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Moving on in the "Declaration" series, Todd investigates the implications of "liberty", free will in our lives and in our country. As humans, as citizens of the United States, and as followers of Christ we are free to make decisions, to choose our path. Nonetheless, we are not truly free to do whatever we please, we cannot toy with natural order, natural law, God’s law. The freedom of God is not freedom to do what we want, but to be what we want, and that’s truly free. How will we use our freedom? For the pursuit of our own pleasures and desires? For the good of our country? To serve God? There is no freedom without the Gospel, let us use our freedom to proclaim it.
The Pursuit of Happiness #4: Aborting Your Silence and Dealing With the Shame of Abortion
Immigration and the Christian: The Balance of the Welcome and the Wall
The Pursuit of Happiness #3: The Key to the Return to the Blessed State: Repentance, Humility and Prayer.
Prayer: A Declarationers Position
Declaration Discussion on Economics and "Preparation"
The Pursuit of Happiness #2 Economics and the "House Law"
The Pursuit of Happiness #1 Defining Marriage Correctly
The Declaration of Liberty and the Responsibility of Those Who Have It
The Declaration of Life - How It Can Go Well With You
Declaration. That is what God has given us. It is a divine proposal for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I don't know who you think God is, but I can tell you it is the most important thing about you. If you think God is somebody to be managed, tolerated, avoided, or feared in the sense that he's going to mess your life up if you come into deep relationship with him, I'm here to declare to you that you have bought the original lie, which was that God isn't good, his Word isn't true, and disobeying him is not that big of a deal.
What you're going to find out is that God is rushing back toward us in our death, in our oppression, and in our futile pursuit of finding life apart from him and is declaring to us how we can be forgiven and restored to all things beautiful. That is the series we are in, and I am thrilled to share it with you.
Last week we looked deeply at the issue of why life can only be found in relationship with God, and if you choke him out or cut him off or see him as irrelevant you will not, in fact, go to greater prosperity but to greater pain. Let me pray, because this week I'm going to talk about liberty, freedom…where it comes from, how what we do with it matters, and what God wants for you.
Lord, would you just teach us this morning? We thank you for your incredible grace, that though we scoff at you you run to us, though we say you are a God to be avoided we find out that you are a God who atones, who covers our sin and brings us back into the very thing we're seeking to find, which is life, freedom, happiness and peace that we can never get apart from you, a God who loves us.
So, Lord, would your declaration be clear to our hearts this morning? May we join you as "declarationers," as ministers of the gospel, ministers of reconciliation, ambassadors here on this earth. We thank you for your grace. May we receive it and respond to it now, amen.
Well, we are free, but we are not free to choose our consequences. There are inviolable laws that are absolutely embedded into our world, in the material world and the spiritual world. One of my favorite stories I read a long time ago in the front of a very thick book on theology was the analogy of how so many people scoff at the study of God and the wisdom that comes when you know him, and those who do often live a life that is apparently free from consequence for some time.
I told you a verse I was going to quote often in this series is Ecclesiastes 8:11, which says, "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil." Because there's not an immediate backlash from sowing to the flesh or riotousness or immorality in our lives we think there is no consequence to riotousness or immorality, and that could not be further from the truth.
That is why one of my favorite phrases is "If you like what you got, keep doing what you're doing, but I'm going to love you enough to tell you if you keep doing what you're doing you're not going to like what you got." I'm going to want you to sow into your life the things that lead to honor, nobility, and peace. The story was that there are some people who have rebelled against God, and it's like an individual who has jumped off the top of the hundredth floor of a building while he mocks those of us who fear gravity, respect it, and choose to take the stairs and the elevator.
He might watch us, if there is a glass wall, as he jumps out, walking menially down these steps, and while he passes by us on the ninetieth floor say, "You guys are crazy! I am free. I am filled with life. My heart is racing. Adrenaline is pumping through my body. I am not limited by the oppressive walls that you're underneath."
He might have that same attitude on the eightieth floor, the seventieth floor, the sixtieth floor, the fiftieth floor, or the fortieth floor, but sooner or later, the reality of his choices are going to catch up with him. Folks, we are in that free fall, because we have said we don't need God for life and are saying we don't even need him to be truly free, and the Scriptures are telling you there is no freedom apart from ordering your life consistent with God's revealed will.
A couple of weeks ago, I went back to my homeland. I was born in Reading, Pennsylvania. Both of my families on all sides back are Pennsylvania Dutch. All the Rebers and Wagners were born pretty much in the same hospital from the time there was a hospital in Reading, and in the countryside before that, until we came from wherever we came from, probably somewhere in Austria, Germany. I love the food back east.
I went back because I had the privilege of being a part of my grandmother's funeral and speaking at that. We got done with our stuff here on Sunday, and I flew out late with my wife and landed in Philly. We drove about an hour and a half back there toward Reading, and we got there just after 10:00. It was like 10:01 inside Reading on a Sunday night, and that's when everything closes. There's not a lot that's open late on a Sunday night. This is especially true in Reading. Reading is not a big, big town. It's not the outlet capital of America.
