In God We Trust (Part 1)

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  June 28, 2015
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Well, in light of Friday's Supreme Court decision I decided yesterday with the counsel of some of the elders that I needed to step away from our study of Romans to address this monumental event in the life of our nation. Honestly, I just couldn't see myself preaching today a message from Romans 2 on circumcision in light of all that's transpired.

Let me begin by giving a disclaimer to those who are new to our church and our church family. If you combine my comments last week about the shooting in Charleston with my decision to preach a special message today you could come to the mistaken conclusion that my ministry is, sort of, a reaction to the current cultural and political events. Those who are a part of our church family would laugh at that suggestion. I think in 12 years that I've been the pastor of Countryside on around five occasions I have altered my normal consecutive exposition of the Word of God to address cultural or political events from the Scripture.

But the events of these last two weeks have been so extraordinary that to ignore them seemed to me to be entirely inappropriate. And to continue our study of Romans today as if nothing of great significance had happened in our country this last week and to leave you without the biblical direction for how to respond to these events, I just believe would be a gross dereliction of my duty as your pastor.

Because Friday, June 26, 2015, was surely a landmark day in American history. In one sense, we could say that what the 1973 Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade was for my generation, Obergefell versus Hodge will be for this generation, although much more difficult to pronounce. Both are defining moments in the life of our country.

But as I thought about it, it seemed to me that there is also a troubling, even ominous, difference in Friday's decision from that of Roe v. Wade, now so many years ago. Because until the recent health care law came into play, Roe v. Wade did not impinge on our liberties to exercise our faith in this country.

But the court's ruling in this case will threaten our liberty, I believe very soon, and, in fact, it already has. In states that have adopted same sex marriage Christians have already found themselves under fire for being out of step with the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age. Christian bakers have been sued and effectively run out of business for failing to participate in same sex weddings. And now I believe the floodgates will truly open. I believe this will wrongly become the civil rights issue of our times.

Now, of course, there are many homosexuals that just want to live their lives in peace and do what they do and some of them will decide to marry, others will not. But the radicals, the lobbyists, those who have driven the political agenda so far, those who wake up every morning trying to decide how to further this agenda, I can promise you that they were ecstatic about Friday's ruling. But I can also promise you that they were not even close to satisfied. They will not rest until all disagreement with their position and lifestyle, all objections to what they do, are completely crushed and silenced.

Their agenda moving forward will perhaps, or was, I should say, perhaps clearest, clearly expressed, in a brief statement issued by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. This is part of what she said in her statement.

While we celebrate the progress won today, we must stand firm in our conviction to keep moving forward. For too many LGBT Americans who are subjected to discriminatory laws, true equality is still just out of reach. While we celebrate today, our work won't be finished until every American can not only marry, but live, work, pray, learn and raise a family free from discrimination and prejudice. We cannot settle for anything less.

Ominously the writers of that statement inserted the word pray. They were making a point that even people of faith should not be allowed to show prejudice toward homosexuals.

Now, we shouldn't have been surprised at what happened on Friday. In recent months there has been a growing consensus in our culture, even here in conservative Texas, that same sex couples should be able to marry. But for us who are in Christ the question is not, what does the culture say? What do the cultural and academic elites say? What do most people on Facebook say? What does the majority of Americans say? What does the President say? What does the Supreme Court say? Instead, the question for us is, what does God say? Or specifically, because God has only spoken to us in one place, what does the Bible say? That's the question for us.

And let me just tell you that in spite of the Supreme Court's ruling, the Bible still says the same thing today that it said on Thursday. The Bible still says that God, our Creator and the sustainer of our lives, created marriage. He performed the first marriage and He said that marriage was intended for one man and one woman for life. He made the woman as a helper to the man, He brought her to the man, and then He said, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife; and the two shall become one flesh." Our Lord Himself reaffirmed that during His ministry in Matthew 19 and Mark 10.

The Bible also still teaches today that homosexual lust and homosexual acts both are sin. Leviticus 18 calls it "an abomination." Leviticus 20, Romans 1, as we studied together over the last number of months, 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Timothy 1, Jude 7. Again and again it is called and identified as sin. However, it is, like all other sins, a sin from which those who repent can be washed, can be redeemed, 1 Corinthians 6.

