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Christians: Responsible Citizenship
Matthew Series #098
October 18, 2015
“Father, we’re thankful for Your Word. We’re thankful that You have, as the Creator of the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that is in them, revealed Yourself to us, so that we may know who You are and know who we are as human beings created in Your image and likeness, to fulfill Your purpose for us.
Our destiny is to serve You, to glorify You, and as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, our destiny is to rule and reign with Him in the future.
So that everything in this life is but an opportunity for us to learn and develop our spiritual maturity, our spiritual character, that as we face and deal with the issues of life in every sphere of our living, whatever it may be, whether it has to do with our family life, whether it has to do with our professional life, our work life, our school life or our life as citizens in this nation, that we may do all to your honor and glory. For as we live our lives to please You and to glorify You, then You in turn are working through God the Holy Spirit in our lives to bring us to spiritual maturity.
We pray that we might be mindful of the fact that we in every area of life are to be a testimony of Your grace, Your love, Your righteousness, and Your justice, and that this should be applied in every area of our life.
And we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Last week we were looking at Matthew 17 at a brief account in the life of Christ. This is an account that doesn’t carry a lot of weight, that most people don’t spend a lot of time talking about. It is one of the briefest, if not the briefest, of all miracles described in the Scripture.
It involves a situation where Peter and Jesus at the end of the day have returned back to their homes in Capernaum, and as they come there, one of the probable tax collectors comes to Peter and says, “Doesn’t your Teacher pay the temple tax?” The way he phrased the question is to expect a negative answer.
The temple tax was a half shekel tax. It’s root and foundation was back in the Mosaic Law when an offering was accessed to the people to provide for the tabernacle. It was continued down through the centuries to take care of and provide for the upkeep of the temple.
It amounted to a vast amount of money that went into the temple, and it was not always used for its purposes. It went—at the time of Jesus—to a bureaucracy among the priests that was corrupt and that promoted false teaching regarding legalism and was inherently in opposition to Jesus.
Yet Jesus does not say, “Okay, we’re not going to pay the tax because it’s a corrupt bureaucracy.” In fact, what He tells Peter to do is to—in an interesting way—go down to the ocean, take a hook and line. He doesn’t say to bait it, but just to throw it into the water, and the fish will come up. And when he catches the first fish, to cut it open, and he’ll find the appropriate money in there that would pay the tax.
Peter did, and he found a—it’s called—a stater in the Greek, but it would provide for two. It was worth twice the amount of the tax, so it would pay for Peter and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now a similar incident takes place a little later on in Matthew 22. So I want you to turn there with me, and we’ll get there eventually.
But the point that I want to make this morning—every now and then we do this—is to take where we’ve gone through and study the passage of Scripture itself to see what is there and what is being emphasized, and then it takes some additional time to develop application from that passage.
We live in a world today where so often all that people hear or are aware of are twenty minute “sermonettes for Christianettes,” and I always remember one of my favorite stories.
I don’t know if it’s actually true or not, but J. Vernon McGee (some of you may be familiar with him), was a great Bible teacher from a previous generation. He went to be with the Lord back in the 90s, but was the pastor of an extremely large church in Los Angeles called, “The Church of the Open Door.” He was a graduate of one of the early classes at Dallas Seminary back in the 1930s.
In the early 70s he was asked to speak in chapel at Dallas Seminary. As he was sitting up on the platform, he was informed just beforehand that he had approximately 20 minutes to speak. Well, that must have taken him by surprise and didn’t fit what he had come to talk about.
When he stood up—typically the chapel service would be an opening prayer, announcements, we would sing a hymn, and then the speaker would speak for approximately 20 minutes, and then close in prayer, and we would go back to class. So he stood up, and he said, “Men, I’ve just been informed that I have only 20 minutes to teach the Word of God. You can’t say anything significant about the Word of God in twenty minutes. Let’s close in prayer.”
If you think about it, unless you have some light, little sitcom—that’s usually about 30 minutes. From the 50s to the 80s, we morphed in television shows from 30-minute shows. Some of you will remember or have seen in repeats the old “Gunsmoke” series and others that were all 30 minutes.
But by the time you get into the mid-60s and into the 70s, all of these more significant dramas and other shows were an hour. The reason is, that to develop a significant plot or line of thinking takes more than 20 minutes, because actually a 30-minute TV show after the commercials is only about 17 minutes long.
Sadly, a principal has been held onto and promulgated among homiletics classes for the last 30 years that sermons shouldn’t be more than 15 or 20 minutes because of the attention gap of the audience, because TV has cut them down into these 5-minute segments, and then a commercial.
