To My Graduate

graduation cap

Time sure flies! Only the summer is left before Logan joins Kristin at Auburn. Just as it did with Kristin, Logan’s leaving brings on a mix of emotions. It brings joy in seeing your child take their next and necessary steps in life. It brings sadness because you are going miss being with them as you are now. And it brings anxiety because you know the world we live in is an imperfect one and you don’t want its influence to overtake them. When Kristin left, I remember wondering if we had done enough to prepare her for her next steps. Three years later, I’m wondering the same thing about Logan. As a parent, you see the day the approaching, but before you know it, it’s here and all you want is to make sure your child is prepared to go and ready to face what’s ahead.

College comes with many challenges. There are the typical ones like time management and difficult classes. But there are other challenges as well, challenges that will test their faith in God. It’s pretty apparent that over time, these challenges have only become more difficult to withstand. Our culture fights against the Word of God at every turn and the reality is that our children will face the challenge of standing strong in the midst of the battle. It’s not that their faith hasn’t been tested before, it’s just that now you are not there to guide them in the same way you once were. As parents, we are now at a point where we have to trust like never before, and pray that our children remain committed to the things they have been taught. Below are some things I want Logan to know, things I hope will encourage him and help him to stand strong as he goes.

  1. Be firm in what you believe about God because what you believe is likely to be challenged more than ever before.
  2. Never will your temptation to stray from God’s will be greater than over these next years. Your best effort and self determination will not be enough to fight temptation. You must put on the whole armor of God. (Ephesians 6:10-20)
  3. Acceptance by our culture is never the basis of truth. The Bible is. If the Bible says it, it’s true. (John 17:17)
  4. Remember, self-worth is never based on how the world sees you, but on how the Lord sees you.
  5. No matter how difficult the battles may seem, take heart, the war has already been won! (Philippians 2:5-11)
  6. With newfound freedom it’s sometimes easy to forget who you are. Remember not only who you are, but also who God created you to be.
  7. Influence can be a good thing, but it can also be harmful. God’s Word says there are things to fill your mind with, things to run to and things to run from. Choose wisely. (1 Corinthians 15:33, Philippians 4:8, 2 Timothy 2:22)
  8. You were made to worship, both personally and corporately. Make finding a good Bible believing church a priority. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  9. Of all the books you read and study in college, the book that needs your greatest attention each day is the one written by God. Make time for it!
  10. Though I will not always be there to watch over you, take comfort in knowing your Heavenly Father will be. (Psalm 121:4)
  11. Prayer will be a powerful weapon for you to carry. Use it daily. (Philippians 4:6-7)
  12. Success in college takes discipline. Discipline is also important in your Christian life as well. There is no contradiction between practicing spiritual discipline and God’s grace. (1 Timothy 4:7)
  13. Respect all people and be kind to them, but never let anyone tell you a relationship with God comes any other way than through Jesus Christ alone. (John 14:6, Acts 4:12)
  14. Always know that as much as I love you, my love pales in comparison to how much your Heavenly Father loves you.
  15. Remember, God is faithful. Trust Him, seek Him and love Him. After all, He loved you first.

Self-Determined Apart from God

“…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:25)

When I first heard the quote, my mind immediately went to Romans 1:18-32 and quite frankly the state of our nation. Ravi Zacharias was preaching a series on Saul, Israel’s first king when he said, “When you are determined in going in a certain direction, it’s quite possible that God would step aside and second your motion”. The series was entitled A Life That Lost Its Focus. It seems hard to believe the extent to which our nation is ignoring God’s will. More and more, politicians from both parties support policies contrary to what God desires for our nation. One of our nation’s most polarizing debates is on the issue of same-sex marriage. It’s an issue in which God has spoken clearly.

Romans 1:18-32 confronts the issue of unrighteousness and the consequences that result from it. This passage may be a difficult part of Scripture, but it is a necessary part. In it, Paul spoke of judgment on the unrighteous, judgment that came because the truth about God had been perverted, the people had exchanged the truth about God for a lie. Three times in this section of Romans, Paul wrote that “God gave them up”. In essence, God seconded their motion, removed His restraining hand and allowed the unrighteous to continue in their sin only to suffer the consequences of it. This was God’s judgment.

