I'm concerned with a growing temptation to try to fix this world with politics rather than with God, and I'm really concerned that we can get so immersed in political thought that we are going to miss what Jesus Christ wants us to do in this country right now.
In the Bible, those who truly did not understand the message of Jesus, in my mind, were those who thought he was coming to an establish an earthly political kingdom. That word, “misunderstand,” scares me a lot because these people were with him. They wanted him to succeed. They wanted Jesus to succeed. I think that could possibly be said of every person reading this, and probably every person who comes to our church on Sunday morning. We like the concept of Jesus and we want success. But the problem was, despite spending all that time with Jesus, they totally misunderstood what Jesus was about.
What if God is doing something in American culture right now nationwide, Michigan wide, Traverse City wide, but you are missing it because of your preconceived political notions?
Politics are important, and they're important because the Bible says so. There are so many verses on justice and good laws and God blessed nations that choose to follow him. They’re also important because politics involves people, and God is always involved in people. From the big ones, down to economic policy and little things, they affect people. So these things are important.
If we only go on and on about our political stances, to the outside world the Church is just another political faction to be dealt with. But if we are focused on these people's hearts, that's the changing, transforming nature of Christ.
I think the more we get involved in politics, it offers up a danger to Christians. Through them I can cloak and mask the wickedness of my heart with rational policy decisions.
Let me give you an example, and I am not saying you should vote one way or another on this issue. A year or two ago, if you had asked me about immigration laws, I would have had a very set stock answer – “This is easy to fix. Come on. This is ridiculous. Close the border, keep people out, fix problems in South America, Come on. No problem.” But 18 months ago, our family met two young guys here fresh from Venezuela, both of them riding one bike because they wanted to go to church and that's all they had to get here. My first real contact with what we would call illegal immigrants and I start doing some digging. I realized that, they’re called illegal immigrants, but they're on parole. So frankly, they have every right to be here. And looking at how they were taken advantage of, these two are not trying to do anything wrong. All they want to do is get away from persecution and provide for families. They have a heart for God. All they want to do is work. Okay; I don't know that my actual thoughts and stances on immigration have changed, but my heart has changed because when I hear stances on imigration, laws, and policy, I think of those two real people. Because before that, it was just a political idea I had in my head of how to fix things.
Now it involves real people. And the problem with politics is that we come up with ideas that have an earthly, real impact on the people of God and other people created in God's image without really being immersed in those areas and their lives. We end up sounding smart and sounding distinguished, and like we've got it all together, but our heart is in the wrong place.
My heart was not open to people like them until I met these two men and realized, this is real world. And that's what our heart must change.
Now I'm really looking in the mirror, but maybe you can look with me. Do we spend more time trying to get people to confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and to believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead or to get them to vote a certain way? Because I can talk about politics forever.
Make it make it easy. Look at the last conversations of the last month that you've had with other people; family members, coworkers, people you meet, whatever, especially those who are unsaved. Go ahead, get a stopwatch out mentally: have you spent more time saying words that would persuade them to follow Christ or have you spent more time talking about political votes, political issues, or the right and wrong of certain things in government? It's humbling.
Now, if you look at anyone who's 25 or 30 on down, they have struggled with a question that I never did. And the number one question in their life is “who am I – what does it mean to be human?” That's going to be the number one question going forward. Not is there truth or is God truth, but, who am I. What does it mean to be a human.
Pansexualism? Transgenderism? Whether you can be a furry. Whether we give civil rights to pets. All those things are saying, “what does it mean to be a human?” And every person from that age on down is walking around daily going, “Who am I?”
We've got an answer for that, don't we? That's why we're looking for the good. Even in those things – those are all wicked things, okay, but look for the good, because there's a conversation about the gospel that can happen there. We have that answer. You are created in God's image. I'm sorry, but you are fallen. But we serve a risen savior who came to give you life and you can have a new identity in Christ! If you just browbeat and say,”you wicked person,” you're never going to be able to have that conversation.
All these kids you're concerned about; your grandkids, your kids – they're wandering around and they've been exposed to these sorts of ideas – and if we can stop it, please stop it – but while it's going on, use that to turn to them and say, “Hey, who are you?” There's an answer for that. So look for the good opportunities in that.
Be careful of hero worship. We'll go back to 1st Samuel. Here, the Israelites wanted a hero. Well, they wanted a hero to replace God and that was the problem. Do you remember how Jesus keeps talking about sheep, like, incessantly? Why does he keep talking about sheep?
May we never, ever replace the fealty that we owe to Jesus Shepherd with someone else.
We’re the sheep. And what do sheep want? Sheep want to follow somebody. So let's run with that analogy. Our nature is always to seek a herd, to have others around us who think feel the same way. And our nature is always to follow some voice. The point is we can take refuge in following a church leader, or our favorite writer, or our favorite politician, or that one guy that comes on at 5 p.m. on the news and always seems to say the right thing. Fine, except are you listening to that voice more than you're listening to Jesus? When you form your political ideas are those the voices – are those your shepherds instead of our King, Jesus? Are you following him? That means a couple of things. Number one, no one is above Jesus. You follow him first. Number two, what voices am I letting in my head?
Go back to the TV part. What am I doing here? What? Who? Who is forming my political opinions? Who is forming my cultural ideas? Is it the word of God? Is it what Jesus would say about those ideas or some other false shepherd out there that you were following? May we never, ever replace the fealty that we owe to Jesus Shepherd with someone else.
Paul says, “I note Timothy, how from infancy you have known the Scriptures.”
We've got to get it in the minds of our kids. And then, here's the fascinating part, “the Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” We've got to spread the word of God through our culture. That's priority number one. It's not your political thoughts, not your fancy words, not even your lifestyle though that is incredibly important. We must get the words of Jesus Christ out in our culture; to our friends, to our family. We have to make our culture wise for salvation through faith. And that is my plea for you. We've got our own notions of what he ought to be doing in culture and we need to come in front of him and say, “God, where are you working? What do you want me to do?”
Let me put down my my desire for a hero – my desire for political victory – and look around and say, “what are you, God, doing? What's going on in our culture and how can I get the gospel there? How can I get the words of Christ there?”