Trouble with all of that is you really can’t dig very deeply into things. Sometimes it takes a while to develop solid, sound thinking. And that is why it takes some time to go through some of these principals.
Last time, we established the fact that Jesus is demonstrating principals of good citizenship by paying the tax. He wasn’t required to.
One: He was considered a rabbi, and rabbis were often excluded from paying the temple tax.
The second reason, which is more important, is the temple is His Father’s house. And as He points out in His answer to Peter, “The son of the king is not required to pay upkeep on the king’s palace.” The son of the king is the beneficiary of the taxes of the citizenry in the country.
So Jesus isn’t required to pay the tax. But He pays the tax, because He recognizes the motivation of the people watching Him is to find even the smallest inconsequential thing that they can trip Him up on.
Well, that’s what happens in a little bit larger way in Matthew 22. In Matthew 22 they try to trip Him up again.
Now the same issue comes up. It has to do with paying the tax. Paying the tax is a tax to the Roman Empire. It is a tax to human government.
As soon as we start talking about this, what I’m focusing on this morning is this issue of Christian citizenship, Christians living a life where they are responsible Christian citizens of whatever nation they are a part. This is important for us to address for a number of reasons.
But first of all, we need to be reminded that human government is not something that was invented by human beings to bring order into their social life, but human government was ordained by God and established by God through the covenant that God made with Noah following the worldwide flood.
When Noah and his wife and his three sons and their three wives, when those eight people got off the ark, the first thing they did was to worship God. They built an altar, they took from the clean animals, the ones that were extras that they could sacrifice, and they sacrificed to God.
And God spoke to Noah in Genesis 9 in the first 17 verses and established a covenant with him. Within that covenant God, for the first time in history, delegated judicial responsibility to man. That biblically is the foundation for human government.
The foundation for nations came some 200 or so years later at the incident of the tower of Babel. Up until that point everybody on the earth spoke the same language.
They got together, and were going to build this tower against God. They’re going to build it to Heaven. Part of the idea was, “We’re going to build it so high that we’re going to have a place to go if God ever tries to flood the earth again.”
So it’s clearly in opposition to God, and God judged them by dividing the languages. This is the foundation for nations. So God wants national distinctions.
We live in a world today where people are moving toward and hope for some kind of one-world government, nations without borders—all of these ideas. And that’s all in violation of the Word of God.
In Acts 17:26, Paul says, “And He”—meaning God—“had made from one blood”—that means that there’s no basis for racial discrimination—“He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times”—so God determines the raising up and the collapsing of a nation—“their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.”
For that reason alone we should not vote for anyone who is of a liberal persuasion who is not willing to protect the borders of this nation. That means that they need to take a hard stand against illegal immigration, because that destroys the integrity of a nation.
God is the One who established the importance of nations.
So at the very core of this question we’re asking about the Christian’s responsibility as a citizen, is the fact that God ordained nations.
God ordained government, and government is not therefore inherently evil. That is one position that is out there among Christians.
There’s a pastor up in Minnesota by the name of Greg Boyd, and I’ve even heard some believers who otherwise would be fairly solid who have thought that he has some good ideas. But he doesn’t have very many good ideas. He’s very unorthodox in many of his doctrines.
The one that he is most known for is that he is one of the primary advocates of a position called “Open Theism,” which is the view that God is not really omniscient. He does not know all the knowable. He does not know everything for certain that is going to happen in the future …
… that God is actually open to the future, because for there to be real free will, anything can possibly happen; and therefore, God can’t know for sure what will happen in the future. Therefore, He is not omniscient. That is called “Open Theism,” and it was declared by the evangelical theological society earlier to be a heretical position.
He is also a strong proponent of what is known as “Christian pacifism.” He has written a book called “The Myth of a Christian Nation,” and he believes that it is wrong, it is evil, for Christians to be involved in government in any way, shape, or form, because all government is inherently evil in his view.
Now that’s not a unique position to him. John Nelson Darby, who was the founder of the theological position known as “dispensationalism” and was the first to really systematize and articulate it, felt the same way. He said it was sinful for a believer to even vote.
So this idea has a heritage within evangelicalism coming out of pietism and coming out of a view that seeks a strong separation between the believer and the world. However, I do not think those are biblically appropriate positions.
The problem with this idea that the government is evil is that they’re stating that the government in principal is evil.
In practice, it often is because the people in government are evil and corrupt and have rejected truth. But government, in principal, is not evil, and it has been established by God.
In fact, what God is demonstrating is that no government is ever going to be perfect in history until it is governed by a perfect Ruler, the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ. Only when the Messiah comes and establishes His kingdom will there be a perfect government.