Scripture repeatedly demonstrates the biblical principle that obedience brings blessing while disobedience brings judgment. Though we try, we can’t divide God in His attributes? We can’t elevate His mercy and grace above His holiness and righteousness. To accept one attribute as true is to accept them all as true. He is perfect in each of them.

In the book of Romans, Paul laid out the gospel in its clearest terms. He began with sin (Romans 1:18-3:20). Scripture is clear about sin, not only sexual sin, but all sin. God can’t look upon it. However, sometimes in order to not offend or hurt people’s feelings, sin is either downplayed or all together left out of the gospel presentation. When such is the case, the gospel has not been presented, just a false imitation. This doesn’t mean we should be anything less than gracious as we share the need for forgiveness of sin. We all share equally in that need.

We are at a crisis point in our nation. Our national leaders seem to have lost focus on doing God’s will on matters of public policy. For the most part, they stand for nothing. Equally unfortunate is that much of the electorate is either uninformed of this fact or simply does not care. We should. Our rights are not endowed by a president or legislature intoxicated by power, but by our Creator, and as such, we are to submit to His will. If we persist in going a way that is contrary to the will of God, there comes a point in which He will step aside, allow us to go our own way, pursue our sin and suffer the consequences as a result of it. Are we now at that place in our country? Have we lost our focus? Have you lost yours? As Christians, we believe what we do because the Bible says it. For all the noble arguments that form the basis of support for marriage being between one man and one woman, because the Bible says so is where the argument ends. Though unbelievers couldn’t care less about biblical authority, Christians must hold to it.

Thankfully for us, Paul didn’t stop at Romans 3:20, but under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, continued to write, showing us the magnificence of God’s grace through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. The “giving over” to sin and its judgment Paul spoke of in this passage was not eternal. One day His judgment will be. But today, judgment for sin is meant to drive us to seek God’s grace. And God is ready to give that grace. It comes at the cross. And it comes because of Jesus. He is our only hope! So, if you need to regain your focus, try focusing on Him.

My God is Still Colorblind

My God is colorblind. It’s not that He doesn’t know our race. God knows everything. It’s that He doesn’t care. Skin color is not His concern, hearts are. Black or white, what God sees are men and women created in His image.

A few years ago, I met a young man on a flight to Birmingham from a meeting I attended in Tampa, FL. It was during all the media hype resulting from the killing of Trayvon Martin. Reggie was black, in the military and stationed overseas. As we talked, I wondered how familiar he was with the case and what he thought about it, but I never asked. Our conversation went in a different direction, faith. Not long into the conversation I realized the blessing of getting to know Reggie. I had met a brother, not a black brother, a Christian brother. I shared this in a post entitled My God is Colorblind. Well, here we are a couple years later and just as the Trayvon Martin case brought race relations to the forefront of public discussion and media attention, the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York, have reopened the wounds. Now, I don’t profess to know the complete details of these cases nor the motives of people’s hearts, but I do know this—my God is still colorblind.   Continue reading

To the Graduate

A week from today, Kristin will officially be a high school graduate. One more summer is all that’s left before she goes off to college to begin a new chapter in her life. She has been a wonderful child and I know her time in college will be a great experience. Like most parents, I could see this day coming, but as it approaches, there are so many things running through my mind that I want her to know. Naturally, I want her to know how much Karen, Logan and I love her, how proud we are of her, and how much we will miss her being away from us. I’m sure as a parent; you share the same feelings about your graduate. As we get ready to let them go, I believe it’s normal to ask if we’ve done enough to prepare them. What more can be said that will serve to make this part of their lives as fruitful as it can be? I’m sure in all the advice I’ve given, I’ve left something out. I’m equally sure that Kristin had rather me keep some of it to myself, but there are a few more things I need to tell her. I would love to tell her that a college experience comes without any challenges. Sure, we know the typical challenges of time management, difficult classes and the usual distractions a college student faces. They’re a given. But there are other challenges as well, challenges that will test her faith in God. This is the reason for the list below. Spiritual challenges are the most important challenges that Kristin needs to be prepared for. All of our children will face these same challenges. It’s not that their faith hasn’t been tested before, it’s just that now, as a Christian parent you’re not there to guide them as you have been before. As parents, we are now at a point where we have to trust like never before and pray that they remain committed to the things they’ve been taught. With that said, here’s my list of things I’ve been thinking about and want Kristin to know. Maybe you want to share it with your graduate as well. 

