Here's the question: Is it a good thing for government to enforce religious morality?
The thing that Jesus talked the MOST about - More than money, heaven, hell, sin, righteousness, prayer : The Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God has come near. (Mark 1:15)
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:23)
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! (Acts 28:30)
How's it like a nation and how's it different?
Well if you think about a kingdom, we tend to use words like countries and nations.
Earthy kingdom have a geographical territory.
Anyone played the game risk?
You go and try to cross the borders and capture other territories. That's what an earthy kingdom or nation looks like. There's a physical place on a map and you can see it.
But they're also a culture.
They are a particular style of government. And economy. And foreign policy.
Not on the map. It's all over the world. All around the world right now, there's people gathered together under the name of Jesus and we all together form the Kingdom of Christ.
Just like other kingdoms it has it's own style of government, economic policy, foreign policy.
Kingdom of god that's different from the kingdoms of this world. This idea was a threat.
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3)
remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12)
So Paul is saying that if you're not jewish by nationality, you're an immigrant. There was a time when you weren't a part of what God was doing, you used to be a part of a different nation, but now, because of Jesus, you're a part of his kingdom.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, (Ephesians 2:19)
Question: So we as Christians, when we immigrated into the Kingdom of God, what Kingdom did we leave behind?
Kingdom - world.
Can the kingdom of the God simply walk hand in hand with the kingdoms of this world?
Answer: It can try, but it never works. In fact, there's a name for it…
What is that?
What went wrong in the Christian church.
We're talking about an era that goes from the early 4th century until the middle of the 20th century.
So it's not far from us. We've only been separated from it for about 70 years.
Christendom is where we considered ourselves "AS A NATION" to be Christian.
During this time, it would be weird to ask "Are you a Christian?" wouldn't make any sense.
People would go their whole lives and never come into contact with someone who didn't call themselves Christian.
It was like a conveyer belt. It was all done for you.
You were born/baptized.
During your baptism ceremony, you also had you citizenry ceremony into the nation. At the same time.
You became a member of the church and a member of the country at the same time. There was no choice.
Well the baptists pushed back at this.
You move along the conveyer belt - there would be confirmation, first communion, all these rites and sacriments, and you could go from birth to death, without ever making a choice to follow Jesus.
This was true of everyone.
You might not even know much about what Jesus taught.
One of the reasons for that is that Christendom had to marginalize Jesus to support the system.
Think about our founding fathers. They left england. Why?
Read about it in the declaration of independence - but one primary reason is that they wanted people to be able to choose their own religion. They left Christendom to create a place with religious freedom.
'The Early Church' - Heard - term?
So that's from pentecost to the year 312.
Definite end. EXACTLY 312AD.
For almost 3 centuries, whole identity "Jesus is Lord and Cesar is not!" - We'll be good citizens, we'll pay our taxes, we'll be law abiding. - But there's a line we won't cross. We'll never go against what Christ told us.
Our allegiance to you will never be as great as our allegiance to Christ. Goes on for 3 centuries.
312AD - "Constantinian Revolution" -- Constantine.
But in 312 - Pegan, Roman general - Constantine. - Civil war with another pegan roman general. Battle - Battle of the Milvian Bridge (Pic)
Apostolic Palace - Vatican
Constantine - Dream :
Constantine took the Christian sign (Chi-Rho) and put it on his weapons and defeated his rival, and as a kind of superstition, he becomes a kinda-Christian.
Makes Christianity the 'official religion' of the Roman Empire (Coins)
You have the empire that was responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus and for 300 years persecuting his followers, and feeding them to lions, and burning them alive, and skinning them alive.
And then the empire that killed Christ and the Christians, - the empire itself converts to Christianity.
With the emperor himself leading the way.
Strange shift happens - birth - 'Civil religion'.
NOW - Strange hybrid of Christianity and Cesar.
NOW, Jesus is Lord, and Cesar is too.
There was one emperor who tried to buck that trend, but besides him, every emperor from then on said 'Yup, I'm a Christian'.
The whole empire becomes Christianized, so it's not longer known as The Roman Empire but the 'Holy Roman Empire.'
Review: You have this violent, bloody roman empire.
But now, it calls itself 'Christian' - meaning 'Christ Like' - Remember Jesus Christ the guy who preached enemy love, turning the other cheek, laying down your life.
How do you manage THAT contradiction?
You gotta work pretty dang hard to confuse the message of Jesus.
We put Jesus in charge of 'afterlife affairs' and then we act like every other kingdom.
And the blood flowed freely.
