Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Uncompromising Christ - Mark 9:43-50

The Uncompromising Christ - Mark 9:43-50
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 25, 2010 AM

Whenever we hear the word “uncompromising”, we often get the notion it means someone is ridged, narrow-minded, or strict. Yet if folks throughout our Nation’s history had not been uncompromising, we would be British citizens or saluting a swastika. Being uncompromising is not necessarily a bad thing. We live in a day and age where people have swallowed the lie that you must compromise in in life order to “get along” with others. While compromising on how to do something might be a way to get some things done, compromising on one’s theological views can lead one into dangerous areas and even eternal death. Jesus never compromised on his spiritual or religious views.

In fact, we could say that Jesus was an uncompromising Christ, Messiah. Here, in Mark’s gospel, we find some very tough words uttered by Jesus on what it means to follow him as his disciple. Some of us this morning may have problem with the words Jesus used, but believe me he did not. The strong uncompromising words Jesus used are a warning to his followers concerning the danger of allowing themselves to be lead astray. Jesus had just gotten through telling them, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) Now, he is graphically sharing exactly what he meant. In his teaching, we discover the uncompromising Christ.

READ: Mark 9:43-50


I have heard it a thousand times, “You Christians are so narrow minded!” and you know what? It is true! We are! We are called to be narrow-minded about what we believe. In fact, Christ was uncompromising because he knew…

I. Christianity is uncompromising! (Vv. 43-47)

1. What you touch, where you walk, and what you allow yourself to view affects your life in Christ! Right now, as of today, get a hold of this plain and simple truth: Your life in Jesus is uncompromising. There is no gray area of existence where Jesus is concerned. Either you are living for him or you are not. Jesus would bluntly state, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24) the word for “money”, as translated in the NIV, is in reality “mammon” which meant “your own confidence.” You cannot place your trust in your own confidence because what you may think is correct could have horrendous results. Jesus emphatically taught, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Later, Peter boldly declared to a Jerusalem crowd, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) And while Paul knew, that God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth,” he also quickly related, “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:4-5) Therefore, Jesus knew that “if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off” or “if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off” or “if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” Did he mean to literally cut off or pluck out the offending appendage? No! Jesus wanted to get the attention of his listeners. He knew “it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye”, foot, or hand than to have two healthy feet, hands, or eyes and “be thrown into hell!” Jesus was so narrow-minded wasn’t he? Christianity is uncompromising.

EXAMPLE: Faith in Jesus is not a compromising solution to your weak or faulty spirituality. You cannot say you love Jesus and live like hell. Nor can you say you believe in Jesus and then turn around and believe a lot of other spiritual nonsense. Either Jesus saves or he does not, period. If he does not, you have lost nothing, but if he is the only means of salvation and you do not trust him with your life – you LOSE big time! Paul related it this way, “The message about the cross doesn’t make any sense to lost people. But for those of us who are being saved, it is God’s power at work… Unless Christ was raised to life, your faith is useless, and you are still living in your sins. And those people who died after putting their faith in him are completely lost. If our hope in Christ is good only for this life, we are worse off than anyone else is. But Christ has been raised to life! And he makes us certain that others will also be raised to life.” (1 Corinthians 1:18; 15:17-20 CEV) Yes, I am narrow-minded about my faith because Christianity is uncompromising.

The fact remains, that if I am completely wrong about what I believe I have still lived my life helping, serving, and giving to others. However, if I am correct about what I believe, then those who do not believe as I do have lived a worthless existence. And worse, they will discover that…

II. Hell is uncompromising! (v. 48)

1. Eternal damnation is not one big happy picnic! However, there will be an eternal BBQ, so-to-speak, but it will not be a place of games, good times, and rock and roll! Christianity is so uncompromising because the consequences are so uncompromising. You do not get any more graphic than to be “thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’” It has always puzzled me why people want to talk endlessly about the love of Jesus but neglect why he loved us so much. He loved us so much because he came to save us from eternal damnation! He told his listeners, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10) Everyone is “lost,” eternally damned without faith in Christ: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.” (John 3:18) Jesus taught over and over that a time would come when “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:41-42) He also related, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12:2-5) This is why Jesus told his followers, “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” (John 12:48) Jesus knew without a doubt that hell is uncompromising.

