The following was selected and somewhat adapted from an anonymous source...
Preaching and politics tend toward the toxic when we fall prey to the idea that somehow political parties, powerful personalities and various changes in public policy can become sanctified delivery mechanisms for ultimate hope. Yes, “there comes a time” when we must speak up—and out. But we must never forget that our best efforts are spent using spiritual weapons.
Like Sean Connery’s mockery in the movie “The Untouchables,” about how dumb it was for an enemy to bring a knife to a gunfight, when we fail to show up in the church or marketplace of ideas with anything less than the Word of God, we will be ineffectual and frustrated.
Paul reminded Timothy that we must pray for leaders—all those in authority—but not because they are the most effective agents for cultural change. Instead he said that the focus and motivation for such “political” praying was “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (I Timothy 2:2). In other words, “May God bless and keep the Tsar … far away from us!”
The stubborn strongholds of this world—political or otherwise—cannot be effectively countered by merely human methods and power: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (II Corinthians 10:3-4).
It may be that 2016 is one of those moments when “there comes a time…” for preachers to step out of the pocket and scramble a bit, but we must never lose sight of the line of scrimmage, not to mention the ultimate glorious goal line.
- selected and adapted
1. Don’t look at anything that draws you away from obeying God. “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire” (Matthew 18:9).
2. Don’t look at worthless things. “Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way” (Psalm 119:37).
3. Don’t look at the world’s attractions. “For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).
4. Don’t look at the dark side of life. “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34).
5. Don’t look away from the path God has for you. “Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you” (Proverbs 4:25).
“Ships are not made for the harbor. They are made to set sail.” This quote from an article I read some time ago really struck me when it was connected with an obscure Old Testament passage by the author – 1 Kings 22:48. Jehoshaphat was a king in Judah, and a pretty good one (1 Kings 22:43), and that is really saying something! There were not many good kings at all. However, the episode narrarated in verse 48 is not a highlight of his reign, and reflects most likely a great economic disaster for Judah, and a terrible embarrassment for the king. One of those things that stains a politician’s legacy.
Verse 48 says, “Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they did not go, for the ships were wrecked at Ezion-geber.” Ezion-geber was a port harbor for the nation of Judah. Earlier, King Solomon has followed this trade policy, apparently with great success (1 Kings 9:26-28). King Jehoshaphat, however, sees his policy go up in flames.
One wonders why those ships were stuck in the port at Ezion-geber. Aren’t ships made for the seas, not for the ports? As you read the text, it sounds like bureauocratic malfeasance and delay led to a terrible disaster that reflected poorly on an otherwise good king.
I wonder if there is not a spiritual lesson here for us? Are any of our plans and dreams stuck in port, stranded in the harbor, awaiting our oks and our release – our bon voyage? Dreams are great. Plans are necessary. But we need to keep in mind that ships are made for sailing, not sitting. The longer our hopes and dreams sit, the more likely they are to be wrecked. Remember that we serve a God who can do much more than we even imagine – so just how long ought we to wait? Could we miss out on the move of God in our lives? It is certainly a possibility.
Always remember Paul’s words of prayer – Ephesians 3:20-21 – “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
John Stonestreet writes; "Between 1986 and 1991, Adriaan Vlok served as South Africa's Apartheid-era Minister of Law and Order and also sat on South Africa's State Security Council. Vlok was behind many of the regime's most repressive and drastic measures: hit squads, bombings and assassinations of anti-apartheid activists. The regime was desperate to stay in power in the wake of growing unrest at home and near-universal condemnation abroad.
"All of which makes Vlok's post-apartheid story all the more remarkable.
"On Aug. 1, 2006, he entered his old workplace in Pretoria and asked to see Frank Chikane, a minister and former anti-apartheid activist who was now serving in the government. As Eve Fairbanks tells readers in the New Republic, Vlok and Chikane had some history: Vlok tried to assassinate Chikane by lacing his underwear with paraoxon, a potent insecticide. As comical as that sounds, the effects were no joke: Chikane survived only after advanced medical treatment in the United States.
