Does the present political environment leave you baffled, disillusioned, and just plain fed up?  I just got done trying to watch the recent presidential debate, filled with manufactured zingers, name calling, and incoherent rudeness.  I tried but just could not stomach it until the end. Someone’s discerning takeaway says it all, “People didn’t switch from one candidate to the other last night, they switched from wanting to vote to not wanting to vote.”

In Matthew 16, Christ invites us thus-weary souls into His final preparation of the disciples for His approaching suffering and death-men, including Peter, who struggled to not get caught up in well-meaning but temporally-oriented political agendas. From this point on, Christ openly taught them about His crucifixion as they began to make their way to Jerusalem, not to set up a physical but spiritual administration…the eternal priority.  Frankly this is the gospel, something that we easily lose sight of in a times like these.

May I say to all who feel like me today, the wisest course of action is not to swear off voting.  We have a responsibility to carefully cast a vote for those most closely aligned with God’s Word and its intended purpose for government.  It actually is discovered in swearing allegiance to the only One worth your once-for-all vote.

The name we need to identify with is not “Donald” or “Joe” but “Peter.”  The Apostle Peter.  A man who reached His full potential when he let go of earthly kingdom dreams and embraced the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ.  To let go of your Peter-like view of earthly politics, you must embrace two Christ-centered realities:

Allow Jesus to be the ultimate revelation in your politics.

Abandon man’s temporal nostalgia.

Mt 16:13-14 “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

In Caesarea Philippi, Jesus questioned the disciples about their faith in Him. He asked them what the people were saying about Him. Their replies were all flattering, for people were identifying Jesus with John the Baptist … Elijah … Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. His teachings were certainly similar to theirs. But all these answers were wrong.  Each of these men were a part of the Jew’s rich heritage, but they were only prophets of THE PROPHET that was standing right in front of them!!!  Don’t get caught up in being confused with God’s END (Jesus) and God’s MEANS (everything/everyone else on ballot right now) To God, who is always leaning forward, the present political cycle is more of a BRIDGE TO THE FUTURE than the renewal of the PAST!!!  For those who are passionate about America like me, may I remind us all of how one author put it, “The Kingdom of God wasn’t founded in 1776.”  It, the kingdom of God, goes backward and forward much further than this current epoch of American history.  Don’t forget that!

Embrace Christ’s enduring fulfillment.

Mt 16:15-17 “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”

The statement by Peter here is not the product of early enthusiasm but of studied reflection and solemn faith. The popular notion of a mere political leader is superseded by the concept of THE Messiah as THE Son of THE living God, the definite article the marking him out as unique.  In response, Jesus pronounced a blessing on Simon, son of Jonah. The fisherman had not arrived at this concept of the Lord Jesus through intellect or native wisdom; it had been supernaturally revealed to him by God the Father.  A key word in how we process the politics around us is the word “fulfillment.”  Who are we looking to fulfill our dreams and even God’s promises?  Our ability to leave the perception of “flesh and blood” and perceive how Jesus fulfills the ultimate promises of God IS NOT INTRINSIC BUT RECEIVED!  Why would we allow our minds and hearts to include anything else that would displace that divine gift?!

Allow Jesus to shift the ultimate agenda of your politics.

Peter’s declaration about Messiah’s PERSON led to a declaration of Messiah’s PROGRAM!

Abandon man’s temporal nationalism.

Mt 16:18 “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The question is, “Who or what is the rock?” The first, petros, means a stone or loose rock; the second, petra, means rock, such as a rocky ledge. So what Jesus really said was “You are Peter (stone), and on this rock I will build My church.” He did not say He would build His church on a stone but on a rock.  If Peter is not the rock, then what is? If we stick to the context, the obvious answer is that the rock is Peter’s confession that Christ is the Son of the living God, the truth on which the church is founded (1 Co. 3:11).  Here we have the first mention of the church in the Bible! It did not exist in the Old Testament. The church, still future when Jesus spoke these words, was formed on the Day of Pentecost and is composed of all true believers in Christ, both Jew and Gentile.  According to MacDonald, “We would scarcely expect the church to be introduced in Matthew’s Gospel where Israel and the kingdom are the prominent themes. However, consequential to Israel’s rejection of Christ, a parenthetical period—the church age—follows and will continue to the Rapture. Then God will resume His dealings with Israel nationally. So it is fitting that God should introduce the church here as the next step in His dispensational program after Israel’s rejection.”  Anything less than or more than the local church is inadequate…period.  The present frustrations we feel with the political sphere should only drive us deeper in our commitment to and passion for the local church of Jesus Christ!

Some have viewed this as the inability of hell to overpower the church and see the church as being on the defensive against Satan. However, the phrase “shall not prevail” may be understood as meaning, “shall not stand against.” The imagery would then picture the church as being on the attack against the gates of hell. Here “hell” likely represents the kingdom of Satan, not just death and the grave. While Jesus’ resurrection certainly will overcome the sting of death, it will also enable His church to aggressively and offensively attack the gates of hell  by snatching out victims from darkness into His glorious kingdom of light. One does not attack with gates; he defends. It is the church which is ON THE ATTACK here and hell is ON THE DEFENSIVE!!! (But only when it is about His kingdom and NOT OUR OWN!). As one pastor recently posted, “Christians must repent and stop expecting politicians to do what only the gospel can do.”

Embrace Christ’s enduring rule.  (19-20)

Mt 16:19-20 “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.”

It recently struck me that one of the greatest benefits of the millennial kingdom is there will be no election for 1,000 years!  Just Jesus as King.  No primaries.  No debates.  No disputed votes.  Just Jesus as King.

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” does not mean that Peter was given authority to admit men to heaven. This has to do with the kingdom of heaven on earth—the sphere containing all who profess allegiance to the King, all who claim to be Christians. Keys speak of access or entrance. The keys which open the door to the sphere of profession are suggested in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19)—discipling, baptizing, and teaching. Peter first used the keys on the Day of Pentecost. They were not given to him exclusively, but as a representative of all the disciples are referenced later in Matthew 18:18…which obviously then includes us.

After making this great declaration about His future church program, Jesus told the disciples not to tell anyone that He is the Christ, the Messiah. The Lord knew it was too late for the nation to respond to His offer, and His rejection was drawing near.  In John 18:36, “Jesus answered (to Pilate while Peter had abandoned Him), My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”  Yes pray, march, stand, vote, but…stop trying to prostitute politics into advancing an immediate kingdom at the expense of Christ’s ultimate kingdom.

I end with this probing/conviction quote, “If you’ve spoken to people more about who they should VOTE FOR than who they should WORSHIP, it may reveal that it’s not Jesus’ kingdom you’re most concerned about.”  Lose the Peter-like politics.  Let Jesus give you a fresh view of not only this fall’s election its very-flawed candidates but an eternity with only one King of whom “His kingdom has no end.”

Photo Credit: The Boston Globe