EXAMPLE: I will never forget the response of one old boy who had smugly answered my question about faith in Christ with, “Well, I guess I’ll be in hell with all my buddies partying,” when I remarked, “How is that possible when they won’t hear you over their own screams nor recognize your burning flesh.” I was bit younger and blunter back then I guess. But it is true. Jesus did not come to earth to be a “good old boy” smiling and touching everyone. He came to seek and save the lost because they were condemned to hell. Why else would he suffer such a horrible death on a gruesome cross? It wasn’t so you could decide to have a grand time in hell with your “buddies”. Hell is a horrible place, full of agony and pain – you don’t wanna go there! Hell is final and hell is uncompromising.

Each day comes whether we want it to or not. How we enter that day is decided by no one else but ourselves. Of course, there are things that can unexpectedly happen to us during the day, and this is why we had better be sure of what we believe concerning our faith in Christ. Jesus taught that…

III. Life is uncompromising! (Vv. 49-50)

1. Everyone goes through personal trials, but how you handle them reveals what you believe! This is why Jesus told them, “Everyone will be salted with fire.” (Mark 9:49) Bad things happen in this life to good people because sin exists. If you forget this truth, you will begin to think that only good things should happen to folks all the time. This is not reality nor is it God’s truth. Jesus reminded them by telling his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) All of God’s people have troubles. Paul understood this. He had been shipwrecked, beaten, stoned to near death, and imprisoned for his faith, yet he would happily declare that, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39) Remember those commercials where it showed a baby being born and the next thing you knew he was going to college, getting married, and then seeing his own children off to college. They concluded by stating, “Life comes at you fast.” And this is the truth. Life is uncompromising. However, Jesus would go on to state, “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50) just as the trials of life preserve, season, and enhance your life, so does your faith in Jesus. If life lost its savory quality, it would be worthless -- so too, the believer who loses touch with his Savior. Saltiness is tough to regain. Have faith in Jesus, “salt in yourselves”, and “be at peace with each other” as believers. Love God and love others (Mark 12:30-31) because life is uncompromising!

EXAMPLE: I remember asking someone who had just turned 50 years old, when I was still in my late twenties, what it felt like. They responded that they felt the same as when they were nineteen, but with more aches and pains. I can now relate. Life has a way of happening fast. It seems as if every year goes by just a little bit faster than the last one. I know it isn’t true, but mere science cannot always explain the unexplainable, especially where old age is concerned. Everyone discovers that Life is uncompromising. Everyone will be salted with fire because bad things happen to everyone. But take heart! Jesus has overcome the fire for us! While life is uncompromising, so is Jesus.

Conclusion:
We learned today that Christianity is uncompromising, that hell is uncompromising, and that life is uncompromising. This is why Christ is so uncompromising.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission…

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Cause of Christ – Mark 9:38-42
Pastor Lee Hemen
July 18, 2010 AM

There are many “causes” in the world today, everything from saving whales to wearing natural clothing. Someone once said, “When folks do not have a life, they find someone else’s life or something else to make their life have meaning.” I believe there are so many causes in our world because people have lost what should be their true focus in life – the Lord. I have to laugh when I see the parade of Hollywood elites heading out on publicity vacations in order to discover some new cause they can wrap around their lives. Simply because you play a farmer in a movie, does not make you an expert on the plight of farmers. And while there are many good causes in the world, as Paul would say, “‘Everything is permissible’--but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’--but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24) However, is doing good, for goodness sake, good enough?

