|Dr. Rick Flanders|
April 12, 2016
“Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side. And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
“And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.”
The election year of 2016 has presented Christian voters with unusual challenges and dilemmas. At the beginning of the primary season, a surprising number of the candidates running for their party’s nomination for the office of President were individuals with credible professions of personal faith in Jesus Christ. Not that people who have been born again must vote only for other born-gain Christians, but candidates who give a testimony of salvation certainly attract the attention of other believers. But now most of these Christian candidates have fallen by the wayside in the political process, and the candidates that are left trouble us with dirty jokes, gutter-level profanity, harsh insults, unethical tactics, and obvious dishonesty. Some of them are very vocal on the wrong side of issues that necessarily matter to believers, such as religious liberty, human life, the family, private property, the legalization of drug abuse, the public recognition of God, and religion-based terrorism. Not many months ago a leading candidate made the statement that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed” in order that the progressive agenda be fulfilled. In many ways, the Christian element in society, which at one time supported the undergirding values of our culture, feels threatened by the political scene, and the actors on the political stage. When Election Day comes, should they vote their conscience, or for the lesser of two or more evils, or shall they stay home and let the devil have the country? This year confronts us with facts that press us to re-consider our most important commitment.
My suggestion is that, at this pivotal time in the life of our republic, every Christian cast their vote for Jesus Christ! A fundamental problem in America is that the people who are the light of the world have let their light grow dim. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared that His would-be followers are “the light of the world,” and He urged us to let our light shine (Matthew 5:14-16). He also warned us that when we lose our focus on the Kingdom, our light darkens (get the point of Matthew 6:19-34), and remarked, “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” Shallow discipleship, and lack of focus on the Kingdom in the Christians has left our once-Christian society open to moral and spiritual decadence, and the moral decline has produced our cultural, societal, and political problems. This year, the big need is for believers in Jesus Christ to forsake all and follow Him.
Christian discipleship is a prominent theme of the book of Matthew from the beginning to the last chapter. And chapter 8 tells the story of some men whose commitment to follow Jesus was tested. In verse 8 we find Jesus commanding His followers to get into a boat and ride with Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. In verse 19 we are introduced to “a certain scribe” who said to Jesus, “I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.” The Lord answered him (in verse 20) by explaining that He and His followers have no certain lodging night after night. Then “another of his disciples” is introduced who said, “Lord, suffer [allow] me first to go and bury my father.” In other words, he would follow Jesus after his father died because of responsibilities that event would bring to him. Jesus responded by saying bluntly, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead” (verses 21-22). In other words, the true disciple must not put anything ahead of following Him. The narrative continues with Jesus getting into the boat, and His disciples following him and taking their places in that boat. As they travel across the lake, a storm comes and threatens to capsize the vessel and drown all of them. The followers of Jesus are recorded as crying out at this point, “Lord save us: we perish.” But then Jesus said to them, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” (verses 23-26). He had told them at the first that they would go “to the other side,” and if they had taken His words seriously they would not have doubted that their journey would be successful in spite of the storm in the middle. Of course, the situation turned out right, and everybody learned another lesson about Jesus and what it takes to follow him (see verse 27).
The shallow commitment of these would-be disciples of Jesus speaks loudly to the problems His followers in our country seem to have today. Many think they are following Jesus but are still insisting on a certain level of comfort in the experience. Others insist on putting something else, perhaps something personal, first and ahead of what the Lord might call them to do. Very many who get a relatively good start in following Jesus give up when they run into trouble along the path of faith. The problem with America is not really with the Republicans (although they do have obvious problems) or with the Democrats (although they have created some serious problems) or with the rich (who nevertheless have often been characterized by unethical conduct) or with the working class (although many of them have been fooled by various radical versions of atheistic socialism); it is with the Christians who give so little of their lives to Christ. The country would be affected by a change in who runs the government, but certainly not nearly as much as it would if believers in Christ would experience a revival. And any believer can experience revival, as well as influence others to revival, by just choosing (voting) to deepen their commitment. There is something that you can do to turn this upside down world right-side up, and a true Christian probably knows what it is. Decide the issue that stands in the way of full fellowship with Christ, and decide it on His side. Vote for Jesus Christ this year. Cast your vote in favor of taking up your cross!
And there are ways that the shallow Christian can move in the right direction on this very day:
1. If you get up early tomorrow to pray, you are voting for Jesus Christ.
2. If you take Gospel tracts with you as you leave home, planning to distribute them, you are voting for Jesus Christ.
3. If you will humble yourself in order to ask a family-member for forgiveness, you will be voting for Jesus Christ.
4. If you finally deal with the sin-issue today that has ruined your spiritual life for weeks or years, you will be voting for Jesus Christ.
5. If you stop right now, get on your knees and surrender your life without reservation to the Lord, resolving to do His bidding no matter what, in a significant way you will vote for Jesus Christ.
So let me suggest that it is time for Christians in this country today to go to the polls and vote for their Lord and Saviour, intending to carry out His agenda and let Him heal their land. Leave your complacency, lukewarmness, and comfort to join the revival movement on this day.
Dr. Rick Flanders