Sunday, July 29, 2012

Meditations in John Chapter 8 – VII

Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed, John 8:34 – 36.

Those who believed in Jesus (verse 30) refused to acknowledge their slavery to sin. As Jesus pressed the issue they became more and more obstinate until their belief turned to attempted murder (verse 59). As noted in previous posts, their belief was not the belief of John 1:12 or 3:16.

Jesus’ words in verse 32 are among the most misquoted words of the Bible, misquoted because they are not fully quoted; the “truth” is found in relationship with Jesus (it is Jesus) and the freedom that Jesus speaks of is, in this context, freedom from sin. The theme of freedom and liberty in Jesus Christ is prominent in the Gospel; Paul writes that we are to stand fast in the liberty that we have in Christ (in this context freedom from the Law), and that: where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. In Christ we have been set free from sin, from the Law, and even from death; in order that we might joined to another Master, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The hope of freedom that Jesus held out to these people who were manifesting unconsummated belief in Him was rejected by them because of their self-righteousness, because of their refusal to acknowledge the fact of their slavery to sin. They claimed to be the children of Abraham, yet Abraham was justified not by what he did but by his faith in God; nor was Abraham justified because he was a descendant of Enoch, Noah, and Shem. The slave who does not recognize his slavery but maintains a fiction that he is a freeman will ever be a slave and not a son. The slaves in John Chapter 8 were going through the motions of freemen – yet remained slaves.

Those who see are blind and those who are blind see; those who separated themselves from the unwashed multitudes within Judea and Galilee, and from the Gentiles – those who considered themselves the proper judges of their fellow man – these were the ones whose belief turned to murder. Do I see myself?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Meditations in John Chapter 8 – VI

We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been in bondage to anyone…(John 8:33).

It is obvious, and yet, is it really? It is obvious that the people who spoke these words had a false sense of…of what? Security? Righteousness? Spirituality? Approbation of God? They trusted in their religious upbringing; or perhaps some of them had been irreligious at one time but then they aligned themselves with a branch of Judaism. In either case, they had never been in bondage to anyone.

We wouldn’t do that. We wouldn’t trust in our religious upbringing, would we? We wouldn’t trust in one of the many expressions of Christendom in which we have found a home. Didn’t these folk have good reasons to think as they did? The pomp and ceremony and tradition of the Temple must have been impressive. The collective memory of hundreds of years, the Law, the Prophets, the Writings, along with rabbinical teaching must have given people good reason to root their identities in a branch of Judaism. Along comes Jesus who speaks of destroying the Temple, of worshipping God in Spirit and truth, claiming to be the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Resurrection and the Life, the Good Shepherd – that does seem a bit much.

I can see myself saying, “We’ve never been in bondage!” I can see myself saying this because there have been times, and perhaps still are, when my identity has been more rooted in a movement or doctrine or manner of life than it has been rooted in Jesus Christ. It happens. Maybe it hasn’t happened to you but it sure has happened to me more than once. And during those times the idea that perhaps there is something amiss, either in me or in the movement or doctrine du jour has been an idea that I quickly put out of my mind.

So I look at these people proclaiming that they’ve never been in bondage to anyone and I see this as a warning, a warning to me that Jesus Christ will confront anything in which I attempt to root my identity - He will have none of that – and He will see whether I will admit my need for Him, whether I will lose myself in Him that I might find myself in Him.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians Chapter One: But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Meditations in John Chapter 8 – V

As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed in Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, You will become free?” John 8:30 – 32.

This doesn’t make sense. At least it doesn’t make sense to our current way of thinking. Why does Jesus say these things to those who have just expressed belief in Him? The conversation does “downhill” from here; those who believe in Him end up picking up stones to stone Jesus – couldn’t Jesus, couldn’t God incarnate, have done a bit better than alienating people who have expressed belief in Him? And how quickly He did it! In zero to sixty seconds Jesus seemingly transforms an expression of belief into hatred – I write “seemingly” because we should ask the question, “What was really there to begin with? What kind of belief were these people expressing?”

What is the problem that those who are seemingly believing in Jesus have with what Jesus is saying? The problem is that Jesus is pointing to their need of knowing the truth and of salvation from slavery to sin. The people deny their slavery to sin; they rest on their lineage, their connection to Abraham. They rest in their adherence to their form of Judaism. They make the outlandish statement that they have “never been in bondage to any man”, forgetting a little place named Egypt, forgetting the Philistines and Babylonians and Persians and Greeks, and somehow forgetting that Rome controlled Jerusalem even as they spoke the words “we’ve never been in slavery to anyone”.