Anyway, I get there, and I was dying to get a good Italian. I was dying to get a good cheesesteak. So I went to the spots I knew, and they were all closed. Some of them were like, "Hey, man. We're scrubbing the grill right now. We're not going to make another one." I said, "Is there any place that's still open?" The guy said to me, "Well, if you cross the bridge and go into East Reading there's one spot, but I'm not sure I'd go there." I go, "Across the bridge? That's where I'm from. That's my hometown. I'm from East Reading." The guy looked at me like I was crazy.
So I drove across the bridge to East Reading, literally just a few blocks from where I was born and lived the first years of my life. I'm at a stoplight, and I saw a girl walking across the street, and I said, "Hey, is there any spot around here that I can get me a good cheesesteak?" and she goes, "Now?" I go, "Yeah." She looked in the car, looked at my wife, looked at me. She goes, "Not for you two." I go, "What do you mean?" She goes, "That's where you get a cheesesteak…but not for you two."
I'm like, "We're going to get a cheesesteak." Very nice lady. She walked on by, kind of took a double take at me. I pulled up another 50 yards, I pulled in, and I get to Maria's. Now here's a shot of Maria's. It looks rather nice. My wife just said, "I don't think you should go in there." "Why?" She goes, "Because that lady didn't think you should go in there." I go, "Hey, I'm from Reading. I can go into Maria's."
I go, "Do you want to come in with me or do you want to stay here?" She goes, "Todd, I don't know what's in there." I go, "Look. I promise you if they're naked I'll walk out." That's the commitment I made to her. So I walk into Maria's and order a cheesesteak. I start to talk to some of the folks who are there, and my phone starts lighting up. I see it's my wife, so I go, "Okay, something is happening outside."
I quickly come outside of Maria's, and I look, and there are a couple of cars around my wife, so I kind of jog on over there and go, "Is everything okay?" She goes, "Yeah, yeah. Get in the car. Get in the car." So I walked around and got in the car. She goes, "You cannot eat at Maria's." I go, "Why?" She had pulled up on her phone… She had done a little Google city search on Maria's.
I read to you. This is what it says: "Avoid. Run. Only good thing is pizza; that is, if you don't mind your food cooked in filth. Prices are okay, but it's a very dangerous atmosphere. The bar area smells, but if you pack a machine gun you should be okay." Next one: "Cleanliness is bad. Just Google 'Maria's' and you'll see. They've had many violations; namely, raw sewage violations. In the past it's been shut down for being a nuisance bar. It's a great place if you're looking for drugs or sex." Then she goes, "Read this one."
We sat there and read about 30 different reviews of Maria's. "Avoid. Food poisoning guaranteed." It just goes on. It gets worse from there. Here was my favorite: "It's trash. It's bad. Don't go to this place. It's nasty. It's got roaches everywhere. There are drugs all over, bums everywhere. You have prostitutes there. If you are a male, watch out for a big girl who sits at the bar every night looking to punish men. Her mother killed a man years ago and died in prison, so she hates men. Be careful. Don't eat at Maria's."
Needless to say, I didn't get my cheesesteak. I ate cheese crackers that night and went to bed, but I was free to eat at Maria's if I wanted to. I actually had a few nice conversations while I was in there, until my wife called me out and I made sure she was okay, but chances are really good had I eaten at Maria's I would not have been, shall I say, 100 percent, apparently, to perform my grandmother's funeral the next day. I was free to choose what I wanted to do, but I wasn't going to be free to choose the consequences of what I might have ingested there.
The same is true with you and the same is true with our land. Let me just start, because this isn't just an alarmist series. This is to activate us to be what God wants us to be, a bunch of declarationers. Let me encourage you with this. Last week I made a case that God is where you can find life, and I gave you three very specific things to do at the end of that message. All I would say with all that happened this week, it's kind of like God is giving me illustrations that fit with each week of this message the week of the message, if you've been paying any attention about liberty issues this week.
What I would say to you is it doesn't matter how alarmed we get, how up in arms we get about the declension, about not food poisoning but the ideological poisoning that is increasing in our country if we don't do what we're supposed to do. Does anybody even remember the three things I commissioned you to do at the end of last week? The very first thing I said we need to do is pray. First Timothy 1:2 reminded us that we are to pray, make petitions and thanksgivings on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority.
We're supposed to seek the welfare of the city we live in, and the way we seek the welfare of it is to speak to it and encourage. How did you do at praying for our kings and those who are in authority this week? How much time did you spend on your knees? If God answered every single prayer you offered this week for revival in our country, would our country be revived? If not, we can't just sit here and wring our hands and go, "Oh, it's getting so bad."
The reason it's bad is the church has not been doing its job. God wanted us to be here to be salt and light. God wanted us to be here making entreaties, petitions, and offering thanksgiving. He wants us to participate in discourse in the public square. He wants us to actively engage, not to shrink back. We are not isolationists. We are not escapists. We are not to loathe our land. We are not to leave our land. We are to love it and lead it, and it starts with us being prayerful.
It continues. Do you remember the second thing I asked you to do? To purify yourself, to set yourself apart as shining stars in the midst of a dark and perverse generation. If everybody in our country ingested the entertainment you ingested this week, what would our country's thinking be like?
