A Note from Pastor
We live in a world that is gripped by fear.
The spirit of fear from the enemy of our souls has whipped up and set on fire every corner and persuasion of our nation, creating havoc, hatred, distance, and animus between individuals, people groups, families, religious persuasions, and governments. There is an election coming that will almost certainly engender anger, fear, hatred, and possible violence no matter who is elected.
The Lord gave me a simple word recently that has only intensified and was simply this: Prepare for battle. What does that mean? I wish I fully knew –but I do know this much. It means that principalities and powers are taking their best shot in these days to take down our nation and to bring huge division into the church.
If you are on the political right, the fear of a godless conspiratorial take-over by leftist governments is greater than the fear of the virus itself. If you are on the left, the fear of the virus and the shutting down of everything is a priority because the fear of death is greater than the loss of freedoms. There is a willingness to give up freedom for the sake of security.
On the one side, we have been told by scientists to wear masks because we are blocking our infected spit from traveling obnoxious distances with the possibility of infecting others. Contrarily, we have also been told other scientists that wearing masks increases our risk of personal infection because, once we are exposed, the virus lives in the warmth and moisture of our mask thereby increasing our viral load and potential infection, and that is also true.
Within churches, battles are erupting between members who are taking sides regarding the wearing of masks, engendering conspiracy theories or judging one another in their freedom or lack thereof. Prepare for battle.
Jesus himself said that we should render to Caesar
what belongs to Caesar and unto God what belongs to God.
Jesus was born into an oppressive dictatorial occupying governmental structure. There was a love-hate relationship between the Romans and the ruling class of the Sanhedrin. Jesus himself said that we should render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and unto God what belongs to God. But, the devil is literally in the details. He wants to set us in opposition to one another. And he will stop at nothing to engender division over things that really aren’t the main issue.
I have found in some of my interactions with others, that positions on mask wearing have revealed two things about the human heart; people are either allowing fear or rebellion to dominate their hearts. Fear drives some to wear masks “at all costs” judging those who don’t, even getting angry at them, even before knowing why they are not doing so.
Those with a rebellious heart often see a conspiracy under every rock and refuse to wear a mask, because they see it only as a power play of government…just another attempt at controlling our lives. I have been slightly amused by some who will wear their mask into a grocery store because it is required to feed their face, but refuse to attend church wearing one in order to feed their soul. Selah. Think on these things.
The early church had some obvious decisions to make. The Sanhedrin was more of an obstacle to the growth of the church than were the Romans. It was the religious people of the day that fought against the spread of the Gospel. The Romans only acted out of occupational self-preservation when necessary…and sometimes as a puppet of the scribes and Pharisees.
Some will wear a mask into a grocery store because it is required to feed their face–but refuse to attend church wearing one in order to feed their soul.
When the apostles began declaring the gospel, they were brought before the religious leaders and commanded to be silent. After they were imprisoned and the angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, they went right back at it, declaring the truth in the temple.
When once again accosted by the Sadducees, Peter and the other apostles declared that well known phrase in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men!” And therein lies the rub. When do governmental dictates cross over from being honored to needing to be resisted?
I have been in the catacombs of Rome and seen the skeletons that still exist there from the days of the early church that was driven into clandestine hiding. They had choices to make. They made common sense choices to meet in secret, to avoid persecution wherever possible…to use code words to identify themselves as followers of Jesus, but they did not shrink back from declaring Jesus when directly confronted…and it cost many of them their lives.
When do we stand in resistance to what our government might demand of us? Will the government continue to dominate and restrict even further? Quite likely. It is the nature of legalism to quench creativity and freedom. It will eventually bring us to the place, sooner or later, where we have to make a choice. It will require a hearing relationship with Holy Spirit and a sensitivity to when enough is enough in the Spirit.
When do we stand in resistance to what our government might demand of us?
There are two main kingdoms we interact with. The kingdom of this world, and the Kingdom of God. The kingdom of this world has sub-kingdoms, one of which is the realm of governments.
The issues of constitutionality are not issues primarily within the realm of the church. They are political issues and we have every right as citizens to be involved with them. As members of this nation we have the right to speak up and we need to influence our nation in whatever ways we can for the sake of righteousness, but hear me out…as I wrote, there are different kingdoms in this world and we need to differentiate between them and our responsibilities in each.
One day the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and Christ, but that day has not yet arrived. Churches all across our nation are engaging in the difficult exercise of deciding where they will draw the line between kingdoms.
We are commanded to be subject to ruling authorities including kings, governors, and employers, etc. in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:18-19, even to those that are unreasonable. We may not like it and it may not only seem, but actually be, unfair.
The Bible does not grant civil authority over the
doctrines, practice or disciplines of the church.
Civil authority is within the purview of the state given by God, not to the church. Romans 13 defines some of that responsibility. The Bible does not grant civil authority over the doctrines, practice or disciplines of the church. They are tasked with oversight of law and order, keeping the peace and punishing evil-doers. This is not the primary authority of the church, to rule in civil matters.
When the government attempts to regulate worship, singing, or preaching, they are exceeding their God given authority by inserting themselves in ecclesiastical matters. Likewise, the church as an institution and a body, is not tasked with keeping the peace through law and order.
Governments are subject to God whether they realize it or not. Jesus made that point when he declared to Pilate, “You would have no authority over me unless it is given to you from above!” Christ is the head of the church, not government. We have no legitimate biblical duty to tolerate nor obey governmental intrusion into the practice of our faith and our means and methods of worship. Christ through his body is over all principalities and dominions, with the exception of those areas specifically granted to government by God. And we should honor those vested powers until they conflict with the authority of the church.
It is a legitimate exercise as citizens of the U.S. to question those decisions,
but not to dishonor the authority.
The fact is, that we live as believers in a constitutional republic which gives us specific rights when it comes to influencing the decisions of our government regarding our welfare. It is a legitimate exercise as citizens of the U.S. to question those decisions, but not to dishonor the authority. Once the decision comes down, intended for our safety, no matter how misguided or harsh we may feel it is, it our duty to obey so long as it does not interfere with the guarding, guiding, administration, and worship of God by the church.
While Christ is always faithful and true, human governments are not always trustworthy. I John 5:19 declares, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one!” Satan is called the “ruler of this world” in John 12:31 and 16:11. We know he is the father of lies and his influence in political matters is legendary. But that is when we exercise our citizen rights through free speech and the ballot box along with our intercession, not our civil disobedience to improper intrusion into the church.
The day will no doubt come and is perhaps here, when we are challenged with or prohibited from gathering together. What will our response be?
What will our response be?
Brothers and sisters, we have a choice as to how we will move into the future. We can major on the minors, or we can stay focused of Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith. We have no desire to lord over anyone or to put people at risk. We also have no interest in compromising the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May we be a people who do not live in judgement of one another, but rather engender freedom wherever and whenever possible.
Love one another and go in peace.
Note: This is Dennis’s condensed version of his August 2, 2020 message. If you would like to hear the message in its entirety, you can find it here.