As we seek to remain uncompromised in our culture, where in Scripture can we turn to for examples of how to do this well? In the second week of Uncompromised: Holding to Christian Convictions in a Cancel Culture, John Elmore shows us four examples of God’s people who have honored God as they stood up for His ways while still submitting to the government He ordained.
Uncompromised | Immigration & Persecution of Church Internationally
Uncompromised | Race & Racism
Uncompromised | Sexuality: Gender, Sex, and Porn
Uncompromised | Sanctity of Life
Uncompromised | Law & Religious Liberties
Uncompromised | Truth & Culture
As we seek to remain uncompromised in our culture, where in Scripture can we turn to for examples of how to do this well? In the second week of Uncompromised: Holding to Christian Convictions in a Cancel Culture, John Elmore shows us four examples of God’s people who have honored God as they stood up for His ways while still submitting to the government He ordained.
Kyle Thompson: During this series Uncompromised, we felt it was really important for us to be reminded of what unites us and what we believe. In a world of division, we want to make sure we are the aroma of Christ, that we love people. So each week, we're going to start the sermon by reciting the Apostles' Creed. I'm going to ask you all to stand, and we're going to walk through this. If you're a believer, I would love for you to recite this with me as we're reminded of what unites us.
"I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen."
Father, I thank you that is not something we just read. There is incredible power in what we believe and what marks us. So I pray that would mark our lives, that your Spirit would enable us to walk in a way that's consistent, and I pray for John right now as he shares, as you speak through him your truth, your love, and your Word. We thank you for Christ, amen.
John Elmore: Y'all, welcome. My name is John Elmore. I serve within pastoral care and re:generation. We're continuing the series Uncompromised: Holding to Christian Convictions in a Cancel Culture. Also, this is a continuation of the elders' strategic initiative to equip the church for a changing world, which is straight from Ephesians 4:12: to equip the body of Christ.
Last week, as we began Uncompromised, we talked about Truth & Culture. You might remember, if you were here, that I shared a tip with Trey at the trampoline park that made his eyes go wide. Well, this past week, I walked into a doughnut shop and gave a tip that made my eyes go wide. Let me explain.
It's my daughter's birthday. I walk in. I get doughnuts. I feel like doughnut shop employees don't get a lot of the credit they deserve. These are really good doughnuts, so I was like, "Hey, I'd like to leave a tip before you ring that up." No joke. She goes, "Okay." She adds the money and says, "That'll be $13," or whatever, and hands me change.
She hands me the cash of the tip that she decided, and then points to the tip jar. I was like, "Okay." Like, "What just happened? You just chose your tip." It was the craziest thing. Because I didn't speak up…I didn't say, "Hey, $2, $5, $10," or whatever… Because I didn't speak up, she handed me change, and I just had to live with it. It was done. The transaction had already occurred.
The reason I say that is because, today, as we talk about law and religious liberty, if you do not speak up, the government and the general population will determine the change, and they will hand you the change that is ever being legislated, whether you like it or not. If you do not speak up, the government and the general population will decide the change for you.
Also, speaking of change, last week, I wrongfully said attorney general Merrick Garland called parents protesting at school board meetings domestic terrorists. I realized that was wrong after a couple of people helped me. What is actually true is that the National School Boards Association said parents may be acting as domestic terrorists and infringing upon the Patriot Act. They sent that letter to Biden. Biden then, I guess, relayed it to Garland. Garland then mobilized the FBI to research this and look into it, along with US attorneys.
The National School Boards Association has since issued an apology, saying that parents aren't domestic terrorists. News flash. But I shared that, and it was wrong, so I need to correct that. So, US Attorney General Merrick Garland, in the spirit of re:gen, in the spirit of Christ, will you please forgive me for saying something you didn't say? And please don't call parents terrorists. That would be a win for everybody. Humility, like strong medicine, is rarely good in your mouth, but it is always good for your body. So, it is good and right for me to do that, to clean that up and correct it.
Today, we're going to be talking about God's people living under God's government; God's people (us, the church) living under God's sovereignly appointed governments. Whether that's President Biden or Kim Jong-un of North Korea (the most Christian persecuted nation under his dictatorship regime), any spectrum therein or throughout the annals of history, whether it's Alexander the Great or Hitler… Every single government that has ever existed has been sovereignly appointed by God.
