A NATION IN DECLINE
It would be difficult to find an age when people were more aimless and lacking in purpose than they are today. Could we pinpoint a time when men were more alienated from one another, or when the gods of greed, mammon, and selfishness held greater sway?
Politicians and media personalities occasionally get concerned and ask, “What has happened to us?” But no one seems to know, or if they do, they will not admit it. Solutions are offered, but the basic problem, as well as the one effective remedy, is carefully ignored. A call is occasionally made for personal sacrifice for the well-being of the nation. Do you honestly think this will happen? It is similar to asking a cow to give a strawberry milkshake. She just does not have it in her. Our people do not have it in them either—at least not until they can face the truth. They must be willing to admit what is really wrong and have a sincere desire to change things in the only way that will make a difference.
THE PROBLEM The basic problem is man’s alienation from God. He is isolated from other men because he is estranged from God. The greater his separation from God, the deeper the rift gets between men. The heathen world was fragmented by selfishness, and the fruit of that selfishness was their gross immorality. The real source of their discord was their refusal to have God in their knowledge. Paul said they became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools... Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves: for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie...And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful (Rom. 1:21-31). THE UGLY TRUTH This also describes present-day America. She has banished God from her consciousness.
Professing to be wise, fools have expelled the Creator from the nation’s classrooms, legislative bodies, and halls of justice. The nation’s homes lie in ruins. Her churches have degenerated into social welfare agencies. Her doctors turned from healing bodies to murdering babies. Now, a horde of dope-heads, sodomites, deadbeats, and other assorted social misfits feed on the land like a plague of maggots demanding support from the public coffers.
Prisons overflow. Justice is a joke. Murder by the millions—euphemized as abortion—is practiced on a scale that makes Adolf Hitler and his crowd seem like boy scouts. Lawmakers represent—not the people who put them in office—but the highest bidder. WORLDLY WISDOM’S FAILURE What caused all this? Simply stated, we listened to the voice of worldly wisdom (liberalism, socialism, humanism, atheism), and this depraved assortment of ravenous wolves destroyed the moral fiber of our people. Men can live by God’s standard of righteousness and reap the benefits, or they can ignore that standard and destroy themselves. Most Americans have chosen the latter.
God tells us: “Righteousness exalteth a nation; But sin is a reproach to any people” (Pro. 14:34). Again, “the way of the transgressor is hard” (Pro. 13:15), and we are learning just how hard. Patchwork efforts will doubtless be made to correct some of our most undesirable and shameful problems, but they are doomed for four reasons. (1) Most will not abandon worldly wisdom or the selfishness that lies at the root of immorality. (2) Appealing to worldly, selfish people to practice altruism is wishful thinking. (3) Few will acknowledge Christ as Lord or His wisdom as their guide. (4) Most people will refuse to repent of their rebellion against God. ALL IS NOT LOST—YET The government subsidizes fornication by supporting unwed mothers, but the only real solution is for these women (and their partners) to stop fornicating. We can quadruple the size of our prison systems, but people filled with envy, selfishness, and hate will not stop preying on others. The restoration of sanity and morality to our land will occur only when God is restored to His rightful place in society. We will enjoy peace and tranquility only when men repent of their sin and rebellion against God and live in submission to His will. A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY This is not likely to happen in wholesale lots, but it can be accomplished one at a time.
There is a remnant—God’s faithful—who could have a powerful impact on the country if they would but lose themselves in a cause greater than themselves (the cause of Christ). The deteriorating moral and spiritual condition of our people has caused even the liberal, humanist-controlled media to express alarm. Opportunities have seldom been greater to preach the pure, simple gospel of Christ to a weary, aimless nation. We will still have to contest every inch of ground with false ideologies and teachers, but what will happen to us if we are content to do nothing while those worldly souls quite literally go to hell? How long will these doors remain open?
THE CALL TO BATTLE This is a time for stout-hearted, faithful Christians to fearlessly call rebellious people to repentance, as the prophets of old did. As the army of God, we must rise up and assault the citadels of Satan (2 Cor. 10:3-5). We must be willing to spend and be spent in the service of our Lord and for the salvation of men. If we refuse—or fail, are we any less culpable than they? —Deceased “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say” (Luke 6:46)?
WHAT WOULD LIFE BE LIKE
WITHOUT THE LORD?
