John Fuller: Well, as the election draws closer, maybe you've heard these kinds of objections about voting. "Well, I don't like any of the candidates." Or "My vote doesn't count." Or "Our country is just too far gone; there's no hope; there's no way to change."
That's understandable that a lot of folks feel that way, but our future will be influenced, either for good or bad, at the ballot box. And this is "Focus on the Family" with your host, Focus president, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and our guest today is Dr. Tony Evans. He offers a biblical perspective on the elections that are coming up just a couple of months [from] now.
Jim Daly: John, I have heard exactly those comments as I have traveled for Focus on the Family. People are really disenchanted with the political process now. And I think they see so much corruption, so much just negativity, the way that it polarizes the nation. We're not lookin' to solve problems. We're just throwin' sticks and stones at each other. And in this election cycle, that is particularly true.
So, what do we do? What is the citizen of heaven supposed to do as we have this dual responsibility while we're on this earth to influence the culture for the kingdom of God? And there is no better person to talk about this than with Dr. Tony Evans. Dr. Evans is the pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship right there in Dallas. Dallas, by the way, is a great support base for Focus, so I want to just say nationally, thank you to Dallas for all the find supporters to Focus on the Family. And with that, Tony, let me welcome you back to "Focus on the Family."
Dr. Tony Evans: Well, Focus is special to me for my ministry and we're certainly glad for the history that we have with Focus and glad to be with you today.
Jim: Tony, this is a really critical juncture for the nation and we're not talkin' Democrat and Republican and we'll talk more about that in a minute. Some of those biblical things break down in both parties. But let me ask you generally, people of faith as I have said, have struggled with the idea, more and more so, of engaging in politics, because they believe Scripture encourages us to be separate from the world. Hit that point right from the beginning here, for those that are feeling like, that's the worldly system. We shouldn't be involved. Let's pull back. What would you say to that argument?
Tony: Well, first of all, they haven't read their Bible. The Bible is full of God's involvement in politics. God takes claim for setting up governments. Romans 13, for deposing kings and establishing kings and even having His people represented in the political realm, whether it's Joseph with Pharaoh or Daniel in Babylon or in Acts 16, Paul doing a sit-in for his legal rights as a Roman citizen.
So, to not be involved in politics and use God and not talking about the God of the Bible, who established government and the political realm, now we have the responsibility to make sure that, that realm is as close to God as possible. But the reality is, since God is involved there and we're His representatives, we must be involved there.
Jim: Yeah, when you look at apathy in this regard and there may be lots of reasons that people become apathetic. I've always thought when we talk about the statistics in the country of maybe 70, 80, 90 million people claiming to be Christians, that's probably one of the largest voting blocs in the country. Yet, about half of that group won't vote and I think probably because of the reasons we're talking about. Another one is just apathy.
We asked on our Focus on the Family Facebook page a yes or no question and simply asked, "Is voting important to your family?" And someone wrote back. They took the time, which was nice, but they wrote back, "Nope, God sets up kings and governments no matter who we vote for." Talk about that kind of acceptance. And I tend to want to believe that God's in control, but it doesn't mean you don't put effort toward it, right?
Tony: It doesn't mean that from any aspect of our Christian life. A person cannot say that because God promises something in the Bible, I shouldn't pray. Or because God says somethin' in the Bible, I shouldn't obey.
The faith without works is dead, so we're called on to cooperate with God. God told Martha and Mary before they would see a miracle, Martha would have to move the stone. And then she gave a reason why she shouldn't move the stone and Jesus told her, "Well, you won't see what God is up to until you do what I ask you to do."
So, God calls for our obedience and involvement as participants, 2 Corinthians, chapter 6. We are workers together with God. And it's interesting that a lot of believers who will not vote, will complain about the decisions made by those who have been voted in.
So, if you're not gonna vote, don't critique what you're having to live under and live with when you had the opportunity to be involved in the process, because God wants you to be involved. In fact, the job of Christians in the church is to represent God in the culture and that is every sphere of the culture, which includes the political sphere.
