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How Then Do We Respond?

F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
Audio Version

Sexagessima - 12/2/12
Is. 30:8-21; Ps. 71; 2 Cor. 11:19-31; Lk. 8:4-15

Francis Schaeffer wrote a book, How Should We Then Live?.

He was asking the question of how to respond to the disintegrating culture and spiritual life in the once dominantly Christian West. The answer is, in one sense, easy: Trust and obey God. But what does that look like? How do we accomplish that in a society which routinely mocks God – both His worldview and His Good News.

Our Gospel lesson speaks to that situation – raising the issue of whether our souls are fertile ground upon which the word of God can fall and bring forth good fruit, maybe even 100 fold increase, getting back 100 seeds for everyone planted.

The truth is that we have nothing at all to offer our present situation other than what God can provide for us. And if we are not good ground for that seed to fall upon, we will be of little use to God and His purposes for our times. That is a question we can and should ask of ourselves in any possible situation. Are we fertile ground for God, and if not, how do we become so?

The issue has hit us in America forcefully and pointedly. I sent an email to the congregation with a message from our Archbishop, Robert Duncan. The archbishop released the following statement in support of the Catholic Church’s fight to maintain freedom of conscience in the midst of the U.S. federal government issuing a preventive care mandate in violation of Roman Catholic teaching. He wrote:

 The Anglican Church in North America (our ACNA) stands by our Catholic brothers and sisters as followers of Christ in a nation whose Constitution guarantees ‘the free exercise’ of religion.  As Christians, our faith and doctrine are at the very heart of our service to others in our community.  Therefore, it is extremely troubling to see our government mandate services contrary to Catholic Church teaching.  I call on all members of the Anglican Church to stand by our Catholic brothers and sisters, and pray for our elected officials to have the courage to stand up for religious freedom and overturn this mandate”.

I wrote a friendly amendment to the Archbishop’s message, saying that we must also state that the government is violating, not only Roman Catholic teaching, but also our teaching, and indeed the teaching of every legitimate Christian denomination. Christians are all called to defend sexual purity and the lives of the unborn. There is only one true Biblical position on those issues.

The issue behind the issues is the sovereignty of God, without which there is no Good News, no Gospel, no message of peace and goodwill among men. The world without God cannot produce any of those good things.

The world without God cannot produce the good soil in our souls which can receive the word of God. It can produce only ground with rocks which do not soak up enough moisture for the seed to sprout, or thorns which strangle the growth of the seed, or ground trampled upon by the side of the path where the birds of the air will eat up the seed because it cannot settle into the packed soil.

The rocks might be represented by hardened persons in our lives which give us no encouragement or freedom to explore life, to be honest truth-seekers. How many of us have lived in situations where those raising us did not have enough flexibility to give space for us to grow into the personality for which God had designed us?

Or we may have lived in a situation where there were thorns, temptations routinely available to us even in our family life, to go off into self-destructive directions.

Or, our family life might be so hard-packed, distant, aloof, that there is no ability to sink in, to develop roots, so we choose unGodly sources for our nurturing, we get picked off by the devil.

How do we then respond?

When Moses found himself confronted by God at the burning bush, God said to him, “Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

I think that God was saying more than, “Be reverent and polite...” God was telling Moses that he was standing so closely to God Himself that he, Moses, was open and vulnerable to the very ground of his own being, the Hand of God. God tells him to take of his shoes so that he has no separation of himself from the Hand of God. God wants Moses to be in touch with his own most basic dependency upon God – a necessity for the mission God is about to give him.  Moses must not only be obedient, he must be trusting.  "Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey..." – as the hymn goes.

Standing in open, vulnerable relationship to the power of God is what transforms us so as to become ourselves open ground for the word of God – in Moses’ case, for the mission to Egypt to confront what was perhaps the mightiest power on earth.  Because we are standing on the Hand of God, we do not need any other foundation for our sense of being.  We do not need to rely upon worldly resources for that power of being.  God is solely and wholly sufficient.

That was the power and stability which was poured out upon the disciples at Pentecost centuries later to confront Rome, again the mightiest power on earth, a power now available for anyone who would ask.  When God wants to show that He is sovereign over all things, He picks the mightiest around to confront to prove His case. He did it with Goliath, and with Elijah on Mount Carmel, confronting king Ahab and the 450 prophets of Baal plus the prophets of Ashera, completely outnumbering the faithful Hebrews who were there.

