Below is a short and needed post from Tim Challies. As a pastor I see the signs of division all over the place, and was greatly encouraged by his warning. I pray you’re encouraged as… More
“So…was Ravi Zacharias really a Christian?”
The young staff member and I sat at a table filled with boneless wings, wedge salads, and leaders of our church. Her eyes were wide with saddened incredulity. Could it be possible that one of the most famed Christian apologists of the last century was, in fact, not a true recipient of the Christ he championed?
For me, this was a gut punch. Not the question from my friend, but the basis for the question. Ravi Zacharias, one of the men I had looked up to most over my two decades of ministry, had been a monster – guilty (as admitted by his own ministry) of sexting, sexual abuse, and rape. When the news broke I couldn’t come to grips with the truth. It felt so heart-shatteringly surreal. And now, the first of many questions about Ravi came – and by far the most important: was Ravi truly a Christian?
The small part of me not shocked by the breaking news shuddered at the thought of how this would bring fresh ridicule and blanket shame to the Gospel of Jesus. Ravi’s treason would deepen the belief and escalate the refrain that Christianity is bogus.
I was also sickened by the emboldened, unfeeling declarations of judgment from the “do-no-wrong” Pharisees within modern Christianity. It would be easy to once more shift the spotlight from their own sin – which they pretend doesn’t exist (at least not tangibly) – by conjuring their best prophetic voice in denouncing Ravi vehemently to the tune of 18 Facebook likes. The self-righteousness of those individuals repulses me as much as does the hypocrisy and abuse of Ravi. Perhaps humility (for without the grace of God could we not fall just as he did?) and prayer for Ravi’s widow and children is what is most needed in these moments.
Everyone knows that what Ravi did is reprehensible; and it is reprehensible. Using a Gospel platform to justify and demand sexual favors is wicked. Using ministry resources for little more than prostitution payments is evil. Abuse – true abuse – is vile. I will offer no excuse for the man I long admired.
I mourn for his victims. I mourn for his family. I mourn that he has given the enemies of God a reason to further blaspheme.
And in the end I am left asking myself the same question our young staffer posited before me: Could he be forgiven? Could Ravi Zacharias – the hypocrite, the narcissist, the swindler, the abuser – possibly be clothed in the holiness of Jesus? Could he be counted among the redeemed?
The answer, if you know your Bible, is unequivocally, yes. That’s the radicality of the grace of God. He takes the despicable and declares them pure.
Now, was Ravi a Christian? That is a different question. We know God can and does forgive the vilest of sinners; but we also know that his grace convicts, draws to repentance, and transforms. If the fruit of repentance does not grow it can only be because the root of grace is absent. Did Ravi ever repent? Did he struggle? Did he mourn his sin and wrestle with it? It would seem not, but I cannot know these things with certainty.
In moments like these, shrouded with angst, anger, disappointment, grief, and questions without an answer, the true Christ-follower must trust the sovereign goodness of God, pray that the kingdom of light will continue to pierce the darkness, and continually give thanks for amazing grace that saved a wretch like me. This is the way of Jesus. It is the way forward through the darkness.
Two of the most important words to us in Scripture: ‘Go therefore…’
What is so important about this phrase for many probably is not the words themselves but how often it has been preached and how often these two words have been addressed. As an alumnus of Southeastern Baptist in Wake Forest, I heard these words a lot. These words helped to shape my understanding of the gospel and the importance Christ put on our call not just to pastors and missionaries, but to all believers. We are called to go, or as can be derived from the text ‘to be going.’
Now before I get too far ahead of myself there are some crucial things in Matthew 28:18-20 that we need to embrace. First while the verse does say go, there is a very important phrase before that, a phrase that makes it all possible, a phrase that shapes how, why, and to what end we go and it is this simple phrase: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Let us just stop right there. In Jesus’ final words to his disciples He wants them to understand the most important thing about what is to come and what is happening right now and that is: All authority is His, All power is His, All that can be and ever was to be is His. In these 11 words Jesus gave the disciples and us everything we ever need, not just to go but to live.
This authority is what gives the Gospel power, Jesus conquered the grave and in so doing revealed all authority to be His and has made it evident for all to see and know. And because of this authority He is now sending out His disciples on the most important task of their lives to make more disciples. Surprisingly to some, we see that Christ’s authority was not dependent on the disciples, but rather one who sent them. In this they are assured that it is not by their might or power that people come to know Him or grow but by the authority of Him alone.
However this should be a motivation for the pursuit of making disciples not an excuse, if for no other reason than the fact that this is commanded by God. As we continue in the text we see that the disciples are to teach every new believer the commands of the Lord and to follow after His teachings and the truth of the Gospel, which clearly means the one He is giving them here before He ascended. In the book of Matthew these are the last words of Christ to the 11 remaining disciples. His final words are to go, baptize, teach, and know that He is with them. And these words apply to us today as much as they did then. We are called to go. God has placed each of us in this specific place, in this specific time, with our specific jobs and neighborhoods not simply for our own well-being, but for the proclamation of the Gospel. We exist and are called to go and make disciples, some will go to far off countries, some will go across the street, some will go to a new city or job, but all will go and as we go we make disciples.
For most of you who read this you will say you have read this before. There is nothing new here, I will agree with you on that. For most of us this is one of the first things we learn when we come to faith. I mean we came to faith because someone told us, whether that be a relative or a friend someone told us, someone spent time with us, someone walked us through the basics of the faith, someone taught us about the work of the Spirit in us leading to holiness, someone taught us we needed to forgive others and seek forgiveness when we sin. Someone discipled us, whether that was one-on one or in a group. Someone followed Christs command to go and make disciples. How did they grow in holiness and understand the Lord more, they followed his commands to go and make disciples. You are the product of God’s work in their lives.
So I write this not because it’s new or revolutionary, but because it is the most basic thing we are called to do and at times it is one of the easiest to forget.
I pray for each of us that we will never forget, because we have the assurance that all authority is His and He is the one at work, so rest in Him and go make disciples.
Living in the first century Roman world Paul would’ve been familiar with homosexual relations.
It was widely known that many of the Roman Emperors engaged in homosexual acts and/or lifestyles. And being one who traveled around the Roman Empire preaching the gospel Paul would’ve encountered many who also engaged in homosexual behavior. And more so being raised as a Jew Paul was taught the Old Testament Scriptures. Where God’s original design in Genesis 1-2 is clear. God made man in His own image, male and female He made them. And after having Adam name all the animals, no suitable helper was found for him. So God put Adam to sleep and created woman from him, and gave her to Adam to be a helpmate, so that they’d complement one another in their God given roles. This is the foundation of marriage. And keep going, this foundational institution of marriage between one man and one woman was one reason the lusts and actions of Sodom and Gomorrah were so wicked. These Scriptures Paul was taught as a young Jew he now knew fuller and deeper from being saved by Christ. And so Paul is very clear: all homosexual activity, from homosexuality between two loving and committed men or two women, to a more violent action like homosexual rape (like what we see in Judges 19), as well as everything in between, is against God’s design for sexual relations between men and women. This is why he speaks of men and women giving up what is in accord with nature in Romans 1:26-27.