Now, I'm not going to deal with what the Bible teaches about homosexuality today. I've already done that. In the last two years I have preached two separate messages on this issue. If you weren't here or if you want to go back and, sort of, remind yourself of what the Bible says on this, in July of 2013 I preached a message entitled, "What the Bible Says About Homosexuality." That's, sort of, a cover to cover review of all that the Bible teaches. In February of 2015 I preached a message entitled, "Abandoned to Homosexuality," in our exposition of Romans 1. You can go back and listen online to either of those or both of them if you're wanting, specifically, to hear the issue of homosexuality addressed.

But what I want you to understand this morning is what the Bible teaches, what it's always taught, what the church has always believed that the Bible taught, was not altered by the decision of five lawyers on our highest court. But for those of us who believe what the Bible says about these issues, I think it's appropriate for us, in light of the Supreme Court's decision on Friday and, frankly, in light of next week's celebration of July 4th, to take this Sunday morning and next to consider this important question, how should we respond? How should we as Christians respond to the Supreme Court's ruling on same sex marriage? Or perhaps even a larger way to answer that question is, how should we respond to the radical changes that are happening in the society around us?

Now, I want to consider that question of our response from two different vantage points. First of all, how should we respond as Christians? This is where we'll spend most of our time, both all of our time this week and part of our time next Sunday morning as well. That's the most important question, how should we respond as Christians? But I also want to briefly consider, next week, how should we respond as citizens? The Bible does touch on these issues as well and I want to make sure our thinking is clear about them, how to respond as Christians and how to respond as citizens.

Now, this morning we want to begin addressing this most important issue of all and that is, how should we respond to Friday's ruling by the Supreme Court, as Christians? You see, as believers living in America we have now entered, if you've lived any time at all you understand this, we are now entering uncharted waters. This is a different place than we have ever been before and it's very easy for us, in that kind of change, in that kind of environment, to respond sinfully, or at least to be tempted to respond sinfully.

Some of us here this morning are tempted to respond to what's happening in fear, dreading what the future might mean for us or for our children or for our grandchildren. Still others of us are tempted to respond in discouragement and despair, all is lost, let's just give up, let's just, sort of, pack it in and find a place to weather the storm. Still others, I'm confident, are tempted not to respond in despair or even in fear, but to respond in anger, expressing sinful anger toward homosexuals or toward the officials in our government behind this agenda. And in that anger it's tempting to begin to strike out in ridicule and belittling people and even insulting and disrespecting them. All of those are normal human temptations, but none of them is the correct and biblical response to what has transpired.

Whenever we find ourselves tempted to respond to our present circumstances in these ways, in fear and despair or anger, sinful anger, our first response must be this, remember that God is still on the throne. You know, when our political circumstances change, when our national circumstances change, it's very easy for us to feel a sense of fear and dread, a sense of insecurity, a sense of doubt, a sense of unsettledness.

This is exactly what Isaiah felt when he began his ministry. Isaiah 6:1 says that, "In the year that King Uzziah died." Now I don't think we fully appreciate what that meant to Isaiah. Uzziah had reigned as king for 52 years and during those 52 years of his rule there had been prosperity across the nation. There had been security. And, as you know, that's very rare in that part of the world. That's what they had known for 52 years under this man's rule. And then he died. And, of course, in a monarchy you know he's going to be followed by his son, but you have no idea if the nations around you will take advantage of that opportunity. You have no idea how unsettled the people might become in that transition. You have no idea what kind of ruler his son will be. And so there's this huge sense of insecurity, of fear. And so it's not inappropriate that Isaiah says, "In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord, lofty and exalted, sitting on His throne."

You see, what brought stability into Isaiah's life and ministry was the reality that though the national circumstances may change, and may change drastically, the King of the universe was still on His throne, "exalted," lifted up, "His train filling the temple." In other words, that's a picture of just how powerful and how majestic this King really is. It was a fresh vision of God as King that brought stability to the heart of Isaiah in his times. And that's what we need as well. God didn't change on Friday. He didn't abdicate His rightful rule. The Supreme Court did not unseat God; they didn't change any spiritual realities. The God of the Bible, the God of creation, the One True and Living God, is still on His throne.

