Based on my teaching to the singles ministry at Cherry Hills Community Church,
Highlands Ranch, Colorado, on February 1, 1998.

(Don't be scared by the length of this. It took about 35 minutes to deliver.)

I. Introduction and Thesis

II. Christians should want a better society.

III. How did Jesus work? How does government work?

IV. Left-Wing Jesus. Right-Wing Jesus.

V. God's government is over the heart.

VI. The results of government. The results of persuasion.

VII. Getting perspective on the role of government

VIII. Christianity and the founding of America

IX. End-time prophecy

X. Conclusion

XI. Other verses to consider

XII. Links

I. Introduction and Thesis

I lead a pretty boring life, so I do not have any particularly exciting slice of life anecdotes from my recent past which relate to today's topic. Therefore, I am going to start the way Pastor Dixon starts out over at the Big Show. I am going to do a Scripture reading, and then tell a story from history.

Please turn in your Bibles to Luke 11:37-46.

"When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so He went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised.

"Then the Lord said to him, 'Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

" 'Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue, and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect the justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

" 'Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.

" 'Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it.'

"One of the experts in the law answered Him, 'Teacher, when you say these things you insult us also.'

"Jesus replied, 'And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.'"

At midnight, on January 16, 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution took effect. This amendment, known as the Prohibition Amendment, outlawed the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. It had very significant political support from the Christian community of the day.

That evening, Billy Sunday, a very well-known Christian evangelist of the time, celebrated the event by preaching a sermon to a crowd of 10,000 people. In this sermon, he said, "The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories, and our jails into storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile, and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent."

Well, we know that this did not happen. We know that Prohibition was a failure of monumental proportions. The Eighteenth Amendment was the only constitutional amendment ever to be repealed.

None of Billy Sunday's predictions came true. During the years 1920-1933, alcoholism and crime skyrocketed. Alcoholic beverages became far more dangerous. Enormous fortunes were amassed by bootleggers. Al Capone and Joe Kennedy, Sr., are cases in point. (A good chunk of the Kennedy fortune was accumulated by old Papa Joe running that hooch over from Canada.)

Alcohol Prohibition was nothing more than a huge Pharisaic show of our moralism and religiosity. While we may have cleaned the outside of the cup with our man- made laws, we did nothing to clean up what lay within us.

Today's teaching, entitled "Biblical Correctness", is about how we as Christians can have the best possible influence on our society. I will approach this issue from three directions, these being three themes we have covered in this Bible study in recent months. Last fall, we studied Apologetics, or how to defend Scripture against the many fashionable mythologies which distort the way people view God's Holy Word. Recently, we discussed the First Epistle of Peter, which discusses how we Christians should live in a society which is not always receptive to us and our beliefs. I am going to conclude by discussing some political signs pointing to end-time prophecy.

Last fall, when we studied Apologetics, we studied naturalism, relativism, pantheism, and numerous other "isms" (which in the words of the Reverend E.V. Hill ought to be "wasms") which non-believers use to deceive people into thinking that they have a better way of doing things than we do. I want to talk today about two more "isms" which are temptations into which contemporary Christians are easily led: statism and PC-ism.

Statism is the misguided belief that we can accomplish Christian objectives through politics. PC-ism, or political correctness, is the similarly misguided tendency to label as un-Christian those who do not share our political agenda. It seems that in every election pastors, ministers, and other Christian leaders form an unholy alliance with politicians to tell us that if we just pass this law, raise that tax, ban this vice, or infringe on that right, we will have a better society.

There is no Biblical basis for this. It matters not how noble your intentions might be. The Bible never promises Utopia, much less that government can bring it about.

I am going to talk today about a lot of contemporary political and social issues. Three issues are off limits. The first is abortion: I am not going to let that cat out of the bag. The issue is so emotionally charged that, in a Christian audience, all we need is for one person to ask the wrong question, and this entire lesson will be derailed. Second, I am a Storekeeper First Class in the United States Navy Reserve, and, therefore, I may decline to answer certain questions about the role of the military, because I do not like making public statements about these things. Third -- and this may come as a huge relief to some of you -- I am not going to discuss partisan politics. I am not going to talk about political parties, or elections, or even tell you my own party affiliation.

