JULY 4: A TIME FOR AMERICA TO REMEMBER
Please read Deuteronomy 8:1-10 before reading this message. Moses spoke the words you find in the book of Deuteronomy to the nation of Israel on the banks of the Jordan river just before they crossed over into the promised land. Among the words of wisdom Moses spoke on that day were these: "You shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not." My friends, proper equipment in life demands a good memory, likewise the ability to forget. All of the blunders, murmurings and fault findings unjustly made ought to be forgotten, but the fear of Moses was they might forget the God who had led them all the way, who had fed them with manna, bread from heaven, and who had caused their garments not wear out, nor their feet to swell. The nation of Israel was a chosen nation and had a close relationship and fellowship with God that no other nation before or since has had, except the Christian nation which is the Church of Christ(Romans 16:16).
However, I would like to suggest that there may be a parallel in various ways to this wonderful bit of history. Some have called America a child of providence. I am inclined to agree with those thinkers who believe the founding of the United States of America was providential and that God had a hand in it. This is not to say that America is a chosen nation like Israel, but it is to say that possibly there was a guiding hand in the history of America, one of the greatest countries on earth-- whose motto is, "one nation under God with liberty and justice for all.". I think it is unfortunate and unforgivable for a nation that has been blessed like we have, not to remember what God has done for us and how He has led us for more than 200 years. July 4 does not mean anything to a lot of people in the world, but to citizens of the United States it marks the day we call "Independence Day." It commemorates our independence from the rule of Great Britain. Of course, a war followed that declaration, but our "freedom" stood. I think the words that Moses spoke to irael in a real sense could be wisely applied to America. We might state it like this, "You shall remember that the Lord your God led you these 200 some years into the 21st century." I have traveled in various parts of the world, and without "knocking" any other country, I still believe that we live in one of the most wonderful countries in the world; and I thank God for the privilege of being a Christian and a citizen of the United States of America.. What I am trying to say is that on July 4 Americans should stop and consider their blessings, and be thankful for what we do have, thankful for God's blessings on our nation, and thankful for what we as individuals have.
I really think the year 1620 marks the real beginning of this splendid land wherein we chance to dwell. We should all gratefully remember that it was the coming of the one hundred or so Pilgrim Fathers in the historic Mayflower who brought and introduced into this country the supreme idea of the one true God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They brought to this land the knowledge that the one true God is a triune God. Jesus and the apostles of Christ revealed this great truth to mankind. A few years ago I had the privilege of looking, inside and out, at an exact replica of the Mayflower. Great Britain gave this exact replica of the Mayflower to the United States as a token of appreciation for helping them in World War II. I think that was a nice gesture on the part of England. I was surprised that the boat was so small, just 90 feet long. It is said in history that this great undertaking on their part was based on the idea that God would walk together with them. They came here to worship God according to the Christian faith, as they understood it.
I wonder what life would be on this continent today, if the people who first founded our country had not been believers in Christ and the Christian religion. What if they had come from China or India or from the Middle East? The names of our cities would be different. I don't think our cities would have been named St. Joseph, Los Angeles, St. Louis or St. Petersburg. I am sure the names of people would have been different. Where did these names come from–Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James, etc? I am told in this country there are some six million women who answer to the name of Mary. I wonder where that name came from. What would our names be if Jesus had not touched American history? I do believe that God providentially had a hand in the Pilgrims in bringing His name and the name of His son to these shores. God's people have the right to believe in providential experiences, but they cannot be proven. It was the posterity of the Pilgrims who settled the thirteen original colonies who in the course of years drafted that immortal document, The Declaration of Independence. Six years of bloody warfare followed to make good the decree. Finally, with the loss of thousands of their kind and their little country almost literally baptized in the blood of their forefathers, they were recognized as a nation among the sister nations of the world. Our great country springing from a foundation like that now extends from ocean to ocean, and from the Lakes to the Gulf. It now has the reputation of being the greatest nation on the face of the earth.
I think Americans ought to remember how that perhaps Jehovah has kept His eye upon us as a people in our civil and religious privileges. We have come to be exceedingly great. We are feasting upon the very fat of the land, and our wealth is unlimited. In the language of scripture, this is too a land flowing with milk and honey, even more than Canaan was to Israel. God has greatly blessed us. The eyes of the entire world have for some time looked to America, not only as the world money and trade center, but for that religious life which Christ envisioned would encircle the globe, make spiritual ignorance vanish and bring untold blessings to the millions of earth. Unquestionably, we lead all nations in spreading the pure gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world. We do big things in America. I know it sounds like I am boasting but the facts speak for themselves. In World War II, it took me five or six days to cross the ocean on the Queen Mary, probably the fastest sailing vessel in that bygone time. It took the Mayflower five or six months. Lindbergh needed but thirty hours. We can now cross the ocean in five or six hours. In addition, we are rapidly becoming the Medical Center of the world. Rulers from other countries come here to have surgery. We should remember how God has providentially blessed our nation. In saying these things, I do not mean to imply that all things are right with America, or that we are a chosen nation, as Israel was under the law of Moses. I have drawn a comparison between Israel and America because in some ways it seems justified. I hope that we do not make the mistake Israel made in failing to remember how God led them and blessed them. He does not lead us miraculously as He did Israel, but He leads by the written word of God. All who are acquainted with the history of Israel know that they did not remember God's goodness toward them. Israel drifted away from God and worshiped by idolatry, and God held them accountable by sending them into captivity to Assyria and Bab ylonia.
