Friday, June 17, 2016

Living the Way Jesus Wants

God loves us. His love is immeasurable and profound. God’s love, as demonstrated on the cross, teaches us how we are to love others. The entirety of God’s Law is summed up in “love God and love people.” What does love look like, practically speaking?


Love is demonstrated in how we treat others. How we treat others flows out our character. For the first twenty years of life, parents, church leaders, teachers, and role models help to form our character. For many, those external forces can lead in the wrong direction. Ultimately, only Jesus working in our lives can produce the character necessary to love others the way God would have us to love.


Peter wrote to believers who were being transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. Their salvation gave them the capacity to choose love over hate, even in the crosshairs of persecution. Peter reminded them of the attributes of a changed life. He reminded them that believers are deeply flawed, ruined sinners who have been redeemed by God’s grace by the blood of Christ.


Here are the attributes of a changed life:


1 Peter 3:8-12  Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For

“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”


When I read this, I couldn’t help but think of the Pharisees. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day modeled rules, but could be horrible people. What Peter learned from Jesus and from watching the Pharisees is that Jesus was about changing hearts, not just changing behaviors.


Five Attributes of Christians




Unity is a powerful thing. Over the years, I have seen many things help create unity. Some of those unifying forces were good. When we began to believe God would be honored by starting a church in this community, that unity pushed us together to work hard and make that belief a reality.


Sometimes negative forces foster unity. Time and time again, I have seen people rally around those who have lost loved ones. This is especially true when the person died young. In difficult times like these, hundreds of people at funeral homes or in church parking lots, waiting to speak to the family at a funeral. The people are huddled into groups telling stories, laughing and crying. Many are working behind the scenes to support the grieving family. Tragic losses have a way of pushing people together. They remind us that we need each other.


Unity is not “sameness.” Unity is the willingness to cooperate regardless of the differences. We can disagree on how something is to be done. However, we should be able to agree on what must be done and why it should be done! We desire to honor Jesus Christ by worshiping him and making disciples. We do this to please and obey God!


The truth is that we were designed by God to live in groups and to be responsible and accountable to them. This is not a popular reality these days. For instance, in our community group, we discussed church discipline. Back in days gone by, the local church helped to shape the lives of the members. Sometimes, this meant knocking off a few rough edges. In our discussion, we decided that in our culture today, people often move on to another small group or church at the first sign of accountability or disagreement.


Many of us are achievers by nature. It's hard for hard-driving people to just “show up.” We want to accomplish something. Unity is achieved by just hanging out and being together, sometimes.  Jesus taught that if we love God, then we will love his people. Living in community is a mark of a Christian.


2. Sympathy


Sympathy is hard to show in our narcissistic world. If all we do is think about ourselves—our needs, wants and plans—we don’t make time to reflect on others. Selfishness is the easy road. Living out the words of Paul takes a lot of spiritual strength:


Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.


The word sympathy literally means “to feel for and with” a person.[1] Sympathy is more than feeling sorrow with another person; it also means sharing another person’s joy. Being sympathetic is an essential way to display love to someone. God’s Word teaches us to love one another. We do have a moral and spiritual responsibility not only to ourselves and individuals, but to groups of people and, specifically, our church.


3. A tender heart


Tenderness is something that has been lost today. Jesus displayed kindness as he loved the outcasts and had mercy on the broken. We cultivate compassion by becoming a living example of genuine concern for people.


The church is in need of what every football team has: cheerleaders. The cheerleader is there to tell everyone that the team is going to win. When people come to church with a broken heart or broken lives, they need someone to cheer them on and tell them that they are on the winning team.


4. A humble mind


It is difficult to be humble when we have been told from the day you were born that we were special. Many of us have been recognized and awarded trophies for the smallest achievements. Humility has been a challenge for most of us. John Chrysostom called it the greatest of all virtues.


Life has a way of humbling you. One 41-year-old lady remarked, “Getting a hysterectomy, becoming concerned about the younger women with whom my husband works, and overhearing my son say ‘No woman over 40 can ever be considered sexy’ all occurred in the same month. I realized I had become my mother. Now that is humbling.”[2] I listen to a custom radio station on my iPhone. I am a little offended when they choose to advertise denture products. Believe me; I have nothing against Polident. I just don’t need it yet.


Humility is more than getting older. There is a difference between being humbled and exercising humility. Humility is a deliberate Christian discipline. Many of us struggle to have the humility to admit that we are not as unique and extraordinary as we think we are. Each of us is a fallible human just like the next person. We aren’t as superhuman as we believe that we are.


One successful businessman said, “I have far exceeded my financial goals, but my financial responsibilities have also far exceeded my expectations. My aging mother, my single daughter with a child, my son in college, and the stockholders of my company, are counting on me. I feel like everyone is expecting me to be a god, and I realize that is what I am indirectly promising them.”[3]


Christians are called to put others first by being humble. Being humble-minded means being teachable. Too many have their minds already made up about a person or a situation. A teachable person gives the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to help his or her understanding. When a person is teachable, they put aside agendas and self-interest.


Humility, for many, has been the painful realization that no individual is god. I have seen this through the eyes of parents with a prodigal adult son or daughter. The mom and dad wanted to change their child’s course—from drugs, poor money decisions, relationship issues, etc. However, they couldn’t reach inside their child to override their will. Humility has helped many accept their limitations in provoking change within others.


Humility is difficult for people who don’t like to listen. This includes many of us.


5. Love for enemies


One of the most difficult teachings in God’s Word is that we must not only love people of the church or people like us, but we must love our enemies.


In Peter’s day, believers endured lots of suffering and persecution. At the time Peter wrote, it was probably a grassroots persecution. However, official persecution was coming quickly. Peter prepared them by giving them Jesus Christ’s action plan: love your enemies.


Christians can respond to evil three different ways. A Christian can return evil for good; this is the lowest level of maturity. He or she can return good for good or evil for evil; this is the natural level of maturity. Or, a Christian can return good for evil; this is Christian maturity. Returning good for evil is the Christian’s response. Jesus taught returning good for evil in the Sermon on the Mount.


Matthew 5:38-39 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”


I imagine that Peter learned to return good for evil the hard way. Peter had a difficult time keeping his temper under control. For example, he drew his sword to fight off the men who came to arrest Jesus Christ at the Garden of Gethsemane. He cut off one man’s ear! Peter learned that his calling was to do good when others treated him badly. Tradition recorded that Peter was martyred--crucified upside-down—for his faith; he felt he was unworthy to die the same way Jesus died.


These attributes remind us that Christian living is impossible without the grace of Jesus Christ. Only by Jesus living within us can we approach life with this kind of commitment. Trying to imitate these attributes without being in a relationship with God will not get you into Heaven.


The need for grace is the problem of sin, and the problem of sin cannot be solved by the efforts of man. Nothing you do can cancel out the problems of sin. Only Jesus can save you. Once he does, Jesus begins an incredible work of grace in you as you grow in your faith.


When a person truly understand what a gift health is, they try to take better care of their body. Once a person knows that a job is a blessing, they try to work hard and do their best. When a Christian understands that grace is a gift of God, they will make the choice to live the life Christ has called them to live.

[1]Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2, (Colorado Springs: Victor, 2001), 412.
[2]Gary Fenton, Good for Goodness’ Sake, (Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2006), 169.
[3]Fenton, 175.

Friday, June 10, 2016

God's Plan for Marriage

At the close of chapter 2, Peter wrote to the slaves in the churches. He encouraged them to follow the example of Jesus Christ. Eventually, the Gospel was the undoing of slavery in the Roman Empire. Before the end of slavery, Christian slaves demonstrated that a person could follow the will of God and still suffer injustice. Today, Christians are called to speak for those who have no voice.


Peter wrote to husbands and wives in chapter 3. We have more research on family and marriage available today than ever before. We have more controversy and confusion about marriage than at any other time. Christians struggle in their marriages just like everyone else.


Rick Warren said, “Christians shouldn't confuse marriage with an ultimate solution to all of their problems because instead, saying ‘I do’ will likely magnify the problems you already had as a single person.”[1]


Being a “Christian” does not guarantee marital success. What does God’s Word say to the married couple?


1. A successful marriage is rooted in following the example of Jesus.

1 Peter 3:1-2 Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

Peter spent more time addressing women than he did men. In Peter’s time, women were in an entirely new situation as Christians. Before Jesus, women were kept down. This was particularly the case in the Roman Empire. The freedom that Christ enabled brought many questions. Many of these women were married to men who were not Christians; the wives needed wisdom and direction on how to cope with this reality.

Marriage is a union. It is a physical relationship. It is a change in status—a fundamental shift in priorities and approach to life. Marriage is a deep, complex, and intimate relationship.

Ephesians 5:31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

How does a Christian succeed in marriage? In 1 Peter 3:1, “in the same way” refers to the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave of himself selflessly by bearing our sins on the cross. In the same way, the husband and wife are to live selflessly by following the example of Jesus.

For most of us, we learn by observation. Parents and grandparents love to see children learn by imitating mom and dad. When kids imitate a positive example, they become better people. However, for many, good examples were not available. Many of us did not have good role models to influence us in the family.

We can always follow the example of Jesus. The first step in following his example is to become a Christian, believing in him. When we are followers of Jesus, we spend time with him by reading the Bible and praying for guidance. This is the most important aspect of a successful marriage.

Peter reminded wives that they were to submit to their husbands. “Submit” is a military term which means “to place in rank.” God has created the world and the church with a plan for leadership. God has also created the family so that the wife is protected by the divinely ordained leadership of the husband.

Nowhere here does Peter assert that the man is superior to the woman. The best and most rewarding marriage is a marriage designed by the Creator; God’s plan for marriage is a partnership, not a dictatorship. Both male and female are created in God’s image to give glory to God. Both are of equal value before God.

A marriage ceremony is a celebration of oneness before God. Two become one. The couple makes a covenant before God to enter into a spiritual, emotional, physical, and legal union. This is why believers must always marry other believers.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

Many Christian woman and men in Peter’s time were married and then converted to Christianity. Today, many Christians are married to unbelieving spouses. Peter reminded believers that humility had a profound influence on an unbelieving spouse. He wasn’t talking about manipulation. Peter was calling for a genuine desire to serve the unbelieving husband with authenticity.

No amount of begging or preaching will convert some. This is particularly the case in the home where people are in close quarters and can see the positive and negative qualities of their spouse. Sometimes a “hard-sell” approach drives family members away. Character and compassion are the best sermons to unbelieving family members. The fruit of the Spirit are the most compelling influences.

A good marriage is more efficient for spiritual growth than any other church ministry or program. In a Christian home, we can learn to be more like Jesus. A wife can learn to be an encourager by encouraging her husband. A man can learn to serve by caring for his wife. Children can learn to thrive within the bounds of authority in the home. Kids can develop a vision for what it means to be Christian men and women by following the example of their parents.

2. A successful marriage focuses on the qualities which matter to God.

1 Peter 3:3-4 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

Peter’s word for “adornment” is the Greek word “cosmos.” This is the word from which we get our word for cosmetics. Peter referred to the Roman fascination with fashion, dress, hairstyles and makeup. Wealthy Roman women wore gold and silver adornments in their hair and expensive clothes. Interestingly, the preoccupation with style has not changed in our day.

Peter didn’t denounce fashion. He reminded men and women that glamor was artificial. Real beauty comes from within. Solomon acknowledged the fleeting quality of external beauty.

Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Now, married couples shouldn’t let themselves go. Although style and beauty aren’t everything, they do have their place. Peter’s point is that we shouldn’t major on fashion and neglect working on the inward beauty. It is possible to wear stylish clothes and wear jewelry and still honor God. After all, if we care about our spouse, we want to look and be our best for them. A gentle, quiet spirit is attractive.

3. A successful marriage demands hope and a sense of adventure.

1 Peter 3:5-6 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Peter pointed out Sarah as a good example. Sarah was a beautiful woman who supported her husband Abraham, even when it was challenging and dangerous. God called them to leave their homeland and to venture to a place that God would reveal to them. She wasn’t a perfect woman. Sarah did live with a reverence for God and respect for her husband.

In our day, we need more couples who are willing to stick together. Tony Evans said, “Rather than being married by the justice of the peace, it looks like we’ve been wedded by the secretary of war.” In our grandparent’s day, divorce was rare and couples were willing to work out their differences. Today, separation and divorce are common. Divorce is reserved as an option by many if the marriage becomes unhappy.

Some are not interested in marriage at all. They don’t like being tied down to one person. After all, why should people get married when they can live with whomever they wish and not worry about being judged? Our modern relational climate is inhospitable to God’s Word about marriage.

Marriage isn’t easy. When two people get married, they bring twenty or more years of past experiences. Each person has their own way of looking at life. The couple has to figure out roles and form values in the relationship. Often, it's hard to reconcile these differences and to make the changes necessary to create a stable relationship. However, when the two put God first, it is possible to build a marriage that is healthy and yielded to Jesus Christ.

“A wedding is a combination of discontinuity and continuity. Discontinuity speaks of a cut with the past. Continuity speaks of something that is ongoing from the past. When a couple gets married, they break a family tie prior to their wedding. It’s particularly true for the female, but normatively true for both parties as they disconnect with their mother and father as their primary point of family reference. And then they go out and begin a new household. Yet, although they disconnect with yesterday’s family ties, they continue a magnificent institution called family. It’s not the same as the one they are disconnecting from but it continues the same principle of family. God calls this connection a covenant. The word “covenant” can be seen all the way through the Bible as God’s word to explain or describe a new relationship.”[2]

4. A successful marriage enhances a person’s connection with God.

1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Husbands are to be considerate, as they live with their wives. This implies that husbands are to spend time with their wives. Many men, when confronted with the choice, choose to spend too much time away from home. Some men work too much. Others are solving other people’s problems while their own marriages are suffering. This is not good for the relationship.

Husbands are to treat their wives with respect. It is hard to pay proper respect to someone you hardly know. Ignorance can destroy a marriage. The man needs to grow in his understanding of his wife’s needs and emotions. He should learn to communicate effectively with his wife. It takes time to develop this level of communication. However, it is essential that a couple can be honest and open about their feelings so that no hidden resentment or frustrations build in the marriage.

The husband and wife are “heirs together” of the gift of life. What an incredible thought! Often, God puts two people together who balance one another out. She needs his personality and strengths. He needs her personality and strengths.

“The husband must be the ‘thermostat’ in the home, setting the emotional and spiritual temperature. The wife often is the ‘thermometer,’ letting him know what the temperature is! Both are necessary. The husband who is sensitive to his wife’s feelings will not only make her happy but will also grow himself and help his children live in a home that honors God.” Warren Wiersbe[3]

When a wife shows humility and a husband demonstrates consideration, God will develop their marriage into an incredible partnership. When either the husband or wife fails in their responsibilities, a spiritual connection is lost. Peter mentioned that the couple’s effectiveness in prayer was dependent on their efforts in following Christ together.


The most important thing in a marriage is love. Love helps us get through the tough times.


1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins.


“A husband and wife one day were fussing. They were really going at it. So the wife suggested they write down their complaints on a piece of paper and then show the other person exactly how they felt. She thought it might cut down on the bickering. The husband agreed and got the paper. She got the pencils. They both started writing.”


“They both wrote furiously for a while. The husband would pause, look at his wife, and write some more. The wife would pause, look up at her husband, and write some more. The husband paused again, looked at his wife with an even angrier look on his face and he would write some more. The wife did the same and then put her pencil down. Her husband was still writing. He looked up at her in fury and continued writing. He kept writing. Then he wrote some more. Then he wrote even more. The wife was getting furious because she had covered one side of the page and her husband was finishing the backside of his paper. He kept looking up at her and coming up with more to write. Every time he looked up, something new would come, and he’d write some more.”


The wife was in agony, crying in anger. Finally, they exchanged papers. He wrote, “I love you” on every line. Even though he was angry, he wanted her to know that he loved her.


