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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Great Blessing, Great Responsibility - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Great Blessing, Great Responsibility - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Great Blessing, Great Responsibility - Part 1
TOPICS: America, USA, Blessing, Responsibility

Our title this week is "God Bless America Again". We didn't wanna just leave the celebration of our nation to a single day on July the 4th, so we took the whole week. God has blessed our nation, over, and over, and over again and we're asking him to bless us once again, not because we deserve it, but because he's a God of mercy, and grace, and kindness, and he delights in showing mercy even to the wicked. We certainly don't deserve his blessings, but the underlying premise of this whole week has really to do with the authority that is invested in the people of God.

I'm grateful for all the efforts that are being made to bring some stability and restoration to our nation, but if the church doesn't occupy the place that we are called to be, they will not succeed. We need them to do the things that they uniquely can do, but the church has a role to play, an assignment, there's a unique authority invested in us. And so we're gonna take a bit of time in this session and talk about the great blessings that God has shown us, and the great responsibility that comes with that.

Thank you for that enthusiastic response, I will take that as an amen. I earned a degree in history, and I wanna start with just a bit of history if you'll tolerate that from me because I think we live in a very unique nation. The greatest nation on the face of the earth. I understand that they won't play "The Star-Spangled Banner" in the elevators of heaven. And then when you walk through the pearly gates, they won't be flying the red, white, and blue. I understand that, I don't want there to be any confusion. God loves people from every nation, race, language, and tribe.

Having said that, I believe the United States is a unique representation in the grace and mercy of God. It is unique amongst the nations of the world. Both in our history, in our founding documents, in the mission of faith from which our nation was birthed. It doesn't mean that we're perfect, it doesn't mean that our history is perfect, I'm not suggesting that, but sometimes in our complaints, in our bitterness about our own nation, we reflect quite an ignorance of the nations of the world.

So I wanna take just a moment, the Declaration of Independence. I suspect you've heard of that. And you probably heard something that had to do with Philadelphia in 1776 in a hot summer. Sound familiar? The preamble to that document says this, "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". The authors of the Declaration of Independence and our founding documents believed in a Creator of heaven and earth. And when they were giving shape to this nation that we enjoy today, they did it understanding that we lived under the authority of the Creator of heaven and earth. The preamble is somewhat familiar, the conclusion of that document less so if you'll allow me just a couple of sentences.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do in the name and by authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare that these united colonies are, and of Right ought to be free and independent states. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

Again, the document that declared our independence as a nation was rooted in the awareness, and the knowledge, and the dependence of a living God to allow our nation to be birthed. When the constitution was drafted, the drafters recognized that it would not be passed, it wouldn't be ratified by the colonies or the newly acknowledged states unless they attached to it a bill of rights for the citizens of our nation. The first ten amendments of our constitution are the rights of the people in this nation. They are not the rights of the government. In fact, the concern of the framers when they put our constitution together was the government would assume power and authority that they intended the people to have.

The very first amendment, and it's first not simply in number, I believe it was first in priority says this, you may know a portion of it, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". Did you hear that? The very first amendment of our constitution says that "Congress can make no law that would in any way prohibit the free exercise of our religion or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances". There wasn't anything like it in the world when it was first put to paper or even today. It reflects a wisdom that went beyond the capabilities of the individuals who contributed to it.

Now, it's fashionable these days to be angry at our nation. And there are reasons to be angry, I'm not even trying to deny that, but I'm telling you to have a disproportionate hatred for our nation and our history reflects a lack of awareness of the history of the nations of the world. And we don't have to go back into antiquity. I take some of the leading nations of our current season, Russia. You know, it's very popular, you know, to celebrate the nations and the cultures of the world. When the Olympics visit another nation, or when we watch the Olympics, when they're not interrupted by viruses, you know, it's common for us to celebrate the great civilizations of the world, and the nations of the world, and that's not inappropriate.

I think the people of every nation, race, language, and tribe make up the church of Jesus Christ. But not every nation is founded with the liberties, and the freedoms, and the opportunities that we know. We are unique even today in the world. And our history, as sketchy as it may be, is unique in the world. Russia, you've heard of them? Don't collude with them. Joseph Stalin, one of their pivotal leaders of the last century, was responsible for 20 million Russians losing their lives. Twenty million people. We don't hear a lot about of that when we celebrate the strength of that nation.

China, we've been told almost unrelentingly now for two or three decades about how tremendous the culture and the history of China is. And the Chinese people are children of God created in his image just as we are. I'm not saying that the people are in any way devalued, but the political structure that overarches them holds them in a very oppressed space. Mao Zedong, I suspect you've heard of him. He initiated a reform movement in China. He called it The Great Leap Forward. And in a four year window, it resulted in 45 million deaths in China. Can you imagine that in a four year window, 45 million people losing their lives because of the decisions and the policies of a leader? In more contemporary history, they've enforced a two child policy, forced abortion, female infanticide, about 15 million abortions annually in China.

