A Biblical Look at Politics & Government

How Should Christians Respond To Politics And Government?

Brandon Smeltzer
Apr 16, 2023    55m
Join us as we explore the question, "How should Christians respond to politics and government?". We learn that the Bible clearly expresses that we are to honor those in government. The only exception is when the government forces you to choose between allegiance to them vs allegiance to God's kingdom. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:00:42] Well, good morning. Ooh, that was good, best so far of the three good mornings. Okay, good. So a few weeks ago, about six weeks ago, Ross calls me, Pastor Ross calls me and says, hey, you know, you know the Lenses series, we're doing biblical worldview, seeing the world through God's perspective. Would you be willing to come and do one of our talks on Worldview? Absolutely, I'd love to. He said, you know, we've been going deep with worldview and talking different worldview perspectives, and we're going to have Easter, and he said, I'd really like to do something practical coming out of Easter. Would you talk on politics? Ross, I thought we were friends. So I said, sure, let's do this.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:01:21] Honestly, of all conversations, this is probably the top five hardest to talk about. Going into the last election cycle, I had a Bible-believing Jesus-loving church-going follower of Christ look at me and say, if someone votes for candidate A, I have no idea how they can call themselves Christian. Meanwhile, another Bible-believing Jesus-loving follower of Christ, church-going believer looks at me and says, if anyone votes for candidate B, I can't fathom how they consider themselves Christian. Do you feel the tension? It's there, it's real, it's difficult. We as the people of God, we have always had a complex relationship with earthly governments, it hasn't always been clean.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:02:12] Take the nation of Egypt, for instance. If you go to the end of the book of Genesis, and Egypt is a place of refuge for the people of God. God's people, they find safe haven there from a famine, and in fact, Joseph is established in a political position at the highest ranks of Egypt, and he celebrated and he's helping that nation flourish. Turn one page, Exodus chapter 1, and you have Hebrew midwives literally fighting against Pharaoh's mandate to kill Hebrew little boys. From celebrated to slavery, same nation. So are they the villain? Are they, I mean, are they, oop, turn even to the New Testament, where does God send Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus? Egypt. To escape a government-sanctioned genocide of little Hebrew boys to snuff out the Messiah. We've always had a complex relationship with the government, and because of that, this becomes a very difficult topic.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:03:17] Now, I need to give you some disclaimers. I'm not going to talk about everything you want me to talk about, I'm going to leave stuff out. I got 35 minutes, there's no way in 35 minutes or whatever time we have, I can do a full biblical worldview on government. Okay? So I'm going to leave stuff out. There's probably stuff that you wish I would say that I won't, and there's going to be some stuff I say that you wish I didn't, I'm probably going to offend you a little bit at certain times. So if I offend you, man, I'd love to sit down, we'll have a meal together and coffee and talk through all your political perspectives. My email is Ross.Sawyers@121cc.com.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:03:17] So in all seriousness, listen very carefully, what I share with you about the biblical worldview of government, if it is not equally applicable and true for our brothers and sisters in North Korea as it is for you today, then I'm not giving you a biblical worldview, I'm giving you Christianized Americanism. Okay, so when I say something that's true, you can Amen back. Okay, all right, okay, good.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:04:33] So here's what I'm going to do today, I'm going to give us three things. I'm going to anchor us to three things that are true wherever you are, whatever government you're under, and wherever your citizenship is, three things that are true. The first thing we're going to look at is where this is all going. We're going to look at where the kingdom that's coming, then we're going to look at God's perspective of earthly governments, and then we're going to look at three driving charges that are throughout the Bible, but specifically in the New Testament that I believe apply to any Christian regarding their relationship with government. So let's jump in at where this is all going.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:05:06] You know, my family and I, we love taking long road trips. We have five small kids. We will drive to Oregon, we will drive to Ohio, and you're thinking you are nuts. We really like road trips, we really do. It's not the in-between phases, I mean, we like seeing new places, but to be honest with you, it's the welcoming aunts and uncles and grandparents that are at the destinations that are ready to take our kids off our hands for a little bit that make those road trips so worth it. Wouldn't you agree that if you know where something is going, it makes a difficult journey getting there endurable? Would you agree? So let's see where this is going, shall we?

