Losing our Kingdom Identity for Idolatry

FLAGS
Fifteen years ago I was invited to a large, evangelical conference in the southwest, sponsored by a prominent Christian ministry. It was held in an enormous convention center and featured two familiar charismatic leaders.

I arrived on the third day of the gathering. As we entered the auditorium each of the ten-thousand attendees was given a small, American flag. I was happy to receive the flag – but a little curious. Perhaps it was a prayer prompt for some special message during the day.

I had no idea.

We began with inspiring worship, and I joyfully engaged the glory of God with my sisters and brothers. About forty-five minutes into the program, one of the chief leaders took the stage and began to describe how grateful he was to live in America – a land where he and his family could freely worship God. “Amen! Thank You, Father!”

He continued, and the musicians, who had been playing in the background, moved into a stirring melody: “Our nation, has been blessed by God ever since it was first conceived, and birthed upon this continent…”
…and a parade of actors began to march down the elevated center aisle of the auditorium.

At the front, there were three men looking like Jefferson, Franklin etc. and a woman who looked like Betsy Ross. This group was followed by a drum and fife corp, with “Old glory” flying above. Everyone in the hall was getting to their feet, and the music had transitioned into an exhilarating rendition of “O beautiful for spacious skies…”.

The leader’s voice continued to cheer the procession:
“We thank God for the Revolutionary war…
the war of 1812…
the Civil war…
the Mexican American war…
the first world war…
the second world war…”

With each war, another group of 4 or 5 actors marched down the aisle in replica military outfits… one squad of soldiers after another.
“The Korean war…
the Viet-Nam war…
and now the gulf war!”


At this point the thousands were standing on their seats waving their flags in the air – many with hands extended in full-on worship, while (this is no embellishment) the band had crescendoed into a chorus of “thank You for the blood… thank You for the blood.”

I could barely hear myself think. Gradually a picture of (Daniel 3) and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came to my mind. I thankfully found my seat, sat down, and laid my plastic flag on the chair next to me.

Friends, I love our nation – but, by the grace of God, that love is not in competition, or confusion with the affection that transcendently belongs to our resurrected Savior. They are not equal.

FLORIDA
Cut to Miami, Florida, where on January 3, 2020 President Trump launched his re-election campaign in the mega-church “King Jesus International Ministry”. He strolled into a private “meet and greet” with evangelical dignitaries, as if he’d just entered a pilot debriefing: “We got ‘im!” Trump exclaimed (referring to the fact that Special Operations had just assassinated the Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, and several of his Iranian attendants.) Our family burst into cheers.

The rest of the evening was remarkably similar to his typical campaign rallies – except for the notable absence of the curse-words that routinely lace his stump-speeches. Our President was in church.
The gathering did, however, conclude with his iconic theme song: “You can’t always get what you want”: (a song written and sung by an avowed satanist). Again, I remind you, our President was in church.

How is it that we don’t see just how removed our behavior in such events is from our evangelical heritage?

OUR MORAVIAN FAMILY
In the 18th century, the Moravians led a prayer-movement that spawned a missions movement that touched the nations. They sent their missionaries with great fanfare. When individuals left for a distant land, their whole community would tearfully parade to the docks and proclaim this commission over their departing sons and daughters: “Go and win for the Lamb the rewards of His suffering!”

The Moravian’s passion for souls was surpassed only by their preeminent love for the Lamb of God.

Question: When was the last time you and your whole church fellowship stood at the gate of your local airport and cheered the departure, or the return of a gospel missionary? [a]

What would Jesus say about a people who more vigorously applaud an Islamic terrorist being blown to smithereens, than the sending of missionaries to that same land to save the man, and his family? What would our (Revelation 2 and 3) Lord say to the Church of America who evidences more ardent zeal for our (Matthew 5:22) President than we do for missionaries who will lay down their lives for the Shi’ites going to hell?

We’ve lost our way, sisters and brothers. But it’s not a path that’s been unfamiliar to the Church. The ekklesia has persistently sought political control at the expense of Kingdom mandate since the opening chapter of the book of Acts:
has persistently sought political control at the expense of Kingdom mandate since the opening chapter of the book of Acts:
“Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) In today’s parlance, the disciples were asking their unconquerable King, “Are you now about to make our nation great again?”

Beloved, by the mercy of Jesus, we are primarily transcendent citizens of His Kingdom; and then secondarily, salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) citizens of another.

Jesus’ great commission to His cross-bearing disciples was, Jesus’ great commission to His cross-bearing disciples was, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19) It was decidedly not, “Stay home. Shame the unrighteous, kill the heathen, and fight for your rights.”

As one who is keenly aware of the demonic influence humanism has had on our society, as one who has spent his life committed to conservative values, as one who prays for his President, governor, senators etc., and one who anticipates the Church’s purification through the Holy Spirit’s grace-filled unction – let me say this plainly: Our veneration of America and President Trump has become a full-blown (2 Corinthians 10:4) ) “stronghold”; a (Leviticus 19:31) ) “familiar spirit” that’s that’s strangling (Matthew 13:7) the heart and soul of evangelicalism. So many of our leaders, sisters and brothers seem no longer able to distinguish our Spirit-empowered loyalty to Jesus and His Kingdom from our sentimental loyalty for American nationalism.

