Church, Government and the Great Commission

There’s a lot of things wrong in our country. We legalize the murder of innocent children; we condone sexual immorality; we are power hungry; we lie, and we still think it’s okay to judge others by the color of their skin or ethnic background.

Granted, not every American is like that, but there’s no denying that those problems exist.

And we all have the same question: Why is it this way? Why is my country this way?

I’m afraid that the church can often point the finger at society and non-Christians for the problems. There’s a picture that makes annual rounds on Facebook that asks basically the same question, and it responds to it by saying “We need prayer in schools. We need God back in America. We need Christian leaders in government,” and so on and so forth.

But how do we get prayer back in schools? How do we get God back in America? Is that even possible? And do we really need Christian leaders in government?

You see, a few decades ago, the Moral Majority movement attempted to give Christians power in government to pass “Christian” laws, based on biblical ethics. This was, in so many eyes, a fantastic movement that would bring a great revival in our country. The “religious right” became a powerful political influence, and while leaders of that movement and other Christians continued to personally share the gospel, the overarching belief seemed to be that this movement would be the movement that brought about a great spiritual revival.

Unfortunately, the moral majority is gone, and our country is worse now than ever before.

Why? Because you cannot legislate the human heart. Because the government cannot make disciples.

I believe our country is the way it is because of sin. And I believe sin has a foothold in our country because the church has failed to make disciples the way God has called us to. We have gotten so caught up in the next election that we have failed to carry out our God-given mandate. We have thought that the government should “allow” prayer and “allow” God to work in our country, failing to remember that God Himself indwells each and every believer, and thus, we are divinely equipped to make a difference regardless of what the government is doing.

Don’t get me wrong….I will vote in November, and as both a concerned citizen and a journalist, I keep up with politics and care, probably more than the average person. However, to put all of our hope in what a politician can do, rather than it what the Lord Jesus can do, is foolish.

I care about this country. I care about its future. I care enough to vote for leaders whom I feel will make our country better than it is now. But there’s a difference in wanting good, wise leadership to make some temporary changes and thinking that a politician, a sinner like the rest of us, will “fix” everything wrong in our country.

There is one man who can and will fix what’s wrong with this world. But He is not an American citizen, and He will not be on your ballot November 8. I hope our next president does a great job. But if he or she doesn’t, fine.   know that one day, the King of Kings will put everything right. And I know that the church’s role, and my role, regardless of what happens in a few months, will be the same as it has been for 2,000 years: make disciples.

In 1 Peter 4:17, Peter tells the church that it is time for judgment. You can imagine the church is excited, thinking that those pagans are going to get it. But, surprise, Peter says that judgment will “start at the house of God.”

When God judges our nation, He will judge the Christian church first. And we will be judged for thinking that our government can do our job for us. We will be judged for all the times we have thought that if only Washington would fix this place, if only Washington would outlaw this and outlaw that. We will be judged for seeking to change laws instead of preaching the gospel to change hearts.

We must speak out about what God’s Word says to our culture. We must be loud and clear about what is right and wrong. But we must also remember that the gospel, not the law, changes hearts. People whose hearts are not committed to the Lordship of Christ and haven’t been changed by His grace will not live holy lives. They may be religious, but they won’t be saved. They’ll still go to hell, they’ll just look cleaner on the way.

The church must make making disciples its primary goal. Each Christian must make making disciples his or her primary goal. We must get back to preaching the good news that someone has died for us and can save us when we cannot save ourselves. We must preach Christ as Lord, and call people to trust Him and repent.

Another note needs to be made here: It’s very easy for my generation (age 18-35) to criticize the previous generation for things like the moral majority. And while we may not be wrong in pointing the finger, the whole point of what I’ve just written is for everyone to point the finger at themselves and think about whether or not disciple-making is really top priority.

If the previous generation’s biggest crime is seeking revival through the moral majority and “Christian” government, all while forgetting to preach the gospel and focus on the human heart, my generation’s biggest crime is wasting time blaming the previous generation.

If I blame my grandparents’ generation for not making disciples, does that help make disciples? Obviously not. There’s a time for figuring out where we went wrong. But when we do that, it’s time to start going the other way. I just moved to a new area, so that makes a lot of literal sense for me. I have found where I have gone wrong on many different roads. But I’m learning to go the right way now, and not wind up lost…again. But if we keep focusing on the wrong way, we don’t ever go the right way.

Bottom line: We know what we need to do. We’ve known for 2,000 years. God isn’t updating the handbook.

So let’s make disciples. Meet people. Share life with them. Tell them about Jesus. Teach them to tell people about Jesus. And keep making disciples.

Lord, may we make disciples. May we not forget that your commands are not complicated and you have given us the Spirit. May we be who you have called us to be.

God bless,

Neal E.

The Golden Rule: The Gospel and Relationships

Matthew 7:12, commonly known to as “The Golden Rule,” is one of the most famous verses in all of Scripture, and is often used by Christians and non-Christians alike.  It’s easily found on coffee mugs and posters, plastered across the American landscape.  But what does it actually mean?  What was Jesus getting at when He said it?

