How to win the election

It has been a full year since I’ve blogged. I haven’t given it up. I just haven’t felt compelled to write on this site in a while, but that changes here. In light of the long national nightmare known as Election 2016 coming to a head this week, I preached this sermon to my church today. I pray you might find it edifying.

You can listen to it using the link or read it in blog form below.

Father, as we begin this week in which we’ll not only choose our leaders, but also honor those who have served to protect us, we thank You for our nation, our liberty, and for placing us where you have — these United States of America. Founded with an acknowledgement of the need for a biblical morality, You’ve shown grace to our imperfect union. But today, as those who name Your Son as Lord, we can also see the vestiges of that morality withering away. We know You have judged ungodly nations in the past, and our nation seems to be edging closer to the tip of Your sword. Perhaps You are piercing us already. So we plead on behalf of our nation… for grace. And if not, then graciously allow Your people, Your church, living as exiles, to keep glorifying Your through an obedient, dependent faith. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Beloved, two days before this election comes to an end, I think we can all agree we’re a long, long way from those men in Philadelphia, who signed their names and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for the cause of liberty from Great Britain. There hasn’t been much to smile about when it comes to this election, but one thing that did make me laugh was a picture of Queen Elizabeth II and message advocating that, under the circumstances, we should just give up our independence and Make Great Britain Great Again.

Obviously we’re not returning to Great Britain, but in two days, barring an election controversy or the failure of a candidate to get the required 270 vote majority in the Electoral College, we will have a new President-Elect. And while I think every election is the most important election of our lifetimes, I do sense more anxiety, even fear, about this election than probably any in my lifetime.

To that end, I don’t want to be overly political from the pulpit and I regret that many who are supposed to be ministers of the gospel sometimes seem to put politics before the gospel. One megachurch pastor appeared on a cable news channel a couple of days ago and said it was morally inexcusable not to enthusiastically vote for a particular candidate. Well, I’m not about to go there, but I do feel as your pastor, as one accountable for your souls, that it’s my responsibility to speak to the state of our union and this election, and bring the word of God to bear on it all. Because the fact of the matter is, when we do that, I know how every one of us can win this election.

So this morning is different. Instead of one text there will be several, but Psalm 146 will be home base. I just want to talk to you for a few minutes and give some principles, some things to remember as Christians… things to remember Tuesday night, which will still be true Wednesday morning.

And the first one is this… Remember, no matter what… Remember not to place your hope in leaders, elected or otherwise. Don’t place your hope in leaders. Look at Psalm 146, three and four.

Do not trust in princes,
In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
His spirit departs, he returns to the earth;
In that very day his thoughts perish.

Do not trust in princes…

There isn’t a President who’s been elected, beloved, in whom many people didn’t have high hopes. Even the Presidents we rank at the bottom today, when they came into office, had a lot of people with hopes set high.

People looked to Nixon to fulfill his promise to restore law and order… amidst the social upheaval of the 1960s. Eight years later people hoped Jimmy Carter would restore honor to the presidency after the scandal of Watergate. Then four years after that, people hoped Reagan could instill confidence in America again, at home and abroad. The point is… sometimes earthly leaders in whom we place our trust live up to our expectations. More often they don’t. And sometimes they fall far, far short — breaking promises, making mistakes, sometimes leaving political mushroom clouds in their rear.

Because mortal men, even princes, can’t be trusted. Mortal men like those who framed our Constitution knew that. They seemed to have a better grasp of human nature than the majority day. That’s why the separation of powers exists and there were significant restraints upon a federal government. Because mortal men can’t be trusted. There is no salvation to be found in them, no matter what they promise.

Israel learned this. In 1 Kings 8 they wanted a king. God as King no longer satisfied. They wanted a king like the nations, so God gave them Saul, who looked like a king was supposed to look. Israel looked to Saul with high hopes, to be who they wanted him to be. And how did that turn out?

Do not trust in princes. Even the best of them die. Their spirit departs. They return to the earth. In that very day their thoughts perish. Someone else takes their place. So you could be the biggest Hillary supporter or the conductor of the Trump Train. God help you, either way. Because do not trust in princes.

Do not trust in princes.

When you vote, and then on Wednesday after the votes are counted, don’t place your hopes in Washington, or Raleigh, or any leader. Remember… not to place your hope in leaders.

Now I know that doesn’t remove the anxiety about who will be that leader, so second… Remember… Remember God, and not the Electoral College, ultimately decrees who will be President.

Oh, we’ll cast votes. Some of you already have. We’ll vote, then electors will do their thing, and then there will be a President. But whoever it is, and however they get there, it will be who God has decreed it will be.

Daniel 2:21: “It is He [God] who changes the times and epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings.”