Jim: That is really good. I was thinking today. I was drivin' my boys to school and I thought, the next presidential election—not this one, but the next one—they're both gonna be voting in. And that kinda set me back as a dad of two teenagers, thinkin' these boys are gonna be voting. I gotta get on the stick and make sure I teach them the right values and what to look for in candidates.
Let me mention, Tony, the Founding Fathers, from my perspective, had a brilliant understanding of God's design for things. Some were Deists, but they kind of understood the behavior of human beings. And I think even a free market economy, knowing human beings are at the core, probably greedy, you set up a system that recognizes the sinful nature of man and you put checks and balances in the government to kinda make sure one group doesn't overpower another group. But representative government can be found in the Bible and I want to ask you for another specific example in that regard so people clearly hear that connection, that God is in favor of representation.
Tony: Absolutely. The principle of representation is actually a theological principle of Scripture for all of life and it comes under a word in the Bible called "covenant." Covenants have representatives. And so, in fact, the only reason we're saved is because we have a representative. Jesus Christ represents us before the Father.
And so, God [FYI: Jethro] told Moses in Exodus 18 to choose men who would represent the people and that you would represent the leaders and you would do that all before God. So, the principle of representation, the Bible says that's a husband represents his wife before God, his family before God. So, the principle of representation is a biblical principle.
So, you're right. The Bible was a mainstay. Of course, a number of pastors signed the Constitution and even though it was not fully followed, dominantly on the issue of slavery, what's interesting is, they created the document that was a freedom document that they were not themselves following in this particular area. But they set in motion a document that could always be appealed to because it was founded to a large degree, a dominant degree on biblical principles.
Jim: So true and you can't get away from that. I mean, so often now people that don't want to acknowledge God, try to rewrite history in that regard. Tony, how do you categorize our problem today as a post-Christian nation? And how would you describe the current state of our nation? When you look at that post-Christian side, I've been in meetings with people who oppose what we think and they are certainly in the power seat today, whether it's with respect to abortion and I'm talking in the political arena or even—
Jim: --same-sex marriage. I've had many companies call me and in essence, berate me for not embracing that. It's amazing how the power has shifted in the culture. So, what do we do in a post-Christian declining power base for the Christian community?
Tony: Well, we have to understand how the Word works. When I wrote the book, Kingdom Citizen with Focus, I opened it up with 2 Chronicles 15, verses 3 to 6. It says, "In those days there was no true God, no teaching priest and no law. Citizen rose up against citizen. City rose up against city. Nation rose up against nation." And then it says, "For God troubled them with every kind of distress."
When God is your problem, only God is your solution. What America is now experiencing is the passive wrath of God. The active wrath of God is when you get fire and brimstone coming from heaven. You see that a lot in the Old Testament.
The passive wrath of God in Romans 1, verses 18 and following, is when God releases a person, a family, a ministry or a nation—in this case, a nation—and He abandons them to their desire to be independent from Him. And then they have the consequences and the repercussions of that abandonment.
So, because God has been marginalized, that vacuum is being filled with all manner of evil, which is why Christians in the church are so critical, because our job is to keep God front and center, so that the overflow of God to us and through us and from us can blanket the culture.
But when the culture disobeys God and abandons God and when Christians fall back, nature abhors a vacuum; evil fills it in. That is the passive wrath of God. That's why we need kingdom citizens.
Jim: Well, Tony, I so appreciate that and something you stated in the book which caught my attention, you said, "Our nation's ills are not merely the result of corrupt politicians, terrorists or extremists. Christians have failed to be salt and light. Evil has flourished because Christians are not allowing faith to influence every part of our lives." I mean, that is really strong and I just want you to elaborate on that, because it's that idea that we should look at the log in our own eye before the speck in our brother's eye. Tell us more why you think we need to own some of this for ourselves.
Tony: Well, God checks with the church house before He changes the White House. He checks with His own people because they are the vehicle Ephesians 1, verses 22 and 23 says. The church is the vehicle through which Jesus Christ manifests Himself in the culture.
And so, based on how the church is doing and what the church is doing, [it] influences what God will do when we cry out to Him and call on Him to do something in the culture. He does not skip the church house to change the White House.
