Politics is not the Ultimate Answer

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Title: Politics is not the Ultimate Answer

Text: Acts 1:6-7

Date: October 14th, 2007

I The Disciples were wrong: Politics and Economics are not the ultimate answer

II Why the Disciples were wrong, and why we’re wrong if we think the same

III The real answer Jesus brought: freedom from sin, liberation to true life.

We are beginning to hear more and more about the presidential elections next November even before this November! It seems like every election gets worse and worse as far as preparing people for the next election. The news reporters have been talking about the elections of 2008 for at least a year and we are still over a year away from it. It’s getting to the point of ridiculous that we spend so much time politicizing the nation when there are more important things to think about and do. Our nation is becoming over-politicized. Everything seems to revolve around politics and economics today, as if everything boiled down to power and money. Well that isn’t a particularly a modern problem because every age has been tempted to think of life in only political and economic terms. The god of this world, the Devil, Satan, wants us to lower ourselves to the level of animal by making this earthly life the whole of life. But the Devil has always tempted people to make too much of politics and economics, power and money. Even the disciples whom Jesus trained for three years fell into that temptation right up to the very end of Jesus’ time with them on earth. We’ve been studying the Book of Acts, the account of Jesus’ last days on earth with his disciples before his ascension and before their missionary activity began. We’ve been talking about the events of the first chapter of Acts because there is so much to talk about in just this one chapter. One of the scenes we’ve talked about, which we’ll talk about some more today, is found in Acts 1:5-6, “So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ he said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” The disciples were clearly thinking in terms of politics and economics, while Jesus was clearly thinking in terms of soul salvation and spiritual power to live and minister. The disciples were preoccupied in political and economic freedom, while Jesus was emphasizing spiritual freedom from sin and freedom to live as God had originally intended men and women to live. Now that same confusion is one we see today, even among Christians. Just as the disciples were confused, so too today people, Christians as well, are confused about what’s most important in life. Jesus was trying to teach about being set free from sin, while his disciples were worried about being set free from political and economic injustice. Now there is nothing wrong with working towards political and economic fairness, but it’s not most important. It’s not the ultimate answer, it’s not the answer to our problem of existence. Yet if you listen to the disciples and if you listen to people today, especially during an election year, you’d think that economics and politics were ultimate concerns. Jesus corrected his disciples back then, just as he’s trying to correct us today: our main problem isn’t found anywhere else than within our own hearts, the sin within. That’s our main problem, individually and corporately. Our main problem goes a lot deeper than how we organize the government and the economy. It goes further than who leads and who doesn’t lead. Our main problem is that we need liberation from sin. Until that happens we’ll never find soul satisfaction in life. If we think that our solution will come through politics and economics, we may find ourselves “gaining the whole world and losing our soul” — to quote Jesus elsewhere. No. We need to never permit ourselves to look to politics and economics for spiritual salvation, especially during an election year. Let’s hear more what Jesus has to say about this.

 

First, the disciples were wrong: politics and economics are not the ultimate solution. Acts 1:6, “So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’” Clearly the disciples were thinking of the restored Davidic kingdom of Israel’s glorious past. David was the great king of the Jews around 1000 B.C. He was the epitome of Jewish leadership and national unity and stability. Unfortunately for the Jews David’s kind of leadership didn’t last very long, in fact, his son Solomon, the next king after David, began a long decline in the nation of Israel leading finally to its collapse, captivity and conquered status. But the Jews dreamed of a Messiah to restore to them the glories of the past, as well as a more glorious future surpassing the past glory. But the truth is that these dreams were largely political and economic. We see this fact because when the disciples ask their question of Jesus, even after the three years of sitting under the teachings of Jesus, even after having access to the source of the greatest spiritual insight the world has even known in Jesus, the disciples asked basically a political and economic question: will we experience a restoration of the Davidic kingdom in Israel? Their sights were too low, their aspirations too earthly, their dreams were too tied to temporary political and economic circumstances. Sure, being free from the oppressive Roman Empire with its unjust laws and unfair taxation policies and repressive human rights violations would have been nice. Sure, for the Jews to rule themselves as in the days of David, without foreign interference would have been nice. But it wouldn’t have been the most important thing. It wouldn’t have been the be-all, the end-all, the ultimate blessing, the solution to the problem of human existence. Far from it. The Jews had forgotten, even the disciples, that the people who lived during the time of David didn’t consider their lives “complete” by any stretch of the imagination. They still complained, they were still discontent about many things. Even the best political and economic conditions will not fulfill the ultimate longings of the human heart. But we forget that today, just like the disciples forgot it. Today, we are tempted by the politization of society by campaign and news reporting to think that what we need in life is just a better government or a better political leader or a better economy, or this or that political or economic solution. But that’s false. Yes, we should thank God for our political and economic freedoms, but we must not think that these freedoms are the ultimate answer for our lives. That’s wrong. Our problem goes deeper than a political or economic problem; our problem is the deeply personal problem of sin, that is, separation from or alienation from God. That’s our problem. Only when that problem is solved can we find real soul satisfaction. Nothing else will satisfy the deepest level of our being than solving our sin problem with God. We must keep that in mind as we listen to politics heat up before an election year.

