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#NotMyKingdom, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
October 25, 2023 9:00 am

#NotMyKingdom, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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October 25, 2023 9:00 am

Jesus once told the Pharisees to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s but to God what is God’s.” In today’s message, Pastor J.D. continues to look at Romans 13 and its instructions on how to honor and obey those in government.


Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. I just cannot see Paul urging Christians in his day to pray and speak out in opportunities they have a chance to speak out in and not encouraging us to engage in the ways that are available to us. If you and I fail to be informed, if we fail to vote, then you and I are every bit as negligent as would have been a governor or Caesar in Paul's day who spent all of his time in leisure and never attended to the matters of the state. And I think just like God will hold them accountable, He'll hold us accountable. Welcome to Summit Life with J.D. Greer.

I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. You know, we've heard it before that Jesus once told the Pharisees to give to Caesar what is Caesar's, but give to God what is God's. And in today's message, Pastor J.D. continues to look at Romans 13 and its instructions on how to honor and obey those in government. We learned that while we should submit to authority, we are at the same time also under God's greater claim on our lives. And that's good news because when the government or our leaders fail us, we can trust in God's good plan because our hope lies in Him, not our politicians. I can't think of a more important message for us today. So let's dig into what God's word says about this topic.

Pastor J.D. titled this message, hashtag not my kingdom. We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, to ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, right? You can see even in Jefferson's words here in the Constitutional Congress, that understanding that there is a defense, there's a protection aspect, and there's also a promotion of the general welfare aspect. Again, this is not the place to go into what goes into each category and to flesh them out.

It's just sort of give you a broad overview. Tim Keller points out that Paul's words here avoid both extreme libertarianism and extreme liberalism. Here's what he says, Christians need to be wary of extreme ideological views on the role of government. On the one hand, it is hard to find biblical support for the very conservative view that government should do nothing but basic law enforcement. On the other hand, the Bible cannot support the very liberal socialist view of the government of savior, where the government takes over everything and the government ends up taking care of all the people.

The Bible wouldn't lead you to either one of those. It's a limited way that it proves as government, but it's there for the good and for the punishment of the bad, all right? Everybody still with me? All right, good. Those are the responsibilities of the government.

Now, here we go. Number two, the most important part of the passage, what are the responsibilities of the governed? Notice that Paul speaks here in terms of obligations, verse seven. And I see four obligations of the governed to the government.

Here we are, letter A, submit. Verse five, submit means you obey the laws, you pay your taxes, your tolls, et cetera. And you do so, again, verse five, not just because of wrath, not just because they can make your life miserable, you do so as a matter of conscience. That means you obey the government authorities, whether you think you'll get caught or not. And I point that out because I've had people tell me over the years, Christians involved in churches, oh, you don't need to worry about that kind of income because the government has no way of knowing you're making that money. I don't tell the government the truth about the money I make because I think they might, maybe I might know if I'm lying. I tell the government the truth about what I'm making because in telling them the truth, I'm telling the truth to God, because they are for a while standing in as his representative. And so in lying to them and disobeying them, I'm actually disobeying his representative, right? You do it as a matter of conscience.

Now, one very important caveat here, the government's rule is not absolute in our lives. Paul says that in submitting to the government, that's a way of submitting to God, which means that if obeying government leaders ever caused me to disobey a direct command of God, I am duty bound and so are you to practice civil disobedience. Most commentators recognize that Paul in this passage is alluding to a discussion that Jesus had in Matthew 22 with the Pharisees. When the Pharisees come to Jesus and they say, trying to trap him, hey Jesus, should we pay taxes to Caesar or not? And Matthew says, when they asked him that, they were trying to entangle him in his words. Now, how was they trying to entangle him?

Well, here was the dilemma. In those days, when you paid taxes, who were you paying taxes to? The Roman authorities. The Roman authorities are not like the IRS.

The Roman authorities were occupiers that had come in and stolen the land. So if you paid taxes to them, what were you actually paying for? Well, you're paying for Caesar's lavish lifestyle. You were also paying for the soldiers that did the oppression. You were paying for the prisons that imprisoned Jewish patriots. You were paying for the crucifixions even. You were paying for all that with your taxes.

