Staking My Flag with Jesus
by Dale Reeves
Yesterday we began a new teaching series at Christ’s Church entitled “Regulators.” The thrust of this series is that the church needs to be a regulator for culture instead of just reflecting what the culture is dictating to us. If you’ve been watching the news lately (and it’s very hard not to!), then you should realize that in our society there is an ever-increasing pressure for people and churches to change along with the trends we find in our culture. For instance, if you believe that marriage is designed to be between one man and one woman for life, you are often considered a bigot, and intolerant. If you do not believe that aborting a baby is simply a woman’s rightful option for choosing what to do with her unwanted pregnancy, then you would be considered by many people to be very narrow and out of touch with current society.
Our lead pastor, Trevor DeVage, said yesterday, “Rather than simply being thermometers of our culture, we need to be able to engage our culture in a healthy way.” And in what ways should we engage our culture? A key Bible verse in this series is one that I have heard quoted a number of times the last few months, because it deals with issues of justice and mercy. The prophet Micah spoke words of truth during the years surrounding the tragic fall of Israel to the Assyrian Empire (722 bc). His message contained dire warnings for Israel, but also hope for restoration. In Micah 6:8 he says these words, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV).
This scriptural directive doesn’t tell us to reflect current culture, it calls us to determine our worldview, our morals, our thoughts and actions based first on what God desires for us. Our response to others should not be based on our opinions or the things we “hope to be true,” but upon what God says. He has to be the one who sets the temperature in our lives. And, we discover what he wants by reading his communication that was penned for us by 40 different authors whom he inspired over the span of some 1,500 years.
You may not know the name Jonathan Isaac, but what he did last week was a vivid demonstration of how to be a thermostat for our culture, and not just a thermometer. Jonathan Isaac is a professional basketball player for the Orlando Magic. The Magic beat the Brooklyn Nets 128-118 in their first game of the NBA restart in the “bubble” at the Wide World of Sports complex inside Walt Disney World. Jonathan Isaac’s action sparked controversy when he was the only player on either team standing when our country’s national anthem was played prior to the game. This past week the vast majority of NBA players and coaches chose to exercise their constitutional right to take a knee during the national anthem. Whether or not you believe people should have the right to peacefully protest something they don’t like about our country, or whether you believe that not standing for the national anthem is a slap in the face for all those veterans who have fought and died defending the freedoms we enjoy in our country, you have to take notice of Jonathan Isaac’s motivation.
Isaac, arguably the Magic’s most likable, spiritual, and charitable player, was asked repeatedly by the local and national media why he made the decision. He stressed it had nothing to do with the flag or patriotism or the military or any of the other hot-button reasons that are usually cited. Isaac, a recently ordained Christian minister, said it all came down to his faith.
“Absolutely, I believe Black lives matter,” Isaac said. “I don’t think kneeling and putting on a T-Shirt for me, personally, is the answer. . . . I feel the answer to all of the problems and all the things that go on in our lives is Jesus. . . . Black lives are supported in the gospel and all lives are supported in the gospel.”
Isaac’s Christian version of the taboo phrase “all lives matter” has brought on a ton of social-media backlash in today’s cancel-culture climate. What conviction it took for him to make this decision that he knew would be unpopular. Isaac continued, “My teammates know who I am and what I believe as a person and they respected me for the decision. For me, personally it’s not coming from a position of wanting to be popular or wanting to be seen; it all came down to what’s in my heart. I stake my flag with Jesus.”
The Lord Our Banner
“I stake my flag with Jesus.” In other words, “I bow in allegiance to Jesus and his kingdom first and foremost.” When Jesus was brought before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, and questioned regarding his political aspirations, and whether or not he was challenging Rome’s rule, Jesus replied to Pilate, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36, NLT).
You may have recited the Pledge of Allegiance from the days of your childhood as a formal promise of loyalty to the United States, but the truth is, if we are followers of God then our loyalty to any earthly realm or kingdom should be subservient to the spiritual kingdom of God. And, that is the flag we stake our lives and our eternities to.
Jehovah-Nissi is the name that was given by Moses to the altar which he built to celebrate the defeat of the pagan people the Amalekites at Rephidim (see Exodus 17:14). This name means “The Lord is our banner.” The children of Israel were fighting under this flag. In the same way today, as we seek to be regulators of our culture, we do so under the marching orders of King Jesus, declaring our allegiance to him. The Lord is our banner and we are the Lord’s!
Understanding the Times
During the time of David’s struggle with King Saul, there is a very interesting Bible verse in reference to one of the twelve tribes of Israel. David had his mighty men and many great warriors, but he also had the benefit of 200 chiefs from the tribe of Issachar. First Chronicles 12:32 says, “From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take” (NLT).
In our society today we need Issacharian leaders who can work together to navigate the enormous changes our culture is dealing with. We need leaders like this in our church and in our communities, people who understand that they are not called to be thermometers, but thermostats—setting the climate that God has called us to as a nation, a church, as families, and as individual followers of God.
Do we need to be aware of what is happening in our culture? Absolutely! But we must not be consumed by it. We must not receive our marching orders from it. It is so easy in this divided country today to put our hopes and dreams in a particular political party or ideology, rather than in the Lord our God and his kingdom.
Can I ask you a very simple question today? Where does your allegiance lie? I’m staking my claims with Jesus and his kingdom.