As I set around a table with three or four other preachers one morning last week it didn’t take long for the discussion to turn to politics. We were not debating the finer points of economic recovery strategies nor how to solve the social issues of our day. The conversation was strictly on the presidential candidates and if we should even vote. There was a unanimous agreement of one candidate who we all could not endorse. Then the conversation quickly ruled out the viability of many of the lesser party platforms. Now we were down to this question “Should we as Christians even vote at all in this election given our choices?”
I advocated that we should cast our vote for the best qualified candidate on the ticket that held views closest to our own regardless. This was quickly met by the idea of just writing in the name of someone we wished the president could be. But this is not a vote. The time to pick the candidate that you want to run for the office is during the primaries. Surprisingly, all of us voted for the same man during the primaries but he did not receive the nomination. A “write in” is not a vote, it’s just an ineffective way to protest your options with no positive benefit in the electorate.
Then the idea of only voting for a Christian candidate was introduced into our little discussion. Stating that to unite with an unbeliever is to advance the cause of Satan. This opened a whole new can of worms but very little Biblical support. (never mind that none of us can truly know that state of another’s soul) The position was that we should look for the fruits of salvation and vote for the candidate that professed and possessed them. Regardless of their political or social views we should only vote for a Christian. I fond this to be an absurd idea for a number of reasons.
For starters, it would require us to have a personal spiritual knowledge of each person we vote for. (from the school board and JP to the President) Who can do that? Secondly, I know a number of professing Christians that can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, much less function as a public official, even if they wanted to. Thirdly, there have been thousands of unbelievers who have served there fellowman well throughout history. Fourthly, When have we had the opportunity to vote for a Saint? Fifth, it is true that every lost person is spiritually dead, but they are in varying degrees of decay. (some are worse than others) Sixth, the person is not being elected to teach Scripture, they are being chosen to protect and uphold the laws of our land. Seventh, the Bible does not tell us to abstain and withdraw from society if there are no Christians to associate with. (it’s actually the opposite)
I could go on but I’ve ran out of paper. I wish we had a professing Christian on the ballot, but we don’t. So vote for the one closest to your values and trust God.
I want to ask you a few questions but I don’t want to hear your answers. I know, it sounds weird but I would like for you to answer them to yourself. Since no one else will know how you answer, be honest with yourself. Why did you go to church today? No, I don’t want a theological answer or seven Bible verses on the importance of church attendance. I mean why did you personally come to church? What did you expect to accomplish by attending a church service today? What was your motivation to be here? Careful now, don’t just plug in a text book answer that you’ve programmed to say through years of sermons on church attendance.
Allow me to offer some potential answers some of you may have thought. It’s Sunday and that’s what I have always done. It’s what Christians are supposed to do. I want to set an example for my kids/husband/wife. I want to be faithful to the church. I want to visit with so-and-so. I signed up for nursery today. I want to here the Bible taught and sing. Who am I kidding? I’m here for the food! These are all good reasons to attend church services, well maybe not for the food.
Churches have labored so hard over the years just to get people to attend that we’ve come to believe attendance is all that matters. Churches used to (some still do) post their attendance on little boards in the front of the church. We could look at those numbers and know that we were part of them and feel good about ourselves for being there. Attendance is still the common measure for the health of a church. But is that a accurate way to gauge a church’s health? Obviously not.
Church is not about attendance it’s about participation. We must take part to benefit from a church service. The substitute for participation is to offer activities of interest for everyone to do. “Give each person a reason to be here.” So we have volunteer opportunities that give us responsibilities and keep us busy. That’s not a bad thing unless we only go to church because they are counting on us.
God is not recording our perfect church attendance in Heaven. Nor is He giving bonus points for the activities we volunteered to do. The “participation” He seeks is our commitment to worshiping Him. With that said, do you sing His praises on Sunday? Or just hum along? Do you love your fellow Christian as God loves you? Or are you just being polite to them? Do you attentively listen to the preaching of his Word? Or do you just try to stay awake? Do you pray as the church prays? Or does your mind wonder to the things you have do that afternoon? I don’t know your answers, but I know I have some repenting to do. Some of us only went to high school to play football or band and never really participated in class. We sure wasted a lot of time there. Don’t waste your time here, come to worship Him today!
