27 Jun Christians Might Be Crazy #2 – Politics
– All right we’re in the middle of the six-week sermon series. We’re looking at the issue that many believe that Christians might be crazy. You could pick up a free copy of the book on the way out, a little bit of research, help dial you in. But here’s the topic for today. It is politics. And this is a quote from one of our focus group members. And I’ll get into all this in a moment. I don’t like how some Christian groups meddle in politics. Yeah, let’s talk about politics. Are you having a good week? You have an enjoyable week. You haven’t a pleasant week. We’ll fix that in just a moment and talk about politics. When it comes to politics, let me start by saying that we all start somewhere and we need to be open to moving. At least our perspectives and our ideology and our understanding. My first involvement in politics, I was 18 years of age. I was student body president in my public high school and I was what you would have called very liberal or very, very progressive. I guess I should go to the left here. I’ll stay at, so I was very much to the left, okay? That’s where I was. And our old school building was historic. It had a leaky roof, it was falling apart. It needed a lot of work. Now that I’m here actually I see a theme in my life. Old buildings that need work and so, what happened was I wanted to get this school updated because it was not functional for the student body but there were some preservationists that wanted to keep it basically as historic landmark. So it ended up becoming a political issue. So I ended up backing a political candidate someone who was a Democrat, who was running for office. And I went out handing leaflets and I was writing articles for the school paper and, for one of the local papers. And I started campaigning for this person for the cause of improving this piece of real estate. And oftentimes that is the way that it gets started. And you want something to change. So you get involved in the process. I think if memory serves me correct, I voted when I was young. The first candidate I voted for for president was a guy named Michael Dukakis. You may have never heard of him, cause I was the only one that voted for him for president. That was it. I was so big for a groundswell but it didn’t really happen. At that time as well, I was dating my now wife, Grace and we would argue a lot about issues and we disagreed. And one of the issues that we disagreed most about was abortion. And she was pro-life and I was not just pro-choice. I was pro-abortion, meaning population controls, would all call Malthusian Eugenics, you know I believe fully in evolution that these certain people are less fit, less evolved. I was way left, way left and Grace and I would argue and she was right and I was wrong but I would win because this is how I always am. I like to argue and I’m hard to argue with. Amen. So pray for Grace. But she was right and I was wrong. She was right and I was wrong and she would have been on the right. I would have been on the left. She would have been conservative. I would have been very progressive or very, very liberal. And then Grace got tired of arguing with me as often is the case. And so what she did is she bought me a bible. She thought we’ll have Margot with this, right? And so I started reading the Bible in college as a very left leaning, politically motivated, sometimes activistic progressive. I’ll never forget in high school and in college, I publicly debated for mandated force population control and abortion. And one, I was very committed to my positions. And then I started reading the Bible and I assumed that I knew what the Bible said. You know, there’s good people, bad people bad people are kindling, good people are like me. And we all get to go forever to the wonderful place, okay? And so that’s, I basically falsely wrongly assumed I knew what the Bible said. I started reading it and I realized it doesn’t say what I thought it was going to say. And all of a sudden a lot of what I thought was being challenged by the reading of the Bible. This led to a watershed moment in my life. And that was, am I going to come under any outside external authority? Am I gonna allow the word of God to disagree with me? And if I disagree with it, am I going to change my mind? Am I going to be humble? Am I gonna be teachable? Am I gonna be correctable, right? And I always use this little analogy. It really came to this point that I was gonna see the Bible like this, pull out the parts that I like, ignore the parts that I don’t, edit the parts that I felt were incorrect, or just find a way academically to sort of argue away principally the things that I felt were a bit outdated because we’d evolved beyond those sort of primitive thoughts, or was I going to actually come under the authority of the word of God, assumed that if I disagreed, it was right, I was wrong. And that if it said something that I didn’t agree with that I needed to change my mind and my behavior that I needed to submit to a higher authority and that I needed to be teachable and I needed to change. That was the watershed moment in my life. And I’m happy to report by God’s grace, I decided that I would have come under the authority of the word of God. This led me into a church where people started teaching me the word of God and they weren’t mean or rude but they did show where I was wrong and it forced change. And this has been a process now for almost 30 years of my life. I’ve been a senior pastor for a few decades. I’ve taught through dozens of books of the Bible and it brings us to the sermon today. So wherever you’re at on the spectrum from the far left to somewhat of a conservative position, I’ve probably been in your position at some point in some way. And this is the controversial issue in our day. And my goal today is not just to pick a team and declare war on the other team, but to open the word of God and to see what the God of the word might have to say. So all of this started for me, this major project, trying to figure out what are the primary objections of the unchurched and de-churched? De-churched, those who used to go to church and no longer do. Unchurched, those who really have no history in Christian faith. This led to a phone survey 913,000 people were called, 1,000 people were interviewed ages 14, 18 to 44 median age of 31. The average interview lasted 12 minutes. All of this was done by professionals. This was commissioned research. 25% were unchurched, no history in Christianity 75% were discharged maybe as a kid or at some point in their history. They had some experience in some sort of religious setting. Well, what we found was that there were seven top objections and here they are in order. Number one is intolerance. Some Christian groups are too intolerant. We looked at it last week. If you were here and came back, thank you. I didn’t know if that would happen. Welcome back, okay? The second issue, 50% said it was sexuality by deal with that in the book and I might get to that later in the series where jumping in and out of order. This week I’m gonna deal with number three, 49% politics. I don’t like how some Christian groups meddle in politics and then 45%, it was issues of morality. Many Christians are hypocrites. We’ll deal with that. Religious tolerance and diversity as well was next at 42%. There are lots of religions I’m not sure, only one has to be the right way. I’m gonna answer that objection on Easter Sunday. 