A few weeks ago we looked at 1 Samuel 15, in which God ripped the kingdom away from Saul — because he refused to obey God’s word. Well in chapter 16 God sent Samuel to anoint the man who would be Israel’s next king. He went to Bethlehem, to a man named Jesse, and seven of his sons passed before Samuel, some of them looking the part as much as Saul had. But none of them were the man. God had chosen the son who wasn’t there, the youngest, the one out tending sheep — David. God removed one king, Saul, and established another, David.

And He doesn’t make His decision on a whim. He isn’t moved by stump speeches or thirty-second TV spots. Robo-calls don’t influence what God has determined, nor do opinion polls. Not even fear of what the other guy might do causes God to budge.

In Isaiah 44, around 750 BC, God revealed He would use a man named Cyrus to see the city of Jerusalem rebuilt. The events of the next 200+ years didn’t change God’s mind. Cyrus the Great, the King of Persia, brought an end to the Babylonian Captivity and ordered the city rebuilt — at the end of 2 Chronicles, the beginning of Ezra.

God changes the times and epochs. God removes kings and establishes kings. Whoever our next President is — Trump, Clinton, or otherwise… whoever controls the House, the Senate, the Governor’s Mansion… God is in charge. God ultimately decrees who will be President.

So third… Remember God directs the hearts and decisions of those in power once they get there, too — for His purposes. God directs the hearts and decisions of those in power. Proverbs 21:1 this time: “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.”

Take those exiles who returned to Israel, for example. When they got back into the land they were opposed. Adversaries wrote to King Darius in Persia to try to have them stopped from rebuilding. But what happened? In Ezra 6 King Darius issued a decree allowing the Jews to continue the work of rebuilding, and their adversaries were told to leave them alone. And in Ezra 6:22 we read, “And they observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days of joy, for the LORD had caused them to rejoice, and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them to encourage them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.”

God directed the heart, the direction, of a king — for His purposes. And by the way, sometimes He does it for judgment, too — lest you think God hasn’t directed the hearts of even bad American Presidents. God’s fingerprints are all over history and the decision of history’s leaders — for His purposes. It’s true of the man who has been in the Oval Office the past seven years, nine months. It will be true of the next occupant was well. God directs the hearts and decisions of those in power, for His glory.

So now fourth… and this one is very practical… Remember to seek the best for where God has placed you… Remember to seek the best for where God has placed you. We have a responsibility before God, beloved, to do what we believe is best — what He wants us to do, for the place in which we live.

Like in Jeremiah 29. The exile had started and God had a message for the exiles. He said, “Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease.” And verse seven, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare… you will have welfare.”

In its welfare, you will have welfare.

And aren’t we exiles, too? That’s what Peter calls us in 1 Peter… Aliens… exiles. Because if you are in Christ this morning you are in this world, but not of it. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, He said. We are exiles. Thus, while we’re on this earth, we’re like those dragged off to Babylon, and we should be seeking the welfare of the city to which He has sent us. We should be seeking what is best for our town, our county, our state, our country.

And therein lies the major dilemma facing Christian voters. Not just this year, but especially this year. On the one hand there is a candidate living under suspicion for major national security violations, who also gives full throated support to America’s Holocaust. Hillary Clinton is perhaps the foremost political spokesperson for the murder of unborn children in this country, even to the point of abortion — right before birth. That… plus a number of other troubling policy positions.

On the other hand, the other major candidate in on his third wife, and while married he’s bragged about all the women he’s been with, bragged about what he can do with them, to them, any time he wants. He’s bragged even about the appearance of teenage girls. He’s been crass on a debate stage in a way I won’t repeat here. Donald Trump built his financial empire on the back of the gambling industry, which keeps the poor in poverty. He’s been rude, disrespectful, and he’s waffled on the question of abortion more times than Eggo.

So what do we do? How do we vote? What is best… for the city to which God has sent us?

Well I’m not going to tell you which circle to fill in. I take 1 Corinthians 4:6 very seriously and I don’t want to go beyond what is written. I’m not going to say you have to vote a certain way. I’ll just say this… Search the Scriptures. Pray. And do what you can live with before God, your family, and others. But inasmuch as you can, remember to seek the best for the city to which God has sent you. God told the Jews in exile… seek the welfare of the place you’ve been exiled. I believe the same applies to us. Seek the best for where you are.

So then, fifth, at the same time… we have to remember… Remember that our hope is not in America being great. Your hope is not in America being great. Acts 17:26: “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.”

As much as we love our country, beloved, we have to remember… our hope is not in this country. Our hope is not in making America great again.

Those Jews in exile were living in the midst of a powerful, prosperous culture and empire when they were in Babylon. But what did God reveal to Daniel, in chapters 10 and 11? He said Babylon would fall to the Medes and Persians, and the Medes and Persians would fall to Greece, and then the Greek Empire would be split in four, and eventually another empire would be more powerful than all of them. And indeed… that’s exactly what happened. Alexander the Great died, the Greek Empire was parceled out, and Rome eventually became more powerful than them all.

