America Is God's Chosen Nation?

No Matter What Country We Live In, As A Believer, We Are Citizens Of Heaven

Dan Franklin
Dec 5, 2021    42m
Many prominent Christians today claim that the United States has a unique relationship with God. While it is true that we can be proud, patriotic, and happy to live in the United States, we need to remember that as believers in Jesus Christ, we are exiles wherever he places us, but we are all citizens of Heaven. Video recorded at Upland, California.

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Dan Franklin: [00:00:19] You know, one of the things I love about Christmas and Advent and this time of year is the different symbols and the different daily reminders that we get that point us back to what Christmas is about. And one of the images that's really prominent during the Christmas season is the whole idea of light and darkness. We see lots of ways that this image is reflected. We hear it in the passages that are about Christmas. We hear it in some of the songs that are about Christmas. We see it when we see a representation of the star and remember that that was the light that brought the Magi to Jesus. We see it in the candles that we light each week as a reminder of how important it is that light comes into the darkness because when we are walking around in the darkness, all we have is confusion, and chaos, and deception, and we need light to come into that darkness. And ever since September, we've been in the series that we've called Strongholds, that really deals with the whole idea that in any culture, there's a lot of people walking around in the darkness. There's a lot of cultural beliefs and cultural ideas that just become imbibed and just become a part of the air that we breathe, we don't even question them, and when they're deceptive ideas, they end up leading us to walk around in the darkness, which leads to chaos and leads to harm. And so each week, we've talked about a different cultural stronghold, I'll be honest with you, the one that we're going to talk about this week, I've had a little bit of a harder time summing up, so I'm going to ask you to bear with me throughout the time as we look to talk about what we're going to talk about this morning. Because the way that I've summed it up, the cultural stronghold that we're going to talk about, is the idea that the United States has special status before God.

Dan Franklin: [00:02:11] We're going to talk about our nation, we're going to talk a little bit about patriotism in general, but we're going to zero in on this question does our country, does the United States, have some sort of special status or special place in God's plan? Now, the interesting thing about asking this question in our country and in our year, is that I believe almost everybody in this room instinctively feels like you know the answer, but it's not all the same answer. For some of you, instinctively, you're just like obviously not, like obviously not, you read the Bible, there's no mention of the United States, there's no prophecy that seems to be aligned to the United States. Of course not, probably every nation thinks that they have some sort of special place in God's plan, so obviously, no, the answer is no. Obviously, the United States does not have some sort of special status. But then I'd be willing to bet that there's a group of you, at least to some degree, that are saying, no, no, obviously, the answer to this is some sort of yes, and you'd say that because the United States has a founding, and you'd say, alright, that founding was based on Christian ideas. And even whatever you think of the founding, when we look at the impact the United States has had on the world, both through lifting people out of poverty, and promoting freedom, and even in the Christian realm of sending missionaries all over the world, clearly, the United States is a special nation that has some sort of special place in God's plan. And the point of trying to answer this question is not just to deal with sort of a theoretical, philosophical idea, but because how we relate to this question impacts how we understand ourselves as citizens of this country, and how we view our role in the world as citizens of the United States. Well, what we're going to do is we walk through this, we're going to walk through the passage that we've already heard read in First Peter chapter 2 verses 9 through 10. I know many of you have already turned there, if you haven't turned there, you can, it's going to be in a way that might feel a little bit roundabout. You might be at times looking at the passage you are going through and saying, I'm not quite making the connection of how we're going to get there. But we're not only going to get to a point where we're going to get to talk about how we understand the nation that God has put us in, but we're also going to get an opportunity to talk about what it looks like to embrace the country to which we truly belong.

Dan Franklin: [00:04:34] So I want to put the passage up here on the screen for us to look at together. I'll read it for us, and then we're going to kind of talk big picture about it. It says once again, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." now, for us is as people in the United States in 2021, it would be easy for us to miss the fact that basically nothing Peter says in these verses is an original thought from Peter. People in the first century, largely, a lot of his readers would have known this, they would have known that these words and these phrases that he uses in these verses are not things that he's coming up with just for this letter, but their quotations and allusions to several passages in the Old Testament. We're going to look at just three, and you're going to see the parallels of why Peter brings this up. The first one is Exodus chapter 19 verse 6, so this is in the founding of the Nation of Israel, God speaks to them and says, "You a will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.", using two of the same phrases that Peter uses in verse 9. And then he says, "These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” So we've got the nation of Israel being formed, and from its foundation, they are going to be a holy nation and a royal priesthood. And this is similar to what's said in a parallel passage in Deuteronomy chapter 7:6, when it says, "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you." A chosen people in verse 9, "The Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession." in First Peter 2:9, Peter uses these four analogies to talk to who he's speaking to, and he uses all of these phrases that were built into the self-understanding of the people of Israel.