So, it is absolutely critical that we understand we have not just been saved for eternity, but to be transforming agents in history. And so, when Christians become kingdom citizens, that is representing the kingdom of heaven in the chaos of earth, then what we are to do is to bring God's point of view to bear in the power seat, in the political seat, in the influences and the legislation of the culture, so that God feels at home through us being represented in Society.
John: And you're listening to Dr. Tony Evans, encouraging us to be salt and light in the culture, particularly as it comes to the elections in November. His book by Focus on the Family, Kingdom Citizen is available at www.focusonthefamily.com/radioor call us if you'd like a copy or a CD of our conversation today; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Tony, when we look at the electoral process, so many people understandably concentrate on the top of the ticket, yet there are so many races below that. I think the numbers are staggering. We have 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, I think 34 seats or about a third of the seats in the U.S. Senate are up for a vote. Twelve state governorships, I think 87 percent of state legislative chambers nationwide are up for a vote. I mean, 87 percent! Then of course, that impacts the federal court systems with judicial appointments, etc. Touch on the significance of the "down ballot," as they call it.
Tony: Well, as representative governments go, you have representatives at different levels and all those levels carry various levels of influence. We want to influence the influencers, because they're concerned about votes. They're concerned about winning. And I'm sure they're concerned about the culture, but they're doing it from different points of view.
Our jobis to make sure every point of influence reflects the values of the kingdom of God. And since we are kingdom citizens and we are to promote God's kingdom value system even in the secular society that can benefit from that value system, we are to make sure that we support candidates who are closest to a kingdom worldview. It will be hard to find perfect candidates on every issue who are kingdom minded, but you find the ones that are closest and most sensitive to a God-centered worldview, because the further leaders come and take us away from a God-centered value system, the worse our culture will become.
Jim: No and I appreciate that. You know, when I'm looking at the Old Testament, characters like Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon, where they were in foreign lands and the Lord opened doors for them to lead in certain ways. Joseph particularly, I've thought a lot about this. We sometimes sanitize the environment they were in, but you think of Joseph where Pharaoh himself gives him a wife and they had children. So, he didn't abstain because she wasn't a Jewish woman. I mean, he embraced his environment to an extent without goin' beyond a certain line. How do we do that in today's world? How do we look at a particular candidate or an issue and understand that it may have worldly attachments to it, but that God may want us to walk forward for a bigger purpose like Joseph?
Tony: Well, you know, you know, and you've got Joseph; you've got Esther and (Chuckling) and in the book of Esther, this idea that we can be so sanitized as Christians that we opt fromthe world, is a foreign concept to Scripture and it is an abandonment of God.
Our job is to reflect God's value system in a secular decaying society. So, that means you may compromise preferences without compromising principles. Let's go back to Daniel. In Daniel chapter 1, he did go to the king's school. He did accept the king's employment. He did allow his name to be changed by the king.
What he didn't do is eat the king's meat and the reason he did that was because that was meat sacrificed to idols. So, what God says is, that where there are preferences that do not require you to directly disobey a designation of God, then you can be led by the Spirit and your own calling in that sphere, but you take your stand and it says, "But God." Because he took his stand, God joined him in that stand and gave him a high position in a pagan, evil, decadent society.
Jim: Well, and I think the illustration there also shows that they gained influence in the culture God planted them in. And it's hard to gain influence when your rhetoric is high-pitched and very dishonoring or abusive.
Tony: Well, absolutely. I love Matthew 5:16, "Let men see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Not their father, your Father, but because you're workin' so good and you're workin' so effective[ly] and you're doing it without compromising your faith, they respect your Father, even though He has not become their Father yet, because of the good you're bringing.
Or Jeremiah 29:7, "Seek the welfare of the city in which I have placed you, for if you make it a better place to live, it'll be better for you."
Jim: Tony, so often and I'll just say it for myself personally, I mean, I struggle, because I'm a conservative by nature, I think partly, if not wholly because of my faith. I tend to lean in that direction. And it's so easy to get caught up in the rhetoric, that polarization that's occurring, where you have new stations that kind of bend toward your liking, both left and right.
