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Infiltrating and Influencing for the Glory of God - Shepherd of Hope

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”  – John 17:17

 

“Pastor, why are you political? Aren’t you going to turn a lot of people off by being political? Why don’t you just stick to religion?” Frank Herbert the American Science Fiction writer made an astute observation when he wrote, “When religion and politics ride in the same cart, the whirlwind follows.” When you’re at a family gathering and you want to uphold the peace, many advise to keep religion and politics off of the conversational menu. Discussion involving religion and politics often test friendships. Religion and politics are two emotionally charged areas. And yet, both are a part of life.

Jesus commanded His disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus has all authority. His authority is not simply for certain convenient parts of the earth. There is no part of the earth or heavens, no special secular segment of society, that is beyond His authority. And into the realm of “nations,” we are to be “baptizing,” or winning people to Christ. Into the realm of “nations,” we are to carry His word, “teaching” people to observe it. And we go confidently into every nook and cranny of this world and culture and society knowing that “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” And yes, that includes politics.

But isn’t politics a turn off! It can be. But if we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit we will find that political discussions can serve as bridges to more eternal conversations. Jesus didn’t shy away from political commentary. One day some Pharisees came and warned Him, “Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You.” Jesus’ response was, “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected’” (Luke 13:31-32). Those are some pretty powerful politically charged words. Jesus didn’t hesitate to speak with political boldness and seize upon the opportunity to allude to the perfection His resurrection would bring. If ever there was a segment of society that needs to hear of the healing, redemptive, and restorative power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it’s government and politics.

There are some who have a genuine heartfelt nonpolitical stance, and though I disagree with them, I accept their opinion. On the other hand, there are some who use an aversion to getting involved politically to veil a more carnal concern. They don’t want to “step on toes.” There are some who want to be “seeker friendly” to build up their congregations with an inoffensive cotton candy message. They are interested more in building their kingdoms than being agents of truth speaking. They want to tickle ears instead of giving people practical challenging truths to be applied in life. They are more concerned with affecting the bottom lines of their dollar signs. To them I would simply say, the cross, by its very nature, is offensive. Paul spoke of, “the offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11). The term “offense” is skandalon from which we get the English word scandal. You can’t preach the cross of Christ without offending someone. Sinners will be offended. People who trust in their own works will be offended. People who want to hide in an ignorance-is-bliss mentality will take offense at being shaken from their Laodicean lethargy. But at the risk of being offensive, God’s gospel and truth must be proclaimed. People lost in their sin, must be shown the gospel way. People caged in their corruption, must be shown the honest scripture truth of God. People imprisoned in false and confused notions, must be set at liberty in the truth of Christ. The myriad of despairing people in this world, need to hear God’s Biblical truth and be delivered and given blessed hope in Jesus.

Jesus was never worried about thinning out the crowds. He taught boldly. He called people out for following Him for the wrong reasons (John 6:26-27). He spoke plainly about fulfillment through faith in Him (John 6:35-36). He spoke about coming down from heaven to save men’s souls (John 6:37-40). And He spoke about “no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). He even spoke in crowd-thinning words about the necessity of eating His flesh and drinking His blood (John 6:41-59). Jesus didn’t hold back. And people walked away from Jesus then. People walk away from Jesus today. Will you walk away from Jesus because of the truth He stands for?

Back then the Apostle John commented on the reaction of people to Jesus’ message. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no longer” (John 6:66). When this happened, Jesus didn’t go running after those who were leaving. He didn’t back track and attempt “damage control.” He didn’t apologize and sheepishly bow to political correctness. No, He turned to His inner core of disciples and said, “Do you also want to go away?” To which Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68). Jesus spoke the truth and sought to please His Father. Jesus was not a people pleaser. Jesus set the example for us in that He was a Father in Heaven pleaser.