  1. Be firm in what you believe about God because what you believe is likely to be challenged more than it has ever been before.
  2. With newfound freedom sometimes it’s easy to forget who you are. Remember not only who you are, but also who God created you to be.
  3. Influence can be a good thing, but it can also be harmful. God’s Word says there are things to run to and things to run from. Choose wisely.
  4. You were made to worship, both personally and corporately. Make finding a good Bible believing church a priority.
  5. Never will your temptation to stray from God’s will be greater than over these next years.
  6. It will take more than your best effort and self determination to fight against temptation. It will take the power of the Holy Spirit in you. Call on His power.
  7. Of all the books you read and study in college, the book that needs your greatest attention each day is the one written by God.
  8. Though I will not always be there to watch over you, your Heavenly Father will be (Psalm 121:4).
  9. Prayer will be a powerful weapon for you to carry. Use it daily.  
  10. Respect all people and be kind to them, but never let anyone tell you that a relationship with God comes any other way than through Jesus Christ alone (John 14:6).
  11. As much as I love you, it pales in comparison to how much your Heavenly Father loves you.
  12. Remember that God is faithful. Trust Him, seek Him and love Him. After all, He loved you first.

Is God No Longer Welcome?

I believe as Christians we should always be mindful of the manner and tone in which we proclaim the truth of God. Trusting in the sovereignty of God who works all things together for our good and His glory, I also believe we must be patient as our society generally and in some cases, our government legislatively, moves farther and farther away from its biblical roots. But patience doesn’t mean passivity or silence. Too often, Christians fail to speak up, not only on matters of faith, but also cultural and political issues that clearly contradict the will of God. Belief in God’s sovereignty doesn’t require that we be silent. If it did, why would anyone bother to share the gospel or pray? Salvation and answered prayer, after all, come as a result of God’s sovereignty.

There is no doubt that there’s a great political divide in our nation. Whoever first said that politics has become a contact sport was right. Many politicians of both political parties, instead of trying to unify us as a nation, spend a great deal of time taking shots at their opponents. Unfortunately, unity is not always possible. Last week, during a radio interview, Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) decided to “take a shot” at some in the Republican Party, specifically those he deemed “extreme” in their conservatism. He said the following, “Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that is who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.” Since then, Governor Cuomo has backed off of his comments, claiming to have been taken out of context.

It would be easy to speak to his comments solely from a political point of view. That is partly the problem as many of our nation’s leaders speak only from that view while ignoring altogether God’s will as expressed in His Word. From a political perspective, my views differ dramatically from the governor’s. As for his comment that extreme conservatives have no place in the state of New York because that’s not who New Yorker’s are, since I live in Alabama, I’ll leave that for New Yorker’s. But I do take exception about what he calls extreme; right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon and anti-gay. What I find to be true is that the liberal, progressive movement likes to treat the Bible and the Constitution for that matter, the same. They want to make it seem as if neither says what they clearly do.

