David reminds us that as Christians we are citizens of Heaven and Jesus Christ has already won the war. We do not need to be worried about the future, but instead we need to be focused on living our lives for Christ and reaching out to those who do not know Him.
Politically Correct: Prayer, Fasting, and Communion
Politically Correct: A Biblical Overview of Abortion, Healthcare, and Immigration
Politically Correct: The Roles of Family, Government, and The Church
Politically Correct: Citizens of Heaven
What does it mean to be citizens of heaven? In our series, Politically Correct: A Biblical Perspective on God & Government, David Leventhal shows us how being citizen of heaven should transform the way we relate to our worldly government, to the lost, and to other citizens of heaven.
All right. Good morning, Watermark! Who is ready to talk about politics and religion? Are you excited? Man, welcome to our series, our interlude into 1 Timothy where we're going to talk about Politically Correct. What does it mean? What's a biblical perspective on God and on government?
Our task in this series is going to be to help us dive into God's Word so that we might be better equipped to understand how God thinks about topics that are relevant to the election that's coming up here in a couple of weeks and, frankly, how does God think about topics that are relevant for years and years and decades to come?
I think that as we get our arms around topics like citizenship and life and marriage and immigration, religious liberties, and others, we will be more prepared to vote biblically in an imperfect system in a way that honors Christ. So I want to remind everybody, this is a church. If you know Jesus Christ, you are a part of the body of Christ.
So we are going to point ourselves back to God's Word. Hopefully we're doing that all the time, but sometimes when you get into a series like this talking about politics, we tend to deviate away from God's Word. I think God's Word is plenty enough sufficient to get us where we need to be on this election cycle. Here's what I'm excited about.
I think that as we remind each other of some of these foundational truths… I want to say that as we wrap our brains around this and our hearts around this, it should produce in us an increase of security, of peace, and of joy regardless of who is president. We can expect that the peace of Christ, which is promised to those who know Jesus, will continue to overwhelm and overflow our hearts. We won't need to be ruled by fear and anxiety and stress.
So if you walked into this room this morning, or if you're listening online or you're in one of the overflow rooms, and you walked in feeling a little heavy about this whole political season… If there's anxiety in your heart, I am so excited because I think as we dive in, God is going to give us the peace that I know he desires for all of us.
So as we jump in this morning to week one of this three-week interlude, I want us to be transformed and to be reminded of what it means to be a citizen of heaven. Because God's Word teaches that when we come under the authority of Jesus Christ, he becomes our new King. Jesus as King has with him a kingdom.
As a part of that kingdom, there is a certain ethic, or a certain way we should live our lives, as a part of that kingdom. When we embrace the way that God has called us to live, then it should set us free from the anxiety, the stress, and the fear that is just overwhelming our nation. We're going to look at a lot of Bible this morning. I don't want you to be fret if you can't keep up.
We'll put all of the verses and other resources in the sermon guide that we'll push out this week in TheCurrent, which is our weekly email to our members, and then through our social media channels. Don't stress out if you're not getting every verse. We'll get it to you. First, as we get going, I want to unpack what it means to be a citizen of heaven. Once we unpack that, then there'll be some other questions that flow naturally. But the first thing we have to make sure we understand is…What does it mean to be a citizen of heaven?
The first thing I want to touch on is that means you serve a new King. We pledge our allegiance, not to a flag, but to the covenant God of the Bible: Father, Son and Spirit. We confess that he is sovereign over every square inch of this land that we call America. You guys might remember the story in the Bible of Daniel in the lions' den. Do you remember that guy who got in the lions' den? Daniel was a Jew who was living in a foreign land for a while. He had been taken to a foreign land. He was interpreting some dreams.
He is about to interpret a dream for King Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king. Before Daniel walks into the palace to have this discussion with Nebuchadnezzar, he says in Daniel 2:20-21, "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He [God] changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding…"
The King we serve is sovereign, and God's Word makes no bones about it. It pulls no punches. It's not apologetic. God owns who is in authority on earth. Paul would pick this thing up in Romans 13. Paul wrote, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God."
