“Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister: and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Matt. 20:25-28.
Today we remember Religious Liberty and we will look at some current issues concerning freedom of religion. I want to familiarize everyone with the issues of church and state and why they are important to us. Now maybe somebody’s wondering what does that have to do with talking about God? Didn’t we come here to talk about Jesus? And, anyway, don’t we live in a country that guarantees religious freedom already? So what’s the issue?
I will begin by asking a question that is growing louder which many people are talking about lately and it’s in the newspapers and magazines. That is the subject of America as a Christian nation. Do we have a Christian government? Are the principles of our Constitution Bible-based, and have deep Christian cultural roots?
On the surface its appears that we do live in a Christian country. But in reality, we live in a mixing bowl of many religions, as well as many cultures, skin colors, and have many roots. Our Constitution doesn’t allow itself to be called Christian. This is what has made America the powerful nation it is today. Where else in the world can people dwell together in relative peace, without ethnic or religious cleansing, without religious bigotry, suspicion and prejudice, internal strife and civil wars, crippling the unity and solidarity.
Most of the wars fought throughout history have been caused by differences of religion. But our civil Constitution has helped us have a stable society which also created a healthy and vibrant economy. America is not perfect, we all know that. But our Constitution has done much to glue us together and put us on top of the world, as well as lead other nations to follow our example. This has been in a large part due to our Constitution’s guaranteed freedom of religion. Liberty of conscience has been found to hold the key to peace and prosperity. Freedom has proven to fight the war on dictatorship, tyranny, and corruption.
But some people want to believe we have a Christian nation. If you think we live in a Christian nation, then it becomes necessary to define Christian
Is your definition of Christian the same as the Pentacostal or Episcopalian man down the street? I believe it isn't Christ-like for a preacher to scream from the pulpit. I believe Christ gently but forcefully spoke the Word, and that had power to convict and put the devils on the run. One religion might believe screaming at the congregation is necessary to get through to believers or sinners. I believe it is possible to undo the force of the Word just by this wrong presentation of it. Yet, I believe differently than the Episcopalian man in that worship to God must be more than liturgical readings, or else the Spirit of Truth becomes bound down and unable to convert the soul.
I believe a christian
God is just but merciful in punishing the lost in the end and then being done with it. Much of Christendom in America believes God will burn the lost forever and ever. Thus they will never really die, but have eternal life, an eternal life of torture in the grip of an offended and vengeful God.
So these are a few differences in the definition of “Christian” and there are many, many more.
Isn’t the definition of Christian to take up the cross and follow Christ, to be Christ-like? How good have we been at doing that throughout American history, if we call ourselves Christian? Christ spent His days ministering and serving others, laying down His life for His neighbors, loving His neighbors as Himself. The apostolic church did the same. Is that what we see around us or in our American history books? We do see religion and churches. We see some good influence from the Spirit of God, but mostly we also see oppression and intolerance, prejudice and discrimination, slavery and neglect, from non-believers and believers alike.
We see Sabbath-breaking─even when the truth has been plainly set before the nation’s religious leadership. One great evangelist who has been considered America’s voice of conscience has said that the 7th day is the true Bible Sabbath but he would lose his following if he admitted to it.
(And by the way, one day we will be asked to explain why we keep the 7th day Sabbath holy. Are we
keeping the Sabbath according to the scriptures? What will be our
witness? The Bible Sabbath, according to Isaiah 58, is a day to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo (somebody else’s) heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke─in short, we find rest by helping someone else experience rest from their burdens. Will our profession condemn us? Will the world see us keeping the Sabbath holy? Or will they see us keep it worse than those that keep Sunday: a day for us to just come and sit in church and then go home again, eat lunch, and kick back? When that leading evangelist looks at our Sabbath-keeping, is it any wonder he finds it difficult to join with us?
Folks, Sabbath-keeping and obedience to all God’s commandments is soon to become a real big issue. Just being religious is not going to be the testing issue─because soon everybody
will be religious. They may not really believe in God, but they will be brought under duress to act the part; they will go through the “Christian” motions in order to keep their businesses or jobs or houses or friends. The real test will be the righteousness of faith, loving to obey the truth, obedience which comes out of a relationship with Jesus.)
Do we see Christ’s example among religious America? No, our history even to present day is littered with a less than stellar obedience to God and is full of hypocrisy.
Many church leaders and congregations look at the moral landscape of our country and see atheism and materialism deeply entrenched. Televangelists don’t seem to be making much progress. People aren’t coming to church to hear a good sermon. The moral fabric of America just seems to be getting worse and worse and there is nothing they can do to stop it. The churches are powerless to hold back the tide of evil taking over this nation. They want to take back America for God. They want to remove all the anti-God influences tearing at our families.
