The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Words of Comfort


 
“Therefore comfort one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:18
 

Every human being will one day die. The only exception are those people alive at the Rapture of the church by Jesus. But the Bible says each person will die and then face judgment (Heb. 9:27). My best friend's mother just passed away. I considered her a part of my family as well. My wife, me and my brother now have no parents left living. It's a reminder of the reality of life, and death.
 
The Psalmist was inspired to exhort us to ask the Lord to “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). In Psalm 139 it tells us God has created each person with an allotment of days saying, “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:16).  Our days are in God’s hands.

David in Psalm 39 spoke of the transience, the frailty of life when he was inspired to write:  Lord, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am”(Psalm 39:4-13).  So what can we know about our end? How do we measure our days?

 
In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians he is inspired to provide words of comfort death. He writes: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.  15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  

 

We will all inevitably experience death both on a second hand and first hand basis. We all know people who have died, and we ourselves will someday die.  Death is a 100% certainty. In response to the question, “How many people die per day?” Yahoo Answers recorded, “According to the CIA World Fact Book, as of July, 2005, there were approximately 6,446,131,400 people on the planet, and the death rate was approximately 8.78 deaths per 1,000 people a year. According to our nifty desktop calculator, that works out to roughly 56,597,034 people leaving us every year. That's about a 155,000 a day.[1] The online Wiki Answers estimates that “6098 people die each hour. . . .102 people die each minute.”[2] Death is all around us. People died in the past. People are dying in the present. People will die in the future. Death is inevitable.

To some death is a deep dark frightening mystery to be dreaded and held off for as long as possible. Thanatopia is the fear of death. In the movie Star Trek Into Darkness two prime characters die; Rear Admiral Christopher Pike (played by Bruce Greenwood) and Captain Kirk himself (played by Chris Pine). What is interesting about the two deaths is that in the last gasps before death both express their fear of death. Apparently with all the advances of the future there has been a distancing from God. The result? Fear of death. Death doesn’t have to be merely an into darkness experience.

People go to great extents to hold off death. We live in a society consumed with the health and physical condition of our bodies. Part of this is motivated by a fear of death and desire to hold it off as long as possible. Each human being inherently knows there’s a ticking clock of age that one day will sound the alarm of death. No matter how much we humans try, there is no way to escape from death.

For many, death can be a very troubling fact of existence. The inevitability of death, when a person is unsure and in the dark about it can be a source of great fear and dread.  The things Paul had to say can be a great comfort for those considering the reality of death. He shared about death and then said, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

How can we be comforted about death with these words of Paul? What is it that Paul is inspired to tell us to be conscious of in these verses that will give us comfort?

First, be conscious of the fact that death is a reality (4:13). Paul says, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, . . .” The word “ignorant” here (ἀγνοέω agnŏĕō, ag-no-eh´-o ) means, “uniformed; to lack information.” Another English term is rooted in this word which is “agnostic.” (Interestingly, we also derive the word “ignoramus” from the Latin translation of this Greek term.) The opposite of being ignorant of something is being informed and knowledgeable about it. By stating his desire that they not be ignorant he implies it is possible to be ignorant about these things. Don’t be ignorant about these things, be informed.  Paul wants us to be conscious of something here.

What does Paul want us to be conscious of? Everyone dies, we all know that, but Paul calls us to be conscious of how to face and understand death. It is possible to understand death and face it fearlessly with hope. Paul’s choice of words in speaking about death are important.

Paul doesn’t want his readers to be ignorant “concerning those who have fallen asleep.” In the New Testament believers who died were referred to as having “fallen asleep” (Mark 5:39; John 11:11). This is not “soul sleep” but the “sleep” of the physical body in the earth until it is resurrected to a glorified body (1 Corinthians 15:35-57; 2 Corinthians 5:1-9). The reason Christians who died were spoken of in this way was because death for the Christian is only a temporary transition to being united with Jesus.  Therefore, right from the start Paul helps us to be conscious of a hope in the face of death.

Some people live a kind of ignorance is bliss attitude toward death. They put off thinking about it as though they could actually put off death and prolong life. Some people live as though they are the exception to death.

Before his death in 1981, American writer William Saroyan telephoned in to the Associated Press this final, very Saroyan-like observation: "Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?"  [3]

 

Is that your way not-thinking about death?  There are no exceptions concerning death, we’ll all experience it.