In case you’ve forgotten the Golden Rule and so shamed your parents and elementary school teachers, here it is:

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

When was the last time you actually treated someone as you would want to be treated?  This morning, in traffic, did you treat the guy who cut you off like you’d want to be treated?  When your kids didn’t listen to you, and refused to obey you, did you treat them the way you’d like to be treated?  When your coworker didn’t exactly keep their promise to help out with that project that was due a week ago, did you treat them like you’d want to be treated?

We all fail to treat others as we want to be treated, because there’s a fundamental disconnect in what we think we deserve, and what we think others deserve.  Our pride would have us believe we are worthy of grace, while others are only worthy of law.  Our pride clouds our eyes from seeing our sin, but amazingly, we can see the sin of people we don’t even know!  We have good excuses, but “they” have a problem.

None of us want to be treated with the law, that is, with true justice.  We all wish for grace.  But when it comes for us to give grace, we don’t treat others the way we want to be treated.

Let’s say, for example, you cut someone off in traffic because you’re in a hurry.  We can all relate to this, and if you can’t, I’m going to assume you’re either under the age of 16, or you’re just abnormally nice behind the wheel of a car.  But, if you’re like 99% of us, you can relate to this.

When you cut someone off, and they honk their horn, is your first thought, “Oh man, that was sort of mean…I probably shouldn’t have done that.  I’ll be sure to slow down and apologize to them?”  Probably not.  Our first reaction is more along the lines of, “How dare they!  I’m late to work! I’ve got to get to (wherever you happen to be going).  They ought to drive faster!”  We want them to identify with us, to treat us with grace, or unmerited favor, when we offend them.

But if they cut us off, all you-know-what breaks loose.  “That psycho cut me off!”  “They ought to be arrested!”  When we see them pulled over half a mile later, we smile and whisper, “Justice,” even though, were we the ones to get pulled over, we’d be full of excuses, hoping, wishing, desiring that the police officer would let us off the hook, “just this once.”

Do you see the hypocrisy here?  We desire to be treated with grace.  But we don’t at all desire to treat others with grace.  Again, children are a perfect example here.  Anyone who’s ever worked with kids knows they want grace, not law.  “Please, I won’t do it again!”  “I’ll be better, I promise!”  But when their older brother twists their arm, or their sister steals their toy: “Mom/Dad…make them stop!  Ground them/put them in timeout/spank them!”  While children may grow up in a lot of ways, they’ll never grow out of their innate, sinful tendency to want to receive grace while desiring to dispense law.  At least not by their own strength.  And neither will we.

Jesus commands that we treat people with grace if that’s how we want to be treated.  We’ve established that grace is how we want to be treated, but we find it impossible to treat others with grace.  So how do we obey what Jesus says?  We have to look at what Jesus has done.  We have to see the gospel.  We have to believe the gospel.  And we have to be changed by it.

While we treat others with law, Jesus treats us with grace.  When we had sinned against Him and earned nothing but eternal hell, He left His heavenly throne to come rescue us.  When we despised Him and went after false gods, He drew us back to Himself and gave us the eyes to see and despise our sin.  When we lived for ourselves, He lived for us.  When we went after death, He died for us.  When we ran away from Him, He gave us the repentance and faith needed to come back to Him.  When we were condemned by the law, He freed us from that condemnation with His grace, at the cost of His life.

So, when we see we have no shot at saving ourselves, and we trust in Christ to be our Lord and lead us, and trust in Him as our Savior, and we receive His righteousness, and we trust and rest in His forgiveness, we are empowered, by the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit, to show this same grace to others.

When we’re tempted to treat others the way we don’t want to be treated (law), we remember that it is by grace God has drawn us to trust in Him as our God.  We remember that God has declared us righteous, not by our law-keeping, but by Christ’s law-keeping.  We remember that it is by the blood of Christ that we are declared forgiven, and are, through faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, adopted as children of God.  We remember the grace we’ve received, and we show it to others to be more like Christ and to glorify Him.

So if you’re struggling to show grace, you need more grace.  You need more of what Jesus has done for you.  You need to rest in that, and trust in Him to help you be who you are.  And in those moments when you’re tempted to respond with law in your relationships with others, you can remember grace.  And you can be like Jesus.

Lord, may we remember that we are saved by grace.  May we treat others with that same grace.  May the gospel change us from the inside out.

God bless,

Neal E.

Note: Treating others with grace does not mean that you have to endure abuse, or that you don’t have the obligation to report a crime.  Grace destroys sin, it never enables sin.  It is not ungracious for you to separate from someone who is hurting you.  It is ungracious to not pray for that person or to desire their eternal condemnation.  It is not ungracious for you to report a crime, such as sexual assault.  It is ungracious for you to not care about innocent people who are being hurt when you can do something to stop it.  I didn’t include this in the main text, as it would take away from the main thrust of the message, but we must not think that showing grace means enabling sin.  Grace means doing what needs to be done to restore that person, and sometimes that means separating from them, or calling the police, or a private conversation that gets to the heart of the issue.  Pray to God for the eyes to see how we can show grace to everyone, even to those who hurt us.