Do not put your trust in princes,
This is our third and final blog post in our election series. In this blog we will consider the final spirit seeking to influence the Canadian Church more intensely during these days, leading up to the current, high-stakes, federal election. This spirit has an insidious influence that we need to be aware of and refuse to be entangled with. It’s the spirit of idolatry, which is right now aggressively pushing for the idolization of government.
When we think of idolatry, we might think of images crafted to represent demons that people bow down to. Perhaps our minds go to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who refused to bow down to such an idol in Babylon, or the early Christians who were martyred because they refused to burn incense while declaring their statement of worship: “Caesar is Lord”. But idolatry is more pervasive and more fundamental than these simple examples that (I trust) most of us have been able to avoid.
DO WE NEED TO WATCH OUT FOR IDOLATRY?
Idolatry is the worship of a god that is not God; but worship goes beyond bowing a knee, singing a song or burning a pinch of incense. It’s revering, ascribing power to, submitting your life to, depending on — it's placing something (anything) in the place that God should rightfully hold in our lives. This makes idolatry the most common and the most grievous of sins. It’s not just misplaced affection, it’s so much more. It may not even be a conscious decision, it may be something we have drifted into without noticing. However, this sin has profound ramifications. According to N.T. Wright, when we commit idolatry we actually hand the idol the power that it uses to enslave us.
When we act, speak, and consider the government to be the highest power in our nation, we are tacitly declaring “Caesar is Lord”. Let’s be alert so we don’t stumble into this. Only Jesus is Lord. He is able to work out his will and bring forth his kingdom in spite of the raging of the kings of this world, he is Lord of them — he is Lord of lords. His name is above every name, his kingdom eternal and unshakable. He is not distant and removed from us, he is present and engaged.
GOVERNMENT IS ORDAINED BY GOD
Government is an institution ordained by God to guide, secure, bring order and justice in a nation. It has a place that God has given it. Government reflects the culture of the nation, including the spiritual culture, and this is most especially true in a democracy. The Church is called to be engaged and concerned about the government, to be prayerful and present. But when we focus on government in an inordinate way, either in our prayers or with our attention, this could well reveal that we have placed too high a regard, too high a dependence on the earthly power invested in government. If having a Christian Prime Minister is the ultimate goal of your prayers, rather than joining with creation’s groans (1), the prayers of the Son of God(2) and the biblical prayers of the Apostles(3) for the maturing and thriving of the Church, you may well have stumbled into this trap. You could be looking to the wrong source for change. Depending on the wrong power. The Church is the light of the world and God’s vehicle for extending the kingdom.
LORD, HELP US CHECK OUR HEARTS!
Another heart check that can be used to gauge if we have allowed this spirit to distort our priorities, is to consider the state of our heart toward the lost. The lost in general, and the lost who are active in the political arena. How tender is our heart, how central in our prayers are these ones who don’t yet know Christ? Does Jesus’ love and burden for souls trump our reaction to politicians or pundits from a party we would not support?
Am I saying just do “churchy” things and don’t pray or get involved in government? No, not at all. Am I saying the outcome of the election doesn’t matter? Again, no— it matters a lot. But I am saying let’s just keep this focus on government in its place and don’t allow the enemy to push our zeal into the place of idolatry. Let’s make sure the enemy doesn’t shift our hearts to trust the earthly governments of man, expecting them to be the vehicle to bring forth truth, righteousness, or security.
If you feel you have crossed this line and have stumbled in this way, don’t despair. The Apostle John teaches us that we all sin and that Jesus provides the remedy that we keep applying to our lives: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1Jn 1:8,9
This is the path of sanctification, the path that we all walk to become more Christlike. The path with no shortcuts.
If we are swept along with this spirit and engage in the same idolatry as the world around us, then where can they look for hope? Where can the world look for light and truth? Remember, we are of a different kingdom and God has given us this moment as a great time to shine.
1. Rom 8:22,23
2. Jn 17
3. Col 1:9-12, Phil 1:9-11, Eph 1:16-23 and more
By Sara Maynard
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
Last week we began our three-part blog series on the spiritual climate of this election season and the importance of recognizing the enemy’s agenda against us. We talked about a “spiritual swirl”, which is a way of describing the increased intensity of the demonic influencing how people think and react. Our first focus was on fear and how we need to be attentive to the ways this could be impacting our hearts, and thus our prayers. If you haven’t read that first installment, you can do so here.
