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7 Truths to Remember as We Head to the Polls

I Voted Sticker LotToday is election day. Some of you, like me have already voted absentee. I am working as an election judge this year and will not be able to make it to my polling place and so I voted last week.  As you head to the polls, I want you to remember these three truths about elections here in America.  It is not only in America, it’s been then way for thousands of years, going all the way back to the book of Judges.

  1. The first strategy that many leaders will employ is some type of “Us Against Them” mentality.  Look at what Abimelech did.

Abimelech son of Jerubbaal went to his mother’s brothers at Shechem and spoke to them and to all his maternal grandfather’s clan, saying, “Please speak in the presence of all the lords of Shechem, ‘Is it better for you that 70 men, all the sons of Jerubball, rule over you or that one man rule over you?’  Remember that I am your own flesh and blood,” (Judges 9.1-2, HCSB).

One can imagine what it must have been like for Abimelech.  He was not a “legitimate son” of Gideon.  He was the son of a concubine.  I’m sure his 70 brothers didn’t let him live that down.  He was the butt of their jokes most likely, the outcast, the one no one wanted around.  It’s no wonder that he was angry.  He wanted revenge against all those who hurt him growing up.  And like anyone in any painful situation, misery loves company.

The people seemed to already have a bad taste in their mouths towards Gideon’s family as the last verse of chapter 8 indicates.  They just needed a little push to seal the deal.

While Gideon refused to be king, he sure did act like a king (see Judges 8).  He had a multitude of wives, 70 sons, a concubine with a son by her.  A man doesn’t just have 70 sons and many wives without also having a lot of money.  Many would say that he and his family though not royalty, sure behaved as if they were.

So it isn’t hard to conceive of the notion that people back then are much like we are today.  They like to point fingers and blame others.  Gideon’s family was the reason for all the peoples’ problems.  Abimelech took that inner frustration and brought it to light.

Politicians have a way of doing this exact same thing.  Republicans are to blame for all our problems.  Democrats are to blame for all our problems.  Bush is to blame; Obama is to blame.  Conservatives! Liberals!  They have us at each other’s throats.  Liberals aren’t Christians.  Conservatives hate homosexuals.  Democrats will take away all our rights.  Conservatives don’t want to give anyone the rights they’re due!

If a politician or a leader can name an enemy and get us to believe they are our enemy they know they can get us to follow after them.  This is what Abimelech did.

“Remember that I am your own flesh and blood,” (Judges 9.2, HCSB).  “I’m one of you.  I’m on your side.  I’m not one of them.  I hate them.  They are against you and so they are against me.”

2. Their second strategy: I can fix it all.  By some miracle Abimelech was their divine savior—at least he proclaimed he was. One of Abimelech’s brothers Jotham gave a parable that I find gets to the heart of the matter.

When they told Jotham, he climbed to the top of Mount Gerizim, raised his voice, and called to them: Listen to me, lords of Shechem, and may God listen to you: The trees set out to anoint a king over themselves. They said to the olive tree, “Reign over us.”  But the olive tree said to them, “Should I stop giving my oil that honors both God and man, and rule over the trees?”  Then the trees said to the fig tree, “Come and reign over us.”  But the fig tree said to them, “Should I stop giving my sweetness and my good fruit, and rule over trees?”  Later, the trees said to the grapevine, “Come and reign over us.” But the grapevine said to them, “Should I stop giving my wine that cheers both God and man, and rule over trees?” Finally, all the trees said to the bramble, “Come and reign over us.” The bramble said to the trees, “If you really are anointing me as king over you, come and find refuge in my shade.  But if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.”  (Judges 9.7-15, HCSB)

In the absence of good leadership, people will follow anyone so long as they lead—not knowing to where they may lead.  Notice that last verse.  “If you really are anointed me as king over you, come and find refuge in my shade.”  I will fix all your problems. I will be your refuge.  This is the problem with many in government.  They want to be God to and for you.

3. The third strategy is to eliminate the competition.  Abimelech named the enemy and he gained a following.  The results are demoralizing.  “‘He is our brother.’ So they gave him 70 pieces of silver from the temple of Baal-berith,” (Judges 1.3d-4, HCSB).  They gave him 70 pieces of silver: one for every brother he had.  What did he do with this money?  “Abimelech hired worthless and reckless men with this money, and they followed him.  He went to his father’s house in Ophrah and killed his 70 brothers, the sons of Jerubbaal, on top of a large stone,” (Judges 9.5, HCSB).

Long before Abimelech, a covenant was made between the people and God; they will serve Him.  They will follow Him.  They will worship Him. Yet, when Abimelech comes around, we see that they have abandoned this covenant, but somehow still keep up a religious idolatry.  Notice where this agreement and money were given.  “So they gave him 70 pieces of silver from the temple of Baal-berith,” (Judges 9.4, HCSB).  The big thing is not that they did this at a pagan temple, but the name of the pagan temple.  Baal means lord and was the storm-god, the highest of gods to the Canaanites.  But then there is berith, which is Hebrew for covenant. So putting the two together they paid Abimelech 70 pieces of silver to murder his brother at the temple of the lord of the covenant, referring to a Canaanite god and not the Yahweh.  The people had abandoned God to serve the gods of the world, and sold their souls in the process.

