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Believers and Their Government: What Governs Our Usefulness in It

With a momentous election just days away, believers will be wondering both how to vote and how involved they should be in the political process. But as followers of Christ, our duty to our government and our fellow citizens is not so much the exercise of our political voice but the cultivation of our prophetic voice.

Todd WagnerNov 2, 2008

In This Series (10)
What in the World Was He Thinking?
Todd WagnerDec 24, 2008
A Biblical Look at Life, Letting Go and Leading Out: Why We Have to Run with the Herd
Todd WagnerDec 14, 2008
Family: The Need to Define it Rightly and Lead it Righteously
Todd WagnerDec 7, 2008
Worldviews Matter. Just Ask the Congo.
Todd WagnerNov 23, 2008
Success: The Right Ladder Against the Right Wall
Todd WagnerNov 16, 2008
Believers and Their Government: What Governs Our Usefulness in It
Todd WagnerNov 2, 2008
The Remedy for Redemption: The Final Framework of Truth
Todd WagnerOct 26, 2008
Explaining Evil: The Second Framework of Truth
Todd WagnerOct 19, 2008
The Creation Foundation: The First Framework of Truth
Todd WagnerOct 12, 2008
The Importance of the Foundations of the Heart
Todd WagnerOct 5, 2008

We are in the middle of a series called What in the World Are You Thinking? This little series has been all about the simple premise that ideas have consequences, that thoughts lead to things. That is true in how you view all of life, and it's certainly true now as we get into specifics. What I'm going to do now for the next number of weeks is I'm going to take specific topics, and I'm going to show you from a biblical worldview what God has for us in terms of certain topics.

This week's topic is why government is there and what we are to do with this government that is in the world or in different regions in the world, and specifically, because we live in the United States of America, I will address our duty as people of a different kingdom but who have been left here to inject salt and light into the country of which we are a part. I am grateful for this country and the privilege I have. I'm grateful that God wants to use me in this country.

That which makes you a good follower of Christ is what necessarily makes you a good citizen of the United States of America. So, we're going to take a look at a biblical worldview, an explanation of government. I've mentioned these last number of weeks that how you have a foundational orientation of the heart on three major areas will be that which primarily influences your understanding of all of life.

Those three areas are: Who are you? Where did you come from? Why are you here? What's your explanation for origin? Secondly, why is the herein so ridden with disease, despair, death, destruction, and all that is not pleasant to us? What's our explanation for evil? Then lastly, what is the solution to evil? How you answer those three questions… I've made a case these last three weeks as to why the biblical worldview is the one that has the most support, the most consistency, the most intellectual foundation to it in answering all three of those questions.

Now we want to move forward and say, "Okay. If this is the best way to look at issues of origin, issues of evil, and issues of redemption, what does this loving Father who has revealed truth to us say about government and about our role in government as citizens?" Well, let's go back to the very beginning, because I'm going to tell you why government exists, what the purpose of government is, and then I'm going to spend some time looking specifically at the United States of America and why its government exists the way it does and what our role in that government is.

I will say to start off that there are three possible ways you can look at politics and government in general. First, you can see government and politics as your savior, the means through which utopia will be ushered in, so you would look at politics and/or governments as that which provides you hope. I would tell you that is an unbiblical solution to hope.

Likewise, you can say, "Government is not my savior; it is my sworn enemy. I am above the world, and I am not going to participate in politics. I'm going to be apolitical. I'll tolerate certain structures around me, but I will never participate in those structures, because I don't believe I should have anything to do with any system in this world."

Or you can see the government from a biblical worldview, that the government is, in fact, a servant of God. It is a steward of his purposes; therefore, as a servant of Christ, as a steward of my life, I should make sure my participation in this servant of God is to help it be all that it should be, nothing more and nothing less.

So, it would be an error to make it your hope. It would be an error to make it your hated enemy. It would be appropriate that you look to go, "How can I help this institution God has ordained be all that he wants it to be?" Now, government. Where did it come from? Let me go back to the beginning. When God created us, he made us as individuals who walked with him, enjoyed him, and benefited from his presence and his kindness toward us. He put us in Paradise.

He revealed himself to us. He said, "Follow me. I am the Good One. As long as you follow me, it will be well with your soul. In my right hand are pleasures forever, and in my presence is fullness of joy. I have proven that by all that I have put around you and all that I have provided for you. Follow me. Don't listen to the Evil One who tells you you need to figure out on your own what is good and evil. I am good. Anything that is not consistent with who I am will lead you to less than good."

