Monday, September 29, 2008

A Biblical Example of Sharing the Good News

Sunday I had the opportunity to fill the pulpit at a church in our area. My message was taken from 2 Kings 5:1-14, the account of Naaman and his young servant.

You are familiar with the story: A young girl is taken from her home on a raid by Syria into Israel. She is forced to work as a servant in the home of Naaman, captain of Syria’s armies. Naaman is taken ill with leprosy, a serious disease even outside of Israel.

Amazingly, the young girl tells her master of the prophet of God in Israel who can heal Naaman’s illness. Naaman goes to Israel, contacts the prophet and returns healed and evidently a believer in the one true God of Israel.

From the young girl’s experiences and responses we can learn a great deal about sharing the good news of the gospel with others:

She was in a lowly position, yet she spoke out boldly

She was in a bad situation, yet she served faithfully

She endured a personal tragedy, yet she reached out compassionately

She had been mistreated, yet she shared the good news unselfishly

So what does this have to do with ministry to political leaders?

The young girl had been captured and taken away from her home and her family. She was forced to serve in a foreign land of pagan idolaters, perhaps in the household of the very man who had planned the raid that led to her predicament. She easily could have been bitter, angry, and vengeful toward those who had taken her. Yet she cared about her captors and was willing to share the good news with those whom she easily could have considered her enemies.

In the midst of the current heated political campaign, it is so easy to begin to think of and treat people on the “other side” as enemies to be defeated. We lose sight of the fact that each and every one, from the presidential candidates down to those running for statehouse or courthouse seats, are individuals who need to hear the good news of the gospel and grow in their walk with Christ.

During this election season, let us be careful of our attitudes towards all those running for office or already serving in positions of leadership. We must watch as we hear campaign rhetoric and take care in our own speech that we do not become disrespectful or hateful towards others. We should not be surprised at the moral or social stands taken by those who do not follow Christ. We need to remember the plight of those who do not know Him. Like the young girl, we have the only answer for those suffering from the ailment of sin.

(Read Spurgeon’s evangelistic message on this passage.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Risk of Trivializing the Gospel

Michael Horton at the White Horse Inn is presenting a two-part round table discussion on "Christianity and Politics". One of the panelists makes these striking statements:

“The risk of trivializing the mission of the church in reducing it to just another civil society interest group is a risk we have to always keep our eyes on. The risk of the gospel being trivialized and becoming just a political plank is a horrible risk we must avoid at all costs.”

"The church, as the church, has a very specific mandate. It is to hold forth Christ as the only way that sinners can be reconciled to a holy God. When it extends beyond that biblical mandate, it has left its charter behind."

The panelists themselves are active politically, but they point out the important distinction between what we might have the freedom to do as invidual believers and what we do as the church.

Listen to part one ( with free registration).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Our Weapons are Spiritual

J.C. Ryle descibes the Christian's battles in Holiness:

"Unlike the battles of the world, true Christianity fights in a realm that does not depend upon physical strength, the strong arm, the quick eye or the swift foot. Conventional weaponry does not come into play. Rather, its weapons are spiritual, and faith is the axis upon which the battle turns."

A good reminder that our battle is not ultimately political, but spiritual, just as Paul challenged us in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4:

…For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful…

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pray for Supreme Court Justice Joseph Albright **Update**

Please keep praying for Supreme Court Justice Joseph Albright as he continues to recover from esophageal surgery. He has taken a leave of absence for the remainder of the fall term.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Our Problems Are Spiritual, Not Political

We must always keep in mind that our nation’s problems are spiritual, not political. Ultimately, they can only be solved through spiritual means, not political strategy and maneuvering. This is so because of the spiritual condition of each and every citizen who serves in our government and lives in our country.

J.C. Ryle writes of this condition in Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots:

“I admit fully that man has many grand and noble faculties left about him, and that in arts and sciences and literature he shows immense capacity. But the fact still remains that in spiritual things he is utterly “dead”, and has no natural knowledge, or love, or fear of God.

“We can acknowledge that man has all the marks of a majestic temple about him—a temple in which God once dwelt, but a temple which is now in utter ruins—a temple in which a shattered window here, and doorway there, and a column there, still give some faint idea of the magnificence of the original design, but a temple which from end to end has lost its glory and fallen from its high estate. Nothing solves the complicated problem of man’s condition but the doctrine of original sin and the crushing effects of the fall.”

The only answer to this fallen condition is the gospel—hearts and lives changed through faith in Christ and His work on the cross and minds renewed through the Word of God. Political activism apart from the gospel can do nothing to deal with the root cause of our individual and national problems.

Let us keep this truth before us as we consider our priorities in the days leading up to the election.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Different Kind of Power

John Hutchinson, senior minister of McClean Presbyterian Church, posted an article in Ligonier's Tabletalk magazine entitled "A Different Kind of Power". Upon being asked to participate in a news conference intended to foster support for a bill coming before the senate, he decided to seek counsel from a senator who attended his church. He received the following advice:

"I’m not going to tell you what to do, and I share your convictions on a subject that is very important. But as you pray about your decision, remember that you will have no control over how the press will quote you, and you will be labeled as a conservative advocate. You have been called here to be a minister of the Gospel of the kingdom that transcends political conservatism or liberalism. And as a minister you will have the opportunity over the years to give that Gospel to both conservatives and liberals.”