“When she saw that much love, it covered the multitude of sins that brought up the argument in the first place. When you and I love one another like that, that kind of love can cover up a multitude of sins.”[4]


Marriage Inventory

1. Are we working together or going in different directions?

2. Are we helping each other grow in the faith?

3. Are money and external issues more important than heart issues in our home?

4. Do we  understand each other (likes and dislikes, communication style, emotions)?

5. Do we take one another for granted?

6. Is God answering our prayers?

7. Is our marriage life-giving? What needs to change to make our relationship better?

[1] (Retrieved on May 31, 2016).
[2]Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book. . ., (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2008), 201.
[3]Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Volume 2 (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2001), 411.
[4]Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book. . ., (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2008), 198-199.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Living Under Authority

Around Memorial Day, we sometimes talk about how great it is to be a citizen of this nation. Being a citizen of the United States is great! People from other countries also believe that it is great to be a citizen here. Many of those who have moved here have become “Americanized.” They have learned English and adopted the customs. Our national values have rubbed off on them.


The Bible reminds Christians that we are citizens of Heaven. Heaven’s values ought to be rubbing off onto each of us. As a matter of fact, we should be more like Heaven than we are American. We should be speaking the language and adopting the values of heaven. We should represent our homeland. We should live under the authority of our Lord and Savior!


We are a citizen of two worlds. We have a responsibility to serve God. We also have a responsibility to live under the authorities God has placed in our lives. Christians are not to possess an attitude of rebellion. We recognize that God has put authorities here to exercise judgment against those who do wrong. Peter shared this in 1 Peter, chapter 2.


1 Peter 2:13-17  Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.


1. God ordains authorities, and we must honor them.


“Be subject” is a military word meaning to arrange “in a military fashion under the commander.[1] The lines of authority have been drawn and we must recognize them. For instance, when you are on the highway, you are expected to choose a lane to drive in, though there may be other lanes to your left or right. You are expected to stay in your lane and avoid swerving into a neighboring lane. If you move out of your lane, an accident may occur.


God places authority in our lives to help us stay in our lane. We stay in our lane so that we may honor God and avoid unnecessary pain.


God is our ultimate authority. He created the universe and gave us life. Any human power is allowed by God; leaders in human government may do things that displease God. However, government, in general, is God’s way of carrying out his purposes among people. Followers of Jesus Christ are called to obey the authorities God has put in leadership for the glory of God and the good of the Kingdom. Paul understood this.


Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.


2. God is the supreme authority, and we acknowledge him above all.


Is it possible to be subject to the “institution” of leaders while objecting to certain laws? Yes. Christians are called to live in obedience to all the institutions of civil and social order. This includes the federal government, state government, the police, and judges. Only when the government tries to force a Christian to disobey God’s law explicitly stated in Scripture should a believer refuse to obey.


For example, Daniel and his three friends could not follow the king’s dietary laws because they believed those laws were against God’s instructions. Daniel and the three Israelites were not rebels; they were respectful in their disagreement.


Daniel 1:8-9 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.


Peter and the Apostles were in a similar predicament as they began to share the Gospel story. The Jewish council ordered them to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, but this was a command that Peter could not obey. Peter and the Apostles did not show disrespect to the council. They respected the institution of the council’s authority, but could not obey that particular command. The Apostles recognized Jesus’ higher power in that case. They did not hide their allegiance to Jesus Christ.


We always have to submit to the higher authority. The higher authority is always God. Recognizing this now will save you from trouble in the future.


A Navy captain was sailing and came upon a big light. He thought it was a ship coming toward him. He was the highest-ranking officer in the area. So, he got on a big bullhorn and said to the ship behind the light, “Move ten degrees south, or we’re going to crash!” It said, “I shall not move! You move ten degrees north, so you don’t crash!”

The captain was getting irritated. He said, “Don’t you know who I am? I am a captain in the United States Navy. I say, ‘You move ten degrees north so that you don’t crash!” The captain got back on the speaker and said, “Did you hear me say that I am captain in the United States Navy?” The voice came back, “Yes, but I am the lighthouse!”


God must always be the authority for the life of the believer who is living with a kingdom perspective.[2]


3. Christians are called to be citizens of two worlds.


Christians are citizens of two worlds. We have responsibilities that relate to our heavenly citizenship. Also, we have responsibilities that impact our relationship to government. For example, Christians are instructed to pay appropriate taxes and live according to the laws.


Mark 12:14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?”


Mark 12:17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” And they marveled at him.


