Christ is not truly prized at all — unless He is prized above all.
– Nathaniel Vincent (1639-1697)
For The Church that was an adapted excerpt from Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides by Scott Sauls. Sauls is the senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, TN. His church is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America.
He addresses politics and the church and this is a topic I’ve pondered for a number of years which is ironic as I’ve written a political blog for almost 12 years. I started engaging in politics while I was in full-time vocational ministry, but not while I was ministering.
Church and state so to speak. That does not mean that I shied away from politically-charged topics when the Bible addresses them, but I never wanted to be partisan. I never wanted to preach politics. I wanted to preach the Gospel. From a liberty point-of-view, I believe churches should have the freedom to engage in the political realm and the government, via the IRS, should not regulate the pulpit. Saying that, when I was a pastor, I would never dream of making an endorsement from the pulpit or allow partisan politics to impact my ministry. (I have endorsed candidates as a private citizen on my own time.)
My main thing was the proclamation of the law and gospel. I was focused on the word of God, and if I am preaching the whole counsel of God then eventually topics like abortion, marriage, immigration (sojourners), poverty, etc. will come up and pastors need to handle those topics faithfully.
I wanted to highlight a couple of things that Sauls said that resonated with me.
As is the case with every paradox associated with Christianity, there is a both/and and a neither/nor component as it relates to political loyalties. Unless a human system is fully centered on God (no human system is), Jesus will have things to affirm and things to critique about it. The political left and the political right are no exception.
If we believe when Jesus returns that He is going to side 100 percent with every political position we have taken on every issue then we are sorely mistaken. (I’m sure we will also find out we are wrong about some of those minor theological positions we can be dogmatic about. This is not an invitation to debate which ones.)
I am conservative, but conservatism is a flawed, human-based political ideology. Conservatism is not inerrant. Scripture is. For those brothers and sisters who identify with the political left the same is true. If you happen to be in the political middle, guess what? Your ideology is just as flawed.
But when it comes to politics, the Bible gives us no reason to believe that Jesus would side completely with one political viewpoint over another. Rather, when it comes to kings and kingdoms, Jesus sides with himself.
Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. As author and pastor, Dr. Tony Evans once said, when Jesus returns He will not come to take sides, but to take over.
Far too often we put our trust in candidates and in ideologies. That is misplaced trust. Scripture exhorts us: “Put not our trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish,” (Psalm 146:3-4, ESV).
So the question we need to ask, Sauls says, is not whether God is on our side, but rather are we on His?
In our churches, yes even in faithful, Bible-teaching, evangelical churches there will be people of all political persuasions and parties who are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Sauls provides us a challenge:
We should feel “at home” with people who share our faith but not our politics even more than we do with people who share our politics but not our faith. If this is not our experience, then we very well may be rendering to Caesar what belongs to God.
People from varying political persuasions can (and should) experience unity under a single, first allegiance to Jesus the King, who on the cross removed and even “killed” the dividing wall of hostility between people on the far left, people on the far right, and people everywhere in between.
If that isn’t our attitude, then we need to repent.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen,” (2 Peter 3:18, ESV).
My hope arises from the freeness of grace, and not from the freedom of the will.
– Charles Haddon Spurgeon
I’ve neglected to post a round-up this week, so here are my online offerings at Caffeinated Thoughts and Truth in American Education this week thus far, seven articles in all in the order they were written.
Iowa Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix (R-Shell Rock) resigned from his leadership role and his Senate seat effective Monday afternoon. His resignation occurred just two hours after Iowa Starting Line, a liberal blog, posted a video that showed Dix kissing a woman, identified only as a lobbyist at a bar in Des Moines.
A bill before the Iowa Senate requires elections for bond propositions for cities, townships, counties, or school districts, as well as, propositions for a local option sales tax to be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
3. “Who Should Be The Next Iowa Senate Majority Leader?” – 3/13/18
Iowa Senate Republicans will caucus on Wednesday to decide who will replace former Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix (R-Shell Rock) who resigned on Monday. Who should they choose to replace him? I give my two cents.
4. “I’m Surprised Rex Tillerson Lasted As Long As He Did” – 3/13/18
The Secretary of State serves at the pleasure of the President. Any employee who acted the way Rex Tillerson did on the job would have been fired long ago.
In the 2018 Iowa Gubernatorial race, Marco Battaglia and Jake Porter have each filed their paperwork to appear on the June Primary ballot, the Libertarian Party of Iowa’s first as a major party.
6. “Iowa Senate Republicans Pick Jack Whitver as Majority Leader” – 3/14/18
Iowa Senate Republicans selected former Senate President Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny) as the next Iowa Senate Majority Leader. They also selected State Senator Charles Schneider (R-West Des Moines) as Senate President and State Senator Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton) as Majority Whip.
7. “President Trump Calls for a Review of FERPA” – 3/14/18
The White House announced that President Donald Trump’s school security plan also includes a review of FERPA to “determine if any changes or clarifications are needed to improve coordination between mental health and other healthcare professionals, school officials, and law enforcement personnel.”
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God.
– John 1:9-13, ESV
Here are five items of interest I ran across while reading. Topics include civility in political discourse, a Christian sexual ethic, controversy in the church, internet trolls in church clothes, and prayer.
