Friday, September 25, 2015

Rejoicing in Citizens of a Different City

“I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord. All the good things I have come from You.’ As for those in the land who belong to You, they are the great ones in whom is all my joy. Those who have traded for another god bring many troubles on themselves” (Psalm 16:2-4a, New Life Version).

My youngest daughter has discovered the joy of reading in the last year, and, much to her parents’ joy, seems to enjoy only reading her Bible. She has a little notebook in which she copies passages of Scripture. A few weeks ago she brought me her copy of Psalm 16. That night she read it in family devotion before bedtime. It was the same day as the second debate among those seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for the 2016 presidential race.

Read the excerpt from Psalm 16 again. I didn’t watch the debate. Surveying the reactions and commentaries of fellow believers on social media was far more informative to me – not necessarily concerning the candidates, but the worldview and political theory my fellow believers were proclaiming (whether they intended to or not). A question which first occurred to me four years ago came to mind again, especially in the context of the Psalm of that day: If a candidate thinks most like us in the areas of economy, foreign policy, social issues, and governmental theory, but not in Christology, and we still support that candidate, what does that say about the priority of Christ in our thinking (not to mention our lives)?

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 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” (Romans 12:1,2, New American Standard).

“But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:20-24).

We are not supposed to think like non-believers, even if the non-believers are in our political party and/or share certain political ideals. I have seen many Christians get heavily involved in politics with a good desire to bring a godly influence into that realm, only to be more influenced by the ideals of that domain than they are the Scripture and true Christian doctrine (especially when they spend far more hours in the week dedicated to politics rather than sitting under biblical teaching or studying the Word with others). It would seem that the Old Testament adage is true: holiness is not contagious, but uncleanness certainly is (Haggai 2:11-13).

“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ Says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1). Does this have application for believers and civil politics?

I freely grant that the New Testament doesn’t explicitly address how believers are to operate in a democratic Republic. However, I would suggest that there are a lot of questions rooted in systematic theology that believers need to have answered from the Scripture before they either operate in the realm of politics or speak their political opinions in public. For just one example: How do you understand the Bible’s doctrine of sin in unbelievers? How is this sin to be dealt with? What is the remedy for it? Can we be united politically to someone who doesn’t believe in the need for divine forgiveness of sin, or someone who bows down before graven images, or someone who seeks a relationship with God through any mediator but the “one mediator...between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5)? Answers to these questions should and will radically (from the root, that is) determine your political language and decision-making. There are many other questions that come to mind, but ultimately they all come back to a trinitarian view of God (and, by extension, a biblical Christology) and how our commitment to that God should determine our politics and political alliances. Can support of a non-Christian candidate logically reconcile with your understanding of Christian theology and biblical doctrine? Believers should be “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42), for the Spirit works through these. When we do not do this, I am not the least surprised that Christianity becomes more political (in a worldly sense) than biblical.

Further, I worry about our seeking common ground based on the “Judeo-Christian God” or “Judeo-Christian morality.”

I know there is not a “Judeo-Christian God,” for “who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22,23). From a biblical standpoint, there is only the Christian God. The claims of Christ and the teachings concerning Him in the Bible cannot legitimately be separated from a conception of God and still be Christian or biblical. Anything else is “antichrist.” If there is not a “Judeo-Christian God,” then it follows that there is no true “Judeo-Christian morality” or ethic. Because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, all morality and ethics are seen through what He has accomplished and what He demands (Matthew 28:20). Can a Christian really separate morality and ethics from the claims of Jesus Christ in Bible to be bound with those who reject Jesus Christ and all the words of His apostles (the New Testament – and the Old Testament, since we must read the O.T. through the N.T., 2 Corinthians 3:14-16)?

I fear we want “a all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5) more than we want a leader passionate for and wholly submitted to “the King of the nations” (Jeremiah 10:7). During the 2012 election season, I saw many Christians throw their support behind a non-Christian (Mormons are not Christian because they do not confess the Christ as the Church has historically and biblically confessed Him for two millennia). Can we fellowship in our politics without fellowshipping in our worship? Can a Christian really separate devotion to Christ from the arena of politics so neatly?

Return to the Bible and its Christ. Build a solid foundation of biblical Christian theology and ethics, and from there evaluate the candidates. Build no bridges with those who take the name of Christ upon themselves in vanity, but cling to the Christ with all you are and in all you do. If he or she does not confess the Christ of the Bible, then I cannot cast my vote in that direction. Preach the biblical Christ and His Gospel to yourself and others every day. Sit with other believers under biblical teaching as often as possible (especially with others not as on-fire for politics and current events as you are – you need that balance). And think, think for the glory of God in Christ, my beloved. Think clearly and biblically on these things.

“I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord. All the good things I have come from You.’ As for those in the land who belong to You, they are the great ones in whom is all my joy. Those who have traded for another god bring many troubles on themselves” (Psalm 16:2-4a, New Life Version).

May our joy be like that of the Psalmist, found in others in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. All others are objects of evangelism and prayer - not hope, joy, or even political support.
Push for the summit in the Mount Taylor 50K (2014).
Scripture tells believers to be ever-climbing to heaven
in this life in all we do (Philippians 3:13-31; Colossians 3:1-4;
Hebrews 11:13-16).

No comments: