* This message was adapted from, and to a degree copies, Rev. Steve Shepherd’s excellent sermon of January 22, 2009 - "A New Beginning For America".
Done with Rev. Shepherd’s permission.
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··· Where would you be if you had all the money your heart desires;
··· If you had the biggest home in the neighborhood;
··· If you always had your bathwater prepared for you;
··· And if you had perfect kids?
You would hope for all of these things, but the truth of the matter is you would be in the wrong house! Nobody has everything they want or hope for in this world.
I think the above thoughts could apply to the new administration in America, too. This past election, more than any other I can ever remember, was driven on hope. It had little to do with experience, as President Obama has little experience. It had nothing to do with ideology, as America has been split in two along ideological lines. No, this particular election was driven almost entirely by hope; the hope that things can and will get better under new management.
I heard on the news that there are actually some people in America who now believe they won’t have to pay any future taxes and that their rent and mortgage payments will be paid by the government. I know that we all hope for a better tomorrow, but I seriously doubt that our tomorrows are going to include the government paying our bills for us – while we don’t.
We all hope for a better America; an America with an improved economy and lower unemployment rates. We all hope for peace in the world; and for leaders who will do the right thing for the people’s sakes, not for some political party’s sake. We cannot put all our hopes on a single leader.
America is under a new leader. Some are glad, some are sad. But before we react too swiftly with our personal feelings, let’s see what God has to say about how we react towards our nation’s leaders.
1 PETER 2:13 gives us a command; it is not a suggestion.
‘Submit yourselves (for the Lord’s sake) to every authority instituted among men ...’
In verse 17, it follow that up by saying,
‘Show proper respect to everyone; and love the brotherhood of believers ...’
Let me take a moment and explain these two sentences. We are to submit to our leaders, not for our sakes, but for the Lord’s sake. We are not told to submit to them only if we agree with them or like them. We are to be submissive to our new leaders – period.
And we are to show respect to everyone; again, not just those we happen to agree with. God is saying that if we are Christians, we MUST show Christian attitudes in what we say about people and how we react to them, especially our leaders.
And when someone else of our faith disagrees with us, we MUST show the love for them that Christ wants us to show, and not get all angry at them for their attitudes or opinions. For if they say something to us of an unseemly nature and we react with anger or frustration, do we not sink lower in the woodpile then they?
Jesus told us to not worry about the speck in somebody else’s eye when we have a whole log in our own eyes. In other words, if someone else acts wrongly, we are not to react with anything but love, for to do that would be to forget about our faults and rail against them for their faults.
Here is a good example of how we are to respect the authority over us in all situations. King Saul was out to kill David, and David knew this. King Saul and his army tracked David down to the mountains. While there, the king went into a cave to go to the bathroom. David happened to be hiding in that same cave.
David got so close to the king that he took his knife and cut a piece of the king’s robe off. Then, when the king had gone back outside, David stood on the hill and yelled at him, showing him the piece of robe he had severed.
David certainly did not like Saul at that point in time, and would have had every right, according to man’s reasoning’s, to kill Saul. But he never because he knew that God had installed him as king and to go against Saul was to go against God. David respected Saul as king, even though he disagreed with everything he was doing.
Barack Obama is our new president. It is alright for you to disagree with his stance on things. It is not okay for you to be disrespectful to him or bad-mouth him.
Let me share a little of President Obama’s inaugural address.
‘America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.’
‘On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. We come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.’
For the most part, President Obama was optimistic in his speech. And well, he should be. You cannot build anything a positive when you start with a negative. And there are still many positive things going on in America.
But we need to think about what WE can do to help build a better America or make a new beginning for America. Government by itself is not the answer, nor is a new President, no matter which party he might belong to. We still need God’s help and God’s blessing if America is to get better or have a new beginning.
The apostle Paul gives us some specific things we can do to help America be better.
··· We must pray
··· We must live righteously
··· We must tell others about Jesus
1. WE MUST PRAY
A teacher went into her classroom about fifteen minutes before the class was supposed to begin and caught a bunch of boys in a huddle on their knees in the corner of the room. She asked what they were doing, and one of them shouted back, ‘We are shooting dice.’ She replied, ‘Thank goodness! There for a minute, I thought you were praying.’
This is a part of the sadness of America. People often huddle together in America, but it is not for prayer. They are generally huddled together to play something, to attend something, or to watch something, but seldom to pay any attention to God.
