Not too long ago I was struck by two incidents that measured how we as a culture are increasingly losing the mettle to stand for our convictions.
The newly crowned Miss USA was asked if she believed that health care was a privilege or a right. She was also asked if she were a feminist. Her answers were contrary to the power of the new beast in our culture and within 24 hours she was forced to bow the knee and recant.
A West Point graduate, Army flight surgeon and war hero was nominated to be the Secretary of the Army. Shortly thereafter, the beast forced him to withdraw because of his stated beliefs. In this case, he didn’t recant, but it is becoming clearer that we are entering a period in which convictions contrary to the beast’s are going to come under fierce attack and possibly disqualify one for significant positions in our culture and even inhibit the commercial right to buy and sell.
Thankfully, the founders weren’t so squeamish. Thankfully, they had a backbone.
Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate today. The beast in their day was the mighty power of King George and his supreme army and navy. Though the founders believed in their convictions, they knew that the beast would consider it treason, the penalty for which was death. This provided for a most somber and solemn pause in the assembly. It was in the gravity of that moment that Benjamin Franklin quipped something like: “Well gentlemen, we must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”
There was no doubt in their minds that to stand up to the beast would prove costly. And cost them it did.
Of the fifty-six, five were captured, tortured and put to death. Twelve had their homes burned down. Two lost sons. Nine died in the ensuing war with the beast. Carter Braxton signed as a wealthy trader and died in rags. Thomas McKeam and his family were driven underground and ended up in poverty. Eight had their properties looted. Thomas Nelson directed the cannon fire on his own beautiful estate, which the British General Cornwallis had converted into his headquarters. After destroying his own home, he died bankrupt. Francis Lewis’ home and property were destroyed and his wife captured and thrown in prison where she died. His son died in British captivity as well. A few months after signing, John Hart was driven from his home where his wife lay dying. He was hunted and hid in caves only to finally return to find his fields and grist mill laid to waste, his wife dead and his thirteen children gone. He died shortly thereafter of exhaustion and a broken heart. Richard Stockton died a broken man after being betrayed by a loyalist, imprisoned, and beaten, returning eventually to find his home gutted. Only days after signing, Lewis Morris found his 2,000-acre farm ravaged, his cattle butchered and his family driven away. Similarly, Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward were captured while their estates were burned to the ground. Heyward’s wife died, watching it all.
These men had backbones. They did not recant. They did not retreat. They pledged their “lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” so that a nation built on new foundations might provide liberty to its people. They lost their lives and their fortunes, but not their sacred honor.
Today we fight a new beast. Do we have the same resolve? Are we willing to pledge our lives and fortunes, our sacred honor? Or will we capitulate, bow the knee and take the easy road?
This week, the beast was attempting to force a university in Oklahoma to bow the knee and remove the crosses and Bibles from its chapel. In Denver a baker still battles the beast over his Christian convictions. No question, the beast is huge, his claws are sharp, his teeth are lethal.
But so, too, was King George.
Do we have the backbone to stand?
The Remnant remains for a reason.
One of the many skirmishes with the current President, and there are many, is focused on the notion of a free press. Last Thursday over 300 news organizations, in a coordinated effort against the President, published editorials in defense of a free press.
But what in the world is a “free” press?
In the upcoming Engagement small-group series (launches late 2019) we will take some time talking about what has happened to various words in our culture. One of those is the word “freedom”. When a people become totally self-centered, as I believe we have, then “freedom” becomes all about me and my right to do whatever I want. We’ve even upped the ante on this in the last thirty years by divinizing the individual such that we believe our heart is the source of truth, which by default makes us each a little god. If I am divine, and my heart tells me that I’m a boy and not a girl, even at age 4, or I want to marry the soil (as Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens did in 2014) then who are you to speak against the gods? This has become the modern view of “freedom”. Unfettered by a transcendent Truth, we all become gods. However, we are insanely impotent little gods and we need the power of the press or the State to confirm and codify and adjudicate our god-ness and force the culture to accept and bless our “freedom” to act as precious little divines.
