Preparing For The Election Season

After last night’s debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden it seems pretty clear that the polarization, anger, and insults will continue to be with us for the next two months leading up the election on November 4th. As a pastor who loves his church family I don’t tell them (or anyone for that matter) how they should vote. But, it certainly is my responsibility to teach and model how we should live as Christians during a time such as this.

So, how should we respond in a way that honors God over the next few weeks? I have four suggestions:

Pray

Over the past few years I have heard people say on social media that we need to stop posting remarks about the fact that we are going to pray. And what they mean, I think, is that there are times when we should do more than pray. That we need to move into action and that saying we are going to pray is just a cop out for not really doing anything. Yes, there are times we need to roll up our sleeves and take some necessary action. No doubt about it. But Scripture is really clear that one of the most powerful things we can do, about any situation, is to pray. Let’s pray and ask God to be a work in a powerful way leading up to the election on November 4th.

Treat people on the other side of the political aisle with love

I am deeply saddened by the way that people who claim to be Christians treat people who have different political views than they do. Consider the words of Jesus for a moment, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus taught us and demonstrated through his life that even our enemies should be treated with love. It does not mean we don’t disagree, but we should do it in such a way that they sense that we care about them and love them.

Make sure politics is not an idol in your life. How would you know if politics have become an idol in your life?

  • You watch the news more than you pray and read the bible
  • You are fearful
  • You are worried
  • You put more hope in politicians than you do in God
  • You don’t have any friends who think differently than you about politics (which is another way of saying that you live in an echo chamber).
  • You think and talk about politics too much
  • You lack grace, kindness, and compassion towards those who disagree with you
  • You have a really hard time admitting the weaknesses of your own political tribe. On the other side of the coin, you have a hard time admitting the strengths of the other political tribe.

You are active on social media but not your church, neighborhood, and city

I see this trend more and more. People greatly over value the impact they are making by sharing their opinions online. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the church is how God desires to change the world. Are you partnering with others in the church to make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20)? Are you building relationships with those who do not yet know Christ in your neighborhood and city?

What Christians Need To Know

One of the most destructive things to both Christians, and to churches, is the belief that the church exists to help Christians grow spiritually. I imagine that you are going to want to go back and read that first sentence a couple more times to make sure you got it right. Then, you are going to want to respond with a strong rebuttal to what seems like really poor logic. Or maybe you simply respond with a question like, “Isn’t it obviously a good thing to expect a church to help us grow in our faith?”

Let me explain. Yes, it is good for Christians to come to church and hope that their church helps them grow spiritually. Here is the problem. Far too often that is where things stop for many people. Too many Christians fail to understand that to be a disciple of Jesus Christ means that we are actively helping others to grow in their faith too.

DISCIPLES OF JESUS MAKE DISCIPLES OF JESUS

Jesus said this in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus, in very plain language, is telling his disciples (which includes you and me) that it has always been his design that his disciples are not only thinking about their own spiritual growth. Jesus was helping his disciples to grow spiritually with THE EXPRESS PURPOSE that they would help others to grow spiritually. One of the primary objectives of a disciple of Jesus Christ is to make other disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:16-20).

So here is a really critical question that we all need to ask and answer, “What are some ways that we can actively work to help others inside the church, and outside the church, grow in their faith?” HERE is a link that does a great job helping us answer that question. I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and questions!

Seven Signs You Might Be A Legalist

I am currently preaching through the book of Romans and came to this passage…

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. -Romans 2:1-5 (ESV)

Paul is communicating a number of important truths in this passage. But one takeaway (as seen in verse 4) is that Christians who have genuinely experienced the glorious truths of the gospel should not be harsh, judgmental, or unkind to others. Put it like this. If we really knew how gracious, patient, and kind God has been to us we would repent of our sin and stop being so harsh toward others.

When we fail to understand the gospel we run the risk of becoming highly legalistic in how we relate to the world and to other people.

HERE ARE SEVEN SIGNS  YOU MIGHT BE A LEGALIST

  1. You lack humility. “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” (Luke 18:11–12).
  2. You turn gray issues into black and white issues. Music, books, movies, modes of schooling, are not just something you have a personal opinion about. You impose your personal convictions on others. It’s really hard for you to believe that others can honestly love the Lord and disagree with you about what is wrong or right.
  3. You have a strong desire to make sure that other people know you are right.
  4. You lack grace, compassion and patience with others. 
  5. You think if it is “secular” it is wrong. Oddly enough, this idea that secular is bad can not be sustained if we think about it for very long. Is the news you listen to Christian? Do you shop at Christian stores? Do you only read books and articles that are written by Christians? Abraham Kuyper put it like this, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
  6. You have a really hard time dealing with the fact that Jesus was called “a friend of sinners.” Something about that does not sit well with you. You inwardly wonder how Jesus avoided becoming contaminated by the world. Jesus was called a friend of sinners because he was filled with grace, compassion and mercy.
  7. You have a critical spirit but think it is a discerning spirit.

THREE SUGGESTIONS FOR THE POSSIBLE LEGALIST

Take this issue to the Lord in prayer. Ask God to reveal to you if you are failing to show the same grace and patience that he has poured out upon you.

Another idea. Take a few people out (at different times) for coffee and ask them their honest opinion. I don’t mean the people who think just like you. Ask them if they can sense a spirit of legalism in your life. Give them permission to speak their mind.

If you come to the conclusion that you are a legalist ask God to forgive you and to soften your heart so that you love others the same way that he loves you.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. -Matthew 23:23

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. -John 1:17

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. -Romans 14:1

You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain. -Galatians 4:10-11

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—  “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”  (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. -Colossians 2:20-23