As Jesus presses the issue those who have believed in Him go from being descendants of Abraham to being children of the devil – what a remarkable way of alienating people! And all because they wouldn’t confess their need of salvation, all because they pretended to be something they were not; all because they defended themselves, defended their self-righteousness, and in so doing convicted themselves of their sin and slavery to sin and need of a Savior – their denial was their confession of guilt but they couldn’t see it. And Jesus says, “Which of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?”

Jesus is saying, “Don’t you see the difference between us?” And they vehemently respond, “No! We don’t see a difference in the way You portray a difference – You are hardly holy and true in contrast to us! We do see a difference, but it is opposite of what You think – we are the ones who are free and righteous and You are the One who deserves death!” And they pick up stones to stone Jesus.

Mary Magdalene sees a difference, the Woman at the Well sees a difference, four fishermen in Galilee see a difference, the man born blind in Chapter 9 “sees” a difference; but those in the Temple, those who lives are enmeshed in religious practice, most of them do not see a difference, not the difference – which is that Jesus is God holy and righteous and that they are sinners in need of Him.

Why didn’t Jesus ease these people into this awareness? Why did He use a straightforward approach? This can seem strange to us in a society where people seldom say what they mean and in a church that is often so “seeker sensitive” that it is not sensitive to the truth of the Gospel. We fret about self-esteem when the problem, at least according to Jesus, is that we don’t have a realistic awareness of just how messed-up we are, of just how sinful we are, of how desperately we need the mercy of forgiveness of God. We have built a Tower of Babel in our collective minds, in the church and out of the church.

But lest we misunderstand, this is God speaking in John Chapter 8, and the Middle C of the Gospel is the love of God to humanity in general and to individuals in particular. This is not a preacher ranting hell fire and damnation devoid of mercy and grace; this is not one legalistic system in place of another; this is not about “I’m right and you’re wrong”; this is about the broken heart of God walking and talking on this planet, this is about the Cross and the Sin-Bearer, and this is about the Risen One speaking our name on Resurrection Morning – “Mary”.

There are some words can only God can utter – some of these words in John Chapter 8 are some of those words; and woe to the self-appointed prophet who assumes the position of God in the lives of others. God knows hearts; I don’t.

But yet, but yet…on the other hand we have no warrant to avoid the issue of sin and repentance in the Gospel, to do so is to give a sick man a sugar pill and consign him to sickness and death. Our problem, more often than not, is that we do not have the broken and bleeding heart of Jesus when we speak of such things, nor do we have His passion for self-sacrifice on behalf of others. Perhaps if I was more cognizant of my own sin that I would be better able to communicate an awareness of sin and death to others? Perhaps if I knew better the holiness of Jesus Christ I would speak to others not out of a subculture of Christianity, but out of the depths of eternity? Christianity, as most of us know it, is trendy, Christ is eternal; He is eternal because He is God.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Meditations in John Chapter 8 – IV

Then He said again to them, “I go away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.”…And He was saying to them “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins”…So they were saying to Him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “What have I been saying to you from the beginning?”…They did not realize that He had been speaking to them of the Father…So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught me”…As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. Excerpted from John 8:21 – 30.

The balance of the chapter, which we will explore in future posts, deals with what Jesus says to the many that came to believe in Him. The themes in verses 12 – 30 intensify in verses 31 – 59, but again, we’ll touch on them in future posts; however, this reminds us that the Scriptures are not to be explored and understood by driving quickly through them, but that we need to get out of the car and walk, slowly walk, stop and look and ponder…and then retrace our steps to look and ponder again. We must not presume to master the Word; we must allow the Word to master us.

These are the words of God, these words that Jesus speaks; they are words of mercy for those who will receive them and words of judgment for those who will not; the same sun that hardens the clay melts the wax. Some hear the words of an upstart rabbi, some the words of a lunatic, others hear the words of God from God Himself.

Should a patient be offended to hear a doctor say, “You have a disease that will kill you, you will die of this disease, unless you allow me to treat you”? Should a person be offended to hear God say that he has sin that is killing him, eternally killing him, and that unless he comes to God that he will die in a state of sin – and enter eternity in that condition?

