The Post-Christian Age

There is a term that I do not like, but needs to be given some serious consideration by the Christian community. The term is “Post-Christian Age.” What does it mean? What happened to bring it about? How does the Church minister in the Post-Christian Age?

Charles Gallup, in his book, “The Next American Spirituality”, defines it this way: “In the Post-Christian age, the Christian faith is no longer a strong influence in society.” Christians have always been in the minority; however their voices were heard and respected. They made a difference and influenced the culture. Society knew the Christians were around. Think back to the ’30s and ’40s. The voice of the Church was heard then. I remember in the ’50s I was invited to speak at the public high school on several occasions. The teachers wanted the students to hear how the Christian Church felt on a particular subject. Not so today. Unless I live in a unique community, it has been years since such invitations were extended to clergy. Other pastors tell me they receive no invitations to speak at public schools. I believe many teachers would like the Christian point of view expressed, but are fearful of having legal complications.

In the past, I would often receive an invitation to sit on a panel discussing some of the moral problems plaguing our youth. These invitations are no longer forthcoming either. The psychologist has replaced the pastor. It is possible that the psychologist is better prepared to serve on these panels; however, I rather believe those in charge feel it is too dangerous to get a strong point of view from the Christians. The anti-Christian voices may respond, and it isn’t worth the trouble of being threatened with law suits.

Forty-five years ago, seven Lutheran churches in our area built a home for the aged. It was our goal to provide a place where our fathers and mothers could receive good physical and spiritual care in the last years of their lives. We wanted the administrator of the home to be a strong, committed Christian. Since people of the Lutheran Church built the home, it would be nice if he or she were a member of the denomination.

Recently a new administrator was hired for this position. We were told by the administrator that, since some of the residents at the home receive Title XXI money from the government, we could not require the administrator be a committed Christian. When I rebelled against that opinion, one courageous attorney suggested we live dangerously and, if sued, find out what the court would really say. The leadership of the home felt it would not be worth the effort, or the possible cost of a law suit to pursue our rights, and so the entire issue was dropped.

These same leaders assured us that the person hired is a person of strong conviction. I have no reason to question their word. However, it is a bit irritating that, in this enlightened age, people cannot be straightforward with their Christian convictions with no fear of being dragged into a court.

This is life in the Post-Christian Age. What happened to bring it about? Let me suggest four reasons why we find ourselves in this Age.

First, we have generational differences. Much study has been done on attitudes in different age groups. If you were born between the years of 1901-1945, you are called a builder. If you were born between the years of 1946-1964, you are called a boomer. If you were born between 1965- 1981, you are a buster. If you were born between 1982 and 2003, you are called a blaster. Studies reveal that people in these particular generations think differently and the values can be quite different.

Let’s try to illustrate this by introducing Sherry. She is a beautiful woman, 25 years of age (buster). Sherry is well thought of in the community, and serves on many committees. One day a woman asks Sherry where she goes to church. Sherry tells her that she and her family do not attend any church. Her children have never gone to Sunday school. The woman follows up the question by asking, “Didn’t your folks go to church?” “Sure,” she replies. “My father was confirmed in the Lutheran Church. He is 52 years old (boomer). When I was small, my parents chose not to attend church, and religion was not talked about in our home. Sunday was a day of relaxing however you desired. The exception would be when my grandparents, who are 75 (builders), came to visit us, we would attend worship services so as not to hurt their feelings.”

You see here the generational differences. Sherry’s father, a confirmed Lutheran, had been taught the faith. He had been introduced to Jesus Christ. Her dad decided he did not want Christ to be a part of his life and rejected him. However, you cannot say Sherry rejected Christ, because she never had received Him. In fact, she had never even been introduced to Him. People like Sherry are dropping through the cracks. When millions of people follow this pattern, it is not long before the voice of the Church is weakened, and we have moved into the Post-Christian Era.

Second, we entered the Post-Christian Age because the Church was not concerned about Sherry and all those like her. The neighbor next door never invited Sherry to attend Sunday school, which would be interfering with the neighbor’s family life. The congregation had other plans that dealt with the social needs of society. Sherry knew where the church was. She would be most welcome, but it was up to her to find out about Christianity, if that is what she wanted.