We read it in Psalm 2:4. How does He respond to the threats from human beings against His commands and against His rules and His sovereignty? "He who sits in the heavens," what? "Laughs." It's ridiculous that these puny creatures whom He made and whose life He sustains, whose breath and heartbeat is in His hands, would rebel against Him. He laughs. It's absolutely ludicrous.

Turn to Psalm 33. I want to show you several texts that underscore that our God is still in control. I thought about reading Psalm 33 as our Scripture reading this morning because it's a great Psalm celebrating God's sovereignty. The first five verses of Psalm 33 are a call to sing and to praise God and verses 6 to 9 give us the first reason, because He is Lord of creation. Verse 6, "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made," and it goes on to describe His creative work.

But verses 10 to 22 say that we ought to sing and praise our God because He is also the Lord of history. He is sovereign over all that happens. Look at verse 10, "The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples." Listen, God is unaffected by the plans and the agendas that may be cooked up by the nations and the leaders of our world. Verse 11, "The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation." God has a plan and He is working that plan out. He was working that plan out on Friday. We'll talk about that more in a moment. He is on His throne.

Psalm 103:19, "The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all." Psalm 115:3, "Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases." The proverb says that the heart of the king is like an irrigation canal in the hand of the Lord and He changes it and redirects it wherever He will. Daniel 4:35, "God does according," Nebuchadnezzar learned this, "God does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, 'What have You done?'" I love Ephesians 1:11. Ephesians 1:11 says, "God works all things after the counsel of His own will." All things.

You see, in Scripture God is called the king. He's called the ruler, the leader. He's called the despot. He's called the judge of the earth. He's called the governor of all that is. In other words, He is over everything. He rules. He rules the physical universe. He rules the intelligent universe. He rules the moral universe. He rules absolutely everything. Understand that it was as an expression of His own government of the world that God created human government. That's the reason it exists. It is merely a faint and sinful expression of His sovereign rule over everything.

Turn with me to Acts 17. Acts 17, Paul is on Mars Hill presenting the gospel to the philosophers there in Athens and in the middle of his sermon, as he tries to explain to them what the true and living God, the god that they call the unknown god, is really like, he says this about the true God in verse 26, "and He made from one man," that is, Adam, "every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times." Having determined is literally, having marked off their appointed or their ordered times. That is, the appointed lifespans of every nation on the timeline of human history, God has marked off. When they rise and when they weaken and fall. God predetermined in eternity past the lifespan of every nation. Paul goes on, notice, in verse 26, "having also determined," or having marked out, "the boundaries of their habitation." God predetermined what the fixed borders of every human nation would be at every moment in its history.

So understand then that human government was ordained by God as an illustration, a weak and feeble illustration, but nevertheless an illustration of His own rule over the universe. Romans 13:1 says, "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God." We'll talk about that next week and the exceptions to that. But he ends verse 1 by saying this, "those authorities which exist are established by God."

All government, whether it's totalitarian or democratic, whether it's monarchy or oligarchy, is established by God. But let's take it a step farther. Let's make it more personal. God sovereignly chooses every ruler at every position in every nation at every moment in time. This is one of the great themes of Daniel. Turn to Daniel's prophecy. The Book of Daniel, the theme of this book is God's sovereign control over all of human history. And this is portrayed in a number of ways. We're told about empires that God would raise up and put down. We're told about the culmination of human history in the stone cut out without hands representing the kingdom of our Lord that will ultimately destroy all earthly kingdoms.

But also, throughout this prophecy we have described for us God's sovereignty over individual kings and rulers. Look at chapter 2 verse 19, as Daniel has had the vision revealed to him, the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, he turns it into praise to God. Verse 19, "Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven." And in this beautiful poem prayer he says,

"Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.
It is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings."

