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The Cross And The Flag – Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
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June 20, 2024 1:00 am

The Cross And The Flag – Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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June 20, 2024 1:00 am

Jesus commanded us to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. Is there a clear way to live in both kingdoms? In this message from Matthew 22, Pastor Lutzer asks four questions about America’s history between the church and state. The story of the Christian church revolves around this conflict.

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Hi, this is Pastor Lutzer. Let me ask you a question.

Have you been blessed by running to win? Recently, we received a very interesting proposal. One of our listeners has pledged up to $25,000 for those who contribute to this ministry for the first time. Now, this only lasts until the end of June.

Would you take advantage of this opportunity of doubling your gift? Here's what you do. forward slash matching. That's forward slash matching, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. believers running the race of life need to keep first things first. Stand by for some flying sparks as Erwin Lutzer takes aim at those who equate old glory with the one place of true glory. Stay with us. 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 is giving us a clear focus on how to live and how to vote.

Pastor, what can we look forward to in today's message? Well, Dave, I think in today's message, what I want to emphasize again is that America has its responsibility and its place in the world. But at the same time, we need to distinguish America from the city of God, that is to say, true believers. And we as believers live within America. Many of us do.

Some, of course, live in other countries. But what we must all do is to ask ourselves, what is our role in the relationship between Christianity, the cross, and politics? Now, I want to emphasize that we here at Running to Win rejoice in the fact that God has given us the privilege to expand this ministry.

But it's because of people just like you. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? At least investigate it. Here's what you can do.

Go to, and when you're there, you click on the endurance partner button. Or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Because of our partners, because of those who are committed to helping us, we thank God that the gospel of Christ continues to go forth on so many different platforms in so many different countries.

Thank you for helping us. Today it's the cross and the flag. The cross and the flag.

Let me begin by asking you a series of questions, if I might. Is the American dream the same as the Christian dream? And if not, how are they different? Let me put it differently. If America were to continue to be strong and prosperous and great, does that mean that the church would be strong and prosperous and great?

Or to ask it differently, is support for tax breaks for families, term limits for congressmen, and support for the National Rifle Association, are those things Christian agendas? Some of us were in Israel recently, and we visited the Golan Heights. In fact, you can't get to Caesarea Philippi without driving through the Golan Heights. If I remember correctly, our tour guide said that there, when the Golan Heights belonged to Syria, there were six million mines that the Syrians put on those hills. And Israel has only found four million of them. So if you ever go to Israel, I suggest that you not go backpacking on the Golan Heights.

Choose somewhere else. But today we're going to take a walk on the Golan Heights and hopefully avoid all the mines. We're going to talk about church and state, God and government, cross and flag. And what I want you to do for this hike is to stay with me the whole way until we get to the top of the mountain, until we finish, because it may well be that as we're walking through, you may think that I'm stepping on a mine. But when you get to the end of the message, you might decide that it was only a firecracker. I want you to stay with me so that if anybody leaves this message, I might just stop and ask you, where in the world do you think you're going? There was a pastor who did that, said to a man who was leaving, why are you leaving? The man shouted, I'm going to get a haircut. The pastor said, why didn't you get a haircut before you came in here? He said, before I came in here, I didn't need one. So I want you to stay to the end, even if you really need a haircut when the service is over.

And some of you do, by the way, as I look at you. One day the people came to Jesus to entrap him. It's in the 22nd chapter of Matthew.

Pick it up at verse 15. They come to Jesus and they deliberately try to set a trap for him, and they ask him this question. They said, do you think it is lawful to give tax onto Caesar to pay this poll tax or not?

What a trick question. It was a trick question because if Jesus were to say, yes, I think it is lawful, he would have incurred the wrath of the Jews who hated the idea of paying taxes. They didn't think it was lawful at all.

They just did it because they had to. But if Jesus would have said, no, I don't think it's lawful, we shouldn't pay taxes to Caesar, they'd have turned him into the Roman authorities and he'd have been tried for speaking against the government, which in those days would have been a very, very serious offense. So that's what they said to him. How was Jesus going to answer? Either way, he was trapped.

