A timely encore presentation
With the political candidacy season heating up to a fever pitch just 5 months away from the Presidential 2008 election, I thought this was a timely and needed article to republish today. The political spin doctors are bringing on their A game in the tough business of politics.
What is the answer for the cultural issues facing us today? How are we to respond; and what course of action should we as believers be embarking upon? I hope the following article will begin that process of discussion and search biblically.
The Cross Waves Higher Than the Flag,
THE PROBLEM IS NOT MADONNA...
Several years ago, many in the media and in the church were in an uproar that Madonna had done it again going too far with her book release, SEX, and her companion album, EROTICA. The "Queen of Sensual Shock" had consumers talking, governments banning, educators clamoring, librarians shuffling and, yes, evangelical leaders boycotting. What Madonna had actually done, in an ingenuous sort of way, is to bring to light what our world around us is wrestling with everyday; mainly a self-absorbed, narcissistic, hedonistic belief system absent of moral restraint. Biblically, it is what Judges 17:6 so succinctly states "...every man is doing what is right in his own eyes." That statement sums up the "Oprah Winfrey School of Theology" impeccably. But something more profound was being communicated as well... Madonna is more sold out to her sin, than many Christians are to their Lord.
TOTAL DEPRAVITY, HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY
What originally prompted the writing of this article had been the call to boycott Time-Warner and its many subsidiaries by leading Christian psychologist, author and radio talk show host, Dr. James Dobson, because of Madonna’s book and album release. I do understand it is a normal reaction to rise and sound a clarion call for moral leadership and accountability when one is faced with the open sensuality displayed in Madonna's book. I also truly believe that Dr. Dobson's motive was not self-serving nor incendiary when he had attempted to do so. But one has to ask him the obvious question, "how do you expect her to live apart from regeneration in Christ?" By her own confession, she is living as an unbeliever in Christ.
I ask you... why do we in the church constantly become outraged when we see non-Christians living like non-Christians? Why do we "require" that unbelievers live in some sort of comfortable legalistic "righteous" bubble before they come to salvation through Christ? Have we forgotten what we were like before we tasted the kindness of God in Christ for our salvation? Have we forgotten how we were slaves to various lusts and passions of our hearts? Have we forgotten how sinful we were apart from God's grace? Have we forgotten how depraved we were and to what depth of disobedience we plummeted? How dare we hold any non-believer in derision and set ourselves above them thinking we now as Christians could not ever succomb to the depth of sin they might be in. What arrogance; what self-righteousness; what non-Christlikeness. Oh may we remember beloved: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).
One of the great reformational truths and Pauline doctrines in the New Testament is the sinful nature and depravity of man. We are conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5); by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1); dead in trespass and sin (Ibid.); utterly inable to save ourselves (Romans 3:19-25); and our own righteousness being valued only as dirty, filthy rags...(Isaiah 64:6). However, under God's common grace, depraved people are still capable of doing acts of kindness and gestures of good will to their fellow man--though they have no eternal benefit. In other words, though we are totally depraved, we are not living out that depravity to the absolute fullest extent of its ugly condition. Man is created in the image of a holy God and therefore morally and spiritually responsible to his Creator for his actions. But at the same time, unregenerate people - though able to do acts of kindness and goodness to their neighbor - are completely incapable of living a life pleasing to and for the glory of God (Titus 1:15-16). That is why this "legislation of morality" is an effort in futility. At best, it is the "white-washing of the tomb" though inside is nothing but the stench of dead men's bones. Beloved, we should not be outraged when the world is living like the world; we should be outraged when the church fails to live like Christ (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).
A MORAL MAJORITY? THAT'S NOT WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES
Though we may applaud Mr. Dobson's sense of moral purity, the only relevant question on this or any other issue facing us in society today should be, what does the Word of God clearly say? Are we reacting from a "moral majority like" social consciousness or from a biblical worldview? How should we as Christians respond to the mandates and ethics of a fallen world? Is this a first amendment issue, as some have suggested, or is there a "higher law" at jeopardy? What does Scripture say in regards to civil disobedience? Can we cure the moral maladies by the political legislative process? When someone's ideology differs from the churches is the solution to heed the call by evangelical leaders to apply an economic squeeze on their financial enterprises until they comply with our pragmatic, spiritual agenda? In short, ladies and gentlemen, what do we do with Madonna?
