Saturday, December 29, 2018 -
This morning, the devotional I am using pointed me to Isaiah 25:1-5 where, after prophesying Israel’s punishment and subsequent deliverance from her enemies, the prophet praises God for His plans. All these “wonderful things,” Isaiah says, had been “planned long ago,” yet include some difficult times. It can be hard hearing God say no, and even harder when we’re praying for deliverance from the persecution of the enemy. But that’s all the more I must hold on to the truth of God’s good plans. I may not understand why, but like Joseph, I must keep trusting in his love, goodness, and faithfulness!
It was interesting that my Proverbs for the day came from Proverbs 29 (corresponding to the day of the month), and that I am on Romans 13 in my reading through the Bible. In Proverbs 29:2 I read, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice. But when a wicked man rules, people groan.” How amazingly this fits together with the first seven verses of Romans 13! Romans 13 I’ve heard interpreted by some to indicate we should blindly follow the verdicts of authorities even when they are evil and oppose God’s Word. In fact, for years, every month when I’ve read Proverbs 29:2, I can’t help but think of Barack Obama, who was the epitome of a ruler of modern times who rebelled against God and His Word (not to mention the Constitution of the United States). And it is very clear in Romans 13, verses 3 and 4, that God is referring for us to be in subjection to those who fear Him and protect those who do good. Paul says specifically, “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.”
In verse six, Paul says, “…for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.” It is rulers who fear God we must submit to, recognizing their authority. Peter and John, when told to stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus, told the authorities, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have heard and seen” (Acts 34:19-20). Then, after further threatening and being thrown into prison for their “rebellion” against the authorities, they prayed aloud, “And now Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that thy bond-servants may speak thy word with all confidence (boldness) while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30). This should be the attitude we have when we’re ordered to deny Jesus and God’s Word. It should embolden us to speak out all the more in boldness.
In Acts 5:29, after being thrown in prison again, then miraculously released, Peter and the other apostles blatantly told the authorities, “We must obey God rather than men,” (Acts 5:29). Sometimes this doesn’t always work out so well, as we saw with Stephen (Acts 6-7). Stephen even called them out for killing the Messiah. Even Paul, knowing the authorities would arrest him, and try to kill him, said: “But I do not consider my life of any account as clear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God…For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…” (Acts 20:24, 27-28) After being tortured then by the authorities for his faith, Paul stood up and told them to their faces, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! And do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?” (Acts 23:3) Standing before Felix, Paul later said, “But this I admit to you, that according to the way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is written in the prophets: Having a hope in God…In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:14-16). Clearly, Paul was telling the authorities his conscience before God dictated whether or not he obeyed the authority! He claimed, “for I am wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.”
The pattern in the New Testament is very clear. We are to abide by the law of the land until the authorities demand that we deny Christ and His Word. There is no question about this! God put rulers in place to protect that which is good and punish that which is evil. In our land today, they are calling “good evil and evil good,” but we are to reject that. They “substitute darkness for light and light for darkness”; bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20). Is this not what is happening in America today? Yet the church, a major component of the government of America, a government of “we the people,” remain for the most part silent, claiming, as I have often heard, certain sins of are now the “law of the land,” and so we must accept and submit. There are several major fundamental flaws with this argument, which I’ve heard echoed from those as diverse as T.D. Jakes, Victoria Cobb, and Robert Jeffers. Paul, in Romans 1:32, condemns such attitudes of complicity, “and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” Is this not what these same leaders are doing by claiming wrongfully that “homosexual ‘marriage’ is now the law of the land?”