But remember what we are told to do in Scripture; we are told to pray.
2 CHRONICLES 7:14 reiterates the call for, and the need for prayer.
‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.’
When anything of major importance happens in America, we the people, instantly start taking sides. Of course, one side has to be FOR it and then that leaves the other side AGAINST it. We need to just relax and start trusting in the Lord to do His job of leading us, and stop trying to control everything ourselves.
PHILIPPIANS 4:6-7 explains how we are to act. [New Life Bible]
‘Do not worry. Learn to pray about everything. Give thanks to God as you ask Him for what you need. The peace of God is much greater than the human mind can understand. This peace will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.’
Did you know that the devil doesn’t care if you go to church? He doesn’t even care how busy you are in church. The one thing he does care about is that you don’t ever have time to really pray. Someone once wrote that the devil can relax when you are busy for the Lord, but will shake in his boots anytime a Christian goes into prayer.
Charles Spurgeon said, he would much rather teach one man to pray than to teach ten men to preach.
Today’s church does not need new techniques in presenting God’s word; it does not need impressive buildings; nor does it need entertaining sermons. What today’s church needs, for American’s sakes, is honest and sincere prayer. The Holy Spirit cannot flow through techniques, buildings, or entertainment. He does His work when Christians go to God and ask for help, and then depend on God to give that help.
We must be real people of honest prayer. We must pray. We must pray for our military, our families, our friends, those we don’t know, our church leaders, and we must pray for our nation’s new leaders.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:17 tells us when to pray.
‘Pray without stopping.’
Pray at home, at church, while driving your car, and pray even while we do the laundry. In other words, do as the Bible tells us; never stop praying.
Just why is it so important that we stay focused so much on prayer? We must do it to effect a Godly change in our lives. There is an old saying that says, ‘Nothing happens until real Christians go into prayer to make them happen.’
JAMES 5:16 tells us why this happens.
‘The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.’
So, according to the Apostle Paul, we must pray. He also says we must;
2. LIVE RIGHTEOUSLY
Our instinct is to have those things in our lives that we desire. But our problem is that we tend to pursue them before we pursue God. When we pursue God first, He puts Godly desires in our hearts to replace those desires we had when we walked without Him.
In MATTHEW 6:33, we are told the importance of pursuing God first.
‘Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and then all other things will be given to you as well.’
When we pursue God in our lives first, we end up living right (or righteous) lifestyle. And that is what God wants and expects of His children; to live righteously for His name’s sake.
Now, we can all put our best foot forward and appear to be righteous in church, can’t we? But I think God is more interested in how we live ALL of our lives, not just while we are in church. And part of living our lives for God, is to do what He tells us to do;
Things like; obeying and being submissive to our leaders, whomever they might be.
Let me remind you what it says in TITUS 3:1-2
‘Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.’
Do we always show true humility to others? Or do we lavish our graciousness on those who think like we do, and then heap our scorn on those who think differently than we do?
I PETER 2:12 gives us guidelines in how we must live.
‘When you are around people who do not know God, be careful how you act. Even if they talk against you as wrong-doers, in the end they will give thanks to God for your good works when Christ comes again.’
Today, our society is too focused on condemning other people; specifically those who do not agree with what we think. We not only see this in the political arena, but we see this played out in every day lives of people, too.
But Jesus said he did not come to condemn but to save. He will condemn when He comes back as the judge. He loved everyone enough to offer them salvation. And if Jesus did not come to condemn others, why do we spend so much time and energy doing it? Wouldn’t a more Godly, and righteous, approach be to care enough about them to pray for them?
Two women were riding on a train. They began to argue over the window. They called the conductor and one of them said, ‘If this window stays open, I will catch a cold and die.’ The other woman said, ‘If this window is closed, I will suffocate.’ And then they glared at each other in absolute disgust.
Finally, the conductor didn’t know what to do so he asked a man who was sitting nearby. The man said, ‘The perfect solution would be to first, open the window and the one will die. Then close the window and the other will die. And then maybe we can get some peace around here.’
That might be the way we tend to act much of the time, but it is not the way the Lord wants us to react. Even in the face of stiff opposition, we are to be thoughtful and considerate of others. We should be different from the people of the world. We are called to be a shining example of love and kindness.
