True Patriotism!

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(Letters of John Newton)

Dear friend,
Allow me to say, that it excites both my wonder and concern, that a Christian minister such as yourself, should think it worth his while to attempt political reforms. When I look around upon the present state of the nation, such an attempt appears to me, to be no less vain and foolish, than it would be to paint the cabin—while the ship is sinking! Or to decorate the parlor—while the house is on fire!

When our Lord Jesus was upon earth, He refused to get involved in disputes or politics, “Friend, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Luke 12:14. “My kingdom is not of this world! If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight!” John 18:36. God’s children belong to a kingdom which is not of this world; they are strangers and pilgrims upon earth, and a part of their Scriptural character is, that they are the “quiet in the land.” Psalm 35:19.

Satan has many contrivances to amuse people, and to divert their thoughts from their real danger!

My dear sir, my prayer to God for you is—that He may induce you to employ the talents He has given you, in pointing out sin as the great cause and source of every existing evil; and to engage those who love and fear Him, (instead of wasting time in political speculations, for which very few of them are competent,) to sigh and cry for our abounding abominations, and to stand in the breach, by prayer, that God’s wrath may yet be averted, and our national mercies prolonged! This, I think, is true patriotism—the best way in which people in private life may serve their country.

I consider the ungodly as saws and hammers in the hand of the Lord. So far as they are His instruments, they will succeed—but not an inch further! Their wrath shall praise Him, and be subservient to His designs!

If our lot is so cast that we can exercise our ministry free from stripes, fines, imprisonments, and death—it is more than the gospel has promised to us! If Christians were quiet when under the cruel governments of Nero and other wicked persecutors, when they were hunted down like wild beasts—then we ought to be not only quiet but very thankful now! It was then accounted an honor to suffer for Christ and the ‘offence of the cross’!

Those are to be greatly pitied, who boast of their ‘liberty’—and yet they do not consider that they are in the most deplorable bondage as the slaves of sin and Satan, under the curse of God’s law and His eternal wrath! Oh! for a voice to reach their hearts, that they may know their true and dreadful state—and seek deliverance from their horrific thraldom! May you and I labor to direct them to the one thing, which is absolutely needful, and abundantly sufficient.

If I had the wisdom or influence to soothe the angry passions of mankind—I would gladly employ them! But I am a stranger and a pilgrim here in this world. My charter, my rights and my treasures, are all in heaven—and there my heart ought to be. In a very short time, I may be removed (and perhaps suddenly) into the unseen and eternal world—where all that now causes so much bustle upon earth—will be of no more importance to me—than the events which took place among the antediluvians!

In the hour, when death shall open the door into eternity—many things which now assume an ‘air of importance’, will be found as light and unsubstantial as a child’s dream!

How crucial then, is it for me—to be found watching, with my lamp burning, diligently engaged in my proper calling! For the Lord has not called me to set governments right—but to preach the gospel, to proclaim the glory of His name, and to endeavor to win souls! “Let the dead bury their own dead—but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God!” Luke 9:60. Happy is that servant, whom his Master finds so doing, when He returns!

As you have forced me to respond—both duty and love have obliged me to be faithful and free in giving you my thoughts.

I recommend you to the care and blessing of the great Shepherd and Savior; and remain for His sake, your affectionate friend and brother,
John Newton

Independence Day and the state of the church in America.

Today marks the 234th anniversary of our nation’s birth, but this occasion brings to mind two problems that I see within Christendom; both of which have the same solution.

Firstly, why do we (every year at this time) feel the need to mix nationalism with the church? On this Sunday, Christians will be running from church to BBQs and parties; some won’t even need to leave the church property as all the festivities will be rolled into one like a church in my local area advertising the events they’re having at their “community freedom festival” which include:

Pony rides / Face painting / Food and drinks / Sno-cones, popcorn, cotton candy / Games and prizes / Bounce houses / Giant slide / Dunk tank / Crafts for the kids / Live music / And much more.

Remember, dear readers, this is a “church.” The only reference on their advertisement that has anything to do with Christianity (not even the name of the church indicates it’s a church) is the slogan “Christian Fellowship” under the church name. If you miss that, you won’t even know it’s a church.

Then there’sthis church’s 4th of July baptism fiasco:

“You don’t want to miss this weekend at NPC. There will be a special dueling guitar performance, spectacular pyrotechnics and hundreds of people getting dunked at Freedom Splash. It’s a great way to begin your Independence Day festivities! . . . Freedom Splash is a weekend designed for hundreds of families, adults, teenagers, and kids to get baptized. We invite you to take this step this weekend! We will have 2 giant swimming pools set up outside the main entrance. After attending service make your way out to the pools, sign in, and get baptized. . . . Jesus asked us to make our faith public by being baptized, so invite your family and friends to come and witness this step in your faith journey. You will receive an awesome Freedom Splash t-shirt to wear the day of the event (there is a $5 donation for the t-shirt, if you can’t pay still come and sign up).”

I am not opposed to celebrating Independence Day, but I am opposed to the mixture of the things of this world with the things of God, even if the thing being mixed is commendable, like patriotism.

The inescapable fact of the matter is that our nation today bears very little resemblance to that which was birthed in 1776, and I seriously doubt we will ever recover from its current state of moral and spiritual decay to return to what it once was.