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:05:44] Revelation chapter 21, this is where this is going. Revelation 21, it's the second to the last chapter of the entire Bible. We are meant to parallel Revelation 21 with Genesis 1; we are meant to look at this and see the finality of this. Revelation chapter 21, and I'm going to give us where this is going, I'm going to give us three highlighted points from what we see in Revelation chapter 21 that I believe can help give us some perspective from a biblical worldview of government.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:06:12] Now, before I go into this, you need to understand the context of Revelation 21. This is written by a man named John, the Apostle John, Jesus's beloved disciple. And John, the reason he writes this, he is literally in political exile as a political enemy of the Roman Empire. Because John was so favored and he preached Christ as Lord, they literally arrested him and put him on an island called Patmos. And while he was in the spirit on the Lord's day, the Lord gave to him what we call the Book of Revelation, and John wrote it down. I believe God gave it to John because I didn't I don't think God just wanted John to have it, I think God wanted you to have it, I think God wanted me to have it, I think God wanted our brothers and sisters in Vietnam to have it, God wanted our brothers and sisters in Venezuela to have it, God wanted all peoples, all believers, of all nations to know where this is going.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:06:30] Three things about where this is going. First, when you look inside the text in verses 3 and 5, he says twice, a voice from the throne, a voice from the throne. The throne is something that is obviously depicting of a kingship or a kingdom. In the United States of America, we don't have a throne. We have an Oval Office, but we don't have a throne, we don't have a king. In fact, the idea that what's coming for all of us is a Kingdom with a King, which is what the text tells us, that idea is a little bit offensive to me or a little bit difficult for me as an American. I don't know about you; I know not everyone is an American in the room. But as a born and bred American, that's a little bit difficult for me because our country was founded on a rebellion against a king. We actively worked to get away from the king days. But the culture of my country, the culture of my country says you can't tell me what to do. Anybody else? And what Revelation 21 says is that no, no, no, someone will tell us what to do. That's a little bit offensive to me, but I can't erase it from the text. There's a King and a Kingdom.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:08:18] Secondly, when you look at verses 4 and 8, I believe that we're meant to read verses 4 and 8 together. Verse 4 is the part that's like a drink of cold water on a hot day. It says, no tears, no death, no sadness, no hunger, no mourning. Could you get excited about that? By the way, our atheist brothers and sisters and friends, our Muslim neighbors, all of them are longing for verse 4. We're all longing for verse 4. This goes exactly to what Ecclesiastes said, that God has placed eternity in the hearts of man, we all long for verse 4. Here's where we disagree, verse 8. In verse 8, he goes on and he gives this list of sins.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:09:05] Now, you need to understand this isn't a call-out session where John's like, okay, I'm mad at these guys and these guys and these guys, and he names these different sins sorcery and idolatry and cowardly and sexually immoral and idolaters, all the faithless things like that. It's not a call-out session, this is meant to be a scope of human rebellion. And John looks very clearly, in fact, this is coming from Jesus, and we need to understand this, what's coming, this kingdom, it is perfect and without sin. What makes it perfect is that sin has been dealt with. As an American, I value my liberties. Anybody else? Okay. But let me tell you what's different about the liberty of this kingdom versus the liberty of this kingdom that I live in, in this kingdom that I live in, I'm free to do whatever I want. In that kingdom, I'm free to do what Christ wants. Do you see the difference? This kingdom is a kingdom and it's perfect without sin.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:10:13] Let me make a really important point here. When we look inside of Revelation 21 and it divides, it says in verse 4, no tears, no death, no sadness, and then verse 8 talks about those that will not inherit and how the idolaters and faithless and separates these. If you're, listen, if you're newer to church, you need to hear me very clearly. What's coming for all of us, there is going to be a separation, but it's not a have and have not separation. It's not going to be, okay, you guys have lived good lives and you guys not so much, that's not what it is. Understand, we don't have a king who sits up on a throne and goes, done, done, done with you, I like you. No, we have a king who comes down from his throne, rolls up his sleeves, takes on the form of a servant, and washes our sins away. So the people that are in that kingdom, the people that have that freedom, that liberty that we're talking about, that we're told here, they are those who've humbled themselves and allowed Jesus to cleanse them.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:11:25] First Corinthians 6 verse 11, such were some of you, but you were washed, you were justified, you were sanctified. You go, man, where have I heard that? If you've been in the series, three weeks ago, Pastor Ross preached on that passage, First Corinthians 6, and he quoted this exact verse. Before this exact verse is a list of those who won't inherit the Kingdom of God. And what's fascinating about it is the list that Paul says in First Corinthians 6, 9, and 10 is almost exactly parallel to the list of sins that John quotes in Revelation, chapter 21, verse eight, they're almost parallel lists. Guys, they weren't tweeting back and forth to each other, they weren't texting. What do you want to bring in? They wrote these lists totally separate from each other and probably did not see each other's lists, and yet when you compare the lists, they're almost identical in so many areas. Man, how could they do that?

