Sermon delivered at Grace Presbyterian Church, October 22, 2000

Dealing With Dangerous Elements Around Us
Reforming the World -- Sermon #3
by Pastor Bob Burridge 2000
Romans 13:3-4

There have always been some who would like to threaten our rights and peace.

When we were children, they were the bullies, and the mean-spirited or selfish kids. They didn't believe that behaving and obeying the rules would benefit them. Often they didn't think they could measure up to others so they took what they couldn't earn. They had followers or gangs, not friends. Some were loners and didn't have anyone. They seem to love feeling powerful, even if that feeling came by hurting others.

We had Tommy Roach. He was a troubled boy in our neighborhood who didn't get along. I don't know what his family was like. I was never invited in to get to know them. But he didn't respect the other kids on the street. Even after they had tried to be nice to him. He seemed to be inclined toward being destructive and mean.

One day he climbed up on the roof of the garage next door and started pelting stones down into our yard. By itself that wouldn't be a very serious problem. But my friend Wayne and I happened to be in the yard at the time! When I looked up at him a stone caught me right square in the forehead. It hit just right and I fell down stunned ... out cold. No permanent damage thankfully.

As I came to, evidently just seconds later, my friend Wayne was kneeling next to me. His hand was on my shoulder but his eyes were fixed on Tommy. The attacker scrambled down into the yard behind us and ran away as fast as he could. Wayne said to me, "stay down, keep faking, you've got him really scared." Well, I wasn't faking. The huge bump and gash on my forehead was proof of the damage. My wound healed. But I don't know how Tommy Roach finally turned out.

When we're young, kids like that may throw stones, try to take our baseball cards or pick fights. But they grow up to break the law if they don't change. They hurt others in more serious ways. They steal, terrorize, cheat, or even kill. They take away our outward peace and security. Thankfully many do turn around. But many continue to have no respect for others.

Both our own communities and the world at large can be dangerous places. Terrorists have attacked our embassies, our ships, and burned our flag in defiance. Nations go to war and violence breaks out as people die in violent confrontations. Our children are bringing guns to school and using them to kill. Our homes are broken into, and shoppers are mugged in parking lots.

But God has provided a means for keeping the peace and protecting potential victims. He has instituted governments and civil authorities.

The Declaration of Independence says,

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

God's word confirms the basic truths of this statement.
We have these foundational rights because God has said so.

1st - It bases our rights upon the admission that there is a Creator.
Obviously that means different things to different people. Nevertheless its true, given what the Bible tells us is truth as God sees it.

2nd - There are basic truths which are self evident.
This is true regardless of who might try to deny them.

3rd - There are no special people by creation.
We are all made in the image of God to display his glory and represent him in his world. We are all descended from Adam. There are no other lines of human races. We are equally required to obey, worship and glorify God. And we are equally fallen from our natural ability to do so.

4th - There are certain human rights which are unalienable since God grants them.
They are ...

There is the Right to Life - The 6th commandment says literally, No Murder. The unjust killing of any human is a wicked attack upon the image of God. Some out of jealousy, selfishness or unbridled anger show no respect for human life. They callously kill the unborn while protecting convicted brutal murderers from execution.

Then there is the Right to Liberty - Some would take away our liberties to obey our own conscience before the Lord. Some would make us do what is immoral or forbidden. Such as forcing tax supported hospitals to perform abortions, or for businesses and churches to recognize homosexual unions as if they were marriages. and some would forbid us from doing or even believing what God demands of us. Such as praying when our community gathers for public events, or teaching our children a sound moral foundation in our tax supported schools, or believing God's word that certain sexual life-styles are immoral.

Finally there is the Right to the Pursuit of Happiness - We are to enjoy the fruits of our labor, God's blessings. The 8th commandment says literally: No Stealing. Some steal our belongings, income or property, or cheat us out of what God gives us.

One of the primary purposes for organizing people into nations under a government is .... to protect us from criminals who would violate the rights endowed by our Creator. Romans 13 -- explains the duties God gives to governments.

  1. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same;
  2. for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.

The job of Governments to maintain civil order operates at two levels: Its to defend us from attacks by foreign powers, and by criminals in our own neighborhoods.

On the national level: the lives, liberties and properties of our nation's people are to be defended. When foreign nations or groups of terrorists threaten these endowments of God, we need to join together to defend ourselves as a country. Self defense at the national level is carried out by our military and federal leaders. As our text says, they do not bear the sword in vain.