God is very much involved in setting up the leadership of nations. Look at verse 37. Here Daniel is telling Nebuchadnezzar about the interpretation of his dream and he says, "'You, O king, are the king of kings,'" you're the greatest king on the planet right now, "'to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory.'" God put you in this place. He's given you the dominion you have.

Now, notice down in verse 17 of chapter 4. Nebuchadnezzar is writing about what he learned in that encounter where he is eventually turned into an animal, like an animal living in the field, and verse 17 of Daniel 4 says, "'This sentence is by decree of the angelic watchers, the decision is the command of the holy ones, in order that,'" here's what God is doing, "'that the living may know that El Elyon, the Most High one,'" the most exalted one, the true and living God, "'is ruler over the realm of mankind, and He bestows it on whom He wishes and He sets over it the lowliest of men.'" Verse 25 ends by saying, Nebuchadnezzar you're going to "recognize that El Elyon, the Most High, is ruler over the realm of mankind and He bestows it on whomever He wishes."

Verse 32 says the same thing, but go down to verse 34, "'But at the end of the seven years, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever. His domain is an everlasting dominion, His kingdom endures from generation to generation.'" Verse 35, "'He does according to His will in heaven and on earth.'" And notice verse 37, "'Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven,'" the real King, "'for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.'" In other words, me, the greatest human king on the planet at the time. So God puts rulers into their places.

Now, understand that specifically the role of sovereignly leading the nations and its leaders falls to the Second Person of the Trinity, to Jesus Christ. I love what Revelation 1:5 says, John the Apostle there refers to Jesus as "the ruler of the kings of the earth." He is "the ruler of the kings of the earth." In chapter 17 verse 14 Jesus is referred to there as "'the Lamb'" who is the "'Lord over lords and the King over all kings.'"

Now, understand that when I say that God establishes rulers, He does so for a variety of reasons. He puts people into leadership and He removes them for many different reasons. Sometimes He does it as a blessing to the nation. If they are wise and righteous men it is a blessing to the nation. Other times Jesus Christ puts people into leadership as an act of judgment on the nation. John Calvin writes, "They who rule unjustly or incompetently have been raised up by God to punish the wickedness of the people. A wicked king is the Lord's wrath upon the earth."

Scripture very clearly teaches that. One example would be Isaiah 3:4 where God Himself says, in light of your rebellion, in light of your sin, "I will make mere lads their princes, and capricious children shall rule over them." God says, I'm going to put unwise, undiscerning, immature people into leadership as an act of judgment on your rebellion. Hosea 13:11, God says to Israel, "I gave you a king in My anger and took him away in My wrath." God raises up and puts down, removes leaders, sometimes in His anger and in His wrath.

But understand that ultimately all human government, good or bad, exists as a living illustration of God's government, however imperfect, however sinful that government may be. Our government stands to testify of the reality that there is the government of God over all. It reminds us that there is someone in charge beyond even our government. And God never gives up His right to rule. He never leaves His throne.

Do you understand that in Friday's decision our God was working out His own eternal sovereign plan? He was still on His throne on Thursday, on Friday, and He still is today. Our nation's decline may be out of control, but our nation is not out of God's control. Remember that God is still on His throne.

Secondly, there's another way you ought to respond as a Christian to what's gone on this last week. Remember that God is ultimately behind this radical change. We have to understand that the radical shift in thinking in our culture about homosexuality is the result of two distinct causes working together simultaneously. The first is human rebellion against God's Law. That's clear and obvious, isn't it? I mean we see that.

Turn with me to Romans 1. We have seen again and again this human rebellion. We read it this morning, by the way, in Psalm 2, they want to tear, the people of this world want to tear the fetters of God and His Anointed apart and cast away their cords. That's exactly what's described in Romans 1. We've seen this unfold in detail. Look at verse 18. It talks about the "ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth," who hold down the truth. They suppress it. Why? "In unrighteousness." They want to live the way they want to live. They want to be able to make their own calls. They want to be the sovereign of their own souls and so they suppress the truth. What truth? Well, the truth God's revealed about Himself in creation here in chapter 1. And over in chapter 2 verses 14 and 15,they suppress the work of the Law that's been written on their hearts. They know what's right and wrong, but they suppress it. This is human rebellion.