Until then, there’s always the trend of government to go downhill and to become more and more corrupt and to be more and more tyrannical and more and more oppressive towards its citizens.
That is why the United States was founded. The United States and the Constitution of the U.S. were grounded upon a system of checks and balances, recognizing the principal that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and limiting power in each sphere of government.
I’m not going to give you a test and ask, what are the three branches of government?
The comedians send somebody out on the street and ask people what are the three branches of government, and they only show the worst answers, you know, y’all know that. They don’t show you the people that got it right. They just show you the ones that got it wrong.
But a lot of people don’t understand that we have three equal branches of government. We have the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch.
The judicial branch needs to learn that their job and their role constitutionally is not to legislate, which they did earlier this summer in the decision that recognized same-sex marriage. They were legislating from the bench. That’s in violation of the Constitution.
The executive branch is overriding the legislative branch a lot by these executive orders that are issued. And while there are presidents who have issued more executive orders than President Obama, the nature of those executive orders is radically different, and he has overstepped his bounds numerous times in his exercise.
But what we have is corrupt leadership in Congress that won’t take a stand against him, because they’re afraid that it will look bad in the press because the press is pretty much against them, and the press is a lot like the religious leaders at the time of Jesus.
So we read in Luke 20:22–25, as well as in the passage I looked at earlier that I had you turn to in Matthew 22:15–22, that there is this conspiracy against Jesus. They’re trying to make Him look bad, and in Matthew 22:15, it says, “the Pharisees went and plotted,” and in verse 16 it says, “they sent him their disciples.”
So the Pharisees are pictured in Matthew as being ultimately behind the whole thing.
In Luke we’re told, in Luke 20:19, the chief priests and the scribes were seeking to find a charge against Him.
Mark identifies that it’s some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, but Matthew says ultimately it’s the Pharisees. They’re trying to trick Him, so they asked Him this question about taxes, and here I have the Luke passage, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
They’re trying to trap Him here. If He answers, yes that it’s lawful, then that is going to violate their traditions, and if He says, “No, it’s not lawful,” then He’s going to be in trouble with Rome.
Jesus handles these kinds of things in such a sophisticated manner. He is really slick. So “He perceived their craftiness.”
Says, “Why do you test Me?”
And then He says, “Show Me a denarius.” —Go ahead, give Me the coin.
And He said, “Whose image is on this?”—love the way He handles this— “Whose image is on it?”
“Okay, well give to Caesar what’s Caesar’s and give to God what’s is God’s.”
Now the point I want to make in this as we look at this: Jesus is recognizing that there is a duel sphere of authority operating on the planet.
There is the secular power of human government, but there’s a higher government, which is the government of God.
All I want to point out from this passage right now is there’s this dual level of government—that human government is legitimate. It’s established by God.
Depending upon the kind of government you have in whatever national entity you have, as a citizen you have different levels of responsibilities, and you have different levels of capabilities.
If you are a citizen in the Soviet Union, or if you are a citizen in Iran, or you are a citizen in Saudi Arabia, especially if you are a Christian, you have limited options.
Legally you don’t have a lot of room to wiggle there, and you have things that you just cannot do. You have no say in the government whatsoever, and this was true in the Roman Empire.
Some people point out that, “Well, the Apostles never staged demonstrations against this or that. They didn’t try to address political issues related to slavery, so that’s an argument for being politically passive on certain issues.”
It wasn’t within the realm of their capabilities in that kind of a government. That needs to be recognized. What they could do they did.
We live in a different government in the United States. We live in a government that has delegated certain responsibilities and privileges to every citizen.
What I am saying is this:
As believers in Jesus Christ, we need to fulfill whatever responsibilities exist in terms of whatever government is over us. And we need to execute those citizenship responsibilities to the best of our abilities to glorify God. That is our responsibility as a citizen.
Jesus demonstrated that it is a responsibility of the citizen to pay taxes. I’ve heard some people, and I had a friend back in high school who later on I heard that he believed that because the income tax was inherently a violation of the Constitution—and that may be, that’s another issue—but he refused to pay income tax.
I haven’t heard anything from him since the 70s, so maybe the IRS buried him under the prison somewhere, but that is not legitimate. It is not legitimate to not pay taxes.
I’ve heard people say, “Well, you can’t pay taxes, because it’s a corrupt government,” and I’ve addressed that already. Jesus is paying taxes both to Caesar and to the temple, even though it is a corrupt government.
So Jesus is clearly recognizing the legitimacy of the role of government and government authority.
Paul does this in Romans 13 where he says, “Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.” Notice that!