We find the disciples and Jesus in a discussion concerning this very issue. Immediately after Jesus shows them how they are to conduct their lives by using the example of a child, they whine to Jesus. Others were performing the very same ministry Jesus had asked them to do! It sounds as if they were offended. Jesus begins to instruct them concerning how they are to respond. From his words, we can discover how we are to be about the cause of Christ today. Let’s find out…

READ: Mark 9:38-42

There is an old joke that states, “A Baptist only needs himself in order to disagree.” Think about that for a moment and understand what the implication means. While we do not need to let our theological brains fall out in order to get along with fellow believers, we should be able to work with one another for the cause of Christ. In fact, we discover that…

I. The cause of Christ calls us to a unity of purpose! (Vv. 38-40)

1. Unity, means giving up the “me” and exemplifying the “we”! Notice that the disciples were offended because the man was “not one of us.” They felt that he needed to be chosen by Jesus personally, as they were, in order to do the things Jesus had given them to do! After all, weren’t they his “chosen” disciples? While we can question a ministry’s methods or their true outcome, we want to be careful that we do not hinder the cause of Christ by being offended because others are doing a god job. Jesus tells them, “Do not stop him” and goes on to explain why, “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.” Notice that Jesus is not saying that anyone who simply uses the moniker of his name is okay, but rather it is the intent behind using his name. If a true miracle is performed because of the faith of the person involved using his name, then how could they be concerned? That individual is standing for the cause of Christ! Dear child of the Lord, do not be misled here. Jesus is not excusing the claims of anyone who uses his name. Charlatans and mystics who claim Christ and seem to display his power need to be judged by their true effectiveness and intentions. We see this in the Book of Acts (Acts 8:9-20). Worldly gain or personal enhancement should never be part of ministry. In fact, what Jesus is emphasizing here is that there can be no neutrality concerning him! Either you are for him or you are against him. If someone is working for Jesus, in His name, he cannot work against Him at the same time. This also brings up the issue of church unity as well. Christians need to be unified when doing the work of the Lord. Paul wrote, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3) The cause of Christ calls us to a unity of purpose!

EXAMPLE: How tragic is it when churches cannot get their collective act together to minister, yet they want Jesus to “bless” them! The same is true for our personal lives in Christ. You cannot serve two masters. You cannot say you love Jesus and yet do things in your personal life you know would offend him. Your faith does not take a vacation. Unity between Christian churches begins with unity in the local church which begins with unity in the lives of its people. Unity of purpose starts when we give our lives to Christ daily. When we say “no” to our selfish selves and live in united faith with him and for him! The Christian church is only as dysfunctional as each of its members is. Jesus earnestly desired that his followers would be unified in him beginning with their relationship to him and then with one another. He would pray, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)The cause of Christ calls us to a unity of purpose!

There is no more noble purpose than for one to live his life for the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, it is the ultimate Medal of Honor a person could earn in this existence. What greater honor could there be than to be known for a life that is forged by the handiwork of living purposefully serving others for the sake of Jesus? Have we become so blindly enamored with ourselves that even as believers we have forgotten what “to live is Christ and to die is gain” means? Jesus teaches us that…

II. The cause of Christ calls us to service! (v. 41)

1. Many demand it but few are willing to do little of it themselves! Time and time again Jesus returns to the issue of service. The reason I believe is because we as individuals have real a problem with serving others in Jesus’ name. Jesus had just taken a child into his arms to display for the disciples what he meant by, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (v. 35) And rather than focusing on the miracle the man performed or the issue of his disciple’s offended pride, Jesus tells them, “I tell you the truth, ANYONE who gives YOU a cup of water in MY name because YOU BELONG TO CHRIST will certainly not lose his reward.” (Mark 9:41) In other words, if anyone gave them something out of the mercy and faith they had in Christ, they also were part of him! The beautiful truth is that no matter where you go in the world, when you meet fellow believers in the Lord, you are immediately part of the same family. Certainly, there are those who claim Christ, but never display the bond of Christian fellowship with others. There are also those who claim Christ and do things simply to be recognized. Both groups have lost what they never had obtained. The disciples, like some of us this morning, needed to seriously look at their walk in Jesus. A time was shortly coming when they would have to depend on those who claimed Jesus who had never actually met him. They would have to get over their racial and religious bias. They would have to understand that anyone who gave them a cup of water in the name of Jesus was one of them! The cause of Christ calls us to service, especially service to fellow believers, and that service is for his benefit and never our own. What Christian Brother or Sister in the Lord have you served without being asked to do so this week? When asked are you willing and ready? The cause of Christ calls us to service!

