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2021 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - Make America Great Again

Craig Smith - Make America Great Again

Craig Smith - Make America Great Again
TOPICS: America, USA, Hope

Good morning. Sorry, how y’all doing? Feel better? So glad you’re able to join us for a Bluegrass Weekend. Please note that I did dress accordingly, I didn’t go all the way there. I was under a little bit of pressure this week to also wear cowboy boots and cowboy hat, and I decided not to for one really important reason, which is that I didn’t want to, and I’m an American and nobody can tell me how I have to dress, right? Can I get an Amen on that?

Yeah, because it’s not just Bluegrass Weekend, right? It’s July 4th weekend, and so we celebrate today and throughout this week just the amazing privileges and honors that we have to live in this great country. And I wanna let you know that the thing about July 4th weekend as a pastor, I’m a little conflicted because you see, on the one hand I love my country. I mean, we’re so blessed to be in the United States of America and I in no way take for granted the incredible freedoms and privileges we enjoy, not the least of which is the freedom of religion, right, which we’re all celebrating just by being in this place not worrying about people taking note of where we go or having to register our attendance. I mean, that is an incredible privilege we have, and we need to be so grateful for the men and women who fight to defend those rights in this freedoms. I was actually raised in a military family and so, you know, my respect and admiration and gratitude for the military is absolutely boundless. So, that’s the one side of the coin. On the other side of the coin is I also recognize that when I talk about who I am, I have to say it this way, I have to say I’m a Christian American. And you notice the order of those two words? Because I’m a follower of Jesus before I’m an American.

My allegiance to Christ ultimately outweighs my allegiance to my country, and if there’s a conflict between what my Jesus calls me to and my country calls me to, it’s Jesus that I have to ultimately be allegiant to. And my guess is that’s probably not a...that’s not an uncommon belief here. I mean, the fact that you’re here in this place in this day, suggests that you probably would agree with me you’ll go, "Yeah." I mean, if there’s a conflict between Christ and country you go with Christ every time. But some of you might be thinking, "But it’s America." And in America, there really shouldn’t be a conflict like that, there’s no particular reason in America, that was founded on Christian principles, why there should ever be a choice between being a Christian and being a patriot. The two should go hand in hand, because that’s our history, right? And I would absolutely agree. I would absolutely agree.

I actually think that John Adams said it best in describing our Constitution on which our government is founded that he said, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people." Made only for a moral and religious people. "It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." And instead, what he’s saying is the U.S. Constitution was written with the assumption that it was governing a people who are rooted in their understanding of who God is through faith in Jesus Christ, and through His word they what we called the Bible. That was the foundational assumption on which the Constitution was written.

But I also think if we’re gonna be realistic, we have to recognize that that’s not necessarily who we are anymore as a people. That ship has sailed. We’re no longer a moral and religious people in the same sense that we were when the Constitution was originally written. And unfortunately, that means as John Adams said, that "The Constitution is in some degree in conflict because it’s not governing the same kind of people it is written to the government." So we have kind of two broad approaches to government, right? We have one big branch or one big approach to governing that says, "Well, what we need to do then since the people aren’t driven by that internal compass that they used to be, we need to pass laws. We need to pass law, after law, after law, restriction after restriction to limit, to curb their impulses towards selfishness."

And so the government is primarily about passing laws to control the people. And then on the other side of the coin, you have kind of an approach to government that says, "No, you need to leave the people alone, you need the kind of let them do their own thing." The problem is neither of those approaches are gonna work, because the people that the Constitution is governing now are not the same kind of people that is written for. Putting all the laws just kind of replaces the internal compass with the external one. Taking off the laws just means people are free to act according to whatever internal compass they have, and it’s not God’s compass. And so both of those approaches create problems, which is why our country is not everything that it could be. And I don’t think I’m saying anything that’s too radical here. I realize I’m probably gonna make a couple people mad. But, like, is there anybody here who looks at the State of the United States America and goes, "No, we’re nailing it? We’ve got it." Anybody? Okay. So I’m in good company here.

When I say that, "This country is not everything that it was founded to be, it’s not everything that could be." And please understand I’m not being fatalistic, I’m not saying that there is no hope. I’m not saying that. On the contrary, I believe that as long as God is on his throne and his people are on the ground, there is hope. That actually deserves more than just a couple of the Amens. I know we’re not an, Amen, kind of church. But let me make sure you hear me say that again, because I’m talking about what we are, who we are as the people of God and what role it is that God has for us in this country, in this world. As long as God is on his throne and his people are on the ground, there is hope for our nation. Amen. There is absolutely hope for our nation. But — and this is really important — hope for our nation will not be found in our courts, it will be found in our churches.

