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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Christians, Politics and Culture - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Christians, Politics and Culture - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Christians, Politics and Culture - Part 1
TOPICS: Politics

It's an honor to be with you again. Our topic today is "Christians, Politics, And Culture"? The question I'm asked as frequently as any is: Should Christians have an opinion? Should we talk about what's happening in our world? And my answer's simple: Absolutely. If we don't take our faith outside the church, we're never gonna be salt and light, we're just gonna be a theoretical Bible study society and that's not why we're here. We don't have to be angry, we're not advocating for candidates or even for parties, we're advocating for a biblical worldview and that comes to us out of scripture. We are people of the book that bear the name of Jesus. It's a wonderful life assignment. Grab your Bible and a notepad, we're gonna unpack that together today. Most of all, open your heart.

The topic is "Christians, Politics, And Culture"? Christians seem to be a bit addled on this topic. I've traveled enough in recent weeks and months and spoken with pastors in a dozen cities, and there's a lot of anxiety, a lot of fear. There's a lot of discrepancy in our nation between the freedoms that we enjoy, it's not consistent across our country. Many of our cities are just crumbling, that's not reported as clearly as it should be. And I think it's an important time for the church in the context of this election, what do we do with it? How do we understand it? I'll tell you what I think if you asked me to give it to you as succinctly as I could in one sentence, what do we need? We need a wave of the fear of the Lord across our nation.

I'm really a bit surprised at the response that I hear from the church, but I don't mean just this congregation, but the broader church, the reluctance to engage in our world. I think to be quite candid with you, I think it's an excuse. We'd rather put our blinders on and look at ourselves, our families, our kids, our interests, our hobbies and not pay attention to the rest. And so we kind of cobbled together a broken theology, to give us permission to be self-absorbed, and we're gonna have to change that or we will fail in our assignment to be salt and light. So I'll start out with this whole notion, you know, I hear people say, "You know, Jesus didn't have anything to do with politics or political people". And I'm like, "Really"?

So I brought you a couple of passages, I'm not gonna spend a lot of time unpacking them 'cause to be candid, it's just a very small sample of a much larger story in scripture. But in Matthew 26 it says, "Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders that assembled". When Jesus was arrested, his first public gathering, was the most politically influential people in the Jewish community. At that point in time, Jerusalem is occupied by the Romans, there's a Roman governor, you'll meet him in a moment when Jesus does. But the first meeting of the evening is with the most influential Jewish politicians.

Now they're carrying religious titles, but they're the most powerful, political, economic figures in the nation. They're the ones that orchestrate the plan for Jesus execution. So if you were Jesus, and that's not by accident, when they came to arrest Jesus, remember what he said to Peter? Peter wanted to have a fight and he said, "Put your sword away, if I wanted to, I could call legions of angels. They're not taking me anywhere I don't wanna go". He said, "I have this to do, I have to fulfill all righteousness". That was his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. So his meeting with Caiaphas, and the religious leaders, and the Sanhedrin was step one on the agenda. In fact, his answer to Caiaphas, you know with Pilate, he was somewhat conciliatory until he finally acknowledged he was a king and signed his death warrant, but with Caiaphas, he annoyed him enough that he slapped him or had him slapped against the rules.

So Jesus wanted that appointment. We're gonna have to have the courage to address the people that bring leadership to us. John 18, "Pilate went back inside the palace, and he summoned Jesus and he asked him, Are you the king of the Jews"? Because if Jesus says yes to that, he's done. The one thing you be crucified for unequivocally, is if you put yourself up against Caesar. "And Jesus asked, Is that your own idea or did others talk to you about me"? After Jesus was done meeting with the high priest and the Sanhedrin, he had an appointment with the Roman governor of Judea. And it didn't stop there, he told Pilate and he didn't do it accidentally, I don't believe Jesus had any slips of the tongue, what do you think? Think he made any clumsy statements? When he is being interviewed by Pilate, you know, he says, you're from Galilee, right? Yes. I mean there were a lot of ways Jesus could have navigated that. Well the ruler of Galilee, the northern part of Israel happened to be in Jerusalem.