 

Second, why the disciples were wrong and why we are wrong if we think the same. Acts 1:6, “So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’” Such a petty question we think from our perspective today, so narrow, so nationalistic, so Jewish. But we do the very same thinking in respect to “our” issues of politics and economics. Think about the time during the end of the 1700s when the American colonists were becoming disgruntled with the English king and government. From the writings of some of the founding fathers you might think that the biggest thing in all of life was winning independence from Britain. From some of the statements of some of the patriots you might get the feeling that only unless the colonists were free from the tyranny of England would Americans be able to achieve happiness in life. Everything depended on independence, without it all would be lost, life would be unbearable, so say some of the patriots of that time. But that sounds a lot like the Jews at the time of Jesus, that sounds like the disciples during the last days of Jesus on earth. It sounds like many people were putting all their hopes and dreams for fulfillment in life on political and economic outcomes. But that’s a big mistake, then and now. Here’s why we should never see politics and economics as the salvation of our souls: even when we have the ideal political and economic situations, it’s not ever enough to meet the deepest needs of our soul. Our deepest need is for spiritual harmony with God. Our biggest problem is not a political problem or economic problem, it’s a spiritual problem. Our soul is not right with God. Sin within our heart is blocking us from a relationship with our Creator God. We are alienated from God because of sin in our heart and because of the sins we commit in life. The problem with all political and economic solutions is that they don’t address the sin problem in our hearts. For example, the Jews had their ideal king in David and their nation was free and independent. Yet, due to sin, their nation fell apart. It couldn’t hold itself together because of the sins of its rulers and the sins of the people. No political solution or economic solution is secure as long as there is sin within the human heart. That’s why we can’t look to government or the economy to fulfill our lives. We can’t look to politics or economics to solve our real problem which is our separation from God due to sin. We must seek a better solution than the politicians and economic leaders can promise us. Now to get elected, these leaders will promise us that our lives will be better and more fulfilling if we vote for them and their solutions to problems, but they can’t ultimately deliver on their promises because they aren’t addressing the real ultimate issues of life. Only Jesus has the solution to our deepest problem, and only by following him can we be ultimately fulfilled in life.

 

Third, the real answer Jesus brought: freedom from sin, liberation to true life. Acts 1:7, “He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” Now we come to the real solution to the real problem in life. Jesus refused to solve the temporary, petty, earthly human problems that people see as so important at the time, but really prove to be of lesser importance. No. Jesus addressed the ultimate problem and provided the ultimate answer, something that applies to all people at all times in all places. The disciples weren’t given their dream of Jewish statehood by Jesus. They were given something better – spiritual salvation, which is freedom from the control of sin, and freedom to experience the love and acceptance of God. The deepest need in the human heart is for the love and acceptance of God, even though most people don’t know or recognize it. The deepest need in the human heart is not for some political or economic solution, but rather the deepest need is for spiritual soul satisfaction, or what the Jews used to call spiritual “shalom” or peace. It’s far more than being politically free, or economically free. It’s far more than being materially successful. It’s far more than any other solution can give. It’s a spiritual state that only God can give. It’s something we can only receive by trusting God. Everything else will leave us disappointed and disillusioned ultimately, which may explain why America is having such a hard time defending its own democratic political and economic situation. From my observations, Americans are disillusioned by democracy and capitalism and they aren’t sure why. Not that we aren’t grateful for democratic freedoms and economic freedoms, but many people are disappointed with freedom because it hasn’t produced what they thought it would produce in their lives. The message and promise is that freedom will make us satisfied and content in life, that freedom will provide meaning and purpose in life, that the ultimate goal in life is to be free. Happiness will come when we are free. But freedom hasn’t produced that. The promise of happiness through political and economic freedom hasn’t been fulfilled – and it never will be fulfilled. Why? Because all the political and economic freedom in the world won’t fulfill a person’s spiritual need because only spiritual freedom of the soul from sin will do that. Only Christ’s message of spiritual forgiveness and freedom from sin will bring us into relationship with God, which is our heart’s deepest need. No political or economic solution will do that. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get the best politics and economics working for us in this life, but it means that we won’t put our hope and trust in these solutions to ultimately fulfill us. Let’s put our hope and trust in the salvation Jesus offers us instead of the false promises of political and economic salvation.

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