EXAMPLE: I recently met a woman who displayed the epitome of what it means to be a spiritual leech sucking all she could from churches in the area, but giving nothing in return. What a difference between this person and one of our own whom we lost this past week, Jan Sander. She was one of those rare people who walked under the radar, so-to-speak. While she lived in poverty, she was wealthy in her love and devotion to the Lord. Her church was her family. Paul would say, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. … Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:10, 16) Jan knew what that meant. GBC asks that all of its Sunday School Teachers tithe as an example to their classes. Jan took this very seriously even as an example to her preschoolers. She came to me and confessed that she would have to give up teaching. She could not tithe because the tiny bit of money she made from rent on her little house she owned, was now going to have to go to help take care of her ailing mother’s needs. However, she was going to continue to give her $5 to help Kyla, our missionary in Canada. Now, what you have to understand is what Jan gave was a pittance compared to many of us, but to her it was all she had. I wrapped my arms around her and told her, “Jan, you do not have to worry about that. You have already out given us all.” She served as Church Clerk, Treasurer, Preschool Director and Teacher. She went on weekly visitation, encouraged us and prodded us along, and she was a friend. Jan lived a life of service. The cause of Christ calls us to service!

Truth does not change with the season, with the century, nor with age. Truth remains the same. We live in a day and age whereby folks want you to believe that truth should be measured by the circumstances you find yourself in at the moment. Communists, Nazis, and now abortionists have slaughtered millions by doing that very thing. For the believer the truth is not relative but a constant found only in Jesus. He is the beginning and end of all truth, and because of this, we learn that…

III. The cause of Christ calls us to live the truth! (v. 42)

1. Millstones get heavy when they are water-soaked! A lot of folks think that Jesus is referring to someone who causes a person to not come to know Jesus Christ in this verse, but this is not the case. Look at what Jesus says to his disciples, “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.” (Mark 9:42) Jesus refers to “one of these little ones who believe in me.” He is telling his disciples that if there are those who are crass enough in life to cause one of those whom he has already saved to sin, not lose their salvation, but actually commit a sin, they are in danger. And the judgment carries with it a harsh penalty that is worse than dying by having a millstone hung around your neck and being drowned! There are those in our day and age who have wantonly caused believers to sin. We see it on television, in movies, in video games and in the music; we watch and listen to or play on a daily basis. Paul would say that, “Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:32) This is why Christians must be very careful in what they do in life because if they willingly participate in ungodly actions, they could be encouraging other Christians to sin. What a tragedy! Rather than being salt or light in a sinful world many have become like MSG instead. They enhance ungodliness instead of seasoning the world with Jesus. Jesus stridently warned his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” (Matthew 5:13) Far too many believers are allowing themselves to be trampled by the world. The cause of Christ calls us to live the truth!

EXAMPLE: There are actually those now who are deliberately involved in not only degrading Christians, but Jesus as well. Urine soaked crosses and homosexual depictions of Jesus are mild compared to the MTV videos, Hollywood movies, or TV shows being produced that depict believers and Christ in ungodly ways. We now have so-called Christian writers, pastors, and churches actually teaching that it is okay for believers to do what would have been unthinkable or unmentionable a few years ago. Drinking, premarital sex, smoking, or any kind of crass behavior is okay as long as it is done in “moderation,” they declare. Holiness is now in the eye of the beholder instead of being measured by a life lived for the Lord. They say that the Bible was written for us to reinterpret for our day and time. What they suggest is simply a new means for excusing their sin. Many dismiss Paul’s admonishment, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2) Jesus is already measuring them for a stone cold collar and a length of rope. We must remember that the cause of Christ calls us to live the truth!

