Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. That's why understanding Nazi tyranny might save us from another dark time of terror. It seems clear that dark times are ahead.
How we prepare for them is crucial. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, today you'll draw parallels between wartime Germany and today's USA, and we all want to hear your analysis. You know, Dave, I think it is so important to learn from history, as you have mentioned.
It's also important for us to realize that America isn't Nazi Germany, but absolutely there are many lessons that we have to learn. Let me ask you a question today. Are you blessed as a result of the ministry of Running to Win? Are you instructed?
Are you encouraged? I trust that the answer is yes, and if so, it's because other people have invested in this ministry. Would you consider helping us by joining the Running to Win family, as I like to put it? You know, you can go to rtwoffer.com. When you're there, click on the endurance partner button. Consider becoming an endurance partner, someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts.
Go to rtwoffer.com, click on the endurance partner button, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Thanks in advance for helping us, and thanks for listening as we learn about our culture through the lens of history and the Bible. When you study church history, you learn that a powerful state is almost always hostile toward the church. In fact, during the best of times in church history, the relationship between church and state has always been one that is uneasy and almost always one of great conflict. One of the things we've learned in this series of messages is that Hitler's Nazi party swallowed up the church. He reinterpreted Christianity in such a way that Christianity lost its power.
There were other things that happened in the German church, and much of the power had already been drained, but Hitler tended to squeeze out the last drop of the gospel because he sought to be a threat to his regime. In our own day and age, I need to remind you that we are living at a time when there are powerful forces that would like to basically neutralize the church, to put it on the sidelines, to drain it of its influence in society. Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. That line, which all of us have memorized, means number one, that Congress was saying that the power of the state should be limited. It should not interfere with the free exercise of religion, and number two, there should be no state church before which all people must submit. But apart from that, Congress was to allow freedom of religion. And of course, you and I know that today this amendment is being reinterpreted in ways that would make the founding fathers wince.
They could not believe that it could be so set upon its head. And freedom of religion is being interpreted as freedom from religion. And so the agenda is to take the state, to take all of our public institutions and exterminate all references to religion and all practices of religion in such a way that the church is marginalized, that Christianity is shoved off to the sidelines as a very, very private religion. One of the problems Hitler had when he of course took over was he was confronted with a state that was largely Christian, at least nominally so. So the question is, what do you do? What do you do particularly with holidays such as Christmas and Easter?
That was of great concern to him. Consequently, Christmas was totally paganized. Children were not allowed to sing Christmas carols in schools. In fact, for the SS troops, Christmas was actually celebrated on December 21st rather than 25th just so that they could recognize that this isn't Christmas the way it used to be. Easter was turned into nothing more than a spring holiday.
In our own day, the very same thing is being done not under a dictatorship but by laws, laws that are trying to take the state and state property and state institutions and in such a way scrub them clean of every bit of religious influence. For example, in Vienna, Virginia, the town council put up two Christmas displays, one a secular one and one the Nativity, and then the ACLU filed and the Nativity scene had to go. In Fairfax, Virginia, there was a child who painted Christmas scenes on a window.
They were supposed to do this in school. She painted the Nativity and it had to be rubbed off because that was too religious and even the words Merry Christmas had to go because you know that word Christmas has that terrible word Christ and that's religion and that also had to be rubbed off. The great agenda of the liberals, my friend, is to take Christmas and to change it. Silent Night must be replaced by Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Christmas itself, since it has that word Christ in it, must be changed to Winter Solace and Christ must be replaced with Santa Claus. That is the idea of keeping the state from religion, banishing it from the public square. Now of course you say, well we know that groups like the ACLU, they are interested in freedom for all religions and all that they're trying to say is keep religion private. In fact, I saw an interview by one of their leaders and that is what he said, keep religion private. Well, do you think that they are willing to allow us in our churches to practice freedom of religion?
Don't ever think so. You remember that case in California where a church was going to fire somebody for homosexuality and the courts got involved because after all that's discrimination and even though the church eventually won, don't forget the implications of the court case. Who would have ever dreamed that the day would come when courts would tell churches whom they can hire and whom they can fire and we could give many illustrations of the woman who was disciplined for adultery and eventually the church had to pay a fine because in the words of the court, the church has no business condemning her for her own private lifestyle. Very interesting because the church was doing exactly what the New Testament churches and the New Testament teachings say that churches should do. So don't ever be naive and think to yourself that we too shall be exempt. There are powerful movements that would like to say that churches who do not recognize homosexual marriages will no longer be able to receive their tax exemption.
I think it is a credit to the power of the media to think that over half of Americans really believe that it is the religious right who want to impose their values on society and do not recognize that it is the radical left that has been doing so for years and continues to want to do it with vicious intolerance. What I'd like to do is to give you a couple of propositions that you can take home and think about if you write them down and then later on we're going to turn to the scriptures where of course all the answers are found for us and we will be expounding a passage from the New Testament. That's the agenda. We've got lots to do. I'm so glad that you had no plans for this afternoon.