Some of you are like, "Wait, what? How can that be? You're telling me God sovereignly appointed Hitler?" Well, nothing comes to pass that hasn't yet first passed through the sovereign hand of God. While God does not delight in sin, in dictators, and in mass murdering of civilians, he does, in his perfect love, give us freedom, and sometimes in our freedom we, as the human race, make horrific decisions that we have to live with.
Here it is in Romans 13. Keep in mind these words written contextually… This is Paul writing by the Holy Spirit in the context under the emperor, or caesar, of Nero. Nero was not gracious toward Christians. He was not gracious to his own people. He had one of his wives killed because he fell in love with a lover. He had his mom assassinated. He had two of his political aids assassinated. He then took for himself…
(By the way, I was supposed to have said at the beginning of this message there's adult content. I'm about to say some adult content. That'll go for next week as well when we talk about sanctity of life.) He took for himself a young boy as his gay lover because the young boy's appearance reminded him of his ex-lover who had died. Nero also put people into the arena. As Paul says, "Did I fight wild beasts in Ephesus for nothing?" He also persecuted and killed Christians.
Paul wrote these words under Nero: "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established." In case you missed it, he says it again. "The authorities…" In case they're like, "Wait. What? Are you talking about Nero?" "The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."
Jesus says to Pontius Pilate… It's this incredible exchange. He's there, and Pilate is like, "Who are you? What have you done?" and Jesus isn't saying much. Then Pilate says this, because Jesus is silent. He says, "Do you not realize I have the power to release you or crucify you?" Jesus' response is amazing. Jesus says, "You would have no power at all over me except that which has been given to you from heaven." The very power that was going to lead Jesus to the cross to be crucified by the Roman soldiers at the command of the Jews was given by the Father. Isaiah 53: "It was the Lord's will to crush him."
Then also you have this prophet Jeremiah speaking to the exiles who were there in Babylon. Jeremiah 29: "This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I [Yahweh, Jehovah] carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 'Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters…'" "Wait. What? Oh, we're going to be here a while."
"…find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage…" "Okay. We're going to be here a while." "…so that they too may have sons and daughters." Now we're talking about three generations in exile. "Increase in number there; do not decrease." Why? "Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for [the city], because if it prospers, you too will prosper."
The word God uses there is shalom. Now, we have abbreviated shalom to just be this flippant word for peace in the Old Testament. It's much more than that. It's holistic wellness, wholeness of body, mind, and soul. That's what shalom is. It's this holistic peace and presence of God. He says, "As you seek the shalom of the city, you will have shalom. I've carried you into exile, and I want you to increase. Don't decrease. Embed yourself there and seek the shalom of where you live, that you also will experience shalom." It's what we're to do today.
This is very instructive to us, because under Nero, under Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon… Here we are in an increasingly pagan nation, post-Christian in America, and here's the good news: our hope is not in America. I do not hope in America, and neither should anyone in this room. We are not American Christians, but we are Christians in America. Here's the thing: that's not fatalistic toward America. I love this country. I think it's the best country on this planet in this day, even as it is on this cultural landslide.
But we, just like the exiles in Babylon, are to bring shalom to this city, the state, the nation, because we live in this crazy time that is not known within the biblical context where we can actually vote. You can run for office. There's nothing within the Scriptures that would ever even allude to that fact, even under the righteous kings of Judah, that you could take part in who is going to rule over you or even rule yourself. That's unheard of.
We live in this incredible American experiment where we can actually vote and run and lead and influence the general population or culture in order to lead the legislation and the executive branch that then rules over us. This opportunity we have is unbelievable, but I think sometimes we squander it. I think sometimes we think more about the problems in politics than we are moved to prayer. See, in this cultural landslide that's being increasingly legislated… It's no longer just opinions. It's being written in.
We're living in this time of Judges where everyone is doing right in their own eyes. That is squarely where we are. So, as we talk about law and religious liberty, what we're not going to do is have a church gathering and walk through constitutional liberties or the amendments or a bill of rights, because, as we can see by the rulings that have been continuing in an increasing amount in our land, those are ever-fluid. They change depending on who's legislating, the Supreme Court appointees, and what they decide on these, whether it's Roe v. Wade or whatever it may be.