I firmly believe, as I am sure Dr. Dobson does, that as Christians we must not be given over to situational ethics but to truth; and specifically to the truth contained in the Word of God. It alone can bring clarity for all things pertaining to life and godliness (John 17:17; 2 Peter 1:3-4). Therefore, let us endeavor to search the Scriptures and extract its principles that can shed light and provide meaningful dialogue and direction as to how we are to respond as Christians in the face of an ungodly generation.
It's easy to be outraged today. Whether you are from the liberal left, the conservative right, the moderate middle, Christian or atheist, people are promulgating for their rights while abdicating others freedom. This conflict for individual rights whether it be family values, sexual purity or sexual preference, religious freedom, the sanctity of human life or morality is thundering across America today. The flames of these issues are burning white hot against the dark standardless times facing this nation.
One of the most recent "social causes" that Christians seem to find themselves in is the ongoing fight for a constitutional ammendment defining marriage and family as "one-man, one-woman" against the trend these days to legitimize same sex marriage. While I totally agree with the conviction that same sex marriage is wrong and sin against God, it saddens me that one evangelical leader, a faithful-godly pastor, has said that he will spend the remainder of his earthly days, "until his last breath is taken", to get a constitutional ammendment passed that biblically defines what family and marriage according to God's Word should be. Again, at face-value this looks like a noble battle. But I appeal to you beloved to be thinking biblical Christians not reacting to social ills but proactively responding out of the truth of God's Word. What people need is not the constitutionalizing of moral standards contained in God's Word, but the call to repent of their sin and turn to God by faith and through grace in Christ Jesus in order to have the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life. How sad it would be if that particular pastor was reduced to being a political voice fighting for a constitutional ammendment on marriage, rather than being a herald of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are like drunks in a fog staggering without clarity of mind trying to find a place of sobriety and rehabilitation from the addicting and intoxicating ills that plague our lives and land. Each side has drawn their battle lines in the sand and by doing so; each side has drawn their weapons. The concern for us as Christians should be that many in the church are trying to use carnal weapons to fight spiritual battles. So how are we to act as believers in a fallen world to issues like the one being addressed above? Let's look at what the Word of God says.
THE CHRISTIAN IN COMPLETE ARMOR
First, our strength as Christians stems not from having access to the White House, rallying millions of born again believers in a moral majority, obtaining influence in the political/socio-economic realm, massing large scale petition drives, or organizing city wide marches down the corridors of main street U.S.A. Our power is solely found in the Lord. In the sixth chapter of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul gives us what William Gurnall calls "the Christian in complete armor". The armor is our feet shod with the gospel of peace; the belt of truth; the breast plate of righteousness; the helmet of salvation; the shield of faith; the sword of the Spirit. Out of the six pieces of armor listed take note that not one piece deals with human institutions, ingenuity, ability or means. Only spiritual ones. That is why it is called the armor of God!
The foe we face, beloved, is not made of flesh and blood, like Madonna, "but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (v.12). We are to "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might" (v.10), as well as, to "put on the full armor of God that [we] may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil" (v.11).
The strength to fight spiritual battles is not found in us, but only in Christ the Lord. In other words folks, brace yourselves, we are inconsequential and impotent when it comes to using human means to execute spiritual warfare! 2 Cor. 3:5 removes all doubt when Paul says, "Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God."
THE IMPOTENCY OF USING CARNAL WEAPONS TO FIGHT SPIRITUAL BATTLES
Secondly, the weapons we should use are not carnal but divine! It concerns me that when the church confronts sin in the world today, that our first thoughts are to picket, protest, march, boycott, generate publicity, lobby politicians, etc. Certainly the prophets of old had reason to protest the evils propagated against captive Israel. But Jeremiah says, "And 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" (Jer. 29:7). Paul had ample opportunity to wage a revolt against the Roman populace and government for the utter filth and degradation that filled the streets of Rome. But he didn't. What about the temple prostitutes at Corinth and the occult practices and genocide that Nero practiced? No uprising ever occurred in the Biblical record. Even our Lord had just reason for leading a people out of the horrific moral and political climate He encountered. But instead, Jesus said these amazing words to Pilate before He went to the cross, "....if My kingdom were of this world my disciples would be fighting..." (John 18:36). Do we think that we are more capable, sophisticated, wise, equipped, intelligent, perceptive, holy people than the prophets, the apostles, and even our Lord Himself? Truly we have made "flesh our arm" (Jer. 17:5) and are reaping the benefits of our lowly labor.