On a tombstone was written:

Pause, stranger, when you pass me by; As you are now, so once was I; As I am now, so you will be; So prepare for death and follow me.

An unknown passer by scratched in some additional words which said:

To follow you I’m not content, until I know which way you went.

What we need to know about death is not just that it is inevitable but that there is a way to be prepared for it. And this is so very important because death brings with it a final decision about a person’s eternal destiny. There is an existence after death. The decisions we make in this life now, have a direct bearing on our eternal destiny which we embark upon at the point of death.

Second, be conscious of a hope available in death (4:13). Paul continues, “lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” Paul tells his readers that death doesn’t have to be a dark unknown that produces despair. We can have hope. Despair is the absence of hope. Sometimes when a loved one dies, those left behind despair because death to them is dark and uncertain, the great unknown in human existence. To them their loved one has passed on forever into that unknown never, (they think) to be seen again. Paul here tells his readers, it’s alright to sorrow, but don’t sorrow hopelessly, sorrow hopefully.

What is “hope”? Hope is a faithful expectation of future good. How can we face death with hope? First we need to consider why some face death despairingly or without hope. The Bible tells us that those who do not have a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are those who have no hope:

  • Ephesians 2:12 - that at that time you were without Christ, . . . , having no hope and without God in the world.

 

The Bible teaches clearly that without Christ there is no hope. This is because every person has sinned at some time in their lives and sin separates us from God, the only source of hope (Isaiah 59:2; 53:4-6; Romans 3:23).

Sarah Winchester's husband had acquired a fortune by manufacturing and selling rifles. After he died of influenza in 1918, she moved to San Jose, California. Because of her grief and her long time interest in spiritism, Sarah sought out a medium to contact her dead husband. The medium told her, "As long as you keep building your home, you will never face death."

 

Sarah believed the spiritist, so she bought an unfinished 17-room mansion and started to expand it. The project continued until she died at the age of 85. It cost 5 million dollars at a time when workmen earned 50 cents a day. The mansion had 150 rooms, 13 bathrooms, 2,000 doors, 47 fireplaces, and 10,000 windows. And Mrs. Winchester left enough materials so that they could have continued building for another 80 years. Today that house stands as more than a tourist attraction. It is a silent witness to the dread of death that holds millions of people in bondage because they have no hope in death (Heb. 2:15). [4]

 

How can a person receive hope, a hope that comforts us in death? Is it a matter of building earthly monuments to leave behind us? Is it a matter of going to church, of performing a ritual, of keeping the Ten Commandments, of being a good person, of being religious? No, none of these things measure up to God’s requirements to enter heaven. They all fall short of His glorious standard (Romans 3:23; John 16:8-11). There is only one way to receive hope and comfort with which to face death.

Third, be conscious of Christ’s hope (4:14). It states, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” The condition laid down here by Paul to receive comfort and hope with which to face death, is believing “that Jesus died and rose again.” To “believe” means simply to put your trust in something, accept it as true and follow through on that belief.

Here Paul tells us we must believe or trust in the fact that Jesus died. Jesus’ death was an atoning death. He died like all people do, but because He was the sinless Son of God His death atoned for or paid the just penalty for our redemption. Jesus paid a debt He did not owe for those who owed a debt they could not pay. And because of this when we accept and believe that “Jesus died for me,” to pay our debt, our death penalty (Rom. 6:23) and on the basis of Jesus substitutionary death we ask God’s forgiveness for our sins, God justly forgives us on the basis of Jesus death on the cross (cf. Rom. 3:23-26; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

Why did God send His Son Jesus to die for our sins? God sent His only Son Jesus because He loves us (Rom. 5:8). And when such love is perfected in us, when it is fully matured, such perfect love casts out fear of judgment (1 John 4:17-19). Paul’s words imply there was a question amongst the Thessalonians about death and those who die before the return of Jesus. This may be further evidence of what Paul alluded to earlier as lacking in the faith of the Thessalonians (cf. 3:10). If they were perfected or fully mature in the love (agape) of God, they would not fear judgment or the apparent issues associated with death. We are human and will naturally question or have interest in the afterlife. But those who are fully mature spiritually in the love of God put fear associated with death aside through faith in Jesus Christ. This is what the apostle John taught (1 John 4). This is what the apostle Paul teaches here. We should aim to be able to say with Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

How do we overcome the fear associated with death? What is the basis of victory over such fears? It is the belief and trust in the fact of that Jesus rose again from the dead. The resurrection is the exclamation mark of God indicating the atoning work of Jesus on the cross completely satisfied His just requirements of the law and was entirely sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the world. That Jesus rose from the dead also demonstrates victory over the final enemy, death! And Jesus is the first fruit, the One who goes before. He leads the way for us so that all those who trust in Him can have a hopeful prospect of resurrection too (1 Cor. 15). The resurrection is the proof in the pudding. It’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s where God put up and skeptics must shut up.

