All Scripture quotations are from the King James Version
And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw Him, they besought Him that He would depart out of their coasts. (Matt 8:34)
And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided Him. And He said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. (Luke 16:14-15)
Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:5)
What consequences result from consciously trying to shut God out of a culture? Why would a culture want to remove God from its presence?
The extent of God’s role in American twenty-first century culture is a topic at the core of nearly all political campaigns, court decisions, holiday observances, educational programs, national symbols, church practices, and most other daily activities, both individual and corporate. The noise on both sides of the issue radiates from radio talk shows; television debates; advocacy groups seeking financial, moral, and judicial support; pulpit ministries bent on either making God’s presence more visible or seeking to attract followers who believe they were closed out by traditional churches; political battles over such topics as abortion, evolution, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and gambling; biased news media; and last, but not finally, hundreds of new books foretelling the rise or fall of the American Empire.
While the battles continue to rage, some people are diligently seeking political support to design the federal courts so that they will throw off the traces and constraints of traditional values. The electorate has a record of not supporting elections, or elected officials, for the purpose of changing those same traditional values. This group maintains that backwoods, fundamentalist, anti-neo-progressive God-followers have hindered attempts to bring about a more enlightened culture. On the other side of the issue, a host of new political action groups remind their followers of the dire consequences of being neutral or passive and urge them to become involved in defending their traditional values. They want to prevent America from sinking into the abyss of moral depravity that characterized the remnants of the Roman Empire. At the dawning of the twenty-first century, America has developed two almost distinct sub-cultures; each waving their score cards in the faces of their political action groups and supporters.
These two distinct sub-cultures are readily evident in every aspect of the overall culture. This evidence can be identified in the political process, the religious spectrum, the nation’s geographical structure, its educational proponents, the media programming, highlighted by news broadcasting, radio programs and entertainment choices. It has become commonplace to use a variety of synonyms to define the two subcultures. On one side, terms such as liberal, left-wing, blue, and Democrat function synonymously; on the other side, such opposite terms as conservative, right-wing, red, fundamentalist, and Republican serve as inflammatory representations for the opposition. Two terms used to emphasize the worst of the opposition are ultra left-wing-liberal and ultra right-wing- fundamentalist. The geographic division has come to the point where a new term, left coast, has replaced the old term of west coast.
While there is considerable overlap in the use of the aforementioned terms within each camp, they are not completely synonymous since not all conservatives are fundamentalists nor are all Democrats pro-choice. There is also no true uniformity in the total spectrum of beliefs on either side. This causes considerable turmoil within the various sub-cultures. Many right-wing conservatives became angry when their majority party, the Republican, allowed an individual who does not carry all of their basic beliefs to preside over a major legislative committee. Of specific note, the true conservatives became incensed when the Senate majority leader permitted a pro-choice senator, an abhorrent stance to the true conservatives, to hold the esteemed position as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This committee passes judgment on all of the president’s judicial nominees, and is where the conservatives’ foes use pro-life as a litmus test for disapproval. Even though the lines appear to be quite clearly drawn, there is little total uniformity and each side readily knows just who is on which side and for what reason.
Those who appear to be the best cultural observers agree that the culture has drastically changed from that which was most evident in the early nineteenth century to what is observed in the beginning of the twenty-first century. A number of cultural measures justify this rationale. These observations are reinforced by criteria that can easily be measured by statistics drawn from physically observable cultural traits such as: out-of-wedlock pregnancies, marriage and divorce rates, abortions, drug usage, crime rates, educational achievements, suicide rates, single-parent families, and other cultural practices with similar measurable attributes. William Bennett published one of the earliest such indexes in 1993. Since that time, both the hostility and the noise level have increased. There is much disagreement over whether our culture has become more or less civil and compassionate. Those on the right maintain that the culture has lost meaning, while the left looks at their pet factors to declare that we are better off because people have more freedom of choice. They do not, however, discuss the consequences that result from practicing those freedoms.
The topic of this article is the closeting of God; therefore, it seems practical to evaluate the current cultural status based upon those perspectives that are most relevant to a culture that exhibits biblically-based traits. In general, it would appear at the outset of the twenty-first century that America does appear to be less inclined to honor those teachings that were expounded by the founding fathers some two-hundred and fifty years ago. Almost every facet of contemporary everyday life substantiates the following two prophecies more graphically than did life some fifty-plus years ago. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:1-7:
This know, also, that in the last days perilous times shall come: For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Peter also picks up the theme of the last days in 2 Peter 3: 3-4:
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming?
