Where Do We Go From Here? – Program 1
| September 26, 2013 |
|By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer; ©2013|
|If we live in a society that is declining all around us, where can we find hope and optimism for the future? When we see economic decline, moral decline, decline in education, legal rulings that go against religions, and an unwillingness to criticize Islam, it’s easy to feel hopeless.|
Five Disturbing Changes Facing Our Nation
Today on the John Ankerberg Show:
- Dr. Erwin Lutzer: As I travel around the country there are so many people who are discouraged. Where is this nation going?
- What five cultural trends do we see that seem to be irreversible unless God steps in?
- Lutzer: I think that some of these trends are irreversible apart from God’s intervention. But at the same time, I want to look at this so realistically and say, what do we do if we don’t experience such a reversal?
- What unshakeable truths can Christians hang on to in a world of chaos and decline?
- Lutzer: When you’re going through an earthquake you’re trying to find something to hang on to that is unshakeable. And we have something that is unshakeable. We have God’s word and we have the encouragement of God’s word.
- My guest today is Dr. Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois. Listen as he talks about where do we go from here, on this special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.
- Dr. John Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’ve got an exciting one for you today. Do you remember theologian and philosopher Francis Schaffer, during the 70s? In his books he wrote that there’s going to come a day when we wake up and we discover that the America that we once knew is gone. You think that’s happened? If so, if we’re Christians living in a society that is declining, where do we find hope? Where do we find optimism to serve God when we see the culture declining all around us?
- My guest today is a very special friend, Dr. Erwin Lutzer. He’s the senior pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois. He’s a bestselling author; he’s a theologian; he’s my friend. And, Erwin, I’m glad that you’re here today. And you have talked about the fact that in our culture that you see five cultural trends that you’re saying that are irreversible unless God steps in. And that’s a kind of a scary proposition, so we’ve got kind of the bad news before we get to the good news; because we have to be realistic about the future that we’re going into. What are those five irreversible trends?
- Dr. Erwin Lutzer: Well, John, first of all, let me say how pleased I am to be back on your show and to discuss this, because you’re exactly right. As I travel around the country there’s so many people who are discouraged. Where is this nation going? And that’s why we’re going to talk about these kinds of things. And yes, I think that some of these trends are irreversible apart from God’s intervention. So as we go through them, let’s keep in mind that, you know, it may be that God will reverse them. There’s always that hope. In fact, we’re going to be talking about prayer at some point along the line, and God’s goodness to this nation. But at the same time I want to look at this so realistically and say, what do we do if we don’t experience such a reversal?
- And, of course, I put on my list, number one, economic decline. I know that the stock market continues to go up and down, and sometimes it’s very difficult to know exactly where we are economically. But, as you know, I’ve done some research regarding Nazi Germany, and I discovered this; that when a nation begins to print money to pay its debts, it really can’t quit. Because the moment you quit, you throw all kinds of people into unemployment. You reverse everything. So all that you can continue to do is to keep printing. And, of course, we hear this on the news all the time, that our economists are telling us that the trend and the continuing trend is not only possibly irreversible, but even more seriously, it is unsustainable. And that has a huge impact for all of us.
- And one of the reasons I’m concerned about that is because I know that God has used America to bring the gospel to so many people around the world. It supports various ministries throughout the world. And, you know, if we were to go through a terrible economic downturn, the implications would not just be for us, but for others.
- But on the other hand, maybe God wants us to actually join the rest of the world. You know, John, I’m sure that there are people who are listening to this program in other countries who live with a great deal of poverty. Many of them, by the way, are more content than Americans who might have more. And God has to remind us that we are in this world together, and that He is going to bring us through whatever difficulties there may be along the path. But yes, I would put the economy first in terms of my concerns and what this would mean for us as individuals and really the world: How will we relate to that?
