Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Christian and the Fourth of July (In the USA)

We must not to equate Patriotism for the USA with patriotism for the Kingdom of God. ----One we were born or sworn into with relatively little expense. The other we were born into by the blood of the Lamb of God.

We must not confuse our country’s founders depending on God’s blessings for America-with the idea we are God’s chosen people. -We are a great country because God shed His grace on us.

We must not confuse the role of the church in the world with the role of government. ----Just because the government has taken over some of our responsibilities doesn’t mean the church should give up its role in the world as defender of the poor, champion for the oppressed, messengers of peace, and most importantly, messengers of the gospel of Jesus Christ

Rom 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and

those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct,

but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,

4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.

5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. 8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Rev 13:1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.

What do these have in common? They are both descriptions of earthly government. One passage describes what government should do and the Christian’s response. The other what government will one day become. And believe me, the enemy has been practicing for this day in countries around the world. I’m not at all suggesting that it is here, but just keep in mind what it will one day become.

So when we celebrate Independence Day, let’s remember from what we were set free; The tyranny of King George. The tyranny of a government.
And yes, we replaced the British government with a better government. Our founders worked hard, and put their lives on the line to institute a better government and they sought the wisdom of God to do it. And I believe God blessed them. But remember, that doesn’t make our government perfect. That doesn’t mean government is good or bad. It’s like a fire. A fire is good when it’s in the fireplace on a cold night. A fire is bad when it escapes the fireplace and burns down the house. Can a fire be good? Sure, if we keep it under control! That’s why we vote, that’s why we don’t elect presidents and congressmen for life. For 230 years we have kept in under control, and gotten it back under control when it threatened to break out.

But it’s not the Kingdom of God! Yes we should celebrate our freedoms today and every day. But those freedoms pale before the freedom we have in Christ!

So what is the Christian’s response to Independence day?

I’d like to quote another preacher who preached on July the 4th a while back: Pastor Timothy Dwight began his sermon by referring to what he perceived as a dire secularist threat …

“Doctrines and teachers are rapidly spreading through the world, to engage mankind in an open and professed war against God … The being and providence of God have been repeatedly denied and ridiculed. Christ has been mocked with the grossest insult. Marriage has been degraded to a farce … In the school of public instruction atheism is professedly taught.”[1]

So, Christians should be aware of growing secularism-that’s the religion of worldliness creeping into the church. They should be aware of the growing denial of the existence and providence of God, the growing mockery of Jesus Christ and His church, and the growing instruction in atheism in our society.

Pastor Timothy Dwight was also the president of Yale University and preached this sermon in 1798! And it still rings true today. So what do we do about this description of our world?

First, and this might surprise you-Forsake not the assembly of yourselves together with other believers. (Heb 10:25) Why is this important? First because God said it was important. Why do we see Jesus and Paul frequenting the synagogues and meeting with other believers? Because it’s important.

Some would say that Christians going to church every week just makes Christianity a separate little religion, detached from the world and the reality all around them. That could be true. When a church starts acting like a country club, that’s what you get.

But is that what we are supposed to do at church? Listen to the Confession of Southern Baptists: (BF&M 2001)

The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Christ.

You see, this is God’s day. We are to reaffirm and recommit to the Absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ. Now what does this do to make us more of the kind of Church God wants in the world? It brings us closer to the heart of God. Worldly endeavors and entertainment MUST take a backseat to the worship of God!

What is in the heart of God? God seeks to make His Glory known in all the earth! He wants the church to show the world that he is the Holy Righteous Creator and sustainer of the world and that he offers forgiveness and blessing to all who put their trust in Him. When we properly set aside the day of the Lord, we come away more valuable to the world!

Alexis de Tocqueville was commissioned by the French Government to investigate the prison systems in america. He did that and issued a report. But the more famous book he wrote was entitled Democracy in America. He didn't like everything he saw in America. There were things that bothered him about American culture. But, he also wrote this: "I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests--and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning--and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution--and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!"

IF the gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of peace then we should come away from observing the Lord’s Day together with Peace in the heart, Peace in the Home, Peace in our country, and peace in the world! That’s what properly observing the Lord’s Day is for!

Second, The Church needs to believe in and practice Prayer!

Remember 2 Chron 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways…”

Is America God’s people called by his name? No, the Church is God’s people called Christians. It’s not the world’s job to pray and seek His face, they don’t understand that. It’s our job: Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

What are we supposed to do: Humble ourselves before God. Pray to God. Seek God’s face and Repent before God. We don’t talk about seeking God’s face much anymore. The whole idea is a little foreign. To seek God’s face is to endeavor to live our lives as open books before God’s eyes, looking for his pleasing countenance not his rebuke. Looking for guidance from His eyes, and His still small voice. Then when we get before His face we are painfully aware of our sins and we repent.

THEN, Having done all that, we BEGIN to pray. We pray for the church. We pray for our families and loved ones. We PRAY FOR THE LOST. And we pray for our government!

Are we praying for our government God’s way? God’s way is NOT to pray for some harm to come to your President! (As some have suggested.) God’s way is to pray for His welfare, His soul, and that he be led by God. God's way is to pray that we are able to live in peace.

Third, The church needs to Take the Gospel to the world. We REALLY need to do this. There are many ways to do this, but it requires we involve ourselves with the lost. Matt 28:19 AS YOU GO, MAKE DISCIPLES! If you don’t have a lost person to pray for get one. Today! Ask God who it is. Say, “Lord lay some soul upon my heart, and love that soul through me!”

We live in such incredible freedom! The believers in China would LOVE THIS! We can talk to friends about Jesus without being arrested! They may not like it. Your boss might even tell you to stop it. So you do it after you punch out.

This week I was presented with an opportunity to share Christ. I tried to explain it to someone who was confused. Now I’m leaving it in God’s hands.

The strongest argument for the Gospel of Christ is the personal testimony of someone whose life has been changed by it. Charles Bradlaugh, an avowed infidel, once challenged the Rev. H.P. Hughes to a debate. The preacher, who was head of a rescue mission in London, England, accepted the challenge with the condition that he could bring with him 100 men and women who would tell what had happened in their lives since trusting Christ as their Savior. They would be people who once lived in deep sin, some having come from poverty-stricken homes caused by the vices of their parents. Hughes said they would not only tell of their conversion, but would submit to cross-examination by any who doubted their stories. Furthermore, the minister invited his opponent to bring a group of non-believers who could tell how they were helped by their lack of faith. When the appointed day arrived, the preacher came, accompanied by 100 transformed persons. But Bradlaugh never showed up. The result? The meeting turned into a testimony time and many sinners who had gathered to hear the scheduled debate were converted.

When we do a School Supplies drive we should look for opportunities to include the gospel. When we do a coat drive include the gospel. When we have a concert or a special event, include the gospel. Maybe in your Christmas card this year, include the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not just a manger!

Today when you celebrate the Freedoms of America, first thank God for them. Then make very sure that you have Freedom in Christ! Sin puts us in slavery, Jesus can set you free!

[1]]Dwight’s sermon is reprinted in Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, edited by Ellis Sandoz, pages 1363-1394.

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