The absence of good, we have said, is evil. You don't want that. But, in fact, we did make a decision that we would no longer live in innocence, trusting our loving Father who has provided for us truth and light, and we went our own way. As a result of that, judgment came. There was a curse. That Paradise we lived in, because God was no longer going to be present in it directly… He was going to be sovereign over it, but he was going to let it run its course as it moved away from him.

So Paradise moved away and evil entered in, and all of creation fell with us, so chaos, isolation, death, disease, and despair were injected into our world. But God did, in fact, allow us to have the ability to discern between good and evil. He instilled in man conscience. We moved from innocence, knowing he was good and we should follow him, to judgment and conscience where God placed on our hearts a sense of right and wrong.

The problem is, because we are not intrinsically good, knowing the difference between right and wrong, we do not exclusively choose good. When I make mistakes, 99.9 percent of the time, it is not because I make those mistakes out of ignorance. I know the right thing to do. I know to be tender, I know to speak gently, yet I choose to be lazy and arrogant and self-serving. It is not a problem of my intellect; it is a problem of my will, as it is with most men, most individuals.

We do not follow the conscience God has given us. In fact, what we'll find is that man in the age of conscience continues to get worse and rebel against God. What God did in his grace is as he placed the curse on us, he said, "The wages of sin is death. You move away from me, the author and giver of life, you move away from life and into death." God in his grace did not allow us to experience death immediately.

He made a provision for us by, as I said, showing us that life is required in our rebellion against him, but he allowed a lamb, if you will, an animal to be slain, and we were covered in the clothing. The blood of the lamb covered us for such a time that God would overlook our sins until a perfect Lamb would come.

But what happened with man is he went forward. In fact, the sons of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, were boys to whom God said, "Now that you know about my provision that innocent blood must be shed to cover your not innocent hearts, you bring to me a sacrifice. Remember, the sacrifice which is acceptable to me is not what seems right to you. I'm not looking for you to cover your sins. I don't need some of your cash. I want you to be reminded that the wages of sin is death and that blood must be shed to give you life, because that is the cost of leaving me."

So we find that Cain, who works in the field, whereas Abel was a keeper of the flocks… Abel brought the sheep. Cain said, "I'm not going to ask Abel for any of his little sheep to bring you a sacrifice. I'll bring you the best of my wheat. I'll bring you the best of my grain, and I will offer that to you, and if what I have isn't good enough for you, well, then to heck with you. In fact, if you like that dude's sacrifice more than mine, well, I'll just sacrifice him. You want blood? Here comes your blood." That is an arrogant response to God's revealed provision.

Now look at what happens. The Lord then said to Cain in Genesis 4:9, "'Where is Abel your brother?' And he said, 'I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?'" A quote you often use and others have maybe flown out before you. By the way, the answer is: Yes, you are. You're responsible for your brother, to love him and care for him and serve him.

"'What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground. Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.' Cain said to the Lord , 'My punishment is too great to bear!'"

"I won't be able to just be isolated from others as I wander through the earth. People are going to want to hunt me down and come after me because of my evil." "Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer…" The Lord said to him, "Okay. I'll make a law. You can't kill Cain. Cain is mine to deal with."

He said, "Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.""Justice is mine, vengeance is mine," saith the Lord. "And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him." Now watch what happens. Cain is given grace, but it says he goes out from the presence of the Lord and settles in the land of Nod. What did he do with that grace? He just spit in grace's face. Instead of doing what God said, which was to wander as part of his punishment, he said, "I'm going to settle myself right here."

It says, "Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch…" Enoch means dedicated. "I am going to have a boy, and I'm going to name him Enoch, and I'm going to name this city after him. We are sticking here. So, God, you try and do what you want with me, but I am not going to wander. I'm going to make myself great and establish for myself a name, and I'm going to place myself here and apart from you be great on this earth."

It says, "Now to Enoch was born Irad, and Irad became the father of Mehujael…" We go all the way through this stuff, all the way down until we get to Lamech. Lamech is seven generations from Cain. What we're seeing here is that what we have is evil progressing. If you go back and look… We'll jump back to verses 19-20 and take a peek at this. You'll see that as these men are here and as the civilization of men increases, arts are developed.

With Jubal you'll find that technology advances, civilization advances, agrarian sciences advance, but what does not advance is morality, ethic, commitment to good, commitment to family. In fact, let's look at what Lamech does. It says in verse 19, "Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah." Adah means ornament, and Zillah means tingling, so these were some hot toddies right here.

