How to be Salt and Light in a Secular Culture
On July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, our Founding Fathers signed a document declaring our independence from the tyranny of those who would enslave the minds, the souls, the lives of men. But what many Americans don't realize is that with the same document, we not only declared our independence from Great Britain, we just as strongly declared our dependence upon Almighty God.
The Declaration of Independence begins by proclaiming that we are subject only to the "Laws of Nature and Nature's God." Do you remember how it ends? It ends with these words: "With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." Do you know what the word reliance means? It means dependence. The signers of the Declaration were staking everything on God watching over them and seeing them through in their struggle for freedom: "With a firm reliance upon the protection of Divine Providence."
Hear this statement well: Our Founding Fathers did not believe in the separation of God from government. They believed that this nation was founded by God, protected by God, preserved by God, and blessed by God. The nation’s independence and survival depended on God! And based on that belief, they were willing to pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. These 56 men put it all on the line. Some did loose their lives. Many lost their fortunes. All kept their honor. The nation they sacrificed so much to help found is still intact for us to enjoy on her 236th birthday. May God bless America!
This brings us to you and me, here and now. If these patriots willingly laid it all on the line for this nation, don't you think we should do more than simply sing a few patriotic songs, wave the flag, barbeque burgers, and watch fireworks? I think so. Certainly Jesus said so. Look at our text (Matt. 22:15-21): The religious leaders were trying to trap Jesus on the issue of paying taxes, but Jesus turned the tables on them. He asked them for a coin, and then asked whose portrait and inscription was stamped on it. They replied: "Caesar's." Jesus responded: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" (v. 21). His point? God is our first and primary allegiance, However, all citizens—including His followers—are also citizens of earthly kingdoms and are obligated to support their government.
Unlike citizens of the Roman Empire, Americans are blessed to have, as Abraham Lincoln put it, a "government of the people, by the people, and for the people." The bottom line: Our form of government requires our active involvement. How can we "give to Caesar what is Caesar's" in America today? Well I want to mention 5 things that every Christian ought to give his or her government—5 things that every Christian can do to have maximum patriotic impact on our nation.
I. 1ST, SEEK GOD FOR YOUR GOVERNMENT
- "I urge then first of all that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth" (1Tim. 2:1-4)
- notice Paul says: "First of all," not secondly, thirdly, fourthly, but first of all we are to pray for everybody in general, but then specifically we are to pray for our elected leaders
- our President
- our Congressmen
- our Senators and Representatives
- our Judges
- our Governors, our Mayors, our Councilmen, Commissioners, our Law Enforcement officials, and the city Dog Catcher, if the community has one
- for all who have a place of authority
- we don't pray that they would continue in their wickedness, but we do pray that God would give them wisdom—wisdom to lead our nation according to the Judeo-Christian principles this nation was founded upon
- above all we pray that they would come to know Christ and be saved (v 4)
- that is really the only way our nation will be changed is through the Gospel
- it is only through a relationship with Jesus as Lord that our elected officials will lead in such a way that we will be able to live "peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (v 2)
- the biggest burden for the health of our nation does not rest on the White House, or on the State House, but on the Church House
- it rests on you and on me
- "If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:14)
#First of All, Seek God for Your Government
!II. 2ND, SUPPORT YOUR GOVERNMENT
- there are a couple of ways we can support our government
A. SUPPORT YOUR GOVERNMENT BY PAYING TAXES
- this brings us back to our text
- when Jesus is asked about paying taxes, He commands that we are to "give to Caesar what is Caesar's" (Matt. 22:21)
- the Apostle Paul speaks of the government's responsibility to punish evildoers and instructed:
- "This is why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing" (Rom. 13:6, NIV).
- now be honest—this one hurts—especially around April 15th
- admittedly, there is a lot of waste and questionable spending by government
- however, we do benefit from the goods and services provided by the government
- military defense
- law enforcement
- parks, etc.
- so pay your taxes
B. SUPPORT YOUR GOVERNMENT BY HONORING THOSE IN AUTHORITY OVER YOU
- this is another way to support your government
- “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 13:7, NIV84)
- ILLUS. On Thursday and Friday I was in Kansas City for a pastor’s conference entitled Rediscovering God in America. It was primarily a conference to encourage pastors to be faithful warriors in our nation’s culture war. And make no mistake, we are in a battle for our culture. It is a war were righteousness will either prevail or it will not. At that conference I got to hear and meet some of the godliest politicians in America. Men like Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas.
- the Apostle Paul reminds believers that there are men and women in all levels of government who are worthy of our respect and honor
C. SUPPORT YOUR GOVERNMENT BY BEING A PATRIOT
- “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.” (Psalm 137:5–6, NIV84)
- King David was a patriot—he loved his nation
- listen, it's alright to be patriotic
- don't you let anybody tell you that as a Christian you can no longer be a red-blooded American ...