The Bible clearly emphasizes the role of conscience. In fact, in other passages Paul says if you violate your conscience, even if your conscience is wrong, if you violate it, it’s a sin. The reason is because you’re setting a precedent, a biblically psychological precedent in your soul to violate the norms and standards in your soul.
Once you start rationalizing and setting a pattern to rationalize disobedience or violation of your conscience, then it becomes easier in areas where your conscience is ripe to violate. That’s what’s going on here.
Conscience is the underlying issue on all of these freedom of religion issues. The First Amendment is grounded upon recognizing a person’s right of freedom of conscience.
Now there are certain limitations the law has brought to bear on that, because you can’t just have everybody running around going, “Well, that violates my conscience!” There has to be a legitimate basis. It has to be a deeply held religious view that is recognized. It’s legitimate.
For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that it is right to pledge allegiance to the flag. They don’t believe it’s right to serve in the military. That’s been recognized that they can object to that. That’s part of their recognized, deeply held religious belief.
There are other deeply held religious beliefs. The Amish have their beliefs, but the Amish have served, like for example, in World War I and World War II as ambulance drivers and other things, but they’re not going to fight in combat. They are pacifists.
So this has also been recognized by law. There are limitations on how far and to what extent that freedom of conscience goes.
I’m just pointing out that this is recognized by the Apostle Paul. In verse 6 he says, “For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.”
Now remember the emperor at this time was that lovely man, Nero. He wasn’t as bad when Paul wrote this, but he’s worse when Peter writes the next passage.
So it says, “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”
Peter writes this same thing. Now this is the same Peter that has gone head-to-head with the Sanhedrin. They’ve arrested him. They’ve put him in prison. They’ve beaten him. This is what Peter writes. Nero’s gotten worse by this time.
Peter writes, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme.”
Notice he said, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance.” But there are exceptions! We’ll look at the exceptions in just a minute.
Paul said the same thing, “Be subject in all things.” But there are exceptions.
Peter goes on to say, “To the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.”
But remember in Acts 5:29, Peter is told by the Sanhedrin, the legitimate governing authority there in Jerusalem, that he cannot talk about Jesus, he cannot proclaim the Gospel, he said, “Sorry folks, I can’t obey you.”
See there are limitations. The sphere of authority granted to human government is always overrun by the direct commands of God, so that when human government dictates that you do something that violates what God says to do, you say, “I’m not going to do it.”
You figure out different ways to do it when you’re living in a pagan world like Daniel did, and you seek to work out a compromise.
Sometimes that compromise won’t work out because of the hardheadedness of the secular authority. In Daniel 1 the eunuch over these Jewish boys, these slaves that were brought to Babylon for their re-education, was amenable to a compromise.
Sometimes you have hardheaded governing officials who do not want to compromise, and then you just do what you need to do, and you may reap the consequences. But you do it in a gentle, gracious, kind manner.
Peter and the other Apostles answered the Sanhedrin and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men,”—when there’s a direct conflict, NOT “Well, you know, it’s not really the right principal here.”
No, that’s not what we see in Scripture. What we see in Scripture is when it’s a direct violation of a direct command of the Bible.
Not when you say, “Well, I really don’t think it’s biblical that we should have a 40% income tax rate. I mean, that violates the principal of personal responsibility.” Yes, it does, but the Bible doesn’t give a command that “thou shalt not pay more than 25% income tax.” Okay, so there’s no direct command that’s being violated there.
So as we look at this, we recognize that the Bible clearly legitimizes human government. Human government is run by human beings who are by nature sinners and corrupt and evil.
In most human governments in most of history, we have had unrighteous leaders who have operated on extremely corrupt principals.
But after the American War for Independence, our Founding Fathers got together and formed and attempted to form a more perfect government.
They wrote the laws in terms of the Constitution. And after the failed attempt of The Articles of the Confederation, and they wrote the Constitution, and then they amended it with the Bill of Rights.
The point of that amendment that I want to make is that the Constitution isn’t perfect. You may not know this, but in Mormonism, they believe that there were spirits that influenced and inhabited the writers of the Constitution so that the founding documents of America are inspired just like the Bible was inspired.
Some people listen to Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck is a Mormon. That’s his view of the Constitution; it’s inspired by God; it’s on the same level as the Bible. That’s what Mormons believe.
That’s not what we believe.
It’s just another human document, but it is one of the best, if not THE best, ever set forth in human history. It recognizes that man is basically corrupt, so it tries to project some balances on the rulers, and it puts responsibility, delegates responsibility, to the individuals.
It limits how much power the Federal Government has, and anything that the Constitution does not specifically give to the Federal Government is reserved for the states.
