March 16, 2015 Leave a comment
April 2, 2014 Leave a comment
What would you call it if a person walked up, pointed a gun at you, and demanded your money?
What if three guys did it? Would it be something else?
Of course not, it’s still robbery.
Okay, but suppose you live in a town of 100 people and 75 of them got together and agreed to send three guys to your house with guns to take your possessions. What’s that?
Well, how many of them would have to get involved before taking your stuff was justified? 80? 90? 99? What?
That’s silly. It doesn’t matter how many people agree to steal my stuff — it’s still robbery.
What if they gave you a vote?
But suppose they came and took your possessions and, after pawning it off, took the proceeds and fed some hungry people in the neighborhood. Would that justify their actions?
Of course not, robbery is robbery regardless of what you do with the stolen property.
All of those scenarios were robbery — and easily understood as wrong — yet we blindly accept this kind of robbery in America every day. Many of us enthusiastically support it.
We just call it taxes.
The federal government of the United States — the worst offender — confiscates huge portions of our money every year and gives it away based upon their discretion. And, should we refuse to pay, the “authorities” would eventually show up at our door to take our money or our freedom by force. We are robbed, quite literally, at the point of a gun.
Now, I know what many of you are probably thinking… the Bible tells us to always submit to the government. No. I contend the Bible tells us to render to people what is legitimately theirs and to submit to legitimate authorities. You see, everything that Caesar claims is his is not his. And, when you boil it all down to the basics, most taxation is, in fact, the same thing as theft. A majority vote does not justify it.
So, why draw this comparison at all? Because it’s tax time in America and many of us have become conditioned to think it is our “patriotic duty” to fork over our hard-earned money to the ones holding a gun on us.
It’s really no different than a mob boss sending thugs around the neighborhood collection protection money. The mob boss wants you to pay for services you neither asked for nor needed. And, he is prepared to use force and intimidation to make you “accept” his services.
The federal government is just like this. The Internal Revenue Service is a master at intimidation and is dispatched every year at this time to collect money from us for services we neither asked for nor need. In fact, most of us have voiced our objection to these “services” over and over again — the propagandized “Affordable Care Act” being the most recent and egregious example.
But, this sort of extortion is nothing new. It might be comforting to know that people throughout history have had to deal with this sort of thing.
Augustine of Hippo, a Christian theologian and apologist who lived in the 4th and 5th centuries, commented on this very thing in his book, the City of God…
“Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a vast scale? What are criminal gangs but petty kingdoms? A gang is a group of men under the command of a leader, bound by a compact of association, in which the plunder is divided according to an agreed convention. If this villainy wins so many recruits from the ranks of the demoralized that it requires territory, establishes a base, captures cities and subdues peoples, it then openly arrogates to itself the title of ‘kingdom,’ which is conferred on it in the eyes of the world, not by the renouncing of aggression but by the attainment of impunity. For it was a witty and a truthful rejoinder, which was given by a captured pirate to Alexander the Great. The king asked the fellow, ‘What is your idea, in infesting the sea?’ And the pirate answered, with uninhibited insolence, ‘The same as yours, in infesting the earth! But because I do it with a tiny craft, I’m called a pirate; because you have a mighty navy, you’re called an emperor.’”
So, why even bring any of this up? Because, as Christians we need to understand that wicked men will always try to plunder what they can, whether they wear the title, “emperor” or “pirate,” “mob boss” or “president.” From time-to-time all of them step beyond their legitimate authority and engage in criminal behavior. And when they do we need to stop pretending that one is any better than the other. None of them are worthy of our devotion and loyalty.
And it is to His Kingdom we need to turn our attention.
So, where does this leave us on the question of the proper attitude toward taxes? Should we pay them or not? Should we only obey governments that are legitimate? Should we always resist governments that are illegitimate? What do we do?
It depends on what will bring glory and honor to our King.
Sometimes it honors God to defy the illegitimate laws of men, just as the apostles did when they refused to obey the order of the Sanhedrin to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. Sometimes it honors God to comply with an illegitimate law — and Scripture provides the perfect example…
“So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’ When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, ‘Crucify him crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, ‘You will not speak to me? Do you now know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.'” — John 19:5-11
If ever there was a situation where a government had zero authority over someone it is when Jesus stood before Pilate. Christ is the supreme lawgiver — holy and righteous. He is the rightful judge of all those who judged him and yet he allowed himself to be placed under their power — subjecting himself to sinners. Why?
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” — Philippians 2:5-8
Those men had no right to judge Christ, but Christ was not concerned with his own rights. He was not concerned with the injustice of his situation. He was concerned only with the glory of his Father in heaven.