As for being pro-assault-weapon, personally, I’m not overly passionate about this particular issue. I don’t even own a gun, but it is a constitutional right and I know that when citizens start giving away rights, government’s tendency is to want to take more. As to the other two other issues the governor spoke about (right-to-life, anti-gay) I am passionate. For a long time I held to a pro-choice position, a position that is just simply not biblical. In fact, many in the Republican Party who claim to be pro-life make an exception in the case of rape and incest. An exception on this basis is also unbiblical. There may be many Christians who hold this position, perhaps only because they have failed to look into the Scriptures for counsel on this issue. If you are in this category, consider God’s Word and then humbly submit to His authority. The last characterization the governor made about extreme conservatives was that they were anti-gay. The first problem is with the way he phrased it, anti-gay. That’s another things liberals like to do, mischaracterize their opponents. Now I’m not naïve; there are people of both parties who spew hate toward those with differing views. And there have certainly been cases of discrimination against gays, just as there has been discrimination against others as well, Christians included. But to believe in the biblical view of marriage as God defines it and to state that you do is not hate, intolerance, nor discrimination. Simply put, it is biblical. To truly love someone is not to condone their sin, whatever that sin may be, but instead to lovingly share with them the truth of God, the reality of Jesus and the difference He has made in our lives. To confront anyone in any other manner than a loving manner is not Christian. We are sinners saved by grace and that grace should cause us to always be gracious as we share with others.

As we profess the truths of the Bible, don’t expect an easy road. Criticism will come and people will lash out at you with a whole host of names. They may call you arrogant, self-righteous; they’ll ask you who you think you are to judge, and then they will act as if because you yourself are a sinner, you have no right to say anything at all. They do this because they love their sin. They believe that what the Old Testament defined as sin is no longer sin because of Jesus. They forget that Jesus said He came not to abolish the Law and the Prophets “but to fulfill them”. They ignore the primary reason for which He came, to save His people from their sin. As far as I can tell, Jesus never said, “Now, go and sin more”. In fact, in Romans 6:1, the apostle Paul asks rhetorically, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” He answers in verse 2, “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Lastly, don’t expect non-Christians to understand your perspective concerning these issues because they can’t (1 Corinthians 2:14). It requires the Spirit of God who imparts wisdom living inside of them. They are not in search of God’s wisdom, only their own. They may call you foolish, arrogant or extreme, but I can’t think of anything more arrogant and extreme than to disbelieve what God has said. Be encouraged though, these people are not to be feared; God is on His throne. Don’t let your imperfections mute you. Remember, Christianity is not about being perfect, but trusting in a Savior who is. Neither the Democrats nor Republicans nor any of us have all the answers. But God has them, and all His answers are right. So, cling to Him, His Word and live every day for His glory. And as you encounter those along the way who may be intolerant to your beliefs, continue to love them and pray for them knowing that our God is sovereign and that Jesus changes everything!

Letting God’s Word Speak

Certainly there are appropriate ways to say things, but ultimately, what Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty did was quote the Bible, specifically 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Jesus didn’t die to make what used to be sin, somehow, no longer sin. He took our sin upon Him to cleanse us from it and conform our wills to His. There is such a divide among people on the issue of homosexuality and same sex marriage. It makes many of our politicians cower in the corner, afraid to take a stance. It seems more and more our media and culture would like to make it seem that choosing to believe God’s Word over man’s opinion is somehow anti-gay and hateful. It’s not; to be pro-God is not anti-gay. As I listen to the firestorm created because of Phil Robertson’s comments, I’m reminded that it is really not our opinion that matters. It is about what God’s Word says. We can certainly choose not to believe it, but that doesn’t change its truth. God has spoken. The question is, are we open to hearing from Him?   

            From the beginning of the human race, God created marriage as a union between one man and one woman with Adam and Eve as our pattern to follow (Genesis 1-2). This is clear when Scripture is studied. Jesus recognized this fact in answering a question concerning divorce in Matthew 19:3-6. If God has made His moral standards regarding marriage plain, as He has, other types of relationships, such as homosexual relationships cannot be accepted as valid. Unfortunately, in our pride, we have attempted to elevate our thinking above God’s in order to change the things He has said so our sin can be seemingly more tolerable and therefore more compassionate. That’s what our postmodern world does; it denies God’s absolute truth in the name of tolerance on the false grounds of compassion. Our problem is really due to the lack of our acknowledging the Divine authority of Scripture. The unbiblical view of the marriage union is but one example of this. But God has spoken clearly on this issue and the most important words to hear are His:   

–          “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22)

–          “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)

These moral standards are not changed in the New Testament: 

–          “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.  For their women exchanged natural    relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:26-27)

