Voting Your Conscience

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  October 16, 2016
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Well, I need to tell you that this week as I was preparing this message, I found myself deeply regretting that I promised to address this issue. And you can put yourself in my shoes. I mean, look at the relentless stream of sewage that has poured out of this political season and even over this past week. Imagine having to address this from some sort of a biblical perspective. I also need to say to those of you who are our guests, if this is your first time with us, I don't want you to get the wrong idea about what we normally do here. Ordinarily, I open the Scriptures. We're teaching through the Book of Romans, and we invite you to come back and be with us on a normal Sunday. But you've come this morning into what really is a unique time for us. It's the only time, I think, in the 13 years I've been the pastor of this church that I will address political issues as directly as I will address them this morning. Now relax, I don't plan to tell you who to vote for. That's not my role. In fact, what I really want to do, primarily, is to use this decision as a sort of illustration of how you and I as believers are called to make decisions when it comes to issues of conscience.

This is a hard decision, a difficult decision. We are just three weeks from the presidential election, and, sadly for Christians, the decision for us has not become any clearer. It has been a bizarre political season from the very start. I try to tell my daughters, who'll be voting for the first time in this election, that in my 56 years and far back as I can remember, there has never been anything that approaches the bizarreness, the strangeness of this political season. Our two-party system has given us a choice between two candidates who are the most unpopular and the least trusted in American history. When it comes to their collective morality we have, without question, reached a new low. In fact,

at the risk of offending those of you who don't understand my sense of humor, I will tell

you that someone on staff this week asked me what the title of my message was going to be. And my response was, "I think I'm going to call it 'November Eighth: Fascist or Felon.'" And I must admit to you, I feel a bit like that's the choice that's been offered to us.

So what is a Christian to do? That's the question of the morning. What is a Christian to do in light of our circumstances? Well, the voices of well-known, respected Christian leaders and millions of every-day Christians have absolutely flooded the internet trying to give us counsel. Some of it's helpful. But let's just be honest. For me anyway, in too many cases I feel like these voices have tried to bind our consciences telling us how we must vote if we want to be faithful to Christ. For example, the pastor of a large Baptist church here in the Dallas area said back in March, "I believe any Christian who would sit at home and not vote for the Republican nominee, that person is being motivated by pride rather than principle." And even after the revelation this past week of those awful, sexually explicit comments, that same pastor said on a national news network that Christians who intend to vote for a third party or not to vote at all are "hypocrites and fools." This has been what we have been told. These are the kinds of things that have been said.

This morning, what I want to do is to remove all of the hype and the passion and consider how those of us who want to be wise stewards of what God has given us need to make this decision carefully and biblically. I need to say again, for the sake of our guests, that this is going to be more of a family discussion than it will be a typical sermon that I usually give on a Sunday morning. In a sense, what I want to do is walk you through the struggle that, frankly, I continue to have in my own mind as I try to decide how to vote on this strange presidential race.

I want us to start at 30,000 feet considering some of the key requirements that God has of earthly rulers, even pagan ones. And then I want us to come down back to earth and specifically think through what our realistic options are when we stand in the voting booth in three weeks. So let's begin, then, at sort of the high level, looking down at the mountain tops and examining God's standards for leaders.

Now in weighing some of the qualities that matter most to God in an earthly ruler, there are several possible approaches we could take. We could look at the nature of God's rule. We could go through Scripture and see how the reign of God is described. We could look at the millennial reign of our Lord Jesus Christ that was touched on even in the Psalm we read together this morning. We could see what the character and quality of His reign will be. We could go back and look at the commands that God gave to Israel's kings and see how they were told to reign and what their rule was to look like. Or we could go to the prophets, and we could see how the prophets corrected Israel's kings and told them how it is that they should respond.

But even though all of those are perfectly legitimate and valid approaches, I want to take this morning a slightly different approach, because what we hear most often from Christians in this political season is something like this. Well, we aren't electing a pastor, we're electing a president; and after all, they say, both of the major candidates are pagans even though they both profess Christianity. Now let me say, I agree wholeheartedly with both of those observations. I do believe that we're electing a president, not a pastor. And I would absolutely agree, it's obvious, they're both pagans. But I still think it's important to keep a biblical perspective. And so I want to consider briefly what God demands of rulers in a general sense, and even specifically in some cases of pagan rulers. Now when you look at the biblical data from that perspective, it means (when we put it all together) that we should choose our next president primarily on the basis of two fundamental criteria.

