Ever since the Sutherland Springs shooting this Sunday, brethren have been debating the issue of whether churches should have armed security to protect congregations from shooters. I’ve seen the arguments online, and I suspect they’ve been happening in real life as well. I think that both sides have some points to make, but I also see some important aspects to the Scriptural witness on the subject that have been overlooked. Continue reading
An election year often produces more buzz over the next President than concern over the current President. Yet, the office of President produces the potential to make landmark, life altering, decisions every day. They don’t get weekends off and the buck stops with them. For instance, with the passing of Justice Scalia, President Obama’s appointment to the Supreme Court will impact the nation for years to come.
This is a good day to pray for the President. But it is always a good day to pray for the President.
Whoever the President, whatever his party, however long he holds the office; it is the duty of saints to pray for him. Indeed, 2 Timothy 2:1-4 encourages saints to pray broadly for leaders and kings among men. Let’s remember that our brotherhood, Christ’s kingdom, crosses all national boundaries because the Lord Jesus rules in the hearts of men. In other words, there are Christians praying for their rulers in Democracies, Dictatorships, Monarchies, Communist States, and even Islamic States – all at the same time.
Whatever could all Christians ask that all national leaders could influence? Again, 2 Timothy 2:1-4 offers the answer:
- Peace – “that we may all lead a quiet and peaceable life…”
- Godliness – “…in all godliness…”
- Dignity – “…and reverence…”
- Salvation – “who desires all men to be saved…”
- Proclamation of the gospel – “…and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
George Washington set a positive precedent by encouraging people to pray.
“It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors.” – George Washington, 1st President of the United States of America
Abraham Lincoln confessed that his work was too taxing not to pray for himself.
“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” – Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America
National calls for prayer still come from our leaders, but often in the aftermath of some sort of tragedy. That’s not a criticism but an observation. Where else can we turn in dark hours? Yet, I can’t help but wonder, if our leaders entreated our prayers daily and we responded with daily prayer for them (and our neighbors) if some tragedies couldn’t be avoided altogether?
Today let’s not limit our prayers to thanksgivings for Washington and Lincoln. Let’s make supplications and intercessions for the President of the hour and the leaders of the world. The Bible teaches us what to say. And let’s remember to pray for them all again, tomorrow.
By Andrew Roberts
I felt, with many believers, frustration and righteous indignation at the recent New York Daily News cover story. “Prayer” is disdained as mere platitudes and God (along with those who look to Him for guidance, comfort, and protection from evil) is mocked. The headline suggests that God is absent or aloof when people are “lying in pools of blood.” Ironically, those with the courage to publicly affirm their faith in God and call for prayer are denounced as cowards. These are the times when Christians have a lot of praying to do – especially for their enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).
“GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” What an ideology. What a message. If hurting families are robbed of the spiritual solace and support of their neighbor’s prayers, what is left? If the sovereign, holy God will not right all wrongs on His Day of Reckoning, what is left? If all our hope and future rests solely on the shoulders of mere men – elected officials – and their proper governance, what is left?
This incendiary message amounts to a bold public confession of despair. The Bible says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Yet when we are overcome by evil, the result is despair.
- If you begrudge prayers for victim’s families, you have despaired.
- If you blame God for the evil actions of men, you have despaired. (This statement is in recognition that the God these politicians are invoking is not the same one that Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook were serving with their assault rifles. The Muslim shooters were acting in accordance with the written decrees of their god and so he reasonably shares some culpability.)
- If you conclude that the highest power in heaven and earth is mankind, well, how could you not despair? Evil has overcome you.
Evil will overcome us…
- Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil with government. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” so the government better. The government can “end [the] gun scourge.” The government can fix everything, right? The government has omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, right? The government can save us, right? The Bible says, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!” (Isaiah 31:1; cf. Psalm 20:7). Ancient Israel made the mistake of looking to government (either their own or national allies) instead of God to deliver them from evil. The prophet encountered the-“GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS”-message in his day and made clear that impressive horses and chariots cannot overcome evil. Don’t put your trust there. Government cannot overcome evil. If this is the plan, then, “Hello, Despair.”
- Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil with another law. Obviously the answer to the murders in San Bernardino is another law restricting gun ownership. At least that’s where the New York Daily News seemed to be going with their piece. It’s just so logical: If law-abiding citizens can no longer purchase guns then law-breaking murderers will not possibly acquire them either.
My point here isn’t so much about gun control. A person can become a Christian, faithfully serve God, and go to Heaven whether their nation allows them the right to bear arms or not. My point is about law, in general. We are inviting despair if we think a stricter law or more laws will overcome evil – any laws. Law has never delivered people from evil. People break laws! Law would overcome evil only if it was kept perfectly (Galatians 3:10; James 2:10-11). Whether we are talking about the U.S. Constitution, the Law of Moses, or the Law of Christ, only Jesus Christ has ever kept a law perfectly, none of the rest of us. Jesus Christ can overcome evil but another law in our justice system cannot. Of course we need law and order and government has a role ordained by God (Romans 13:1-7). A law names and convicts evil. But if another law or a harsher law is our answer to overcome evil… “Hello, Despair.” Somebody will break the new law too, eventually.
- Evil will overcome us if we try to overcome evil without God. In Romans 1 we read of a society that knew God but rejected Him. They chose willful ignorance of the true God. What does that look like? “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality…murder…deceit, evil-mindedness…haters of God, violent, proud…inventors of evil things…unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful…” (Romans 1:28-31). It looks like San Bernardino and a myriad of other reports on the evening News.
What do you think? Are parents talking about God to their children, so that they might “retain God in their knowledge”? Do the halls of Academia “retain God in their knowledge” as they present either science or the humanities to educate our populace? Do public officials or religious leaders “retain God in their knowledge” when they preach to the masses that all gods and religions are basically the same and thus shape public opinion and policy?
Surely it can’t be both ways. If we ignore, forget, or despise God then we cannot decry “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” We are overcome with evil. “Hello, Despair.”
Yet evil is overcome with good (Romans 12:21). Friend, there is no good without God (Matthew 19:16-17; James 1:16-17).
- Evil is overcome with God by the gospel. Governments and laws won’t overcome evil but the gospel can. The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). The gospel changes our state with God and justifies us by forgiving our sins based on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-26; 5:6-11). A sinner dies to sin and gets a new life when they are baptized (immersed in water) and buried into Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-14). Their heart is changed. Their mind is renewed. Their life is transformed from the world around them (Romans 12:1-2)… a world currently intent on forgetting God. Evil is overcome by God, not false religions, not governments, not laws, and not practical atheism. His plan to overcome evil by defeating Sin is the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:27). Evil is overcome one soul at a time as they respond to the gospel.
- Evil is overcome with God by prayer. I don’t know if I will vote for any of the men on the cover of this paper. I don’t know if any of them will even be on the ballot by the time elections roll around. But they got it right when they asked a nation to pray for neighbors and victims. Bible believers know to pray for the hurting, their leaders, pray for peace, pray for all the saints, pray for boldness, and pray for their enemies (1 Timothy 2:1-4; Ephesians 6:18-20; Acts 4:29; Philippians 4:6-7; Matthew 5:44-45). They also know to keep praying during dark times (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
- Evil is overcome with God by love. God loves sinners and Jesus died to redeem them regardless of how they have sinned (John 3:16). You and I are no more sinless than Muslim terrorists or the editors at New York Daily News. We are all equally lost apart from God’s love and gracious salvation. Love is shown and known when it touches the despairing. The gospel of Jesus Christ is what people need to hear right now. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” is a bold confession of despair. Let Christians hear it for what it is – an angry and rebellious child pushing away the only parent whose love can make things better. Aren’t our arms tired of pushing God away? Aren’t we ready to surrender our personal rebellions to God? We must come to God through the gospel of Jesus Christ who fixes us by His love and teaches us to love our neighbors also (Romans 13:8-10; Titus 2:11-14).
“Innocent Americans” are not “left lying in pools of blood” because there has been too much God in this society or too much prayer. “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS” is a bold confession of despair, especially when the truth is so obvious – only God can fix this. Only the gospel changes people. The Bible – God’s Word – has the answers. Who will share it with others? Who will listen and respond?
By Andrew Roberts