America's Biblical Foundation    Sermon by David A. Reed at Immanuel Baptist Church – July 2, 2017

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We, as a nation, celebrate this year the 241st anniversary

of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Back in the year 1776 the 13 British colonies declared

their independence from Great Britain,

and forming a new independent nation.

 

The Declaration of Independence records the first time that our country

was referred to as the United States of America.

 

And that Declaration of Independence begins with these famous words:

 

When in the Course of human events,

it becomes necessary for one people

to dissolve the political bands

which have connected them with another,

and to assume among the powers of the earth,

the separate and equal station

to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

 

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.

 

So, this new country declared

that its independence

was based on the laws of God,

the God of the Bible.

 

And this new country declared

certain basic rightsfor all citizens

to be based on the laws of God,

the God of the Bible.

 

And in its concluding paragraph,

the Declaration of Independence says,

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world

for the rectitude of our intentions,

do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare,

That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.

 

So, the Founding Fathers appealed to God,

"the Supreme Judge of the world."

 

The Declaration's final sentence says,

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

 

So, again, they were relying on God to provide protection,

"the protection of divine Providence."

 

So, they based this Declaration strongly on the God of the Bible,

referring to Him repeatedly as "Nature's God,"

 the "Creator,"

"the Supreme Judge of the world,"

and relying on His "divine providence,"

In this way the Founding Fathers made it very clear

that this new nation was being founded

on belief in the Bible.

 

They were looking to the God of the Bible

to determine right from wrong,

to guide them in their actions,

and to bless their efforts.

 

Today, however, our country is in danger

of forgetting its foundation

and departing far from the Bible and God's laws.

 

It's not a simple matter of forgetting

like when you forget where you put your keys

or forget where you put your reading glasses.

No, it's a conscious effort

on the part of some elements in society,

to turn this country away from God

and to turn the people's hearts away from God's laws.

They have excluded the Bible from the public schools,

and they argue that the wall of separation

between church and state

means that God has no place

in our public life.

They want to make Christianity a shameful thing

that belongs only inside the walls of churches

and in private homes-not in a public place.

 

And they want to make sure

that the next generation is NOT instructed in the Bible.

They insist on teaching children their secular outlook.

They want them to leave God and the Bible

out of the picture.

 

So, it becomes a challenge for us

who still believe in God and the Bible

to defend our faith

and to practice our faith publicly.

To meet that challenge successfully,

we need to understand history:

the history of our nation and its original foundation.

 

So, my aim in this sermon today,

is to equip us

to answer those people

using the Declaration of Independence.

1 Peter 3:15 tells us to

 "sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you"

 

By talking about these things

and these words in the Declaration of Independence

that originally set up the United States of America,

we will all be in a better position

to defend our belief

that this should be a Christian nation.

And we can all better defend

our right to bring up Jesus and the Bible

in public places

like schools

and government offices

and places of employment.

 

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Now I'm not trying to pretend

that everything was hunky-dory

during the founding of this country.

 

When we were little children we may have learned

that George Washington could never tell a lie.

We may have received a sanitized version

of the beginnings of our great country.

 

I'm not trying to return to that idealized version of history.

The Bible gives us an honest look at

the history of ancient Israel

telling us how Moses messed up

and was kept out of the Promised Land.

And the Bible tells us how King David

committed adultery with Bathsheba,

and how Peter denied Christ 3 times.

We can similarly take a frank and honest view of American history.

We can face the fact that

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams ran against each other

for President of the United States.

And in the course of their political opposition to each other,

they attacked each other with words and phrases

that I would not dare to repeat from a church pulpit.

They said things about each other

far worse than anything Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton

said about each other in the heat of their campaigns.

They didn't always behave

like good Christians.

 

And a handful of the Founding Fathers held  liberal views of Scripture

that wouldn't fly

in most evangelical churches today.

 

But the vast majority of them were traditional Bible believers

at a time when even the mainline denominations

were still preaching Christ crucified, risen and coming again.

 

Some of the Founding Fathers held very strongly

to one Christian denomination

and dismissed other denominations as somehow deficient.

 

But none of that takes away from the fact

that the Bible was the foundation of government in the United States.

 

There is a mountain of evidence

that the Founding Fathers were almost unanimous

in upholding the Bible

as the basis for our laws and government.

 

==========================

The Constitution of the United States

which was written more than a decade after

the Declaration of Independence

prohibited the federal government

from establishing a religion,

But it did NOT prohibit the states

from established religion.

In fact,

part of the reason why the Founding Fathers

prohibited Congress from establishing a religion,

was BECAUSE so many of the individual states

had established churches,

and any law the U.S. Congress might pass

to establish a church

would have conflicted with the

churches established in various states.

For example,

The Congregational Church was the official state religion of Connecticut until 1818.

The Church of England was the official state church of Virginia until 1786,

the official state church of Georgia until 1789

and the official state church of South Carolina until 1790.

The Congregational Church was the official state religion

of New Hampshire until 1790.

 

In Massachusetts,

the Congregationalist churches were established

and supported by the government

 of this Commonwealth.

