“A nation or a civilization that continues to produce soft minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan!!!” (Dr Martin Luther King Jr)October 28, 2016
“Patriotism” can be valuable servant of men who seek to make their nation as righteous as possible in the service of God, but it may also become a pseudo – religion in which God is considered the servant of a particular nation and culture.
We are always faced with the temptation to equate Christianity and Americanism, and to feel that almost anything is Christian if it is in the best interests of America. At its worst, this danger may cause us to revise the elements of our faith in order to make them blend harmoniously with the “American way of life.” Perhaps this is why many Americans feel that there is nothing distinctive about the Christian Faith. What they think is Christianity is really Americanism-patriotism raised to an improper position of supreme over the Creator Himself.
Example: a pastor reported that a member of his church refused to continue attending worship services because the congregation voted to give the place of honor in the SANCTUARY to the Christian flag rather than the American flag. He added that on the Fourth of July he had a near rebellion on his hands when he failed to ask the congregation to stand for the singing of the hymn “America the Beautiful,” while no one objected to remaining seated to sing “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past.”
Our discomfort – and perhaps rebellion – at what such illustrations imply is itself indicative of the situation. We are accustomed to denouncing communism as atheistic, devilish, and totally false, while hailing the United States as so nearly perfect that we will unquestioningly lay down our lives for it when called upon to do so. Certainly communism is a grave menace to the free world – probably as grave as any that has yet threatened the peace. Certainly the United States of America is a great nation and in many ways a “good” nation. But are we ready to give our nation our supreme allegiance, and to depend upon it for all our needs?
To do so is to attribute to it the power of perfection that only GOD possesses. God stands in judgment upon both Russia and the United States. My fundamental standard of judgment is not the aspiration of the United States, but the obligation of my FAITHFULNESS IN GOD!
When I look at it in this way I soon see that, frightening as is the threat from communism (or any other country or idea), even more awesome is the danger of idolizing my nation as to put it above the guidance even of ALMIGHTY GOD.
As we continue to build larger and larger “barns” for our surpluses and piles of armaments, are we willing to face the fact that God may be speaking to our country with the shocking words of The Lord Jesus Christ: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20) or “What does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”(Mark 8:36)
This does not mean that I cannot be both an American and a Christian. The question is one of priority. Am I a Christian first, and then an American? Or am I an American first, and then a Christian? Do I give SUPREME devotion to my nation’s interest, shaping my religion to conform to it? Or do I acknowledge GOD as supreme, constantly striving to help to make my nation more GODLY – to make it conform more nearly to the WILL AND WAY OF GOD?
(By Willard W. Wetzel, Copyright 1963)
A GENERATION AGO THE WORK of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer was neatly reduced by certain Bible teachers to one thing: to impart power for service. In the first quarter of the present century the phrase “power for service” occurred everywhere in the literature of evangelical Christianity, and one gets the distinct impression that it was meant to serve as a Biblical reason for the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church other than that advanced by the charismatic sects which about that time were going big in various parts of the world, especially in the United States. These claimed that they had returned to basic New Testament Christianity and offered as proof the presence of the Spirit’s gifts among them, with particular, one might say exclusive, emphasis on the gift of tongues. This teaching was accompanied by a great outburst of emotionalism. Those who had the experience enjoyed it immensely and the onlookers could not but be deeply affected by this demonstration of joy. The more staid members of the evangelical community could not go along with the emotionalism of the Pentecostalists nor with the obvious lack of balance in their theology and lack of responsibility in their general conduct. But the matter of the Spirit had to be dealt with. The popular Bible teachers came up with the “power for service” doctrine and a lot of good people were greatly relieved. According to this counter-doctrine, the infilling of the Spirit is necessary and altogether to be desired, but for reasons other than those advanced by the Pentecostalists. The one great work of the Spirit in the life of the believer, they said, is to impart “power for service.” Thus it is not emotional or charismatic but practical. The Christian is weak and the Spirit is given to make him strong so that he can serve effectively. This view was supported by Acts 1:8: “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me.” Now I have often tried to make the point that truths that are compelled to stand alone never stand straight and are not likely to stand long. Truth is one but truths are many. Scriptural truths are interlocking and interdependent. A trust is rarely valid in isolation. A statement may be true in its relation to other truths and less than true when separated from them. “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” is good not only for a court of law but for the pulpit, the classroom and the prayer chamber as well. To teach that the filling with the Holy Spirit is given to the Christian to provide “power for service” is to teach truth, but not the whole truth. Power for service is but one effect of the experience, and I do not hesitate to say that it is the least of several effects. It is least for the very reason that it touches service, presumably service to mankind; and contrary to the popular belief, “to serve this present age” is not the Christian’s first duty nor the chief end of man. As I have stated elsewhere, the two great verbs that dominate the life of man are be and do. What a man is comes first in the sight of God. What he does is determined by what he is, so is is of first importance always. The modern notion that we are “saved to serve,” while true, is true only in a wider context, and as understood by busy Christians today it is not true at all. Redemption became necessary not because of what men were doing only, but because of what they were. Not human conduct alone had gone wrong but human nature as well; apart from the moral defect in human nature no evil conduct would have occurred. Fallen men acted in accord with what they were. Their hearts dictated their deeds. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth.” That much any moral being could have seen. But God saw more; He saw the cause of man’s wicked ways, and that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” The stream of human conduct flows out of a fountain polluted by evil thoughts and imaginations. To purge the stream it was necessary to purify the fountain; and to reform human conduct it is necessary to regenerate human nature. The fundamental be must be sanctified if we would have a righteous do, for being and doing are related as cause and effect, as father and son. The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to restore the lost soul to intimate fellowship with God through the washing of regeneration. To accomplish this He first reveals Christ to the penitent heart (1 Cor. 12:9). He then goes on to illumine the newborn soul with brighter rays from the face of Christ (John 14:26; 16:13-15) and leads the willing heart into depths and heights of divine knowledge and communion. Remember, we know Christ only as the Spirit enables us and we have only as much of Him as the Holy Spirit imparts. God wants worshipers before workers; indeed the only acceptable workers are those who have learned the lost art of worship. It is inconceivable that a sovereign and holy God should be so hard up for workers that He would press into service anyone who had been empowered regardless of his moral qualifications. The very stones would praise Him if the need arose and a thousand legions of angels would leap to do His will. Gifts and power for service the Spirit surely desires to impart; but holiness and spiritual worship come first.
