In the sermon below, Dr Dwight Nelson preaches on the title "The Politics of The Kingdom: How To Vote in This Election". It is a very thought provoking sermon on Christian participation in politics. I hope to see your comments below after you have read or watched this sermon below. Dr Dwight Nelson is the Senior Pastor of Pioneer Memorial Church at Andrews University in the United States. Below is Dr Dwight Nelson sermon.
Let's pray. Holy Father, appropriate words, we sing of your might power given this hour of political uncertainty and economic turbulence.
How would You have Your children engaged this hour? May this morning's teaching be clear. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, amen.
Once upon a time Jesus was ambushed by a group of young seminarians, Given the sterling reputation that our seminarians enjoy on this campus, I know that sounds a bit strange to you, Seminarians ambushing Jesus.
Covert was their assignment, placed strategically in the crowd that morning by their professors, the religious elders and Pharisees. It was one of those classic, gotcha journalism moments.
I realize that we are in an election season right now. I don't know where you stand politically and it really doesn't matter to me and you don't know where I stand and you won't.
But I have a feeling all of us, come on, let's just be honest, all of us have felt a bit drawn to her plight, her name is Sarah Palin. I don't know if you've heard of her. Drawn to what appears to be the gotcha journalism of the mainstream press. Vice presidential nominee of course and John Mccain's republican ticket.
Wikipedia defines "Gotcha journalism" this way, let me read it to you, "Method of interviewing which are designed to entrap the interviewee into making statements which are damaging or discreditable to their character, integrity, or repute."
Now it cuts both ways. Both political parties, any candidate is fare game, gotcha journalism. This was to be the perfect, perfect setup.
Flattering, innocent but in that question a Christian community on the eve of this national election would do well-- listen carefully, to both the young seminarians gotcha question and Jesus gotcha back answer.
We continue our series Primetime. Open your Bible to the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 22 and while you are doing that I'll put it on the screen. This is our series Primetime. This is part seven in Primetime. Title of today's teaching, "The Politics of the Kingdom," subtitle, "How to Vote in this Election."
And I hope we we are still friends when it's over. If you've missed the previous six in this teaching by the way, let me leave it up for little longer there's our website, pmchurch.tv. You can go to that website and get the pod cast to the previous six teachings.
And by the way don't miss next week when the title of our teaching will be, can an atheist be saved? How can I effectively share my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ with someone who doesn't believe it? I hope you'll be here next weekend.
Alright, this is Matthew 22. I am in the Today's New International Version. Grab your Bible, if you didn't bring your Bible you got to track this little narrative in Matthew 22 in the pew Bible in front of you.
What's the page number, page 665. That will be in the New King James Version. Matthew Chapter 22, let's pick it up in verse 15, "Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words." Classic definition of gotcha journalism, that's what you do.
Now I should remind you this is Tuesday. Tomorrow is Wednesday, the next day is Thursday and after that will be Friday upon which this young Galilean will be executed by the Roman authorities.
But the Pharisees have no idea that the Friday is coming. They have no idea what will happen transpire for the remainder of this week. What they do know is that they must somehow gather enough legal evidence for a religious court, for a secular court it doesn't matter, accumulate Ecclesiastical, federal charges.
Somehow you got to trap Him with His own words. Get rid of this guy, eliminate Him, odious. He's been a thorn in our side ever since He began.
"Then the Pharisees went out," verse 15, "and laid plans to trap him in his words." Now here they come, the young seminaries. "They sent their disciples to Him." Hold it right there.
They sent their disciples. There was a seminary in Jerusalem. It's obvious the Pharisees cannot on this Tuesday morning dare show up with their glorious flowing robes and their big bushy beards.
It would be a dead give away that somebody is out to nail this preacher. Jesus would be prepared, cocked and ready to go. So they send the beardless seminaries to filter into that crowd and stand there innocuously waiting for their perfect moment.
The instructions to the seminaries are clear by the way, an automatic A if you can nail Him. Who wouldn't take the offer? Verse 16 again, "They sent their disciples to Him along with the Herodians." Hit the pause button right there.
Tragically, it's too often the case, the church, when uncertain that she has the leverage and power to accomplish her task tragically she often does precisely this. She allies herself with a political party in order to achieve her means and her ends.
The Herodians, the Herodians, they are a political party, party of Jews. They back the Roman puppet ruler of Palestine, Herod Antipas that's why they called Herodians.
Now you got to understand this obviously, clearly bags the most strange of bedfellows because the Pharisees are ultranationalist. They are the arch conservatives, they spit on the very thought of collaborators.