As this article is being written, some four-hundred plus American churches are belying their own professions and denying God’s truth by celebrating Evolution Sunday. Other churches, because of the fear of legalism, have departed so far from teaching God’s law that they have lost the true meaning of God’s grace.
The rising popularity of a me-first syndrome has never been as evident as it is today, whether it be in sports, business, entertainment, politics, or daily life. We see symptoms of this in road rage, where the rager is acting out his belief that he must get his way now; in sports, media, and entertainment personalities who have lost their sense of team play and respect for contracts and promises; in politicians and business leaders who cannot understand that their responsibility is to their constituents and employees and not to the feeding of their own greed; in church leaders who do not feel constrained by biblical teachings or established doctrinal standards; in elected officials who put their own careers ahead of the well-being and safety of the nation; and in the more mundane avenues of life where the partners in marriage do not feel constrained by their vows or by concerns for the care of their offspring. Those who have memories of American life as recently as the early to middle part of the twentieth century can tell stories that contrast the integrity, morality, loyalty, and civility of their early days with that of today.
While sin has always abounded, both the Old Testament and contemporary American life have historical records that demonstrate the correlation between godly conduct and a daily life with fewer pitfalls and a greater willingness to be a Good Samaritan. While Christians should be about the business of honoring God by seeking the lost, there is also much merit to being known by the fruits of our walk as taught by Christ in Matthew 25:35-36:
For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
The Christian’s fruit glorifies God and confirms his or her testimony. Such godly conduct provides for a healthier community and more security for all concerned.
America is trying to put God into the closet for the same reason that Christ was mocked, served with contempt, rejected, reviled, and ridiculed over two-thousand years ago. John 1:11 tells us: He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. Mark 6:3 recorded Christ’s public rejection thusly: Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us? And they were offended at Him. At that time, neither the religious leaders nor their media and intellectual class wanted to be reminded of their responsibility to live to the glory of God. According to Luke 23:18 they thought they could get rid of Him through crucifixion: And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas. Even while Christ was on the cross, Mark 15:29-31 tells us: And they that passed by railed at Him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself, and come down from the cross. Likewise, also, the chief priests, mocking, said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If they could get rid of God, as is now the case in America, then they could live their lives according to their own rules. Peter sent warnings to his disciples about such false teachers in 2 Peter 2:1-2:
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
Jude, in verse 4 of his epistle, gave a similar warning:
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
To all observers and commentators, except those who know God best, America’s war against God seems to be succeeding. Such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union are open about their contempt for the existence of any factual information or slogans that recognize God. They leave no stone unturned to remove all biblical references about Christmas from the holiday season; to deny Christian religious practices in schools; to permit non-Christian organizations, such as the Boy Scouts, equal rights when they deny homosexuals to exercise leadership privileges within their organization; to remove references to God from pledges, coinage, and mottos; and to defeat any and all laws that deal with the sanctity of life and the rights of the unborn. Further evidence of apparent success can be measured by the increasing willingness of the entertainment industry to represent Christian values, practitioners, and clergy as slightly less than normal, if not worthy of ridicule. Should Christians be surprised that those who hate their God would portray them and their values with such disdain? If they do not like your God, why should they like you? Yes, America is doing all in its power to shove God into the closet. The most recognized leaders of America’s educational systems have stated their desire to reshape the culture and that there is no room for the sharing of Christian virtues with their desired philosophy.
But, wait, is this not the same God who is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and also the God of Joseph, Moses, and Gideon, and last and certainly most importantly, the God of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who defeated death? How can He be defeated? Has He lost His sovereign power to reign over all of His creation? Could it be that those who are putting Him into the closet are the spiritual descendents of those who repeatedly tried to live apart from Him throughout the four thousand years of the Old Testament and for the two-thousand years since His Son destroyed the one who had the power of death? Is it possible that this God that they think they are defeating will in actuality turn out to be the victor by having allowed His detractors to condemn themselves?
There are many historical analogies that show the utter foolishness of those who think they can succeed in disregarding the Lord of the universe. God has always had His faithful people, whether it was the one-hundred prophets that Obadiah hid in the caves, or Elijah who single-handedly, with God’s power, defeated Ahab’s four-hundred and fifty prophets of Baal at one altar call. This same God led Gideon and his three-hundred men to victory over the host of Midianites. This God can allow people to follow their own wills to the point that they will absolutely fall from their self-designed condition on that last day. He will warn them and give them opportunities to do the proper thing, but they will respond just like Pharaoh and will be beaten by their own stubbornness. Not only did Pharaoh ignore many warnings from Moses and Aaron, he foolishly led his army into the trap of being drowned by the closing of the Red Sea.
