On this Sunday before our nation celebrates “Independence Day” we come before Almighty God to thank Him for His divine protection, guidance, and grace that He has showered upon us in the United States of America. When you stop to consider our track record as a nation we must come to the conclusion that indeed the lyrics to the song are right, “God shed His grace on thee.” In spite of our sin God has allowed America to remain the most prosperous nation on the face of the planet. In spite of our turning our faces away from honoring and revering the Lord, He has continued to shower this nation with His divine grace. In spite of our turning away from His holy commands, He has continued to bear with this nation and to continually call us to repentance.
For those who think my words are harsh in assessing our waywardness and sinfulness as a nation you need to consider a few realities of everyday life. When we pick up a newspaper, watch the evening news, or listen to a talk radio program today we are immediately bombarded with the ills and evils of American society. The words are not coming from some double-knit-leisure-suit wearing prophet of doom or some ultra-fundamentalist-Bible-thumping preacher, but rather they are being uttered by news anchors, columnists, and commentators from all walks of life. Some of them, I am certain do have some measure of faith, but there are many others who are atheists, agnostics, or people of other faiths who simply are concerned about the downward spiral our country seems to be experiencing. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is something fundamentally wrong going on in the United States of America. Somehow we have forgotten our foundation, the principles upon which our founding fathers built the framework for the greatest nation in the world.
For as long as I can remember there have always been those who have tried to raise their voices a little louder than anyone else and claim that the “right-wing-religious-fanatics” make much to do about nothing. Folks in society roll their eyes as if to say, “There they go again,” whenever some Christian leader raises his or her voice about the decline of morals and strong families. Today, a different scenario is confronting us because alongside concerned Christians who speak out about what we see as the beginning of the end there are also a chorus of voices from every walk of life who are concerned with greed, the abuse of power, gangs, senseless killings, crumbling families, etc.
I don’t know if you are concerned, but the question keeps running through my mind, “How did we get to this point?” I have studied the history of this great nation and I can say with full confidence that the “free-for-all-anything-goes-everything-is-acceptable” mentality is not what this country was founded on. The founding laws of our country were legislated according to the principles laid down in God’s Word. Legislation use to be enacted to bring about the betterment of all of society. Today we have special interest groups who militantly lobby for their own agenda at the expense of the other citizens of the country. How have we arrived at the point where almost every thought and action in our country is protected other than the freedom to openly and unashamedly claim that this is a Christian nation, occupied by people who worship and adore the living God who brought us into existence?
This morning I want us to examine the birth of our great nation alongside of our present quagmire of confusion and godlessness. I want us to study this in light of 2 Chronicles 7:11-22, where God laid down the foundation for the continuance of the nation of Israel, the stipulations He set forth for their continued growth and prosperity, and how the people shrugged their shoulders and ended up losing their great land. If history is any teacher then it is time for us to repent of our sins as a nation and begin to rebuild upon the godly foundation God set forth for this nation.
Before we learn where we have come from and how we have lost our perspective, I must say that I am convinced that you and I live in the greatest land in the world. The simple fact that the people of our country can dig a hole for themselves speaks volumes for our freedom. There are not many countries in the world where you and I would even have a voice to speak out, much less speak openly about some of the ludicrous ideologies that are being fought for today. In Communist China we would simply be shot. In Iraq, the evil despot Hussein continues to soak the country’s poor in a blood bath of his own selfish desire. In Iraq we would be gassed and trampled underfoot. In America, no matter how perverse or self-centered our philosophies of life may be, we will be heard.
The founding of our country and the present day for American life has drastically parted ways. Many among us today would dispute this. Many today say that America was never a Christian nation and that our founders were not Christians at all. I’ll let you decide from the facts.
On July 4, 1776, a historic document was signed in the city of Philadelphia by our founding fathers: The Declaration of Independence. This document marked the beginning of our great nation that, under God, was destined for world leadership. We often forget that in declaring independence from an earthly power, our forefathers were making a bold declaration of their dependence upon Almighty God. The closing words of this important document solemnly declare: “With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
How committed were these men to this pledge? Well, let me share with you about one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Robert Morris.
