As we continue to live in the post-election grind of constant analysis and ongoing protests, it reminds me of a conversation I had with my neighbor some time ago. He was complaining about politics and politicians and the state of the country. This is a guy I don’t talk to that often but he knows what I do and a little about our church. When he got done with his rant and took a breath, I said to him, “It’s almost like the world needs a Savior.” He said, “Hmm…that’s good.”
How true. The world needs something or somebody different from the leaders it has known. All of the hand wringing flows from a real worry that our present or future leaders might not be up for the job.
In two months, it’s inauguration day. To remove present politics from this, let’s just say it’s a generic president-elect who is being inaugurated. The cameras are rolling. The nation tunes in to watch the spectacle. The new president-elect comes to Washington, D.C. by walking across the Potomac. General Washington needed a boat. Not this president. Before heading to Capitol Hill he strolls through the military hospital restoring soldiers’ lost limbs. He pauses at JFK’s tomb and raises him from the dead. As the rain starts to fall during his inauguration speech, he stops and says, “No rain. I want sun.” And out comes the sun. What happens to the national mood about the new president?
The Kingdom of God is an Immeasurable Treasure
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-46)
Have you ever had the fantasy of finding hidden treasure? Just finding a $20 bill in an old pants pocket will make our day. What about a real treasure? Finding treasure in a field was not unheard of in the first century. They didn’t have safety deposit boxes or home safes. So what do you do with valuables when the walls of your house are made of dirt? People would bury and hide valuables in their fields.
This man isn’t looking for treasure. Somehow he happens to find it. Maybe a little piece of gold was sticking up through the dirt. He uncovers it. He can’t believe it! He covers it up again and then goes and sells everything he has and buys the field.
“The ‘significant influence’ view says that Christians should seek to influence civil government according to God’s moral standards and God’s purposes for government as revealed in the Bible (when rightly understood). But while Christians exercise this influence, they must simultaneously insist on protecting freedom of religion for all citizens. In addition, ‘significant influence’ does not mean angry, belligerent, intolerant, judgmental, red-faced, and hate-filled influence, but rather winsome, kind, thoughtful, loving, persuasive influence that is suitable to each circumstance and that always protects the other person’s right to disagree, but that is also uncompromising about the truthfulness and moral goodness of the teachings of God’s Word.” (Wayne Grudem, Politics to the Glory of God, p. 55)
Significant influence means that the church must retain its prophetic role. Anything that smells like politicizing the church or the gospel must be avoided. So as an example, Billy Graham was an advisor to presidents but he didn’t endorse them.
But that doesn’t mean hiding in a bunker. Light influences darkness wherever it goes and Jesus called Christians the light of the world. We should do everything we can to influence society and government toward the light. God’s truth is light and governments that govern according to God’s precepts and principles are blessed by outcomes God built into the moral fabric of society. This is known as common grace.
“Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ They said, ‘Caesar’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.” (Matthew 22:15-22 ESV)
Pray for Caesar
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.” (1 Timothy 2:1-3)
It’s easier to pray for politicians you like. Those seem harder to find these days. What should we do? Pray for them. Pray for President Obama. Pray for our other leaders.
“He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn….
“Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.’” (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 ESV)
In the End, the King Wins
Satan is the enemy in the story. Satan has tried to thwart God’s plan from the beginning.
- In heaven
- In the Garden of Eden
- In the desert temptation
- In the Garden of Gethsemane
- On the cross
- In the church
Despite the efforts of man, the efforts of Satan, and all the forces of evil of this world arrayed against him, God’s plan will be accomplished. He will redeem a people unto his own, and his kingdom will be established forever and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 ESV)
How Do We Seek the Kingdom of God?
It takes a coup d’état
My high school French is rusty but “coup d’état” is pretty common language. A coup is when one government is quickly overthrown by another. Famous coups include Absalom taking over David’s kingdom; Julius Caesar being murdered by Brutus; and Napoleon taking over France. Typically, a military leader leverages the army against the political leader and then sets up a new government.
Spiritually, the same is true in our hearts. King Satan and his vice kings of money, security, health, fear, pride, and self-love are firmly enthroned in our hearts. They will not leave without a fight.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:19–24 ESV)
What is Jesus Warning Against?
What Jesus is warning against is the motivation for money; the allegiance. Citizens of the kingdom of God have been freed from that old way of thinking and valuing, where everything is monetized. Everything is valued by what enhances my sense of self-worth. So it’s not what I have but why I have it and why I do with it what I do. That’s the key. What we do with it is merely the revealer of what motivates my life. Nobody is saved by what they do with their money. We are saved by faith in Christ and him alone.