If everybody in our country supported the media you supported this week, what kind of media would our country be supporting? If everybody in our country treated pornography the way you treated pornography, what kind of country would we have? If everybody in our country cared for the family unit the way you cared for your wife and your children, what kind of country would we have?
Thirdly, I begged you to proclaim. If everybody that was the church shared the gospel as much as you shared the gospel this last week, how many people would come to know Christ? How many folks' worldview would have changed? How many people have a clear understanding of God because you studied and listened, went back over the message, did the Community Group questions we gave you?
How many of you were declarationers this week, being voices for God to call people into a relationship with the One in whose presence is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forever? How many of you spoke of the grace and glory of God this week? If you didn't do that, if all you did was watch Fox News and sweat, then woe be to us, because that's not the plan.
I just want to remind you the reason I'm doing this series is to equip you and to call you to be faithful in every single way God wants you to be faithful. Before we rush to the next point talking about how God wants us to experience freedom, I have to ask you, you who are free to worship God, you who are still free to practice your faith…Are you practicing it?
What good is your freedom if you don't use it? That's not to make you feel guilty. Guilt and shame are the Devil's tools. It is a rebuke. It is an admonishment and an encouragement to be the church. The reason this land is not preserved is that we're not salty. The reason this land is increasingly dark is that we are not the lights we should be or we just turn our lights on when we're together. Gang, I'm trying to equip you.
If every single person you prayed for by name who was far from God became a radical disciple of Jesus Christ this week and voted like he believed Jesus' way was the right way, how different would the election be? We are free, and we can do what we want to do, but if we don't do what we're called to do, let us not be surprised that this world goes where we say we don't want it to go. You have the power and the ability to be agents of change.
I'm going to end the same way I'm starting this message: by giving you very clear active things to do, but let's dive into this topic of liberty. We are offered freedom by God. About 10 days ago, I got an email from Rick Smith, who helps me with Real Truth. Real Quick. You may know you can submit questions to Real Truth. Real Quick. A question came in on October 13 from a kid named Cade Wagner, and the question was, "Why did God put Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden if he knew they were going to sin?"
What's hilarious about this is that question was submitted while I wasn't there at home at the time, but the guy who was going to answer it was going to have dinner with him. But I love him. My son finally got a new iPhone. He has earned that right to be trusted with that potentially very dangerous piece of technology. He has been wearing out all of the 50-some-odd Real Truth. Real Quick. episodes, and the conversations have been great.
Last night he goes, "Hey, Dad, what's a horoscope? I haven't heard of a horoscope." So we talked about horoscopes, where it comes from. He goes, "Do people really believe that?" So we had a great conversation. Anyway, he submitted that question. It's a great question. It's a question a lot of people have. Why did God let us be free? Why do we have so much liberty? If God didn't let Adam and Eve screw up, this world wouldn't be screwed up, and if the world wasn't screwed up I wouldn't be screwing up and I wouldn't be punished.
I wouldn't be prone to use my iPhone to destroy my heart. I wouldn't live in a land where friends bully me, reject me. Some of my friends wouldn't live in homes without a dad or a mom. What was God thinking when he let men have liberty? It's not very different than a question my daughter asked me 10 years earlier in her life when she was 5. I remember Ally asked me the exact same question, and the way I answered it to her at that particular time was this.
I said, "Ally, the reason God gave us liberty and freedom is that he, by nature, is a God of love, and because God is a God of love he wants to share his love with us, but if he makes us people who are compelled by force or are programmed to have to respond to him, then he doesn't have a love relationship with us; he has a bunch of robots he created, and there is no intimacy, there is no love." I was sitting in my little girl's room, and I explained God's permissive decree, which never, ever allows his providential decree to be violated.
I just said, "Ally, here's the reason. Look around you at all of these stuffed animals you have, these dolls. What if I told you that you could live in this room forever, and because you're sovereign over them you could animate them any way you want? You can make these dolls and stuffed animals always sing praises to you, always want to play tea when you want to play tea, always enjoy you, always speak words of affection toward you. They will never form a clique and have you outside of that clique. They will never betray you or damage your heart.
Or you can be friends with Sally up the street. You and Abby can start to develop a relationship with real people. But I'm going to tell you something, Ally. If you develop a relationship with real people, real friends, they may hurt you. They may betray you. They may sometimes do things that really wound your heart. Ally, you can stay here in this room and be a princess and adored and worshiped forever by that which you create or you can risk love and have real relationship. Now what do you want?"
My little 5-year-old looked at me and goes, "Daddy, I want to love Sally and Abby and my friends." I go, "Ally, that's because you're made in the image of God, and God made you for that." Let me just read to you and share with you a little bit more about this particular idea. Philip Yancey, who wrote a tremendous book called Disappointment with God, has this idea at one point in one of his books. God is all-powerful. We know that.
He says, "Power can do everything but the most important thing: it cannot control love." He says, "We do not need the ancient Israelites to teach us this fact. We can see it today in societies where power runs wild." He goes on to make this observation: "In a concentration camp, as so many witnesses have told us, the guards possess nearly unlimited power. By applying force, they can make you renounce your God, curse your family, work without pay, eat human excrement, kill and then bury your closest friend or even your own mother.