So Jesus gets an appointment with him too. It's Herod Antipas. "On hearing this, Pilate ask if the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that Jesus was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he'd heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle". Jesus didn't accommodate him. So within the few hours of Jesus being arrested, he met with the most powerful Jewish figures in the city, the Roman governor and the administrator over Galilee. He made the circuit. Jesus, and it's not just him.

In Acts 25, if we can look over the shoulder of Saul of Tarsus, by now he's the Apostle Paul. He's been arrested fraudulently, trumped up charges in Jerusalem, they've accused him of something that he didn't do. They've made multiple assassination plots against him, the political leaders of the city are trying to kill him. So he appeals to Caesar so he can get taken out of Jerusalem and move to Caesarea. Caesarea is under Roman control, 'cause he'll be safer there, and for two years he's in a Roman cell in Caesarea under Herod's Palace they believe. And while he is there, he's heard by multiple Roman rulers. It's in your notes, I gave you just a sample. "The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and entered the audience room with the high ranking officers and the leading men of the city". He's got all the influencers in the city together. And at the command of Festus, he's already appeared before him.

"Paul was brought in. Festus said, 'King of Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not live any longer. But I found he'd done nothing deserving of death, but because he made his appeal to the Emperor, I've decided to send him to Rome.'" He's going' to Rome. If you know the end of the book of Romans, he says there's even people in Caesar's household that are believers. So you really can't separate the message of the gospel, even the redemptive work of Jesus from the culture in which they lived, and the authorities that were a part of their day. You can't make the story without those players. And we're not gonna be able to tell the story of the church in the 21st century, if we don't have the courage to face those who have authority over us.

Some of you know the rest of that story. In Acts 25 and 26, Paul gives his testimony. He's on trial for his life and he does his best to lead Agrippa the king, to a profession of faith in Jesus. Agrippa finally stops him and says, "Do you think in such a short period of time, you could convince me to be a Christian"? Remember what Paul said? He said, "Except for these chains, I wish you were just like me". He's not defending himself, he's not attacking his accusers, he's making a presentation about the Messiah. Church, we got to find the new gear. It's not just there either. Acts chapter 5, it's Peter and John and the apostles. "At daybreak they, the apostles entered the temple courts, as they'd been told by the angels". Oh by the way, "And they began to teach the people. And when the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin".

It's the same group that orchestrated Jesus execution. "The full assembly of the elders of Israel, and they sent them to the jail for the apostles. Peter and the other apostles replied, We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers". He's standing in the midst of them, he's not pointing an accusing finger, he's saying "The God of our fathers". "The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior, that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel". I'd say they were speaking a little bit of truth to power. You can't separate the gospel story from the people of influence, and leadership, and the communities where they were planting. They didn't cower in their synagogues and do Bible studies, they didn't just recite stories of the faithful from the past.

With courage, and boldness, and determination, and intentionality, they faced people of influence with the message that they had to deliver. And that's just a very tiny sample, you know the stories, we just don't think about them. Moses, one of the greatest leaders of the Hebrew Bible, got his training in Pharaoh's palace, because of God's supernatural intervention. Now he bungled his first opportunity, but when God recruits him and sends him back for the real purpose of his life, it begins with the confrontation with one of the most powerful military, social, political leaders of the generation. "Let my people go," he said. He didn't have a prayer meeting or a worship service, he may have done that, but that's not the part of the narrative that was recorded for us. And on, and on, and on, it goes.

