What are the values that should guide a nation? Is your nation a moral nation? If not, what can you do about morality in your own life? God's Ten Commandments show the way!
At the end of World War II, when the Axis powers were crushed and Germany's cities were devastated, the United States extended aid, through the Marshall Plan, even to its former enemies in Western Europe. The U.S. was admired around the world for its values and its selfless giving to other nations.
Today, however, the U.S. has a poor reputation around the globe. Its entertainment industry has exported pornography, materialism and false values that have turned countless millions against their former benefactor. Once admired for sending soldiers to uphold freedom and moral values, the U.S. is now widely hated for extending its influence where it is not wanted.
Will this change anytime soon? Will the U.S. be respected as a moral leader, or will it continue a decline into moral and social decay? To understand the present, we should learn the lessons of history. We should understand the causes of empires' decline and fall. The Roman Empire prospered in commerce, engineering and architecture. It used powerful military legions to extend its boundaries. But eventually, the Roman Empire decayed and fell into ruin. One of the major causes of its decline was the disintegration of the family. When divorce, adultery and indulgence devastated family unity and values, the empire declined and weakened in character. How would you describe the character of your nation, or your region?
In the 18th century, many founding fathers of the U.S. realized that their new nation must be grounded on lasting values. They recognized that the nation must acknowledge God Almighty as the author of true freedom and government.
In June, 1787, Benjamin Franklin addressed the Constitutional Convention: "I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?" (Journal of the Federal Convention, James Madison, ed. E. H. Scott, pp. 259–60).
What an amazing perspective. Do America's legislators, congressmen, and statesmen, recognize this wonderful truth in the 21st century? The very future and survival of the western nations depend on their acknowledgement and acceptance of Almighty God and His way of life!
Daniel Webster, the great American statesman, gave this warning about his nation's future: "If there is anything in my thoughts or style to commend, the credit is due to my parents for instilling in me an early love of the Scriptures. If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity" (Halley's Bible Handbook, p. 18).
If we will live by "the principles taught in the Bible"—the Ten Commandments—we will continue to prosper, individually and nationally. Sadly, most national leaders and institutions will not stand up for biblical principles. But you and I can do so, individually.
The United Kingdom recognizes God in its national anthem, "God Save the Queen." This anthem is also sung in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Many other western nations recognize God in their founding documents. Canada's 1982 Constitution Act includes this preamble: "Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law…" On March 2, 1898, the Constitution of Australia was adopted with this acknowledgement of God: "Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland…"
Will these formal recognitions translate into righteousness in these nations? We read in the book of Proverbs: "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34).
Many of the U.S.'s founding fathers knew profoundly that God Almighty is the One who blesses a nation. John Adams, who later became the second president of the United States, recognized God in the establishment of the new nation. He believed that the independence of the United States would be a momentous event, and wrote to his wife Abigail, on July 3, 1776: "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty."
How many of America's leaders today would agree with John Adams? George Washington, the nation's first President, stated: "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible" (Halley's Bible Handbook, p. 18).
Why do so few leaders believe that today? Nations that refuse to acknowledge the sovereignty of Almighty God will face His judgment. Thomas Jefferson, who became the third president of the U.S., foresaw the terrible result of rejecting God's sovereignty: "God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever." An excerpt of this quote from his Notes on the State of Virginia is inscribed on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Yes, God—who gave us life—gave us liberty. Have we removed the "only firm basis" of that liberty, in Jefferson's words? If so, we need to repent—nationally and individually. We need to acknowledge Almighty God as the true source of freedom, blessings and prosperity. God has revealed His way of life through the Holy Bible. The Bible is the word of God, and gives us awesome truth and understanding for those who will commit themselves to live by it. As Jesus said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God'" (Luke 4:4).
The Bible shows us the true way to live—the way of life that brings abundant blessings. As Jesus said, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly: (John 10:10).
How do we enjoy that abundant life? There is a cause for every effect! Your Bible confirms this profound truth. "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (Galatians 6:7–8).
Yes, we must be spiritually minded—not carnally minded, as the Apostle Paul warned (Romans 8:6). But what brings the abundant life? A young man came to Jesus and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" What did Jesus tell him? Did He say, "You don't have to do anything"? No! Jesus said to him, "'Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.' He said to Him, 'Which ones?' Jesus said, '"You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matthew 19:16–19).
Do you believe your Bible? Do you believe what Jesus said? Today, the Ten Commandments are under attack. The Savior of the world, our soon-coming
King of kings and Lord of lords, taught those commandments. But our modern western world increasingly rejects them, and continues its slide into immorality.
Just as God is the Creator of the natural laws of physics and chemistry, He is also the lawgiver of spiritual law. And those laws are just as real! One of the themes of the Bible from beginning to end is that obedience to the revealed laws of God brings blessings. Disobedience to those laws brings curses and penalties. Just read Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26. These are called the "blessings and cursings" chapters. Also, notice the last chapter of scripture in your Bible. Jesus, the Messiah, announces how suddenly and unexpectedly He will return to earth—this is what is called the Second Coming. Notice who will be blessed, and who will not be blessed: "'And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.' Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie" (Revelation 22:12–15).