So, as those are fluid, we stand on the bedrock Word of God that is inerrant and eternal. We live according to the laws of the Lord, not the laws of the land. We're living to the law of the Lord in submission to the laws of the land until the laws of the land conflict with the law of the Lord, and then our allegiance is to God alone. They can do what they must, but we will follow the Lord. You're going to see that throughout the Scriptures.
What was amazing to me in the preparation for today is that throughout the Scriptures, it is replete, it is so full… God gave us so many examples of God's people influencing up to what we would call politicians, those who are in authority and governing offices. It's all throughout the Bible. We're going to mention a few of those today, but once you start thinking about it, it's everywhere. Why? Because he has put us here to further that shalom, that peace and wholeness of God.
This past week, there was a crime in Philadelphia. The crime lasted 30 to 40 minutes. As that crime was being committed, 10 people took out their phones and videoed it…30 to 40 minutes! They didn't call 911. They didn't intercede. They didn't fight back. They filmed and watched. That was Philadelphia. My question is for us today.
As culture and legislation and everything moves along at an alarming rate in an alarming immorality, will we just watch or will we act? Will we watch or will we speak? Will we watch or will we influence and exhort? We're going to walk through today these four examples of God's people living under God's appointed government.
They're being indoctrinated and saturated with this pagan culture. In addition to a new land and new authority, they're given new laws, they're given new names, and they're even given a new diet. Now, new names, in case you're like, "No big deal…" Well, you tell me. Azariah means "Yahweh has helped us." It went from Azariah to Abednego. You're like, "Yeah, that's kind of cool. It sounds like 'To bed we go.'" No. Abednego means you're slave of the god of war and scorched earth.
That's a terrible name. "Hey, slave of the god of scorched earth and war, would you grab me a glass of water? Fetch me some water." No one would want to be called that. Yet new land, new authority, new education, all the new… Do you know what they take issue with? It's not the new name. They take issue with the new diet. If it were me, I'd be like, "Dude, I'll eat the hot dogs and bacon. Just quit calling me that."
But they were like, "No, that's passive. You can call me what you want. You can call me names, because that's not my name. You can instruct me and educate me in what you want, because that's not what I believe. That's not truth. You can say your authority over me, but ultimately, I answer to God, and this is his Word." Those were passive things, but then they asked them to do something active, which was to eat a food that would defile them according to the Old Testament laws, and they were like, "No, we can't do that."
They weren't obstinate and offensive. They were incredibly humble, polite, mannerly, and winsome. Let's take a look at it. "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked…" He didn't tell. He didn't demand. "…he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official…" You see that. God is over all authority. Not just Biden or Abbott or Johnson or whoever you're working for. He is over all authority.
"Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, 'I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head…'" He's like, "Look, dude. If you stop eating and drinking, you're going to look all emaciated and withered away, and then the king is going to be like, 'You're not doing your job. Why aren't you feeding the exiles, or the prisoners?' Then I'd be in trouble."
Daniel realizes, "Oh! That's going to put you in a bad position. Well, let me give you a solution." "Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 'Please…'" Manners. "…test…" Here's an optionality. "…your servants for ten days…" It's a limited time frame. "You don't have to do it forever. Let's not commit to forever. What if it's just for a little while? Let's do a trial period and see how this goes."
"Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare…" "Let's do a litmus test. I'm not asking you to go in blind. I know your head is going to be on the table if this doesn't go well, so compare it." "'…our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.' So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days." You know how it went. It went well.
Just for a hypothetical situation, let's take something nobody could ever get upset or offended by to discuss the practicalities of this. Let's take the vax mandate, for example. My goodness! Listen. I got the vaccine…Pfizer, in case you're curious. That becomes a topic of conversation, like, "Which one did you get? Which booster are you going to get?" But I got the vaccine because I chose to get it, not because I was coerced to get it. I think that's important. I'm not pro-vax or anti-vax. I am pro-medical freedom. Not being anti-vax, I am pro-bodily autonomy.
Some people might be like, "Wait. That's the same argument as pro-choice people. You realize you're giving them their argument about pro-their own body." No, I'm not. The baby's body is not their body, and you can prove it by science with the genetic code in DNA. But I think anytime we're making a concession to the government, giving them power and permission to make all people do one thing, that creates a precedent, and that precedent will be really hard to get back. So, while it may be one thing that is beneficial to society today, in future time that could be a precedent that could be really difficult.