Or was he? He said to them, give me a coin. So they fished around and they gave him a coin and it was a denarius that was used to pay the poll tax. And he said, whose inscription is on this coin? And they said, Caesar's. Now you must understand how they hated that inscription because they thought it was idolatry for one thing, for a man to have his inscription put there on a coin, and for another, always bear in mind that Caesar, in the minds of those pagans, was considered to be God. So this was idolatry. They hated the tax, they hated the Romans, and they hated this currency. And Jesus looked at it and saw Caesar's imprint and said, well, render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's.

What an answer. To my knowledge in history, and some of you historians can disprove this, but I don't think anyone ever said anything that comes close to that before. What Jesus was really saying is that it is possible to pay your dues to a pagan government, because remember he said you should pay this poll tax, and how would the tax be used? Only to strengthen the hands of those Roman soldiers against the Jews, only to continue their slavery. But Jesus said you can go ahead and you can use and pay that poll tax, and you can do your obligation to this pagan government, while at the same time you can still pay your dues to God.

You can do both because these are separate kingdoms. Well, you know, the whole history of the Christian church revolves around the conflict between church and state. The early Christians argued in the Roman Empire that they could be good Roman citizens and still at the same time be Christians. They assumed that principle, but Rome disagreed, and Rome said if you want to be a good citizen of Rome, you must worship like the Romans and you must declare Caesar to be God, and if not, the lions were waiting. After the Christians came to power, and you've heard me tell this story many times, you'll probably hear it again sometime, but after the Christians came to power, they said now you have to worship with us if you want to be a good citizen of the Holy Roman Empire, which Voltaire says was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.

But if you want to be a citizen of the Holy Roman Empire, you must believe like us too, and as the church grew in corruption, the true church was persecuted under the hand of, quote, Christians. But today we're talking about America, so we fast forward and we pick it up as the pilgrims come to America. The pilgrims come for freedom of worship. Now, not freedom for everyone, mind you.

The pilgrims never had that idea in mind. As a matter of fact, they were upset with people like William Rogers, who was a Baptist, because they saw the controversy in Europe regarding adult baptism. But they wanted freedom of religion for themselves, the way in which they saw the world as Protestants, as Calvinists that had been influenced by the writings of the great reformer who lived in Geneva. But by the time the Constitutional Convention comes, you have that great document and you have that famous phrase, Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof, which all Americans know by memory.

A few comments about it. First of all, obviously, the framers of that document did not intend that this would limit religion. They thought that it would limit the government so that there would be no state church to which everyone would have to attend. The idea that social libertarians have today in interpreting this in such a way that a child cannot draw a nativity picture in a classroom is, of course, absurd and never intended and never intended by the framers of the Constitution. Or the idea that you can have a rock concert in a public park but Christians cannot sing hymns, that would cause the framers of this document to turn in their graves if they knew that it would be so interpreted.

But let me ask you another question. Where did this idea of this kind of freedom come from? Europe had not experienced it, at least not at that time. Where did it come from? Well, there are, of course, two streams of thought. There are those who say that it came through the Enlightenment. That, of course, had a great bearing on it, but also the origin of the Enlightenment. Where did this idea come from? I think that it can be shown historically that really it has its roots in the Protestant Reformation.

And let me tell you why. When Luther there at the Diet of Worms says that my conscience is taken captive by the word of God, I cannot and I will not recant, what he was saying is that you cannot coerce someone to be a believer. We must give people freedom of conscience to believe. You see, up until that time it was believed that people could make the decision to make you a Christian. Others could make that decision. All that you needed to do was to be baptized on the eighth day and you were proclaimed to be a Christian. That was it. And later on you could belong to a church and as long as you participated in the requirements that were laid out, there did not have to be any change of heart, really any transformation of life, any yielding to God.

You simply had to go through the outward requirements. The Protestants now were saying something different. They were saying that conversion is inward, it is individual, it is personal, and it must be based on a voluntary choice. So you have the Reformation, you then have the Enlightenment which wins some directions that we would not approve of, but all of that now influenced the American Constitution.

