(This sermon was preached on Sunday, November 4, 2012 out of John 4:46-54 at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church in Centennial, CO where I pastor. To listen to the audio, go to http://www.arbc.net/sermons.htm.)
On Wednesday nights, we spend time in prayer and in study of the Word—a time that I treasure with our church family. During one section of that time, we pray for physical needs. At the bottom of that first page, you will see a particular request asking for prayer for President Obama, our governmental leaders, and our nation. One of the lines that I use each week for the last few months is one that causes some affectionate eyerolls to commence, but nevertheless I say, “You may have heard that there is an election coming up!” A few courteous laughs come about, but behind those laughs is the moaning not simply of another bad joke, but by the fact that everyone is tired and so weary of the presidential race taking place. The primaries, the debates, the political ads, the campaigning have both sides charged up in hopes of a victory—but also ready for November 7th, the day after the election.
It’s funny how so many look at this election. Some of you in this place may love President Obama and hope he gets another four years—either because you love him or because you just don’t care for the Republican platform. The opposite could be said for Governor Romney—you may not be crazy about him, but you’re scared of another four years and may not be crazy about the Democrat platform. Some of you are considering not voting. If you are, you are considering voting third party because you just don’t like either candidate but you wish to vote your conscience and participate. Some of you have plans to head to Canada right now!
What’s hard to find right now is peace! There is a truckload at stake in this election. In fact, with the economy, the unemployment, things happening at home and abroad, I expect a record turnout for this election, to be honest. But this process causes quite a bit of turmoil. Can you trust either one of these men? Are they telling us the truth—or are they just trying to tickle our itching ears? Do we have to go to http://www.factcheck.org to see if they are on the level? Do they care about us—or just our vote? Will they represent us, or just their interests?
My aim this morning is to provide perspective! In the midst of the primaries, debates, TV advertisements, endorsements, and campaigns that you will not let this for one second cloud out the cross and empty tomb! Beware of becoming to fixated on the candidates that we forget that there is one who is Lord over all the dignitaries on the planet.
1. All earthly leaders have their limits—Jesus doesn’t.
46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you[a] see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.
God has a way of getting our attention—especially that of a leader. The moment leaders of all stripes believe they are in control of all they survey, He puts something in our path over which they have no control. Such is the case with this leader—an “official” he is called. He is someone that works from the mighty Roman government. History bears out that Rome had an arsenal of gods at their disposal that they believe helped them and empowered them in their various endeavors. But those gods were of no help today, were they?
The Scriptures show us other leaders who pursued other gods. I’m in the process now of going through the Bible in 90 Days. Part of the Bible reading was through Exodus 11 when God told Moses to approach Pharaoh to allow the people of Israel to go outside the camp to worship and offer sacrifices. When Pharaoh refused nine times over, and God has set nine respective plagues to get their attention. When Pharoah refused that ninth time, God sent the plague of the firstborn—those who did not have the blood of the Lamb on the doorposts to ward off the angel of death—that plague hit every Egyptian home. That plague even hit Pharaoh’s home. Pharaoh was convinced he was invincible—but only One is invincible.
Do we know the backstory of this ruler? No, we don’t. We hesitate to speak where Scripture does not speak. But we do know this one other item—he worked for a Roman emperor, a Caesar. Caesars believed they were gods! In Acts, we see a place where Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne and spoke. In Acts 12:22-23, it says, “And the people were shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a man!’ Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by works and breathed his last” (Acts 12:22-23). Every leader that does not give glory to God and His Word—and especially leaders who believe they are in ultimate control will learn a significant lesson—we’re not!
The presidential candidates have learned this, or in the case of Governor Romney should he be elected will learn it, that they may believe they are in control. They make promises.
- I’m going to create 12 million jobs. But presidents cannot create jobs. Policies can be attempted to be put in place—but does that not have to get through Congress.
- I’m going to protect the unborn/give a woman the right to choose. Only if you appoint pro-life or pro-abortion judges, and even then Congress has to vote them in.
Every leader has limits. Yet this leader sensed something about Jesus—that He could help. But he thought Jesus was like a typical leader who had limits. He could do more than most—he could heal someone sick, but if he died then that would be outside of Jesus’ paygrade. “Come before my child dies.” This leader was very pro-life when it comes to his child, wasn’t he?
But this is the gospel truth we must see. Jesus did not simply come for this life alone. Some who hold to the prosperity gospel believe that Jesus wishes to prosper materially and presently, hinging all on your obedience. Some of you who have watched the primaries, the debates, the advertisements, and the campaign speeches may be focusing exclusively on the here and now. You’re putting all your eggs in the baskets of these candidates to turn this country around—and both candidates believe they can do this. But they have limits.
2. Politicians do not always keep their promises—Jesus always does.
Beginning in verse 50, we read:
“Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him, and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.’ The father knew that was the hour when Jesus has said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ And he himself believed, and all his household” (John 4:50-53).
It must be said that prior to this exchange, Jesus told not just this man but all the Galileans around him that they would only believe when they “see signs and wonders.” But that was not the case with this man. In his inquiry, he told Jesus to come down before his child dies. Jesus is one who knows hearts and knows the motives. He wasn’t asking out of doubt, he was asking the only one who could help and he asked out of desperation! This was not a theoretical question—this came down to brass tax.
So Jesus put it to him: “Go; your son will live.” The faith that this official demonstrated was incredible. He didn’t stay and wait for Jesus to come! He didn’t ask for proof that Jesus could do it. The apostle John tells us, “The man believed the word Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.” This is no small feat.
How many times does Jesus promise something, but our faith is extremely conditional. What do I mean? We put conditions on God to come through for us before we will believe. But this shows that we haven’t really grasped the gospel and all it’s implications.
Consider how this looks in various stages of our lives:
- Dear God, if you give me a train set for Christmas this year, I will love you and follow you forever and ever.
- Dear God, I know you died on the cross for my sins and that’s handled, but I’m devastated that my girlfriend broke up with me.
- Dear God, if you bless me with good grades and a good job, I’ll love you.
That list could go on and on, couldn’t it? What if God doesn’t provide the train set? What if God sends that boyfriend or girlfriend on their way? What if we don’t get the grades or job we want? Does that mean God is somehow less than God? What we risk doing is allowing the circumstances of our lives (good and bad) cloud the cross and empty tomb?
We must intentionally focus on the concrete promises found in the black and white pages of Scripture to inform the events of our circumstances, and not the other way around.
Look with me at Romans 8:31-39:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[a] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[b] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The foundation of it all is Christ and his work on the cross! Look at the promises:
- If God is for you, who can be against you? You say, “Lots of people in my life!” But ultimately, if God is for you, no one can ultimately do anything of eternal consequence to you. You are his!
- If God did not spare His Son but gave him for us, will he not also give us all things? “All things?” Yes, everything we need to stay the course and keep the faith—if he is sufficient!
- Who will bring a charge against His elect? God acquitted us of all charges through Christ.
- Who will condemn us? Since Christ took our sin on the cross, no one!
- Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Now notice here, even though they are Christians, does that mean that everything bad is removed from their lives? Look at what they experience: tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword. Not only are we conquerers, but more than conquerers. In Christ, He has obtain the victory over these things in our behalf—and the ‘more’ part is that nothing anywhere will separate us from the love of Christ.
Let’s revisit the visioneering and the aspect of magnifying Christ. What is big in your vision right now? Your empty bank account, your messy house, your bad grades, your job, your iPhone 5? Your illness, your relative’s illness, your house that hasn’t sold? The divorce that devastated your life, your children who have strayed from the Lord, your own heart that is straying from the Lord? Or—this election? Do you see how everything can cloud out the cross and empty tomb?
Politicians make promises left and right. We’ll create jobs, pay down the debt, balance the budget, make tax cuts/raise taxes, provide government healthcare or repeal the government health care plan. But do we know they will do it? I mean, do we really know they will keep their promise? Too many scandals and too many lies to protect them from those scandals reveal that many times politicians will say whatever they can to advance their own careers, no matter what. But the point is, you just don’t know!
With Christ, you don’t have to worry about him keeping his promises. In 2 Corinthians 1:20, the apostle Paul tells us that “All the promises of God are ‘Yes’ in Christ Jesus.” What does that mean? It means that Christ is the high point of God’s revelation. And since He conquered at the cross and the empty tomb, beating sin and death at its own game, then every promise that God made in regards to our salvation is a big “Yes” in Christ. God kept His Word—and it was sealed in Christ! He is the “Faithful and True.”
Jesus gave that Roman official His Word—and this Roman official believed it even when it seemed that everything was against it. Remember, his son was dying. He was at his wits end. He was out of control. There was nothing he could do but come to Jesus. And Jesus gave His Word, “and the man believed and went on his way.” Do you believe Jesus—even when you don’t know how it will end or how it could end the way He says it will?
This leader had a long ways to travel back. But his servants met him and told him that his son was getting better. When he asked when, he realized it was the same time that he spoke it. Before the man believed His Word, but it says in verse 53 that “He himself believed, and all his household.”
3. Everyone is looking for a savior–Jesus is that savior!
At the end of one of the debates, one of the candidates’ last sentence was very telling: “That’s why America is the hope of the earth.” Do we see the type of language this is? The “hope of the earth”? This is “savior” language! This is nothing new. John Winthrop during colonial times called America that “city on a hill.” Roosevelt vowed that the United States would make this world “safe for democracy.” America has been seen as the great hope of the earth in many, many ways that we don’t need to go into in this venue.
And so these men who are running for president are also seen as ‘savior’ figures that will help America get out of the slump its in and bring it back to greatness and stability. These men have very different plans for saving this nation. But there is one thing that we must know:
Both of them will make absolutely rotten saviors in the area where it counts—that of eternity! There will be a time when political elections and everything else of earth will be past. Then we will be standing before the Unchanging, Eternal, Unelected One who sits on the throne. And all the saviors of the world will be seen for what they are—sheer wannabes. They may stand for good things, have strong convictions, but they cannot touch the very core of who you are and why you are here.
Don’t let this election cloud out the very foundation of our salvation: the cross where our sins were atoned for and where the victory was accomplished for our sins. Christ rescued us from ourselves—He is the only One who can rescue us. To find out more about what he’s accomplished, visit http://www.twowaystolive.com. What a Savior we have!
Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
– Philip Bliss (1838-1876)