In fact, just a historical reality: Over the last 2000 years, Christians have killed 7 times more people (just under 114 million) than muslims (16 and a half million.)
In fact, Augustine (aw-GUS-tin) - talked about enemy love in battle, that you have to love your enemy while you run them through with a sword. Whether or not you agree with that sentiment, you have to agree that that's not the love that Jesus modeled or talked about.
In fact, the cross itself becomes a symbol of violence.
Instead of it being a symbol that we are willing to die, like Christ. It becomes a symbol that we're willing to KILL FOR CHRIST.
There's some monks gather together and try to live like Jesus.
The Christians killed them, of course. Whole towns slaughtered b/c the disagreed.
Then the protestants go through something called the 'reformation'. They just do the same thing.
Do you know why we stopped being violent? B/C we lost power.
Because of this thing that happened in the west called 'the enlightenment.'
Where secular society said 'we're not gonna put up with your violent, power hungry Christianity anymore.'
You might be thinking : Lighten up David! Don't be so hard on the church. Listen, Christians have been on the wrong side of history way too many times. So I think the church have to own up to it's own barbaric history and vow to never be that again.
In the name of the one who taught us to turn the other cheek, the church cut off people's heads.
In the name of the one who taught us to lay down our life for our enemies, the church burned their enemies alive.
Here's the question: Has this kind of forced Civil Christianity ever worked? Of course not.
We've had 1500 years of experimenting with it, and there's not one success story.
In fact, the argument could be made that whenever a society pressures people into a Christian faith, the end result is the Christianity in that society dying.
1000 years in Europe, one form or other of the church "ruled".
How sweet was the victory?
Bloody, barbaric, and now Europe is one of the most 'post-Christian' continents on the face of the earth.
There's not much of a church left.
NATIONS that were once Christian :
Not a lot of church left.
When the church lives by the sword, it dies by the sword.
“The Christendom era has left the body of Christ with toxins in its bloodstream – practices, instincts, commitments, structures, attitudes, biases, compromises, and reactions that damage our health and disfigure our witness. We need to purge these toxins from our system.” (Stuart Murray Theologian)
Everything hangs on us embracing the uniqueness of the Kingdom of God.
And what is that uniqueness? - Self-Sacrificial Love.
Self-Sacrificial Love is not compatible with the Kingdom of the World. We talked about that last week.
The Kingdom of God is interested in peoples hearts, but the kingdoms of the world and just interested in behavior.
They have to be.
In a corrupt society, people won't do the right things for the right reasons, so we have to make them to do right thing for the wrong reasons.
I WANT you to not kill me, because you love me, but if that's not an option, I just need you to not kill me. So we put in laws and punishments.
That's why looking to a 'Nation' to be the thing that is 'Christian' is stupid. - It can't be.
It's not the nation that we want to 'turn the other cheek'. - It's the Christian people.
Do we want the military to turn the other cheek? I doubt it.
Do we want police to bless those who persecute us? No, that's for the church.
That's for YOU. And YOUR relationships, and YOUR posture.
Ex: Man - arrested - selling drugs - kids.
Let’s say a man is arrested for selling drugs to kids.
The court system will probably throw him in jail. And that’s great. But if I go online and say ‘I hope that SOB rots in hell!’ That’s not ok. I am to forgive him and love him.
And if you think that’s leaning towards one side or the other, you’re wrong, b/c they both just pick and choose.
"Society that's getting more secular They’re taking prayer out of schools!"
Do we want the public school to teach our kids how to pray? - NO!
As long as Christians to go to school, and there's tests, there will be prayer in schools.
If what we're hoping for is that the government is going to sanction and encourage our particular type of spirituality, we're fighting the wrong battle.
Last week: The Kingdom of God isn't concerned about 'Behavior' but about 'Transformation'.
Prayer back - schools -- raise Christian children.
So the way to bring prayer back into schools is not to by trying to get the government to do or not do something, the way to bring prayer back in schools is to raise Christian children.
Can I be honest, I think I might like Happy Holidays better.
I don't need my nation to force people to say 'Christ' and freak out if they don't.
How is ANYBODY's heart being changed in any of that?
You might be saying "Everything is becoming so secular."
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? (1 Corinthians 5:12)
You want - stand up for Jesus?
Love your enemies.
Pray for those who persecute you.
Do you want to stand up for Jesus? Well then love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. It's a lot easier to fight about a starbucks cup.
That's why people love the culture war. B/C it costs them nothing.
You just fight with people and you don't have to be bothered with looking like Jesus.
They like the appearance of Christianity without having to live like Christ.
But again, when Christians leaves the Christianity to the nation, it never works.