Is it not true that we are living in a country where the influence of God and Jesus is rapidly vanishing? The dominant value systems in America are anything but Christian. The moral values of America are changing right before our eyes. As a nation we have lost confidence in our fellow man and in the Bible. We are in an identity crisis. We don't who we are, where we came from or where we are going. . Many think we came down out of the trees 20 million years ago, and our earliest descendant is a mother gorilla. The old time elements of honesty, uprightness and downright truthfulness are below par on the market of the world. The blackest crimes and the most atrocious acts that ever stained the pages of history lies at our very door. People are beginning to live like people did in in ancient times before Jesus came. For example, the Greek Demosthenes, who lived 300 years before Christ and was one of the greatest orators of all time, said, "We keep mistresses for pleasure and concubines for the day to day needs of the body, but we have wives in order to produce children legitimately." Seneca, the Roman philosopher who lived in the first century said, "Chastity in Rome is simply proof of ugliness. Innocence is not rare. It's nonexistent." The moral values regarding chastity and marriage are changing in America. Chastity is not considered an important virtue, as it once was in America I just heard statistics given that men and women are waiting longer to get married. The average age for women to marry is 27 in 2008, and the average for men is 35. The men are afraid of divorce that will cause them to pay child support and lose much of the money they have been able to accumulate. Within the last twenty or thirty years, pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, abortion and homosexuality are considered acceptable human behavior by the general population. When you compare the moral values of America today with those of America a hundred years ago, I think it is a sound conclusion that America is drifting away from God.. It is an undeniable fact that the dominant value systems of America are anything but Christian.
When we remember the birthday of our nation every July 4, it is also a time to remember our roots; who founded this country, why they founded it, and why they came. This country was founded by people who firmly believed in Christ and the Christian religion. They came to practice and to promote the Christian religion, not the false religions of other nations. It is refreshing to hear Americans from the highest to the lowest stand up for our pledge of allegiance that contain the words, "one nation under God...." Yes, Independence Day is indeed a time to remember. We are standing upon the past. We are its products. The land on which we stand today is a made land, made by people who lived hundreds of years before we were born. The soil into which we are to sow our seed is a prepared land. For this land we enjoy, there is an obligation and duty we owe to God, the Father of our spirits, and that duty must be paid.
But that is not all. God has given us something greater than America. The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ was established twenty centuries ago in Jerusalem, but Christians drifted away from God; the true Church fell away from the truth in 500 A.D. and almost disappeared from the earth. This false system of Christianity lasted over a thousand years. The church for which Jesus died lay buried beneath the rubbish of superstition and idolatry during the during the long spell of the Dark Ages, from 500 A.D. to 1500 A.D.. I hope that you have learned of the great historical events that have corrupted the church Jesus purchased with His blood. The years 1500 to 1800 saw God's hand of providence that opened up the Reformation in Europe. Seven or eight Protestant churches were formed that broke free from the Papal Church of Rome. They sincerely believed it was a movement back toward the Bible, but it did not go far enough. Many of the Protestant churches did not see fit to throw away their distinctive traditions and go all the way back to the original church of the first century and reestablish it in the world. They decided to stay divided and separate churches with their own different doctrines and names.
However, forces were at work to continue the Reformation. God's providential hand was seen in a further development of the Reformation. About 1800, a remarkable development occurred in America among the Protestant churches. I would estimate that some thirty to fifty Protestant preachers and thousands of members of those churches all over America became dissatisfied and left those churches. They left because they were not teaching the truth on many subjects such as baptism, the Lord's Supper, worship and other important subjects. This movement became known as the Restoration Movement. It was a Restoration of the original church as it was in the first century, as it was when the Apostles lived. . This is the way congregations of the Churches of Christ came into existence. They did not start a new church, they just rebuilt the old church the apostles built and restored the original names given to the New Testament church. The early church referred to the Lord's church as the Churches of Christ and the Churches of God(Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 1:2). I would suggest to you that I see a similarity between the Pilgrims who first came to our shores and these people in the 1800's who could no longer worship with people they loved dearly, some of them their relatives and friends, who could not worship God in ways the New Testament did not approve. The result of this great movement, back to the teachings of the apostles, was like the coming of another Mayflower, bringing to America a new vision and a new respect for God's word. That is the way congregations of Churches of Christ came into existence in early America.. In doing this, their life was almost as difficult as was the life of the original Pilgrims in that first year and in the ensuing years
I close with the thought that today members of Churches of Christ stand upon the ground prepared by others. We should remember those preachers and people who had the vision to bring the original Church back to the world in its worship, apostolic teachings and practice. I recognize that today I am standing religiously upon the foundation prepared by others. I would be untrue to myself and ungrateful unless I was willing to look back and remember and give honor to whom honor is due. I am glad to share in the continuation of the work these good people began in early America. Consider what I say, and the Lord give you understanding.