AGCC Sun. a.m. 12/3/2000
#9 (Demands of Discipleship Series)
TEXTS: Matt. 22:15-22
INTRO:All human beings live under some form of government, we are all citizens of some country. When we come to Christ we discover an unusual situation, in Christ we become citizens of a heavenly kingdom also! This reality of dual citizenship creates pressure points in our life, and we will discover there are dangers that we must guard our hearts and minds against. We must guard against compromising our greater citizenship at the expense of the temporal. It is imperative that we are good citizens of both, but not at the expense of the greater one.
ILLUS:In a small college town a tavern frequented by students ran the following ad in the campus paper during the days before Parents Weekend: "Bring Your Parents for Lunch Saturday. We'll Pretend We Don't Know You!"
The ad was soon challenged by the college chaplain, who posted a revised version on the campus bulletin board. It read: "Bring Your Parents to Chapel Sunday. We'll Pretend We Know You!" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 435.
We must be careful we don't build a heavenly kingdom by earthly means! If our citizenship in God's kingdom reflects only those values of an earthly kingdom we will destroy the supernatural nature of the heavenly one.
Too often the kind of commitment as citizens of God's kingdom we show the world doesn't look much different than the level of commitment that we find in our culture.
ILLUS: "It's Monty Williams. He wants to know if he can audit your discipleship class on 'Total Commitment.' " -- Cartoonist Rob Suggs in Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 3.
PROP. SENT: The Bible calls us to a dual citizenship as Christians, but our primary citizenship is godly and not secular in nature. We are not to compromise our citizenship in God's kingdom as citizens of earthly kingdoms.
I. STRUGGLE OF DUAL CITIZENSHIP 22:15-20
A. Compromises 22:15-17
1. If we are to live as citizens of God's kingdom, we must decide that the standards of that kingdom are not compromised in our own lives!
a. We can live in another kingdom that may or may not hold our spiritual values, but we cannot live in that kingdom and compromise those spiritual values OURSELVES!
b. We must guard our OWN heart against taking on the compromising nature of a temporal kingdom.
c. Too often in an attempt to be "approved" by the world we try and speak out of both sides of our mouths!
ILLUS: Barry Lorch in his San Diego Union column recently told of a debate on the floor of the United States Senate about 130 years ago. The issue was whether alcohol should be sold in the territories seeking statehood. One notoriously anti-alcohol senator, who, according to one description, was so dry he was a known fire hazard, challenged one of his colleagues to state his position on alcohol.
Supposedly his colleague stood up and said this: "You asked me how I feel about whiskey. Well, here's how I stand on the question. If when you say whiskey you mean that Devil's brew, the poison spirit, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yes, literally takes bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man from the pinnacle of righteousness and gracious living and causes him to descend to the pit of degradation, despair, shame, and helplessness, then I am certainly against it with all my heart.
"But if, when you say whiskey, you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in an old man's footsteps on a frosty morning; if you mean the drink whose sale puts, I'm told, millions of dollars into our treasury which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, or blind or deaf or dumb, our pitifully aged, and our infirm, to build highways and hospitals and schools, then I am certainly in favor of it. This is my stand, and I will not compromise."
Maybe he was running for president. -- Donald McCullough, "Blessed Are the Pure in Heart," Preaching Today, Tape No. 83.
2. Our eternal values must guide our personal moral choices, the road of compromise is a slippery one for any citizen of God's kingdom!
3. This is what happened to the Pharisees and the Herodians.
a. Pharisees were a very conservative religious group, they hated Rome's rule over them, and thus the Herodians who were much in favor of Rome's ruling them.
b. The Herodians were Jews and others who had decided that Rome's rule over them was a good thing, they tended to be much more liberal and disdained the conservative Pharisees.
c. Ironically, both of these enemies compromise to work together to achieve a common goal, to get rid of Jesus Christ!
d. To do this they both compromised their own moral imperatives, but could justify it by citing the end result would be favorable to their own position.
e. Both sides resort to flattery, stating how Jesus was a man of integrity and would not compromise, how ironic that they were willing to do this very thing!