II. Christians should want a better society.

However, you should vote, and, if you feel so moved, you should work for those causes in which you believe. Most importantly, you must care about the society in which you live. And you should want to improve this society. In the Lord's Prayer, we pray that "Thy will be done on earth" (Matthew 6:10). In the next chapter, Jesus tell says "By their fruit you will recognize them." (Matthew 7:20). Not only will we be able to discern other believers by their fruit, but the world will judge us, and be either attracted to, or turned away from us by our fruit. Also, in Matthew, we find Jesus telling us "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me" (Matthew 25:40) and "whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did to Me" (Matthew 25:45). The Letter of James tells us that "faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (James 2:14-17, 26). Faith comes first, and if it is alive and active and vibrant, then works will follow.

Sadly, however, Christianity is commonly perceived as nothing more than a means of coercion and social control. Christians do great damage to their cause by misrepresenting their faith as a political vehicle. God already has a reputation (propagated in no small part by stand-up comedians) as a Control Freak with His eye at your keyhole Who cannot wait to slap your wrist for stepping out of line. We Christians only make matters worse when we portray Him as a Guy with a vice squad and a SWAT team Who wants to kick in your door and throw you in jail.

To many people, a Christian is nothing more than someone who wants to take away your rights. Jesus, on the other hand, had NO POLITICAL AGENDA. He never put a gun at anyone's head and said, "Follow Me!" When He tells us to "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's (Matthew 22:21)", He does not give Caesar unlimited power!

How, then, are we Christians going to be the most effective at advancing the cause of Christ and building a better society? We need to be guided by the Old Testament prophet Zechariah, who comes before Malachi, the Italian prophet. Zechariah 4:6 says, "Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit."

III. How did Jesus work? How does government work?

Jesus worked one way and governments work the other way. Jesus worked by means of persuasion. He never initiated force. In Matthew 4:8-10, Satan tempts Him with political power, and He refuses it. In the events leading up to the Crucifixion, Jesus says "My Kingdom is not of this earth" (John 18:36). In the book of Revelation, He says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with Me." (Revelation 3:20)

Jesus is not going to kick in anyone's door. He will enter your life by invitation only. Those of you who are Christians became Christians by CHOICE. Those of you who are not Christians -- and I fervently pray that you become Christians -- will accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior only by individual CHOICE.

Governments, on the other hand, work by means of force. They force people to do things, they force people not to do things, and they force people to pay for things. If you think I am oversimplifying, just try not paying your taxes.

Governments work by passing laws, and setting up surveillance and police apparatus in order to hunt down suspected violators of these laws. When they apprehend these suspected violators, they haul them into court with the intent of fining them, jailing them, or killing them. Any benefit you derive from government is derived because somebody somewhere employed force.

George Washington once stated that "Government is not wisdom; it is not eloquence; it is force." Mao Tse-tung, who really got off on this whole business of jailing and killing people, was even more to the point when he said that "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."

II Corinthians 9:7, on the other hand, states that "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." All the fiery rhetoric of the American Founding -- of men like Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Payne, and Patrick Henry -- was directed at a "tyrant" who taxed the colonists at a rate of about five percent. Today, the average American is taxed at the rate of about 50 percent. Consider, for a moment, how much better off you would be if you paid only five percent of your income in taxes. Consider, also, how many more resources you would have to support Christian causes if you were only taxed at a rate of five percent. Even after tithing, you would still have an additional 35 percent of your income available!

IV. Left-Wing Jesus. Right-Wing Jesus.

Yet ministers and Christian leaders are almost as eager as politicians to portray Jesus as a Guy who would love the modern superstate. In every election, unholy alliances of Christian leaders and political candidates depict Jesus as either a left-winger or a right-winger.