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:12:20] Here's why, listen, our King has a culture. I'll say that again, our King has a culture, there are things that he stands for and things that he doesn't. Do you want to know what the King's culture is? Read Matthew chapter 5, verses 3 through 12, blessed are the poor in spirit, our King's culture is a culture of humility, it's not a culture of self-exaltation. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied, our King's culture is a culture of hungering for righteousness and getting it satisfied in God's solutions to the problems of this earth, that's our King's culture. This is what's coming for all of us, it's perfect.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:13:05] But let me emphasize, I'm going to start with verse 1 of Revelation 21. Verse one, I saved this important point for last, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more." Do you know what that means? What's coming is not this. Amen? What's coming is not this. What's coming is not a dressed-up version of the US of A.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:13:34] Years ago, I was at a church for the 4th of July service, and I don't know how the worship leader did it, but the worship leader took all of the theme songs for the branches of our armed forces, wove them together into the Battle Hymn of the Republic and crescendos with Amazing Grace. It was almost like, for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son and America, and whoever would believe in him would become like us. That's not what the text says. Now, I know the motivation of that church was to honor. I am very proud of my heritage. My granddad was a medic on D-Day at Normandy, I'm deeply proud. But please understand, as great as this is, there's liberty and freedom to do whatever we want. But in the Kingdom of God, it's freedom to do what Christ wants. That's where the peace and the joy come from.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:14:44] Why do I bring this up? The simple point, laws do not have the power to fix the human heart. Laws do not have the power to fix the human heart. So we, as Christians, if we stop short in our biblical worldview of trying to get the right politicians and the right people in place to get the right laws in place, we are short-sighted. That was a good amen point. Okay, all right, just checking. Guys, we had a bipartisan agreement on increasing the severity of laws against sex trafficking. Did that fix it? No, it didn't fix it. Because at the end of the day, you can't build a law to fix this. This is why, God did not send a political solution, he sent a sin solution, so let's not be completely short-sighted about what we're after here, what we're going for.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:15:55] You know, I do want to make a note, guys, I don't want us to put false hopes in politicians, they are people. Every person I know is changing, is anybody else in this room changing? I'm changing too. Now, that's not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, it's just a thing, we're all changing. We have to fix ourselves to the one who is not changing. Think about King Solomon, a government official. Early on in his rule in Israel, King Solomon brought the glory of God into the temple. But as he joined marriages, and political alliances with surrounding nations, he brought in these women and he brought in their worship practices as well, to the point that when Solomon died, his worship was so divided, he was a man in despair, a politician on the decline.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:16:42] On the other hand, I think about another guy who was in political office named Chuck Colson. Anyone who's familiar with Worldview, you know Chuck Colson and a little bit of his story, those who don't, I'll bring you in on it. Chuck Colson was Richard Nixon's right-hand man. Remember Watergate? Watergate happened because of Colson, Colson was ruthless, brilliant, a marine, and he was a trained attorney. I believe he was Ivy League trained in his education. Brilliant, ruthless, broken, wicked, if Nixon needed something done off the books, Colson did it. When it all blew up, Nixon resigns, and Colson goes to prison. Guess who Colson met in prison? Jesus, and Jesus changed his life. He started reading the Scripture and realizing how he had seen the world was not right, and he started seeing the world through God's lenses from a prison. He had to go to prison to get free. Oh, come on, that's good. He started seeing the world through God's lenses and he became so passionate about it that he started a nonprofit ministry called Prison Fellowship, which is the largest outreach and evangelistic ministry to inmates across the world. Not only that, he began to write and teach on biblical worldview, on how to see the world. And you look at Colson's life, and Colson is a guy who he started in brokenness and despair, he started on the verse 8 category of Revelation 21, right, and he ended in verse 4. What's so great about our King is that he can change our story, and he can change your story. Okay, some people, they're like, oh, it's so judgy. It's only judgy if we can't change. Do y'all get that?

