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James Merritt - Politically Correct

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    James Merritt - Politically Correct
TOPICS: Politics

In September of 2006, this British graffiti artist decided that he wanted to illustrate how often we tend to ignore big problems. Problems that are not local or even national but global. And one of the things he wanted to illustrate is global poverty and how we just kind of ignore this problem of global poverty. So, he painted this picture. Now, you'll notice that the elephant is painted in the same bold pattern as the wallpaper but you'll also notice how big the elephant is. So, he painted the picture in such a fashion to make the point that the elephant was so big, you couldn't miss it, but if you didn't really want to look at the elephant, you could just kind of overlook it and let it blend in with the background. Hence, the elephant in the room.

Well, we're starting a series today that I'm going to be honest with you and tell you I am excited about but I am nervous about. Because it really is about some elephants in the room. Now, in case you don't know what that means, according to the urban dictionary, which is the place I always go to when my grandkids use a word I don't understand. So, according to the urban dictionary, the elephant in the room is a very large issue that everyone is acutely aware of but nobody wants to talk about. So, what we're going to do over the next four weeks is we're going to tackle four topics that nobody wants to talk about. They don't want to talk about it outside the church and they don't want to talk about it even inside the church and I will tell you every week somebody will be uncomfortable. I will tell you that now. I will tell you that every week some of you will be a little bit nervous and some of you will be a little bit defensive.

As a matter of fact, the first topic we're going to tackle today is one that the church is increasingly being warned not to get involved in and that is politics. I have found that even politics gives us a chance to shine our light. Even politics, listen, even the political situation we faced have given God's people a golden opportunity to show the rest of our country and the rest of our world, this is how we can handle even political differences. So, the question is, what is the relationship of God to government. What is the relationship between the spiritual and the political? Well, here's the good news for me. I'm not going to tell you what I think. I'm going to tell you what Jesus said because Jesus, thank you Lord Jesus, Jesus addressed the topic.

So, if you brought a copy of God's word or you have a smart phone or an iPad, whatever you use, I want you to turn to the firs gospel, there are four, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It's the first book in the New Testament. I want you to turn to Matthew 22. Matthew 22, because this is what I love about Jesus. Jesus can just take any complex issue and just boil it down and make it so easy and so simple and in one single sentence, Jesus defines for all of us, this is how God and government are related and this is how you keep both in their proper place. Because what Jesus tells us now, listen, what you're going to hear today is something I believe everybody can agree on, whether you're a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent, doesn't matter. We can all agree on what we're going to learn, I believe, today.

So, we're going to pick up the story, Matthew 22:15. "Then the Pharisees went out and they laid plans to trap Him in His words. They sent their disciples to Him along with the Herodians. 'Teacher,' they said, 'we know that you're a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You are swayed by others because You pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?'" Now, first of all, you wouldn't know this. Let me tell you what's kind of interesting about this whole conversation. The Herodians and the Pharisees hated each other. They could not stand each other. You say, "Why"? Well, it all goes back to the Roman Empire and the Roman government. Because back in that day, Israel was under the domination of the Roman Empire.

Here was the problem: The Pharisees hated the Romans. The Herodians dated the Romans. Okay? The Pharisees hated the Roman government. They didn't want to be under their thumb but the Herodians kind of sold out. You remember King Herod? They were Herodians. They supported. They liked being puppets of the Roman Empire. So, they hated each other but they had one thing in common. They hated Jesus more than they hated each other. They despised Jesus. They didn't hate anything like they hated what Jesus stood for. So, they come to Jesus, they team up, they come to Jesus and now they're asking Jesus the most controversial, the inflammatory question politically speaking, you could have asked 2000 years ago. Here is the question. Here is the question: Should God's people pay taxes and support an idolatrous, pagan government and empower who claimed to be God.

Now, they thought they got Jesus trapped. They said, "Man, You're like a rat in a cage. Doesn't matter where You go, You are caught because if You say it's right to pay taxes, You're going to tick the Jews off. Your own people are going to say, 'Your traitor, You backstabber. How in the world could you tell us to pay taxes to a government that worships the very ruler of that government.'? On the other hand, if You say it's wrong to pay taxes, they won't call You a traitor, we're going to call You a terrorist. You're a freedom fighter. You are a rebel. We're going to report You to the authorities".