The only hope we have of breaking free from this (Galatians 5:20) fever is by (Psalm 119:34) wholeheartedly, (James 4:9) repentantly, prayerfully and ruthlessly applying the (Matthew 10:38) cross to every aspect of our evangelical world.

Our cross, is the only cure for our deadly malady.

Should we fail to purge ourselves of this cancer, our moral-spiritual condition will become more fatal than our socio-political condition without a conservative in the White House.

Make no mistake: Our prayer-less, self-absorption is blinding us to the fact that the judgment of God is upon our nation. And most of the evangelical world is disconnected from the depth to which we are Make no mistake: Our prayer-less, self-absorption is blinding us to the fact that the judgment of God is upon our nation. And most of the evangelical world is disconnected from the depth to which we are “storing up (Romans 2:5) ) wrath” upon ourselves as we persist in this (James 4:4) idolatry. The truth is, we’ve grown dull to the very heart issues themselves that are at the crux of what the Holy Spirit is sanctifying in the Bride.

THE FROG IN THE KETTLE
In the spring of 2016 I wrote an article for a major Christian magazine expressing my concern about merely voting for “the lesser of two evils” and squelching our transcendent, prophetic voice to the nation.

I wrote: “As America reels under compounding sin and the tension of partisan philosophies, where are the voices that are unbowed to political expediency, that look at a humanistic candidate and declare with authority: ‘You’re a deceptive, corrupt and calculating spirit. You are not fit to govern your own soul, much less the soul of a nation.’ And then do not lose the integrity of their message because they no less boldly confront the hedonist candidate: ‘You have a carnal heart and a murderous tongue. We will not bow to your definition of greatness. Even now, our nation is overshadowed by the judgment of God. It’s you, O man, who needs to find shelter in the greatness of God.” (“Where Are the Friends of the Bridegroom?” June, 2016)

90% of my evangelical sisters and brothers resoundingly affirmed this heart posture.

Less than 4 years later, those (like the editors of Christianity Today) who continue to voice Kingdom concern about this President become the targets of angry letters, [b] are shouted down by the vast majority of our body, and even branded as “false Christians” [c].  

What’s changed, my friends? [d]  

When I hear of a thousand of our evangelical family members gathered to cheer someone who is being introduced as the man “who is changing the spiritual atmosphere of our nation”, [e] I think of that conference fifteen years ago. I ask God for the (Ephesians 5:15-16) ) circumspection to understand the social-psychological pressure that to understand the social-psychological pressure that “so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1). And I pray for the day when politicians take up their cross with the company of the redeemed exclaiming “He is Lord! He is Lord! He is Lord!“, rather than the redeemed children of the Lord chanting “Rome! Rome! Rome!”

Beloved, we’re being enticed by a siren’s song. 
Our lost nation needs us to extricate ourselves… 
Jesus, our Deliverer, and our returning Bridegroom, demands it.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that so easily entangles us, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

_______________
JSB • January, 2019

FOOTNOTES:
[a] I love that we show honor to the men and women in our military. But as I’ve lived in our American culture for more than 60 years now, (40 years integrally connected to the evangelical American culture), I can honestly say I’ve never seen the same level of zeal, commitment and enthusiastic championing of our heroic missionaries – many sent over seas for their entire lives – that I do for the way we evangelicals show support for the heroic defenders of our nation.

[b] I find it lamentable that 200 of our evangelical leaders can spend four years turning a blind eye to our President’s contra-Kingdom behavior, not utter a word of concern about the many extra-Biblical, Trump-worshipping comments being made in our body today, but can immediately generate a letter of indignation when an evangelical publication like Christianity Today dares to acknowledge the contra-Kingdom character issues in our President. What kind of spirit animates behavior like this?https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/lori-arnold/nearly-200-faith-leaders-sign-letter-rebuking-christianity-today-op-ed.html 

[c] “Christians who don’t support President Trump will have to answer to God.” https://www.christianpost.com/…/paula-white-christians-will…, and “only saved people can love Donald Trump… Trump is a test of whether you’re even saved.” https://www.charlotteobserver.com/entertainment/celebrities/article239027493.html This is a different gospel, beloved; no less than an aberration of the message Paul warned us about in Galatians 1: This is a different gospel, beloved; no less than an aberration of the message Paul warned us about in Galatians 1: “If we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8) 
We don’t curse Jim Baaker or Paula Cain White. But without a cross at the center of their theology, and by teaching political affiliation that supersedes faith in Jesus’ death, they are bringing their adherents under the natural order of the curse.  

[d] The apostle Paul provides the Church with an excellent diagram of the declension of the soul under the curse of sin. Paul outlines this in Romans 1:18-32.  
A. We argue about the ethics of choosing the lesser of two evils.  
B. We make excuses for our selection of it.  
C. We look the other way when the evil manifests itself.  
D. We offer the evil mulligans for it’s character, rather than its behavior.  
E. We normalize the evil. 
F. We redact the history of the evil. 
G. We champion the evil.  
H. And then we persecute others who do not celebrate the evil.  
This is the same frog-in-the-kettle condition; our unwillingness to prophetically confront evil wherever we find it, that has allowed whole segments of our culture to normalize abortion, same-sex relationships, embrace Islam as a religion of peace, minimize racism and foment anti-Zionism.  

[e] January 3, 2020. Paula Cain White introduces President Trump as the man “who is transforming the spiritual atmosphere in our nation”.  https://www.c-span.org/video/?467813-1/president-trump-speaks-evangelical-rally-miami

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