–          “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

–          “Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and their mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” (1 Timothy 1:9-10)    

            Whether you or I disagree with any of these passages above has no impact on its truth. We cannot continue to presume upon God’s grace and expect His blessings. What did Paul say, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2) Some of those that Paul encountered believed that the gospel of grace gave them a license to sin. Some believe that today, but it is not true. There is a difference in knowing we are sinners who sin, and having a willful desire to live in it. Grace truly received creates a heart that aims to please God. As a country, we bow our heads and pray for God’s blessing, our national leaders end their speeches with “God bless America” and all the while, we disregard His will concerning, not just the issue of marriage, but many issues in which He has spoken. Worst of all, we do it willfully. This is sin and willful sin impacts our relationship with God and our seeking Him through prayer. Consider the following verses:   

–          “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

–          “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18)

–          “The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” (Proverbs 15:29)

–          “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.” (1 Peter 3:12)

            We don’t have to be perfect for God to answer prayer. If we did, He wouldn’t answer anyone’s. But we must realize that God searches and knows the motive of our hearts and He is not indifferent to our sin. No amount of disagreement with His Word on this issue makes it untrue. He has spoken. That leaves us with a choice, either we agree with those words or we deny them. Sharing God’s truth is never unloving. In fact, I would contend that sharing His truth in a loving way is the most loving thing we can do. The greatest expression of love, however, came at the cross, and it came because of Christ. In spite of our sin, God provided a means for our forgiveness, Jesus. Forgiveness comes only through Him. God’s power is greater than our sin and out of His love; He gave us His Son who lived a perfect life, died in our place and rose again. The power that brought Jesus from the grave is the same power that can save and keep you. And if His power can do that, it can certainly conform your thinking to what He says regarding this or any other issue. Now that’s good news.

Being the Gospel on Display

This morning I went to see my dentist for my six month checkup and cleaning. Fortunately, I won’t have to go back for another six months. Every time I go to Dr. Paul Barganier’s office, I am reminded of a particular visit about nine years ago. As I sat in his office waiting to go back, I picked up and read that day’s devotion from Oswald Chambers My Utmost for His Highest. I still remember that devotions specific relevance in my life at the time and though I certainly didn’t realize it then, I now also recognize what else God began in my life. It wasn’t long after my appointment that day that I purchased my own copy of Chamber’s devotional and began making it part of my daily reading. Up until then, my daily time with the Lord was very inconsistent. Many of Oswald Chamber’s devotions have been extremely relevant at particular moments in my life. God has used his writings to minister to me. I count his writings as a tremendous source of blessing. I made it a habit to not only to read the devotion, but also the chapter of the Bible for that particular day’s key passage.  

            This year, the theme at our church has been The Gospel on Display, about how we as Christians are to live out the effects the gospel has had on our lives. Dr. Barganier attends a different church, yet has nonetheless faithfully fulfilled the same Christian mandate, to live out the effects of the gospel, to be, the gospel on display. I have personally witnessed this on several occasions.

            God never does anything by accident. As Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest sat there on the table along with the other books and magazines, I know God drew me to that devotional on that day. I also know that this devotional has helped to further, not only my love for God, but also my love for writing devotions. I’ve thanked Dr. Barganier on several occasions for making it available in his office.  This morning, some nine years after I first read one of the devotions from it, I thanked him again and gave him a copy of my own devotional, Unveiled.

            We live in a society and culture that tells us that our faith should be private, that it’s okay to believe what you want; just keep it to yourself. That’s not true! As Christians, we are live out and share the things we profess to believe. Faith in God is not meant to be hidden away, but displayed for others to see. We never know the situations the Holy Spirit will use to further our walk with Christ or who He may use in the process. He has used many people in mine, some who may not even know it, and some who I may not have even realized He was using at the time. One of those people is my dentist, Dr. Paul Barganier, who by making this and other devotional’s available in his waiting room, not only was, but is being the gospel on display.   

In His Image: There Are No Exceptions!

