by Rick Shrader
In his farewell address George Washington said that a nation is “a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.”1 More than two hundred years later America’s greatest animosity is to Christianity, and its greatest affection is to profligacy. On the day I sit to write these words, Baltimore is being burned by rioters, the Supreme Court could rule that same-sex marriages become the law of the land, and the President is about to sign an agreement to give the largest state of terror in the world and the greatest threat to Israel, Iran, a green light to nuclear weapons. Space allows me only to mention legalized marijuana, trans-gender rights, terror shootings in public places, licentious college students on Spring break, as well as the growth of radical Islam around the world and in our own country.
America has lived off the moral capital of the last two hundred years and it is about gone. In our churches we often say that God has no grandchildren, meaning that one is not a Christian just because his/her father and mother were Christians. Every individual must make that choice for himself/herself. We are learning that America is not a Christian nation just because our ancestors were Christians. We do not live by laws and morals just because our ancestors did, even though they wrote them into a binding Constitution. Why is this so? Because the Bible is true and declares plainly that human beings are fallen creatures and, without individual regeneration, will surely and resolutely rebel against God and His holiness. Man’s problem is not with culture, but with God as Creator and Owner of this world. D.A. Carson described it this way,
All of the potential of the so-called ‘natural’ world was called into being by God and operates under the authority of the resurrected Christ: all of art, music, administrative gifts, colorful diversity, creative genius. And yet everything is corrupted by sin. Our creative genius may build weapons of destruction, our administrative gifts may become exercises in personal power and self-promotion, our art may become wretchedly ugly and celebrate all that is disjointed, our nationalism easily identifies our own race or vision with the will of God, our democracy is in danger of claiming vox populi, vox Dei [the voice of the people is the voice of God], and our liberalism is tempted to confuse the pursuit of liberty with the pursuit of God—a vision of liberty that, in tragic irony, enslaves us in a new idolatry.2
Although no human band-aid can stop this decay from taking place and only spiritual renewal can even arrest it, laws that recognize the Biblical process can slow it greatly (though once that recognition is gone, the residual effects disappear quickly). However, the American experiment is proof that godly churches and Christian principles, mixed with proper laws, can produce a respite on this slippery slope. We may not be able to return to the same resoluteness of our forefathers but perhaps there can be enough true Christian character, enough moral fortitude, enough disgust from the citizenry, to slow the tide of our own moral decay and destruction.
Professedly, it is my belief as a premillennialist and dispensationalist, that this age of grace in which we live will not get better overall but will continue on a downhill slide until Jesus comes. God alone knows when that time will be. Human nature has a growing bent toward Godlessness, and God has not promised His people an America in every age, or any age. In fact He has promised apostasy. He has assured us that only His coming is what will ultimately heal this sin sick world. That is not defeatist. It is realistic and optimistic. It is the one thing that really gives hope and causes the believer to continue faithful until that Day.
Homosexual marriage in the courts
Today the Supreme Court began hearing arguments in the case known as Obergefell v. Hodges which will determine the legal definition of marriage in our country. The question is whether the states have the right to define (and therefore limit) marriage as only between a man and a woman. Federal district courts have blocked the states from enforcing their laws and have allowed same-sex marriages in spite of the states’ laws. In a surprise, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit which oversees four states ruled in favor of the states to define marriage. Now the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing the appeals.
In the majority opinion for the Sixth Circuit, Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, made a bold and truthful case for traditional marriage. In his blog today, Albert Mohler, Jr. described Sutton’s defense of the states,
He began by noting the speed of the moral revolution that has produced same-sex marriage in many U S. states, mostly by judicial action. “From the vantage point of 2014,” he wrote, “it would now seem, the question is not whether American law will allow gay couples to marry; it is when and how that will happen. That would not have seemed likely as recently as a dozen years ago.”