All this is within their power. Only one thing is not: they cannot force you to love them. The fact that love does not operate according to the rules of power may help explain why God sometimes seems shy to use his power. He created us to love him, but his most impressive displays of miracle—the kind we may secretly long for—do nothing to foster that love. As [one author wrote], 'God's problem is not that God is not able to do certain things. God's problem is that God loves. Love complicates the life of God as it complicates every life.'"
God loves us, and because he loves us he created us and put us in a place that could only be appropriately described as an Edenic, perfect place that a sovereign, wonderful, all-controlling, loving God would put you if he loved you. He was there. Protection was there. Provision was there. Declaration was there. He warned you of where death was. He said, "All you need to know is that I am God and I am good and everything you see is good. There's one liar there who wants you to betray me, and you have to choose to trust me and love me.
I've given you every evidence in the world that you should love me, but if you choose not to love me, if you want to believe I'm not good and not loving, if you want to believe that my Word is not true, if you want to believe that not being associated with me is not that big a deal, you have that freedom to hate me if you want, but I am bringing you all the evidence I can that liberty and life is found with me. You don't need to pursue happiness; you have it in all of its fullness." But the lie came.
People ask, "Where did evil come from?" This is where evil came from. Evil did not come from God. Evil came from us removing ourselves from God. Evil is the existence of life apart from God. It is like cold is the absence of heat. It is like darkness. You don't create darkness. Darkness is there when you remove light. When you remove God you have the world we live in, even though there is a huge intervention of God's grace declaring to us a kingdom that is lost.
It is Narnia. There is a whisper of hope that maybe there was a spring that existed before, but there is winter all around us, and what you have is people who live warmly and hopefully in the midst of death. That's you and me declaring where spring and life and renewal can be found. Let me give you a little syllogism. Let me walk you through the idea that freedom is what brings the possibility of evil and that God created perfect creatures. This is the answer to your question, Cade.
The truth is that every creature God makes is perfect. Some people would say, "If that's true, then perfect creatures cannot do what is imperfect. Therefore, every creature must only act perfectly." That's a syllogism, but the problem is in one of its premises it's wrong. It's true that every creature God made is perfect. It is not true, however, that perfect creatures cannot do what is imperfect. Why? Because God makes everything perfect, but one perfect thing God made is free creatures.
Why did he make free creatures? Because free creatures allow for the choice of evil, which is to say also free creatures are free to love. You can't be a perfect creature if you don't love. Therefore, you have to create freedom and liberty. Therefore, it is possible, if God creates a perfect creature that has the freedom to choose love or evil, imperfection can arise out of perfection. My friends, that's what is going on here.
You have a logical construct for why we are where we are. It's because we rejected the declaration of God, and God is calling us back. What you need to know about God is that he loves you and wants you to know that he wants you to be free. James 1:22-25 says this. He says, "Those of you who have been called out of darkness into his marvelous light, don't just know about the light that's there; prove yourself to walk in the light."
"But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." In other words, this last week, if you believe life can be found in God and you didn't tell somebody about that, you were either callous, cold, and mean-spirited, who having all the abundance of revelation that you need to walk in the way of life you didn't care to share that freely with others, though it was going to cost you nothing and even increase the trajectory of the course of things that would bless you…
Everybody who didn't pray, didn't purify, and didn't proclaim as a matter of intentionality this week was deluded that they believe God is where life is. It goes on to say, "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was."
Watch this. This is what the Bible is. If you're here today and you don't know what the Bible is, the Bible is James 1:25. "But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty…" It's the way that will be setting us free. "…and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does." He will have happiness. That's what the word means.
God is telling you, having called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, having brought about a course of events in your heart, in your life, by the effective grace that worked in you, that allowed you to see that he was God and good and true and life-giving… If this week you did not run to his Word and abide with his Word, then you did not live in liberty and you certainly didn't advance it.
You are, as James would say, a forgetful hearer and not an effectual doer, and not only are you not blessed in what you do, but neither will your land be. I can't tell you how many conversations I had just this week of people who have been around God's Word for a long time, and all of a sudden they just hit. It finally happened. Ecclesiastes 8:11 happened to them, and they are all ears now. They're all perked up.
They read the same verses they had been reading, and they are all in now. To that I just say I'm glad you're all in. I'm so sorry there is brokenness and scars and pain and a mess in your life because you just went splat, but by the grace of God you're not done yet. So let's put it back together. Let's not ask God to miraculously change what is there; let's ask God to miraculously restore what you have brought great trouble to.
Grace upon grace is there, so we start to rebuild. Here we go. What I'm saying to you is if you haven't splat yet, I'm telling you, pull the cord, open up the parachute of grace, and run to him. That's what God is asking our land to do. God is asking us to pay attention. I have talked a lot about this, and this is a series I want to do out of concern for the country and the land we live in. I've mentioned to you I don't know how many times that Jeremiah 29:7 says, "Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile…"
If we love God, we are going to do what he wants us to do. We have an incarnational faith. We believe a God comes into this city we live in and makes goodness and glory known. He declares it, full of grace and truth, and he tells us that he left us here and to not be surprised that the city is burning because people are playing unwisely with kerosene and matches, but it's your job to stay here. Not to run from the city but to put out every fire you can, speak to the wisdom of not lighting new ones, offering grace and healing, treating burn victims, and bringing order.