Robert Morris was one of only six men who signed both the Declaration and the Constitution. At the time he pledged “his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor” in the Declaration, he was one of America’s wealthiest individuals. He was appointed the financier of the American Revolution–an unenviable position, for it was his task to secure financial backing for the Revolution. We need to understand what this title entailed. The American Revolution was simply a group of individuals pledging themselves to overthrow the world’s greatest military, naval, and economic power. If we were to try to replicate that feat today and get fifty-six people here in this church to make such a pledge, what bank in its right mind would make a loan to us for that purpose? No bank would offer us money to undertake such a task, regardless of our passion or our plan. And so it was in the American Revolution; it was not until three years into the Revolution, after our victory at Saratoga, that loans began to come in. So how did they finance the Revolution during the first three years? Much of the finances came from Mr. Robert Morris’ own fortune. He personally gave over two million to the cause of the Revolution, and it was not money he had to spare, it was most of what he had. He gave so much money out of his own pocket that in his latter years, he did not have enough money left to meet his own obligations. As a result, Robert Morris spent time in debtors’ prison. Morris was never repaid; still, he had given his word–he had pledged “his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor”; and he kept his word. This is the kind of commitment, the kind of integrity, the kind of self-sacrifice these men exhibited for the freedom that you and I enjoy today.
Many people in our society today point to one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence as the most irreligious of all of the signers. Benjamin Franklin was a Deist, a person who believes in God but does not believe that God is intimately involved in the affairs of everyday life. I don’t know about Mr. Franklin’s daily walk with the Lord, but I do know that in the summer of 1787 he spoke some of the most powerful words ever uttered on our soil. Let me set the context of his speech by saying that representatives were gathering in Philadelphia to write the Constitution for the United States. They worked and worked for several weeks with no progress. Then eighty-one year old Benjamin Franklin rose and spoke to the troubled group of men and said,
In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a super-intending Providence in our favor…Have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of man. And if a Sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessing on our deliberation be held in this assembly every morning.
I wish that all of our leaders were “irreligious” if that is the kind of passion and dependence upon God that characterizes those who are irreligious.
We hear so many of our citizens and elected leaders crying out, “Separation of Church and State” from the town squares of America today. Those of us who do not understand the law cower back and resign ourselves to the conclusion that they must know since they are educated, keepers of the law, and erudite scholars about legal matters. As a result of our resignation we see more and more of our rights, given to us by our founding fathers, eaten away.
Just recently we have seen prayer at football games shot down by the Supreme Court of our land. We are being told that anything pertaining to God is unconstitutional and therefore our tender, impressionable children must be shielded from this dangerous God. If we would take the time to read we would recognize that our founding fathers saw God as the only hope for our children. God must be the foundation of education or education is worthless!
According to the Columbian Historical Society, Thomas Jefferson–while President–authored the original plan of education for Washington, D.C.’s public schools. In Mr. Jefferson’s plan he placed the Bible as a primary reading text for all of the children of the Washington, D.C.’s public school system!
Benjamin Rush, considered the father of public schools in America under the Constitution, in his 1798 policy paper entitled “On the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic,” wrote about the purpose of education. Mr. Rush saw three primary purposes for public education: first, to teach youth to love God; second, to teach youth to love their country; and third, to teach youth to love their family.
I know the first thing you and I recognize about Mr. Rush’s philosophy is that he placed love of country above love of family. Today, we would probably place family above country, but Benjamin Rush had a strong reason to place country above family. He understood that if we lost our country, we would lose our families–that unless we watched our government leaders, and stayed involved in it, that government itself could become an enemy of the family. How correct he was as today we are watching legislators strike down prayer, bar the Bible, and legitimize destructive forces upon the family like partial-birth abortion. Today, much of that which undermines the family is often supported, subsidized, or paid for by the government itself.
Let me give you further insight into early American education. In 1638, the Puritans, who were some of the most educated people of their day, founded the first and most famous Ivy League school in existence. Their story, in brief, is etched today in the record of Harvard University.
