Christian, You Have Been Distracted (From Palmwood Church)

canstockphoto3711215Doug the Dog. For me, he might be the most-relatable character Disney has produced. Loving, loyal, passionate and…distracted. Seriously, how many of us didn’t fall madly in love with him in Disney’s UP when, right in the middle of a thought, he’d turn his head and shout, “Squirrel!”?

Sadly, I think dear Doug may also be a great caricature of American Evangelicalism today. Think about it: one of Satan’s greatest deceptive tactics has always been distraction. If he can get someone’s attention off of the truth — off of Christ — he wins. When it comes to the last three election cycles, I think he has successfully done just that. Christians in America have become so consumed with the candidates and their baggage that they have seemingly forgotten that the mission Jesus gave us does not change with an election outcome. I’m going to say something that many of my dearest friends are not going to like — but please hear me out. It doesn’t matter who wins the 2016 Presidential election.

Distracted

I know — I get it. You’re worried about losing our religious liberties. But countless brothers and sisters around the world have born incredible Kingdom fruit never having known those freedoms. You’re worried about abortion proliferating even more than it already has. But the stench of abortion, infanticide and ethnic cleansing in other lands — horrible as it is — has not stopped the spread of the gospel by God’s faithful. You’re worried about illegal immigration and a huge migration of refugees. You’re worried about ISIS and terrorism on our home soil. You’re worried about many things. And while I don’t like ANY of these possibilities any more than you do, I apparently have a different perspective than many Evangelicals today. And I can sum it up in the words of the Apostle Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Stop for just a moment and re-read this whole passage with me. It is so applicable to the world in which we find ourselves today:

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1984 [Ro 8:18–39]. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

Christian, are these just words or do you really trust in them? Is our God sovereign or not? I’m convinced from the personal conversations I’ve had in the last few months that many believers are currently driven by fear, plain and simple. The fact that so many Christians are now wringing their hands in worry about the election tells me that trust is indeed faltering. We don’t seem to trust that God is really in control. We don’t seem to trust that our God, the Ancient of Days and our Loving Father through Christ, knows our circumstances and will work gloriously in spite of them! God is not limited by who sits in the Oval Office! This fear and worry has distracted us from the character and nature of our God. But that’s not all.

On Mission

While masses of American Christians have become consumed with current politics, they have at the same time lessened their grip on their mission. I tried to address some of this in a recent sermon (Jesus Responds to Political Unrest). Let me put it plainly: no matter the outcome of any election, Christ’s mission does not change and His people do not live any differently. In fact, there may be more opportunities for His power and glory to shine through us as things worsen around us. We certainly don’t pray for things to worsen, but we also should not fret when they do.

If you and I as followers of Jesus find our identity in Christ, then several things are true: we are God’s precious children, filled with His grace, fully redeemed and under the full dominion and protection of God in Christ. As such, we are called to participate in God’s redemptive mission — every single one of us — actively displaying His transforming Presence in our lives and working in love and grace to draw others to Him. There is no room for fear and worry in this new life. In fact, one of Jesus’ most prominent teachings was “Fear not!” Jesus told His disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Again, if God our Loving Father be for us, who can be against us?

Following Paul’s instructions to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:11-16), both we and those we disciple after us must:

  • Live in righteousness, not simply accepting righteousness as a state of being in Christ but actually letting it dictate how we respond to people. We take care of those in need. We defend those who cannot defend themselves. We serve, heal and deliver people in the powerful name of Jesus.
  • Live in godliness, taking the necessary steps to grow deep in our spirituality so that we approach every aspect of life in a consistent, God-focused manner.
  • Live in faith, first and foremost trusting our God in everything, believing in His sovereignty no matter what happens in the White House, Congress or the Judiciary, and remaining fully dependent on our Father in Heaven regardless of our circumstances.
  • Live in love, being decidedly other-oriented and self-sacrificial like our beloved Lord Jesus, demonstrating a fully unconditional love toward all — even those who do not agree with us socially, religiously or politically!
  • Live in endurance, remaining faithful in spite of pain, social pressure or other challenging factors; being patient in persecution (which few who read this blog have ever really faced) and long-suffering with the world around us.
  • Live in gentleness, removing all hateful rhetoric and malice, and choosing a mild-mannered, powerful, society-changing meekness.

We are to prepare ourselves like a professional boxer — practicing, learning, training. We are to hold on to the eternal life that we have been given in Christ and never let it go. And we are to do all of these things “without spot or blame until Jesus returns”!

You see, the thing America needs most is not Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or Independent leadership — its a mass of truly godly people, fully transformed by the grace of God, living in powerful meekness while carrying out the Father’s instructions in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. The world around us can be even more hell-bound than it is today and it still will not be able to impede the kingdom-establishing move of God’s children! Remember what Jesus said to Peter at Caesarea Philippi? Not even the gates of hell itself can withstand the onslaught of the Church! (Matthew 16:13-20) If God be for us, who can be against us?

Its time for the Church of King Jesus to act like it. When it comes to November 8th, I honestly don’t know yet for whom I might vote. And if I cannot stand before my Loving Father with a clear conscience in selecting a candidate by then, I will be staying home. And don’t tell me that’s the same as a vote for your opponent. That’s the world’s logic. That’s fear speaking. I fully trust my God to do amazingly and overwhelmingly incredible things no matter who the American populace chooses. I love my country deeply and will continue to serve it in Jesus’ name, but my greater responsibility is as a citizen of heaven over that of the United States — when those two worlds are pitched against each other (which is often), heaven always wins. Period.

I am not afraid — and neither should you be. I will not be distracted from the nature and character of my Father, and I will not be dissuaded from His mission. I beg you to stop the panic and join me.