Sheri’s Note: Below are direct excerpts from Dr. Tony Evans’ book, The Kingdom Agenda, which I highly recommend! You can purchase it here. Most excerpts are from the introduction, although I’ve also shared a few excerpts from his chapter on “A Nation and Politics”. Below the text I’ve shared Dr. Evans’ YouTube of the first section of The Kingdom Agenda. I’m led to share this because (1) I believe every Christian should understand about Our Lord’s Kingdom agenda and His will – not ours; and (2) It’s the political season. All over Facebook, Twitter, emails, etc. everyone is telling you to vote for Candidate X – “he/she is the only one that can save us.” People are traveling across the country at their own expense to help Candidate X, and are asking you to pray for Candidate X (I am not talking about any particular candidate – pick one – there’s people out there doing this!).
What if instead of first asking you to pray for Candidate X, people asked you to first get on your knees and ask God what His will is, and ask what He would like for us to do? Even better than that, invite you to get on your knees with them? It may be to vote for Candidate X, or may not. We are to seek God first and ask His will, not ask Him to bless our will. (Matt. 6:33) What if people were travelling at their own expense to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, His Father’s Kingdom and His agenda – and telling you the truth that He is the only one that can save us? If we are asking God to bless OUR agenda rather than seeking His agenda, then God isn’t our first priority.
The Kingdom Agenda by Dr. Tony Evans (2013-07-26). Moody Publishers
God’s kingdom and His agenda will fail to advance and have the impact it was designed to have on earth in history without the focus, discipline, and diligence of His subjects. Unfortunately, many of us do everything we can to give the impression that our lives are on target, when in reality all we have done is learn to “paint” well. Not only are our nation, communities, churches, and families suffering as a result, but we are also suffering individually.
Too many have sought to camouflage their emptiness and failure with materialism, the scramble for success and significance, and other pursuits. Some people even try to fill their emptiness through religious activities such as church membership. They have learned how to look, talk, and act like Christians, but all of these things in and of themselves are simply “paint jobs” that try to obscure the fact that we are a culture and a people tragically off target.
We only have to look at the indicators to see that far too many individuals, families, and churches are missing the mark. And the results are seen in a society overrun by the enemy’s agenda of chaos and upheaval.
Judging by the meteoric rise in popular psychology books, clinics, and self-help programs, it would seem that personal lack of meaning and fulfillment is at an all-time high. Anxiety, depression, violence, promiscuity, materialism, overeating, drug use, and a myriad of other personal casualties affect us as individuals in a variety of ways.
This breakdown at the personal level has had devastating effects on the family as well. The once stable American family is rapidly deteriorating as couples live as if they were wed by the secretary of war rather than by the justice of the peace. Personal happiness has taken priority over family unity.
Today the church and what it represents are all too often ridiculed, criticized, and rejected outright, or simply ignored, in the public square. In short, the church has become marginalized. The non-Christian society at large has failed to take the Person and Word of God seriously. And the church has been ineffective in its efforts to impact our culture for Christ at the deepest levels. We have done an admirable job of cursing the darkness. But we have done a poor job of spreading the light.
A multitude of books, government programs, seminars, workshops, and symposia have not enabled us to bridge the racial, class, and cultural divides that separate us. Our technological advances have far outpaced our sense of community. We can send a robotic probe to examine the surface of Mars, but we cannot manage our relationships. As a result, our society has declined economically, materially, educationally, and physically.
So the question is, what really is wrong with us as individuals, as families, as the church, and as a society? I believe that when you put all our problems on the examining table and shine the light of God’s Word on them, it becomes painfully clear that we suffering from a case of spiritual AIDS. As we know, AIDS is a breakdown in the body’s immune system. As the HIV virus attacks and incapacitates the immune system, the body is rendered vulnerable to a host of other diseases.
What is true of the AIDS virus is true on every level of our society. Our spiritual immune system has been badly damaged, with the result that cultural colds have become societal pneumonia, and minor cultural infections have now become life-threatening. And none of the medications being applied is correcting the problem. At best, they may simply suppress some of the symptoms temporarily.