Today there are unbiblical policies that threaten our nation's security: A wrong idea of the military's mission can compromise its effectiveness. We need to keep our national defense focused on protecting our national interests. If we underfund our military or spend allocations in the wrong way, we leave ourselves vulnerable to the thieves and terrorists of the world. Beyond immediate threats to our peace and security, there are other things we can do to help needy nations, but that's not a military mission.

The prime work of government is the protection of our divine endowments. But its not only the military that can help other countries to value God's principles. God uses missionary work to change hearts and teach his law.

Isaiah 52:7 How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation ..."

Its the work of businesses to keep economic profits in line with morality in their trade practices. Its the work of diplomats to look for possible ways to promote a sound peace without war and without compromise of our standards and convictions. Its the work of individuals to help our neighbors in the world toward these peaceful end.

Another temptation to imagine that material power alone protects us. We need to remember that a nation's security does not lie in its military, economy or diplomats. These are means God uses. But it is our Sovereign Lord alone who defends us. Morality and faith are the foundation of a strong nation

God's word warns us where we should and should not put our national trust.

Psalm 20:7 Some boast in chariots, and some in horses; But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.

KJV says

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

Actually there is no verb in the first part at all. The verb in the second part which is translated boast in the NASB, is zakar. That's the Hebrew word for remember or call to mind as the KJV puts it.

The grammar of the Hebrew sentence is what ties these two parts together. It means, When we look to what the name of the Lord represents, we find what horses and chariots can't provide for us.

In the covenant book of Deuteronomy, 17:16, God warns each king that he "shall not multiply horses to himself..."

In 20:1 he advises nations saying,

"When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD our God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you."

Chariots, horses and large armies are not evil things in themselves, God uses them. But we should not to put our trust in them. Horses may falter, chariots break down. or in more modern terms: Our Jets may be shot down, our missiles may miss their target, helicopters may crash, or our tactical plans may some day prove inadequate.

The success of all our technology and planning is in the hands of a Holy and Sovereign God. By editorial coincidence (which is of course truly by providence) the mathematically middle verse of English Bible is

Psalm 118:8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.

A godless society will eventually crumble by the weight of its own corruption as God judges her.

Micah 5:10 "it will be in that day, declares the LORD, that I will cut off your horses from among you and destroy your chariots"

Haggai 2:22 warns and I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another."

The great and powerful empire of Rome imprisoned Peter and Paul and dared to crucify Jesus. But now its just a memory of ancient history. Along with it, the great empires of Egypt, Babylon, Syria, Persia, Media, Greece and more recently the Third Reich, The Japanese Empire, and the Soviet Union, are all gone. They boldly flexed their muscles with pride in their great resources. But today they have vanished from the earth, fallen by their own corruption.

Its God's blessing on a nation, when it embraces civil order as Scripture defines it, that keeps her secure from her enemies.

On the domestic level citizens need to be protected from criminals. Its the duty of law enforcement officers and courts to maintain our unalienable rights. They are to protect the citizens against criminals. Crime needs to be answered by swift and severe but just punishments.

But modern criminal law is trying to maintain order without having a biblical foundation. Our modern view of family, law and morality has brought us ... shootings on the highways, and dangerous neighborhoods. It's even turned our children into killers and victims.

Criminal law has followed some misdirections that have gotten off its divinely prescribed course.

1st - The court system needs to fairly and consistently uphold God's civil laws.
Law breakers should not be easily set free on technical loopholes when there is sound evidence that they committed the crime. The Bible requires that thieves must make full restitution to the injured parties, including payment for the inconveniences caused by the crime. Capital offenders must never be set free on society. Executions are tragic occasions but ought to be carried out when legally warranted. Simplistic attempts to deny human fault by placing blame on technology, weapons, movies or TV will never solve the real problem that makes people commit crimes and kill.

2nd - Civil laws must be limited to true crimes, not against politically incorrect thought.
Law not based on a solid moral foundation can become a tool of terrorism in the hands of ungodly people in power. Penalties like fines, cancellation of contracts, or loss of tax exemption are being used to pressure groups to adopt anti-christian positions. Its tragic that city councils threaten hospitals to perform abortions against their convictions.