Roger D. Campbell
What a horrible thought! I cannot imagine trying to make it through life without having “the good Shepherd” (John 10:11). He is the “one mediator between God and men” (1 Tim. 2:5). He is the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16). But, what if? What if Jesus had never come into this world “to give his life as a ransom” (Mark 10:45)? What if I had refused to believe and obey the Gospel? Or, what if I became a follower of God’s Son but later decided “to turn from the holy commandment” (2 Peter 2:21)? Friend, what kind of life would it be if we had to live it without the Lord?
It would be A Life Without True Meaning. Jesus came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). Aren’t we thankful that He did! Jesus once told His apostles, “...without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). But on the other hand, as the apostle Paul said, we “can do all things” through Him (Phil. 4:13). The “whole” of man is to fear the Lord and keep His commandments. The Bible says so (Eccl. 12:13). Yes, without the Lord, our life would be a life without true meaning.
It would also be A Life Without A Totally Reliable Pattern Or Model To Imitate. There are a lot of really fine people in this world. Some of them are worthy of imitation because they demonstrate in their lives wonderful behavior, pure speech, and a respectful attitude. Such rare people are a good pattern to follow most of the time. If you have read the Bible, you know that no mere human is perfect. No mere human is a good example in every aspect of living all of the time. Each person makes mistakes. The Bible says that “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). But not Jesus. He “did no sin,” and that is why He, and He alone, is One about Whom we can say to ourselves and others, “...ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21-22). Take Jesus out of the picture and there is no completely reliable model to follow.
Life without the Lord would be A Life Without Direction. Where am I going in my life? Where should I be heading in life? Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Following Jesus is the path of light. Through His word, the Lord provides a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). Jesus has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Without Him we would have no clue about where and how we should walk.
Life without the Lord would be A Life Without Forgiveness/Salvation. The wages of sin is death because sin separates a person from God (Rom. 6:23; Isa. 59:1-2). We could never devise a plan by which we could save ourselves. Thank God that He loved us so much that He sent Jesus “into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). The Bible says that in Jesus “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). Because Jesus is the only Savior, His is the only “name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Without Him we could never enjoy the forgiveness of sins. Without forgiveness, we would always carry the burden and guilt of sin in our heart. How horrible it would be to have to face life without the Lord and His marvelous salvation. We should continually express our gratitude for all the Lord has done to provide us with the remission of sins.
A life without the Lord would be a Life Without Hope. People that live without hope are miserable indeed. Jesus is the hope of the world (1 Tim. 1:1). Through Jesus we can live “in hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2). Christians have been begotten by God to possess a lively hope. That hope is to obtain the inheritance that the Lord has prepared —“an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven” (1 Peter 1:3-4). That is the only hope that is really worthy of man’s interest and effort.
What would my life be like without the Lord? It would be a life without true meaning, a life without a totally reliable model to imitate, a life without direction, a life without forgiveness, and a life without hope. The great thing is that none of us has to live such an empty and vain life without the Lord and His blessings. The choice is ours: we can either live life with Him, or live life without Him. Let us choose wisely, for this choice will determine our eternal destiny. To live with Him, of course, means to live according to His will. Are you doing that?
WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN’S RESPONSIBILITY
TO THE CIVIL GOVERNMENT?
Roger D. Campbell
Do you suppose there is a civil government anywhere in the world that has the exact structural arrangement and policies that the Roman Empire had in the days of Jesus and the first-century disciples? There may be some aspects of present-day governments that resemble those of the ancient Roman Empire that was in power in the Middle East when the New Testament was written, but the odds are extremely high that no modern-day arrangement is a one-hundred-per-cent carbon copy of the Roman setup.
If that be the case, why should a child of God living in the 21st century even be concerned about what the New Testament teaches about Christians’ responsibility to their civil government? The specifics may not be exactly the same, but the New Testament principles still apply because they are a part of the teaching of the Christ that endures and lives forever (1 Peter 1:23-25), being in force until the end of the age/world (Matt. 28:20).
What does the New Testament teach about my obligation to the government under which I live? This general instruction is found in Titus 3:1: “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.” That statement, coupled with more extensive teaching recorded in 1 Peter 2:13-17 and Romans 13:1-7, as well as other New Testament principles, leads us to make the following conclusions about our responsibility to the civil government.
