Why Not Try This? …Preach a Sermon Series on Government, Elections and Liberty

The political season was in full swing when I decided to preach a series titled “A Believers Guide to Government, Elections and Liberty.”

I stood to preach the first sermon–

“God is NOT a Democrat” I stated with conviction. Amens were heard amidst sighs of relief throughout the affluent, predominantly Caucasian congregation.

“And God is NOT a Republican” I said. There were a few quizzical looks on some of the faces as I allowed the thought to sink in.

“God is God, and He resists being put into any political box of human devising. When Jesus walked here on earth the political parties of His day kept trying to discover if He was more of a Pharisee or a Sadducee, a conservative or a liberal. Ultimately the leaders of both parties united to put to death Jesus Christ because He didn’t match their political platform.”

This was the introduction to my three-part series (see additional notes at the end of this article)–

  • Daniel and the Government (Scripture Reading- Daniel 2:20-22, 37-44)
  • Paul and the Government (Scripture Reading- Romans 13:1-7)
  • Jesus and His Government (Scripture Reading- Matthew 26:47-56)

A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting with Barry Black, Chaplain of the United States Senate and a Seventh-day Adventist pastor. We met his staff, enjoyed the view of the National Mall out the third floor window and listened as he told of his ministry to one of the most powerful groups of people in the world.

He told us he leads four Bible Study groups each week- one for Senators, one for their spouses, one for the hundreds of staffers and another for anyone who wants to come. “It would not be politically correct to tell you which group is the most Biblically illiterate” he told us. He went on to say “You have no idea of what is really happening behind all the political posturing you see on the floor of the Senate and in the media. Just last week a prominent Senator came to my office and asked to speak with me privately. After the door was shut the Senator said ‘Quick. Can you teach me how to pray. I’ve never learned how and I need to know desperately now.'”

He seemed somewhat embarrassed when we noticed a picture of Chaplain Black with two US Presidents. “My staff found those and put them up but I really need to take them down. I can’t really imagine Daniel having a picture in his office of him standing next to Nebuchadnezzar!”

Our visit to Chaplain Black reminded us that we are to pray for all our political leaders, regardless of whether we voted for them or not. All of them need Jesus every day, whether they know it or not. And all of them need to make decisions that will allow for freedom of conscience in our nation as long as possible.

We will not always agree with the decisions that they make. Years ago President Abraham Lincoln recognized this when he tried to explain to the nation how he was dealing with the slavery issue. In an 1860 speech Lincoln compared slavery to a venomous snake. One would have the right to kill it with a stick in the road, he said. But perhaps one would not have the same right to kill it if found in a bed where children were sleeping, because “I might hurt the children more than the snake,” which is why slavery could continue for a while in the South, but not in the territories, according to his thinking. “But if there is a bed newly made up, to which the children were to be taken, and it was proposed to take a batch of young snakes and put them there with them, I take it no man would say there was any question how I ought to decide.” (Discussed in “Integrity” by Stephen L. Carter, p. 46) Obviously not everyone agreed with Lincoln’s reasoning, and that is why we had the Civil War. But during that war Lincoln had a conversion experience after the death of his son which greatly impacted his, and the nation’s, future. (For the story of Lincoln’s conversion see “Powerful Passages” by Ron and Dorothy Watts, p.19-23)

As spiritual leaders we have a higher agenda than immediate political platforms and politicians. It is so essential that we not lose our focus on taking the Adventist message to all the world, that God provided this startling counsel to our early church and school leaders. “Those teachers in the church or in the school who distinguish themselves by their zeal in politics, should be relieved of their work and responsibilities without delay; for the Lord will not co-operate with them. The tithe should not be used to pay any one for speechifying on political questions. Every teacher, minister, or leader in our ranks who is stirred with a desire to ventilate his opinions on political questions, should be converted by a belief in the truth, or give up his work. His influence must tell as a laborer together with God in winning souls to Christ, or his credentials must be taken from him. If he does not change, he will do harm, and only harm. . . . ” {Gospel Workers p. 393.1}