Now, frankly, I know exactly how Jesus feels because I realize I'm wading into a subject that is as divisive and controversial as any time in my lifetime. So, Jesus is going to help us answer the question, how can we come together on the political question and still be truly politically correct? That's what I'm going to attempt today. How can we come together on the political division and all the politics going on in our country right now and still be politically correct? Now, what you're going to find is that Jesus and God's word tells us four things that all of us owe to our government regardless of our political preferences.

Number one: Jesus said we should financially pay for our government. We should financially pay for our government. Now here's the question, remember? They said, "Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not"? What's the answer? Well, here it is: "But Jesus knowing their evil intents, said 'You hypocrites. Why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.' They brought Him a Denarius and He asked them, 'Whose image is this and whose inscription?' 'Caesar's', they replied. And then He said to them, 'So. Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's.'"

Now I'll tell you why that's such a fascinating statement to me. If you've ever been to Israel and I'm going to Israel next year and would like to invite many of you to go. It's a life-changing trip but one of the things, I've you've got the money to buy it, they actually have these coins. Now, they're expensive, they're not cheap, but they actually have these coins. I've actually held one of these coins in my hand and if you get one of these coins, there was an image on that coin of Caesar because it symbolized the fact that it was the government that issued that coin. It was the government that minted that coin and that coin represented a monetary system where people could do business that was developed by the government. So, in other words, when Jesus took that coin and He saw that image, every time that image was seen on that coin, what it said was, "This really isn't your coin. It's really the government's coin". You didn't make the coin, they make it. You didn't mint it. They mint it. You don't accept it. They accept it. You can't do business unless the government gives you the money to do it.

Now, having said that, let me just say this. One thing that might be good, I'm going to talk to me for just a minute, one thing that might be good before we always complain about our taxes, is just to start thinking about what our taxes pay for. Because we do get something in return for our taxes, right? I mean, our taxes give us clean water, it gives us sewage, it gives us highways, it gives us defense, it gives us the police. It gives us the military and by the way, that's why Paul later on in one of his letters referred to the government this way. He said, "For the one in authority," that is the government, "is God's servant". That had never been heard before. "Is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for loser not bear that sword for no reason. They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrong-doer".

Now, Paul said, we need to see the government as God's servant. We need to look at people who work for the government as God's agents and the government protects us from our enemies and the government provides safety for us in our homeland and the government does that so that we can enjoy life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now, here's the point. Some of you are not going to like this but you have to draw a conclusion. If the government is God's servant and that's what Paul called the government. If the government is God's servant and if the government is under God's authority, so what does that mean about taxes? Not going to like this. I'm warning you. If you cheat the government, you cheat God. If you cheat the government, you cheat God. Just as you give your tithes to God, Jesus said, Himself, "You should pay your taxes to the government".

Now, let me just make something plain. I'm not gonna lie. Do I enjoy paying taxes? Nope. Will I ever enjoy paying taxes? If I get Alzheimer's. Other than that, probably not. But can I tell you what God's taught me? And I say this unashamedly, I am grateful that I have an America to pay taxes to. I am thankful that I have a nation like ours to pay taxes too. We're not perfect. We've got flaws, faults, and foibles and one of the things we're going to talk about later on is the stain on our past and I get all of that but there's still people lined up all over the world that would give anything if they could be here April 15th to pay taxes to live here. So, we need to be grateful for the government that we have. Do I always agree on how they spend their money? Nope? Do I think we are sometimes overtaxed? Yes. However, Jesus said, "We ought to pay our taxes gratefully and honestly, if not joyfully".

I think that's one thing we can all agree on and be politically correct. So, number one, we ought to pay financially for our government. Here's the second thing God's word teaches: We should faithfully pray for our government. We should faithfully pray for our government. Now, I think one thing we all agree on is this. You know, this is kind of a hypothetical but in a way, it's not. There's enough political controversy out there, right? All you gotta do is turn on any network you want to and politics is on every day, all day long and you got people over here saying, "I don't like what's going on". Go got people who say, "I do love what's going on". You got people over here, you know, "Build that wall". And then you got people, you know, they're channeling Reagan, "Tear down the wall".