What he's going to do is say, "Look. I am going to parade…" You'll find immorality increasing. "I'm going to parade my immorality. I'm going to boast in my murder. If Cain murdered one because he wasn't happy with him, I'll murder seven." It goes on and says, "Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron…"

Do you see how all of these things are increasing? Then he goes on to say, "Listen to me. I'm going to kill a man for wounding me. I'm going to kill a boy for striking me." He goes, "If Cain was avenged sevenfold, I will be avenged seventy-sevenfold." What you're going to find from Cain forward is man continues to get more and more and more and more destructive away from God.

God has another group of descendants who are coming forth from Seth, another child of Adam and Eve. Seth means appointed one. You have basically a group of individuals who are appointed to walk with God by grace and people who continue to rebel against God. One of the descendants of Seth is a man by the name of Noah.

It says God got so discouraged with the rebellion of man on earth, as they did not listen to conscience, as they rebelled against his revealed goodness, he brought judgment on the earth, and he ultimately destroyed humankind through the universal flood, of which there is extensive archaeological evidence to support that idea.

It explains a lot of what we see in our modern-day world. It explains a lot of why scientists are confused about natural processes in dating of rocks and layers of dead things buried in the earth, etcetera, but that is not the talk for today. Let me just simply say that what happens at the end of the flood… Innocence has failed. Conscience has failed.

God institutes at the end of this particular period something called government, and he says, "Look. Man needs a present prosecutor of evil or evil will continue to race forward. They won't just advance through technology; they will advance through terror, and we must restrain evil as an instrument of my grace." Genesis 9: "And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply…'" Here we have a man and a woman and their descendants and the same command that came in Genesis 1. God reorders now. He says:

"Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you…"

If you want to be a vegetarian, God bless you. Just don't try to claim that you need to be a vegetarian for biblical reasons. He says, "Go after it. You want meat? You want flesh? Go for it. Just drain the blood." "Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man's brother I will require the life of man [if they shed man's blood] ."

In other words, "Just because I just judged humankind, don't you think that's for you, as an individual, to judge others. I will, though, give authority. I will put on earth an institution which has the right to execute vengeance for me. It is my servant. It is my steward. It will limit evil." We will move now to a period of government. Genesis 9:6-7. If you want to be against capital punishment for your own moral reasons, fine. Just don't try to support it by the Scripture.

Capital punishment is introduced and will be enforced from this day forward. By the way, those of you who say, "Well, now we're in a period of grace, not under law," this is not yet law. Law comes in Exodus 20. Capital punishment existed before law was introduced. My point here is God ordains that government show up for one specific and primary purpose: in order to restrain evil.

Now, why do I do this? I do this because the land in which you live has been primarily informed by the story I just told you. We could argue all day long about whether or not United States is a Christian nation. That is not the point of my message today. It is clear that some men who were part of what we call our founding fathers loved Jesus. It is also clear that some did not. To argue that they all did is a historical error and is rewriting fact.

What can be agreed on is that there was a common consension toward the Judeo-Christian worldview. These men did not follow Islamic fascism. They did not follow pantheism. They did not believe all men were gods. They didn't believe evil was an illusion. They believed God was true and man was a liar (see Romans 3:4). They believed that men, given power, would consistently corrupt themselves, so they put in checks and balances.

These were men who believed morality was defined outside of reason, that there were certain truths that were self-evident. Our founding fathers did not base our country on Buddhistic principles or Hinduistic principles, Eastern principles, or, as I said, atheistic, humanistic principles. They rooted and founded this government based on a Judeo-Christian ethic. Let me show you, and then I want to show you what our responsibility is, and I'm going to tell you what I believe the greatest evil in America is today. Are you ready? Here we go.

Government. I will take you to two places. This is the purpose of government. Romans 13:1-4. This is Paul. "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God…" Now, there are all kinds of governments. Some governments have been instituted not based on the Judeo-Christian worldview. They've been based on a materialistic worldview, an atheistic worldview…communism, Marxism, the belief that all man's woes and evil can be explained purely in economic terms.

There are individuals who believe in socialism or capitalistic societies. Other worldviews have informed different governmental structures. I want to say this: God does not judge the world because of governments that are rooted and founded with a non-Judeo-Christian understanding. Those governments are the judgment. It's just like the different worldviews I talked about.

God isn't mad at us because we have different ideas. He says, "Those ideas are the judgment. You want to go try to find life and create your own utopia by putting a system in place that will give you life and peace apart from me? You go get you some of that. It's just not going to work out. It might take some of you longer to get to the end of your rope, but you will come to the end of your rope."

All worldviews have some element of truth in them, but they distort ultimate truth, and as a result, they lead to error, death, and despair. God cannot offer life and peace apart from himself, because life and peace do not exist apart from him. He cannot create a culture that is good apart from him because there is nothing good apart from God. So God says, "Trust me. Follow me. I'm a loving Father. I want to lead you into light. I want to take you out of darkness. I want to take you out of deceit and into truth. Follow me."