Bringing all we find in Romans 1 together, we can see the depths of sin in the heart of man. Man claims to be wise by rejecting the God known from creation. Then in this ‘wisdom’ man continues downward turning away from worshipping God our Creator to worship a god of his own making or a creature of his choosing. Where does this idolatry lead to? For this God gives man over to the sin they love. And being so unrestrained in the chase after sin, man, in his supposed wisdom (v22 is always in play), looks into the ‘mirror’, falls in love with himself, worships himself, and then engages in sexual activity with others like himself. Homosexuality then, is not only sinful. Homosexuality is not only evidence of God’s wrath being poured out from heaven here and now. Homosexuality is ultimately idolatrous false worship, where man has become smitten with his own image.
We believe this. But Christians individually and churches corporately don’t always handle this in the most winsome or wise manner. Two errors are usually made at this point with how we handle the sin of homosexuality.
First, some Christians and some churches in an effort to appear nice, relevant, and winsome make it very clear that they’re eager to welcome gay men and women into their lives and congregations. In many of these cases the traditional view of marriage and homosexuality is held and believed, it’s just not talked about or it’s downplayed so no one is offended. Others in this same vein not only proclaim themselves to be welcoming but entirely affirming of the gay lifestyle, either teaching that Paul doesn’t say what he plainly says here, or that the Bible is simply wrong on this matter. In these cases the traditional view of marriage and homosexuality is flat out denied. This is usually called the ‘liberal’ approach.
Second, some Christians and some churches read what the Bible has to say about homosexuality, believe it, and make the rejection of it a prominent part of their identity. They see homosexuality as the sin above all sins, the pinnacle of human depravity. In some more extreme forms of this, you often hear comments like ‘God hates fags’ or ‘God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.’ Now because they believe homosexuality to be the sin over all sins they will not seek to befriend, evangelize, or be welcoming to gay men or women at all, even though they will seek to love all kinds of heterosexual sinners. This is usually called the ‘conservative’ approach.
Paul avoids both of these unfaithful postures. And we should too.
On one hand Paul doesn’t affirm homosexuality, he plainly calls it sin here in this passage. So, we should never deny the plain teaching of Scripture in an effort to be affirming of homosexual sin. But on the other hand Paul doesn’t shake his head teaching that homosexuality is the worst sin of all. So, we should never be those who teach and believe that homosexual sin is worse than heterosexual sin? How can I draw such conclusions? Look at what comes next in v28-31, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” Paul is teaching that all of these sins flow from rejecting God and running after idols of our own making. Claiming to be wise, man descends in a kind of free-fall, into a state where all manner of evil becomes possible. Or, we can say man is not as bad as he could be, there is always room for ‘deprovement.’
Every single man or woman in all of history finds themselves adequately represented somewhere in the list of sins in Romans 1. This should make us kind, compassionate, and patient to all sinners, however sin is displayed in their lives.
 J. V. Fesko, Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018), 37.
 Tim Keller, Romans 1-7 For You, 34–35.
 Fesko, Romans, 37. See also Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, 53.
 Kent R. Hughes, Romans: Righteousness From Heaven, Preaching the Word Commentary (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 1991), 44.
Our gracious God and Father, we thank you for the governing authorities whom you have appointed as your servants (Rom. 13:1). You command us to give thanks and to pray for them, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life (1 Tim. 2:1-2). You call us to be submissive to them and to honor them (Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). And so, we ask that you hear our prayer:
We pray for President Biden, and our country’s new administration, that they would govern in the wisdom, the discernment, the righteousness, and the humility that only come from the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 15:33). Make them continually mindful of their calling to serve in reverent obedience to you. We ask that if any of our authorities do not know you, that by your grace they would look to Jesus Christ in saving faith (1 Tim. 2:1-6). Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness. Help them to govern impartially, mindful of the poor, the oppressed, and the unborn.
We pray for their success in every good endeavor that accords with justice, and for lack of success in that which does not. May our government enact laws pleasing in your sight, to the glory of your holy Name and the welfare of our nation. But we praise you that your counsel, O Lord, stands forever; that the plans of your heart endure for all generations (Ps. 33:10-11). As your beloved Son taught us to pray, we ask that your kingdom would come, and that your purposes for our country would prevail (Matt. 6:9-13).
As citizens of your heavenly kingdom, we ask that you give us the strength and the faith to submit to our rulers, but also the courage to obey God rather than man (Acts 4:19-20; 5:27-32). Whatever comes our way in the months and years ahead, may we never lose sight of our risen and soon-returning King.
May we not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon us to test us, as though something strange were happening to us. But may we rejoice insofar as we share in Christ’s sufferings, that we may rejoice when his glory is revealed (1 Pet. 4:12-13).
Your word says: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” (Ps. 33:12). Holy Spirit, help us to understand that that nation is not America or any kingdom of this world but your church! Your church alone is the people whom you have chosen and redeemed to be your treasured possession (1 Pet. 2:9-10).
So, may our witness shine brightly in these ever-darkening days, as we display your perfect peace, justice, and joy through our lives together (Matt. 5:14-16; Phil. 2:14-16; Titus 2:1-14). May our hope not be in any worldly kingdom or ruler or economy or constitutional freedoms, but may our hope be in the risen Lord Jesus. We ask these things in the name of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
In the first 6 chapters of Joshua we learn about the Israelites successful invasion over the city of Jericho. As we open the book of Joshua we can see that a great transition has taken place in the history of Israel. Moses has died and now Joshua was the new leader in Israel. After forty years of wandering in the wilderness God has now commanded Joshua to proceed into the promised land (Joshua 1:1-9). This is a big deal and would require the Israelites to conquer Jericho.
Joshua Gathers Intel
Joshua moved forward in obedience with God’s command and as a result sent two spies into the promised land to gather valuable information on how to best defeat the Canaanites living in Jericho (Joshua 2:1). The Canaanites were an evil and idolatrous people. They were also a strong and powerful people. One author notes that, “The Canaanites are described in the Bible as a large and fierce people, not easily defeated, so the Israelites would need divine help to come against them, defeat them, and take their land away. God promised Moses and Joshua that help” (Gotquestions.org). As a result Joshua, who was confident in God’s ability, was moving forward in obedience by formulating a battle plan. As a wise and skilled leader Joshua sends out two spies to gather intel that will help him defeat the enemy.