How often do we want to come to God on our own terms? How often do we insist that He come to us on our terms? If we seek Him on our terms we will not find Him, for where He is going we cannot come; not by seeking Him on our terms. If Jesus is from above and we are from below, from this world, should it surprise us that His words are alien, His ways strange? Our perspective is wrecked and warped by sin and self-centeredness, the blind man in Chapter Nine will see because all he knows is blindness, but we who see…well of course we see, we are not blind and we are not as bad as all that, we need not follow this Jesus of Nazareth.

But suppose we decide to follow this Jesus, what does He require? Give us a mission, allow us to achieve a meaningful task – give us a standard to measure up to, to rid ourselves of this disease of sin and to earn our right to enter the Throne Room of the Almighty. What is this He says? We are to believe that He is I AM? But what about the task, the mission? What about the great quest to earn and prove our righteousness?

Jesus says, “Unless you believe that I AM…” Now English Bibles typically translate these two statements of Jesus in the above passage thusly: “Unless you believe that I am He”. English Bibles such as the KJV, NKJV, NASB and some others italicize the word “He”, this means that the word is not in the Greek New Testament, other English Bible translations choose not to italicize words they use that are not the Greek New Testament – they don’t disclose this to the reader. Translators add the word “He” twice to the above “I AM” statements of Jesus; but is it necessary to add the word? And might we miss something by adding the word? Bear with me, ponder with me.

Consider the motif of I AM in the entire chapter, as pointed out in a previous post Jesus begins and ends the extended passage with I AM…I AM the Light of the World; before Abraham was, I AM. In the latter statement (verse 58) the word “He” is not added by English translations with which I’m familiar; so why add it in verses 24 and 28? If it is not added in verses 24 and 28 then we must confront the same statement that Moses confronted at the Burning Bush, “I AM”. Jesus is, once again, stating that He is God. Adding the word “He” detracts from the force of Jesus’ declaration, it allows us to avert our gaze from His straightforward statement of Divinity. This entire passage is first about the fact that Jesus Christ is God, then it is about God’s desire to save us from slavery to sin, then it is about whether we will respond in a belief that results in repentance, in acknowledgment of our sin, and whether we will throw ourselves on Him and His mercy and grace in acknowledgment that Jesus Christ is God. It also shows us what happens when we do not acknowledge our sin, when we choose to consider ourselves free and independent – but central to all is the Divinity of Jesus.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Meditations in John Chapter 8 – III

You judge according to the flesh…John 8:`5a

When Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil their eyes were opened. Ever since then we have been cursed with natural sight and understanding, sin affecting the way we know and perceive ourselves, others, the world, and the universe. We live in the night but don’t know it, and without the equivalent of night-vision goggles we do not see things as they really are – and even when we do see beyond the flesh we see, as Paul says, darkly; as Lewis might say: we live in the Shadowlands.

In John Chapter 9 Jesus heals a blind man; it is a double healing for the man is not only given physical sight but also spiritual sight. As Jesus says in John 9:39 and 41: For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind…If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, “We see,” your sin remains.

The NIV’s rendering of 8:15, “You judge by human standards”, fails the reader by substituting the Greek word for “flesh” with “human standards” – an interpretive leap not designed to force the reader to contemplate the mystery of the way the word “flesh” is used throughout the Bible. It is as if the NIV itself becomes an example of judging by the flesh by insisting on reducing the text to the readily understandable – apparently the less we wrestle with the Biblical text the better off we’ll be – but how will a baby’s muscles develop if it is never allowed to do for itself?

Notice throughout John 8 Jesus’ portrayal of His relationship with the Father. How many times does Jesus reference where He came from? How many times does He refer to the Father’s sending Him? What elements of the relationship of Father and Son do you see in this passage? This passage is not to be read as a newspaper column; read it and turn the page, read it and turn the page, turn the page, turn the page, turn the page. Consider that this passage portrays the relationship of the Father and Son, it provides us entrance into a deep mystery in God – would someone visiting the Louvre hastily pass by the Mona Lisa? Yet we speed through the words of God on earth – how can this be? Perhaps it is a good example of the burden of viewing things through the eyes of flesh?