God putting a leader in place does not equal God's endorsement of that leader, but be clear. Scripture owns this. Do you want to know who is responsible for kings? Do you want to know who is responsible for presidents? It's God. By the way, all of your New Testament and most of your Old Testament was written to people who were not living in a republic where there's a democracy.
They were living under a king or, in the New Testament a caesar, who at the whim could decide, "You know what? Your life is over. Game over." That's the context that your Bible is written under. Not in the context that we live where we get to go cast a vote. Because we serve this sovereign King, we no longer bow down to the gods of this world. We have pledged our allegiance to King Jesus.
So your husband and your wife or maybe your desire for a husband or wife ceases to be your god. Your career, what you want to do with your life ceases to be your god. Your bank accounts, your 401(k) accounts cease to be your god. Your hope in this country ceases to be your god. We renounce all previous allegiances, and we count them as dead so that we can follow King Jesus.
Jesus, when we walked on the earth, was having a conversation with his disciples. He looked at his disciples and said, "Listen." In Luke 9, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?"
So part of being a citizen of heaven is acknowledging, "I pledge allegiance to King Jesus. I have a new King." As I mentioned that King has a kingdom. So when you're brought to the place where you see King Jesus as good, kind, compassionate, and as having dealt with your biggest issue, which is your sin issue, then you become a member by faith. You become a citizen of his kingdom, which means you and I are no longer a part of this temporal earthly kingdom.
When I renewed my passport recently… So here's my passport. I had to renew it. I sent it off. They sent it back to me, and they cut off the edges of my passport. I guess they think if you want to keep your cool stamps, whatever, maybe this goes in your scrapbook. They cut off the corners so that I can never use this passport again to get in and to get out of this country.
They would say if I tried to show up at border patrol, "Hey, that passport is not any good. It no longer serves the function that it once did." In the same way, we have been transferred… The passport that we carried as a nonbeliever, if you know Jesus, has been cut up. Paul says to the church in Colossae that, "He [Jesus] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
We have been transferred from the domain of darkness, the kingdom of this earth. We have been transferred to the kingdom of his beloved Son. That old passport we used to carry to get around has been cut up. It is no longer any good. So you're a part of a new kingdom. When you're a part of a new kingdom serving a new king, that king in his kingdom has a certain ethic, a certain way he expects his kingdom people to behave.
So you have a new King, you have a new kingdom, and you have a new kingdom perspective. We no longer feel the need to fit in or to mix in with our old way of life, with our old passport holders. We indeed are strangers in a strange land. The whole trajectory of our life ought to pivot. Peter writes to the Christians who are dispersed all over the Roman world in 1 Peter 2.
He says, "Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles…" Among those who don't know God. That's what he means. "Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable…" Why? "…so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation." On the day when Jesus comes back.
Listen. Sojourners and exiles. Those may not be words that are in your dialogue on a daily basis. That just means we're here temporarily. This is not a permanent move. I cannot overemphasize this enough. If you have come to know and trust in Jesus, America is not your home. The world is not your home. We're just here temporarily. So you ought to feel a bit out of place.
You ought to look around and be like, "Man, it's not bad, but it just doesn't feel like I'm home." My wife and I had a chance to go to Switzerland for our twentieth wedding anniversary a few years back. Boy howdy. I'm ready for Watermark Switzerland. Who's with me? But let me just let you know. We had a great time there, but in the back of my mind, I knew, "This isn't home. We're going to get on a plane, sadly, and we're going to go back to 120-degree heat in Texas."
So it didn't diminish our ability to enjoy while we were there, but we were not confused. We had no confusion. Not once did we think, "Oh, this is home for us." Because we knew it wasn't. Look, your identity, if that's true… That is true, by the way. That's what Scripture teaches. That you are no longer a citizen of earth. Your passport has been cut up.