Again, not an indictment of the people, but the system under which they live is cruel and oppressive. Peaceful Islam occupies a large part of our globe. In those places where Islam is the predominant political and religious authority over the people in those nations, it serves as an oppressive force. I've spent a good deal of time in the Middle East. If you take Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, north Africa, across those nations, it's very difficult to argue that women are treated in any ways equal. Outsiders, if you're not a Muslim, you are subjected to a demi tax, economic servitude. They're not nations of equal opportunity.

Now, if you dare to remind anyone of these ideas or these principles in a public place in our current world, you're shouted down as xenophobic, that you don't like people from other countries. Nothing could be further from the truth. My heart's desire to see people from every nation, from every language, from every people group, know the lordship of Jesus of Nazareth in their lives. He'll bring freedom to them, and opportunity to them, and deliverance to them, to understand that we stand equal at the foot of the cross. We're told that if we advocate for a biblical view of family and human sexuality, we're often told it's hate speech these days or perhaps your homophobic. Well folks, the reality whether it wants to be acknowledged in those public places or not, is that Christianity is the hope of humanity. Jesus changes us from the inside out.

One of the things I've loved about our outdoor services is you can't define our faith by our dress code. You can wear shorts and Jesus loves you. In the building that gets a little more quirky, but it's been a wonderful season of reassessing and reevaluating what really defines our faith. The American church has an enormous opportunity. We have greater liberties, greater freedoms, greater protections under our legal system, to be advocates of Jesus, for Jesus of Nazareth than almost any nation on the planet. And up until very recently, we have taken that as a significant assignment, a responsibility, a mission of our nation. We've been bullied a bit in recent years. We've said that the proclamation of the gospel and the uniqueness of Jesus was somehow inappropriate.

In fact, it's become quite popular from the highest officers of our nation even to assert that we're not a Christian nation. We've even had presidents echo that sentiment. Now it's true that we're not a theocracy, we never have been. It's equally true that we are tolerant of other faiths, no matter what faith you choose and how you choose to worship, you're entitled to equal treatment under our law and should be. It's true that we're an inclusive society, and we'll embrace diversity of beliefs, and do our best to live with one another respectfully.

It's true that our founders clearly did not want a state church to be founded so that the government dictated theology. However, we are unmistakably a nation with a Christian heritage. And I would submit to you that as Christ followers, we have the same right to celebrate that heritage as enthusiastically, and as intentionally, and as boisterously, as any other group has a right to celebrate their heritage in this nation. It is true that those pioneering and founding this nation sought freedom to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The Mayflower Compact was the first governing document of the Plymouth Colony. It was written by the separatists that would later be known as pilgrims who crossed the Atlantic aboard the Mayflower, seeking freedom to practice Christianity according to their own determination and not according to the will of the English church. It was signed in November 11, 1620 by more than 41 of the ships passengers. You may or may not know that our finest universities, our most celebrated universities were begun as schools to train Christian ministers.

Harvard University, the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States was founded 16 years after the arrival of the pilgrims at Plymouth. Harvard College was established in 1636, 1636 by a vote of the great and general court of the Massachusetts Bay colony. It was named for its first benefactor, John Harvard of Charleston. He was a young minister who upon his death in 1638 left his library and half his estate to the new institution. Princeton University received its first charter from King George II under the seal of John Hamilton, the acting governor of the Royal Province of New Jersey on October 22, 1746.

Princeton is the fourth college to be established in the British colonies, after Harvard, William and Mary, and Yale. It was the first in the middle colonies. The charter was obtained through the efforts of a number of Presbyterians under the direct influence of the Great Awakening. If you're not familiar with it, it was a religious revival that swept the colonies in the early 18th century, the 1700s. And six of Princeton's seven original trustees were graduates of Yale, which the trustees believe no longer provided a suitable atmosphere in which men could be trained for truly enlightened pulpits.

It's true that the individuals who founded our nation were overwhelmingly Christian men and understood their actions to be guided by God. It's true that our founding documents, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, reflect a value system clearly derived from the scripture. Our Supreme Court building in Washington, DC, the halls of Congress, and many other DC buildings which house significant government functions have scripture verses prominently carved into the stone with which they're erected.

The liberty and freedom we know today has emerged from a Christian worldview. Ideas like equality before the law, women's rights, children's rights, fair labor practices, tolerance, civil rights, all of those have emerged from a Judeo-Christian worldview. We act as if all of the world knows the liberties and freedoms that we do and it simply isn't true. We are unique. The liberties and freedoms and the opportunities we have, have come to us as an inheritance. Not to be rested upon, not to be gobbled up and to stamp our feet like petulant children while we demand the government provide something else for us. They're a heritage to be protected, to guard it, extended to one another, and handed to the generation who follows us.

