Please note that the first part of this article was posted yesterday and has been revised to clarify a couple of points. That which is below is the second of a two-part article.
The blogs are hot with the news and lament regarding the compromise in the Judicial Filibuster issue. Conservatives are rightly discouraged. Of course, discouraged is not the word with which all would identify. Most are simply angry and humanly speaking, we understand.
Consider this piece of typical comment from blogger Skye Puppy: "Here's what the Republicans (and the President and his judicial nominees) get: 'Votes for certain nominees.' Three of them. Janice Rogers Brown, Pricilla Owen, William Pryor. Here's what the Democrats get: (1) Henry Saad and William Myers get thrown over a cliff--make that, they get left hanging with no guarantee of ever getting an up-or-down vote. (2) Future nominees will be subject to filibuster, if the Democrats consider that there are 'extraordinary circumstances,' with each Senator using his or her discretion to decide when things are extraordinary. (3) '[W]e commit to oppose the rules changes in the 109th Congress, which we understand to be any amendment to or interpretation of the Rules of the Senate that would force a vote on a judicial nomination by means other than unanimous consent or Rule XXII.' The 'we' at the beginning of this point are the signatories, above. In other words, for the entirety of 2005 and 2006, none of these Senators who signed this deal will vote to prevent the minority party from holding judicial nominees' up-or-down votes hostage. Let's see how this balances out: The Republicans, whom the majority of American voters put into power so the President's policies and judicial nominations can get acted on, get three judicial nominees voted on. The Democrats, whose obstructionist tactics were soundly defeated at the polls this past November, get darn near everything they want, including the right to filibuster whomever they want to, and the Republicans agree to roll over and play dead. The Republicans who signed this 'deal' have, in so doing, signed their own political doom. I know I'm not alone in determining to oppose all of these Republicans in their next bid for re-election. They have _____ _____ the people who elected them for the last time."
Setbacks and indeed atrocities happen in the world every day. Christians are bound to respond appropriately to the culture in which God has placed them for the sake of His glory. That means that Christians are to be involved in the public arena. At the same time, they must remember that this world is not their home. Christians are simply passing through. Biblical balance is required when discussing issues of this nature and import so that Christians might react rightly to the culture in which we find ourselves. Yesterday, we noted that if we are to respond rightly to this culture, we must have the mindset that we are strangers to the world. Below, five other dynamics related to our mindset are set forth.
Second, if we are to react to this culture rightly, we must have the mindset that we are scattered in this world. Christians are strangers in this world. But more than that, we are strangers who are scattered. Again, Peter wrote to the pilgrims who were scattered in this world (1 Pet. 1:1). The fact that we are strangers, and the fact that we are not to be influenced by or attached to the world flows into the understanding that we are scattered in the world for a purpose. As we have said, our purpose is related to gospel advance. But, let's think about this fact for a moment.
Is God's purpose hindered when political officials disappoint us? Ultimately, is our method political anyway? In other words, are we so focused on the political that if we have a Republican setback that somehow our response is to rally the political troops? (Not to mention the fact that many of or brothers and sisters might be in the Libertarian or Constitution Party in terms of fighting the political culture war from a Christian perspective. No doubt some Christians are to be found in the Democratic Party as well. However, it is obvious they must be so for other reasons than Christian cultural engagement). Is our concern not with the gospel? Is our concern not with spiritual weaponry? No doubt we involve ourselves in the political arena. But, let us not get it out of perspective.
God has scattered us that we might be satisfied in knowing Him. Our satisfaction is not in political victory, though we rejoice in it. We are satisfied in knowing Christ. We are satisfied in knowing Him when our attachment is to Him and not to personal comfort. The call upon our lives is to find our thirst quenched by Him. Nothing else should rival Him, for He is all satisfying. Among others, there is one thing I've noticed about myself: I don't like pain or discomfort. I like to sit at home in a climate controlled atmosphere. For me, life is pretty good; diet coke is pretty good. But, I've also noticed that when I play ball, or work in the yard in the summer time, it feels really good when I come inside. That air conditioning feels so much better than it normally does. That diet coke is pure nectar. I am enjoying these things to full satisfaction. Of course, it cost me something to get that feeling, but indeed the cost was worth it as the satisfaction is so sweet. Too many of us are so comfortable that we don't even know what it means to taste and see that the Lord is good. Sometimes setbacks, including political setbacks, are necessary that we might truly find satisfaction in Christ.