Okay. Now, I recognize that I don’t have a particular Bible passage that I can point to go, "Yeah, this is exactly what God says." This is an opinion but I think it’s an opinion it’s bathed in an understanding of God’s Word as well as the world that we live in. Hope for our nation is not gonna be found in our courts, it’s going to be found in our churches, because the courts can’t fix what’s wrong, but the church has the potential to fix what’s wrong. We don’t need more laws that control people, we don’t need more laws that that limit selfishness. What we need is more people who claim to follow Jesus who actually follow Jesus. And please hear me, there is another thing that you could misunderstand, I wanna make sure you don’t get on this road. I am not saying that Christians shouldn’t be involved in the court system. I’m not saying that Christians shouldn’t work in government. I’m not saying that Christians shouldn’t be involved in the military or in civic duties, not at all. On the contrary, I believe that it’s critical that we have Christians involved in our courts in our governing, anywhere else because that’s where we need to hold the line. That’s what we need to buy time for the church to do what only the church can do, which is, to provide hope. Right?

And that hope’s not gonna come because we are a shining example of moral behavior. I mean, we should be. We should absolutely be committed to the moral standards of Scripture, but it’s not like when we live in a moral way our culture is gonna go, "Oh, we need to get on board with that. We need to do what they’re doing." I don’t think that’s gonna happen. I think that ship has sailed. And I don’t think that we’re going to change our country, I don’t think we’re gonna make America great again because we, as Christians, spend a lot of time, you know, sort of pounding the table about our Christian heritage or using our Facebook accounts to decry the moral decline of America. I don’t think we’re gonna fix America because we boycott Disney and things like that. I’m not saying that any of those kinds of things are necessarily wrong, but I’m saying they’re ultimately not gonna make America great.

They’re not gonna provide the change that we long for as believers in this culture that we live in, because the issue, I believe, isn’t really about morality, it’s about mission, that the solution to the problem is not embracing the morals of Jesus. Obviously we have to do that, that’s foundational. But it’s not about being public about the morals of Jesus, what it is, is it’s about being public with the mission of Jesus. We need to embrace not just the morality that Jesus gives, but we need to take His mission and we need to make it our own. And I believe that we’re gonna see this country become great if and only if the church consistently and courageously calls the followers of Jesus to start living like Jesus in the world. That’s how we’ll make America great, if we adopt His mission for our own. And His mission is pretty straightforward it’s actually pretty simple. It’s a little overwhelming perhaps, but it’s important we understand it.

This is how Jesus described his mission in the Gospel of Mark 10:45, and if you’ve been listening to me teach for any length of time, you’ve probably heard me share this verse before and you’ll continue to hear me share it, because I think it’s bedrock central, it’s foundational for understanding what it means to be the people of God in the world. Jesus said this, He said, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve." For even the Son of Man, even the Son of Man, even God Himself, the Son of God himself, Son of Man is his favorite title for himself. "Even God Himself did not come to earth to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." That is the mission of Jesus, to serve others. And my question to you this morning is, what do you think would happen if the people who claim to follow Jesus actually lived like he lived? Actually made his mission their own? You realize that according to the life study I saw from a couple years ago, it’s still the case that 70% of Americans claim to follow Jesus in some way, 70%. That’s 224 million people. What do you think would happen to this country if today 224 million people decided, "I’m gonna live like Jesus. I’m gonna adopt his mission, I’m gonna serve others."

You know what would happen if 224 million people started living like that today? We would change this country tomorrow. But with all due respect our president, I have a very different plan to make America great again. It ain’t gonna get me elected. It’s not. But here’s the thing, the problem that we’re dealing with is selfishness. And I know that’s not a popular thing to say, but it’s the true thing to say. The problem with America is that we’re selfish. It’s not just the problem with America, it’s also the problem with our marriages. Like, do you know with the number-one problem of my marriage is? It’s my wife. I’m sorry, honey. No, it’s so not my wife. No, the number-one problem my marriage is that I’m selfish. That’s the number-one problem with my marriage. The number-one problem with my family is that I’m selfish.