First of all, character. I think it goes without saying, but I think it's important for us to affirm as we begin, that God is sovereign over all earthly rulers. Daniel makes that very clear. Daniel is nothing other than a testimony of God's sovereignty over all of human history, its empires and its rulers. And He holds every ruler, including even pagan rulers, accountable to Himself. I love what the handwriting on the wall says. You remember in Daniel 5 when God writes on the wall in the palace of Belshazzar and tells him his kingdom is coming to an end, this is what He says. In Daniel 5:27, as Daniel interprets it to Belshazzar, he says "You have been weighed on the scales and found [wanting]." You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. God says, I have a right to weigh your rule as a pagan king on the scales of My demands and expectations of rulers, and when I've done that with you, I've found you to be lacking. You need to understand, God does that not just with Belshazzar but with every human king. God carefully weighs the character even of pagan rulers, and He demands in His Word that all rulers, even pagan ones, be men and women of character and integrity.

But specifically, what character qualities in earthly rulers matter most to God? Now let me just say, the following list that I'm going to give you is not inclusive. It is merely representative. It's very brief, in fact, but it does highlight some of the key things that tend to recur again and again. Here are a few of the key character qualities God expects and demands of earthly rulers.

Number one: humility before God. And I put this one first, because if you were to trace through the Old Testament, you would find this one shows up more frequently than any other. Let me give you some examples. Turn with me to Isaiah 10. As you remember, it was in the year 722 that God used the Empire of Assyria to come in and take captive the northern ten tribes of Israel. He used them as an instrument to accomplish His purpose. But they were not exonerated from their sins. God was going to hold them accountable. And so in Isaiah 10:12, through Isaiah we read this: "[But] it [shall] be that when the Lord has completed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem." In other words, when He finishes what He intends to do in using Assyria, "He will say, 'I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness.'" Literally, "the pomp of the haughtiness of his eyes." God says listen, when I look at the king of Assyria, whom I have chosen to use for My own purposes, the chief sin I see, the greatest way in which I have weighed him on the scales and found him wanting is his arrogance. And God says I'm going to deal with his arrogance. Verse 13:

For he has said [this is the king of Assyria],

"By the power of my hand and by my wisdom I did this,

For I have understanding;

And I removed the boundaries of the peoples

And plundered their treasures,

And like a mighty man I brought down their inhabitants,

And my hand reached to the riches of the people like a nest,

… as one gathers abandoned eggs, I gathered all the earth;

And there was not one that flapped its wing or opened its beak or chirped."

You just sense the dripping arrogance in this statement. And God says I will not tolerate his arrogance. I will punish the king of Assyria for his pride.

Turn over to chapter 14. You meet a different king, another pagan king. Verse 4 of chapter 14 says this is the king of Babylon: "Take up this taunt against the king of Babylon." And this chapter unfolds God's judgment, the pronouncement of His judgment on Babylon and the king of Babylon. Verse 12: "How have you fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, [and] you... have weakened the nations!" Now, some see here a primary reference to Satan. Personally, I don't believe that's so. I think this chapter is primarily addressed to the king of Babylon. But certainly energizing and empowering the king of Babylon was Satan, and it was an expression of the same kinds of things that came out of Satan's heart. Verse 13, here's the king of Babylon again: "But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; [and] I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north.'" That last expression has to do with—in that day they believed that the gods met on one of the mountains in Syria. And he's essentially saying, I'm going to meet with the gods. Verse 14: "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like [El Elyon, like the highest] the Most High [God]." How does God respond to that? Verse 15:

"You will be thrust down to Sheol,

To the recesses of the pit.

Those who see you will gaze at you,

They will ponder over you, saying,

'Is this the man who made the earth tremble,

Who shook kingdoms...?'"

God says I will not stand, I will not tolerate the arrogance of earthly rulers; I will bring them low.

Turn to Daniel. As I mentioned before, Daniel is a book about God's sovereignty over human history and its empires and its kings. And in chapter 4 is the famous story of Nebuchadnezzar the great king of Babylon. You're familiar with the story, the vision that he saw of the great tree that was cut down and the fulfillment of that prophecy. But I want you to go to Daniel 4:28:

All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. Twelve months later [that is, after the prophecy that he was going to be driven from his throne] twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon.