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:18:33] We can change because of Jesus. So don't place false hope in politicians because they're moving targets, guys. That same Chuck Colson, he would tell the story when he was Nixon's guy. Do you know who he said, which type of activists, political activists, were the easiest to manipulate? The religious right. He said all he had to do was invite them on the president's yacht, and he could get them to do whatever he wanted because they would be enamored by the fancy meal and the glitz and glamor. Friends, let's not, we have to maintain that the church is the pillar and the buttress of truth, the support of truth, the scriptures tell us. And so we don't place our hopes in politicians, we place our hope in Christ, and we stand inside of culture, and we speak and we act and we work to make a difference, sometimes with our government and sometimes without.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:19:40] I want us to take God's perspective. I want to give us two points on God's perspective that I think is really important here. Which, by the way, when we talk about politics and inside of your heart panic grows up inside whenever we talk about politics, do you know what you need? The Gospel. You need the Gospel. You need to be reminded that all of this is not up to us. If apathy flows up in your heart, and you're like, who cares, we're going to Jesus anyways, let it all burn. If that's you, do you know what you need? The Gospel. Because you have a role to play, there's stuff for you to do on this earth.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:20:31] Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that he prepared in advance for us to do. It's almost like you got a checklist in the Kingdom of God before the King comes back. You do? So let's look at God's perspective. Down here, we live among the Earth, and we get news things of what countries invading, what country, and who's fighting back and forth. And everything is very horizontal and difficult to understand. But when God looks down, he sees down from above and he sees how countries are working and interacting with each other. And God sees it from a different perspective than we do. We see this country versus this country, we see Russia versus China, or Russia versus the United States, or this versus this. That's what we see, we see horizontally, but God sees vertically downward. I want to give two points that we see from scripture to help us align ourselves with God. Now, guys, God's not changing how he sees. Cool, but we can, that's what this is about.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:21:36] First, when God looks down at this earth, he doesn't see a multitude of nations, he sees two ruling kingdoms. Colossians chapter 1:13-14 says, "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness..." Domain, that's a ruling area, "...and he has transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, Domain, and Kingdom, those are ruling words. He doesn't use kingdom and kingdom; he uses domain and kingdom. The reason why is because overtop every nation on this planet is the domain of darkness and the kingdom of God's beloved son, Christ Jesus. They are those two kingdoms, those two ruling areas are alive and well across the world. And you have to understand here, that in that domain there is a legitimate rule over earth and an illegitimate rule. The domain of darkness is an illegitimate rule on this earth. You and I may go, oh, it feels like it's an equal battle, like a yin versus yang between God and Satan. It's not that, it is a temporary rule that began in Genesis 3:6, when Adam and Eve had been empowered to govern the garden, take dominion over the earth, and they turned. And God had given him instructions about what to do and what not to do governance, and when they rejected that and said, you know, the tree is kind of good for food, they went from God governance to self-governance. And when we went from God governance to self-governance, we opened ourselves up to the domain of darkness. And it has been ruling ever since. But what we know is that it's a temporary, illegitimate kingdom, it has a last day. You may go, I can't see an end to it. You don't have to see an end to it, God does. It ends, and the kingdom of his beloved Son begins.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:23:32] What I love about this passage is that in Colossians chapter 1, this is in Colossae, in the Roman, in the Roman Empire, these believers, Paul, does not delineate them from some of you or Romans and some of you or Jews, no. Some of you are slaves and some of you are free, no. Although there was this, some of you were men and some of you are women, though there was that he doesn't delineate them by these earthly distinctions, he takes them to their eternal standing when he views them. There are two people, you are either under the domain of darkness or you are in the kingdom of his beloved Son, period. That's it. That's it.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:24:13] When we start seeing this way, guess what this enables us to do? This enables us to look at the people and the places and the events that we live through and see both at play at the same time. Y'all got that? So if we see both at play at the same time, we might be less likely to villainize a country or a political party. Y'all, Jesus isn't Republican or Democrat. Oh, come on. Jesus is not Republican or Democrat, he's not, he's a king with a culture. And there are moments where all political parties’ reek of the domain of darkness. Why did we get so quiet on that? And there are moments where there might be whispers of the kingdom of God's beloved Son in any person that we encounter. I rejoice that we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. And you're like, what Bible verse is that? It's not. It's not, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. I rejoice. Listen, I believe that the essence of those words whispers the kingdom of God's beloved Son, in this regard, our king dignifies everybody, everybody, dignity and value. So when those words were written that we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights that spoke dignity to all humans. I rejoice in the whispers of the kingdom of his beloved Son, that I think are there at a seed level, but I also mourn that some of the people that were part of writing those words owned slaves. Do you see the distinction we were just able to make? Do you see how we just stepped out of us versus them, good versus evil, this country versus this country, and we started to see domain and kingdom? Because if we're all honest with ourselves, there are whispers and echoes of both in each of us in the room. Is that true? Okay, this helps us separate.