I consider myself to be a patriot. My father was a Marine and fought on Guam and Iwo Jima in World War II. My family and I recently went to Washington D.C. and my grandchildren saw the foundation upon which this nation was built and the cost of freedom as we viewed the monuments built to those who sacrificed so much for all who would come after them. I consider myself to be a patriot because I believe the United States of America has been God's gift to all who live here and to the world. From these shores men and women have been sent all over the world to defend the cause of freedom and justice. From these shores aid to victims of oppression of all kinds has been donated with no strings attached and no requests for anything in return. From these shores the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed throughout the world to virtually every people, tribe, nation and tongue. In its relatively brief history, the people of this nation have done much that is good and right and worthy of acclaim.
I am a patriot ... but not a blind one. As we approach the celebration of another "Independence Day," I find less and less to celebrate. There is still much good being done across our land and around the world by people who are "Americans." Yet it appears clearer and clearer that God's judgment has fallen on our nation because as a society people have rejected Him and His Word - the foundation upon which our nation was founded. I continue to give thanks for our freedoms and for those who fought to give us such freedom. There is no "but" there. I pray that my grandchildren will be patriots, too ... but not blind ones, because there is a greater allegiance to which those who know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord are called, and that is to HIS kingdom!
On July 14th, I will begin a new series of messages based on those who are said to have lived by faith in Hebrews 11. It is said of these that "they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth" (Hebrews 11:13). The writer of Hebrews goes on to say, "People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them" (Hebrews 11:14-16).
Looking back over the centuries, our forefathers came to these shores for the freedom to worship the one true God according to His Word. That meant acknowledging the One, True God and drawing near to Him through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. Today, the freedom they sought TO worship is being twisted to promote freedom FROM worship! Tolerance has replaced devotion to God. We are told that our nation is not a "theocracy," where God rules. Let me tell you the truth here: EVERY nation is a theocracy, whether they realize it or not. God rules over every nation. But His blessing falls only on a nation where He is acknowledged. That was true in our early history ... it is NOT true today for many - MOST, and we are beginning to face the consequences of the rejection of God and His Word by so many as public opinion dictates public policy.
The nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem were special to God in the days of the prophet Jeremiah. In fact, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are STILL special to God (Romans 11 and other passages). No other nation has ever been actually ruled over by God Himself in such a demonstrable way. But even to this nation God warned of judgment for rejecting His Word, His law. Listen to the following words, written some 2500 years ago:
"This is what the LORD says: 'Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.' But you said, 'We will not walk in it.' I appointed watchmen over you and said, 'Listen to the sound of the trumpet!' But you said, 'We will not listen.' Therefore hear, O nations; observe, O witnesses, what will happen to them. Hear, O earth: I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes, because they have not listened to my words and have rejected my law'" (Jeremiah 6:16-19).
God spoke these words to the people of Judah through the prophet Jeremiah. Is He speaking these words to us today? Even many within the church have rejected God's Word and have become tolerant of sin in their own lives and the lives of others. As I have confessed often, I am a sinner. I have not yet become perfect, but it is my heartfelt desire to continue to be transformed by the power of God's Word and Spirit. I take my sin to the cross and ask God's forgiveness through the blood of Christ. He assures me that through faith in Jesus Christ I have been washed clean in His sight and that eternal life in His presence is mine, completely and utterly by His amazing grace! But where there is no sorrow for sin, no repentance, no confession, no faith in Jesus Christ and no longing to turn from sin to righteousness, their is only spiritual death. Where there is no desire to please God by living according to His Word there is only impending judgment. What is true for individuals is true for a nation! Sooner or later that judgment will come, and it will be well-deserved.
So what do we do? We stand firm and wait on the Lord. God's Word must be proclaimed, whether people listen or not. In humility and the fear of the Lord we must warn people that His judgment is coming and that the ONLY escape is faith in Jesus Christ. In just such a situation the prophet Habakkuk cried out to God as the Assyrians were about to destroy the nation of Israel. God told him that he should proclaim to all that "the righteous will live by his faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). The Apostle Paul quotes that verse in Romans 1:16-17 where he writes, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'"
Paul knew, as he would write two chapters later, that no one is righteous in God's sight. "ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). But he also knew that while "the wages of sin is death," the "gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). The true Church is called to proclaim the good news that there is "a better country" to look forward to ... "a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (II Peter 3:13). While we are blessed by God to be living in the United States of America, those who believe in Jesus Christ, no matter what language they speak or country they live in, are blessed by God and will inherit His eternal kingdom ... through no deserving of their own, but by His grace through the sacrifice of Jesus made once for all on the cross for all who believe.
Christians are citizens of the kingdom of heaven and are called to be ambassadors of this kingdom. Jesus Christ is our Lord and Master and His Word is our guide. Jesus said that He did not come to abolish God's law, but to fulfill it. To reject God's Word is to reject His rule over us and to claim that our wisdom is greater than His. Doing so brings consequences upon a people and upon a nation. Those who stand firm and wait on the Lord desire to be found faithful to our calling. We must continue to warn people of God's judgment and to offer them His love and forgiveness, even while being called intolerant or branded as bigots. And we must guard our attitudes. To his young friend, Timothy, Paul wrote, "The Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will" (II Timothy 2:24-26).
We must remember that WE are not going to convince anyone of their sin before a holy God ... the Holy Spirit must do that. "To some we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life" (II Corinthians 2:16). May your life and your testimony bear witness to the God who rules over the nations as you give thanks for the freedom He has given YOU in Christ!