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). You won’t find in this or any other passage of Scripture an exception to the fact that all humans are created in the image of God. Yet what is seemingly the case more and more is that every pro-life politician who puts forth anti-abortion legislation aimed at protecting the unborn excludes those conceived as a result of rape or incest. The latest politician is Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

               A few days ago, Senator Graham commented on a bill he introduced that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. In a statement he said, “It is time for someone to speak up on behalf of these babies”. I agree with the Senator; it is time to speak up on behalf of them, ALL of them. You see, the bill introduced makes exceptions in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother. I’m reminded of how during the campaign in 2012, there were several Republican Senate candidates who were painted as insensitive toward women because their anti-abortion stance made no exception in cases of rape or incest. Naturally, they took criticism from the Obama campaign, the pro-choice candidate, liberal politicians and the liberal media. But they also took criticism from Republicans, conservatives and the like. Governor Romney, who ran on a pro-life platform even called for one of these Senators to withdraw from the Senate race based on his view. The Romney campaign’s official pro-life position held out an exception in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother. While maybe taking the higher moral ground than the Democratic platform position, neither position was biblical.

               And so here we are again with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s proposed bill. Let me say a few things, first; I can appreciate any legislation or for that matter anything that lessens abortions. Ultimately, we should wish there be no abortions, but the fewer the better. Secondly, though a Christian position, the pro-life position is not necessarily reserved for Christians. There are those who don’t follow Christ who consider themselves pro-life. Lastly, we cannot pretend there aren’t any challenges ahead for all involved when a child is conceived in cases rape or incest. And the ethical dilemma faced when the life of the mother is at stake is heart wrenching. But this doesn’t change the biblical truth; all humans are created in the image of God. God’s care for the unborn makes no exception for time or the manner of conception. Scripture is abundantly clear on this point. We only have to consider it in our policies and personal convictions.

               As a nation, we can’t expect God’s blessings when we ignore His will. And we can’t expect those opposed to God to have any concern for the authority of Scripture. But as Christians, we also cannot afford to remain silent. Though the truth must always be stated with grace, it must be stated. As Christians, we must consider all that God has said. Many may claim that to be opposed to abortion in the case of rape or incest is a radical position. I would contend the most radical position is one that is opposed to God thinking we know better than He. A pro-life position with exceptions for rape and incest may be the view many Christians hold, but it’s not a Christian view. As believers in Jesus Christ, we must accept His authority. And we must urge and pray that our political leaders do the same. Our God is a gracious and patient God who has spoken on this issue. Let us open our hearts to His Word and here from Him.

October 31st: More than Just Halloween

Most of us associate October 31st with Halloween. But did you know that October 31st is also a very significant day in the life of the Protestant church? It is Reformation Day. It was on this day in 1517 that Martin Luther, a catholic priest nailed his Ninety-Five Theses (stated objections) to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. This began what is known in history as the Protestant Reformation. For Luther personally, it began a long period of conflict with the Roman Catholic Church. Though men before him had expressed concerns with the church, the reformation movement crystallized with Luther. The word reformation means “to form again or to revive”. In Luther’s eyes what needed reviving was the supremacy of the gospel; a right theology in which to worship, a theology centered on God. Reformation theology is built on what are called the five Solas, a Latin word meaning “alone”. They are as follows: 

  • Sola Scriptura – the church looks to the Bible alone as its ultimate authority (2 Timothy 3:16) 
  • Sola Gratia – salvation is by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) 
  • Sola Fide – salvation comes through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 1:17) 
  • Solus Christus – salvation comes in Christ alone (1 Timothy 2:5) 
  • Soli Deo Gloria – life is to be lived to the glory of God alone (1 Corinthians 10:31) 

            We would do well to see as clearly as Luther saw in his time because the supremacy of the true gospel needs reviving today as well. Appreciating and embracing the doctrines of the Reformation helps us to that end because they force our return to a right theology, a theology centered exactly where it belongs; at the cross of Christ. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36).

