Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. – Proverbs 21:2 (ESV)
We naturally assume we are right. We assume our opinions are right. We assume our decisions are right. We assume our motives are right. But in the end, only one knows what is truly going on inside of us. Only one knows whether our heart is in the right place. Only one can see past the facade. And only one perfectly loves us through it all.
We forget. It’s not that we try to do it or mean to do it. We simply forget. Time passes. Memories are replaced by newer ones. And so we forget. We forget all the times God has provided. We forget all the times he came through when we least expected it. We forget how he sustained us in the dark times. We forget that every good thing comes from him.
Maybe that’s why Scripture calls us over and over to remember. Israel was quick to forget. God called them to remember his mighty works. We are quick to forget. Jesus calls us to remember his life, death, and resurrection on our behalf. We forget. And when we do, we are invited to remember. Because even though we forget, he remembers.
The lights, the decorations, the smells, the food – Christmas looks and sounds like the most wonderful time of year. It’s portrayed as a season that represents all that’s good and right in the world. It’s seen as a time when humanity is capable of unusual kindness and goodwill. Yet none of that captures the reason Christmas exists.
The eternal, second person of the Trinity did not take on flesh because of all that is right in the world. He did it because there was no other way for God to save his people from their sins. He did it because of all that’s wrong with the world. He did it because we were powerless and without hope. And so in a small town, in unsanitary conditions, a baby named Jesus was born to teenage parents. God himself had come to save his people from their sins. He had come to give us hope that one day, all the good that we long for at Christmas will fully and completely come true.
“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand.” (Psalm 130:3 ESV)
We naturally overestimate our own goodness. We minimize our sins and instinctively magnify the sins of others. We arrogantly claim in both word and deed that we know better than God. Worse, we scoff at the notion that a loving God would call us to live in ways that are at odds with what we want and how we feel. Were it not for the indescribable mercy of God, we would all be doomed. Yet there is hope.
“But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (Psalm 130:4 ESV emphasis mine)
When you owe a debt that can’t be paid and you receive forgiveness, the natural response is humility, reverence, and awe. You don’t look for loopholes. You don’t pretend you know better. You don’t take advantage of the situation. You seek to do the will of the one you have offended. You follow him even when it doesn’t make sense or it goes against what you feel. Forgiveness fuels a life of holiness. It leads us to say, “yes” when we want to say, “but.”
Many Christians are feeling angst regarding who to vote for in the upcoming presidential election. That’s no surprise given that both major parties nominated candidates who are morally unqualified to lead our country. Nevertheless, voting is an important privilege as Americans. Here are three principles for Christians to employ as they head to the polls.
1. Pray for wisdom.
James says if we lack wisdom we should ask for it. If there was ever a presidential vote that required wisdom, it’s this one. I have yet to see a sound, historically faithful, exegetically derived argument showing that Christians must vote. Especially in a situation like this with two very amoral candidates. We are right to demand integrity of our leaders and we need not feel obligated to support candidates that make us uncomfortable. Scripture never calls us to condone or willingly lend our support to those who dismiss or deny what is evil. Yet legitimate, peaceful voting is such an incredible privilege that abstaining should be an absolute last resort. We need wisdom to know how to vote.
2. Listen to your conscience.*
This one comes with an asterisk right up front. Our conscience is not perfect. It is not an infallible guide. But when the infallible word of God informs and shapes our conscience, it becomes an important means by which the Holy Spirit guides us. So if our biblically informed conscience tells us that life ought to be defended from conception to death and that how we treat others – particularly women – is important, then we dare not ignore that. Justifying a vote based on “the lesser of two evils” or “the courts” is not only flawed logic (one that cannot be carried to it’s moral end), it in no way excuses turning a blind eye to troubling truths. Justifying a vote for a candidate who is “more qualified” yet supports the barbaric murder of the unborn (all the while claiming to value life) is equally as lacking in sound judgment. If your conscience is telling you no for reasons like these, listen to it!
3. Rest in God’s sovereignty.
Both the Old and New Testaments consistently attest to the fact that God is sovereignly behind the rise and fall of all who are in power. No matter who wins, he or she will be a footnote in the grand story authored by a God whose will cannot be thwarted. And so it will be with all who come to power from now until return of Jesus Christ.
Until that glorious day, get out and vote.
“The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:7-8 ESV)
Our days in this fallen world are few in number. From an eternal perspective, we are here today and gone tomorrow. Our existence is fleeting. The more we realize that and the more we grasp the eternal, unchanging nature of God and his purposes, the more aware we become of just how small we are. We realize the importance of each day. It’s easy to be distracted by the concerns of this world. When we remember that we are finite, we look for ways to invest our time and energy into what really matters.
I am convinced that few things are as damaging to our spiritual growth as applying cause and effect thinking to our relationship with God. Especially as it relates to the reason behind his love for us. Because of our experience with cause and effect in the world around us, we are temped to think and act as if we must do something in order to bring about God’s love. Nothing could be further from the truth.
God loves us because he loves us. Not because we are inherently lovable. Not because we do good deeds. Not because we go to church, read the bible, pray, fast, give to the poor, evangelize, or gather regularly with other believers. He loves us because when he sees us, he sees us clothed in Christ’s righteousness.