This is a church problem in America. I told you last week our founding fathers had no illusion about what would happen to our country, no matter how well written our Constitution was, when the people who applied that Constitution to the reality of their day were non-virtuous, moral, God-fearing people. They said it is wholly unable to rule people who live that way.
Let me share with you some quotes. This is our first president. He said, "…it is yet to be decided, whether the Revolution must ultimately be considered as a blessing or a curse: a blessing or a curse, not to the present age alone [but our fate and our destiny are the unborn millions that will come from us]." He said, "At this auspicious period, the United States came into existence as a nation, and if the citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own."
"We are free and happy," he said. "We have broken free from the tyranny of oppression, from somebody telling us how we had to live our lives, and now it's up to you to decide if you're going to live your life very well." I love what Benjamin Franklin said in 1787 when he was coming out of the Constitutional Convention, out of Independence Hall. There was a lady there, Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia. She looked at Franklin and said, "Well, Doctor, what have we got? [What kind of country do we have?]" Franklin responded, "A republic, Madam, if you can keep it."
In other words, there are certain things we know are true. James Russell Lowell said, "Democracy gives every man the right to be his own oppressor." Winston Churchill said, "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." Benjamin Franklin said, "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." And don't we.
Benjamin Franklin also said, "Nothing brings more pain than too much pleasure; nothing more bondage than too much liberty." We think liberty is the freedom to do whatever we want to do. That is not freedom, because you're never free. No finite creature is ever truly free, because you cannot toy with natural law. If you violate natural order, you may get away with it for a while because you jumped off a very tall building, but mark my words: sooner or later the reality of your experience will catch up with you.
Washington essentially said, "When people become incapable of governing themselves and fit for a master, it is of little consequence from what quarter he comes." He'll come somewhere. The freedom of God is not freedom to do what you want but the freedom to be what you want, which is truly free, not a slave to sin and death. You're free to look at porn, but you are not free to not have your brain hardwired to be stimulated by two-dimensional images.
You're not free to not have that creep into your marriage and destroy the beauty and dignity of your wife. You're not free to mess with that poison and not have it affect the way you objectify and view women. It will bear fruit, and it will taste nasty, and you'll sit there and go, "I gave away all the beauty of love and order and harmony in my home and presence with my kids because I loved sitting before a screen and fantasizing."
You are not free. You can't say two dads are as good as a mom and a dad. You can't do it. You can't say two moms are as good as a mom and a dad. You can't do it. You can't say you're going to be a great dad and not love their mom. You can't do it. You're not free. I'm going to say it again. Freedom that God offers is not the freedom to do what you want but the freedom to be what you want: good, glorious, noble, and true.
When the Scripture says the wages of sin is death, what God is saying is, "When you choose to not respond to my declaration, you're going to live a life that is less enjoyable, less blessed. It is not going to be life, liberty, and the pursuit of ever-increasing goodness and glory. It's going to be a painful life." God loves you, and he doesn't want you to go that way.
Abraham Lincoln said, "At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected?" In other words, as a country, where should we look? Where is what is going to threaten America going to come from? I'm going to tell you it's not going to be Afghanistan. It's not going to be ISIS. It's going to be right here.
Lincoln said, "I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide." If I could commend to you one book this week apart from God's Word, and I am hesitant to do so… People have asked me to write a book. Publishers have asked me to write a book.
I can't make myself do it, because I don't want to write anything other than what has already been written. I'd rather study God's Word than write some word that is only going to get you to try and read that Word. I told a publisher, "I'll write this book. 'Don't Read This Book' would be the title of it." "This is where this book came from that I just wrote. It comes from God's Word. It's beautiful, it's true, and it's where life can be found."
What I beg of you to understand is that free people have the ability to commit suicide, and that's exactly what we did when we said God is not good, his Word is not true, and disobeying him is not that big a deal. We've lost life. We're losing our freedom, and I'm not just talking about government oppressive freedom; I'm talking about real freedom.
Can I get intellectual with you for a moment? I'll show you this. When they were doing the Continental Congress up there in Philadelphia, there was a chair Washington sat in during the months they met, and Benjamin Franklin would look at the chair Washington sat in… Here's a picture of it. It's called the rising sun armchair. Look at the very top of that chair.
Franklin said he looked at this and studied it, and he wasn't sure during their discourse and debate about what kind of land we would form whether that was the eastern horizon or the western horizon. He didn't know whether that was a rising sun or a setting sun, and he was waiting to see how we chose to order ourselves and what the fabric of the new land would be, what was going to inform the thinking of the leaders of the new land.