- ... that you shouldn't get a lump in your throat when you see the Stars and Stripes waving
- that you shouldn't stand and sing with a quivering chin and a tear in your eye, "God bless America, land that I love"
- I simply don’t understand the so-called citizen who believes that America is the worst thing that ever happened to the world
- ILLUS. I’d like to strongly encourage these types to move to Venezuela and live under Hugo Chavez.
III. SUBMIT TO YOUR GOVERNMENT
• “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” (1 Peter 2:13–14, NIV84)
• “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” (Romans 13:2–5, NIV84)
1. the Apostles Peter and Paul both remind believers must be submissive to authority
a. the Greek word for "submit" means to fall in rank under an authority
b. government exists to keep order, and we must submit to the rule of law
2. Christians—of all a nation’s citizens—ought to be model citizens
a. for the glory of God and the witness of the Church, we ought to obey the laws of the
b. if we rebel against the rule of law, we are in fact rebelling against the God who
ordained it—Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted (Rom. 13:1-2)
3. I will be the first one to admit, it is not always easy for me to respect our governing
a. sometimes respecting our government is a tall order
ILLUS. Just think about who was in charge when Peter wrote this passage. It was
Emperor Nero. Nero wasn't exactly an Boy Scout. He was a brutal, wicked ruler, responsible for the deaths of both Peter and Paul. Lot’s of people still name our their "Peter" and "Paul". No one names their son "Nero?"
b. yet, God's word says that we are to respect the governmental authority
1) we may not have much respect for the man of the office, but we must respect the office of the man
4. Third of All, Submit to Your Government—that said, sometimes you must…
IV. STAND UP TO YOUR GOVERNMENT
“Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29,
1. this is Peter’s response to the Jewish religious rulers who ordered him to stop
preaching about Jesus
a. they refused
ILLUS. George Washington is credited with saying that "Government… is a
troublesome servant and a fearful Master."
2. sometimes, we must stand up to our government
a. now there's a time and place for civil disobedience, but it should come only as a last
resort, especially in America, which was founded upon Judeo-Christian principles and biblical laws
3. however, if the government commands what God condemns, then you are obligated to
ILLUS. Remember the Hebrew midwives in Egypt? They were commanded by Pharaoh
to kill all the Hebrew baby boys (Exod. 2:15-21). They disobeyed that command. Remember Daniel. His enemies finagled a law demanding that all residents of the nation bow down and worship the idols of the land. Daniel disobeyed King Darius' order, and was throne into the Lion’s Den (where God miraculously preserved his life). Christians in Asia Minor disobeyed the Imperial edict to swear: "Caesar is Lord," threw their incense to the ground in defiance, and declared: “Christ is Lord!" (Rev. 2:8-10; 2:13). They were martyred by the thousands, but, like their Savior, they were obedient unto death. Their example encouraged others to stand up for their faith and the church grew to become the dominant faith of the Roman Empire.
a. all of these are examples where believers were blessed by God for their civil
4. as Citizen Christians, we need to use our freedom to defend our freedom or we may
lose our freedom
a. in many ways, that time has come
1) decisions are being made by our government on the great moral issues of our
day and on our rights as Christians
2) we cannot afford to be silent
b. when we do speak out, the critics will cry foul, claiming the mythical "Separation of
Church & State,"
1) men like Barry Lynn, Executive Dir. of Americans United for Separation of
Church and State, will tell us: "You don't have a right to speak about government policy and law! Go cower in your church, lock yourself in your little stained glass prison, and stay there!"
2) and that's exactly what the devil wants—he wants the salt to stay in the
sanctuary and the light to remain in the church
5. the Church must not and cannot remain silent on the great issues of our day
a. Jesus said: "You are the salt of the earth… the light of the world!" (Matt. 5:13-16)
b. the Psalmist declared "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!" (Ps. 107:2)
c. the Prophets of God urged his people: "Shout it aloud! Do not hold back! Raise your
voice like a trumpet! Declare to my people their rebellion, and to the house of Jacob their sins" (Isa. 58:1)
d. Moses warned Pharaoh
e. Nathan confronted King David
f. Elijah brought charges against King Ahab
g. Daniel pronounced judgment on King Nebuchadnezzar
h. John the Baptist pointed out the sins of King Herod
6. we must stand up and let our voices be heard in the same way
a. we must persuade our government of the truths of God's word as they apply to the
policies and laws of our nation
1) we need to stand up with righteous rage and say: "Killing babies in a mother's
womb is wrong!"
2) we need to speak out with holy fury and say: "Redefining marriage is wrong!"
3) we need to remind our officials of America's Judeo-Christian heritage, and shout:
"Taking away our Religious Freedom is wrong!"
b. nothing is politically right that is morally wrong!
c. sometimes we must stand up to our government and say: Enough is enough!
7. you need to Seek God for Your Government, and you need to Support Your
Government, and you need to Submit to Your Government, but sometimes you need to Stand up to Your Government!
