The Godly Majority
We must remember that within any nation are TWO KINDS OF PEOPLE, the godly and the ungodly. In the final sense, the nation is not divided between the rich and the poor, the Democrats and the Republicans, the white majority and the racial minorities, the haves and the have-notsnot at all! The division within a nation which is of infinitely greater importance than any of these lesser differences is the difference which has to do with darkness and light. In this world, and in the life of a nation, the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light are in a state of perpetual war. Should the kingdom of darkness come to a point of mastery in any human kingdom of earth, that nation will turn into a jungle of heartbreak and despair. Conversely, should the prayers of the godly and the activity of those committed to the Lord be a prevailing influence in the life of a nation, broad and beautiful futures await that happy land.
In this regard, we have some most instructive words from our Lord, Himself. Jesus Christ spoke on a significant occasion to His disciples and their friends addressing the issue of their influence in this world. His words are full of present application and prophetic import. He said, â€śYou are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is therefore good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. You are the light of the world. A CITY THAT IS SET ON A HILL CANNOT BE HIDDEN. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a basket, but on a candlestick; and it gives light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heavenâ€ť (Matt. 5:13-16).
Here we have the well-known and marvelous admonition which Christ gave to His followers during His earthly ministry. Had we come upon this passage by our Lord with no previous experience, we would have assumed that these were people of awesome influence to whom He was speaking. We might, with this assumption in mind, have been amazed to discover that the individuals addressed by the Lord were really quite ordinary. Here was a group of young men who possessed, at that time, no known large present influence. That was to come later!
What, then, was the common denominator between them? What universal quality characterized their lives so that Christ was able to make to them such a promise? Remember that Jesus was saying to them that they would become individuals to large influence. They would be the flavor, they would be the preservative, they would be the leverage, they would be the catalyst which God would use to evangelize and correct the world. What, then, was the quality which made this a valid promise by Jesus Christ?
The quality was a simple one. It was thisthere had come to pass a time in their lives when they chose to believe in and to follow Jesus Christ. They were believers. In addition, they had allowed the Lord Jesus to set the direction of their lives. This, then, was the quality which made it possible for Christ to say to them, â€śYou are the salt of the earth.â€ť Each one of us would do well to ask himself the question, â€śAm I the salt of the earth?â€ť In all successive generations of church history, this promise was to be fulfilled in and through the lives of Christians. In a sinful world, believers in the Lord were to be the ones whom God would use to be salt, light, and yes, HEAVENâ€™S INFLUENCE in an otherwise dark world. The presence of Christian believers, that is a body of influence which has profound effect upon the fate of any nation. But for the light of heaven shining through the lives of those who believe in Christ, a nation is poverty-stricken, indeed.
WHAT ABOUT THE RIGHTEOUS?
This is exactly the principle represented so poignantly to us in the unforgettable account of the famous twin cities of the Old Testament, Sodom and Gomorrah. In our time, every loose liver, every jetsetter, every playboy, every macho man, every slinky streetwalker, every presumer on the patience of God should read the account found in the Word of God, â€śAnd the Lord said,Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto Me, and if not, I will knowâ€ť (Genesis 18:20,21). On the basis of this piece of research from heaven, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was sure. At this point, the patriarch Abraham, filled with compassion for these wicked cities, steps into the scene. â€śAnd Abraham drew near, and said, will You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?â€ť
Based on this question, Abraham asked the Lord if He would spare the city for 50 righteous people. The figure was incrementally reduced until Abraham asked if God would spare the city for the sake of 10 righteous people within it. The response from the Lord was in the affirmative. Yes, He would spare the city for the sake of 10 righteous people within it. Alas, they could not be found. So Sodom moved beyond hope and, with Gomorrah, vanished from the earth.
The principle which is taught in this account is clear. The first will of God for a sinful society is not judgment, it is repentance and restoration. The judgment of God, then, is forestalled, lifted because of the presence of the righteous within a social structure, even in minimal numbers. ONE OF THE MOST VITAL POSSESSIONS OF ANY NATION is, therefore, a functioning body of believers.
THE CHURCH AND THE STATE
It is, therefore, appropriate to bring a most special message to two groups which are functioning in our timethe church and the state.
To the church, it must be said, â€śFunction, shine, move, reach out, work for the Lord!â€ť God has called for a SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE upon our society. Because of this, we, as believers, must labor to bring the Good News of the Gospel to all who are lost in sin, needing Christ and His power to save. The first calling of the church is evangelism! This means to testify as to the work of Christ on Calvary so that people, believing in Him, can have the gift of God which is everlasting life. Everywhere the message must be lifted that â€śChrist died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that He was buried and that He rose again the third day according to the Scripturesâ€ť (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
Then we have a second mission. The church must also work to be A SOURCE OF MORAL INFLUENCE. People in positions of public trust must be reminded that the Bible teaches the authority of Christ over all. All who think about political power must have the opportunity to hear that there is no power, but of God, and the powers that be are ordained of God. They must know that the Creator of the Universe is Jesus Christ, and He is the one who sustains that universe and keeps together all things within it with every moment that passes.
The moral influence of Christianity has already created a remarkable entityWestern civilization. It is called by many, â€śChristian civilization.â€ť The reason for this is historically clear. Western civilization came to this troubled planet as a result of the Protestant Reformation. This remarkable transformation of culture, ideas, outlook, and ideology was certainly one of the most world-altering events in human history. It was nothing less than the religious and political reformation of the major nations of earth. The reformation so influenced culture that the world was changed, never again to be the same. Thomas Carlisle said it well in declaring, â€śEvery nation under heaven rose or fell according to the attitude that it assumed toward one manMartin Luther.â€ť Talk about changing the world? Luther did it! This world-changing movement resulted from two vital causesa sure faith in the infallible truth of the Bible and a willingness to speak and act on the basis of that truth. So it will always be and it is, even nowThe only hope for society is the same conviction and the same courage in the hearts of todayâ€™s believers.