The number-one problem with my neighborhood is that I’m selfish. The number-one problem with the United States of America is that we are selfish. It’s the number-one problem with all of these because it’s is sort of the core of what it means to be a sinful fallen human being. But it does play out differently in America, I think. And again, I love my country, but if we’re realistic, we have to recognize we’re a selfish people. I mean, not exclusively. We’re also a really generous people, right? I mean, the United States of America is usually number one or number two in terms of the countries that are most willing to give to charitable causes.

We’re a generous people, but we’re also selfish, and it shows up in interesting ways. Like, this is gonna sound like a silly example, but I actually think it’s a pretty telling example. See, Americans are really hard to move out of their comfort zones. We don’t like to be moved out of our comfort zones. And one of the clearest proofs of that to me is that we are still refusing to use the metric system. And like some of you are right now you just got really cold, you’re like, "Metrics? Wait a minute, that’s communist? What are we talking about?" So you’re already, you’re already on the defensive. But it’s like, "It’s crazy that we don’t use the metric system because it’s so much better. I mean, it makes so much more sense and it’s scalable, you can scale it up. I mean, let’s just do a little bit of math, right? How are gonna know? How many meters in a kilometer? Anybody?

Some of you are like, "A thousand." Some of you are like, "I’m an American, I don’t need to know this." Right? Okay? There’s a thousand meters in a kilometer. So let’s try so how many meters in four kilometers? You see how easy that is? How many meters are in 4.5 kilometers? Four thousand five hundred. I did hear, like, small children voices like, "Four thousand." Okay, All right. How about this, how many yards are in four and a half miles? You are like, "Without a calculator? You gotta be kidding me." Like that, you gotta divide and then you... Is there a logarithm?" I don’t remember it. I remember talking to my youngest daughter, Lynae a couple years ago and I was trying to kind of we were talking about how you how we measure things right and she was trying to get her head around the foot. She was like, "Okay, so a foot is 12". Why 12?" "Just because." She’s like, "No really. Why is that a foot? Why do we call it a foot?"

And I was like, "Well, this is what I remember from grade school. A foot’s basically it’s the average length of the male foot. So the average man has a foot that this long." She looked at a ruler and she’s like, "Like the average guy’s foot is 12" long? That’s a pretty big foot." She’s looking at mine, she’s like, "Yours are, like, way inadequate dad." "You are absolutely right." She goes, "Really the average man’s foot is 12"?" And I was like, "I don’t know," and I googled it and turns out it’s not even close. The average man’s foot is 10". She’s like, "Okay, so why is it 12?" I was like, "Well, probably because there was some ancient king who decided that his foot would be the standard. That’s probably why it is." And she’s like, "That’s pretty good answer." and she’s like, "Okay. And we’re still using that...why?" Yeah, it’s a good point. I have no idea. But actually, it’s not true. I know exactly why we’re not using it, because Americans wanna change! Everybody else has changed.

We tried it in America. Does anybody remember when we tried it in America? Like, we even put up road signs that were both the English system as well as the metric system, we can kind of ease people into it and fascinatingly enough, they did the exact same thing in Canada. And Canada was like, "All right. We’ll do that, fine we’ll become metric." They just change. In America when they put the signs up, we shot them down. And here’s the thing, I am not kidding. How many of you remember seeing bullet holes in those signs? The weird thing is a lot of the bullet holes were 9mm, and I don’t know what to do with that. But we absolutely refused. We absolutely refused. We literally exercised our Second Amendment rights to defend our other right not to change. And I get it, it’s inconvenient. I mean, we’ll require learning and changing but we did...and see that’s America. We can be generous, but we’re not immune from the selfishness, and it carries itself out in some significant ways.

And that’s why I say, "The courts can’t fix what’s wrong with it, because the courts can’t fix selfish." They can limit it. That’s all they can do. The courts can limit selfish they can put up a rule and say, "Your selfishness can only go this far." But that’s all they can do. The courts can limit selfish, but we don’t need more limits on our selfishness, what we need is an outbreak of selflessness. The courts can limit selfishness but they cannot unleash selflessness, but the church can. The church can if the people of God will decide, "Today, we’re gonna live the way Jesus lived. We’re gonna follow the example of the one that we claim to follow." If we start living that way today, this can be a very different country starting tomorrow.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes some incredible truth that I think we need to grapple with as we wrestle with this idea of what it means to really follow Jesus. If you have a Bible or if you wanna grab the one from the seats in front of you, I’d love to have you turn with me to Galatians chapter 5. We’re gonna look at this morning verse 13, and we’re not gonna spend as much time unpacking the text as we typically do here at Mission Hills because I just want to sit with a heartbeat. I just wanna focus on what the heartbeat of this passages is, and reflect on the question of "What does that mean as I celebrate the freedom that we have in this country this week?"