29% jumps down to equality. Christians believed that all people are not created equal and then authority 28% I don’t share the beliefs that the Christian faith tells me that I should. So those are the primary objections. As I established last week, are they get is one issue in tolerance, in various Spears or arenas, moral, political, sexual, spiritual, financial and the like. That being said, once we got the data I wanted to get more granular understanding. I wanted to go from sort of black and white to high Def. And so what we did is we commissioned focus groups male and female in San Francisco, Austin, Boston and also here in Phoenix. And these were groups of eight to nine that met for a few hours under the leadership of a professional facilitator that has done this as their career, ages 18 to 44 emphasis on those 25 to 34. And the person who oversaw this is overseen 1,700 focus groups. They sat down, and my wife asked me this this week. So let me clarify. She asked, were the people that took the phone survey the same as those who were in the focus groups? No. Different groups. And they both landed on the exact same issues which just confirms the research and findings. And they, these were total strangers that sat down to have a conversation. Now, all of this happened before the recent presidential election and our current political social, moral climate. I would submit to you that the research was to some degree prophetic. It was anticipating the future that we are now experiencing. And so when it comes to politics, I know that this is where everyone is divided. There’s great polarization. We don’t even really wanna bring it up, Amen. I mean, if you’re at work and I don’t wanna get into it, if you’re on a university campus, you don’t wanna get into it, right? If you’re hanging out with your family and you like them, you don’t wanna get into it. If you, don’t like them, you’re like, well let’s get us some break. So we’ll talk about it. Let me just give you a broad perspective. I was sitting down with a friend of mine in Dallas, Texas not too long ago, we were eating nachos. And because that’s my love language. And we reading nachos in Dallas, Texas and he was born in Africa and he now lives in London, okay? So from Africa to London to Dallas, three different countries. And so Texas is a country. So he and I were sitting there and we were talking a little bit and I just asked him, friend of mine I said, so what are those in great Britain, what are those in your city? What are they thinking about politics in America? I thought this would be fun. And so he literally, he literally did this. He goes, “Oh Mark, you do not want to know, you do not want to know.” I said, well, what do people think? He said, everybody thinks America’s lost its mind. I said, what I find interesting is that people thought that America had its mind at some point, that’s amazing. So, and he said, so explain to me how you see it as an American. I said, here’s how I see it. Here’s how I see it. And this is based on the work of a social commentator. I would say America is like a dysfunctional family, okay? But the, the Republicans are the daddy party. The Democrats are the mommy party, okay? If you don’t feel safe but for dad, guns, military, border walls, right? We’re gonna get all the bad guys and keep you safe. If you want more stuff. But for mom, she’ll give you a free education, place to live somebody, Right? Tell me if this doesn’t make sense. Last election, it was dad versus mom I said and some would say a bad dad and a bad mom but I’m not getting into all of that. I said, and what happened was there was a fight because it was like a bitter divorce. And the question was who gets the house? The white house, okay? And then the question was, who gets custody of all the kids? The citizens. I said, so there was a bitter divorce and a bitter custody dispute. And when that happens in a family some people take dad’s side. Dad is good mom is bad. Other kids take mom’s side. Mom is good, dad is bad. Some kids try to, can’t we all get along? Can we reconcile? Can’t we lobby? And those kids are in a tough place. And then some kids run away from home. Okay, I’m out. My family is broken, I’m out. I said, so right now America is like a big dysfunctional family, Amen? Does this make sense? Some of you have sided with dad. Some of you have sided with mom. Some of you are just can’t we all get along. And some of you are like, I, that’s why I got rid of my internet access and I don’t watch television. I have emotionally run away from the whole situation. That being said, because we are in the midst of a cultural upheaval. My hope as a pastor is to first start with the objections to try and listen well, because right now, I think everybody is talking about each other, not talking with each other. And if they’re talking with each other they’re yelling at each other, okay? I wanted to listen, hear, respond, and then see what the word of God has to say. And as I looked at the focus group transcripts was 400 pages, read them over and over and over. What I found was there were a lot of misperceptions of churches in politics. Number one, this is actually a quote and it appeared I think more than once in the transcripts our nation is built on freedom from religion. That’s close Right? What did anyone else, anyone else know what the problem there is? What is it? Of, yeah, that’s different. Amen. Our nation has freedom of speech not freedom from speech, right? Okay? Our nation has freedom of assembly not freedom from assembling. Our nation has freedom of religion, not from religion but what a lot of the focus groups said was that they believed in the separation of church and state therefore religious faith should have nothing to do with public policy. That it’s entirely a private matter not a public matter, which is impossible. But in addition, let me just say that the goal was to not have a state church. Many who came to America, Puritans, Pilgrim some of the first people to come to our nation from Europe, of course, sorority people living here but mainly they came from Europe. They were fleeing what they viewed as religious persecution that the government had taken over the church. So they couldn’t obey their biblical interpretation without leaving and starting a place where the government didn’t have that right and authority. There are still places where there is no separation of church and state. If you’ve traveled the world, you walk into an Islamist country there is no separation of church and state. The Koran and those who interpreted, oversee the government. And there is no separation. In some nations, there is still a state religion or a state church, or a state denomination bad things happen when the government takes over religion spirituality in the church, right? This is what happened. For example, with the third Reich in Nazi Germany. One of the things that happened was the church was taken over by the state. And now the state certifies the pastors and the state