At the very end of it, that's why Franklin said something like, "I believe it's the chair of the rising sun." So it's called the rising sun chair, because he believed there was enough ethic… Franklin was not a believer in Jesus Christ. He wasn't a follower. He was not a person we would say was orthodox in his beliefs, but he understood this: if you trifle with that which makes for real freedom, which is virtue, which requires faith, which takes freedom to exist…
Because if somebody tells you what to believe and how you should express what you believe, they're going to control your virtue, and that's why there is this golden triangle of freedom where you have values or virtue, you have faith that informs values and virtue, and you have freedom to pursue that which you say you believe. This is why when you hear people say, "Hey, we need to move toward freedom of worship in this land…"
Freedom of worship exists in communist China today. It exists in Afghanistan today. In other words, you can go into the most closed, oppressive country in the world, and in the quietness of your heart you can worship who you want to worship, but you'd better not drag that outside of your tent and live the way you want to live based on what you believe, because that's freedom of religion, freedom of practice.
"We're not going to let you practice what you believe. If we tell you you have to pay for that which would be an abortifacient, you're going to pay for it. If we tell you you have to support a homosexual union, you're going to support a homosexual union. If we tell you you can't stand up and speak out against a government that wants to let men use women's bathrooms, you're not going to speak out against men who would use a women's bathroom."
That's where you're headed. That's why our founders wrote into our Constitution, as a very first clarifying statement, that the government should make no law that in any way should affect the free exercise of religion. A few years ago, they started to trifle with that and say, "We're for the freedom of worship." In other words, worship what you want in your little buildings, but don't you drag it out to our public square to tell us how we should live.
My friends, that's not a free society, especially when the choices they make in that public square are contrary to the great declarer of freedom. I'll read you just a little of this. I won't go into it too long. There are two books that have really influenced a lot in the last 100 years. One is George Orwell's 1984, which you're at least familiar with by title. The other one that was written 17 years before him was Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
Everybody kind of looked for the Orwellian "Big Brother," oppressive, tyrannical government that will take away freedom to come at you, but what they didn't really see was Huxley was probably more on point to what Lincoln was saying and what really affects us. A guy much smarter than me, a great educator, Neil Postman, wrote a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.
This is why so many people in the church are not voting according to the land. They want whatever is going to help their fiscal future, their economic future, and their entertainment preferences continue, and they don't really care about what ultimately makes a land stable. What makes a land stable is its virtue, its honor, its nobility, its choices, and that has to be informed by something more than just the whims of men, because the way of men seems right, but in the end it's the way of death.
He went through and talked about how Orwell warned us that we would be overcome by an externally imposed oppressor if we weren't ready, but Huxley in Brave New World said what's really going to require us to be alert is that our own autonomy, maturity, and history could ultimately lead to oppression that would come not from without but from our love for technology and pleasuring ourselves through medication and other external ideas that would decrease our capacity to think and numb ourselves from the world we should live in.
Orwell feared there would be those who would deprive us of information. Huxley said you need to be fearful that you're going to have so much information, and a love of it, that it would reduce you to passivity or egoism. Orwell feared that truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared that truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. It's what Cicero and Caesar did.
If the people knew what was going on they wouldn't stand for it, but give them free bread and circuses, give them Fantasy Football and entitlements, and they won't care what we do as long as they're free to eat, imbibe, and enjoy. My friends, some people in this congregation have eaten, imbibed, and enjoyed themselves to some of the greatest oppression they've ever known. When you are addicted to pleasure and the flesh, you are sowing to yourself destruction and not freedom.
When you have individuals who do that in a land that is governed by the people, for the people, and of the people, you have a land that is increasingly becoming oppressed. Do you guys know that we make up 5 percent of the world's population, and yet if you take all of the prisoners in the world, 25 percent of them are incarcerated in America? Do you know why? Because we are a lawless people that cannot govern ourselves, and our Constitution will not last long with that kind of person.
You are the hope of the world, and I'm not discouraged. This is an amazing day to be alive and to know Jesus Christ, because you are the ones who have the ability to lovingly reason with people and not even be fearful. That's why I said, "Cut my head off, imprison me, send me to glory, but while I'm here I will love you. While I'm here I will speak the truth to you."
You just need to know this about prophets: they typically kill them, but they always go to glory if they're God's prophets. If this world is your home, you won't speak up. If this world is your home, you just want to imbibe. "Get me free bread and circuses." But if you want to be God's man or woman, if you want to be God's church, you have to be a declarationer, and you have to do it with gentleness and kindness.
You have to know what you're talking about. You have to speak from personal testimony about being a person who was all in with freedom and how it led to addiction, and you have to tell people, "You're on a fast path to that, as a nation, as an individual, and I love you, and Jesus is what can set you free." I have so much more, but let me give you some application, because I promised you I would.
First, there is no freedom when you give yourself over to sin and rebellion. I just want to tell you that again. I'm talking to you this morning. Maybe you're here and you're not a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. Maybe you're not a part of the church of Jesus Christ. So I say to you, save yourself. Repent. Come out of the oppression that is doing what you think is right.
Proverbs 13:13-15 says this. I read these verses all the time. "The one who despises the word will be in debt to it…" You might say, "Todd, I'm not in debt to it. I have sex with who I want to have sex with. I spend my money where I want to spend my money. I do what I want to do. I'll just break up with that gal and go over to the next one."
