The Cross And The FlagDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | October 27, 1996
Selected highlights from this sermon
How do the two kingdoms of church and state relate? Jesus demonstrated their separation when He commanded us to respect authorities and their taxation.
But one error that can be made is when we treat the institutions of man as the primary emphasis of Christian efforts. What we need to do is come to the flag with a clear direction, a credible message, and cheerful submission. But when the flag attempts to thwart the commands of God, we must kindly and respectfully disobey and represent Christ to the watching world.
Today it’s 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 are walking through you may think that I am 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 you think you are going. There was a pastor who did that. He said to a man who was leaving, “Why are you leaving?” The man shouted, “I am 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.” (laughter) 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. (more laughter)
One day the people came to Jesus to entrap Him. It’s in Matthew 22. I’m picking 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: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, 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 in to 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 it 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), 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 they should pay the poll tax. And how would the tax be used? It would 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 that 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, you’ve heard me tell the story many times, and 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 said 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 hands of (quote) Christians.
But today we’re talking about America, so we fast-forward the VCR, and we pick it up as the pilgrims come to America. The pilgrims come for freedom of worship - but 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.
Let me make 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 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 said that it came through the Enlightenment. And 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 said, “My conscience is taken captive by the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant,” what he was saying is, “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 8th day and you were proclaimed to be a Christian. That was it. And later on, you could belonged 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 went in 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 to 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, or 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 are going to misuse it unless there are some inward constraints.
Is America a Christian country? No, America never was a Christian country. It 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, but not necessarily specifically Christian, though, of course, Christians were involved in government.
What I’d like to do for the next few moments is to 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. 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 unto Caesar that which belongs only to God. You’ve heard the story of my presence in that Berlin museum, where I saw pictures of the cross of Christ in the middle of a swastika. You have all these swastikas with a cross embedded in them, 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?” We can see it clearly in Germany, but I need to say very kindly that sometimes we are 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.” Yes, that’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 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 a part of a larger agenda. It becomes a 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 eighties) 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 back and saying, “But he’s a Christian minister,” and on and on. And I could not witness to him about Christ. This was a thorn that lodged in his throat. How was that Christian? And 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? Are you still with me on the hike? Do you think I’ve bypassed some mines, or have I just barely missed one? Stick with me. There’s a tendency to confuse our values. Those of us who live in America love the American way of life. Frankly it’s a great way to live. Just 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 – the story I told you about – 300 of them. I said to Viktor Kruko, as we were riding together in the car, “What do the people buy here for Christmas? Where do 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 kind of one of those “Aye aye aye, 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, roll-backing 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 am convinced that there are many angry Christians today who would get over their anger and they would 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 they’d be happy if, even in the process of cranking back the clock, nobody was saved. It’s just that if 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 use my money to do it? Ah, now we finally touch the sore spot that will 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 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 balancing this in a moment. Of course we should be involved, but 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 now and turn 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 that no, I’m going to stick with 1 Peter 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 was to help Christians 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.” He says in 1 Peter 2, beginning in verse 9, “But you are a chosen race (elect by God before the foundation of the world), a royal priesthood (The priests in the Old Testament could go into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement only under specific regulations. We today live there in the Holy of Holies. We live in the Holy of Holies. Christ has brought us in.), a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim (and this now gives us the reason why we are here. “What are we supposed to be doing,” people ask? Well, it’s here.) the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” That, my friend, is the basic fundamental agenda of the church in all generations regardless of the kind of regime under which they live.
And the Greek word here is that you might proclaim the “excellencies.” The idea is the worthiness of Jesus Christ. That’s what the world needs to see. They need to see how worthy Jesus is. And the word proclaim is used here only in the New Testament. It is used in an Old Testament translation into Greek for praise, that we ourselves - our lives - might praise and give glory to the excellencies of the One who has called us out of darkness, out of the pit of misunderstanding into His glorious light, and that is our agenda.
What is our responsibility at a time when everything that has been nailed down is being torn up? First, it’s to have a clear message. Let’s not forget that that’s why God called us. It’s to have a clear message. You say, “Well, but people don’t believe our message. They just don’t want to believe.” This week somebody was telling me, “The people to whom I witness have such hard hearts. I’ve tried to tell them the truth and they won’t listen.” Now because I believe that God is sovereign, I think that God, if He wanted to, really could zap them, and they’d catch the truth real fast if God zapped them. Just boom, they’d see it - that they are sinners, and that Christ died for sinners and they’d better rush to Christ to believe. We’d love that, wouldn’t we? But you know that’s not the way God usually does it.
Do you know what His program is? His program is to enable His people to live in such a way that they soften the world and worm their way into the hearts of the unsaved who eventually see a life, and say, “I can’t explain it. What makes you tick?” That’s why, in addition to a clear message, what we should do is to have a credible lifestyle. Verse 11, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh.” The world most assuredly does not abstain. Fleshly lusts are the things in which they indulge, the things in which they glory, and the things about which they boast. “But we abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” That whole battle with impurity! We become a part of a community that prays for us and that helps us to yield, and that counsels us, and that disciples us, so that we are not like the world. We are not into what they are doing, and their magazines and whatever it is that they may watch. We don’t do that because we have been called to a higher calling. Now that gets the attention of the world.
