...and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ephesians 4:23).

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27 June 2010

God's Kingdom Endures

Those of us who live in the United States of America find ourselves in another election year. Significant problems also exist with our current economy, and there are many people who are quite nervous, anxious, and scared about the political and economic future of the country. These impulses are entirely understandable. But we who are Christians are called to a higher path (cf. Colossians 3:1-2).

Isaiah set forth to comfort Israel in difficult times in Isaiah 40:6-8:

The voice of one saying, "Cry." And one said, "What shall I cry?"
"All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the breath of the LORD bloweth upon it; surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand forever."
Humans and their endeavors are as grass. Israel was suffering under the yoke of Babylon, and it certainly seemed that Babylon and her gods were ascendant. Yet within a century their glory was gone, and another empire had taken over.

Proud Rome also seemed to be quite ascendant and indestructible, especially in the first century of our era. Yet in those days God established His Kingdom, as predicted in Daniel 2:44:

"And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever."

Four hundred years later, the power of Rome was humbled. Ever since, kingdom after kingdom has arisen, and all have likewise fallen or have been greatly humbled. No government of man will endure forever. Yet the Kingdom of God remains and spreads, whether a given government is favorably disposed toward it or not (Daniel 2:44, Philippians 3:20, Colossians 1:13, Revelation 1:6).

There are many viewpoints regarding the Christian and his relationship with the government. Many believe that they have no authority to vote whatsoever. Many have no desire to get involved in politics in any way, shape, or form. Many vote for whom they believe is the "lesser of two evils." Exactly whom that represents is itself a matter of disagreement.

It is imperative for us as Christians to remember in the charged political climate around us that we serve a higher cause and a greater King (Philippians 3:20-21, Matthew 28:18). We must be Christians first (Matthew 6:33; 10:37-39). Whatever happens to the United States of America is of much lesser importance than what happens with Kingdom of God (Matthew 28:18-20, Romans 1:16). Our primary citizenship is in Heaven, a Kingdom not of this world (Philippians 3:20, John 18:36).

Therefore, we must respect the fact that in political matters there is liberty, and there is no room for condemnation of others (Romans 14:10-14). Some choose not to vote; others choose one or another candidate, believing they represent the best hope for a "tranquil and quiet life" (cf. 1 Timothy 2:2): "let each be fully assured in his own mind" (Romans 14:5). The politics of the American government are not worth destroying him for whom Christ died (cf. Romans 14:15), and are not worthy of becoming a stumbling-block in the way of a brother (Romans 14:13).

Likewise, we must learn the force of Jesus' command:
"And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).
We often focus on the second part of Jesus' charge, but the first part is just as important: Jesus commands us to not be afraid of other people. Politicians know that the politics of fear often influence votes; doomsday scenarios are often presented in order to get you to vote fo a given candidate to make sure that such things do not happen. Yet, as Jesus says, why should we be afraid? What's the worst thing that "Islamic fundamentalists," "crazy Evangelicals," or "godless humanists" or whomever else can do to you? They can persecute you, torture you, and kill you-- giving you the opportunity to suffer for the Name, and to ensure your place with the saints in Heaven (Acts 5:41, 1 John 3:16). We ought to remember that the Kingdom began in the midst of an empire that was at best ambivalent and at worst hostile toward the faith, and yet it grew exponentially in those days! The growth came because the brethren did not fear Rome. We should likewise not be afraid. As long as we walk with God, there is nothing that man can do against us that has eternal consequences (Romans 8:31-39). If we are afraid, perhaps we have placed our own comfort and "security" as an idol between us and God, and if so, it needs to be removed (1 John 5:23)!

We have also seen significant economic collapses occurring recently. Untold amounts of money have been lost, and uncertainty reigns in the marketplace. Such simply reinforces the teachings of Jesus and Paul:

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).

Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
Worldly riches are always uncertain, and therefore they do not represent a strong enough safety net upon which to rely. It is indeed wise and prudent for the Christian to save their resources and to be good stewards of God's blessings (1 Corinthians 4:1-2, Ephesians 4:28), but even then these resources are to be used as blessings for others and not merely hoarded (cf. Luke 12:16-21).

Americans are too used to "stuff" and defining themselves by their "stuff." Yet everything we possess is not really ours, for as we came into this world with nothing, we also leave with nothing (1 Timothy 6:7). Likewise, a day is coming upon which it will all be destroyed with fervent heat (2 Peter 3:9-12). Nothing physical will last. That is why it is so important for us to put God and His Kingdom first, because it will endure. God's government shall never end. Heaven's treasury will never be empty. We can have security and confidence in the midst of uncertain times when we stand upon the rock of God's Kingdom, and build thereon (Matthew 7:24-27). Let us trust in God's enduring Kingdom!

Ethan R. Longhenry
October 2008

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