Notice I said will. I'm not saying that every time you do it you immediately get hit by a bolt of lightning, but mark my words: sooner or later the reality of your experience, the loneliness, the depth and despair of it will come to you, and if you're lucky it'll be on this side of eternity. "The one who despises the word will be in debt to it, but the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded. The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life…" I'm declaring that to you today.
"…to turn aside from the snares of death. Good understanding produces favor, but the way of the treacherous [nation or individual, a person who thinks they are free to do whatever they want to do without consequence] is hard." John Wooden, the great basketball coach, used to say it in a rhyme. "There is a choice you have to make in everything you do, so keep in mind that in the end the choice you make makes you."
You sow a thought, and you're going to reap an action. You sow an action, and you're going to reap a habit. You sow a habit, and you're going to reap a character. You sow a character, and you will reap a destiny. I am declaring to you the way of life is through Jesus Christ. Save yourself. Repent. Jesus says to you this morning, "Come to me, all who are weary, all who are tired of being oppressed, all you who are heavy laden, and I'll give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and I will give you the life you're looking for. Learn from me. I am gentle and humble in heart."
I'm going to add this. First Corinthians 6:9-14. This is an amazing text. "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?" The kingdom of God is not just a land that has come. The kingdom of God is a place of peace and prosperity. It is certainly a kingdom that one day he will fully establish, but we are right now people who are building the kingdom.
Right now our families ought to be little kingdoms of blessing. There ought to be shalom, which is the word for peace, externally and internally. You will never experience the kingdom of God he intends for you right now… The eternal life Jesus wants for you begins now when you are not a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer.
Some of you guys are going to church, listening to sermons, and checking out for seven days. Some of you guys are reading Join the Journey every morning and checking out for 23 hours. That is a forgetful hearer. Do you want to know where the abundant life is? It comes with he who abides with him. It affects his conversations, his thought life, his entertainment choices, his personal discipline, and that is the life. But the unrighteous will not inherit shalom.
"Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters…" Watch this with me, because this is what's so amazing, what's going on in our country. "…nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit [shalom] ." Now or later, if that's your practice.
If the Spirit of God dwells in you and you go, "I don't really care what God says," James would recommend to you that you maybe don't really have the Spirit of God dwelling in you. Not struggling with these things…practicing these things, saying it's okay and the Spirit in you says it's okay. "That's just the way I am. I'm a swindler. I'm a thief. I'm a liar. I'm effeminate. I'm an adulterer. That's just the way I am. I'm just very sexual. It's what I do." That's not the way of life.
What's really interesting in our culture… Romans 1 shows you when people leave God, the very first place they go to find life is the thing that gives them the most pleasure in the most immediate way. That's why sex is always our first default area to screw up. It takes very little effort to feel immense pleasure. But if there's anything that can screw up a country it's sex.
It can start to kill its own children so it can have more sex and not experience the consequence of sex, even though children are a blessing, but they buy the lie that no, they're not; they're a burden. It'll increase disease. It'll increase sadness. It'll increase despair. It'll increase depression. It'll increase a sense of futility. God is just saying, "I'm for sex. I created sex. You just have to use it right."
Paul says to you and me, "Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. All things are lawful for me [I can do whatever I want] , but not all things are profitable." This is what wise people do. They have liberty. "I can do whatever I want, but I'm not going to do that, because it won't work out well for me. I'm not going to be mastered by anything."
What kind of person doesn't have a master? Somebody who is free. If your sexual identity is your master, you're not free. You're a slave to it. I don't care if it's a heterosexual perversion like I drift toward or homosexual perversion. I'm not scared of your drifting. We're all drifters, and we declare to each other the goodness of God so we would run back to him. We love each other, and we rebuke each other, and we never say it's loving to have a church of thieves.
It's never loving to have a church of drunkards. It's never loving to have a church of coveters. What ticks me off is that churches like this have overly criticized one expression of sin and haven't dealt with their own covetousness, adultery, and forsaking of God's way. Rightly so, people who struggle in one way have said, "You guys are cherry-picking. You're just as much a slave as I am, except your slavery is more socially acceptable."
Can I just say something? Homosexuality is not ever wise. Neither is divorce, neither is selfishness, neither is covetousness, neither is anything else he mentioned. The reason we talk so much about homosexuality is right now our country is saying, "That one is not a problem!" I'm here to tell you it's a problem, and it's going to destroy us. I'm going to tell you next week why. It jacks with the foundational element of society: the family and children.
"Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord…" Don't just think sexual immorality. All of the things I mentioned earlier. The Lord is for you. He wants you to have shalom. God has raised the Lord, and he will raise you up through the power of Jesus. He can help you overcome bondage to your sexual orientation or your sexual lusts, your pornographic addiction. Jesus is sufficient. Save yourself. Repent.
Secondly, share. There is no freedom without the gospel. Church, does this sound familiar? I'm going to say it every week. Share! Preach the Word. Don't be ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for salvation. Proverbs 14:25: "A truthful witness saves lives, but he who utters lies is treacherous." It's a lie that we will ever have life apart from the keeper of the spring.
If we mute the declarationer of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we will not have life, we will not be long free, and we will not be happy. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, to prosperity. Not the way the charlatans inside health, wealth, and prosperity churches will teach it today, but it's the way to shalom.