I've had the opportunity to read a little bit about that ancient city. What a magnificent, beautiful city it was. Its major feature was one of the wonders of the ancient world: a 400-foot-high artificial mountain built out of the desert with all the hanging gardens to make one of his wives feel at home. It was a magnificent city, and he thought so. Verse 30: "The king reflected and said, 'Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?'" Now folks, that statement makes some of what's coming out of our major candidates seem mild. How does God respond? Verse 31:

"While the word was in the king's mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, 'King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you… [you'll] be driven away from mankind… your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. [You'll] be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time [seven years] will pass over you until you recognize that [El Elyon] the Most High [God] is ruler over the realm of mankind and [He] bestows it on whomever He wishes.' [And] immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled."

Nebuchadnezzar, by the way, got the message. After those seven years were done, he wrote this chapter. He begins by addressing us in verse 1, and he concludes by addressing us in verse 37. Look at it: "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of Heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, [now here's the punchline] and He is able to humble those who walk in pride." What I want you to see is that one of the most basic requirements God has for earthly rulers is that they be humble before Him. He will not tolerate arrogance in earthly rulers.

There's a second passage in this very book that drives home the same point. Look at Daniel 5:17. Now we fast forward it to Nebuchadnezzar's grandson. He's sitting on the throne in place of the absentee son of Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonidus, who was doing archaeology elsewhere. And you remember the handwriting on the wall. The Medes and the Persians are outside the gates. Verse 17:

Daniel... said [to] the king, "Keep your gifts for yourself… give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription to the king and make the interpretation known to him. O king, the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father [that is, your ancestor, your grandfather in this case]. Because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations and men of every language feared and trembled before him [he had absolute power]; whomever he wished he killed and whomever he wished he spared alive; and whomever he wished he elevated and whomever he wished he humbled. [verse 20, here's how Daniel interprets what happened to Nebuchadnezzar] But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken away from him. He was... driven away from mankind, and his heart was made like that of beasts... [notice the end of the verse] until he recognized that the most high God is ruler over the realm of mankind and that He sets over it whomever He wishes. Yet you, his son [that is, his grandson], Belshazzar, [you] have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; [they brought the vessels of the temple, and you have, basically, mocked the God of Israel.] [Verse 23 ends,] the God in whose hand are your life-breath and… your ways, you have not glorified."

God brings down this king. He brings down the Empire of Babylon. And one of the primary factors was the arrogance of its rulers.

There's a second expectation that God has of earthy rulers, even pagan ones, and that is morality and honesty. I want you to turn to Proverbs. Proverbs, as you know, is a collection of proverbs; that is, truisms. These are not just about Israel's kings. These passages speak of what God expects of kings in a general sense. Proverbs 16:12:

It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts,

For a throne is established on righteousness.

Righteous lips are the delight of kings,

And he who speaks right is loved.

This is the standard God has for kings. Look at 17:7: "Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, much less are lying lips to a prince." God expects rulers to be honest and not liars. Look at 20:28: "Loyalty and truth preserve the king." Hesed (that is, loving loyalty and faithfulness) "preserve the king, and he upholds his throne by righteousness," by covenant loyalty. This is what is expected of a king, these qualities. Turn over to 28:15: "Like a roaring lion and a rushing bear is a wicked ruler over a poor people." Here the ruler who uses his authority for his own advantage is pictured like a predator preying on his people. Verse 16: "A leader who is a great oppressor lacks understanding, but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days." God says a ruler should be one who doesn't use his position for his own advancement but for the good of the people that he rules. Look at 29:12: "If a ruler pays attention to falsehood [that is, if they are open to lying and are OK with lying], all his ministers become wicked." Listen, a person who is a ruler and who lies and tolerates lying will be surrounded by liars. And God says this is not how it's supposed to be. Morality and honesty.

By the way, the New Testament isn't silent on this as well. In Mark 6:18, you remember the ministry of John the Baptist? John the Baptist shows up in Herod's face and says, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." It's not OK for you to be committing sexual sin.

God expects humility, morality and honesty. Thirdly, He expects, even from pagan rulers, justice. Justice. Look at Proverbs 20:8: "A king who sits on the throne of justice [that is, who makes decisions justly] disperses all evil with his eyes." Literally, sifts. The idea is, if he's a really just ruler, he discerns the evil and the good; and he sort of chases away evil, because he's just. This is what kings are to be. Proverbs 29:4: "The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it." When you have a ruler who is willing to do deals under the table, it undermines the stability of the country. Again, God will not tolerate this from rulers. This is not in keeping with His standard and how He weighs rulers. Notice verse 14 of the same chapter: "If a king judges the poor with truth." In other words, if he makes just decisions regardless of that person's social-economic condition, their influence, their power, their wealth, then notice, "His throne will be established forever." He's not to be unduly influenced by people with power and money and influence. He's to be just. Look at chapter 31. King Lemuel learns some important things from his mother, 31:1. And part of what he learns from her has to do with this issue of justice. Look at verses 8 and 9:

Open your mouth for the mute,

For the rights of all the unfortunate.