determines the message of the ministers. Well, we know how that ended, and it was not, it was demonic. It was evil. And so the point here is that the church needs to have the freedom to be the conscience of society and to as necessary speak against governmental evils. And if the government takes over the church, religion and spirituality, then we have lost any conscience. And there is no hope of correction. The other one was, Christians are a majority in America. This was the assumption in the focus groups. Let me submit to you that the majority of Americans are not Christians. Jesus said this in Matthew 7:13 and 14, “Wide is the gate, and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it.” “Small as the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” Jesus says the majority of people are not Christians. Now what happens is, there are people who will profess something that they do not practice, okay? How many of you have a gym membership? But you don’t work out. You every month you let them take the money. And it’s your way of sort of apologizing for not working out, right? You can’t look at gym membership and say, you know most Americans have a gym membership. Ergo, most Americans are healthy. No, they’re not. Most Americans are working out. No, they don’t. So you could say, that’s my church, but you don’t go there, right? There are people who don’t read the Bible. Don’t pray, don’t tithe. Don’t go to church, don’t worship God, don’t walk with God. But you can say that you’re a Christian if you think that is beneficial. It’s in the book but I think that the rate of practicing Christians, actual practicing versus just professing is as low as 8%. That would mean that there are more left-handed people than practicing Christians, more people in Texas than practicing Christians in America and more pet cats in America than practicing Christians. And our goal is every cat should have a loving spirit-filled owner. That’s our, that’s our end zone we’re driving toward. So we want more people to meet Jesus. So those cats can be well loved, Amen. Okay, now that being said, the myth is that the majority are Christians and they’re not, they’re not, as far as practicing goes. Number three, Christianity is organized and powerful. How many of you have ever been in church leadership and you can confirm that this is not a fact? I’m shocked that Christianity is as big a deal as it is cause we’re not that organized. Most businesses if they were organized like churches, it wouldn’t be going so well. But the Holy spirit is gracious when you’re talking about Jesus. Christianity is organized and it is powerful. Here’s what one man from Austin says, as far as what scares me about groups of people in the world that have the potential to do harm. You have radical Muslim extremists and evangelical Christians. He’s gonna work down the food chain, but he’s like jihad and Jesus. That scares me, right? There at the top. That’s us. There’s a big drop-off. And then you get into maybe military dictators and North Korea and Iran. You would not say that if you were in North Korea or Iran, it’s much worse than you think. Then you have everybody else slowly falling down from there. And he says, and I’ve watched the news all day, every day. And I read a lot. What he’s saying is, you know, Christians and terrorists, those people scare me cause there’s zealots. And then you have military dictators. And then you’ve got the rest of people trying to change the world. Let me submit to you that among those who would call themselves Christians or even churches, there is a wide spectrum, right? You could pick almost any social political, moral issue and you will find an entire range of belief. I saw it on the news, not too long ago there were a number of clergy that went to pray over God’s blessing on an abortion clinic praying for God’s blessing on an abortion clinic. I was once preaching and out front of the church was a parade that was led by clergy carrying a rainbow cross while I’m preaching the Bible. So let me just say this, that among those who would say they are Christians in churches there is a wide divergence of opinion on all kinds of issues. I’m not saying that they’re all correct but I’m saying that there is a wide range. In addition, Christianity is not highly organized. We tend to splinter into lots of groups and denominations and factions and traditions. I’m not saying that’s good but I’m saying that is often reality. And furthermore, most Christians don’t feel like they are in power. In fact, most Christians would feel that the world is going a direction that is of grave concern for our wellbeing, religious liberty and the wellbeing of our family. Number four, church money is used for politics. A woman in Boston said this. She says, the problem is that people give their dollars to the church. Then they get a tax write off. And then the church uses their money for politics and for the election of candidates. So the facilitator asks, you’re saying that churches have political action committee money that goes to campaigns to which this woman in Boston replied, Oh yes, okay? Now let me just deal with all of this. Cause this is the craziness of the culture. So let’s just correct some things. In 1954, there was something called the Johnson Amendment that was passed. And it says basically that churches are not allowed to endorse individual political candidates, okay? This has never really been tested. Some churches do both left and right. Liberal and conservative but that is the position, that is the position, it doesn’t mean that Christians can’t be involved in, churches can’t be involved in issues or the greater social good or have an opinion particularly if something pertains to the Bible. But my question would be why are churches being discriminated against? If we are saying that churches should not speak on anything that is political. I’m not highly political. I’m a Bible teacher. If you know me, I’ve taught through a few dozen books of the Bible. I tend to just be a Bible teacher not let the political agenda set my agenda but to let the word of God set my agenda. Nonetheless, there is a designation in the IRS code the Internal Revenue Service called 501 C3. That’s a charitable non-profit. If you give money to a non-profit you can have a tax deduction. Not only our church is considered 501 C3s. So as planned parenthood. So as Greenpeace So as the American Civil Liberties Union. Do they get involved in politics? Absolutely. Now many, most Christians I would say, would disagree with their politics, but people give charitable gifts to those organizations to forward some sort of social agenda. Well, if other non-profits receive gifts, give donations and work for what they view is the common good. Then why not Christians, Churches? I would say in addition, mosques, synagogues, people of various faiths. To me, if you wanna be tolerant, you wanna be diverse. You wanna believe in plurality. Then you need to allow everyone to work in what they would consider to be the best interest of the common good. The other thing that came out in the focus group is that only Christian seek to legislate morality. The Christians are trying to legislate morality. So I interviewed a number of Christian