s servant. Faithful service only confirms that I am His servant.
Ideally, the goal is to see the discipline of child gradually lessen as he or she approaches the teen years (the opposite of what we often see in society) because life lessons have been learned and righteous actions are personally desired. Yet that does not mean parents no longer have a responsibility to discipline their teenager when necessary. In these cases, we have found the best methods to be restitution (a good action toward the one wronged) and/or the removal of a privilege (loss of electronics, use of the car, attendance at an event, etc.). Rarely if ever would our teen discipline be “grounding” (as in unreconciled confinement) or exclusion from family activities or the use of something good as an instrument for “punishment” (house chores, exercise, writing, etc.).
Hell or Heaven? Do we plead for God’s reward as a result of our actions or do we plead for God’s mercy as a result of his actions?