Truth has a way of exposing pretenders from true contenders for the faith (Jude 3-4). The response to the Biblical truth proclaimed by Jesus’s followers today, isn’t usually good. By Millard-Milk-toast-cotton-candy-religion-let’s-not-offend-anyone-for-fear-they-might-leave-our church standards, people find Biblical truth distasteful, discriminatory, divisive, defaming, and degrading. But if we want Jesus to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . Enter into the joy of the Lord,” then we had better be willing to “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). If we want to help others to find life, we need to discriminate between the narrow and broad way spoke of by Jesus (cf. Matthew 7:13-14). We need to realize that sometimes, “There must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1 Cor. 11:19). And we need to recognize there are times when we need to, “be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17). We need to understand that “fame” is not our objective, but in fact sometimes following Jesus will mean, “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now” (1 Cor. 4:12-13).

We need to reexamine what it means to be followers of Jesus. Following Jesus isn’t some tidy, clean, comfortable kaffeeklatsch. Following Jesus isn’t battening down the hatches and locking the doors and having a Bible study. Following Jesus means going out there, into the world. Following Jesus means infiltrating and influencing people for the glory of God. Following Jesus can get messy. Following Jesus can be disruptive and uncomfortable. In fact, if you’re following Jesus the right way you can be sure to find yourself in some pretty uncomfortable circumstances. And this is becoming more and more truth and reality in the world.

What does it mean to infiltrate and influence? In the introduction to what is viewed arguably as Jesus’ greatest sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, He states, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matthew 5:13). Salt is a preservative, a purifying agent, and a flavor enhancement. I would contend that we are to serve as preservationists who preserve in this world what little vestiges there are of righteousness and holiness. When we stop doing that, we lose a part of our purpose as disciples of Jesus. When we ignore or purposely avoid an area of life, such as politics, we lose our flavor. Then, as Jesus says, we the salt are, “good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” It was Jerry Falwell, founder years ago of the Moral Majority, who stated, “The idea that religion and politics don’t mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country.” [1] I believe there’s truth in that statement. We need to infiltrate this world and influence it for the glory of God.

Jesus continued in His introduction saying, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). We are light. We shouldn’t be hidden or hide ourselves. These words of Jesus speak to us very clearly, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Politics is a dirty business. Politics is plagued by corruption in many forms. This most recent election with all its fraud and blatant election theft, is ample evidence of that. But there’s something further that this election proves to us.

Where there are fallen people, people lost in sin, living in darkness, consumed with self and pride, there is going to be corruption. You can count on that. And that is why, in the end, politics is not the answer to our problems, Jesus is. But that doesn’t mean we are to give up in the political realm! No, the political realm is just one more area where, “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work,” but also where, “He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” (2 Thess. 2:6-7). That Restrainer is the Holy Spirit working in and through the Church. We, the Bride of Christ, the Church, are called and commissioned to retrain lawlessness and evil wherever it is found, even in the dirty filthy dark and despicable area of politics.

Yes, political involvement is dirty work. Politics is the slums of society. But politics is a part of dark life into which we need to shine the light of Jesus. If our world is a house with many rooms, we shouldn’t shut the door to the room with politics. If anything, we should open that door and shine the light of the Lord into the darkness full force! Again, infiltrate and influence this world to the glory of God.

The light of Jesus is revealed in God’s word. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. . .. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 8:12 and 9:5). God’s purpose for us is to be like Jesus. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). And, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6). If Jesus is light, then His followers should reflect His light. And if Jesus said “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world,” then as long as we are in this world we too should be shinning His light into it. The light of salvation from sin. The light of holy living. The light of God’s love. The light of God’s absolute truth. We need to shine God’s light into this dark decaying world. We need to take God’s light and influence this dark world.