scholars. One of them is Dr. Al Mohler. He says this and I quote, “People assume Christians are trying to impose morality when others supposedly are not.” But in reality, all politics, all legislation, all public policy is a war of rival moralities. Are we gonna build a building there or not? Will it affects the environment? Are we gonna take these tax dollars to further that educational program or not? Are we gonna teach sex ed to kids in schools or not? Are we gonna fund abortions or not? How much can you drink and still drive, right At what age can you vote? At what age can you die for your country? At what age can you be the president, right? All these issues a line as being drawn and people with various perspectives are legislating or what they believe they’re lobbying for what they believe is in the best common interests. He says there is no such thing as a morally neutral stance when it comes to legislation, Christians are unapologetically involved in this for the same reason that others with rival worldviews are involved based upon our deepest convictions. We feel that our approach will lead to the greatest human flourishing. We have competing visions of what that will lead to. And the conflict is what we see in our headlines today. What he’s saying is this, everybody has a vision of how culture should be. Therefore, those who share a vision aligned together and they are trying to bring what they believe is the greatest vision for human flourishing. Of course, various groups disagree. Of course they do. But to say that one group has no right, to seek to have their vision of the greatest human flourishing and good is to discriminate, to be intolerant and to be bigoted. The same thing that is being accused by others of that same group. I would just submit to you that every piece of legislation, environmental law, military appropriations, foreign aid, social welfare, taxation, traffic laws touches on moral issues. I would submit to you additionally, that culture is made upstream and it flows downstream. People downstream consume culture. They live by the laws that are made by the courts, right? That we watch on television or we observe in culture, whatever is decided upstream. And so every group that has some interest in the common good is seeking to get as far upstream as possible. It’s why if you wanna change the world, start to educate the law students who will become the lawyers who will become the judges who will set policies that the rest of us downstream have to abide and live by. All right. This is why if you wanna oversee areas of entertainment it’s so that you can be the gatekeeper for that which is consumable culture downstream. So to me it is complete hypocrisy to say certain groups have no right to try and get upstream. That’s intolerant, that’s bigoted. Now we may disagree. Various groups can disagree, but doesn’t mean that they don’t have a right to seek to encourage human flourishing as they understand it. And then the thing that was really interesting as I read the focus group transcripts over and over is basically the summary was that only Christians on the political right are working in politics. That’s not true. That’s just simply fallacious. A man in Austin says there’s no other groups out there that are trying to impose their views. Really, really, Austin really. I mean really, really. Just steam rolling over everybody. All right. Lemme say this. The Christians have our tax dollars going to things that we feel are steamrolling of what we believe. Again, that’s extreme and that’s the radical people in the group. So then it was asked, which people? Says high level Republican leaders quoted three, Pat Robertson, Westboro Baptist to Jerry Falwell. Pat Robertson as television program tells the news. In addition Westboro Baptist. Lemme just tell you this nobody’s really joined in that parade. Just so you know. Westboro Baptist they protest funerals of soldiers, they protested me which is awesome. I think that’s like one of my favorite things. I just say if you wanna come back that’d be awesome. And they’re not a movement. What it is is it’s extremists who get put on television because it’s controversial. But behind that, there is no momentum. And then the other one was Jerry Falwell who died I think in 2007. And I’ve been to his school. I preached at the school. I met his sons. They love Jesus. I’m not gonna get into all of that or take a side in the war. But you know, it’s interesting they didn’t mention anybody from the political left. Are there any pastors reverends, that would not just be on the political right but the political left that are working in politics. Yeah it’s the Reverend, Al Sharpton. There’s the Reverend Jesse Jackson. The most famous preacher pastor alongside of I would say Billy Graham in the history of America was Martin Luther King Jr who used lots of biblical imagery about the Exodus and slaves being set free to forward what he believed was a cultural vision based upon biblical view of old men and women created equal by God. Right? And we wouldn’t look at that and say, yeah that was a real problem. Because what he was seeking to do is he was seeking to take biblical language and appeal to cultural change, and he was appealing to God’s people from the word of God, so that they would make their decisions particularly at the ballot box, based upon the word of God and not the pressures of the culture. And so this is on both sides. Let me explain what I think the underlying issue is. Next slide please. It’s really an issue of what I’ll call Christendom versus Christianity. If you don’t know or you’re not aware there was a movement that’s lasted about 500 years that was a social experiment, and the social experiment is something that I’ll call Christendom. And the social experiment of Christendom was this, what would it be like if Christian values or what they would call Judeo Christian morals was at the center of a culture and society, not on the margins. Okay. That was the essence of the experiment. Now the United States of America was birthed, during this era of Christendom. So we’re part of this great experiment. Our nation. Other nations are older and they would predate it. The Bible has a distinction between the church, God’s people and the world. In Christendom that line got blurred. Because when you put sort of religion or faith in the center, there are now cultural benefits to saying that you’re a Christian. And there’s cultural pressure to do churchy things. So when your baby’s born, you need to take ’em to the church and get ’em dedicated or baptized. When a holiday comes, let’s say Christmas, if you have a decent family where should you go? You should go to church. When you have a wedding, where should you have that wedding? Church. Even if you haven’t been in a decade, call the church, say we need to make, we need to make this look good for the photo and grandma, right? So we need the building. When you die, we have your funeral in the, in the church, ’cause that’s the right thing to do. That’s all Christendom. And so what happens then is the assumption is, that you can’t have a good society, unless there’s some sort of God consciousness in the center or quote President George Washington in his farewell