God and America
Happy Independence Day! Or Happy Fourth as some say! And yes, I realize that Independence Day was four days ago, but I believe it is okay to celebrate a few days later. July 4th is the day we celebrate the birth of our nation. It is on that day that the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the second Continental Congress. It is the day we officially declared ourselves to be a sovereign, independent nation, no longer a part of the British Empire. As you know, there was great sacrifices made to declare our freedom.
Now, 242 years later we celebrate our independence and our amazing heritage of courageous men and women who had the vision of a free nation. If you have never read the Declaration of Independence, I would encourage you to do so. This document says so much about the mind and heart of those Founding Fathers and their desire for this nation. Let me read just a portion of it.
“The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, when in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
That is just a portion of this amazing declaration. So, why declare independence from Britain? Most often we hear that the reason the we separated from Britain was for freedom from taxation without representation. But as you read the Declaration of Independence the list is long of the many overreaching laws and orders that were not just offensive to the people of America but kept this nation from becoming a great people. They felt the hand of British government had stripped them of their rights as a people. In fact, they saw certain rights as God given and unalienable. What exactly does that mean?
Inalienable rights: Rights which are not capable of being surrendered or transferred without the consent of the one possessing such rights.
You see, the Founding Fathers of the United States (in varying degrees) understood very well the relationship between one’s world view and the government under which they placed themselves. John Witherspoon (1723-1794), a Presbyterian minister and president of what is now Princeton University, was the only pastor to sign the Declaration of Independence. His concept of government was clearly linked to Christian thinking and a godly understanding of a world view. The connection of rights of people and the Creator God was not just some fancy words put on a page to make this declaration more appealing. This is how they understood human rights.
In Britain, the idea that the king is law was how things worked. Even if the parliament and those who supposedly represented the people passed something the king disagreed with, it didn’t matter, because the king would overrule it. The king is law. John Witherspoon was greatly influenced by the writings of Samuel Rutherford. He wrote Rex Lex. Rex Lex is a phrase that means law is king. This concept that law is king became the driving force of this world view. But if law is king, rather than the king being law, then how do you establish law?
Remember what they said in the Declaration of Independence? They are talking about the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” Now this may look like two different sources upon which to base law, but it is not. John Quincy Adams said that that they are the same thing. Really, why does it seem to be two things?
Thomas Jefferson, who is credited with the majority of the writing of the Declaration of Independence, was a student of Lord Bolingbroke. Why is that important? Most all historians will credit Bolingbroke as the source of Jefferson’s phrase, “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” This is what Bolingbroke said about concerning phrase,
“You will find that it is the modest, not the presumptuous enquirer, who makes a real, and safe progress in the discovery of divine truths. One follows nature, and nature’s God; that is, he follows God in his works, and in his word.” (www.federalistpapers.org)
According to Lord Bolingbroke, the law of nature is God’s works and the law of nature’s God is the Law which is found in God’s Word. This was the definition which was intended by Jefferson, and this was the manner in which his words were understood by our forefathers who signed this declaration. The law of nature’s God upon which our nation was founded is nothing less than the Bible itself. You can say what you want about Jefferson’s belief in God, but this is what was written and signed onto to by our Founding Fathers.
Now, going back to John Witherspoon, the pastor who signed the Declaration of Independence, he would have most certainly understood Rex Lex, the law is king, as God’s law, even God’s Word, as being king of the people. In other words, all laws that are made to govern people should be made with God’s law as king. He won’t have signed it if the Declaration of Independence meant something else. That is how you keep from violating the inalienable rights of humankind. Everything that government was to establish was to be under the law of nature and nature’s God.
So, this takes us back to unalienable rights. Who gives these rights? The government? That means they can take them away too. So, the answer is an astounding, no. Do the people give themselves unalienable rights? If so, that means they are subjective to each person who thinks their idea of law is right. So, the answer is again a profound, no!
The founding Fathers of our great nation understood that unalienable rights that belong to human beings only come from God. There are certain rights we possess as His creation, created in His image that we all possess. Rights which under God’s law will not be infringed upon, they are unalienable, not able to be taken away unless we approve of it. Law can be king because of the One who gives the law, God, the Law giver. The Founding Fathers were clearly building on the concept that God the Creator was to be the final reality in governing people.