The second focus and the topic of today’s blog is noticing the increase of accusation and its twin— blind loyalty— as tools the enemy is using to promote selfish ambition, which leads to division. One of the twins, (accusation) can only see the negative and the other (blind loyalty) will only admit to the positive, and although this might sound good, they both have, at their heart, the motive of selfish ambition, so blind loyalty is not at all the same as true honour.
WATCH FOR THESE TOOLS OF THE ENEMY
Accusation and blind loyalty, driven by selfish ambition, are feeding the spiritual swirl in the political campaign. It’s not hard to see them in action. If there is a candidate from an opposing party, they are met by severe scrutiny, every association, every action, word, or even the things they don’t do are mercilessly criticized. However, if they are from our favoured party, not only are they generously given the benefit of the doubt but blind loyalty pushes us to deny their obvious faults, even to the point, in extreme cases, of an irrational promotion.
However, accusation and blind loyalty are not just found in the political arena, these can actually splash into the Church and influence how we see each other, how we treat each other. Particularly right now, let’s be vigilant! Selfish ambition is more subtle and hidden when it’s in our midst, but as James teaches us, where it exists, it opens a door to darkness.
We can be enticed to divide and promote our “tribe” at the expense of others. Our “tribe” could be our denomination, our generation, our gift-orientation— those most like us. We can start looking at our tribe with rosy glasses, seeing only how God is using and blessing us, seeing only our strengths and virtues. This leads easily, if we are not careful, to believing that we are at the centre of what God is doing, and our language shifts into referring to our tribe as the forerunners, the remnant, the cutting edge of where God is going. We stumble into, on one hand, a similar thinking as the blind loyalty of the political arena, and on the other, an increased critique of those that are not our tribe. As we slide down the slope into accusation we see many more things to be disappointed in or concerned about in other parts of the Body of Christ.
We think to ourselves: surely these glaring shortcomings must disqualify these other tribes from being used of God or being groups that he would pour out his Spirit upon. We begin to believe: if they were truly walking closely with the Lord, they would be more like us!
TRUTH AND HOLINESS MATTER
Now I am not saying that there aren’t some very real sins and issues in the Body of Christ, nor am I saying that orthodoxy doesn’t matter. Absolutely that is not the case and obviously, some have blatantly compromised morality, while others have strayed from the truth into deception and liberalism. But within our huge family of those who hold to an orthodox faith and are earnestly following Jesus as his disciples, let’s not allow this tribalism to divide and diminish us.
A VERY GENEROUS GRACE
Let’s watch for the subtle drift towards spiritual elitism and accusation. It aligns us with the spirit of the world, making us vulnerable to be caught up in the spiritual swirl of the hour. It grieves Jesus, who’s longing for us to walk a different way, a way where we see the whole Body of Christ with a clear eye of reality and with very generous grace. It’s his longing that we resist the swirl trying to pull us to separate in subtle ways, and fight, in our hearts and in our intercession, for deeper, authentically humble, unity.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Rom 8: 35, 37
The federal election is almost upon us and the nation has been plunged into a high-stakes, emotionally-charged campaign season. Over the last 15 years or so the Church has become much more active and engaged in the political arena, so election awareness is at a high level in the Body of Christ. Christians are following polls, joining the campaigns as volunteers, praying, and even fasting for godly outcomes in October. This engagement in the public square is really important but as we do— let’s keep watch over how it could be affecting us. Let’s be absolutely vigilant that we don’t get swept up in the strong current of the spirit of the world that is raging right now and lose our footing.
This is part one of a three-part blog that I am writing to help us (I’m speaking to myself too) stay in a place of Christ-centred peace and joy, as we actively participate in the election season. I believe we should participate fully, but with a radically different spirit. We are citizens of another kingdom and this particularly dark time desperately needs God’s light, truth, and peace shining through us. Let’s seize the moment to walk out our witness.
RESISTING THE SPIRITUAL SWIRL
How we want to begin is to step back and notice the spiritual climate that exists in the nation right now, and discern where the enemy is sowing into it. He is creating a spiritual swirl. He is empowering his strategy and using people’s strong emotions and desires to increase this swirl’s intensity. He is also using godless ideologies as vehicles to sow lies and deception into the thinking of the nation, ultimately to increase the war against Jesus and His Church. The swirl we can all sense is marked by fear, intimidation, criticism, accusation, offense, division, and posturing for power. Noticing these features of the spiritual climate is the first step towards being alert to how these can be inadvertently impacting us, and make sure they don’t.