So, you got people on all sides. Okay? You know, do you ever get the feeling that could we just one day in this country just have some peace and quiet? Could we just kind of turn the heat down and just kind of tone the rhetoric down? I mean, do you ever find yourself saying, I do, I'm like, "Can we just all get along just for a day"? Well, listen to the same apostle Paul, 'cause he told us how we might could help make that happen. Here's what he said in a book he wrote to a young pastor named Timothy. He said, "I urge then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people". Then he gets real specific. "For kings and all those in authority". All right? Modern translation, for presidents, senators, congressmen, governors, mayors, city council members, for all of those in authority, why should we pray for that.

What's the end result? That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all Godliness and holiness. Let, let me ask you a simple question. Do you think our country might be better off if everybody decided to start living in peace and quiet and Godly and holy lives? I mean, I think we could all agree on that right? What a different nation we might be. Well, the apostle Paul said, the way that that might could happen and the only way we could help make that happen is to pray for our leaders and by the way, you notice he said, "I put prayer first, not second, not third, not fourth. I'm putting prayer first". Because let's be honest and I'm guilty as charged. What do most of us tend to do about our leaders? Yeah, we criticize. We gripe. We moan, we groan. We complain. I'm as guilty as charged. If that verse is true, then 10 minutes of prayer will do a lot more good than two hours of criticism.

So, you might say, "Well, I got a problem with what you're saying". I know. "But I didn't vote for that guy or those guys or those women or those men, or the whoever. I didn't vote for them. I don't like them. I don't support them. I don't agree with them". All right, listen carefully. That's okay. You don't have to vote for them, like them, agree with them or support them to pray for them. As a matter of fact, let me go a little deeper. Have you ever thought about that, maybe the more you dislike whoever, fill in the blank, maybe the more you dislike that person, the more you ought to pray for that person? Maybe the more you don't you don't like that person's policies, maybe the more you ought to pray for God to give him the wisdom and the heart to have different policies. I mean, we, you know, we ought to try that. Because, let me ask you this. How's the other way been working out for us? So, you know, your prayers might work and listen, who knows. That person may even start doing things you like. Right?

So, regardless, here's my point. No matter where you are in the political spectrum, we all ought to pray for our government. We all ought to pray for our leaders. I think that's something we can all agree on and still be politically correct. So, number one, we should financially pay for our government. Number two, we should faithfully pray for our government. Number three, Jesus said, we should fully participate in our government. Now go back to what to what Jesus said. He said, so, give back to Caesar what is Caesar's.

Now, what does Caesar represent? He represented the government. Well, what are we? Well, the last time I checked, we are a government of the people, by the people, for the people. I don't think that's changed. Now, therefore, if we are a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, that means if we do not participate, we're not giving to Caesar and our government what God commands us to do. Because you know what the first responsibility we all have as citizens of our country is? You know what the very first response, after we pray, the very first responsibility is we need to be selecting good people for government. Here's the last thing and I saved this for last on purpose. We should fearlessly preach to our government. We should fearlessly preach to our government.

Now, I want you to go back and listen to what the Pharisees and the Herodians first said to Jesus, okay? They sent their disciples to Him along with the Herodians. "Teacher they said, we know that You're a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by others". This is so good, now listen to this. "You aren't swayed by others because you pay no attention to who they are".

Now, even though they were His fiercest critics, this is so good, I know they hated to say this, but they had to admit something about Jesus because they knew that it was true. They said, "Jesus, You always tell the truth. You tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And you know what? You do it without fear or favor. You tell the truth to the Republicans. You tell the truth to the Democrats. You tell the truth to the Independents. You tell the truth to the Libertarians. You tell the truth to the conservative. You tell the truth to the liberal. It doesn't matter who they are. No fear, no favor. You just tell the truth".

Can I be honest? If I'm not know for anything else, I hope I'm known for that. All throughout scripture and all throughout history, the church and God's people and God's preachers played a prophetic role when it came to political leaders. It's all in the Bible. There was a prophet named Nathan who went to a king named David and said, "David, you're wrong". There was a prophet named Elijah who went to a king named Ahab and said, "Ahab, you're wrong". There was a prophet named Eleazar who to a king named Jehoshaphat and he said, "Jehoshaphat, you're wrong".

There was a prophet named Daniel who came to a king named Nebuchadnezzar and said, "Nebuchadnezzar, you are wrong". There was a man of God named Moses who went to Pharaoh and said, "Pharaoh, you are wrong". And we need to boldly and faithfully let our government know no matter who is in office, whenever what they're doing is morally wrong for this reason, whatever is morally wrong, cannot be politically correct. Whatever's morally wrong, cannot be politically correct.