Open your mouth, judge righteously,

And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.

Again, this idea of being just, not being influenced by those who have position and power, who donate to your campaign. Justice.

A fourth quality that God expects of even pagan rulers is compassion. Compassion. There are a number of places we could go for this, but in the interest of time let me give you one. It's from Daniel chapter 4. Again, you remember it's the story of Nebuchadnezzar. God tells Nebuchadnezzar what's going to happen to him, and then He extends an opportunity for him to repent. And here's what Daniel says to Nebuchadnezzar as far as how that repentance should manifest itself. Daniel 4:27: "Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness [there it is, this is what God expects] and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity." Daniel says to Nebuchadnezzar, listen, if you want yourself to be spared what God has predicted and prophesied will come on you, then one way you can do that is by showing compassion to people. Now why would that be important to God? Because that's a reflection of God's own heart. This is who God is. He's compassionate in His rule, and He expects earthly rulers to be the same.

So there's a really short list, but those are things God expects of earthly rulers.

God also expects earthly rulers not only to have certain character, but another point of emphasis is skill and wisdom to fulfill their responsibilities. Now, I'm going to cheat here and borrow a reference from the Nation of Israel. Deuteronomy chapter 1. I can't miss this one, because it's so clear. Deuteronomy 1:12-15. Moses is responsible for all the nation, and he needs leaders to come alongside. And he says this in Deuteronomy 1:13: "Choose wise and discerning and experienced men... and I will appoint them as your [leaders]." There's a great standard: wise, discerning, experienced. They need the skill and wisdom to fulfill their responsibilities. They can't just have character. They need to also have the capacity to carry out their responsibilities, the wisdom to do so. Solomon, in Proverbs 8:15, puts it this way. As he personifies wisdom, he says, "By me [wisdom speaking] By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice." They ought to be people of wisdom and skill.

But, along with their own skill and wisdom, leaders must also have the ability to chose wise and righteous counselors. Proverbs 20:18: "Prepare plans by consultation, and make war." Clearly, we're talking about kings here. "Make war by wise guidance." In other words, don't be so arrogant and self-sufficient to think you can decide everything yourself. Be the kind of person who understands the importance of guidance, of counsel, and surround yourself with wise counselors. Proverbs 25:5, they also ought to be righteous counselors. "Take away the wicked before the king [that is, take away from the king wicked counselors and advisers], and his throne will be established in righteousness." So he needs to have inherent wisdom, but he also needs to have the wisdom to choose both wise and righteous counselors and advisers.

Now folks, that is merely a brief, representative list, but I hope it's done what I wanted it to do. If you're like me and you look at that brief list, you are painfully aware that neither candidate of our two major parties begins to meet those qualifications. And yet, those are God's demands and expectations of even pagan kings. So what are we to do?

Well, that brings us to a second issue, and that is, practically, making a decision in this election. If you came hoping this morning that I was going to tell you that the Bible tells you how to vote, you're going to leave disappointed. The reason that it's not right for me to tell you how to vote—listen carefully—has to do with the nature of this decision. You see, when it comes to the moral decisions we have to make (I'm not talking about what socks you wear. I'm talking about the moral decisions of life.), they always fall into one of three categories—every moral decision you will ever make. Category number one is a direct command of Scripture. Chapter and verse, God says, "Do this." Category number two is a direct prohibition of Scripture. Chapter and verse, God says, "Don't do this." Those are the first two categories, and if it falls into either of those the decision's pretty simple. But there's a third category where a lot of the decisions you and I have to make (that have some moral overtones to them or are thoroughly moral) fall, and that is issues of conscience. That's the third category: issues of conscience.

Now, let me just say that if this idea of this category of issues of conscience is new to you or if it's been a while since you've reviewed this, it's important you understand that God didn't leave us without guidance here. He didn't tell us what decision to make in these decisions, but He did give us a grid for making these decisions. And that grid comes in four chapters in the New Testament. Read them: Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10. Those four chapters teach us how to make decisions when it comes to issues of conscience. If it's not "thou shalt," chapter and verse, or "thou shalt not," chapter and verse, then those four chapters tell us how to make those decisions, the decisions that fall outside of those two categories. If it's been a while since you've reviewed that and you want to, I encourage you to listen to a four-message series that I taught on Romans 14 entitled "Hard Call." It just lays out the principles of making decisions when it comes to issues of conscience.

