Like so many of you, I am extremely thankful to live in America. I am thankful for the freedom and liberties that we are able to enjoy. I am thankful for our founding Fathers who had a vision to build a free nation and who sacrificed so much to provide it for us. I am grateful for the men and women who have served in our military. My father was a WWII veteran and I have always been extremely proud of that. I am also thankful for the policemen who daily put their lives in jeopardy in order to help to preserve these liberties. Today we celebrate our freedom.
But I am also burdened about America and the direction it is headed. No, I am not going to get political; I have never felt that the pulpit was the place for that. Where I want us to focus is on the moral decay that is taking place in our country and what you and I, as followers of Jesus Christ, can do about it.
In the early 1800’s, a French philosopher named Alexis de Tocqueville, visited America and later wrote this – “If America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” The goodness he spoke of was not a natural goodness, but the righteousness that came out of the American church. The church of Jesus Christ has a vital role in the freedom and the future of our country.
It says in the book of Proverbs –
Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
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I. Sin Is a Reproach To Any People
What is sin? That’s a good question. Simply stated, sin is ‘missing the mark.’
In the book of Judges we read of – “Seven hundred of Benjamin’s warriors were left-handed, each of whom could sling a rock and hit a target … without missing.” The phrase ‘without missing’ is closely related to the same word often translated as sin. These men could throw a stone and not miss the target. Sin, on the other hand, is missing the target. According to the Bible, sin is anything and everything that misses the mark of God’s righteousness.
The Bible tells us that sin is a ‘reproach’ to a nation. The word ‘reproach’ means shame. One translation says – “sin is a disgrace to any people.”A lot has changed over the last 50 or 60 years and one of the most dramatic changes that has taken place is our loss of a sense of shame. There is no shame shown in much of our entertainment. Even many Christians are willing to go to R-rated movies that contain profanity and nudity and the phrase, ‘Oh my God!’ has become so common that we abbreviate it – OMG. There is no shame in how we dress. There is no shame in how men conduct business. Business on Wall Street is often conducted like business on the back street. There is no shame in how we dishonor God’s covenant of marriage and the home. Many today openly flaunt a sinful lifestyle. To put it in biblical terms, ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’ (Romans 3:18)
Yet the Bible says – “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness…” (Is 5:20) Though public opinion may have shifted, God’s standard of righteousness hasn’t.
There are two ways that sin will bring reproach upon a nation. First of all, it will cause God to give us up.
Romans 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
To say that God ‘gave them up’ means that He withdrew His righteous influence from upon their lives and therefore as a result, their depraved hearts went wild. Many say that God is going to judge America for its sin. Brethren, the explosion of sin over the last 50 years is an indication that God is already judging us. The first step of God’s judgment is God giving us up to sin and according to Isaiah 30:1, allowing us to – ‘add sin to sin’.
Paul describes three things that will happen when God gives a nation up to sin. The first step is filthy living. (Uncleanness) The second step is – ‘vile affections.’ Paul describes these vile affections: “26 …for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly…” Lastly, God gives them over to a reprobate mind. A reprobate mind is an unfit mind. It is a thought process that is totally rejected by God. One translation says – “God … abandoned them to their evil minds…”
A similar time is described in the early chapters of Genesis. Just before the flood, God said – “My spirit shall not always strive with man…” The word strive can mean – ‘to plead a cause.’ God will not always plead with a nation to turn back. He will give them up to live a reproachful lifestyle and then He will reproach them for the lives they have lived. By the way, Jesus said, “as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.” (Luke 17:26)
II. Righteousness Exalteth
Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
A. How Will Righteousness Exalt a Nation?
1. Exalt us with godly character
It’s not hard to imagine how a nation filled with men and women of righteous character would be better than a nation filled with those who are sinful. Tocqueville said – “If America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” The Bible says, “Righteousness exalteth a nation…”
2. Exalt us with God’s care
What kind of nation will God bless? The answer is simple. We read in Pr 15:9 “The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness.”
B. How Will We Become Righteous?
1. We are not naturally righteous on our own
We are not naturally righteous on our own. If we think that we’re going to send someone to Washington that is going to legislate righteousness, we’re sadly mistaken. We read in Romans 3:10, “…There is none righteous, no, not one.” Men and women are not righteous on their own. The Bible tells us that the “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jer 17:9)
After coming to America and seeing it first hand, Tocqueville wrote, “I searched for the greatness of America in her commodities and it was not there. I sought for it in her Congress and Constitution, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.”
2. God must produce righteousness in us
a. We must be clothed in the righteousness of His saving grace
Isaiah 61:10 “… he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.” The problems we see in America today are the results of sinful hearts. As we see on the nightly news, it doesn’t matter if a man is lying drunk in the gutter or is wearing a $500 suit, without salvation, men will not live righteously on their own. They must be born-again.
b. We must be taught God’s righteous principles
We read in Psalm 19:8 NAS – “The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” My burden and vision for this church is that we teach men and women, boys and girls, how to live the Christian life. We lead them to salvation in Jesus Christ and then we teach them how to live the Christian life. That’s our sole purpose and it’s an enormous task. But if we will be diligent to do our part and the next church down the road will be diligent to do its part, America can be brought back to once again become a righteous nation. It will not come from Congress or our commodities. It will come only through the church.
C. Who Will We Be the Righteous?
Tammy and I have tried to teach our daughters that God will always have a remnant. Elijah was one of the prophets during the days of Israel’s downfall. At one point, Elijah became very discouraged because he believed that he was the only one trying to take a stand. Yet the LORD told Elijah – “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal…” (1 Kings 19:18) Seven thousand men and women who still loved the LORD.
Personally I believe that the reason God is holding back much of His judgment today is because there are still many godly men and women across this great country that love Him. Yet dear brethren, God does not want us to hide in the shadows. One of the problems with the church today is that so many of us have given up on our culture and are praying for the rapture.
During the 120 years Noah was building the ark, the Bible says that he was a ‘preacher of righteousness.’ Until the day that God took Noah and his family into the ark and closed the door, Noah pleaded with his friends and neighbors to turn to God.
Nothing has the power to change a nation like the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It alone can change a man’s heart. It alone can change what he loves. It alone can change how he lives. It alone can change who he is. It alone can change our nation.
Centuries before our forefathers first stepped foot on our shores, God laid out a plan. ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’ That’s still the plan. If our church and churches like us all across America, will do what God has told us to do, it will change our nation. Fulfilling God’s Great Commission will cause God to once again exalt our nation!