Left-wing Jesus loves socialism, high taxes, welfare, racial quotas, and state- sponsored health care and education. He would guarantee us cradle-to-grave economic security. Last fall, when we discussed Apologetics, we talked one Sunday about God being omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. Well, Left- Wing Jesus is a believer in an omniprovident state.

This is really a silly notion. If anyone was good enough to merit having all their worldly needs guaranteed, it was Jesus Christ. If God did not provide these things to His only begotten Son, where do any of us get off thinking that we are oh-so SPEHHH-SHULLL that God is going to guarantee all of our earthly needs?

What does the Bible have to say to this? The Eighth (Exodus 20:15) and Tenth (Exodus 20:17) Commandments instruct us not to steal or covet. Again II Corinthians 9:7 tells us that, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give." Acts 2:42-45 and Acts 4:32-35 portray first century groups of believers who lived communally, sold all their belongings, and gave to everyone as they had need. (In the words of R.E.M., these were shiny, happy Christians holding hands.) These communities were not the product of a socialist economic regime, but rather of divine inspiration.

Moreover, in II Thessalonians 3:10 states that, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." Even during that brief shining moment when we had heaven on earth, God instructed Adam to work the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 2:15) Work is not a curse, even though your job may seem like one. (If this is the case, perhaps you are not following God's call for your career. More later on how the government screws things up in this area.)

In short, no one can make you love your neighbor (Matthew 19:19, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27) or adhere to the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12).

Right-wing Jesus, on the other hand, generally favors a free-market economic system. However, when it comes to our vices, such as drug use, homosexuality, prostitution, and gambling, He sees government as the grooviest thing on earth! Time and time again, we hear that if we just elect the right people to office, and end this radical tolerance, PRESTO!!!, we will return to our moral roots.

What does Scripture say about this? Isaiah 29:13 and Matthew 15:8-9 say, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men." In Romans 7, we see Paul struggling with the sin that plagues his life. In verse 24, he cries out, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" In this moment of longing and despair, he does not ask the Roman government to pass more laws. Rather, he says "Thanks be to God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Colossians 2 is a wonderful chapter about the folly of worldly philosophy. The last four verses address the folly of relying on human teachings to restrain our lusts. Verse 23 says, "Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence." Man's laws do not suppress our appetites. Reliance on the Holy Spirit does.

We often hear people on both sides of this debate accuse those on the other of being less than Christian. We Christians need to get past this, and strive for BIBLICAL CORRECTNESS, rather than political correctness.

V. God's government is over the heart.

When the prophet Isaiah speaks of God's "government"(Isaiah 9:6-7), he speaks of a spiritual government rather than a political one. Again, Christ's Kingdom is "not of this earth" (John 18:36). Its capital is not in Washington, D.C., or Jerusalem, or Rome, or Tokyo, or Quito, Ecuador, or Ouagadougou (which is in the west African republic of Burkina Faso). Rather, it is in our hearts.

As humans, we want those things which we can physically perceive. We want the quick-fix, the feel-good approach. We can see a welfare agency doling out money as if there were no tomorrow, or DEA agents kicking in a door on a drug raid.

However, we cannot see the Holy Spirit moving a doctor in Greenwood Village to close his practice here and set up a clinic in Tanzania. We cannot see the Holy Spirit moving an alcoholic to say to himself, "Game over: I have had my last drink." We cannot see the Holy Spirit moving Branch Rickey, the Christian general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, to offer a contract to Jackie Robinson. (A historical aside: Branch Rickey was also one of the founders of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.) We know God by faith, which Hebrews 11 defines as, "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

Utopia is not one of our options because of the depraved condition of our hearts. Jeremiah 4:22 says, "My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good." Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure." James 4:1-3 says, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from the desires that battle within you? You want something but do not get it. You kill and covet, but you do not have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." Secular government will not change this.