So when you have Marxist, when you have communistic, when you have fascist governments that are trying to bring peace to people, those governments don't make God mad; those governments are sovereignly existing by the authority of God as an illustration of "This is what happens when you leave me and go a different way. It will bring death, chaos, and oppression, not life, liberty, and justice." This is why Jesus said to Pilate in the very oppressive polytheistic world of Rome…

When Pilate said, "Don't you know I have the authority to set you free?" Jesus looked him in the eyes and said, "Bro, you have no authority except that which has been granted to you from my Father in heaven. You do what you're going to do, but I am not your servant. I am God's servant, and you're here because men have left God. You're going to do what you're going to do, but God's purposes will not be thwarted. In fact, they'll be accomplished unbeknownst to you, despite the plans of man. What you intend for evil, God will use for good."

In the midst of this, we have Romans 13. Jesus was thoroughly informed with this truth that there is no government which exists apart from God. All governments are established by God, often as an instrument of judgment. Verse 2: "Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves."

That is true of governments that do not operate the way God wants them to operate. He will judge them because he will judge all servants that are not faithful. And that is true of us. There is a time when he says you should stand up against government and be a conscientious objector and you should say, "I will continue to do what God has asked me to do, and if that means you determine that I no longer should live, then you be the judge of that, and God will be the judge of each of us."

Watch this. They who have opposed, though, governments that are acting as stewards of the truths of God will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers do not exist, they're not there to cause fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Then don't drive drunk. Buckle up. Don't take what doesn't belong to you, and you couldn't care less who's following you or who comes knocking at your door.

"Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good." That is the purpose of government. "But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." Question: Are there governments that bring evil on those who do good? Answer: Clearly, and they will be judged in due measure.

It looks like right now people who suffer at their hands are individuals who have no recourse, who have no hope, but Jesus says, "Listen. Don't fear the one who can destroy your body. You fear the one who can destroy body and cast your soul into hell forever. You persevere in doing good. You be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing your toil is not in vain." Folks, when you live in that kind of oppressive regime, what you believe begins to really matter. That's when your faith bears fruit or is shown to be a fraud.

Now, 1 Peter 2:13-14, the last verse that talks about government. I want to pound this home. "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution…" Jesus respected the office of high priest though he did not think the high priest was operating as he should. "…whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him…" Why? What's the purpose of government? "…for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right."

Mark my words. My government does not need to fix the road in front of my house. It does not need to educate my children. We can choose to let government do that, and we should, therefore, give government more if we expect them to do that, but government must prosecute evil. It must bear the sword against terror. That is not our job. Vigilantism is forbidden in Scripture. My job is to turn the other cheek.

My job is to let the Lord be my advocate and for government and sovereignly ordained institution to act on my behalf, but he says, "Fret not. Even if it does not, justice is coming. You forgive, you love, you call them to grace, and you tell them that I have paid ultimately for their sin on the cross." The greatest act of capital punishment that has ever existed you can find just outside Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. God hates sin which leads to death.

Now, why did I go through all of this? Because our founders understood the primary role of government is exactly what Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 said, not because all of them were Christian but because they embraced a Christian worldview. Let me start with our Constitution. Here we go.

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

What was the purpose of our government? Exactly what you find in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2. It was put in place to promote justice and ensure tranquility. If you do right, no problem with the government. You do wrong, then fear. That's really all government should do, folks. Let me tell you, there are three divine institutions God has put in place.

First is family, home. It is the job of home to educate. Secondly, church. It is the job of church to remind, to correct, to confront, to care. Thirdly, government. It is the job of government to prosecute and to protect. I will tell you, the problem in America today, the greatest evil in America today, is not in the home, it is not in the government; it is in the dead church.

The reason our government is moving and spiraling farther out of control, calling evil good and good evil, is because the home is not educating. It is not training children in the way of righteousness so when they grow old they will not forget it. We have redefined what is good in the home, and the church has not stepped up and reminded. The church has not corrected. The church has not confronted.

The church has looked for constituents who would come and support them, who would fund their campaign to exist sovereignly another week. The church has become political, and the church has lost its prophetic voice; therefore, the people which make up the government, which, as was said by Lincoln and Gettysburg years ago, a government for the people, of the people, by the people…

When you have people who do not get trained up in righteousness, they're not going to call right right and wrong wrong. So what you have is a government that's wicked, maybe, a home that's wicked, maybe, because you have a church… I'm going to show you very specifically. I believe the greatest evil in America today is right now in pews all over this country, and specifically, in pulpits.