Enjoy the ride. Number one, I'd like to propose that we as a church must recognize that we have a responsibility beyond the walls of our churches. We have a responsibility beyond the walls of our churches. You know, it's interesting that Christianity was always involved in the forefront of law, of justice, of child labor laws that would prevent these kinds of injustices.
But after the Scopes trial in America, the church largely withdrew and now its reentry has been very, very bumpy. But there are some people who say, well, you know, we shouldn't be involved at all. Let's just sing our songs and have our Bible studies and let them do what they want to do and let us do what we want to do. Well, I want you to know today it is not quite that simple. Let us suppose that you're crossing a lake in a boat and there are some folks that you don't agree with but they nevertheless are into this business of drilling holes in the bottom of the boat and letting water come in. It's a little difficult to say, well, let them do what they want to do and we'll do what we want to do if we're in the same boat.
And we are in the same boat. A nation is affected by everyone within that nation and we are a group. We are not unto ourselves. We live in a network of society and it cannot be a matter of indifference regarding what happens in the world and the Christian is opposed to injustice no matter where it is found. We have a responsibility that goes well beyond the walls of our church, responsibilities in politics, in the arts, in the media, and in all levels of society. Secondly, we can join with non-Christians for common goals. We can join with non-Christians for common goals. Now this does not mean that we in any way, in any way compromise the gospel.
It simply means that in moral areas God has given to people common grace. There are people who are not specifically Christian who agree with us on many different issues. If a politician were to run and to say, well, I want only the Christians to vote for me, you'd understand that he would lose. He must appeal to a broader consensus regarding moral issues even though we recognize that that does not mean that we join with groups who have another gospel to do evangelism. Thirdly, as Christians we must support our government and at the same time feel free to criticize it.
Both support and criticism are necessary. We learned that in Nazi Germany the people in effect said our government right or wrong and they went ahead and they gave their allegiance to der führer and they even swore their allegiance to them. The pastors did. Most of the pastors did. And they simply bought into that humanistic godless agenda and that was all. And oftentimes the pastors justified what they were doing on the basis of Romans 13 where it says powers that be are ordained of God and we should submit ourselves to those powers and if we are disobedient to those powers we are disobedient to God.
Well, that has to be balanced with other passages of scripture that say with unmistakable clarity that we ought to obey God rather than man. The idea of my country right or wrong no matter what the government does because I'm patriotic is unscriptural and devastating to the future of this nation and other nations like it. Number four, we have to recognize the limits of political and social reform. There are limits. Oh, people get so excited when we have some conservatives that are elected.
It's as if you know they're going to bring in a new day. Well, as we shall be seeing in a moment the problems in America are much deeper than can be solved in Washington. Much deeper that can even be solved in Washington by conservatives or if we had them very religious God-fearing people and as we shall see in a moment that's where we come into the picture.
Let us not be naive and think that really we can solve America's problems with a ballot box. We can help or we can hinder but ultimately we are involved in a spiritual battle that transcends all party lines and all such distinctions. And number five, our public effectiveness, our effectiveness basically boils down to individual responsibility, to individual responsibility and every one of us living as Christ would have us live right where we have been planted. You see the truth is that each of us can stand for truth. Now some of you, you know that at some point you have to draw the line.
I feel so sorry for Christians who have their children in the public school system and from time to time some of you have come and you've asked my advice because you're in a predicament where there is occultism that is being taught or there is sexual training and sexual classes that are essentially immoral. We live in a time when everybody is going to have to decide at some point it seems to me at what juncture do I no longer obey the state and what do I do if America continues to slide in the direction of the dark cruel night of paganism. You remember Niemöller? He made the famous statement he said first, and of course you know that he was one of the Germans who stood up to Hitler, he said first they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak out because I didn't belong to the trade union. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. And then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out when they came for me. And that's why we must speak out for the unborn.
That's why we must speak out in those areas that we may not be directly involved in because the time will come when we will be affected and then it may be too late. One of the exciting things about the Bible is that it has the answer for today's church and every church no matter how long the church survives in the world. When Peter wrote the book of 1 Peter, and I want you to turn to that passage of scripture, actually it's 1 Peter chapter 4, he was writing to a congregation that had experienced great persecution, great persecution. Christians were ostracized because they refused to call Caesar Lord. They were kept from the best jobs, they were lied about, and they went through a period when being a Christian was not only difficult, in some instances it was impossible. Martyrdom was a great option and that often happened that people were martyred for their faith.