1) A Christian is to obey civil authorities. First, the message of Titus 3:1 is, “...obey magistrates.” Second, the opening instruction of Romans 13:1 is, “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.” Third, Christians are further charged, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man” (1 Peter 2:13). The context of this last passage clearly shows that the expression “ordinance of man” is not a reference to some man-made religious regulation, but rather to the decree of civil authorities, “the king” and “governors” are noted (1 Peter 2:13,14). When the Holy Spirit’s instruction is to “obey,” “be subject to,” and “submit to” the laws of the land, that is a pretty plain message, would you not agree?
2) A Christian is to obey the civil government “for the Lord’s sake” (1 Peter 2:13). Because “the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13:1), resisting such authorities is equal to resisting God’s ordained authority and arrangement (13:2). Obeying civil authorities is part of obeying the Lord, “For so is the will of God” (1 Peter 2:15).
3) A Christian is to obey every aspect of civil law. Going back to 1 Peter 2:13, we read, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake....” “Every ordinance” would include what the civil authorities decree about building codes, littering highways, tax obligations, the size of passport photos, how far a church building must sit away from a street/road, and you name it. We may be tempted to label certain laws as “unreasonable,” “ridiculous,” or even “insane,” but the law is the law. If I have the right to disregard a law that I count as inconvenient, excessively costly, etc., then why would another person not have the right to disregard a different law? What is it that ensues when people decide to use their own gut feelings to determine with which government ordinances they will comply, and which they will disregard? The word is “chaos” or “lawlessness.”
4) A Christian is to obey civil authorities at all levels. Peter’s Spirit-guided instruction to submit to civil ordinances was, “...whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers...” (1 Peter 2:13,14). Kings, governors, and delegated authority are mentioned, indicating that all branches and levels of civil government fall under the category of “the powers that be” to whom we are to submit ourselves. In our country that would include national, state, district, county, and city laws.
5) A Christian is to obey civil authorities, regardless of the type of government under which he lives. This principle is tough for some to accept willingly, but it is true. In the U.S., we are blessed to live in a republic in which we are privileged to vote and elect government officials who are supposed to represent us and our best interests. Those to whom the apostles wrote inspired messages in the first century about obeying governmental powers were not living in a republic or anything akin to such. They lived in a day when kings, often ruthless, self-serving men, reigned. Still, the message of God was to submit to them. If the U.S. or some other nation should some day, either by choice or by force, adopt a form of government that has little or no concern for the common people, God’s charge to “obey magistrates” would still be in force.
6) While Christians are obligated to obey civil authorities, if there are governmental regulations that are not in harmony with God’s law, Christians must choose to obey what God says. Because God’s people are to act “as obedient children” at all times (1 Peter 1:14), if man’s laws are at odds with the teaching of the Bible, God’s children are to obey the Bible. Yes, in every situation, “we ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Remember, we are not at liberty to not submit to a government law simply because we do not like it. A saint’s decision to not submit to a civil law must be based on a “thus saith the Lord” and not on his own personal likes or preferences.
These half-dozen principles we have noted are not based on culture. Rather, they are biblical truths that apply in every society in every generation.
The “Failure” of Jesus?
A popular theological system advances the following theses:
• The Jews of Jesus’ day “surprised” God the Father by rejecting His Son, their Messiah.
• This rejection prevented Jesus’ from establishing the earthly kingdom He intended to establish at His first coming.
• As an emergency measure, Jesus established His church to suffice until He returns.
• When He returns, He will establish an earthly political kingdom, which will endure for one thousand years.
If this system of theology is true, Jesus failed at His first coming. If He did not fail, this system is false. To even imply that Almighty God was “surprised” by the rejection of His Son is to blasphemously deny His omniscience. Moreover, it denies prophetic announcements of said rejection (e.g., Isa. 53, written seven centuries B.C.).
The rejection of Jesus, resulting in His crucifixion, did not thwart the establishment of His kingdom. Without question, the Jewish leadership’s rejection of Jesus would have prevented His establishment of a political domain—had He come for that purpose.
But their fatal error (and that of the modern future-kingdom theorists) was their expectation of an earthly reign of the prophesied Messiah. They envisioned for their nation a revival of the glory days of the kingdoms of David and Solomon dominion of ten centuries earlier, which would throw off the despised yoke of Rome. They sought to force Jesus to be their king on one occasion, but He refused it and fled (John 6:15).
The church was no emergency substitute for failed kingdom plans. Rather, the church is that kingdom He came to—and did—establish. In the same breath, He promised to build His church, and He identified it as the “at-hand” kingdom (Mat. 16:18; 4:17). Paul reminded the Colossian saints that God had “translated” them into the kingdom (Col. 1:13). John was “in the kingdom” with the brethren he addressed (Rev. 1:9). The church is the “kingdom that cannot be shaken,” prophesied by Daniel (Heb. 12:23, 28; cf. Dan. 2:44).