How can this be applied to our life? Hope can we appropriate this hope in Christ? Receiving hope from God through faith in Jesus Christ is as simple as ABC:

A – ADMIT – that you have sinned (even just once is enough – Gal. 3:10; James 2:10) and broken God’s Law. ACKNOWLEDGE – that because the wages or penalty of breaking God’s law is death (Romans 6:23a) you are deserving of death. ACCEPT – by faith that Jesus paid the penalty for sin for you by dying on the cross as your substitute (John 1:12; Romans 6:23b; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24).

B – BELIEVE that Jesus’ death on the cross for you is sufficient to reconcile you to God, for Him to justly forgive your sin and apply Christ’s righteousness to you (2 Corinthians 5:21). Believe that as you Admit, Acknowledge, and Accept His gift of salvation, that He fills you with His Holy Spirit (John 3; Romans 8:5,9; 10:8-10; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

C – COMMIT your life to Him; to walk in obedience to His Spirit with Jesus as Your Lord and Master (Galatians 5). Just give Jesus your life and trust Him with everything.

Through faith in Jesus we have hope, an assurance of future good coming to us as we pass through the door of death into eternity. Those are comforting words of hope. When we have a hope in Christ that does not disappoint, we are comforted in the face of death.

 

Fourth, be conscious of the hope found in God’s word (4:15). Paul wrote, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.” This passage in 1 Thessalonians speaks about the return of Jesus. When Christ returns at the “coming of the Lord,” true believers in Christ upon the earth will be gathered to Him. Those who die before that return “precede” or go before those who will be taken at the return of Jesus. But notice a very practical point here.

Paul directs his readers to “the word of the Lord,” because it is God’s word that fuels our faith, and hope is a faith applied to the future (Romans 10:17).

If you want God’s hope, He offers it in His word. The Bible says, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). There is great hope to be found in God’s word (e.g. Lam. 3:22-23; 1 Cor. 1:3; Rom. 15:13; Phil. 1:21; Col. 1:3-5; 2 Thess. 2:16-17; 1 Pet. 1:3). If you’re feeling hopeless, the most practical way to get your hope up is to go to God and His word. Prayerfully take it in and He will give you His hope.

 

Fifth, be conscious of Christ’s coming (4:16-17). Now Paul substantiates his words by writing, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” This passage in 1 Thessalonians deals with prophecy, predictions of the future. Did you know that the Bible is unique in this regard? Only the Bible has prophecy of future events. Other religious writings have nothing that compares to the prophetic content of the Bible. There were over 300 prophecies fulfilled by Jesus at His first coming. God uses prophecy to put His finger print on His word. God sees the end from the beginning so that when He inspires a human writer in the Bible to share prophetically He  is only speaking naturally for Himself. We are limited by time, God is not. Therefore, when God speaks through human agents the words are often prophetic in that they speak of things yet future, sometimes centuries or thousands of years ahead of time (Isaiah 42:9; 46:9-10; 2 Peter 1:20-21). God has spoken prophetically in the Bible and what God says is certain to come to pass just as it always has (2 Peter 1:19). Paul tells his readers about a blessed hope for the future that Jesus is coming back to earth (4:16-17).

 

Paul in another letter refers to this as the blessed hope of the Christian saying, “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:13). Jesus is coming back. He is coming for His flock of true believers at the Rapture. And then with His flock at the 2nd Coming of Jesus. When He returns He is going to remove all injustice and make all things right. His glory will cover the earth and peace will finally be established upon the earth. That is a blessed hope for believers, but for those who do not know Christ there is only the anticipation of the just wrath of God.

