The headlines tell the story.
North Korea launches rocket … White House says it’s “Highly Provocative” … Putin vows stronger military … Masked man opens fire at Oregon mall … GOP to cave on taxes … France’s Prime Minister slams wealthy citizens fleeing country over taxes … White House to back Syrian Rebels … Syrian rebels pledge allegiance to al-Qaeda group that killed US soldiers in Iraq … Teacher suspended for asking pupils to write suicide notes … Holder calls for automatic voter registration … 7% of Detroit 8th Graders proficient in reading. These are just some of the headlines in today’s news. Benghazi-gate … The Fiscal Cliff. Many are asking, “What is it that we can do to start righting the good-ship America?” The answers are not easy.
For the past multiple issues of Truth Aflame, I have been looking at America and asking the question, what went wrong? The basic answer is that America, Americans in particular, has walked away from its Biblical foundation and has turned to an humanistic, what’s-in-it-for-me philosophy.
Before we move on, let me once again state that I am not a believer in the thinking that America’s founders were necessarily “Christians.” Yes, it is true that many of them were deeply religious and held to a belief in the Bible and did indeed base most of their philosophies on the Bible. But the founders were from a broad spectrum of theological thought; Baptists, Anglicans, Quakers, Catholics to name a few were mixed in with secularists and Deists. As we have stated throughout our writing, there is a difference between the generally accepted broad-brush definition of a Christian and the Biblical definition. Just because a person mentions God in a speech or utters a prayer that sounds good doesn’t prove they are truly born-again Christians. Remember, to the general public a Christian is anyone who isn’t a Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or a member of a recognized religious cult. The definition is based more on what they are not rather than on what they believe. Without a doubt, America’s roots were solidly based upon clear Biblical principles of life, family and hard work.
With the recent national election, it became even clearer that America has drifted many miles from her roots. What does it tell us when States pass referendums legalizing gay marriage and pot? What does it say when we re-elect a leader who, by his very words and actions, is opposed to nearly all the founding fathers stood for. His socialistic programs will bring America down just like what is currently taking place in Europe. Listen folks, nothing is free. And you can double the taxes on the so-called wealthy and still not have enough money to run the government and supply all the money needed to cover the handouts for much more than a week. That might sound harsh to some but it is a fact. Increasingly the Bald Eagle, as the American symbol, is being replaced with an outstretched hand. Government is increasingly being seen as the benevolent “parent-supplier” and the citizenry is “owed” or “entitled” to this benevolence. This is in direct opposition to the clear teaching of Scriptures.
But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite [repay] their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.
But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man.
Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.
But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;
I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.
1 Timothy 5:5-16
Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
2 Thessalonians 3:9-12
In the above passages, the command of the Lord is made quite clear. First, every individual has a responsibility to work, to labor so that he is able to provide for himself and his family. Second, for widows indeed (widows unable to return to the work place due to age, or some infirmity) the family is to care for them, to repay them for their training and nurturing. The primary responsibility lies with the family to care for their aged parents. The reason why we have social programs in the world today is because families, and the church neglected their God-given responsibilities and handed them over to parent government. Government was forced to step in and do for families what families had failed to do and were willing to allow someone else to do for them. The result of that acquiescence on the part of one generation for another, socialism was permitted to begin its creep in the 1940s and has continued to spread its tentacles throughout society and the thinking of the citizenry ever since. Hence, programs that were once begun as “safety nets” have become “entitlements.”
But where do we go from here as believers? As our country and government continue its slide down the path of destruction, what is left for the church? That’s what I’d like to address in this article covering three areas. First, who can we rely on? Second, what are some things still taking place? And Third, what can we do? Time and space do not allow us to exhaust each topic, but the seed that is planted here can easily be nurtured into a full-grown hope.
Who Can We Rely On?
The problem with society and Christendom is that for many years it has looked to Washington (and the State Houses) for its solutions. Billions of dollars have been spent by the Church in political endeavors. The Moral Majority, The Christian Coalition, to name just a couple, were among the many religious organizations that sought to entice our government leaders to implement and follow a Judea-Christian philosophy. This was to be accomplished through the election of those who were sympathetic to the “cause” to positions in government. This in turn would alter legislation, as well as the Supreme Court, and begin to undo some of the devastating laws and rulings imposed upon America by the “liberals” who were blamed for turning their backs on God and throwing the Bible and prayer out of the classroom.
In the very center chapter of Scripture, in the heart of that chapter we read these words:
“It is better to trust in the Lord
than to put confidence in man.
It is better to trust in the Lord
than to put confidence in princes.”