“Today is a perfect day to just be happy!” I saw this little bit of advice on a church sign this week. I began to sweep the cobwebs of my brain trying to find some biblical support for this statement from my memory. I couldn’t think of any passages where we are all told to “just be happy.” Oh I can find many verses where believers are told to rejoice in the lord and delight in him, but “He” wasn’t anywhere on the sign. Since that the majority of people who are reading the sign do not know Christ and find happiness elsewhere, few questions came to my mind How is this sign pointing people to Christ? What is the sign conveying to others?
Earlier this week I pondered a church sign that said “God fixes broken hearts but he has to have all the pieces.” Yes, God has promised to bind up the broken hearted but when were we told to keep up with all the pieces? What does that even mean? Could we be hiding a piece of the puzzle from God? Are we somehow incomplete until God has all of us, maybe? If so, How did God get the first few pieces of our broken heart? And the bigger question how are we keeping some of it from him?
A good church sign ought to make those that read it ask some questions! But, we should be able to find the answers in the Bible. Therein lies the problem of many of the messages conveyed to the world by churches today, there is no biblical support for what they are saying. These days you can’t distinguish the message on a church sign from the one in a fortune cookie.
You say, “Oh bro Harold, it’s just an encouraging message, lighten up.” Well, I would lighten up if I didn’t see so many professing Christians comfortable in their sins. So many church members who can’t even articulate a biblical gospel. If they are giving a lost and depraved world wisdom from fortune cookies, is it any wonder no one takes the church serious anymore? It’s a problem and it has led to a whole generation who’s ideas about Christianity have been shaped by one liners from signs and social media without one shred of Scriptural support. What’s even sadder is the people in those churches are so biblically illiterate that they don’t see anything wrong with it. Add to that their claim that we are just mean, judgmental, and unchristian for even pointing this out. I glad Jesus never called anyone wrong, corrected false teachers or warned others of their errors. (that was sarcasm)
If this is what churches put on the street, what do they say from within? As I eluded to last week, churches are preaching happiness at the expense of holiness and their church signs reflect it. There are scores of passages that promise joy, peace, rest, etc, etc but they only apply to the believer. Our message to those passing by should encourage faith and repentance, not health and happiness.
I was grieved this week to hear of another friend who destroyed his marriage by adultery. It seems like I am hearing these reports more and more these days. I was sad because I see the hurt that his wife is experiencing and the uncertainty that their children are facing. One of these days he too will experience the pain of his failed marriage, but for now he “just wants to be happy in life.”
The world has built into our minds that this kind of behavior is completely normal. You may wonder how the world programs us this way, so let me explain. Watch any prime time network TV show this week and count how many umbilical relationships you see. Listen to one hour of Country, Rock, Pop, Hip Hop, Rap or Classic Oldies radio and count how many cheating songs you hear. Pick up any popular news magazine this month and you’ll find that it’s filled with these stories. Oh, not the stories of broken homes, lawyers, step parents, child support, and restraining orders. Instead you’ll hear which famous person is fooling around with some other famous person. You’ll hear a song about a singer cheating to get revenge on the one who cheated on her. You’ll watch a “normal” family on TV that has no concept of a man and a woman committed to each other in marriage. To top it off, they all appear to be happy and having fun while you’re not.
This seems to be the justification for every moral failure committed these day: “It makes me happy.” What makes a us think if we is not happily married that we can run out and have an affair with someone else and be happy? How can we think that breaking God’s law will bring us joy? This is the same logic used by Satan when he encountered Eve in the garden. He claimed that God is holding blessings back from Eve by not allowing her eat off this one tree. So it is nothing new to think, what God forbids must be fun and will make us happy. Man has always wanted what he could not have and he has never been satisfied with what he does have.
One of the unique problems we face today is that the pursuit of happiness is preached in our churches. It is often proclaimed that God wants us to be happy. The problem with that is that it is only half true. God wants us to be happy, serving him. When you leave the “serving him” part out, then you can be the judge of what makes you happy and you can justify your disobedience. Our service to God will not always put us in happy circumstances but we can find joy in serving him in these circumstances. If you’re in a difficult marriage you will not be happy out of it or unfaithful to your vow. That is the lie Satan began and the world around you is propagating. Christian, marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for his church. Our happiness is seen by living that kind of commitment out to our spouse till we die.