History teaches us that when the Church is not concerned about the lost, its influence in society will soon be lost. Such was the case in Laodicea. Jesus describes them as being lukewarm Ð neither hot nor cold. They were not willing to let their voices be heard, because of the persecution that might come their way. The people knew the church was in their city, and many of them claimed to be Christians. However, their religion was a threat to the general lifestyle of the people. A sad commentary is that today there is no Christian church of consequence in Laodicea. Could this happen in the United States? Yes, it could. Christ’s Church will be on this earth when He returns, but that does not mean it will be a part of western civilization.

Third, we live in a pluralistic society: the religious rights of all citizens must be protected.

This is good. We do not want it to be different. Years ago, when the majority of the immigrants came to America from Christian countries, it was not a problem. However, that is no longer true. As one of my friends says, “The boats are not coming from Denmark anymore. They are coming from India, where the predominant religion is not Christianity.” Thank God the Lady in the Harbor is still saying, “Give me your poor . . .” and in this pluralistic society we learn to love and honor each other.

Fourth, the court’s rulings on issues that are contrary to Christian teachings have given our citizens the right to live a lifestyle in conflict with the teachings of God’s Word. The matter of abortion illustrates this point. It is not enough to say, “Thou shall not kill.” If that is what the mother chooses to do with her unborn fetus, it is permissible. Once children learned about Christianity in school as teachers opened the school day by reading from the Bible and having prayer with the class. This is no longer possible in public education. If a teacher sought to do this today, her job could be at stake. We live in the post-Christian age.

We can never soften the biblical message to make it more appealing to our culture. Sin must still be called sin. We cannot adjust this Word to make it fit in our society’s culture. Dishonesty, no heart for the poor, self-centeredness, and a host of other behavior traits of this kind are declared sin by our Lord and His Church. We cannot change the message.

Christ must always be presented as the Son of God and Savior of the world, the only way of salvation. He is not just one of the many religious teachers Ð He is the Lord, who has suffered, died, and was raised again to pay the price for our sins. Only through Him can a person enter into a personal relationship with God. This is a message the post-Christian age must hear from Christ’s body, the Church.

We might have to change how we bring this Gospel message to people. The traditional worship service, with its glorious music and majestic organ, will have to share with other forms of worship that best minister to others. It is a fact that in the congregation where I worship, the contemporary worship is fast becoming the largest service on a Sunday morning. Is this bad? Not if the Gospel is being proclaimed at that service. Many of us question if the congregation is not losing something when the great hymns of the Church, which have weathered the storms of time, become unfamiliar to this generation. Only time will tell. Hopefully, it will not be an either/or but a both/and in your congregation. The contemporary service will be offered to those who prefer such a worship setting, and the traditional worship service will be available to those who can best worship in that way.

In this Post-Christian age, we can no longer assume the congregation is familiar with the teachings of the Bible. Many who have not been to Sunday school do not know the Bible stories.

The preacher cannot assume that the congregation knows biblical characters like the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. Many worshiping congregations are not acquainted with theological terms like redemption, sanctification, and atonement.

My parents were completely ignorant when it came to computer language, yet they knew these theological terms. In the Post-Christian age, most ten-year-old children are well-schooled in technological vocabulary; however they do not know whether Abraham or Paul lived first, and don’t have the foggiest idea about the meaning of salvation.

So we live in the Post-Christian age. Does that mean we should quit telling others about Jesus? No, of course not. The exciting note in this age is that many people long for the faith of their parents and grandparents. They want a faith that gives them a clear understanding of right and wrong. They want the security of the Gospel assuring them that, when these few years spent on earth are over, a heavenly home awaits them. Many of them remember grandma talking about going to her heavenly home.

They are now asking the question, “Did she have something that I don’t have?” This is where the Church can minister with the Word and say, “You bet she did. Let me introduce you to the Savior, Jesus Christ, who was the center of grandma’s life.”

It might be the Post-Christian age, but the fields are still white unto harvest.

Is It Biblical?

You visit an ice cream store to have a sundae. There are at least a dozen kinds of sundaes from which you can choose, but the one that catches your eye on the menu reads: “Make our own.”