By the way, bet you didn't know this, that beautiful Roman Colosseum that still stands in Rome, you know what that was built by? Jewish tax dollars is what it was built by. So the dilemma is, Jesus says, oh yeah, I pay your taxes. He's going to make mad a lot of Jewish zealots. And they're going to probably try to kill him because they're like, well, here's a traitor to our country.

Let's kill him. That's one side of the dilemma. The other side of the dilemma is that Jesus says, well, no, don't pay your taxes. Well, then at that point, what happens is he makes the Romans mad. The Romans mark him as a revolutionary and maybe they will kill him.

So that is the dilemma. So what is Jesus to do? How is Jesus supposed to answer? Well, he Jesus jukes them, right?

This is the original Jesus juke right here. Pulls out a coin where he has them pull out a coin. He says, pull out the coin you used to pay the tax. And they pull it out and he's like, whose image is inscribed?

Whose image is stamped on that coin? And they say, Caesar's. And then Jesus gives his famous line. We'll give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar. They give unto God what belongs to God. And when he said this, they all marveled.

All right, what made them marvel? Well, see, there was this subtle teaching in that message that undermined the government's claim on their lives. The coin had Caesar's image on it, but whose image do you and I have stamped on us? We have God's image stamped on us. So give Caesar the tax because his image is on the coin, but give God your all because his image is stamped on you. And that means that you never obey Caesar in a way that would make you disobey God because while Caesar has his image on the coin, God has his image on you and God's is the greater image, which means his is the greater authority.

Like one scholar said, if the state commands us what God forbids or the state forbids what God commands, then civil disobedience is a Christian duty. Thus, when you study your Bible, you will see examples. You will see examples, first of all, of believers that submit to incompetent and foolish authorities. I mean, think Joseph submitting to Potiphar and Pharaoh. Think Daniel submitting to Nebuchadnezzar. But you'll also see, you'll see believers who are defying authority, even as they do so in an honoring way, they are defying authority because their first obedience is to God. Think Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refusing to bow down to the golden statue. Think Peter in Acts 4 saying, we will not shut up about Jesus because it's better for us to obey God than men.

And you say, okay, well, that's ancient world. What's that look like in our society today? Well, when a government requires, for example, a Christian doctor to violate, first of all, his or her Hippocratic oath, and also his or her conscience and scripture to perform an abortion, or they force a healthcare provider to pay for it, they should obey God, not men. If the government requires a policeman to punish somebody without due cause, or they pressure a judge to distort justice in a biased way that serves the powerful or the majority, that judge should obey God and not men.

If your boss requires you to lie, to extend profits or to protect the company, you should obey God, not man. If the government ever forced me to perform a same-sex wedding, then by God's grace, I would obey God, not man. If government ever forced us to be silent about the gospel or refrain from gathering and assembling or refrain from teaching our convictions about what the Bible says about certain subjects or right or wrong, and all those situations, we ought to obey God rather than men. So yes, we submit, but we submit as unto God, which means we do so from our hearts and not just by the letter of the law, but we do so with our hearts, but we never do so in a way that disobeys what God has said. Letter B, here's the second thing we do, we owe them honor. Notice the progression in these verses. Submit, pay taxes, pay tolls. Now, verse seven, give respect to those you owe respect to, give honor to those you owe honor. I would say for most of us, it will be relatively easy to pay our taxes and tolls, but here Paul starts talking about more. We are to treat the one in authority, he says, with respect and honor.

Now, I know what you're saying. What if you don't respect the person in office, and what if you don't agree with them? Like I said, I am positive Paul felt that way about the incestuous, mother-killing, cross-dressed, and horse-promoting Caesar. But you can still, Paul says, you can still give to him or her the respect they are owed by virtue of their office, and you should support them, appreciate them, honor them, and obey them wherever you can. I do not see anywhere in Paul's letters that he signs off with, hashtag not my Caesar. I think Martin Luther King, by the way, was a great example of somebody who attempted to honor and submit to authorities, even as he defied them. If you read his letter from a Birmingham jail, which I hope that you'll read sometime, you see that Martin Luther King recognized the legitimacy of government, he recognized the legitimacy of existing government, even pleading with them to fulfill their God-given responsibilities, even as he defied them, even as he acted in civil disobedience. So yes, you can honor, even as you disobey.