Did you know that 52 of the 55 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Orthodox, deeply committed Christians? The other three all believed in the Bible as divine truth, the God of scripture and in his personal intervention in history. It's the same Congress that formed the American Bible Society. Immediately after creating the Declaration of Independence, the continental Congress voted to purchase and import 20,000 copies of scripture for the people of this nation. Patrick Henry, who's often called the firebrand of the American Revolution, is still remembered for his words, "Give me liberty or give me death". You ever heard the phrase?

Well, in the current textbooks, the context of those words has been deleted. Here's the rest of what he said, "An appeal to arms and the God of hosts is all that is left to us. But we shall not fight our battle alone, there is a just God that presides over the destinies of nations. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone. Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death". I wonder what would happen if the church in the 21st century recognized that Almighty God had given us an assignment. If we attached a value of significance to it that somewhat reflected the values that our founding generation attached to the assignment they understood God had given to them.

Now, those sentences have been erased from our textbooks long ago. Was Patrick Henry a Christian? Well, the following year in 1776, he wrote this, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by Religionists, but by Christians, not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For that alone, for that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here". Consider the words of Jefferson that he wrote on the front of his well-worn Bible. He said, "I'm a real Christian. That is to say a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our creator, and I hope to the pure doctrine of Jesus also".

Or George Washington in his farewell speech in September 19, 1796, he said, "It's impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible. Of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, our religion and morality are the indispensable supporters. Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that our national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles". It was 1782 when the United States Congress voted this resolution. "The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools".

William Holmes McGuffey is the author of the McGuffey Reader. I doubt you're familiar with it. It was used for over 100 years in our public school system. More than 125 million copies were sold until it was stopped in 1963. President Lincoln called McGuffey the school master of the nation. Listen to what he said. "The Christian religion is the religion of our nation. From it are derived our notions of the character of God on the great moral governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions. From no source has the author drawn more conspicuously than from the sacred scriptures. From all these extracts from the Bible, I make no apology".

You want more evidence? Of the first 108 universities founded in America, 106 were distinctly Christian. As I mentioned, that included the first Harvard chartered in 1636. In the original Harvard Student Handbook rule number one was that students seeking entrance must know Latin and Greek so that they could study the scriptures. For over 100 years, more than 50% of all Harvard graduates were pastors. Bet you didn't know that. It's clear from history that the Bible and the Christian faith were foundational to our educational and judicial system.

However, about 1947 there was a radical change in the direction of our Supreme Court. It required ignoring every precedent of Supreme Court ruling for the previous 160 years. The Supreme Court ruled in a limited way to affirm a wall of separation between church and state in the public classroom. In the coming years this led to removing prayer from the public schools. That was 1962. Do you happen to know the prayer that caused so much fear? The prayer that was banished by our Supreme Court? This is it. "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on thee. We beg your blessings upon us and our parents, and our teachers, and our country, amen".

That was deemed inappropriate, and we said little. In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled that Bible reading was outlawed as unconstitutional in the public school system. The court offered this justification. If portions of the New Testament were read without explanation, they could and have been psychologically harmful to children. Bible reading was now unconstitutional though the Bible was frequently quoted by those who wrote our constitution and shaped our nation and its systems of education, justice, and government. In 1965, the courts denied as unconstitutional the right of a student in a public cafeteria to bow his head and pray audibly for his food.

In 1980, Stone versus Graham outlawed the Ten Commandments in our public schools. Supreme Court said this, "If the posted copies of the Ten Commandments were to have any effect at all, it would be to induce school children to read them, and if they read them and meditated upon them and perhaps venerated and obeyed them, this is not a permissible objective". Is it not a permissible objective to allow our children to follow the moral principles of the Ten Commandments? James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution of the United States said this, "We've staked our whole future of our new nation, not upon the power of government, far from it, we've staked the future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments".

Now, we'd have never allowed 'em to be taken down in the schools if we'd held 'em in high esteem in our homes. Today, we ask God to bless America, but how can he bless a nation that has departed so far from him? Revisionists have rewritten history to remove the truth about our country's Christian heritage. It's not lost, we still have breath, the church is still present. We can still gather. And I believe with all of my heart that if we will humble ourselves and seek God, and turn from our sins, he will bring healing to our nation, because that's true to his character in spite of the failures and flaws of our own. Each generation has to choose to honor God. Each generation. We have a tremendous heritage but that is not enough. We have to choose God for ourselves in the 21st century.

We're not the first generation who have turned our backs on God, who have taken his blessings and imagined that we deserve them or even earned them. But we can be one of those generations that turns back to God in humility and repentance. Our challenge isn't the depravity of the wicked, it's the condition of our heart. Let's pray:

Father, forgive us, forgive us for having been co-opted by the world, by having our dreams, and goals, and aspirations be defined apart from you. Give us a love for your Word and a love for your truth that will write a new future for us, in Jesus's name, amen.

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