But within the states, it trickles down to where the emphasis is on the individual citizen. The individual citizen is supposed to be involved.
A couple of quotes I found from John Adams:
One is he says, “Human passions unbridled by morality and religion.”
Where do morality and religion come from? For the Founding Fathers, whether they were truly born-again, justified Christians or not is not the issue. Most of them operated with some loose sense of a Christian theistic world view.
They recognized that Christianity provided this moral basis that taught individual responsibility. As long as that continued, then the Constitution would work.
But once we lost the sense of individual responsibility and morality, if Christianity were to disappear, then we would lose our freedoms and the Constitution would no longer work.
He said, “Human passions unbridled by morality and religion … would break the strongest cords of our Constitution.”
Notice he’s basically saying emotionalism is going to rip apart the Constitution. We’re watching that happen in our generation, in my opinion. We’re operating on emotionalism.
It “would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.”
In a letter to Benjamin Rush, who was a doctor who was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence and who was one of the great thinkers of the founding generation, John Adams said, “Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives.”
Now I think in this context, he was talking about the founders, but that applies to every citizen. We have obligations and responsibilities as citizens to be as thoroughly involved in our government as we can.
That means we need to be knowledgeable, and very many people in this country, a lot of Christians and a lot of us at times in our lives just really … We were too busy. We were in school. We were in the military. We were having babies, raising families, and we just didn’t have time to pay attention to what was going on.
Well, we live in a time now when we can’t afford the luxury or not paying attention and not being aware.
Now when it comes to Christianity, there are some Christians who say, “Well, the believer really, really doesn’t need to be involved in the world. Okay, the world system in the Devil’s system. We don’t need to be involved.”
This is what I would call political passivism. They want to just completely withdraw, and they go to a number of passages to say this because they’re emphasizing that Scripture says we have a heavenly citizenship.
But the response to that is that it’s a dual citizenship. It’s a dual citizenship because if the heavenly citizenship replaced our earthly citizenship, then why is the Apostle Paul always playing his Roman citizenship card to get out of jail? He does that all the time. So we still have a dual citizenship.
Now in Philippians 3:20 it says, “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The word there is POLITEUMA. You recognize the first part of that. The first part POLI from POLIS, which is also where we get our word “politics.” It was a Greek word for the city. It’s a place of citizenship or emphasizes a group of citizenship or the responsibilities or obligations that we have as citizens.
We have a heavenly citizenship, and that is what Peter is talking about when he says we obey God rather than man. He’s not saying we don’t ever obey man because over in 1 Peter he says that we are to obey the governing powers in all things.
Paul clearly referred to his citizenship, for example, in Acts 16.
Now in Acts 16 the context is he’s in Philippi, and he’s been preaching the Gospel, and he cast a demon out of a slave girl. That caused a riot. So the authorities beat him with rods, and they put him into jail, into prison.
It was a small, cramped place. I’ve been there, and it wasn’t much bigger than most of our bathrooms, but the ceiling was probably lower, and they chained him in there; him and Luke, and they’re singing hymns to God.
Now what’s interesting is Philippi was a Roman colony, and so when he’s talking about Roman citizenship to the Philippians here, talking about citizenship to the Philippians, for example, in Philippians 3:20, they have a particular understanding of this, because all of those colonists in Philippi were Roman citizens.
When he got out of jail the next morning, we’re told, “So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, ‘The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace.’ But Paul said,”
One of the reasons they did that was he had already played his Roman citizenship card, and it was forbidden by law to beat a Roman citizen.
“But Paul said to them, ‘They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans,’ ”
See we haven’t even gone through the process yet. We have due process of law, and you violated that. See, he’s playing the legal card! He’s taking them to course, as it were.
“But Paul says, ‘They’ve beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now they put us out secretly? No!”
He’s not going to put up with it! Interesting. He’s not going to let the government roll over him.
“No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out.”
“So the officers then went back to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans.”
So he’s asserting his Roman citizenship. That happened several other times as well.
In Ephesians 2:19, he also uses the word in terms of citizenship. He says, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and member of the household of God.”
So we have this dual citizenship.
Now part of the responsibility of our dual citizenship as heavenly citizens is to let our heavenly values, the norms and standards of the heavenly citizenship, impact the way we live with reference to our earthly citizenship, and we are to be a blessing to those around us, and that blessing is a blessing by association.
This is emphasized in Proverbs. I want to run through about seven points here related to just some general observations of citizenship:
1. First of all, part of our blessing by association is that when the believer applies the truth of the Bible to the legislation, to the laws and the leaders of the nation, because of the righteous, all will be blessed.
