There was a time, not so long ago, when Christians were known to be people of integrity who could be trusted to keep their word. So pervasive was the Christian ethic that verbal agreements were binding and sufficient. Burglar bars, alarms and security gates were unknown and unnecessary. Women and children could walk alone at night without fear or danger. What happened?
"Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts … let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream"
Amos 5:15, 24
"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people."
The solution to all our social and political problems is not merely to have Christian officials elected. As recent history amply demonstrates, those who claim to be Christians can advocate and vote for policies which are blatantly in conflict with God's Law.
The Bible forbids the shedding of innocent blood (Genesis 9:6; Proverbs 6: 16-17), yet many Christians vote for parties that stand for legalised, taxpayer-funded abortion and euthanasia. The Bible forbids theft, taxation above 10%, the taxation of property, the taxation of inheritance and the taxation of those involved in the full time service of the Lord (Exodus 20:15,17; 1 Samuel 8:10 18; 1 Kings 21:3, Ezra 7:23 24), yet many Christians support taxation policies which break all of these Biblical principles.
"For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity."
The great British Reformer and Bible translator, Professor John Wycliffe, taught that "the Bible is given for the government of the people, by the people and for the people".
The primary message of the Bible is about how sinful men and women can be reconciled to the Holy Creator. The secondary message of the Bible is how we are to live our lives in obedience to the Law of God. Because God is the Creator of all, His Word speaks on all areas of life - including education, economics and justice. Yet many Christians reject, or neglect, God's Word and its application to all areas of life.
"Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching' …"
Most Christians do not seem to understand that we are in a war. It's a war of ideas and of loyalties. You either give your allegiance to God, or to satan. The world is the battlefield. Unfortunately, many Christians have failed to renew their minds (Romans 12:1-2) and don't understand how the humanist worldview conflicts with the Biblical worldview. If you read the newspaper more than you read the Bible, if you read secular books and magazines more than Christian publications, if you watch TV more than you worship Christ, then it's inevitable - you may have a Christian heart, but you'll certainly have a humanist mind.
"… since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind."
Romans 1: 28
What is shaping and filling your mind?
If it is television, popular music and the newspapers then you will be a humanist in your thinking, because these areas have been generally taken over by those who reject God and the Bible and therefore they promote (often subtly) evolutionism, situational ethics, immorality and socialism. Humanism is a secular religion that teaches that people are not created in the image of God, that there are no absolute standards of right and wrong, that man is a product of his environment, evolved by random chance from lower forms of life. Therefore people are not moral agents, but victims of circumstances. To the humanist, man is the measure of all things, not God.
"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."
In households with television, the average child sees between 15 000 to 30 000 hours of television, and listens to over 10 000 hours of music, before leaving school (Nielsen Media Research, 1995). During that time he or she will have seen from 800 000 to 1,5 million acts of violence, including 192 000 to 360 000 murders depicted on television (US News and World Report 1996), and 240 000 to 480 000 sexual acts or references to sex (Media Research Centre). They will also have spent from 11 000 to 16 000 hours in school and less than 2000 hours of conversation and interaction with their parents (Media Wise Family). What values and worldview will they receive from these sources? What influence has the media had upon you?
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will."
Unless you make a conscious, deliberate and daily effort to study God's Word and apply the Lordship of Christ to all areas of life, you will inevitably be conformed to the world. The news media, educational institutions and entertainment industry are seldom sympathetic to Biblical principles. What we see influences what we think and what we think influences what we become and what we do. Ideas have consequences. Actions flow from thought patterns. What form of education is moulding your thought patterns? What entertainment and news media is filling your mind?
"Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."
So, what has gone so wrong that even those who claim to be Christians can be guilty of deceit, theft, immorality and the promotion of pornography, prostitution, homosexuality, gambling and abortion? How can Christians belong to political parties which blatantly reject God's Law and promote such gross evils? How can Christians vote for parties which advocate legalised prostitution, gambling, homosexuality, pornography, abortion and euthanasia?
"There is no fear of God before their eyes."
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). For a society to be prosperous and peaceful it is essential that the society be primarily made up of moral people. The foundation for a truly free and stable nation can only be laid in characters, minds and lives changed by the Grace of God. In order to be successful, a society needs to be made up of honest citizens who will not steal, diligent people who are hard working and productive, compassionate families who are concerned for their neighbours, responsible workers who will fulfil their obligations and be faithful stewards of public resources. The essential foundations for morality are: Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Fear of God.
"Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in His commands."
Here we are getting to the heart of the problem. Most of our churches are devoid of the fear of the Lord, and far from delighting in God's commands, many Christians actually despise God's Law. How often have we heard preachers claiming that "we are no longer under law"! Yet the Bible defines sin as "lawlessness" (1 John 3:4). Those antinomians who reject God's Law need to heed the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law … Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven."
King Alfred the Great (849 - 899) of England, who laid the foundations of the Common Law, began his Dooms with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), the Mosaic Case Laws (Exodus 21 - 23), the Golden Rule of Christ (Matthew 7:12) and other Biblical principles. The principles of limited government and the foundations of individual liberty can be traced through Alfred to the Bible (A History of the English-Speaking Peoples). The Law of God is the only effective foundation for freedom and justice.
The Ten Commandments cover our responsibility to God, to our parents and to other people. Each command deals with a specific area (God, worship, speech, time, authority, life, love, property, truth and conscience). Each command includes prohibitions and each command includes an implicit right (Freedom of Worship, the Right to Know God's Will and to do it, Freedom of Speech, the Right to work and to rest, Respect for authority, the Right to Life, the Sanctity of Marriage, Private Ownership of Property, the Right to be protected from slander and Freedom of conscience). Adherence to God's Law would result in respect for God, respect for people and respect for property - a society where we could love our neighbour instead of fearing our neighbour.
"The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes."
How then can so many Christians claim that God's Law is no longer applicable to us, today? Are we free to worship other gods? Can we now bow before idols and take God's Name in vain? May we desecrate the Lord's Day and dishonour our parents? May we kill - at least pre-born babies or the very old and infirm? May we now commit adultery, steal, lie and covet? Which of God's Ten Commandments may we break without fear of serious consequences?
God is not a permissive God. He didn't give us the "Ten Suggestions"!
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell."
Only the fear of God can produce lasting justice and righteousness in individuals, families, churches and nations. Only to the degree that people fear God and obey His commandments can society function for the good and freedom of all its citizens. Honest and hard work abound when God is feared (Leviticus 25:43; Colossians 3:22).
Sound economic practices flow from the fear of God (Nehemiah 5:9 -13).
"For the nation or kingdom that will not serve You will perish, it will be utterly ruined".
"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord …"
When something is repeated in Scripture it emphasises its importance. Loving God, His Name, His Law and His Word is mentioned 88 times in the Bible. Trusting God and His Word occurs 91 times. There are 278 references to Fearing God in the Bible. The Fear of God is mentioned more times than any other aspect of devotion. The reverential awe, respect and fear of God must be the fundamental attitude of our Faith. Any view of God which doesn't lead us to fear God and obey His Law cannot be a Biblical view.
"Great and marvellous are Your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are Your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear You, O Lord, and bring glory to Your Name? You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed."
Unless we as individuals, families, congregations, communities and as nations return to God's Word, we will be doomed to suffer the inevitable consequences of humanistic situational ethics - escalating STD's, inflation, unemployment and increasing corruption, crime and violence.
It's God's Law or chaos.
"See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction … love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land …"
Dr Peter Hammond is the author of Biblical Principles for Africa.
Africa Christian Action
P.O. Box 23632
Tel: (021) 689-4481
Fax: (021) 685-5884