He proved it again when the American colonials confronted again the mightiest power on earth and won. God was preparing a “city on a hill”. The Americans testified again and again to the superintending power of God which intervened in their struggle with the armies of King George III.

Calling America a “city on a hill” is not giving America special privileges among the nations, it is giving to us a special obligation and responsibility – but that is an obligation and responsibility which can be shared by any nation which chooses to trust and obey God. Any nation today can become that city on a hill, standing like a beacon for the law and grace of God. The power and the word of God have broken free from national ownership. We worship no longer at Jerusalem, but in truth and in spirit – anywhere people will submit themselves to that law and grace of God. God has made available to us the power of His Holy Spirit, so that we can stand on that holy ground, the Hand of God which cannot be pulled out from under us, anywhere, any time, by anyone.

That is the first part of the preparation for our Godly ministry.

The second half of the preparation is listening to His word. Having become stabilized, we can dare to follow His lead into places like Egypt, Mount Carmel, or the American public arena (you might say “wasteland”) of religion, education, sexuality, and politics.

In real life, this does not all happen neatly like I am describing it, but the principles are real. We must have those two stabilities intact, our ability to be ourselves in the face of danger, and our obedience to the Word of God for the direction in which we move. We will get nowhere unless our own lives are anchored in reality, in the Biblical worldview where God is both Creator and Sovereign, and in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we allow God to nurture and discipline us, we will become that good soil, turned, mulched, and fertilized, which can be seeded and bring forth an abundant crop of wholeness and holiness, yielding Godly witness and behavior in our personal, family, and public lives.

What then can we do about Mr. Obama’s attempt to force immoral and unGodly behavior on churches? He has backed down from the frontal assault, saying the religious organizations will not be forced to pay for immoral ends, only that insurance companies will be forced to supply means to those ends. But that back off is only for the time being. There is no evidence that he is repenting one whit. He just overstepped his timing and will come back at us in another way when he thinks that we are sufficiently softened up. He is still intent on promoting the killing of babies in the womb, and in promoting unGodly sexual behavior. The two are tied right together, and are part of the secular and pagan way of life – sex becomes a sacrament of selfhood, a supreme expression of the pleasure principle, not the bonding of a man and a woman to create a family – til death do them part.

And how are we to respond to the sexual abuse horror story in Los Angeles? About 20 years ago, I was preaching in a church just outside of Pittsburgh, in which I made reference to the education of our children in government schools. I said that the schools are killing our children. Later I thought that that was a bit strong. It was not many months later that the first news hit of students taking deadly weapons against their own classmates – for fun. For fun. Probably for the first time in human history. What I had said was not too strong, it was too little and too late. 1992 – 20 years ago.

About that time, I became good friends with a man named William Coulson, who had been the assistant to Carl Rogers, world famous psychologist of the 1960’s and ‘70’s. They, along with Abraham Maslow, an equally skilled and famous psychologist, invented what came to be known as client-centered therapy, treating therapy as a way of drawing out of the patient the wisdom which was supposed to already reside in all of us. This client-centered therapy was transmogrified into non-directive education, in which the teacher became a friendly facilitator, no longer a teacher with authority.

Coulson and Maslow soon discovered that they had created a disaster, and that their processes would destroy education. They both campaigned to get their theories banished, but the education establishment saw those processes as a means to use education for their own ends, which were control, not education. Truth became “subjective”, and was factored out of the education equation. You see the results today in places like Miramonte school in Los Angeles.

Coulson is a Roman Catholic, and his methods were used in a large Catholic school system in the San Diego area in the late ‘60’s or early ‘70’s. Within one year, the whole school system had collapsed. They experienced the largest defection of nuns in Catholic Church history. The nuns reasoned that if they could become “authentic persons” according to the new non-directive principles, who needs the Pope? And they left. It is still these principles which govern our education system. Nothing has changed – except, periodically as people catch on – the name. Like “no child left behind”. They change the name and continue right on with the same disastrous mind-control program.