Jesus did not want believers caught up in self-destructive revolutions. Rather, Christians are to be examples of good citizenship. The believer’s obligation to God brings with it an obligation to those God allows to be in authority. Peter developed this thought in chapter 2.


As a church, we do not believe the government has any right to control what we teach or how we minister. However, we acknowledge that the government has requirements about safety and operation that are for the good of all citizens. We should obey those laws as good citizens. There are times when we should set aside our own privileges as citizens. On the other hand, the circumstances may demand that we use our citizenship for the greater good. For example, even Paul, when he was arrested on false charges, used his citizenship to insist on a fair trial.


In Peter’s day, the believers were reminded that they must respect the “emperor.” In our form of government, we have a president. Whatever the office, believers are called upon to silence the critics of the faith by doing good. Fearing God and honoring the emperor go together since the authorities are put into place by God.


During election season, the faceoff intensifies between the political parties. Each side competes in the arena of the media and the news cycle for votes. The spin doctors and pontificates are in high swing as voters sift through the information to find truth. Posters, Facebook ads, and bumper stickers push agendas.


In the style salons, ballparks, and church foyers, people talk about what is going on in the pre-election season. People make commitments to a party or an individual or philosophy. Some try to persuade others.


As important as the face-off in the presidential election is, it does not compare to the spiritual conflict going on in our nation. Two kingdoms stand in opposition. Christians are called to be unashamed and to share the hope of the Gospel. The kingdom of the evil one stands against the truth. Each believer is to be a spokesperson for Jesus Christ. We are to persuade others that Jesus is the name above all other names. We are called to let our voices be heard. We are citizens of two worlds, but our ultimate allegiance rests with Jesus Christ.


You honor your nation best when you advance the mission of the Gospel.


I grew up in a school in which I would begin the school day saying, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” The teachers would lead us in this daily reminder of the privileges we have and the loyalties we share. I played baseball as a kid. Before sporting events, we would often sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” This was a reminder to us of our commitment to our nation. These customs were ingrained in me and helped to develop me into a citizen.


Jesus has asked us to make a pledge of our commitment to him. We are to identify with him and proclaim our loyalty to him publically. We are to make it known that we are followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus has called on us to name him as our Savior and Lord publically and to be representatives of him. We are not called to be undercover, secret-agent Christians.


For the most part, I am thankful for the authority to which I am subject to in the United States of America. I am a blessed man. I had no say with my Creator about where and when I would be born. In God’s plan, he put me here for such a time as this. I have this great freedom to preach and live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for this incredible privilege!


Why did God allow us the freedoms we have as citizens in this country? We have it for the Gospel. What good is freedom of religion if we don’t take advantage of it? We are here to shape the culture by telling the story of Jesus Christ to our neighbors. We help the weak and helpless. We stand for justice.


How do we honor our authorities? We live as ambassadors for the Kingdom. We are charged to share a message from Jesus Christ, the One who sent us out. We are to say what he told us to say. We say it lovingly. We say it gently. However, we say it boldly. Some people are not going to like it.


“When Jesus went to Zacchaeus the tax collector’s house, he no doubt incurred the wrath of those who would argue that the morality of their embezzling and defrauding for the Roman government was none of his business. But he also caused the grumbling of those who said, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner’ (Luke 19:7). They wondered what sort of ‘signal’ Jesus was sending. Jesus seems placidly unperturbed by such things. If you’re not drawing fire from both Pharisees and Sadducees, you are probably saying something other than what Jesus said. And if your message is not drawing both tax collectors (Roman collaborators) and zealots (anti-Roman insurrectionists) to repentance, you are probably speaking with a different voice than does he. Jesus wasn’t inconsistent. He saw the Roman Empire, despite all its pretensions to preeminence both in its own mind and in the mind of its opponents, as a temporary obstacle, not the defining point of his agenda. We stand and we speak, with reconciliation in view. We see, therefore, even our most passionate critic not as an argument to be vaporized but as a neighbor to be evangelized. This doesn’t mean that we back down one iota from the truth. But we proclaim the whole gospel of truth and grace, never backing down from either.” [3]

[1]John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 3255.
[2]Adapted from Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book. . . (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2008), 19.
[3]Russell Moore, Onward, (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Books, 2015), 197.