At our prayer meeting tonight, the Lord presented us with the sad situation of the children in our nation. We heard of a teen in Maryland who went to a sleepover at his friend’s home and then stabbed his friend’s brother, mother and a friend of the brother. Someone brought in an article regarding the suicide statistics regarding American youth. Teen suicide is up 70-percent in the past decade. A teacher in our prayer service mentioned that he has dealt with children as young as 8-years-old who are on watch for personal harm. Then, as if to make the point, one member received a text. Someone they knew had a teenaged child who shot himself in the head.
God is speaking. Earlier this week, I was with Jackie in an antique store and I came across McGuffey’s 6th grade reader. The book was originally copyrighted in 1889, though this was a reproduction of a later edition that was copyrighted in 1921. I am always fascinated by these finds because I truly believe the education of American children has gotten so much worse than it was in the past. I flipped through the book to see if my beliefs were correct.
What I Found in McGuffey’s Reader
The book is a compilation of many short articles including several Christian readings, including a psalm and an essay on baptism. However, it was not a religious book and was not strictly Christian, like the New England Primer, which was the first textbook printed in America and the primary textbook used for beginning students for over 100 years. Instead, most of the articles were pieces that few 6th graders would be reading today.
There was an article on Lafayette and Robert Raikes, a scene between Wolsey and Cromwell from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, The Character of Columbus by Washington Irving and Marmion and Douglas from Walter Scott. As I continued to peruse the book, I came across an article called Observance of the Sabbath by Gardiner Spring. I read the following and at the time, thought it was prophetic for its day.
If you can induce a community to doubt the genuineness and authenticity of the Scriptures; to question the reality and obligations of religion; to hesitate, undeciding, whether there be any such thing as virtue or vice; whether there be an eternal state of retribution beyond the grave; or whether there exists any such being as God, you have broken down the barriers of moral virtue, and hoisted the flood gates of immorality and crime. I need not say that when a people have once done this, they can no longer exist as a tranquil and happy people. Every bond that holds society together would be ruptured; fraud and treachery would take the place of confidence between man and man; the tribunals of justice would be scenes of bribery and injustice; avarice, perjury, ambition, and revenge would walk through the land, and render it more like the dwelling of savage beasts than the tranquil abode of civilized and Christianized men.
Spring the Prophet
We do not have to doubt whether Spring was right or wrong. In his day, there might have been those who could disagree with him. The situation had not yet appeared. America was a Christian nation, the children were taught the Bible and Christian values, and people learned about the greatest person ever to walk the earth, the sinless Son of God.
However, today, we have removed God from the classroom, the scripture from the culture and Christ from all things. So we have done the exact thing that concerned Spring. We can know whether he was right or wrong in his thinking because we now live in the environment he feared.
We can say without a doubt that Spring was prophetic. His expectations were correct in every way. He knew that the thing keeping men from becoming beasts was the Word of God. He understood its importance in the culture of America. He recognized that the Great Nation of the United States owed its wealth and good fortune to its moral and ethical treatment of human beings and that this came from the priority of Christ and his Church and the primacy of scripture to guide us in all our laws and decisions. He could analyze and predict the conclusion of removing scripture as our teacher and guide and God as our moral law giver.
So should we be so surprised by the suicide rates of teens? Should the opioid crisis shock us? Should we be flustered about the increase in violence, murders, and general lack of morals and ethics we find in our schools, our businesses and our government? We should not. We should expect this when God is removed from our culture and the scriptures are viewed as an antiquated book that is no longer relevant for today.
We are like the proverbial frog being boiled to death with no recognition of our deadly environment.
Ironically, the results of this failed experiment to remove all things Christian from our culture has proven the reality of the truth of the scriptures and the reality of the One True God who lives in Covenant with His people. His people have turned their backs on Him and so He has removed His hand of protection from us. We are now able to live in the way that seems right to ourselves (Judges 17:6, 21:5, Proverbs 14:12).
The Book of Judges presents the people of Israel as a nation who also had turned from God. We should have foreseen what would happen when we did the same. “Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.” When we removed the scriptures, we no longer knew the mistakes the Israelites made and so we repeated them. And we have seen the same response from God as they did.
The Genesis of the Problem
Many would say, and I would agree, that we began this experiment in full when we codified in law the removal of prayer and the Bible from our schools. While non-Christians will say that the Supreme Court decisions in the 1950’s and 1960’s simply resulted in government not being allowed to be involved with religion, it is clear that those decisions have resulted in the removal of God from schools and government settings. Atheists can say what the letter of the law was on the day of the Court’s decision, but they cannot deny how that decision has resulted in the expulsion of God from these places.
And so we have come to the place where the results of these decisions are now having their full impact. It has taken 60 years for them to be thoroughly felt. Sure, there were other episodes of immorality and lack of ethics before, but only someone with eyes closed to reality can say that our conduct and integrity haven’t fallen off exponentially from where we were as a nation. And of course, this has led to the despair, fearfulness, and confusion of an entire generation.
How has our Current Response Fared?
So what are we to do about this? Many have tried to fight the government with protests, petitions and even entering into politics. However, none of these has stopped the country’s march into madness. These things are good but they are not enough.
I believe the reason the U.S. continues to fall into disrepair is that the Church has been satisfied to sit on the sidelines.
As you all know, I have a problem with the way the Church has grown over the past 60 years. After the renewal of the 1970’s, the Church had the opportunity to make a major impact on the nation. Instead, she went in to her four walls and has rarely come out from it. This has created self-centered, comfortable and impotent Christians.
We need the Church to regain her power. She has the power of the Holy Spirit; the same power that raised Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20, Romans 8:11). We are like a child in possession of a credit card with a million-dollar limit but has no idea what she has or how to use it.
A New Response
So here’s what we have to do. We need to get back out into the community. We need to begin to share the Gospel with our friends and families, neighbors and co-workers. We need to stop being afraid of whether they will call us racist, haters or intolerant. We need to let people know that they are sinners and are going to hell without Christ.
We need to teach believers the true faith. We need to make disciples, not just converts. Justified people are given the righteousness of God but sanctified people are the desire of God. They are the ones who are holy (1 Thessalonians 5:23) and in the truth (John 17:17) and are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is the will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
The Church has forgotten what God is. He is Holy, Immutable, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Eternal, Good, Just, Faithful, Infinite and so much more. How can we have faith in someone who we don’t know? And without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Time to Change
When we have Christians who are more concerned with others than they are of their own comfort, we can begin to make an impact again. God calls us to save the world one person at a time. If the Church begins this work, we will find that in another 60 years, the fortunes of this country will have returned. Children will not be killing themselves or their classmates. Adults will not be looking for salvation in opioids, riches, or the opinions of others.
Instead, we will have gained back our faith. We will have turned back to God. We all will recognize that salvation comes to those who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. With our renewed faith, we will again please God. With the pleasure of God, He will be for us. If He is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?
As disciples of Jesus make disciples of this nation, teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded, we will no longer shake our heads at the senseless loss of life that seems to be overwhelming this nation today. It starts with you. Are you ready to get up and impact someone today with the Gospel?