We are satisfied in knowing Christ when our activity is of Him and not in and for our own amusement. The call upon our lives to fulfill the Great Commission is part of the activity we have been given in Christ. I have a friend who worships the North Carolina Tarheels. When they were marching to a National Championship a couple of months ago, he couldn't talk about anything else. He couldn't help but talk about them. In fact, he invited folk to come over and worship them with him. Do you worship the Lord Jesus Christ? If you don't ever talk about Him, you don't know what it means to worship Him. Christians love to talk about the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel of His grace.
We are scattered that we might speak of Christ where ever we go, including the public square. And, let's make sure we keep our eyes on that goal. Political victory is hollow if we are simply trying to impose our position on others. Political victory is only gained rightly if we then take the opportunity to speak of Christ and/or apply Christ to the culture in a biblical way that ensures freedom and justice for all. One of the reasons we desire conservative justices on the benches of America is so that millions of babies won't be slaughtered each year. We need them to protect the lives of people like Terri Schiavo. But, we don't need them to legislate one group's brand of morality. That kind of activism limits the freedom of each one of us, including the Christian.
God has scattered us for another reason. He has scattered us that He might be glorified among the nations. As John Piper put it, "Missions exists because worship does not." Christ came into the world and sends us into the world with His gospel that the nations might praise Him for His mercy. As we worship Him by telling others about Him, they will worship Him for His grace. We must have the mind set of scattering across our communities to spread the gospel further, not to bring folk back to our little fortress, but to constantly reach out for the sake of our King and His influence in the world. We must scatter across the world with the gospel of Christ. Only when Christ is exalted in the hearts of many will freedom and justice mean anything to the people of the Middle East or anywhere else for that matter. Human beings are oppressive by nature. Democracy is meaningless without Christ and His influence as the foundation for such. Let us spend less time advancing the American ideal that is misunderstood by the non-Western world and more time spreading Christ as the ideal. In so doing, freedom will then be understood.
Third, if we are to react to this culture rightly, we must have the mindset that we are chosen by the Father. It takes a biblical worldview to live godly in this culture and to impact it in a way that pleases God. We are different from the world because we have been called out of the world to influence the world for the sake of Jesus Christ. We must have the mindset that we are chosen from the world. Peter called those to whom he was writing the "elect, according to the foreknowledge of God (2a)." Note that Peter was speaking to Gentiles. The significance is staggering. Peter, a Jew, is calling Gentiles God's chosen people. That is mind boggling, but, that is also the gospel.
We may be scattered strangers, but we are loved, chosen, and called by the Father. This comforting truth is taught in every book of the Bible. Moreover, with regard to foreknowledge, the concept does not mean that God had information about Christ or His elect, but that Christ and His people were objects of God’s loving concern from all eternity. If the King has set His love upon you, who can separate you from that love (Rom. 8:28ff)? A reminder of these things goes a long way when the homosexual agenda is being promoted in our schools, when freedom from religion and the banning of God-talk from the public square is on the rise, and when those in whom we have placed our trust sell us out for political gain. Let us rest in Christ and not the flawed system of the American state.
Fourth, if we are to react to this culture rightly, we must have the mindset that we are sanctified by the Spirit. Peter says that the saints are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit." Peter here refers to definitive sanctification, or, a once for all act whereby a work of grace is effected in our hearts. This dynamic is not to be confused with the process of sanctification that the believer experiences throughout life as he is conformed to the image of Christ. In this act to which Peter refers, the sanctification of the Spirit, he means that Christians have been set apart by God and for God. He is now continuing to do a work of sanctification in our lives as a result of that initial act. Regardless of what happens around us or in Washington, God is at work in our lives.