Coulson was speaking to a group of teachers in New York City in the early 1990’s, shortly after a group of students had gone “wilding”, as they called it, in Central Park, severely beating and raping a woman who was walking through. You may recall the event, it made national headlines.

Coulson told the teachers that the methods they were using, invented by him and his cohorts, were training more students to do the same. Coulson told us that they did not believe him. And then came the students killing students. So far as I can tell, very few teachers have yet seen the light. The government school band plays on. Not to educate, but to control. The education system is not “broken”, it is doing its job quite well. Except for the growing numbers who, thanks be to God, slip through, or outside, the system, we are not an educated people, we are a controlled and pacified people. That is the name of the game.

How then are we to respond? What to do about it? There is no use scratching at the surface, we must dig deeply to the foundations of life, of society, and of government, the foundations of our spiritual lives. Throwing money at it will only make it worse -- feeding the beast.

Four things must be in place:
(1) the Biblical worldview where God is both Creator of, and Sovereign over, all things,
(2) the news of salvation in Jesus Christ, which tells us what
kind of God we have,
(3) our personal ontological stability on the Hand of God, and
(4) our moral unity under Word of God. 
And to accomplish those things, we must develop a truth-seeking spirit.

If the Biblical worldview is not true, then none of the other three items can make sense. There is no Good News possible without the Biblical God – because there is no possible stability on the Hand of God, or stability of the Word of God. We then remain in the fallen world, with no way out. The Labyrinth. The Closed Circle cosmos.

These four items must be in place in the Church. We do not typically have them firmly in place, if the results we see are any indication, in very many churches anywhere in America, or the West.  We have compromised our faith and typically argue our case on relative, pragmatic grounds, not on the truth of Biblical principle.  That is betrayal of Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

We still, in America, have the capacity to vote in Godly leaders who will stand up for a Biblical government. Why are we not raising up Godly leaders and voting them in?  Why are we Christians so incapable of giving an honest testimony for the lordship of Jesus Christ over civil government?  And how are we going to get that knowledge and courage?

We should be responding to those castigating the Los Angeles Miramonte school for the sexual abuse incident: Why are you blaming people for treating students like animals when you have insisted on teachers telling the students that they are in fact just animals?

Should the alleged perpetrators of these crimes be prosecuted? Of course, but who is going to prosecute we, the people, who have let this situation come about by our own rejection of God in the public arena?  In a government under God, we, the people, taken as a whole, are the highest officer of the state.  We tell the civil government how God wants us governed, civil government does not tell us.  We are directly responsible to the government of God, not first to civil government.  Who is going to call us to account?

The answer is that God will prosecute us, the people.  He will impeach us from our office.  God is impeaching us, the people, by allowing tyrants to get control over us, and taking away the meaning of our vote. We keep getting the same results, no matter which party is in power. We have lost control of our own government because we will not place ourselves as Christians under the sovereignty of God in the public arena. So we cannot speak for God.  God, then, has no need of us in the public arena and is dismissing us from office.

We will regain our office and get back that control only when we have regained our moral and spiritual consensus as a people of God. Nothing strikes terror into the heart of a tyrant more than a morally and spiritually unified people.

How shall we then respond?  As the people of God, speaking with the authority of the children of God.  Being children of God is what makes us adults in the world. 

The Supreme Court apparently thought that it had gotten rid of God with its decisions, beginning with Engel vs. Vitale in 1962, outlawing prayer in government schools.  But, just as the Hebrews had to learn the hard way that God governs in the affairs of men, including in the affairs of the Assyrians and Babylonians, we will have to learn the hard way that God does not lose His sovereignty just because anti-Christ persons come to rule over us.  God is at least allowing, and maybe even promoting, who we have currently as rulers.

And, just as with the Hebrews, we will regain control when we learn the truth about the sovereignty of God over all things, at all times, and again submit ourselves to Him, both in our personal and family lives and in our public lives.  We will regain control when we allow God to plow, harrow, mulch, and fertilize our souls, take out the stones and the stumps, so that we become good ground for His seed to be planted.  It begins here with us, not with the world.

So, let’s get on with it.

Audio Version

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Date Posted - 01/29/2012   -   Date Last Edited - 07/07/2012