address. “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” What he’s saying is this for people to get along, we need some sort of social moral order. For that to happen, we need some sort of shared common assumption of what right and wrong is. Let’s put religion in the middle. So all of a sudden people are talking a lot about God, but we never define who that God is. So everybody gets to sort of define God as they want. So under Christendom would be cults like Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses. It would include Unitarians and Universalists. It would include a man like Thomas Jefferson, who literally sat down in the white house with a pair of scissors, went through the New Testament, and cut out all the parts that he felt we’re wrong. He edited it. I think he called it the philosophy of Jesus Christ. He took out the supernatural and the miracles and he basically, here’s all the stuff that shouldn’t have made the book. So it’s a wide range of people, including those who do believe the Bible and those who do love Jesus. But the issue is not do you love Jesus? Do you belong to Jesus? Do you believe in Jesus? The question is do you believe in God? And do you believe that there should be some social moral order? Here’s what President- Elect Dwight D Eisenhower said some years after Washington, “our form of government has no sense “unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith “and I don’t care what it is.” What he said was we need religion. What’s funny is like I don’t care. Just pick one so we can have some conscience. As Christians we want more. Amen. I don’t want you to just to try and be a good person, I want you to hear about Jesus. But what happens in Christendom, is a lot of the language in the policies, in the categories of the Bible are re-appropriated right, from Israel to America. So lemme, this is a little complicated but America became Israel or America’s the new Israel I’ll say it that way. Our revolution is the new Exodus. The declaration of independence, bill of rights and constitution are the new Canon of scripture. Abraham Lincoln is the new Moses. Independence day is the new Easter. Our enemies are the new Satan. Benedict Arnold is the new Judas. The founding fathers are the new apostles. Taxes are the new tithe. Patriotic songs are the new hymns. The pledge of allegiance is the new sinner’s prayer. And the president is the new pastor. So he gets up and he speaks. And he preaches. For 500 years this is the way that it was for many if not most though not all. What has happened now, is there has been a tectonic cultural shift, where Christendom is nearing if not finding its end. And so Christianity is no longer highly respected. The church is not highly respected. The Bible is not highly respected. It’s as if we’ve gone from the center to the margin. It’s almost like if you ever played that kid’s game musical chairs, for 500 years we always got a chair and then all of a sudden you’re like, we don’t have a chair. The game is moving on without us. And the way you see this is in a cultural generational shift, where older people who have some vestige of history of Christendom are really worried ’cause now young people are not going to church. They’re not reading the Bible. But younger people would say, that it costs them too much in their social capital. Because previously in your social capital is the approval you get from others for the positions you hold. So in Christendom, there was a lot of benefit to your social capital. If you wanna run for president, you have to say I believe in God. If you’re a businessmen, in our local community or a business woman somebody’s gonna ask, where do you go to church? You need to be able to say you go somewhere, ’cause that has social benefits. Today, lemme just say this. There’s not a lot of benefits amen. Just put Bible verses on your social media, and see if you get likes or dislikes. And so the world has changed. Now, what this means is that Christians are increasingly having to learn ministry from the margins. For about 500 years, Christianity or at least Christendom which is not exactly the same as Christianity. It could be a form of godliness, that it was in the center. This is the way it was for the Jews when they lived in the Old Testament God’s people in Israel, right? There was an assumption of right and wrong and God and the calendar and everything was set according to religious conviction. There were times and seasons in the history of God’s people in the Old Testament where they were taken as exiles or in captivity. Well now they’re not in the center, they’re in the margins. They’re not in a privileged position, they’re actually in a persecuted position. I’ll give you some examples of this. There’s a country called Egypt. A guy named Joseph was a slave there. He’s not in the center, he’s in the margins but he serves faithfully. He becomes kind of like the vice president in Egypt, if you read the story in the end of Genesis and he loves and serves all because his God loves and serves all. That’s ministry from the margins. There’s an occasion in a country called Babylon where a young man named Daniel is taken captive. He is not in the center. He’s in the margins. His faith, his God, his beliefs, they are rejected. They are not received But he serves faithfully from the margins, even in a political capacity. There’s another guy named Nehemiah. He is serving literally in a government of Persia. In the Old Testament there’s a book of the Bible for him as well. These books of the Old Testament. And he is in a nation in Persia, where his beliefs are on the margin, they’re not in the center, but he serves faithfully and God uses him to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. My whole point is this Christianity can work perfectly fine from the margins. In fact there are times that Christianity is easier from the margins because once Christianity is no longer fashionable, it’s no longer tolerable, you tend to get people who are either in or out. They’re either in or out. So people will say today, oh the number of Christians is going down. No I just think we’re getting cleaner better data.
– [Congregation] Yeah.