God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
As we read through these verses we are given a good example of how human responsibility and God’s sovereignty align, and it’s subtle and easy to miss, but it’s there and valuable for us to see. Ask yourself, “Why did Joshua send two spies into the promised land?” If God had promised victory to Israel and if Joshua had confidence in God, then why not just go and attack Jericho? Why send the spies? God has already declared victory (Joshua 1:5), why waste time and question God’s ability by sending out to two spies? Pastor and author Sam Storms responds to this question, he writes: “The sovereignty of God and the certainty of his promises coming to pass do not negate the importance of wisdom and prudence on our part. Just because God has decreed that something will certainly occur does not mean we are free to act like fools and throw caution to the wind.” (Sam Storms).
God’s sovereignty and human responsibility go hand in hand. Just because God is sovereign over life and death and He ultimately has determined the day that we will die, does not mean that we should start driving without our seatbelts or jumping off buildings as if we’re invincible. We should not have this attitude of, “Well, when it’s my time, it’s my time and I will throw caution to the wind.”No, God has given us brains and we are to use them by making wise, well-thought decisions.
Yes, God is sovereign and we look to Him ultimately as our Provider, Protector, and Guide and nothing in life happens outside of God’s sovereign hand, but at the same time our decisions matter, our actions matter, the Bible makes that clear. There are real consequences to our actions. And so we should give our best effort, try hard, and choose wisely as we go through life all while regularly asking God for provision and wisdom and mercy, realizing that He is the One who ultimately brings things to pass. That is what we see here with Joshua. He shows both confident obedience in God by moving forward to attack Jericho AND wise prudence by sending the spies to the promised land to check it out. Pray that you would have a similar confidence in God as you strive to live wisely and work diligently.
Rahab’s Faith / Jericho’s Demsie As the story continues we read that the two spies end up at a woman’s house named Rahab (2:1). Rahab had heard about Israel’s God and she believed (Joshua 2:10-11) and as a result she protected the spies and helped them escape the city successfully (2:15-16). She asked that they would remember her when they came back to the city to attack it (2:12-13). The spies agreed and asked that Rahab would hang a scarlet cord from her window to identify which house was hers (2:18). Once Israel invaded Jericho they destroyed everything and everyone except Rahab and her family. Once they saw that scarlet cord in the window they passed over her house and onto the next. Rahab’s faith saved her (Hebrews 11:31).
God’s judgement was set on Jericho. It was a sinful city full of wicked and idolatrous people. And Rahab the prostitute was as guilty as anyone and fully deserving of God’s wrath. But despite her many flaws she trusted in the living God and was saved. And when the agents of God’s wrath saw that scarlet cord in her window they passed over, leaving her safe and secure inside. You and I, apart from Christ, are not much different than the people of Jericho, we are not much different than Rahab. We are a sinful and idolatrous people who deserve the wrath of God. We deserve eternity in hell as a result of our disobedience toward God. But if we, like Rahab, put our faith in the living God, we will be saved.
Just as God’s wrath passed over Rahab when the soldiers saw that scarlet cord hanging from her window, so God’s wrath will pass over us when He sees His Son’s scarlett blood draped over us.No matter your background, no matter your faults when you come to Jesus in faith and repentance you are forgiven and eternally secure in Him. Rahab was a great sinner, but she had a greater Savior and the same is true of us today.We are great sinners, but we have a greater Savior and His name is Jesus.
1. He Was One of the Most Prolific Evangelists of the Church.
In many ways he is the driving force that God used in bringing revival to America in the 18th century. Whitefield was a man on a mission to proclaim the gospel to all who would hear, from town to town, he boldly proclaimed the good news of salvation in the open air. He preached God’s wrath against sin and grace to the repentant throughout the American colonies at a time when such things were not done.
2. He Believed No One was too Far from the Grace and Salvation of God.
One of the driving forces behind Whitefield’s open-air preaching was the need for people to hear the truth of God who did not have churches to gather in. In his early days preaching in England he was rejected from preaching in the churches due to the focus on the gospel as the means of God’s salvific work, thus leaving him first to preach in prisons and then from the prisons to the fields. His first primary location was Kingswood, a people mostly rejected by English society. He firmly believed that all men needed the gospel, and that the gospel was for all mankind.
3. He Gave His Life to the Proclamation of the Gospel.
George Whitefield’s aim in life was to be fully spent for the cause of proclaiming the gospel, and in the end he did just that. He often stated that he wanted to be buried in a crypt under the pulpit of the final church he preached at and in 1770 after arriving in town he proclaimed the gospel one last time at Old South Presbyterian church in Newburyport, Mass. where he died hours later and was buried. Every inch of the man was given to the proclamation of the gospel. He was only 55 when he died but in those years, God used him to proclaim the good news of Christ’s work to many who had never heard its truth and sparked the flames of reformation in the American colonies.
The divide is vast. The hypocrisy is thick. The church of Jesus must rise above.
Last week, as self-proclaimed Patriots stormed our nations capital in undeniably heinous anarchy, I witnessed progressive Christian friends and left-leaning church leaders point fingers across the aisle not only at Donald Trump but at anyone who had the nerve to cast a vote for the Republican President last November. Conservatives were painted with one broad brush stroke, consigning all to censure, ridicule, and blame. Like with so many moments over the past year, even in the church, I was saddened but not surprised. It was a glaring reversal of the rhetoric and blame-casting that we saw last summer as BLM protesters rioted, looted, and burned businesses leading many conservative Christians to broad-brush all progressives as violent, freedom-suppressing, America-hating imbeciles. In the summer months liberals – some of them anyway – justified the protests saying that they were “mostly peaceful” with a few dissenters. Those same liberals blasted the assault on the capital last Wednesday. Conversely, conservatives decried the violent riots last summer, while a few sought to justify the attack on Congress as a “mostly peaceful protest.” Four years ago, when Donald Trump took his oath of office, a cry of “not my president” rose from one side much to the angered dismay of the other. Presumably, when Joe Biden lays his hand on the Bible next week, a similar sentiment will rise from that other side, much to the consternation of the first. As I said, the hypocrisy is thick.
After the events at the capital Lebron James and other athletes, artists, and celebrities stoked the fires of division by appealing to the racial divide once more. Joe Biden and the left, who have undeniably been vicious and unrelenting in their hateful rhetoric, are now calling for peace and unity on their terms. Donald Trump, who undeniably has been brazen, belligerent, and demeaning, is now calling for healing and reconciliation. If it wasn’t so sad it would all be laughable. How can so many do so much to destroy and then with a straight face call for peace, justice, and love? Again, the divide is vast – and our politicians, celebrities, and social media memes/rants are never going to bridge that yawning chasm.