When instead of having 2 distinct kingdoms, and instead we try to form 1 big one together - it compromises both of them.
B/C the Kingdom of the world can't maintain Christ-like values (self-sacrificial love, turning the other cheek) and survive. And in the same way when the kingdom of God starts to act like a kingdom of the world, it becomes, in the words of Jesus - NOT SALTY.
The only thing we have that is unique is our willingness to lay down our life for others.
So when we fuse our message with the message of a worldly kingdom, we can't do the things that make us unique.
We stop seeing ourselves as different.
As people who are here to change things.
B/C it's already perfect here.
Truth: America is as much of a mission field as any country on the planet.
We lose the focus on colonizing earth with the culture of heaven.
Paul consistently calls Christians "foreigners & aliens".
So we're supposed to be walking around as people who are totally different.
We become influenced with the way the world does stuff and we start to think that the right thing to do is control people with laws.
From the outside in. Whereas the kingdom of God is all about changing people from the inside out.
They tell us you either have to be "this" or "this".
For example: You either have to be pro-life, pro-death penalty, and believe global warming is a hoax. OR Pro-choice, anti-death-penalty, and believe that global warming is the worst thing in the world.
You gotta choose. - No I don't.
When people gave Jesus these ultimatums, he always came back with a 3rd way that they didn't even see.
Then our message become less about DOING, and SERVING, and it becomes about fighting, and debating, and forcing.
And that is NOT the way of the Christian.
Never once does he lead with "I just want you to know that this is your fault. If you change, then I'll consider helping you."
He was love FIRST, change your life SECOND.
WHAT ABOUT THE PROPHETS?!?!
Yeah, the prophets were talking to God's people - the Israelites - they weren't talking to the gentiles.
This is why John the Baptist goes after HEROD - the jewish king.
Didn't go after Pilate or Ceasar. - Even though they were way worse than Herod.
Also - You can see Jesus quote the law to Jews - but never to gentiles.
Why would he? They don't believe in it.
But then you see Christians today arguing with non-christians saying "MY Bible SAYS."
The world doesn't care. Jesus didn't do that.
Muslim - drink wine. It's like if you were having a glass of wine tonight and a muslim comes up and says "MY Koran says to never drink wine."
How would you respond to that? "So?! One more reason not to believe the Koran."
10 commandments. We lose our mind about losing the 10 commandments, they don't believe in the 10 commandments.
The reason is this: So long as we feel that the government is being Christian for us, we don't feel the pressure be Christian ourselves.
So does morality not matter in politics?
Nothing could be farther from the truth!
In fact, I believe having good, moral, even Godly leaders is a great thing!
I will continue to vote my conscience and I recommend you do the same.
“When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability.” (Proverbs 28:2)
I do believe that as far as america goes, in the words of every politician in the world - America is great because it’s good, I think that’s true.
I want a government that supports all of that.
But in it’s ‘goodness’ it’s not forcing people to be Christian if they don’t want to be.
I’m not looking to the government to be involved in prayer, and church attendance, and saying ‘Merry Christmas.’ - I’m fine to leave that up to the Christians.
So what's the solution: We seek to change the world with the lives we live.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. (Matthew 5:13)
Salt losing it's saltiness is Christians losing their Christlikeness.
Translation: "If you don't live this stuff, people can and should disregard what you say."
What has happened
We've lost our saltiness, obviously.
So society ignores us. And we get all kinds of mad! "HEY! You should listen to us!!! We know Bible stuff!!!"
But : If we don't live the Jesus way, no one is going to listen to our Jesus truth.
That wasn't some atheist that said that, Jesus said that.
Many of us have strong feelings about marriage. And divorce. People who get married and divorced and it's not big deal, that's that's deeply broken. - That marriage is a sacred covenant.
So the world looks at us and says: "Ok, well do you guys ever get divorced?" "Yes" "How often" "The same as you."
"Then in what way is marriage sacred to you?" "Well, it's a belief we have."
41% of 1st marriages fail
Average: 46% of marriages fail
What percent of Evangelical marriages fail? 46%.
We're not salt! We're the same!
Jesus teaches us that people won't care what we think about marriage until we do marriage better.
Now, we get mad because people just throw us away and don't listen to us.
Jesus : "That will happen until you ARE your message."
May our sermons be preached mostly, by the lives we live.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
We know we need to let our light shine! The question is "HOW?"
No. - GOOD WORKS.
Our light shines when we ARE the radical alternative to the world.
As they pass - spend a minute asking God - "Where does my love need to grow?
(Confess - Prayer of St Francis)
"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life."