But eventually… Rome fell too, and the Spanish Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the British Empire. And we’re all naive if we think America is immune, beloved. God has determined the times and habitations of the United States of America. So if we place our hope in America, we’re bound to be disappointed.

“But hope does not disappoint,” says Paul in Romans 5:5, because true hope is not based in earthly power, but in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our hope is not in America being great.

So sixth… remember… Remember, Christian, that no matter who wins, your citizenship is in heaven. Philippians 3:20-21: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”

We sing songs of heaven, don’t we? “When We All Get to Heaven”… “I’ll Fly Away”… “In the Sweet By and By”… “What a Day That Will Be”… But how often do we fail to live in the reality of that hope? A lot… especially during anxious election seasons.

Joseph served Pharaoh and sought what was best for Egypt, knowing Canaan was the land God had promised his great-grandfather Abraham, his grandfather Isaac, and father Jacob. Daniel served while exiled in Babylon, seeking the best for the place he was, knowing that God would bring His people back to the land.

And in the same way God promised something better then to those who served Him, God promises us something better as well, an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, that will never fade away. So that no matter who wins any election, our citizenship is in heaven.

Seventh, then… Remember to live your life to the glory of God, no matter what happens to America and, in particular, to Christians… Remember to glorify God, no matter what happens to America — and to Christians.

First Peter 4:12-16: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the sake of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.”

Beloved, in the past eight years we have seen the coming of a fiery ordeal. Attacks on our religious liberties are increasing. The freedom to act in accordance with our Christian beliefs has come under fire in the name of erotic liberty, gender identity, and cultural conformity. We’ve moved past the age of “live and let live” and are increasingly living in an era of “celebrate evil… or else.” One candidate has gone so far as to say our religious views need to change.

I’m not an alarmist and I’m not trying to alarm you, but barring a significant shift from the current trajectory our nation and culture are heading down, those who follow Christ are going to be put in a position where we either have to fall in line… or face the consequences.

How will we live… how will we respond… if and when we are confronted with the decision to be faithful to Christ or to the culture? How will we respond when it affects our finances, our retirement, our standard of living? Will we follow Christ even when it threatens our freedom?

Peter was writing to those for whom these were not hypotheticals. And his message was, “No matter what. Live to the glory of God. If you suffer, don’t let it be because of your sin. Don’t let it be because you’ve been unfaithful to Christ. Suffer as a Christian. Don’t be ashamed. Glorify God.” Because if you, a believer, are purified through the fire of God’s judgment, those who don’t obey the gospel of God will have it much worse in the end.

Remember… live your life to the glory of God… no matter what happens to America.

Eighth… Remember that, in the end, the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever. That’s Revelation 11:15. I know this is related to things already said. Our citizenship is in heaven. God is going to judge. But this is what we need to remember, beloved: Jesus is Lord now, and will be Lord always. America, as great as it has been, is, or ever will be, will pale in comparison to the kingdom of God. The kingdoms of this world in all their splendor are nothing next to the reign of King Jesus. And He will never be up for re-election. His dominion will never be threatened. Jesus shall reign. We need to remember that, and live in light of that.

Ninth… and here’s a practical one. Remember, no matter who wins, we are to love one another. “By this all men will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Jesus told the twelve that knowing how much opposition they would face from the world, knowing almost all of them would die the death of a martyr. Still, they were to love one another. And we need to remember that, whether it’s Trump or Clinton. We have to love each other and we have to love others and show them the only real greatness — Jesus Christ.

And that leads me to the last one…

Tenth… Remember that no matter what happens in this election or in this country, you must repent and believe in the gospel. Donald Trump won’t make your eternity great. Hillary Clinton sure won’t. And neither will you. But Jesus will. But you must obey Him in faith. You must heed His words. You must repent and believe in the gospel. You must turn from your sins and entrust yourself to the One who died on the cross, bearing the punishment for sins, and rose on the third day, to provide full victory over sins.

Most of you know I’m not optimistic about this election. But I’m not pessimistic, either, because my hope is not in the greatness of America, but the greatness of my Savior.

You know what? One more. Psalm 146 again. Verse five.

How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.

No matter what happens Tuesday, beloved, or for the next four years, hope in the LORD God, and you’ll have already won the election.

Do not fear, beloved. Do not fear.

But study the Scriptures. Pray for wisdom. Pray for your country. Vote in accordance with godliness, in accordance with a conscience captive to the word of God. And glorify God with your life. Pledge allegiance to Christ, and even if all is not well in America, all will be well with Him. And that’s what matters. To God be the glory.

 

Author: Matt Privett

Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor.

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