The Christian Response to Government

             “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21). This was Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees question about whether or not it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. The question wasn’t asked out of genuine curiosity, but only one of the Pharisees many attempts to trap Jesus. Depending on His answer, Jesus would either appear to be a traitor to Caesar or have His ministry discredited. His answer in Matthew 22:21 startled those who questioned Him. Verse 22 says when they heard Jesus’ answer, “they marveled” and went away. Former pastor and commentary writer, Kent Hughes says that with His answer in Matthew 22:21, “the Lord established the validity of human government, while at the same time set its limits”. Hughes goes on to call Romans 13:1-7 the Apostle Paul’s exposition of Jesus’ answer to this question. It’s easy depending upon party affiliation or political philosophy to only accept governmental authority when its leaders meet our approval. It’s also easy to take this passage and use it inappropriately in an attempt to make it mean what it doesn’t. So, what should the Christian response toward civil government be? How are we to conduct ourselves in light of how our government conducts itself?

            When considering Paul’s teaching in these verses, it’s important to remember that at the time he was writing, Christians in Rome were living under the authority of a less than friendly government. It is also important to remember the clarity and direct nature with which Paul wrote, not only to the Christians responsibility toward civil government, but also to God’s intended purpose for government. Christians are to honor and respect governmental authority. We are to be good citizens. God’s purpose for government is to restrain evil, promote good and to punish disobedience. I think it’s safe to say that in both instances we have failed. Christians have often used governments’ immoral and irresponsible acts as an excuse for our own less than Christian response. At least I know I have. And our government has clearly run away from its God-ordained responsibilities as well. Not only are our tax dollars spent irresponsibly, but more and more our government supports policies that are contrary to God’s standards.  

            This passage of Romans doesn’t answer all of our questions, but Scripture does tell us how we are to order our priorities as it relates to obedience. We must obey God before all else. When the apostles were told by the governing authorities not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, they responded, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). Paul also emphasized in this passage of Romans that Christians obey “for the sake of conscience” (Romans 13:5). Our conscience involves our sense of what is right and wrong, but even more our awareness that we are to do what is right. That’s why the apostles didn’t obey when they were told not to teach in the name of Christ, their consciences told them not to. God always has the final say as to what is right.  

            I mentioned above that in his commentary, Kent Hughes indicated that Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:21 not only validated the role of human government, but also set its limits. His point was that although there is a proper role for government and all are to respect its authority, government functions only under the sovereign hand of God. “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings…” (Daniel 2:20-21). We can take great comfort in understanding that every king, every ruler or dictator, every president and every member of congress, no matter their political philosophy or party is there only because God ordained they be. And they will be there only until He determines otherwise.

            In short, Christians should be our nation’s best citizens. Our respect, honor and submission to governmental authority should be above reproach, stemming from the recognition that government is a divine institution. However, this passage doesn’t require Christians to be passive toward sinful and immoral actions by our government. And it doesn’t teach blind loyalty to government. Our hope should always be that we are able to obey both God and men. However, when man’s law or command conflicts with God’s, we must choose God’s. As Scriptures makes this point, it also teaches the appropriate manner and tone in which we disobey.

            Lastly, like all institutions, sinners occupy the seats of our government and our leaders must remain objects of our prayers. These prayers should not be conditional of who they are or what political party they belong to. Jesus changes everything for those touched by His grace. We must believe in the power of prayer.           

            As Hughes concluded his commentary on this passage of Romans, he said it is only through Jesus Christ that we can live out our duty to obey as described in God’s Word, but that it is also only through Christ that we are able to fulfill our duty to disobey when it is the will of God for us to do so. Remember, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)

            Below is a prayer offered by an early church Father, Clement of Alexandria. Our nation’s leaders need these prayers today.   

“Thou, Master, hast given the power of sovereignty to them through thy excellent and inexpressible might, that we may know the glory and honour given to them by thee, and be subject to them, in nothing resisting thy will. And to them, Lord, grant health, peace, concord, firmness that they may administer the government which thou hast given them without offence. For thou, heavenly Master, king of eternity, hast given to the sons of men glory and honour and power over the things which are on the earth; do thou, O Lord, direct their counsels according to which is “good and pleasing” before thee, that they may administer with piety in peace and gentleness the power given to them by thee, and may find mercy in thine eyes.”