One can almost see the foolishness of God’s detractors acting like the Philistines, who tried to capture Samson. They were the victims of Samson’s deception three times, but never gave up trying to defeat Him. When at last they seemingly did gain a victory, Samson defeated them in one last act, bringing the prison house down on three-thousand of them. Who was the victor? The God that America is trying to closet is the same God that led His people out of four-hundred years of servitude in Egypt and successfully saw them enter the Promised Land. That same God rescued His chosen few and then, in one instant, poured out His wrath and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of their rebellious spirit. Possibly the greatest tragedy in America’s trying to closet God is that those bent upon that task have failed to read and heed the history of those who have gone before them with the same purpose. If God appears to be absent from the cultural scene, it is of His own choosing and is not the doings of His detractors. They would be well warned that around the next corner they might come face-to-face with the God they are trying to destroy and would then experience the humiliation of their own defeat.
The mightiness of the one and only Sovereign God is amply displayed in His act of bringing forth the entire creation. Yet those who are bent on rebelling against God’s authority use the creation as the center argument in their denial of His existence. But His greatest act of power was accomplished through His Son’s victory over death. Not only did Christ’s victory wipe away the terror of death for His people, it paved the way for the complete reconciliation of all of the blemishes throughout the entire universe at the time of the dawning of that glorious New Day. That was prophesied in Isaiah 25:8: He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. It was later confirmed in 2 Timothy 1:10: But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And Paul said that Christ gained the final victory in 1 Corinthians 15:26: The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
These are perilous times, maybe not the worst of all times, but there are dangers in how those who profess Christ respond to the challenges of the twenty-first century culture. Should one who professes to be a follower of Christ steer clear of the dirt and the issues, be a silent warrior, or become involved by choosing how to respond to the many issues? Will God be pleased if we choose not to become involved in the process to end the greatest violation of civil rights through the wanton murder of babies in the womb? What should Christ’s command in Matthew 5:13-14 to be the salt and the light of the world mean to us? How do we give evidence of our fruits of the Spirit to a lost and dying world if we are on the sidelines? Should our response to our culture be determined by a willingness to do all that we can do for everyone that we can reach, or should we ignore them because we know that this world will ultimately be subjected to the fire, mentioned in 2 Peter 3:7 and 1 John 4:17, that will melt the elements on that last day of judgment?
Can we passively stand by without denying the very Lord that we profess? We will choose to serve the one true God or another god through our response to the needs of our fellow men. For Joshua, the choice was clear (Joshua 24:15):
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Christ warned us in Matthew 10:33 that the act of denying Him will have eternal consequences:
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
But in 2 Timothy 2:12 we receive hope:
If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us.
How must we live so that we do not ignore the warning given by Jonathan Edwards about falling into the hands of an angry God? Certainly the God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah cannot have great compassion on an America that willfully violates His instructions nor on those who are not fulfilling His salt and light command. Those who are involved in leading America must be warned according to John 12:48: He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. After all, since we are breathing His air, drinking His water, eating His food, walking on His earth, and enjoying His creation, do we not owe something to Him?
Yes, there is a move to remove God from the fabric of America’s culture. But for those who would strive to be faithful servants to the Lord they profess, there is the promise that even though they may not find success here and now, in the end they will see the truth Jesus spoke in Matthew 19:26:
But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
The final victory is assured through the sovereign providential provisions of the same God that brought about our creation and has assured us of His new creation. There is a sense in which we are like the Hebrew youths in the Book of Daniel who were about to be thrown into the fire. They had no assurance they would come out alive, but they knew that ultimately they were in God’s hands to do with as He chose. They chose to obey God and face the fire. Their words to the king should be burned into our consciences. We should constantly say the same to our present evil culture and its powerful proponents:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Daniel 3:16-18)
God has providentially placed us in our culture here and now to serve His divine purposes and to proclaim His gospel. We must remember an oft-used saying that has been accredited to the wrong person, but still contains cultural truth: America is great because America is good. That saying does not work if reversed.
Distributed by www.ChristianWorldviewNetwork.com