John recorded an instance where Jesus taught his disciples about his purpose.
“I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” — John 14:30-31
Note that Jesus points out the “ruler of this world” has no claim on him yet he is going to do as the Father has commanded so that “the world may know” that he loves the Father.
Jesus was sent to this earth for a purpose. Not to defend his own rights against an unjust empire, but to accomplish the will of his Father. Likewise, we are saved for a purpose. Not to defend our own rights against a wicked and sinful generation, but to accomplish the will of our Father. Illegitimate governments and the wicked men who run them have no claim on us — but we do as the Father has commanded.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” — Ephesians 2:10
We need to remember that God’s will for us is that we always bring glory to Him. And that should be our guiding principle in life.
In fact, we should rarely, if ever, concern ourselves with the legitimacy of earthly laws. If they are legitimate then they will be completely consistent with God’s higher law and our obedience to them will stem from our obedience to God. If they are illegitimate we may or may not be obedient to them — depending on what will glorify our Father in heaven.
October 11, 2013 2 Comments
Christians are prone to despair. If we are not careful, we can allow the circumstances of this world to weigh heavily on us. Politics, economics, culture and all manner of worldly ills can dominate our thoughts and push the cross of Christ from our minds. In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul provided the proper perspective for dealing with this dilemma.
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. — Philippians 3:17-21
Before you say “amen” and go on about your day, I invite you to consider the full import of that statement. What does it mean to have our citizenship in heaven?
In a sermon delivered on October 12, 1862 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England, Charles Haddon Spurgeon outlined from this text just what it means to have our citizenship in heaven. His conclusions are as accurate as they are shocking.
1. We are aliens in this world.
The first idea which is suggested by the verse under consideration is this — if our citizenship is in Heaven, the WE ARE ALIENS HERE; we are strangers and foreigners, pilgrims and sojourners in the earth, as all our fathers were.
2. We must behave as aliens.
Since we are aliens, we must remember to behave ourselves as aliens should, and by no means come short in our duty.
3. Aliens are affected by the country in which they reside.
We are affected by the position of our temporary country. A person trading in New York or Boston, though a freeman of the city of London, will find himself very much affected by the trade of the United States — when the merchants of his city suffer, he will find himself suffering with them, the fluctuations of their money market will affect his undertakings, and the stagnation of commerce will slacken his progress. He will suffer as that nation suffers; that is to say, not as a citizen, but as a trader.
4. Christians, likewise, will suffer while residing in a world of suffering.
And so we, in this country, find that though we are strangers and foreigners on earth, yet we share all the inconveniences of the flesh. No exemption is granted to us from the common lot of manhood. We are born to trouble, even as others, and have tribulation like the rest.
5. Christians will also benefit when the world benefits.
When God in mercy scatters liberally with both His hands the bounties of His Providence, we take our share, though we are aliens, yet we live upon the good of the land, and share in the tender mercies of the God of Providence.
6. Christians do have a limited interest in the world.
Therefore we have to take some interest in it; and the good man, though he is a foreigner, will not live even a week in this foreign land without seeking to do good among the neighbors with whom he dwells!
7. A Christian’s primary interest is to represent his own country (heaven) to those around him.
We must do our utmost while we are here to bring men to Christ, to win them from their evil ways, to bring them to eternal life, and to make them, with us, citizens of another, and a better land; for, to tell the truth, we are here as recruiting sergeants for Heaven! We are here to give men the enlisting money, to bind upon them the blood-red colors of the Savior’s service, to win them to King Jesus, that, by-and-by, they may share His victories after having fought His battles.
8. Christians must guard against becoming too deeply involved in the affairs of other countries.
Seeking the good of the country as aliens, we must also remember that it behooves aliens to keep themselves very quiet. What business have foreigners to plot against the government, or to intermeddle with the politics of a country in which they have no citizenship?
I cannot say that I delight in political Christians; I fear that party-strife is a serious trial to believers, and I cannot reconcile our heavenly citizenship with the schemes of the hustling and the riot of the polling booth. You must follow your own judgment here, but for my part, I am a foreigner even in England, and as such I mean to act! We are simply passing through this earth, and should bless it in our transit, but never yoke ourselves to its affairs.
An Englishman may happen to be in Spain — he wishes a thousand things were different from what they are, but he does not trouble himself much about them. He says, “If I were a Spaniard I would see what I could do to alter this government but, being an Englishman, let the Spaniards see to their own matters. I shall be back in my own country by-and-by, and the sooner the better.”
