“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 not 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.
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, people lost in their sin, caged in their corruption, imprisoned in false and confused notions of their bodies and being, the myriad of despairing people in this world will 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. The response wasn’t good by Millard-Milk-toast-cotton-candy-religion-let’s-not-offend-anyone-for-fear-they-might-leave standards. “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. And truth has a way of exposing pretenders from true contenders for the faith (e.g. Jude 3-4).
We need to reexamine what it means to be followers of Jesus. Following Jesus isn’t some tidy, clean, comfortable coffee klatch. 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.”  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. Politics is not the answer to our problems, Jesus is. 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 in their 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.
What does this all mean about Jesus? What is the point of His light? Light is a metaphor for 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’re truly going to be like Jesus, 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. Get studying. To do that we need the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). 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). 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.
I saw an article recently that had been reposted from earlier in the year. It was a Wall Builders article entitled, Pastors are Running for Office, Hundreds of Them, with David Lane.  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 (Ephesians 4:15). Vote. 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 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 true gospel of His Word to this dark and lost world.
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 fits well here. 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, , a day they 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 word 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.”88
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 influenced it 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, 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!