And in Galatians 5:13, Paul writes this. He says, "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free." And we go, "Okay, that’s a great verse to go into freedom week with." You were called to be free, but look what he says next. He says, "But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh. Rather, serve one another humbly in love. Do not use your freedom to indulge in the flesh, rather serve one another humbly in love, for the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command, to love your neighbor as yourself. If you bite and devour at each other, watch out or you’ll be destroyed by each other. And what Paul does here is three things basically, he’s commanding, he is clarifying and then he is convincing.

Commanding, clarifying, convincing. The command’s really simple he says, "Yeah, you’re given freedom in Christ, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that your freedom is for yourself. Don’t think that your freedom is for the exercise of you satisfying your own desire." He says, "You’re free so that you can do...what? So that you can humbly serve others in love." That’s the command. Use your freedom to humbly serve others in love. Now, I will argue that that one verse alone will probably wreck your lives and it will fix our country. I mean, if we honestly thought that our freedom as Americans was a privilege enabling us to serve others humbly, this would be a very different place, very quickly.

But he goes on and he clarifies why this is such a significant command. He says, "Because the entire law is fulfilled in this one command to love your neighbor as yourself." He says, "All the Old Testament commands are fulfilled in this one command, to love your neighbor as yourself." And if you’re familiar with the Bible, if you’ve been in church for a while, you may even remember there was a time where Jesus was asked by some people, "Hey, what do you think the greatest commandment is? What’s the most important of all those commandments? There’s hundreds of laws in the Old Testament, but what’s the one most important one?" And Jesus’s answer was, "Greatest Commandment? Love God with everything that you have. Love God with all that you are." He said, "Love God with your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength." And He said, "That’s the greatest commandment." And then He said, "The second one is like it." He said, "It’s to love your neighbor as yourself."

And you may go, "Wait a minute, Paul went straight to the second one. He bypassed that first one completely. Is Paul disagreeing with Jesus? Is he saying that loving your neighbor is more important than loving God?" And the answer is, absolutely not. What Paul’s doing is he’s getting practical, because he understands that the command to love God...that has to be first and foremost. But what he’s saying is like, loving God it’s not just something we do in our heads, it’s not just something we do in our hearts. Truly loving God always pours out of us and our relationship with other people so that it’s the relationships in the way that we serve and care and love for others that demonstrates whether or not we have a true and abiding love for God in our hearts.

See, this is how you know if you really love God. It’s not how you feel inside when you come and sing a worship song. Whether or not you love God, it’s demonstrated in how you love others. So this is kind of a weird analogy, but think about like this. I don’t have any ability to look at my car and easily tell how much oil I have in it. But the oil is absolutely critical for that engine to function. But I don’t have a gauge that shows me how much oil I have so what I have to do is I have to pull out that thing. You know what they call it, right? It’s a weird word, right? Like, the dipstick? Remember when I was teaching my kids, they’re like, "Yeah, this is how to use the dipstick." And they’re like, "You’re making that word up." "I’m really not, that’s the way we call it. It’s a dipstick." But the thing is, like, the dipstick comes out and then I can tell from what’s on that dipstick, whether or not I have this crucial stuff inside, okay? The reason James is focusing on loving others is he’s saying basically, "Listen, our love for others is the dipstick on the reservoir of our hearts."

Go ahead and tweet that one out without any context and see how people will respond, but you will understand what I’m saying, right? What Paul is saying is, "All the Old Testament law, you know, the most important is to love God. But all the Old Testament law, basically, it directs who love God into loving others and that demonstrates the reality of this love for God that’s supposed to be in our hearts, because as all the law is fulfilled in loving your neighbor as yourself." And he recognizes not everybody is gonna be convinced to do it just because he said it, so then he goes on to kind of offer sort of a convincing proof for this. He says, "But if you bite and devour each other, watch out or you’ll be destroyed by each other. If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you’re gonna be destroyed by each other." And what he’s basically saying is, "Loving others is not just right, it’s also reasonable. It’s not just preferable, it’s also practical," because here’s the thing, if you treat other people as just instruments to get what you wanted, if it’s all about what you can get from them, they’re gonna treat you in the same way. They’re gonna treat you as somebody just to get what they want from and we’re gonna be biting and sniping and griping back and forth at each other and it’s kind of a mess, which is exactly what this place looks like, come election time in this country, right?