After God had carried us safely to New England, and we had built our houses, provided necessities for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the civil government; one of the next things we longed for, and looked after was to advance learning, and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present minister s shall lie in the dust.
Harvard was founded as an institution of higher learning to educate people to the eternal truths of God so that they might minister in this country in various positions. Harvard’s “Rules and Precepts” adopted in 1646 by the school’s leaders included the following words.
Everyone shall consider the main end of his life and studies to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life. Seeing the Lord giveth wisdom, everyone shall seriously, by prayer, in secret, seek wisdom from Him. Everyone shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that they be ready to give an account of their proficiency therein, both in theoretical observations of languages and logic, and in practical and spiritual truths.
According to records, 52% of the seventeenth century Harvard graduates became ministers. The very same story can be repeated when we examine the institutions of higher learning at Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, William and Mary, Columbia, Brown, and Rutgers. As the frontier moved west the men and women of God continued to start colleges of higher learning – the Methodist founded what is today known as Northwestern University, outside of Chicago, and the evangelical Presbyterians founded the University of California at Berkeley. How has a Christian university become the quintessence of godless thought, rebellion, and anti-Christian instruction?
The thought struck me as I was preparing for this Sunday: If we do not educate our people about our roots then there is no way for today’s citizens to know the Biblical foundation that this country was founded upon. One of the greatest educations you can gain is to take a trip to Washington D.C. to see faith plastered on every corner.
I had the opportunity to take my sons to Washington D.C. a few years ago for the Promise Keepers “National Day of Prayer” and I learned much of how we have departed from our roots of faith. Our nation’s capital cries out with the faith of our fathers. There remain vestiges of faith in Washington as each session of our Senate and House of Representatives begins in prayer and has its own Chaplain.
The 83rd Congress set aside a small room in the Capitol, just off the rotunda, for the private prayer and quiet moments of its members. In the prayer room is a large stained glass window with George Washington kneeling in prayer. Inscribed in the glass are these words: “This nation under God” and “Preserve me, O God, for in Thee do I put my trust.”
Inside the rotunda of our Capitol is a picture of the Pilgrims about to set sail from Holland. The ship’s Chaplain has open on his lap God’s Word with these words showing for everyone to see: “The New Testament according to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” On the beautiful full sail is the motto of the Pilgrims: “In God we trust, God with us.” The phrase, “In God We Trust” is inscribed opposite the President of the Senate, who is the Vice President of the United States. The same phrase inscribed in marble serves as a backdrop to the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Over the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court hangs the Ten Commandments with the great American eagle protecting them. In the Supreme Court, Herman MacNeil’s great marble sculpture of the great lawgivers of history includes Moses and the words, “God save the United States and the Honorable Court.” These words are used to close each session of the court.
The Library of Congress is packed full of constant reminders of the obligations of our leaders to govern justly. One of the quotations found within its walls reads, “What does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with thy God.” (Micah 6:8) Two other quotes from Scripture found in the Library of Congress are from Psalm 19:1 and John 1:5. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1) “The light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” (John 1:5)
Even the great memorials of the Capitol area cry out to the justice and mercy of our God. One of the real thrills for me while I was in Washington D.C. was to stand with my sons, several men and boys from our church, and hundreds of other men inside the Lincoln Memorial and sing, “Amazing Grace.” Inscribed on the walls of that wonderful memorial are these words, “That this nation, under God, shall have a birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” On the north wall of the monument is Lincoln’s second inaugural address that alludes to God, the Bible, and the Almighty. It then continues with these powerful words, “As it was said 3000 years ago, so it still must be said, ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”
The words of Thomas Jefferson seem almost prophetic as they are inscribed in the Jefferson Memorial: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
God’s justice cannot sleep forever. Have we forgotten our own history and failed to learn from the decline and fall of those nations who have turned their back on God? We could talk about the things that led to the decline and fall of the Greeks, Romans, and the Soviet Union for hours and in so doing find out that we are running right alongside of them to disaster and destruction.
