November 6, 2016
There have been many rancorous elections over the years in the United States. The election of 1800 was a bitter rematch between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. There was much antagonism, political backbiting, and underhandedness. People’s reputations were smeared with lies. In the election of 1926, incumbant, Woodrow Wilson, past president, Teddy Roosevelt, future presidents: Calvin Coolidge, Warren Harding, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Roosevelt, were all jockeying for the white house. Somehow Warren G. Harding became president. What a mess! His presidency was marred by much scandal.
The election of 2016 has also been filled with antagonism, accusations, and political intrigue. Unfortunately, both presidential candidates have tarnished their own reputations by their actions and rhetoric over the years. Frankly it has put many people in a conundrum. Who on earth should I vote for? Should I even vote?
Now we are a conservative evangelical congregation. We are conservative in our doctrinal beliefs and by in large are aligned with conservative values on the moral issues of life and sexuality. We are probably more diverse in our views on gun control, economics, immigration, and health care. In our congregation some vote democrat and some vote republican. As I was preparing for this message I did a little investigating on how conservative evangelicals are lining up with the various candidates.
From what I can tell, many conservative evangelicals are promoting Donald Trump, not because they think he is such a paragon of virtue, but because they do not like the democrat platform and they do not like Hillary Clinton, and also because they are concerned about the supreme court justices. But among those who support Trump there is much gnashing of teeth. Dr. Wayne Grudem a well known conservative, evangelical professor of Systematic Theology, came out in support of Trump. Then he reversed his stance against Trump. And now he has reversed himself again. James Dobson is supporting Trump, along with Eric Metaxas, Jerry Falwell Jr, Televangelist Mark Burns, Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, and Bishop E.W. Jackson. However, Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention have come out strongly against Trump. This month, John Piper called for Trump and Clinton to drop out of the race and stated that he would not vote for either of the candidates. These are high profile evangelicals.
But a case for Hillary is also being made by some evangelicals. Some have pointed out that Hillary supports biblical values regarding caring for the poor, the children, and the disenfranchised. She is being promoted by Deborah Filkes, executive adviser to the World Evangelical Alliance, and possibly by Max Lucado, although that is less clear. Tony Evans is urging Christians to vote for the party that is most aligned with the values of the kingdom of God.
Franklin Graham has held prayer rallies in every state and has encouraged believers to vote, “even if it means holding our noses as we go to the ballot booth.” And I believe each of us should vote. In my understanding voting is a privilege of citizenship and not a duty or obligation. But because it is a privilege that many in the world wish they had but don’t, and because it is a meaningful way of participating in our democratic government, I believe that when we exercise this privilege we help to promote the stability of our democratic freedoms. But again, because it is a privilege and not a duty, if a person feels that for conscience sake they cannot support any of the candidates, they do not have to exercise the right. In other words I do not think it is a sin to not vote.
This morning I have no intention of endorsing any candidate or of trying to help us discern who to vote for. We’re all responsible adults, fully capable of coming to a decision for ourselves through prayer and thoughtful reflection. And if you need advice there are plenty of people online who know exactly what you should do.
One way or another, come Wednesday we will have a new president. You may wake up on Wednesday feeling happy or depressed, discouraged or hopeful, depending on the outcome. I want to remind all of us that as followers of Jesus Christ we are not trusting in the president, the congress, or the Supreme Court. If anything experience has taught us that we cannot depend upon these governmental institutions to uphold the values of Jesus Christ. Our hope is not in government. Our hope for all of life is fully in God.
I. GOD, WHO CREATED ALL THINGS, IS IN CONTROL. Prov.21:1; Ps.22:28
Prov.21:1 says, “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” Also consider Ps.22:28, which says, “For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.”
Before I say anything about this, let me affirm that I am not a determinist. I do not believe that God determines everything that happens. I do believe that God is fully in control, but that he does not always exercise his control in the same way. I believe that God allows some things to be undetermined, but that he is fully able to step in whenever he chooses. In all that happens I believe that God’s purposes will be fully accomplished because nothing will ultimately thwart his will.
That said, these verses are an encouragement to us because they assure us that God is fully in charge. He is the One who is ruling over the nations. He is the One who can turn a ruler’s heart in any direction he chooses. And let me add a thought from last week’s message in which we saw that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
An example of this is seen in Pharaoh in the book of Exodus. There we read that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Later in the book of Daniel we read about how God humbled Nebuchadnezzar to the point that Nebuchadnezzar encouraged everyone to worship Daniel’s God. We also read in Isaiah that God was going to raise up a world ruler named Cyrus who would allow the people of Israel to return to the Promised Land.