This notion now carries over into the new understanding of the “freedom” of the press.
The Founders weren’t interested in “freedom” as we want to define it today. They believed the foundations of this country were its solid stand on a belief in God (and therefore a transcendent right and wrong) and the people then acting morally in accordance with that transcendent Truth. Freedom was found in the right of an individual to become as fruitful as they were gifted and determined to become without the suppressing caste of ancestry or royal rights and without the tyranny of the State or any other power circumventing that liberty. The “free press” was critical to this dream because it would provide an essential “balance of power” to the State or Labor or the Church or to anything that would threaten those foundations or the freedom and liberty of the people. The Press was to be the nation’s non-political “umpire” whose power was to call attention to the people of violations toward this exceptional dream.
But what happens when the press begins to align with one side over the other? What would happen in a baseball game if the umpire never called strikes against one team and never called balls against the other? Do we rejoice because the umpire is “free” to call them the way he likes, helping his “side”, rather than according to the rules?
During the last administration, the President declared he would not enforce a law enacted by Congress (DOMA) because he didn’t like it. The press should have created a firestorm that scorched the political land. No President, who has taken an oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to faithfully fulfill the position as head of the Executive Branch, which executes the laws enacted by Congress, should ever, ever be allowed to act as if he were supreme to the Legislative Branch and the Judicial Branch. Yet it happened and the press was silent.
Because the mainstream press has become aligned with a naturalistic worldview and its political party.
Conservatives have long protested this growing deep bias in the press. Studies have shown that the major news organizations are over 90% manned with left-leaning people.
There is nothing inherently wrong with that!
But, if the press doesn’t hold both sides accountable, then is it really “free” in the sense that the Founders dreamed and for which they fought?
I don’t think so.
Here is what needs to happen. When the President chides them over this issue, instead of firing back as if they are without fault, let them take a serious internal look and ask themselves if they are guilty of betraying the true notion of their profession. Ask themselves if they would have allowed Madonna to talk about “blowing up the White House” if it were against a blue President or if they would tolerate repeated attacks on a blue President’s wife and children. When I was at the White House, under a red President, I saw the unmerciful attacks in the press upon Justice Clarence Thomas and the derision that arose over the Vice President spelling “potatoe”. Then I left and saw a blue President use his power and influence to seduce a young intern in the Oval Office and the press and the feminists virtually turned a blind eye.
I want the press to call a fair game. I want them to take the current President to task when he is wrong. I want bad cops and bad judges and bad politicians exposed. But those strikes need to be called on both sides, not just one.
It’s a little comical though, and I suppose we ought to try to find something here at which we can laugh. The President is yelling at a bad Ump, and the Ump is desperately trying to throw the President out of the game, but he can’t and the Ump is growing unhinged because of it… all to the extreme delight of the President, who gleefully fires off another raspberry.
It is making for a wild and crazy game.
Let’s hope and pray it ends in something good for the nation.
Our President will offer, on Tuesday, his State of the Union address. However, it will most likely not be a true state of our nation, but rather another political posturing speech, just like we have heard for years, from both Republicans and Democrats. This is unfortunate, for our nation needs a true, honest assessment of where we are as a culture. It is in that spirit I offer my humble perspective. This is what I would wish for the President to say as he stands before Congress and the American people:
To the people of this great country, I offer to you my honest assessment of the state of our nation…and it is not good.
We are greatly blessed in America. We have abundant resources, rich farmland, and beauty beyond description: from the Grand Canyon to our waterfalls, from our mountains to our coastlands. We have been blessed with great people: people who have come here from all the nations of the earth, seeking the American dream. They have been hard working, good people, courageous in the face of trials and heroic in the face of enemies.