- Ankerberg: Yeah, you know, our friend David Jeremiah, he came we talked about his book, The Coming Economic Disaster. And when we taped the program our country was $14 trillion in debt; a year and half later, we are $16.5 trillion in debt. We’re going towards $17 trillion. In a couple years we’ll reach $20 [trillion], and the interest will be a trillion dollars all by itself. We cannot sustain that. And people are worried about that. And that may be irreversible, because it doesn’t seem like anybody has an answer up at the Congress. But besides that, what else have you seen?
- Lutzer: Well, for example, I would put next on the list, definitely the moral breakdown. You know, President Obama would have never came out, he would never have come out in favor of same-sex marriage if he didn’t know that there was a huge cultural shift and moral shift in America. And again, we’re reminded of the words of Schaffer that you began the show with, you know, that someday you’ll wake up and you’ll discover that the America that you once knew is gone. Nobody would have even suspected that a president would do this in years gone by.
- And this has huge ramifications for the church. I don’t want to frighten people, but I think, John, it’s very important that we talk very candidly about the implications of this. Very recently I was involved in some negotiation talks with those who are working on bringing about same-sex marriage to my state, the state of Illinois. And the bill that they proposed is very frightening, if I might say that. For example, one of the things that the bill would say is, if churches rent their facilities to those who are outside of their congregation on a regular basis, churches would have to rent their facility also to same-sex couples.
- But it really is worse than that, John. As I read the bill I realized that there is protection only for those who are directly involved in ministry, not other responsibilities and support ministries within the church. And I mentioned to them, these legislators, I said, “So if you had, for example, a secretary who suddenly announced that she wanted to be part of a same-sex marriage and was getting married on the weekend to her girlfriend, you would have to accept that?” If you were to release her on that basis you’d be in huge trouble. Expect a lawsuit immediately. And the same goes true for other responsibilities in the church. Well, you can see the long-term implications of this. I told them, I said, there’s no protection for Christian schools, Christian daycare centers, Christian bookstores, Christian publishing houses. So we are in for what could be really a tsunami.
- You know, if I could just talk about it for just a moment more. Many people think, well, two different views of marriage can exist here in America or other countries. And, of course, there’s some folks, I’m sure, who are listening in Europe who have two different views of marriage and two different concepts. But the fact is that, because of the implications ultimately, same-sex marriage, legalized, breaks down the family in some very, very important ways. We need to recognize this. Here in America we talk about the Constitution. I can imagine someone riding in a boat saying, “I have a Constitutional right to drill a hole through my side of the boat.” The problem is, we are all on the same boat. And as we think about the moral issues here in the United States, they are of huge concern. But once again, the church has to be the church and we will get to talk about those things.
- Ankerberg: And right along that line, you have educational decline.
- Lutzer: I’m thinking, for example, of our schools which are really indoctrination centers. One quick illustration; a secretary at Moody Church said that her daughter, in a public school. In the public school there were two groups of students: One this side; these are the bullies over here; and they over on the other side, these are the ones who are in favor of homosexuality, etc., etc. So her daughter had to choose, what side do you go to? Either you side with the homosexuals and affirm their lifestyle, or you’re a bully. And these kinds of strong-arm tactics are taking place in our schools. And of course we could mention sex education classes, which often times are really programs on how to have sex without feeling guilty and without having a baby. So these are the kinds of challenges within our schools.
- Ankerberg: You also have one that you have been involved with, and that is legal rulings that are going against Christians. And, you want to comment on that?
- Lutzer: Well, yes. I’m thinking for example, of the fact that we can no longer depend upon the courts. Even the idea of the separation of church and state has some important ramifications that are not being honored today. But I think in that, I was thinking primarily of issues such as Elane Photography. You can go online and you can find out about this, where a photography studio did not want to photograph same-sex marriage, weddings, and yet, as the same time was found in violation of the law. And so that’s the kind of rulings we can expect in the future. And it will get worse as time goes by.
- Ankerberg: The fifth one that you have is very interesting. It’s the privileged position of Islam. Explain.
