4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-8, New King James Version)
Sermon Title: The Gospel Agenda, Acts 1:4-8
These days, Americans have enough on their minds. COVID-19 is still everywhere, and even though we want to return to life before lockdown, we’re nowhere near there yet. And now, November 3rd stares us in the face as we prepare to face the results of another presidential election. We’ve had 4 years to get to this moment, and within a few days, we’ll be ready for either the same thing for another 4 years or a change in leadership and a shakeup in all levels of government. And Americans have got to decide who they want for leaders and whether or not they approve or disapprove of the way things have gone these past 4 years. It’s not an easy decision, but privileges such as voting usually aren’t. The power of the vote is great, and thus, so is the decision-making process itself. It wouldn’t be valued as much if the privilege didn’t bring a measure of power with it. Presidential candidates wouldn’t go on rallies, give speeches, and examine polls if the vote didn’t bring power with it. It’s the one time in 4 years that presidential candidates are forced to remember that it is “the will of the people” and the grace of God that elected them.
For some of us, voting is a privilege that has become a right that we cherish, and we do our civic duty because of all the sacrifice that has been made for it. But for others of us, voting is not only a privilege and a right: it is a means to salvation. That is, we’re voting because first, we think our vote has spiritual consequence and next, we think that our vote is the way we bring about God’s Kingdom on earth. Conservatives who vote Republican often think this way. This is why Republicans, on the whole, vote against same-sex marriage and are pro-life (anti-abortion): because they believe that the laws of the state and federal governments should match that of God’s Word. They maintain an innate belief that the USA is “one nation, under God” and that God’s will should be reflected in the laws that govern the nation.
And while this is good, we should remember that, just because the phrase “one nation, under God” is in the Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t mean that the phrase guided the way Americans have conducted themselves. From the country’s inception, there was always a separation of church and state. The state has never endorsed a particular religion or even Protestant denomination to allow for freedom of religion and freedom of worship. One of the country’s forefathers, Benjamin Franklin, for whom certain counties have been named (“Franklin County” in various states, anyone?) was an atheist. Surely, he wouldn’t have agreed to “one nation under God” because atheists don’t believe in God. Atheists accuse God when things go wrong, but they don’t believe God exists.
And the original Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 but didn’t contain the phrase “one nation under God.” That phrase wasn’t added until 1954 under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Just because we put that phrase in the Pledge doesn’t deal with the fact that it is missing from earlier documents such as the Declaration of Independence (1776). Though the Declaration mentions “our Creator,” there’s nothing specific as to who that Creator is, whether Jesus or some other such as Buddha or a god of one’s own making.
So when we look at this country and examine the earliest history, we find that America was built upon religious freedom for all, not some. No one was forced to practice a particular religion or faith. The reason? Because of all the earliest American colonists faced under the British Crown back in England, where church and state were one and the same. Back in England, you were forced to be Catholic and worship in the state church under King Charles, like it or not. There was no freedom of religion. So surely, if our earliest colonists were forced to worship a particular religion or profession in England, they wouldn’t leave England, come to America, and set up the same disaster, right?
It is the Republican mindset of this country, how they believe it is “under God” and to be ruled by God’s Law, that governs how they vote. So when Republicans look for a leader, they look for someone who is pro-life and anti-abortion because God is the Giver of Life and man, since he cannot give life, should not take life. God is against murder, and we read these words in Exodus 20 when the Lord says “You shall not kill” or “You shall not commit murder” (Exodus 20:13). We see it when we read that shedding innocent blood is one of the 7 things the Lord hates (Proverbs 6:17). So we know God is against the shedding of innocent blood. Judas realized this himself when he betrayed Jesus, an innocent man, for thirty pieces of silver and felt guilty that he had shed innocent blood (Matthew 27:4).
Republicans look for someone who is opposed to same-sex marriage and the LGBT agenda because their interpretation of Scripture says that God is against it. Romans 1, Leviticus 20:13, and some other passages in the New Testament they feel argue against same-sex relations and thus, argue against same-sex marriage.
There’s nothing wrong with believing that all of life should be lived in accordance with God’s Word. And all Christians want the world to be saved, Jesus to be exalted, and every man and woman to live godly and think godly in their conscience. All believers want this to be. And yet, we live in a world where not everyone (yet) bows the knee to King Jesus. That day is coming, but it is still a future anticipation. To use a phrase parents tell their children on long journeys, we’re “Not There Yet.”