Yes, there is cause and effect in life. When we apply the right cause, we can enjoy the right benefit. When we practice immorality, we reap a painful effect. God Almighty gave the Ten Commandments so we could demonstrate love toward Him and love toward our neighbors.
You may not have thought of it this way, but the first four commandments show us how to love God, and the last six show us how to love our neighbor. Jesus plainly explained the two great commandments. A scribe asked Jesus, "'Which is the first commandment of all?' Jesus answered him, 'The first of all the commandments is: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these'" (Mark 12:28–31).
These are the great commandments, not the great suggestions. They reveal what so few people on earth really understand as their purpose in life. God wants us to be a part of His divine family for all eternity. He is the Father of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named (Ephesians 3:15). The foundation for that family is love. We must learn to develop loving relationships. God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). So, Almighty God in His first commandment of the ten tells us, "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:3). We love the true God by rejecting false gods.
The ancient Egyptian Empire enslaved the nation of Israel. Perhaps you have seen The Ten Commandments, the classic movie by Cecil B. DeMille. Through ten plagues, God judged the false gods of Egypt and delivered the enslaved Israelites. As Moses led his people to the Red Sea, Pharaoh and his army were about to attack. What did Moses tell them? "And Moses said to the people, 'Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace'" (Exodus 14:13–14). Then the Israelites passed through the sea on "dry ground" (v. 22). God rescued the Israelites, but the Egyptian army behind them was destroyed as the pent-up water crashed in on them. The former slaves were now free! After several weeks, Moses and the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai. The mountain shook. Thunders and lightnings and a loud trumpet set the stage. God spoke to the whole nation and gave them the Ten Commandments. Later, Moses received the Ten Commandments on two tables of stone written by the finger of God (Exodus 31:18).
But what did Jesus Christ teach about the Ten Commandments? We saw earlier that Jesus clearly gave instructions concerning the commandments. He said, "But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). Do you believe your Savior? Or do you believe the false arguments that say the commandments are done away? Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross—His commandments were not! Your sins were symbolically nailed to the cross. But if the law was done away, then there is no sin, and anarchy can reign. The commandments define sin. We read: "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4). Or, "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (v. 4, KJV). Yes, sin still exists, and God's law still exists. The book of Romans also confirms that the commandments are still in effect. "For where there is no law there is no transgression" (Romans 4:15).
Everyone who has ever lived—except Jesus Christ—has sinned. As the Apostle Paul wrote, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We all have incurred the death penalty for our sins. Paul also wrote: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
Americans report widespread acceptance of indulging in many behaviors that are considered immoral by biblical standards:
|Use of non-prescription drugs||17|
Source: Morality Continues to Decay, Barna Research, November 2003
God has given us His Son to pay our penalty. Jesus, the Son of God, shed His blood to pay for our sins. We can be forgiven! But we must repent of our sins, accept Christ's shed blood, and accept Him as our Lord and living Savior. When the New Testament Church began on Pentecost, the Apostle Peter told the crowd, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Responding to Peter's sermon, 3,000 people were baptized that day (v. 41)!
If you have studied true biblical baptism, and if you have come to the place in your life where you have repented and accepted Christ's sacrifice and His authority over your life, I invite you to counsel with one of our ministers. We have representatives in many regions around the world. Just write to the regional office nearest you (listed on page 30 of this magazine), and one of our ministers will be happy to meet with you at a time and place of your choosing, to discuss this vital matter in more depth.
Our modern western world increasingly rejects the Ten Commandments and continues its slide into immorality. But just how bad is it (see box "Morally Acceptable?" on page 11)? Even some professing Christians approve of biblically defined immoral behavior! Yet the seventh commandment plainly states, "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14). Jesus magnified the commandments and made them more binding. Not only must we avoid physical adultery, but we must avoid adultery of the heart and mind. Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery,' but I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27–28).
Are you committing spiritual adultery in your mind, and with your eyes? Pornography permeates our society, leading to perversions and sexual slavery in many regions around the world. Our western world promotes pornography through the Internet and the entertainment media. If you have rationalized in your mind that indulging in pornography is OK, you need to repent! You need to acknowledge your spiritual adultery before God. The wages of sin is death! You can be forgiven, but you need to repent and turn your mind and your life around! You need to read the Bible, and you need to clean up your mind! We need to reject modern immorality, and choose the way of the Bible and the Ten Commandments.
U.S. President John Adams believed that America's government could function well only for a moral people. He wrote: "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other" (Letter to Massachusetts Militia, October 11, 1798).
Will we live as biblically moral and religious peoples and nations? The New Covenant, which Jesus instituted, did not do away with the commandments of God. The New Covenant emphasizes that the commandments—the way of love—are to be written on our hearts and minds (Jeremiah 31; Hebrews 8:10). God expects us to apply the Ten Commandments in our lives and to internalize them. How? By Christ living His life in us (Galatians 2:20).
Will you give in to the lure of "modern morality," or will you choose God's way—and live, with Christ's help, by His Ten Commandments?