Desiring a Better Country

“There is within the human heart a tough, fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess.  It covets things with a deep and fierce passion.  The pronouns my and mine look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant.  They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do.  They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease.  The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die.  Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended.  God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution” (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, Christian Pub.: 1993, p22).

World history has proven that the most materially blessed nations eventually become the most idolatrous nations.  Eight century BC marked the glory days of ancient Israel.  Property values were at an all-time high, wardrobes increased, bumper crops blossomed and Chardonnay was always on tap.  Yet:

“[Israel] does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine and the oil, and lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal” (Hos 2.8). 

“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria . . . Those who recline on beds of ivory and sprawl on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, who improvise to the sound of the harp . . . who drink wine from sacrificial bowls while they anoint thmselves with the finest oils, yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph” (Amos 6.1, 4-6).

“For I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the open country, planting places for a vineyard.  I will pour her stones down into the valley and will lay bare her foundations.  All of her idols will be smashed, all of her earnings will be burned with fire and all of her images I will make desolate, for she collected them from a harlot’s earnings, and to the earnings of a harlot they will return” (Mic 1.7).

In no way do I suggest America is the new Israel or the chosen people of God.  I do suggest that America is no better than ancient Israel because Americans are no better than Adam.  Old covenant, national Israel proved to be Adam’s sons in that, despite having every advantage of grace, they resorted to worshiping stuff rather than God.  We learn that nations eventually become what they are because its citizens are idolaters.

Perhaps America has had unique advantages of grace.  God has “shed his grace on thee.”  But despite every intention otherwise we’ve resorted to worshiping life (as long as its sexy and viable), liberty (as long as there are no strings attached) and the pursuit of happiness (as long it’s makes me feel good) rather than the God of eternal life, eternal liberty and eternal happiness.  And we will soon go the way of very other “blessed” nation in history.

What is God’s answer to all the national failures?  Will any people he’s blessed rightly remain faithful to and thankful for him?  Enter the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The church is God’s chosen people and favored nation (1 Pt 2.9). Jesus died for her and her alone (Eph 5.25), not mildly biblistic republics, pious monarchs or virtuous movements.  We often confuse kingdom language with that of American patriotism so far that it’s hard to see a distinction between the two.

Mighty kingdoms will come and go.  They always do.  Hell will swallow up every earthly kingdom, but will not leave a scratch on the church (Mt 16.18).  Whatever wounds hell inflicts on us here quickly fade forever into the eternal scars on the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.

That’s the radical power of Jesus’s death and resurrection; and it’s the radical extent to which God must go to save us from idolatry.  Jesus received authority through no electoral college, no campaign, no pedigree, but through humble obedience to the Father’s will (Jn 17.4-5).  The Father gave him all authority to give life, liberty and happiness to anyone he pleases (Mt 28.18: Jn 5.22; 17.2).  And that authority is not confined by national borders but extends to the farthest reaches of the earth (Ps 2.8; 24.1; Rev 4.9-10).

It’s not the church’s role to return America to the world’s premier “Christian nation.”  The church must return the church to that distinction!  The church is sent throughout the “amber waves of grain” and “purple mountain majesties” as search-and-rescue soldiers (Jn 17.18).  We’re ambassadors from another Kingdom scouring this land with a message to anyone who will listen.  We preach the ultimate fruitlessness of “the fruited plain.”  We warn about the imminent destruction of all we hold secure and the the way of escape from it.

Like Abraham, we sojourn through this life on our way to a better country.  Not one built by better politicians with sound monetary policy.  We seek a heavenly one, a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God (Heb 11.10, 16).  Amid all the rubble of worthless stock certificates, border fences, terrorist threats, failed policies and unemployment lines stands the church of the Lord Jesus.  Armed with the message from her Living Hope (1 Pt 1.3), she stands firm pointing always to he King we can trust and kingdom that will last.  She will not be moved.

Our citizenship is in heaven and we’re awaiting our true Savior from heaven (Phil 3.20-21).  Are we more anxious about election day or the day of the Lord?  Are we more eager for the next president to get our economy back on track or for the Risen Lord to finally kill idolatry in us?  Do I preach the America’s prosperity gospel or Jesus’ poverty gospel?  Do we urge others to save their lives while there’s time, or lose them because time has already run out?

Paul instructed Christians to “use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor 7.31).  So don’t vote as though your life depended on it.  Pledge allegiance to Christ because your life really does.

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