Sermon title:  THIS GENERATION vs THE FOUNDING FATHERS

Matthew 12:33-45

    Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, July 1, 2018

 

 

 

 

Instead of an “Independence Day weekend

this year the 4th of July comes out on a Wednesday—

smack-dab in the middle of the week—

so we have a 4th of July week.

 

So, people are looking forward to

family cookouts, fireworks displays,

and other celebrations throughout the week.

 

We recall, too, that Independence Day

is the anniversary

of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

 

On July 4th, 1776 the 13 British colonies officially declared

their independence from Great Britain,

and formed a new independent nation.

 

From that date onward they would be called

the United States of America.

 

America is unique

in the role that religion played in its foundation.

 

That religious foundation began long before

the 1776 Declaration of Independence.

 

It goes back 156 years earlier,

to the year 1620, when the Pilgrims landed

a few miles away to our East,

and founded the town of Plymouth.

They signed the Mayflower Compact on November 11, 1620.

 

They were originally sailing for Virginia,

where a small colony had already been established,

but storms forced them to anchor off Cape Cod—

They referred to Cape Cod as the northern part of Virginia,

since there were no other colonies along the coast.

 

Their Mayflower Compact began by saying,

 

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten,

the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James,

by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King,

Defender of the Faith, &c.

Having undertaken for the Glory of God,

and Advancement of the Christian Faith,

and the Honour of our King and Country,

a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia;

Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually,

in the Presence of God and one another,

covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick . . .

 

So, they were forming a “Body Politick” or a local government.

 

And they declared that they did all this

for the Glory of God,

and Advancement of the Christian Faith.

 

The early settlers of this country

were strong believers in the Bible

and biblical values.

 

And the country continued like that for many years.

 

The vast majority of the Founding Fathers

were traditional Bible believers

at a time when even the mainline denominations

were still preaching

Christ crucified, risen and coming again.

 

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.

 

But things have changed.

 

Ten years ago Newsweek magazine[  SHOW  ]

featured a cover story titled,

“The End of Christian America.”

 

The magazine cover displayed these words in the shape of a cross:

“The Decline and Fall of Christian America.”

 

And it has been common since then

to refer to our country as “Post-Christian America.”

 

At the time of our Founding Fathers

nearly everyone in the country

upheld Christian values on marriage.

 

No one would have expressed support

for two men marrying each other.

 

But by 1996, polls showed that 27%

supported same-sex marriage.

 

 

Today it’s 67% -- 2 in 3 Americans

who support same-sex marriage –

according to a Gallup Poll published in May—

even though it’s contrary to the teachings of Christ.

 

At the time of our Founding Fathers

it would have been around 0%.

 

Recent polls reveal that

69% now say sex outside of marriage is okay.

 

65% say smoking marijuana is morally acceptable.

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A poll in 2007 found

92 percent of Americans said they believed in God.

 

A 2014 poll said 89 percent.

 

A poll conducted earlier this year,

said 80 percent.

 

So, belief in God has dropped significantly.

 

But what did people mean by “believe in God”?

 

--not necessarily what we mean by that term.

 

That poll found that only 56 percent of Americans today

say they believe in the God of the Bible.

 

And of those between the ages of 18 and 29

only 43 percent believe in the God of the Bible.

 

But our Founding Fathersvirtually all

believed in the God of the Bible.

 

So, as I was preparing this sermon,

I thought about how our Founding Fathers

would view today’s generation

if they could somehow see what is going on today.

 

The passage of Scripture that we come to today,

as we go through the Gospels chronologically,

is a passage where Jesus talks about

past generations rising up

and facing his generation

in the Judgment.

 

So, it made me think about

our Founding Fathers coming face-to-face

with today’s generation in America.

 

The passage is found in Matthew Chapter 12,

which formed part of our Responsive Reading,

beginning with Verse 38.

 

There it says,

 

38 Then some of the Pharisees

and teachers of the law

said to him,

"Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you."