The other thing you have to think about is that you can use this Bible to justify everyone should get a vaccine. You can, and I've heard the arguments. You can also use this same Bible to argue everyone should be able to make their own decision. You can, and I've heard the arguments. What it leads me to think is that it's a Romans 14 issue, that this is an issue of conscience and conviction, personally.
In Romans 14, as God instructs us about that which goes into our bodies (food is the example he uses there), he says these three things: "Don't quarrel about them, don't despise each other, and don't judge each other." In John 17… I was reading it through in my time with the Lord this week. We know Jesus says, "All people will know you are my disciples if you love one another." That's how they're going to know we're of Jesus.
But do you know then what he prays for us? You'd think he would go on and say, "Okay, God. Father, let them love each other. I pray they would love each other as you and I love each other." He doesn't. Do you know what he says? "Father, let them be one just as you and I are one." It's the refrain of this Great High Priest prayer he gives.
He's like, "The world is going to know by how they love each other. Now, to that end, Father, what I'm going to pray for is that they would be one, that they would be unified, that they would forsake friendly fire, that there wouldn't be this infighting over questions of conscience and conviction." That's really important.
If you want to get a vaccine, this is not an issue for you. If you don't, I think Daniel may give you… If your employer is commanding you to do this, which they are right now, and people are losing their jobs… If you're in the medical field, transportation field, government, first responder, police, you're getting this mandate, because it's state imposed versus professionally imposed, like in corporate America. But it is coming along with many people.
Here's what I would say. You can be diplomatic like Daniel. Instead of being obstinate and offensive, you, like Daniel, could present optionality for an accommodation. You can't demand it, but you could recognize their responsibility and, with humility, come and ask for accommodation. Say, "Hey, what if I distanced?" I talked to a guy after the first service who walked through this very thing. "What if I option to distance? I'll have voluntary temperature checks, voluntary testing. I'll wear a mask when I'm around others."
There are things you can do to ask for that accommodation, just as Daniel did, and give them a time period. If they agree to it, if they say, "Yes," then you should be the very best at following the ways you said you would accommodate them under that. If they say, "No," you should work and leave in a way that they will miss you when you go, that they would be like, "Man! He or she was so good, even in the way they respectfully disagreed with where we were going."
That also can apply to you as a teacher or university professor if they're asking you to use pronouns or a new name, that you would say, "Because of what I believe… I love that person, my student, my colleague. I love them. They're my friend, but because of my beliefs, I cannot with conviction and conscience use those pronouns or that new name, so here are some options I would share." You can go forth with that in a winsome, humble way, just as Daniel did. Be diplomatic like Daniel.
Recently, a YouTuber who had a massive following was removed and demonetized for hate speech. "What's the hate speech?" you should ask. The hate speech was rape in prisons, which is confusing. You're like, "How is that hate speech? That sounds like a really good thing to speak up for. No one should be physically and sexually assaulted, particularly when they're in a confined and trapped environment. How in the world could that be hate speech?"
Well, it was hate speech deemed by YouTube because the crime was being enacted by transgender males, who are (I know this gets confusing) biological males, against biological females…transgender women put into female prison dorms and then raping the women. The YouTuber was bringing this up.
Now, I don't know at what point YouTube jettisoned the #MeToo movement, but it seems like they're more concerned of trans rights than they are women's rights at this point, which is what happens with this new morality. It collapses in upon itself. You can't have one thousand divergent truths and hope they would all stand. You can have one truth by the Creator who says, "This is the way," and every other way will fall and fail. There will be an end to this moral experiment, and it's already not going well. Be faithful like the followers.
Two things that need to be spoken about with truth and love: CRT and gender theory, both theories that are getting… They started as these academic disciplines that are now making their way into public schools. CRT (critical race theory), we would say, is a bad solution to a very real problem of racism. There is a real problem of racism, but CRT (critical race theory) is a bad, failing solution.
CRT is part of a larger discipline of critical theory that looks at many cultural or academic settings by a particular people or socioeconomic group and decides, "This is what the new truth or reality is, and here's how we will reconstruct that system." It's critical theory. It applies to various disciplines, but in this case, the critical race theory.