VI. The Results of Government. The Results of Persuasion.

Unlimited government has led to the worst disasters imaginable. There is a direct correlation between unlimited faith in worldly government and mass murder. In no previous century has their been so much faith in the ability of government to solve problems and to build a better world. It is no coincidence that no century rivals the twentieth century in the body count department.

We hear a lot about Hitler and the Nazis killing six million Jews. In this century, totalitarian regimes -- the Nazis, the Soviets, the Chinese Communists, etc. -- have killed 170 million people.

They are characterized by official atheism -- they make sure that you serve the proper master. (Matthew 6:24) In order to achieve absolute political power, totalitarians will obliterate anything that diverts the loyalties of the people in any other direction. Foremost among these entities are God, and His primary unit of government, the family.

Here in America, we have seen horrendous disasters occur when we have asked the government to do God's work. We have spent $5 trillion on a War on Poverty which has left millions of Americans trapped in poverty. How can anything based on theft, envy, and non-work receive God's blessings?

We have a more intensive War on Drugs than ever. We have had 10 million drug arrests in this country. We have one drug arrest every minute. 60 percent of those in federal prisons now are there on drug charges. Yet, today we have more drugs than ever and more dangerous drugs than ever. 100 years ago, when it was perfectly legal for a ten-year-old to walk in to a drug store a buy heroin, we had nowhere near the drug problem we have now. The job of fighting drug abuse is important -- too important to be entrusted to the government.

There is no biblical basis for either the War on Poverty or a War on Drugs.

Welfare is not always in the form of a check from the government. The welfare mentality is inherent in the perception that someone else is taking care of it and, therefore, we do not have to care for the poor, educate the children, foster racial harmony, etc. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), and all the other biblical instructions to help the poor are calls to Christ's followers to help those less fortunate than us, and not to pass this duty off to the government, or anyone else.

The greatest positive social changes have come as a result of persuasion and voluntarism. The real success of the Civil Rights movement was a change in the hearts of millions of Americans rather than a change of laws. It is perfectly legal to join the Ku Klux Klan, yet this horrible organization has almost no influence. Slavery would have gone away without the Civil War -- it was losing its economic viability, as well as meeting with increasing disapproval.

There was an extremely controversial Supreme Court decision in 1989 which made it legal to desecrate the American flag in public. Yet, in a nation of over a quarter billion people, this happens perhaps a dozen times a year. Other forces besides the law restrain people from doing things.

I Corinthians 6:12 and I Corinthians 10:23 state that, "Everything is permissible, but not everything is desirable." Just because we tolerate something does not mean we condone it, are morally indifferent about it, or are sending children the wrong message about it. These are worldly cliches, propagated by those with a worldly agenda.

Changing hearts is far more important than changing public officials. Culture is an extremely powerful thing. Christians will be far more successful in advancing the cause of Christ and building a better society if they go grass roots, and influence their friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc., rather than asking Washington, D.C., to do this. Washington, D.C., is America's most morally bankrupt city. It makes San Francisco resemble Tupelo, Mississippi.

I am personally encouraged by the success of the Promise Keepers movement. It has a profound moral message, but no political one. This message is that men need to acknowledge their sinfulness, come to Christ, and reconstruct their own lives. It is only then that we can, in due course, reconstruct society.

VII. Getting perspective on the role of government

Now, I have said a lot of not nice things about government. I would be remiss if I did not say that, yes, God ordains government, and that Christians are to be good citizens (Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; I Peter 2:13-17).

However, God does not always bless what government does. In I Samuel 8:4-20, the people of Israel are clamoring for God to give them a king. God replies by saying that He would let them have a king, but that there would be a price for having a strong earthly ruler. Psalm 2 rebukes those rulers who conspire against God. Isaiah 10:1-2 rebukes those who make unjust laws. Acts 4:18-19 and Acts 5:27-29 say that, when God says one thing and man says another, we are to obey God, not man. When Jesus says, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's" (Matthew 22:21), He does not give unlimited authority to Caesar.

