Christians and Politics

It is a political year.  The presidential campaign is afoot, signs for politicians are every where, and everyone normally silent on issues has an opinion.  As I have served and ministered at churches in the Bible belt, I have noticed a disturbing trend.  Many Christians are stirred more by nationalism for our country than our passion for the kingship of Jesus.  In fact many pastors have identified that congregations are moved by the “bring back a Christian America” agenda and have customized their preaching to give the people what they want to hear.  There seems to be an over emphasis on politics and an underemphasis on evangelism.  In fact, many of us get more excited about defending conservative values in our country than faithfully proclaiming the Gospel to our friends and coworkers. In my experience, people learn very little from the content of what you are teaching, but learn a great deal from what you get excited about.  In other words, if our greatest and highest passion is the Gospel, our people will begin to adopt that same passion.  If our greatest concern and passion is an American theocracy, then our people will get passionate about the same thing.

As a result, in order to promote our dreams for Christian politics, we are tempted to create straw men of the opposition.  We create charactertures of secular philosophy that we can easily topple over in order to prove the Christian faith superior.  However, handling opposing views in this way leads to two opposite reactions among our people.

  1. An ignorant religious zeal develops that further entrenches minds in their ritualistic and tribal prison.
  2. It frustrates budding free thinkers and anti-authority individuals who desire an honest conversation with theology and culture. It isolates those who don’t fit the mold and creates enemies of faith and the church.

We must preach the truth boldly, but in such a way that engages those who think differently.  We want to teach the truth in a way that does not drive them away because of our delivery.  We want the truth of the Gospel to be controversial not the messenger.  We want our church members to think carefully and thoughtfully about the issues, not blindly follow the beliefs of people around them.  We are far too lazy thinkers.  Indeed, many of us develop our beliefs on the opinions of the masses rather than carefully examining the evidence to discern the truth.

Teaching how terrible America is and how hopeless we are leads us to desperation.  “The sky is falling” sermons give people a sense of hopelessness unless it is finished with the glorious eschatological reign of the good king, Jesus Christ.  Bad governments and immoral times ought to stir a longing within our hearts for the second advent and the monarchy of Christ.  Our highest loyalty is not to the United States of America, but to the Kingdom of God.  Our hope is not in America being restored to a Christian nation, but in Christ’s second coming.  Then all that is wrong with this world will be set right by the sovereign glorious hand of King Jesus.

 

Should We Have Altar Calls?

The great preacher Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones had the practice of not having altar calls at the end of his sermons.  Today, it is a practice that takes place almost every Sunday in many of our churches today.  The practice of altar calls is a relatively new idea in the history of Christianity.  Charles Finny began to practice them as we know them today during the 2nd great awakening.  As a result, we need to think carefully about the practice.  In his book Preaching and Preachers, Dr. Jones lists out his reasons why he never did alter calls.  I share them with you in hopes that they might challenge your thinking like they did my own.  The following are the Doctor’s arguments for not doing altar calls:

  1. It is wrong to put direct pressure on the will.
  2. Too much pressure on the will is dangerous, because in the end the man may come forward because he has been swayed by the personality of the preacher, but has not been swayed by the truth.
  3. The preaching and the Word and the call for decision should not be separate in our thinking
  4. The method of altar calls carries the implication that sinners have an inherent power of decision and of self-conversion.
  5. There is an implication here that the evangelist somehow is in a position to manipulate the Holy Spirit and His work.
  6. Alter calls tend to produce a superficial conviction of sin, if any at all.
  7. By having alter calls you are encouraging people to think that their act of going forward somehow saves them.
  8. Does it not raise the whole question of the doctrine of regeneration?

The opinionated preacher from Wales is bound to step on some of our toes.  I encourage you to buy the whole book and read it.  It is fantastic.  What do you think? Do you disagree with the Doctor on altar calls? Why?  What are the dangers of practicing altar calls?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Numb to the Gospel

For those who have been Christians for a while, our senses can begin to get dull. As we sit and listen to sermons we fail to be moved at the preaching of the Word. A lot of times we tend to blame that on the Pastor. Well he doesn't teach with enough passion, or he is not intellectual enough. Those are the excuses we come up with to explain away our calloused hearts. The sad truth is that many live their lives numb to the power of the Gospel. When a pastor clearly lays out the travesty of sin and the beauty of what Jesus has accomplished by his death on the cross, we get bored and stare at our watches. It is so strange, that in some way we think we should graduate from the Gospel. That as a mature Christian, we think we no longer need to hear the Gospel. We are not interested and not moved by its power. Well I suggest to you that your failure to be moved by God's Word has little to do with your pastor's preaching and more to do with you numb hearts. Martin Lloyd-Jones makes a bold claim in his book Preaching and Preachers: "What I am asserting is that there must of necessity be something wrong, radically wrong, with one who claims to be a Christian who does not come under the power of this glorious Gospel every time it is presented, and in whatever form".

If you fail to be moved at the power of the Gospel there might be something seriously wrong with your spiritual condition. A true Christian never tires of hearing the proclamation of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation for all who believe. The power of the Gospel doesn't decrease with Christian maturity, but rather grows in strength as we see our even increasing need for a savior.

Next time you have the privilege to listen to a Pastor who boldly and unashamedly preaches Christ, may the power of God be felt time and time again. So often in sermons we become guilty of being critics as if we judge the pastor as if we are critiquing a movie. As Martin Lloyd-Jones says:

I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him.

Don't stop being in awe of the Gospel, and thank God for all those pastors who in their feeble attempts, they make much of Christ. We are in their debt. May we have the respect and decency to stop being so critical of the messenger and hear the beauty of the message.