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:26:40] Now, God sees two kingdoms, I had the privilege of going to teach Worldview in Malawi several years ago, Southern Africa with some friends there, a pastor friend, and his awesome church. And this was right around COVID, right after COVID had happened, and the day before I was supposed to come home, I tested positive for Corona. Yeah, I was there all by myself, I had traveled on the trip by myself, and so I had ten days of quarantine in a ten-by-ten room in a Malawian lodge, all by myself. Okay? And as I was going through that, the pastor, every day he would show up and every day he would bring some food from his wife. His wife barely knew me, I did some training at their church, and he would bring some food from his wife. And he would say, Pastor, he'd say, drink this, this will fix everything. You know, like eat this, this will fix everything, and he just kept bringing me food over and over. Many of the days I didn't know what it was, I'm just going to go ahead and be honest with you, okay? When I'm not feeling really well, I kind of like food that I know. Okay? I can handle a lot of stuff, but I was just like...And so I very passively, Americanly, said to him, oh, Pastor, I don't want you to waste your resources, you don't have to do this, this is so nice, I'm just so full from what I had yesterday, I was like kind of skirting around the issue, you know what I mean? Really, on the inside, if you unzip me on the inside, was just me going, leave me alone, I just want to be all by myself, I just wanted some me time. And the pastor looked at me after about 3 or 4 days of this back and forth, and he said, Brandon, in my culture, when one person in our villages are sick, we are all sick, and we will not stop until that person is well. Now you tell me, his village mentality was stepping on my American individualism, and you tell me which one echoes the kingdom more. I went there to teach worldview and he taught me the kingdom, the irony, the irony.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:28:49] Guys, God sees two kingdoms over all the nations, and he wants us to see them as well, and there are traces of both the domain of darkness and the kingdom of God's beloved Son at play around us at all times. We have to reconcile this, that ultimate freedom, ultimate freedom only comes from God. Ultimate freedom only comes from God.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:29:12] God alone gives ultimate freedom, not governments, not governments.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:29:16] Rosa Parks, she made this brilliant comment, this brilliant quote, she said, "When I was seated on the bus, I was standing by faith." At another time, she made this comment, she said, I resolved to be free, and find my freedom from God no matter what. That doesn't sound like a person who is bound, that sounds like a free person, doesn't it? We see this same reality playing out inside of the New Testament in Acts chapter 26. In Acts chapter 26, we have Paul standing before King Agrippa, King Agrippa. Paul is in chains, he's in prison because he's preached Christ. And Paul is brought before King Agrippa to say, to give an account, and Agrippa was like, I can let you go, or I can make your life miserable, "And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul basically gives an appeal to the Gospel to King Agrippa, "And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” It's a paradox moment in the Bible. Why? Because the earthly free people, Agrippa, and his wife, they walk away enslaved. But the person who's ultimately free, Paul, he goes away and chains in earthly bondage. Do you see the distinction? If we don't catch the distinction as believers, listen, if we don't catch the distinction as believers between ultimate freedom and earthly freedom, we might conflate the two.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:31:08] I will tell you, I have not seen anything rouse Christians to the ballot box more than what we perceive to be steps on our freedom. Is there a government on this planet that can stop you from praying? Not rhetorical. Is there a government on this planet that can stop you from meditating on the Word of God and living it out? Is there a government on this planet that can stop you from witnessing of Christ? Well, you sound free to me. Now, I rejoice in the earthly liberties that I have here, I rejoice in them, but please understand ultimate freedom, the government neither giveth nor taketh, we as Christians have to remember that.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:32:02] How do we wait? How do we wait for this coming kingdom? I think there are things that we're supposed to be doing straight from Scripture, and I'm going to share those with you. I need to compel this to you, listen, a biblical worldview is not a subject we study, a biblical worldview is a way of life. If I come to you and say Jesus is Lord, but I live like I'm the boss, I don't have a biblical worldview. A biblical worldview is lived, it's not just understood. So what does God tell us to live when we look at the New Testament as it relates to Kingdom? Here it is. Well, let me clarify this about the kingdom of God, a lot of students, like with eighth graders, when I've worked with students and seniors, they've wrestled with, okay, God's kingdom. I mean, like, is it here? Is it not here? Is it here? Is it not here? Yes. Yes, it's here and it's not here, it's both. Jesus said the Kingdom of God is at hand, it's now, it's sitting in your seat right now. The Kingdom of God is alive and well in your hearts, it's here right now, and it's not yet, the fullness of it has not been ushered in.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:33:12] Revelation 21, we're in the in-between in the created, fall redeemed, restored, kind of like the compass that Pastor Ross, they've brought to you guys over and over and over. You can scope it out like a timeline, created, fallen, redeemed, restored, we are right here in between, we are right here in between. And as we look at this, it's now, and not yet. My sister lives in Scotland, and my niece and my brother-in-law, when they come to visit DFW Airport, the international terminal if you've ever been there, you go and you wait and there's those like long corridors and then the like, the doors that open up and then people walk out and you get excited and then people walk out and, you know, and you like people get greeted with your dejection, okay? That's just the way it goes, right? So we do like the airline stalker, I mean, tracker, you know, like where like they are 2000 miles out and all this kind of stuff. And then when my sister and her husband and my niece, when they land, that's when we head to the airport. When they land, we head to the airport, and so we'll go to the airport and we'll wait in the international terminal when they come out, and we're watching and we're watching, we're sitting there waiting. So if you called me and said, hey, is Michelle here yet? I'd say yes. And then you'd say, is Michelle here yet? I'd say no. And I would be right at the same time. Yes and no, she's here, but she's not yet here. That's the way it is with Jesus right now, that's the way it is with the kingdom, it's here, but it's yet not here. You're thinking, wait, so are you saying Jesus is stuck in customs? I'll leave that there. Okay?