– Right. Before it’s like well if I say I’m a Christian, the benefits outweigh the costs, I’ll say I am. Well now the costs outweigh the benefit so I’ll just be honest I’m not. I think it clarifies who is on team Jesus and who is not. So what I wanna say is for the Christian, and lemme say this. Most of my teaching, I start with the word of God and work out from the word of God. In this series I wanna work to the word of God. I can only cover so much, but I’ve done a research project. I’m listening. I read 400 pages of transcripts. Where what I believe was not treated very tolerantly I’ll just say that. I’ve written a whole book free copy on the way out. I’m trying to listen. I wanna understand. But I also wanna explain what the scripture say. And for the Christian, this is a crucial concept, that we are not to live culture up we are to live and think kingdom down, okay? Looking and living kingdom down. This is the blessing, of the word of God. What the word of God does, is the word of God goes above culture, goes above nations, goes above politics and says there is a king whose name is Jesus. And there is a kingdom that lasts forever. What that gives us is an opportunity to not just look out at the culture, but to look up to the kingdom and to ask, huh? What’s that king like? And what is that kingdom like? And is there a better alternative, for the flourishing of humanity, from that king and kingdom? So while he’s on the earth, the Lord Jesus, he’s being interviewed by a political leader, which is interesting. And he says quote, “my kingdom is not of this world.” Hey Jesus you’re here, so what team are you on? He’s like actually I got my own team. I didn’t come to join any team. I came to bring my own team. And he taught us to pray, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I wanna pivot the whole debate, okay. Those who are what I will call conservatives or traditionalist, generally speaking, I know this is a generalization, they wanna go backward. They’ll look back and they’ll say there was a time that things were better. We didn’t have all this craziness. We weren’t killing our kids. We weren’t attacking one another, in the olden days, in the good old days, when I was a kid, when I was growing up, things were better. You know what? We should go back. Some of you older people feel this. Critics would say yeah, but there was discrimination, bigotry, slavery, Jim Crow laws. It wasn’t good for everybody. Maybe those were the good old days for you. But for some of us those were bad days. The progressives, the liberals will come along and say let’s not go backwards, let’s go forward. Some change has happened. Let’s have more change. Let’s go forward into a great glorious and grand future. And just so you know, this fits within an evolutionary worldview. We’re getting better. Keep going. So what this results in is a lot of conflict. Christians, how many of you, it feels like a tug of war? And you’re like, Ugh, I don’t know where I’m supposed to go. I’m very confused and this is hard. The paradigm of the Bible is not backward forward. It’s down up. There is a culture in hell. It’s culture of hatred, unforgiveness, lack of love, no generosity, bitterness and acrimony. So for the Christian, we have that option, you say I could go down and pull the culture of hell up. I can just be self-righteous and proud. And you’re the problem and I’m the solution and arrogant and mean-spirited and unloving and unkind. There’s also a culture in heaven. Say okay thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. You know in the kingdom of God, people are gonna be nice to each other. In the kingdom of God, people are gonna be generous toward each other. In the kingdom of God, people are gonna forgive one another. In the kingdom of God, people are gonna get along. And in the kingdom of God, everybody’s gonna be under authority and they’re not gonna be their own authority. So for the Christian, we wanna think kingdom down. Anytime an issue erupts, or a conflict or a controversy happens we wanna go up. We don’t wanna get stuck in this backward forward. We wanna always be thinking pull up or invite down. Pull up or invite down. And so what that means is we are to have an allegiance and an alliance to the Lord Jesus, that allows us not to have our primary allegiance or alliance to anyone or anything else. But our allegiance and alliance to Jesus means that we seek to do right by everyone else and in everything else. And this is because our residence is here but our citizenship is there. This culture and its issues will come to an end. But that is a kingdom that never ends. Okay lemme make this really clear and simple. I was wondering where to land this sermon. Am gonna take you to Ephesians 2. Here’s what it says in Ephesians 2:8-10. “You’re saved by grace to do good works.” This is a classic line. If you’re a Christian you probably know it. “For by grace you’ve been saved.” Save from death, save from hell, save from sin, save from the wrath of God. Lemme be clear. People are like, gee everybody’s going to a better place. Well then nobody needs to be saved. And then why did Jesus die if we had no need? Why did God have to die if we have no need? And why does it say that we can be saved, if there’s no one and nothing to be saved from, okay? You’re saved by God. You’re saved from God. Okay. “For by grace you’ve been saved through faith.” It’s trusting in Jesus. And this is not your own doing that’s works. I’ll explain that. It is the gift. How many of you have gotten a gift and bragged about it, right? We don’t brag about gifts. You brag about things you earn. A gift. You brag about the one who gave you the gift. “Not a result of works, so that no one may boast. We are his workmanship.” God is working on you. God is working in you. “Created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Pretty much all of human history goes down to two groups. Number one works. You do something to fix it. You do something to make it better. You look at the world. You’re like the world is messed up. Good thing I’m here. If more people were like me, it wouldn’t be so messed up. This is where we all end up. This is how various religions get started. In Buddhism ceasing of desire saves you. In Confucianism, education, self-reflection, self cultivation and living a moral life saves you. In Hinduism, detaching from your separated ego and making an effort to live in unity with the divine saves you. In Islam living a good life, of good deed saves you. In Orthodox Judaism, repentance, prayer working hard to obey the law saves you. In the new age Sedona, gaining a new perspective through which you see how you’re connected to all things in divine oneness saves you. In Taoism, aligning yourself with a Tao, for peace and harmony saves you. For some people who really their hope is on the earth, if my candidate wins and our party is victorious, then heaven will come and we’ll all live happily ever after. And it happens every election and 15 minutes later we’re all frustrated ’cause it didn’t happen. Everybody who’s voting, is voting for heaven and heaven never comes. Okay? Option two, grace Jesus’ works save you. You’re not a good person he is. People don’t need to become like you. They need to become like him, okay? He doesn’t need to join your team, you need to join his team. Just seeing this, now you know why they killed him, right? This is strong. This is Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect life. The life you have not lived. Jesus died a substitutionary death, on the cross, in your place, for your sins, and apart from Jesus, you cannot be saved. It’s nothing that you do. It’s everything that he has done on the cross. When he says it is finished. It’s all over. All the work is done. You need to trust in him. That is what faith means. You receive from him the gift of salvation. It is the grace of God to humble you, okay? So let me just say this. And if you’re here, if your hope is in any one but Jesus, your hope is in vain. If your trust is in anything other than Jesus, your trust is in vain. This whole world needs to be saved. And it doesn’t matter how many dollars we spend, how many wars we wage, how many pickets or protests we have or how many elections we hold, it still needs to be saved.
– [Congregation] Amen.