I believe that the heart of our problem is captured and summarized in these verses found in 2 Chronicles 15, a portion of God’s Word talking about ancient Israel: For many days Israel was without the true God and without a teaching priest and without law…. In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for many disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. Nation was crushed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every kind of distress. (vv. 3, 5–6) Here is a picture of great spiritual and social chaos, the breakdown of a society. What was wrong? Three crucial things were missing in Israel’s national life, and I believe they are missing today in our nation as well.
- The True God and King The first thing missing was “the true God.” Israel had lost a correct view of God, and the nation was no longer accomplishing His agenda. The Israelites wanted a convenient God, one they could control. Essentially, they wanted a kingdom without a king. Yet if you have a God you can control, then you’re god instead of Him. The true God does not adjust to you. You adjust to Him.The Israelites didn’t want the true God interfering with their national life, reminding them that He had an agenda greater than their personal interests and desires. Our culture doesn’t want a God like that either. Our culture wants to pay homage only—to offer a nice little prayer before public meetings, but we don’t want to hear about the true God. But any time we simply pay homage without aligning our thoughts and actions under God, we are reinforcing our culture’s false view of God as a harmless deity who doesn’t have anything significant to say about the educational, scientific, entertainment, civic, political, familial, legal, or racial issues of the day. Doing so, we seek to leave God the title of King in name only, but give His powers and authority to others, or even ourselves.
- No Teaching Priests The second problem in Israel was a lack of teaching priests. The priests had stopped teaching the truth. They had traded enlightenment for entertainment. Worship had degenerated into a social club. The church was no longer the epicenter of all life and conscience of the culture, calling people to take God seriously. Israel was suffering from an absence of spiritual leaders who took seriously the authority of Scripture for all of life. Too often today, pastors preach to please. The issue of truth is all-important. The lack of truth leads to a “conscienceless” society. People become anesthetized in their conscience, losing their sense of right and wrong. In such a society every person becomes a law unto himself or herself, so chaos rules. When a society loses truth, it loses meaning, because people are never really sure about anything. There’s only one standard of truth, the changeless Word of the one true God.
- God’s Law Gone Missing The third missing ingredient in Israel was God’s law. When a culture has a false view of God built on bad information, God begins to remove the restraint of His law, and evil begins to grow unbridled. What you and I are witnessing today in the rapid deterioration of our culture is the reality that God is removing more and more of His restraint. But once God is removed from or marginalized in a culture, then the standard for a society is gone, and God becomes one’s worst enemy and worst nightmare. That’s what had happened in Israel. When the rule of God’s law is missing, chaos replaces community. You cannot have order and structure in society without God. Men become enslaved by the very freedom they seek. We have ungodly people in our culture who don’t want any divine standard to which they must be held accountable. But when God leaves a society, hope goes with Him. As long as you have God, you always have hope. If God is still in the picture, and as long as His agenda is on the table, it’s not over until it’s over. As long as God is front and center in a culture, there’s hope. But when He is removed, just like people and their taxes leave the city and go to the suburbs, God goes to the spiritual suburbs, and the city’s cultures deteriorate.
WHEN THE KING HIMSELF IS YOUR PROBLEM The stunning thing about the situation in 2 Chronicles 15 is that God was the cause of Israel’s distress, not the sinners in that culture, and not even Satan. Now when God is your problem, then only God is your solution. If God is upset, it doesn’t matter whom you elect or what programs you initiate. Until His anger is assuaged, you won’t be able to fix what’s wrong or spend enough money to buy your way out of your dilemma. This is the heart of our problems today. Too many individuals, families, churches, and communities want to keep God on the fringes of our lives. There He can be accessible if we have a need, but we can keep Him far enough away from the center of our lives that He doesn’t start messing with our agendas. But as long as we keep God at a distance, He will not take over the control center of our world and unrighteousness will rule.
The net result of all this is that we are seeing the “devolution” of mankind. The more we marginalize God, the worse things get. This is what Paul said in Romans 1:18: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” Then in verses 19–31, Paul traced the downward spiral of a culture that excludes God.
TIME TO BRING ALL OF LIFE UNDER GOD What then must we do to reverse this downward spiral of our lives at all four of these levels? It is time to return to the King, His rules, and His agenda. What He says transcends human politics, secular social movements, and religious traditions. It is time to recognize that the kingdom of God is not some ethereal fairy tale located in some far-off land. It is both here and now. And just as some of the kings and queens of ages past ruled the dominion given to them poorly, while others ruled well, it is up to each of us individually to write our own personal, and even family, legacy. And it is up to all of us collectively to write that of our churches, community, and nation. May it not be said of us, as it has been said of many kings and queens in the past, that this one or that one was simply unkingly. May it be said that we accepted the responsibilities given to us as royalty and rulers under God to influence and impact the realms He has given us in His kingdom for good.
