Alistair Begg – The Kingdom of God vs. the kingdoms of this world

After my wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior in 1983, we began attending at our first Gospel-preaching church and remained there for eight years. The church had a lot of good points, but also some regrettable ones. The church patterned itself after Jerry Falwell’s brand of fundamentalism and mimicked Falwell’s penchant for mixing Christianity with politics and nationalism from the pulpit. This and several other factors grated on us until we finally had to leave.

The universal church of all believers (and also faux institutional (c)hristianity) has been trying to define its proper relationship with the state for close to two millennia and has largely erred on the side of close collaboration. Roman Catholicism set the trend by adopting the Roman imperial model, the Reformers continued it to a degree, and the Puritans imported it to the New World with America being cast in the role of the New Israel.

In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Falwell and friends enlisted evangelical churches in the culture battles against advancing secularism and the war continues. The fallout? The church put the Gospel on the back burner and forged coalitions with political conservatives of various non-Christian traditions. More fallout? Growing ecumenism at the expense of the Gospel.

I’ve heard and read many presentations on the proper relationship between the church and the state, but the 25-minute sermon below, from evangelical pastor, Alistair Begg, might be the finest I’ve ever heard on the topic.

The Kingdom of God
Broadcast 7/24/19


Civil Religion is the enemy of Biblical Christianity

This morning, I was reading through 2 Chronicles and came across the very familiar verse below:

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14

Oh, the memories!

Way back in the 1980s, my wife and I attended an independent fundamental Baptist church that patterned itself strongly after Jerry Falwell, Sr. and his Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Needless to say, faith and politics went hand in hand at our church. Our pastor took the position that America was in a special covenant relationship with Almighty God in much the same way as ancient Israel. He was not alone. Beginning with the voyage of the Puritan pilgrims to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620, American Christians have historically taken the view that America is a “Christian nation” and that God was in a covenant relationship with it.

Old Testament passages such as 2 Chronicles 7:14 that were meant only for the ancient nation of Israel were appropriated by patriotic American ministers. I believe 2 Chronicles 7:14 was quoted from the pulpit of our old church as much or possibly more than any other verse in the Bible.

What started me going on this topic?

Yesterday, I posted a review of an excellent book which examined how the early church was led down a dangerous path in which Christianity was mixed with Roman imperialism and paganism resulting in an institutionalized “civil religion.” See here.

Many Americans over the last 400 years genuinely accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior because of the strong Gospel witness here, but of course many others never did. Over the last 100 years there’s been a tremendous watering down of Biblical doctrine and the Gospel message in this country. The Gospel was increasingly replaced by “civil religion,” whereby Americans of all religious stripes could join arms and sing together, “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” and “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee,” united in their citizenship and belief in a nebulous “Supreme Being.”

But “civil religion” is the enemy of Biblical Christianity. It opposes the teaching of Jesus Christ, who proclaims that He alone is “the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” “Civil Religion” denies the exclusivity of Jesus Christ and promotes accommodation, cooperation, compromise, and betrayal of the Gospel in the pursuit of civic morality and national brotherhood.

Jesus Christ did not come to this earth to establish “civil religion.” Countries don’t become Christians, only people do, one individual soul at a time.

Civil Religion – Wikipedia article


Christians, who are we?

When unbelievers look at us, do they see a people who are deeply committed to politics and to fighting the ongoing cultural/political wars engulfing this country and the world…


…do they see ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ who are deeply committed to serving Him and to sharing the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone? This world is NOT our home, brothers and sisters!

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” – Hebrews 11:13-16

Opinion: Prayer in public schools

I attended Catholic parochial grammar school in the 1960s and even though I was verypray young at the time, I can remember the nuns buzzing about the U.S. Supreme Court rulings banning conscripted prayer and Bible reading in public schools (Engel v. Vitale, 1962, Murray v. Curlett, 1963). I felt sorry for those poor kids in public schools for not being able to pray like me. By seventh grade, I was envying them.

The ban on school sanctioned prayer was an extremely bitter pill for evangelicals to swallow and remains a sour memory. The ban on school prayer was the first major defeat in the war to defend American “Christendom.” We’re still fuming about it 54 years later. But that was just the beginning. Since then, most every example of government-endorsed religious expression has been challenged in the courts with no end in sight.

From our history lessons, we know the Puritan Christian immigrants to this country could not imagine anything other than the theocratic form of government they imposed. Many universities got their start as church-sponsored seminaries. Mounting demand for religious freedom led to the prohibition of a state religion by the federal constitution adopted in 1793 but Christianity would remain as a major influence on federal, state, and local governments for 150 years. It was agreed from Maine to California that America was a “Christian nation.” Government sanctioned prayer and the reliance on Judeo-Christian laws, values, and “morality” were matters of unquestioned course. Americans had convinced themselves that God had set up a covenant relationship with the United States in the same way He had with ancient Israel; that America was THE “chosen” nation.

But things have changed in a big way in the last sixty years. The growing number of non-Christian immigrants to this country and those who rejected religion altogether began to challenge government’s sponsorship of Christianity. First to go was prayer in schools. Then Bible readings. Then such things as Christmas creches, etc., etc..