- Lutzer: Well, America has decided to take a stance of submission to Islam. For example, if you are in Chicago, my city, you’d discover that a Catholic hospital has taken down all crucifixes because Muslims were offended. And so what we’ve decided to do, both nationally and individually, is to submit to Islam. You know, here in America we don’t use tax dollars to build prayer houses or prayer rooms, but our tax dollars are being used to build special prayer rooms for Muslim students in our schools. So all throughout, in different ways, we are submitting to Islam. Now those of you who are watching, and we may have many people who are Muslims who are watching, let’s keep in mind, we’re not painting all of Islam with the same brush. But we’re simply saying that the implications are huge because of this supremacist agenda that we are expected to submit to. And it will have huge implications for the church.
- Ankerberg: Talk about the 57 nations that are part of the organization of Islamic countries.
- Lutzer: This is so important. The OIC, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, for years has been trying to get the United Nations to adopt a universal blasphemy law so that all criticism of Islam would become a crime. Now, I could discuss that in somewhat detail, because the implications are huge. And, of course, things like the video that we heard so much about, all of this is being used as fodder to try to convince people that a law like this should exist so never again would Islam ever be under criticism, under ridicule, or for that matter, under any kind of scrutiny.
- Ankerberg: Alright. Now, folks, we said this was going to be an optimistic message, and so far it’s been pessimistic, and we’re saying that some of these cultural trends are irreversible so they’re only going to get worse. So what is the optimism? What is the good news? Stay tuned. We’re going to take a break, and we’ll come right back and we’ll tell you.
- Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. And we’re talking with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, Illinois. And I think, Erwin, when people listen to those first five cultural trends, they would agree with you, many of them, that this is where it seems like we’re headed and it does look like it’s irreversible, it’s only going to get worse. So now, what’s the good news here?
- Lutzer: Well, the good news is, you remember the words of Jesus when He said, “Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” You know, I think sometimes as Americans what we need to do, John, is to step back and to ask ourselves, have believers been in situations like this before? And what you discover is that freedom of religion is a new idea; the American experiment. When you look through Europe you discover there was no freedom of religion. There was no freedom of religion for the early Christians. They were thrown to the lions. We all know that story. And then after the time of Constantine, when Rome was Christianized, the opposite happened. The pagans were persecuted and often times so were true believers persecuted.
- So when you look through the history of the church you discover that there was very seldom anything that we would interpret as freedom of religion. I mean, I can take you to the Limmat River in Zurich where I’ve stood many times to give a lecture on the drowning of Felix Manz. He was a rebaptizer, believing that one should be baptized upon profession of faith; and for this he and five others were forcibly drowned in the cold, dark waters of the Limmat River. And Felix Manz was drowned there. How much freedom of religion did those dear people have? And thousands of rebaptizers died for the faith. And so what we need to do is to understand that the history of the church has always been one of marginalization and persecution.
- One other historical note that is very interesting to me and very important to me. What people don’t realize is that when Luther stood there at the Diet of Worms and said, “My conscience is taken captive by the Word of God, I cannot and I will not recant; to go against conscience is neither right, nor safe, so help me God.” When Luther said that, he was standing against more than 1,000 years of church tradition and law. That a single monk could stand against the entire church because his conscience taught him differently was unthinkable. And thanks to him a seed was planted about religious freedom that ultimately bore fruit. But not until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 did Europe really have what we would call today freedom of religion.
- So, to those who are listening who are saying we’re losing our freedoms, we should do all that we possibly can to keep them. That’s why I encourage young people to go into law and government. And we’re thankful for the intellectuals who argue for our side. But the fact is that even when freedoms are taken away, it’s possible for us to be faithful in the midst of our situation. You know, you read the New Testament, John, and you discover that virtually all of the epistles were written to churches who are islands of righteousness in a sea of paganism. So here we are today and we need to look back to our brothers and sisters and realize that they have some things to teach us in the midst of our own situation.
- Ankerberg: And you cite the apostle Peter, who was writing his book to a group of people that were being killed, marginalized, persecuted, suffering. And what did he have to say?