One of the things that Paul cited leading up to this proclamation was the grievous sin of homosexuality, which he says is a result of the “depraved minds” of the day and time. The church’s silence and lack of defiance to wrongful edicts by tyrants (judges) who refuse to abide by the Constitution and the higher law which governs and forms the basis of our Republic (according to the Declaration of Independence), make is as guilty as those who do such things. That is the gist of Paul’s message. And he thus says, “Therefore, you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself, for you who judge practice such things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things” (Romans 2:1-2). Americans, particularly we believers, had every right to ignore and defy the edict of the “Obergefell” decision these Christian leaders wrongfully accepted as the “law.”Since when does the judicial branch have the authority to make law? It’s strictly forbidden by the Constitution, and the Founding Fathers expected the states and citizenry to rebel against such tyranny by one branch of government. In fact, only a handful of people nationwide in authority specifically defied this illegal edict by the U.S. Supreme Court. Yet history has shown defying wrongful and tyrannical judicial rulings that go against the Constitution and God’s sovereign law has nullified those bad court decisions. In fact, the Constitution put the checks and balances in place to get rid of such evil justices. It’s called impeachment. Yet how many Christians pestered their representatives in Congress to impeach these justices who call evil good? What if we had flooded the offices with letter and calls from more than 70 million of us? What if we had done the same with our state legislatures and other elected officials demanding they openly defy such a tyrannical, ungodly ruling? But our silence does nothing but indict us.
Getting back to Romans 13, there’s another factor that more often than not eludes Christians today when reading this passage. And that is the fact that our government is a very unique form of government, a government of “We the People.” One cannot look back at the Constitution, which defines the laws and structure of our nation, without consulting and heeding the authority of our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, which clearly states the God and His law is the basis for our freedom and liberty. The uniqueness of the great American experiment in government is that “We the People” are the government. We the people control our own destiny. We are expected to elect to represent we the people those who abide by our founding documents, and that means to protect that which is good, and punish what is evil (Romans 13:3-4). So Scripture clearly teaches we mustn’t ever abandon the laws and principles God sets forth in His Word, and to refuse to speak out against the acceptance of sin is in fact sin as bad as the sin itself. Then we must also ask, is not to vote a sin as well?
However, here is where Christians who do speak out miss the mark. In our culture where good is called evil and evil is called good, we speak out against the legitimacy to embrace such sin as normal (e.g. homosexual “marriage”) but at the same time refuse to condemn it as sin. And if we do condemn the sin, we neglect to call for the repentance and available salvation for those sinners who have been given up to their own lusts. And I’m not speaking solely of homosexuality. Our society – and even our churches – is filled with vices that grieve the heart of God. Pride, self-centeredness, lack of altruism, failure to exhibit the marks of true Christians found in Romans 12:9-21, greed, failing to help our fellow believers who are in need and failing to be a missionary right where we are (Matthew 28:19-20). Not to mention rampant pornography, fornication, lying, and other corrupt things which grieve the heart of God (Romans 1:18-32). Christians should speak out and vehemently protest and rebel against anything our society and elected representatives do or condone which grieves the heart of God, but in so doing we must call this nation to repent and turn their hearts to God. Our nation must repent! But this will not happen until we ourselves repent, beginning with each one of us sitting in comfortable pews (or chairs) each Sunday, but not living as He commands, with a life totally surrendered and trusting in God, being willing to, as Jesus told the rich young ruler, to give up everything to God – even our earthly treasures. Once that happens, revival will take place.
Our government itself has become corrupt. But we are the government. We the People are the ones who have left our first love. We the People no longer fear God. We the People must repent of our sin. Once that happens, revival in our land will spread like wildfire. The church will truly become the salt of the earth. You will become a bright shining light which others cannot ignore. No longer will you make any claims on anything God has blessed you with, for you will freely share it with others because it all belongs to God. We must become like the first-century church, “feeling a sense of awe, and many signs and wonders were taking place…and all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them withal, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:43-47).
There you have it – that’s the key! Note, by so doing they had favor with ALL the people, and salvations were happening not just every Sabbath day – but every day of the week. But the key, before this happened, peter explained the absolute prerequisite in Acts :38: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the Holy Spirit.” Repentance is the key, both for the new believer and the one who claims to know Christ already but is not living according to Romans 12.
The Scripture in Revelation 2:20 is often used with non-believers, however, it was said by Jesus to the lukewarm church, the church in Laodicea, which sounds an awful lot like the church in America: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become so wealthy, and have need of nothing’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold and garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. Those whom I have, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelations 3:15-22).
I pray today our leaders will begin to preach this message loudly and clearly, make God’s Word the focal point of their lives and encourage others to do the same, and we will see the greatest revival that has ever taken place in America. Maybe then, we the people will elect leaders who wholeheartedly fear God and refuse to call evil good, and good evil, protecting those who do good and punishing those who do evil.