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:34:46] All right, so three things, three challenges that I see in the New Testament and inside the scripture that I believe that we cannot escape, and we have to keep at the forefront. The first is this, seek first, seek first. We know the rest of the verse, most of you know the rest of the verse. It's Matthew chapter 6, verse 33, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness." That's kingdom and character. Let me put it this way, that's Kingdom and his culture, that's Kingdom and the King's culture. Seek first the kingdom, the purposes of the King, and seek first his righteousness, the character, and culture of the king, and seek those at all times. Seek those at all times. What do you mean by that? I mean, if a government, an earthly government that we live in ever forces you and me to make a choice between allegiance to the government and allegiance to the kingdom of God, we choose the kingdom. It's not even up for negotiation, kingdom, I respect, I honor, I value, I serve first, kingdom first. I seek the kingdom first.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:35:57] When I mention choosing between the Kingdom of God and our earthly governments, I think of William Wilberforce. William Wilberforce was the great champion in British society who worked tirelessly within it for the abolition of the slave trade, tirelessly. His heart had been convicted by the Holy Spirit through some writings and teachings that he had read, and he had gone on this journey to where he had a political position already, that's just where he was born into this earth. And so he looked at it and he saw it, and he stood up from his position, and he worked within, and he saw to it through many other people joining together the abolition of the slave trade. He worked within.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:36:41] But even as I say that I'm also mindful of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who worked from the outside. Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived in Nazi Germany. Nazi Germany, they had made a pairing with the German National Church, the German National Church, which was basically a puppet for the Nazis. And they were limited in what they could preach, what they could teach, things they could say, and what they couldn't say. And Hitler had outlawed seminary training for future pastors. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, looking at Adolf Hitler, said, you can't tell me what to do, you don't have that right, you can't stop me, you can't stop that. So he took seminarians, young pastors, and he went up into the mountains and he lived with them for a year and trained them, prepared them, and released them out. Not only that, Bonhoeffer began to work inside of Germany against that dictator and was even a part of two assassination attempts. Eventually, it cost Bonhoeffer his life.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:37:37] So, Brandon, did you say we work against the government from the outside? Maybe, depending on how badly it's violating the kingdom of God. Do we work from within and change it from within? Well, maybe, depending on what platforms and positions and accesses we have like Wilberforce, maybe. But what's not a maybe, kingdom first, that's not a maybe, that's a mandate. There is not an amount of ink on this planet that can erase Matthew 6:33 from your Bible and mine, it is the number one purpose of your life and mine, it is our number one pursuit. It's not Jesus plus, it's King Jesus. King Jesus.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:38:19] Let me give you two more challenges here. Actually, I want to say this, there are often times a lot of confusion about the kingdom of God. How does it move forward? How does it advance? I mean, like, how do we live this out? God's Kingdom advances in the hearts of man through relationships. The Kingdom of God advances through relationships in the hearts of people. I believe there's a story from the Old Testament that I think is prophetic about the age we live in right now. It comes from Joshua chapter 2, Yahweh and his armies, God has given them, Yahweh has given victory to his people, and they've overcome Egypt. They've gone out into the wilderness, and they've conquered this king and that king, and it's just a matter of time, God's people are coming into Canaan, and Canaan is being given over to his own people, to God's people.