Dan Franklin: [00:06:52] And the same is true in verse 10, with the whole idea of "You once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have." This is an allusion to the Prophet Hosea. And if you read about Hosea, Hosea was sent to Israel at a time where they were unfaithful to God, they were worshiping idols, they weren't living the way that God had told them to, and so God decided he was going to send them into exile. He was going to punish them, and by sending them off to other countries into exile, he said, by doing this, I'm saying to you, you're not my people, and you're not beloved, or you're not going to receive mercy in Peter's words here. But if you read through the Old Testament or the New Testament, whenever God is punishing his people, it seems that he doesn't talk about it for very long before he starts talking about restoration, before he starts bringing hope back into the picture, and that's what he does in Hosea. So in Hosea chapter 2:23, in the midst of saying that they're going to be sent into exile, he says, "I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.'" Which is parallel to the "I'll show mercy to the ones that did not receive mercy." And then he says, "I will say to those called ‘Not my people, h ’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ ” so here's why I'm going through all this, if we were to look up at first Peter Chapter 9 verses 9 and 10 and we understood these passages in the Old Testament, our assumption might be, well, Peter obviously must be writing to the nation of Israel. He's using phrases that were used of them in the Old Testament, he's using illustrations that were used to them, he's using promises that were given to them, so clearly, Peter must be writing to ethnically Jewish people. But here's the deal, we know that that's not who Peter was writing to, because at the beginning of this letter, Peter tells us who he was writing to. I'll put it up on the screen, but let's look at the first couple of verses of First Peter. In chapter 1 verse 1 Peter says that he is writing "To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." And then here's how he describes the people he's writing to, "Who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood." now let me ask you a question, as you look in your Bible or as you look up at how he describes the people he's writing to, do you see anything about race, do you see anything about ethnicity, do you see anything about Israel?

Dan Franklin: [00:09:40] That's not who he's writing to, almost certainly, many of the people that were receiving and hearing this letter were ethnically Jewish, but Peter makes really clear he's not writing to the Jewish nation, he's writing to people who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit, and who obey Jesus and have been sprinkled, have been cleansed, by his blood. I promise, this is not a trick question, who is Peter writing to? He's writing to believers, he's writing to believers in Jesus Christ, he's writing to anyone who has been rescued by God through the sacrifice and the resurrection of Jesus, that is who he's writing to. And do you notice how else he describes them in verse 1, he says, "Exiles scattered." And this, again, should make us think of the Old Testament because there were different time periods where the Israelites were scattered outside of the Land of Israel in exile. They were in Babylon, or they were in Persia, or they were in Greece, they were in different spots, and they lived as if they were members of those communities, but they all have their ultimate allegiance, they all knew that their true home was Israel, even though they were living in a foreign land. And Peter gives us, as believers in Jesus, as the Church of Jesus Christ, that same self-understanding, he says we're supposed to look at ourselves as exiles scattered. If he was writing today, maybe Peter would have said to the exiles scattered in Mexico, and Honduras, and Kenya, and Thailand, and Australia, and England, and the United States. We're in a country. but we all have the understanding that our true country is elsewhere. And for us as Christians, our true country is not the nation of Israel, our true country is God's country, our true country is heaven, our true God is the one true God. We're exiles, we happen to be living in the United States of America, and that doesn't mean we shrug that off as nothing. Because the Jews, when they were sent into exile, they were meant to be a blessing to their communities, they were meant to settle in, and sort of act as citizens, and have children, and participate in the community, they weren't just all off to the side, but they all understood that they were temporary residents in that place looking to their true home.

