Human Nature, America, and the Church
by Rick Shrader
America and, therefore, the Christian church are experiencing an upheaval unique to the present age but unlike any phenomenon in recent history. Cultural watchers have described it as post-Christian, post-modern, post-morality, slouching toward Gomorrah, God is dead, and also with Biblical terminology such as the great apostasy, the one-world church, the harlot of Revelation, etc. It is difficult to deny that something cataclysmic is happening in our generation.
It is almost as if we have two countries within a country. Not that either one is thoroughly Christian, but one is somewhat conservative while the other is very liberal and immoral. The effects of the recent election left the liberal side out of power and threatened with losing the gains that they had made over the last eight years (actually over the last twenty years). During that time the country had been brought to the brink of moral bankruptcy. Having been brought to a halt, or at least to a slow down, their anger is more than obvious. This anger seems to be directed toward the current president and a few others, but they are not the real reason for the anger. The real reason is that their thirst for godlessness is being threatened and they cannot tolerate the thought of that. They have tasted of the immorality and libertine spirit and they, like addicts, desire more and more.
At the same time there is always a general morality among a more conservative though not necessarily Christian side. America like other moral countries in history has been blessed with a legacy greatly influenced by Christianity and the Bible. This influence has been passed on generation by generation and has been taught in the homes, churches, and schools. It is not that all its advocates are personally believers in Jesus Christ, for they are not. But they have enjoyed the moral capital of Christianity for generations and have seen its blessed influence on them and their children. They want it to continue. So they vote for an ideal, not a man. The men in office come and go while the moral temperature of the county remains for generations. But that morality is protected by laws made by men in office. They would like to see their grandchildren have the same advantages they have had. So they have voted for the platform even though the office holders may be less than stellar.
But why has liberal America reacted in such ungodly ways in the last one hundred days? We should not be surprised at the answer.
The human nature
The Scriptures teach that human beings are fallen creatures, i.e., that they are sinful from birth, are controlled by their own sinful nature, and are under the judgment of God. The Scriptures teach sin came into the world and into the human nature through the sin of one man and one woman, Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1-7; Rom. 5:12). Though man was created sinless and in fellowship with God the Creator, he sinned by disobeying God and not only became sinful himself, but passed that sin on to all his posterity in a sinful nature (Psa. 51:5). Paul spends the first three chapters of Romans proving that everyone who has ever lived or will live is a thoroughly sinful person and under the judgment of God. His concluding words are a recap of Psalm 14:1-3 and are these:
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
Their feet are swift to shed blood:
Destruction and misery are in their ways:
And the way of peace have they not known:
There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:10-18).
In chapter one of Romans, Paul condemns homosexuality in all its forms and concludes that chapter with these words:
“Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whispers,
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Rom. 1:29-32)
The Biblical lists such as these could be multiplied over, from the Old Testament and others like these from the New Testament. The sin of Adam and Eve had immediate effect on them as it does on all their offspring. They were estranged from God, they were dead spiritually and began to die physically, and would eventually die eternally without forgiveness. They immediately knew they had sinned and were naked and sought some covering for their sin.
Since that first sin of humans, things have gotten worse and worse. Sin grew so fast in the first generations that God had to destroy the whole world with a flood and start again. Yet it took no time for Noah to become drunk and for his children to sin. Jesus said that in the end times it would be like it was in the days before the flood (Matt. 24:37-39). Peter uses the judgment at the flood as a warning of God’s coming judgment (2 Pet. 2:5) and both Peter and Jude use God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of coming judgment (2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7).
Man is so steeped in sin that he cannot control it and its desires. Paul said they “walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Eph. 4:17-19). Without salvation which is in Christ Jesus, these poor souls will perish when Christ returns, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thes. 1:8-9). The sinfulness of our nature is nothing to be ignored, in fact, our sin nature is not given the respect that it deserves.
As we get closer to the return of Jesus Christ ( and we are closer than we’ve ever been before), we know the world will become worse and worse though it hardly seems possible. America has been and could still be a great blessing in the world. It has protected and fed the world, it has blessed the world with belief in God and the promotion of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It has spent more money and personnel for the cause of Christ around the world than any country in history. But God doesn’t have grandchildren. Faith doesn’t automatically apply from one generation to the next. Faith can be lost in a generation.
The crying that we hear daily from the world is the fear that their indulgences may be taken away. They have indeed been slouching toward Gomorrah for generations and have grown up in a culture unknown to their Christian forefathers. Language that was once known to be inappropriate is now used regularly in public. Pictures in theaters are rated so that adults can see pornography by permission. Adultery, fornication, homosexuality, sex change, transgender orientation and further sins of the flesh have become commonplace and in fact are now protected by law. Indecency has become the decent, profanity has become the standard.
Examples are too numerous to try to describe. Sex change has been made glamorous by Bruce Jenner; the Boy Scouts have invited homosexual participants; Disney makes pro-homosexual movies like Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, Finding Dory, and Forces of Evil; College campuses are removing homecoming kings and queens with “Royals;” bathrooms are legally opened to anyone who feels they are a certain gender today; schools offer books to children such at Toni the Tampon to teach boys to become girls; the LGBTQ Nation writes about a Father & Daughter becoming a Woman & Son; and on and on it goes.