We have been blessed with more than we can enumerate. And, I suppose, the Hollywood and political style would have us gush and fawn over each other in our lofty positions and applaud all kinds of supposed accomplishments as if these blessings come from our own making. It would be in keeping with most of our recent State of the Union addresses to therefore give you a long list of all the grand things that the Federal government needs to do for the American people and to smile and look into the camera and assure them that we are taking good care of them...and things are going quite well.
But they are not.
We are not healthy…
Nor are we strong.
In fact, I believe we are now, more than ever before in the life of this nation, vulnerable to destruction.
This has not come as the result of an external power or force. It has not come from our current war with terrorism.
I do not speak of our military might, but I speak of the state of this nation’s soul.
We hang over a perilous ledge…at best, we are sliding into an insignificant oblivion.
We are in a state of decay…we are rotting away from within.
We have succumbed to a deep selfishness. It is eating away at our character, our strength and our core like an aggressive, unchecked cancer.
Despite all the current cries for secularization, we were founded with a clear belief that the health of this nation would rest upon two foundations: religion and morality. This was not to be understood that religious particulars would be legislated, but that we, as a nation, recognized the fundamental existence of God and His declaration of things that were right and things that were wrong, and that the citizenry would then govern themselves according to those transcendent laws. It was this self-government that allowed for a minimum of civil-government and therefore a maximum of personal freedom…freedom to work hard and to enjoy the fruit of one’s labor…to use that fruit and selfless efforts to raise a family and to aid one’s neighbor in distress.
This was the American dream.
In our great foolishness, we have now discarded those foundations.
We have traded self-government for self-indulgence. We have traded transcendent Truth for self-centered identity and self-centered lust. The desires of the heart now trump any notion of divine righteousness.
We have tossed aside these critical Foundations…Foundations that for years sustained and propelled us into being the greatest nation in the world. Now we chase the mirage and illusion of self-gratification and false notions that right and wrong are determined by the individual…by man himself. And these false notions are now supported and propagated by all the centers of influence in our culture: Hollywood, media, academia and even the President, the Supreme Court and Congress.
And, as with every lie and deceit, its promises are false. Instead of selfishness bringing us happiness and pleasure, it reaps us strife and groaning. In the end, a self-centered culture is a hateful and violent culture…a culture seething with the seeds of its own destruction.
Our cities teeter on the brink of bursting into riots and flames. We can no longer stroll safely at night on our streets. Our families are no longer secure in their homes. Our children are no longer safe in their schools.
Our pursuit of selfishness and hedonism has brought the true state of our nation to one that is filled with violence.
We lead the world in crime. We commit approximately 10 million crimes every year…nearly 26,000 every day. No other nation comes close to us.
Every day we murder 40 people and rape 320.
As such, we also lead the world in incarcerations. Of all the prisoners in the world, we account for 25% of them. Our prisons are overflowing.
The backbone of our culture, our families, are in serious trouble.
For every 7 marriages this year, there will be nearly 4 divorces. And when we have babies, fewer are within the security and nourishment of a mother and father. Half of our first babies are born to unwed mothers; a third of our children live without a father; if you are a black baby conceived in this nation, the odds are greater that you will be aborted than that you will be born alive. Since 1973, we have killed 55 million of our babies, about a million a year, and we abort more of our offspring every single day than the terrorists murdered in the World Trade towers on 9/11.
The true state of our Union should cause us to weep.
We lead the world in producing pornography. 90% of the world’s pornography comes from our nation. We are sexually addicted and obsessed. Our movies and music and media are awash in what was once considered sinful and vile.
The state of our nation is truly shameful.
We have lost our sense of morality and it is costing us dearly. Try to imagine this next statistic: in one year, we will contract 20 million sexually transmitted infections. That’s 54,000 people infected every day…a fourth of them are teenagers. This is well beyond a level that we should label as an epidemic and plague—but we don’t speak of these things because it would dampen our lust for sexual freedom and reduce ticket sales at the theater.