You watch a young boy making his own. He starts with two kinds of ice cream. That’s the basic ingredient. Then come the toppings: butterscotch, strawberry, chocolate, peanuts, whiped cream, and a great big cherry to crown the work of art. You look at the finished product and decide it’s not for you. That’s okay. He has chosen what appeals to his taste, and that is what counts.

There is no one right kind of sundae. Only what satisfies the customer matters.

The same principle of picking and choosing to satisfy personal needs is being used in a person’s religious life. We start with a little bit of Jesus’ teachings. The Golden Rule needs to be included. Add to that His counsel to love one another.

From there, you move to the Old Testament. Skip the Ten Commandments since they are no longer relevant. But by all means, include some of the Psalms, which are very comforting.

Emphasize the goodness of the human being. People are basically good. Then, you must consult your emotions. The only purpose of religion is to make you feel good, so add those things that will stimulate your emotions.

Finally, what you believe must be rational. Your mind must be able to comprehend what you believe. In a day of sciences, faith has no place.

Out of your own self-composed catechism is the basic teaching. All religion is so individualistic, it is unhealthy to convert someone to your beliefs. All that matters is that your religion makes you feel good because you are the one who will determine what is truth for you.

Now you might say, “This is ridiculous. People are not composing their own religion.” I would agree that they have not put their religious feelings on paper, but talk to them about some of the historic beliefs of the Christian faith and see what they say. This has always been.

In the last words from the inspired pen of St. Paul, he writes to Timothy, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (II Tim. 4:3-5).

In other words, ask the question, Is what I am hearing true to the basic teachings of the Bible?

The authority for the Christian faith is the Bible. I can hear Larry King ask, “You say the Bible is your authority. Look at all the churches there are. All claim to have the Bible as their authority.”

Who is right?

We do have some basic rules in biblical interpretation. One is that Scripture interprets Scripture. You cannot build dogma on one or two passages of the Bible lifted out of context. A careful study of the Scriptures by well-trained theologians is important lest we make the Bible say something it does not say. However, even after the best theology is used to get at the true meaning of God’s Word, we still have honest differences based on something other than the basics of the Christian faith. God’s way of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is where Christians find their unity.

Many years ago, I attended the United States Congress on Evangelism. It was co-chaired by Dr. Billy Graham – a Baptist – and Dr. Oswald Hoffmann – a Lutheran. These two men had different views regarding baptism, but both were united in the great truth that Jesus Christ is Lord and the only Savior of the world. St. Paul tells us that “now we know in part, but someday we shall fully understand.”

Examine what you hear by the Scriptures and see if some of these religious statements meet the test. One primary teaching of the Christian faith is that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Through His suffering and death, he paid the price for the sins of the world, and by his resurrection he won victory over sin, death, and the devil. He has assured us in his Word that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one can come to the Father but by him. He has promised that “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Such a teaching would not meet the test of many today. First, they would say that it is not possible for the human mind to comprehend this dogma. Secondly, it is too exclusive. It builds divisions in our world that are not good and makes us feel much better to believe that all people are saved.

Consider another basic teaching of the Christian faith: “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Add Paul’s words: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). The Bible teaches that the human being is helplessly lost. He cannot pick himself up by his own bootstraps.

Man-made religion says, “I don’t believe that teaching. Look at all the marvelous things people do for each other. We may have some imperfections, but give us some time and you will see that we have the power within us to right what is wrong in our person. All people are basically good, and if given the right education and environment, will overcome their shortcomings.” This thought is so much more comforting and positive than to say we are all bad sinners and without Christ would be lost.

God’s Word teaches absolutes. The Ten Commandments speak clearly to how God’s children are to live. Away with idols; God must have priority over our material possessions. There is a need for authority, be it parents, teachers, government, or whatever. Humans cannot live without authority. Hate, dishonesty, and jealously are sin and must be avoided. God speaks clearly about sexual behavior, be it divorce, homosexuality, or cohabitation.

To this those who advocate “self-made religion” would say with fire in their souls, “Who are you to judge! You don’t know the circumstances under which I live. With the knowledge we have today about the human being, the commandments for the most part are irrelevant. Truth is subjective and must be determined by the individual situation.”