1. Civility Is Not Surrender.
David French at National Review wrote an excellent piece on how we can debate people who oppose our point of view. He said we need humility, conviction, and a sense of proportion. I wanted to highlight what he had to say about humility as we engage in public debate:
The Jesus who blasted the Pharisees is omniscient. He knows the secrets of a man’s heart. The prophets who thundered against injustice had the benefit of hearing directly from God. Me? I’m just a person who “sees through a glass darkly.” I’m keenly aware of my limited knowledge and wisdom. I’m keenly aware that even when I can know the truth, I don’t always know the best way to communicate that truth.
Thus it’s imperative to read the best expression of the opposing side’s point of view. Reading only the worst (as entertaining as that can be) is inherently deceptive. It can wrongly confirm your own self-righteousness and wrongly demonize your opponent. Read the best, and you’ll not only learn, you’ll also find that your fellow citizens — people who also see through a glass darkly — often share many of your core values and seek the public good with equal (or often superior) diligence.
But humility shouldn’t be paralyzing. A person should still advocate for his or her ideas with conviction. Individual liberty and the sanctity of life, for example, are ideas worth fighting for. We can agree and acknowledge that an opponent might be brilliant and well-meaning (sometimes they’re neither, obviously), but they are still wrong. They still must be opposed.
2. Searching for the Pathway Back to a Christian Sexual Ethic
Trevin Wax wrote this excellent article at The Gospel Coalition.
He asks some excellent questions about Christians who have taken the path away from biblical orthodoxy as it pertains to sex and relationships, and how we relate to those who want to turn back.
How will we treat people who thought they were taking a bold step forward into the future of Christianity, only to realize they’d stepped onto a rapidly descending escalator that left them powerless to affirm any kind of Christian morality at all?
Will we show grace to people who once doubted the Christian position on sexuality, but who now doubt their doubts, who now are considering a return to the traditional Christian position?
Will we provide pathways home for evangelicals who once walked down the path for same-sex marriage but have now mustered up the courageous humility necessary to return to the unchanging witness of the church?
3. Why Controversy Is Sometimes Necessary.
Here’s the money quote from Albert Mohler’s piece at Ligonier Ministries’ blog:
The history of the church also reminds us of the necessity of controversy when the truth of the gospel is at stake. Time and again, we see crucial moments when truth must be defended or denied. The church has to look squarely at what is being taught and decide if the teaching is true to the Scriptures. This usually produces controversy. If the church believed that controversy is to be avoided at all costs, we would have no idea what the gospel is.
To our shame, the church has often been divided over the wrong controversies. Congregations and denominations have divided over issues that are, in the light of God’s Word, indifferent. Furthermore, some churches seem to thrive on controversy, even as some church members and leaders are agents of disunity. This brings shame and reproach on the church, and it distracts the church from its task of preaching the gospel and making disciples.
So, how are we to know if a controversy is right or wrong? The only way to answer this question is to go to Scripture and evaluate the importance of the issues of debate. All questions of truth are important, but not all are equally important.
4. Do We Comment Like Unbelievers?
Greg Morse wrote a piece called “Internet Trolls In Church Clothes: How to ‘Comment’ The Truth in Love” at desiringGod. He asks do we comment like unbelievers?
Now, Christians should not gasp every time the trolls, who pick fights and sow discord online, speak and type maliciously from their miserable hearts. We are not surprised when toads and mosquitoes proceed from swamps. But we should be surprised when rats proceed from the palace of the Spirit of God; when pollution continually proceeds from the river of life coming from the believer’s heart.
Some of us, like Saul before Damascus, have been persecutors of the church of God online. Instead of using our comments to sharpen our brothers and sisters, we sharpen our axes to do away with their heads. Our insults and hasty speech refuse to heed our Master’s earnest call: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). He who laid his life down for us calls us to model the drama. But too often, we do not lay down our insults — let alone our lives — for our brothers.
I am not speaking against evaluation in general, nor critique specifically. We must watch our doctrine carefully (1 Timothy 4:16); we must speak the truth in love to one another (Ephesians 4:15) — a truth that presumably is hard to hear, thus it should be spoken with love. But the spirit of fault-finding and nitpicking is not the spirit of Christ.
5. There Is Nothing Trite About Prayer.
Tim Challies had an excellent article about the power of prayer. Here’s a money quote:
Recently, prayer has been maligned as an insignificant, wasteful, or even cruel practice as a response to another person’s pain or trial or difficulty. Some of those who pray have been “prayer shamed” into silence, having been told “I’ll pray for you” is a trite, ridiculous, meaningless promise. But it should not be.
As Christians, we believe in the power of prayer. We believe there is nothing trite about prayer. To the contrary, we pray before we act, we pray while we act, and we pray after we act. We make prayer instrumental, not supplemental to all we are and all we do. We make prayer a matter of first priority rather than an afterthought. We have unshakable confidence in its power and effectiveness.
Why? Because for Christians prayer is not merely speaking words into a void. It is not wishing upon a star. It is not summoning positive thoughts to a cold and indifferent universe. Prayer is a child making a request of his loving Father; it is a son claiming his generous birthright; it is a saved one obeying his kind Savior. Prayer is speaking to the Father because of the love of the Son under the mediation of the Spirit. Prayer is taking hold of the promises of God and repeating those promises to the one who made them. How could this be anything but powerful and effective and meaningful?
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
– Colossians 3:16, ESV