Fealty to the Only Savior
--Pastor Jamey Nichols
With so much upheaval going on in our world right now, our reactions vary. They can easily range from mild discouragement to full-blown anxiety. Adding to the angst is the strife emerging among fellow believers. For Christ followers, our challenge is to maintain the unity of the Spirit within the body (Eph. 4:1) and, at the same time, sort out how to be in the world but not of it (John 17). This idea of being other worldly together raises important questions such as: How do I shine the light of Christ’s gospel in society without becoming tainted by it; How do I determine when to engage or when to distance; What if my sister or brother in Christ holds an opposing position?
In John 17:11-19 just prior to his crucifixion, Jesus spoke to the Father on behalf of his followers saying,
“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name . . . so that they may be one as we are one . . . I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
What a magnificent prayer! Based on this and other biblical concepts, consider these five foundational principles as you ponder your way in today’s world:
Equally devoted Christians may not walk identical paths. In Mark 9 there is an account of the disciples reporting (tattling?) to Jesus about someone doing Christian ministry but not going along with the group. The disciples had told him to stop but Jesus corrected them. While there are many basic universal truths for those who follow Jesus, one’s unique path is not one of them. God’s calling and gifting varies with person, time, and setting. One may be persuaded that being in the world but not of it means running for public office. Another, evangelizing children. Another, huddling alone working on Bible translation. In every case, the follower needs to walk his/her respective path with a commitment towards “perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Cor. 7:1) and remaining, “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
There are only two teams in this country and they’re not the elephants and donkeys of American politics. When issues facing us have political overtones, it can be way too easy to reduce a brother or sister to worldly terms and forget about the eternal identity that is found in Christ Jesus. Our Lord prayed that His followers “be one,” and part of making that happen requires us to esteem other Christ-followers first and foremost as eternal brothers/sisters in Christ. Political inclinations are important, but far, far less so. A person is either a born-again member of the body of Christ or they are lost, an enemy of Christ. Such is the most important two-party classification of human beings.
God’s Word informs our understanding more than news media. Every published message whether spoken or written (including this article you are now reading) is conveying a message that fits a larger narrative. Our country’s news outlets are all spinning information in ways that fit a perspective they believe in. In this sense, whether liberal or conservative-based reporting, every bit of it is colored with opinion and bias. The differences are the degrees of intensity and candor. I was inspired recently by the words of one pastor who wrote, “One of the most dangerous things a Christian can do right now is neglect Bible reading. Thousands of voices are attempting to convince you how to think. Be certain, you are being shaped. More Scripture, less social media. More Bible, fewer books. More prayer, fewer blog posts” (Garret Kell).
The end has always been near. Over the past few years I have been asked more than ever about how war, disease, and natural disaster might be pointing to end times prophecy. Way back when the Apostle Peter was alive he wrote, “The end of all things is near.” He went on to add, “Therefore, be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray” (1 Pet. 4:7). For Americans who have enjoyed relative peace, we must remember that disease, disaster, and political unrest have been normative throughout history and on every continent. Just because it’s our turn doesn’t mean that NOW the world is coming to an end. It has always been “close” from God’s perspective. Whether near or far from human perspective is ultimately irrelevant when it comes to our calling. End times or not, our aim remains: To love God wholeheartedly and our neighbors as ourselves; to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Matt. 22:36-40; Micah 6:8; Eccl. 12:13-13).
Christ alone can save us. There is not and never will be a politician, movement, policy, or law that can save. Any solution for societal healing that does not include Jesus is ultimately bankrupt. No human effort is capable to move the hearts of a citizenry like the powerful moving of God’s Holy Spirit. Does this mean social activism is a complete waste? Not at all! As our temporary home, we live in this world as salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16). However, the testimony we provide never guarantees a particular outcome. Our responsibility is to declare Christ but it’s His job to open blind eyes and convert rebellious hearts.
In every conversation and throughout every moment of every day, the fact of our heavenly citizenship must outweigh our earthly citizenship (Phil. 3:17-21). The goal of our earthly living must be inspired by Christ’s gift of Himself (Heb. 10:10). And, our hope and change (Pres. Obama) or return to greatness (Pres. Trump) rests not in broken and sinful people, but in Him who alone makes all things new (Rev. 21:5; 2 Cor. 5:17). Now then, go back and reread this article again. This time, read with an open Bible. Look up each Bible verse moving slowly and prayerfully through the article. Many voices are attempting to convince you how to think. If I’m your pastor, listen to mine. The overarching narrative I have bought into is this: If your life is hidden with Christ in God, you have a most delightful duty to fulfill (Col. 3:1-25).