Everyone in Massachusetts had to pay taxes

that paid the salaries of Congregationalist pastors,

whether you were a member of a Congregationalist Church or not.

Eventually they granted exemptions

if you were a Quaker or a Baptist,

but for a couple centuries,

Massachusetts taxed citizens to pay for the churches

--until 1833.

Although no longer enforced today,

the constitutions of eight states

prohibit atheists from holding public office.

Those states are

Arkansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina,

Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

 

And if you read the Constitution of Massachusetts

you'll see it still contains the following provision,

although it has since been made obsolete by various amendments:

Article III of the Massachusetts constitution says,

"... the legislature shall, from time to time, authorize and require, the several towns, parishes, precincts, and other bodies politic, or religious societies, to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the institution of the public worship of God, and for the support and maintenance of public Protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality, in all cases where such provision shall not be made voluntarily."

 

So, if a town in Massachusetts did not voluntarily maintain a church,

the legislature was authorized to force them to do so.

================

 

How, then, can we sum up all of this history

about the role of Christianity and the Bible

in founding the United States of America?

It all adds up

to prove that this country was founded

on the Bible and Christian principles.

 

And, in a practical sense,

we can cite these historical facts,

when people tell us that our Christianity

does not belong in the public square.

 

====================

When the Declaration of Independence was signed

around today's date in 1776,

this new nation of ours

bore a striking resemblance to ancient Israel.

 

As we read in this morning's responsive reading,

the nation of Israel was founded with a set of laws

given to them by God, not by men.

After Moses led the Jews out of slavery in Egypt,

God called Moses to a mountain top.

And there He gave Moses the Ten Commandments,

as the basic law for the new nation of Israel.

And besides the Ten Commandments,

God also gave Moses more than 600 other laws

to guide that new nation

in its worship,

in its business dealings,

and in its family life.

 

Moses could say to the people of Israel,

as we read in Deuteronomy chapter 4, in verses 1 - 3

"Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe,

that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you.

2 You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

 

Moses continued in verse 5 and 6,

5 "Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'

 

7 "For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him?

8 And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?

 

So, Moses said the other nations

would wonder at the wise and righteous laws governing Israel.

 

And the same has been true of the United States of America.

 

The rest of the world has long envied

the freedom and prosperity of Americans

which we enjoy.

And we owe all of that to this nation's foundation

on belief in the God of the Bible.

 

But, the nation of ancient Israel

forgot God and stopped obeying His laws.

God punished the nation

by allowing first the Assyrians and then the Babylonians

to take the Jews into captivity.

Then He had mercy upon them,

and after 70 years captivity in Babylon,

they returned to the Promised Land.

But they resumed their disobedience.

The book of Acts tells us at Acts 7:53

that the Christian martyr Stephen

addressed his fellow Jews as those

"who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it." (Acts 7:53)

 

After that, Jerusalem was destroyed again,

this time by the Roman Empire,

and the Jews were taken captive

and scattered around the world.

 

Deuteronomy 4 goes on to say in verse 27:

"And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you."

 

Although their nation was founded on God and God's laws,

God had warned the Israelites that his blessing would be removed

and they would be severely punished

if they left God and forgot about His laws.

 

As our Declaration of Independence makes clear,

the United States of America was founded on belief in the Bible. 

Although the Founding Fathers

shared the same flaws and sinful nature

as the rest of mankind,

they looked to the Bible

as the basis for our laws and freedoms. 

And God blessed the nation, as a result.

 

Do we see the similarity

to ancient Israel?

Ancient Israel also began with God's laws,

but when they quit obeying God, He quit blessing them. 

 

1 Corinthians 10:11 says that we can learn

from what happened to ancient Israel.    It says,

"Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition,

upon whom the ends of the ages have come."

 

America should pay attention to that.

God's blessing has been on this nation

due to its Biblical foundation.

But that blessing can be removed,

just as it was removed from ancient Israel-

with disastrous results.

 

What things was Paul referring to

that befell the Israelites as examples to us?

 

Let's back up a little

to the beginning of 1st Corinthians chapter 10:

There Paul wrote:

1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

So, it was Christ

who was dealing with the ancient Israel.

It says, "That Rock was Christ."

It was Christ who accompanied the Israelites

out of Egypt and through the wilderness.

Hebrews 13:8 says,

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

1st Corinthians 10 goes on to say,

beginning with verse 5,

5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.

7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play."

8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell;

9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents;

10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

 

Has America begun to "lust after evil things as they also lusted"?

Has America today begun to "commit sexual immorality" as Israel did?

We all know the answer.

 

When the original 13 colonies in North America

declared their independence from England

and set up this new nation of the United States of America,

they had their eyes on the same God

who founded the nation of Israel.

 

And they had their eyes on the inspired Word of God,

the Holy Bible,

as the basic law of this new land.

 

But the nation of Israel forgot its foundation

and wandered far away from God and God's laws,

And the Israelites suffered greatly as a result.

 

Let this be a warning to America today.