Tidbits from Sunday’s Sermon: Religious Liberty and the Christian (click on the title to listen to the sermon).
Religious liberty is a God-given right and responsibility that truly allows people to experience the fullness of a life pursuing God.
Religious liberty is rooted in scriptural principles.
* The nature of truth requires religious liberty.
There are matters that are bigger than human institutions. Even the church and its leadership are frail and falter. In matters of the civil government, the constitution may rule. But there is a greater authority that rules over the hearts and minds of individuals. Government can give us policy. Teachers can add wisdom to our lives. God is the author of truth. And we must be free to acknowledge that and live in it!
John 8:31-32 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
* The nature of faith demands religious liberty.
Faith cannot be coerced. It can’t be part of “group think.” It is an act of the will. God created us with a will and seeks our response. We can make people conform. We can’t make them transform. And the goal of the gospel is transformation!
Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes:
* The nature of conscience calls for religious liberty.
God gives each human being a conscience. Each person has the right and responsibility to live according to that conscience. By conscience, we aren’t simply talking about ideas or opinions. We are talking about convictions that relate to one’s standing before God.
Romans 2:15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)
* The nature of judgment aligns with religious liberty.
Judgment is individual. Because of that, each individual has the right and responsibility to live in accordance with what they believe God to require. God may judge the nations. But He will also judge the individual.
Hebrews 9:27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…
Revelation 20:12-13 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.
Every human being is a free moral agent. Each is created by God for God. Each has been given a deep seated conscience, an awareness of God and eternity, and each must have the freedom to pursue truth and live by it.
The believer must watch for the modern pressures on religious liberty.
* We must stand against forcing elements of a cultural faith (things like “school prayer”).
Devout Christians must be careful not to impose religious conviction on the masses. We can influence, persuade and argue. In implementation we must be cautious not to violate the nature of truth, faith, conscience and judgment.
* We must watch for mandated participation in areas violating conscience.
Catholic charities are feeling the heat to violate conscience to obey health insurance laws. In doing this, we see the trend of government to simplify governance at the cost of running over conscience. This strikes at the heart of religious liberty.
* We must stand against the move to put limits on the freedom to practice religion.
Through zoning laws, restricted use of public facilities, etc., we see religious organizations challenged to justify their very existence. This becomes burdensome to the faithful. And it allows culture to define what is and what isn’t acceptable faith practice.
We must strive to maintain and expand this liberty.
* Live honestly before God, exercising your religious liberty.
Don’t live your faith in isolation or seclusion. This encourages the dismemberment of the freedom we enjoy. Instead, practice your faith in the marketplace. Live for the truth, live in faith, live by your conscience and live ready for judgment.
* Discern the principle of religious liberty at work.
Watch for challenges. See when the principle is being threatened. Don’t use expediency or pragmatism as your criteria. Let principle be your guide.
* Stand for and decent the principle of religious freedom of others, especially minority groups.
* Strive to spread the availability of religious freedom for more people around the world.
Pray for movements to grow. Put political pressure on our own government to persuade others toward recognizing the vitality of this liberty.
At the end of today’s message, there were a few questions.
Q1:: Is separation of church and state helpful to spreading the gospel?
A1:: I believe so. There is a lot of debate about how people interpret that phrase. But in the context of religious freedom, if government espouses one doctrine over another it seems to find a way to use the religious system to govern and control people. In a truly free system, we want people to see and hear the gospel in the marketplace of ideas. In that system, the gospel can thrive. We’ll answer this more fully on August 5th when I speak about the Church and State.
Q2:: How is one, in places where there is no religious freedom or knowledge of Christian religion, responsible for themselves during judgment?
A2:: I don’t believe that people are judged for what they do not know. In Romans 1 and 2, Paul says that we each can see the attributes of God in creation (general revelation) and that we each have a God-given conscience. At the least that is what we are judged on. The sad news is that each of us quickly violates our consciences and deny the God we are shown. Some do it for a lifetime. Some, until they experience the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
Q3:: If we have free moral agency, how do we deal with Prov. 21:1 where God says the heart of a king is like a river and He moves the heart of the king wherever He wishes? And Exodus where some of the time God hardens Pharaoh’s heart and other times Pharaoh hardens it himself?
A3: Interesting question. Free moral agency doesn’t mean we are not influenced. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where people are used by God against their will. God didn’t take an obedient heart in Pharaoh and harden it. He took a disobedient and rebellious heart and solidified it for His purposes. Nor does God take one who doesn’t desire salvation and thrust it upon him or her. God works in and with the human heart.
Thanks for the questions. Any other questions or thoughts? Would love to have you join in the discussion! Just click on “leave comment.”