Older people living among this “man-made religion” sometimes say funny things. Some now advocate that cohabitation at an early age is wrong. However, when you reach retirement age, cohabitation is the only way to go so that your pension not be jeopardized. God’s Word is set aside to satisfy finances, companionship, and sexual satisfaction. This is just one more ingredient in the religion people live today.

If our faith is to have meaning, it must go beyond our feelings and what we think is true. There must be an authority that speaks and to which we will listen. That authority for the Christian is God’s Holy Word. You can deny it, but you cannot change it and remain honest. Therefore, we are called on by Scripture to keep our heads in all situations, endure hardship if necessary for the faith, and point wandering, searching people to Christ, who has clearly taught what to believe and do.

George Gallup, Jr. and Timothy Jones, in their new book, The New American Spirituality, write, “The challenge of the Church today is to help people believe the right thing.” How true, but that challenge will not be easily accomplished.

God Uses All Kinds of People; Don’t Count Yourself Out

God leaves no stone unturned to reach people.

He loves us. He blesses us. He forgives us. He chastises us. He makes His presence known when we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” and the day is very difficult. Our Father walks with us as “He leads us beside quiet waters” and all is quiet and peaceful as our souls are at rest. God uses the technology of our day as some of His most gifted servants deliver His message into our homes. I wonder if it can be said that anyone in the United States has not had an opportunity to hear the Gospel message with at least their physical ears, if not the ears of their heart.

For a generation our nation has had the privilege of listening to Billy Graham as God’s spokesman. He has the gift of making the Gospel so simple that a child can understand Jesus loves him or her. And yet Graham is used by God to invade the hearts of some of the world’s most powerful leaders. The world as a whole, and America in particular, has been called to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ by this evangelist.

God has raised up in our midst great preachers of His Word. In my youth, it was the voice of Walter Maier “bringing Christ to the nation, the Lutheran Hour,” that God used in addressing our land. It was Maier who warmed my heart as a teenager. How that man was gifted by God to spell out the way of salvation so clearly that people of all kinds were brought face-to-face with Christ!

In our day, another great preacher, Lloyd Ogilvie, has been one of God’s well-known expounders of His Word. He has been gifted with a voice and use of words second to none. His strong message is built on the Rock, Jesus Christ. It was Ogilvie who stood for years in the pulpit of the Hollywood Presbyterian Church and preached to the people of his neighborhood. It was this same message that he proclaimed over television until God called him to be the chaplain of the United States Senate. There he has the opportunity to confront one hundred powerful people with their opportunities and responsibilities of governing the world’s most powerful nation according to God’s will. These political leaders may not respond positively to God’s Word, but they must hear what the King of kings is saying to them. Let me give you a personal experience with Dr. Ogilvie’s ability to proclaim God’s Word.

Not many years after our son-in-law was ordained, we attended a theological conference in the Los Angeles area. On Sunday morning, I suggested to Steve that we go to the Hollywood Presbyterian Church to hear one of the greatest preachers in America. We arrived for the first service. Ogilvie was at his best. When the service was over, Steve asked, “Would you mind staying for the second service? I want to hear him again.” God’s voice was alive.

A few weeks ago, Public Television ran a documentary on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Here was another great voice from God. In case you are not acquainted with Dr. Bonhoeffer’s writings, let me introduce him to you. He was a theologian at Union Seminary, about to rise to great fame in the theological world. But God had other plans for this man. Bonhoeffer left the security of New York and returned to Nazi Germany where he ministered to the underground Church. It was when Hitler attacked the Church and its message that Bonhoeffer could not remain quiet, and his strong testimony for Jesus Christ cost him his life when he was hanged on the gallows at Flossenburg only weeks before the war in Europe ended. Jesus talked about people “killing the prophets.” It is still going on in so-called enlightened western civilization.

This list of international Christian leaders is unlimited. We thank God that He always has some of these great voices on the world’s scene. But today’s text tells us about a very ordinary man who became a strong voice for God, and his message lives with us today. His name is Amos who is a “voice from the farm.” His formal education was limited. He was a shepherd and farmer whom God put His hand on and used. In the days Amos lived, Israel was divided into two kingdoms.