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:39:13] And these cities are falling one by one by one to Yahweh and his armies. And we know Jericho is the next up. And God sends two spies through the leader, Joshua. Joshua sends those two spies, and they go to Jericho, and they go into the wall where there are the innkeepers, and they stay with the prostitutes so they would be obscured because people would pass in and out frequent travelers. Well, the problem was the king of Jericho got word that the Spies of Israel were there, and the king of Jericho come to Rahab and say, where are they? Where are they? And Rahab straight up lies to the king, that way, and sends him on a wild goose chase. And then Rahab goes to the spies and says this, in Joshua chapter 2, verse 8, Rahab says, "Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you." People were hearing what God had done for Israel, and it was causing hearts to melt. But as their hearts were melting, two responses were happening. You have the response over here where the people of Jericho were preparing for war to fight against God and what God was doing. And Rahab over here was submitting saying this, this land is your land, this is yours, don't forget me.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:40:44] I believe it's a picture of the human heart right now. The news we just celebrated last week, we just celebrated Easter, the resurrection of Christ. The news is here, the King has risen, he's coming back. He pays for our sins, he cleanses us, he helps us, he saves us, and he's coming back, but I think some people are preparing for war because they don't want God to tell them what to do. And other people like Rahab are humbling their hearts and saying this all belonged to you in the first place, don't forget me. I think the human heart is in two postures and, you know, the greatness of our God, that prostitute, that prostitute, the person with the baggage. Is there anybody with baggage here? Oh, come on, is there anyone with baggage in here? That prostitute was adopted into the family line, into the Hebrews, and eventually became a great, great, great, great, great grandmother of Jesus himself. That's how our God works. If we yield our hearts, he adopts us in and he makes us a part of his purposes, he gives us a heritage and a legacy. He deals with sin inside of our hearts, he changes us, that's what he did for Rahab.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:42:06] So two challenges for us. We seek the kingdom first but listen carefully, honor all. Honor all. First Peter chapter 2, verse 17, Peter says this, "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor." There's a lot just in these words, there's a lot to be taught. But specifically, he says, honor twice, he repeats it. He says Honor everyone, broad; and then he says, honor the emperor. He gets broad, and then specific. And what was so important for these believers in Peter's original recipients was that as Peter was writing this, that very emperor was ratcheting up persecution against the people of God. And Peter still said, Honor the emperor. The difference is our king is a king of honor, guys, Jesus honors. When the disciples were like, Jesus is too busy, let the little children come. When the Pharisees are like if he really was a prophet, he wouldn't be hanging out with that woman, he's having dinner with the tax collector and a prostitute. The difference between our king's honor and our world's honor, it's not the same thing, our world says this, everyone is right, that's what our world calls honor; our King says everyone is important. Do you see the difference? Our King says everyone's important, there's not a single person without dignity and worth and value, that's what our king sees. Christ is full of honor.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:43:41] You know, some of you are old enough in the room. Do you remember the Bush shoe incident? When President Bush had a shoe thrown at him at a press conference globally. Does anybody remember that? I remember feeling deeply ashamed, and I felt dishonored by that as an American, that one of our presidents would have that instance happen to them, I felt deep shame, deep dishonor. I got to ask this question, did we feel the same amount of dishonor when we were hearing, let's go, Brandon chants? That was sin, that chant is sin. Are you saying you voted for him? No, if I do my job, you won't know who I voted for. I'm serious. It's because that's a leader that I was told to honor, Peter tells me to honor. Honor, I can disagree and dignify with honor. I was driving down the road and I saw a vehicle and it had a Jesus fish. And it had a sticker that said, let's go Brandon next to it. We call that, listen, that's incongruous with each other. Our king is a king of honor. Guys, you can't dishonor people into the kingdom of God. Okay?