This is stated in Proverbs 11:10, 11, “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices.”
See, the righteous have a responsibility to have a righteous impact on government so that all will go well. The rest of the people in the city may have wrong views, but if the righteous can impact the government and the governing of the city, then it will be good for everybody.
This is what is happening in this city with the Houston election coming up. We have a mayoral election, but one of the most significant things nationally for us is this Proposition 1.
Proposition 1, which is called the “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance,” is allegedly an ordinance that is going to forbid discrimination against anyone for race, or creed, or sexual orientation—that’s the area where it gets really fuzzy.
But the response to it is #1—federal and state law already guarantees that they should not be discriminated against.
The real difficulty in this is the way this law is written. It’s about a 36-page law. Why does it need to be so long?
It’s very ambiguous about a lot of things, which is why there’s so much controversy over it. Part of the ambiguity is that when their side says, we’re not going to allow men into a women’s restroom, what they mean by men is someone who self identifies as a male.
But what this law allows is if your self-identify at that moment is a woman, then you can go into a women’s restroom.
Now we all know that there are “trannies” and crossdressers who have been going into women’s restrooms all along, but they don’t cause problems. The concern is the criminal, the pervert that comes along and says, “Right now, I’m a woman. Can’t you tell? I’m identifying as a woman, right now, so you have to let me go in there.” Then he’s going to commit a criminal act.
There are huge holes in this law. Rejecting Proposition 1 is not rejecting equal rights. Those equal rights are already guaranteed by federal and state law. All a local law is going to do is clog—and that’s part of their purpose—is to clog city courts with court cases.
Again, it’s designed to break down the barriers in the conscience of people that homosexuality, gender confusion, is a rejection of divine authority, because you are what you are when you’re born. God assigned you either a male sex identity or a female sex identity; one or the other. It’s not a choice.
Later on in life you may say, “Well I’m something else.” But it’s just like whether you’re African-American, whether you’re Negroid, or whether you’re Indian, or whether you’re Asian. Those are absolutes. You can’t say, “Well, today, I feel black, and I’m going to be black.”
We had a case similar to this recently, where there was a person who was up in Spokane who was head of the NAACP, and she was white and claimed that she was black.
In a postmodern culture, words don’t have meanings anymore, and you can be whatever you want to be at any given time. We can’t allow this kind of thing to go on, so we have to really come out.
Christians, if you are a citizen in Houston where you vote for mayor, I know a lot of you live in Sugar Land or in Tomball or other areas where you don’t vote in the Houston city elections, but if you do, we have to get out to vote.
There’s a lot of money, probably between a million and a half and two million dollars, that has come in to support the pro side, the “for” side of this amendment, and most of that money has come from out of state. Do we as Houstonians want people from outside of Texas determining policy in the City of Houston?
People who are righteous need to voice their righteousness at the polls.
2. So the role of the believer is to promote righteousness, and we do that not only through voting—this is the second point—not only by voting but also by making our voices heard to those who are in power.
So once we elect our city council people, we need to let them know how we feel on issues facing the city council. Once they go to Austin, we need to let them know how we feel about those things. Not in an antagonistic way. That should never be how we do that, but they need to hear from us. That’s part of being a responsible citizen.
Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people.”
So we need to take a stand for moral issues. Scripture clearly teaches many times that morality impacts the economy. It impacts many other things. You can’t draw a one-to-one correlation.
God told Israel that if they disobeyed Him and became idolaters, that He would dry up the rain.
But if they worshipped Him, they’ll have their rain in season and out of season, and they will have prosperity.
Well, you can’t draw a direct-line correlation, a laboratory experiment, to demonstrate that sin causes economic collapse, but God rules in the affairs of men.
And when a nation is exhibiting and emphasizes righteousness, then God is going to bless and prosper that nation.
But when that nation is immoral and in spiritual rebellion, then God is going to bring judgment upon that nation.
3. A third point is that a righteous king or president should favor those who are wise. Those leaders who do not favor those who are wise, should be turned out of office. In order to turn somebody out of office, it may take organization effort and fund raising to do so.
Proverbs 14:35 says, “The king’s favor is toward a wise servant, but his wrath is against him who causes shame.”
That’s the way it should be, but when the king’s favor is towards the fool, then that person should be removed from power. That influence should be removed from power.
Proverbs 21:31—and that’s done legally by the way, I’m not talking about just going out and removing him in some other way, through the law and through the elections that we have.
4. The fourth point is it’s important to be prepared for physical battles, as well as for political battles, even though ultimately we believe the deliverance is from the Lord.
Proverbs 21:31 says, “The horse is prepared for the day of battle.”