The northern kingdom was called Israel and the southern kingdom was called Judah. Amos lived in Judah, but God sent him on a mission to the northern Kingdom. It was not long before Amos made his presence known. Here is a sample of the Prophet’s preaching:

“You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. (5:11-12) I will turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping . . . The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” (8:10-11)

When Amaziah the priest heard Amos preach, he became disturbed and sent a message to Jeroboam, king of Israel. “Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel.

The land cannot bear all his words. For this is what Amos is saying, ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.'” (7:10-11)

Let’s stop here for a moment and draw a picture of what was happening in Israel. Amaziah is the recognized clergyman. He has been trained religiously. However, his calling to be God’s voice in the land had been set aside that he might please the king and all the influential people, lest they be disturbed by pointing out their sins. He did not let his message become personal. One could imagine that the priest went through the ritual of the service, which might have talked about confession and repentance, but after all the formality was over, the people were free to go back into the world and never experience any change in their behavior. Their relationship with God was completely impersonal. The nation needed a spiritual awakening, but it would not come through the ministry of people like Amaziah, who had sold out his convictions to what people wanted to hear. Just let me ask you, Do we experience some of the same in our churches today?

What would happen in some of our congregations if the preacher began to tell it as the Word of God teaches?

Listen to what God says through Amos, “I hate your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.

“Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have not regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream. You say, ‘When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat? Skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales?'” (5:21-24; 8:5)

We have a picture here of how corrupt religion can become. God used Amos in his lifetime, and he is using him today as the Prophet speaks to the Church in the 21st century.

When Amos was told by the priest to leave, he replied, “The Lord tells me to stay.” Amos was told to proclaim that the people would be punished for their sins, but the day would come when God would bring back His exiled people to their own land. He held before them the hope of being restored into that living relationship with their Heavenly Father.

What is unique about this message? God can use all kinds of people to bring His Word to the world. Let’s not count ourselves out. Let me tell you a story that supports this Biblical teaching.

I had an Uncle Chris. He never married. While Chris never attended church services, his Bible was often open on the kitchen table when we visited him. Several times each year my mother would prepare a big dinner for Chris. One day, dad and I took this meal to Chris and had an interesting conversation with him. He knew that I was preparing to be a minister, and had a few choice comments for me about the church. However, there was one member of the congregation who had won his way into Chris’ heart. His name was Nels Smith, an immigrant from Denmark who had no formal education, but who loved the Lord. He used to visit Chris and talk to him about his relationship with the Lord. I don’t know if my uncle ever gave his heart to the Lord, but I believe that Nels Smith was God’s most powerful messenger in his life. Chris made it clear that Nels was not afraid to tell him of his sins and how he needed Christ as his Savior, but he also let him know that God loved him and had sent Jesus to be his Savior. That’s the Amos type.

If you are not a believer in Christ, listen to the great spiritual leaders of the day, but seek out that person who knows Christ and ask him or her to help you. If you know Christ, be an Amos in the life of someone who needs to hear about his or her need for a Savior and what Christ has done for all who trusts Him.

God can use all kinds of people. Don’t count yourself out!

How Will Today’s Church be Rememered Tomorrow?

This is the time of the year when high school reunions are being held. At these meetings, our classmates come from all over the nation and we do a lot of reminiscing. If you asked one of your friends attending the reunion from another city, “How do you remember our congregation when you were a kid?”, how do you think he or she would answer?ÊMight someone say, “Well, I know many of your members are Norwegians and they had a luterfisk dinner each year. I didn’t like luterfisk, but my folks always tried to get there. They enjoyed it. That’s my memory of your church.”

This past week I was visiting with a man from my home town in Maine. We got talking about churches in that town and he said, “Do you remember how three of the congregations shut down their services during the summer?” That must have made an impression on him because 40 years later he did not think this was the right thing to do.

During my ministry at Nazareth Church in Cedar Falls, the congregation spent several million dollars constructing a beautiful building. Because of this nice structure, there were those people

who concluded that Nazareth was a congregation made up of wealthy people, and some labeled us “the Sunday morning country club.” I have nothing against country clubs, but did not

appreciate this label being placed on our congregation for it did not describe us at all. Our ministry was not to entertain people, but to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those who came to worship. Sure, we had some wealthy people, but we also had some who were poor, and most of us were common, ordinary

people who loved the Lord and His Church.