Here's the third thing I would say, letter C, engage, engage. Now I will admit to you, this word is not directly in our text. What I'm doing is I'm attempting, watch this, I'm attempting to bridge from Paul's context in the first century to our context of the 21st century, and a lot has changed in government between now and then, or then and now, and so I think this is justified, hang with me. Paul recognizes that government is supposed to be a force for good, right? Isn't that what he said?

And it's also a source of blessing. In other of his letters, Paul urges the church to pray for those that are in authority, that they would act justly, 1 Timothy 2, 1-4, pray for government and leaders and kings and all who are in authority that we may carry on our lives peaceably and they would protect justice and the innocent, okay? So we see Paul urging the church to pray for them to act according to their God-given roles, and by the way, anytime you see Paul stand in front of a government leader, he will use part of his platform of influence to protect himself from influence, to urge that government leader to act in ways that are just, to protect, for example, in acts, protect religious freedoms. That's one of the things he talks to these guys about, right? So here's the logic. Paul did not live in a voting democracy.

The emperor was absolute ruler. That's about all he could do. He can't vote. And so what he does, he says, well, pray for them, and then if you have a moment to influence them, speak out. In our country, things have changed. Even people now sit in the ruler's chair, at least partially, and that means that we bear ultimate responsibility for how authority is used. The sword that Paul says God has given to earthly rulers, that sword lies, at least partially, in our hands of citizens because you and I have been given the prerogative to choose whose hand that sword goes into and how they use it. I just cannot see Paul urging Christians in his day to pray and speak out in opportunities they have a chance to speak out in and not encouraging us to engage in the ways that are available to us. It seems to me that in our system of government, if you and I fail to be informed, if we fail to vote, then you and I are every bit as negligent as would have been a governor or Caesar in Paul's day who spent all of his time in leisure and never attended to the matters of the state.

And I think just like God will hold them accountable, he'll hold us accountable. And just real talk again, okay, in the triangle, as it stands right now, only 14% of eligible adults cast a vote for any candidate in the 2016 presidential primaries. Now we complain about the options we ended up with, but honestly, 14%, that means 86% of people didn't do anything to affect it. It's like my friend Steve Noble says, apathy and ignorance come at a terribly high cost. Paul says in verse eight, you got to fulfill what you owe to other people. Electing good leaders who will enact good policy is one of the best ways we can love our neighbor because the policies we have will affect my neighbor adversely or positively. So it's one of the best things I can do for loving my neighbor is helping to enact good policy.

So Paul would say, you owe it to them to get engaged in the vote. Thanks for joining us today on Summit Life. We'll get back to today's teaching in just a moment, but first I wanted to tell you once again about our featured resource this month. It's a Bible study through the second half of the book of Romans called In View of God's Mercy written by the late Tim Keller. Pastor Tim was one of Pastor JD's biggest ministry influences, and we're honored to be providing this study to you. It's a great way to get an even better perspective and understanding of one of the Bible's richest books, and it would make an incredible study to do with a friend or a whole group. This book covers Romans 8 through 16 with seven studies that walk you through these important chapters giving application points, questions to consider, and prayer prompts. To get a hold of your copy, give a gift today by calling 866-335-5220 or visit

Now let's get back to today's teaching from Pastor JD Greer here on Summit Life. Letter D, last one, moderate. By the way, I mean that in the verb form of that, not the noun form. I'm not telling you to be a moderate, okay?

That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying moderate. In other words, moderate your expectations of what you think the government will do. You see, this entire passage is built on the assumption that government's role is very limited. It's a temporary fill-in, and it can only do so much, and that's why Paul in the whole book of Romans is gonna keep reminding you, hey, your hope is not in government, good or bad. Even the best of human governments are just a temporary, imperfect, fallible fill-in for God, and no government, no human government ever conceived or ever gonna be conceived this side of heaven is gonna fulfill that vision, that yearning that Thomas Jefferson expressed in our Constitution for a more perfect union. That's why we say here at the Summit Church, our hope at this church is not in politics. Our hope is not who's sitting in the White House, because we know that salvation didn't come in the first century in the back of a Roman chariot.

