Hello, and welcome to this message from Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque. As these teachings are shared worldwide, our prayer is that God uses them to bring more people into his family. If this message encourages you, we'd like to know. Email us at email@example.com. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/give.
Christians have a wide variety of political notions, but we need to be informed of the policies engaged in the process and active in the promotion of godly discourse. In the message, "Christians and Politics," Skip shares four guidelines believers should adhere to when looking at politics. Now we invite you to turn in your bibles to Jeremiah chapter 29 as he begins.
You know, when I grew up it was common wisdom-- it's a common phrase to say don't discuss two things in public-- religion and politics. You've heard that before? Don't discuss those. So I'm going to do both this morning.
I'm going to deal with both of those issues.
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The reason that we were told not to is because it's divisive. And for some reason, in that day and age in our culture, they just thought it was better to be very shallow and say oh, your hair looks nice. Don't go any deeper than that. Or oh, not nice outfit. Don't go any deeper than that. Don't bring up politics. Don't bring up religion, because it divides people.
And I understand that. I don't want to divide people. But the way I see it, our nation's already divided on a lot of issues. In fact, I would say this is the perhaps angriest, most acrimonious, most divisive election cycle that I personally have seen in my lifetime.
And it reminds me of a story of a guy who was running for office. He was campaigning door-to-door running for city council. And so he'd knock on doors and ask people for their votes. And it was going pretty well until he got to a house where a grumpy old man answered the door. The candidate went through his little speech of why the man should vote for him, and the response was that the old man growled back in the said vote for you? I'd rather vote for the devil.
So the candidate knew he's not going to get anywhere with this guy, and he said back to him well, in the event that your friend doesn't run for office, could I anticipate your vote?
And I think a lot of people sort of feel that way. They're caught between the devil and the deep blue sea in this election. I've heard people say well, there's not a candidate out there that inspires me. And I understand the sentiment. But that is usually said before the next statement, which is therefore, I'm going to sit this one out. I'm just not going to vote.
Well, my aim from Jeremiah 29 is to bring some clarity, to bring some hope, and more than anything else, my aim, my purpose is to call our church to prayer during this cycle. A week of prayer and even fasting for this election cycle. I think that's where we need to go. This was an idea that came to me from one of our congregants at first service. They've come here for years, and she came up to me and she said you know, I don't know what you think, but I feel the Lord's just saying that we need to be in prayer for our nation.
And I thought I think that's from the Lord. I'm going to do that. So I saw that as a real good direction for us to go in. I want you to understand that I am not preaching politics. I'm not going to endorse a candidate. I'm not going to endorse a political party this morning. But the Bible does tell us that God ordained human government-- Romans 13. The Bible, also in that chapter, tells us that we are subject to the governments that we are in.
And it just seems unthinkable that God would ordain human government and then want humans to stay out of it. Doesn't make sense, especially in a democracy. We don't live in Babylon. We don't live in Roman times. We don't have a totalitarian regime. We have a democracy, which is a society that is set up on the involvement of all of its citizens.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not political by nature. I do not think the ultimate hope is any party or any person or any platform. I look forward to the day-- my hope rests in the day that Jesus said we should pray for thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
That's where my hopes are. I'm hoping for the day mentioned in Revelation 11 when the announcement was made, the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. And I know one day Jesus will return, and he'll move all the politicians to one side and go let me show you how it's done guys, gals. We're going to do this right.
But until then, I'm here. Until then. Do you realize that Christians have dual citizenship? Have you ever thought of that? We're a part of two kingdoms. The kingdom of heaven permanently, but kingdoms of this earth temporarily. So when Paul wrote to the Philippians, he touched on this when he said "to all who are in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi."
Did you get that dual citizenship? You're citizens of the kingdom of heaven. You're in Christ, but you also happen to live in Philippi. And so you are citizens who are responsible to that city. And honestly, politics, to some degree, interface with every single person. Now, I want you to understand what the term means.