39 He answered,

"A wicked and adulterous generation

asks for a miraculous sign!

 

So, our Lord Jesus indulged in some name-calling here.

And he is Lord,

so he has a right to do that.

 

He called that generation he was living in

A wicked and adulterous generation.

 

That makes us wonder

what he would call the generation alive today—

the generation that approves same-sex marriage

and that approves men and women

living together without marriage.

 

What would Jesus say about this generation?

 

He went on to say about that generation back then,

 

"A wicked and adulterous generation

asks for a miraculous sign!

But none will be given it

except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

 

40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights

in the belly of a huge fish,

so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights

in the heart of the earth.

 

41 The men of Nineveh

will stand up at the judgment with this generation

and condemn it;

for they repented at the preaching of Jonah,

and now one greater than Jonah is here.

 

So, Jesus compared his generation

with the men of Nineveh—

the men the prophet Jonah preached to.

 

Nineveh was a violent, pagan city—

the capital of the Assyrian Empire—

a city of bloodshed and pagan idolatry.

 

God had assigned the prophet Jonah

to go preach to Nineveh

and to tell the men of Nineveh

that their city was about to be destroyed by God

for their wicked behavior.

 

Instead of accepting his assignment,

Jonah chickened-out

and booked passage on a ship

heading in the opposite direction.

 

So, God sent a horrific storm

that threatened to sink that ship—

until Jonah confessed that it was his fault,

and persuaded the crew to throw him overboard.

 

A huge fish—maybe a whale—then swallowed Jonah.

Miraculously, he survived in the belly of the whale,

where he prayed to God and repented.

 

The huge fish then spit Jonah out,

and he went on his way

to the assignment God had given him.

 

And, amazingly, the wicked men of Nineveh

repented at Jonah’s preaching,

so God spared their city, and didn’t destroy it.

 

But the audience Jesus was preaching to centuries later

did not repent.

 

So, Jesus said to them,

 

The men of Nineveh

will stand up at the judgment with this generation

and condemn it;

for they repented at the preaching of Jonah,

and now one greater than Jonah is here.

 

----------------------------------------------------

 

What about our generation today?

 

Just about everyone in America

grew up with a Bible in the home.

 

In some homes, they read the Bible together,

though in many homes the Bible just sat on a shelf.

 

That Bible sitting in every home

tells the story of Jonah and the whale,

but people today dismiss it as a children’s fairytale.

 

And that Bible tells how Jesus

was in the tomb

and rose again the third day.

But, how many of today’s generation believe it?

 

If America’s Founding Fathers

stood face-to-face with today’s generation,

would they condemn it

the way Jesus said the men of Nineveh will condemn

the generation that ignored Jesus’ preaching?

-------------------------------------------------

 

Our Lord went on at Matthew Chapter 12, Verse 42, to say,

 

42 The Queen of the South

will rise at the judgment with this generation

and condemn it;

for she came from the ends of the earth

to listen to Solomon's wisdom,

and now one greater than Solomon is here.

 

The Old Testament refers to her

as the Queen of Sheba—

a country in southwestern Arabia,

just across from the lands we know today as

 Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia.

 

She traveled a long distance

to hear the wisdom of Israel’s King Solomon,

but the generation Jesus preached to

ignored him and his wisdom.

 

So, Jesus told them,

The Queen of the South

will rise at the judgment with this generation

and condemn it;

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If America’s Founding Fathers

would rise at the judgment with today’s generation,

would they similarly condemn it?

 

The Founding Fathers based their lives

on the teachings of the Bible.

But today’s generation

has thrown the Bible out of the public schools,

and has rejected its teachings.

 

What would our Lord Jesus say about today’s generation?

 

In our Responsive Reading this morning

we saw that people will give an account before God

for the things that they say—

whether good or bad.

 

There will be a Day of Judgment.

