MESSAGE DELIVERED: NOVEMBER 6, 2016
I thought it would be appropriate to look at this portion of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome this morning, as we prepare to observe the Lord’s Supper today, on this first Sunday of the month, because his focus is on how to conduct ourselves as citizens of this nation.
As Christians we exist as citizens of two worlds. We are citizens of the United States of America, and from Philippians 3:20, we are also citizens of Heaven; a place we have never been to, or even seen, but which we know is there, waiting for us, when we leave this world behind.
So while we are here we need to consider ourselves as Earthly citizens for now. And let me remind you that this is a nation that has been blessed by Almighty God, more than any other nation that has ever existed. We have more beauty, more room, more resources and more access to the rest of the world, all given to us by the Hand of God. The God Who first encouraged the first settlers to leave their European homes, and brave the difficult journey across the Atlantic, and come here where they would be free to worship God as they saw fit.
They left behind everything that was familiar, and comfortable, to come to a place they had never seen, but were told it existed. So in Faith they made the journey, and then thanked God when they arrived.
And now look at America. We have used up and squandered those resources, knocked down and paved over much of the beauty, and filled the spaces in between with monuments to man’s greed. And then like snarling dogs biting the Hand that fed them, we have turned around and told God that He is no longer welcome among us.
Well, the very same God that we have tried to kick out of our lives has told us in His Word that we must obey all governments, because they exist only because He has ordained that they exist.
In this life, and in this world, God has ordained four forms of authority: governments, over all citizens; churches over all believers, parents over all children, and masters, or bosses, over all employees. These authorities have been put in place to encourage and reward goodness in a world that is fallen and stained by sin. So for someone to rebel against a God-ordained government, is to rebel against God Himself, since He alone is Sovereign in the universe.
So here’s where we are now, as if you didn’t already know this: for the last umpteen months we have been bombarded by the political race to determine who will be the next president of the United States. And in two more days you will be asked to go to the polls and cast your vote, to make that determination.
And the very best part of that is; the months of adversarial campaigning will finally be over. And this has been the most contentious campaign I’ve ever been forced to witness. The candidates have spent the majority of their time, not telling me why I should vote for them, but why I should not vote for the other one. It has been the most negative example of politics I can remember.
So it seems to me that whoever is elected will not necessarily be the president we need, but the one we deserve!…since we’re told that it is God Himself that puts these governments over us. And we have this very clear command from God’s Word, to obey him or her, when they take office next January.
In the 12th chapter of Romans, in the first two verses, we’re told about the relationship we’re supposed to have with God; how we’re supposed to give our lives in serving Him; and how we’re supposed to separate ourselves from the world. We’re told to not allow what the heathens do, affect what we do. And it bothers me to read that, and then to look at what the church has turned into today.
I don’t want you to think that I only have one string on my violin, but this issue is so clear to me. The church is meant to be separate from the world, but instead it looks like the church has thrown the doors open and invited the world inside. The church of today is becoming conformed to the world, in its music, in its dress, and in its message, until there is virtually no difference between them. And the churches that do this, are becoming wildly successful, by the world’s standards!
To become “transformed by the renewing of your mind” means for you to become something that you were not, before you met the Lord. It does not means that you get to remain where and how you were! A changed life is the one sure sign that the Spirit of God has taken up residence within your heart.
So, as Christians, as “people of the Book”, as those “called out from the world”, we now have this unction from the Word of God, in these first seven verses of Romans 13, to obey our leaders, since God Himself has placed them over us. But unsaid, though implied in this, is the understanding that those leaders do not violate our duties and responsibilities as Christians.
In Acts 5:29 we are told that when the demands of man are contrary to the Commands of God, then we are to obey God instead, regardless of the consequences. But, in human society, without laws and governments, we would have anarchy. So God has instituted governments among us, and then told us that to obey them, is to respect the Authority of God Himself.
Then, in Romans 13:8-10, we are told to love our neighbors as a way of fulfilling the Laws of God. And Our Lord Jesus confirmed that, when He was asked by one of the Pharisees “What was the greatest commandment?” He answered by saying that we are “To love God with everything that is in you, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” In Matthew 22:40 He said doing those two things would fulfill all the Laws and the prophets.
But it seems the notion of ‘loving your neighbor’ has now gone about the same way as our politics, and our relationship with others has now become more like a business deal: if others are kind to me, I’ll be kind to them. But if they treat me badly, then that’s how I’m going to treat them. We have a “get even” attitude and “eye for an eye” mindset. But we were never intended to treat each other that way. Christian Love should never settle for “getting even”. Christian Love should insist on mercy as well as Justice. “Turn the other cheek” needs to be brought back into our lives as well as our vocabulary.
In Galatians 5:22 Paul told us about nine ‘things’ or ‘attitudes’ that are to be demonstrated in the lives of believers. And he called those 9 things “the FRUIT of the Spirit”. And on that list, ‘LOVE’ has first place.
In 1st Corinthians 13:13 he tells us about THREE things that “abide” forever. And he named “Faith, Hope, and Love”, and then told us that of those three things, “Love is the greatest”. But today, ‘loving your neighbor’ doesn’t seem to be a very popular thing to do. But it is still the Christian thing to do!
Then, back in Romans 13, in the balance of the chapter, Paul goes right to the heart of life today, and tells us how we should be living. In verse 12 he says it is “high time to wake out of sleep”. And to me that reflects the shoddy attitudes that have been allowed to creep into the churches lately, which has allowed worldly principles and goals to replace Godly principles and goals.
The church has been sleeping. That’s what we looked at two weeks ago, but that ‘night’ must be over. The time for waking, and for activity, is here now. I’ve told you this so many times you’re probably tired of hearing it by now, but still, I am 100% convinced that, up there in Heaven, an angel is right now polishing up a golden trumpet, and preparing to sound it. And when he does that will set off an overwhelming shout from all the other angels, and with that Jesus Himself will step out into the clouds, and call his church to Him. And we will all go HOME, to Glory!
Or, as Paul puts it, “now our Salvation is nearer than when we first believed!”. It is nearer than ever before, and about to be ACCOMPLISHED upon those who believe!
And as wonderful as that sounds, as we all rush up into the sky to finally be with Jesus, it also means the Church Age is OVER! The Age of GRACE is FINISHED! And the ability to gain access to heaven through the blood of Jesus is GONE FOREVER! And all those left behind will have to face 7 years of unimaginable terror and hardship as God pours out His Righteous Wrath on an unrepentant world.
How many people will have to face that kind of future, simply because the church didn’t warn them that it was coming? How many people will have to face that future; because YOU didn’t tell them it was coming?
It is time to “wake up” church! And by that I mean the individual members that make up the church. This ‘dark night of indifference’ to the things of God HAS to be over! It’s time for us to ‘put on the armor of light’, and restore HOLINESS to the church, which IS the physical Body of Christ, now on Earth.
In Romans 12:1-2, Paul wrote “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the Mercies of God, that you present your bodies, a living sacrifice, Holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed, by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”.
For way too long the church has been trying to re-make itself into something pleasing and valuable to the world. But it’s time now for us to wake up, and RUN back to God, crying out for forgiveness, and pleading for HIS Righteousness and Holiness…and pledging ourselves, in whatever time we have left on this world, that we will present TO this world, Jesus Christ, Crucified, Risen, and Soon, Coming Again!
And we will begin doing that this morning by observing the Lord’s Supper, and remembering the DEATH whereby we have this great salvation.