9. Christians are to have this very same attitude toward the world around them.
So with Christians here; they are content very much to let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth; their politics concern their own country, they do not care much about any other. As men they love liberty, and are not willing to lose it even in the lower sense; but, spiritually, their politics are spiritual, and as citizens they look to the interest of that Divine republic to which they belong, and they wait for the time when, having patiently borne with the laws of the land of their banishment, they shall come under the more beneficent sway of Him who reigns in Glory, the King of kings, and Lord of lords!
In this sermon Spurgeon addresses many more issues concerning the Christian’s alien status in this world, including…
- Serving in the world’s evil causes
- Accepting the honors of the world
- Hoarding this world’s treasures
- Submitting to Heaven’s government
- Sharing in Heaven’s honors
- Having common rights in all the property of Heaven
And so, the question to us is this: How do we regard the passage in Philippians? Do we view it as nothing more than an encouraging maxim that gives us an emotional lift while we deal the our “real world” problems? Or, do we really see ourselves as citizens of another country — as aliens here? How we answer these questions will have a profound impact on how we live our lives. It really is the choice between two completely different lives.
Which do you choose?
August 27, 2013 Leave a comment
Hurrah for the flag of the free! May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea, The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day, When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray, That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.
— lyrics from The Stars and Stripes Forever
When Moses was leading Israel through the wilderness, Amalek attacked them. Moses ordered Joshua to choose some men and go fight Amalek. Moses said he would stand on the top of a hill with the staff of God in his hand. During the battle, whenever Moses held up his hand Israel prevailed. Whenever he lowered it Amalek prevailed. As fatigue grew in Moses, Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one man on each side of him. In this way Moses’ hands remained elevated and Israel overwhelmed Amalek on the battlefield.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD Is My Banner…” — Exodus 17:14-15a
This name of God “Jehovah Nissi” — The LORD Is My Banner — is no incidental thing. Moses is that generation’s visible mediator between them and God. He is a type of Christ. In his declaration, “The LORD Is My Banner,” he is making a clear statement on behalf of the people he represents.
Don’t forget, the banner of any people is the thing around which they rally. On the battlefield it was (and is) their focal point. It was their entire identity. From their banner a people draw their worth.
Moses has declared that God, Himself, is the Banner of these people. God is their sole identity. He is their defender, sustainer and their inheritance. Their identity is that they are God’s Chosen People.
This is an exclusive relationship.
You can only have one banner.
Oh, it may be possible to identify with more than one banner for a while. If you have an ally in a cause, as the U.S. did in World War II, you can have a sort of joint allegiance. Americans could take refuge around the Union Jack, the banner of the British, because the British were fighting alongside Americans with the same objectives. But allegiances change. Don’t forget, it was from the British that Americans had to wrest their liberty through a long and bloody conflict. Today’s allies can be tomorrow’s enemies. So, ultimately it really is possible to have only one allegiance.
But, some may want to argue that it is possible, and even honorable, to serve “God and Country.” This is a common conviction among many Christians. It is especially common among evangelicals in the United States where religion and patriotism have become so intertwined as to be almost indistinguishable.
But, if you claim Jesus as your Lord, then you might want to seriously reconsider His words…
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” — Matthew 6:24
Jesus doesn’t say you “shouldn’t” serve two masters. He says you “can’t.”
Besides, evidence is mounting that suggests the kingdom represented by the Star-Spangled Banner is no longer an ally of Jehovah Nissi. In fact, the kingdom represented by the Star-Spangled Banner is daily placing itself at odds with the Kingdom of God, as these stories clearly illustrate.
I believe the day is fast approaching when the rulers of this earthly kingdom will demand you rally around one banner or the other (and I’m not the only one who thinks so). Don’t wait for them to make such a demand — rally around your banner today.
For me the decision is already made. I appeal to Scripture and allow the book of Joshua to express my thoughts on the matter…
“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” — Joshua 24:14-15
Despite the claims of John Phillip Sousa in “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” ultimately every banner will end up on the dust heap of history — every banner except one…
…and around this last banner will rally a people from every tribe, nation, and tongue to the glory of God alone.
July 1, 2013 1 Comment
Every July 4th, Americans commemorate America’s independence from England. It is an occasion worthy of celebration. In the history of the world there are far too few instances where individuals have come together to throw off the shackles of tyrants.
When the colonists drafted the Declaration of Independence, they listed the string of abuses committed by King George III of England and his government agents. Contained in that list were references to high, confiscatory taxes, being forced to house British soldiers, being forced to allow soldiers into ones home to search for… well… whatever they wanted to search for, and just generally being treated as a kingdom asset to be used at the king’s discretion instead of as a free individual.