Yet today, many of the messages in churches will have an Americana theme, and “God bless America” will be peppered throughout numerous sermons, as if God somehow overlooks the sin of this nation and its people because, after all, we’re Americans.

Today is the Lord’s Day, but what will be the main theme in many churches in America? I ask you to examine for yourselves what the emphasis will be on. Will it be on Christ or the country? What should the emphasis in church be on?

This leads me to my second concern: This independence day, should we be celebrating or mourning, partying or repenting? There’s an elephant in the room that no one seems to be talking about.

This, I know, will ruffle some feathers (even amongst the faithful readership of DefCon) but it needs to be said: Since when did Christianity become a political wing or special interest group?

As the masses in Christendom still seriously think they can ask God to bless this nation, they continue to hold out hope for America by means of political action. So many professing Christians I know of can spend countless hours talking politics, and countless hours working toward obtaining the desired results of the next election, yet how many of them talk about the Gospel with those same family members, neighbors, and friends?

I’ve bullet-pointed a few more of my concerns:

–  How much time and effort do Christians spend on politics compared to Bible reading, prayer, family devotions, evangelism, etc?

– Are there any politicians who—if they win—would really make a difference? Look at how many elections we’ve had since Roe v. Wade (many of which put pro-life Republicans into power), yet the genocide of the most innocent and defenseless class in our society rages on as we “legally” put more children to death daily than the terrorists had killed on 9/11.

– Are there any politicians who—like many who founded this country—are selfless in their political endeavors? Can you (honestly) name one politician who is involved in politics for the people and not for their own greed and self-interests? If you can, then I ask you, “Do they have a chance of winning?”

– What are Christians fighting in the political arena for? If they elected every person on the ballot that they thought was the best for our country, would it really change anything? Would they be capable of renewing the hearts of the people?

– Be careful what you wish for: You want to elect people who will re-institute school prayer? If they reversed the ban today, I fear your children in the government schools would be bowing to Mecca tomorrow.

– What is more important and has greater eternal consequences? The spreading of your politics views, or the preaching of Christ and Him crucified?

– How do you ever expect to reach your unsaved neighbor or coworker (the one who happens to be a staunch liberal democrat) when they see your car plastered with political bumper stickers and your front lawn littered with campaign signs, all of which advance a political worldview that is in complete opposition to their political world view? Have you not already polarized them before they meet you and have you not already turned them off to any other message you may bring before you even open your mouth?

– Is it politics and social issues that are the power unto salvation, or is it the Gospel?

– How much does evangelism suffer because politics reigns supreme in the lives of so many Christians?

My plea is that we will remove our heads out of the political sand. We will not change the inevitable course this country is on (if you can’t see the handwriting on the wall, you’re not paying attention).

In just my generation alone, homosexuality went from a taboo, to being embraced, to being celebrated, to being a morally virtuous lifestyle, to laws being passed that make those who oppose it fit to be charged criminally for “hate crimes” (as if there’s such a thing as a “love crime”). Mark my words, you will not stop the current tide no matter how politically active you are. Homosexual marriage will become a reality in this country; abortion will continue in this country; spiritual decline and carnal decadence will continue in this country, no matter who gets elected.

History shows that when a nation gets to where we are, it crumbles from the inside and is soon taken over by other nations that only had to sit back and wait for the moral rot to hollow out our foundations. (There’s even suggestions that this nation has already been abandoned by God, in spite of our plethora of “God bless America” bumper stickers, hats, and t-shirts.)

Jesus, the Disciples, and even the Apostle Paul never tried to change hearts by political action, nor did they try to legislate morality in the Roman world. They were too busy preaching “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Yet American Christianity is too busy to preach the Gospel because they are so enamored and preoccupied with worldly politics.

Let me ask you, how many people do you expect to see in heaven because of your political efforts? Is God more glorified through the preaching of His Son, or through the preaching of the benefits and virtues of the latest political flavor of the month?

I’d like to conclude by clarifying what this missive is NOT about. Unfortunately I must do this because blogging experience has taught me that my words will be misunderstood and even twisted to create arguments that I never advanced:

– I am NOT against attending (or even hosting) Independence Day parties and BBQs; I’m simply saying that worldly celebrations should not be mingled (and ultimately eclipse) Jesus Christ on the Lord’s Day (or any other day for that matter).

– I do NOT rejoice at seeing what America has come to. I do NOT like when bad things happen to it. I am terribly sad to see what it has become and am angered when it is attacked. It still hurts to ponder the events of 9/11.

– I do NOT hate this country. This is the country of my birth and I have always been happy to live here. I still get teary-eyed during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner and Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA.

I love what this country was, but am grieved by what it’s become. The country we have today is not the country that was founded by this nation’s forefathers, and there’s nothing you or I can do to stop or reverse the condition we find ourselves in. Instead, I urge you to return to your first love, the Lord Jesus Christ. Turn your affections once again to Him, His Church, and to the work of building up His kingdom—not by worldly Dominionst means—but by making disciples.

We should be identified first and foremost by our religion, not our politics. And our ultimate allegiance should not be to a political party, a flag, or a nation, but to the Lamb of God who is worthy to receive honor, and glory, and power, forever and ever, Amen.

See also: Has the Religious Right lost its voice in American politics?

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