Fifth, if we are to react to this culture rightly, we must have the mindset that we are cleansed by the blood. Peter says that the saints were chosen by the Father and changed by the Spirit. He now refers to Christ as the One who justifies. We have been chosen and set apart by the Spirit "for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." Obedience here is twofold.
Firstly, Peter refers to our being obedient to the faith. That is, we believe on Christ and are justified. This obedience leads to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. That dynamic is a reference to justification. As the blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat, Christ is the true mercy seat and His shed blood is that which justifies guilty sinners. The one who believes has the blood of Christ figuratively sprinkled upon him for justification. How our hearts should swell with gratitude when we think that "There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel's veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains. The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day, and there may I though vile as He, wash all my sins away. Dear dying lamb, thy precious blood shall never lose its power, 'til all the ransomed church of God be saved to sin no more. Ere since by faith I saw that stream thy flowing wounds supply, redeeming love has been my theme and shall be 'til I die." Out constant theme is not the latest political issue. Rather, our constant them regardless of the issues is the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. We can convey that message not matter what happens or where we find ourselves. Even in a closed country we have the privilege of risking everything for the sake of the redeeming love of Christ. Remember well the focus of the New Testament apostles.
The fact that God has chosen us is a tremendous comfort in the midst of a pagan, sin-sick, compromising, and persecuting world. It is the picture of a righteous king setting his love upon a woman who has lived a life of shame. He has removed her from that lifestyle, cleansed her, lavished his love upon her, and now he constantly draws her to himself with cords of love. Your eternal security does not rest in your strength, but in the love of God toward you.
Secondly, by way of implication, that obedience to the faith leads to a life of obedience in this world. We can be salt and light in a tough world knowing that we are chosen and loved by the Father, sanctified by the Spirit, and cleansed by the blood. Our message is Christ and our emotions can be reigned in by the knowledge of who we are in Christ. As our emotions are reigned in, we have greater opportunity to gain a hearing in this world of ideological debate. It's not our business to put signs in front of our churches saying "the Koran should be flushed" as did a pastor in North Carolina in response to the Newsweek debacle. That type of thing does nothing for the advancement of the gospel. While the Koran is a false book, we want an opportunity to speak to Muslims about Christ, not simply inflame them against us and thereby cost ourselves that opportunity. Let us be a thinking people bolstered by the certain knowledge that God is in control and that we simply need to rest in Him and follow His ways.
Sixth, if we are to react to this culture rightly, we must have the mindset that we are strengthened for the world. Peter says, "Grace to you and peace be multiplied." God is multiplying these things to us in the here and now. Life is tough and this culture is a tough place in which to be a Christian. Being a stranger is tough and being scattered is tough, even though we know we have been chosen by free grace. God's grace and peace carry us. We need the strength of the Lord and we need to praise Him that we have it in abundance.
Think about the fact that you are strengthened by a multiplying grace. The King doesn't need anything from you. You wouldn't worship Him if He did. He gives you everything and He does so by grace. Moreover, you are strengthened by a multiplying peace. By grace, you now have peace with God, peace with others, and peace with yourself. When you take a hot shower in the morning, do you take longer showers in the winter simply because it's cold? I do. I stand under the water until it runs out and then I'm disappointed. What a wonderful reality that the ever flowing grace of God never runs out. God gives us an endless supply of grace. At His right hand are pleasures forevermore. When the political walls are falling, God is still lavishing His grace upon us.
We must fly to Christ for this mindset, and if we do, He will quench our thirst. If He quenches our thirst, we can be salt and light in this world as we lay our lives down for Christ. At the same time, when things don't go our way in the religious or political arena for example, we don't have to fret. We don't have to feel as if civilization as we know it is falling apart. And, even if it is, the word of God stands forever, and His people are saved forever in Him. His purpose will be accomplished and we are part of it. Let us comfort and encourage one another with these words.
[Scroll Down for Part One and Note That It Has Been Revised]