Is there any hope for America? Have we gone too far? I don’t think so, if we will repent, and as a nation fall on our faces before the throne of Almighty God weeping over our sins. I believe that if God’s people will humble themselves before the Lord then He will restore our hearts, our homes, our city, and our nation. I haven’t come up with this on my own for God’s dealing with His people, the nation of Israel, has set a precedent for all of God’s people around the world and here in the United States. In 2 Chronicles 7 we find these words,
11When Solomon had finished the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the LORD and in his own palace, 12the LORD appeared to him at night and said: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. 13″When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. 17″As for you, if you walk before me as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe my decrees and laws, 18I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a man to rule over Israel.’ 19″But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 20then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 21And though this temple is now so imposing, all who pass by will be appalled and say, ‘Why has the LORD done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ 22People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the LORD, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them-that is why he brought all this disaster on them.’” (2 Chronicles 7:11-22 NIV)
It is time for us as Americans to humble ourselves and confess that we don’t have all of the answers. We need to affirm as a people that new is not necessarily better, but that God’s timeless, eternal Word speaks volumes to our condition in twentieth century America. It is time that we as Americans begin to pray like we have never prayed before. It is not lawful for a child to pray in school today even though it is lawful for us to burn a cross in someone’s yard. We need to recognize that not being able to pray in school is not our greatest obstacle for we do not even pray in our own homes, Christian homes, with our children. How can we expect a nation to embrace our practice of prayer when we don’t even practice prayer in our homes? We need to pray. Pray in the morning. Pray in the evening. Pray at noontime. Pray for the sick. Pray for the sinner. Pray for the mercy of God to be shed abroad upon our nation and its leaders. Pray, pray, pray. When it is convenient-pray. When it is inconvenient – pray. When trouble comes knocking – pray. When blessings abound-pray. Oh, we’ve got to pray if we are going to see this nation rebuilt upon its godly foundation.
It is time for us as Americans to repent and rebuild. The Chronicler writes, 14if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Repentance is a word that has fallen on hard times in our land. Many people think, “Why would I repent when I haven’t done anything that is seriously wrong?” I not only need to repent for my own sins, but I need to repent for my nation and be an intercessor for the U.S.A. while there is still time. This is my country! I am proud to be an American because this is the greatest land on the face of the earth. Because of that fact I want to fall on my face before God and ask forgiveness for the way we have turned our backs on the One has called us into being.
If we are going to see America rebuild upon the faith of those great men who founded this nation then we must repent and return to the Word of God. It is impossible for us to live a life that is pleasing to God if we do not know God’s Word. Every person in this church ought to be in a Bible study or Sunday School class of some kind so that we might grow up in our faith and grow into the image of God’s Son, Jesus. It is time for the Church to stop our incessant talking and complaining and begin to live out our faith in the public square.
In the movie, The Patriot, Gabriel had gone to a church to try to enlist men to fight in the militia. The men were stoic and afraid, unwilling to join the young man in his passionate conviction to fight for freedom. Suddenly, a young woman stood to confront the silence of the men there. She had heard them speak passionately about America and its right to be a free and sovereign nation and now she was confronted by their silence. She boldly asked the question, “Will you stop at only words? Or will you act upon the beliefs you have so strongly spoken?”
God exhorts us along the same lines when He said in James: In the same way, faith (believing) by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:17 (NIV)
I don’t know about you, but I am concerned about America today. If I didn’t care and if I didn’t love this great land God has given us then I would forever remain silent because silence brings much less scorn and ridicule than speaking out. I can remain silent no longer. We are facing moral and spiritual bankruptcy in our land while the Church sits back and enjoys the comforts of a cozy pew.
How will America turn around? She will return to greatness when you and I begin to seek God’s face and will, when you and I say, “Here am I Lord send me,” when you and I have our hearts broken with the brokenness of our society, when you and I repent of our sin first, when you and I realize that we are only one, but we are one! God help us as we begin our way back from despair to walking in the ways of our King!