VIII. Christianity and the founding of America

We hear a lot about how America was founded on Christian principles. Indeed, most of the Founding Fathers were Christians. Even those who were not recognized the importance of faith in God in our public affairs.

The Constitution they gave us is a simple document. You can read it yourself. You no more need a Supreme Court to interpret it for you than you need a priest to read the Bible for you. It authorizes Uncle Sam to do next to nothing.

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution spells out those things which the federal government can do. It consists of 18 clauses and 431 words. There is no authorization here for 90 percent of what our federal government currently does. It says nothing about education, medicine, a welfare state, national parks, a drug war, a national commission on gambling, etc. "That which is Caesar's" is severely limited.

Another crucial point: our Founding Fathers specifically intended not to have a democracy. If I might make a mildly controversial statement, democracy is a very scary thing. The Founders equated it with mob rule. Democracy may be defined as rule by 50 percent of the people plus one. (I have also heard it defined a the doctrine that three wolves and a sheep should take a majority vote on what's for supper.)

Jesus was crucified and Barabbas was released because Pilate capitulated to the whim of the mob. (Matthew 27:15-26) In our time, democracy is likewise being used to trample on our rights. Neither the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence says anything about democracy. Instead, the Founders gave us a republic, based on extremely limited government and inalienable rights, vested in us by God at birth. These include the rights to such things as life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, property, self-defense, due process, etc. The right to vote never gives us license to violate these rights in others.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of the following as it concerns Christians. It is only in a society with extremely limited government that Christians can say, "God, what do you want me to do with my life," listen to God's call, and act freely in response to that call (Proverbs 3:5-6), without having to win the approval of the secular majority.

IX. End-time prophecy

I do not know what form 666 will ultimately take. (Revelation 13:18) We hear a lot about Social Security numbers and other mandatory forms of national identification, both of which are unconstitutional. I should have thought of this sooner, but try home schooling your children (Proverbs 22:6), following God's call for your life by starting your own business, saving for retirement (Proverbs 6:6), giving to the poor (James 2:14-17), or medicating yourself as you and your doctor see fit (Genesis 1:29), without kissing the feet of Caesar.

One more thing about prophecy, and I will wrap things up. There is a widespread longing nowadays for a political savior who will bring about world peace through human means. Worldly philosophies such as pacifism, nuclear disarmament, and one-world government through such organizations as the United Nations will not save us. (I Corinthians 1:18-20, Colossians 2:8) True world peace will only come about when Jesus Christ returns and sets up His Kingdom. (Isaiah 2:2-4, Micah 4:1-5) This has not happened yet, and we cannot know specifically when it will happen. (I Thessalonians 5:2) Until then, as we say in the Navy, prepare for some heavy rolls.

X. Conclusion

Good ends do not justify bad means. (Romans 3:5-8) It does not matter how noble your intentions might be. You must build the foundations of a society before you build the roof. This is especially relevant in a society which is not only "un-Christian" or even "post-Christian", but is avowedly Anti-Christian.

In his classic book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes, in a chapter entitled "Social Morality": "A Christian society is not going to arrive until most of us really want it: and we are not going to want it until we become fully Christian. I may repeat 'Do as ye would be done by'until I am black in the face, but I cannot really carry it out until I love my neighbor as myself: and I cannot learn to love my neighbor as myself until I learn to love God, and I cannot learn to love God except by learning to obey Him."

You will note that Lewis speaks in the first person. This is the way in which we need to evaluate ourselves. I cannot speak for any of you, but I know the sins I commit regularly. Indeed, I wish I could say I had delivered this message without committing some kind of sin. With this in mind, I am in no way qualified to make anyone else a better person, let alone make America a better society. I am barely capable of running my own life. If I am ever to purge the sin and wickedness from my own life, it will not be by my own doing. The only way I can hope to do this is by a continuing daily reliance on the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ.

Thank you and God bless you.

XI. Other verses to consider

XII. Links

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