He continued: “For better, for worse, or for more of the same, marriage has long been a social institution defined by relationships between men and women. So long defined, the tradition is measured in millennia, not centuries or decades. So widely shared, the tradition until recently had been adopted by all governments and major religions of the world.”3
Not only would a Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage contradict Scripture and defy all of human history, it will destroy our Federalism or the rights of states to determine their own rules about such things. In addition, it will continue to bring great pressure upon any citizens who are caught in that middle ground of not wanting to support a homosexual lifestyle by not baking cakes or taking pictures. But it will also find a way to the front door of the church.
We have enjoyed, in our nation’s history, a moral fiber supported by the Christian Scriptures which makes outright immorality, if not illegal, at least forced underground. But we are in a time when such blatant immorality goes on parade. Now the very laws that once protected us from this will force it upon us. Christians can live in such society as they have always had to do (but how unfortunate in America). What a Christian cannot do, however, is condone such activity which God specifically calls sin. It is one thing for a store owner to sell a man who practices homosexuality a cake off the shelves, it is another thing to be asked to condone that sin by catering his wedding.
Obviously a Christian minister can live in a country where same-sex marriages are legal, but he cannot be asked to condone that marriage by forcing him to perform it. We could soon come to that point. And what will we do? We will refuse of course. And then what? Will we lose our tax exemption? Probably. Will we lose proper zoning for our church property? Maybe. Will we be arrested for disobeying the law? Perhaps. So far such laws have stopped outside the church doors and we can hope they will remain there. But when laws are no longer the church’s friend, anything can happen.
Last week I finished a sermon series on Hebrews. The text for my last message was “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled” (Heb. 13:4). Actually, this is not just indicative but imperative, “Let marriage be honorable in all” just as the following verse, “Let your conversation be without covetousness.” The rest of verse 4 says, “but whoremongers (lit. “fornicators”) and adulterers God will judge.” That is, when marriage is honorable, all “conversation” is honorable. Even non-married persons keep marriage honorable by keeping themselves pure. But when marriage is not honorable, nothing is honorable and God will judge.
In 1 Cor. 6:9-10, a list of sins is given that, when practiced, show a person is not a believer and will not enter the kingdom of God. That list includes, “adulterers, effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind.” The NKJV has “nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites.” An obvious truth is that these things can’t be things that people are born with, because God does not ban someone from heaven and send them to hell for the way they are physically born. All the things in this long list are things people choose to practice, and are therefore judged by God for making such choices. “Know ye not” that they shall not “inherit the kingdom of God.”
Christians cannot condone such sins regardless of the cost. Let us pray that our Supreme Court will follow history, the Scriptures, and our good constitution.
Lawless rioting in the streets
No Christian should participate in rioting. Rioting is against every principle of Christian doctrine. Those who riot in the name of some religious principle have fooled themselves into thinking that their own sinful bent against their neighbor, against God-ordained law enforcement, against cultural civility, and against Biblical teaching, is somehow justified by the emotion of the moment. Rioting breaks every command for the Christian to be law-abiding, meek, peaceful, humble, loving (Gal. 5:22-23), as well as to accept our circumstance in this world as from God (1 Pet. 2:19-20), and to look rather to our reward in the next life where lies our real citizenship (Phil. 3:20-21).
The Greek word for “riot” is found four times in the New Testament. It is the word asōtia, meaning literally, “without salvation” (a is negative meaning “without,” and sōtia is the root word for “salvation,” as in “soteriology”). In Luke 15:13 the prodigal son wasted his substance in “riotous living.” In Ephesians 5:18 we are admonished not to be drunk with wine “wherein is excess,” asōtia, rioting. In Titus 1:6 a qualification for a pastor is that his children be not “accused of riot.” And in 1 Peter 4:4 believers are encouraged to not run with the old crowd they knew before their salvation, when they participated in “excess of riot,” even though they speak “evil of you.”
In all of these uses of the word, rioting is pictured as a sinful thing for a Christian to do. The very word itself (meaning “without salvation”) describes activity that is foreign to the Christian faith. It would be especially detrimental for a Christian minister to participate in or encourage participation in such activity. Rather than being faithful to his own calling of a more powerful and life-changing message, he has acquiesced to a lower, human groveling with the natural man.