V. SELECT YOUR GOVERNMENT
1. there are many ways the Christian can be Salt and Light in a Secular Culture
a. you can help with voter registration drive
b. you can persuade others to back biblically sound legislation and public policy
c. you can speak out on moral and social issues
d. you can run for public office, or campaign for a candidate
2. the most fundamental affect you can have on our culture is to vote
a. voting is a simple act with a significant impact
1) when we vote, we help determine who will lead our nation, make our laws, and
protect our freedoms
ILLUS. Founding Father Samuel Adams said: "Let each citizen remember at the
moment he is offering his vote… that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country."
ILLUS. Calvin Coolidge, Thirtieth President of the United States said, “If the people
fail to vote, a government will be developed which is not their government… The whole system of American Government rests on the ballot box. Unless citizens perform their duties there, such a system of government is doomed to failure.”
b. Evangelical Christians could change the course of this nation in two election cycles
if they just voted
ILLUS. There are approximately 65 million Evangelical Christians of voting age in
America. At least 10 million of them are not registered to vote. Of the 50 million who are registered to vote, 20 million did not vote in the last election. Quite simply, less than 40 percent of all Evangelical Christians eligible to vote in America voted.
c. millions of evangelical Christians, out of apathy, ignorance, or indifference, choose
not to vote in election after election
1) our absence from the voting booth has contributed greatly to the moral, spiritual,
economic, and political disintegration of America
A. REGISTER TO VOTE
1. listen, you can't vote unless you're registered
a. tragically, many Americans are not even registered to vote
1) over the years, I’ve had any number of professing Christians tell me: "What's
the difference, my one vote doesn't really count."
2) and I say, “Yes, it does!”
ILLUS. All I need to say is "Florida recount" and I've made my point. Most Americans went to sleep on November 6, 2000 believing that Bush had won. They woke up to learn that the election had not been decided: it would not be for another month.
Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr were tied with 73 electoral votes each in the election of 1800. The election went to the House of Representatives. The House deliberated from February 11th to February 17th and voted 36 times before Thomas Jefferson was finally elected.
In 1960 a little over 100,000 votes ended up separating Vice President Nixon and Senator Kennedy.
2. your vote matters
B. VOTE YOUR VALUES
ILLUS. An old proverb says: "Bad politicians are elected by good people who don't vote."
1. Christians need to vote!
a. however, don't just vote for the sake of voting
b. take it one step further and vote based on Biblical values
2. I guarantee you that every candidate for public office has a set of values that guides
them in their decisions
a. shouldn't we vote for candidates who share our values or at least as many as
b. unfortunately, too many Americans vote their pocketbooks
c. Christians need to vote their conscience
1) the Psalmist tells us that righteousness exalts a nation, not economic prosperity
2) friends, let me be honest: The 2012 general election is not about the economy of
this nation, it is about the soul of this nation and wether-or-not we will be a country of limited government and personal liberty
d. the Declaration of Independence declares that governments are instituted among
men to guarantee Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
1) if we don’t guarantee the first one, if we don’t—as a nation—get that one right,
then nothing else matters
2) folks, let me tell you something, if a candidate is pro-life, they’ll probably get most
of the rest of the things I care about right
3) being pro-life tells me something about that candidate’s worldview
3. unfortunately, many believers don't even consider their values when voting, often
choosing candidates whose positions are at odds with their own beliefs, convictions, and values
ILLUS. A recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that nearly
two-thirds of Americans say their faith has little to do with their voting decisions. That's tragic because Jesus expects us to let our faith influence every part of our decision making—including the democratic process.
a. how you vote today impacts tomorrow
"When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in
power, they groan" (Proverbs 29:2)
C. PRAY FOR THE ELECTION
1. last but certainly not least is taking time to pray for the election!
Let me close with a word of caution: Aligning ourselves too closely with a political party or a politician is unwise, because we need to be free to call all political parties and politicians to repentance when they step outside of biblical morality and principle. Founding Father Benjamin Rush said: "I have been alternately called an Aristocrat and a Democrat. I am neither. I am a Christocrat." Our loyalty needs to be with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Strongly consider voting for candidates who believe like you do. Don't just vote—vote your values!
Let freedom ring all across America, from the White House, the State House, the School house, the Church house, and in every house, let freedom ring.
Let freedom ring for every race, creed and color. Let freedom ring for the oppressed, the downtrodden, and the persecuted. Let freedom ring.
Let freedom ring for the little boy who wants to read his Bible in the public school. Let freedom ring for the little girl who pledges allegiance to our flag and wants to say "under God" when she does. Let freedom ring!
Let freedom ring for people all across this nation who believe that marriage ought to be reserved for one man and one woman according to God's divine plan. Let freedom ring!
Let freedom ring for the little baby in every mother's womb who deserves to breathe the fresh air of freedom. Let freedom ring!
And let freedom ring in the hearts of all those who call upon the name of the Lord in the small towns and the big cities, from the mountains to the prairies, and from sea to shining sea, let freedom ring!