– That means that the savior is not coming from here, the savior has come from there. And what it says is that you’ll be saved not by your good works, but to your good works. What is the beginning of those good works? I was walking on the beach, Sokal, spring break, this week, with Grace and the kids, got away for a few days, and I’m walking on the beach, like Lord I gotta preach on politics, I don’t want to, I don’t like politics. I don’t like talking about politics. Politics is very divisive, but they picked it. And if everybody’s talking about it somebody should open the word of God and try and help. I said Lord I wrote a little book. I’ve got a chapter, is there anything I missed that I need to say? And I felt like the Lord spoke to me. And he just said two words New man. I was like new man? I thought, I think that’s in Ephesians. You know what? It’s in Ephesians. You know what? It appears right after this. Do you know what, it’s the good works you were saved to. Lemme show you. And it’s that Christianity is a third way. Because see in every culture, here’s how it works, us versus them. The way God sees it, you versus me. I’ve seen this. I’ve been to South Africa. There’s blacks and whites. There’s apartheid and those who live in prosperity. I’ve seen this when I went to Ireland. There’s the North and there’s the South. Us and them. I saw this when I went to Israel. We’re in Jerusalem, we decide to go to Bethlehem, our bus stops. Our tour guide cannot go with us. Our bus cannot pass through. We have to pass through an armed security checkpoint, get a new tour guide and a newer bus, because our old tour guide and our old bus, they could not pass through. Us versus them. The world that doesn’t understand Jesus in the third way, gets caught into the ditch, of us versus them. Not us versus him. The result is that there is acrimony. There is division. There is strife. That that’s the world In Jesus’ day, there were two teams, that spiritually, morally, politically, disdained one another. And when you have disdain for someone which is what’s happening in our culture, you don’t even have to treat them as human, because they’re not human. What were those two groups in Jesus’ day? The Jews and the Gentiles. Even when they would go to worship at the temple there was a big wall, Jews on this side, Gentiles on that side. We can’t even get in the same room, to worship the same God. Division. Political division. Acrimony, spiritual, moral division. Here’s what God says through Paul. “Therefore remember that one time you Gentiles in the flesh,” how many of us are Gentiles? Most of us right. “Called the uncircumcision” You know what that is? That’s negative slang word. What we do, we’ll have a negative slang word for a group of people, so we no longer have to deal with them as human beings. We could just sort of pejoratively dismiss them. By what is called the circumcision. See and we’d look at that and we’d say what a weird way to divide the teams. Amen. How many of you guys are like, we’re not doing that, right? Like please tell me we’re not doing that. Like who’s checking? Like who’s checking? One, two, three, not it right But see we look at another culture and we say those are silly divisions. You know what? God looks at our culture and says, actually those are silly divisions. Which has made by in the flesh, by human hands. Remember that you were at one time what? “Separated from Christ. Alienated from the Commonwealth of Israel. Strangers of the covenants. Having no hope and without God in the world.” That’s bleak. “But now in Christ Jesus, you who were once far off, have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Next slide please. “For he himself is our peace.” Jesus not only brings peace between you and God, he brings peace between you and others. Every time I officiate a wedding I say, okay there’s only two prob I bring the husband and wife the bride and groom together and make ’em hold hands and look at each other I said, there’s only two problems with this marriage, this man and this woman. Those are the only two problems with this relationship. This is what I say. And at some point they’re gonna sin against each other, and that sin is gonna kill this relationship, unless they remember that Jesus died, so they don’t have to kill each other and kill this relationship. Jesus brings peace between us and God. And Jesus brings peace between us and one another. That’s why he’s the Prince of Peace. That’s why he says, “I give you peace my peace I leave with you.” Not as the world gives to you. This is a peace that the non-Christian has no access to or understanding of. That explains the cultural condition. He himself is our peace who has made us both one who? Jew and Gentile, where they one? Only in the church. Not in the culture. This is literally, I wanna be, when I say I wanna be careful, we all knows I’m not. But lemme give you a cultural analogy. This is like, Muslim terrorist jihadists, are reading the Bible and they’re like we really like Jesus. That Jesus is interesting, right? And then a bunch of Jewish people are reading the Bible and both groups hate each other and they’re fighting and they’re warring and they’re mistrusting and distrusting and they’re like, we wanna hear more about Jesus. Where do we go? Go to the church. And they both show up and they’re like, what are you? What are you? What are you doing here? I’m here learning about Jesus. What are you doing here? I’m here Oh are we on the same team now? Culturally that’s the equivalent. Are we on the same team now? What’s the answer? If you belong to Jesus there’s a new team.
– [Congregation] Amen. “He himself is our peace who has made us both one.” You’re like I wanted Jesus. I didn’t wanna be with them. And Jesus is like, I got a big crazy family, welcome to it. “And is broken down in his flesh, the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing law of commandments, expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one,” there’s the word that God spoke to me. What? New man? See at that point they only had two options. Are you a Jew or a Gentile? Are you circumcised or uncircumcised? Which team are you on? ‘Cause we don’t like them. They don’t like us. We’re against them. They’re against us. Which side are you on? I said, you know what? There’s a new team. There’s a new team. It’s team Jesus. And it includes people from all kinds of teams, that would never be on the same team. “One new man in place of the two. So making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing hostility.” Lemme tell you a little bit about Jews and Gentiles, since we got nothing else to do. They didn’t worship together. They didn’t agree with each other. Honestly they didn’t like each other. Some Jewish rabbi said that the only reason God made Gentiles, was he wanted cordwood for hell. If a Jewish kid and a Gentile kid got married, the families held a funeral and considered those kids dead. Some rabbis taught, that if a Gentile mother is pregnant, birthing a child and has a complication, it would be a sin to help her because you’d be bringing another Gentile into the world. See we tend to think that ours is the first generation with a little bit of conflict and controversy. It’s not. What happens then is, Jesus comes, he’s Jewish. The early Christians are largely Jewish. They’re almost all Jewish. And then very quickly the church is filled with tons of Gentiles. The majority, by the end of the first century, of converted Christians were Gentiles. They pull back. The New Testament is in large part written, because the Gentiles showed up to church and we’re like what do we do with them? What do we do with them? There was a counselor and X 15, what do we do with them? And the Gentiles were like okay we’re on team Jesus. And here’s my wife and my girlfriend and my wife’s girlfriend and my friend’s girlfriends wife. Are we okay? And they’re just like, we don’t usually get these questions. That’s the whole book of 1 Corinthians right? And then the Gentiles show up, and they’re like yeah we voted against circumcision, all the guys took a vote, landslide, total landslide. Amazing. It’s the first time we’ve ever had 100% vote on anything here at the church. That’s the whole book of Galatians. I’m not making this up. So the New Testament is what is this new crazy family group new men. What is this? What’s team Jesus? That’s awesome, right?