Enter the church. The blood-purchased bride of Jesus. The people for His own possession. The royal Priesthood. The citizens of the heavenly kingdom. The ministers of reconciliation equipped with the only message that can heal the soul and bridge the divide. We know our mission. It’s rather glaringly clear in the pages of Scripture and in the records of church history.
We are light. We are the salt of the earth. We are Gospel ambassadors.
We are to unapologetically declare God’s truth. Yet many Christians instead either spread misinformation, conspiracy theories, and wild speculations; or they shelter the truth, unwilling to welcome the storm of ridicule that may follow.
We are to seek unity – a unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17 – within the church. Yet many continue to point fingers, spew venom, make accusations, maliciously slander, and almost willingly splinter the church.
We are to trust in the only King who is truly sovereign, surprised by nothing, and declares the beginning of time to the end of days (which includes the appointment of political rulers [Daniel 2:21; Romans 13:1]). Yet with unrivaled (or so it seems) conviction, we trust in a man, a party, a judicial system, or a personal arsenal.
We must be people of the Book – reading, believing, being comforted by, and proclaiming the revelation there-in. Yet our eyes and minds are dominated by social platforms, media outlets, radical bloggers, and enslaved to the bias of our own hearts.
We are people who will be known for our love (those are red-letter words); yet we have become known for almost everything but true, Biblical, compassion-filled love.
Washington is an easy target and buying cultural lies, standing on political platforms, and worshipping fallen leaders is popular. But (and we know this) we are not called to the easy or the popular. Christian friend, stop with the name-calling, the broad-brushing, the venom-spewing, the hate, the divisiveness, the idolatry, and all the rest. It’s not cute, it’s barely clever, and it’s convincing no one of anything. More importantly, your sin grieves the heart of God, wounds His people, and confirms to the world that we are no different than they. Purpose to live according to your calling. Rise above this tumult to be salt and light. Too much is at stake.
Christ and Christianity has been politicized, yet again, and Christians must be careful not to fall into that trap (again). The news channels, internet news, and bloggers around the world are full of examples of invoking the name of Christ and His Bride, the Church, to further positions on every, so-called, side. Christians must be discerning and be led by the Spirit of God, through the Word of God, to bring glory to God in these politically-charged environments.
The politicization of Christ and Christianity, however, is nothing new. One need not go any further than the Gospels themselves to find genuinely sincere religious people using the political flavor-of-the-day to further their own agenda.
“Pontius Pilate said, ‘Behold you King!’ [The Jews] cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’” (John 19:14-16)
The ruling political and religious powers used Jesus to further their own agendas. But make no mistake, it was YHWH’s eternal purposes that were being advanced in Jerusalem that day.
Today is no different.
God was not “taken back” in 2016 when Donald J. Trump was elected President of the United States of America. Neither was He surprised or in despair when Joseph R. Biden Jr. was elected in 2020. The King of Glory, Jesus Christ, did not sweat while the votes were being counted (righteously or unrighteously). Nor did the Creator of Heaven and Earth despair when the Capitol building was under siege.
And neither should you, Christian.
We would do well, and it would be a superb witness to the world that seems to have lost its mind, to remember and remind the world that Christians are citizens of Heaven before we even think for one second about our citizenry on this planet; especially as it is “thus to be dissolved” (2 Peter 3:11).
Peter reminded the First Century Church in his first epistle that “Once you were not a people…” Keep in mind that all those who were “not a people” were citizens of their various countries. He continues, “…but now you are God’s people…” Can you imagine Peter singing “And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…”? Of course not. Neither would he or Paul or any inspired biblical author place their identity in a pagan government or nation; they considered all that they used to be “rubbish” for the sake of knowing Christ and being known by Him.
Read where Peter’s allegiance was place: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep you conduct among the Gentiles honorable…” (1 Peter 3:10-12; emphasis added). Peter rejected his citizenship among “God’s Chosen People” that he might be found in Christ and not as a Jew. Christ was all that mattered.
He still is all that matters.
Don’t get me wrong: I love living in the United States. What a blessing from the Lord that He would, benevolently and providentially, cause me to be born “in the land of the free.” I’m grateful and I pray for our leaders and pray for continued freedom. But I live as a sojourner and an exile in this land. I am a Christian, a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I identify with Christ because, by God’s grace, I am in Christ; safe and secure from all alarm!
That means, I do not belong here. This state of Illinois, this United States of America, even this world is not my home. I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is my King. My allegiance is pledged to Him and I represent Him in word and in deed. And until King Jesus returns, destroys the Enemy, and finally consummates the Kingdom that He inaugurated in His first advent, this world will not be my home and my identity will never be found here.
Your identity isn’t either.
Christian – I urge you as sojourners and exiles, concern yourself and expend your life in the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ among the nations, making disciples of Jesus Christ, longing for the Kingdom of righteousness that will never end, and represent your King.
You’ll effect more change with the Gospel in your sphere of influence than you ever will with the party platform of the Republicans, Democrats, or Independents.
Soli Deo Gloria
“Criticisms against pastors have increased significantly. One pastor recently shared with me the number of criticisms he receives are five times greater than the pre-pandemic era. Church members are worried. Church members are weary. And the most convenient target for their angst is their pastor.” This declaration, which – after a bizarre week of ministry – I posted on social media yesterday, is from an article entitled “Six Reasons Your Pastor is About to Quit” by Thom Rainer. In case you are wondering – hopeful or anxious – no, I am not quitting. Not even close. More about why in a second.
As the statement hung in my stories countless friends reached out, including several pastors to either ask for the link to the article or to simply affirm the sad pronouncement. It has been a tough go for many in this year of cynicism, division, doubt, and hate; and pastors are certainly no exception. In chatting with dozens of pastors over the course of this year, it would seem that none are immune to the constant criticisms; and the foremost reason that emerged for this barrage is the inability of pastors to meet the bevy of expectations under which they find themselves.
Pastors sin. Most church-goers know this and as long as the sin is theoretical then all is fine and even humorous. As soon as actual sin is observed – or even accused of – the claws of the faithful Pharisees dig deep. Of course, all Christians are subject to this scourge; but pastors, since placed on such a platform, endure on a heightened level the graceless, unpardonable judgement of debtors who have themselves been forgiven but seemingly have forgotten.