Churches are not being led by men who will call them to truth; therefore, people are not calling other people to truth, and they are resorting to government to usher in utopia instead of having God come into our hearts and produce peace that would inform our hands in a way that we could live for peace. Folks, this is why this series is so important. When we begin to be who God wants us to be, we will raise up children who will put in rulers who do what God wants them to do. All right? Here's the issue. Right here's the issue.

Now our little preamble to our Declaration of Independence. We've talked about it before, but I want to say it again. "We hold these truths to be self-evident…" In other words, we're not even going to argue about this. We know that all men are created. There's a biblical worldview. Equal. The right to life. "…they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." That's the beginning of our Declaration of Independence.

What they said was, "Because there is a king in England who is a tyrant who does not let men have rights, who doesn't let them pursue liberty and happiness but oppresses them through over taxation without representation and other things…" They said, "We must stand against this." This is the last sentence of our Declaration of Independence:

"We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in general congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions…" In other words, "Let God be the judge if what we're doing is correct." That's what that means. "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

In other words, "It's time for us to stand up against a government that is not acting as it should. It is becoming oppressive and tyrannical. It is self-serving and abusive to men. We will not let that happen, because life matters to God. Freedom matters to God. So we will assert ourselves, and we will die doing what we think God would have us do. We pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our honor to establish a more perfect way." In other words, "Let's go back to what God said we should be as a people, governing ourselves this way."

Now, I want to go back to the Constitution very quickly, because after our Constitution was written, some two years later, they gathered again and amended. They added certain rights. The very first one dealt with freedom, petitions, and assembly. This is called the Establishment Clause: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…" That is very important.

What was meant by our founding fathers there was not that our government should not continually embrace the worldview we formed ourselves on. What he's saying is, "We will not enforce that you must be Anglican, Episcopalian, Congregationalist, Brethren, Methodist, or anything else. You can celebrate your God the way you want to celebrate your God, and we will not prohibit your exercise of the way you want to celebrate your God. You can assemble together peaceably, and you can petition the government for your redress of grievances."

Mark my words. This wall of separation between church and state was not a part of our Constitution. It's not a part of our Declaration. It was in a letter from President Jefferson during his election cycle toward the Danbury Baptists in Connecticut who were concerned that there was a church that was being given specific support by the state to the exclusion of their desire to worship differently. He said, "No. We cannot let a certain faith expression be given favor over the other faith expressions in that state."

The wall of separation was never intended to mean that religion should not inform how we live. Let me show you that. Why? George Washington at his inaugural address to our country said this: "…the foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality…" In other words, we cannot exist unless there are unchanging, perfect, and pure morals amongst the people.

"…the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained." He's saying we cannot expect that God would give his sovereign will and protection to us if we reject the morals which he has stewarded us to live under. John Adams said, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

George Washington, when he was stepping down as president, in his last address, echoed the sentiments he said during his first inauguration. He said, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens."

In other words, you want to go out and argue in the public square that morality and faith are not an important aspect of how we should live and breathe and think and respond? You are no patriot. You are sowing the seeds of destruction in our country. When the home stops to educate toward righteousness based on a heavenly standard… In other words, our forefathers knew morality exists outside of us.

Government's authority comes outside of government, and when government does not execute its proper authority, when people don't raise up those who love proper government, don't love proper right and wrong, then you'd better brace yourself. He said, "And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

So the wall of separation between church and state was never to separate the morality of the church from the operation of the state. It was set up so that no one denomination would be the official denomination of the state, but the worldview revealed in God's Word, the Judeo-Christian worldview… They said, "This is self-evident that this is the way to live and love." We know it because a loving Father gave it to us and revealed to us so we don't have to follow the best ideas of men and run a human experiment over the centuries to see which government might work. God said, "This is the way you should live and move and have your being."

Now, why do I do all that? I do all that because what I want to charge us with is a right response to the government we live in. Specifically, what I believe we have to do is be individuals who pursue our first and greatest responsibility. Though we live in this country, this country is not our ultimate citizenship. Though we live in this world, this world is not our home, but we will be useful to this country and useful to this world as we stay true to our primary citizenship.

We are not Republicans. We are not Democrats. We are followers of Jesus Christ. To him we owe our allegiance. When we convene more with God than we put hope in conventions, we will regain our prophetic voice. Now let me just say this. It is appropriate that prophets have a place in the political arena, but you must develop your prophetic voice before you ever seek to have a useful political voice.