Now, hear me say (and us as a church) undeniably and tragically this nation has committed horrific crimes against humanity. We just have. It's undeniable. This is not just a token flip to slavery, but it's slavery that then went to sharecropping that people could never get out of, that then in the civil rights movement… Before that were the Jim Crow laws and horrible segregation and police attacks by dogs on peaceful protesters and bombings in this city just because a person of color would move into a different neighborhood, or the Negro in Jewish districts.
We would push people out and say, "You can live here." By the way, with no utilities. And it's not just a white/black thing. There are also the Asian concentration camps that our government put Asians in during World War II as we threw stones at the concentration camps of Germany. What about the Native American holocaust, the genocide against the Native Americans? And those who were remaining, through the Trail of Tears, were put on reservations that I've been to that are much more sand than soil where you can't grow a thing. That's horrible…every single one of them.
Anything in this day and age that is still a law that still forwards racism is evil, and we, as a church, should vote and use our influence to deconstruct and remove those. That's true, but what is altogether different is to say that one people group (in this case, per critical race theory, whites) is inherently racist and oppressive. That's just wrong.
So, while there is historical remorse and sadness for those sins of the past, is there personal responsibility for the individual in the present? No. I hate that any of those things happened in the country we live in, as I look out on an entire congregation that is filled with color. And praise God for that. The church should be marked by it…every tribe, tongue, and nation, on earth as it is in heaven. But any individual is not personally responsible for the sins of the past. That's Ezekiel 18:2 where he says, "A person will not bear the sins of the father." They don't transfer down.
So, we have to fight against racism, but we don't fight inequality with additional inequalities. Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state, gave an incredible interview on ABC that I would commend to you. We can maybe put a link to it in some of the resources that will be offered after this. This is CRT by definition by Richard Delgado, cofounder: "CRT is a collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power." That doesn't sound bad thus far, but continue.
These scholars (David Gillborn, Tommy Curry, Kimberle Crenshaw, and more) view race and white supremacy as an "intersectional social construct that advances the interests of white people at the expense of persons of other races." So, we as a church should fight against racism, but, again, CRT is a bad solution to a real problem.
Secondly, gender theory. There's promotion and promulgation of this gender theory now coming through with the National Sex Education Standards that are getting put into our classrooms. These are things we need to speak up on. We need to influence principals and teachers and school boards and with our vote.
What's happening is the curriculum that's being passed down now is not sex education; it's rather sin education in this ever-fluid gender reality, with instructions on how to masturbate, how to have an abortion by sixth grade, abortion resource centers by ninth grade, and that abstinence is really just anything but and how to perform anything but, including all of the different ways that I wouldn't say from this stage. The old tolerance was, "I will hear what you have to say." The new tolerance is, "You will validate what I say."
"Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed…" The decree that was established was "No one will pray to anyone except the king." It says when Daniel heard that, he was like, "Well, I know what I'm doing." He goes home, opens the windows, kneels, and prays toward Jerusalem.
He's like, "Come what may, because now the laws of the land have infringed upon the law of the Lord, and I know who my allegiance is to." So, we have to speak up. We're not to be compliant with moral compromise but, rather, respectfully offer options. This is happening within schools and universities with the pronoun issue and transgender, and it happened recently with me with a new friend of mine who is a man identifying as a woman.
We talked about faith, and he said he believes in Jesus. I said, "Hey, I'm not going to do the pronoun thing. I'm going to call you 'Brother,' because you are my brother if you are in Christ." So he calls me "Brother." He understands. I said, "I don't think you would ask me to violate my conscience," and we have this understanding with each other. When I see him I hug him, and I love him, and I believe God is going to do great things.
We need to speak up also for those who cannot…life in the womb, older life with euthanasia that's in states (it's here in the US), additional needs and special needs life. We need to vote and support and exhort. MLK said of the parable of the good Samaritan the priest and the Levite walked by the man lying there bleeding out in the ditch, and they thought, "What will happen to me if I stop for him?" The Good Samaritan, on the other hand, walked by that man and said, "What will happen to him if I do not stop?"
Our concern is for others and not just protection and priority of self. The Hebrew midwives who were told to kill children… The Pharaoh said, "Kill every Hebrew boy." Exodus 1:17: "The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live." They feared God more than they feared the king, so they did have civil disobedience.