We are the world’s leading user of illegal drugs. Approximately one in ten of us is addicted to alcohol or drugs. Every day, our drinking and driving snuffs out the lives of 28 human beings. We spend $50 billion federal dollars every year fighting illegal drugs while we spend $100 billion a year using them.
We are a nation of self-centered addicts.
Our drug and alcohol addictions lead the world, but they are nothing compared to the astounding percentage of our people who have sexual addictions…people who are addicted to pornography or addicted to gambling or video games or other pathologies that have a death grip upon us, destroying our lives, our families and our fruitfulness.
This, too, is a national epidemic.
We are sinking fast into mental numbness and dumbness as well. Out of the top 22 developed countries, our upcoming millennial generation ranks dead last in math, dead last in problem solving, and near dead last in literacy. This is a continual decline over decades. After four years of college, our Millennials score no better than high school seniors in Japan or Finland or the Netherlands. Researchers call our Millennial scores “abysmal”.
Instead, our teens consume nearly 9 hours a day of entertainment on smartphones or TV. By the time they are 18, our children will have witnessed approximately 400,000 murders on TV and by the age of 21, they will have spent 10,000 hours playing video games.
Even the future state of our nation does not look promising.
We adults aren’t much different. We average nearly 6 hours a day in front of the television…a big screen TV that is most likely on a credit card. Our personal consumer debt is over $2.5 trillion. The average family owes $16,000 in credit card debt. Our students owe $1.3 trillion in school loans.
But the biggest runaway spending is found in Washington.
The Federal debt is beyond imagination. Our debt has gone from $7.3 trillion in 2004 to over $18.8 trillion today with no sign of slowing down. This debt is now higher than our GDP—the total of ALL the goods and services produced in our country. We pay almost $230 billion a year in interest on that debt. The debt load on every taxpayer in America is now over $157,000.
But, in reality, the $18.8 trillion debt is a phony number. The real debt is found in our unfunded obligations, obligations to pay things in the future like Social Security and Medicare. This is the real debt of our nation. We currently have unfunded liabilities that total over $100 trillion dollars….a debt load of $1 million dollars for every taxpayer in our nation. It is more than the total of the ENTIRE world’s output. This debt is beyond understanding. It is a house of cards awaiting a puff of wind to blow it down.
Are we so blind that we cannot see any of this?
Despite the political posturing, we have fewer people in the workforce today than in 2000. We play with numbers to keep a respectable unemployment figure by moving millions of people into a growing pool of what we call “not in the labor force”…currently over 90 million, but the reality is that many of them are of working age who desire to be employed full-time but the jobs are not there. That may partially come from the fact that we also have the largest trade deficit in the entire world and that our high corporate tax rate is causing businesses and jobs to move to other countries.
All of this is transforming our nation into an ever-increasing welfare state. Over half of our people receive redistribution benefits from the Federal government. Few Americans are saving wisely and 76% of our people are living paycheck to paycheck, which means over three-fourths of our nation are loaded with debt and are one paycheck away from financial disaster.
How can we be so foolish?
We are increasingly becoming a nation of dependents and wards of the State. We are becoming slaves to a Federal Beast that grows without restraint.
The power and reach of the Federal government has become unrecognizable by our founding standards. The President and Supreme Court craft laws in defiance of the Constitution. The President thumbs his nose at the Constitution’s requirement to get Senate approval for foreign treaties. [I can guarantee that the President’s State of the Union that will be delivered Tuesday will be filled with political posturing, back patting, and that everything proposed will lead to a larger and more powerful Federal Beast. And in so doing, our people will descend deeper and deeper into dependent wards, and with it, our productivity will continue to shrivel and dry up.]
And in all of this, we simply turn a blind eye and go back to our TVs and smartphones…because we are addicted to our self-centeredness.