In countries where citizens have the opportunity to vote it is important for believers to vote in a way that will promote freedom of conscience. From our Adventist understanding of outline and time prophecies we can see the dangers of a union of church and state. “The union of the church with the state, be the degree never so slight, while it may appear to bring the world nearer to the church, does in reality but bring the church nearer to the world.” {The Great Controversy p. 297.1} History and prophecy show that while the state at first has the upper hand (Daniel 7- the Little horn grows out of the 4th Beast, Rome) at the end of time the fallen church will control the state (Revelation 17- The immoral woman/church rides/controls the beast/government power).

Another cause we should consider when voting is the the cause of temperance. When we have an influence on legislation that relates to temperance issues, or a political candidate demonstrates he is under the influence of the alcohol and/or the tobacco industry we should remember this inspired counsel. “In our favored land, every voter has some voice in determining what laws shall control the nation. Should not that influence and that vote be cast on the side of temperance and virtue? . . .” {Gospel Workers p. 387.1}

Even in countries where Adventist believers have little voice or vote God can use their Christlike attitude to accomplish His purposes. (See “A powerful lesson from the history of Adventist work in Iraq”)

We live in a time of rapidly fulfilling prophecies, and as spiritual leaders we need to help our people and our communities see clearly what the Bible says about government and liberty. There will be a pull on one side to see particular politicians, parties or platforms as the solution to society’s ills, and a pull from the other side to disengage from any involvement in the government. Without getting caught up in all the hoopla, or taking sides, you can give wise, biblical counsel that will help your congregation(s) and communities make Godly decisions as they pray for God’s work to go forward mightily. A balanced, biblical sermon series by you and your elders could help immensely.

Blessings to you,

Dan Serns

Related Articles and Resources–

Main Points from “A Believers Guide to Government, Elections and Liberty” sermon series

(For illustrations see above article and “Related Articles and Resources”)–

  • Daniel and the Government (Scripture Reading- Daniel 2:20-22, 37-44) (Babylon)
    • Your loyalty to God’s covenant people, even if they have sinned greatly, should be much stronger than any your loyalty to any political party or cause. Daniel 1:1; 9:3,4
    • Believers can play a positive role, even in a pagan society and nation. Daniel 2:47-49; 1:19-21
      • Some believers can and should run for public office (5T 339)
      • As believers we should vote our conscience, not party line (FE 475; GW 387; 2SM 336-7)
    • It’s wrong to think that the right party or piece of legislation is the ultimate answer. Daniel 3:6, 11; 4:36, 37
    • The Lord is in control and His dominion will bring to an end all the political systems of mankind. Daniel 2:37-44
  • Paul and the Government (Scripture Reading- Romans 13:1-7) (Rome, the new Babylon)
    • Paul appealed to believers to respect the government and laws. Roman 13:5-6
    • Paul appealed to government leaders for the protection they were supposed to guarantee. Sometimes this was effective and sometimes it wasn’t. Acts 16:35-40; 18:12-17; 19:23-41; 22:25-29
    • Paul appealed to believers to use the church, not the court system, to settle differences between each other. 1 Corinthians 6:1-7
    • Paul appealed to government leaders to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Acts 24-26
  • Jesus and His Government (Scripture Reading- Matthew 26:47-56) (Jesus’ Kingdom, which will replace all kingdoms which have tried to usurp its authority)
    • Jesus was a conscientious objector. Matthew 26:52
    • Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world. Matthew 26:53
    • We should encourage separation of church and state as long as possible. John 18:31; Matthew 22:21; Revelation 13:15, 17; Matthew 26:63; Revelation 19:11-16
    • Jesus never asked us to fight for Him, but to be willing to die for Him rather than be unfaithful. Matthew 26:51-53; Matthew 20:22-28
    • Someday soon the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord, and He shall reign forever and ever. Revelation 11:15

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