But there are groups out there who must be confident enough about their Christian track record that they feel their way of life should be the standard for all Americans. I spoke to my agnostic, atheist, anti-religion sister about this. She said, “I’m all for it, if that’s what it takes to clean things up!” That says to me that there are many “moral” people outside the churches as well as inside that agree with the churches dominating civil laws.
The Religious Right believe that this society is going down hill due to our disobedience to their brand of religion or their understanding of the Bible. And they would like the United States government to make its citizens obey God as the religious extremists understand Him
At this very moment they are scheming of a way to keep the government structure in tact─the Presidency, and Congress, and the Supreme Court─but make the Ten Commandments a part of the law of the land and require everyone to go to church on the Sabbath day. Does that sound OK?
Which day will be the Sabbath of their choosing? The 7th day or the Sun-day? Can you say, “Good-bye, 7th day Sabbath” and, “Hello, Venerable day of the Sun?” The Lord knows that we are better off letting everyone choose their day. Since His enemy owns the affairs of this world, the Lord knows His 7th day Sabbath would be completely banished from the earth if a day of worship were enacted into a law of the land.
Are you so sure you want to live in a Christian country with a Christian government?
What if the denominations become influential to our government, and push Congress and the President and the Supreme Court into forcing everyone in America to worship on their day of worship, Sunday? Should you obey?
The only reason this didn’t happened a long time ago is because the United States Constitution forbade it, even though every state that has ever organized has always included a law in its statutes requiring Sunday sabbath-keeping. Only rarely have these Sunday laws been enforced, but they are on the books of every state.
To be concerned about this may seem trifling, but it wouldn’t take nearly as much effort to bring life into an existing statute as it would to get a new one brought through all the standard procedures for law-making and have a national Sunday law ratified. And especially these days, with the President having the Home Land Security power of the Decree
during a national emergency. In light of Revelation 13 and the soon coming reinstatement of the Papacy, this time in America, these state Sunday laws are very menacing.
Does a national Sunday law seem too far-fetched in today’s modern atheistic technological world? Remember how quickly 9/11 got everyone praying, at least for a couple of weeks? We still see “God Bless America” signs everywhere because of 9/11. And all it would take to really motivate people to push to clean up America’s religio-social ills using Sunday laws, is a major crisis─terrorism, nuclear threat or incident, a series of natural disasters in the United States, economic collapse, et cetera, and people would start shuddering and praying and singing “God Bless America” again. A federally mandated Sunday law will
The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution states (and follow carefully because, if you love religious liberty, you might have to repeat this one day in some courtroom of our fair land):Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This amendment has kept peace for all these 200+ years, and if it were removed, altered, revised, or amended again in any way, we could expect all of America’s peace and freedoms to be removed also. The 1st amendment says that our secular government is neither antagonistic toward religion, nor friendly. The government is to be completely benign and non-interfering with the church and its affairs. But this also assumes that the church will be non-interfering in governmental affairs.
Self-government is at the core of the 1st amendment. You are free to worship as you choose or to not worship at all. I can’t make you think differently than you choose for yourself. The church has no power to make you believe differently than you desire based on your study of God’s Word; you may join together with like-minded folk (as God inspires you). Neither can the government of America, a state law, or the local city statutes of your home town. Isn’t that a nice freedom? No one is harassing you for coming together to fellowship on such an odd day as Saturday or whatever day you choose.
You may be labeled weird or your religion may be accosted as a cult, but no one is stopping you from coming together to thank the only true God and to learn of Him! Adventists in many countries don’t have this freedom.
Our God has granted us the protection to worship freely according to the dictates of our conscience! And how has the Lord done this? He has providentially given us a civil
government and civil
laws, rather than a Christian
government with Christian
laws. We have a civil constitution made by God’s providence which is the wonder and envy of the world.
Another wonderful thing is that all those people who misunderstand the 4th commandment can worship on Sunday and we don’t have to harass them! And the Wickans and Occultists and Spiritualists and members of the Church of Satan can do their ceremonies as they please and we don’t have to harass them either!
Is it a civil right for the Wickans to practice their pagan “religion” in your neighborhood? Yes! Does God like Wickans to practice their so-called “good” spells and “white” magic? Does He like them to worship nature and disregard Him as the Creator of all nature?