What we saw on Friday and what we saw yesterday in the celebrations that unfolded all over the Internet and everywhere else, is an act of human rebellion against God the Creator, suppressing the truth, casting off His fetters, longing to cast away the cords of God's commands. That's one part of what has gone on, but there's a second cause that's even a greater cause and that is the divine wrath of abandonment.

When human beings turn pagan, when they leave the knowledge of the true God that they see all around them, the knowledge of His Law, at least the work of the Law written on the heart, when they turn from that, when they suppress that, they become pagan and in response to their paganism God abandons them. We've seen this unfold. You remember in verse 23 of Romans 1, "they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man." It's idolatry. And how does God respond to idolatry? Verse 24, "Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to sexual impurity." God abandons pagans to sexual immorality.

The second stage is found in verse 26, "For this reason," referring back to verse 25, again paganism, idolatry. "For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions." It goes on to describe homosexual lusts and homosexual acts, a culture in which these things are accepted and embraced. And then finally in verse 28, "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer," again paganism, idolatry, "God abandoned them, He gave them over to a depraved mind." What's a depraved mind? It's not just sinning.

You know, God invariably abandons pagans and pagan cultures, but here's how He abandons them. Look at verse 32, "although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death." So they know God exists. They know God is a law-giver. They know He expects certain things of them. They know that to disobey Him deserves His punishment. They still do them. But even that isn't a depraved mind. You know, you can sin and still agree with God that what you're doing is wrong and that's not a depraved mind. You're still a sinner but it's not a depraved mind. A depraved mind, goes on verse 32, "they not only do the same, but they also give hearty approval to those who practice them." This is the lowest human depravity can go.

When what is sin you begin to call good and acceptable, you demonstrate that you have a depraved mind. Isaiah 5:20, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil." The Hebrew literally says this, "Woe to those who say concerning evil, it's good." Woe, God's judgment is going to come.

You see, whenever that happens it is because God in His wrath of divine abandonment has given the pagan, or the pagan society, over to its sin. You know, we've seen this. I've seen this happen in my lifetime. I have seen this path in Romans 1 lived out, from the 60's in the abandonment of sexual immorality to eventually the giving over to the acceptance of homosexuality. And now we're in place of a depraved mind, a culture filled with people with depraved minds.

Friday's ruling shows that a depraved mind now permeates the thinking of our nation. Our president, his cabinet, the Supreme Court, many in Congress, many business and entertainment leaders, and the majority of rank and file Americans, all, in biblical terms, have depraved minds. God has abandoned them in their paganism to where they now call what is evil, good. Remember, as you think about what has happened, that God is ultimately behind this radical change in our society as an act of His judgment.

Now, that can be discouraging but don't be, because there's a third thing you need to remember and that is, you need to remember that Christ will still build His church. Turn with me to Matthew 16. I love this text. Jesus had taken His disciples up to Caesarea Philippi, some of you have had the opportunity to visit there with me, and up on the north side of Israel, and He took them to get them away. And in that context He was asking His disciples, this is Matthew 16:13,

"Who do people say that the Son of man is?" [Who are people saying I am?] And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." But He said to them, "Who do you [My apostles, My disciples] say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, [the Christos, Hamashia. You are the Messiah, the one the Old Testament promised would come. You are] the Son of the living God." [The unique, one of a kind Son of the one true God.] And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven."

Jesus had not yet, in perfectly clear terms, made this known. But Peter, through the work of the Father, had pieced together what he had seen and what he had heard and what Jesus had taught and he had come to this conclusion, and Jesus said, that's God's work in you, Peter.

Verse 18, "'I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock.'" Now, there's a lot of debate about what this rock is. Seems to me, in the context, it's simply the revelation that's been given to Peter about who Jesus is and the revelation that will be given to all the apostles, the truth. Remember, Ephesians 2:20 says the church will be "built on the foundation of the apostles," that is, their teaching. And then Jesus says this, "'I,'" notice the pronoun, "'I will build.'" It's going to happen. At the point He said this it was still future. The church is born on the day of Pentecost and then from there grows. And He says, "'I will build,'" and I love this, "'My church.'" It belongs to Me. The gathered assembly of people belong to Me and "'I will build My church.'"