Dan Franklin: [00:12:17] As exiles scattered in the United States, we are meant to function as if God wants us in the United States, as if he wants us to settle in, participate in our communities, pray for the well-being of our nation, and look to do good to our neighbors, but to always understand that this is not our true home. As we put it before, we're not Americans who happen to be Christians, we're Christians who happen to be placed by God in the United States of America. So let me just pause for a minute, and let me just try to guide us through some thinking about how then do we understand our place as Christians who are placed in this nation? And the first thing I'll talk about is this, there's debate over how we understand the whole concept of patriotism. So some people might think, oh, well, if this is true, then patriotism is just idolatry and it's just wrong. Well, it depends on what you mean by patriotism. Is it appropriate for you as a Christian who's placed in the United States of America to have sort of a disproportionate care and concern for your country as opposed to other countries? The answer is, yes, that is appropriate. In the same way that how many of you have kids? All right. How many of you have an outsized sense of responsibility to your kids versus all kids? Yeah. And that's not because you believe that your kids are actually more important to God, I mean, some of you may, but you're wrong. Your kids are not more important to God than other kids, but it's because those are your kids that God has given you. It would be very weird for you to act like you don't have any special responsibility or affection for those kids, they are your kids. In the same way, it doesn't mean that we look at the United States and we say, well, the United States, the people in the United States, are more valuable to God than other people. We're not, but it does mean that we look at it and say, well, this is our nation, this is where God has placed us, so it makes sense that we would have an outsized sense of allegiance to, and even responsibility towards, our country than we do to just any other country.

Dan Franklin: [00:14:24] Let me take it a step further, it is not idolatrous if you believe that the United States is pretty great and has some things that are pretty great about it. In the same way that we could look at two families and we could say, all right, but if we had two families, it wouldn't be that the members of one family are more valuable before God than the members of the other family, but we wouldn't feel like we couldn't say one family is better than another family. If in one family there's dysfunction, and there's abuse, and there's yelling, and screaming, and dishonesty, and betrayal, and in another family, they're functioning well, and they're respectful towards each other, and they're caring for one another's needs, and there was a kid who needed to be placed in one of those families which family are we going with. We're like that family is better than that family, and it's not because the human beings have greater value before God, we would just say that the way this family functions is better than the way this family functions. So with that said, it's all right. If you look at the United States and you say, I think that there are some pretty great things about the United States that function better than other nations function. That is not idolatrous, that's just you looking at the situation and making an evaluation. Now, the weird thing about what's going on right now in our nation is that we have some people that almost cannot possibly bear to hear a bad thing about the United States, and then we have a bunch of other people that seemingly can't bear to hear any good thing about the United States. What I want to say is I think both are incorrect, and I'll try to also guide this, I think both are actually arrogant statements. There's probably not a lot, I'm not a history major up here, that's not my primary role is to take us all through the history of the country, But I'm going to say two things that I think probably all of us should be able to say, yeah, that's true about our country. The first is this, I think it's indisputable that Christian ideas played a significant influence in the founding of our country. If you even just go to the Declaration of Independence and that phrase in there, "All men are created equal.". We take that for granted today, but I want you to know that is not a universal belief, even today, and certainly not at the time, because you had monarchies, and you had hierarchies, and it was very normal to believe that certain people had a greater place before God than others.

Dan Franklin: [00:16:46] We not only have in our Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, we have in our Declaration of Independence that all men are created. If all men are created, that means that there's a creator. That's not a scientific statement, that's a faith statement. Christian ideas undoubtedly played a major role in the founding of our nation. And the second thing that should be indisputable in the founding of our nation, is that there was significant sin and error still going on in our nation when it was founded. The most obvious thing that we all point to in this is slavery. It's pretty universal, we look at that and we say, oh my gosh, what was going on that we not only had slavery as some sort of indentured servitude or a hierarchy of class, but we had slavery that involved overt racism and kidnapping, that was repugnant before God, that was horrific. So we've got a nation, and on the one hand, we can say, alright, undoubtedly, there were Christian ideas that helped in the forming of the nation. And also, undoubtedly from the start, we've had sin and error and dysfunction as a part of our nation. If you're currently looking at the United States and you can't see anything wrong with it, you are arrogantly committing idolatry. You are blind to seeing that, just like every other nation, we are a nation, and we have flaws. And by the way, I've already mentioned this, there's no mention of the United States in the Bible. If you're looking at Daniel or Revelation and trying to find some connection, and maybe this is the United States, you're not right, the United States does not show up, that doesn't mean that the United States is imminently going to be destroyed, we don't know. But the idea that we would assume, well surely the United States, like at the end it's going to be Israel and us, and we're going to be the only two faithful nations, it's arrogant for us to assume that that's true. Read the Book of Daniel, nations stronger than us rose up, and nobody thought they would ever go anywhere, and then they fell and were destroyed. It doesn't mean it's certain that that's going to happen with us, but we are foolish if we think that we have some sort of special status in that way.