My take: Countries can’t be Christian, only people can accept Christ. We can no longer assume other citizens are Christians as was once accepted in this country. Christians can no longer impose their privileged status by claiming majority rule. That day is gone. That flag has flown. It’s obviously impossible to determine the number of genuine Christians in the U.S. but a 2014 Pew poll reveals only 25% of the population claims to be evangelical Christian (many say the actual number is quite a bit lower), 45% are mainline Protestant or Catholic, and the remaining 30% belong to other religions or are atheists/agnostics. The government is supported by taxpayers with a wide spectrum of beliefs regarding religion and it should be completely secular. If government sanctions one religious group it must in fairness sanction all of them. If we allow monuments of the Ten Commandments on our courthouse lawns we must also allow scripture from every other religious group. On second thought, the atheists will have something to say about that. No, government must be completely secular.

I choose not to pray with non-Christians. The Lord does not want me bowing my head in a prayer led by a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic, etc. Why would Christian parents want their children to participate in prayers led by a Hindu or a New Ager in a public school? Christians look back with longing to a simpler time when the vast majority of people in this country professed to be Christians and the church had a strong influence throughout the culture. But the probable reality was that a very large number of professing Christians hadn’t accepted Christ at all but were just going along with the institutionalized flow imposed by American “Christendom.”

Christians, teach your children about the Lord every day in your homes. Bring them to church. But please stop complaining about prayer being banned from public schools back in 1962. Conscripted prayer in schools wasn’t a great idea then and it’s an even worse idea today. With America becoming increasingly secularized, maybe Christians can go back to spreading the Gospel instead of worrying about retaining their control of the culture or “reclaiming America for Christ.”

Nations are not Christian

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compelAA44 them to come in, so that my house will be full.” – Luke 14:23

When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we become servants of our Great King, God Almighty, and citizens of Heaven. Praise God! We become ambassadors and emissaries of our Father. Our mission: to give out the Gospel and lead others to Christ.

In Luke 14:23, the verse doesn’t say, Go out and plant your roots deeply in the lands in which you are sojourning. The verse doesn’t say get yourself deeply entangled in the cares and politics of the lands you are journeying through. The verse doesn’t say to join with the religious lost and politically conservative citizens of the country you’re traveling through to help them defend “morality” and make the nation “great again.”

Our King is in Heaven and His mission for us is to compel others to accept Christ so they can become citizens of Heaven also. Empires and nations of this world rise and fall but our King sits on an everlasting throne. Many Christians have not only unpacked their suitcases, they’ve thrown them into the dumpster. Their roots are deep into this world and this country and they worship at the altar of nationalism alongside the politically like-minded unsaved.

“Dear friends, I urge you, as FOREIGNERS and EXILES, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” – 1 Peter 2:11-12

America not founded as a Christian nation, says Russell Moore, to say so would be ‘contrary to the Gospel’

Trump? Hillary? How deeply are you invested?

Our 41-year-old, non-believing son is extremely proud of his country. He lovesHT America and is frustrated that it’s no longer the dominant nation it was back in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Donald Trump’s message of “We’re going to make America great again” resonates with my son somewhat. But he’s also convinced the country’s top politicians and business leaders are conspiring with other world leaders to bring about the “New World Order,” which means a much weaker United States in their supposed grand scheme.

I know A LOT of Christians are patriotic. Many could even be called nationalistic. Me? The moment we accept Christ we become citizens of Heaven. We are only sojourners and emissaries of our Father for our remaining time here on Earth. Yes, we are to pray for our governmental authorities so that the Gospel can continue to go out unhindered, but our sights should be on our Heavenly home, NOT on this world. When we get up to Heaven, the Lord won’t care if we were Canadian citizens or American citizens. He’ll only want to know if we used the gifts He gave us to point others to Him. Many American Christians have made their country into an idol. Trump? Hillary? I can’t get too excited over any politician or any political party.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” – Colossians 3:1-4

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” – Hebrews 11:13-16

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21

If American evangelical Christians got half as worked up about Jesus Christ as they do about their country and politics we would see great things done in the name of the Lord. Can any believer point out to me where national pride is extolled in the New Testament? Unfortunately, generations of American evangelical pastors got sucked into mixing national idolatry with the Gospel.

My son and I have talked about politics many, many times and I always try to use it as an opportunity to talk to him about the Lord. Yes, many alarming things are happening in this country including the increasing threat of terrorism, the rising national debt, the elimination of the middle-class, continuing racial divisions, attacks on the traditional family and “morality,” etc. It’s all a nightmare without Jesus Christ. How does my son or anyone else make sense of it without Christ? When my son frets about ISIS, I bring him back to the story of Ishmael and Isaac in Genesis. The Lord foresaw the conflict 4000 years ago. God doesn’t hit people over the head with proof of His existence but one need only look at the nation of Israel – the size of the state of New Jersey – and see how the entire world spins around that one, small country to realize there just might be a little something to God and His promises.

The Lord is still on His throne. When we allow ourselves to become entangled in worldly concerns and temporal pridefulness we risk becoming useless servants for our King in Heaven.