It doesn't come in our century riding on the wings of Air Force One. It came cradled in a manger, and our hope here is not in a donkey, and it's not in an elephant. Our hope is in the lamb, and that means that our primary work here is not in politics. Yes, you should be involved.

You should be engaged. You should be salt and light. You should speak prophetically. Where you can, you should speak truth to power, and I would even say some of you need to go into politics and make that your profession as an act of love to your neighbor, but your primary work, our primary work as believers, is in the church. We move the world most not through the ballot box. We move it through prayer. That's why at this church we're more concerned with who's your one than we are who's your president. The work of evangelism we believe is 10,000 times more important than anything the New York Times is paying attention to, and by the way, just like Paul shows us in this passage, we Christians can do our work even when the people who are in power would not have been our choice. I say that because for many of you, you feel like you can really only thrive when your guy or your girl, your lady, is in power, and that's why some of you are counting down the days until Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020. November 3rd, right?

You just can't wait. Others of you were doing that during the Obama era, and right now, or by then, you're all, woe is me, and what are we going to do, and where's our country going, and what kind of society are my kids going to grow up in when your guy or your lady is not in power. Can I just think of this very clearly? The early church never had the privilege of having their guy in power, but they had a better king, a better king that they served, and that was King Jesus. They recognized that above every earthly ruler that was out there. There was an extreme ruler, a supreme ruler who controlled everything. They had a better country. They saw it, and it wasn't one built by Rome.

It was one not made with hands. They had a better party that they belonged to. That is the party not of the donkey and not of the elephant. It was the party of the lamb, and they were citizens of the kingdom of heaven. That means that our guy is always in power, always, always in power. When you find the early church in distress, they're not sitting around, you know, Acts 12, ringing their hands, going, no, no, Caligula is cross-dressing again. What are we going to do?

What kind of impacts are you going to have on our kids? No, they got together and they prayed all night because they knew that it was on their knees. They shook the world, not just in the ballot box. Nick Ricken, who is a missionary with the International Mission Board, actually has been here to our church a couple of times, wrote a book called The Insanity of God. He gave one of the best little stories about how Christians who live in a society without even a lot of the privileges we have, how they honor and put into practice these verses in Romans 13.

Nick Ricken has spent a lot of his time in where we, the persecuted church would live, places like China and the Iron Curtain, former Iron Curtain and places like Afghanistan, those kinds of places. And so he was with a group of Chinese house church believers who were literally forbid from meeting. And he's like, you know, the police are always harassing you guys and telling you you can't meet. He said, how do you, what do you do with that?

And how do you honor your government when they forbid you? Here's what he says, and I'll just, I'll read it to you. He said, they replied, well, the police come to us and they say, if you do not stop these meetings, we will confiscate your house and we will throw you out into the street. To which we reply, do you want my house?

Well, if you do, then you need to talk to Jesus because I gave the property to him. They usually do not know what to make of that answer. So they respond, well, we don't have any way to get to Jesus, but we can certainly get to you. When we take your property, then you and your family will have nowhere to live. They respond, well, we follow a savior who didn't know where to lay his head. You got to do what you got to do, but if you do that, then we will be free to trust God for shelter as well as for our daily bread.

And I've never seen the righteous forsaken and I've never seen the children of the righteous go hungry. Well, if you keep that up, they say, then we will beat you. Well, then we will be to trust Jesus for healing, the believers respond. Well, then we will put you in prison, the police threaten.

By now you can tell where their answers go on. They're like, well, you put John the Baptist in prison. You put Paul in prison.

He got some great writing while he was done in there. So if you put us into prison, then we're going to be free to preach the good news of Jesus to the captives there. And to set them free, even when you got him in prison and we're going to be free to plant churches in prison. If you do that, they respond, we will kill you.

Well, then it will be free to go to heaven and be with Jesus forever. Our guy is always in power and we're always free to follow him. Amen. Amen.

You say, but what, wait a minute. What if the government is just unjust and what if justice never gets done? Well, Paul would say in Romans 8 28, here's your confidence that you got a God who's working all things together for good, according to his purposes, that, that what others mean for evil, God actually intends for good. That above every evil human authority is a good God who is working and overruling what they're doing for the good of his church and for his glory. He said, but what if I never get justice?

