January 17, Thursday

The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith.  Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.

Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.  I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you. 

 

Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Prophetic Witness in the Temporal City of Man”

2 Corinthians 5:20 (ESV)

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

In one sermon given after the 2016 election, based on the above Scripture, I declared: “As God’s ambassadors on earth—as representatives of the eternal city of God  in the temporal city of man—are you going to represent the interest of Hillary or Trump? You may love one and hate the other—which shows that you’ve been co-opted by the partisan politics—but they are alike: some good, some bad, and a whole lot of ugly! Know that we’ve been sent here to bear prophetic witness in the temporal city of man.” What is prophetic witness? It has less to do with predicting the future and more to do with declaring God’s pronouncement—based on an unbiased reading of Scripture—against unjust and unrighteous leaders or institutions, whether ecclesiastical, political or social.

And no one exemplifies this prophetic witness better than John the Baptist, who, while busily ministering to a multitude of desperate people who came out to the desert, still found the time to rebuke King Herod Antipas for “all the . . . evil things he had done” (Lk. 3:19).  In one particular message to Herod, John said, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife [Herodias]” (Mk. 6:18b). Both Antipas and Herodias had divorced their respective spouses to marry each other; the fact that Antipas was Herodias’s uncle made this union more unsavory.  Thus, John excoriated this political figure on grounds of breaking Jewish legal and moral laws.

The opposite of prophetic witness is when Christians allow themselves to become a mouthpiece for groups advocating partisan interests that benefit insiders but hurt outsiders. A very bad case of this occurred during the World War II when German Christians (who controlled the German Evangelical Church) wholeheartedly embraced Nazism, and gave Hitler the vote of confidence he needed to claim legitimacy in his own nation. They declared, “[We believe that] God intended the Germans to unite under a powerful leader [Hitler], to pour out their energies for the national good, and keep the Aryan race to which they belonged free from any taint of alien blood.”  And when Hitler pronounced the boycott of all Jewish stores in Germany, it was the German Christians who led the boycott. This is a case of the Right getting into bed with the reigning political power; the Left can and has done the same.

Amid this badly compromised German church appeared Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a brilliant young theologian who clearly saw that the Nazis were a ruthless effort to remake history without God and to build it on the unmitigated power of single individual blindly backed by the collective. Foregoing the opportunity to ensconce in America, he returned to Germany to denounce the political system that debased and deceived a nation and made Hitler its idol.  He declared, “I am firmly and rightly convinced that it is . . . a Christian duty towards God to oppose tyranny—a government which is no longer based on natural law and the law of God.” For speaking prophetically against the corrupted regime that no longer served as God’s civil authority (Rom. 13:1-5; Dan. 3:16-18), Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for two years before being executed a few days before Germany surrender to the Allies.

In ensuing blogs, we will examine three groups (Black Lives Matter, #Me Too movement, Antifa) and one individual (President Trump) that have been rocking our nation, from the standpoint of prophetic witness. For now, be reminded of this: Christians should never be so closely tied to the agendas of certain sociopolitical groups that they become an enabler of them.  Remember this: Jesus is neither Republican nor Democrat. This mixing will make it even easier for those in opposite groups to reject the gospel—the only message that can reconcile spiritually broken people back to God—when the partisan believers share it. Meaning what? I wouldn’t want a liberal democrat, who cannot say anything nice about the current president, to categorically reject my gospel presentation because she is put off by her perception (both real and imagined) that Christians like me supported Mr. Trump with glee.  Neither am I saying that Christians couldn’t have voted for him, but his life—both past and present—does present challenges to Christians, who desire to imitate Christ, like no other previous presidents. To me that’s a great loss. Therefore, we have to safeguard the appeal of the good news from God to all lost people. That’s where the prophetic witness comes in. Meanwhile, we pray for our president.

Prayer: Dear Lord, give us the wisdom and boldness not to easily give into the push and pull of the Republicans and Democrats and any other groups in-between. Remind us that we are the citizens of Your Kingdom and that we are here to represent Your Kingdom agendas. Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 19

Tomorrow’s Blog: “Prophetic Witness to Black Lives Matter, #MeToo Movement and Antifa”


Lunch Break Study

Read Daniel 3:3b-6 (ESV):

“And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, ‘You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace” . . . 13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 . . . if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace . . . 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the nature of Nebuchadnezzar’s demand made on the three young men from Israel?
  2. Speak about the discernment of the three young men—why didn’t they bow?
  3. Ultimately, what motivated these young men to willingly die for their faith?

Note

  1. Nebuchadnezzar’s demand was for the three God-fearing young men to supplant God, their eternal power source, and replace Him with the temporal power of man.  What a raw deal!
  2. While they were certainly being faithful to God by refusing to bow to a human, the three young men were simply being very smart. Knowing that God’s eternal power could keep them from burning, they didn’t bow; but also knowing that God honors those who honor Him (1 Sam. 2:30b) gave them assurance that they were doing the right thing.
  3. They were motivated, first, by their desire to ensure that God and His Kingdom are not seen as no more important than man and his kingdom; second, concomitant to that, they knew that the switching of their allegiances would have discredited their witness on behalf of their God.

Evening Reflection

No doubt, today’s news was again inundated with the latest scandals, real or alleged, on the President who has been like no other president in recent memory.  Whether you like or dislike him, God commands believers to offer “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings . . . for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).  Would you pray for him? Maybe it will be the first time—pray that the President will humble himself and earnestly seek the Lord.

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