 

Our End Time

We don’t know when Jesus will return, but what we do know is that our “end time” might come before His return. Each of us has their own “end time” at the point of death. Death without Jesus is dark, despairing and destined to lead to eternal separation from God in an eternal place of darkness, pain and torment (Luke 16). If we die in our sins without having a personal relationship with Jesus as our Savior and Lord, then we really will experience hopelessness. But death with Jesus gives a glorious hope.

Paul wrote in another passage, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). Believers have hope and don’t sorrow like those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Believers approach death differently. Believers never have to say “I’ll never see them again”; but instead can say “see you later.”  Death is only a temporary separation for believers. Death is a peaceful sleep or rest; it’s a door to a better place.

 

This is not the case for the one who is unsaved from their sins or who does not have a saving relationship with God through faith in Christ. For the unsaved, death leads to eternal darkness and separation from God and everything good. Dying without Jesus is a reason to despair, for if you die without having received Jesus as your Savior by faith, there is no longer any hope for you. Those who die without having had their sins forgiven by God in Christ, will be judged for their sin and the sentence is eternal separation from God and all good. This is not something God desires for anyone. God prepared hell for the devil and his angels, not people. But those who reject God, in effect choose to rebel like Satan and will spend eternity in the same place of torment. In reality, those who spend eternity in hell have chosen to be there. That may offend you, but that is the truth everyone needs to consider. If you disagree, your argument and disagreement is not with me, but with God and His word. No one has ever or won or ever will win an argument with God. (See Matthew 10:15; 25:30, 41, 46; Romans 1:18, 32; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; 2 Peter 2:17; 3:9-10; Revelation 19:20; 21:8.)

 

Lastly, be conscious of Christ’s comfort and comfort one another (4:18). Paul concludes, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” The word “Therefore,” points us to what precedes and conveys the thought of, “What should we do with this information from God’s revelation?” Paul says, “comfort one another with these words.” There is comfort in our relationship with Jesus Christ. There is comfort from God’s word. There is comfort from the hope of Christ’s return. And there is comfort that God gives through fellow believers.

 

What does “comfort” mean? “Comfort” (παρακαλέω parakalĕō, par-ak-al-eh´-o ) occurs 109 times in the New Testament and is translated “beseech” 43 times, “comfort” 23 times, “exhort” 21 times, “desire” eight times, “pray” six times, “entreat” three times, and “besought” once.  The idea here is to come together to exhort, encourage, strengthen, instruct, console and comfort. [5]

What is there to come together and be comforted about in this passage? In review we see:

1.)    We are comforted when we are conscious of the fact that death is a reality, but through faith in Jesus we can have a sure hope that death is not the end but only the beginning of a better life, eternal life. Christians don’t view the death of another Christian as “I’ll never see you again,” but “See you later.”  (4:13-14)

2.)    We are comforted when we are conscious of the hope and comfort offered in God’s word (4:15)

3.)    We are comforted when we are conscious of Jesus return. He’s coming again. He’s going to make things right, and that is a reality to give us great hope and comfort (4:16-17).

 

Our departed loved one in Christ is with the Lord right now. We shouldn’t be sad for them, we should be glad for them. They have left behind all the shackles of an earthly body. They have left behind all earthly cares. They are in the presence of the Lord Jesus and experiencing joy inexpressible and fullness of glory. When that is our hope, it is a great comfort.

 

A Christian railroad engineer was speaking to a group of fellow workers about heaven. He said, "I can't begin to tell you what the Lord Jesus means to me. In Him I have a hope that is very precious. Let me explain. Many years ago as each night I neared the end of my run, I would always let out a long blast with the whistle just as I'd come around the last curve. Then I'd look up at the familiar little cottage on top of the hill. My mother and father would be standing in the doorway waving to me. After I had passed, they'd go back inside and say, 'Thank God, Benny is home safe again tonight.' Well, they are gone now, and no one is there to welcome me. But someday when I have finished my 'earthly run' and I draw near to heaven's gate, I believe I'll see my precious mother and dad waiting there for me. And the one will turn to the other and say, 'Thank God, Benny is home safe at last.'"