Conclusion:

The cause of Christ calls us to a unity of purpose, to service, and to live the truth!
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission…

Sunday, July 04, 2010

What’s so great about America? - Psalm 33

What’s so great about America? - Psalm 33
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 4, 2010 AM

There are cynics today who demand that we, as Americans, ask ourselves, “What’s so great about America?” They think that because we live in a country of plenty where over half the world goes to bed hungry, cold, and without proper shelter, that we should not enjoy the freedoms we do in this nation. Homemakers in much of the world will never see in their entire lifetime the abundance and quality of food which the American housewife can choose from in one trip to the grocery store. To be able to step into a Safeway for them would be a dream come true! Is this land of plenty, this freedom of ours merely by chance? Should we ask ourselves, “What’s so great about America?”

Benjamin Franklin was leaving the Constitutional Convention and a lady stopped him and asked, “Well, Dr. Franklin, what have you given us?” He replied, “You have a republic, Madame, if you can keep it.” America was formed as a constitutional republic with individual liberty, elected representatives and limited government. America was to have a government where individuals would enjoy pursuits of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Each inalienable right endowed by the Creator. After God, the individual was to come first. What makes America great? The Psalmist relates to us why--

READ: Psalm 33

Before we celebrate our Nation’s independence with fireworks, picnics, and singing patriotic songs—we should pause to think about what’s so great about America. Join me as we rediscover the unprecedented abundance we enjoy and the freedoms that are the envy of the world!

I. First, let’s look at the greatness of America’s land!

1. This land is your land, this land is my land… this land was made for you and me! Our forefathers looked across this land of abundance and saw an opportunity, a Manifest Destiny, by God to grow a great nation. Some would have you believe that it is the land itself the earth that has made America great! They would have you worship Mother Earth instead of the One we should give our thanks. The Psalmist tells us that, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalms 33:6) and we discover throughout the Bible that “the earth is the Lord’s.” America’s rich natural resources have made her great—rich with oil, ore, timber, water, the soil and the climate all have combined to make her great from sea to shining sea! Why then are there other nations which have been blessed with fine resources that have not risen to such greatness? It therefore must more than just the good earth we as Americans enjoy, more than the greatness of America’s land.

EXAMPLE: One of the things that motivated families to move westward across this grand continent was its natural resources. It was the notion of a Manifest Destiny where one could have their own place in the sun, the idea where families could freely own their own land to grow abundant crops in the rich untouched soil. One of the most moving patriotic hymns cites the beauty of America--a beauty that all who have traveled across this continent surely recognize as created by God Himself! Katherine Lee Bates stood atop Pike’s Peak and scanned the sweep of the land, then wrote of purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain. She concluded that God had shed His grace on this land--a vast unexplored wilderness that, in an astonishingly short period, grew into a great nation!

There is more to any nation than just the land, there is also a quantifying factor that makes any nation great. And that factor is a nation’s people.

II. Secondly, let’s look at the greatness of the American people!

1. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness! At our Nation’s core is the notion that a nation is only as great as its people are! If a nation’s people fail to keep her safe, free, and focused on God, then a nation ceases to be a great nation. This is why others have said that it is America’s people, which have made her great! As we look at Psalm 33, we cannot but come away with the fact that people make a nation grand. The Psalmist states, “From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth--he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.” (Psalms 33:13-16) Individuals can and do make a nation great. It is not only the Billy Grahams of America, the Lottie Moons, or the stalwart pastors, deacons, and Sunday school teachers, but it is each individual believer as we seek and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. You, the American people, make America a great nation!

EXAMPLE: Lyman Abbott (1835-1922), a great American educator and clergyman, stated, “A nation is made great, not by its fruitful acres, but by the men who cultivate them: not by its forests, but by the men who use them; not by its mines, but by the men who build and run them. America was a great land when Columbus discovered it: Americans have made a great nation.” It is sad to see in a country where the pride found in coming to a great melting pot is being reduced to diversity, factions, and victimization. It was rugged individualism whereby people coming here, for a common cause, a chance for religious freedom, that subdued the elements, pioneered a continent, molded a society of peoples from all over the world! People make America great!

Other countries look in awe and envy at our ability to produce, for not only our needs, but also the needs for much of the entire world! California alone can feed most of the globe! American ingenuity and initiative are known across the world. How is that possible?