If that's true, then our identity is not found in whether you're a Republican or Democrat. It's not found in whether you're a Texan or Californian or a Virginian. Your identity is not tied to whether you're black or white, to whether you're male or female, to whether you're a CEO for a company or a barista.
If you're a Christ-follower, your identity is you are a Christ-follower. That's your primary identity. We have so much. I have personally been involved in so many conversations with friends within this body where there's anxiety and there's panic and there's fear. There has been loss of sleep over this election.
Some of you may be walking in here feeling that same thing too. I just want to remind you. I want to lovingly, clearly acknowledge that when you're led by those feelings, when you allow those feelings to drive you, it makes people think that you think that America is your home. America is not our home.
When we do that, it is confusing to the watching world to whom we are to keep our conduct honorable, as Peter said. When we say we serve a King who is sovereign over every square inch of this land… We say that there's no authority except from God and those who exist have been instituted by God. We just read that in Romans.
But we live as if everything sacred in our life depends on the outcome of this election. That's confusing. That's confusing to a lost world. It makes our God who, again, we say is sovereign, look like he is not who he says he is because our anxiety and our panic and our backbiting on these topics betray our confession, because we say that God is sovereign, but the way we live says something different. We minimize God.
So if you know Jesus Christ, you are a citizen of heaven. Your passport to the domain of darkness has been cut up. It is no longer any good. This is not your home. Once we understand that, hopefully we understand that better or have been reminded better, then we can go on to answer three questions: How does a citizen of heaven relate to a worldly government? How does a citizen of heaven relate to the lost? How does a citizen of heaven relate to other citizens of heaven?
First…How do citizens of heaven relate to worldly governments? Fortunately, God's Word is really clear. So we have several examples in the Old Testament, and the New Testament is clear as well. Let's look at the Old Testament example. God sent the nation of Israel into exile, which he said he was going to do if they disobeyed. God said, "Hey, the last step of discipline for you will be that I'm going to take you from the land I promised you, and I'm going to put you in a foreign land." That happened in your Bible.
When God did that, God raised up a prophet named Jeremiah. Jeremiah wrote a letter to Israel's leadership and to their people to remind and instruct them that, "Hey, you're going to be away from the Promised Land for a while. So let me give you guidance on how you ought to behave in this land that is not your home, that you're here temporarily." So here's what Jeremiah says. Actually, here's what God says.
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."
Now let me just real quick, as we dive into this… Again, I know we don't live in exile. We're not used to using those terms exile and sojourner. Israel was conquered by Babylon. Babylon went through the nation, and they said, "Hey, we're going to take the best and brightest of the nation of Israel. We're going to pluck them out of wherever they are in Israel, and we're going to take them back to Babylon. They're going to serve the Babylonian Empire away from home."
Now imagine that Canada, our friendly neighbors to the north, decided they're going to come and invade the USA. That would be odd, but we're having fun here. They come down, and they conquer our land. They take over. They go through America, and they say, "Hey, we're going to take the best and brightest of America. Most of those are actually found in Texas. So we're going to take those guys and those women, and we're going to take them back to the capital of Canada, which is…?"
Does anybody know what the capital of Canada is? Ottawa. Well done, my friends. "We're going to take you back to Ottawa." So we go to Ottawa, the best and brightest. I'm actually probably left here. But those of you who are in the top are taken to Ottawa. You're there in Ottawa, and you're there like Daniel was, and you feel a bit out of place.
You're not excited about being there. Because it's wicked cold. They watch a lot of hockey. They're super passionate about maple syrup. There is no good brisket anywhere to be found. They say, "Eh," a whole bunch. They're really nice people. Can you imagine how out of sorts you'd be if that was where you had been forcibly moved?
That's what's going on in the Old Testament. Yet the Lord told the Jews who had been moved to Babylon… He is telling those Americans who have been moved to Ottawa, "Hey, you need to seek the welfare of the city in which I have sent you into exile." Which is the first thing that God calls his citizens of heaven to do with a worldly government.