But it's almost like they're feeding on our fears today and they're feeding that rhetoric to where it's white hot and man, you gotta guard your flesh against jumping into that, even though you want to. How do we do that? How do we behave as a citizen of heaven and a Christ follower and still, you know, manage the emotions of politics?
Tony: Well, that's a great question. The biblical principle is to speak truth in love. Two things oughta happen. People oughta be clear that we operate by a standard, truth. But they also ought to feel that we care about them.
And oftentimes those who speak truth do not attach it to a heart that comes through and a voice that comes through; you matter; I care about you. I care about us. I love our country. I'm not just mad all the time. The other extreme is to be so mushy with love that you abandon truth. And the idea is that you abandon neither. You partner them, so that people hear the truth and feel the love.
Jim: Tony, that is a great perspective. Let me ask you this. This is a tough question, but I need to ask it and please, if this offends you, I don't mean it to offend. I mean it to help us better understand the Word of God and no better person to ask this of than Tony. But here's the question. In your book, Kingdom Citizen you said, You can make an idol of the American flag when you wrap civil religion in it and allow it to usurp the kingdom of God. Whenever you put America and God on equal footing, you have now created a false god called 'civil religion.'" That caught my attention. That's powerful and it's so meaty, you gotta sit and think about that for a moment. Tell us more clearly what you meant.
Tony: We are not to love America more than we love the Lord. And some people have put them so together (Laughing) that the cross is draped in the flag, so that they are unwilling to condemn America where it needs to be condemned. America is not the kingdom of God and we should love our country, treasure our country, value our country, but we should not worship our country.
We worship the Lord Jesus Christ and God will resist any idol, even if that idol is your nation. So, while we are to honor the king, the Bible says—our government, our nation—we are to always place it underneath the rule of God. That's why it's a kingdom citizen. You're to be a citizen. You're to be a good citizen, but it needs to be underneath the kingdom or the rule of God.
So, make sure that your love for America does is not placed on an equal footing. I say this even when I talk to the black community, because I don't want Jesus Christ to be wrapped in black race and black culture. I want my race to always be under the authority of the cross, so that if anything changes, it's never the cross. It's adjustments racially or socially or class wise or whatever it is and in this case of your question, my nationalistic passion must be subject to the rule of Jesus Christ.
Jim: Tony, I so appreciate that and I want to make sure people hear very clearly what you're saying. It doesn't mean we don't influence the culture for God's good or for that matter, the political process for God's good. You're engaged. You do the right thing, but you don't let it rise to a point where you're worshipping a nation over your relationship with Christ or heaven.
Tony: Well, the mere fact you're trying to influence it for God's good automatically places you as a kingdom citizen, 'cause you're thinking about God, even as you're loving and seeking to make changes for betterment in the nation.
Jim: Now Tony, we're gonna be winding down here and it's easy for people to feel depressed. I've had more conversations with believers this cycle and it does sound like despair and despair is a sin. But it's easy to feel despair in this moment because we don't really feel that our values are represented by either party. How do we not feel that discouragement and not sin against God and trust Him with the outcome?
Tony: Well, I've got some good news and the good news is in Hebrews chapter 12, where God says He shakes things up. He causes or allows chaos to take place in society for the purpose of manifesting His greater glory and greater kingdom. It's sort of going back to Martha and Mary. Even though they were praying, even though they cried out to Jesus, it says, "He stayed where He was a couple of more days" and He let Lazarus die. He let things get worse so He could show up and do somethin' better.
So, if all of these negative things in America are causing you to be in despair, causing you to be depressed, guess what? God is allowing things to be shaken up, because He wants to reveal His unshakable kingdom. So, He's up to something. Either Jesus Christ is about to return or He's gonna demonstrate His greater glory by waking us up and using us more greatly and showing us what He can do when His church wakes up, even in a nation that has forsaken Him.
Jim: You know, Tony, as a 501(c)3, we have to be so careful. It's funny. When I would travel the globe, I would encounter governments that would remind me that we could only say so much in that given country, given we're a Christian entity. And it always threw me. You know, they would control your speech in essence. And then I realized that here in America, our government does the same thing. It's by labeling us a 501(c)3, religious organization and you get certain tax exemptions. If you're a 501(c)4, you don't get the tax exemption, so you can have more speech in a political arena.