Let me walk you through some basic statements as I thought about this this week. I'm going to read to you extensively from one man who I think has said it better than I could. So rather than tweak it to make it mine, I'm just going to read it. Here's my first statement: you must remember, if you are a biblical Christian, that you align yourself with a person and not with a party. The person is Jesus Christ, and we live to proclaim him. We admonish every man and we teach every man with all wisdom, that we might present every man to him.

We are not looking to get people to join a party. We are living to bring people into subjection to a person who loves them. One of our greatest problems is that we have abandoned our primary purpose as the church. We are no longer salt and light, and we have given ourselves over to political processes to transform a country. We have made ourselves a moral majority. We have made ourselves a right-wing political machine, and we have lost our voice. What I want to say to us is that our primary weapons, if you will, are not weapons of the flesh. Second Corinthians 10:3-5:

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses [strongholds in people's minds] . We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…"

Our job is to enter into that public square, and we are to reason. We are to initiate. We are to engage. We are to give sound thinking and appropriately sophisticated reasons to explain why living this way will produce life indeed, justice indeed. That is our primary calling. It is not to get a certain political party advancing its agenda; it is to have Christ rule in the hearts of men. Politics will not change our culture. If we change our culture, it will change our politics. The church has put too many chips behind the hand of politics and has lost its prophetic voice.

Okay. Watch this. This gentleman did a great job with this. We must learn to speak both languages God has given us. First of all, the language of our mission to anybody who's looking for spiritual answers, yet as we continue to call people to follow Christ, we must also, as US citizens, speak to the language of liberty and justice for all. And you'd better get the one right before you try to do the other.

Here we go. "A political voice often mobilizes support by concealing its own faults while calling attention to the weaknesses and limitations of the opposition." That is not the way Jesus says you enter into conflict. That's not the way Jesus says you enter into restoring relationship. He says, "A prophetic voice is first brought to its knees by its own wrongs and failures."

And it repents and gets the log out of its own eye and deals with its sins, and then says, "We understand why you don't want to follow us. We understand why you think we don't have solutions that lead to life, because we have done things that are inconsistent with the author and giver of life."

Secondly, "A political voice tends to speak for the special-interest groups it represents. As a result, it is likely to confront the sins of the right but not the sins of the left—or the sins of the left and not the sins of the right. A prophetic voice, in the best sense, represents the interests of all. The messenger of God, therefore, lovingly and faithfully confronts sins on all bands of the social spectrum. Heaven's representative confronts the sins of the wealthy and the powerful as well as the sins of the poor and the weak."

It doesn't sit and ask itself, "How can I keep these groups of constituents happy?" If that one particular wealthy group is living for its own comfort, embraces capitalistic ideas so it can continue to accumulate more wealth for themselves at the negligence of caring for others, then you should confront them. You should tell them that storehouses are stupid. You should tell them 2 Corinthians 8 is true, that God has given them an abundance of riches because somebody else has an abundance of need.

So, you're in abundance to have somebody to give to; their abundance of want is perfect so that God can be abundantly glorified and we might serve each other. This is not socialism. This is not communism. This is love and care for life, liberty, and justice for all. That means if people are lazy and expect handouts and expect things to be given to them when they don't work, we tell the poor who are lazy 2 Thessalonians 3.

"If you don't want to work, then we'll let your stomach work for you. If a man shouldn't work, neither shall he eat." If they are unable to work, if they are sick, tend to their health that they might work again. If they are uneducated, educate them and give them opportunities to provide for their family, but don't sit there and wait for a handout. God says, "If a man doesn't work, neither shall he eat."

"A political voice calls for external regulation and legislation that often focuses on curbing the freedom of its opponents. A prophetic voice calls on all to submit themselves to God for a personal change of heart, resulting in voluntary self-limitation. A political voice often represents the special interests of supporters who expect material benefits or social influence in exchange for their donations and votes. A prophetic voice represents the interests of God in a manner that seeks justice and mercy for all members of a society."

Stick with me on this one. This is where the church has bastardized itself. Men in pulpits all around this country look at their constituents and go, "What do you think I need to say to them this week so they'll come back again next week and continue to support my little campaign to be their pastor and to fund and get their vote of their presence under my little kingdom and to continue to feed my campaign for leadership? I won't ask too much of you. Just keep me in office, and I will tell you you're doing what God wants you to do, and you tell me I'm doing what God wants me to do, and we'll both get along."

It is killing our country, because we have cowards leading the church. We have a political church, not a prophetic church. We have a church that has lost its moorings and has sought to become big and has stopped wanting to become biblical. It has killed our home, and our home has grown up to vote in ways that kill our government and oppress us. I will tell you, the problem is here.