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:45:19] Do I even need to talk about social media posts, retweets, re-likes, and things like that? Why is honor so important? It's because honor opens the door for redemption conversations. It does. Jesus' honor put him at the table with people that ended up coming to know Him. Did I say everyone came to know him? No, some of those very people that he had dinner with ended up laughing and mocking him while he was dying. But if you want redemptive conversations with people, you've got to honor people. No matter what party they belong to, you have to speak with them with dignity and honor. But they don't do it to me. Good thing Jesus didn't give you what you did to him. Honor all.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:46:12] Fear not. Fear not. Fear not. You're like, did my spouse email you about this? Don't be afraid, guys, I couldn't find one verse on fear not because there were 300 of them, that's why I don't have one listed. Over 300 times in Scripture, we are told by God to be courageous and not fear. We are not meant to be afraid. Why does this matter? It's because as things change and politicians change and governments change, no matter how the heat gets turned up or things get better or this gets voted down or this gets struck down, whatever, fear not, versus fearing much. Guys, our news cycles are driven by fear of the worst possible scenarios, it's called catastrophizing. They'll take a scenario and tell about the worst possible case and use it as the headline, and it provokes fear in us, gets us to click, and that's how they make money. That's how this works. We as the people of God are different, we are not called to fear. Fear not.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:47:17] I think of Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego, Rack, Shack, and Benny for some of you, when they were told to bow down and worship the golden image. They stand before Nebuchadnezzar, and Nebuchadnezzar looks at him and says, you're going to do this. And they look and they say, we have no need to answer you O King, we don't even need to answer you on this, our God will deliver us from your fiery furnace. And even if he doesn't, oh, that's a good part, meaning they didn't know for sure how this was going to turn out. You know, it's easy for them, they were going to get delivered. They didn't know, but even if he doesn't make it through, those are free men. Amen. Those are free, courageous men, those are free. Well, that's just the Old Testament, I mean, that's the Old Testament time.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:48:06] Yeah, Romans 8, Romans 8. Romans 8 says this, "What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died." At this point, we're like, oh, that's great, we're forgiven before God, that's awesome. Time out, he's about to go horizontal, that's vertical, but watch this, "Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Do you know two words, two terms that can't go together? Christian victim.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:49:27] We are not victims, we are conquerors, no matter what anyone does to us in this earth. Because no matter what anyone does to us in this earth, it's not the final word. But if we have a human perspective, then what happens here is the final word. If I have a human perspective, then I start to get really angsty, trying to fix everything by myself. We're not meant to be victims, we are not, we are not.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:50:05] I want to close with this, Acts chapter 1. Acts chapter 1 is fascinating because if you feel tension about, Brandon, this is really hard, like I have people that have literally unfriended me and stopped because I voted for X or I voted for Y, because I have political conversations, because I'm active, I literally have lost friendships because of this. If you feel that pressure, you're not the first and you won't be the last. Acts chapter 1, most of us, we probably all, most of us in this room who've been around church for a long time could probably quote Acts 1:8, "You will be my witnesses to Jerusalem, Judea and..." Right? But very few of us in here knew what question prompted this answer, Acts 1:6. In Acts 1:6, the apostles, who walked and talked with the resurrected Lord Jesus, they look at him and go, hey, Jesus, is now the time Israel gets its kingdom back? They're talking to the resurrected Lord Savior, and they ask him a geopolitical question. And he looks and he tells him a few things. Number one, "It is not for you to know the times and the hours that the Father has appointed." Number two, you're going to get power and you're going to witness. He redirected them from geopolitics to their responsibility on this earth, and he told them to witness.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:51:37] And what's fascinating is, when he does that Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and uttermost parts of the earth, it's concentric geographic circles. Do you see the expansion? It's almost like a kingdom is expanding through their witnessing. Friends, I don't know, I don't know to what degree I'll be held accountable for my voting record when I stand before the king. But I know this for a fact, I will be held accountable for who I disciple. I do see some Christians that their political activism is the end all be all of their efforts. I tell you, I believe that in our country we have less of a voting issue and more of a discipleship issue. A wise pastor, a wise retired pastor told me this about Roe v Wade, who lived through the establishment of it and saw the end of it. He said Brandon, you got to understand the hearts and minds of our culture were heading in that direction long before the Supreme Court passed Roe v Wade the hearts were trending that way already. The reason, guys, the reason I think we struggle with this is that we want quick solutions, we want quick fixes, if we get all the right people in office, it fixes everything. No, it doesn't. No, it doesn't. We have to disciple people for years because alive inside of all of us, those of us in Christ, we got the kingdom of his beloved Son, that's now where we belong to, but we have the thinking of the domain of darkness.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:53:33] It took one night, listen, it took one night to get Israel out of Egypt, The Passover. How long did it take God to get Egypt out of Israel's heart and mind? A lifetime. The slow work of changing people's hearts and minds happens through relationships, not dishonor. We have to seek the kingdom first, and we have to be okay with obedience to God that costs us stuff here. It's okay, we know where this is going and it's good, it's good. Hey, let's take as many people with us as we can. Yeah? Can we? And some of those people right now vote the opposite of you. Some of those people lobby the opposite of you. Some of these people that we're going to take with us through discipleship, they don't even want to sit at your dinner table. But guess what, you keep asking them if they'll come, use your dinner table, invite people over. Make relationships and friends and expand the kingdom of God heart by heart.

Brandon Smeltzer: [00:54:51] Bow your heads with me. So I'm going to lead you into a time of reflection. If something I said really nagged you, agitated you, like, you want to get out of here as fast as you can? Would you at least just honor me and ask the Holy Spirit why it agitated you? And ask the Holy Spirit if it was from him or if it was just some guy that talked on Sunday. Because I don't want to be a person, and I know you don't want to be a person, who walks up to truth, and rejects it, and walks away. I want to be a person that responds to truth. Ask the Holy Spirit what he's saying to you right now.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051