4. As Christians we must be careful in making alliances which cause us to compromise our values in order to reach what we would consider a worthy goal!
a. The ends DO NOT justify the means! This type of strategy WILL NOT build the kingdom of God!
b. We actually lose the power of the Gospel when the world sees us try and manipulate them in ways that violate Christian standards just to achieve what might be considered a "Christian goal." I.E. To stop abortion by smearing reputations or damaging property … this is wrong! The goal can be right and the methods can be wrong!
c. Certainly the Pharisees justified making "friends" or "allies" out of their political enemies the Herodians in order to get rid of Christ's influence and message.
B. Commitments 22:18-20
1. Jesus clearly saw through their compromising conniving attempts to trap Him in a no win situation.
a. The world will press Christians to take sides … or to compromise our OWN values.
b. Much damage can be done for the cause of Christ when WE compromise our OWN Christian values.
c. This is different than living in a culture where there are a wide variety of values … the issue isn't as first "what does my country do?" but "what do I do?"!
2. Jesus saw through the trap they attempted, and they are caught in their own trap!
a. Notice that Jesus asks THEM for a coin!
b. The Pharisees produce a Roman coin and bring it to Him … how weird since the Jewish tradition declared that any coin used by them that had on it a ruler was by virtue of using that coin the subjects of that ruler! Though they protested this, they used the currency and so were hypocrites already!
3. The Pharisees frequently used the civil authorities to achieve their ends, while at the same time railing against them … they had lost site of differences between the spiritual and secular and even used secular means to achieve spirituality … it was a bad wedding, always is when the two are mixed together!
ILLUS:I have learned that the important thing for the church is not to have leaders and parish buildings, but to have Christians in the individual parishes who take the Gospel and the sacraments seriously. ... This was a lesson for us.
We had always had the church as an institution. The pastor was a civil servant, and when it rained, the pastor would go to the mayor and ask for money to fix the roof. The pastor got his money and had a lifelong job; he could lose it only for reasons of immorality. ... In the Confessing Church, we learned to give all this up--and to learn this in only 12 years is a great gift. -- Pastor Friedemann M., remembering his years under Hitler, quoted in For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest Against Hitler, by Victoria Barnett. Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 10.
4. What the Pharisees lost was the power of influence … influence is more powerful than political means! Their attempts at using secular means to achieve spiritual results will flop, it always does!
a. The real power of Christianity is not found in politics, it is found in people, people touched by Christ!
b. The power of the Gospel over a culture comes from spiritual influences of individuals who do not compromise their standing with God!
ILLUS:Robert Bellah, a sociologist who teaches at the University of California at Berkeley, is very interested in the influence of religion on the community. In an interview in Psychology Today he said, "We should not underestimate the significance of the small group of people who have a new vision of a just and gentle world. The quality of a culture may be changed when 2 percent of its people have a new vision."
There are many more than 2 percent Christians in your country and mine. Then why aren't we having more effect? Why aren't we having more influence? I pray that God will call you to permeate non-Christian society for Christ, to take your stand there uncompromisingly with the value system and moral standards of Jesus. -- John Stott, "Christians: Salt and Light," Preaching Today, Tape No. 109.
II. SUPREMACY OF DIVINE CITIZENSHIP 22:21-22
A. Cooperative 22:21a
1. Jesus asks them whose image and inscription showed on the Roman Denarius coin they had just handed Him.
a. A denarius was a day's wages for an average worker.
b. The "good Samaritan" paid 2 Denrius to the Inn keeper for the injured man's needs.
c. It was the commonly used coin of Jesus' day … minted by Rome with Caesar's head on one site siting him as the ruler, and a woman seated in a chair on the other side.
2. Jesus does not defame Rome as a power, nor its established leaders or government system, He simply asks them to identify it!
a. Jesus never took political positions, only moral positions!
b. The politics don't count as much as the morality!
c. We as Christians must be careful we don't mix the two up either, we should avoid attacking politics and instead focus on principles!
