Election is not called a scandal or an offense or foolish in Scripture. Our recent political elections may cause heartburn, but no one in Scripture expresses worries about God determining the outcome ahead of time.
What is called a scandal is the cross. More than God’s sovereignty, men are upset by God’s sacrifice. “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23). The cross is a “stumbling block,” which translates the Greek word σκάνδαλον, “an action or circumstance that leads one to act contrary to [their] set of beliefs, that which causes revulsion” (BAGD). Paul wrote that some Jews preferred circumcision over the cross (Galatians 5:11). The cross causes difficulty for the way natural men think.
As the Bible reveals, God predestined the cross. Peter preached that those who crucified Jesus did “whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:28). So Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” even he said “you crucified and killed” (Acts 2:23). God ordained the Lamb’s blood to forgive the elect’s sins (John 10:11; Romans 8:32-34).
God’s sovereignty saves. He chose to love rebels—all you who believe, to atone for their sins, to bring them to Himself. So “to those who are called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Rejoice at the Lord’s Table in such a way that would offend those who know you don’t deserve to rejoice. The only scandal bigger than you being welcome at the Supper is what Christ suffered to invite you here.
There must be a way for an ostrich not only to not bury her head in the sand but even to enjoy the ocean. Ostriches apparently don’t hang out at the ocean, but since they are always burying their head in the sand, work with me for sake of the illustration. Think of how much she’d miss if she buried her head every time a wave came to shore. That’s what waves do. Sometimes you need to move your stuff so it doesn’t get soaked. Most of the time, once you have a little experience under your beach towel, you realize that you don’t need to freak out. You can enjoy enjoy the swells.
Like an ostrich I suppose, part of me would prefer to talk about other things, because there are other things. Yet also I don’t want to ignore this day (as in, bury my head in the sand), because this is the day the Lord has given.
Life is more than politics, and it is wearisome to be told every four years that “this is THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIFETIMES! But for real this time! I mean it!”
Let me confess to you my default sin, as I can see it, when political seasons rush toward the shore, and then exhort you to confess your sins, whatever they may be.
My go-to sin is self-righteousness, followed closely by lazy hope.
Christians are the ones who have a standard by which to criticize, and you’d think criticism was a spiritual gift based on how clever we present our criticisms to be. Unbelievers criticize, but they have to borrow values from somewhere. Yet the same standards that Christians apply toward candidates (and legislative issues) in an election season also tell us how to behave, as in, don’t fear, and don’t judge your brothers. Don’t snuggle into your blanket throwing snark from the bleachers against how everyone on the field is doing it WRONG.
Perhaps you’ve seen the political post by John Piper last week, or any number of the responses to his post. I am very thankful to God for His use of Piper in my life, especially for sake of my affections as a disciple of Christ. And I’m not judging his convictions, but his argument is worth examining.
He is baffled at Christians who claim you can never vote for a Democrat with sin like Biden, and admonishes those Christians for supporting/promoting, or at the least ignoring, a Republican with sin like Trump. Piper points out that arrogance kills people, even if it looks different than how abortion kills people.
And yes, Nebuchadnezzar took credit for his kingdom and God judged him for it. I could vote for Trump, and if the day after his second inauguration, let’s say, God punished the President with a few years in the wilderness growing long fingernails and eating grass like a beast, I could also acknowledge that judgment as just.
But urging people not to vote for those who applaud abortion and applaud same sex marriage and applaud gender transitions for eight year-olds, all positions typically within the Democratic party, does not mean supporting all the Republican behaviors.
Piper concludes that he won’t vote for either Biden or Trump. That’s fine. But then, in a word to pastors, he asks the following:
“Have you been cultivating real Christians who see the beauty and the worth of the Son of God? Have you faithfully unfolded and heralded “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8)? Are you raising up generations of those who say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8)?
“Have you shown them that they are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11), and that their “citizenship is in heaven,” from which they “await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20)? Do they feel in their bones that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)?