Psalm 118:8 , 9
The church would do well to heed these simple words of Scripture and look to the Lord and not to “princes” (government). Can satisfactory legislation or court rulings be achieved? Certainly! But any ruling of government or a court is good only so long as the ruling party is in office. Once they are voted out, the incoming party will begin to impose its will and philosophies upon the electorate. There is only one thing that is sure in this world and that is the Lord Himself. This brings us to point number one: God is sufficient.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi and gave them words of hope and peace when he penned the words:“Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6 ). It’s the recognition of the sufficiency of the Lord, that He is still on His Throne (Rom. 8:28 ) that allows the Saint to have peace of mind and to “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say rejoice”(Phil. 4:4 ). The child of God is to look “up” in his life and lean upon the Lord, and not his own strength. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 3:5 ). Note also, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; they ye, always have all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee…” (2 Cor. 9:8 ; 2 Cor. 12:9 ).
Friends, Washington politicians are not the answer; they only offer a larger question. We mustn’t look to the politician to solve the ills of a sinful society or give peace to the weary; that will only come in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul did not write, “I can do all things through Washington…” but, rather, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me” (Phil. 4:13 ).
Paul warned of perilous times ahead (2 Tim. 3:15 ). No matter who sits at the desk in the Oval office, the events foreseen in the mind of God will unfold; man cannot stop or alter them. But in spite of the turmoil, the stress, the depravity of the moment, God is still on the Throne and His grace and power are more than sufficient to carry us through if we but lean upon Him. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set you affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2 ). “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7 ).
God is still on the Throne and He is our full sufficiency. In Him, and Him alone can we rely.
Things Still True Since the Election
Jesus Christ the same yesterday
today, and forever.
Because He is reliable, what things are still true today after the election, as were true the day before the election? Here is a brief list of some of those things still true. I know that with little study you could add many things to this list.
- Still desires the salvation of all men. 1 Timothy 2:4
- Christ still came to save sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15
- His blood still brings redemption/forgiveness. Ephesians 1:7
- Still have an inheritance. Ephesians 1:11
- Still sealed by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13
- God is still rich in mercy. Ephesians 2:4
- Still seated in Heavenly places. Ephesians 2:6
- Man is still saved by grace through faith. Ephesians 2:8-9
- Still absent from the body / present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:1-9
- God is still for us. Romans 8:31
- There is still no condemnation in Christ. Romans 8:1
- God is still on His Throne. Romans 8:28
- Heaven is still gain. Philippians 1:21
- Still have the victory. 1 Corinthians 15:57
- Still have same cause to give thanks. 2 Corinthians 9:15
- Still do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Colossians 3:17
- Can still glory in the Cross. Galatians 6:14
- The real kicker…we…
- Are Still to make prayers for kings (government). 1 Timothy 2:2
No matter what comes our way in the political arena, God is still God and He still reigns sovereign over His creation. Over the centuries the true Saints of God have had to stand in the face of great persecution and the church has grown. As America slips farther and farther away from God and the Biblical principles upon which it was founded, the Church may well find itself again standing in harm’s way. But even in the face of adversity, we have cause for rejoicing; God is still God and He reigns supreme over our difficulties.
That brings us to our final point, Now What? What do we do? How do we react to what is taking place in America, and the world today? Do we run and hide? Do we store up food and supplies for the predicted cataclysmic events? Well, I don’t know much about any of that and it won’t be the first time the doomsday soothsayers are wrong. But whatever lies ahead, there is much to do. The fact that things are getting worse ought not to catch us by surprise. The Apostle Paul spoke of perilous times ahead for the Church (2 Tim. 3:1-5 ; 1 Tim. 4:1-3 ). Shortly after Paul’s death things began to unravel and soon the truth of Scripture was, for all intents and purposes, lost. With that man entered what has been called the “dark ages” and would not begin to come out of that until certain things began to take place. First, there was the Book with the actions of men such a Wycliff, Tyndale, Hus and others who laid down their lives that man might be able to read the Word of God in their own language. With that came a recapturing of the Blood and the light of the Gospel; man is saved by grace through faith alone. Of course, to both of these the Roman Church reacted swiftly with great harshness. Men were rounded up, accused and executed. But the church grew stronger and the Gospel spread. Finally, the last piece fell into place: the Blessed Hope. The truth of the Scriptures Rightly Divided began to be heard in pulpits across Europe. Even the earliest of “dispensational thinking” could be found. Miles Coverdale, a 16th Century Bible translator and theologian is quoted as saying: “It shall greatly help ye to understand the Scriptures if thou mark not only what is spoken or written, but of whom and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goeth before and what followeth after. ”
No period of real church growth took place in relative quiet and we should not think that we are somehow immune to persecution coming our way as well. And it is in the face of that persecution that we must make the decision, what are we going to do? In answer to that question, I have assembled yet another list of things I believe to be absolutely imperative if the church is going to do what the Lord has assigned.