And if Jesus speaks these things to those hostile to Him, how much more does He desire to open doors of beauty to those who name Him as Lord? The Upper Room of John chapters 13 – 17 draw us deeper into the Trinity.

To those who are content to call Jesus a good man: read this passage and tell us how He can be a good man. Delusional? A liar? If Jesus isn’t telling the truth in the passage then He is either delusional or a liar for only a mad man or a liar would make the outlandish statements that Jesus is making…unless He is telling the truth.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Meditations in John Chapter 8 – II

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to Him, “You are testifying about yourself; your testimony is not true,” John 8:12 – 13.

The Pharisees and other elements of society understood what Jesus was saying, and they understood the crux of the matter; they didn’t “see” what Jesus was saying but they did understand what He was saying. In John 10:31-33 we read:

The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”

The Pharisees and others understood that Jesus was claiming to be God and they understood that the crux of the matter was the validity of Jesus’ testimony. They did not “see” what Jesus was saying, for then they would have seen that He was telling the truth, that He was God.

While followers of Jesus are called to testify about Jesus, and while a significant and wonderful element of that testimony is their relationship with Jesus (their new life in Him), the centrality of the witness is to be the testimony that Jesus gave about Himself – that He is God. He is the Bread of Life; the Light of the World; the Resurrection and the Life; the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The conflict swirling around Jesus in the Gospels centers around His claim to be God – and of the four Gospels, John’s especially presents this front and center on page after page.

Many professing Christians do not “see” what Jesus was saying about Himself. Many do not understand what Jesus was saying, many do not understand the crux of the issue. In this sense the Pharisees and others knew more than many contemporary Christians; they may not have “seen” that Jesus was God but they certainly understood what Jesus was claiming and they understood that the veracity of Jesus’ testimony was the issue.

Now of course Jesus was man also and in this we have the mystery of the Incarnation – the Word was made flesh and lived among us and we beheld His glory. But as a practical matter there are Christians who view Jesus more as a man who became God than as God who became man. The Scriptures, however, teach us that the God of Sinai is the God in the Temple in Jerusalem in John Chapter 8, and that just as God proclaimed Himself on Sinai (Exodus 34:5-7) so in the Temple God proclaims Himself as the Light of the World. In fact, throughout the Gospel of John God incarnate is proclaiming Himself – and few accept His testimony.

When Dorothy L. Sayers began writing plays based on Biblical Christian doctrine she was taken aback at the criticism she received from professing Christians; she was criticized for introducing a new teaching into the church. What was this new teaching? That Jesus is God. People who had been reciting the historic Creeds all their lives didn’t understand the words they were speaking – and when Sayers made it clear in her writing that Jesus is God they took that for a new teaching and attacked her for it.

The Pharisees and their contemporaries understood the issue.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Meditations in John Chapter 8


In Genesis the True and Living God reveals Himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; in Exodus He reveals Himself to Moses and the people of Israel. In those early passages of Scripture God reveals who He is; at the Burning Bush He is: I AM THAT I AM. The revelation of God in Christ is the focus on John Chapter 8; the Word that became flesh is proclaiming I AM. Jesus is proclaiming: I AM; and by proclaiming that He is I AM He proclaims that He is God.

Nothing less than recognition of His Divinity is acceptable to Him; God is to be acknowledged as God, not as anything or anyone less. In verse 30 many believe in Him (to be explored in a forthcoming post) but this is not the belief of John 3:16, this is rather the belief of John 2:23 and John 6:66. The belief of John 6:66 is unconsummated belief, those who turned away from Him did so because they could not accept Him as the Living Bread, the sole source of life; Jesus says, “I AM the Bread of Life” and it is too much for them. They can follow Him as a rabbi, as a teacher, they cannot follow Him as God.

John 8:12 – 59 is an inclusio, it begins and ends with the same words, the same thought. The first words of Jesus in this passage are I AM. The last words of Jesus in this passage are I AM. “I am the light of the world” begins His teaching, “I am” concludes His teaching.

This passage consists of two interchanges, the first 8:12 – 30, the second 8:31 – 59. Both are similar in focus for the focus is the proclamation of Jesus that He is God. Jesus interacts with a broad audience in the first section and a narrow audience in the second. Yet even the first audience is narrow in the sense that it represents those worshipping in the Tempe, those professing belief in God, those identifying with the Torah, with Moses, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Those in the second section are those who profess belief in Jesus…but what is the nature of that belief?

