Pastor John Piper, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Pastor John Piper, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota

I came across a sermon in John Piper’s resource library at Desiring God from 1991 that, I believe, helps Christians sharpen their focus on virtually every area in their lives.  The text is from Acts 8:9-24, the account of Simon who offered Peter and John money for the secret to their ministry of sign gifts.  Simon is described as a magician and when he saw Peter and John working miracles, he was amazed – at the miracles.

Dr. Piper’s illustration of Simon’s lack of focus on the apostles’ true ministry of pointing people to Christ is striking.  When a baby is on your lap and you point to something interesting for them to look at – say, a bird outside – what do they look at?  Your finger!  They miss the whole point of something more interesting because they fixate on the finger that’s pointing, not what the finger is pointing to.

What a great picture.  Simon was amazed at the sign gifts, not on the Savior they pointed to.  We can all do that in so many areas.  How often do we get fixated on physical trappings around us, even amazed at them, and miss seeing Jesus to whom our world points?  The beauty of creation, a powerful sermon delivered by a gifted communicator, a great song on the radio sung by an incredible singer, the encouraging card sent by a caring friend.  So many areas of our lives can be sources of amazement while we completely miss the Lord inspiring it all and the Giver of it all.

Politics can be one of those areas.  The power, the change, the instrument for good in our world, the institution of rewarding those who do good and judging those who don’t.  The danger is always present to concentrate on the political process or charismatic personalities or the desire for better law and lose the focus on Christ Himself, who is supreme and “is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

Simon had a form of belief, but it was misdirected.  “Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed” (Acts 8:13). 

By contrast later in Acts, the governor of Cyprus, Sergius Paulus, also believed but his amazement was caused by something else.  “Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord” (Acts 13:12). 

We are far too easily amazed, just like the baby’s eyes following the pointing finger.  Christ is the point.  The gospel is the message to reconcile sinners to Him.  Other earthly pursuits and interests have been given for our enjoyment, but we can’t become overly enamored by them, lest we miss Him, the beginning and end of everything.

I commend Piper’s message to you. Click here to read or listen to it.

One of the largest obstacles Capitol Ministries faces in our ministry to elected officials is compromise.  Politics is all about compromise; the Solomongospel must not be compromised.  The conflict is inevitable and presents interesting dynamics when trying to make disciples in the political arena.

The life of Solomon is a sobering narrative that points to the crucial role of governmental leaders.  Early in his 40-year reign, he is described in the Bible like this: “Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places” (1 Kings 3:3).  He loved the Lord and had learned from his father King David, a man after God’s own heart.  Later in this chapter he makes his well-known request for wisdom.  The compromise, though, is found in this verse after the word “except” (lit. “emaciated, flattened out”).  The weakened place of Solomon’s heart had to do with obedience to God in worship.

The “high places” in 1 Kings 3:3 were forbidden places of worship for Israel.  In fact, they shouldn’t have been there in the first place.  Before Israel entered the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership, they were given this command from God: “You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree” (Deuteronomy 12:2).  The pagan practices of the Canaanites were not to be associated with in any way, including their location.  Solomon got comfortable with sacrificing there, even though he was worshiping Jehovah at that point.

By chapter 11, Solomon’s affections have changed as has his spiritual fidelity to the Lord:

 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, “You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.” Solomon held fast to these in love. (1 Kings 11:1, 2)

This deepened the corruption in his heart:

For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon. Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. (1 Kings 11:5-8)

The consequences were disastrous.  The kingdom divided and subsequent kings continued on the downward spiral of compromise.  Manassah’s reign (250 years after Solomon) was characterized this way:

He did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD dispossessed before the sons of Israel. For he  rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them… He made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD provoking Him to anger. (2 Kings 21:2, 3, 6)

When leaders compromise and turn away from God, societies are led astray with calamitous results.  This is just one more reason to commit to pray for the spiritual condition of leaders and take the gospel to them, not merely moralize them to vote a certain way.  The former creates lasting change and brings glory to God.  The latter may or may not create temporary change that can easily be reversed in the next election cycle.