 

The person who dies in the Lord is in a much better place. They are safe at home. They are enjoying the Lord and enveloped in His worship. With Jesus there are no more groan producing bodily ailments. There are no more health problems to hold them down. They are happier in the presence of Jesus than they could ever be here on earth. In fact, (don’t be offended) the departed loved one is probably not even thinking of those left behind. They have their eyes where they longed to put them all along, on Jesus. And if we were able to pry our departed loved one away for a moment from their worshipful gaze on the Lord, they would tell you how “GREAT!!!!!” heaven was. How happy they would be if we would all someday join them in the presence of Jesus.  What joy they would have to know they played a small part in your following their lead. The comfort the Christian has is that it’s never “Goodbye forever,” but only “See you later.”

 

 

 



[1] http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20120115065827AACFt62
[2] http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_people_die_every_hour
[3] Today in the Word, April 11, 1993.
 
[4] Our Daily Bread, April 2, 1994.
 
[5]Strong, J. 1996. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship: Ontario

Monday, January 29, 2018

Keeping Politics in its Place

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. – Romans 13:3a

 

Politics is a part of life. It seems politics has become an obsession in our day. Everybody has an opinion. Everybody has chosen a side. Everybody seems to have been tattooed with a label (some literally!). Democrat, Republican, RINO (i.e. Republican In Name Only), Progressive, Conservative, Alt-Left, Alt-Right, Communist, Socialist, Democratic, Federalist, Republican, “Patriot,” “Traitor,” I could go on an on. We see divisions everywhere. There are more and more political mobs and rioting. Political anarchists, insurrectionists and revolutionaries are on the move. Actors and actresses (if such gender declarative titles are acceptable to you), news casters, sports figures, talk show hosts, those employed and those unemployed, young, old and in-between, male and female and those in-between, everybody is expressing their political views. Political statements are being made by activists dancing naked in the streets or kneeling at a game. Law and order is being seen as a crime. There’s fighting about immigration and citizenship. There’s serious issues with our voting system. People are looking at the political climate and building family bunkers and loading them up with at least six months of supplies for the coming demise of society. It’s all bound up in the web of politics. It should be clear and evident to all in our day, politics is significant. Politics affect life.

 

Politics is not the answer to life’s questions or the solution to life’s problems. We have to keep politics in its place. The only sufficient solutions to life’s problems and answers to life’s questions are found in God. They are bound up in Jesus and revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. You may disagree with that, but in the end, you’ll find it to be true. But even if you accept God as your solution and answer, if you seek His truth and will in the area of politics (and really for life in general), you’ll discover He really doesn’t endorse isolationism or willful ignorance of this area of life.

 

Even if we look to God for solutions and answers to the topic of politics, we will find He has some important things for us to consider. Abstinence from government is really in reality not an option. There are those who choose to stand on the sidelines and are satisfied to ignore all things political. But politics is in our face. It’s banging down our doors. It’s creeping more and more into our lives. It does this through taxation. Everything from the food and drinks we consume to the access to the places we want to go, are taxed by those in politics. Our wages, property, inheritance, education, communication, transportation, and just about everything else are imposed upon with taxes. Politics also directly affects our freedoms. Freedom to speak, freedom to worship, freedom to assemble, freedom to have a say in government, and freedom to live like we want to live are all some of the areas politics and government affect. Our right to privacy is being directly affected by politics. More and more and in many ways, we hear the warning, “Big Brother is watching you. Big Brother is spying on you.” Politics is even coming into play with robots equipped with Artificial Intelligence that one day may threaten our existence. We can’t avoid politics. But we can’t let politics overwhelm us either. We can’t let politics enslave us. We have to find a way to keep politics in its place.

 

Politics has to do with the mechanics of government. There are all kinds of governments, all have their warts and weaknesses. Really, no matter the government, because fallen sinful people are involved, it is doomed to frustration, futility, and failure. We won’t have a true right working political system of government until Jesus returns to lead it. And that Jesus led government will reign gloriously for a thousand years!  But what do we do in the political governmental systems we live in until then? God in His Word instructs us.

 

Romans 13:3-4 - “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”

 

A righteous government “is God’s minister.” A “minister” is a “servant.” True purpose and reason for being for a government is found in their service to God. This presupposes a government’s belief in God. And as a servant of God a government should seek God’s purposes.

 

Here in these verses, God’s purposes for government are spelled out as encouraging “good” and being a “terror . . . to evil.” If you do “good,” (Greek agathŏs) or that which benefits others, promotes wellness and joy, you have nothing to fear. If you do “evil” (Greek kakos) or that which is defined by the words, depraved, intrinsically worthless, injurious, harmful, bad, rotten or wicked, then look out, government is there to expose it and put a stop to it. That is the prime purpose of government according to God’s Word.