So, even today, we have to be really careful if listeners are saying, "Why don't you just say who to vote for?" We cannot do that, but answer that question without saying who to vote for? What are some things we should consider when we pull that level or mark that digital box, whatever mechanism we're gonna use? What are some things we should consider when we're voting for the next President, the next senate candidate, the next congress person, the next mayor of our city? What should we think about?
Tony: Well, first of all, the overarching principle is, you vote for the person or the platform or the policies that are closest to the values of the kingdom of God. Now what are those values? Well, God has four covenantal realms.
No. 1 is personal responsibility. God holds all people accountable to Him. So, you're voting for that which calls people to be responsible.
Secondly is the family. The Bible says the family is a covenant, okay? So, the biblical family and values associated with the biblical family have to be high on the priority list.
Then thirdly, the third covenant is the church. Well, that means that we want freedom of religion. So, anything that is going to squash our ability to not only worship freely, but express our faith in all spheres of life, you should be protecting religious freedom.
And then the fourth covenant that God has is government. And under government, the Bible makes it absolutely clear that the job of government is to maintain a safe, just, righteous and compassionately responsible environment for freedom to flourish. So, you want to vote for that which maximized freedom and limits government to those spheres—safety, justice and righteousness with compassion.
Jim: Tony, there's a lot of talk in the news about third-party candidates. What's your perspective when it comes to what some might say is a "throwaway" vote? How do you address that?
Tony: Well, I'd say, you look at the candidate and you choose the closest person to the value of the kingdom of God. I don't think you can get into, you know, throwaways or non-throwaways. It's not a throwaway if you vote. If you voted, you participated and that's what's most important.
Jim: Well, and all we're saying today is engage the process. If you claim Christ, don't step back. Step forward into it and influence the election with your vote. That's our privilege. People have died for us to be able to vote and I think we, as Christians, need to act on that. And again, we're not telling you who to vote for. We're telling you, be engaged and use a biblical perspective when you do it.
John: And you can learn more about the upcoming elections and how you might think them through and certainly get a copy of Dr. Evans' book, Kingdom Citizen at www.focusonthefamily.com/radioor give us a call and we can tell you more about his book and other great resources we have, 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 1-800-232-6459.
Jim: Tony, it feels right as we end this program for me to ask you to pray for our nation. Pray for the election and man, can you do that for us right now?
Tony: I'd be honored. Father, thank You for this opportunity to come before You during a time of great crisis in our beloved nation. We thank You for making us a part of this nation. We thank You for how it began with a sensitivity to who You are and to the values that You espouse.
But we have wandered far from that, not only as a nation, but as a church. I pray that You will do a major wake-up call in our souls individually, our families, our churches, so that we can impact our society for good.
I pray, Lord, that this election will raise up the right people in the right places at the right time for the right decisions to bring us closer to You so that You feel comfortable being closer to us. So, we thank You and we trust You to impact our culture with and through Your people for Your greater glory, in Jesus' name, amen.
Jim: Amen, Tony, Dr. Tony Evans, author of the book, Kingdom Citizen, Tony, thank you for your perspective, a biblical perspective on this issue of the elections. Great to have you with us.
Tony: Thank you and God bless.
John: Well, once again, you can find Dr. Evans' book, Kingdom Citizen at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. Make a generous donation to this ministry today and we'll send it to you as a complimentary thank-you gift for joining our support team and helping us proclaim this message of engagement across the nation. And once again, our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Next time on "Focus on the Family," "Homemade Meals for Busy Families." Listen in for some great ideas. Our program was provided by Focus on the Family. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening.
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Tony EvansView Bio
Dr. Tony Evans is founder and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, founder and president of The Urban Alternative, former chaplain of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, and present chaplain of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. His radio broadcast, The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, can be heard on nearly 1,000 US radio outlets daily and in more than 130 countries. For more information, visit TonyEvans.org.