"A political voice may have to settle for strategies of compromise to maintain an adequate base of support. A faithful prophetic voice does not waver from timeless values and perspectives, and is willing to be 'one crying in the wilderness' with accountability to God alone." They're not reeds shaken by the wind. "A political voice works for change through the strength of opinion polls, ballots, and governmental appointments.

A prophetic voice calls for change through loving confrontation and persuasion, relying on whatever voluntary change the Spirit of God and his Word will make in the hearts of hearers. A political voice rises and falls on the changing tides of public sentiment. A prophetic voice rests on the ultimate and eternal authority of God. A political voice seeks changes in social behavior by applying the external pressures of law-making and enforcement. A prophetic voice calls for change in individual hearts as the means of transforming a society."

Folks, the reason I'm doing this series is I want to be part of a prophetic church. I want to be part of a group of people who love others, with tenderness and wisdom speak truth, with gentleness and reverence make a defense and give an account for the hope that is within them. We ought to vote, but I'm not going to be shaken no matter who's put in office. I'm going to be busy. I'm going to be busy loving my neighbor. I'm going to be busy caring for the poor and the oppressed.

I'm going to be busy speaking out for those who can't speak for themselves. I'm going to be busy taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. I'm going to be busy reasoning with men why this kind of leadership is better than that kind of leadership, but I'm going to call men to put their hope in Jesus Christ, not Obama or not McCain, not Republican or not Democrat. I don't care what party men align themselves with. My concern is who they are under.

Now I want to give you some more of my points. I told you you have to align yourself with a person, not a party. You have to be a prophetic voice before a political voice. Gang, this is why I'm doing this series. We have to learn how to give good answers to others' good questions. You have to engage. You have to initiate.

We have to be individuals who learn how to communicate in such a way that we don't look like we care more about our issues than the people we're trying to love with truth. This is why it tells us to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts and to always be prepared to make a defense when anyone asks us to give an account for the hope that is within us and that we should do it with gentleness and respect.

So we should get in there, and we should reason with men. We should say, "Look. This is where your ideas are going to lead, and this is where it's going to take you. If you choose to go there, I'm going to still love you. I'll fight to the death your right to go which way you want to go, but I'm going to remind you that you're going to reap what you sow if you go that way."

That's why Colossians 4:5-6… All of the men in this church who are going through Summit just memorized it. We're to conduct ourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of every opportunity. We're to let our speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that we should know how to respond to every person.

You can't just tell people how to vote. You have to learn how to get in there and reason with them that their vote is basically supporting an idea, and ideas have consequences. It is our job, as citizens in this country, to fight for life and justice and liberty for all, but the only way that's going to happen is when hearts are transformed that answer fundamental questions: Where are we from? Why is where we are so broken? And what do you do to make it right?

Thirdly, we have to engage with our world, but we have to be careful to not be exasperated or enticed by it. What do I mean by that? First of all, don't be surprised when sinners sin. They're just fulfilling the job description. That's what they do. Don't be surprised that men want to run after their own wants. Don't be surprised when men want free handouts. Don't be surprised when men want to build idols of comfort to themselves. That's what they do.

We have to come alongside of them and say, "This is the consequence of where we're going." More than that, we have to acknowledge that when we have position, we are prone to be enticed by that position to where we could potentially love the position so much we lose our prophetic voice. So we can't be exasperated by our world, and we cannot be enticed by success in this current world.

We have to remember that the end does not justify the means. If we win, if you will, a political process but lose our witness for Christ, then we have lost what we were ultimately elected for, and I am not speaking there about electoral votes but what God has called us out of darkness into light for. We have to make sure we don't just do whatever we have to do to get where we're going. We're to be as wise as serpents but as innocent as doves.

How we do citizenship and politics is as important as what we do in citizenship and politics. We have to speak with passion and hope for a better way, but we have to remain humble about our own lack of perfection. We're still in process. We're still prone to sin. We're still prone to leave the God we love. So whatever we do, we have to remain humble and teachable and correctable ourselves and acknowledge that even as people who are citizens of another kingdom, we're not being completely faithful to that King, and we have to let others spur us on.

We have to acknowledge, "You know what? It is not enough just to care about children in the womb." We always have to care about children in the womb, but we have done not such a good job of caring about children who make it out of the womb. We have not done such a great job of caring for people who live in certain segments of our society.

It's not an either/or; it's a both/and. We have to acknowledge where we have not done well, and we have to remain humble and speak about our own lack of perfection and get after it. We have to serve in the public arena, but we have to make sure we don't put our ultimate hope in it. I love Psalm 71:5. "…for You are my hope; O Lord God , You are my confidence from my youth." In that alone am I going to ultimately have trust. In that alone, Lord, will I rest.