The term politics comes from the Greek word for city, polis. Polis was a city, a city-state, technically. And a citizen was called a polites. We get the term politics from polites. It meant a citizen who has responsibilities to a polis, to a city. So it's a word came to mean the art of living together in a community.
So all of us, by the technical definition, are involved in the art of living in a community, in politics. Plato said to his students, "the penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by those worse than themselves."
So I ask you-- what is the response of the Christian community to the political environment in the political season? What about our responsibilities to our nation that we live in? How are we to act during this political season? Are we to be uninformed? Informed? Sit it out? Not do anything? Do something? And at what level do we do something at?
So I want to give you, from Jeremiah 29, four guidelines for this political season. And they're simple, really. We should be responsible. We should be prayerful. We should be careful. And we should be hopeful. We should be responsible. We should be prayerful. We should be careful. We should be hopeful. I want you to see them as we go through this text.
First of all, we should be, as believers in the Lord, responsible in our culture. Go to verse 1 of Jeremiah 29. "Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the remainder of the elders who were carried away captive, to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon.
This happened after Jeconiah, the queen-- king-- the queen mother, the eunuchs, princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsman, the smiths had departed from Jerusalem. This letter was sent by the hand of Elasah, the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah, the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah, the King of Judah, sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, saying, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel-- to all who are carried away captive whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon."
So it's a letter Jeremiah writes to captives, but it's the Lord who is speaking. What does he say? Verse five. Build houses and dwell in them. Plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands so that they may bear sons and daughters that you may be increased their and not diminish.
OK, now let me give you a little background. Can I do that? Can I set the stage? Because there's a couple things you need to know. The year that this letter goes out is 597 BC. Now why is that important? Because Babylon, under Nebuchadnezzar, assaulted, attacked Jerusalem three times-- 603 BC, that's the first time. At that time, he took Daniel and his buddies away to Babylon, so Daniel's already there at this time involved in the political structure of Babylon.
Then 597 BC, which is right here, where he takes the religious as well as the political leaders hostage and thousands of people with him. Finally, 586 BC when it happens again, but this time, Jerusalem is destroyed by the fires of Babylon. So in the in-between time, Jeremiah is still in Jerusalem, and he writes a letter to those who are captive in Babylon. Why does he write the letter? To encourage them. To instruct them.
You're in Babylon, here's what you need to do. Here's a thus sayeth the Lord for you guys as captives in Babylon. And what does he tell them? Well, basically he says you're going to be there awhile. You're going to be there 70 years, so make the best of it. Verse 5-- provide for your families. Get a home, get a garden, get a job-- summing it up. Verse 6-- get married, have kids, raise a family. In other words, be involved. Be responsive where you are in the new culture where you find yourself.
Now their situation in captivity, as I see it, is parallel in many respects to our situation right now in our country. You see, back then they were surrounded by a hostile environment. People who didn't believe in those values. They didn't believe in the God of Israel. We, too, are surrounded by the world, the Bible calls it, a system that does not agree with-- in the very least does not sympathize with Christian values. And at the very most, is hostile toward Christian values.
Not only that, but they were there 70 years. That's about the average lifespan. We're going to be on this earth roughly 70 years, some will far outdo that, some will make it. The average lifespan in America is 78.2 years. So do you know the Bible actually says 70 years is a typical life span? Psalm 90-- "the days of our lives are 70 years, and if by reason of strength they are 80 years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow. For it is soon cut off and we fly away."
Now as dual citizens-- citizens of the Kingdom of God, citizens of the kingdom of men, we have a dual responsibility. We don't have a responsibility to be cloistered, to be away from here and ah, I'm not going to involved. No, I don't want to know. Don't tell me. I'm going to sit this one out. You know, Jesus prayed for his disciples in John 17. And he pray a prayer of escapism. He said Father, I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one while they're in the world.
That was his prayer. I like that. It helps me understand my position in the world. Jesus didn't say Father, help them to find caves where they can store ammunition and food and listen to wacky prophecy teachers and all that kind of stuff. He said no, no, no. I want them to live out their faith in the world. Don't take them out, keep them from the evil one while they're in. Not only that, but Jesus even said something, were I disciple, I would take a little bit of umbrage at.
He said to his disciples one day behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. I think I'd of said what? Thank you very little.
You're my good shepherd? I'm your little sheep and you want to send me out as sheep in the midst of wolves? Why on earth would he do that? Here's why. He wants some of those wolves to turn into sheep, and the only way to get that done is to get some of the sheep going out to the wolves.
Sheep can't just say, well, I have to stay in the sheep pen all day long because it's kind of cool in here. I like it here. We got to go out where the wolves are. And Jesus said that I'm going to send you there. So he insisted that we live out our lives in the midst of this world. I came to Christ during an era that historians called the Jesus movement. I love that. I love-- Jesus was moving. By the way, he still is.
But during the Jesus movement, one of the most important aspects of it was the belief that Jesus Christ is coming soon. That he could come at any moment. By the way, I still believe that. I believe he is coming soon, and that it could happen at any moment. I believe that. Now the backlash, however, of the Jesus movement was that it created a group of irresponsible Christians. What do I mean by that?
Well, I was counseled by my friends along these lines Skip, don't go to college. The rapture's going to happen. Don't get a career, the rapture's going to happen. Don't get married, the rapture's is going to happen. Now that's what my friends said. It's not what Jesus said. Jesus said this-- occupy until I come. Keep your hand to the plow. Get busy. Stay busy. Stay working until I come. Jesus never promoted isolation. He never promoted insulation. He certainly didn't promote vegetation. We just sort of do nothing to hang out and veg in the spirit till Jesus comes.
What he promoted was permeation. He said you are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Most of you know that salt wasn't used just to spice your food up. It was used to preserve the food itself. You'd rub it in the meat. You know why? To prevent decay. You're the salt of the earth. I want you peppered and salted throughout society to keep this society from going completely off the rails. You're the salt of the earth.
You're the light of the world, shining your light in the darkness of this age by your words and by your lifestyle. Back in the fifth century, there was a guy by the name of Simeon, fifth century AD. Simeon. His fuller name was Simeon Stylites. Stylites is a word that means pillar dwellers. Get this-- Simeon Stylites spent 37 years of his life living on the top of a pillar 60 feet off the ground.
OK, that's weird. I hope you know that's weird. You know anybody living on a pillar 60 feet off the ground? Never met anybody who does that. Who does that? Simeon did it. Why did he do it? He built a platform up there. 37 years he lived up there. He did it because he thought the mortification of the flesh, being isolated, doing hard things that hurt your body makes you holy. So he was a holy man who lived on a pillar for 37 years.
Come to find out he inspired a whole group of pillar saints, they called themselves. They're out looking for pillars. They're all looking for ruins of places to build a little place on and live on top of the pillar isolated from society. There was one guy he inspired by the name of Anatole of France. Anatole's problem is that he didn't have a pillar and he did have a family. So what Anatole did is to improvise. Not having a pillar, he took his kitchen table, he put a little stool on top of the kitchen table, climbed up on it, put a little white garment-- simple garment-- sat on the little pillar he had made in his kitchen.
And he thought ah, man. I'm going to get holy. And it was all cool until his family came home.
And you know what they said? They said you're nuts. Who does that? This is stupid. So he gave it up. And he wrote this, "I soon perceived it as a very difficult thing to be a saint while living with your own family. Now I see why Simeon Stylites and Jerome went out to the desert."
It's a fun little story. True story from church history. But listen, we don't need holy men on pillars. We need holy men in pizza shops, in pastry shops, in politics.