To assemble in buildings, such as the Temple, and to profess belief in a Deity is well and good as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. To assemble in buildings and acknowledge Jesus as a teacher, even as the preeminent teacher, is well and good, but it is not acknowledgment enough. Jesus presses home these points in John Chapter 8 – He insists that we acknowledge Him as God and He will accept nothing less. Will we confess anything less? Will we live in any other way? Will there be any other confession on our lips or any other testimony in our actions? As Jesus makes clear in this passage, He will not allow anything less in a disciple than a confession that the One at the Burning Bush is the One born at Bethlehem.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Emperor’s New Clothes Genesis 1:1, 26 – 27.

Here's a message I gave a few years ago around July 4, Independence Day:

            (This message was preceded by a children’s sermon on the Emperor’s New Clothes – which is included below and which you really ought to read to get the full import of the message).

The Emperor's New Clothes
by Hans Christian Andersen

Once upon a time there lived a vain emperor whose only worry in life was to dress in elegant clothes. He changed clothes almost every hour and loved to show them off to his people.
Word of the Emperor's refined habits spread over his kingdom and beyond. Two scoundrels who had heard of the Emperor's vanity decided to take advantage of it. They introduced themselves at the gates of the palace with a scheme in mind.
"We are two very good tailors and after many years of research we have invented an extraordinary method to weave a cloth so light and fine that it looks invisible. As a matter of fact it is invisible to anyone who is too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality."
The chief of the guards heard the scoundrel's strange story and sent for the court chamberlain. The chamberlain notified the prime minister, who ran to the Emperor and disclosed the incredible news. The Emperor's curiosity got the better of him and he decided to see the two scoundrels.
"Besides being invisible, your Highness, this cloth will be woven in colors and patterns created especially for you." The emperor gave the two men a bag of gold coins in exchange for their promise to begin working on the fabric immediately.
"Just tell us what you need to get started and we'll give it to you." The two scoundrels asked for a loom, silk, gold thread and then pretended to begin working. The Emperor thought he had spent his money quite well; in addition to getting a new extraordinary suit, he would discover which of his subjects were ignorant and incompetent. A few days later, he called the old and wise prime minister, who was considered by everyone as a man with common sense.
"Go and see how the work is proceeding," the Emperor told him, "and come back to let me know."
The prime minister was welcomed by the two scoundrels.
"We're almost finished, but we need a lot more gold thread. Here, Excellency! Admire the colors, feel the softness!" The old man bent over the loom and tried to see the fabric that was not there. He felt cold sweat on his forehead.
"I can't see anything," he thought. "If I see nothing, that means I'm stupid! Or, worse, incompetent!" If the prime minister admitted that he didn't see anything, he would be discharged from his office.
"What a marvelous fabric, he said then. "I'll certainly tell the Emperor." The two scoundrels rubbed their hands gleefully. They had almost made it. More thread was requested to finish the work.
Finally, the Emperor received the announcement that the two tailors had come to take all the measurements needed to sew his new suit.
"Come in," the Emperor ordered. Even as they bowed, the two scoundrels pretended to be holding a large roll of fabric.
"Here it is your Highness, the result of our labor," the scoundrels said. "We have worked night and day but, at last, the most beautiful fabric in the world is ready for you. Look at the colors and feel how fine it is." Of course the Emperor did not see any colors and could not feel any cloth between his fingers. He panicked and felt like fainting. But luckily the throne was right behind him and he sat down. But when he realized that no one could know that he did not see the fabric, he felt better. Nobody could find out he was stupid and incompetent. And the Emperor didn't know that everybody else around him thought and did the very same thing.
The farce continued as the two scoundrels had foreseen it. Once they had taken the measurements, the two began cutting the air with scissors while sewing with their needles an invisible cloth.
"Your Highness, you'll have to take off your clothes to try on your new ones." The two scoundrels draped the new clothes on him and then held up a mirror. The Emperor was embarrassed but since none of his bystanders were, he felt relieved.
"Yes, this is a beautiful suit and it looks very good on me," the Emperor said trying to look comfortable. "You've done a fine job."
"Your Majesty," the prime minister said, "we have a request for you. The people have found out about this extraordinary fabric and they are anxious to see you in your new suit." The Emperor was doubtful about showing himself naked to the people, but then he abandoned his fears. After all, no one would know about it except the ignorant and the incompetent.
"All right," he said. "I will grant the people this privilege." He summoned his carriage and the ceremonial parade was formed. A group of dignitaries walked at the very front of the procession and anxiously scrutinized the faces of the people in the street. All the people had gathered in the main square, pushing and shoving to get a better look. An applause welcomed the regal procession. Everyone wanted to know how stupid or incompetent his or her neighbor was but, as the Emperor passed, a strange murmur rose from the crowd.
Everyone said, loud enough for the others to hear: "Look at the Emperor's new clothes. They're beautiful!"
"What a marvelous train!"
"And the colors! The colors of that beautiful fabric! I have never seen anything like it in my life." They all tried to conceal their disappointment at not being able to see the clothes, and since nobody was willing to admit his own stupidity and incompetence, they all behaved as the two scoundrels had predicted.
A child, however, who had no important job and could only see things as his eyes showed them to him, went up to the carriage.
"The Emperor is naked," he said.
"Fool!" his father reprimanded, running after him. "Don't talk nonsense!" He grabbed his child and took him away. But the boy's remark, which had been heard by the bystanders, was repeated over and over again until everyone cried:
"The boy is right! The Emperor is naked! It's true!"
The Emperor realized that the people were right but could not admit to that. He thought it better to continue the procession under the illusion that anyone who couldn't see his clothes was either stupid or incompetent. And he stood stiffly on his carriage, while behind him a page held his imaginary mantle.