The Church in America has lost its impact, insight, and identity because it has lost its identification with the head of the Church, Jesus Christ. We are more associated with the political process - Republicans, Democrats, Independents and Christians than with the work of Jesus Christ. We have sought and become a political-economic force rather than a spiritual one. Why is it that we can assemble five thousand Christians to champion a cause or boycott an artists public display of sensuality, but at that same time its virtually impossible to gather five hundred Christians for prayer meeting? The problem with the world is not the world, ladies and gentlemen. The problem with the world are Christians trying to sneak into heaven incognito.
THE POWER OF DIVINE WEAPONRY
We have two weapons in the body of Christ: Prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-4; Ephesians 6:19-21), and the Word of God (Luke 4:1-12; Hebrews 4:12-13; Ephesians 6:18; Psalm 19:7-10; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Though they are few in number they are tremendously powerful.
Listen to the Apostle Paul as he describes the omnipotence of these weapons. "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful [literally powered by God] for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:3-5). "Every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God" - like pornography? Yes. "Taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" - like Madonna's book distributed to libraries? Yes. When we may accomplish all that through divine means to the glory of God, why would we ever resort to the foolish, fleshly, carnal human efforts of boycott?
I know that it sounds tremendously heroic and courageous to call for such action as a boycott, but is it more a sign of spiritual weakness that we do not trust the Lord to bring justice in His time, by His standard, in His way. I am not saying do nothing; don't get involved. But what I am saying is... do it God's way. Would we not rather see lives changed for eternity through the gospel than give ourselves over to economic-political evangelical manipulation?
Civil disobedience is only allowed Biblically under two strict circumstances: 1.) When the government commands us to do something that God prohibits; and 2.) When the government prohibits us from doing something God commands! Therefore, since our government has not mandated for every citizen of this country to buy, study, memorize Madonna's book and causing many to lust, covet, etc. and violate God's standard of holiness, the issue cannot be won through the legislative process. According to our country's laws she has the right to release her art and we have the right not to buy it. It's that simple.
IN THE WORLD BUT NOT OF IT
That brings us to the private sector. Certainly, no one would ask Dr. Dobson to withdraw all of his books from the same stores that sell Madonna's books (as he had said he would do-but hasn't); it would also be unreasonable for Dr. Dobson to organize and publicly insite a boycott of every bookstore that carries non-Christian objectionable material; every movie theater that shows an PG-13, R, and X rated movies; every magazine stand that displays all soft and hard pornography; every kind of venue that carries product unacceptable to the Christian ethic including Madonna's. If we take his line of thought to its logical conclusion, we would constantly be in a state of protest, boycott, banning, ostracizing and civil upheaval within the church. We would be paralyzed from doing what we should have been doing all along and that is proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.
Let's turn the tables a bit. Years ago, Barbra Streisand called for a boycott on Colorado because they did not affirm her own ideology involving gay rights. Are we now going to boycott all her albums and films? Picket her rare concert appearances? Cease to rent her videos? Are we going to again use carnal weapons to fight spiritual battles?
We are asking Madonna to live a standard of righteousness that she is incapable of living. Romans 6:20 says, "For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness." She is not a Christian by her own admission. What people like Madonna need is not our protest, but to hear of the gospel of grace; salvation through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. "If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation. All the old things pass away - behold all things become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). Wouldn't it be great to see Madonna become a new creation in Christ and to be our sister in the Lord!
The problems that plague our society are not political, economic, or even moral at their core - they are spiritual. We cannot fight spiritual problems with carnal weapons. May the world find us doing what our Lord has instructed us to do - not marching in the streets but on our knees; not protesting nonbelievers, but proclaiming the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ which is the power of God unto salvation. Wouldn't it be wonderful if Madonna saw thousands of Christians praying for her and proclaiming the gospel of grace rather than evangelical leaders calling for a boycott of her? Remember, Jesus Christ our Lord was known as a "friend of sinners", not a socio-economic political agitator.
In closing, may we all heed these four great truths that Paul gives to Titus as to how we are to live in a fallen world:
Recognize Your Duty
"Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men" (Titus 3:1-2).
Remember your Depravity
"For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another" (Titus 3:3).
Rejoice in your Deliverance
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:5-7).
Render Good Deeds
"This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men" (Titus 3:8)