We don't need people on stools on tables, we need people sitting behind desks in offices who are sharing the gospel, who are in real life and who are responsible in their culture. Now you need to understand that we are very different in this respect from them back then. They lived in an autocratic, totalitarian regime. A monarchy. King Nebuchadnezzar was the law. If you wand to kill you, you're dead. You don't vote him in or out of office.
We have the luxury of living in a democratic society where we can say what we believe in a ballot box. Very different than what our forebears had in Rome or in Babylon. So we should. We should vote. We should voice our concern in the public discourse. That's first. Be responsible in your culture. Second is to be prayerful. Be prayerful for your country.
Verse 7-- we take our cues from that. The letter continues. Jeremiah writes, "And to seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive. And pray to the Lord for it, for in its peace, you will have peace." What is he saying? Simply this. Their welfare was bound up in the welfare of Babylon.
Jeremiah says don't revolt. Don't start an instigation. Don't start a revolution. Pray. Pray for the peace of your city. And so that's what I'm doing. I'm calling the church to pray this week as a week of prayer, and perhaps even fasting, for some of you. We have put in your bulletin a simple little card you can carry as a reminder in your Bible. You can start each day. There are some directions on the back of how to do that. Who to pray for, what to pray for.
And open up your day in prayer with this. Grab a friend during the day, say let's pray for what's going on in our country. Let's pray for the upcoming elections. At your meal times, pray with your family over these things. Your small groups, your connect groups-- pray together. If you have time and you're in this area, come by the church this week. Grab one of us. Let's pray together for this nation.
I think most of us believe our country is in trouble. I don't think I need to sell that I think most of us would say our country needs God's help. Right? I think we all agree on that. So we understand we need God to forgive us our sin, to heal our land. And prayer is our declaration-- not of independence, but of dependence upon God. And so you say well, what do you praying for, Skip? I'll tell you what I'm praying for. I'm asking God for another chance.
I'm asking God for a revival in this country. Another chance. A revival. It's happened before. Christians came at times in our national history when it looked like things were falling apart to them, and they got on their knees and they prayed for revival. And there were Great Awakenings in this country. I'm praying that God would do that again. I want God to bless America. But first America needs to bless God. We need to praise him and be one nation under God like it says so on our money.
Paul wrote to Timothy and he said "I urge, then, first of all, their requests, prayers, intercession, thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior." Did you hear that? If you want to please God this week, pray for your leaders. Pray for the nation.
That's not to say that you stop with prayer. You can always do more than pray after you've prayed. But you can do more than pray until you've prayed. That's where we start. That is the foundation of all of our other activities. Abraham Lincoln said, "It is the duty of nations as well as of men to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proved by all of history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord."
Another president in '84, 1984, Ronald Reagan said, "without God, there's a coarsening of the society. Without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, we will be one nation gone under." Powerful words. All of that to say the vote that you make in your prayer closet must precede the vote that you make in the ballot box.
They go together. You want to pray and you want to act, but you want to pray first. Now, why do we pray? I'll tell you why I pray. Because I think it will work. I mean, isn't that why we pray? I hope you-- well, I pray because it makes me feel really good. But if it doesn't work, why do it? In fact, if you don't believe it'll work, you know what'll happen? You'll never pray. If you actually believe prayer works, you'll do it.
I think we have to come to a place where we're going to pray because we believe God's going to do something in response. Do I really believe that? Well, Proverbs 21. Listen to this. You know it, but listen to it. "The King's heart is in the hand of the Lord." The King's heart-- here is God holding the King's heart in his hand. He's got control of the King's heart. The King's heart is in the hand of the Lord.
You could change the words around. The mayor's heart is in the hand of the Lord. The governor's heart is in the hand of the Lord. The president's heart is in the hand of the Lord. The candidate's heart is in the hand of the Lord. It says the King's heart is in the hand of the Lord, and he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. In other words, God has the power to direct the decisions of leaders on earth, even bad ones.
Nebuchadnezzar was a bad one. God could direct his heart to where he wanted it to go. So I'm asking you to pray. I'm asking, if you don't have medical issues, if you're not a diabetic, et cetera, that you fast. And we say well, what is fasting? What does that mean? Like, I have to give something up? Me? You're asking me to give something up? Yeah, like food.
Well, duh. No, I won't kill you if you skip a meal or a day, or certain items from it. I'm going to leave that between you and the Lord. But I will tell you in the book of Acts, whenever they made important decisions or when they were going to bring in new leadership, they prayed and they fasted. Now I want you to know that fasting is not a sanctified diet. It's not a way to lose weight in Jesus' name.
Ooh, how do you like my new fast? Slim. Do I look good? Especially in black.
Now fasting is not to lose weight. It's to gain wisdom. Gain wisdom.
The purpose of a fast in the Bible is that you withhold physical food to allow spiritual focus. That's part of what is behind Second Chronicles 7:14. Most people don't know much about the book, that they know this one verse. If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven, I will forgive their sins, I will heal their land. I think our land need some healing, and I think we can be a part of it. We can be responsible in our culture. We can be prayerful for all our country.
Third, be careful. This season, be careful who you consider. Be careful who you're listening to. Verse 8 says, "For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel. Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. For they prophesied falsely to you in my name. I have not sent them, says the Lord."
What was happening? Well, there were men in their midst of the congregation in Babylon, who were writing their own letters, speaking their own messages that counteracted everything Jeremiah was saying. What they were saying is that peace is right around the corner. We're not going to be here 70 years. King Zedekiah's still on the throne in Jerusalem. Lickety split we're going to be back in Jerusalem. We're not going to have to be here. This isn't a punishment for our sin. Don't worry.
And Jeremiah is going, uh-uh. You're going to be there a long time. 70 years. Make the best of it. Get involved. Be prayerful. And be careful who you listen to. Every election cycle we hear messages-- positive messages, negative messages from both parties. I think it's safe to say both sides are going to tell you some things that are true and some things that are not true. I'm not going to tell you which proportionately or any of that.
So what do you do when you hear so many different messages? You think. You learn. You get informed long enough to know what the real issues are and what candidates stand for. What are their values? That's how we respond in prayer and respond in activity of voting. That's how we do it. So we need to be informed. We need to be involved. We need to be engaged.
I love what my dad used to say. That funny little saying. It must've come from World War II-- praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. And I just got a kick out of him saying that. I don't even know what it mean, but it sounded cool. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. And come to find out it means that you know what? We have one eye on heaven and we're praising the Lord and thanking him and trusting him, but we also are responsible enough to keep our powder dry, to be prepared, to be ready, all that-- be vigilant. All that is part and parcel with it.
And I might even add that we need Christians involved in the actual political process. Run for office. You know, we always say, well, there's nobody good to vote for. So be one. We'll vote for you. If you get involved, run for city council. Run for local office. Step up to the plate. Help shape policy. God could call you to that. Now, in this election, many people in our country feel they're asked to make it very difficult-- they've said-- I've heard this word-- unpalatable choice.
Well, I don't know who to vote for. I don't like either one of them. My friend David Jeremiah was asked the question how he would advise voters who say none of the presidential candidates represent their core beliefs. What do I do if none of the candidates represent my core beliefs? This is how we answer. Quote, "Everybody wants to find someone who represents who they are. Unfortunately, there isn't anybody like that. Not in this election. Probably not ever again. We're down to the point where we need to elect somebody whom we're pretty certain won't be against us, somebody who will allow us to live out our faith." Close quote.
This election is not like any other election. And I am not going to tell you who to vote for. I'm going to tell you to vote. I'm going to tell you to pray and fast, and I'm going to tell you to vote. And I will also tell you that Eric Metaxas, who's spoken here before and written great books, calls this election a Bonhoeffer moment. Isn't that an interesting description? A Bonhoeffer moment. Some of you know Dietrich Bonhoeffer was, the German pastor who was imprisoned and killed by the Nazis.