 

At Matthew 12, beginning at Verse 33 Jesus said

to that generation, back then:

 

33 "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good,

or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad,

for a tree is recognized by its fruit.

 

34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil

say anything good?

For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

 

35 The good man brings good things

out of the good stored up in him,

and the evil man brings evil things

out of the evil stored up in him.

 

36 But I tell you

that men will have to give account

on the day of judgment

for every careless word they have spoken.

37 For by your words you will be acquitted,

and by your words you will be condemned."

 

What sort of things are being spoken by today’s generation?

When we turn on the TV, what do we hear?

 

Do we hear things that are good and pleasant

and pleasing to God?

 

And, if we speak up in public

and declare what the Bible says is right and wrong,

we are condemned for what they now call “hate speech.”

 

People are even being forced

to go along with with this world’s corrupt speech,

or to face punishment.

 

There was an article in The Standard-Times a few days ago

about a public-school teacher in Indiana

who was forced out of his job,

because he refused to call a girl

by a boy’s name.

 

The girl had decided that she wanted to be a boy,

and so the school administration ruled

that teachers had to call her by the boy’s name

she chose for herself.

When this teacher said he could not do that,

because it would be harmful to the child.

So, he was forced out of his job.

 

-------------------------------------

Again, speaking about the generation our Lord Jesus encountered,

he compared them

to someone afflicted by an evil spirit,

who got free of it,

but then ended up in worse shape.

 

In Matthew Chapter 12, beginning with Verse 43,

Jesus said,

43 "When an evil spirit comes out of a man,

it goes through arid places seeking rest

and does not find it.

44 Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.'

 

When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied,

swept clean and put in order.

 

45 Then it goes and takes with it

seven other spirits more wicked than itself,

and they go in and live there.

 

And the final condition of that man

is worse than the first.

 

That is how it will be with this wicked generation."

 

What a sad ending!

Jesus used that story

to predict a sad ending for that “wicked generation.”

 

But, what about the generation alive today?

Will it end up in worse shape than when it began?

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

 

There’s a famous quote,

dating back a hundred years or more,

that you may have heard before.

 

It’s been quoted in whole or in part

by Presidents

 Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bill Clinton,

and by many others.

 

The actual origin of the quote—who said it first—

is a matter of dispute.

 

But it first appears in print 100 years ago,

and that publication attributed it

to a visitor from France in the early 1800’s.

 

The quote goes like this:

 

In the end, the state of the Union

comes down to the character of the people.

 

I sought for the greatness and genius of America

in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers,

and it was not there.

 

In the fertile fields and boundless prairies,

and it was not there.

 

In her rich mines and her vast world commerce,

and it was not there.

 

Not until I went into the churches of America

and heard her pulpits,

aflame with righteousness,

did I understand the secret

of her genius and power.

 

America is great because she is good,

and if America ever ceases to be good,

America will cease to be great.

 

Our Lord Jesus spoke about

the generation of his day

having to face the men of Nineveh in the Judgment,

and having to face the Queen of the South in the Judgment.

 

And that leads us to compare our generation today

with this country’s Founding Fathers.

 

The comparison is shocking.

 

But, happily, there is still a sizeable minority in America

who look to the Bible

and to the God of the Bible.

 

There are still believers

who are set apart from this generation,

because they believe in Christ.

 

At Luke 18 Verse 8 our Lord

asked the rhetorical question,

 

“when the Son of Man comes,

will he find faith on the earth?”

 

There are still believers here in America,

and we find believers here in this church

and in many other churches across this great land.

 

We are set apart from today’s generation,

because doing God’s will sets us apart.

 

Matthew 12, Verses 49-50,

are printed in the Study Guide for today’s sermon,

found in the bulletin insert.

And it tells us there,

what Jesus said about those who do God’s will.

It says,

 

“Pointing to his disciples, he said,

‘Here are my mother

and my brothers.

For whoever does the will

of my Father in heaven

is my brother and sister and mother.’”