– [Congregation] Yeah.
– So here’s what I want you to know that out in the world, there’s only two teams and you gotta pick one and you idolize yours and you demonize theirs. In the church we have a new man, we have a third way, and that is it’s not us versus them. It’s all of us against him. He came down and died for us. He’s gonna love us. He’s gonna forgive us. He’s gonna change us. He’s gonna save us. And he’s gonna stick us together, ’cause we’re better together. And because we learn more about the father heart and the love of God, by being one crazy mix messed up family. And what this means is now if you are a Christian your primary identity is not in relation to whatever your primary identity was before you met Jesus. Racial, national, cultural, those things are significant but they’re not primary. They may explain you, but they do not define you.
– [Congregation] Amen.
– That means that you’re, what that means is that anybody who loves Jesus is forgiven. Saved by Jesus, their family, their brothers and sisters, the Bible uses that language. You’re like they’re my enemy. They’re your brother. You’re gonna be together forever. So start figuring it out. And so now all of a sudden what I want you to know is that the church of Jesus Christ and the gospel of Jesus Christ and the salvation of Jesus Christ and the transformation of Jesus Christ it’s the only hope for the entire world. Because what I don’t want us to understand is there’s two groups out there. Let’s bring it in here. No, no. There’s a third group in here and we’re sent out there. We’re said to invite all people, all races, all cultures, all parties, all tribes, all ideologies, all perspectives to realize that they are the problem not the solution. That they are by nature, an enemy of God, and they’re not in a position to judge like God. That they need Jesus and everyone needs Jesus. And our answer is always give your sin to Jesus. Become a new man. Join the third way. The part of the church of Jesus Christ and love and serve the family and love and endure with those who disagree with you. Close with this. And by close I mean possibly close. Here’s where history is going. Revelation 7:9-10. Then I looked, what John does he looks up. I wanna encourage you today as God’s people. Look up. Look up, I know it’s a mess down here but it’s pretty awesome up there. Look it up. Where does my hope come from? My hope comes from the Lord. And behold a great multitude that no one could number. Here’s the church of Jesus Christ. In the end the people of God. From every nation. From all tribes. A lot of tribes war against each other, until they surrendered to the Prince of Peace. Then they become a family, and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb clothed in white robes, they’re forgiven. Palm branches in their hands crying out in a loud voice, salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the lamb. The center of human history is a king, Whose name is Jesus. The center of reality is a king, whose name is Jesus. Around Jesus are all of his people. The church. Everybody who’s been saved. Everybody who’s been forgiven. We get to wear white ’cause in Christ we wear his righteousness. We’re not the good people. We’re the bad people who got loved by the one good person. And what we find around the throne of Jesus all the nations, all the political parties, all the races, all the tribes, all the cultures, all the ideologies. And so the hope of the world is Jesus Christ. The need of the world is Jesus Christ. If Jesus is the center, and if people are moving into closer relationship with him what is invariably happening? They’re getting closer to each other. And the closer they get to Jesus, they see where they’re wrong. So they’re teachable and humble and correctable. And this is the process that God has for his church, today into eternity. So here’s what we’re gonna do. Yup politics is important. Elections are reporting. Issues are important. Human life is important. But worship is really important. Because what we see in Revelation 7 is that worship is the one place that is big enough for all of God’s people. And we see that worship under the Lordship of King Jesus, it puts him in to all of the other conflicts, and controversies and wars and divisions. So here’s what I want you to know when we come together as the church, there’s different ages, there’s different races, there’s different socioeconomic backgrounds. There are different educational levels. There are different opinions. There are different cultures. There are different political ideologies. All of that secondary. Primary we’re here to worship Jesus because we’re people who have been saved. We’re here to worship Jesus so that together we become more like Jesus. And we worship together because we’re better together. Worship is the way that the church of Jesus Christ, comes together to demonstrate the reality of the reconciliation of Jesus Christ, to give hope to the world, and to give the possibility of the third way. I love this. Our world needs this. Don’t waste all your energy on politics. Save the best of your energy for the worship of Jesus. And there will come a day when there is one king and one kingdom, and everything’s gonna get a lot simpler and everything’s to be better. We prepare ourselves for that day. I’m gonna invite the band forward. We’re gonna sing, okay?
– [Congregation] Yeah.
– Let’s celebrate Jesus. Let’s lift our eyes up. Let’s celebrate the reconciliation and the transformation that he brings. And if and when you’re ready, if you are a child of God or become one today, by trusting in Jesus, we’re gonna partake of communion. Jesus broken bodies, shed blood. The hostility is not just between people, it’s between people in God. Jesus dies so that you don’t need to die. Jesus pays a penalty so you don’t need to pay a penalty. Jesus endures the wrath of God so that you can receive the love of God. Other God as we come into worship, we pray. We pray for hearts that are willing to receive this truth. That our identity is in Jesus Christ. Our allegiance is to Jesus Christ. Our hope is in Jesus Christ. Our destiny is in Jesus Christ and that our family ultimately eternally is defined by brothers and sisters who also belong to, believe in, and are becoming like Jesus Christ. Help us to fix our eyes on Jesus, to lift our eyes up to Jesus, to understand what it means to live kingdom down, to live as the children of God, to live as the new man, to live with the understanding that this world is a place of ministry but it’s not our home. It’s our residence, but it’s not our citizenship. Our citizenship is in heaven. And from there we await the coming of a glorious, great and grand King whose name is Jesus. And Jesus right now, departed saints from all the nations, they’re around your throne worshiping. Lord Jesus one day we will join them around your throne worshiping. So as we worship we ask Holy spirit that you would connect this realm and that realm. That the church in heaven and the church on earth would be one unified people in the act of worshiping Jesus together forever. And whose name we pray. Amen.