Some of our greatest heroes were the leaders themselves. King David, King Josiah, King Hezekiah and then you meet the prophets. Those people that occupy the back half of your Old Testament, many of them were court prophets. Isaiah was assigned to the court, he was more familiar with the purple of the palace than he was the smell of the dirt in the fields. His ministry was to the leaders of the nation. Well our faith doesn't belong just in a building, in a 90 minute worship service on the weekends. We've been confused. If our faith does not influence the place where we live, beyond the sharing of theological ideas, we have stumbled in our assignment. We have quibbled more about the worship style, or how to celebrate communion, or the wardrobe for the presenters at the front of the room, or the architecture in the building where we meet, or whatever, than we have being salt and light and we're reaping the harvest.

Please don't imagine that the story, the narrative in the Word of God, is separate from the leadership that has authority over the people, we're given the assignment. In the letter Paul wrote to Timothy and he said, first of all, before you pray for anything else, pray for those in authority over you. That you may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness, that all men might come to the knowledge of salvation. The goal of our government is we might live peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness. And if you have an agenda for leaders other than that, we're out of order. They may not be inappropriate or unimportant, but your priorities are wrong. We need leaders who will help us promote godliness. The church has got to stop with this nonsense that our faith shouldn't affect the state in which we live. I don't wanna state church. We don't want the government dictating how we worship, and we don't want there to be a demand that we all worship in the same way. But if our faith doesn't impact the culture in which we live, tyranny will dominate our children.

So people say to me quite frequently, "Pastor, we're not supposed to talk about politics". In the Northwest this was a topic, even more prevalently than it has been in Middle Tennessee. And I would agree, I don't believe our assignment in the church is to promote candidates and parties. I think we have a much more important agenda. Candidates come and go. You know, truthfully on the national level, the personalities of the candidates are irrelevant, because on the national level, the parties have platforms, and the candidates will be held accountable to those platforms. They won't be given funding or support, unless they enact the platforms on which those parties have already made a commitment.

So personalities are secondary. I'm tired of hearing about personalities good and bad. When they're standing on a platform that's been written, they're committed to that. If they take those resources, that has very little to do with theology, but it would be helpful if you understood the nature of the process. Well, I don't think the church's assignment is to endorse candidates and parties, I believe very much the church's assignment is to engage culture. To talk about what's happening in our world, to be informed, to help one another be aware. And it's easy to get that out of balance, I understand that, but if we disengage from our culture, and we have theoretical discussions about theology, we are inert, there's no life in us.

That's not the way Jesus ministered, he ministered in the midst of the people, confronting the authorities of his day, challenging them or encouraging them. Inviting the people to an understanding of what it meant to be a participant in the kingdom of God, in the midst of the world in which they lived. The disciples themselves struggled with it. In Acts chapter 1, just before the ascension, the last question that the disciples asked to Jesus, "Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel? Now are you gonna put the Romans out"?

Their last question to Jesus was a political one. They had spent 40 days with the resurrected Messiah talking about the kingdom of God, and the one question that is recorded for us, is about politics. And Jesus said, "It's really none of your business". You can check me, it's Act 1. He said, "You know the times and the dates, that's not your assignment, but you'll be empowered to be witnesses for me when the Holy Spirit comes on you". And he laughed. "Not your assignment, but you should be powerful witnesses for me".

Our assignment is to engage our culture, not be advocates for parties. I look forward to the day where the political spectrum across parties gives us multiple choices of candidates who fear the Lord. That'll be a good day. That's my, it's what I'm praying for. I mean we can quibble over, you know, incidental or secondary things, but that's the objective. I brought you a couple of samples of how God's people engage culture. Amos is a farmer, shepherd from Tekoa, rural part of Israel. He's not a court prophet, but the message God gives him to the people, this is what he's saying to the people. "When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat? Skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales". He wasn't interpreting the Mosaic Law, he said, "You're a bunch of thieves. You can't wait for the Sabbath to be over so you can cheat one another for a better profit, and God's going to judge you".