No, no of course He does not! So why can’t we run them out of town?! Why can’t we make a law to prevent them from infecting our children with Harry Potter-like sorcery that has become so popular these days?
Because we live in a civil society with civil laws and a civil government. Those civil laws only protect us against physical harm or physical loss of property or civil rights. Civil laws can’t protect against spiritual harm or loss or spiritual rights. How can the police or judges control or protect anyone’s conscience against spiritual enemies? They can’t.
We don’t even have moral laws to make our society moral. Because once again, morality issues from a heart converted to God and to His moral Law through the work of the Holy Spirit. No magistrate can read the heart. Therefore the heart and conscience is off limits to man who has no ability to discern its intents and desires and thoughts. Morality and spirituality are the jurisdiction of God alone. When it comes to the service of the heart, no man can interfere. If someone tries, our motto should be, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” ( Acts 5:29).
But then how can we stop the spread of Wicka, this extremely popular form of spiritualism? “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” Jn. 1:17, 12 ─If the church were half as spiritual as she claims to be, Wicka and immorality of all brands would be on the run! Truth and love will always win the war on error and deception. There is nothing better than the truth as it is in Jesus. Laws will never remove Wicka. Are we ready to give truth and love? That puts the onus on us, doesn’t it? But its a burden that is light, if Jesus is there with us.
Love and faith are not for the state to legislate, to judge, or to enforce. In the Bible, the priesthood was always separate from the government of kings and leaders.
After a wonderful career of serving God, King Uzziah tried to do the work of the High Priest by offering incense to the Lord. Was that so bad? The Lord likes incense! But the Lord immediately struck the king with leprosy. Uzziah ran from the temple and lost his throne also. Being king wasn’t enough power and privilege. He wanted to have it all─he wanted the priesthood also. This wasn’t unique for a king in those days. All the surrounding nations had kings who were also the supreme religious leader, Pontifex Maximus (in the Roman Empire). He wanted to be just like them. He looked at them and felt limited and confined and discriminated against. He wasn’t content with and thankful for the blessings God had given him. Does this sound like the same irritating position Lucifer found himself, in charge of the armies of the angelic hosts, but forbidden from the councils of the Godhead?
In like manner but from the opposite direction, Gehazi, the prophet-in-training to replace Elisha, decided to partake of the goodies of this world’s powerful leaders. He was struck with worse leprosy than King Uzziah.
“Even He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne
: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both
.” Zech 6:13. Christ alone, and no mere man, not even His so-called Vicar, can be trusted to hold the keys to both church and state.
So no nation or government can unite religion and secular power and do so without using it for personal gain. The moment religion, no matter how pure its roots, no matter how sincere its intentions, is united with the state, it becomes corrupted beyond all recognition by contact with secular power, and any government daring to touch anything holy will be under God’s frown. The union of church and state provides absolute power over body and soul, and like the Papacy of the Dark Ages, absolute power corrupts and controls absolutely.
Pure religion doesn’t need political power. Its helper is God and God alone. And Christ likes to work alone, apart from man’s efforts, because He is jealous for His Father’s name, to declare His Father’s righteousness, “to declare, I say, at this time, His
righteousness.” (Rom. 3:26.) He doesn’t need our help. “I, even I, am the Lord, and beside me there is no Saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you.” It’s all Him. He announces to all flesh in all their self-appointed greatness, “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?” “Cursed is the man that trusteth in man; whose heart departeth from the Lord.” Is.43:11, 12; 2:22; Jer. 17:6.
How will God fix up the wickedness in this and every other country? “Not by force, nor by [political] power; but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” Zech. 4:6. The power of love and righteousness can turn this world upside-down and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. (Acts 17:6; Matt. 16:18). But here is where the church has failed. We, not the government,
are to blame for the condition of society. Faith could have
moved many mountains.
When will we heed the counsel of God? “Turn ye even to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil...Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. Let the priests, and the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare Thy people, O Lord, and give not Thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them....Then will the Lord be jealous for His land, and pity His people.” Joel 2:12-18.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, and intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men: for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1Tim. 2: 1-4.
We should pray for our President, our Congress, and our Supreme Court, that they will devise just laws, to give us a little more time to get right with God, and then help others get right with Him. But we need to pray mostly for ourselves and the church’s horrible track record of disobedience and unfaithful to her commisson. And the pushing of the government by the churches to unite their influences is a big sign that His coming is sooner than most people think. “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up our heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.” Lk. 21:28.
One day all our freedoms will go away. Are you making good use of the little remaining time and getting hooked up with Jesus, the Friend of publicans and sinners, from the highest to the lowest?