Today’s text has something to say about this question, “How will today’s Church be remembered tomorrow?”

God loves people. We are the crowning work of His creation. However, we walk away from Him. That’s true today, and it is true with our first parents in the Garden of Eden.Ê

But God created us to live in fellowship with Him, so He established the nation of Israel from whom would come the Savior, Jesus Christ,Êwho would be the way all people could be restored into fellowship with their Creator.

He blessed Israel, but they were a rebellious crowd. Finally, God punished Judah, a part of Israel, by permitting the Babylonians to carry them into captivity. In 597 BC, a man by the name of Ezekiel was taken as a part of this captivity into Babylonia. He had grown up in the surrounding areas of the Temple in Jerusalem, but now Ezekiel lived in a foreign land. Four years later, God called him to be a prophet. Here were some of His instructions to Ezekiel:

“I will send you to a stubborn people who are rebellious and obstinate.”

“You are to remind them that if they will repent of their sins, I will forgive and bless them.”

“Don’t be afraid of them and don’t soften your message.”

“Faithfulness, and not success, is to be your concern. They mightÊrefuse to listen to your message. This is their problem and not yours.”

“When these stubborn people look back on what has happened to them,Êthey will know that a prophet had been in their midst.”

God called Ezekiel to be His voice among a people the Bible described as rebellious, Stubborn, and obstinate. Today Christ calls His Church and says, “I want to talk to you.ÊThis is your mission. You will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak to a society who ignores Me. Faithfulness, and not success,Êis to be your main concern. You can’t change these people, but I, speaking through the Word you deliver to them, can change them. If you will be faithful to my call, today’s Church will be remembered tomorrow as the voice of God speaking to them. Then they will know that God’s prophet, the Church, had been in their midst.”

Here is the message:

God’s Law still stands. Even in our American culture God wants people to know that there are still absolutes. Situation ethics (rightÊand wrong are determined by the situation) might be the acceptable norm for our culture, but the Ten Commandments have not changed.Ê

These moral absolutes must be kept before our society by the Church of Jesus Christ. “Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the down-trodden”Êmust still be the task of the Church, even though human nature isÊinclined to be concerned about the self and our personal welfare asÊthe rich become richer and the poor become poorer.

The family is still the basic unit in our society and spouses are not to be traded similar to the family car. Children are not to be treated like a ping pong ball, moving from one parent to the other according to the joint-custody agreement set up by the court, but are to be raised in the security of a loving home, where both parents are present unless death has separated them.

The humanistic philosophy which dominates our culture must be confronted with the helplessness of men and women. Human intelligence has given us the age of technology which provides us with many conveniences, but God alone can change our hearts and make us new people in Jesus Christ. Contrary to the humanistic teaching that within the human being there is the power to right all that is wrong,ÊGod’s Word teaches clearly it is only the Holy Spirit who can make an alcoholic sober, bring a fiery temper under control and make a self-centered person concerned first and foremost about others.Ê

Hold high the cross. Let the world know that God loves them and has sent His Son to suffer and die as a payment for our sins, that allÊwho will trust Him can be forgiven and restored into fellowship with God both now and for all eternity.

Then we might ask, how will this message be received in our society? And God will reply to the Church as He did to Ezekiel, “Whether they listen or fail to listen for they are a rebellious house with all their social grace, they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

How will today’s Church be remembered tomorrow? In Babylon God spoke to His people through Ezekiel the Prophet. Today, God

speaks to the world through Christ’s Church.ÊÊ

We have been called to be faithful to the proclamation of His Word.ÊHe sends us forth as the prophetic voice with all of the authority,Ê “Thus says the Lord.” We do not proclaim our own message. What we have received from God, we give to our people whom we love.

Now let’s make the theme of this sermon more personal. How will the congregation you and I belong to be remembered tomorrow?ÊWill it be the group who had wonderful church dinners, who tookÊoff the summer in its ministry to people, who built the big churchÊon the corner, or will it be known as the place where people heard the message of God’s Word taught in all of its truth and purity? Will our congregation be known as the spiritual power house where peopleÊare saved and lives are changed?