Let me ask another question. Is it possible in America to be an atheist and be a good citizen? I think the Founding Fathers would say yes, you can be an atheist, you can believe anything you like or nothing at all, whatever.

But they also kept saying over and over again that if you want to have freedom, you must have religion believed in a widespread way because it supports transcendent values and behavior because you can't just give people freedom, they're going to misuse it unless there are some inward constraints. Is America a Christian country? No, America never was a Christian country, never will be a Christian country. There are only countries that are influenced by Christianity and certainly America was in varying degrees. But if you study its history and you know that even evangelicals discuss this and disagree on it, it was never specifically Christian.

Religious, yes, not necessarily specifically Christian, though of course Christians were involved in government. What I'd like to do for the next few moments is delineate for you now the cross and the flag, three different relationships that can exist between these two emblems. First of all, we can think of the flag above the cross. The flag above the cross. And that of course happens whenever you get people who are so committed to their country that they forget about their commitment to God.

My country, right or wrong. And so there is this blindness to the cross because they are so committed to whatever their country does. I need to tell you that throughout history, Christians have always been tempted to render onto Caesar that which belongs only to God. You've heard the story of my presence in that Berlin museum and I saw pictures of the cross of Christ in the middle of a swastika. You have all these swastikas with a cross embedded in it. And that's how come I decided to write the book Hitler's Cross.

I stood there and I said, how could this happen? How nationalistic did the German church get? And we can see it clearly in Germany, but I need to say very kindly that sometimes we're blind to it in our own lives because we say, well, they were, of course, living under an evil, wicked dictator and that's different. It's different, but the temptation is always there even in America. In order to help you to understand what it is that I mean, I want to give you some illustrations. This is why we tend to lump together a number of different things. For example, we'll take the issue of abortion, which is really a biblical issue to be sure because it has to do with human life and the destruction of unborn human life. But we tend to lump it together so that suddenly it becomes part of a larger agenda.

It becomes part of a balanced budget amendment. We say that that's a part of our agenda. And the whole idea of support for the National Rifle Association and term limits for congressmen and on and on the list goes and we say all of this is a part of the Christian agenda.

Is it? You know, it's this kind of confusion that led Jerry Falwell in 1985, I believe it was the middle 80s, to go to South Africa and take the side of apartheid in South Africa. How did that get into this Christian agenda? The reason that I feel so deeply about this is because during that period of time, I was in Toronto and I caught a cab and like I always do, I tried to witness to the cab driver and he kept throwing this into my face. And I kept saying, I know that that's not Christian, let's forget about what happened there. And he kept coming and he's saying, but he's a Christian minister, he's a Christian minister, and on and on. I could not witness to him about Christ. This was a thorn that lodged in his throat.

How was that Christian? That's what happens. Let me tell you another thing that sometimes happens, folks, and we're just talking here among ourselves, aren't we? You're still with me on the hike?

You think I've bypassed some minds or have I just barely missed one? Stick with me. Tendency to confuse our values. We, as those of us who live in America, we love the American way of life. Frankly, it's a great way to live. Just look at Christmas, look at Christmas. I don't know how it is in your house, but in my house at Christmas time, our living room looks as if there was an explosion in a department store.

That's the way it looks and we love it. That's the American way of life, but I need to ask you something today. Is that really the same as the Christian way of life? Is that distinctively Christian? Three years ago next month, I was in Belarus, where I met with those pastors, 300 of them. I said to Victor Krukow, as we're riding together in the car, I said, what did the people buy here for Christmas? Where did they go Christmas shopping? And have you ever asked somebody a question and he looks at you as if to say, how could you be so stupid as to have asked that?

It's one of those, I, I, I, you'll never learn, will you, kind of responses. He said, there is no Christmas shopping. There is nothing in the stores.

There are no gifts, nothing. We may sing a few hymns, but that's it. Is that non-Christian? Are we more Christian than our beloved brothers and sisters in Belarus? You see how easy it is to get all these kingdoms confused. There are some people to whom the national debt, high taxes, strong national defense, rollbacking of government regulations means as much to them and they are as committed to that as they are to the evangelism of their neighbors who are going to die without knowing Jesus Christ as savior. It's easy to confuse the values of the two kingdoms.