And Bonhoeffer noted that so many people in his day couldn't be bothered with politics. Nah, nah. That's not my thing. I don't want-- I don't want. Just not informed, not engaged, not involved. And so he came along and he was calling people to stand up against injustice, asking the church to do it, sounded the alarm. But if you know what happened, very few heeded his call. The rest is history. The policies of Adolf Hitler took over Germany, threatened Europe, threatened the free world.
So I don't think we have the option to sort of sit in the corner and whine and despair. I don't think we have that option. Edmund Burke said-- you know this quote-- because as soon as I say it, you're going to start saying it. "The only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." The only thing that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing. So you want it to get worse? Do nothing at all. Don't get engaged. Don't get involved.
But for a moment, push the candidates aside and think of issues. There are still plenty of issues that you can voice your opinion on that are key issues. Issues like the sanctity of human life in the womb. Issues like marriage and family. Issues like human rights. Issues like federal judges in the Supreme Court. Issues like national defense. Issues like terrorism. Issues like the stability of Israel in the very volatile Middle East. All of these are issues that you have a voice in.
Which leads me to the fourth and final-- be hopeful. Be hopeful. Be hopeful in your calling. Verse 10-- "For thus says the Lord. After 70 years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you." I love that. God's coming to town. "I will visit you and perform my good word toward you and cause you to return to this place, Jerusalem. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord. Thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and go and pray to me and I will listen to you. And you will seek me and find me when you search for me with all of your heart."
Here's the big picture-- get involved, but have a light touch. You're going to be here for 70 years. That's almost a lifetime, and for some people it will be. But you're coming back. So as you live your life in this temporary, earthly environment, keep your eye on the permanent, heavenly environment that you're going to. That's the message for us. We're here for a lifetime. We are not here for all time. So we are passing through. We are in captivity. But we're not going to always be here.
Look at verse 10. Look at the word, "cause." It's the one word that jumped out of the text this week as I studied it. I will visit you and I will cause you to return. You know what that tells me? Nebuchadnezzar's not in charge. God is. God is in control. Nebuchadnezzar's on the throne on earth. God is on the throne in heaven. And that's a bedrock truth of the sovereignty of God that we can rest on at any time.
Listen, it doesn't matter who's in the White House. God's in the house. God's in the house. Now I'm not saying it doesn't matter. I'm not saying these things don't matter. They do matter. Of course they matter, temporarily. But in the big scheme of things, these things don't alter the unalterable truth that God is absolutely sovereign. You think God gets stressed at this stuff? We get the news, we get so stressed.
You think God wrings his hands? You think God reads the polls, goes oh, man. My friend says God rules the universe with his feet up. Isn't that good? He's not stressed. He just goes, "next." This is easy stuff. I got this. I got this covered. And you, child of God, should never come to a place where you are hopeless, where you despair. God causes things to happen. God overrules what men rule. It's a very interesting marriage, actually. It's just a very mysterious wonder that kings rule, and we, in a democracy, have the ability to influence who that's going to be. But God overrules. God overrules.
So we have dual citizenship. But we live, as Lincoln called it, in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And Abraham Lincoln, our president, called the nation to pray and vote. Pray and to vote. I'm calling you to pray, get registered, and then vote. Oh, but my favorite television show's on election night. Thank God for TiVo.
Or fast from that. But get out there and vote. Because Jesus said this-- "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and render to God the things that are God's." There's two parts to that verse. And we can be all smug, rendering to God the things that are God's. But I don't get involved in Caesar the things. Jesus said to render to him. And we live in a democracy where we vote in the Caesar. They didn't. We do. So in order to obey that command-- dual citizenship. Responsible in the kingdom, responsible on the earth as well.
As believers, we have a responsibility to pray for the leaders in our government. How will you live out what you learned in this message? Let us know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque.