The Nehemiah Project
(Blog by Nick Estelle)
“Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.” – I Corinthians 1:27-28
Some of you know I was a political science major at Taylor, and that election season is kind of like Christmas for me. Or, it used to be.
I used to be a very hard-line, dyed in the wool member of a political party. I’ve been yelling at people since high school, and when Facebook was invented I became “angry Facebook guy.” I’m in recovery.
Politics became less fun and less angry for me about two years ago as the Holy Spirit burst my bubble of pride and certitude. He began showing me that Jesus has His own politics. And not in the “wink wink we all know which party Jesus would vote for” kind of way. I mean the world’s political system is diametrically opposed to Jesus, and He is fighting a war against it as He brings heaven to earth. That’s what I want to talk about today.
The world’s political system was laid out in the days of Adam and Eve. It revolves around greed, blame, and violence.
Adam and Eve saw something that wasn’t theirs, and after taking it they immediately started blaming each other. “THAT woman that YOU gave me.” “The serpent told me to!” Then one of their sons, Cain, murdered innocent Abel, and moved east of Eden to *found the first city.* It’s right there in Genesis 4 – the world as we know it was founded upon the murder of the innocent.
We see these themes throughout the Bible.
- In Genesis 6
– The Nephilim lusted after human women and produced great warriors with them
– Noah was blameless, while the earth was filled with violence
- In Genesis 16 we see these forces at play with Abram, Sarai and Hagar.
- In Genesis 39, Potiphar’s wife lusted after Joseph, and when he rejected her she accused him.
- In Exodus 1, the new pharaoh fears the Hebrews. He accuses them, saying in a time of crisis they would rise against Egypt, and he uses this as an excuse to enslave them and murder their babies.
- In Job, Satan is greedy for God’s glory and accuses God of buying Job’s worship. God allows Satan to work violence against Job. Satan disappears from the story, then reappears in Job’s three “friends,” who spend most of the book accusing him, and Job’s wife, who tells him to commit violence against himself.
There are many, many more examples of greed, blame, and violence in the Old Testament. The wicked kings of Israel were known for these, the prophets spoke out against the system, promising a day of deliverance.
When God gave the law to Moses He began saving us from this worldly system. He established gleaning and the tithe to save us from our greed, and in Leviticus 16 He created the scapegoat. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would sacrifice one goat as a sin offering for Israel. Then he would take another goat, which we call the scapegoat, and confess all the sins of Israel over it, and drive it out into the wilderness. Instead of uniting through bullying (like kids on a playground), gossip (like people at work), racism (like many nations, including the Nazis), or human sacrifice, Israel was to unite by putting all the blame on a goat and casting the goat out.
Then, Jesus came.
Jesus came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. Jesus came bringing the politics and the government of God – we often refer to it as the Kingdom. Jesus came not just to take you to Heaven someday, but to bring Heaven here. That’s why we pray “thy kingdom COME, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” We are praying for God to annex earth and rule here, too.
Everything Jesus did was geared toward bringing the Kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount and Sermon on the Plain are His Platform. The Fruit of the Spirit laid out by the Holy Spirit through Paul are His campaign strategy, the armor of God is our equipment, the Great Commission is our marching orders.
On the way to the cross, Jesus came up against three men who embodied greed, blame, and violence:
- Herod, who was wealthier than Caesar,
- Caiaphas, who was God’s High Priest at the time, and said [John 11:50, John 18:14] that it would be better for one man to die for Israel than all of Israel to be destroyed.
Finally a group, that John calls [John 18:28] “His accusers,” delivers Jesus to
- Pilate, who rhetorically asked Jesus “what is truth?” and moments later asked, “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”To Pilate, who embodied Roman violence, truth and violence were interchangeable. “What is truth?” was Pilate’s rhetorical question, and the answer was “the power to crucify.”
So how did Jesus take on greed, blame, and violence?
He overcame greed by lowering Himself and not demanding His own rights.
He overcame blame by becoming the ultimate scapegoat and accepting all of the blame for all of mankind’s sin.
And He overcame violence by peacefully accepting beatings, a crown of thorns, and crucifixion.
How foolish. What a waste.
Except it turns out that the self-sacrifice Jesus showed is the way of God. Jesus hanging on the cross, the scapegoated victim of a lynch mob, is the most accurate picture we have of the character and personality of God. When it was finished the Father didn’t leave His Holy One to rot in the grave, but raised Jesus, and Jesus was vindicated in resurrection. Put another way, the Father endorsed the radically selfless methods of Jesus when He raised Jesus from the dead.
Jesus came back, and the Lamb refounded the world, which is why Scripture calls Him “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” This new Adam is also a new Abel, and He has refounded society based not on the insanity that is greed, blame, and violence, but on self-sacrificial love expressed in forgiveness. And when our Risen Lord appeared to His disciples in John 20, He spoke the first words of the New World, “Peace be with you.”
So how is this a testimony? Well, Jesus is freeing me from greed, blame, and violence. When I look at our candidates, the Holy Spirit is helping me to vote not based on who will give me more stuff or tax me less. He is showing me that angrily uniting against anyone – whether it’s Trump, Clinton, or Johnson; or rich people or “welfare queens;” or black people or Mexicans or white men; or people who aren’t libertarian enough, conservative enough, or progressive enough; or even ISIS – uniting against an “enemy” is Satanic – literally, as the word Satan translates to “ accuser” or “blamer.” And He has shown me that we can’t bomb our way to peace. That’s not a thing. Killing all the bad guys is a strategy of the world. It’s worldly wisdom, and God has declared it foolish.
So Christians are free to vote any which way, but we have to remember that we don’t follow the eagle, elephant, donkey, porcupine, or any animal other than the risen Lamb. How you vote is for you and the Holy Spirit to work out, but if you think that your vote is going to change the world, let me remind you that the world’s wisdom is foolish. You can’t actually change the world, or even this country, by voting. If you want to bring the Kingdom, you have to get personally involved in your community and be part of the Kingdom building process.
To read more about the Nehemiah Project, click HERE.
On September 25th Pastor Jerry Ingalls will be preaching on Nehemiah 3: “Start Where You Sit!”