Light is a metaphor for truth. Light and truth are connected. The psalmist proclaims in prayer, “Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle” (Psalm 44:3). Truth is reality. Truth is what is supported by evidence; by facts. Truth is what God proclaims to us in His word. We need to say in our heart, “I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me” (Psalm 119:30). We need to say, “And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for I have hoped in Your ordnances” (Psalm 119:43). That is because to God we recognize, “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth” (Psalm 119:142). “You are near, O LORD, and all Your commandments are truth” (Psalm 119:151). And finally, the truth is, “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” (Psalm 119:160). Do you believe this? Do you accept this “truth” Christian?

If we are to be like Jesus and follow His example. Where does Jesus stand in regards to “truth”? Jesus was all about speaking truth. We get this mixed up sometimes. We get lured off on tangents of what Jesus mission actually was. Jesus clearly identified Himself as a truth teller. To Pilate He stated, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). If we are truly going to be like Jesus, we can’t be like Him without truth. If we are to be like Jesus, (which is Gods’ will for us,” then we too should focus on being truth tellers. Take God’s Biblical truth, infiltrate this world and influence it with that truth.

Jesus said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).  To be sanctified means to be set apart for God’s use. We are called to live out the light of God’s truth in this dark confused world. We are called to be those who live out God’s word in every precinct and population center of this world. To do that we need to know God’s word. “Truth” that is not aligned with God’s word, is deception. Without God’s scripture truth to guide us, we will be drawn and deceived off course into “truth” claims that are false and deceiving. Without God’s truth to guide us, we will find ourselves like Saul kicking against the goads thinking he was serving God but really serving the enemy of our souls (Acts 9). Without God’s truth, we will persecute God’s people, and persecute Jesus (Acts 9:4). Think about that.

Christians, we need to get studying. We need to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). It is God’s word that enables us to be, “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17). There are no shortcuts. There are no easy ways to know God’s word. We need to put time and effort and focus into knowing God’s truth as it is in God’s word.

But knowing God’s truth in God’s word is not something we can do on our own. This is not a mere academic pursuit. To understand the truth of God’s word, we need the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Jesus said, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). The sword of the Spirit, is the word of God (Eph. 6:17). The weapon of the Spirit is God’s word. Don’t go anywhere without it. And don’t doubt that the Spirit will help you learn what you need to learn about the truth of God’s word. Start praying. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirt to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13). Seek the Spirit’s help. Put your armor on! Let’s go! (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Darkness and light cannot coexist. When you turn on the light, the darkness departs; instantly; at the speed of light. The Apostle Paul wrote the Ephesians, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). We’re to bring God’s light into the dark places of this world. Practically speaking, that would include politics. Infiltrate politics and influence it in the Spirit.

How might this play out for us? Here’s an option. An article posted by Wall Builders entitled, Pastors are Running for Office, Hundreds of Them, with David Lane provided an interesting strategy.[2] The article discussed how more and more pastors are running for office in government in an effort to influence the culture and engage in the public square discussion. The article was from an interview with Pastor David Lane who is encouraging pastors to consider running for government office. In the interview the dangers of compartmentalizing society were discussed. The church has seemingly allowed themselves to be pushed out of certain areas of society, like politics. We’ve allowed the world to pigeon hole us and make no-go zones. This has led to an unholy takeover of much of our nation. Pastor Lane is calling pastors and Christians to get more involved. Isn’t that being salt and light? I think it very definitely is a part of it. Infiltrate and influence.

Not every pastor or Christian will be called by God to enter politics. But there are many ways to be set apart for God’s use and be salt and light truth-tellers in this world. You can take Pastor Lane’s suggestion and get into politics on the local, state or federal levels. Seek the leading of the Spirit about this. You can start a writing ministry. You can take a stand in schools at school board meetings, or in your everyday neighborly conversations. Seek to speak the truth in love everywhere you go (Ephesians 4:15). Vote. Don’t let corruption and fraud go unopposed. That a stand for truth. Say something, do something, to the glory of God. The Spirit will lead you. The times of willful ignorance are over. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12). Let us infiltrate and influence for the glory of God.