 

But it’s important to properly define what is “good” isn’t it? Right away we can see by applying “good” and “evil” to our society that what some people call “good” others would call “evil.” Indeed, Isaiah spoke of a time when good and evil would be confused. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). This happened in Israel and it led to her destruction and captivity. It is a principle that marks the condition of any nation. When you can’t tell “good” from “evil,” you’re ready for destruction and captivity. Really, since good and evil are diametrically opposed to each other, if we can define one of these words it will give us a good start on defining the other by contrast. Let’s focus on “good.”

 

What is “good”? The term “good” occurs 652 times in the Bible. Whew! That’s a lot. [1]God has a lot to say on what is good. And if we serve God, goodness is bound up in what God says is good. Even if we don’t acknowledge God or choose not to serve Him, God has given all humanity a conscience by which we can intrinsically know right from wrong, good from evil. Our God-given conscience enables us to know good from evil (Romans 2:12-16). For God, right and wrong are bound up in His revealed Law (e.g. Exodus 20). To keep us from becoming legalistic or from having a wrong view of the Law, God has reduced it to a simple but profound principle of, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). It is only through the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we can receive God’s implanted love in our heart to accomplish such law-abiding living. It is when the Holy Spirit regenerates us and we are born again with a second spiritual birth that such love is poured out into our heart. Such love is not something generated by humanity but comes from God (e.g. Romans 5:5). The world has its brand of love which is limited. God’s brand of love is unlimited other than to be guided by the truth of His word (cf. Luke 6:27-36). This world needs the love of the God who loves them so much (e.g. John 3).

 

God’s goodness involves grace and compassion (Exodus 33:19). God’s goodness would involve the things He stands for and revealed to us about Himself such as truth, faithfulness, love, and justice, to name a few. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face” (Psalm 89:14). These are things we should seek and promote and encourage wherever we find them.

 

A particularly important aspect of God’s nature for government is that God is orderly (e.g. 1 Cor. 15:33 and 40). We see His order in the design of the universe and creation. When God is working we see order. Sin however brings disorder. We see this in the fall of humanity (Gen.3). When Adam and Eve sinned, they were cast out of the beautifully ordered Garden of God. They were cast out into a world where sin abounds. Thank the goodness of God “that where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20). That grace is realized in the words, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).  Sin and its disorder brings anxiety and lostness. Salvation in Jesus brings order and peace.

 

Right and wrong are closely linked to order versus disorder. This is a Biblical principle. Now, because we are sinful we often get tripped up in the dirty socks of sin strewn about our life. But the Holy Spirit has a way of pointing out the sinful disarray and then bringing us back into His order. Sometimes, God’s order conflicts with our “order,” but He has a way of straightening us out. He reconciles us when we get off course. Government can be a part of that, especially when our disorder takes the form of crime.

 

Government is one of God’s means to maintain enough order that complete chaos associated with sin does not reign. A good government provides orderliness by promoting good and fighting against evil. Good governments have laws designed to maintain order according to godly principles. Bad government uses law to give license to sin. That’s called licentiousness or giving license to sin. That is very bad.

 

The good order provided by God through government creates an environment where His truth can be shared. Anarchy enslaves with fear. It leads to intimidating circumstances. It leads to bullying in the extreme. There’s little more terrifying than the pillaging that occurs during times of rioting. Good government liberates by promoting freedom through law and its order. Our Constitution is an example of this. Government is turned on its head when it works against such freedoms. When that happens, like in our history, a Declaration of Independence may be called for:

 

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. [2]

Notice in this declaration the prominence of “nature’s God,” and our “Creator.” God is at the heart of good government. Many in our government have forgotten those precious words of declared independence. And the consequence has been dire. Freedom is turned on its head when it is used to promote sin. That is what has happened in our nation of late. Without God and His truth nothing works properly for humanity.

 

A good citizen in a governmental system, does “good” and receives “praise from the same,” or praise from the government. If we do good, we have nothing to fear from the government seeking to be pleasing to God. But really, we should first and foremost and primarily be seeking praise from God. “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For it I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). That is true of the minister of the Gospel. But that is also true of others areas of life too, including political.