Pastors are finite. The average pastor is a husband, a father (and if he is faithful, considers those roles with extreme care), a friend, a scholar (of one thing or another), an apologist, a counselor, a fan, and (so easy to forget) a human. He too has just 24 hours in each day; seven days in each week. Sermon prep to instruct the people of God (if taken seriously) demands much time. Couple that with other platforms of instruction, oversight, care for family, immediate needs, personal worship, prayer, on and on and on the list rolls…and the hours typically drain from the week. Christians must prioritize their lives. So too must pastors.
Pastors disappoint. Pastors fail to meet a need – most often when they aren’t aware of the need. Pastors miss communication. Pastors make poor decisions.
Pastors are flawed.
I realize that this blog will not resonate with many because they are not pastors – but my hope is that some reading this will endeavor to pray for, to show grace toward, and to support their pastors more ardently; and that my pastor friends reading this will be encouraged.
The criticism of 2020 is not new – it is only heightened. As we endure the verbal lashing into the new year and beyond, the question must be: how do Christians in general and pastors specifically thrive in life and ministry?
There are numerous ways but here is what preserved me in this year:
- To remember that I am completely known and irrevocably loved by God. Brennan Manning, in his remarkable book The Ragamuffin Gospel wrote: “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” May that be the deepest awareness for each of us as pastors and lay-Christians. We must be relentlessly proactive in drawing this remembrance to mind and soul. You are known, loved, and kept. If you know yourself at all (which let’s be real, is far worse than what people say about you) then this truth can simply not be unremarkable.
- Releasing bitterness and showing grace is not only good for the offender but is necessary for the offended. Each of us has given reason for others to be bitter. Each of us is in need of grace. Bitterness cripples the already damaged soul. Repenting of bitterness and choosing to demonstrate the grace of Christ brings joy and healing to the broken soul.
- Remind yourself of all those who do know your faults and see your weakness, yet relentlessly pray for, love, care, and support your family and your ministry. These folks are a gift of grace and I can say wholeheartedly and without reservation, that the Spirit has preserved my ministry because of people like this (if you are one of these folks please know that I am grateful for you in truly inexpressible ways).
- Our faithfulness pleases Jesus. While others lambast, accuse, malign, and critique, if we as pastors/Christians walk in humble, legitimate faithfulness in Gospel ministry (not that we always will obviously), the One who matters most looks upon us with a smile of affectioned affirmation. That is soothing to the soul and helps me sleep in peace.
If you are a pastor who is going through it, please feel free to reach out to me. I would love to chat. If you are a Christian, please pray for your pastors, show grace to all, and remind yourself of these truths. Be encouraged this holiday season. The God of grace has got you.
Is it ever possible to read too many books (or have too many books)? I do not think so! It was a blessing to read some wonderful, stirring, challenging, and invigorating books this past year. Here are the top five books books I read in 2020 that would be my top recommendations for you to pick up and dive into in 2021!
1. “Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation” edited by Michael Horton
Michael Horton, along with a superb group of writers including men such as Robert Godfrey, deals with the late 1980s and early 1990s controversy surrounding “Lordship Salvation” involving men like John MacArthur and Zane Hodges. While the book is a little dated, the substance of the book is desperately needed still. This book provides a balanced treatment of justification, saving faith, repentance, and sanctification showing how much the evangelical church needs retrieval from the Protestant Reformation on these issues. Faithful pastoral ministry must handle the law and the gospel well. This book will equip pastors in that area.
2. “Interpreting the Scripture with the Great Tradition” by Craig A. Carter
This book will challenge your mind in many ways. I will confess that there are parts of it that required me to reread (section on metaphysics). However, keep plodding your way through the book and you will discover some rich treasures. Carter is calling the church back to biblical exegesis that marked men like Augustine, John Calvin, and were at the heart of the Nicene Creed. This is a tremendous resource for thinking about how Christ is present in the Scriptures.
3. “The Whole Christ” by Sinclair Ferguson
Sinclair Ferguson is one of my favorite preachers. Whether listening to him or reading him, I am always blessed by his labors. Our men’s group at NTBC went through this book together. Ferguson’s work is a mixture of historical theology along with a systematic unpacking of the law and the gospel. In this book, he uses the Marrow Controversy and subsequent issues to make a case that the church still wrestles with the issues of faith and repentance. I encourage you to read and discuss this book with someone.
4. “William Carey” by S. Pearce Carey
Biographies, especially written by family members, can become more of a hagiographic tribute rather than a telling of the real story. S. Pearce Carey, though the great-grandson of William Carey, does a balanced job overall of telling the story of the Baptist cobbler-preacher who left Britain to serve the interests of the kingdom of God in India. This book is written in a way that one feels that they are taking the journey with William Carey and going for an adventure! While S. Pearce Carey downplays theology some in this book, it is a biography that will encourage you.
5. “Green Pastures” by J. Ryan Davidson
I know the author of this work personally and it is out of a pastor’s heart that this book is written. Ryan Davidson explores and unpacks the concept of the ordinary means of grace in the life of a local church. So many of our churches are starving because they are led to entertainment and cotton candy theology but not the green pastures of Christ. Pastors will find great encouragement in this book to know that the ordinary rhythm of ministry is not in vain. Christ is present with His people through the Word and sacraments. This would be an excellent book to read and study with a group of people.
As we come to the close of 2020 I was reflecting back over some of the things I have written over the last several years, and the following article hit me square in the face. It is one I am personally striving to do and at times still easily falling, especially in a year where tribalism seems to be growing and divisions easily erected. We have ceased to listen. I hope it will encourage you and maybe convict you as it did me.
Sometimes it takes a younger you to remind you of these things.
*Originally published Dec, 2018
Over the last few weeks in the office we have been reading the book: Spurgeon on the Christian Life by Michael Reeves. It is a wonderful read and one that will make you think deeply about what it is we love so much about Spurgeon’s preaching and teaching ministry, but it will also at times made us step back and disagree with Spurgeon’s views on several things such as preaching books of the bible, liturgies, the New Birth, and scripted prayer.
Today’s post isn’t a review of the book but rather what the book helped me to see and think more deeply about. I’ve posted on it before, but I think it bears reminding that some of the very people our heroes ranged against and called out as heretics or worse are us. As a Baptist I love the reformation and appreciate all that Luther did and at the same time know he would have considered me as much a heretic as the Pope in Rome. Augustine was the father of much of what we find distasteful in the Catholic church such as baptism for the remission of sins in infants, Purgatory, Limbo, and a host of others, yet he also helped to solidify theologically the truth of Monergism and a full appreciation for the Sovereignty of God. Bavinck and Kuyper in Holland could not reconcile the role of the church and state, especially in the training of ministers, and in the process their partnership as ministers of the gospel was frayed.