John Wesley was used by God to bring a revival to England that saved it from ungodly revolution. He instructed his ministers, “Get on fire for God and people will come to watch you burn.” That is what we need! We need people on fire for God bringing the light of the truth of His Word to this dark and lost world. And remember, the greatest truth is the gospel of God’s grace in Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest truth: Share it! Proclaim it! Live it!

In Oscar Hammerstein’s 1927 play The New Moon, there is a line that I’d like to use here. It is a rallying call that applies. The line says:

Give me some men who are stout-hearted men, who will fight for the right they adore. Start me with ten of those stout-hearted men and I’ll soon give you ten thousand more.

That’s what we need, stouthearted men (and women). We need more men like Franklin Graham who are more concerned about offending God than offending people. It was Franklin Graham, you remember, who appalled the media, liberal elite, and enemies of the true gospel because he dared to mention the name of Jesus in his prayer at the inaugurations of President George W. Bush and Donald A. Trump. We need people to stand up and speak boldly the truth of God.

You may be thinking I’m only one person. What can I do? If that’s what you’re thinking, I would answer, “You can do plenty!” The words, “One with God is a majority” have been attributed to various great men, and these words are true.  The truth of these words is born out in Scripture. God works through the weak and the minority so that when the work is done and the victory won, He may get all the glory. Jesus came and modeled ministry for us. He started with twelve disciples whom He sent out as apostles. At one point Jesus was forsaken by all. And yet this was God’s plan to reach a lost world. If God is for us, it doesn’t’ matter who is against us (Rom. 8:31-32). God is looking for those whose hearts are loyal to Him. When He finds them, He shows Himself strong on their behalf (2 Chron. 16:9a).

In his book Forgotten Founding Father, Stephen Mansfield tells the story of George Whitefield’s influence on the American Revolution. Mansfield tells us the story of thousands of volunteers committed to the American Revolution, marching to war with the British. These Minute Men colonials were vastly outnumbered. What was it that drove them? What was it that served as a crucial impetus for such sacrifice? For sure they dreamed of better days and future victories, but it was a tremendous risk. It took faith. Mansfield draws our attention to what happened in a tiny New England town. I will quote directly from his masterful account:

On September 16th, [1775], a day they [the militia] would never forget, they arrived at Newburyport, Massachusetts. Cheering crowds greeted them and refreshed their sagging spirits. The next day being Sunday, the officers decided to honor the kindness of the townspeople by parading the troops in general review. The pride and excitement were electric as the lines of soldiers marched up King Street—soon to be renamed Federal Street—with colors flying and drums rumbling fiercely. Suddenly, there were gasps and shouts of a different kind, for the crowd realized that the officers were marching their troops to a specific place—to Newburyport’s beloved First Presbyterian Church.

As the delighted town folk proudly looked on, the soldiers marched through the door and up the main aisle of the church, formed two lines on either side, and presented arms. The drums maintained a steady roll. Chaplain Samuel Spring stepped forward and majestically walked between the lines of solemn soldiers to the pulpit. The men then stacked their weapons neatly in the aisle and filled the pews in quiet anticipation. Chaplain Spring looked down into the sea of faces, surely moved both by the moment and by the looming sense that many of these men would never enter a church again. It was time for him to speak. He chose his text carefully, from the words of Moses: “Lord, if your Spirit does not go with us, then do not send us.” The men listened, nodding assent to every truth, filling the hymn that followed with heartfelt intensity.

It wasn’t until afterward that someone realized where they were. This, after all, was not just any Presbyterian Church. In fact, this town was not just any town. Something special had happened here and just five years ago. It was then that the most famous man in the world, a man who every colonist knew about and most had seen in person, came to this town and died. And while millions mourned him, the people of Newburyport buried him—right here, in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church, where he lay now under the feet of these worshiping warriors.