Listen, whether you choose to believe the Founding Fathers were religious men, Christian men, Deists, or whatever, it really doesn’t matter. These men, in their vision for a government for the people and by the people was based on the concept that God is the supreme law giver and as His creation, we have certain rights. If that is not what they believed, then why did they put it into this declaration and 56 men sign on to it? Some might say, “Well is that what it really means?” If you disagree with that, then you must not be able to read what they wrote in the Declaration of Independence.
Did you know that before the Revolutionary War ended, there was a paid chaplain in Congress and they opened each session of the national Congress with prayer? If your worldview is not based on God, like some would like us to believe about the founding of our nation, what is all this religious stuff that takes place there? Later, December 4, 1800, Congress approved the capitol building for use as a church building. We could go on and find how faith was a very real part of how government of the people took place. These men knew what they were doing. They knew they were building on a Supreme being who was their Creator and who was the final reality of a free people. They knew that without that foundation, everything that would follow in the establishment of government would result in chaos. No . . . these were brilliant men who understood exactly what was involved.
Do you know what William Penn said earlier? “If we are not governed by God, then we will be ruled by tyrants.” Did you know that by the time the Declaration of Independence was written already many people had already come to America from Europe? And many of them came for religious freedom and when they arrived they established their own civil governments of their communities based on the Bible. It would have been foreign to any of them to think of a government of this land as secular. The laws they adopted were based on the Law’s of Nature and Nature’s God. That is what they signed on to.
In my opinion, we have lost that over the years. We are a people governed by a worldview that leaves God completely out of its decisions. If you have been with us over the last two weeks, you know that I believe it our fault as Christians. We have not stood compassionately for truth. Unfortunately, we have been treated some people horribly, people who desperately need a Savior. We have allowed the sins of the world to become a part of our lives, so much so that there is often no difference between us and the unbeliever in how we live our lives. We no longer love God passionately, we no longer read His Word, or spend time in prayer. Yet we moan and complain when the government system seems to be against us.
Yes, our nation needs revival, but revival must begin in our hearts. We need to turn our hearts and lives back to the Lord. We need to repent of our sin. We need to once again live passionately for Him. Revival begins in our hearts.
We will be singing the chorus, “God Bless America” in a few minutes in our closing. It is a nice patriotic and catchy song that we often sing. Listen as I read a portion of the song:
God Bless America, land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
This nation that most of us claim we love, needs our guidance. But notice, the guidance we are to use is the light from above. Christians living for the glory of God, making an impact on the world around them will guide and lead this nation in the right direction.
We listened to the history of our Motto, “In God We Trust,” and heard the choir sing a song about pilgrims leaving their homes and suffering great sacrifice because of their trust in God. There are tons of verses in the Bible that speak of trust in God, but listen to Psalm 9:10:
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Some of us here today may not know His name. By that, I simply mean that you do not have a personal relationship with God. Thus, you cannot put your trust in God. Stop and think about this for a moment. Maybe you are religious to some extent, but if you have never come to know Him in a personal relationship, your religious activities mean nothing. So how do we come to have this kind of relationship with God?
First, we must realize that there is nothing I can do to earn God’s acceptance. God is holy. We are sinners. As such we are separated from God. But John 3:16 tells us:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
God understands our situation and that is why Jesus was sent. God sent His Son to be born as a human baby, live a sinless life, and die on a cross for sinners. 2 Corinthians 5:21 talks about this great exchange that took place on the cross. Jesus took our penalty for sin and He gave us His righteousness that we may know God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Thus, when sinners like you and me, come to God in faith, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we are saved from our sin and we begin a grand journey of living for Him. It is nothing we do, it is about receiving by faith what Jesus has done according to Ephesians 2:8-9:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Listen to Psalm 9:10 again:
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want a better America. We hear presidents and people all over this nation say, “God bless America.” But God’s blessings will only come though the faith and trust His people have in Him.
Do you know our God, Jehovah, in this personal way?
If you are a Christian, have you turned away from the Lord and found you are living in sin? If we truly want God’s blessing on our nation, we need to fall back in love with the One who has saved us. We need to live for God and proclaim Him to our world. We need to live our lives according to the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God. We need a revival that begins in our hearts.
Will you do that today?