Clap your hands, all peoples!
Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth.
He subdued peoples under us,
and nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us,
the pride of Jacob whom He loves. Selah
God has gone up with a shout,
the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!
God reigns over the nations;
God sits on His holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather
as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
He is highly exalted!
Perhaps you are a member of the extended Van Winkle family, or have just returned from a prolonged vacation to outer space. Otherwise, you probably are aware that our nation, the U.S. of A., has recently elected a new president. If all goes according to plan, you will be reading this note on the very day that said new president will officially take office. It is Inauguration Day. And that reality has generated white-hot national excitement, with both the Elephants and the Donkeys.
Yet we are Believers, Christian people. How should we think about these national matters? If you've not already rolled your eyes in disgust or disinterest, let's think briefly about three fundamental precepts. For we are a people called by God to be citizens of an eternal realm, and yet dwell in a particular culture at a particular time.
Scripture declares that God is sovereign over His creation! God's Word, from Genesis to Maps, proclaims that God made the world and rules the world. How's that for stating the obvious? But it's important for us to remember what that means, particularly in the rough-and-tumble world of national and global politics. Remember the hated Assyrians? They are specifically named as the instruments of God to punish the apostate nation of Israel. In their time, the Babylonians, Persians and Romans all shaped history according to God's eternal decree. Governments of all sorts have come and gone, but not at random and not outside of God's perfect will. It's the same with the leaders of those governments. Scripture is filled with examples that demonstrate what it declares, “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will” (Proverbs 21:1). We, just as all the humans in the Bible, are confronted with perplexing, painful realities, both personal and political. But remembering that God is managing His world for His glory and for His people's good brings, "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow."
Now please don't read that reminder of God's sovereignty as a call for a complacent Christian citizenry. Scripture certainly doesn't. God has designed His people to bear His image in his world. We do not serve an aloof, disinterested God. So to be Christian citizens characterized by disinterested aloofness is not part of the good works for which we have been made.
The second clear message of scripture that shines like a beacon in the recent political storms is that our identity in Christ supersedes all other identities. That was a very, very difficult lesson in the early church. It's actually just as tough for us. Maybe even a bit more so if you are a born citizen of the Lone Star state! But what if you were born in first-century Corinth to Greek parents? They became Christians after hearing Paul's teachings. Then do you accept Christ as a non-Jew, foreigner and that's enough? Or do you first renounce your heritage, convert to Judaism, and then get to become a Christian? We know the right answer, but do we live the right answer? In the quiet place of our hearts, do we really recognize that everything which ordinarily forms our self-identity fades into the background in light of the extraordinary reality of the resurrected Lord Jesus? That's more important than being rich. It's more important than being famous. It's more important than being American. It's more important than being Presbyterian or Southern or Democrat or Republican.
“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:4-11).
On Inauguration Day, will you join me in prayerfully considering what things we have allowed to take "identifying precedence" over Christ?
Finally, let's remember the truth that changed hearts changes cultures. We all know accounts of people we would have least expected becoming gospel-driven world- changers. A particular Jewish Rabbi with a penchant for the pen comes to mind. And a simple fisherman from "the wrong part of the country" finally came to understand about that "fishers of men" business. It's happening today too. Our faithful God is drawing people from every tribe and every tongue, calling them in Christ out of darkness into His marvelous light. Will you pray for that? "Well, of course!," you might be tempted to say. "I support foreign missions!" But the Word of God also pointedly calls us to pray for our political leaders. And that's different than praying "about" them. Will you pray for them to know the Lord, to grow up in Christ, and to walk in His ways?
"Park Cities Presbyterian Church exists to extend the transforming presence of the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ in Dallas and to the world." Will you pray that such a transforming presence will extend to the hearts of our government leaders, whatever their policies or your preferences? Now more than ever in this country,
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:9-12).
So, whatever pomp in whichever circumstance you find yourself today, God is sovereign over His creation. Our identity in Christ supersedes all other identities, and it's changed hearts that change cultures. So, pray without ceasing.