 

Most governments historically have little to no appreciation for, let alone belief in, the God of the Bible. That is simple and damning evidence that they are not fulfilling their God-ordained purpose. They are failing and will ultimately fail. We need to be mindful of that. Change wrought through politics and government is always going to fall short. But that doesn’t excuse us from working for the good and yes, being involved in politics.

 

Government has a mandate to oppose evil. It states, “for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” The government is to identify, expose, and stop evil, “to execute” or carry out God’s wrath on evil. Governments promoting deception and dark ventures are operating counter to their perfect purpose and will be as empty, impotent to change, and unfulfilling as any individual living in deception and dark ventures.

 

Of course, governments led by sinful fallen people have strayed far, far away from God’s ideal since Babel (Genesis 11). Some are worse than others. Our Federal Republic and constitutional democracy began better than most governments. But we too have strayed. That is especially true in the last 30 years. But I see changes for the better recently.

 

We see this scientifically as sonograms unmistakably remove the veil of willful ignorance about the humanity of children in the womb and consequently the atrocity of abortion. Our government legalized abortion in 1973. As time goes on we see that this was done on false pretenses. As sonogram technology improves and we see the personhood of the baby in the womb, laws will change. We need to work for that.

 

Government corruption is being identified and exposed. We see this in such activist movements as Project Veritas as well as individually by such people as Julian Assange (perhaps not a Christian but a part of this move nonetheless). And we see this in the stated political platform of the present administration to “drain the swamp.” These are all “good” things.  

 

There is an effort today in our country to root out evil that should be applauded and supported by those God calls to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). All of this should have the Christian’s support. James spoke of a sin of omission. He was inspired to write, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). Christian, we have been inactive about supporting the “good” around us for far too long. It is sinful. We need to get up off the couch and get involved. We need to be salt and light. We need to get involved. We need to infiltrate this world and influence it for the glory of God.

 

But be warned, we should not be enslaved to party affiliation but rather dedicated to the efforts to do good and oppose evil whoever is promoting them. Wherever you find a party spirit in scripture it is a negative.  When we side blindly with one group over another, it is sin or at least a sign of spiritual immaturity and unbecoming carnality (e.g. Acts 11 and 15; 1 Corinthians 3; Galatians 3:28). There is only One to Whom we give total allegiance, King Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:11). He’s our President, Senator, Congress-Man and political Representative above all others. Our prime citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). We serve the Kingdom of God first and guard against other allegiances that tempt us to idolatry. We can be a patriot to our earthly nation, but only inasmuch as its precepts and actions align with our heavenly citizenship. We must be clear on that. We serve here to promote God’s truth and light, His justice and impartial fairness, His mercy and grace, His sense of right and wrong. We serve God by serving others the way God would have us serve.

 

In this effort, we should be wary of and not surprised by the fact that the “father of lies” seeks to side track us and confuse the targets of evil by way of deception. Today we see this in “fake news” and anti-God indoctrination and misguided education. All of this needs to be exposed. Falsehoods need to be exposed by the light of the Lord which is most clearly seen in His Word. Using God’s word as a refence point for truth and justice used to be a common practice in the early stages of our nation. We need to get back to that.

 

This is how Christians in all nations should live as salt and light. In every nation, regardless of government system, we act as agents of light; we cut through deception and support those who act in this common cause. We speak God’s truth in the powerful love of the Spirit (Eph. 4:15). Imagine if all Christianity united internationally across their government systems in support of one another to expose evil with God’s light? It just might lead to a revival, another Great Awakening.

 

Practically, we expose the darkness and seek good through means such as prayer, evangelism, teaching and discipling others with God’s word, and being informed and getting involved in society politically. We fulfill God’s call on us as we infiltrate and influence the world around us for the glory of God.

 

All of this doesn’t mean we see ourselves as necessarily or primarily, part of government. Some will be called to participate in government systems and politics. Some will run for office. If they do, I would only counsel them to run with Jesus. Walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). There is a great need for this today. But not everyone is called into politics. What is meant here is that we see government as a means to the end of encouraging good and discouraging evil. It means we get involved. We always serve with undiluted undivided loyalty to the Kingdom of God. We keep politics in its place.

 

 

 



[1] “Evil” by the way occurs 461 times in scripture.
[2] http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/documents/1776-1785/the-final-text-of-the-declaration-of-independence-july-4-1776.php