            On Wednesday of this week we’ll celebrate the 4th of July, Independence Day. Percentage wise few Americans will pause to consider just what Independence Day means – to most of us it is a time for cookouts, picnics, sports, games, fun and…of course…fireworks.
            Few Americans will stop and consider that the fireworks of 1776 were muskets, rifles, cannon and swords. Few will stop and consider that husbands and Dads…and in some cases women and children, were dying in a war, a revolution.
            Few of us will think about the fact that at the time of Lexington and Concord, in April 1775 when the first shots were fired in the Revolution, that we had no army, no navy, no standing army…we just had husbands, Dads, farmers and merchants and blacksmiths and carpenters and other tradesmen…few of us will think about the fact that one day in April 1775 they were going to work…and the next they were going to war.
            Fewer still, this July 4th, will consider the fundamental belief in God that most of these men and women had – both the men and women who fought for the Revolution and those who fought against it. For while it is true that some were Deists, that is they believed in s Supreme Being but didn’t think He was personally interested in the affairs of men, and that while others were Theists, which means they also believed in a God but didn’t believe in Christianity (I’m being simplistic in my descriptions), and that others were Christians of different persuasions…that the clear consensus was that there was a God who had written His laws into the hearts and consciences of women and men and girls and boys –
            There is yet at least one more thing that few people will consider this July 4th, and that is that in 1776 we declared our independence from Great Britain – while in 2007 we are a nation that has declared its independence from God.
            Being a pastor in 1776 would not have been easy for a number of reasons, not the least of which was which side – if any – of the Revolution to support and how to support it. You see, the Revolution wasn’t just an us versus them war, it was an us versus us war, a civil war between American colonists – and what a number of pastors were concerned about was rebellion against established government and where that rebellion would lead.
            Were some of those pastors here today, perhaps they would tell us that our rebellion against Great Britain ultimately led to our rebellion against God. It is a question that few will ponder this July 4th.
            It is a bit ironic that I’m saying these things in a school named for pastor Peter Muhlenberg. I wonder what he would say this morning?
            The philosophical and religious basis for the Revolution was that our Creator had written His laws on our hearts and minds and that He had established universal laws in both humanity and nature. If we, as a matter of law and policy and education and, yes, even religion, have repudiated the idea of a Creator – then we have also repudiated the moral basis for our declaration of independence of July 4, 1776 and we are now a people without a moral direction or a moral national purpose – we are a people of anarchy…which indeed we are.
            And because we are a people of moral anarchy, we are a people of spiritual anarchy… and that is why when we, as a people, are confronted with the claim of Jesus Christ to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life that we think that that can’t possibly be – for after all, there is no absolute truth…it is a matter of every woman for herself and every man for himself…
            How did we get here? How did our Revolution reach the place where it has declared its independence from God and has set itself on the throne of the universe?