Friday, October 20, 2017

What is the Verdict? Part 1

July 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Articles, Education Articles

When the state takes YOU to court, what will the verdict be? But you say, “It will never happen to me!” This is what the hundreds have said that have already gone to the courtroom for their religious freedom. It did happen to them!

If someone had said to you twenty years ago that in 1995 there would be hundreds of cases pending against churches and pastors in the United States; what would you have said? You would have probably said, “You’re crazy!” You would have thought that even if the state did take a church to court, the Christians would rise up in a massive revolt. But hundreds of churches have now already been sued and most Christians have not even found it objectionable. Most of us have simply been content with living our lives in another direction. We have been content to let the state’s grip tighten on our faith and religious freedom little by little.

The purpose of this article is to show you the real issues that face the Christian at this moment. We want you to be able to give the Biblical explanations for the stand that you take. We want you to have a strong Godly “conviction: about your actions in the ministry of the Gospel. In Hosea 4:6, it says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” When the test comes to your home, will you stand or will you fall to the control of the state?

SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

The first principle that we as Christians must know and understand is that the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights say that there is to be a separation of church and state. This is found primarily in the First Amendment.

The First Amendment. The First Amendment has two religious clauses: (1) the non-establishment clause and (2) the free-exercise clause. The first clause has little to do with most of the law suits right now. It says that government will not become involved in the “establishment” of a religion. They are not to do anything that will help religion. They are not to finance it, foster it, or further it. The one danger with this clause that has turned up is that if you do take the government’s money, you have no right to object to the government’s controls. But since we don’t believe that Caesar (the state) has any business financing the Church anyway, we do not accept the State’s money. (Do you?)

The second clause, the free exercise clause, is the issue in almost every case across America. It says simply: “There shall be no law abridging (depriving) the free exercise of religion.” This was worded exactly right by the framers of our Constitution. The word “exercise” is the outgoing, or the putting into implementation of our faith. In communist lands, they say they have religious freedom, but that is only to “think” whatever you want. In America, however, we have (by the First Amendment) true freedom of religion. The test for religious freedom is in action and not just in thought.

The Biblical Base. We cannot “believe” in the Constitution. The Supreme Court changes it nearly every week. But there is a document that we can believe and you will be asked this in great detail in the courtroom. They will turn to you and ask, “Is there a book which contains every single one of your beliefs without exception?” “Yes. The Bible.” “Are there any other documents; or are there any other persons living, about to be born, or past lived who can give you a further amplification of those beliefs or curtail any of those beliefs?” “No. There is even a curse on the one who adds or subtracts from the perfect revelation as we have it.” In a court of law our beliefs must be contained in full in the Word of God.

In Romans 13:1, Paul said that there is no authority but that which is given from God. And Jesus, in Matthew 22:21, voiced the fact that God reserves certain matters to Himself. Matters of faith and worship have not been given to government. The Church and Her actions in the gospel ministry are governed by God, and the government dare not meddle with these areas. These are the foundations on which the framers of the Constitution founded the philosophy of church-state separation. They believed the Bible to be the only document containing perfect truth. They knew that the Constitution must agree with the Word of God.

DEFINITION OF THE CHURCH

Now, if our Constitution guarantees us separation of church and state, we have to define these two entities. The state had trouble defining itself. If the state is all the people, how can all the people sue a few of the people? So the Supreme Court chose to define the church. The surprising thing is that they agreed perfectly with the Word of God.

First, they explained what a church was NOT> It is not a church because of its title or name. Just to put the word “Church” with a group of words does not make a church. A church is not a church just because of its organization. It is not a church because of its building. Really, a church does not need any of these three things. The Supreme Court said simply that a Church is “the BELIEFS and the BELIEVERS.”

But now the Supreme Court went one step further. They not only defined what the Church was, but they also defined which beliefs are legitimate. They developed a test that each of us must go through and pass in a court of law. Following is that test; a test impossible to cram for; a test that we must be able to pass before we go to court.

EXPLANATION OF THE TEST

The Supreme Court said that a belief must be something that you as a believer can make oral. You don’t have to be eloquent, but it must be more than an “it seems to me” hunch. Also, you as a believer must have a knowledge of that belief. This is to prevent people from hiding behind a title. To say “I’m a Fundamental Baptist” doesn’t give you beliefs.

In 1972, in a case involving education, the court came up with the ultimate test to determine which of these beliefs were legitimate and which were not. They classified beliefs in one of two categories; “convictions” or “preferences”. Convictions are protected by the First Amendment, and preferences are not. Below is this test in brief.

Preferences. A preference is a very very strong belief held with great intensity and strength. You might give your entire life and go into full time service in the name of a preference. You might give all your wealth to this belief. You could be energetic in spreading and propagating this preference (hand out tracts, go on soul-winning, visitation, etc.). You could even want to teach this to your children. But the one thing that makes a preference different from a conviction is that under the right circumstances, you will change a preference.