1. The church must prepare and focus. The Scripture gives the clear instruction that we must “…take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand…” (Eph. 6:14-14a). The Saints must know what they believe and why they believe it. Too often we hear something similar to the following: “What do you believe?” “I believe what my church believes.” “What does your church believe”? “What my preacher teaches.”
What does your preacher teach”? “What I believe.” Sadly, many who sit in the pew know little or nothing about the Word of God or what they believe. Little time is spent in studying the Word outside of Sunday morning services. People argue more based on “hymnology” than they do solid theology. The opening word of 2 Timothy 2:15 is “Study” and yet few follow its command. Paul commended the people Part of Berea who he said, “…searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11 ). Friends, we must get back to the Book; we must get back into the Word. The church has stood only in those times when it stood firmly for and on the Word of God.
2. We must not turn our back on all that was recovered: the Book, the Blood and the Blessed Hope. Through the blood of Christ there is redemption, forgiveness, reconciliation and the power for living. “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7 ). The work of Christ: His death, burial and resurrection was the culmination of the plan of God put into place before the world began. Since the fall of man, God has had the salvation of the lost as the very focus of His attention. His response to man’s disobedience was mercy rather than death: grace over wrath. God in His love promised a Redeemer Who would come and undo all that man had done. From the very start God has had the redemption of man in mind and His desire has been the salvation of all. “Who will have all men to be saved…” (1 Tim. 2: 4a). Hear the heart of the Apostle Paul for his own people (Israel): “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:3 ). The Church must busy itself in sharing the saving Gospel of God’s great Grace with a lost country, a lost world.
3. We cannot turn our backs on the Blessed Hope or the wonderful message of God’s Grace revealed to and through the Apostle Paul. “Be not therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me, His prisoner….” “…charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3 ). “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me…” (2 Tim. 1: 8a, 13a). “Be ye followers of me, even as [in the same way] I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1 ). In his book, Why So Many Churches? Dr. Noah Hutchings writes that denominations and divisions arose as the church turned its back on the Apostle Paul. Paul was clearly going against the “norm” and even in his own day, as he neared the end of his life the departure had begun. “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia” (2 Tim. 4:10 ). Some might take issue with Crescens and Titus and their departure perhaps not being a negative. While it is true the text does not infer a negative connotation to their departure, it may be assumed as later Paul will state that he sent Tychicus to Ephesus. Had Paul sent the other two away, it could have been stated as such. As the times become increasingly more difficult, there will be a tendency to ease the tensions by blending into the crowd and ceasing to take a bold stand for the message delivered to and through the Apostle Paul. Pastors see churches growing and thriving and then look at their own small congregation and naturally begin to think that they must be doing something wrong. If they ceased to boldly proclaim the message of God’s Grace as received through Paul, if they toned down their stand and blended in, they could be more accepted in the community and, hence, their church could grow as well. Sadly, we’re seeing this more and more as the church, spurred on by the latest church growth, purpose driven, emergent fad drifts farther and farther away from Paul. “Preach the word; be instant in season, ouf of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine but after their own lust shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Tim. 4:2-3 ). Times are going to get tough, we must expect that, but how does the old saying go? “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” This is in keeping with the admonishment from the Apostle Paul who wrote; “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions…” (2 Tim. 4: 5a). “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12 ). BIG doesn’t mean blessed. It would seem to me that if the one who is suffering opposition in ministry is the one who is truly doing what the Lord intends. Anyone can go along; it takes character and courage to stand in the face of opposition. The Church needs another Joshua to stand up and declare; “…choose you this day whom ye will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15 ). Hear Paul’s own words; But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the Grace of God” (Acts 20:24 ). And as he neared the end of his life Paul wrote: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7 ).
There is so much more that I could write but space will not permit me to do so. Let me close with this challenge; Preach the Word. “Wherefore He saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:14-16 ).
Friends, we cannot, we must not lose heart, but must remain even more diligent in our proclamation of the Gospelof God’s Grace. We must refocus our efforts to reach lost souls for the Lord Jesus Christ. The church has spent too much time and money attempting to “Save America” and to what end? It’s time the church got back on track and worked diligently to save Americans (and the world).