(These notes were prepared based on notes by Rob Mahon for teachers at Hoffmantown Church)Review:
Today I want to wrap up our discussion about how the Christian should interact with society, especially with regard to governmental issues.
So far we have determined that all leaders are established by God.
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. --Romans 13:1The Bible tells us to be subject to our leaders, except where they require the disobedience of Godís Law.
Two weeks ago, I reinforced my belief that we have an obligation to participate and influence our society and our government. I quoted a theological professor and preachers/teachers to support this position and then we looked at case studies from the Bible where Joseph, Daniel and Paul all exercised their dual citizenship as a citizen of Godís kingdom and of their civil government.
Jesus told us that we are to make a difference, that we should effect the world around us.
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden... --Matthew 5:13-14I concluded that we are both citizens of Godís kingdom and of The United States.
Then I showed you statement after statement where our founding fathers and presidents and Supreme Court justices proclaimed that this country was established with Christianity as a fundamental foundation for our society and the fact that without that foundation, it would fail. The United States was designed with a societal requirement that Christian principles be prevalent.
The best evidence of this belief was the statement by John Adams. The first vice president and the second president of The United States said:
"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion ... Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."At the end of the last lesson on this topic, the question was raised: So what should we do about it?
Today: We are Salt and Light:
This morning, letís look at how Christians can make an impact on government.
President William Clinton, yes Bill Clinton, in 1994 on an NPR broadcast said:
"Sometimes I think the environment in which we operate is entirely too secular. The fact that we have freedom of religion does not mean we need to try to have freedom from religion, doesn't mean that those of us who have faith shouldn't frankly admit that we are animated by faith, that we try to live by it, and it does affect what we feel, what we think, and what we do."
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. --1 Timothy 2:1-2
Ronald Reagan, in 1984 said:
ďThe frustrating thing is that those who are attacking religion claim they are doing it in the name of tolerance, freedom and open-mindedness. Isn't the real truth that they are intolerant of religion? They refuse to tolerate its importance in our lives."
The church must never be politicized. But, the church should send out people equipped to stand firm for justice, motivated by love and compassion. And willing to fight for moral principles.
You are the salt of the earth ... You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden... --Matthew 5:13,14
In 1996, the Barna Research Group performed extensive polling on the American public to determine the influence of "born-again Christians" and "evangelicals" in the public arena. "Born-again Christian" refers not to people who call themselves born again, but to individuals who say that they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their lives, and who say they will go to heaven after they die because they have confessed their sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Overall, 38 percent of the adult population meet these criteria; 43 percent of registered voters fit this definition.
Harold Berman, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School said:
"Politics and law are not a path to grace and faith. But are not grace and faith a path to right politics and right law?"
We need to fight for the return of the Bible to our school system. We need to take a stand like State Senator Joe Cararro did last week when he sent a letter to all the public schools in New Mexico reminding them that Christianity and the name of Jesus is in fact allowed to be mentioned in the public schools. He was responding to current calls for the elimination of "Christmas" to be replaced by a "holiday celebration".
Never in our country's founding period was there an official belief that education shouldn't embody the teaching of God's moral truths. This principle is most clearly shown by the passage of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. At that time, the "Northwest" was the territory comprising what are today Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. Congress sought to tame that wilderness and encourage settlers to move into the region. Thus it provided for a series of land grants for schools and colleges to be built throughout the region. The Congress believed that by educating settlers, good order and decency would come to the territory because, in their view, education included not only academic subjects but also the teaching of godly values.
The Northwest Ordinance states, "Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education, shall forever be encouraged." A plaque with these words is still at the main gate of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, one of the early land-grant colleges and still a state-supported institution.
The words to the "Star-Spangled Banner," the national anthem of the United States, were written by Francis Scott Key, a deeply religious attorney. He had boarded a British warship during the War of 1812 to negotiate the release of an American prisoner. He was barred from leaving the ship because the British were preparing to attack Fort McHenry, which protected Baltimore. He watched the rocket assault from the enemy deck.
At dawn, Key saw the American flag still flying over the fort. The assault had failed. Gratitude to God welled up within him, and it was that sentiment which inspired his famous lyrics. As Sam Myer wrote, "Commentators and political orators rightly refer to the 'Star-Spangled Banner' as a hymn; Key intended it to be. Unlike national airs that exalt rulers or, like 'La Marseillaise,' call soldiers to arms, Key's lyric -- besides being a paean of praise -- was a prayer of thanksgiving to God for having saved the City of Baltimore from the damage the British had wreaked on Washington only three weeks earlier. The great-grandson of Francis Scott-Key argued that his great-grandfather's verse breathed a pure religious sentiment."