Rick Smith, who was on staff with me here at Watermark, left to create Hope Story. Why Hope Story? Because Rick has an amazing son named Noah. Noah has Down syndrome. Noah is also on the board of Hope Story, which I think is one of the most incredible things. What Hope Story does… Sixty percent of Down syndrome babies are aborted.
So, Rick was like, "Well, I'm going to advocate. My wife is an OB/GYN. We're going to start advocating with OB/GYNs to influence them that, 'Hey, when a baby is found to have Down syndrome, that's not actually bad; it's a beautiful story,' and help them give that diagnosis of Downs to the parents, that they would choose life." In fact, he's not here today because he's out there advocating for those who cannot speak for themselves.
We need to be faithful like the followers, and here's one other way. Jesus, when he was met by the Roman centurion… You know the Roman centurions were not batting a thousand. I think there were probably some acts of injustice that happened as they were the police over that land. Jesus didn't turn away from the Roman centurion but rather said, "Oh, your servant is sick unto the point of death? Go, and may it be done for you. I haven't seen this much faith…"
He was amazed by it. He blessed the Roman centurion. He didn't call for "Defund centurions." As this nation, in part, is calling for defunding of police, I say what if, oppositely, we followed Romans 13? This Romans 13 sort of righteousness that oversees our city and keeps mayhem at bay… They are the sort of righteousness. What if the thousands of people who heard this message…?
Instead of crying for "Defund," what if every time we saw a uniformed officer we approached them and said, "I want you to know that I'm praying for you; we thank God for you," and anytime they were in a restaurant or a coffee shop we cut in line and said, "Hey, his is on me" or "Hers is on me" and we actually blessed them? We could do that as a body and have an incredible influence upon the city. Be faithful like the followers.
It went from local court to regional to state to circuit all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States, where the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jack, saying, "Yes, that would actually violate his conscience and his religious beliefs. We uphold what Jack said." Praise God, because what Jack did in protesting or appealing, petitioning like Paul… Jack gave to us a religious liberty that allows us to not violate our conscience for the sake of another's.
But it's happening again. Now a transgender female (biological male) is saying, "Jack, I want you to make me a cake. I know you went through the whole same-sex thing all the way up to the Supreme Court. I want you to make me a cake for my transition from blue to pink. That's what I want my cake to be." So, now it's going to go through that whole loop again. Hopefully they will find case law within the original case and grant him that religious liberty again.
It's happening also now with Lorie Smith of 303 Creative. She makes websites. A same-sex couple said, "We would like for you to make our wedding website." It's in Colorado of all places. So it's going to happen all over again. Hopefully the Supreme Court will rule in favor, because those laws will affect the laws that affect us. Petition like Paul. Here it is. Know and use your rights for righteousness in the land.
"Then Paul made his defense: 'I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar.' Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor…" Paul had spoken out, and the people were in an uproar, and they wanted to kill him. Just citizens. So here he is before… Think police and then court officials and even a governor.
"Festus [the governor], wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, 'Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and stand trial before me there on these charges?'" Basically, "Hey, let's deal with this outside the court. The Jews are upset. Let's take it to the Jews." This is Paul's response: "Paul answered: 'I am now standing before Caesar's court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die.'" If there is injustice, let there be justice.
"'But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!' After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: 'You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!'" From angry mob to soldier to commander to Felix to Festus to Caesar, just like Jack Phillips from angry couple all the way to the Supreme Court, which brought back down a law for religious liberty for us. Praise God.
"When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: 'Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?'"
In response, she says, "You're right. Mordecai, have everyone pray and fast, and I will go before the king, and I and mine will pray and fast as well." The Lord sovereign over that government gave and issued a decree that spared the Jews. May we not be guilty of focusing more on problems than prayer.
As such, I want to invite you to pull out your phone and set an alarm for 1:39 p.m. Set an alarm that would go off every single day at 1:39. Why 1:39? Because of Psalm 139. It says we are fearfully and wonderfully knit together in our mother's womb. 1:39, because the Heartbeat Act has been fast-forwarded to November 1, where the Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether they will transfer the rights of children back to the state and thus would overturn Roe v. Wade.