But, too many Americans will make the mistake of assuming, since they are free from England’s tyranny, that they are free from all tyranny. This is just not the case. In fact, America now exists in an increasing state of tyranny that (in many cases) exceeds the tyranny of King George III. Consider…
- Americans now pay higher tax rates than did the colonists under King George III.
- The U.S. government is actively seeking to curb (and even eliminate) a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms.
- The U.S. government collecting the private information of citizens without their consent and without warrants. A practice that a former member of the Stasi (the East German secret police) says will be used against citizens.
- The U.S. president now regularly issues decrees (in the form of “executive orders”) that carry the weight of law.
- U.S. government agencies (the IRS) are used to intimidate political enemies of the president.
This list, which goes on and on, provides crystal clear evidence of one inescapable truth: America is free from England, but America is not free.
All of this reminds me of a line from the movie, “The Patriot.” Mel Gibson’s character, Benjamin Martin, is debating with the delegates of the South Carolina legislature whether or not to join other colonies in seceding from England. He asks this question, “…why should I trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away? An elected legislature can trample a man’s rights as easily as a king can.”
In that simple question, Gibson’s character hits upon a key doctrine — one that must be properly understood if we are to ever enjoy true freedom — the doctrine of man’s depravity.
Mankind is evil. This is a fact that is clearly declared in Scripture…
“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” — Isaiah 64:6
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.” — John 3:19
“The heart is deceitful about all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it?” — Jeremiah 17:9
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” — Ephesians 2:1-3
“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All of these things come from within, and they defile a person.” — Mark 7:21-23
But, even if you don’t believe the Bible, the fact that mankind is inherent sinful is clearly observable in the world around us. Our innate selfishness, cruelty, greed, deceit, pride, foolishness is recorded throughout human history.
This fact was not lost on America’s founders. James Madison knew it, and insisted that governments only be established with precautions taken to limit the amount of power consolidated in one place.
“What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” — James Madison
Thomas Jefferson knew it and helped outline (in the U.S. Constitution) the kinds of precautions Madison was talking about…
“In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” — Thomas Jefferson
But power is addictive. And when evil men get their hands on power, they always try to accumulate more. That is why, over the course of more than 200 years, the federal government of the United States has morphed from a very small, limited government into a bloated leviathan that recognizes no limits on it’s own power.
So, where does that leave Americans who recognize this march toward totalitarianism? Where are most people (who want to reverse this trend) expending their efforts? I’ll tell you…
… In getting the “right kind of people” back into office.
This is why a proper understanding of the doctrine of man’s depravity is vitally important. We must understand there is no “right kind of people.” If you think we just need a better president, better senators, or better representatives then you are ripe for some very bitter disappointment. You are essentially saying the answer is to take enormous amounts of power out of the hands of infinitely corruptible people and put it into the hands of other infinitely corruptible people.
We’ve done that — for years.
Remember, just because a man occupies a government office does not mean he discards his sinful nature or his fleshly tendencies. Power is a strong temptation. An unregenerate man can’t be trusted with it. A regenerate man (a Christian) has been instructed by his Lord to “flee temptation” and ought to refuse such power.
We certainly have no business placing our trust — our faith — in a collection of mere men simply on the basis that they are called “the government.” Men are incapable of being better collectively than they are individually. This is why you can always count on the state to violate the rights of others, the biblical doctrine of man is in effect regardless of the number of men in the group.
So, does that mean freedom is lost for good?
No — because true freedom was never dependent upon men in the first place.
Men are slaves to sin…
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” — John 8:34
We are all helpless in our bondage to our own sin. If left to ourselves, we will always do evil. But real freedom comes when we are set free from this sinful nature that plagues us all.
“So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” — John 8:36
When God removes our heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh, capable of responding to Him, we see ourselves for who we really are. We see others for who they really are. We recognize there is only One who is worthy of the kind of devotion we too frequently give to other men because they happen to hold some office.
I feel completely free today. Not because all of the despicable things the U.S. government has been doing don’t apply to me — they do. But because I know they are on a short leash. My Lord and my God has them completely under control. They will not exercise one iota of power over me that He does not allow. He may allow them to exercise more control than I think they should, but I trust Him.
Look to Scripture. Look to history. God has allowed tyrants to reign before. But it has always been for a purpose. His beautiful plan of redemption is unfolding on the pages of history and, in the end, even the wicked deeds of tyrants will have been nothing more than the sovereign maneuvers of a Holy God.
I am free today with a freedom no man can take.
If you want freedom — I mean real freedom — don’t look to the flag…
Look to the cross.