What if the scales never get put right? What if me and my community or, or my kids, what if we suffer? Well, Paul would smile at you and he would say, yeah, but the sufferings of this life, they're not even worthy to be compared with the glory that is going to be revealed in us.

Right? We are buried with him by baptism into death. It's just like Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the father. Even so we also now might walk in newness of life so that you can understand that yes, fight for justice where you can advocate where you can pray where you can, but ultimately you are citizens, not of this kingdom, you're citizens of that one. And because you are citizens of the lamb, you don't have to worry so much about donkeys and elephants, which leads me to my last statement.

A bunch of us listening to this, you're probably at this point, you're feeling, you're feeling pretty good because you know, you're like, you know what? I mean, I'm a good citizen. I pay my taxes. I'm not a criminal, right? I mean, I've never been arrested.

I mean, you might speed occasionally, or maybe one time you ripped off that tag off your mattress. You're not supposed to rip off, but nothing that's like truly prison worthy because you obey the rules. Here's the thing. This is what Paul will tell you over and over and over and over and over again in Romans.

You know what's scary? You can obey all the rules. You can obey all the rules you think God has. You can obey all the rules that your teachers have, all the rules your parents have. You can obey all the rules the government has. Nobody can say anything about you. You can be on every who's who list that's ever been.

You can graduate with honors. Nobody could say a single word about you and you could still die and spend eternity apart from Christ because ultimately you and I aren't saved by obedience to the law. We're saved by the sacrifice of Jesus for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And even where we might keep the laws externally, Paul says we got a heart problem and Jesus came for the heart. Yeah, I'm glad that you obey the rules.

I'm glad that you have fulfilled your civic responsibilities. Caesar's image is stamped on the coin but God's image is stamped on you and it means one day you're going to give an account to that God. Are you going to be ready for that moment?

Are you going to be ready because in that moment there is no hope that's found in law keeping. The only hope we have is in the finished work of Christ. The book of Romans is about salvation. It's not about being good citizens, not even about being good religious people. It's about an offer of salvation that is extended to all who will receive it.

Have you ever received that gift? Because if not, if not I don't want you to walk out of here saying pay my taxes. I want you to walk out of here saying I need Jesus. The gospel message tells you that you are condemned not by the government but by God. Not because of what you've done on the outside but because of the heart you possess on the inside which sometimes is expressed on the outside. God's image is stamped on you which is why you know that you need him. Have you ever received him? Have you ever submitted and surrendered to him? The gospel declares that Jesus Christ died in your place for those sins that you committed. He offered us as a gift to all who will repent and believe. If you will right now from your heart say Lord Jesus I know that you're the Lord.

You're the real king. I surrender to you. If you will right now receive his offer of salvation freely given, he'll save you. Give to Caesar what is Caesar's but to God what is God's? We ultimately belong to the Father and we answer to him.

It's a difficult but important distinction for us to live out daily. A little while ago I sat down with Pastor JD to ask him about exactly what we should expect from the second half of our Romans Bible study which we're offering now to our faithful supporters and here's what he had to say. I think what you'll see is the difference the gospel makes in your life. You're going to see this recurring theme of God's faithfulness and your inability to produce the fruits of the Christian life. He's going to show you that the gospel has implications for all of your relationships. One of the things that Tim Keller who wrote this study that we're offering, one of the things that he had a trademark gift of doing is making the complex parts of the Christian life, making them very clear and making them joy-based by showing you how they flow out of the new realities created by the gospel. Christians who love studying the Bible I think will love this resource by Tim Keller because it really takes you into the heart of maybe the most gospel rich explanation anywhere in scripture and show you how it not only changes your relationship with God, it changes how you live. We would love to send you this second part of Tim Keller's Romans Bible study today with your gift of $35 or more to this ministry.

To donate simply call us at 866-335-5220 or visit to give your gift online. I'm Molly Vitovich. Be sure to join us again Thursday as we talk about conflict resolution, another crucial topic for the church today. We'll see you Thursday here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-25 11:03:51 / 2023-10-25 11:15:10 / 11

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