Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes
This article requires a preface. Christianity is apolitical. Were our Savior in the voting booth, He would not have a party affiliation. Though I cannot say Jesus Christ would stand with David Lipscomb, advocating Christians abstain entirely from political involvement, I know our Lord would remind us that the Father establishes the governments of men (cf. Daniel 2.20-21;4.17,25; Romans 13.1ff). Frankly, I cannot imagine our Emmanuel casting a ballot. However, I think He would still be concerned by a government allowing abortion on demand and loose sexual ethics since these things subvert God’s Will.
2020 is, of course, an election year in the United States, and it is safe to say that the world is watching to see how this election will turn out. Obviously, other governments have preferences about whom they would rather work with on the global stage. Vladimir Putin of Russia is no different. On October 7, 2020, various news outlets reported Putin’s statement about the upcoming election. Putin stated he could see himself working well with a Joe Biden Administration since the latter’s party shared “common values” with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Gehrke). One may recall that Putin was a member of the communist party and KGB officer (Wiki).
Despite what you may be anticipating, I am not using Putin’s “endorsement” as a means to influence the American reader to vote for “the other guy.” I am taking issue with Putin’s words that these shared values are akin to “Christian values” (Swindoll). Unfortunately, there is a lie that primitive Christianity was communist. This misunderstanding is an extrapolation from the benevolence of the early church. Yes, Christians are said to have held all things, including their property, in common (Acts 4.32). Yet, context is critical. There was no mandate to forfeit personal, worldly property to the leadership of the church. In communism, by contrast, the State (i.e., leadership) owns all capital.
After Barnabas gave the proceeds from his real estate sale to the Apostles (Acts 4.36-37), Ananias and Sapphira also sold their property (Acts 5.1). Acts 5 records how Ananias and Sapphira decided to keep a portion of their profit but lie about the size of their donation to the church’s coffers. They told the Apostles that they were giving all. Peter exposed their lie. In addition to his rebuke of the foolish pair, which included their sudden deaths, Peter said, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5.4 NASB—emphasis mine). Note that Ananias and Sapphira maintained ownership of their capital in contradiction to socialist dogma.
We think Paul went on his journeys to found local congregations of the Lord’s church, but God tasked Paul with collecting aid for the brethren of Jerusalem and Judea during a famine (Acts 11.27-30). As Paul instructed these new local congregations about their contributions (cf. 1 Corinthians 16.1-2), he told them God did not want them to feel compelled to give. They were to provide as they purposed in their hearts cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9.7). Like the Macedonians, some presented themselves to God so that they could give despite their poverty (2 Corinthians 8.1-5). Others, however, such as the Achaeans, were able to give more freely. Hence, Paul used the example of the Macedonians to encourage the Achaeans of Corinth to be liberal with their giving (2 Corinthians 8.10-15).
So, I am sorry, Mr. Putin, that you have confused communist values with Christian values. Christianity is not communist. The church can be benevolent without being socialist and should be (cf. Matthew 25.31ff).
Gehrke, Joel. “Putin Touts ‘Common Values’ Shared by Democrats and Communists.” Washington Examiner, Washington Examiner, 7 Oct. 2020, www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/defense-national-security/putin-touts-common-values-shared-by-democrats-and-communists.
“Vladimir Putin.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Oct. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Putin.
Swindoll, Jeffrey. “Putin Favorably Compares Biden, Democrats to Soviet Communists.” Disrn, Disrn, LLC, 10 Oct. 2020, 14:48, disrn.com/news/putin-favorably-compares-biden-democrats-to-soviet-communists.
Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words
It’s a jungle out there, so here’s some friendly reminders:
- We’re here for a short time, not a long time (James 4.14).
- God ultimately controls the outcome of November 3rd (Romans 13.1).
- This earth is fallen anyway and we’re looking forward to something way better (II Peter 3.10).
- We have more pressing matters to attend to (Ephesians 2.10; 4.11; Matthew 28.18ff).
- We’re ambassadors, not crusaders (II Corinthians 5.11ff).
- Mercy always trumps a condemning attitude (James 2.11ff). Contextually, this is about not showing favoritism based on appearance or status. A broader application concerning our attitude toward others in general is appropriate.
- Our attitudes may well be what condemns or saves a lost soul (Philippians in general, but specifically 2.5-11).
- Don’t be rude to people, but especially not to those in our spiritual family (Galatians 6).