So for the Pharisees to lock, to join forces with Herodians is the evidence of desperation now. And that's a tragedy by the way, that has ever been the tragedy in desperation to achieve our agenda that the church allies itself with a political party and we are always the weaker for it.
This last year brought the untimely death of two of the most well known leaders of the religious right in this country, Jerry Falwell and D James Kennedy.
Four years ago, this season Jerry Falwell before the reelection of President George W. Bush, Jerry Falwell, Baptist preacher and pastor, Chancellor of Liberty University in Virginia, Lynchburg Virginia. Jerry Falwell made this statement I put it on the screen for you. Both Kennedy and Falwell unabashed and they are pastor over parties and loyalties.
Here it goes, "For conservative people, " quoting Jerry Falwell now four years ago. "For conservative people of faith, voting for principle this year means voting for the reelection of George W. Bush. I believe it is the responsibility of every political conservative, every evangelical Christian, every pro-life Catholic, every traditional Jew, every Reagan Democrat, and everyone in between to get serious about re-electing President Bush." So preaches a Baptist protestant preacher.
Of course, it is the right of every American Christian and by the way we have 100 nations here, it is the right of every Christian on earth to engage in the national election and vote your wish, vote your convictions, vote your conscience. But the tragic death of our Lord Jesus is in incontrovertible 'Exhibit A' that when the church aligns itself with a political party the end results are always, always disastrous.
For evangelicals in America today to blindly ally or align themselves to a political party repeats the sin of the Pharisees and the Herodians. Let James Dobson beat his tired drum, you cannot let one spokesperson become the voice of an entire community of faith.
And by the way you want to 'Exhibit B'? If 'Exhibit A' wasn't enough you want 'Exhibit B?' The political collaboration of the church in Nazi Germany is a somber 'Exhibit B' about the national political, even emergency amalgamation hat can take a church down.
I tell you what, it does not forebode well for Jesus this Tuesday morning when the church has aligned itself with a political party. Verse 16, "So they sent their disciples" these young seminaries "to Him along with the Herodians. 'Teacher,'" Here we go now, "'Teacher,' they said, 'we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.'
Alright, I want to tell you something. If ever I would covet a compliment I would want those words to be said about me, wouldn't you? I mean, come on. I know that when you open up your mouth you tell the truth. You are not swayed political position or power. You hold your like because it's what you believed to be truth.
If only the young seminaries believed what they have just mouthed. Oh, no, this is just a flattery setup for the gotcha question.
Verse 17, Tell us, O good teacher, "Tell us then, what is your opinion?" Boom, red light. Jesus knows immediately. They just said, they value me for telling the truth and now they are asking my opinion. They don't want to know at all.
Tell us. They gave themselves away too early. "Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?"
It seemingly harmless question, you got to admit. I mean, please, shall we pay the tax that subjugated peoples and provinces of Rome, of the Roman Empire, are required to pay, Roman citizens themselves being exempted of course.
I tell you what, them fighting words for the nationalistic community like the Jews. The Pharisees said, no way, no way. The Herodians said, but of course we pay that tax. So what do you say, Jesus? Should we or should we not?
Oh, its perfect gotcha journalism. If he says pay the tax then the Pharisees will declare Him an enemy of law of God for they believe the law of God forbade paying taxes to any foreign power. And if He says, don't pay the tax then they will hurry to the governor and declare that He is an insurrectionist against Rome.
Gotcha either way. Brilliant. Automatic A.
Verse 18, "But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, 'You hypocrites,'" you are too young to be this,
"'You hypocrites why are you trying to trap me?'
"And then Jesus, get this, because He is so dirt poor has to turn to the crowd and say, hey, anybody here have a coin? Somebody throw me a coin, He's that poor. Not even a coin.
Somebody reached in to his flowing robes and flips a coin across the clearing to where the young Galilean catches it. He holds up the coin, it's a denarius, denarius, equal to the wages of a common laborer for one day.
Let's say you work at McDonalds and you get $8 an hour and you work eight hours a day doing $60 to $64 in this coin for tax.
I did this in first service.This is a silver dollar by the way. I did this in first service between services and one of my friends doctoral student here Kenneth Morrison met me just before coming on to the platform today. He said, I want to show you something. He said, take a look at this. He handed me an actual denarius, it's right here in this plastic.
Oh, I must be very careful, dated between 14 and 37 A.D. It's about the size, it's about the size little bigger than a dime and smaller than a nickel. So that's what somebody threw at Jesus. He did not have a coin. They threw it at Him.