Listen, nothing on this planet will change the reality that in eternity past God the Father gave to His Son as a love gift, a redeemed humanity who would forever praise Him and worship Him and serve Him. We are engaged in a great eternal plan. I am part of God's love gift to His Son and the Son will build His church and nothing that happens on this planet is going to stop that. In fact, I love what He says next, "'and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.'" Hades is simply the realm of the dead, the grave. What is the gate, or what are the gates, to the grave? Death. Jesus is saying, even death will not overpower My church.

You see, the very worst thing that our culture could ever do to us, the worst thing that the culture has ever done to Christians in any place, is kill them. And Jesus says, let Me tell you something, I will build My Church and death won't overpower it. And, of course, we've seen that in human history. The time of the greatest persecution of the church under the Roman emperors, the blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church and the Roman Empire, as great as it was, tortured Christians, wave after wave of persecution, they tried to stamp out the church. And today the Roman Empire is on the dustbin of history. But the church survived and it still thrives. "'I will build My church.'" And the worst thing that people can do to them won't stop the forward march of My church. So don't be discouraged. Jesus Christ will build His Church.

Fourthly, remember that God cares about our attitudes toward unbelievers. You know, it's very easy in the midst of the, sort of, atmosphere around us to respond sinfully to the people involved. Don't forget, Ephesians 6 says, "we wrestle not against," what? "Flesh and blood." People involved in this are not your enemies; they're your mission field. And remember that God cares how you think about unbelievers. How should you think? Well, there are a lot of things that could be said, but let me give you two to consider.

First of all, treat all men with consideration and respect. Treat all men, that is, all people, with consideration and respect. Look at Titus 3. Titus 3, Paul is instructing his young son in the faith, Titus, who pastors on Crete, and he says in verse 1 of chapter 3, "Remind the people that you shepherd," and then go to verse 2, "remind them to malign no one." The Greek word actually is the word blaspheme. Don't blaspheme anybody. What does that mean when it's from human to human? It's name calling. He says, don't get into name calling. Don't get into ridiculing people by calling them names. "Be peaceable, be gentle, showing every consideration for all men." "Every consideration," the Greek word, is a hard one to translate. I think the ESV gets it right when they translate it something like "perfect courtesy." "Be considerate," be courteous, "to all men."

Listen, don't let your politics get in the way of your Christianity. We're supposed to treat all sinners, all the people around us, with courtesy. We're not to get into name calling. We're to be peaceable, we're to be gentle, and we're to be courteous, or considerate, to all men. Why? Verse 3, "For," because, "we also once were foolish ourselves." Listen, apart from God's grace you'd be just like them. In fact, we were just like them. That's Paul's point.

We were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. And then the kindness of God in the Savior appeared.

It says listen, don't forget, that's what you were. So don't get so high and mighty and look down on them. Instead, don't malign them, don't call them names, and be peaceable. Don't be contentious and angry. Be courteous, "show consideration to all men."

There's a second way that God wants us to respond toward unbelievers and that is, to honor all who are in authority. Proverbs 24:21 says, "My son, fear the Lord and the king." First Peter 2:17, "Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king." We're to have the same attitude toward our President, toward the members of the Supreme Court, toward the members of Congress, that we are commanded to have toward our own parents and even toward God Himself. And by the way, that's true whether you agree with their policies or not and whether they're righteous men or wicked men. When Peter wrote those words, Nero was on the throne.

Romans 13:7 says, "Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due [ouch]; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor." And, oh by the way, you can't get out of it by saying, well, they're not honorable, they don't deserve honor. No, they deserve honor because God put them in that position whether it was for our blessing or whether it was for our judgment.