Now, you say, "Where did you get that idea"? From the most revolutionary thing that Jesus said and we haven't even gotten to it yet. Because what really turned everybody's thinking on this whole subject upside down was the last part of the last sentence because he went on to say this: "And give to God what is God's". That's what changed the world. That's what made the Pharisees and the Herodians and the Jews in that crowd snap to attention and go, "What did He just say? Would you mind repeating that"? You say, "Well, why was that so revolutionary"? Because it was the first time in the history of this planet, listen to me, it was the first time in the history of this planet that somebody said, "You know what? There are some things that don't belong to Caesar".

There are some things that don't belong to the government. There are some things the government has no right to ask of us. There are some things we cannot give to the government or to Caesar and to show you how brilliant Jesus was, Jesus takes the coin, remember that coin and remember what He asked them? He said, "Okay, whose image is this and whose inscription"? Let me tell you why Jesus is so brilliant. You're gonna miss this. This is why I'm the pastor, okay? He said, "Whose image is this"? He could have said, "Whose picture is that," or "Who's on the coin"? He didn't. Whose image is this. Now, you're a Jew. You're going, "Hmm. Image. Where have I hear that before? Oh, yeah, we're all created in God's image".

Now watch this, watch this. This will be worth coming to church for today. This is brilliant not because I said it but because He said it. I'm brilliant for saying that He said it. He said, "You see the image on that coin"? He said, "That coin bears Caesar's image and therefore, that coin belongs to Caesar. Lock, stock, and barrel, the coin is his. But we bear God's image and we belong to God lock, stock, and barrel". And I'm telling you, eyes got big, goose bumps hit arms, ears popped out. Because what Jesus said, I mean, I'm telling you folks, this is so unbelievably brilliant, one sentence, He solves the whole deal. He says, "Look, the first half of this statement," right, give to Caesar what is Caesar's. He said, "The first half, that recognized the rights of government".

Okay, there are certain things you ought to give to the government. The second half restricts the rights of government. Because what Jesus said was, and I'm telling you this was mind-boggling, Jesus said, "We are to respect the government but we're to revere God". You respect the government, that's fine. But you revere God. Many people today have gotten that backwards and that's why we fight and fuss and argue and get mad and break up families just because we don't see eye-to-eye on some political issues. Just because one person voted for this person, one voted for that person, and so all of a sudden, you know, you're a bad person because you voted for him or you're this because you voted for him, or you're that because you wanted to vote for her.

And all of that stuff and what we've done, we've totally reversed it. Totally reversed it because we've already shown what belongs to Caesar. I get it. My taxes belong to Caesar. My prayers belong to Caesar. My respect belongs to Caesar. My participation belongs to Caesar. I get that okay. Simple question, alright? Ready? Easy answer. What belongs to God? Everything. Who belongs to God? Everybody. So, only God deserves our allegiance and only God deserved our affection and only God deserves our adoration and that's why the disciples could stand up before that same Pharisaical crowd when they said, "You quit preaching Jesus, or we're going to take your life," and looked at them, "You do whatever you think you've got to do but we're going to obey God, not man".

Because there are some things that don't belong to Caesar. There are some things that belong to God. You can have my taxes, you can have my prayers, you can have my vote. You can't have my heart. It belongs to God. Now, once you really get that, you don't fight over politics. Presidents come and go. Kings come and go. Policies come and go. Jesus just comes. He doesn't go. And so, when you understand that and when you realize, man, that puts it all in perspective because the most important thing about us, even as Americans is not who is the government that's over us, who is the God that is over us. That's the most important thing of all and it puts it all in perspective.

So, I just want to say this and then we can say amen and hopefully you're still speaking to me. I always try to speak the truth in love. I really do. But this is really a burden on my heart because it's called, This whole thing has caused way too much division and bitterness and anger and rancor and it's why they can't even work together in Washington. They can't even work together for anything. And look, before you say, "Well, who are you blaming"? Pox on everybody, let's just, okay? What's really important when you draw your last breath, is not that you died politically correct. What is important is that you die spiritually correct and that can only come through knowing the God who is over every government.
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