Jesus’ kingdom is spiritual, not temporal or political, in nature. When He comes again, He will deliver His presently-existing kingdom to the Father in Heaven, not establish one on earth (1 Cor. 15:24).
Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). What part of Jesus’ plain statement can Bible readers not understand?
POLITICAL DECISIONS CAN BE SPIRITUAL DECISIONS
Victor M. Eskew
The principles of Christianity found in the Bible are to permeate every area of our lives. They are to be our guide at home, in the church, at work, in our recreation, and in our politics. We are not free to “pick-and-choose” where we will allow Bible teaching to be applicable to our lives. The will of God is pertinent to every realm of the Christian’s life.
We are fast approaching a national election. Some of the political decisions we make will also be spiritual decisions. Let’s consider an Old Testament example.
After the death of Solomon, Rehoboam came to the throne. At his inauguration, Jeroboam and the congregation of Israel gave an ultimatum to the new king. Their words to the monarch were: “Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee” (1 Kings 12:4). Rehoboam refused to make it lighter. In fact, he promised to make the yoke heavier (1 Kings 12:14). This decision caused the kingdom of Israel to divide. “So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither [have we] inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents. But [as for] the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them” (1 Kings 12:16-17).
After the division of the kingdom, Jeroboam (king of the northern ten tribes) was concerned about the nation returning to the house of David (southern kingdom), especially when it came time to “go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem” (1 Kings 12:27). To keep this from happening, Jeroboam did three things. First, he set up calves of gold in Dan and Bethel and proclaimed to Israel: “behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 12:28-29). Second, he created a new priesthood, “and made priests of the lowest of people, which were not of the sons of Levi” (1 Kings 12:31). Third, he ”ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar” (1 Kings 12:32).
At this point in the history of Israel, individuals had to make some important decisions. These decisions were both political and spiritual in nature. Would those who revolted against the higher taxation policies of Rehoboam continue to side with Jeroboam (northern kingdom)? Would they go along with his idolatry and transgression of the Law of Moses? In 2 Chronicles 11:13-15, we read of the Levites who returned to Rehoboam (southern kingdom). In 2 Chronicles 11:16, we read of others who returned as well. As you read this verse, listen to the reason they returned to Jerusalem. “And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers.” This was a political decision. They would leave one king and yield allegiance to another. The Israelites mentioned in this verse made their decision based on their desire to follow God. Note: Their political decision was based upon their religious beliefs. Their decision was both political and spiritual.
The United States is coming up on a presidential election. We, as Christians, have important decisions that have to be made. Sometimes our political decisions are also spiritual decisions. Sadly, some do not see it this way, or, they have formed some type of reasoning that allows them to compromise Biblical principles and support ungodly principles.
One of the decisions we must make involves the issue of ABORTION. Abortion involves the willful killing of a human life while still in the womb of the mother. It is shedding innocent blood. According to Proverbs 6:16-19, God hates it. In the last 20 or so years, one of the presidential candidates has opposed abortion (killing babies) while the other one has supported abortion (killing babies). My friends, this makes our choice for a candidate both political and spiritual in nature. Do you support abortion (killing babies)?
Another decision we must make revolves around HOMOSEXUALITY, especially as it concerns gay marriage (men marrying men and women marrying women). Some have made it clear that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, while others take the opposite position. One party especially has made it clear they support gay marriages. Because of this, one’s decision as to party affiliation becomes both a political and spiritual decision. Why is this the case? Because God has made it clear in His divine Word that homosexuality is sin. It is a perversion of the worst kind. In Romans 1:26, He calls homosexuality a “vile” affection. In Romans 1:27, homosexuality is referred to as “error.” In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, homosexuality is labeled as being unrighteous and these verses proclaim that those who practice it “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Remember, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of it (Gen. 18:20; 19:4-7,13,27-29; Jude 1:7). That is why homosexuality is called sodomy. Do you support sodomy/homosexuality?
The promise of God held true for Israel. He had said through the psalmist: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all nations that forget God” (Psa. 9:17). Do you think this promise still holds true today? Please, dear reader, as you cast your vote in the upcoming elections, remember that political decisions can be, and often are, spiritual decisions as well.
God is watching. He will weigh us in the balances of His divine justice just as He did Israel of old.