Let’s bring the theme still closer to home. Our congregation willÊonly be that spiritual dynamo if the majority of its members, includingÊyou and me, are personally committed to Jesus Christ and He is the Lord of their lives.

Is there a prophet of Jesus Christ living in our town?

Lest We Forget

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him:ÊIf you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, thenÊrespect; if honor, then honor. We have a tendency to take for granted the blessing we have without giving any thought to the price others have paid that we might enjoy these benefits. One of our greatest benefits often taken for granted is freedom. Therefore, on this patriotic weekend, it is right for us to take time to realize that freedom is not free.ÊA great price has been paid by others that we might enjoy the freedomÊwe have today.

St. Paul tells us in our text: “The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Humans, being what they are, must have some authority to control us if there is to be any sense of order in society. “He (the ruler) is God’s servant to do you good.” “It is necessary for us to submit to the authorities.”

This was the teaching of the early Church. Not only Paul, but Jesus and Peter taught that we were to respect the political authorities. Justin Martyr, one of the early Church fathers wrote, “We worship only God, but in other things we will gladly serve you.”

A review of history and a reading of the morning newspaper make these words difficult to understand. How could Nero be honored when he was killing the Christians in large numbers. How could Hitler and Stalin be classified as “God’s servants”?

In referring to Paul’s statement, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities,” biblical scholars tell us that the Jewish people were rebellious; they wanted to accept no foreign government, and they hated the Romans with a passion. Paul reminded the Jews that the authorities were God’s servants who kept society from chaos.Ê

It was with this biblical teaching before them that German Christians struggled under Nazism. How long could they give their allegiance to Hitler until they had to turn in resistance? It is easy to answer now 3,000 miles and 60 years later, but it was not an easy question in the 1940s. God grant that we will never have to answer such a question. There are many unanswered questions regarding the Christian’s relationship to the state.Ê

History teaches us that freedom is not free. A tremendous price has been paid that we might live in the land of the free. Let’s think about D-Day, June 6, 1944. Don Irwin, in an article that appeared in theÊWaterloo [Iowa] Courier, estimates that half of the 65 men on his landing craft were killed by German machine gun fire from cliff top fortifications above the beach. Don, a friend of mine, is quoted: “Many of the soldiers started getting shot before they got off the ramp of the boat. Some of the soldiers had been seasick crossing the English channel, only to hit the shock of the cold salt water and the enemy fire. We had orders to get the soldiers off the boat at gunpoint if necessary.” Irwin said, “About half of the soldiers would not get off the boat in the face of enemy fire. It was one of those days you don’t forget very easily.” And this is the point: We must not forget the price that has been paid for our freedom. Freedom is not free.ÊThousands have died. Loved ones have lived without their children who never returned from battle with the enemy. Children have been raised without dads because they never came back from war.

But let us neither forget that the driving force for political freedom came from the great spiritual truths revealed in God’s Word which captured the souls of men and women. Long before Thomas Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” God made it clear in His Word thatÊ”we are created in the image of God.”

If we lose sight of this biblical truth – that in God’s eyes all people are precious and important – people have little value. We can dehumanize them to mere bodies being sent into battle to die.ÊThen we can enslave them in sweat shops and treat them as less than human.

As precious as our freedom is, to be set free spiritually is an even greater blessing. Lest we forget, our spiritual freedom was not free either. This was made possible through God’s battle with Satan on Calvary’s hill near Jerusalem when Jesus gave His life for our sins.Ê

There it was made possible for us to live in a personal relationship with God by grace through faith in Him. This is the greatest battle ever won. It does not promise that all people will enjoy political freedom, but it does give assurance that, in Christ, all believers will live forever in God’s Kingdom as free people. Because of this great truth, those people who gave their lives at Normandy trusting in Christ, were saved whether they were Germans, Americans, English, or French (whoever they were).

It was a longing for spiritual freedom that brought our forefathers to this land. Lest we forget we were in spiritual bondage, we will soon lose all other freedoms. I believe history will show that God has used America in spite of all her sins and weaknesses to bring blessings to many people at home and around the world. The question now is, “If the soul of our country is spiritually enslaved, will not all of our freedoms be lost?”

It is something to ponder.