Now I say all this for two reasons. First, there is always a chance we are wrong, not about the gospel but at times on its application when scripture is less than clear. Second, there are good and godly brothers and sisters in Christ who we can learn much from, whom we will equally disagree with on these tangential things. Both of these things we need to remember because at the end of the day we live to imitate Christ and become more like him, not necessarily other Christians, they at times point us to Christ and at times are worthy of admiration, but ultimately it is Christ whom we pursue.
We Might Be Wrong
No one likes to be wrong. Let’s just face it, red marks on a test don’t tend to bring out our most excited moments (though many of us can agree we learned a lot from those red marks). Being corrected for our attitude or unrighteous behavior isn’t a fun day, though necessary. I’ve spent the last 6 years in full time ministry before that I spent 7 years in Bible college and seminary, along the way I read a lot of the Bible and equally a lot of theology texts. My office is filled with commentaries on the Word of God and books discussing how we should live out these truths. In Seminary, I focused my studies on Christian ethics (Or the practical outworking of theology in everyday life). This time taught me a lot about what it means to be wrong and to be gracious in doing so, but it also showed me areas of my theology that should have been peripheral that had become central, things that being wrong about didn’t change who I was in Christ. Such as how does the Spirit gift individuals and what does that look like, what should the church sing, how do we practice church discipline, in what ways can baptism be performed, how often should we take communion, and what role does Communion, the Word, and singing play in weekly and personal worship?
I could ask these questions to a whole host of pastors and theologians and get a wide variety of answers and in that way, it taught me that it was okay to accept that possibility of being wrong in some areas of the Christian life, but not to settle for being wrong. It is important that we acknowledge that there are mysteries too marvelous for us to full comprehend or articulate. We must accept that there are areas of the outworking of the gospel that take effort to dive deeply into, and we should. The point of accepting that you could be wrong is not to be lazy in the process but to push harder into Christ and to trust in Him, to dive deeply into His Word and allow it to be the guide of who we are and how we then shall live. He gives us His Word to know Him and His family and to live out the truth of who has been revealed.
Now I know there are a lot of traps with what I am saying, and I’ll admit that as well. Hebrews encourages us to continually be on guard against falsehoods and to not be led astray into disobedience but to fight all the more for the faith and to rest in Christ our great High Priest who gave all for us, and for the Glory of His father. So, while it is good to accept, we may be wrong on the peripheral we must not give ground on the reality of who Jesus is, what salvation is, the work of the Holy spirit producing righteousness, the call to repentance, the work of God through all of scripture. These are the areas of the faith first and foremost to be wrong is to be outside of the faith. These are questions while they may be answered with different words will have the same substance, will reflect the same gospel truth, Spurgeon, Luther, Augustine, Bavinck, Kuyper, Piper, MacArthur, R.C., Gurnall, Athanasius, Polycarp, John and Paul would reflect the same gospel reality.
Learning from Others
Now that was a long way to highlight the importance of learning from those who we may, at times, disagree with on peripheral issues. Again, this is not a call to start picking up Osteen and Bell books, no need to take down that old Brian McLaren book on the 19 different Jesus’. No this is more about the importance of getting outside of our tribal instinct and studying the truth of scripture and seeing how other godly people have applied the text and lived it out. When I was in college, I went to an interdenominational school made up of a host of different theological backgrounds all studying the scriptures together and having lively and gracious discussions on the outworking of that faith. I learned a lot about loving my brothers and sisters well in disagreement from brothers whom truly reflected and lived out the gospel. I didn’t agree with everything they thought but I agreed with how they lived, for they lived it out far greater than I. Especially while those in my same camp seemed to move farther and farther way from the actual practice of the faith, while condemning these brothers as legalists or worse.
It is an amazing thought that we read men whom we openly would disagree with if they were around today, but the measure of their lives proved that they ran the race, they kept the faith, and in Christ have been rewarded greatly. In a day and age where we have become more tribal than ever, I fear we have stopped listening to those we disagree with, and in some ways, we have stopped learning. If you are afraid to pick up a book by John Wesley because of his views on Holiness, you will miss his great care for the preaching of the Word and deep reverence he had for God. There was a reason Whitefield and Wesley were great friends, and they learned a lot form each other even while disagreeing over aspects of doctrine. If Spurgeon’s view of preaching topically drives you to forsake his preaching you will miss his rich exposition on the Psalms or the beautiful encouragement, he gives to suffering saints through the preached word, while simultaneously presenting the hope of the Gospel to the lost.
Ultimately, we need to be people committed to the cause of Christ, learning the truth of Scripture, defending the faith well, and growing in our love and dedication for the Saints.
I like podcasts, a lot. They’re not only a great way to redeem the time whether you find yourself in the car, the gym, or anywhere really, but they’re so many good ones to choose from now! I’m glad they’re becoming more popular these days and that new ones pop up all the time. In a given week I usually listen to more than 10 podcasts regularly. So as this year is winding down I’ve compiled a list of the my favorite podcasts of the year. Be encouraged!
(note: these podcasts weren’t all new in 2020, but they’re the ones I’ve mainly listened to throughout 2020)
10) 5 Minutes in Church History – A brief 5 minute podcast that comes out with a weekly dose of Church history. It’s great, you’ll love it.
9) Ministry Network Podcast – From the folks at Westminster Seminary, looking at ministry from all angles with various guests. Brief, informative, encouraging.
8) Open Book – Brief snapshots of R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur’s favorite books, why they read them, and why they return to them.
7) Pastors Talk – Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman talking over all things current and historic from a pastor’s point of view. Helpful.
6) Simply Put – Doctrine, robust and substantial doctrine, handled in a brief summary form. Hard to do well, but this one does. Excellent listening.
5) The Prancing Pony Podcast – Did you really think there wouldn’t be a Tolkien podcast in this list? This is by far the best Tolkien podcast out there right now. Two regular guys who love the works of Tolkien, where they slowly read and talk through them. Love it.
4) Out of Oz – Hosted by my friends and fellow pastors along with some of their church members, talking through hard/controversial issues. Fun chats, can be quite cheeky at times.
3) Luther in Real Time – Historical reenactments of Martin Luther’s life before, during, and after the reformation. Simply gold!
2) Gospel Bound – A Gospel Coalition podcast hosted by Collin Hansen, covering all things theological, political, and cultural through the lens of the gospel. Hopeful listening.
1) Life and Books and Everything – My favorite podcast find of the year, hosted by Kevin DeYoung and friends, title says it all. This podcast alone has helped me think through the majority of issues that have faced us in 2020. Dive deep into this, you’ll be better for it.
“I will not be celebrating Thanksgiving this year. Quite simply, there is nothing in 2020 deserving of my gratitude.” So, honest confession – I haven’t heard anyone utter these exact words; but the myriad of negative denouncements I have heard stirred with more than a spoonful of myopic lament has led me to conclude that this is the soul-sentiment of many a believer. Last weekend I seemingly shocked many in my congregation when I made the almost blasphemous proclamation that the past six months have been the most joyful in my eighteen years of ministry. A few chortled loudly at the declaration, perhaps convinced that I had to be jesting; but the statement was anything but a joke.
Most friends reading this understand that I do not live in a glossy globe of naivety. I am not ignoring reality or pretending that no ill has fallen on my family or our church this year. In fact, outside of 2017, 2020 has been the most grueling, life-altering, and future-clouding year of my life. Never would I have imagined a year of church shuttering; financial uncertainty; bitter infighting over masks, childcare, and – yes – kinds of hand sanitizer; lockdowns; racial divide; political toxicity; and the legitimacy or illegitimacy of a global pandemic. Never would I have imagined former friends on both sides of the aisle labeling me a liberal and a racist in the same week. Never could I have foreseen my refusal to buy into cultural norms and corrupt ideologies publicly decried as sinful and privately used to spread disunity. I certainly could not have projected a scenario where my little girl, at the height of the pandemic, had to be rushed in for emergency heart surgery. On the surface, it’s been a horrendous year. But just under the surface, as I take time to peel away the obvious ugly, I see significant beauty.
I would highly encourage you, Christian, to do the same, but here are twenty realities that I am thankful for that would not be had 2020 gone according to script:
- The shutdown and continued societal impacts have enabled me to linger with my family longer.
Family has always been an absolute priority for me, but seasons of lockdown and new social norms have enabled me to hang with and invest in Danielle and my kids with increased regularity and purpose.
- New rhythms have forced me to slow down and adapt.
For years I have worked hard to established healthy rhythms and accept necessary changes, but 2020 forced thoughtful reconsideration of many ministry norms.
- A reorientation of so many norms has pushed me to consider the things that truly matter.
Under the bevy of opinions and friendly fire, with pastors dropping from the ranks, Christians fighting over nearly everything, and friends compromising theologically or practically, I have been driven to really seek for that which must be prioritized in my teaching and apologetic, while permitting secondary issues to be passionately held in open-handedness.
- Pressing cultural issues, and how they have rocked the church, have helped in expanding my understanding of many critical matters.
I have, out of necessity, taken an even deeper dive into exploring how eschatology, prophecy, critical theory, intersectionality, cultural marxism, political ideologies, and political corruption directly affect the church and how Christians should respond.
- The necessity of a strong online presence and live-stream has gifted us the capacity to reach far more people with the message of the Gospel.
As a church, we have been able to minister through the vehicle of media to thousands of folks from around the world. Every Sunday hundreds join us from various parts of the country for our live stream and already we have picked up listeners for our podcast from more than a dozen countries.
- The countless calamities have actually been used by God to purify His church.
This always happens in times of crisis. Many fall away but the true church presses on in even greater devotion. That has certainly been the case in 2020.
- The reminder of the need for true community among the faithful has deepened the health of the church.
Many Christians have taken the shutdown as an excuse to opt out of prior commitments, but countless others have felt the stinging need for true community which has increased their ardor to plug into the life of the church local.
- The myriad of controversies and viewpoints have birthed numerous robust and profitable conversations.
Yes, there have been toxic, unprofitable discussions across this annual timeline, but so many of the conversations I have taken part in, when seeded by all parties in kindness, care, and a desire to actually listen, have been incredibly helpful.
- The shutdown gave us the necessary time to create more space for worship and kids’ classrooms.
Before COVID 19 rocked our country we had outgrown our worship space and our kids classrooms were overflowing. The past eight months have gifted us the time needed to expand our worship room while building out much larger classrooms.
- The chaos created an acute awareness and fostered deep conversations around eschatology.
I have long stated that “eschatology is a gift to the church in times of chaos” and that proved to be the case this year. There was no small amount of fear-mongering that went down related to the supposed rapture, the anti-Christ, and the “One World Order,” but once more, for those who sought to listen and understand there was much Biblical comfort to be found.
- The relentless assault from multiple sides has strengthened my resolve to fear the derision and judgment of others far less.
This might be my biggest take away from 2020. I understand that to go too far in this direction will result in cynicism, but the constant attacks have been used by the Lord to actually help me not to fear the criticism or hear the slander that used to wreck me.
- Needed personal repentance and the suffering of friends has instructed my heart to care much more deeply for others.
I have not always been empathetic or filled with compassion. In fact, for many years these virtues were virtually absent. But God has graciously brought me to repentance again and again, cultivating within me a deeper awareness of and care for those who are truly suffering.
- The compromise of Christian leaders and churches has emboldened me to speak against destructive beliefs and policies.
Much that has been heralded in 2020 is not only brazenly false but is also diabolically destructive to the Christian message. As a church we could have slid in with other believers and congregations who swallowed the cultural falsities; but instead, by God’s preservation, we have been graced to stand against the blatant mistruths.
- The constant attacks have presented an opportunity to be courageous.
I’m learning to value attack for without it we will never actually exhibit courage. As Lewis said: “Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.” Thank God for the gift not only to be courageous but to show our kids what bravery looks like.
- The diversity of opinions on significant issues has taught me how to graciously disagree.
“I believe you are wrong.” I have uttered those words almost on repeat this year, and I have heard them leveled from others against me. At times those words have been birthed from toxicity; but as the year has progressed, more often than not, those words have been bathed in grace. Christians must learn how to strongly yet kindly disagree.
- The need for community has deepened my friendships.
We were never meant to walk alone. We were designed for community and friendship. God has gifted me, and hopefully you as well, with deep, abiding friendships that throughout the fray of the past nine months have served me well and strengthened my soul.
- The wide-spread exhaustion, frustration, and discouragement for others have provided me endless occasions to lend encouragement to those struggling.
I’m very grateful for this as well. I am not naturally geared toward encouragement; but God has been rewiring me and cultivating within a true pleasure in bringing hope and joy to the lives of others. Though I still fail, by grace, I grow.
- The introduction and normalization of masks in society.
This one is weird, I admit, and most who know me know that I am not typically a mask-wearer. But COVID 19 and the mask hysteria aside, it would seem that wearing a mask moving forward for anyone struggling with a slight ailment or marginal cold would be beneficial for those they come in contact with. We almost forget that all the other illness that existed before COVID still, in fact, exists.
- A deeper love for my church family.