The message of the reformation was â€śJUSTIFICATION BY FAITH without the deeds of the law.â€ť Out of the â€średiscoveryâ€ť of that first and vital truth of Christianity came the new emphasis on individual initiative, liberty of conscience, and priesthood of every believer, plus many other philosophical and theological influences. The idea that a man is justified by faith before God forever destroyed the right of anyonechurch, government, tyrant, anyoneto overwhelm the individual with the killing pressure of a tyrannical religion or a smothering political state. All of those, whether Christian or atheist, who enjoy the freedom uniquely afforded in the Christian west are heirs of the reformation. Whether they admit it or not, they have Martin Luther to thank for their liberty!
It was not the formalistic enslaving sacerdotal religion that produced freedom, it was the reformation. It was not the doctrine of papal infallibility that liberated mankind, it was the message of the liberty of conscience which came from our rediscovery of the truth of the Word of God. The world today will breathe the fresh air or liberty in the same measure that Christians will obey the command, â€śStand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondageâ€ť (Gal. 5:1).
The marvelous centuries since the re-emergence of Biblical Christianity have proved the strong and salutary influence of the church upon culture. It has given the secular state a spiritual anchor on which, alone, a stable society can be built. The contrast between what has taken place in Western civilization and the present deterioration of the third world is clear for all to see. The difference, politically, economically, spiritually, between these diverse continents is not a matter that is easily explainable by the sociologist. One can point in vain to racial differences, differences in population density, climatic variations, the presence of raw material and dozens of other factors normally touted as the provenance of prosperity or poverty on the part of nations. In the last analysis, however, these arguments as to what produces national prosperity or the poverty which is so endemic in the world will not hold water.
Nations, like individuals, are made or broken by what they believe! When the Scripture announces, â€śBlessed is the nation whose God is the Lordâ€ť (Psa. 33:12), it is speaking the objective and provable truth. Conversely, when it warns, â€śThe wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget Godâ€ť (Ps. 9:17), it is making a forceful political statement. The influence of God and the godly in a culture tend to life. The influence of atheism, humanism or paganism produces hunger, poverty, suffering and death.
A WARNING TO RULERS
There is a second aspect of this marvelous principle that must be noted and will be ignored at great risk by national leaders. It is thisthe government and its leaders must give opportunity for spiritual, for Christian influence within a nation.
The pro-God, the pro-Christian attitude of the founders of America certainly built into the early life of their nation an influence which has become a great heritage. America is showing, perhaps, its most valuable single policy in that it permits the freedom of religious expression.
The United States of America is, therefore, to be congratulated because of the significant influence of the First Amendment to its Constitution: â€śCongress shall make no law respecting THE ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION or limiting the free exercise thereof.â€ť
So we rejoice that, through all its history, this nation has been generally careful that it not stand against the expansion of Christian evangelism, the wide dissemination of the Gospel through the media, the distribution of literature and dozens of other activities by the Christian church. Hundreds of thousands of churches and thousands of Christian organizations are able to use the United States mail, radio and TV, the highways and other conduits of promotion across the land to bring the story of the Gospel of Christ. This policy is, of course, not without its problems, but the payoff has been absolutely magnificent. THE RELIGIOUS HERITAGE OF AMERICA has been sustained because of the attitude of religious freedom within this land. Successive generations of oncoming and committed Christians have boldly and effectively reminded the government of its responsibility in this regard. That voice of reminder must be lifted today with greater earnestness than ever.
We, therefore, remind the government to be exceedingly careful in lifting its hand against the church. The persecution of Christians is an activity of which Jesus Christ, Himself, takes personal note. In the early church, the Apostle Paul, when he met Christ on the Damascus road, heard the words, â€śSaul, why persecutes thou Me?â€ť Here was a most instructive confrontation. Saul, commissioned by the authorities, had been active in the persecution of the church. He had no idea, however, that he was lifting his hand against God, against the Son of God, against heavenâ€™s purposes. He thought that individual Christians were autonomous persons who could be brutalized, tortured and killed with impunity. Nothing could be further from the truth. God indicates that the person who lays a hand on a Christian is actually laying a hand on God, Himself. THE GOVERNMENT MUST THEREBY BE WARNED that to incur the hostility of the Sovereign God can be an unhappyyes, a fatalcourse of action. It is a fearful thing, the Bible says, to fall into the hands of the living God.
Spiritual opportunity is a great gift. Let every person in a place of political influence remember this and jealously guard the open doors of religious freedom in this blessed land.
THE GREAT OPPONENT OF EVIL
Government, according to the Word of God, is an authority chosen of the Lord to stand in opposition to the rise of evil. This is a fact which we must also remember. The Apostle Paul tells us that the government is to be, in fact, a terror to evil works (Romans 13:3). In this regard, it must even bear the sword, purposefully (verse 4), for it is called upon to execute wrath in the name of God against evildoers.
Few developments within a governmental structure are more dangerous than excused evil. It is then allowed to incubate, to grow, and finally to dominate. When the moral structure of society is overturned, violence fills the earth and takes over all.
The individual, or the nation, which fails in the moral sphere, fails, in fact, at everything.
From the writings of Dave Breese
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