"Why did Vlok want to see Chikane that day? Well, to ask forgiveness. Quaking as he stood before the man he tried to kill, he read from something he'd written on the front of his Bible: 'I have sinned against the Lord and against you! Will you forgive me?'
"He then pulled a bowl out of his briefcase and asked if he could wash Chikane's feet.
"A startled Chikane said yes, and Vlok proceeded to wash his feet. As Fairbanks put it, 'both men dissolved into tears.'
"It shouldn't surprise you to learn that Vlok had had a powerful conversion experience…Reading his story, what comes to mind is that it's the kind of turnaround that only Christianity can produce. It's a story about repentance, forgiveness, humbling oneself and ultimately restoration of what was broken. Yes, forgiveness figures in other religions, too, but Christianity uniquely marries forgiveness to restoration and newness of life…
"Fairbanks writes that Vlok's 'transformation has been so complete, it seems almost too good to be true'... For those who know Jesus, it's not too good to be true. It's what His Gospel is all about."
So, what have we found in our word study in the NT concerning spiritual maturity? Perhaps some things we already knew, and perhaps some things that were new to us. Such is the nature of delving into the Word of God.
Maturity, we learned from Jesus, is a spiritual process that takes time and leads to the bearing of spiritual fruit. If such fruit is never born, maturity is not achieved. Also, spiritual maturity is something the world knows nothing of – they cannot understand it, and in fact they cannot receive it. If our world hails it or exalts it, it most likely is not from God and not in any meaningful way mature. We also learned that in the church, in our assemblies, in our worship, mature minds must prevail. If our behavior leads to strife and division and confusion, we are not in the Biblical sense of the term being mature.
We found that spiritual maturity includes being a part of Christ’s church, being like the Lord, speaking truth and not being swayed by falsehood, loving the brethren, and as a result of it all, growing. One sign of maturity is realizing we are not yet fully mature. If one thinks they are fully mature, they have stalled spiritually, they have nothing more to learn, no more to achieve. In fact, it is impossible to reach full maturity this side of heaven. Only in Christ in the presence of God will we be made perfect for all time.
Spiritual maturity is a goal of all good evangelism. It comes after baptism, not at baptism, as the word of God is taught and applied to individual lives. And it involves warning, not just general teaching. Finally, it happens only if God’s power and energy is applied to the process. The process of spiritual maturity is not man-made, but God-infused.
Another insight we gained is that the path to maturity involves great effort and struggling in prayer. Part of coming to maturity is having those who taught us or are teaching us, praying for us on a regular basis that we will indeed grow in Christ. This is an element that cannot be left out.
Solid spiritual food is for mature spiritual people. A spiritually mature person is able to tell good from bad. They have developed this trait by constant practice. That is, they think it is actually important whether something is good or evil, they believe things actually are either good or evil, and they behave and make choices accordingly. As a result, mature Christians stand out in a world that exalts relativism. They have been taught that there are things that are good, and there are things that are evil. They have been trained to discern between the two, and they practice such discernment all the time. People like this are able to receive the deeper things of the Spirit.
In a similar vein, mature Christians have gone beyond just the basic doctrines of Christ which they dwelt on when they were converted to Christ – not forgetting them of course, not neglecting important first principles – but not spending a spiritual lifetime dwelling on them to the exclusion of more meaty subjects. If all one does is major in the basics, one will struggle in teaching others of Jesus, and mature believers are apt to teach.
Finally, as we stated at first, maturity is not something instantly bestowed upon the believer at their baptism, or even after a few faithful months of service. Maturity comes at a cost. The cost is time and trouble. It requires effort, that is, perseverance. There is no short-cut to maturity. It is something God in his wise providence develops in us over the years, as we remain close to Him, faithful to Him, and open to His work.
May our God lead us to maturity!