It was a possibility. In the midst of this, he writes to them and he does not say, now I want you to all get out and vote. The reason he didn't was because they couldn't vote in those days. Paul used his citizenship effectively and we should use our citizenship effectively and be involved in all of the processes politically, but you need to understand that in 1 Peter those were not options.
Those were not options. So what he does is he begins to write to them and say what you must do is to zero in on how you are going to live in the midst of an oppressive state and he does not tell them please feel sorry for yourselves because you're going through a difficult time. The American church feels sorry for itself because most of us are very unacquainted with suffering and that is myself included and because of that we see all these things and we think that they are so strange and so different. But actually in the history of the church, suffering has always been seen as a mark of blessing. It was a badge of honor.
It was a badge of honor. And sometimes we stand and we sing oh we're standing on the rock and then in reality we act as if we are clinging to our last piece of driftwood. It's as if we are just letting go and there is no hope for anything. Then all that you need to do is to open the Bible and discover that not only is there hope but there is glory and there is challenge and there is blessing. Now I would like to speak on the 1 Peter chapter 4 and we are going to briefly look at the entire chapter. This will be a quick tour and I'd like to take this chapter and wrap it around five words that are listed there in your notes and suggest that what we need is a theology that encompasses these five words that grasps the essence of his teaching. I hope that you'll go home and read this passage more carefully because we can deal with it only very quickly in the next few moments.
First of all there is the word purity, the word purity. 1 Peter chapter 4 verse 1, therefore since Christ has suffered in the flesh, I need to pause and say if he suffered why shouldn't we? We always think that we should be exempt when Jesus said that if they persecuted me they should persecute you. Since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same purpose, the same attitude.
The imagery that is used here is a military one. Arm yourselves with an attitude by which you can take the sufferings and the difficulties of life just as Christ did. For he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin. It is in the process of doing that suffering that we begin to put an end to sin in our lives. And when we begin to suffer, sin becomes less attractive and our attention is riveted more specifically on God. So as to live out the rest of your lives in the flesh no longer in the lusts of men but for the will of God. And then he he describes how the people used to live. And I think I'll take out time to read this list just to ask whether or not there are some believers here who still live this way. Notice the words, middle of verse three, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. And he says the world is surprised that you don't do the same things that they do and because of that you're being persecuted.
And for that he would say rejoice. Now here's a question. You say well what relationship does this have to suffering? I thought that you were going to talk about church-state relations today. It has a direct relationship. You see the easiest thing that we can do as a church is to think that all of our problems are concentrated in some of the groups that we love to blast.
And I love to blast them once in a while too. We think it is the ACLU versus the evangelicals, it is the media versus the evangelicals, it is Washington versus the evangelicals, and it is them and it is us. You know what this passage reminds us? The fact that the situation is not nearly so neat because what you find is that the same problems that exist in the world whom we sometimes perceive to be our enemies are actually the same problems that are also found in our hearts. Os Guinness says the problem with this dualism is that there is no problem in the wider culture that you cannot see in spades in the Christian church. The rot is in us and not simply out there. And Christians are making a big mistake by turning everything into a culture war.
It is a much deeper crisis. Why does Peter talk about purity in a letter that is devoted to suffering? Listen carefully because Peter knows that there is a connection between purity and power. A moment ago I mentioned that we're in the same boat and if somebody is drilling a hole in part of the boat over there we can't say well we're unaffected, let them do their own thing.
To return to that illustration, the problem is that we are drilling our own holes to let water into the boat. And one of the things that God always desires to do is to use persecution and difficulty to purify his church. And when the church is involved in these kinds of things that all of us have struggled with, God uses the furnace of affliction for purity. And so the first thing that we must do when we think about the world out there that we need to fight is to begin to look at the world in here that we need to fight. And we need to fight the world within more ruthlessly even than the world without. Our own hearts and our own minds. That's where we are to begin in our struggles with the state. You know just listening to that I was reminded of the words of Martin Luther who said that he feared his own heart more than he did the Pope.
And all of us should recognize that there's evil within that God enables us to have victory over. I'm holding in my hands a letter from someone who says I hear your messages on my way to work every morning. They give me so much hope and strength. You know it's always encouraging for me to hear the various contexts in which people listen to Running to Win. Let me ask you would you consider becoming an endurance partner that means becoming a part of the Running to Win family? Here's what you do for more info you go to rtwoffer.com when you're there click on the endurance partner button or you can pick up the phone and I hope that you have time to write this down simply call 1-888-218-9337. Let me give you that website again rtwoffer.com click on the endurance partner button and become a part of the Running to Win family. You can write to us at Running to Win 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard Chicago Illinois 60614. Runners in a relay race have to work together. When it comes to winning no one is more important than anyone else. As darkness gathers believers in life's race need to work together in purity and humility to advance the cause of Christ at high personal cost. Next time join us for more of God and country our own tough choices principles on how to live responsibly in a time of decreasing freedom. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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