Reflections on the Fourth

Happy birthday America.  Today we turn 242 years old.  It has been an interesting experiment brought about by certain ideals and beliefs that have been put into writing in our most famous documents, The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.  I will unapologetically say that I believe that God has shed His grace on our nation, and He has blessed us many times over.  He has done so in spite of the fact that more times than not, we have rebelled against Him or flat our rejected Him.  I believe God still strives and desires the souls of those who call America home to repent of their sin and trust in the Gospel as the only way to be saved and in a right relationship with Him.  I believe God still desires this not only for America, but also for the rest of the world.  I believe we should be proud to be an American, while also acknowledging that we have some serious problems, flaws, and challenges that need to be addressed.  The one thing I would caution all American Christians against is this, don’t confuse patriotism with Christianity.  While we can and should be proud to be an American, our supreme loyalty, love, and affection should be to the kingdom of God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  God does not simply desire that Americans only should be saved.  Rather, God desires that all men should be saved (2 Pet. 3:9).  Which means as Christians, we are to love our neighbor as well as our enemy.  We are to pray for our elected officials, regardless of whether we voted for them or not.  We are to pray, seek, and share the Gospel with the lost regardless of race, sex, country of origin, or legal status.  To do less than any of this, is to defame the Gospel which saved us and the Gospel that we are called to spread in our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  So today, as we celebrate and thank God for His blessings and the freedoms He has provided to us; let us seek not to think of ourselves as American Christians, but rather as Christians who happen to live in America.

As has been said earlier, America is a wonderful nation which has, as every other nation, flaws that need to not only be addressed but dealt with properly.  Yet, I would submit to you that these flaws cannot first be dealt with at the White House, court house, or Congress.  Our flaws must first be dealt with in God’s house, for Scripture has declared that judgment must begin in the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17).  A verse that is often used today is 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pay, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”  This is a great verse, but we cannot divorce it from it’s original meaning and context.  This verse was not given to America.  It is a promise from God to the nation of Israel.  Therefore, we must be careful not to read something into this verse that isn’t there.  However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from and apply the principles taught in the verse.  With that being said, I want to suggest a few things that we as individual Christians as well as corporately as churches can do on this holiday.

First, we must realize that this is a conditional promise.  We know this by the first word of the verse, “if.”  This means we have a human responsibility to carry out if we expect God to carry out His promises found in this verse. Second, God is speaking to a specific group, “my people.”  In our context, this refers to Christians.  As a side note I want to say this, dear Christian, please stop expecting a lost person to act like they are saved.  Don’t be surprised when a lost person, acts like they are lost!  However, we certainly should expect the saved to live like they are saved, or maybe their supposed profession isn’t genuine.  Again, judgment must begin in our own lives and our own houses of worship.  God then calls on us to humble ourselves and pray.  Prayer is the acknowledgment that we don’t have all of the answers, we don’t know all of the facts, and we don’t have the power to fix our issues personally or nationally.  Humility not only acknowledges that we can’t fix the problems, but it also means that we admit that we are part of the problem.  Humility acknowledges that we are prideful and that we often think of ourselves more and before we think of others, and that it is wrong to do this.  To “seek My face” is more than to ask God to give us stuff, answer our prayers, or bless us.  Seeking God’s face means that we want to be in fellowship and communion with Him.  That we love Him for who He is, not just what He can give us or do for us.  The result of humbling ourselves, praying, and seeking God’s face is we will turn from our wicked ways.  To look into who God is, is to look into holiness, and to see the perfection of God in His will and His ways.  When I see His holiness, it magnifies my sinfulness.  We can think of it this way, have you heard of the tissue test?  If you want to know if your teeth are white, hold up a tissue beside them when you look in a mirror.  The tissue won’t lie.  When I evaluate my thoughts, words, and actions against the holiness of God, instead of comparing myself to other Christians, it will reveal the true ugliness that lies within me.  This will evoke confession and repentance with a broken and weeping heart if we are truly God’s children.  As we come to God as He is and on His terms, we have glorious promises.  The promises are that God will hear our prayer and He will forgive our sin.  For God to hear my prayer and to forgive my sin means that He has done what I could never do on my own.  He died in my place, paying my price, so that I could have fellowship and a relationship with Him.  I can’t think of a more glorious promise than to know that God hears us when we pray, and that He has forgiven not some, not most, but all of our sins.  And as we live in this right relationship with God, and as we function as the church is called to, God can heal the land through revival.

Happy birthday America.  May we never forget or take advantage of the grace that God has shed on us.  And may we, who belong to Jesus, never cease to share the Gospel until the whole world hears the sound and the promise, Jesus saves!

Pastor Justin

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