November 4, 2020
Revelation 13:5-10
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months.   It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.  It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.  All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.
Whoever has ears, let them hear.
“If anyone is to go into captivity,
    into captivity they will go.
If anyone is to be killed with the sword,
    with the sword they will be killed.”
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.
New International Version (NIV)
               How do Christians relate to the government?  We submit, right?  We pray for those who are in authority and we pay our taxes.  Romans 13 comes to mind.  Submit to those in authority.  In a better time in Rome, Paul told the Christians that God established the idea of government and good government gives freedom to worship God and to share the faith with others.  This makes sense in the United States where we have a long and good history of freedom of religion. 
                How do Christians relate to bad governments?   What if we lived in a country that did not allow us freedom of religion and required us to worship the ruler instead of Christ?  We submit, right?  Wait, would we really worship an earthly leader?  Not exactly.  The early Christians said, “Not ever.”  Now Revelation 13 comes to mind.  Remember John writes to Christians in Imperial Rome.  Different emperors enforced emperor worship in different ways.  Some were more lenient with outlier religions like Christianity.  Revelation seems to speak to a different situation. 
                The early readers likely had a beast in mind when they read what John wrote, just like we see symbols like donkeys and elephants and know what they signify in political cartoons.  John’s presence in exile on the Isle of Patmos confirms that the Roman government had turned against the Christians.  John envisions a ruler who forces Christians to worship him just as Nebuchadnezzar tried to force the Hebrew children to worship him. 
                I pray that we never face this situation in our country.  But if we did, what would we do?  Would we submit to a government which required idolatry and denied freedom to worship Christ?  We would not.  This would likely result in suffering as it did for our fellow Christians in the first century.  This would require of Christians patient endurance and faithfulness.  So many Christians through the ages and even to this moment pay a high price for calling Jesus their Lord.  In the places where Christians face persecution, Christianity does not die out, but grows more vibrant.
                Today we celebrate and seek to protect our freedom.  But Christianity is not dependent on or indebted to any government.  Faith grows in the most unlikely places, it seems.  Some of the greatest Christians in recent centuries did not have recognizable names like Billy Graham or John Stott or Lottie Moon.  No.  In painful places, anonymous followers of Jesus kept the faith in the worst of times.  Who knows their names?  God does.  And that is enough.
Pray with me:         
Father, we thank you for leading our leaders long ago to provide for freedom of religion in our country.  Lord you know how we love our  country and pray for our country.  Help us we pray to cherish our freedom and to use it wisely to believe in you and invite others to.  We also thank you God that our faith ultimately transcends the work of governments.  You our eternal King, alone are great.  We put our whole confidence in you.  Make us good citizens of our own country and most of all good citizens of your Kingdom, because “our citizenship is in heaven.”  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.  
Join us in memorizing the Word.  Scripture for this week:    
Matthew 7:13-14
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Our 2020 Every Day with Jesus readings will follow the Foundations New Testament reading plan.  Copies of the reading plan are available at Tallowood Baptist Church, or download your copy at REPLICATE.ORG 
We would love for you to join us as we read the New Testament through this year, five chapters a week.  In addition I will continue my long-standing practice of reading one Psalm a day through the year.  Use Robby Gallaty’s H. E. A. R. plan to study each chapter (also found at REPLICATE.ORG). Highlight verses which speak to you, explain what they mean in your own words in a journal, apply them to your own life, then respond by doing what God tells you to do.  

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