The Sin of Trusting in Politics For Salvation

The motive behind many of the cruel critiques of political leaders does not seem to be the securing of a more peaceful and quiet life. It seems to run more along the lines of securing political power and then retaining that power going forward. This is a very wrong turn. To be involved in politics, of course, is no sin, but to trust in politics for salvation certainly is.

God is always at work in human affairs for the good of his people and the glory of his name. This should inspire our confidence when we face the tough circumstances of the present and those yet to come. It is up to us to trust him, seek him, and act according to what he has revealed to us about his will.

The wisdom contained in God’s word is sufficient; we need no new revelation. We need no new instructions, especially when so much of what has already been commanded is not obeyed. What is needed instead is for us to return again and again to the timeless wisdom of Scripture, which is as relevant to us today as it was to those to whom it was originally written.

Praying For Politicians

Here is something he reveals in 1 Tim. 2:1-2: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

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It is difficult to pray without hypocrisy for those whom you curse outside of your prayer time. Love, the Apostle Paul tells us, is the supreme virtue. Yet over these last years, while much truth has been spoken, too rarely has it been spoken in love. This has been especially evident in the overheated responses to the actions of leaders in politics and religion. As we go forward, we must commit firmly to the biblical principle that critique is in bounds, but cruelty is not. 

Disrespecting The Authorities

In Canada, it often seems we are a little bit proud of how disrespectful we are of our governing authorities. This is certainly not the example of God’s servants in scripture, and so I think our attitudes about our relationship with and behaviour towards those who govern us could use a few corrections.

I have been guilty of this disrespect on occasion as well, and I have had to reshape my thinking and behaviour. The help we need in this area of our lives is found in Scripture. The words of Scripture and the examples of the stories we find there clearly expose many of us who think we have a license to speak and act disrespectfully to those who govern us. (Especially if they belong to a party with the wrong colour election sign, right?)

God’s Ambassadors

In 2 Cor. 5:20 we are called God’s ambassadors. We should act in ways befitting an ambassador. This means that we represent the one in ultimate authority in front of those who wield his delegated authority. And when we find we must speak up against something the governing authorities are doing, we do so as God’s representatives and we do so out of concern for God’s glory and for their souls.

The motive behind many of the cruel critiques of political leaders does not seem to be the securing of a more peaceful and quiet life. It seems to run more along the lines of securing political power and then retaining that power going forward. This is a very wrong turn. To be involved in politics, of course, is no sin, but to trust in politics for salvation certainly is.

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Sin is Seeking to Destroy You

On any evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, sin takes notice and seeks to distort and destroy. This should cause us to live with greater awareness, not more fear. And this is why we must live in continual repentance and confess our sins often – to God but to each other as well, as we are commanded to do in scripture.

“Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good…”

Romans 7:13

Sin seeks to use what is good in order to deceive and to destroy all that it can in the process. We see this tactic first employed in the biblical account of the fall of mankind. In Genesis 3:1 the serpent asks Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” One of Satan’s main tactics is to parse the commands of God and present us with potential loopholes. We often accept his offer, forsaking the simplicity of God’s commands for convenient complications.

Where Compromise Leads

Through their compromise, Adam and Eve really did become more like God, but not in a desirable way. Consider this: up to that point they knew only good; now they would know evil as well. God already knew what evil was but mankind did not yet have knowledge of it. This knowledge of evil was obtained by participating in evil, which had both immediate and massive downstream consequences. Death was now a possibility and mankind was on track to experience that as well.

Participation in sin does expand our knowledge and awareness, but it makes us aware of realities we consequently wish we’d never known. Once we know these things, we cannot un-know them. And yet in the foolishness of our human pride, we still fall for the same gambit over and over.  We compromise repeatedly as our flesh seizes the opportunity and our minds rationalize the sins we commit. Presented with a convenient mistruth, we are willingly led down a path of compromise.

Sin is Aggressive

In the next chapter of Genesis (4:7) it says that “sin is crouching at the door…” I find this insight into the nature of sin to be helpful. Sin is not only what we seek to do that is contrary to God’s commands, it is also what waits to surprise and tempt and attack us. Sin is an aggressor in addition to being a passive availability.

Sin sees that we are humble and tempts us to be proud of our humility. 

Sin sees that we are compassionate and seeks to lead us to approve of the sins of others. 

Sin sees that we are patient and encourages us to tolerate evil. 

Sin sees that we are obedient and seeks to lead us into bondage to those who would do us harm.

On any evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, sin takes notice and seeks to distort and destroy. 

This should cause us to live with greater awareness, not more fear. And this is why we must live in continual repentance and confess our sins often – to God but to each other as well, as we are commanded to do in scripture. The heart indeed is desperately wicked, and we will need far more than pep talks and self-help books to live lives that are pleasing to God.

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What is the Place of Effort in the Life of a Christian?

People like to make resolutions at this time of the year and these resolutions are often forsaken before the year is half over. But we should resolve daily to do as Paul instructs in this passage: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” And we should be ruthless in our discernment, sparing no area of our lives. 

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

Colossians 3:1-2

What is the place of effort in the life of a Christian?

We did not and cannot earn salvation by anything that we do or have done. No effort, no striving, no amount of self-improvement will ever make God look down and say “Ah – there is one who has made himself good enough for me to save! If only there were a few more like him!” We did not and cannot earn salvation by anything that we do or have done.

After we believe, after we have been saved and redeemed by God, we are to rest in Christ. In Heb 4:11 it says that we are to “strive to enter that rest.” The work is done and we can’t add to it; salvation is a complete work that we receive.

We rest in this salvation, but in other areas of the Christian life, after we are born again, there is effort involved. In 1 Tim. 4:7 we are told to discipline ourselves. In Phil. 3:14 we’re instructed to strive as an athlete striving to win the prize. In 2 Tim. 2:6: “Make an effort as a farmer who works hard in order to receive some of the reward from the vineyard.” In Eph. 6: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against the principalities and the powers of this evil age.” And in 1 Cor. 9:27 Paul says “I put my body in subjection so that after preaching to others I myself might not be a cast away.” 

These all make sense when we remember Paul’s words in Phil 2:12-13: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God working in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”

Effort Applied

The Christian life is not a life without effort; the Christian life is one of applying effort to all that we are called by God to do. And God will empower us, by his Spirit, to accomplish whatever he commands us to. So, in the end, it is not a striving by human effort that makes the difference, but the complete surrender of obedience that aligns us with God’s will and supplies us with God’s power.

As we live out this new reality, we are instructed to, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” 

If you are hungry, you may find a grocery store, but finding the grocery store won’t solve your hunger. You need to enter, find the food, purchase the food, and eat the food. In the same way, it is not enough to merely know heavenly things; you must set your mind on them, devour them, ingest them. You must be preoccupied with them. True spirituality is not seeking spiritual experiences. It is not the pursuit of an emotional high. Emotions are a response to renewal, not the source of renewal.

True Spirituality

True spirituality is the practice of setting your mind on heavenly things. And setting your mind on heavenly things is the starting point and the accelerator of practical holiness. It is true that “we become what we behold.” We will take on the likeness of that to which we give our attention and affection. If to heavenly things, then holiness will result. If to earthly things, then wickedness and unholiness.

People like to make resolutions at this time of the year and these resolutions are often forsaken before the year is half over. But we should resolve daily to do as Paul instructs in this passage: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” And we should be ruthless in our discernment, sparing no area of our lives. 

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Believing and Affirming the Superior Promises of God

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”

Romans 8:5

I have found this verse to be helpful in evaluating my everyday actions. Is what I’m doing/watching/saying/listening to feeding my flesh or my spirit? Will proceeding in this direction lead me to obedience or rebellion, to righteousness or sin?

This is an important evaluative tool because “to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Rom. 8:6)

We all want life and peace but we sometimes pursue and indulge in that which will ultimately lead to death. Enticements to sin are constant, opportunities abound, and the promise of a quick remedy to our sadness or anxiety or fear is powerful in its draw.

It is only by affirming and believing the superior promises of God, and then acting in faith according to those promises that will we ever find true freedom and peace.

(I was helped tremendously in this area of thought by a book by John Piper called “Battling Unbelief”.)

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