We are to seek the welfare of the city. God told them that. That's what they are to do. The way we do that in America, currently… We have a couple of ways we can do that. One is we get a chance to vote. This is one of the few places in the world throughout all of human history… Do you realize that? Throughout all of human history, this is one of the few places where we get a chance to cast a vote for our leadership.
I understand that the system isn't perfect and that corruption exists within the system, but we should still participate in trying to put men and women who will lead through a biblical worldview in the positions of leadership. So what do you do if you don't like your choices? Come back next week. Come back in week three. We'll put some resources in the sermon guide to help answer that question.
So one of the ways we seek the welfare of the city that we are currently in exile is we vote. If you are a Christian and you are over 18, then you should expect that one of the ways you serve the city is by voting to put men and women who will promote a biblical worldview into leadership. We'll talk about why that's important in a second.
The second thing that we ought to be doing to seek the welfare of the city that we live in is to speak up to protect the weak and the vulnerable. As God's people, seeking the welfare of the city must absolutely include caring for and speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves, those who are on the margin. Because a city will never be greater than its weakest citizens, okay?
This country will never be greater than the weakest members of this country. In our country today, there are no more weak, there are no more vulnerable than those who are in the womb. We have been crystal clear at this body for two decades. We have been crystal clear that God values life in the womb, and God values life outside the womb.
When it comes to abortion, we ought to be doing everything we can do to put an end to that practice. Before I go any further, let me just pause for a second. Because I know in a room like this or those who may be joining us online, there may be women in this room who have had an abortion. There may be men who have participated in that decision.
I want you to hear me say as clearly as I can. We love you. God is not mad at you. There is no scarlet letter in the body of Christ. Nothing you have ever done is going to separate you or pull you away from God's free gift of salvation. Paul says in Romans, "There is therefore now no condemnation…" None. Zero. Nil. "…for those who are in Christ Jesus." No matter what your story is.
So if you are here, and that's a part of your story, we have a ministry designed to serve you, love you, encourage you, and help you heal from that decision. So we should pray. We should come alongside women who find themselves in unexpected pregnancies or who are recovering from the pain of an abortion. We should pray for those within the medical community who are providing abortion services: doctors and staff. We should seek to elect officials who will put an end to abortion.
Church, we need to move into the space with clarity, conviction, love, grace, and with tenderness. Those in the womb are not the only ones on the fringe. We ought to also care for other people who are vulnerable. Being pro-life is about so much more than just abortion. God calls his people to care for people from the womb to the tomb and everywhere in between. So we should be advocating for those in the foster system, both kids who are in there and parents who have lost their children to the system because of things they've done, as we help them move toward restoration.
We should advocate for and elect officials who will take special care of those with special needs, those who are impacted by incarceration, those who suffer discrimination because of their race or their gender, those who are trapped in cycles of poverty or homelessness, those who don't have the same opportunity as some of us to be educated, those who are immigrants to this land who are fleeing places where they're being persecuted or are looking to come here to get a better shot at this 70 to 80 years on earth, those who don't have good access to medical care, and the elderly of our community who have been left largely alone and isolated.
I want you to know, I thank God for this place because I hear people say all the time that all Christians believe about is life in the womb. I could not disagree more with this body and the way you have loved and cared and served, not just those who are in the womb, but outside the womb, and the way families have jumped into the foster system and into the adoption system, those who are trying to help parents get their kids back.
This church body loves and engages the homeless in our city in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. I love the way we're serving and educating those who are in prison. And on and on and on. I could not be more proud of this body or to be a part of this church with you. Again, it's been a while since we've said this from the stage, so I'll just throw it in now because I have the mic.
If you know somebody or if you have found yourself in an unexpected pregnancy, we want you to know we want to come alongside you and help you process that decision and what the next best steps are. If you decide that the next best step for you as a woman is to mother that child, we want to come alongside you and help you do everything you can do to mother and parent that child for as long as God gives them to you.
If you decide, "Hey, I think the next best step for me would be to place this child for adoption," we also want to come alongside you, and we want to help you find a godly couple who will raise that kid to understand the value and the dignity of their life and the value and the dignity of their biological mother and father's lives. We've always said that, and we will continue to say that.
Your next best step may be to raise your hand and say, "I'm not sure what my next best step is. Can you help me?" Then I want to remind us that you and I cannot do it all. There's this narrative going around that if you're not doing something about everything, then somehow you're failing in your faith. I just want you to know that's not true. That's not biblical.
The body of Christ is broad enough that when the members are all doing what they ought to be doing and what God calls them to do that the needs will get taken care of. So figure out what it is you're passionate about, what you're good at, what has your experience given you, and then go dive into that world.
For Missy and myself it was adoption. We got excited about that 13 years ago. For us that was a place we jumped in. It has been awesome for us to get to serve in this body in that capacity. There are others of you who are super passionate about the prison system and about homelessness and about on and on and on.
So don't feel like you have do everything. Just figure out what you're good at, what you're excited about, how God has gifted you, and then go be salt and light in there and trust that God will raise up other members of the body to fill in the gaps. So we're supposed to seek the welfare of the city.
Then God says "…pray to the LORD on its [the city of your exile] behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." This means that we are to be on our knees, begging God for the welfare of the city that we're in. Can I just tell you that is convicting? Because if we're honest, isn't it easier just to complain and to whine and to throw a political sign in your front yard than it is to do the hard work of praying for our nation, for our state leadership, and for our local city leadership?
God is not looking for us, by the way, to pray that somehow this place of exile would feel more home. That's not what we pray for. We pray for kings and all who are in authority, which is what David Marvin taught two weeks ago, as Paul said, "…that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way."
Because when the rulers of the land lead biblically, its citizens thrive and prosper. That's what we pray for. As Jeremiah said, "…in its welfare you will find your welfare." So you want life on this temporary vacation we're in here called earth in America? Do you want it to go better? Pray for your leaders.
Don't just pray for the president and the others who are being nominated, but state and city and local. Pray for the elders of this church. Because as it goes well with them, it will go well for you. So as citizens of heaven, we should actively seek the welfare of the city we live in regardless of who is president.
Secondly…How do citizens of heaven relate to the lost? First, you should remember that there is an eternal gap between those who are in the domain of darkness and those who are citizens of the kingdom of God. Paul, when he wrote to the church in Philippi, reminded them that he himself is pressing on to greater and greater love and affection for Jesus Christ. So he wants them to as well. So he writes in Philippians 3,
"Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." There is an eternal difference between those who walk as enemies of the cross of Christ and those who are citizens of heaven.
We serve different kings, we live in different kingdoms, and we have different priorities. So we don't need to be fearful or anxious as this country continues to devolve into godlessness. Our lost neighbors don't look at life through the same set of lenses that we do, so we shouldn't be surprised when they advocate for legislation that's going to lead to death and destruction.
Don't let that surprise you. Don't let that drive you to a place of fear. When they try to roll back our religious liberties, don't be fearful. There's an eternal difference between citizens of the domain of darkness and citizens of heaven. John records Jesus in John 15. Jesus says to his disciples, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world…" If you were part of the domain of darkness.
"…the world would love you as its own…" "Come on! Come be a part of it!" "…but because you are not of the world…" Because your passport has been snipped up. "…but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me…" And they did. "…they will also persecute you. If they kept my word…" Which some of them did. "…they will also keep yours."
Paul picks up the same thing in 2 Timothy 2, as he is sharing with Timothy about all the persecutions that Paul endured, and boy howdy, Paul endured some persecutions, and he writes to Timothy. "Hey Timothy, I've shared with you all about what I've suffered, and I want you to be aware, buddy. If you follow Jesus, 'Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…' If that weren't enough. '…while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.' "
So let me just ask us the question. If we look around at our lives and nobody is persecuting us and nobody hates us, are we maybe a little too at home in America? Are we a little bit too comfortable with this temporary land? So, first, we relate to the lost by first remembering there's an eternal difference in the way we look at life.
Secondly, we remember that in spite of those eternal differences, all humanity is made in the image of God. Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." So all humanity, even those who are lost, bears the image of God. That image may be defaced, sometimes significantly, but it's never fully erased.
If I'm honest, as I walk through my neighborhood and I look at all the political signs, sometimes my first thought as I'm walking by is, "Okay. Friend. Friend. Foe. Foe. Friend. Undecided. I don't know if I like that guy or don't like the guy." I think if we were taking a walk with Jesus, he would walk by and he would say, "I died for that guy. I died for that family. That single mom? I died for her. That widower who is alone? I died for him."
Because Jesus looks at life through the lens that they are created in the image of God and they're separated and he died for them to bring them back. God wants our first thought that whoever lives in the homes in your neighborhood is made in the image of God, and they're either rightly related to God or they are not. Those are the two options.
If they're rightly related to God, I want to go encourage them. How can I spur them on to greater and greater love and faithfulness? If they're not rightly related to God, who they vote for is the least of my concerns because they're headed to hell. I need to engage my neighbors with the gospel. I need to try and build a relationship, try and build a bridge to them and not get pulled offsides by who they may or may not be voting for.
I want to try and share with them the hope that I have in the gospel. Here's the thing. Once I've had that conversation and they know where I stand, I don't need to jerry-rig it into every other conversation henceforth. I can be their friend. I can love them. As God gives me opportunity, which God will give you opportunity because he wants them to know Jesus far more than you and I do…
He will give you opportunity. You gently act as salt and light. You apply the gospel to the wounds of their life. We should remember there is an eternal difference between those in the kingdom of darkness and those in the kingdom of light. In spite of those differences, all humanity is made in the image of God.
Thirdly, we should remember it is the kindness of God that leads people to repentance. Citizens of heaven should remember that patience and gentleness and kindness are the things that move people toward repentance. Here's a passage that I go to a lot when I'm engaging with people who are far from God. Second Timothy 2:24-26:
"And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will."
God is going to use kindness and gentleness and love to bring people to himself, not your snippy social media posts, the election signs in our yard, or escalating conversations. Remember those who don't need Jesus, Paul says they've been captured in a snare of the Devil. Paul says in 2 Corinthians that they're blind. So you have people in your world who can't see and they're trapped. They can't escape. So we want to move toward them in kindness.
We can't forget that that's how we were. We were blind. We were once chained, as Paul writes in Titus. "For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared…" Often in the form of a neighbor or a friend or somebody you bumped into
"…he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…" So you may be thinking, "Leventhal, are you just asking me to be nice? The world is on fire, and you want me to bake them cookies? Is that what you're advocating for?" I would say no.
What God's Word is advocating for is that we jump in in civil, Christ-honoring discourse with our neighbor. God wants us to love like Jesus loved. He wants us to engage, thoughtfully, patiently, and taking the long run. He wants us to sacrifice and serve our neighbors. That's what God is calling us to do. He is saying, "Hey, don't seek your own welfare in the city. Seek the welfare of the city and its inhabitants." That's what God is calling us to.
Thirdly…How do citizens of heaven relate to other citizens of heaven? We need to recognize that no matter what differences we might have in life, if you are a fellow citizen of heaven, we have the one thing in common that matters. Really, all of the New Testament epistles deal on some level with this reality. You have Jews, and you have Gentiles.
In Christ, those two people were going to come together under one family. It's hard for us to appreciate how difficult that was and what a significant call that the gospel produced in the lives of Jews and Gentiles. They struggled deeply to do that well, which is why most of your New Testament epistles deal with this idea of Jews and Gentiles getting along under the body of Christ.
Paul, in his passage in Ephesians, after he describes how the Gentiles (those who were not Jews) were separated from the covenants and the promises of God, writes, "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off [Gentiles] have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…" That existed between Jews and Gentiles.
"…by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off [Gentiles] and peace to those who were near [the Jews] .
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you [Gentiles] are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…" Like the church in Ephesus, we have family members in this body who have come to Jesus from very different backgrounds, as diverse as Jew and Gentile were in the first century.
So they come into the church, they come to know Jesus with different perspectives on a lot of issues in life. The one thing we have in common, the most important thing we have in common, is that Jesus Christ died for us. That makes you my brother and my sister. That's the thing that makes us family.
When it comes to issues where there are multiple God-honoring perspectives to the topic, we need to engage thoughtfully, honorably, recognizing that we can't waffle on issues of the gospel. We can't waffle on issues of sin. When there are other topics, and I think there are a lot more of these other topics than there are these core topics, we need to allow for diversity in our unity, even when we disagree.
Look, there's diversity on a lot of topics. Part of living in relationship with other citizens of heaven, other members of the family, is learning to distinguish with time with greater and greater clarity that which is core to the gospel, that which is really, really important, and that which is tertiary, which there are a lot of different perspectives on.
We have to learn how to distinguish between those three things. We have Community Groups in this church that are threatening to blow up over things like, "What's the best way to educate your kids? Homeschool, public, or private?" We have groups that are struggling over things like, "How much should you spend on a car?"
We have groups that are struggling over, "What's the right way to respond to COVID?" When it comes to this election, over things like, "Is it okay to vote third party? Should we build a wall? What's the right type of tax legislation?" And on and on. We have groups that are struggling over these side issues that are not core to the gospel. They're not clear sin issues. They're issues where people can have a variety of God-honoring perspectives. Some of us are bursting at the seams.
So what do you do if you disagree on one of these topics? Well, you pray. You go to Scripture together. You see if this is a chapter-and-verse sin issue. If it's a sin issue, we call for repentance and we ask God to provide light into this sin issue. If it's not a sin issue, we ask questions. We listen. We listen some more. I make sure that I can articulate your perspective and the reasons for your perspective. If I still disagree, I let it go. I don't need to win every decision. Okay?
Proverbs 18:2: "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." Are we being fools to other members of the body of Christ? It's possible to have different God-honoring perspectives on how to solve for immigration, how to behave during COVID, how to think about third-party voting, and other topics. Community is not a democracy.
You don't go around the room and take a vote. "Okay, should I? Should I? Should I? Yes, yes, yes, no. Great! I got a green light." That's not what community is. We don't vote on whether you should buy a car. You ask questions. You process. You look at God's Word. How does God inform that decision? Then you trust that person to the Holy Spirit of Jesus who lives in them.
You and I are not the Holy Spirit. If you read the gospel of John, John 18 is where Jesus' betrayal and his arrest start. Right before John 18, Jesus prays. Here's what Jesus prays right before he is arrested and betrayed. Last prayers are lasting prayer. John 17: "I do not ask for these only…" He is praying only for those disciples. "…but also for those who will believe in me through their word…" That's us.
"…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."
So don't miss this. The very last prayer of our Savior before he was tortured and put to death on a cross was for unity. The very last people Jesus prayed for were for the disciples and for those who would believe in him through them, which is us today. That's what Jesus prayed for. Two times in his prayer, he says, "The reason I want there to be unity is that the world may know."
Our ability to evangelize the lost is predicated on whether the church can get along, and my goodness, are we creating factions and divisions over tertiary issues! I want people to stumble over the gospel of Jesus Christ. If they don't like me because of that, that's okay. I'm good with that. But if they get mad at me because I have a different perspective on immigration than they do, is that worth breaking fellowship for? No!
When the world sees Christians at war with each other over non-core issues, it gives them every reason to doubt that Jesus is who he says he is and that the gospel is the power of God to bring healing. Our unity as believers is one of our primary mechanisms for seeking the welfare of the citizens of this city. Now as we land the plane, let me give you a couple of closing thoughts.
First, we are not called to win the culture war. That's not what God calls us to do. God calls the church to be salt and to be light, to restrain evil while we push out light through the way we talk to each other, the way we engage the lost. We are to be salt and light to promote that which is good and right and true, regardless of who is president. At the end of the day, you put your head on your pillow. You thank God for his sovereignty. You thank God for his goodness, that all of this is well within his view, and that he loves you.
Second, history is full of seasons like this. I know we all keep hearing, and I know we're all getting tired about it. "This is unprecedented. This is a pivot point in all of human history." I just want to remind us that's not true. You may say, "This is unprecedented for my lifetime." Fair. But that's why it's so important to go back and look at history.
To see that there have been seasons of life that are far worse than what we're running into leading up to this election. There have been pandemics and wars and ungodly dictators who have murdered millions. There has been worse than what we're experiencing. I want to remind you that when Jesus… In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus is talking to his guys. He says, "Hey, who do you think I am?" "Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'"
What does Jesus say to Peter? He says, "Peter, you know what? You're right. Atta boy. That is who I am. Peter, thank God that he revealed that to you. Guess what, Peter?" "…you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The gates of hell will not prevail against the bride of Christ.
We don't need to panic about this election. No matter who is in office, the gates of hell will not prevail against the bride of Christ. Everybody take a deep breath, and remember that God is sovereign. His bride is not going to be stopped. Jesus wins.
Thirdly, we play the long game. We need the Holy Spirit to constantly remind us and help us avoid thinking things like, "Man, things will sure get better after COVID." Or, "Things are going to get better after the election." Or, "Things will get better when I get this promotion or when I get married or whatever, whatever, whatever."
When we think things are going to get better after whatever, that's a problem. Why do I say that? Because in Hebrews, chapter 11, the author of Hebrews is recounting all the faithfulness of godly men and women in history who lived and died without experiencing the fulfillment of the things God promised. Here's what the writer says.
"These…" All these men and women he has been talking about. "…all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus…" That is people who say, "I'm a stranger and I'm an exile on earth."
"…make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out…" If they think about that passport that had been cut up. "…they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city."
Look, the better that all of us, in our deepest core, that we're all looking for, the better is not going to be fully realized until Jesus comes back. So until then, we want to seek the welfare of our city. We know that we can experience peace, joy, fulfillment, love, and laughter on earth while we wait, but that thing that's inside of you that longs for something better?
It's not coming after the election. It's not coming after COVID. It's coming when King Jesus comes back. Let me just remind you. Let me just probably greatly discourage the apostle John. Let me just reduce the book of Revelation to you. Here's how it goes. "Things get worse. Jesus comes back. Jesus wins." Okay? That's your book of Revelation. Now you should still read it because it's awesome, but that's your CliffsNotes, okay?
Then lastly, election day is Tuesday, November 3. Now hear me. What we do on election day matters, but what we do between today and November 3 matters more. What you do on November 4 and the years and weeks and months following are more important. Don't get hung up on a day, as though our world pivots on election day, because it doesn't. We are called to be salt and light as we do all that we can do restrain evil, to expand the kingdom of God while we wait for our true and better home.
Father, I just want to thank you for your Word, which is so instructive, which is so helpful in giving us guidance. Not just on how we should think about this election in a couple of weeks, but it gives us everything we need to know to be reconciled to you. I pray for my friends in this room, my friends who are watching, that the peace of Christ that you've promised in Colossians 3 would reign in our hearts.
I pray there wouldn't be anxiety over this election. I pray we'd remember that we are citizens of heaven. You have saved us from the domain of darkness. You transferred us. I pray that as we walk our neighborhoods, as we engage with coworkers, as we engage with other friends, we would be less concerned about who they're voting for and more concerned about who their king is. Is it King Jesus or is it somebody else? Help us to be salt. Help us to be light. Help us to restrain evil as best we can while we wait for you to come get us. In Jesus' name, amen.