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October 14, 2018 Our Duty is Our Blessing

 

Scripture reading: Jeremiah 29:1-7

 

The Christian life is a life that radically different than the average life. At least it should be. Those who are not of the household of faith will think it strange that you do not live as they do (I Peter 4:4) and they will even speak evil of you for standing up for righteousness because a society that is not based upon God’s law will call good “evil” and call evil “good.”

 

The Christian organization called The Navigators lists four main activities with which the follower of Christ must be engaged. They envision them as four spokes of a wheel where Christ is the hub. It is a good illustration that helps new believers remember what they should be doing. The Navigators call it the Wheel of Obedience. The four pursuits that we must be engaged in are: Bible study and reading, prayer, sharing the gospel (which they call witnessing), and fellowship. (Fellowship includes discipleship, church attendance and involvement, home meetings, and friendships in Christ.)

 

I agree that these four things are not only important but they may be the most important actions with which we must be involved. But they are not the only ones. Today I would like us to consider another pursuit with which every believer should be involved. That is our duty to be a good citizen. This is sometimes neglected because one can become discouraged by the trends of the communities around us, or our nation as a whole. Nevertheless, this is our calling.

 

When Jeremiah wrote his book (actually written by his scribe, Baruch), Judah (the southern kingdom of divided Israel) was in exile in Babylon. The reason that Judah went into exile is because they were disobedient to God. God judges nations and God judges his own people for disobedience. We must not forget this. Even though a nation may have been good in the past, they must remain true to the Lord; otherwise, they will be disciplined and the discipline can be severe. The United States was once a godly nation but it is no longer. Its citizens have turned their back upon the Lord and his laws. We have enacted laws that condone wickedness. Unless we turn back to the Living God, judgment is coming.

 

[II.] Our calling and our duty is to be a good citizen.

 

In Jeremiah’s time Judah was under judgment. They were captives in Babylon. Even though they were under judgment, God has good plans for them. He will restore them to their own country in time. Until they return, though, Jeremiah encourages them to apply their efforts to prosper the communities in which they live.

 

4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But 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 find your welfare.[1]

 

This is nothing less than being a good citizen of the country in which they live. It is a good thing to build a house. It is a good thing to have a garden. It is a good thing to have a large family – a family that multiplies. And, it is a good thing to seek the welfare of the community and nation in which we live.

 

Sometimes Christians are so heavenly minded that they are of little earthly good. They may be involved in three out of the four “wheel spokes” but they make no contributions to their community or country.

 

Then there are other Christians that are neither heavenly minded nor doing earthly good. They are non-productive. They neither work nor are in the process of being educated. They are just idle. This is contrary to God’s will. God gives this command: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.” [2] For those who are unemployed there are two pursuits with which you can be engaged. First, make it your job to find work. Finding work can be your work until you are hired. Second, practice good citizenship. Being a good citizen takes time and energy. We must set our minds upon it.

 

Whether we are employed, unemployed, or retired we are all called to contribute to our community, our state, and our nation. A Christian should be the best citizen!

 

[III.] How can we go about being a good citizen? Well, there are many ways. We can volunteer in civic organizations. We can get involved in the school system even if we are home schooling our children or if we are retired. But one of the easiest ways and most effective ways is to become involved in the political process. For a long time evangelicals in the U.S. avoided politics. For about a hundred years – from the mid-1800’s to the mid to late 1900’s – most evangelicals held the view that Jesus was coming back soon and the world was just getting worse. So, it wasn’t worthwhile to make any efforts to improve our nation or the world.

 

How did that turn out? The unregenerate and the wicked wielded all the influence and they took our nation in the direction that they wanted it to go - away from the ways of God. Things not only got worse but drastically worse.  In the 1970’s evangelicals realized their mistake and began to get involved in the political process. However, we were so far behind that we have been playing catch-up ever since.

 

[A.] We should vote because it is a privilege and it is usually not wise to neglect privilege.

 

In America we have the great privilege of selecting our leaders. Throughout most of history this was not an opportunity that people had. It is sad when Christians either do not vote or vote without giving it much thought. Maybe worst of all is voting for purely self-interest. We should vote for God’s interest first, our nation’s interest second, and not self-interest.

 

John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court said, “Providence has given our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”

 

[B.] We should vote because it is a great responsibility to do so. Consider the ramifications of voting in the Presidential and Senate races. The President nominates justices to the Supreme Court and the Senate must confirm them. We must have godly men and women on the court that uphold the Constitution. There are some justices who do not. They make decisions which reflect not the original intent of the Constitution but that cater to the current godlessness and waywardness of society. When a justice gets appointed to the Supreme Court he/she might be on it for 30 or more years. Therefore, our responsibility to vote for the right senatorial candidate is crucial.

 

Of course, it is not just the issue of the Supreme Court. The Senate and House of Representatives make our laws. Do you want state and federal laws that are contrary to God’s law or in accordance with God’s law? If you want to live in a land that has bad laws then either don’t vote or vote without much consideration. If you wish to have a country with good laws then vote and vote for the right candidate!

 

[C.] We should vote because your individual vote matters. One vote counts! People tend to think that their vote doesn’t matter because most elections are not decided by one vote. There are two things about this kind of thinking that prove it to be wrong.