So let everything you do be done in love, but contend for the faith. There is no freedom apart from the gospel. Share the gospel. Don't tell me, "All I want to do is preach the gospel, and I don't want to get involved in all of these public issues." The gospel affects public issues. If you, Pastor, don't speak up in the public square, it's a setting sun, not a rising sun, and it's on you, because you want to hide behind "I just want to be about Jesus."
Well, Jesus was about men, and he loved men, so he constantly engaged them in their wrong thinking and in their foolishness. He was about polity, which is to say righteousness, and he engaged in the public square. He voted with his life and his lips, and so should you. Share the gospel. There is no freedom without the truth, so speak.
A long time ago, a guy named Charles Finney said something like, "If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is the reason for it. If the public press lacks moral discernment, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in Christianity, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it."
Don't just think of me. You have a pulpit this week in your family, in your place of work, with your friends, on your sports teams. How are you doing with your pulpit? You have to speak the truth. What you need to know is what's happening in our country is exactly what happened in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, who was a German sociologist and journalist, observed what happened within Nazi Germany and the increase of fascism.
They used what was called an intelligence that she later labeled the spiral of silence. The spiral of silence is when the majority of people allow a tiny minority to control the conversation. Because most people by nature are reluctant to go against the tide of what they think is public opinion and because others are frightened as to what might happen to them if they go against it, the majority is silenced.
Even though nobody really agrees with what's happening, they don't want to be called names. They don't want to be bigoted, intolerant, unloving, so they just sit there and go, "Well, I guess everybody else agrees it would be bigoted, intolerant, unloving to speak out, so I'm not going to speak out," even though the large majority go, "That's crazy! Two mommies are not the same as a mom and dad. That's crazy. Those pieces don't fit. That's crazy. They're not purple penguins."
Gang, if you don't speak up, then what you're going to find is it won't be long before you're going to find them doing things to people that you can't believe are done in your presence, and because they're not coming for you, you'll just let them come and get the Jews. "I don't think it's right to get the Jews, but no one else is speaking up for the Jews, and the few who did…wow, they took them with the Jews. I don't want to be taken with the Jews."
Well, you take me, baby. You take me. You burn me right there with them, and I'm going to tell you it's wrong. So should you if you're his church. Speak up. Do not get in the spiral of silence. The very first community organizer… His name was Saul Alinsky. I'm going to read you this. These were his Rules for Radicals. Do you want to radicalize society? Do you want to change the fundamental beliefs of a society? This is what he says. Here's what you do.
Ridicule is our most potent weapon. Marginalize our opponent. Personalize and polarize the target. Undermine their legitimacy. Make them look stupid or evil in the eyes of the public. Call them anti-science. Call them bigots. Call them delusional. Mock them. Do you know why people mock what you say? Because they cannot compete with what you say, because if you preach the gospel you speak truth.
Whenever they can't win on content they'll attack the character. It's called an ad hominem argument. Let them criticize the man, but mark my words: what they should do when they criticize you is see your excellent behavior. They may not like what you stand for, but they should not ever be able to criticize the way you stand, the way you love, and the way you lead.
Okay, church. You are free through what Jesus Christ has done. There is no condemnation. I don't care if you're a coveter, a thief, a homosexual, an effeminate, an adulterer. There is no condemnation. Just come, and having come, would you cling to the one who has given you life again? Would you speak for liberty? Would you know that it's your job to help set people free? That's why Jesus came.
In Jeremiah, chapter 1, when God was talking to a young man who was called to be a declarationer in his day and age, Jeremiah goes, "I don't want to do that." In Jeremiah 1:17 he says, "Now you gird up your loins, Jeremiah. You arise and speak to them all that I have commanded you. Do not be dismayed before them, or I will dismay you." Church, can I say something to you? Gird up your loins. You get busy. You let them call you names. You speak to them everything the Word of God commands you. Do not be dismayed or he will dismay us.
Father God, I pray that we'd be your church, that we'd be full of grace and truth and love, that we wouldn't have pet sins we don't struggle with and pick on other people but we'd deal with our sins and find no condemnation in Jesus Christ. I pray we'd find true freedom, not to say we can do what we want but the freedom to be what we really want to be: good, virtuous, moral, loving, wise, not controlled-by-our-passion people.
Father God, forgive us that we have been silent for too long and the world thinks, "Well, the church must agree with it, because they're not saying anything." Lord, when we do speak, may we speak with great gentleness and respect and reverence, but would you raise up a generation of prophets right here from Watermark Community Church? Would you do it? Would we be people that when they observe our good behavior they would then, Father, be convicted by it and thank you in the day of visitation that you sent holy declarationers in their midst?
Lord, today we just pray that they would see you for who you are, and we pray that we would be people who ourselves would live in that shalom, even while all hell breaks loose around us. May we speak of the coming of heaven and judgment for those who scoff at it. We thank you for freedom's sake you have set us free, amen.
As you leave, you will hear a great reminder that we've done here before about the freedom God has for us, but there are other people who won't be here to hear this. You need to go tell it on the mountain. If you're here this morning and you're not free, would you come, that we can share with you that there is no condemnation for those who come to our King?
Have a great week of worship.