The court has noticed five areas where you would be most likely to change. These five areas are (1) peer pressure, (2) family pressure, (3) the threat or the carrying through of litigation (law suits), (4), jail for your and your wife (your children being taken by the state), and (5) death. If any of these things would make you change or even bend just a little, then your belief was a preference, and will not be protected by the First Amendment. Think seriously about these five areas. Before too long, many of you will be called on to give your beliefs.

Convictions. A conviction is different in primarily one way: it is a belief that you will NOT change; a belief that you can not change. There are four things that make up a conviction. The three Hebrew children are excellent Biblical examples of these four qualities.

First, a conviction is caused by a man who thinks that his belief is a commandment from God. It must be God-ordered. The Hebrew children had been commanded of God in Exodus 20:3 that they should have no other gods before them. We, too, have been commanded in the Scriptures that certain things are wrong. Just as the Hebrew children in Daniel, chapter three, refused to bow to the golden image made by Nebuchadnezzar, we must refuse the state in matters not pertaining to it. A God-ordered belief will give us the strength we need to withstand the test for conviction.

Second, a conviction must be a personal belief. It must be a belief that you as an individual holds and will hold even though no one else stands with you. The three boys in Daniel stood when everybody else bowed to the image. Where were all the other Hebrews? They were complying with the state. But these boys had purposed in their heart not to defile themselves long before the test came. Would you stand alone against the state on a God-ordered commend? Remember, God plus one is a majority.

Third, a conviction must be non-negotiable. In Daniel, the king gave these boys a second chance, but they said, “We are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us…but if not, be it known unto thee, O King, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Dan. 3:16-18). No amount of talk was going to change their minds. Are your beliefs non-negotiable?

Fourth, convictions must be unconditional. By this is meant that no matter what the outcome is, you will not change. If you must be guaranteed a victory before you take a stand, your belief is a preference. The Hebrew boys were willing to die before they would bend to the wishes of the state.

These are the four qualities that make up a conviction. It must be a belief that is God-ordered, personal, non-negotiable, and unconditional. Only this type of belief is protected by our Constitution.

Lifestyle Consistency. There is one more part to the Supreme Court;s test between conviction and preference. It is based on the philosophy that a man’s conviction will show up in his life. This test is also Biblical. James said it best: “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). The way we live our life must be consistent with our beliefs.

When the court tests you, they will delve into literally every area of your life. There is no one part of your life that is secular and another that is sacred. Every part of you belongs to God and must be lived in accordance with His Word. They will search the use of your finances; the use of your time; your recreational activities and your reading materials; every area!

One example of how the court might question you is in regard to the television. Cases have been lost by the following line of question. “Is it true that one reason for your child going to a Christian School is so he will matters of pornography, obscenity, and nudity? (Yes) “Is it true that it is so he will not see unrighteous upheld nor righteous themes debased?” (Yes) “Sir, do you own a television?” (Yes) “How much did it cost?” ($200-$500) “Where do you keep it?” (The living room) “And why is that?” (It is most traveled) “Sir, isn’t it true that a TV can not affect you unless you turn it on?” (Yes) “now, do you ever hear obscenity, see nudity, and view righteous themes debased as well as unrighteousness upheld?” (Yes, sir) Your conviction has just been destroyed.

This area of lifestyle consistency is a little deeper than most would think at first. You are challenged to think seriously about the ramifications this could have in your life.

One other matter concerned with your lifestyle is on the other side of the coin. If convictions are God-ordered and come from the Bible, what is it to disobey them? It is sin! You must not only believe; you must say that the opposite of a conviction is a sin. Pastor, do you preach that public education is sin? If not, you have only a preference. Parent, do you teach and train your child in the steps of Christ? Do you have a daily family altar? If not, your conviction that your child is lent to you by God to train in the paths of righteousness is simply a preference.

When the test comes down to you, what will the verdict be? Will the court find you protected by our Constitution, or will it find you unprotected? Will you have a conviction or a preference? Will you be consistent in your walk, or will you be found with a contradiction in your lifestyle?

Before you continue, check your understanding of these ideas by answering the questions below.

1. What is the issue protected by our First Amendment?

2. What document holds all of your beliefs and is unalterable?

3. What is the Biblical base for the philosophy of church-state separation?

4. What is the Church?

5. What is a preference?

6. What is a conviction?

7. What is a lifestyle consistency?

____________________________________________________________________________________

Answers: (1) The free-exercise of our religious beliefs. (2) The Bible. (3) Romans 13:1 and Matthew 22:21. (4) The beliefs and the believers. (5) A very strong belief that can and will change under certain circumstances. (6) A belief that is God-ordered and therefore cannot change. (7) When you live what you believe and believe the opposite of a conviction, it is sin.

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