Our military has increasingly been stripped of any notion of Absolute truth…a military that was once feared by enemies, but cheered by the liberated French. Why? Because they carried a belief in an absolute moral foundation. No longer. Our military academies and military services have become a playground for social policies and political correctness and there is growing list of incidents that are creating a very “hostile” environment for the religious freedom of military members in order to crush the notion of Transcendent Truth....leaving only "State" truth.
Nothing should frighten us more than to think that we would desire to build a military or police force that believes truth lies within their own heart or within whatever orders are handed down from the State…that might is what makes right.
We have an enemy that has attacked our homeland and yet we are too squeamish to label the worldview behind it. We cannot bring ourselves to acknowledge the existence of evil nor the existence of sin because to do so is to acknowledge a Transcendent truth that exists beyond our self-centered fantasy. Instead, we look for environmental causes of evil behavior and point a finger at guns while we ignore the violence and sex and hedonism in our movies and music. Hollywood or the media is never held accountable, nor the educational system or public policies that continue to destroy our families and our culture.
And we are back to the heart of the issue.
For the true State of the Union lies here, in the selfish casting off of the Transcendent for the temporary; seeking our hedonistic pleasure for today while selling our souls and our future.
Do not be fooled. Selfishness eventually spawns hatred and violence. If you do not affirm me, I will spew such animosity toward you that you will be swept away with its fury. If you do not bake me an affirming cake, we will destroy your bakery. If you do not take affirming photographs, we will destroy your studio. If you do not allow a man who identifies as female to use the women’s restroom, the state of Washington will now shut down your business. If you do not affirm my self-selected gender identity with the proper pronoun, New York will now prosecute and fine you a quarter of a million dollars.
Our selfishness has reached the level of stark absurdity…backed by legal and political tyranny.
Somewhere in all of this, the founding generation must be shaking their heads in disbelief at what is happening to this nation. Our selfishness and rejection of absolute Truth is sucking us into a monstrous whirlpool that leads downward to utter darkness.
We are committing cultural and national suicide and yet we continue to affirm and gush over each other and party while the nation crumbles beneath our feet.
Does anyone care enough to fight this?
Does anyone care enough to stand?...to stand for what is right…for what is true…for what is good?
The Governors of the States must stand against the tyranny of the Federal Beast, but it must be the people who will stand and say no to the path that we tread. For the true State of the Union, which hangs by a thread, can be changed only if the people demand a change.
But the change must begin within.
If we continue to pursue our pleasure and entertainment, if we continue to abdicate our responsibility for the health of our families and this nation, if we continue to allow Hollywood and academia and the media and the Government to lead us down this path, then we, as a nation, are going to die. And the death may come in a night…it may come so swiftly that the world will stand in awe at our downfall.
But health will not come over night. We live in a fallen world where you catch diseases quickly, but you don’t catch health. You can fall and break a bone instantly, but healing it takes a lot of time. If we are to regain our health, if we are to restore what is broken, it will require the courage and strength and long-term commitment of the people…if we still have the character to do so. It will come by first falling to our knees in repentance before the God who made us…the God who gave us a land flowing with milk and honey…the God who has sustained us through war and countless trials…the God before whom we now stand and shake our fist in His face. It will come by an examination of our personal lives and the pathologies that infest our social systems. It will come by both individual and national commitments to that which is True. And it will come by a sustained walk of turning back to the God to whom we owe all things…to the God who can reduce us to rubble with one puff of His breath.
And if we do not, may God have mercy on us and our children.
Though the state of our Union is perilous, Remnant, there is a reason why we remain. It is for this time that we have been preserved. May we stand for Truth in the times in which we live.
Pray, dear Remnant, for repentance, Tuesdays, noon eastern.
I just returned from a filming trip with Dr. Marcus Ross. We met at the 50-acre Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tennessee. If you ever find yourself near there, it would be worth visiting. Although there are exhibits in many different areas, our interest was in the natural history section with full skeletons of very diverse creatures from T-Rex to Apatosaurus, from Pterosaurs to the Woolly Mammoth and Saber-Toothed Tigers.