So what does it mean to have a credible lifestyle? Negatively - moral purity! Positively – notice “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable (that is, among the pagans), so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” What he’s saying is that what you need is credibility. We’ve lost a lot of that, but credibility.
Have you ever been in an office area or somewhere where there’s a Christian, but they are a little bit left of center. They’re a little odd anyway, and they are always spewing out these platitudes? And then they begin to give out tracts, and the people just shake their heads and say, “Give me a break.” Why is the message rejected? It may be a true message. It’s lack of credibility. If you live like the people of the world, if you engage in lust like the people of the world, if you talk like the people of the world, if you complain like they do and if you are a part of that, why should anybody believe that Jesus is able to save people? And I was born close to a little town, and I’ll tell you something. When it rained all the farmers would get together in the little store, and all that they did was complain. They complained when it rained. They complained during times of drought. The complained when the crop was good. They complained when it was bad. They complained when it hailed. They complained when it didn’t hail.
You know, it’s like saying, “I’ve met a doctor who can cure the blind.” Who in the world is going to believe that? But if you say, “You know I’ve got six people who can come and they can tell you that they were blind and now they see,” people say, “I can’t believe it. If that’s true and if he can cure those blind people, why can’t he cure other blind people?” and the credibility is gained. And the world today no longer believes that God actually changes the lives of people and that they live differently. It is because they have heard us shout as loudly as they. They’ve seen us as angry as they are. They’ve seen us go for our rights just as much as the world goes for their rights. And the world says, “What in the world is there to believe? Why should I believe in your Jesus?” A clear message, a credible lifestyle, and we just keep moving through this passage because we’re not to the top of the hill yet.
Cheerful! You knew it would begin with C didn’t you? After all, if I had clear and credible, it would have to be C – cheerful submission. Now when this was written, who was ruling? Caesar, of course, but Nero was in charge, and he’s the one, you remember I told you, who killed his mother, and did some very despicable things to Christians that we still read about in history text books today.
And this is what Peter says – shock! “Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor the emperor.”
Nero? Stalin? Hitler? Churchill? Bill Clinton? Submit!
He’s been put there by God. You speak about him but you do not malign him. You pray for him because he is your leader. That’s what you do as a Christian. You say, “Oh, but in America we have the privilege of choosing who our king is.” Yes, of course, and that’s why you get involved in politics and you vote wisely, and you pray about your vote, and you take your voter’s guide and you ask yourself what it is that you should do, and of course, the point is that we live in a participatory democracy which the people didn’t have in those days, and we take full advantage of it. But at the end of the day we realize that ultimately we are to submit even if it is not our man or our woman who gets elected. That’s what the text says.
And then he goes on to say that we should submit to civil authorities. Verse 18, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.” Oh, you should hang on to your rights and get an organization that says Christians are having their rights trampled on! No! “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” He says (the next verse), “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?” Don’t think that that’s for Jesus, “But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure (What does he say?), this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” God is watching!
You say, “Well, shouldn’t we be involved? Isn’t it Christians that have been on the forefront of good legislation? Yes! Be involved whether it’s a Wilberforce against slavery, or whether it is child labor laws. Oftentimes it was Christians who brought about all the good changes that they could. And what should we do today? If you are into term limits or even if you are for the NRA, or whatever, go ahead and do your agenda. Just don’t take all those agendas and nail them to the cross and call them Christian so that in the eyes of the world the cross of Jesus Christ looks like an over-used bulletin board. Don’t do that.
The cross must always be distinct. We must recognize today, dear folks, that there are many people to whom we can appeal with persuasion and with love and humility, who can get onto our ethical agenda, our moral agenda, and that’s perfectly fine. But let’s not tag it with the name Christian, and let’s not go out of our way to antagonize the world that we are supposed to represent Jesus Christ to. That’s the point, and that’s the way we live in a pagan society, the way the Church has always lived.
We’ve talked about the flag above the cross. I’ve spoken now about the flag and the cross, and there’s one other relationship and that is the cross against the flag, or the flag against the cross – however you want to put it. You say, “Don’t we sometimes disobey? Don’t we just sometimes say that enough is enough?” Yes, we do. The whole history of the Church is full of lawbreakers.
At what point do we simply say we’re not going to obey the government anymore - that we’re not going to take it anymore? Very simply, whenever we are asked to do something that the Bible forbids, or whenever we are asked to refrain from something that the Bible commands, that’s the time that we become lawbreakers. If we are asked to do something that the Bible forbids, asked to not do something that the Bible commands, we break the law. You’re in East Germany in the sixties and you are asked to help build the Berlin Wall, of course you help build the Berlin Wall. Be subject to every rule of man. But if the government tells you that you cannot witness to your colleagues, you begin to witness. You do so with care, and with a great deal of wisdom, but you witness nonetheless because God has placed you there for one reason - to display the excellencies of Jesus Christ. That’s why you are there.
And in those instances that I spoke about earlier, we can be involved in legislation that betters America. Fine, wonderful! But even there, remember that we are to be witnesses of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
So what do you do if your children are asked to watch steamy sex movies as part of sex education in the schools? What do you do? First of all, you appeal to the teacher, and you go in humility because you know right well that all the sins in the world are basically found in the Church if we knew the truth. And so you go with a sense of brokenness. You don’t do the first thing that you want to do. You don’t go with a grenade to try to burn the school down. You go in humility. If that doesn’t work, yes, you can go to the school board. And if you want to join a group of people, a group of concerned parents, you can do that too. But what you try to do is you try to work with the system. You try to not gain adversaries by highly political means, and start to call one another names like someone did who is a great leader in this country who said that “because you are calling us religious right-wing fanatics, we’re going to call you bigots.” That’s a quote. You don’t do that!
When we disobey, we disobey wisely. We disobey honestly. We don’t write letters about our opponents that aren’t true in order to get some money so that we can fight some cause. We don’t embellish our argument for the cause of “truth.” We do so and we accept unfair treatment because we realize that Jesus said, “If my Kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight. I have enough resources to win this thing politically, but my Kingdom is not from this world, and therefore, my servants will not fight. Peter, take your sword and put it back into its sheath. This is not the way you fight in God’s Kingdom. It’s not the way you do it in God’s Kingdom.”
What it is that I am saying as I come now to the top of the hill? I’m simply saying this, folks, and I hope that you know that we’ve taken this journey together so that you might realize that it’s possible for the Kingdom of Man to decline, and the Kingdom of God to be doing just fine. They are two different kingdoms. It’s possible, you see, for the Kingdom of Man, with all of its institutions, to decline. I need to mention China where the Church was so oppressed during Communism. And I’m not in favor of Communism, I’m not in favor of oppression, and I fear persecution because I don’t know what I’d do if persecution came. I hope I’d do the right thing. I don’t know. But I need to tell you that the Church has grown a lot more in China than it has in Taiwan with all of its freedom. I do need to tell you that.
It is possible, you see, for a state to decline. It is possible for the City of Man to go downhill and the City of God to rise up to fill the vacuum, and see God do something wonderful in the midst of it. I’m here to encourage you and to let you know that our destiny as a church is not dependent upon the next election that is going to take place in the United States. We have a higher leader. We have a higher calling. We belong to that city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God. We are going in different directions. Yes, for this brief time we intersect, but the City of Man and the City of God will separate forever finally in the end. And that’s why we aren’t complainers.
If I’m flying from Los Angeles to Chicago (home) and I have a stop-off in Atlanta, I don’t get all uptight about the fact that the washrooms in the Atlanta airport aren’t carpeted, and there is inadequate lighting, and some of the fixtures are dirty. I don’t get shook. Why? Well I’m just passing through. I’m on my way home.
Remember years ago when we used to sing that this world wasn’t my home? And some people actually believed it because we belong to another country, another city with another leader, and our responsibility is to pick up the pieces of a crumbling society. What a day and age in which to live so that we speak to the homeless and to that pregnant mother, and we minister to her in a day care center. And we talk to those who are going through times of financial distress, and those single mothers, God bless them, whose homes have been ravaged by divorce and immorality and alcoholism, and we move in and we take over. And we represent Jesus to them. That’s what we do when society crumbles, not to save America, but we’re committed to saving Americans. That’s God’s agenda. Excellencies!
Remember that story that comes to us from the turn of the century – that Boxer Rebellion? It’s called the boxers, by the way, because they used to be calisthenics there in China. And during those terrible times, Christians were going through times of persecution that were horrendous. Soldiers marched into the school with guns - this Christian school with about a hundred students - and they said, “We want all of you to come out. We’ve laid a cross down on the step. If you step on the cross, thereby despising it, you’ll live. If you walk around the cross, you will be shot.” The first eight students stepped on the cross and their lives were spared. But the ninth was a girl, and she stood and she knelt there beside the cross, asking God to give her the grace to do what she knew she should do. And she very quietly walked around the cross in respect of it and she was mowed down. All the other students in the school followed her example. Ninety children were killed because they were Christians. Were they losers? Were they losers because they didn’t know anything about the American way of life? No, my friend, it is possible to lose in the City of Man and win forever in the City of God. We belong to a different country with a different set of values, with a different commander, and we are in march to a different drummer. And what we must do is to represent Christ well in a nation that is crumbling around us, looking for answers. We must call forth the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
Go today in peace to your neighborhood, to your home, to your apartment, to your place of work tomorrow, and say, “I represent Christ.” That’s what we do when paganism encroaches. And if you are agreed that we have come to the top of the mountain, let us now bow in prayer.
Our Father, we thank You today for all those who have gone before us who have held high the cross that we love. Thank You for those who have died because they understood clearly that their kingdom is not a kingdom of this world. We pray today, Father, that You might invigorate us. Help us to know that we can be faithful no matter what. And for those who have never believed on Christ, today (You’ve never been translated from one kingdom to the other.), cause that to happen too. Grant them the faith to believe personally even during this prayer and during the hymn. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.