"But know this, that in the last days, perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people, turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was." -2 Timothy 3:1-9
This one might be too radical for a lot of people, but my purpose in writing is to challenge the religious conventions that have become crippling strongholds in the Church in America. Despite the fact that this essay's particular challenge may be a bit too challenging for some, that is the premise of this essay--to challenge. As a caveat, my intention with this essay is to draw the eyes of the Church in America away from the things of this world that it has held so tightly--those conventions that, as the subtitle suggests, have crippled the body of Christ. My intention is to redirect the eyes of the Church in America back to Jesus, our Lord, our Savior, our King.
The Declaration of Independence that we hold so dear, that many of us hang on the walls in our institutions and in our homes, that many of us have given far too much authority over us, is part of the subject of this post. As I was cleaning out my shower tonight, God spoke to me. I was somewhat expecting something while I was doing the chore, but in the midst of the job I felt more overwhelmed by the ridiculous soap scum buildup and the intense stench of the bleach than overwhelmed by the presence of God. I have to admit that, while I had a sense of expectation, I wasn't really listening all that well. But I heard nonetheless. Having a form of godliness but denying the power. That's what I heard. As I scrubbed the base of the tub, I meditated on this word. I wasn't sure what it meant. It had to mean something. I was somewhat familiar with the scripture, but I didn't know the context of what God was trying to tell me. As I was meditating on that word, an interesting thing came to mind: The Constitution of the United States.
It didn't take me long to realize he was telling me that these documents we put so much of our stock into do have a form of godliness but deny the power. When the stock of the Church is put into the them, the Church takes on the same qualities. We are molded in the very likeness of what we worship by what we worship. The Declaration of Independence makes a stunning assertion in the context of having a form of godliness but denying the power.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." -The Declaration of Independence
We've all read or heard this numerous times. We probably get a little bit nostalgic about it. Have we really considered what it says from a biblical perspective? It acknowledges that God has given us the rights that we so naturally have, but it acknowledges government as the protector of those rights. It even goes so far as to say that if the government fails in protecting such rights, a new protector/government should be established. It paints a picture that is essentially Deist in nature (no pun intended). Deism acknowledges a "universal creative force." It even acknowledges that this force is "greater than that demonstrated by mankind." But from there, Deism looks to human reason and nature. The "universal creative force" gave us reason and natural laws to live as it would have us live. It has a form of godliness but denies the power. The god of the Deists created everything, then just sort of sat back, folded his arms, and watched what we would do with the power he gave us. Our Declaration, so near and dear to our hearts, does the same. It acknowledges that vague "Creator" but it puts the functional power of that Creator into the hands of men and governments and their documents.
I'm not trying to say that all of America's founders were Deists, but Deism is in the design as made clear in America's Declaration of Independence. And while the Declaration is just a . . . well, a declaration, the Constitution is the power. The Declaration declares the power while the Constitution imparts the power. The founding documents the Church in America holds to so strongly have a form of godliness but deny the power of God.
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." -The Constitution of the United States of America
Where is the power? It is very clearly written that it is in the hands of the people. The People establish. The People insure. The People provide. The People promote. The People secure. Where is there room for the Holy Spirit when the People have such complete power? It could certainly be argued that America's founders had no intention of denying the power as they wrote up such a document, but it could also be argued that much thought and consideration must have gone in to the drafting of such a document. Whether it was intended is not what is relevant. What is relevant is that it is written. What is relevant is what it has become. It has become what was written, not what may or may not have been intended.
The verses surrounding 2 Timothy 3:5 are just as telling. In trying to hold so tightly to the Constitution, are men becoming lovers of themselves? I don't think it requires a whole lot of study to answer this one. In trying to hold so tightly to the Constitution, people are, as a rule, trying to hold so tightly to "We the People." It is stated like a mantra. We the People! If anyone takes our liberty, there will be hell to pay. I would say that this at least verges on love of self. The hope for our nation is "We the People" and the power is in the document that offers that hope. Jesus called on us repeatedly to be willing to give up our rights. We were called to carry our crosses just as he carried his. It is a testament that we love him more than our own lives. Our refusal to give up our liberty says a lot about how much we love our own lives, which equates with love of self.
Are men becoming lovers of money? Those who want to hold on to their money appeal to the Constitution in that the constitutionality of income tax (along with other taxes) is doubtful. We don't appeal to Jesus, who told us to pay taxes despite the fact that they are a form of corruption. He tells us to go ahead and pay to avoid controversy, to avoid unnecessary conflict with government (Matthew 17:24-27). In rejecting the words of Jesus and appealing to the words of the Constitution, we offer evidence that we love money more than we love Jesus. We're willing to give undue controversy to his name in the name of holding on to a relatively small portion of money.
Are men becoming boasters regarding America's founding documents? Two words: "American exceptionalism."
Are men becoming proud? Again, "American exceptionalism."
Are men becoming blasphemers? One definition of "blasphemy" is, "The act of claiming for oneself the attributes and rights of God." In that case, "having a form of godliness and denying the power," is itself a form of blasphemy. In giving America's founding documents such power to be the sole protector of the rights which God gave us, we blaspheme.
Are we becoming disobedient to parents? Of course. The concept of rights, as secured by men, is the stepping stone for the disobedience to parents we see across America.
Are we becoming unthankful? Of course. Instead of keeping our eyes on Jesus and truly being thankful to him for giving us something much more valuable than rights, we rue the day our rights are in jeopardy and help to spread the propaganda that all is about to be lost--as if God isn't really in control.
I think the point has been made. I won't get into the full list. What is above should suffice to show our love affairs with our rights and ourselves as "We the People" opens up a whole can of nastiness when those affairs are threatened. And in the context of this particular revelation of this scripture, verse nine tells us that our love affairs will indeed be cut off. God will cut off that love affair. He will allow them to fail us. Considering the times, I believe it is fitting to say that now just might be the time that he is allowing them to fail us.
As Christians, why should we even care that the Constitution of the United States faces destruction? That we're so concerned about its destruction is indicative of our reliance upon it, our acknowledgement that the power does indeed come from that document. Without that document, our power is lost and we're left under the swaying whims and nefarious agendas of the world.
Soon enough, I realized that God was bringing me back to one of older essays I wrote on this theme, "Jesus Christ vs Democracy." Democracy has helped to the cripple the Church in America. But we need to realize that Constitution or no Constitution, rights or no rights, our kingdom is that of God, not that of America. Jesus is our King and he is still on the throne!
By fretting in our paranoia about the power we are losing as the Constitution is supposedly being destroyed, what are we saying the about the King we claim to follow? What are we saying about the omnipotence of our God? We need to refocus.
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