What does republicanism have to do with the gospel?
What does all this Republican mindset discussion have to do with the Gospel? A lot, at least in the minds of many evangelical Christians (“evangelical” referring to those who believe in sharing the Gospel with the lost). For evangelical Christians, the vote is a matter of life and death. Many of them believe that how they vote has spiritual implications. Though they may never say it, they believe that there is accountability in their political vote, almost as if their vote brings about salvation.
Now, before you decide that I’m talking nonsense, hear me out. What if it’s the case that our vote is only about leadership in America? What if, when we stand before God, our political vote for Republican or Democratic candidates will not matter because it does not/will not save us? What if voting for Donald Trump or Joe Biden is no more significant than choosing one Pastor over another in a church? Now, voting for a President isn’t exactly like voting for a Pastor, but in the same way that one does not go to Hell for voting for a bad Pastor, one does not enter into Hell for voting for a terrible President. Republicans say they believe the vote has spiritual implications, but if they felt this way, they likely wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump, who has gone on record as saying he’s “never asked God for forgiveness.” They call Donald Trump their “King Cyrus” but God didn’t raise him up so much as Americans voted for him. The Jews didn’t vote for Cyrus; God raised him up to lead them back to their homeland. That was completely the Lord’s doing. Donald Trump is in political office in the US, however, because Americans voted for him. The will of the people prevailed in some form for this man to get elected. Since even staunch conservatives believe Trump isn’t Christian, Republicans took their conservative beliefs about abortion and same-sex marriage and voted for a secular President. I wonder if they notice the inconsistency in their views there.
But why do Republicans vote for pro-life, anti-same-sex-marriage candidates? Because they believe those candidates are in line with Scripture. And they believe that, as a Christian, they should live their lives according to God’s Word. But there’s just one problem with this notion: they live in a country where freedom of religion reigns, where Christians live with Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, and even atheists, where not everyone is a Christian and not everyone lives like them.
The problem of republican thinking
What’s wrong with the way Republicans think? They’d tell me, “Nothing,” if they could speak for themselves. And with the way Republicans have consistently voted for pro-life, anti-same-sex-marriage candidates over the years, they don’t believe they’re doing anything wrong. They’d tell me that there’s something wrong with my thinking that would make me vote for the rights of all, even atheists with whom I spiritually disagree.
But there’s a flaw in Republican thinking. What is it? The idea that we live in a theocracy.
What is a theocracy? A theocracy is a form of government that is termed “God’s Government.” Essentially, God gets His way in everything in such a government. The Bible records that the nation of Israel in the Old Testament was a theocracy, where God chose kings, prophets, judges, and so on to lead His people. And yes, even in the OT theocracy, people still rebelled against God and disobeyed. Free will still existed in a theocracy, but God still sent leaders to His people to warn them and to turn them from their sinful ways.
And Republicans look at the Bible and believe there is a direct, 1:1 correspondence between the Old Testament and America today. Yes, they believe that America is a theocracy where God reigns.
But is this true? No, America isn’t a theocracy. But this explains why Republicans leap to phrases like “one nation under God” and assume that the US is a Christian nation. It’s why they vote pro-life and pro-heterosexual marriage in everything. It’s why Trump is a leader they back, even though he holds up the Bible but doesn’t read it all that much. These things are done to cater to their conservative, Christian base. Their voters want people to believe that they are for God ruling this country. It’s why Trump didn’t have a problem separating undocumented children from their undocumented parents at the border. Why? They see these undocumented immigrants as thieves trying to come into a country and live with privileges they don’t deserve.
Republicans err for a few reasons. 1) They assume that the US is a theocracy instead of a democracy. 2) They vote in leaders with their Christian views as if they’re voting for a Pastor or preacher. 3) They believe that these Christian views influence laws that govern this country. 4) They vote for a President as if they’re voting for a Savior.
And while these 4 reasons are bad enough, there is a fifth reason as to why they err in their thinking: Voting is seen as a political “shortcut” to the spiritual work of evangelism.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of “The Gospel Agenda”, coming up next.