But what I want you to see this morning is that deciding whom to vote for in this election clearly falls into the third category. It's not a direct command. It's not a direct prohibition. It is an issue of conscience. So what do you do? Well, you pray for God's wisdom. You do your research, and you think through the choices. And then you make a decision with a clear conscience before the Lord of what you think would most honor Christ.

Now, I'm not going to tell you whom to vote for, but I do want to spell out our options. Let me just be honest with you. My wife will tell you, I don't yet know myself what I'm going to do. But as I've thought it through, these are the legitimate options that stand before us as Christians.

Number one: don't vote. Let's be honest. Scripture nowhere explicitly teaches that it is a sin not to vote. So I think a Christian can make this choice. However, I do think a biblical case can be made that this is the least desirable of the options, because there are a couple of passages that imply it would be better if we did. For example, Romans 13:7, Paul says, "Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor." And our Lord Himself said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's." Now, the more I've reflected on those verses, the more I think that they imply that in our country Christians have a responsibility to vote. Paul says we are to give our government what it rightly requires of us, what it justly requires. And what is the most basic responsibility inherent in a democracy? Choosing our leaders and our representatives. What do our leaders constantly urge us to when it gets close to any election? Get out and—vote. So I don't think you can say, I can't say and you can't say, that the Christian who doesn't vote is sinning, because the Scripture doesn't say that. I think we can say that one of the ways to render to Caesar what belongs to him is to be involved, in our governmental system, in choosing our leaders. I think it's a stewardship given to us by God. So personally, I don't think that I'm going to choose this option. But I think it is a valid option of conscience for a believer.

A second option we have is to vote for a third-party or write-in candidate. Now, the strength of this option is that it allows us to vote in good conscience for someone whose character we can approve and whose views we can more reasonably support. But there're are also significant problems with this option. I think you know that there are only two third-party candidates in Texas: one from the green party, and the other from the libertarian party. In addition, Texas requires write-in candidates to register with the Secretary of State. In this election (back in August) as a result, Texas will only recognize 13 write-in candidates for this year's presidential election. That means you have to choose one of those 13. And if you don't, a vote cast for an unregistered write-in candidate will not be counted in the state of Texas. So this is a legitimate choice—I believe that—but understand that it is, in effect, like not voting. And as I think it through, if I end up making this choice or if you do, I think we have to be honest with ourselves that we are, in reality, helping to ensure that whatever candidate is ahead in the polls becomes the next president.

Our third legitimate option is to vote for the lesser of two evils. Now let me tell you that there are some Christians, even one of my dear friends, who says this is simply not an option: both candidates are too evil. Others that I respect would say that to vote for one of these candidates, because they are so evil, to vote for one of them is to participate in their evils deeds, be responsible for their evil deeds and to come under the condemnation of Romans 1, approving evil. Now, I respect both of these men and others like them, but I don't agree with them. I think this is a valid issue of conscience option for a believer. The primary argument for this option is based on the truth that either the Democratic or the Republican nominee is almost certainly going to be our next president. We can't change that. So even though we disagree with and distrust both candidates, this argument goes, we can decide that we disagree with one more, and we distrust one more, and therefore vote for the opponent.

Now, if we take this approach of the lesser of two evils, we can make our choice on the basis of several different criteria. And again, I want to make this clear, I'm just telling you how I'm thinking here as well. We could make the choice between the lesser of two evils on the candidate's characters. We can try to base our choice in comparing the character, dignity, honesty and leadership of the two candidates. That's almost a joke. Frankly, if I were to make this the basis of my choice, I would vote for neither of the two main candidates. Every day there are fresh revelations about them on both sides of the isle. Both of them would be the worst of rulers. Both of them are thoroughly immoral and dishonest. If I end up voting for one of the main candidates, it will never be a vote for that person and their character.

Secondly, another criterion for deciding between the two evils is the candidate's agendas. Simply compare the candidate's views, philosophies, ideas, plans. Specifically, what are the candidate's goals for our country if they make it to the White House?