May we not be guilty of being silent and saying, "Well, it's in the Supreme Court's hands," because we can exhort like Esther. We can petition heaven and call upon God, who is over all authority, every governing authority. We can petition and knock on the doors of heaven to a King that we know this is according to his will to see if he might intervene in the decision by the Supreme Court justices and hand legislation back to the state of Texas for life. That's before they will hear in December the Mississippi 15-week ruling. Pray at 1:39 every single day.
Here are other things we can do. We can talk, as we exhort like Esther, to principals, CEOs, superintendents, coaches, employers. We can influence up. We can exhort them and help them as we disciple them in the ways of truth. Instead of the fluid laws of the land, in the laws of the Lord.
Secondly, we can vote. There is an election. Right now, there's early voting through October 29 that will be on Election Day November 2, which is really important, because Proposition 3 is a constitutional amendment that would never again allow a state to prohibit a religious assembly, whether it's COVID or a Delta variant or whatever may come, that always people could gather for religious assembly to worship God no matter what the state says. This is an important issue.
You can also run for public office. Tom Sharpe, who's an incredibly gifted individual and member of this body, decided, "I will run for school board president." Tom is a gifted guy and could use his time in a lot of different ways for pretty lucrative things. Instead, he said, "With this discretionary amount of time I'm going to run for school board president. Why? Because as I influence the next generation, I will be influencing the nation." So he's doing that. That's a part he can do to exhort like Esther.
Secondly, Adam McGough, a friend of mine, is a city councilperson, leading in this city for righteousness, the shalom of the city. That's Adam and what he's doing. He's a gifted attorney, and he has taken time off from that to lead our city. Adam texted me recently and said, "Hey, I nominated you to pray before one of our city meetings." I texted back and was like, "I don't think the city is going to like my theology." He texted back and said, "John, the city needs your theology." Dude, Adam McGough, are you kidding?
Governor Abbott just signed House Bill 25 that assures biological genders will not compete against each other and we will not have trans girls who are biological males competing against females. Shalom of the state. The White House in response said, "This hateful bill in Texas is just the latest example of Republican state lawmakers using legislation to target transgender kids—whom the president believes are some of the bravest Americans… These anti-transgender bills are nothing more than bullying disguised as legislation and undermine our nation's core values." To that, Mr. President, I respond with a reading from Romans, chapter 1.
"Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. [They are God-haters]; they invent ways of doing evil…they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." Let's do what the Word says.
Father, we pray for President Biden. We pray for the Supreme Court of the United States of America. We pray for our legislators and those in public office, for our educators, that you would influence them to the ways of yours. The Holy Spirit came to show the world guilt, sin, and righteousness. So, Lord, as this remnant prays to you, would you lead our land in righteousness? We pray for the shalom of our nation, that we would experience shalom as we are in it. Amen.
Y'all, this social experiment will fail. It's inevitable. We know the ending of this book. When it does, will you be quick to say, "I told you so" or to the brokenhearted who are there in the broken reality of the failed morality will you say, "Here is the God I know"? If you recall from last week, we are not out to win arguments; we are out to win souls. That is the role of the church: to be salt on the earth, that we would lead others to Christ. That's the aim. That's God's heart.
America is not in the back of the book, but the souls of men and women, the Word of God, and God will last forever. So, we are to be about God's business…as we live here in this land, that we would further the kingdom of God under this land. In 1 Timothy 2 where it says, "I desire, therefore, everyone to pray with holy hands lifted, not quarrelling or arguing…" He says, "Pray for all kings and authorities."
Do you want to know why? Here's why. The conclusion in the balance of that verse says this: "This is good…" What's good? The praying for all of those in authority. "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people."
We are to proclaim Christ to this hurting, dying, broken, lost world. If we are more known for our politics than our religion, then our religion has become our politics. May we be known for forwarding Christ and his ways, because the world will see that and be like, "Though I despise what you're saying, I see you living a life of love, and with that I can't argue. Who is this God you know?" Let me pray.
Father, we thank you that you have given us your Word that contains so many examples of God's people living rightly under your sovereignly appointed governments, whether they are righteous or pagan. You've given us these living examples of how to live, that we would not be obstinate or offensive but that we would use our rights for righteousness, not to be right but to bring about the shalom, the peace and whole presence of God, to this land, that also in that we would find our peace. We love you, Lord. In Jesus' name, amen.