III. Third, let’s look at the greatness of America’s freedom!

1. My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing! Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride; from every mountainside, let freedom ring! America’s freedom is the political expression of God’s righteousness! The Psalmist reminds us that “The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” (Psalms 33:5) Freedom is found only when folks realize it comes from the Lord! Martin Luther King Jr. kindled the conscience of the American people concerning this freedom in his “I Have A Dream Speech.” He reminded us that “when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every State and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’” Patrick Henry would admonish the Continental Congress with these words, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid

it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” It is in this foundational belief that God alone has given us the freedoms we enjoy: the ability to say what we want, possess what we desire, and worship where we will! America is only as great as her freedom!

EXAMPLE: When the world has needed America, we have responded. Whether it is from the Halls of Montezuma, to shores of Tripoli, or on to the sands of Iwa Jima and Iraq. When the world cries out in hunger, the American people respond! Americans give 90% of all donations to the world’s charities. You cannot name for me another nation that responds as America does to the needs of the world! All of the blessings we have, all the blessings we share, are from the great spiritual heritage that built and designed America! Thomas Jefferson exclaimed, “My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” America is great because of the freedoms it enjoys, but where did those freedom ideals come from?

Plato warned us in his writing that unrestricted democracy must result in dictatorship. Why would he say that? Plato knew that at the core of freedom is the individual and if the individual does not have a personal foundation established in firm moral and righteous convictions, then democracy will fail.

IV. Finally, let’s look at the greatness of America’s relationship to God!

1. Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation… And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.” Our founding fathers established a new ideal: freedom of religion, not from religion! No nation stands long or is remembered that does not have God as its ruler. Notice the writer declared, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.” (Psalms 33:12) Rome fell, Greece fell, and Nazi Germany fell. Imperialist Japan, Iraq, and the Soviet Union and others have and will fall and fade away if God is not their king. Israel itself is a prime example of a nation that has constantly forsaken God and paid the price of its disobedience. America today suffers because it has forgotten its Creator and king. When we look at Scripture, we find the panoply of God working to bring mankind back into personal relationship with Him--kings or countries, nations or persons were to follow God and His ideals. Americans had the gall to wonder, “If Christ is the one who makes men free, how could a mere earthly king force free men to live and die for him?” This ideal was the spark, the flame, the beacon of light that ignited a great American republic into being! America is only as great as its relationship to the Lord is strong!

EXAMPLE: We have forgotten why people fled to America. Most came not for profit. They came to be able to live their lives worshipping God without the governmental interference. No other American Denomination, other than Baptists, has suffered so much to gain freedom in America. Baptists made up the majority of Washington’s army that crossed the Delaware River and stayed with him through the horrible winter at Valley Forge where men starved and froze to death. It was because of John Leland (a Baptist preacher) and John Hart (a Baptist layman) that we enjoy religious liberty. These two Godly men worked to include the first amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing our individual religious liberty. They found this Godly notion so pervasive that they persuaded Jefferson and Madison to put religious freedom first, before speech, press, the right to assemble, or petition the government! Jefferson, after being convinced by Leland to include religious liberty, wrote, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure, when we have removed the conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” America is great because of her relationship to God!

Conclusion:

The well-known French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1840 of his observations of America as he traveled through this great country. He said, “For the Americans, the ideas of Christianity and liberty are so completely mingled that it is impossible to get them to conceive of the one without the other!” Daniel Webster in 1851 affirmed the need and role of God in government when he wrote: “Let the religious elements in man’s nature be neglected, let him be influenced by no higher motives than low self-interest, and subjected to no stronger restraint than the limits of civil authority, and he becomes the creature of selfish passion or blind fanaticism.” Charles Malik, one-time ambassador to the UN, related, “The good (in the united States) would never have come into being without the blessing and power of Jesus Christ... I know how embarrassing this matter is to politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and cynics: but, whatever these honored men think, the irrefutable truth is that the soul of America is at best and highest, Christian.”

America is great because of its land, its people, and its freedoms, but America is truly great because of God’s grace. Never forget that. We are only what we are in the grace of Jesus Christ.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission…