These discussions are helpful in aiding us to think through the many complicated and complex issues. Moreover, the exhortations are right and good. To be sure, Christians should not despair as though Jesus isn’t reigning over the world (cf. Isa. 6:1 in light of Isa. 5; 2 Cor. 4:8).
We should pray for President-elect Barack Obama, House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. We should thank God for our leaders, respect and honor them (1 Tim. 2:1-2; Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:17). These exhortations are an issue of humility and submission to authority, ultimately God’s authority (Rom. 13:1).
But, thus far in the discussions no one has zeroed in and made explicit how such humility, obedience and submission is possible. For example, there are many Christians who did not vote for Obama and while knowing God is sovereign and understanding their duty, they still struggle with their attitudes.
If struggling believers are to bring themselves to pray for, respect, honor and thank God for Barack Obama it is critical that they keep the gospel central in their thinking and affections (which for some is harder than others; sort of like being genuinely happy for someone else’s success without coveting or wishing ill-will on them when you are currently experiencing hard times).
Genuine evangelical submission, humility and obedience are impossible apart from union with Christ. And without a continual steady stream of gospel truth, no one will be empowered to give true obedience from a humble heart but rather only strained, legal compliance to the letter.
It is very important for pastors to understand, teach and remind their congregations that the only powerful and effective way to live this kind of godly life is through the gospel (i.e., a gospel-driven life).
without a continual steady stream of gospel truth, no one will be empowered to give true obedience from a humble heart but rather only strained, legal compliance to the letter.
It is so easy to skip over the how and immediately begin emphasizing the do. This is a tragic mistake. It is not enough for believers to be exhorted to their duty, to know what the law calls them to do (though this is important).
Believers must first and foremost be taught how they can actually obey God’s commands. Without hearts freely motivated (i.e., driven) to obey God’s law, they want! And, the only thing that drives a heart to freely, willingly, and delightfully obey is the Gospel!
Without learning the gospel means of obedience first, believers will never be able to truly obey or submit to any authority (the same could be said of husband/wife relationships in the home, cf. Eph. 5:21-33). One must guard against setting himself up (or other believers) for failure and thus falling flat on his face.
Knowing the how before being told the do, was one of the driving burdens behind Walter Marshall’s book (originally sermons to his congregation), The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification. Marshall’s message is as applicable today as it was when he preached his sermons to his congregation in the 1700s.
As we (i.e., Christians living in America), reflect on the outcome of the Presidential election and recall our duties for all who are in authority, we would do well to keep in mind the following words by Marshall,
I really need to emphasize this point. Many people will probably skip right over this part on how they can become holy. My whole book is about the means by which you can become holy, but many people will see this part as irrelevant and useless. Why? Because they only want to know what they have to do. They only want to know what the law requires of them. They think that once they know what the law requires of them, they can just go out and do it. They will blindly rush into it and immediately try to do everything they are told. However, they will run hard, but they will get nowhere! They will make many promises to obey God, just like the Israelites of old told the Lord, “All that the Lord has spoken, we will do,” (Exodus 19:8). What is the problem? They never first sit down and count the cost. They never think about what will enable them and empower them to obey God…
Many pastors contribute to this problem. They spend all their time telling their people what the law requires of them. They tell people all that they have to do, but they never spend any time telling their people how they can actually do it! They never tell people about the means to attain true obedience to the law. They look at righteous living as if it were manual labor, where you need no training or skill whatsoever. They consider holy living just a manner of putting your nose to the grindstone and doing it,” (pp. 17-18).