Jesus held it up and just like this one, in fact Ken Morrison said to me, you know what, Dwight, this could be the actual coin. It could be, you don't know that its not. We know it's between 14 and 37 A.D. because we have Tiberius picture on the coin. This could be the one He held up. Let's pretend it is.
Jesus holds up the coin and He gets it so that, so that the Tiberius' face is facing straight at the smart aleckian seminarians. He says, all right, tell me whose picture, whose image is engraved on this coin?
It would be like Jesus pulling out a penny and saying to us, okay, guys, tell me who's the president on this copper penny? And what would we say? Oh, Lincoln.
That's exactly what they did. Set Him up, they didn't have time to think. They just said, ha, it's Caesar. Jesus said, very good. Very good. Give it to Caesar what is Caesar's, give to God what is God's.
Just like that it's over. Verse 22, "When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away."
The end. Oh, it's not the end. The end doesn't come for more three days, that's when the end comes. But that story has a backdrop.
I want to take a moment and talk heart to heart with you who are the Primetime generation right now. One of the epic stories that has come out of this presidential election cycle has been the phenomenal, the phenomenal, the chattering class has shaken its heads. The phenomenal, activism of young American adults in Barrack Obama's campaign.
And I'm gonna tell you that somebody who has been standing on the sidelines, I've found it personally, I've found it very refreshing to see that re engagement by your segment of the American electorate. Nevertheless, I need to warn you, I need to warn you about the danger of seeking rapprochement with the Caesar of politics.
In 1274 a German myth was born, came out of that tiny little German village called Hamelin. It's the myth of the Pied Piper. You remember the Pied Piper? Put a picture of the Pied Piper on the screen for you.
You remember that story, Hamelin, Germany, 1274. This story according to the myth that little village was inundated with rats, remember? And so this enchanter comes among and he says, hey, I can take the rats away. They said, you can? He says, yeah, for a fee. They said, we'll pay you.
He played his magical flute and all the rats were led right down to the river and they drowned. He came back for his fee and the people said, we changed our mind, we are not going to pay you.
Oh, a few months later when all the adults were in church the Pied Piper came back, played that same little flute and 130 boys and girls followed him out of that village and into a cave and were never seen again. It's the myth of the Pied Piper.
The Caesar of politics is a Pied Piper who plays a heady and enchanting tune and as it is in the myth he particularly desires of drawing the young after him. Fresh with idealism, it's you. Filled with physical and intellectual energy you are. Passionate about cause you embrace, that's you again.
There isn't a Pied Piper on this planet including the Lord Jesus Christ who would not give His right arm to have you follow after Him. Why? Because you are the stuff of hope, you are the promise of change.
And so the Pied Piper knowing that you want hope and that you believe in change plays the tune for you. Beware the Caesar of politics who can be the enchanting Pied Piper. Because after the last rally is over and election night has ended and you crawl back into your bed and the floor in the hotel ball room is strewn with red, white and blue confetti and deflated balloons reality will once again set in, trust me.
And the voters who recorded and romance with every political promise in the book will soon be forgotten by the political elite who only need our votes and not our opinions and convictions. But if you've learned anything from history, it is that the ends of Caesar are the terminus of impotent power, futile redemption and unconsummated hope.
What you want most, you will never find scampering after the Pied Piper, trust me. Truth be told, there is no political deliverer for the human race or for the American nation.
You think about this. At best, at best the Caesar of politics operates in amoral world of compromise and the necessary choice of the lesser of two evils. For millennia the Pied Piper has piped something about utopia and we keep hoping and believing unless the utopia will come, it has not come yet.
Do you know why? Because what is facing Caesar is the endemic dysfunction, the systemic disease of the human heart that even Caesar's elixir can not heal and can not satisfy, that's why.
Oh, yes, the very same Caesar. You are right, the very same Caesar that Jesus commanded us to render to is the same Caesar that the apostle Paul appeal to, appeal to when his life was in jeopardy. Acts 25, "Get me out of here, I appeal to Caesar. I won't get a fair trial here, I appeal to Caesar."
The only treatise that Paul offers on human governance and government is in Romans Chapter 13. And in Romans 13 he calls the ruler. You can read Caesar, he calls the ruler a servant of God.
Let me put it on the screen for you, Romans 13:4, "For the one in authority is God's servant." The Greek word is diakonos from which come out word deacon. "The one in authority is God's deacon for your good."
But please do not mistake, Paul defense of human governance in this fallen world for any appeal to become immersed in the world of politics.