 

First, if every Christian thought this way then we would mostly have godless people in office. But, it doesn’t have to be “every Christian.” Many elections are decided by a small number of votes. It only takes a small number of Christians to not vote because they think that their vote doesn’t count to allow the enemies of righteousness to prevail.

 

In 2008 there was a Senate race in the state of Minnesota. One candidate, Norm Coleman, supported a strong national defense, the right to bear arms, and was pro-life. He warned against the great danger that Iran posed (and still poses) to the United States and to Israel. He was pro-family and voted against the vile and lawless same-sex marriage man-made laws.

 

The other candidate, Al Franken, took the wrong side of each of those issues. Franken won by only 312 votes out of nearly three million. He would go on to cast a deciding vote on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). It passed by only one vote in December of 2009! It wasn’t his vote specifically that passed it, but if Coleman had won he would have voted against it.

 

Did you know that, in the 2000 Presidential election, President Bush won by only 537 votes!? This is because our President is decided by the electoral college and Florida was the deciding state. That year, whomever carried Florida became the President. George Bush won Florida by only 537 votes! If 538 people decided to stay home that year Al Gore would have been our President! So, it only takes a small number of votes to change the course of a nation at times.

 

The second reason that the “My vote doesn’t matter” thinking is wrong is because an election can come down to one vote!

 

Most recently, in December of 2017, the Democrat Shelly Simonds won her seat in the Virginia House of Representatives (House of Delegates) by only one vote.

 

But there have been other one-vote victories throughout our country’s history as well as other places.

 

  • In 1910 Democrat Charles Smith won his U.S. House seat in New York by one vote.
  • In 1839 Democrat Marcus Morton became governor of Massachusetts by one vote. What is truly amazing is that three years later he won again by one vote. This time by the state legislature because that year, because of the election laws, the gubernatorial race had to be decided by the legislature.
  • In 2008 a candidate by the name of  J P Joshi lost by one vote by over 124,000 votes cast in the Indian state of Rajasthan. What is interesting about that election is that his wife, his mother, and driver were all going to vote for him but did not make it to the polling place on time!

 

Not only have elections been decided by one vote, there have been elections that were tied!

 

  • In 1994 a seat in the Wyoming House of Representatives race was tied. The Governor of Wyoming had to choose one and he chose the winner by drawing out of a hat!
  • In 2016 the mayoral election in a province of the Philippines, Mindoro, was tied. The winner was then decided by a series of coin tosses! Amazingly, after an even series of coin tosses (they should have picked an odd number!) they were still tied! After a second series of coin tosses the winner was declared. The loser, Salvador Py, contested the results. His reason? He said he had to sell all his pigs to run for office!
  • In Nevada, election ties are settled by drawing playing cards. Highest card wins. A tie was settled in 2002 that way for a County Commissioner and again in 2011 for city council of North Las Vegas!
  • The Canadian province of Quebec has twice had tied elections for their representatives – once in 1994 and again in 2003 (different districts, though). They settled both ties by having a new election in each case. Better than drawing out of a hat, flipping coins, or drawing playing cards. (Sometimes Canadians have more sense.)

 

One vote can make a difference!

 

[D.] Voting is not the only way we can get involved in good citizenship. We can help others to vote. I want to encourage everyone to get involved with a campaign of a good candidate. Volunteer. Ask a campaign how you can help. Give your time. Put up yard signs.

 

Contribute to candidates who stand for the right issues. Even if you can only give $10 or $20, it can help. Something is better than nothing.

 

Finally, but just as importantly, pray. I believe that prayer is the main reason why we have our current President.  There were hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of evangelicals praying for victory. There were hundreds of thousands who came out to pray in person at Franklin Graham’s prayer sessions at every state capital in 2016. There were several of us from this church who went to Jeff City that year.

 

[IV.] How can I know who to vote for? Read your voter’s guide. In our senate race:

 

  • One candidate is for abortion on demand and one is not.
  • One if for reducing taxes and one is for increasing taxes.
  • One is for building a wall to secure our border and one is not.
  • One voted for Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed to the Supreme Court and one did not.
  • One voted for Brett Kavanaugh to be confirmed to the Supreme Court and one did not.
  • One is for infringing upon your second amendment rights and one is for protecting them.
  • One is for the Iran nuclear deal and one is against it.
  • One is for religious freedom for business owners and one is for forcing Christian business owners to perform actions against their conscience and against God’s word.

 

Become familiar with some of the local issues as well.

 

[V. Conclusion] When Judah was in Babylon they were captives. We are free. God directed his people to seek the welfare of their captors. How much more should we seek the welfare of our land, seeing that we have freedom? When Judah was in Babylon they could not choose their civil leaders. We have the privilege of choosing. What a neglect it will be if we do not or if we choose foolishly! When Judah was in Babylon they were discouraged. We may have been discouraged in recent times, considering how far astray our nation has gone from the vision of its founders and from God’s will. But opportunities are presenting themselves! Let us not allow these opportunities to be lost!

 

Follow the Lord’s calling and be a good citizen. When you fulfill this duty, like the Israelites, you will experience your own welfare improving. Fulfilling your duty will become your blessing.

 

Therefore, let us pray for the Lord to put godly men and women in office and remove those who are His enemies. Vote. Volunteer. Give.

 

The Lord Jesus would have you live out your citizenship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Je 29:4–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Th 3:10–11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.