Like the Israelites, many Christians have abandoned the covenant out of fear.  We are fearful of persecution.  We are fearful of losing money.  We are fearful of losing control.  We have abandoned the covenant out of prejudice.  We have fallen prey to the “us versus them” mentality.  It’s republicans versus democrats, whites versus people of color, rich versus middle class versus poor, liberals versus conservatives versus moderates.  We want “one of us” in office and so when an Abimelech comes along and says, “Remember that I am your own flesh and blood,” we put him on our shoulders and do anything and say anything and pay anything to have that person in office, even when it goes against the covenant, the calling to represent God, and the place of refuge.

Let me end this blog by giving four more truths (related to the three I gave above),

  1. God has not called us to have an “us against them” mindset. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. We are to pray for those who are enemies and who persecute us.  We are to bless them and not curse them.  There is no room for us vs. them.
  2. Leaders can do a lot of things, but they cannot fix us. We are broken inside. Each of us have a sin nature, but beyond that we have hurts, wounds, secrets, bitterness, and more going on.  Leaders can’t touch that. God has promised to give us a new heart and new life if we will trust in Christ.  We become new creatures where the old is passed away and the new comes.  The Holy Spirit sets up residence and begins to work on us immediately.
  3. Since we have no room for us versus them, we do not go against, but rather enter their world and show them Christ and give them the gospel. We don’t compel them to follow our political persuasion. We compel them to follow Jesus.
  4. God is calling us back to be the people we were called to be. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light,” (1 Pet 2.9, HCSB).

The Holy Spirit is Greater Than We Know

You can watch the video of the actual sermon here.

Jesus Christ lived for about 33 years upon this earth.  He lived the perfect life, died a sinner’s death, substituting His life for all who believe, rose again on the third day, and ascended into heaven.  And we would know about none of it if the Holy Spirit had not been sent.  We would not have cared about it if the Holy Spirit had not been sent.  God the Father spoke and people listened.  God the Son spoke and people listened, but the Holy Spirit seems to be the silent Person of the Trinity.  Yet, He is not.  It is because the Holy Spirit spoke that we know what the Father and Sons said.

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit, (2 Peter 2.19-21, ESV).

The Holy Spirit used men to speak and to write for Him.  While He may not speak, He is not silent.

In A.D. 325, the Council of Nicaea met, and at the end of this meeting, the Nicene Creed was ratified and signed.  The point of the Creed was to formulate the doctrine in writing what had always been believed: Jesus was God the Son—”God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”  But as time went on, there also needed to be a formulation of the doctrine that the Holy Spirit was also divine.  Another council was called in Constantinople in A.D. 381.  It was here that the doctrine, again that had been believed since the apostles, was written down.  Rather than adopt another creed, the council just added more about the Holy Spirit to the Nicene Creed: “I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.”  Originally the creed simply read that the Spirit proceeded from the Father.  It wasn’t until A. D. 1014 that the creed read that He proceeded “from the Father and the Son.”  This was quite controversial (and still is).  It is known as the Filioque clause.  But why the change?  Because it is biblical.  The problem is that we tend to go to the wrong Scriptures to prove this point. We often go to John 16, where Jesus stated that He would send the Spirit.  But sending is different than proceeding from, just like sending is different than begetting.

What we must see is that just as the Holy Spirit is declared to be God’s Spirit or the Spirit of God, so He is Christ’s Spirit or the Spirit of Christ.  We see in Genesis 1:2, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters,” (ESV).  Or again in Job 33, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life,” (v. 4, ESV).  But we see the same language but with the Son in Acts.  “And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them,” (Acts 16.7, ESV).  And again in Galatians 4.6, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father,’” (ESV)!

But there is a reason that the Council of Constantinople added that the Holy Spirit is the Giver of life.  Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God,” (John 3.5, ESV).  And then, “Do not marvel that I said you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes form or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit,” (John 3.7-8, ESV).  This is what we call regeneration.  It is the rebirth.  Physically speaking, we were born living, breathing individuals.  Spiritually speaking, that is simply not the case.  “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience,” (Ephesians 2.1-2, ESV).  If you look at verse 5, you will see that God made you alive together in Christ.  That is true, but how?  Through the Holy Spirit.  You were dead, but if you are in Christ, you first had to be born again, rebirthed, regenerated. That only happens by the power and prerogative of the Holy Spirit.  He gives life where there was once death.

And not only the spiritual life, but our physical lives at he Second Coming.  The very same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, brings us out of death.  As Paul wrote, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raise Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you,” (Romans 8.11, ESV).

Do you see how pivotal the roll of the Holy Spirit is in our lives?  He is our life!  He is the only reason we have life!  He is our hope.  Hence, He is the Truth-Teller.  Jesus told the disciples, on the night He was betrayed,

When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you, (John 16.13-15, ESV).