But I must add that the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt for over 300 years before God worked in Pharaoh’s heart. The people of Israel were in exile in Babylon for some 70 years before they were allowed to return and rebuild. So while it is true that God is in control and can change the heart of a ruler, it would seem that God has a different time table than we do. His ways and purposes are often different from ours.
So on Wednesday when we wake up to a new president elect, we may be disappointed or deeply concerned about what the future implications are, but we can be confident that in the long run God will have his way and all will be well. But in the short run we have a stewardship to embrace. Voting is just one way of impacting our country. Is abortion going to continue? It would seem so. Will health care rates continue to climb? No doubt/ Will issues of sexuality and gender continue to divide the country? I think so. Will the church continue to be pushed out onto the edges of society? Yes. But these matters can be impacted by our vote and our efforts. The abortion rate has declined, largely through the work of the church. I urge us to vote for a candidate that you believe can effect helpful change. Whatever happens, our hope is in God. We cry out to him and we rest in him.
II. GOD IS UPHOLDING HIS PEOPLE. Ps.33:12-22; Ps.147:10-11
We are all familiar with the ways of this world. The way of the world is the way of pride and power. Pride and the desire for power promote deception, manipulation, abuse of all kinds, violence, and oppression. These are the methods relied upon by the world. In Ps.33 it says, “The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.” In Ps.147:10 we read, “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man.”
The teaching of Scripture is that this world is passing away. In 1Jn.2:16-17 we read, “For all that is in the world, the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life, is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires”
I point this out to suggest that while the world operates on the platform of pride and power, the believer does not operate on this platform. Whether one looks at the Sermon on the Mount or Jesus’ teachings in Jn.14-17, it is clear that we walk to a different drummer. In Ps.33:18-22 it says, “the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” And in Ps.147:11 it says, “but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”
This might seem to be a way of apathy and inactivity. How will we get anything done? But that is not the case at all. Trusting in the Lord, fearing the Lord, waiting on the Lord calls for great patience, prayer, and self-control as we carry out our various roles in life.
Daniel and his 3 friends were in places of great power and authority in Babylon, and yet they managed to not use the ways of this world. They trusted in the steadfast love of God. When thrown into the fiery furnace they counted their lives as nothing and trusted in the steadfast love of God. When thrown into the lions’ den, Daniel trusted in God, as did Joseph, as did Jesus, as did Paul and a host of others.
Regardless of who the next president is we must put our hope in the steadfast love of God. He is holding our lives in his hands. This country of ours is passing away, along with the entire world, “but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
III. JESUS CHRIST IS LORD OF ALL. Luke 22:19-30
So on this Sunday before we vote, here we are at the Lord’s Table. It is here at the Lord’s Table that the Lord presents a fresh affirmation of the new life that is available through faith in him.
In Luke’s description of the Lord’s Supper we read that after eating and drinking the bread and wine, the disciples were arguing about who among them was the greatest. Jesus reminded them that the greatest among them was the one who served. But then Jesus says in v.28, “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Followers of Jesus are in the kingdom of God and will have a place at Jesus’ table when the final resurrection occurs. This Table here is a foretaste of that heavenly table when we gather at the heavenly banquet, the marriage supper of the Lamb.
I can’t help but note the irony. Here we are at the Lord’s Table affirming our citizenship and participation in the kingdom of God, while on Tuesday we will affirm our citizenship and participation in the United States, one of the kingdoms of this world.
The bread and the juice remind us that God took on human flesh in the person of his Son, Jesus. The saving goodness and reign of God became incarnate showing God’s intention to save humanity, body and soul. After dying for our sins, Jesus rose again to new creation life. He is the beginning of the new creation. Not only that, but Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth.
Those of us who have turned from our sins to embrace Christ as Savior and Lord, are new creations. We have his new creation life in us, and when he comes again he will make a new heaven and new earth for us to live in. But we are living that new heaven and new earth life right now through the Holy Spirit. This is why when we go to the voting booth we understand that Christ is our king. We will seek to use our best judgment as we vote, but Jesus Christ is Lord of all.
When we wake up on Wednesday we will need to begin praying for our new president. We want to pray that he or she comes to know Christ as Lord. But for today, we have the opportunity to reorder our priorities around the presence of our King as we come to the Lord’s Table. Here we meet our Savior who has given his life for us. We meet our Lord who is reigning in our lives. We meet our King who is coming again. Let us bow before Him with thankful, humble, and surrendered hearts. Amen