That first part of that proverb says that it is legitimate to prepare militarily for the upcoming physical conflict. Be prepared. Be trained. Have your equipment up-to-date. Use the best equipment.
But ultimately it’s not dependent upon your technology. It’s not dependent upon your skill. It’s not dependent upon how prepared you are. Ultimately, the deliverance is from the Lord.
We recognize that the battle is the Lord’s, and we are to pray about all of these issues related to things politically, that ultimately it’s the Lord that delivers us, that our trust is not in man, but under the Constitution that we live. We have responsibilities as citizens to be as involved as we possibly can.
5. Fifth point is that in addressing those in power, we should always demonstrate grace, good manners, protocol, humility, and patience. We should not be inpatient, we should not be disruptive, we should not be angry, we should be kind and generous and gracious.
Proverbs 23:1, 2 says, “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you; and put a knife to your throat if you are a man given to appetite.”
In other words, be very careful when you’re in the presence of power, and don’t let yourself be carried away by all the little goodies that you might get.
Proverbs 25:15, “By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded.” –See, it takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.
“By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone.”
6. And in the sixth point: It’s the role of the believer to oppose evil.
In Psalm 97:10, “You who love the Lord, hate evil!” –That’s the command. “He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.”
Psalm 140:1 says, “Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men; preserve me from violent men.”—The believer is to oppose evil.
Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.” –This is to influence how we conduct ourselves as Christian citizens of a nation.
7. And finally, everything that we do, whether it is our work as employees, our roles as fathers and mothers, or students, or as citizens, whatever we do needs to be done to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”
So we need to think in terms of what glorifies God in terms of our government.
Citizenship involves a number of different things. We’re to be informed, first of all. We’re to be informed about the history of our nation, the history of our Constitution, and the thinking of our forefathers.
You need to read the Constitution. I won’t ask for a show of hands about how recently you’ve read the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or the Declaration of Independence. I try to do that occasionally or annually when we have different days.
One way that you can learn about it is that Hillsdale College has free courses you can sign up for on the Constitution, on the Declaration. At different times they have these courses. They’re free. There are about ten or twelve 30-minute classes, I think, in each one of these courses. You can learn a lot about our government just by doing that.
Second, basic citizenship, the minimal requirement involves obedience to the law, being a law-abiding citizen, voting, jury duty, and serving your country in the military. That’s just the basics.
But we need to go above and beyond the basics. We need to be involved in, when we’re involved in the voting process, we need to be well educated. We need to know the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates.
We should try our very best to find out when our congressman is having town hall meetings and attend them and let things be known.
When the mayor holds a town hall meeting, go. Some of you remember several years ago when they were passing this city ordinance related to taxing every property in the city for raising money to deal with the flooding.
Part of that was generated by the fact that all this neighborhood back here to the east, going back especially behind the Costco and the HEB, when all of that was put in, it changed the drainage dynamics of all this area of Spring Branch, and a lot of homes back here—and I live back there, but I’m not in the flooded area—a lot of those homes were flooded in about 2005 and again just this last May, because they didn’t properly take care of the flooding. So much concrete was put down that it just really disrupted all of the drainage in that area.
But when they passed this law, once again the mayor is passing a bad law, it was important to let our voice be heard, and so we went to these town meetings, and as a result of that—because originally this was going to apply to all non-profits, to hospitals, to churches, to any kind of 501(c)3 organization—and that got rolled back, because people got involved, and they talked about it.
And they—in fact as a result of that, Brenda Stardig who’s the city council woman for this area— really got slapped for that. They voted her out next time. She got voted back in the election after that, but guess what, she has been much better and she’s much more conservative and much more consistent since she got voted out that first time, because she didn’t want that. So that’s the kind of power that the electorate has.
We have responsibilities to be involved, to know the strength and weaknesses of the candidates, and to be able to evaluate the candidates on the basis of the five divine institutions in Scripture.
Following voting we need to get to know all of these people as best we can. We can’t do everything. Sometimes you can just focus on one area or another.
Learn the important issues and candidates, and communicate with them: e-mails, letters, call their office. Say you want to come by, just drop by, talk to their staff get to know them, let them get to know who you are, so when they hear your name, they know who you are, that you’re familiar.
That’s not always easy. I’ve been trying to do this. Of course, we’ve changed congressmen recently. I’d done this before, but that’s not always easy even to get to their staff, but that’s something we should try to do. So we need to be involved to the best we can just under the condition of being a good citizen.
Some people think this is Christian activism, and that’s really bad terminology. If you use that term, you ought to bite your tongue.