Most Americans know by heart the first stanza of the national anthem, but it is the
last stanza that expresses Key's belief that if was God who protected Baltimore:
O! Thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation;
Blessed with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, "In God is our trust!"
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
founders established this nation on the belief in God. Our coins and money
state that we trust in God. The vast majority of people in this country support
and defend that. So why should the radical minority succeed in removing God from
our country? It is up to Christians to draw the line and say, ďI am mad as hell
and I am not taking it anymore.Ē If Christians are not willing to defend God in
this country, then why should God defend this country?
At the time of the 1998 election, approximately 200,927,000 people in the United States were 18 years and older.
Some Christians have a difficult time determining whether, and when, to let their voices be heard on the great moral issues of the day. More than 400 years ago Martin Luther put it well, when he said:
"If I profess with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God, except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved."
Does God participate in the selection of our governmental leaders?
We studied several passages from the Bible that clearly tell us that He not only participates, but he puts them in power. Just how God works is beyond the comprehension of man, any man, especially me. The Bible is clear that God actively intervenes in life here on earth. Sometimes He appears, sometimes he zaps with lightning, sometimes he opens up cracks in the surface of the earth and drops bad people into them and closes them up. He has also told us that in the future he will actively participate, causing mountains to be leveled, the ocean to turn to blood, etc. He raised people from the dead and will do it again. He raised Jesus and a couple of others into Heaven, bodily, and he will do that again. So it is clear that he can and does and will actively participate.
But is that how He puts our leaders in power? I donít think so. Look at how He did it in the Bible. He worked through the lives of his faithful followers. Through followers He used their lives to accomplish His will. Through Samuel, he used a man to pick out David to rise to power, after a long period of preparation and trial by fire, like Saul trying to kill him and having to run from Saulís army for years.
He allowed the Twelve Tribes of Israel to pick their kings, even though more often than not, they picked bad ones. He allowed the Romans to be in power during the time of the New Testament, and used them, unbelievers, to execute His plan.
The interesting fact is, God can execute his plan with good or bad leaders, even evil leaders. So His plan does not require saints to be in power. Although when you study the few ďgoodĒ kings that the Jews had, things were a lot better for them. They paid a price for having ďbadĒ kings.
I conclude that God allows man to make good selections and be benefited or to make bad ones and pay the penalty. It seems that God has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (I have heard that somewhere.)
Jesus lives in the heart of believers. I think He allows and expects His Church to do His will and execute His plan. Can He do it without us? Yes. But the best system is when we run His plays and raise His values and principles and use them in the selection of our leaders. Experience tells us that we donít take that responsibility seriously until the world is falling down around our ears, just like it was for the Old Testament Jews.
I think that is what has happened to us in this country over the last 60 or 70 years.
Then, How does He participate?
I think he uses believers. I think He stirs our soul to put the Gospel in action, spreading the word and showing the world the value in Christian principles, including just who Jesus is. I think God put George W. Bush in office by bringing us to our knees is desperation about the condition of our country and its apparent future if the course is continued. Man is pretty unique. He is totally ineffective until he understands that he is helpless and in a pickle that he has no way out of. Then he decides that God is the only answer, and voilŗ. Are the people of America there yet? No. But it appears that many believers have finally come to that conclusion.
Then why are so many ďbadĒ people elected?
Because we elect them. Because we allow them to take leadership. God will not prevent us from hurting ourselves. We can make bad decisions, or no decisions and then live with the consequences. That is true of life and that is true with regard to leadership in this country.
Maybe enough Christians have finally come back to their senses and are willing to speak out, to participate, to run for office and maintain their values, and to vote their conscience. Maybe this country has made a turn back toward the true foundations on which this country was built and is ready to take it back from the history revisionists and the humanists and the atheists. Those people took it by default, the failure of Christians to defend it. That battle was lost by default, but the war can and must be won. The war is not over. There are many battles to come. I just hope that we donít rest on our short term victories and lose by default again.
Next week we will start a series taught by Terry Heames. Terry and Karen spent three weeks in Israel this summer, traveling and digging in the dirt, literally. Terry is going to teach about what they did and what they saw, relating it to the Biblical event that each place was tied to. As most of you will recall, the Bible really comes alive when we see and hear about those places in Israel today. You wonít want to miss his presentations.