3. Jesus did not ask His disciples to conquer Rome by political or military means but by moral power in their own lives and the message of the cross!
ILLUS:Within the scope of those human matters that are relative, political systems have their place in society; but the Christian is not called to confer on any of those systems the quality of the absolute, because that which is absolute is found only in God. Furthermore, without pretending to have a false political neutrality, the Christian should always reserve the right to criticize any political system, whether of the left or of the right, in the light of the Word of God. -- Emilio A. Nunez, Liberation Theology. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 8.
4. Jesus affirms the importance of human government and the need to submit to earthly authority also in His statement to the Herodians and the Pharisees, Caesar had his place, and so did Rome … but that does not mean people of God should compromise with them, but they did need to cooperative with them.
a. Cooperative does not mean watering down our message, but it does mean using power in a different way, we use the power of our godly lives to change the system.
b. We must understand the real power of change in our secular society comes more from our personal commitments to Christ lived out in real ways in a society where we may not agree with everything.
ILLUS:The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. -- Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 1
B. Clarification 22:21b-22
1. Jesus adds now that it is not only proper to give to Caesar what is Caesar's -- but to give to God what is God's!
a. This clarifies which kingdom is considered greater since God is the ruler over ALL THINGS.
b. Giving God his due means having everything else subservient to Him.
2. No matter how strong a human government is, it is never stronger than God's kingdom!
ILLUS:In the 1930s in Stavropol, Russia, Stalin ordered that all Bibles be confiscated and Christian believers be sent to prison camps. Ironically, most of the Bibles were not destroyed, yet many Christians died as "enemies of the state."
With the recent dissolution of the U.S.S.R., a CoMission team arrived in Stavropol in 1994 for ministry. Their request to have Bibles shipped to Moscow was being held up. But someone told them about a warehouse outside of town where confiscated Bibles were still stored. Remarkably, the team was granted permission to distribute them. Hiring several local Russian workers, they began to load their trucks.
One young man, a hostile agnostic, came only for the day's wages. But not long after they had started, he disappeared. He was found in the corner of the warehouse, weeping, a Bible in his hands. Intending to steal it for himself, he had picked his own grandmother's off the shelf! Her signature was on the front page. Today, that young Russian is in the process of being transformed by the very Bible that his grandmother was persecuted for, but still held dear. -- Ken Taylor, Christian Reader, Vol. 33, no. 5.
3. When the kingdoms of this earth pass away, the kingdom of God will continue on stronger than ever!
a. Jesus' answer to the Herodians and the Pharisees must have been dumbfounding!
b. They could never have imagined the answer that Jesus gave … for Jesus was able to answer both of them without contradicting either of them … and still put God first in the debate!
4. They both had missed the mark in their understanding of citizenship!
a. God wanted them to be good citizens of Rome
b. They were to be faithful citizens of God's kingdom first and foremost!
c. It is possible to hold dual citizenship … without compromise.
5. The fact of the matter is that whether it was Rome or some other world power, the only hope of transforming those world powers was by being a faithful citizen of God's spiritual kingdom.
a. We will not alter America's course by strictly a political agenda ...
b. We will alter the face of our Country by being godly people ourselves!
ILLUS:The only effective response to our nation's crime problem is spiritual revival. -- N. Lee Cooper, president-elect of the American Bar Association. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 4.
6. Christ's disciples are expected to be good citizens of earthly kingdoms, and of His great heavenly kingdom … and know which of them is the greatest!
a. And like our own country, to be a citizen you must either be born into this kingdom … or be naturalized as one.
b. Have you become a citizen of God's kingdom?
c. If you are a citizen of God's kingdom are you being a good citizen of both His and this earthly one?
CONCLUSION: Jesus demands His disciples to be good citizens of both an earthly kingdom and the heavenly one. While living as citizens of an earthly kingdom we are to remember that our greatest citizenship is divine, that it supercedes any other. Jesus' primary mission was personal, not political.