- What we do about our beliefs speaks far more powerfully than what we say about our beliefs, and that can be amazing or especially harmful (James 2.18).
- Revelation 22.20!
Jeff Wiant (guest baker)
Up until this past election cycle I had never even heard of WikiLeaks. Months and endless press later, I have become very familiar with this website. For those who may have been living under a rock for the past few months, WikiLeaks is a website that publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media that they receive from anonymous sources for the world to see. Just looking on their page the other day, I discovered links that would allow me to read private emails from a presidential candidate and her associates, secret files about global surveillance, private emails between top employees at Sony Pictures, and I could have even watched a classified video.
Through all of this browsing it made me start to wonder. With hindsight being 20/20, would the ones who wrote these emails or committed these acts have written or done things differently if they knew that in the future they would be exposed and the whole world would be able to see and judge them because of these leaks?
More importantly, this also got me thinking further about myself. Do I have any secrets that I would fear if they ever got out? Do I ever have thoughts in my head that are impure and unfaithful? Do I allow myself to continue to have these thoughts because, after all, I’m keeping them to myself? After all, who’s going to know?
Allow me to answer that question for us all: GOD KNOWS! Like WikiLeaks in our world, God can, and does, unearth all these dark spots in our personal lives. But whereas there are still plenty of classified files and incriminating private emails out there that haven’t been, and won’t ever be, exposed by WikiLeaks, God already knows EVERYTHING there is to know about us.
As it says in Psalm 139:1-4, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all.” God knows everything we do on the outside and the inside. Having that realization is very intimidating.
For more evidence of this you can also look at Hebrews 4:12-13, which states, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”
We will all be judged. Not just based on what our family, friends, and the rest of the world see, but based on the EVERYTHING that God sees. You can’t hide anything from God. Knowing this, are there changes we need to make in our lives? Are there things we need to do and think about differently?
The good news is that it’s never too late and God is a forgiving God. If we do sin, we need to confess these sins to God ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:9). I challenge you to live with the knowledge in the front of your mind that God is always watching and listening. There are no secrets with God and there is no misleading God. Live the life He requires and you will receive your eternal reward in Heaven.
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Whether you are elated or despondent today, you face a serious danger as you absorb the reality of the election results. Prayer meetings for our nation transpired all around our country, even from brethren and friends in other nations. Individuals prayed fervently for God’s will to be done. What that will look like and what that will mean only time will reveal. For many, relief replaces fear at the prospect of the “other side” winning. For others, disbelief and embarrassment, not to mention shock, have begun to roost.
One thing that has been emphasized in the days and weeks leading up to this historic election is that, no matter what, the church must step up and increase its militancy and evangelism. We must work and serve in bigger and greater ways. That has not changed. The kind of change and improvement this (and every) country needs most can only come from Christ. People of both (or neither) political parties still live in view of the Second Coming, the Judgment, and an eternal destination in either heaven or hell.
After warning about the futility of trusting in earthly governments, militaries, and the like, the Psalmist instructs, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness, to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You” (Psa. 33:18-22). May that forever be the anthem of the people of God!
The only thing that is over is a political election. The church’s mission is as daunting, daring, and divinely-directed as it has ever been. However you view the national decision, please continue to see the heavenly vision. We are not here to make America great again, though most of us would desire that. We are here to help reconcile the world to Christ (2 Cor. 5:20; Mat. 28:18-20). I love the way my son, Dale, said it yesterday: “After the election, after the selection, I’m still thankful there was a resurrection that gives us direction.” That is the focus that must keep us oriented to our reason for being on this earth.
“Rancor” is synonymous with hostility, bitterness, spite, and vitriol. In Ephesians 4:31, Paul warns the Christian against “bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander [and] malice.” While it didn’t seem possible that this election cycle could produce more heat and saber-rattling than the last couple, it has already exceeded it. It is almost painful to watch the cable news networks, but we should expect the world to behave like the world. Yet, when I see brethren so vehemently defending their candidate and excoriating those who disagree with them, I am truly disheartened. Social media continues to pour gasoline on this already potent fire.