Dan Franklin: [00:19:00] And I'll just also throw out if you think that the United States is sort of uniquely evil in terms of nations that have existed, it's my opinion that you don't know very much about history or even the world right now. That's not to excuse the sins of the United States, but it shows a lack of understanding of the brutality of the world to think that we are in some sort of unique position and that there hasn't been great good that came from the United States. And it's also my personal opinion that if that's your sort of edge, if that's your orientation when you think of the United States, then it probably comes from an arrogance that you think you would have done better put in the same place. And I don't think you would have, and I don't think I would have. So it means we look at our country, we say, alright, it's our country, it's where God has placed us, we celebrate the wonderful things that come from our country, there's nothing wrong with flying a flag, there's nothing wrong with singing the anthem, we can do all of those things, but it means that we view ourselves as temporary residents, and it also means that we look at our country and we say we have no reason to believe that our country has some sort of special status before God. Now, I'm not going to pretend to know where everybody's at, but for some of you, what I just said probably felt deflating. That you are sort of like, I like the idea of feeling like as a citizen of the U.S., I'm part of a city on a hill that's meant to give light to other nations, and I like the idea that being part of the United States, I'm sort of part of a chosen people from God that set apart for a specific purpose. And what I want you to know is, if right now you're grieving, if right now you're like, I want those things to be true of the country that I'm a part of, and I'm sad that it's not true of the United States, what I want you to know is that if you're a believer in Jesus, that is true of your country. It's not true of the United States, but it's true of the country to which you ultimately belong, which is God's country.

Dan Franklin: [00:20:52] And what we're going to do now is, we're going to walk through these two verses, and we're going to see some things that we're told about what it looks like to function within the nation to which we really belong. We're going to see that the nation to which we belong has a national identity, that the nation to which we belong has a national calling, and the nation to which we belong even has a national history. So let's look through those, the beginning of verse 9 tells us that the nation to which we belong has an identity, and it's based in these four illustrations that Peter gives in verse 9 about who we are. He says, "First of all, you are a chosen people." Now, there's been a debate since the beginning of the establishment of the Church of how much is it that God chooses us, and how much do we choose him, and God's sovereignty and free will? I'll give away a little bit, that I definitely don't think that in becoming Christians, we make the first move, I think scripture is pretty clear that we would never respond to God if he didn't first enliven our hearts to respond to him. But the big point in looking at the idea of being a chosen nation is not for us then to look at it and try to establish exactly how much free will we have and exactly how much sovereignty that God has, instead, we get to just pause and think about how great it is to get picked. It takes me back to junior high when every day we would go and play basketball at lunchtime, I wasn't very good, the first two kids who made baskets we're going to be captains and you'd all just be waiting there, am I going to get picked? And even though there are times that I wasn't one of the 10 best players out there, a friend of mine would be a captain and would pick me, and it made my day. Some of you have been adopted, and you have some sense of what it's like to desperately want to be welcomed into a family, to desperately want a mom and dad to wake up and say, we choose you. We get to view ourselves as by God's pure grace, not because we deserved it, but by God's pure grace, we have been chosen.

Dan Franklin: [00:23:06] Nobody snuck into the Kingdom of God when God wasn't looking, nobody got in because God said, well, I'm under contract, they prayed the prayer, I have to let them in. God wants us, God shows us that we're a chosen nation. We're not only a chosen nation, but we're told that we're a royal priesthood. And this, again, in the Old Testament, the Jewish nation as a whole was viewed as a priesthood, in the idea that they were meant to connect the other nations, to God, to show the light of God to the other nations. But they also had priests in there, and the priest had the function of connecting the people of Israel to God. For us, as a New Testament church, we do not have priests. Well, we do have one priest, we have the high priest, Jesus Christ, who can connect us to God. You don't need to pray through a priest, you don't need somebody between you and God other than Jesus. Just to clarify, I am not a priest at this church, Gary is not a priest, none of the pastors or elders are priests, you have a direct line to God because of Jesus Christ. And that means that we all have equality, even though we have different roles, within the family of God. We all have a connection to God, that means we also all exist to help people that are far off to be connected to God through our lives, we are a royal priesthood. We're a chosen nation, and a royal priesthood, we're a holy nation. And holy, sometimes we think holy means like, all right, it's sinless and it's morally pure. But at a more basic level, what holy means is holy means set apart for a specific purpose. In the Old Testament, there was clothing that was called holy garments, and it wasn't because those garments had never sinned, it was because those garments were set apart for special purpose. You've been set apart for a special purpose, which means you don't just blend into the world, you don't just blend into the United States, you stand out and you go against the flow. It means when you look around and say, well, the cultural norm is that if marriage gets tough and you're just frustrated with your spouse, you end it and you look for someone else.