I want to show you this through the four areas that God has given us to order all of life: personal, family, church, and society. I believe that when these areas are lived out in proper relationship to our King and His kingdom, as well as to each other, He will enable us to live victoriously in every area of life under God.
ADDRESSING THE POLITICAL REALM
You cannot read the Bible and ignore the political realm. The Bible is thick with politics. The books of 1 and 2 Kings strictly deal with the rule and reign of government leaders. Because God is the Sovereign of His universe, it follows that He is intimately concerned with the political affairs of the nations. Psalm 22:28 declares, “The kingdom is the LORD’S and He rules over the nations.” Nothing happens in the governments of men that does not flow out of the sovereign rule of God. In fact, the greatest example of God’s involvement in the political affairs of a nation is Israel itself. God established its constitution, legal structure, and laws as the model for other nations to emulate (see Deuteronomy 4:5–7).
The greatest political statement in the Bible is the declaration of Revelation 19:16 that when Jesus Christ returns to earth to rule, He will come as “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” Back in Revelation 1:5, John had seen a vision of the glorified Jesus, who was declared to be “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” The Bible also says that “by [Jesus] all things were created … whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” (Colossians 1:16). And Jesus not only created heavenly and earthly kingdoms, but they exist “through Him and for Him” (v. 16) and are dependent on Him to “hold together” (v. 17).
Biblically-based kingdom political involvement is involvement that recognizes that since God rules over all, the political realm must be held accountable for straying from His authority and be brought back into submission to Him. This is not done by unrighteous political revolution, which is a change imposed from the top down, but by social transformation based on spiritual principles from the bottom up. God is against unrighteous revolution in the sense of imposing violent governmental change from the top down. That’s what Satan sought to do when he tried to pull a coup d’état against God’s government and leadership. When a government acts unrighteously, what God wants from His people is not revolution, but transformation. This involves the doctrine of interposition, which is a biblical form of protest.
The greatest example of interposition is Jesus Christ, who interposed Himself between a holy God and sinful humanity. Because of Jesus’ work, the judgment that was due us fell on Him, and we were saved from destruction by God’s wrath. As Christians, we are called to act whenever unrighteousness raises its head and threatens to bring the judgment of God upon society. If Christians shun politics, there will be no one to act as a watchman (see Ezekiel 33:1–9), to warn the people of danger and to hold back the judgment of God.
Interposition is so critical in the political arena because if righteous people do nothing, there is no reason that God should not bring judgment on a society. If His people sit on the sidelines, there are no other agents to stay the hand of God. But God calls us to interpose ourselves in this culture, to stand up for the innocent, and to uphold God’s righteous standard in the community.
The problem in our society is that most people fear the government more than they fear the Lord. That’s true even for many Christians, because they fear the government’s power to punish people and coerce them into compliance. But we fear the wrong entity when we fear government above God.
God not only deserves and demands our first loyalty, but we need to remember that government is under God and therefore is not to be made equal to Him. The underlying problem is that too many people are looking for “salvation by government.” They are putting their hope in the political realm, but God warns us what happens when we put our confidence in kings (see 1 Samuel 8:9–18). There is no such thing as salvation by government (see Judges 8:22–23). This is why Jesus refused attempts to make Him a political Savior (see John 6:15). The Democrats are looking for a Democratic savior, the Republicans are looking for a Republican savior, and the Independents are looking for an Independent savior. But God is sitting as the potentate of the universe, saying, “I am the only Savior in town.” The ultimate solutions to our culture’s problems won’t land on Air Force One. There are certain things that God is willing to do in a society, but He won’t do them until we as Christians take up our responsibilities in that society. Our actions can determine which way God will move.
“‘Return, faithless people,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I am your husband. I will choose you—one from a town and two from a clan—and bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.'” (Jeremiah 3:14-15) “’Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.’ ‘Yes, we will come to you, for you are the Lord our God.'” (Jeremiah 3:22)