In addition, America protects the killing of unborn, defenseless human beings at a rate that makes Hitler and Stalin look like nice guys; it legalizes same-sex marriage, smoking marijuana; and promotes violent protestors and destruction of private property and many other such things. Imagine if you were born and raised in this culture with no Christian witness or other standard of morality. How would you think? Your sinful nature would be in full control and you would be addicted to its every whim. Then what if someone who calls himself a government official tells you that the way you live is now illegal and you must stop! You would go ballistic. Why? Because you are a sinner and because even the thought of no longer having the anodyne of your sin causes you withdrawal pain. You must get angry, and you must threaten retaliation.
The Bible says that “The law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murders of fathers and mothers” (1 Tim. 1:9). Also, “By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20).
America is screaming at the thought of her sin being revealed and punished. There may be no human power that can stop the retaliation of the sinful nature in such a scenario. Even the so-called conservative side may not be able to turn back this inevitable tide since they operate in their human nature as well. The ultimate hope is the Blessed Hope of the return and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Our thoughts about the church should not be as negative as about the world or our nation. Yes, we have sinful natures also and it shows in more than enough failures, but there should be no withdrawal symptoms within the church when sinful lifestyles are opposed by society at large. The church is not a political party. We don’t live or die by what a single nation does or doesn’t do. We are not a little compartment on the ship of state, ready to go down if the whole ship goes down. We are the people of the living God in this age of grace.
First, we should remember that though we are in the world we are not of the world. Jesus told us to expect the world to hate us (Jn. 15:18; 16:33) and yet to show the love of God in return (Jn. 15:7-11). The world is passing away but we are doing the will of God while it is day (1 Jn. 2:17). It is therefore our responsibility to be separate from the world’s sinful desires. We cannot have the world as our master and also Jesus Christ.
Second, we are salt and light in a dark and tasteless world (Mt. 5:13-14). We are natural irritants to the creeping things that live in the darkness. Peter described us as pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land (1 Pet. 2:11). When Bunyan had his Christian and companions travel through Vanity Fair, the locals wanted them to leave because they looked and talked in such a way that made them uncomfortable. We will leave our Vanity Fair when the Lord calls us away.
Third, we are the Holy Spirit’s instruments in the world. The book of Acts is really the acts of the Holy Spirit more than the acts of the church. The disciples did their greatest work when they were “filled” with the Spirit (Acts 4:8; 13:9). We may be insignificant in the world’s eyes but we possess the two most powerful things in the world—the Holy Spirit and His Word. We should never underestimate the work that can be done when we give these things full sway. Even the love of God is “spread abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us” (Rom. 5:5).
Fourth, we must never forget that God is in control and always has been. Yes, He allows sin to take its course and often with great harm, but His providence is always working things out to good. Part of this process is the effectual prayers of the saints who are living on the earth (James 5:16). God has given us the dignity of causality (to use C.S. Lewis’ term) in two forms: we can do things, or we can ask God to do them. Unfortunately we use our own power ninety percent of the time and God’s power only ten percent of the time.
Therefore with this realization of who we are and what we possess we should seek the Lord’s help and hand in many ways in regards to the situation in which we live. We should pray for the best circumstances to exist for the furtherance of His will and work (1 Tim. 2:1-3). This is why the believer can vote and participate in an election process hoping for the best situation for the gospel’s sake. Nothing will be perfect in this world but some things are better than others when it comes to doing the work of God.
We should pray for open doors even though there are many adversaries (1 Cor. 16:9). Paul was constantly asking the churches to pray for him, “That God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ” (Col. 4:3). Open and closed doors are His specialty (Rev. 3:7). This is not a prayer for miraculous, cataclysmic events to descend from the heavens. God providentially arranges the circumstances of the world in answer to the prayers of His saints and in accordance with His will.
We should pray for the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thes. 1:5; 2:13). The Holy Spirit superintended the creation of the world (Gen. 1:2) and He can superintend our lives easier than that. Elijah prayed that it wouldn’t rain and God answered his prayer and James uses this as an example of how we should pray (James 5:17), i.e., that God would intervene in and through the events of the world to accomplish His will.
We should pray that we could spend and be spent for Him (2 Cor. 12:15; Phil. 2:17). Paul called this “bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus” and “we are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:10-11). We have one life to give for Jesus’ sake. Let’s seek to make the most of it in the day in which we live.
And so . . .
We should not be surprised at the age in which we live. It was in 1984 that Francis Schaeffer called this a “post-Christian” world in a book titled, “The Great Evangelical Disaster.” I don’t think that 33 years has made it any better or that the disaster in the churches has gotten any better either. But we don’t have to give in. We must keep our eyes on heaven, “From whence we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:21-22).
As God’s church we really are a privileged people. We are His special and peculiar people, even a holy people. So let’s be faithful to Him Who has called us to glory and virtue.