Summary: What our country needs from us as God's people is to live in such a way that gives the gospel credibility.
First Presbyterian Church
Wichita Falls, Texas
July 3, 2011
WHAT OUR COUNTRY
NEEDS FROM US
1 Timothy 2:1-7 (NIV)
1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.
My father died in a Philadelphia hospital in 1999. Some weeks before his death, I was able to spend a few days with him. I stayed at the home of some friends in Washington Crossing, just a few miles north of Philadelphia, and each day I would drive into the city.
The first morning that I made the trip, I was stopped at a traffic light on Arch Street, and I was there just long enough, I suppose, to begin looking around. What I saw moved me deeply.
To my left was a cemetery, and right there, just a few feet beyond the curb, was the burial place of Benjamin Franklin, one of our nation’s founding fathers. I looked to my right and a little ahead, and there were two signs. One said, ‘Betsy Ross House,’ and it told how many blocks it was to the home of the woman who crafted the very first American flag. The other sign said this. It said, ‘Site of the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1789.’
There I was, in my car, waiting at an intersection in a large and busy city. But this was an intersection like no other I had ever encountered. This was the very cradle of American history. It was enough to take my breath away. I felt like a child; I could almost reach out and touch greatness.
Our nation had its birth in Philadelphia. In fact, Independence Hall was just a few blocks away from Dr. Franklin’s grave. It was on July 4, 1776 that Ben Franklin became one of the fifty-six patriots that signed the Declaration of Independence. Others in that circle were Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both future presidents, and, of course, John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister who was the only active clergyman to sign the document.
Tomorrow, people all over the world will celebrate what will be the 235th anniversary of our nation’s birth. It is a fitting time for us to ask what our country needs from us – especially from those of us who of the household of faith.
In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he tells us what the responsibility of the church is in relation to the nation. And what do you suppose it is? Primarily, Paul says, it to foster a climate in which the gospel can be heard. The gospel.
You know what that is. The gospel is the good news that, in Jesus Christ, God saves sinners. Now, of course, that’s a simple definition, and, given enough time, we could amplify it. This simple good news has lots of implications. But, for now, let’s just stick with this: The gospel is the good news that, in Jesus Christ, God saves sinners.
Now look at verse 4. God, Paul says, ‘wants all [sinners] to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.’ God want the gospel – this good news of salvation – he wants it spread around.
This is God’s great desire, and, therefore, it ought to be our great desire. This is what he wants, and, therefore, it ought to be what we want: that sinful people everywhere be saved. This is ‘job one’ for the church. We have a duty as Christians – not as Republicans or Democrats or Independents, but as Christians – to see to this. We are called upon to do all we can to preserve a climate in which the gospel can be heard.
How are we to do this? Look, if you will, at verses 1 and 2. What you’ll find is this: Paul urges us to live a certain way. And he suggests that, if we live this way, it will give the gospel credibility. And that’s what we mean – isn’t it? – when we talk about preserving a climate in which the gospel can be heard. We want to be sure that our attitudes and our behavior do nothing – absolutely nothing – to discredit God’s good news. So, we live by a certain pattern.