Psalm 130:5-8: "I wait for the Lord , my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning; indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning." Are you going to stay up next Tuesday night to see who got elected? I hope you stay up next Tuesday night to see who is sovereign and you trust in him.

"O [America] , hope in the Lord ; for with the **** Lord **** there is lovingkindness, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He will redeem[us]from all[our]iniquities." There is no political candidate or party that will. So, should you vote? Absolutely. But you have to make sure you raise the hearts of individuals and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ in individuals so that they would want to vote in a way that would allow liberty and justice for all.

Gang, here's what we want to do. We just want to take some time and pray. Inside your Watermark News there's a little guide to how we should pray. I want to remind you that our primary job is to be individuals who walk with God, and then, because we walk with God, we love and we serve the world we are in, and we do everything we can to make the world we're in the kind of world that will experience the blessing and support of God, but we have to not put our hope in a political system.

We have to make sure we don't worry more about who's in the White House than we do about living as people who have a relationship with God and live in the house of the Lord. We have to make sure we convene with Christ more than we put our hope in any convention. We have not done that well as the religious right, as the moral majority. So let's pray. Take a look at your Watermark News and just take a moment, three or four minutes. Be still, and let's pray that these things would be so.

Father, you told us we should learn to do good and to seek justice and to reprove the ruthless, to defend the orphan, to plead for the widow. You've told us we should seek the welfare of the city where you have left us and we should pray to you on its behalf, for in its welfare we will have welfare. You've told us you're not going to support a wicked people, but you told us if we seek your face and turn from our wicked ways you'll hear from heaven and forgive our sin and heal our land.

So, Lord, I want to pray today for what I think is the greatest evil in America. I pray for the church. I don't call our government to repent; I call our church to repent. We have put our hope in political processes. We've put our hope in individuals. We have developed constituents instead of growing men and women of conviction who will educate, who will train up a child in a way he should go so that when he's old he will not depart from it.

We have not corrected. We have not spoken with wisdom. We have not had wise words that have made knowledge acceptable. We have lost our way. We have not been salt and light, so it shouldn't surprise us that an ever-increasing number of people in our country don't hold certain truths to be self-evident. It shouldn't surprise us that more of our young than any consider some of these ideas we hold dear, as folks who by your grace have been drawn near to you.

So today, we pray, Father, that we would begin to do our job again, convene with you more than worry about conventions, look to change hearts more than change who's in the White House. Yet you have also told us that we should speak, and thank you for the privilege of being in a country where we get to speak at least once with a vote, but may we not just be concerned about these things on Tuesday, even as we don't want to just worship you on Sunday.

May we not care for our country once every four years or once every two years, but may we get busy loving our land. We thank you for the privilege to express our voice. We pray that we would express it as informed by truth, prayerfully, not aligning with a party but aligning with you. For your glory and the good of all whose liberty and justice we seek, we pray, amen.

Gang, there is one other point I do want to make, and it's going to lead to something I'm going to spend an entire week on. It is that we are called to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Specifically, in Proverbs, chapter 24, it says, "Do you see those being led away to slaughter? Do you see those who are being taken away to death?"

"…oh hold them back. If you say, 'See, we did not know this,' does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?" Folks, the poor, the unborn, have no voice, and if you vote in a way that does not speak for them, God, I believe, has more than a small problem with that.

So I encourage you. I want to tell you, if you have a child you don't want, we'll take it. I'm going to talk about this in a couple of weeks. If you've had a child you have chosen to terminate, you can be forgiven, and we love you, even as we need to be forgiven for our sins, but we cannot allow individuals to put laws in place that allow for the slaughter of innocent children. Okay? You can't.

I will tell you there is no such thing as a perfect candidate, but you'd better look and see which ones stand more for that than others. I'm going to show this little video, and then you'll be dismissed. You have been sent into the world. Do your job. Here we go.

[Video]

Friends, whatever happens Tuesday, you can worship. That's what we're going to do next Sunday. We're going to spend a morning in worship, because whatever happens in our government doesn't change one thing about what should happen in our hearts. So we will praise him. We will keep our hope in him. I don't care if it's McCain or Obama. Let me serve Jesus. I invite you to serve him with me.

Have a great week of worship.


About 'What in the World are You Thinking?'

How do you look at the world? What influences your perspective on the challenges and people you interact with every day? In this 10-part series, Todd Wagner explains why your worldview ? the lens you look at the world through ? matters. You?ll discover what it means to have a biblical worldview, and how our failure to look at the world through God?s "lens" impacts our lives, culture and our world.