- Lutzer: Well, he said, “you are a chosen generation.” And I want all those who are listening today, if you belong Jesus Christ, would you hold your head high and realize that you have been chosen by Christ? Could anything be greater than that, that He has redeemed you? And, of course, as we’ll see in a moment, it’s our responsibility to spread that message to others. But certainly we see here today that the church is still precious. It’s very precious to God. And you are precious to God. You are a chosen generation; you are a royal priesthood.
- Now, here’s what I believe. I believe that America’s under judgment. We have turned our back on God, and God says, “If this is the way you want it, I’m turning My back on you.” I don’t think there’s any way for us to explain what is happening in Washington unless we believe that we are under the judgment of God. But, God never turns His back on His own people. That’s why you’re a chosen generation; you are a royal priesthood. And then, of course, we come to something else; and that is, our mission is still clear, “that we should hold forth the praises of Him who has translated us from darkness into His marvelous light.”
- Ankerberg: I like that, when you said you’re a royal priesthood, okay. I want you to explain that just for a moment, because I don’t think people grasp what those words actually mean.
- Lutzer: Remember in the Old Testament, when the priest could go into the holy of holies only on one day a year, the Day of Atonement?
- Ankerberg: Right.
- Lutzer: And according to Josephus, when he was in the holy of holies there was, you know, a chain tied around his leg in case he did something wrong so they could pull him out without going in. When Jesus died on the cross, that veil of the temple was ripped from top to bottom—and that’s very significant: from top to bottom; right from heaven all the way down to earth. And today we have those privileges. We bow our heads in prayer and we are in the presence of Almighty God. And we don’t need a priest to represent us to the Father, except the Lord Jesus Christ who is our high priest. But we come directly. I want people to understand that it is as if Jesus has brought us into God’s presence and He’s left us there. And Jesus has said, “You’re a priest unto God. Enjoy the Father; enjoy the fellowship; because you have direct access.”
- Ankerberg: I love the phrase that you use, too, that we are in the holy of holies. Because of Christ, we are right there living our life in the holy of holies, not just one day, but every day. And so that when we pray, the Father is listening to us, because we have acceptance because of Christ.
- Lutzer: We drive our car in the holy of holies; we answer the telephone in the holy of holies. And, by the way, we also watch television in the holy of holies. So we had better watch what we watch, because Jesus is sitting there beside us, and He’s looking at it too.
- Ankerberg: Erwin, we’re running out of time. Tell us where we’re headed next week. What are the five pillars that are the good news from God’s Word?
- Lutzer: Well, first of all, that God still reigns; we’ll have to discuss that. The church is still precious; we touched on that today. Our mission is still clear; the evangelization that God has given us the privilege of being involved in. Our focus is heaven. And the last pillar that we want to hang on to is the fact that God still answers prayer. So we want to end with a sense of optimism.
- But, you know, for today, John, I want us to think about what we talked about earlier, when we spoke about coming into the holy of holies. Because there are some people who are listening, and perhaps you’ve never had the privilege of calling God “Father.” You’ve never known whether or not you have met Him, or whether or not you have come into His presence. Well, the good news of the gospel is this: that Jesus Christ died for people just like us, with all of our sin. In fact, the issue is not the greatness of our sin; the issue is the wonder of His grace that He applies to sinners. You may say, well, today I’m in a pit. Perhaps someone is listening, John, who fits that category. And I want to remind them that there is no pit so deep but that God is deeper still. He can meet you right where you are if you come to Him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and believe on Him and be saved. So remember, salvation is a transfer of trust, not just to believe that Jesus existed, but rather you trust Him as your very own, that He died for you.
- Ankerberg: Folks, take this heart. We’re going to talk more about this relationship with Christ and what Erwin is talking about. And I hope that you’ll join us next week for the good news, because I think you agree our culture is declining and you see problems up ahead. And we’re going to be living in these problems, and so you need to know the good news, the five pillars of hope that Erwin is talking about. We’re going to ground that in Scripture, and I think you’re going to rejoice when you realize what God is saying to us. So please join us next week.