Have we noticed an increase of these in our lives or our church communities? Do we find ourselves reacting more strongly than we should, saying things we normally wouldn’t, being caught up in emotions that normally wouldn’t drive us? Perhaps we have, but it could also be that we have acclimatized to the heightened influence of the spirit of the world to the point that we have a hard time seeing it. When you live in a city that has a high elevation, you acclimatize to the lack of oxygen, but when you first arrive, the thin air affects all you do. God help us not to be acclimatized to the spirit of the world!
With this in mind, what should we watch for?
I’d propose that there are 3 main things we want to be vigilant and on guard against, particularly in this season. I’ll drill down into each one through this three-part blog series.
DON'T GIVE FEAR A FOOTHOLD
Let’s begin by looking at fear.
Fear ranges from a low level, simmering-on-the-back-burner anxiety to an outright terror that totally paralyzes us. It is the antithesis of faith, challenging, undermining, and sabotaging faith whenever it gains dominance in our hearts. We must be especially vigilant to not give it that place of access in this season because fear is everywhere. It may not be identified as such but it is fear that is adding gasoline to the fiery political rhetoric around climate change, immigration, gun control, pipelines, abortion, carbon taxes and much more. It’s on both sides of the debate that surrounds these issues and the Christian community is just as vulnerable to its assault if we don’t clothe ourselves in Christ.
Fear for our children to come under ideologies that oppose our faith, fear of the “media mob” and the persecution they can bring as the nation shifts to a more overly anti-Christian culture, fear of loss of prosperity and opportunity as our nation’s finances fail through poor management, fear of the loss of religious freedom as we seem to be moving into uncharted territory where scripture is inches away from being considered “hate literature”, fear of losing privacy and security as bad actors in the tech world become more and more aggressive. Much is at stake in this election and fear is everywhere.
TURNING TO JESUS WHO BREAKS ANXIETY
While identifying how fear is touching our lives is the first step; turning to Jesus for help is the second.
As we turn to him it’s a turning in faith (committed, trustful, reliance), not staying in the grip of fear and pleading, contending or decreeing for him to deliver us from the anticipated disaster. This is a vital difference. Trusting him means we come out of agreement with the anxiety. Yet so much prayer these days is staying in the anxiety and thus is driven and fuelled by fear. In contrast, prayer that turns to Jesus in deep trust and faith recognizes his ability to change governments, but also his ability to take his people through the most wicked governments or ideologies and continue to pour his goodness, redemption, life, and kingdom into their lives, in fact, at times in accelerated ways. While the outcome of the election is important, it’s not do or die, Jesus is the Lord of Heaven and Earth.
This thought (of Jesus's Lordship) is not new for most of you, and most (I trust) will agree that Jesus is Lord, he is well able to care for his people at any time, any nation. Maybe just remembering this truth reorients us out from under the spirit of fear and brings peace to our hearts. Making this shift for most is a simple step of repentance and reorientation, choosing faith, although it can also include asking Jesus to rescue us from anxious thoughts if they have overcome us. He'll help us make this shift to a place of trustful faith if we ask.
Trusting Jesus is not being passive, but it does mean we come out of agreement with the raging swirl of anxiety that is everywhere. It means we become empowered to walk in the opposite spirit, being kind and gracious to those who politicly oppose and slander us, praying with great compassion for those who see themselves as our enemies and living in sabbath rest.
I invite you to check in with your heart and notice if you have agreed with the fear and anxiety that is trying to get access to you. If so, also notice what stirs it up in your life— is it reading political commentaries on social media, is it conversations about certain topics, is it a daily habit of reading or watching all the news, maybe it's receiving fear-laden prayer requests that makes you vulerable. You don’t have to hide, but guard your heart. Guard your faith. Turn your trust to Jesus again and watch peace and joy return.
Watch in the next couple of weeks for the upcoming blog installments, important alerts to help us discern the traps being set for us in this high-stakes election season. We are praying that these will help us all to walk through this time in highly effective, joyful prayer.