(At the Home of Martha and Mary) LUKE 10:38-42
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
It is hardly a matter of wonder that the country that gave the world instant tea and instant coffee should be the one to give it instant Christianity. If these two beverages were not actually invented in the United States it was certainly here that they received the advertising force that has made them known to most of the civilized world. And it cannot be denied that it was American Fundamentalism that brought instant Christianity to the gospel churches.
Ignoring for the moment Romanism and Liberalism in its various disguises, and focusing our attention upon the great body of evangelical believers, we see at once how deeply the religion of Christ has suffered in the house of its friends. The American genius for getting things done quickly and easily with little concern for quality or permanence has bred a virus that has infected the whole evangelical church in the United States and through our literature, our evangelists and our missionaries, has spread it all over the world.
Instant Christianity came in with the machine age. Men invented machines for two purposes. They wanted to get important work done more quickly and easily than they could do it by hand, and they wanted to get the work over with so they could give their time to pursuits more to their liking, such as or enjoying the pleasures of the world. Instant Christianity now serves the same purpose in religion. It disposes of the past, guarantees the future, and sets the Christian free to follow the more refined lusts of the flesh in all good conscience and with a minimum of restraint.
By “instant Christianity” I mean the kind found almost everywhere in gospel circles and which is born of the notion that we may discharge our total obligation to our own souls by one single act of faith, or at the most by two, and be relieved thereafter of all the anxiety about our eternal spiritual condition. We are saints by calling, our teachers keep telling us, and we are permitted to infer from this that there is no reason to seek to be saints by character. An automatic, once-for-all quality is present here that is completely out of mode with the faith of the New Testament.
In this error, as in most others, there lies a certain amount of truth imperfectly understood. It is true that conversion to Christ may be and often is sudden. Where the burden of sin has been heavy, the sense of forgiveness is usually clear and joyful. The delight experienced in forgiveness is equal to the degree of moral repugnance felt in repentance. The true Christian has met God. He knows he has eternal life and he is likely to know where and when he received it. And those also who have been filled with the Holy Spirit subsequent to their regeneration have a clear-cut experience of being filled. The Spirit is self-announcing, and the renewed heart has no difficulty identifying His presence as He floods in over the soul.
But the trouble is that we tend to put our trust in our experiences and as a consequence misread the entire New Testament. We are constantly being exhorted to make the decision, to settle the matter now, to get the whole thing taken care of at once—and those who exhort us are right in doing so. There are decisions that can and should be made once and for all. There are personal matters that can be settled instantaneously by a determined act of the will in response to Bible-grounded faith. No one would want to deny this; certainly not I. The question before us is, “Just how much can be accomplished in that one act of faith? How much yet remains to be done and how far can a single decision take us?”
Instant Christianity tends to make the faith act deadly and so smothers the desire for spiritual advance. It fails to understand the true nature of the Christian life, which is not static but dynamic and expanding. It overlooks the fact that a new Christian is a living organism as certainly as a new baby is, and must have nourishment and exercise to assure normal growth. It does not consider the act of faith in Christ sets up a personal relationship between two intelligent moral beings, God and the reconciled man, and no single encounter between God and a creature made in His image could ever be sufficient to establish an intimate friendship between them. By trying to pack all of salvation into one experience, or two, the advocates of instant Christianity flaunt the law of development which runs through all nature. They ignore the sanctifying effects of suffering, and practical obedience. They pass by the need for spiritual training, the necessity of forming right spiritual habits and the need to grapple against the world, the devil, and the flesh.
An undue preoccupation with the initial act of believing has created in some a psychology of contentment, or at least non-expectation. To many it has imparted a mood of disappointment with the Christian faith. God seems too far away, the world is too near, and the flesh is too powerful to resist. Others are glad to accept the assurance of automatic blessedness of eternal security. It relieves them of the need to watch and fight and pray, and sets them free to enjoy this world while waiting for the next.
Instant Christianity is twentieth century orthodoxy. I wonder whether the Apostle who wrote Philippians 3:7-16 would recognize it as the faith for which he finally died for. I am afraid today that he would not.
To offer a sinner the gift of salvation based upon the work of Christ, while at the same time allowing him to retain the idea that the gift carries with it no moral implications, is to do him untold injury where it hurts him worst. Many evangelical teachers insist so strongly upon free, unconditional grace as to create the impression that sin is not a serious matter and that God cares very little about it. He is concerned only with our escaping the consequences. The gospel then in practical application means little more than a way to escape the fruits of our past. The heart that has felt the weight of its own sin and along with this has seen the dread whiteness of the Most High God will never believe that a message of forgiveness without transformation is a message of good news. To remit a man’s past without transforming his present is to violate the moral sincerity of his own heart. To that kind of thing God will be no party. We must have courage to preach the whole message. By so doing we shall undoubtedly lose a few friends and make a number of enemies. But the true Christian will not grieve too much about that. He has enough to do to please his Lord and Savior and to be true to the souls of all men. That may well occupy him too completely to leave much time for regrets over the displeasure of misguided men.
A. W. Tozer Sermon: Forgiveness for the Past and Provision for the Present