Here is one reason we can believe that the Scriptures are true.  It was the Spirit who revealed the truth to the apostles.  But beyond that, the reason the Bible resonates with us, and that we don’t just know, but begin to feel it deep within, is because the Spirit who revealed the truth to the apostles, is also speaking the Word of God, bringing them out of the pages of this Bible and putting them into our hearts.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.  For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?  But we have the mind of Christ, (1 Corinthians 2.14-16, ESV).

We get it; we know it; we understand it; it resonates with us, because the Holy Spirit in us testifies the same truths to us that He did to them so long ago.  On top of that, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all of the same mind—unified in thought—and to have the mind of Christ only comes to us because we have the Spirit of Truth in us!

But He not only gives us the power to understand the truths of God, but also gives us the power to be on mission—to evangelize the lost.  Jesus said, just before His ascension: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” (Acts 1.8, ESV).  We see this being played out, not only on the day of Pentecost, but in Acts 4, “And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the LORD Jesus, and great grace was upon them all,” (v. 33, ESV).

Paul wrote to the Romans that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ because it is the power of God unto salvation.  But where does that power come from?  Not from us, but from the Holy Spirit.  “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction,” (1 Thessalonians 1.4-5a, ESV).  While not knowing all the ins and outs of it, as we proclaim the gospel to others, the word of God, the very word of the Spirit is being spoken through us, and if the Spirit has regenerated the heart of the person with whom we speak, then the Spirit of truth, empowers the gospel, so that the person then believes the truth.

And in that power, He grants us gifts.  These gifts are used for the edification of the local body.  “To each was given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good,” (1 Corinthians 12.7, ESV).  And we see that in New Testament there are a number of gifts that are presented: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation of tongues, helping, administration, hospitality, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, shepherding, and evangelism.  In the Old Testament we see two more: intelligence and craftsmanship.

Each of these gifts are given so that the local body of believers can be helped, whether in the church walls or outside the church walls, whether in official capacity or not.  In other words, if you have the gift of teaching, but are not a Sunday School teacher that doesn’t mean you can’t pull someone or some people aside and disciple them.  Or if you have the gift of mercy, that doesn’t mean you can’t go and visit the shut-ins and those in the hospital just because you’re not an elder.

But the Holy Spirit is also our Advocate.  In 1 John 2:1, John has instructed us not to sin, and says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,” (ESV).  You say, “Chris, that says that Jesus is our Advocate, not the Holy Spirit.”  Which is true.  But what we see in John 14.16, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,” (ESV).  The word that we have for Helper in John 14.16 is the exact same word that we have for Advocate in 1 John 2.1, just translated differently because of the nuances.  Notice two thoughts given here.  The first is that he is another Helper.  Jesus is our Helper, our Advocate.  He is our great Helper or Advocate.  The Holy Spirit is also our Helper or Advocate.  He is another Helper or Advocate.  In the same manner in which Jesus is our Helper or Advocate, the Holy Spirit is.  But the second thought is that He is another Helper.  In English, we can say “another” and it is ambiguous.  We could be framing a house, and using a nail gun. I tell you I have another tool, and go and grab a hammer.  That’s nothing like the tool we were using.  They barely have anything in common.  But in Greek, there are different words that can be translated as another.  One means another of a different kind, and one means another of the same kind.  Here the Greek word that means another of the same kind is used.  So what Jesus has said, is: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper who is just like me, except He will be with your forever!”

So we see that we have an Advocate in heaven, at the right hand of God the Father and we have an Advocate on earth, in our very beings.  He is just as much our Advocate as Jesus.  And how does He advocate for us?  The same what Jesus does.  The writer of Hebrews wrote that, “Consequently, he [Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them,” (Hebrews 7.25, ESV).  And Paul wrote in Romans 8, “Who is able to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us,” (v. 34, ESV).  Jesus pleads our case before the father, interceding on our behalf.  Interceding means just that: to plead a case, the work of an Advocate.  We see this is exactly what the Holy Spirit does.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8.26, ESV).

Paul just went through the fact that creation groans, we grown, and likewise, even the Spirit groans.  The Holy Spirit bears our burdens.  He is with us always, remember?  He does not leave us when we suffer.  He helps bear the weight.  When we are too weak to know how and what to pray we need not worry.  He is still pleading our case to the Father.  So as we call the elders to pray over us and pray for us and with us, the Holy Spirit is also interceding as a good Advocate will do.  While you and I may not always be on the same page with God, the Holy Spirit knows the mind of the Father as we saw in 1 Corinthians, and the Father knows the mind of the Holy Spirit.  They are always in sync and the Holy Spirit prays when we don’t know how to pray.

So we have Jesus at the right hand of God in heaven interceding for us, and the Holy Spirit on earth, indwelling us, interceding for us as well.

He does so much, and we give Him so little attention.  He is about the Father and Son.  He is ever shining a light upon them and what they do.  But He is God.  He is worthy of our worship and praise, no less than the Father and Son.  Every single one of us owes our salvation to the work of the Trinity.  As Kevin DeYoung wrote, “It is the Father to appoint, the Son to accomplish, and the Holy Spirit to apply the one work of redemption.”