Facing the Reality of Evil

“Then the dragon became furious with the woman
and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring,
on those who keep the commandments of God
and hold to the testimony of Jesus”
(Revelation 12:17)

October 1, 2015 brought us another school shooting; this time, at a community college in Oregon.  The shooter in this horrific tragedy reportedly asked his victims if they were Christian, and shot those who answered “Yes.” In all, 9 were killed, and 9 others wounded.

Setting aside all the political debate that has arisen from this, what we can say for certain is this: we are witnessing evil in this world, and our hearts are crying out for an answer. Politicians will debate this to try to find the best policy (either to fix the problem or get them re-elected); that’s what politicians do.  As I wrote in my previous post, it is the role of the pastor to stand in the middle of such senselessness and point to the end of the story, and the One who has written it.

I’m currently in the middle of reading a rather long commentary on Revelation. I realize that doesn’t sound like the most exciting reading. In the light of recent events, however, Revelation and the commentary speak powerfully to our lives today.  Consider this:

The victory won through Christ’s blood must be the basis, not only for the saints’ earthly victory, but also for Michael’s triumph in heaven. V 11 summarizes the purpose of the whole chapter and especially of vv 7-12. The single intent… is to assure those who meet satanic evil on earth that it is really a defeated power, however contrary it might seem to human experience. Christians can be assured that the serpent begins to battle against their bodies only after he has lost the battle over their souls. This expresses one of the major themes of the book: the suffering of Christians is a sign, not of Satan’s victory, but of the saints’ victory over Satan because of their belief in the triumph of the cross, with which their suffering identifies them.

If the devil’s accusations had been effective with God, then all of God’s people would have been cast from his presence and would have begun to experience the anguish of the final judgment, which would be consummated at the Last Day. Instead, the devil was cast out from heaven, because his charges had become groundless. The saints’ status in heaven has been legitimized finally by Christ’s suffering on the cross. All believers, past, present, and future, have overcome the devil because of the blood of the Lamb.

How have they overcome the devil? Through Christ’s death they have been declared not guilty of the accusations launched against them. Therefore they are exempt from the ultimate punishment. Satan’s accusations are unable to unleash the infliction of the “second death.”

Beale, G.K., The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Book of Revelation. (Eerdmans Pub Co, Grand Rapids MI, 1999) Pg663-4.

What you’ll hear from the politician is this shooting is evidence that we need better gun-control, better health-care, better control of such “toxic-masculinity” (whatever that is).  What we need, they’ll tell you, is for the government to fix this; we need a stronger, more powerful, state.

The reality is, Satan has been cast down, and he is raging against the church until he is finally conquered by Christ (Revelation 12). As the old hymn goes:

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure…

This is the reality of the evil we face today, but is also the reality of our conquering King Jesus the Christ.  This evil will continue to rage against His rule until the very end, and our only hope in the face of such evil is found in Christ our King, the one who died and is alive forevermore.  You won’t hear that from your politicians.

A Caucus Prayer

“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses,
who trust in chariots because they are many
and in horsemen because they are very strong,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!”
(Isaiah 31:1 (ESV))

Last night I had the privilege of opening our local Caucus meeting with prayer.  I knew this wasn’t an opportunity to preach a sermon, and I didn’t want to campaign for a particular candidate or cause – but there was something on my heart that needed to be said. 

I’ve heard it again and again, “This is the most important election our nation has faced!”  Really?!?  I’ll admit that this is an important election.  Our nation stands at a crossroads; financially, philosophically, politically.  The election of the next president will advance the nation one way or another.  But does the election of a president really have that much bearing on the future of our nation?  In the proper balance of powers, the executive office is just one of three, and our legislative and judicial branches are equally important in determining the direction of the country.

I think what frustrates me most, and what I wanted to communicate last night in my prayer, is that as a Christian, our sense of security and purpose in life should not at all depend upon who sits in the Oval Office, but rather, who is seated on the throne in heaven.  Our hopes and fears are not met in the perfect political candidate, but in the sinless Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Contrary to popular belief, America is not the Kingdom of God.  As Christians, we are called to be good citizens, and we may love and serve our nation patriotically.  But we possess dual citizenship.  For we are also citizens of a great Kingdom, a heavenly realm, with Christ as our Lord and Savior.

So I’ll say this from the onset, and it will bear repeating throughout this election cycle: It matters not who is elected, for God is on His throne, and all is right in Heaven.  Be active and informed citizens.  Cast an informed and faithful ballet.  But regardless of the outcome, do not let your hearts be troubled.

Here is the prayer from last night.

Sovereign and gracious God, you are the God of all nations, in your providence and wisdom you cause nations to rise and fall, in the light of your wisdom you guide us through times of abundance and times of want; we thank you for your guiding hand which has lead us in our pilgrimage, and for your graciousness that has blessed our land.  Keep us ever mindful of those in this world who do not share such blessing and live under tyrannical oppression; may your justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Almighty God, we thank you for our freedom – given in your grace, secured in your Son Jesus Christ, and defended by the generations who have gone before us – our freedom to gather in peaceful assembly tonight to choose delegates to represent us and to speak to the nation regarding the field of candidates in our upcoming presidential election.  Grant that those who are chosen tonight may be guided by your wisdom, and faithfully represent the people whom they serve.

We confess that too often we tend to trust in the strength of our candidates and elected officials rather than in your Almighty hand; our sense of security and provision depends on whether our political party is in power; and we forget that we depend on you for our daily bread.  Teach us to trust in you, and in you alone, for our safety, our security, our liberty, and our happiness in life.  Raise up for our nation men and women who, in humility and gratitude, will serve you as they serve this state and this nation.  We lift before you our president, and all who have been elected to serve this nation and state, that they may be led by the light of your wisdom, guided by your truth and justice, and that your providential hand may work your sovereign purpose in and through them. 

Gracious God, we thank you for your grace and mercy which has guided us through the manifold changes of this life; but most of all, for the love that we know in your Son, Christ Jesus our Lord.  In all that we say, in all that we do, in all that we are, may we give you praise, glory, and honor, this day and forevermore.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Grace and peace be with you!