The news rippled throughout the command. Beneath where they were standing was the tomb of the man who had led the great revival from Georgia to New England. Tens of thousands had flocked to hear him as he roared the glories of the risen Christ. They had never been the same. Nor had he stopped with the subject of salvation. He had also spoken of God’s purposes for the colonies, had called his American friends to return to the vision of their Puritan fathers. He had even warned the colonies of the encroaching control of a misguided Parliament. Hadn’t he also been a friend of Dr. Franklin? Hadn’t he converted some of the men who now led the revolution? Surely this man was as much the father of the movement as any. Surely a kind Providence had brought them to this place, this holy place, where now George Whitefield lay beneath their feet.

In an instant, they knew what they must do. With the sexton’s permission, they went reverently below into the church’s vault and found the tomb of the man some called “the apostle of the age.” They stood silently for a moment, encircling the place where he lay. Then, gently, some of the officers opened the coffin. Five years’ decay made the body unrecognizable, but they all remembered him. Some had seen him preaching in the open fields or had heard him in their churches. Others had read his sermons or given money for the orphanage he founded in Georgia or his school for Negroes in Philadelphia. Each of them had relatives whose lives were transformed by the preaching of this great man. He had made them one, had called them together as a people, and had turned them to their God. This revolution was as much his as anyone’s. And now they were here.

They were moved, humbled. They wanted this holy moment to last and if it couldn’t they wanted to take something of it with them. Someone pulled out a knife and gently cut off a piece of the collar or the cuffs that had survived the years. Others did as well. The sexton just watched, unable to deny them. The soldiers took the pieces of the preacher’s garment and shared them among themselves. They tucked them in their boots or sewed them to their coats or put them in the lining of their hats.

But they kept them, and they kept them because they knew that the war they fought grew in large part from the truth he preached. He was their spiritual father, the man who called them to Christ and to Christ’s purpose for the land. It was his vision of freedom for both soul and society that they now fought to defend. So, when they marched out of Newburyport that day, they thought about what they carried and how much that godly man had done for them.

And when the cold came, and the hunger, when their friends died of disease or exploded in battle as though from within, they each remembered their little piece of the preacher’s garment and drew from it a bit of the preacher’s courageous heart for God. Thus, the fires of the revival spread into a blaze of freedom—and forged a nation in the process.”[3]

George Whitefield infiltrated the colonial world and influenced it for the glory of God. The point of this story is not whether or not you hold to the theology of George Whitefield. The point is that here is a man, one man, a stouthearted man, whom God used as an impetus to rise up against injustice. This is a man who, in the power of God, infiltrated a dark and spiritual dying world, and a world that was unjustly bound in political oppression and fraud. And this one man, this courageous godly man, influenced this land into a country, for the glory of God. God used this forgotten founding father of our nation to secure liberty. The Lord used Him beyond the church to touch a nation. We need not put any limits on God. The church, our nation, and the world are in darkness. The effort to effect change may go beyond our lifetime. If it does, then let us lay a firm foundation for the next generation to continue building upon.  But whatever we do, we should step out in faith, in the power of the Spirit, in the authority of Jesus, in the truth of God’s word, and infiltrate and influence to the glory of God.

So, what are you going to do now? Run and hide? Avoid politics? How about we seek the Lord in prayer and present ourselves to Him as sanctified, set-apart-for-His-use followers of Jesus. How about we trust Him to direct us on how and where we are to be His truth-bearers. Pray. Get your marching orders. Ask the Lord to give you a piece of the cloth of His word and then go out and see what God does through you. God isn’t finished with this nation and this world yet. There’s still some time before His return. Until then, let’s seek Jesus and ask Him to use us, even in politics if He wills. Let’s infiltrate and influence to the glory of God!

[1] http://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/religion-and-politics.html

[2] https://wallbuilderslive.com/pastors-running-for-office-pastor-david-lane/

[3] Stephen Mansfield, Forgotten Founding Father: The Heroic Legacy of George Whitefield (Nashville. TN: Cumberland House Pub., 2001), pgs.27-31

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