If you read the dictionary, go on-line, look at all the different things, activism is applied to anybody who writes a letter to their congressman, to somebody who goes and foments a violent demonstration or riot.
That’s a pretty broad spectrum.
I don’t’ like the term Christian activism, because it’s not defined well. And I don’t like terms that are not defined well.
What I’m talking about is responsible Christian involvement as a responsible citizen. That’s what is expected of us. We have that kind of government where we are supposed to participate.
In closing, I want to give you a little example:
This happened in 1774. At that time, the greatest evangelist, the Billy Graham of that generation, was a British man, an evangelist by the name of George Whitfield.
George Whitfield worked with the Wesley brothers. We’re going to sing a hymn—our closing hymn was written by Charles Wesley who wrote just an inordinate number of hymns.
But George Whitfield came over and had several crusades in the United States where thousands upon thousands trusted the Lord as a result of his preaching of the Gospel.
Well, he was preaching in a town near where I used to live in Norwich, Connecticut. And a young man came up to shake his hand, a young man by the name of Isaac Backus.
The main hospital in Norwich is Backus Hospital—probably named for that family. He was the heir of a family fortune, and he had been deeply moved.
He trusted Christ as a result of Whitfield’s preaching. And he was baptized, which is somewhat distinctive.
That’s why Preston City Bible Church was originally a Baptist Church. We’re going up there for the 200th anniversary, because in 1815 they started the first Baptist church in Preston.
So he was a Baptist, and he was a pastor, a church planter, and a Baptist evangelist, and as a home missionary, he made over 900 trips in colonial America covering over 68,000 miles on horseback.
He’s best known, though, as a champion of religious liberty. From the beginning of his ministry, he fought for the separation of church and state in the American colonies. When he first entered ministry, there was a tax in Connecticut and in Massachusetts for the support of the state church, the established church, which was the Congregational Church, which believed in infant baptism.
Backus refused to pay it. This is true civil disobedience. He felt like that was wrong for him to have to support a false theology, so he refused to pay it.
He didn’t lead a demonstration. He didn’t go marching on Boston or—that’s where you cross the line—but he refused to pay it, and he spent time in prison. He was released, but he continued to mount a campaign to abolish the state-supported church system.
He lobbied the representatives in the Continental Congress. He went to the Massachusetts representatives. He tried to lobby John Adams, but John Adams was a Congregationalist, so he wouldn’t listen to him, and he tried to lobby John Hancock.
He didn’t get very far. In fact, it was another 27 years after his death before there was the disestablishment of the Congregational Church in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
But that is an example. And he was just one of hundreds of members of what was called the “Black Robe Brigade.”
The pastors of America, of the colonies, are the ones that were the spiritual backbone of the American War for Independence. And if it were not for the political involvement of the pastors in the colonies, there would not have been a War for Independence, and we would not have won the War for Independence.
Pastors raised regiments out of their congregations, and led them into battle at Bunker Hill, at Valley Forge, at numerous other battles. And if it were not for the spiritual courage of those pastors to stand against tyranny, then we would not have the freedoms we have today.
With our heads bowed and our eyes closed.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word today, to reflect upon its meaning and application for us, that our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated that He was obedient to the laws of the Roman Empire, as well as those of the Sanhedrin, to the paying of taxes, and He gives for us a model and an example that we are also to be exemplary citizens. Not just doing the minimum, but we should do all to glorify You.
Father, in this nation we are faced with serious challenges. We’re faced with challenges in this coming election, and the implications of the passage of this Proposition 1 are extraordinary. The unintended consequences will reverberate throughout this country, and we pray that you will make this clear to all of the tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Christians in this community to go out and vote and to vote against this Proposition 1.
And Father in this coming presidential election, it matters not in some sense whether or not the person is saved or not, but are they operating according to the establishment principals of wisdom in the Scripture? For we know there have been Presidents who were truly saved but did not have a clue what the biblical absolutes were, and they made things worse. And there have been others who were not real straight spiritually, but they understood the establishment principals of wisdom, and they were great men in a government secular sense.
Father, we pray for us today that we recognize that all solutions are ultimately at the Cross because all problems are sin. And we pray that if anyone is listening that they would recognize the principal that we’ve stated numerous times, the truth that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and the only ultimate solution is a solution that starts at the Cross, recognizing that sin has been paid for by Jesus Christ, and the only way that we can have a solution is to believe on Him, to trust in Him, and He will give us eternal life. And that’s the beginning of the ultimate solution.
We pray if there’s anyone here that’s unsure of their salvation or uncertain of their eternal destiny, that they would take this opportunity to make that sure and certain by trusting in Christ as Savior.
We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”