“Or have you neglected these greatest of all realities and repeatedly diverted their attention onto the strategies of politics? Have you inadvertently created the mindset that the greatest issue in life is saving America and its earthly benefits? Or have you shown your people that the greatest issue is exalting Christ with or without America? Have you shown them that the people who do the most good for the greatest number for the longest time (including America!) are people who have the aroma of another world with another King?
I highlight these paragraphs not only because they stood out to me, but because others have also called them “the most important section.” And while they are, in many ways, good questions, they also promote a binary assumption. Piper doesn’t like being pushed to choose between either Biden or Trump. But I don’t like being pushed to choose between caring about spiritual things or voting for the good of my family, my neighbor, and nation. Piper doesn’t like two-party assumptions, I don’t like dualism. Isn’t it possible to cultivate “real Christians who see the beauty and the worth of the Son of God,” Christians “who have the aroma of another world with another King,” who then are the very disciples who honor Christ in this world and through their stewardship of political opportunity, rather than burying their heads in (supposed heavenly) sand?
You not only get to vote for governor and president (and more), but you get to vote, so to speak, for who you want to be. Discernment is good, and yet it can be used as a cover for all sorts of smug attitudes and lazy-righteousness. Wisdom is a skill for living, not a skill just for lazily laughing at the lazy. This is your life. Don’t you want to be known for more than how quickly you can see the problem with everything?
I would like to default to doing hopefully rather than to deriding. This is my life. I want to try to be wise and do something and be joyful and trust God and love my brothers at the same time. This is my “vote.” It’s easier to appear clever with critical words rather than hopeful ones. I want to vote for being hopeful.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, all those who practice it have good understanding” (Psalm 111:10). Let’s be those who practice it.
It’s exciting that it’s almost time for elections. Our state’s primary voting is due Tuesday, and there’s a sense of optimism that maybe enough of “the people” are exasperated enough to vote for change.
Our republic system of government, wherein we have the opportunity (in most cases) to elect our leaders, is a fruit of freedom, and that freedom is a fruit of free men, and free men are a fruit of the gospel. It’s not that voting is a Christian principle per se, but representative authority is God’s own idea.
Plus, to be able to participate in the election of those representatives, and persuading others to vote, may feel a little less futile. There is a sense of possibility for better among us on the cusp of elections. Of course, it seems likely that some of the reason why it’s so crazy is because some powerful people are trying to mess with the elections. Apart from repentance, we certainly deserve more judgment, no matter how we vote.
But the two most important elections occurred before our lifetimes. If you are a believer, God elected You to salvation. Who can bring a charge against you now (Romans 8:33)? The governor can only ruin your business, and your breathing, but he can’t ruin your eternal reward and inheritance. The most important election is when God elected His Son to the throne. Loud voices declare the reality in Revelation 11:15, and God’s people have been singing about it ever since Psalm 2.
Kiss the Son lest He be angry. He will inherit the nations. God elects everything that happens, and this is good news. Worship Him in His sovereignty, and continue to put your hope in Him, even as you put the marks on your ballot.
Two Sundays ago I talked about praying, in particular, the case of praying for common grace in our culture. One of the passages that I think commends that idea is the beginning of 1 Timothy 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. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior (verses 1-3)
The start of the next paragraph continues beating the same prayer drum.
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling. (verse 8)
These sorts of prayers should always be made. Consistently our elders include prayers for our government in their corporate supplication. I always pray for our nation and unbelieving neighbors in my corporate prayer of confession for similar reasons. We believe that it is an appropriate time, a more desperate time, for the whole body to be called to prayer, even fasting.
Next Sunday evening (August 2) we have a scheduled service. Though we haven’t finished our series on Kuyperian spheres due to canceled services over the last few months, we plan to continue and extend those messages in the fall. But the elders desire to call the whole church to pray this week and then all together next Sunday night.
It will be different than our previous corporate prayer nights. We will concentrate prayers on our nation, our state, on the executive and legislative and judicial branches, on the upcoming election for various offices and laws. We will pray for grace, for them, for us.
I plan to fast for breakfast and lunch Thursday through Sunday. I would encourage you to join me in making devoted effort to prayer. May God help us.
For reminders about fasting in particular, here are two messages I preached about The New Wine of Fasting – Part 1 and Part 2.