Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's Finally Over--Now What?

By Bruce Mills

The presidential election of 2008 is finally over. I doubt there are any of us who woke up today and thought, "Aw shucks, I sure am gonna miss all those campaign commercials on TV." No, we are all happy the election is finished, if for no other reason than that. But I want to take a little time in my post today to let my mind sort of ramble regarding some observations about where we go from here.

Whether or not the outcome met your desires or expectations is not really the issue. The issue is how do we as Christians respond to the election. I have listened as many evangelical Christians have lamented about the potential result of this election, as though the election of a man could in some way destroy or change God's sovereign purposes for this nation and for the believers in it.

Let me say this as plainly as I can: God's purposes for this nation, its people, and the Christians who live in it were established before the foundation of the world, and nothing any elected official ever does will fall outside of God's decreed and permissive wills for this nation. Even the evil of man achieves the glory of God, as mind-boggling as that thought is to our finite minds.

So for us to fret and worry that an election will somehow change God's purposes for this nation or for the personal safety and freedoms of Christians is to deny the sovereignty of God and diminish Him to the level of some kind of demi-god who sits, wringing his hands, wondering if everything will turn out the way he wanted it to. That is a slap in the face of our infinite, almighty Lord.

Think about what the worst possible outcomes might be over the next several years. We may see our nation's economy decline further or our country's standing in the world diminish as we adopt a non-interventionalist approach to genocide and other crimes against humanity. Socialism may replace capitalism as the basis of our economic system. Our liberties may be taken away with expansion of hate crime laws and the reinstitution of the Fairness Doctrine. Supreme Court justices may be seated who expand the government's power to limit free speech, who further solidify Roe v. Wade as the law of the land, or who overturn laws forbidding gay marriage and remove the right of churches to refuse to hire applicants for employment who are homosexuals. We could even see the government remove the tax exempt status of churches and of charitable contributions to them. Euthanasia of the infirmed elderly and disabled may become standard practice, as it is today in the Netherlands and was in pre-World War II Germany. It may be that, within my lifetime, it may become illegal to hold certain biblically correct theological positions, and thus those Christians who are true and faithful to God's word may suffer imprisonment.

And if all of those things take place (and I believe that over the next 20-25 years they will), they will all take place in accordance with God's will. In Romans 1, Paul describes the wicked, depraved sinfulness of man, and three times (vv. 24, 26, 28), he says "God gave them over." In the original Greek that phrase referred to the turning over of someone to imprisonment and punishment. God turned ungodly man over to receive within himself the awful results of his rebellion against God's truth.

God does the same thing with nations. This is graphically portrayed throughout the Old Testament with the nation of Israel, as well as God's pronouncements of judgment against other nations for their ungodliness and depravity. The United States is no different. Our nation is merely reaping the results of its depravity and rejection of God's moral law. God has turned this nation over to receive the just punishment for its sin, and unfortunately, the more any nation forsakes God, the more the Christians within that nation also suffer. So we can expect that unless this nation turns from its sinful pursuits, the terrible things I listed will take place in this nation. It may already be too late. Pastor John MacArthur has a sermon titled "When God Abandons a Nation" which explains these things much better than I can.

So how do we respond? We find our answer in Scripture. When Jesus and his disciples were walking the earth, Rome was the government which ruled the majority of the known world. The Roman Empire was the most powerful, well-structured government that had ever been up until that time. But there were a lot of awful, sinful, ungodly practices taking place.

Abortion was practiced to limit the number of children in a family, and when a child was born that was not the sex the father desired, infanticide or abandonment was common practice. This was particularly common if the baby was a girl.

Slavery was the dominant social structure, with 20-40% of the population being owned by someone else. Slaves had no legal rights and were considered to be nothing more than a living tool. They could be beaten, tortured, or even killed by their master without any reason.

Homosexuality and bisexuality were common practices in the society, even among the Caesars, the official rulers of the empire. Nero, the Caesar in power at the time of the apostle Paul, commonly practiced homosexuality. Wild orgies were also common among the wealthy aristocratic rulers of the empire.

Rome contracted out its tax gathering to individuals telling them how much they were required to collect for Rome, and that they could keep anything they collected above that amount. Consequently, they would extort large sums of money from the citizens with the threat of imprisonment if they didn't pay what was demanded.

So it was a very bad situation for those who desired to follow and obey Christ. Yet at no time throughout all the New Testament, do we ever find either Jesus or the apostles ever spending their time championing causes such as stopping abortion, infanticide, or slavery. Scripture spoke against the sin of homosexuality, but the Christians were not campaigning against its practice. And when the Jewish leaders tried to trap Jesus into speaking against Rome's taxes, He responded that they were to "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21). In other words, pay your taxes. And we are told in Scripture to respect, obey, and submit to our government (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17).

So instead of championing causes, Jesus and the early Christians focused on evangelizing people with the gospel. That was the central message; in fact, it was the only message--that Christ came into the world to save sinners and people needed to repent of their sin and turn to Him. It was only after people became believers that they then began serving the Lord by gathering abandoned children and caring for them, freeing their own slaves, turning away from ungodly sexual practices, and helping the poor. And when others asked them why, they just continued to share the gospel. Never once in all the New Testament do we ever find Christians adopting a cause other than the evangelization of the hearts of lost men and women. They let the power of the gospel which changes the heart of man be the means by which those evils of society were diminished.

Initially, the result wasn't what they would have desired. Christians were ostracized, accused of unbelievable crimes, imprisoned, tortured, and then used as public entertainment as they were fed to lions and burned at the stake in the Roman Coliseum. This continued for about 250 years. All the while the gospel continued to spread throughout the empire, and finally in 313 AD, Constantine became emperor and outlawed the persecution of Christians.

Our response, then, to the election of our president and leaders is to show respect to them (regardless of how we might feel about them personally or their policy positions), obediently submit to their authority, and pray for them--both for wisdom in the decisions they make and for their personal salvation. We are to avoid turning our Christianity into a campaign against the evils of society and instead, make it a campaign to share the saving gospel of Jesus Christ so that the evil of men's hearts will be removed by God's cleansing power. And even if in future days, the liberties Christians have experienced in this land for the past 200 years are slowly removed and we begin to suffer for faithfulness to our Lord, the apostle Paul tells us, "do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord...but join with me [Paul] in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God" (2 Timothy 1:8). That is our calling; let us be faithful to obey.


Harry Nichols said...

Bruce, your blog is right on! May I offer an additional comment on the subject that comes to mind with all of the anxiety I hear expressed (as you noted). Proverbs 16:9,18 could apply to this situation.(Proverbs 16:9 A man's heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.) God works in mysterious ways to bring glory to Himself. His Word holds many examples where He uses the most unlikely of men to accomplish His purpose; Daniel 3 & 4 - Nebuchadnezzar's change of heart, is a good example. Barack O'Bama's stated purposes have brought great concern to believers all around the globe. However, his role in this global crises may turn out to be quite different than he plans, or anyone presently would imagine, if it is in the will of the One True God who works all things to the accomplishment of His Sovereign Will. Perhaps this nation to repentance as Jonah witnessed in Ninevah?

Jarrod said...

I'm right with you. I think it was in the book of Mark where it was said, "Let only those who look and act like me be fitted with the rights of humanity. Let those who believe or act differently than me be shunned, and let this be done in the name of the children. For it is the children for which we decide the rights of others and hence forth we shall push our beliefs on others and shun them in the name of the children."

Bruce Mills said...

I don't know where Jackem came up with such inane garbage, but it certainly isn't from the book of Mark.