Empowering Leaders for Righteousness

Capitol Commission exists not only to convert the ruler but also to warn the ruler that they are accountable to God. We need leaders who are declared righteous. In seeing a righteous God, we come face-to-face with our own unrighteousness. We see ourselves as sinners. Paul says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Rom 3:10, 11). That bad news leads Paul to expand the good news that man can be counted righteous by another’s righteousness, the righteousness of Christ. We need leaders who become righteous. Those leaders who are declared righteous in Christ are called “saints” in the New Testament.

Last night, I had the honor of giving the keynote address at the Capitol Commission annual banquet. Capitol Commission is a ministry whose aim is to reach government officials with the gospel. They are not a lobbying group or a policy group. Rather, they commission well-vetted, faithful Bible teachers and evangelists as “ministers” to serve at the state capitol as a chaplain, so to speak. In that role, they lead Bible studies that everyone is welcome to attend, and they proclaim the gospel at every opportunity. GraceAnna and I have personally supported this ministry and commend it to you and your church as a ministry for your consideration. The following is a loose transcript of my message.

Neil Howe has written a fascinating theory of American history entitled The Fourth Turning is Here. He argues persuasively that American history has progressively moved in cycles called “saeculum,” which essentially last the average length of a lifespan, 80 to 100 years. Within each saeculum are roughly four periods, each at least 20 to 25 years. These periods are called spring, summer, fall, and winter. Without breaking down each of these periods, as you can imagine, “winter” is a period of death and disintegration. The old order passes away, and something new emerges, where the nation emerges in a new period of history. Howe argues that we are now in this “winter” period or “fourth turning.” He begins this “winter” period with the 2008 financial crisis and cites the political polarization, the COVID-19 fallout, and the social disintegration we have experienced. He argues we are a national tinderbox, so to speak, which will burst into flames when we face a natural crisis, whether that be a global war or a great economic difficulty. Out of this crisis moment, he argues that a new order will emerge.

Though mainly agreeing with his argument for a cyclical history, Howe did not address the spiritual condition of the nation. I point this out because America’s problem is much deeper than political discord and economic debt. America’s problem is spiritual. America’s problem is ethical. The problem is that America has turned her back on God. Rather than fearing the Lord, we have crafted idols of our own making. It is a hard and fast rule: God honors nations that honor Him. Nations that do not honor Him are eventually given over to judgment. It struck me as I was reading Howe’s descriptions of America’s cycles, which roughly go from the Revolutionary period to the Civil War, from Reconstruction to World War II, and from the 50s to the present crisis. The thought struck me, though, in analyzing this, that America is not guaranteed a rebirth. America is not guaranteed another “saeculum.” In many ways, God delivered our nation through our previous crises by His kind hand of providence. But does America deserve to be delivered from another? She doesn’t. America deserves the judgment of God, not the kindness of God. There is nothing to prevent God from marching on America.

That is why this year’s banquet theme of “Empowering Leaders for Righteousness” is so important. We desperately need leaders to stand for righteousness in local, state, and national government. In thinking about this theme, I keyed on the word righteousness. Righteousness is an attribute of God. When we are talking about righteousness, we are talking about the character of God. Psalm 111:3 says, “Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.” Psalm 116:5 says, “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous.” Psalm 145:17 says, “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. Psalm 4:1 reads, “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!” In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is called “the Righteous One” (Acts 22:14). Righteousness (Heb. sedeq or Gr. dikia) can be defined as “God’s divine holiness applied in moral government and the domain of law.”[1]

If righteousness is an attribute of God describing his holy rule, then we desperately need those who are intimately acquainted with God and His rule! That leads to the first point this evening. We need leaders who know the righteous God. We need leaders with a glimpse of his holiness. We need leaders who make decisions with God’s righteousness as their standard. It seems to me that this is the main problem today in government: people don’t know who God is. Therefore, their ethic is not fixed but relativistic. Leaders make decisions in the dark in the service of their man-made idols rather than in service to their Creator. I saw a picture recently of the astronaut Bruce Mccandless doing the first untethered spacewalk.

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