I try to imagine the apostles and early Christians, were they to have such an outlet, tying into one another and beating their chest as they debated each other over the merits of Claudius over Nero, devoting so much time arguing their points about which candidate would better favor the cause of Christianity. Inspired writers had every opportunity to show such a participation and bias, but they are conspicuously silent. While I do not agree with the extreme that David Lipscomb took in his book On Civil Government, can we not, if we are not careful, veer toward the other extreme through blind allegiance to rulers who, when dispassionately and objectively viewed, honor and demonstrate evil over godliness? Whether it is foul language, deceit and dishonesty, and glorifying sexual immorality (a la Playboy!) or lying, pro-abortion, and criminal behavior, I am baffled as to why a Christian should get so invested in one candidate or exorcised at the other. May we never prioritize America over our dear brotherhood or our heavenly goal. We gauge that priority by our thoughts, speech, attitude, and actions regardless of what we claim.
As a husband and father for whom the prospect of grandchildren may not be many years hence, I grasp with such personal investment the gravity of this year’s election and the current world situation. Yet, I can let the fear of that eclipse the infinitely bigger picture. What a glorious day it would be if we could steer our consuming passion toward Jesus and the mission He left us!
You may have a decided leaning toward the Republican or Democratic offering in this year’s election. Given this year’s choice, I don’t believe you can cling to either without your hands being very dirty. That being said, may we all be prayerful and imminently restrained in our interchange especially with our brethren and before the eyes of the world. Our unity in truth, our common mission, and our Christian example are eternally more important than politics. Period!
All over the nation, poll levers are being pulled, votes cast, and the office of many political positions is in the process of being filled by the winning candidate. People in this place of democracy are, at this moment, helping to decide the political fate of individuals vying for a place of public leadership. Those elected may or may not be persons of worth and integrity. Their careers may be starting, extending, or ending, depending on the majority’s say. They may gain or lose a place of authority based on their political, international, domestic, economic, and social philosophies. After all, public officials are always vulnerable to the fickle feelings of the voter.
Everywhere in the world at every moment, everyone is casting a vote of a different nature. Only one figurative ballot is used in this worldwide decision. Only two choices appear on the ballot. The issues are paramount in importance. This vote is not cast secretly behind a curtain, either. Many times, a righteous minority may be caused to suffer because of the foolish “majority vote” (cf. Proverbs 14:34). When all of life is over, the voting record of every individual will be made public. In fact, all people of all nations for all time will know which choice every individual elected to make in his life. And yet, with this poll, one can change his vote as long as life and opportunity are his.
Does the Kingdom take PRIMARY importance in your life? In Matthew 6:33, Jesus says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mat. 6:33). The head of this kingdom is Christ “and he is the head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18, emp. NP). God demands first place. We must love Him more than anyone or anything else (Lk. 10:27). Whatever keeps us from attending the worship assembly, from actively seeking the lost, and from modeling true Christianity before the world, takes priority over serving and obeying God in His Kingdom.
Are you casting the VOTE of your life for or against Jehovah? All Israel stood before Joshua to decide to whom their life belonged. In Joshua 24:15, Joshua had said “God or gods.” “And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods; For the Lord our God, he it is that brought up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed: And the Lord drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the Lord: for he is our God” (Josh. 24:16-18). The people of God cast their vote out of appreciation, for they remembered the deliverance of God. The people of God cast their vote out of attention, for they recognized the power of God. The people of God cast their vote out of alarm, for they revered the justice of God. The people of God cast their vote out of aversion, for they rejected the enemies of God. Joshua reminded them that God would go with them only as long as they went with God. Because God is a jealous God who wants first place in our lives, He expects the import of our lives to reflect our submission and trust in His way.
Does King Jesus REIGN in your heart? The promise of Christ’s coming included the announcement of Gabriel, who said, “And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Lk. 1:33; cf. Dan. 2:44). The “throne of the heart” is often mentioned in figurative language. All of us place something there. We place our accumulation before that throne (Matt. 6:21), our affections around that throne (Col. 3:1; Rom. 12:2), and our allegiance before that throne (Jas. 4:4; 1 Jn. 2:15-17). Is Jesus “a resident” in the “castle” of your heart? If so, is He King or peasant to you? The Bible calls Jesus “the King of the ages” (1 Tim. 1:17), “The blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings…” (1 Tim. 6:15), and “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:16). How much greater than the mere prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2) is our Almighty King Jesus!
God created every person with the ability to freely choose. He will not rule us dictatorially (tyrannically). He leaves the power of choice in our hand. Yet, we must choose carefully. The decision we make has eternal consequences. King Jesus says, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak. And I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me” (Jn. 12:48-50). Whether we elect Him King of our lives or not, He has been appointed by God to judge us on an appointed day. The polls are open. Will you choose Christ and His law?