We say, hey, come on, time out, time out. Oh I, wait a minute, don't be so fast. You have forgotten about Daniel and Esther and Nehemiah and Joseph and even Moses. What about them? They were all believers and they served government effectively.
Hoo, touché. Good point. Thoughtful observation. However, I remind you that their exemplary service, these political exiles and by the way that's the key word exiles. The exemplary service of these political exiles was to a man and to a woman, the result of their exiled status and not their political ambitions. They were thrust into office not by personal choice but by miraculous divine appointment.
And they maintained the whole while their exiled status even in captivity. They were not citizens or political participants of their government.
So of course, I know some of you are taking political science, keep in political science. Aspire to government service. Do you know what? I met a prime minister once, the prime minister of Uganda and did a preaching to him, Seventh-day Adventist Christian.
Go ahead aspire to the highest government service you can aspire to but do so with your eyes wide open.
David Kuo, a young evangelical political operative who became special assistant to President Bush, during his last term for faith based initiatives eventually resigned, resigned in disillusionment from his political position in the White House.
Put him on the screen there, there's his face. He wrote a book subsequently entitles "Tempting Faith,
An Inside Story of Political Seduction." There's the young adult who got on the inside and said, it ain't all that's cracked up to be.
Kuo story is a moral tale for Christian young today. The Pied Piper may feign an interest in your faith perspectives but Kuo concluded all you are really wanted for is your ability to deliver a few more votes
to insatiate Caesar's insatiable appetite for power. Don't be pied pipered into that.
Say, what's the point, Dwight? What are you saying? Here's what I am saying. How much do we give to Caesar? Jesus said render to Caesar what is Caesar's. So how much is that?
The stunning injunction that three days later Jesus himself made while He was bound and almost gagged in front of the Roman governor. That stunning injunction defines the parameters and the limits of how much we give to Caesar.
I want to read this story with you straight out of the gospel. John, one more text, John Chapter 18. John Chapter 18. John 18, drop down to verse 28. Pick up the narrative in verse 28.
John 18:28, "Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover." Go figure.
Verse 29, "So Pilate came out to them and asked, 'What charges are you bringing against this Man?' 'Oh if he were not a criminal,' they replied, 'we would not have handed Him over to you.'" Verse 31, "Pilate said, 'Take Him yourselves and judge Him by your own law.' 'But we have no right to execute anyone,' they objected. This took place." Verse 32, "to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die."
He said, I am going to die by being lifted up, I'll be crucified and only Romans, this was a bitter pill for Jews to swallow, only Romans could execute that penalty.
"Pilate" verse 33, "then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked Him, 'Are You the king of the Jews?' 'Is that your own idea,' Jesus asked, 'or did others talk to you about Me?' 'Am I a Jew?' Pilate replied. 'Your own people and chief priests handed You over to me. What is it You have done?'"
And then Verse 36, "Jesus said, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, My servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now My kingdom is from another place.'"
My kingdom is not of this world, meaning, and neither are My followers. I am from another place and so are they. They wanted to play this game with you, they fight justice dirty as you fight but they are not gonna fight on your turf. They are not sucked into this fallen system, they are Mine. My kingdom is from another place.
You know what that means? That means that the follower of Christ embraces an ultimate and higher loyalty. I tell you what ladies and gentlemen the utter lack of political engagement by both Jesus and Paul speaks cautionary volumes to us living today.
Neither one stepped in to the hottest political issues of their day, they stayed out.
You say, what are you saying, Dwight? Am I not supposed to enter politics then? You know what my friend, nobody can make that decision for you. No, I am not gonna make it for you but I will tell you, rare, rare is the man or woman who has been able to combine high moral integrity with political expedience. The price is very, very high.
I saw the movie "Amazing Grace", we sang it just a moment ago. I saw the movie "Amazing Grace", based on the life of that Englishman named William Wilberforce who single handedly turned an entire empire, took years of political engagement in the government but turned an empire against slavery.
There is a sterling exception. Rare is the man or women, rare who can.
You know what that means, that means that this Primetime generation is been raised up by God not to craft an alliance with Caesar but rather to raise up a new kingdom for God.
You say, what are you saying, Dwight, am I not supposed to vote now? No, of course you vote, vote, vote your conviction, vote your wishes, vote your will. Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and the vote belongs to him but let us not be, I repeat, so naive as to believe that we should elect a political Messiah. Caesar, whether his name is Obama or McCain or Clinton or Bush. Caesar cannot save this nation now.
No matter who is chosen by the nation in a few days to become our next president, he simply will not be able to save America. Disabuse yourself of that day dream.