Pastor Hutchinson took that advice and declined to take part in the event. He goes on to explain why:

"...We must faithfully teach Christians to be helpfully involved in the public square without becoming over-involved and intoxicated with the political power. There is no question but that our Savior expects us to be “the salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt 5:13–14). Thus, it would be unfaithful and disastrous for Christians to be absent from the public square. But on the other hand, we must resist the temptation to become obsessed with the power of politics and begin to think that we can usher in the king’s kingdom. Though politics is a worthy pursuit, Christ’s kingdom is not dependent upon who’s elected and/or which laws are passed or repealed. In Washington D.C. it’s easy to catch “Potomac Fever,” and Christians are not immune to such a distorted view of power. The power of the Gospel of the kingdom of heaven, though weak in this world’s eyes (Matt 13:31–32; 1 Cor. 1:27) is more powerful than the power of any nation. It’s a different kind of power — the power of the Spirit of God through the Word of God in the people of God. As a pastor in D.C. over the years I have been “lobbied” by Christian interest groups to support their worthy causes. But often I have concluded, that though I may personally share their convictions, it would be imprudent and unbiblical for us as a church to join their cause. Sadly, I’ve gotten an “earful” from very disappointed Christians who even questioned my commitment and faithfulness to Christ."

He concludes:

"Finally, as a pastor I must realize that I wear “two hats.” I’m an individual Christian and a leader of a congregation that includes the full political spectrum. Thankfully, faithfulness in preaching the gracious Gospel of the kingdom of heaven enables me to minister to both..."

Pastor Hutchinson gives us a good reminder of the priority for churches and believers to proclaim the gospel message.

Read Complete Article.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Praying for Christian Leaders and Government Leaders

Timmy Brister over at Provocations and Pantings recently shared a devotion from Octavius Winslow's Morning Thoughts:

“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” Romans 15:30

“There are many weighty and solemn considerations which powerfully plead for the prayers of the Church of God, in behalf of her ministers and pastors. The first which may be adduced is- the magnitude of their work. A greater work than theirs was never entrusted to mortal hands. No angel employed in the celestial embassy bears a commission of higher authority, or wings his way to discharge a duty of such extraordinary greatness and responsibility. He is a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ- an ambassador from the court of heaven- a preacher of the glorious gospel of the blessed God- a steward of the mysteries of the kingdom. Properly to fill this high office- giving to the household their portion of food in due season- going down into the mine of God’s word, and bringing forth to the view of every understanding its hidden treasures- to set forth the glory of Emmanuel, the fitness of His work, and the fullness of His grace- to be a scribe well instructed, rightly dividing the word of truth- to be wise and skillful to win souls, the grand end of the Christian ministry- oh, who so much needs the sustaining prayers of the Church as he?

Secondly. The painful sense of their insufficiency supplies another affecting plea. Who are ministers of Christ? Are they angels? Are they superhuman beings? Are they inspired? No, they are men in all respects like others. They partake of like infirmities, are the subjects of like assaults, and are estranged from nothing that is human. As the heart knows its own bitterness, so they only are truly aware of the existence and incessant operation of those many and clinging weaknesses of which they partake in sympathy with others. And yet God has devolved upon them a work which would crush an angel’s powers, if left to his self-sustaining energy.

Thirdly. The many and peculiar trials of the ministry and the pastorate ask this favor at our hands. These are peculiar to, and inseparable from, the office that he fills. In addition to those of which he partakes alike with other Christians- personal, domestic, and relative- there are trials to which they must necessarily be utter strangers. And as they are unknown to, so are they unrelievable by, the people of their charge. With all the sweetness of affection, tenderness of sympathy, and delicacy of attention which you give to your pastor, there is yet a lack which Jesus only can supply, and which, through the channel of your prayers, he will supply. In addition to his own, he bears the burdens of others. How impossible for an affectionate, sympathizing pastor to separate himself from the circumstances of his flock, be those circumstances what they may. So close and so sympathetic is the bond of union- if they suffer, he mourns; if they are afflicted, he weeps; if they are dishonored, he is reproached; if they rejoice, he is glad. He is one with his Church. How feelingly the apostle expresses this: “Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of how the churches are getting along. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?” To see a Christian pastor, in addition to his own personal grief, borne often in uncomplaining loneliness and silence, yet bowed down under accumulated sorrows not his own- others looking to him for sympathy, for comfort, and for counsel-is a spectacle which might well arouse in behalf of every Christian minister the slumbering spirit of prayer. We marvel not to hear the chief of the apostles thus pleading, “Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thess. 5:25).”

Octavius Winslow – Morning Thoughts (August 1)

Even as we are reminded to pray for our pastors and church leaders, I believe these thoughts can be applied to praying for our government leaders as well. Rememember, in Romans 13 Paul calls government leaders “God’s servants”.

  • We should pray for our government leaders because of the magnitude of their work.

  • We should pray for our leaders because of their insufficiency for their task. (Perhaps our prayer should be for them to recognize their insufficiency and their dependence upon God).

  • We should pray for them because of the peculiar trials they face as leaders. From the challenges of making wise and godly decisions regarding a huge variety of issues to the temptations they face, our leaders need our prayers as they serve.

Let us remember to pray faithfully for our church leaders and our government leaders.