Dr. Ross is a paleontologist who has focused his research on dinosaurs. So our purpose for this part of the documentary (Is Genesis History?) was to learn more about that fascinating world…a world that no longer exists. Peter refers to the pre-flood earth as “the world that then existed perished” (2 Peter 3:6) and that God “did not spare the ancient world” (2 Peter 2:5). Clearly, the world that existed before the Flood was very different form the world we live in today. As Dr. Steve Austin and Dr. Kurt Wise explained in earlier filming segments, our common Christian understanding that the Flood simply soaked the earth is all wrong. The crust of the earth broke open and with enormous magma eruptions and tsunami forces of unimaginable size, God essentially remade the surface of the earth…and most probably the atmosphere as well.
The old world was filled with huge creatures; strange creatures. They swam in the ocean, walked the earth, and flew in the skies. The Megalodon shark had a jaw opening of nearly 100 square feet and teeth that were 7 inches long. The “Loch Ness” monster of that world was the Mauisaurus with a neck that was 49 feet long. On land, the Apatosaurus had a tail that was 50 feet long and was likely used as a defense mechanism, not physically threatening, but it could be “cracked” like a bullwhip and create a deafening boom like a cannon. In the air flew the Pterosaurs. This was the exhibit that fascinated me the most, I guess because of my love for flying. The Pterosaur could fold its wings, somewhat like the F-18 on a carrier, but the pterosaur had hands at this bend, so on the ground they were a quadruped, walking on four “legs”. The conventional paradigm would say that they evolved from land dwellers, somehow growing wings and taking flight. Dr. Ross explained how the pterosaur, like every flying creature, had to have a special hollow bone structure and body and organ design in order to fly. This isn’t a land creature that evolved wings; it was built to fly from the ground up (pun intended).
We talked about the fossil record, how each “layer” has been used to show the evolution of life, but it can just as well show the order of communities of creatures that were swept up in the catastrophe of the flood, beginning with the low-lying marine creatures, and subsequently deposited in the enormous sedimentary layers that we find all over the earth…some layers, like the Redwall Limestone, are up to 800 feet thick. All of these layers are filled with the remains of creatures that were destroyed in the Flood. We walk on top of a literal grave yard. Everywhere.
But, of all we talked about, the complexity of the creatures from the bottom to the top, the grand diversity of life throughout the layers, the lack of evidence for evolutionary development…it was the reason for the destruction of life that ended up being the focus of our interview.
Dr. Ross pointed out that the evidence we have from that world is that is was an extremely violent one. We often think of the violence that seems to be escalating in our current world, but it was nothing to what the ancient world experienced. I had mistakenly thought that God destroyed the world because of the evil of man, and that is true. But Dr. Ross pointed out something very important.
So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them. Genesis 6:7
God didn’t just destroy man, but animals as well. Why did He do that?
We know that the Fall dropped the entire universe into a world of decay, but we are most familiar with the sin and evil that infected the human race. Indeed, it appears to have been rife:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5
But we also know that something happened to the animals. They were created herbivorous, but after the fall were carnivorous. The future hope is that the lion will lie down with the lamb and the cobra will not strike. This is a picture of the way animals were supposed to be. But just as the whole universe fell with Adam and is now groaning in its decay, so, too, did the animal kingdom. Ferocious creatures roamed the earth and swam in the oceans and flew in the skies. Dr. Ross talked about the teeth marks that are found on dinosaur bones.
It was a world and environment that allowed both plants and animals to live long and grow large, but they were infected with the savage disease of the Fall.
It was a world filled with abundant violence…both in man and beast.
And therefore God “wiped them all out”.
Understanding this is critical. Ignoring it is perilous. Peter refers to those who scoff at it, those who close their eyes to the evidence that is obvious...those who "willfully un-see". But he puts it in the context of judgment. If you ignore the judgment of God in the past, when He destroyed the world that then was, then you might think you can ignore the judgment that is coming. Peter mentions that the world was cleansed before with water and it will, in the future, be cleansed with fire.
In between, it was cleansed with blood…the blood of the Lamb.
If one ignores the judgments of God, one will not only ignore the notion of sin, but miss the entire “good news” of the Redemption and the Restoration.
All of this has been preserved for us in the bones...in the earth’s graveyard.
Look at them with wisdom and understanding.
Seldom do we think of “Jesus” as an attribute of God. But I believe it is profitable to do so and not without good reason. All of the “names” of God present us with an aspect of His character:
-YHWH: the God who is self-existent
-JEHOVA RAPHA: the God who heals
-ADONAI: the Lord
-EL SHADDAI: the God who is all sufficient; almighty
-EL ROI: the God who sees
So, too, when we come to what could well be God’s most beautiful name: Jesus.
It was dictated to Joseph by an angel of the Lord:
“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21
Names are critical in the economy and Word of God. It isn’t like our culture today, where we name our babies based upon what is trendy, or a name we think will stand out for its uniqueness, or maybe a family name from the past. In the biblical scheme of things, names represent something about the person, like their character or the divine task God has for them. Therefore we find Eve: mother of all living; Moses: drawn out of water; or Jacob: cheater. When God changes someone’s name, it was to indicate their new mission, as in: Jacob, cheater, becomes Israel, rules with God; and Abram, father of height, become Abraham, father of many.
Therefore, the name “Jesus” was bestowed because He would “save His people from their sins”. Jesus, in His character and in His mission, is Savior of His people.
And there is something powerful in that name. Philippians 2, says that it is “a name above every name” and that at this name “every knee should bow”; John 20:31 says that we have “life in His name”; Colossians 3:17 tells us that everything we do, “in word or deed” ought to be done in this name; and Acts 4:12 says that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”.
Now here is something curious for us to ponder. Look at what Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:17-18
Why does Jesus say this? Why not just “because he has not believed in the only Son of God?” This is not unusual, for we see this in many places. Jesus told some they would not see Him again until they said, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Paul says we were “justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Why? Because the name Jesus points us to the character and the mission of the One who justifies us.
God is not calling us to some sort of belief in the letters J-E-S-U-S. He is calling us to believe in the nature, the character, the attributes, the essence of “who” Jesus is and therefore what He has done.
This is important because some have slipped into serious error here.
Jesus is a name, a beautiful name, but it would be wrong to begin to think that there is something “magical” or “animistic” in these five letters as assembled. This might be shocking to some and possibly even considered heretical to others, but it is critical to understand. “Jesus” is not some magic wand or incantation. You don’t receive goodies by chanting His name or by rubbing your fingers over it or kissing it. Never forget that we worship Him, not his title or name or artifact.
An illustration from Scripture might be helpful.
The Israelites were in the desert and complaining again against God and Moses. As punishment, God sent “fiery serpents” among the people; poisonous snakes that bit them and therefore many had died. Moses intervened for them and God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and set it on a pole so that if anyone were bit and looked at the bronze serpent, he would live. Moses did this and the people were spared further death. This was obviously one of those representations in the Old Testament that pointed to Jesus, who later said “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” But, the people began to think that it was the bronze serpent that saved them and started to worship and make offerings to it. Hezekiah, a king who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord”, broke the bronze serpent into pieces along with the other idols in the land. The Israelites wrongly thought there was something magical or spiritual residing within the object.
There is a reason why God commanded that we not make any image of Him. He does not reside in clay or wood or letters.
The name of Jesus is not a magical potion, but there IS something about that name. We are not saved by the letters, but we are saved by One to whom those letters are pointing—the person of Jesus, our Savior.
Keep your eyes upon Him.
Gazing on that should put a big thanks in your Thanksgiving!
[illustration by Brendon Ward]