Coming into this year I would have acknowledged that the members of BLDG 28 cared for my soul; but the endless tumult has created a backdrop upon which I have seen the true devotion and love that my church has for one another and for my family and this has stirred a deeper and stronger love within.
- The Divinely orchestrated beauty from disaster has been a refreshing reminder of how little I actually control.
I don’t adapt well. I think there is certainly a place for and a benefit in organization and planning. But 2020 did not go according to script which more than almost anything else graciously reminded me that I may plans my path but the Lord directs my steps (Proverbs 16:9).
Throughout this holiday season I hope we will be reminded of all we have from the Lord to be thankful for; and I pray we will actually give thanks. It’s been a good year.
It’s cold today.
But despite the cold I rose early this morning and reached for my reading in Charles Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening, and my oh my, it was wonderful. It was so good and so soul warming, I’ve reposted it here below to encourage you. Be encouraged…
December 1, Morning
“Thou hast made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:17)
My soul begin this wintry month with thy God. The cold snows and the piercing winds all remind thee that He keeps His covenant with day and night, and tend to assure thee that He will also keep that glorious covenant which He has made with thee in the person of Christ Jesus. He who is true to His Word in the revolutions of the seasons of this poor sin-polluted world, will not prove unfaithful in His dealings with His own well-beloved Son.
Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon thee just now it will be very painful to thee: but there is this comfort, namely, that the Lord makes it. He sends the sharp blasts of adversity to nip the buds of expectation: He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes over the once verdant meadows of our joy: He casteth forth His ice like morsels freezing the streams of our delight. He does it all, He is the great Winter King, and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore thou canst not murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills, are of the Lord’s sending, and come to us with wise design. Frosts kill noxious insects, and put a bound to raging diseases; they break up the clods, and sweeten the soul. O that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!
How we prize the fire just now! how pleasant is its cheerful glow! Let us in the same manner prize our Lord, who is the constant source of warmth and comfort in every time of trouble. Let us draw nigh to Him, and in Him find joy and peace in believing. Let us wrap ourselves in the warm garments of His promises, and go forth to labours which befit the season, for it were ill to be as the sluggard who will not plough by reason of the cold; for he shall beg in summer and have nothing.”
Taken from Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening, reading from the morning of December 1.
It’s often been said, “There are two things you shouldn’t talk about in public: religion & politics.” Although many may give a hearty “Amen” to that statement when uttered, I don’t know anyone, really, who lives by that axiom. Just take a stroll through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, & Parler (whatever that is), and the masses are always opining about “The Two Taboos.”
But what about the Church? Should the Church be engaged in the political sphere? Should the Church be discussing politics in Sunday School, small groups, from the pulpit, or from the pastor’s office? Succinctly, absolutely “Yes” is the answer. However, as the Bereans, we should take a stroll through the Scriptures to discover our answer to any, and especially these, questions. What does the Word of God say in precept, principle, or model for us in practice?
God, Adam, Humanity, and Public Policy
From the beginning, God as King of Creation, Law-giver, and Judge (Genesis 1-3) was the clear standard for society; this has not changed. But, by what standard was Adam to “subdue the earth, and have dominion” (Genesis 1:28)? By what standard was Adam to “rule over” Eve (Genesis 3:16)? By what standard was soceity to relate to the first murderer, Cain, when expelled from the community of his family (Genesis 4)? By what standard was Noah to warn humanity of God’s impending judgement unless they repented from their sin and joined him in the ark (Genesis 6-7)? By what standard would future murderers be judged when they took the life of those with whom they lived (Genesis 9:6)?
I could go on, couldn’t I? What was the standard that Moses used to inform Pharaoh of his wicked policies? What was the standard Joshua used when he led the children of Israel into battle conquering the pagan nations that occupied God’s land for Israel? Esther to Xerxes? Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar or Cyrus?
You may object, “But, what of the New Testament?” Consider, John the Baptist to Herod or Paul to Felix, or perhaps Jesus’ exhortation to His disciples in Matthew 10:16-23 when the Master tells them that they “will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles…”. OT & NT alike, the people of God speak to the governors of man concerning God’s will for humanity.
The Word of God speaks to all humanity, revealing Himself to us, governing us, and guiding our policies. There is no subject or political office that is separated from God or His perfect governance. God, the King of all the Earth, governs all the earth with His Word.
The Church, The Gospel, & Policy (Politics)
By God’s design, the Church as an institution & God’s people as individuals have been the Divine Mechanism by which He guides, even commands, public policy. However, this is not at man’s whim or by man’s best thought. The Church and Her members are the prophetic voice guiding princes and their policies to God’s righteousness from God’s Word. From the Garden into eternity, God governs humanity by His Word.
Paul told the Galatians that the Gospel, the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ, took place at “the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4), leading his readers then and now to the reality that all of life (personal, familial, ecclesiastical, and political) center around the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul didn’t lead the Galatians to this point for the Church alone but for all of “time” which by necessity would include all that falls within the venue of “time.” Human government is just as much in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to govern its policies as individual men are.
The Gospel is sufficient. When did the Church relinquish the authority, clarity, sufficiency of the Word of God in the political sphere? And why? Surely, Peter would have lumped politics and policy in with what God has given when he said He gave us “all things that pertain to life & godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). Surely, Paul would have lumped politics and policy into how “All Scripture is…profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
The Church has been armed with Truth. In a world that is sinking under the mantra “there is no truth,” the Church must rise with Gospel on her lips and speak the Word of God into this escalating death trap.
Armed for Spiritual Warfare
To quell any fears, doubts, or suspicions that may be arising, I am not a Theonomist. I am, however, a Biblicist. The Lord & His Bride were greatly wounded through the Crusades and other foolish and murderous endeavors to force people into right worship; the first table of the Law is not the government’s to enforce, only encourage. We should never go back down that road.
The road we should travel, however, is the road where the Bride of Christ speaks Truth on political issues, to politicians, and in the public square. Some have accepted the false dichotomy of a “Sacred & Secular” divide. There is no such distinction from the King of Creation. The Church is a “city on a hill” with a Light to shine into the world around us. We do have an obligation to speak on policy, politics, and to people in authority and under authority. Don’t surrender God’s clear design to the wave of public opinion that says “Keep your religion out of the public square” for it is that public square that is in desperate need of the Gospel as well as its implications & imperatives for living.
The Democrats, Republicans, Independents, atheists, and idolaters are not the enemy. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood…[but] against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:10-12). Therefore, fight these spiritual battles with the greatest spiritual weapon ever gifted to mankind, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For “it is the power of God to salvation for those who believe” (Rom. 1:16).
Church, take the Gospel into the political sphere and rejoice in effectual Word of God accomplishing His purposes through its proclamation (Isaiah 55:11).