According to World magazine, California Governor Gray Davis has just signed a law to promote tolerant thought in the schools. It makes acts motivated by wrong thought into legal offenses that should be reported to the Department of Justice. But what is wrong thought? This appreciation of diversity program includes teaching acceptance of homosexuality. All school children from Kindergarten up will be taught that its bigotry to believe that homosexuality is a sin. Students who are taught that way at home or church would be considered at risk and must be referred to a counselor for correction of his thoughts. The law criminalizes childish taunts on the playground.

A child calling someone a name could be reported to state law enforcement officers. Christian clubs believing that homosexuality is a sin, or teachers that believe that way, could be barred from school grounds. Such teachers could be put out of public schools. Possibly, any private school receiving tax exemption from the state (which includes most private and Christian schools) could be denied their license to operate. This same kind of legislation could remove tax exemption from all churches that teach the biblical view of homosexuality. If required to pay back property taxes for previous years it could cost a small church hundreds of thousands of dollars and close them down.

Our hearts and beliefs are not the territory civil governments are authorized to rule. Our convictions and conscience are to be led by God's word. That is the office of parents and elders in the church.

This takes hate crime laws to a more invasive level. Certainly hatred is wrong. It should be opposed strongly, even the obvious hatred of Christian values shown so clearly in these laws. But civil governments are only authorized to judge people's actions, not their beliefs.

Defense against crime and foreign aggression is the biblical duty of civil governments. We need to seek leaders who will responsibly guard our security, while not neglecting the importance of personal morality for all our citizens.

Reducing crime in the heart is God's work through godly individuals and churches, not Governments.

We must do what God requires of us as families, friends and church. We train our children by lessons from God's word and by godly examples. This includes the examples we expose them to in the media: movies, TV, books and music. Children primarily grow into the image of what they see in others. To tell them what lawful respect of others is like is not effective if they don't see what that looks like. They need to know what to do that is right and good, not just what to avoid as wrong. They need to know how to react and what to do when they do wrong. Otherwise we leave them open for the traps of their fallen souls. They must know they answer to God first and that he lovingly restores those who repent and who make things right with those they victimize, or they are prime candidates for criminal lives.

The Josephson Institute has released an alarming report: Its called the 2000 Report Card on Ethics of American Youth -- by Michael Josephson. Their findings show "shocking levels of moral illiteracy" -- it reveals "a hole in the moral ozone" Their scientific survey of 8,600 high school students nationwide in the past year shows:

But God has given us the power of the gospel.

It can bring about amazing changes ...
This past summer Dion Marshall became pastor of Sandlick PCA Church in rural Southwest Virginia. He was unanimously approved by our Westminster Presbytery. At age 25 he was sent to San Quentin maximum-security prison convicted of armed robbery. There, he heard the gospel during a chapel service and later he attended a prison Bible study led by a reformed chaplain and students from Westminster Seminary. When he was released his life had been changed. He attended the Westminster Seminary and was ordained a PCA Pastor. He and his wife Michelle and their two children now serve the Lord faithfully.

Those convicted of doing wrong, will some day have served their fair time and will be released. Very little in the prison system itself can keep those released back into society from again being dangerous felons. There are many repeat offenders. We need to reach out to change their hearts not just to lock them up. Some who started out as dangerous sinners became God's powerful leaders. We need to pray for soundly biblical chaplains and Christian prison workers.

A Nation striving to live within the moral limits set by God in his word will be blessed. She will not be prefect and she will not in this world be exempt from wars and crime. But she will have the security of God's promise to see her through.

But our security will not be found in chariots & horses, or in armies and police departments. Our freedoms will not be ensured by economic independence and prosperity. Our children will not become moral or safe simply by passing laws or having a strong military. Laws are important means for limiting crime. Armies and police are important too. But the success of any means, will depend upon the states of hearts and strength of moral conscience.

Our duty in preparing the next generation is summarized in ...

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

This is no guarantee that every child raised well will turn out well, Nor is it a warning that all who are raised irresponsibly well will never turn to Christ. But its a promise that the word of God will never be eradicated from his conscience. Its our children's best hope and its rooted in the covenant promises of God. Its our nations future hope as the next generation is prepared for leadership and citizenship.

It doesn't begin with who we elect. It begins with us who elect them. "We the people". We need to be the ready tools of God's love toward the Tommy Roaches of our world that they would be transformed by the Gospel. And may all the rest of our children, put their hope not in their loving upbringing, but in the grace and promises of God that blessed them with good homes.

Only godly people can hope for a secure nation and safe neighborhoods. So as we vote, as we live -- we can't afford to do anything that is not above all to the glory of God.

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