It's easy. I'm convinced that there are many angry Christians today who would get over their anger and they'd be very pacifistic and easy to live with. If all that we could do is to crank the clock back to the good old 1950s, some of you remember those good old 1950s when we didn't have drugs and we didn't have this and they'd be happy even if in the process of cranking back the clock, nobody was saved. It's just that we got back to the good old times when we didn't have these. Some people would be content if America accepted Jesus as this teacher of America, even if they didn't accept him as the savior.

They'd be glad, just give me those good old times again. Many people are not concerned about the fact that there are some artists who are going to be lost forever. It doesn't concern them. It doesn't concern them if they do pornographic art. That's just the American way.

I mean, after all, that's what freedom is all about. But if you really want to get them angry, if you really want their blood pressure to zoom off the chart, tell them that there are some people who are doing pornographic art using taxpayers' money. Now that's something that will get you good and mad. Not that the artist is doing it and is going to be lost forever and actually is an affront to Jesus Christ because of all this impurity. That's one thing, but he can do it.

That doesn't bother me, but he used my money to do it. Ah, now we've finally touched the sore spot that we'll get some bucks to fight. Are you folks still with me on the hike?

Some of you are very quiet and I'm wondering if you've put your backpack down. Let's keep going. Another problem that happens as a result is, of course, that our hope then becomes political.

And I'm going to be saying, I'm going to be balancing this in a moment. Of course we should be involved, but the kingdom of God, the kingdom of God ultimately is not Washington and City Hall. There's something else that is going on on God's agenda that is much more important. That's the flag above the cross. Nationalism. And sometimes, folks, we simply don't see it.

Let me give you a second way that they can be configured, and that is the flag and the cross. Take your Bibles and turn now to the book of 1 Peter, and you know I could have used many, many passages in the New Testament to preach this part. So many, in fact, that I was actually thinking of preaching another passage, and then yesterday I decided, no, I'm going to stick with 1 Peter chapter 2. Why are there so many passages in the New Testament that I could have preached this from? It's because most of the letters that were written in the New Testament were written to churches that were islands of righteousness in a sea of paganism. And the reason that they were written is to help Christians to know how to live in the midst of a pagan, godless society.

And that's why chapter after chapter and book after book is devoted to the topic. Notice how we are to live if we are committed both to God and to country, rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's. Well, my friend, I certainly hope that you listen to Running to Win next time, because you have to hear the rest of this message, even as we struggle with the relationship between God and country.

Now, one of the things about technology is that it goes into places that you and I will never be able to go into. Countries, of course, throughout the world. Not only that, prisons. We've known for a long time that there are many people in our prisons who listen to the ministry of Running to Win. I'm holding in my hands a letter from someone who says, if it wasn't for the Lord, where would we be? As prisoners, we listen to your radio program on our tablets. It's a blessing and joy to hear you preach. The reason that we can continue to broadcast in so many different places and so many different countries is because of people just like you. Many of you contribute to this ministry. Many of you should investigate becoming an endurance partner. That's somebody who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts.

Well, I hope that you have a pen or pencil in your hand, because I'm going to be giving you information as to how you can check this out. What you do is you go to Of course, rtwoffer is all one word. When you're there, you click on the endurance partner button. Or, if you prefer, you can pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-218-9337. From my heart to yours, I want to thank you so much for your prayers, so much for your financial contributions, but consider becoming an endurance partner. Once again, go to, click on the endurance partner button.

You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. We need to learn one lesson well. Those who mix the cross and any nation's flag do a disservice to both. For believers, keeping them distinct is the only way to fulfill our prime mission as ambassadors for Christ in a needy world. In his series, Christians, Politics and the Cross, Pastor Lutzer is making a distinction between the cross and the flag. Next time on Running to Win, he tells us what happens when we mix the two. Thanks for listening. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-20 12:22:49 / 2024-06-20 12:32:22 / 10

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