You can't lie, cheat, and steal Monday through Saturday and sit in a church on Wednesday or Sunday, and think the Lord will bless your life. We've been confused folks. We've had this compartmentalized imagination that, if we go sit in a church building and we put the label on our forehead that says we're Christian, then the rest of your life you can live on your terms. You have to be stunningly unaware of scripture to hold that position. Jeremiah chapter 7, Jeremiah prophet, a court prophet, this is God's message, "Do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me. I will not listen to you. Do you not see what they're doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, the women knead the dough".

It sounds like it's a family evening, but it's a family evening for an ungodly purpose. "They make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven". It's idolatry and the parents have engaged the children in it. "They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger. But am I the one they are provoking? declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves to their own shame"? Jeremiah's message to the covenant people of God. See, the message that is so desperately needed in our nation, isn't to the ungodly, or the immoral, or the pagan or the unchurched. Yes, we have an assignment to be a light in their world, and to boldly share the truth of God with them, not to cower. But the message that is most needed is to the people of God, that we will humble ourselves and invite the Spirit of God within us, to bring cleansing and cleanliness to us, uprightness, and purity, and integrity.

Look in Matthew 23 this time it's Jesus. "Woe to you blind guides! You say, If anyone swears by the temple". He's talking to the religious leaders in Jerusalem. In fact, there's seven of these woe statements. I grew up around horses, the word, I learned the word Whoa. W-H-O-A that means stop. You pull back on the res and say, "Whoa". And amazingly, those powerful animals will stop. W-O-E means something else. W-O-E is a warning. In good southern English, it's about, "I'm about to bust you upside your head". You're probably more sophisticated than me. But Jesus is talking to the religious, the most powerful people in the city. And he said, "Woe to you, judgment is coming to you". And then he calls them a name. Jesus called them names.

"You're blind guides". "If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he's bound by his oath. You blind fools"! Well, he'd get canceled. Somebody quoted me a scripture that says, you shouldn't call anybody a fool, until Jesus teachered up and said, "You blind guides, you're blind and fools". He's not calling them names, he's describing their condition. It's foolish to act as if there is no God. It's foolish to plunge into carnality and self-indulgence. It's foolish to be ambivalent, indifferent, towards the creator of all things. It's foolish to spend your life pursuing the gratification of your fleshly, carnal, earthly, Adamic self whichever term you prefer.

It's foolish to prioritize your wants above God's wants. It's just foolish. He's the king of all kings and you'll one day give an account to him. It's wiser to serve him. It's not always easier or more pleasant. It's not always even more fun, but it's more prudent. The opposite of a fool isn't somebody who's smart, you can be a smart fool. You can be freakishly smart and behave foolishly. The alternative is wisdom. "You blind fools! Which is greater; the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred"? See they've perverted, the money's more important to them, so if you can swear by the temple all you want, but if you swear by the gold in the temple, you've made a mistake. So Jesus gets out his list of names. Blind fools.

You also say, "If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by the oath". We live in a culture, or if you have the audacity to say marriage is defined by God and it's between a man and a woman, you're threatened with all sorts of things. Labels, nasty names, cancellation, ostracism. We understand that, it's not a new thing, which didn't happen with the 21st century. Jesus was challenging those social norms. What brought him into constant conflict wasn't that he was a rebel, or angry, or he was advocating for immorality, or he was trying to extend license to people, what brought him into constant conflict, was he was calling people back to holiness, and purity, and righteousness, and godliness.

And it meant wherever he went, there seemed to be friction. He would have the courage to remind them that there were spiritual forces far greater than their physical forces. And they'd be threatened by that and intimidated by that. The church has drifted a long way, away from that presentation of the message of the kingdom of God. It's not being political, we have to engage our culture. God defined marriage, the government overreached when they tried to do that. I understand it's not easy. I don't want you to be angry or belligerent and certainly not violent. We can share the gospel with people who don't know the truth of God with great compassion and mercy because we have all needed that. But we have to have the courage to speak to one another if we imagine ourselves to be Christ followers. And you are just winking and nodding at ungodliness and immorality and sin. Judgment is coming.
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