How Should Christians Live in Pagan America?
Look with me at the book of Eze 22:30 “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. Now the context of this passage is the paganization of Israel. Remember that to them had been given the oracles, the word of God! They had been called to be separate from the world but had followed the example of Adam and Eve in that they had rebelled against the command of God and had embraced sin in all of its nasty consequences. You cannot read the book of Ezekiel and not be moved by the imagery set forth in its pages. Israel had become a whore who paid its customers rather than the other way around. And they had turned their backs upon the God who called them. God’s lament here is clear; “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.
I want to begin this lesson by saying something that some of you already know: America is a pagan society. As sad and miserable as that may sound, this is the reality that we face today! As a nation we have experienced over 150 years of strong Christian biblical influence. And this is just from the Second Great Awakening, not to mention the Azusa Street Revival, the Revival in the Isle of Lewis and the Jesus Movement of the 1970’s. But the afterglow is rapidly fading away.
Oh sure, millions of people still attend religious services. There are many who say they believe in God when they are polled which is a stupid thing since polls are usually subjective. In other words, you can make a poll say anything you want it to say by twisting the questions and tweaking the numbers. But what about the rest of the America? It is interesting that you can see only a very faint shadow of what could be described now as situational morality. You have heard of situational ethics; where each situation is dealt with in the manner that best fits the moment. It’s the same idea. Since there is no foundational truth to apply; no absolute standard of right and wrong because the Bible was thrown out of the public square decades ago, what you have is ‘whatever feels good’ or what ever seems right at the moment!
Many Theologians say that we are living in a post- Christian America. Indeed even worldlings say the same thing only with glee! Others say we are living in a sub-Christian America. Isn’t it interesting that people want to say that we are a Christian nation while shunning the very truths that make up Christianity? They want to have the image, the façade of religiosity but they don’t want to be bothered with the details. And so America has developed its own personal version of Christianity which is no more than a hollow, empty and meaningless shadow of the true.
Powerful sermons from the word of God have been replaced with platitudes poured out upon placid piles of pathetic pewsters. And the pewsters have somehow gotten it into their minds that the Bible was for them back then and what we need today is a message that is relevant to the times we are living in. So they seek out gurus like Oprah and Obama and Koresh and Jones thinking that ‘these people will have the answer!’ But doesn’t the Bible; that outdated book have something to say about this? Indeed it does. “Thus says the LORD, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD.” Jer 17:5
But because church people have rejected the Word of God which is alive and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword and is able to divide between the soul and spirit, between joints and marrow, because the sword of the Spirit has been cast aside in favor of vanity and grasping at the wind, it is no wonder that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in America today is so powerless and empty and clueless to do anything! America is a pagan nation dressed up in the façade of religion.
But we have been attempting to shrug off the last vestiges of anything remotely resembling biblical truth; in short we have been driving toward the goal of digging up the foundation stones that have held this nation together for so long and casting them aside in favor of a foundationless building that is no more stable than a house of cards. This can be clearly seen in the anti-Christian agenda of our leaders in congress and in the courts. Those who saw they couldn’t sway the nation by their protests are now in positions of power and are forcing us to succumb to their agenda by enacting laws that go along with their wicked world-view. Indeed, there is a tremendous movement to eradicate anything and everything that smacks of Christianity; all in the name of equal rights and progress.
The Christianity that once was the main characteristic of our nation; the foundation of our society; that held up the standard of biblical truth and morality; the divine standard in which to judge behavior; this has practically vanished. Biblical truth with its absolutes is constantly assaulted and personal freedom of choice reigns as a god in its place. Materialism, the breakdown of the family and of society are epidemic. Abortion goes on with the efficiency of the Nazi gas chambers.
Sexual perversion of every kind is applauded and enforced by law while the biblical view of marriage is cursed in the public square! The Ten Commandments were torn off the walls of public schools and prayer was banned, replaced by pagan education which denies God and demeans human life. The result of this was the enemy coming in like a flood, spreading an epidemic of drug abuse, vicious rapes and murders on school campuses. And as a nation we have no idea how to cope with this deluge of evil. Since the standard has been torn down and the answer Book thrown away, sinful mankind has no idea how to figure out what is right and what is wrong.
America is like a man who climbed out onto a limb and began to saw it in two. Because we have ripped away all foundational truth we have no answer for anything. Parents have no idea what to teach their children so they just ‘let them be free to live their own lives.’ Discipline is out! In fact, “Daddy Spank” means “Daddy go to jail!” We have a generation of people who have taken the “Its All About Me” agenda and they are running with it. We have no standards to control them because we have taught them that there is no such thing as right and wrong. Therefore society has run amuck and we don’t have enough police to arrest the criminals, nor enough courts to process them nor enough jails to keep them in.
What a sad state of affairs. And it is even more so for those of us who saw or experienced the great revival of the seventies commonly called “The Jesus Movement.” This was a tremendous Revival that started out as God came sweeping across school campuses. We saw a great exodus of teenagers and hippies as they left this world and the lies of Timothy Leary and others and embraced Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.
There were mass baptisms in the oceans and churches were full of people who were zealous for Jesus. Many thought it was the end; that Jesus was going to return any day and establish His kingdom on earth. The Bible was being translated into the language of the people just as it had been in King James’ day so that we could have a fresher English translation. There was a proliferation of books and teaching tapes and there was a new type of worship music and there was a definite wind of the Spirit of God blowing across our land! Those were wonderful days. But I want you to think back to Pharaoh’s dream. Remember the seven fat cows and the seven good ears of corn and the seven skinny cows and the seven withered ears of corn. It seems to me that there is a parallel here in that the great revival was wonderful. You remember the lesson; the seven years of famine would cause the Egyptians to forget the seven years of plenty.
God was with us of a truth and in a mighty way! But now, those days are all but forgotten in the deluge of debauchery and apostasy which has caused many to nearly forget the glorious years of the moving of the Spirit. This change is sad and true Christians long for the days of the Spirit again and we feel the sadness of the lack of His presence. But notice what happens when instead of seeking His face ad turning from our wicked ways, we just sit back and do nothing. Notice what happens when we become hyper-Calvinists of the nth degree. We begin to get mad or resentful. We begin to point fingers and blame others. We don’t like what the President is doing. We don’t like his agenda or his decisions. We don’t like what our governor and even our mayor is saying about homosexuality. We don’t like the kinds of things that our senators and our congressmen are doing or the decisions they are making. We are nauseated by the verdicts that are being rendered in courts that are pardoning criminals and arresting others who have done nothing wrong. Basically we aren’t happy with the agenda all the way around. And so the question that I want us to ponder this morning is this: how are we to respond to our pagan culture? Well I must ask; are we standing in the gap? Are we seeking to rebuild the wall of truth? Are we sounding the alarm?
If not then we either need to put up or shut up. If we aren’t part of the solution then we are contributing to the problem! There is no other way of looking at it. “But that’s not our ministry you know. We just don’t feel led man.” Well here’s a thought for you from Ray Comfort. He said; “The revealed will of God in Scripture should be our inspiration. If God has purchased the car, filled it with gasoline, paid the insurance, given us the license, sat us in the drivers seat, shown us our destination, started the engine and told us to go, should He now have to push the car?”
We as Christians have the answer to the world’s problems. We are in possession of the Truth, a foundation that can never be shattered. We have the only message of hope to a lost and dying world and we are hiding it under a bed. We want to be secret agent Christians, undercover Christians who do nothing for Jesus. Indeed Leonard Ravenhill was right when he said “We wrestle not!” I can’t find any place in the scripture that allows us to shirk our duties. Rather we are called in 2 Sam 10:12 to “Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good.”
So what can we do to make a difference in this world? You know that religious people have all kinds of plans and schemes to ‘make this world a better place.’ There are books that have to do with confronting our culture, seeking to impact our culture on a purely social, surface level. But frankly these are really nothing more than self help, self improvement projects and that’s not our goal. It may sound like a noble goal but our goal is not to impact our culture by simply changing their moral values.
Our goal is not to impact our culture by trying to implement traditional values or family values through legislation or judicial process. Our goal is not to make sure that the United States of America adheres to a national policy that equates to biblical morality. This is what Constantine did when he made Christianity the state religion. It was a mere outward façade with no inward change. That is not our goal. We are not to be involved in altering social morality. We are not to be striving to upgrade social conduct. Instead we are to be about the task of making disciples of all nations.
Our primary goal is to get people saved. That is our only agenda. If there is going to be a change in our culture its going to have to be a change from the inside out. If you wash a pig it is still a pig and still has its piggish desires. The first chance it gets its going to go back to the mud. What needs to happen is that the pig in every person must be eradicated, killed; and a new life, a God transformed life must arise to walk in newness of life. The born again person is a truly changed person, not just outwardly but inwardly as well. The old nature is crucified and the old heart of stone is removed an a new life, God’s life is placed within and the person who loved sin loves God and the things of God.
As Christians we are a nation of priests and a priest had one simple function, to bring people to God, to usher them into His presence. It is the only thing we are here in this world for. Paul states the case very clearly in 2Co 5:18-19 “namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”
John MacArthur says; “Consider this fact; if lost sinners die in a communist country or in a democracy, it really doesn’t matter because they will still end up in hell. If they die under a tyrant or a benevolent dictator, it doesn’t matter because they will still end up in hell. Unless they repent, they will all likewise perish. If they die believing that homosexuality is wrong or believing that homosexuality is right and end up in hell, it doesn’t matter. If they die as a policeman or a prostitute without Christ, they’re going to end up in the same place. Whether they die moral or immoral will make no difference in eternity. Whether they stood on the side of the street with the pro-abortion rights group and screamed for legalizing and maintaining legal abortions, or on the other side of the street against abortion and screamed to stop the killing, if they didn’t know Christ they’re going to end up in the same place. Right? And so the sanitization of society isn’t the issue, the issue is salvation.”