The economic crisis into which we are in the world are now descending us is painfully revealing apostasy of human deliverance and human deliverers.
Not even Paul Krugman, Princeton University professor just awarded two weeks ago the Nobel prize for economics. Not even this economics laureate with the Nobel prize can tell us what we're supposed to do next to execrate ourselves from this morass.
I tell you what, the unnerving uncertainty that we're now witnessing in our economic and political leaders of late reminds me of a prediction. This is a prediction that was made 100 years ago but every day that goes by makes this for me, makes this prediction all the more appreciate for it describes the condition of the nation before the return of the Christ, just before.
I put the words on the screen for you. There are not many, "There are not many even among educators," that would be Princeton University. "There are not many, even among educators and statesmen," you want to talk about Hank Paulson, you want to talk about the presidents, the economy team.
"There are not many, even among educators and statesmen who comprehend the causes that underlie the present state of society. Those who hold the reins of government are not able to solve the problem. They are struggling in vain to place business operations on a more secure basis."
Struggling in vain to place business operations on a more secure basis, has it already come to that? But surely it's clear to us all into what is fast becoming a crisis hour if you believe all the commentators.
The crisis hour of economic confusion and political uncertainty what surely is clear to us all is that Christ Jesus is sending a new Primetime generation of young adults into this crisis in society.
We noted it last week "it is in the time of collective or personal crisis that the mind is suddenly open wide to the possibility of a major paradigm shift". Ladies and gentleman, the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ is a huge paradigm shift for this society.
But in the time of crisis what I never before would have been open to, I am suddenly now willing to consider. This is the hour for the mobilization of a new Primetime generation that can march straight into the crisis with the good news that we got hope, we got a hope that there is somebody returning to this planet and that somebody is our only hope.
I want to tell you something, our message is not a message of political alliances or bumper sticker hope. Ours is a cry of three angels. Fear God and give glory to Him, we are in the hour of His judgment and worship Him who made heaven and earth and the fountains of water.
Look up we got deliverance on the way and if you come to Jesus now, you can be saved too. Come to Jesus now. Come to Jesus now. Why would you put it off? Is there a human solution? Have we found a human deliverance? No, no, no. Then I have a divine deliver to recommend to you.
Guys, girls, you've been setup as a primetime generation to step into this crisis and holding your head high with your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ declaring to this generation I know a solution. I have met the deliverer and He is soon to come. Wow.
Primetime generation give your vote to Caesar but give your life, your energy and your passion to Christ. Give to Caesar what is Caesar's but give to God what is God's and is God's? What is God's right now is your life for His mission with such an army as our young adults rightly train might furnish. How soon the message of a crucified risen and soon coming Savior to go to all the world? How soon the end would come, the end of suffering and sickness and sin?
You've been setup, generation Primetime. 491 year ago this coming Friday another young adult strode across the leaf strewn comings of another little German village. He went striding up to the university doors, the bulletin board for that campus and he nailed on to that door 95 challenges to the Holy Roman Empire's bankrupt theology and unwittingly for he had no idea what would ensue.
Martin Luther, a young adult ignited the mighty protestant reformation. He did it. Choosing between Caesar and Christ, he did it, and ended up bringing down an entire geo-religio political system.
A young adult. Don't you ever say you are too young to change the world.
And in the throes of that might reformation he was almost astounded as our worship leaders, Luther sat down with the pen scribble out the words, compose the music to what became the battle hymn of the reformation.
In the German here's what he scribble down, "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott." "A mighty fortress is our God."
It's one hymn, sings of two kingdoms and one choice. That' the choice this generation faces, two kingdoms and one choice, Caesar or Christ? You cannot serve both. You cannot go follow after the Pied Piper heart for the Savior, you have to choose. One choice, two kingdoms. Thus ask who that might be, Christ Jesus it is He, Lord Sabaoth is His name from age to age it's same and He must win the battle.
Want to sing that hymn and I want you as you sing it to offer yourself to the same Christ and say, I will follow. As Martin followed, I will follow. I will engage this society for you. 506, let's sing it, 506, A mighty fortress.
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe
His craft and power are great And armed with cruel hate
On earth is not his equal
Did we in our own strength confide
Our striving would be losing
Were not the right Man on our side
The Man of God's own choosing
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He
Lord Sabaoth, His Name From age to age the same
And He must win the battle
That word above all earthly powers
No thanks to them, abideth
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him Who with us sideth
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also
The body they may kill, God's truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
It's been a pleasure to be able to worship with you again today. I hope the Spirit of Jesus has blessed your time with us.
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