A third criterion you could use in deciding between the lesser of two evils is the party platforms. Tragically, one major party now has a written platform that champions a radical moral agenda that is in almost every way diametrically opposed to God, to His character and to His Law. Honestly, it comes right out of Romans 1. Here's a comparison of the two platforms based on two key issues of our times. Let's take the nature of marriage. By the way, these quotes come from each party's website. Here's the Democratic platform on the nature of nature of marriage: "Democrats applaud last year's decision by the Supreme Court that recognized that LGBT people like other Americans have the right to marry the person they love." Here's the Republican: "Traditional marriage and family based on marriage between one man and one woman is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values." Here's abortion. The Democratic platform says, "Every woman should have access to quality reproductive healthcare services including safe and legal abortion." The Republican platform says, "We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed." Let me just encourage you to do this. Before you vote—period—read the party's platforms.

A fourth criterion for deciding between the lesser of two evils is the Supreme Court nominations. In four years a president makes a lot of decisions, but none of those decisions are as far reaching or as long lasting as the recommendation of Supreme Court justices. Our next president will appoint somewhere between one and four justices. And those justices—and you understand this if you've lived any time at all—those justices will impact our country for the next generation and beyond. And both major candidates have been very clear about their priorities in choosing Supreme Court justices. So, we may end up deciding to choose the candidate based on the justices he or she will choose.

A fifth criterion for choosing the lesser of two evils is our religious liberty. I really do believe that for the first time in my lifetime we may very well be voting in this election for the preservation of our first-amendment rights. So it may come down to this: although there are no guarantees what a wicked, immoral person will do once elected in respect to their pre-election promises, which candidate has expressed a greater concern about the protection of our rights to practice our faith? Again, the two platforms. The Democratic platform says,—and this frightening to me—"We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate." Now you know exactly what that means. They're talking about using religion, using your faith, to argue against the moral agenda that they have, including the LGBT rights and everything else. Here's the Republican platform: "The Bill of Rights lists religious liberty with its rights of conscience as the first freedom to be protected. Religious freedom in the Bill of Rights protects the right of the people to practice their faith in their everyday lives."

This is a hard decision. It's a decision I haven't made yet. It's a decision each one of us is going to have to make. So how do you decide, then, how to vote? Very briefly, let me give you a couple of points. First of all, pray for wisdom, and pray for our country. Secondly, make the decision that you believe best honors Christ. Don't decide how your parents voted. Don't decide based on all these other factors. What decision will best honor Christ and best benefit our country. Number three, once you've made your decision, don't judge other Christians who make different decisions. Remember, this is an issue of conscience. Listen to Paul in Romans 14 dealing with issues of conscience. Romans 14:10: "Why do you judge your brother… why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God." It's not your right to judge what your brother decides on an issue of conscience. You and he will give an account to Christ for that decision.

Number four, rest in confidence in our Lord's sovereignty. Whomever you decide to vote for, I beg you, I plead with you, don't put your trust in that person or that party or that platform or the Supreme Court Justices. Our hope is in God alone. Daniel 4:17: "The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and [He] bestows [on it who] He wishes and [He] sets over it the lowliest of men." If you want hope, here's hope. Memorize this verse. Take it with you into the voting booth on November 8th. Revelation 1:5: "Jesus Christ... the ruler of the kings of the earth." That's our hope. Revelation 19:16 says that "on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, 'KING OF KINGS, AND LORD [OVER] LORDS.'"

And finally, live for the day when we have a perfect ruler. The day is coming when our Lord returns and sets up His kingdom on this earth. Isaiah 9 tells us that the government will rest upon His shoulders, and His kingdom will be forever. And it will be a righteous, holy, compassionate, just kingdom. That's what we live for. Don't forget where your citizenship really lies. Let's pray together.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, we worship You as our King. Lord, we're so grateful that You are our Redeemer, that You have by Your perfect life lived in our place, by Your substitutionary death satisfied the justice of the Father, and You have reconciled us to Yourself. Lord, we bless You and praise You. We love you, and we're so thankful that You are our King. But give us wisdom to live in this world in a way that honors You. Thank You that You are also our Redeemer, that in the Lord's Table we remember Your sacrifice for us. Receive our worship as we remember You, as we think about You, as we contemplate what You have accomplished on our behalf. And Lord, we confess our sins, because we don't want to take of this reminder of You and Your death for sin while clinging, cherishing, holding on to some sin in our lives. And so Lord, we open every dark corner of our souls. And we confess our sin, and we ask You to cleanse us and forgive us. Receive our worship now. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.