If we are going to see our nation transformed, it has to be done from the inside out; that must be our agenda. We’re here to preach Christ and to know nothing among the people of the United States of America except Christ and Him crucified. And behind our preaching there must be a life, lived to the glory of God. This will be the visible evidence that makes our message believable as sinners see our transformed lives; as they see the reality of Jesus Christ in us!
Jesus Christ is our foundation and we, standing upon that firm foundation are to live as Jesus lived in this world! What does a godly life look like? Paul gives us a look at what the godly man and woman is to be about when he says in Titus 3:1-8 “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2 to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. 3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.
It’s very important how we conduct ourselves in this world for we truly do lead by example. And consider that there was no Christianity until Paul was sent by God to introduce it. In the Gentile world it was just blatant comprehensive paganism with all of the trappings that Satan could pile on. With the exception of a few Jews it was totally and exclusively a satanic system. All the existing religions, ideologies, philosophies, all the law and values were derived from a non-Christian system. It was thoroughly pagan until Paul arrived. So Paul knew what it was like to live in a thoroughly pagan culture, more than what we experience her in America because here there is an established faithful remnant of truly regenerated people.
Paul knew what it was like to be in a godless world of abusive deadly inequality and slavery. He knew what it was to be in a culture of tyrants, petty dictators who killed for nothing. Indeed heads rolled cheap in those days. He knew what it was to be under abusive leadership. He knew what it was to see a society engulfed up to its ears in sexual perversion, the breakdown of the family. Some ancient documents contain accounts of men who had 26 and 27 wives and or husbands, depending on the situation. That sounds like today. And as it is today, the world of Paul’s day was literally flooded with idols representing petty gods. People were heavily taxed and the tax collectors were extortionists who took what wasn’t justly due them. If anybody complained they would take their life as soon as look at them. And the world was full of terrorists, people who were going around executing those who had done something against them. Even in the Jewish world there were the Zealots: guys who carried the daggers and came up behind the authorities in Israel and stabbed them to death. And so terrorism was everywhere. There is nothing new under the sun.
It was an ugly world. And Paul never ever says in any of his letters, “Now, ladies and gentlemen, we need to moralize our pagan culture. We need to impact our culture some how.” No, all he ever said was, “We need to evangelize it.” And he wasn’t calling for protest marches. He wasn’t calling for any kind of contention or any kind of war against the existing mentality, he was calling for the preaching of the gospel that transforms the life. And as I have already stated, it wasn’t just the preaching, it was the living within the church and outside the church that gave a platform that made the message believable. The conduct of believers was crucial to the work of evangelism. Let me sum up Paul’s message in three points.
1. Remember your former condition.
2. Second, remember your salvation.
3. Remember your mission.
Paul is telling Titus and us that if you will remind Christians of those three things, it will keep their behavior, as Peter put it, excellent among the pagans. We are to live to the glory of God in all things. So what is our duty? What are we called to do? We are called to witness a good confession before the world around us by our lives and by our words. We are called to stand for the truth even though we may be hurt or even killed for our faith. Remember there are people in our nation who hate God as much as any tyrant of the past. We are called to plead with our Father in Heaven to forgive our sins and heal our land. We are called to stand in the gap against evil, not returning evil for evil but proclaiming the truth in the face of liars and haters of God.
It is interesting that non Christians call us ‘haters.’ All the while it is we who plead with unwed mothers not to murder their babies. It is we who demonstrate love to our neighbor when they are in need. It is we who pray to the Lord to save sinners and it is we who proclaim a message of love and hope to a lost and dying word around us. Haters? I don’t think so! But what is the problem with the Church? I’ll tell you what the problem is. It is the mindset that plagues so many ministries, the mindset of ‘well that’s the pastors job’ or that’s someone else’s duty not mine.” Let me clear something up for you; it is your duty. Your job is to be a witness of the truth to the lost and remember these uncomfortable words from the lips of our Lord Jesus; “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mr 8:38
Are you ashamed of Jesus? Are you afraid of what others might think of you? Well let me ask another question; whose opinion is more important to you, Christ’s or the worlds? We have a duty to this pagan nation of ours and that duty is to stand forth and proclaim that there is a God and we will all stand before Him on the Day of Judgment. We are called to live, as much as it depends upon us, peaceably with all men. But when we are given the opportunity to hold forth the Word of truth, to speak the wonderful words of life to a sinner, we must seize the opportunity and not shrink back in shame. I am not bold by nature but I pray that God will give me boldness to speak the truth no matter what the outcome. The scriptures call us to “Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good.” Do you love your nation? Then get on your knees and fight like true people of God. Pray for the strength and the grace to proclaim the truth and then go in the power of the Holy Spirit and fight for our nation, for the cities of our God!
We have inside information. We know the reason for all the ills of society. And we have the answer. I close with this final thought from the word of God. It comes from the book of Esther and the time was much like today. The Jews were about to be wiped out and Mordecai called for Esther to do something saying; “If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Es 4:14 I believe that we are here at this time for just such a time as this. Will we rise to the occasion or will we keep silent?