Just today also, John MacArthur placed an article on his blog encouraging families to meet today’s challenges in a Biblical way even though that way is criticized by the world. In that short article he wrote,
In fact, the only taboo these days is holding to the absolute moral standards the Lord instituted in His Word. Lifestyles of promiscuity, debauchery, rebellion, and lawlessness aren’t merely tolerated—they’re celebrated. Selfishness, greed, and dishonesty are accepted and even expected.” . . . . “Far too much of the church’s effort in recent years has been squandered trying to confront anti-family trends, such as abortion and homosexuality, through legislative efforts alone. Reform is no answer for a culture like ours. Redemption is what is needed, and that occurs at the individual, not societal, level. The church needs to get back to the real task to which we are called: evangelizing the lost. Only when multitudes of individuals in our society turn to Christ will society itself experience any significant transformation.” . . . “Part of the problem is that many of the parenting and family programs being labeled “Christian” today are not truly Christian. Some are nothing more than secular behaviorism papered over with a religious veneer—an unholy amalgam of biblical-sounding expressions blended with humanistic psychology.4
The Christian should pray for those in authority that they would do right and follow their God-given responsibility of enforcing law in a lawless world. The riots of today are an eerie reminder of the 60s and fifty years has done little to heal the problem. Secularists and race hustlers may hail this as some kind of victory but another fifty years will go by with no solution if a spiritual answer cannot be found.
Nuclear weapons in the middle East
America should be Israel’s friend and most ardent supporter (Gen. 12:1-3; 1 Cor. 10:32). America has historically understood the unique Biblical connection between the church in this age and Israel’s place in history. Yes, our Jewish friends need Jesus Christ as their Savior or they will be eternally lost like any other sinful human being. But we also know that in the end God will save and rescue Israel and honor those who have honored her (Rom. 11:26-28).
For America, at this point in time, to turn from our support of Israel and allow her most powerful enemy potentially to destroy Israel’s people and land is to put America in opposition to God’s revealed will. Presidents, Secretaries of State, and any other political leaders who cannot see this do not understand the Scriptures, the age of grace, and the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Israel failed at her most important moment in history, the recognition of her very Messiah, Jesus Christ, Who was virgin born in Bethlehem’s manger, lived a sinless life as the God-man, died for the sins of the whole world (and thus became the world’s hope, not just Israel’s), rose bodily from the grave, and is ascended back to the right hand of the Father, “Whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).
The return of Jesus Christ to the earth for the promised restitution will come suddenly into this world. Jesus will judge the lawless and sinners and will reward the righteous, the ones forgiven through His own blood. This is the Blessed Hope (Titus 2:13) that will alone bring real change to the world. That change can only come to an individual through a true repentance and regeneration.
The Middle East is headed for the battle of Gog and Magog and then Armageddon. Iran is Biblical Persia and will be defeated by God’s miraculous power at a time when she tries to invade and destroy Israel and fails (Ezekiel 38:18-23). This will be followed by a one-world government, economy and religion set up by a western leader we call antichrist. He will have his way for three and a half years until Jesus Christ returns and destroys him and his followers at a place called Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). Israel will then be established as the greatest nation on earth, ruled over by Christ Himself.
America has always understood this Biblical scenario and has sided with Israel in this age. The Christian Scriptures (New Testament) explain, fulfill, and complete the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament) and bring into focus the position of the believer (as well as Israel) in this age of grace. One could truly say that America has been blessed because of this Biblical understanding.
And so . . .
In this short space I have tried to say that though the world is quickly changing around us, we have only to be faithful to our God and His Word. It has been ages since the church could be so effective as salt and light as it is in this needy world. Salt and light are not effective because they are like other things, but because they are so much unlike them. Be salt and light.
- George Washington, “Farewell Address,” Orations from Homer to McKinley , vol. 6 ( New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1906) 2526.
- D.A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008) 64.
- AlbertMohler.com, “In Defense of Marriage, The Rule of Law, and Ordered Liberty,” 4/28/15.
- John MacArthur, Grace To You Blog, 4/28/15.