It’s a perfect picture, a perfect example, of what it looks like, we’re biting and devouring each other and he says, "That’s not how Christians are supposed to live." Fortunately, the reverse is also true, that if what we’re doing is we’re extending love and peace, that tends to have a boomerang effect as well." And so he goes on and says, "So I say walk by the Spirit. And you will not gratify the desires of the flesh, for the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you’re not under the law." He says, "There’s two ways to do it. There’s the world’s way and then there’s God’s way led by the Holy Spirit." And I love what he says, he says, "But if you’re led by the Spirit, you’re not under the law."

And I think that the significance of that is that... as we said, what the law can do is it can limit selfishness. But what happens when we’re led by the law is we’re constantly bumping up against whatever barrier it gives us. We’re going, "How selfish can I be before I get in trouble? Right? I mean, think about it. When you see a speed limit, what’s your immediate thought? "That’s how fast I can go before I get..." Well, it’s not really, because you can usually get another four or five miles over there before it’s really a problem. "This road I’ve heard you can actually do 10..." See, what’s happening is we’re led by the law, we’re going, "How far can I be selfish before I get slapped down for it?" He says, "You’re not supposed to be led by the law you’re supposed to be led by the Spirit."

When we’re led by the law, when we’re led by the flesh, when we’re led by these restrictions that limit how much selfish we can be, we’re being led by the world’s approach. And the world approach doesn’t generate what God longs for. He describes the two different ways in the results. He says, "The acts of the flesh are obvious. Sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred and discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warned you as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law." And he says, "There’s two very different approaches to life and they have two very different outcomes." But what I think is interesting and we can spend a lot of time unpacking all these different words, but again, I just wanna focus in the heartbeat today for this 4th of July special message.

And the heartbeat of this description of the world’s way is basically it’s all about getting. It’s an approach to life that says, "It’s all about what I can get for myself." Every one of those horrible descriptions revolves around the desire to get from others." And most of those are obvious, right? I mean, you go, "Selfish ambition? Clearly, that’s about getting." You do envy, it’s about getting. But you might look at a few of them like idolatry and witchcraft, and you go, "What’s that got to do with getting?" It has everything to do with getting, because in the ancient world the use of idols or the casting of spells and witchcraft, they were ways to make the spirits give you what you wanted. They were ways to manipulate the spiritual world into giving you your stuff, even if it meant getting it from somebody else. Every single item including witchcraft and idolatry in that list is about getting from others. It’s about living with an approach to life that says, "I’m gonna get what I can until somebody stops me." On the other hand, everything in that other list, the list of the spirit, it’s all about giving. It’s all about looking at others and loving and serving them. I think most of those are pretty obvious, right? Goodness faithfulness, gentleness, it’s all about others. But even joy, we hear joy and we tend to go, "Joy is about happiness, right? It’s about my happiness." No, not at all.

As Paul uses the word Joy, he’s talking about delighting, by being delighted by something and then the question comes, "Well, what is supposed to be delighted by it?" As Paul talks about it, what he calls us to be in his letters is to be delighted by the unity of the church. When the church is unified and accomplishing God’s purposes in the world, we can be delighted by that, we can take joy in that. When we share the gospel with those who don’t know and they come to faith in Christ, would it take delight in that or would it take joy in that? Even joy is about serving others, being delighted in others.

And so on the one side, we have this approach to life it’s all about getting, on the other side we have an approach to life it’s all about giving. And what Paul is saying is this, "If we’re truly led by the Spirit, if we’re truly living as Jesus lives, if we’re truly being led by God, we delight in the opportunities that God gives us to love others. If we’re truly living like Jesus lived, following his example, then we will delight in the opportunities that God gives us to love others." And my question for you today is, what do you think would happen if we actually started doing that? What do you think would happen if the 224 million people who claim to follow Jesus in this country actually started to love others in the same way that he loved us? We would make America great again. We would make America great again.

I understand that what God tells us here is not the kind of thing that’s gonna get you elected, but it’s the kind of thing that can really make a difference. He’s saying that, "The key to making America great again, is loving others the way Jesus loved us." That’s it. That’s your idea to reflect on this week as we celebrate our freedom. And to ask questions like, "What would happen if I stopped asking, is it legal?" and I started asking, is it love? If I stopped asking, is it permissible? And I started asking, is it peaceable? I stop asking, does this delight me? Instead of asking, am I a delight to others?" There is hope for our nation because God is on his throne, and his people are on the ground. And so there is hope for our nation. So why don’t we make America great again? Amen?
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