Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bernie, Oprah, and Jesus

On Wednesday (June 7, 2017) Bernie Sanders lit into Russell Vought during Vought’s confirmation hearing to be deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Bernie was not attacking Vought’s management skills or budget making abilities.  He was not even opposing Vought based on a political philosophy.  Bernie was making a frontal attack on Vought’s faith as an evangelical Christian.  Don’t take my word for it, watch the three minute video here:

I have no idea what Bernie’s underlying motives are.  But I know how our true enemy (I’m not talking about Bernie anymore) would like to use Bernie’s words.  Our spiritual enemy has been using pressure, threats, and violence for two thousand years to try to keep Christians from speaking the truth about Jesus.  Here are some examples from the pages of a book I trust:

NIV Acts 4:18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

NIV Acts 5:40b They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

NIV 1 Thessalonians 15b They displease God and are hostile to everyone 16a in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved.

How Should We Respond?

In terms of things like voting and other political response, that’s up to you.  Pray for wisdom.  But whatever you do politically, remember there is a far more important type of response for Christians.

We should respond like the Apostles did.  We should pray for courage and boldness to keep sharing the Good News about Jesus and we should keep sharing it.

If we are ever pressured or ordered to stop speaking about Jesus, we should respond as Peter did:

NIV Acts 5:29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”

Where do we find such courage?  It doesn’t come naturally, that’s for sure!  It comes from God, and it comes through prayer.

After the Apostles were initially threatened the church gathered and prayed:

Acts 4: 23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.
 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.
 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: "'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
 26 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. '
 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.
 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.
 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."
 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

I highlighted the word “boldness” and “boldly”.  “Boldly” does not involve being obnoxious or rude.  “Boldness” here translates the Greek word parresia. I’ve studied parresia and closely related Greek words in depth.  In the setting of Acts 4:29 and 4:30, here is a good definition:

The Apostle Paul is another great model of this type of courage to speak the gospel.  Did boldness come to him naturally?  No, he asked others to pray for him that God would give him the boldness he needed:

NIV Ephesians 6:19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly (parresia)make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly (parresiazomai, verb form of parresia), as I should.

So, pray!  Pray for courage for yourself and for other believers to keep declaring the gospel gently, humbly, and fearlessly.

But What About Jesus Being the Only Way?

The specific part of the Gospel message which Bernie attacked is the Bible’s teaching that salvation is found ONLY in Jesus.  This is something which apparently Russell Vought believes.  It is also something which Peter believed:

NIV Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Bernie is not the first public figure to oppose this teaching.  In September 2010, shortly after returning from serving the Lord in Indonesia for 14 years, I was preparing a message on John 14:6.  I came across a video of Oprah arguing that Jesus cannot possibly be the only way to Heaven.  I used clips from the video in my sermon.  I have just found a slightly better copy of the same Oprah segment:

So we have to decide, do we go with Oprah and Bernie, or with Jesus and Peter?  I’m sticking with Jesus and His Apostles!

If you would like to see my forty minute sermon where I interact with Oprah’s arguments, you may watch it here.

I close with a prayer:

Lord, please give every Christian who reads this the courage they need to speak Your truth clearly and freely without being intimidated by the threats of people.  Please help us to share with love, kindness, and grace.  Empower our humble words and use them to draw many to Jesus, the only way of salvation.

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .


  1. Nicely done. We should remember the promise of our Lord that when the time comes his Spirit will give us the words and the boldness with which to speak them, and to endure what mere men will try to do to him through us.