Now we know that, to receive the kingdom of Heaven, we must pray and we must strive to live righteously. But there is something else we are called to do:
3. WE MUST EVANGELIZE FERVENTLY
Even as Christians, we tend to be disobedient to our Lord. We pick and choose which parts of the Bible we will adhere to, and which parts we will disregard. And then we do something uniquely human: We come up with some kind of justification that keeps us okay with our disobedience.
In MATTHEW 28:19, Jesus gave His final earthly command.
‘Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’
What part of ‘GO AND TELL’ do we not understand? Yet, how many of us have ever gone out of our way to share Jesus with anyone in our lives? Most Christians don’t even bother going out and trying to get people to go worship with them in their church. We are more afraid of upsetting people around us than we are with upsetting Jesus by being disobedient.
Remember this: ‘Nature forms us. Sin deforms us. Education informs us. But it is only faith in Jesus that transforms us.’
Last Thursday evening, we held our first mid-week service here at CrossRoads. The message I delivered was about telling others. I asked one question that should rock the heart of every Christian alive. That question was: ‘If we don’t tell them, who will?’ The answer, naturally, is; ‘Nobody will.’
Dwight Moody, the anointed preacher of many years ago had a well-to-do lady in his congregation take him to task on the need to evangelize. He simply told her that he thought God liked his way of doing it better than He liked her way of not doing it.
The sad truth is, most Christians almost refuse to tell others about Jesus on a regular basis, and most Christians act in very ungodly ways when it comes to people we disagree with. My dad told me something when I was a young boy and had just got in a big argument with my brother.
He said that Christians learn how to disagree without becoming disagreeable. I will admit it took me a number of years to realize what he was telling me, but it is true, and I think we Christians need to take a long and serious look at that today.
Many people disliked President Bush. Many people dislike President Obama. And they let their disrespect come out in the form of jokes, emails, and just plain ungodly feelings. I have news for both sides: God says be submissive and be respectful. He does not qualify that by saying you must first like them or agree with them. God did not say that we can show disrespect under the guise of humor. He simply said to be respectful and submit to every authority He has placed over us.
If it were God’s decision to put President Bush over this nation for a season, and it was His decision to put President Obama over this nation for a season, why do we think we can mimic or mock those decisions?
Let me caution each of us that we have to be very careful on the type of things we tell people or the emails we send them. While at first glance, they might appear humorous; they can hurt others or anger them. And if we do something that that makes someone else sin in their anger, we will be held accountable for that. And I think none of us wants to be held accountable for anything more in our lives than we already are. Let us be more careful on what we say or send.
One Sunday as they drove home from church, a little girl said to her mother that the preacher said something she didn’t understand. She said the preacher said that God was so big He held the entire world in His hand. The mother said that was true.
Then the little girl told her mother that the preacher also said God lives on the inside of us. The mother said that was true, too. Then the girl said, ‘If God is bigger than us, and He lives in us, wouldn’t He show through us?’
Let me ask you the same question: ‘If God is bigger than us, and He lives in us, shouldn’t He show through us?’
Last week, I said that God is a consuming fire. If He is burning on the inside of us, then that fire will spread to the outside and to those around us. We must constantly look for opportunities to give witness for the Lord. And we do that by telling others about Jesus, and we do that by showing that we hold no animosity towards others, and that we live Godly and prayerful lives for the benefits of others – even those we do not agree with.
I began this message by talking about how our nation is under new management. It may, or may not be, the management you like. But it is the management that God allowed to be in charge. And we are under a mandate from God to be submissive to it and to be respectful of it.
America is far from being what she once was or what she should be today. And far too many people have the wrong attitude about America.
··· Some question why she became so evil and corrupt.
··· Others ask who let America become this way.
··· Still others only care about getting as much as possible from her.
··· But there are a few who ask, ‘What can I do to make America better?’
And, of course, the answer is: You can make America better by living a life that reflects the clear image of the Lord to others around you, both in what you say and in what you do.
Here is something else you can do to make things better. If you agree with our new President, then pray for His Godly success. If you disagree with him, pray for his Godly success.
Pray. Live a righteous life unto the Lord. Evangelize the coming of Jesus to others around you without fear of upsetting them.
The last point I want to make this morning, and the most important is a repeat of what I preached about last Sunday. We need to do all these things I mentioned today, but to do those, we need one thing; we need that very personal and intimate friendship with Jesus Christ.
Do you have that close of relationship with Him this morning? If not, you are being given an opportunity right now to get it. Will it be your choice to walk to Him, or to put it off until some time in the future? The decision is yours to make.