Don’t you just love election day? No more campaign mailers falling out of your mailbox, or littering your neighborhood. No more radio ads of candidates bashing one another. Ahh…. But election day isn’t really over.
Oh, the national, state, and local elections are over, but the day to day election is not. What am I talking about?
On election day we cast a ballot for the person(s) we want to take the reins of leadership in our community, state, or nation. We elect those who will make the important decisions that affect our lives. But every day that you wake up you do the same thing. Every day that you wake up you cast a ballot for the one you want to take the reins of leadership for your life for that day. Every day you get to choose who will make the important decisions that affect your life that day…and in the future.
This is the core idea behind Jesus comments about the “kingdom of heaven.” A kingdom is the place where the king is making the decisions. This is also what Jesus was talking about when he said, “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” He was saying that we have a choice about who will be our leader. It could be our heavenly Father. Or it could be ourselves.
We regularly face decisions about relationships, priorities, finances, careers, ethics, family, and more. We can cast a ballot for ourselves, in which case, it’s all about me, my agenda, my appetites, my priorities, and my self-actualization. OR, we can cast a ballot for Jesus. In this case, it’s all about Jesus, his agenda, his desires, his priorities, and his mission.
Remember the movie, “Ground Hog Day”? Every day started the same. When you wake up tomorrow, imagine that election day is like that. Every day is another election day. Every day is a chance to decide who will have the reins of leadership in your life. Who will make the important decisions that affect your life? Whose agenda will set the tone?
You can consider this blog post the “campaign ad in your mailbox.” Jesus is campaigning for your vote. How will you cast your ballot?
Chicken Little was sure the sky was falling. Increasingly, the conversations we are having in our country and communities sound a lot like Chicken Little. The sky is falling because _________. (insert your favorite problem here) But is that true?
That’s the question posed by a well-known Harvard psychologist named Steven Pinker. In his recent book, Enlightenment Now, he argues that despite the tsunami of headlines that have us convinced the sky is truly falling, the numbers and data tell a different story. For example, he notes the following:
- Humans are living longer lives than in previous generations
- Millions fewer people are living in extreme poverty
- War-related deaths are down significantly
- Totalitarian regimes are in decline
- Literacy and equal rights are far more wide-spread
- Economic prosperity is growing for many populations
- Terrorist deaths are reduced
- Overpopulation threats are diminishing
Is he right? Well, some agree, and some accuse him of cherry-picking the data. I’m not doing either one of those. Whether you agree with Pinker or not, his point is powerful: Our opinions of our current and future well-being have almost EVERYTHING to do with what we choose to focus on. In 2018 it’s super easy to focus on the click-bait headlines and get thoroughly disgusted and demoralized. Pinker’s suggestion is to look at something else, namely the hard data.
Here’s where Jesus comes in. Jesus calls us to focus on something other than only what’s going on under our noses. The temptation is to become fearful and anxious because of the events happening in our family, our city, our nation, or our world. But there’s another place to focus: the kingdom of God. That glorious, unstoppable revolution that Jesus started, and which he will one day finish when he returns. If the book of Revelation has left you scratching your head, then know this about it: Jesus wins! That’s the message of the whole book. For that matter, it’s the message of the WHOLE book, from Genesis thru Revelation.
But we easily forget that. The click-bait culture is conspiring to cloud our vision of true reality. We get so tightly focused on here, that we forget there’s another reality. Here will one day be caught up in the “hereafter.” Oh, don’t be confused. It’s not that we’re getting whisked off this planet. No, it’s actually scheduled for a radical restoration project, much like the radical restoration project that God has already begun in the followers of Jesus. (For details on this, I highly recommend N.T. Wright’s, Surprised By Hope, a book that is sure to rock your understanding of life in the here AND the hereafter.) The hard question is, “what are we focused on?” Is it the immediate…the headlines…the click-bait?
What if, while working faithfully on the real challenges we DO face (because we’re called to be the light of the world), you could focus on the reality that Jesus wins. What if, when tempted to wring your hands and fling your accusations at the mess around us now, you could lift your head up and see down the road. What if, in those moments, you could see the King of Kings and the Prince of Peace. What if you took him at his word when he said,
Don’t worry…but seek first his kingdom. (Matthew 6:31-33)
What if we left Chicken Little behind and became men and women whose vision was transformed by the power of the Spirit of God, and fueled by the HOPE of the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ? Then whatever happens around us, we can be those who ignite the HOPE of the gospel in our city, county, and world.
Last fall as the election loomed over our nation we launched a series called, “Vote for Jesus.” It’s time to revisit that concept.
While the series was preached in the context of a turbulent national election, it’s far from a seasonal idea. In fact, I would suggest it’s a central idea to what it means to be a Christian, or a follower of Christ if you prefer.
Many of us have heard the concept that becoming a follower of Jesus is a simple as praying a prayer and then going on with life. Sadly, for many, that’s been their experience. Life just goes on as it did before with nothing more than an emotional memory.
But what if there’s more? What if, in fact, Jesus invites us not just to “pray a prayer” but to elect a new king. What if Jesus’ invitation is not simply to a collection of facts, but to a new kingdom? What if Jesus’ words about “belief” and “faith” are more than intellectual ideas like algebra or astronomy, and more about allegiance to a new king?
That’s the main idea contained in a book I’ve been working through. (Salvation By Allegiance Alone) And I have to say, the author is speaking words of truth. He suggests that what’s often missing in our understanding of Jesus and his invitation is the idea of “enthronement.” As in, a new king has ascended to the throne, and we’re invited to give him our complete and total allegiance.
Back to the “Vote for Jesus” series. That vote, then, means he’s my new king; a more personal and pervasive role than a president for sure! It impacts areas like my marriage and family. My finances. My community of friends. My intellect and education. My struggles, battles and strongholds. And my life goals and direction.
So regardless of which ballot you cast last fall, would you vote for Jesus today? Would you make him king? In every area of life? That’s really what Jesus invites us to do.