Sadly, there are two extremes I think Christians tend to take when an issue like this comes up. One extreme is to fail to speak out against the unrighteousness and the unrighteous position of our leaders. Some think submission to authority means you should never say, that's wrong. That's sinful. That's a breach of God's Law. But the other extreme is in addressing those issues, to become angry and vindictive and disrespectful, to get into making coarse jokes about our President and the Supreme Court. We are not to do that either in our words or in our minds. God has prescribed the attitudes we are to manifest toward unbelievers, treat all men with consideration and with respect, and honor those who are in authority. Disagree with them? Absolutely. Say that what they're teaching, what they're holding to, what they're trying to do, is wrong, it's sinful, it's a violation of God's Law, but don't stoop into sinning in return.

Number five, remember that the light of the gospel shines brightest in the darkness; the darker the night, the brighter the light. I saw this when we lived in California, which is a far more pagan culture than here in Texas. It was so much easier to share the gospel because everybody around me didn't think they were believers. So thank God that it's getting clearer. You know, we've lived in a culture that has had this, sort of, aura, this appearance of Christianity. Let me tell you something, it's been a façade, and it's good for the façade to go away. Makes it a little less comfortable for us, but it's good for the gospel.

What do you do as a believer when you find yourself in the middle of a culture like ours? How do you respond when you find yourself living in the middle of a Romans 1 culture? Well, let's see, go to Romans 1 again. Here's how you respond. Verse 15,

I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith [faith from beginning to end]; as it is written, "the righteous man shall live by faith."

You know, this is a good thing that's happened because my prayer is it will keep us from losing sight of our true objective. Folks, we are not here to improve American culture. That's like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic; the ship's going down, one way or the other. We are here instead, to bring the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to individual sinners.

I love the way John MacArthur puts it, "If our diagnosis is in line with Romans 1 then we must also follow the prescription found in Romans 1 - we are not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation! In this day it is our divine duty to strengthen the gospel testimony by shedding the pragmatic nonsense that distracts the church from its mission given by God. Homosexuals - like all other sinners - need to be warned of impending eternal judgment and lovingly offered the forgiveness, grace and new life through repentance and faith in the lord Jesus Christ."

In another place he writes this, "to convert one sinner from his eternal doom is an event of far greater significance than the deliverance of an entire nation from temporal evil. So what's our job? Go into the mission field, love people the way God loves them, and preach the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, and let His kingdom advance one soul at a time." I love Philippians 2:15 where Paul says, "you are the children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world." Remember, the light of the gospel always shines brightest when it's the darkest.

Number six, remember that one day our Lord will rule this planet in righteousness. Don't give up hope. As we mourn what has happened and is happening to our country, it's important to remember that we have a dual citizenship. We are citizens of the United States of America. But our hope, our future, is not here. If our Lord delays His coming, the day will come when this country will lie on the dust heap of history like the rest of the world's countries and empires. Our primary citizenship is Christ's kingdom and so take heart, there is coming a day when you and I will live under a perfect government in which perfect justice rolls down. On this renewed planet during the millennium Jesus Christ Himself will reign and it will be a reign of righteousness.

Look at Daniel 7. I love the way Daniel describes it. As we finish our time this morning I want you to see this. Daniel 7, Daniel has talked about the coming antichrist, the ultimate leader of rebellion against God, and then he has a vision in verse 13 of Daniel 7,

"I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming, [this is the eternal Son of God]
And He came up to the Ancient of Days [that's the Father]
And was presented before Him.
And to the Son was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed."

Listen, we see the decline of our own nation, but don't lose heart. Your citizenship is in Christ's kingdom. You are part of what the writer of Hebrews calls an unshakable kingdom. It will never change, it will never fail, its leader will never disappoint. So let me encourage you, as you think about what's gone on, don't put your trust in electing the next president. Don't put your trust in somehow getting new members on the Supreme Court. Although, of course, there's a time and a place to make that commitment and I'll talk a little bit about that next week. But don't put your trust there. Remember it is in God we trust. Let's pray together.

Father, we're so grateful for the reminder that You are on Your throne. That You are the King of the universe. That You rule. That You do according to Your will "among the inhabitants of earth."

Father, help us, as Isaiah did in the day of political upheaval in his own life, to see You, not in a vision as he did, but through the Scripture, to see You lofty and exalted, sitting on Your throne, and may that give us peace and comfort to go and proclaim the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank You, O God, that You are our God. In Jesus's name, amen.