Dan Franklin: [00:25:16] But that we as the holy nation say, no, that's not how we do things, we stay faithful to the vows that we've given before God and before witnesses. It means that when you look around, and you see that other people are using all their money to accumulate as much as they can get to try to be satisfied through that, that you look at that and you say, well, that's not what we do as God's holy nation. We're generous with what we have, even if that means our standard of living is much lower than it could be if we were hoarding. It means that if you're a teenager, you get called to do one of the most scary things as a teenager, and that's to not just blend in, but to go against the flow. That you talk differently than the people around you, that you handle your interactions with your parents differently than the people around you, that you use your money differently than the people around you, that you date differently than the people around you, that your entire lives point towards the idea that you're set apart for a specific purpose, a holy nation. And finally, we're told that we are God's special possession, which means that we belong to him. And that's the greatest status that anyone can have. Probably, like five years ago or so, I was at an Angels game, somebody had given me free tickets, so...I couldn't resist, but it's true they had given us free tickets. So I was there, and they were really nice tickets and I look across, this was before the game, and I see standing on the other side of the aisle. Michael Thompson. Now, many of you are like, who's Michael Thompson? Except some of you who are big sports fan, if you're a big Laker fan, you know who Michael Thompson is. He was on the Lakers in the late 1980s, he helped them win a couple of titles. I look over, I see Michael Thompson. Now by the reaction, even in this room, clearly not an A-list celebrity, but somebody that I'm like, whoa, Michael Thompson is right over there. So I went over, I shook his hand and then guess what's the next thing that I asked him if he would do? All right, no, not an autograph, but I did ask him for a picture.

Dan Franklin: [00:27:18] And he said yes, and I got my friend to come over and we snapped a picture. And then once I got that picture, what's the next thing that I did? Instantly posted it online. I wanted everybody to see me standing with Michael Thompson, B-list former NBA celebrity, either way, and I know, and it's funny to say it. I know that somewhere in my mind, I felt like my importance goes up because I just posted a picture of me next to Michael Thompson. And I say this because even as I'm talking about, there's are just many of you in there that you're like, I did that, except it was with, fill in the blank. It was with somebody that in the area kind of has special status because they're in the local government, or it was with a person at school that's the star quarterback. or it was with somebody that's not even an A-list celebrity, not somebody that everybody knows, but it felt like it raised my status a little bit. Here's what I want to make sure we get; you belong to the one who spoke and the Earth came into being. You belong to the one who, according to the Book of Exodus, used the tip of his finger to rain down plagues on Egypt. You belon to the one who spoke, and the wind and the waves stopped in their tracks because he told them to. You don't need any special status with temporary celebrities or important people, you belong to God, you're his special possession. That is our national identity, and we share that with every believer scattered throughout the world in every nation. That's our national identity, and we also have a national calling. However, if you want to think of it this way, sort of a national charter, a national constitution at the end of verse , we are told that we exist that we may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. We have a calling that our lives are about telling people about the one who took us out of darkness and brought us into life, who took us out of the darkness of sin and condemnation and confusion and deception and brought us into the light of truth and grace and salvation.

Dan Franklin: [00:29:44] The question for all of us is, would anybody believe that that's our calling if they just went through and evaluated our feeds? Would anybody make the conclusion, that's what they're about? You know, it's funny before social media came around, because if somebody asked you, do you talk about Jesus a lot, you could say, yes, and nobody would be able to technically figure out if that's true or not. But if somebody said you spend a lot of time posting about the one who brought you out of darkness and into his wonderful light, we could actually go and check. Now we did, and I'm going to put some things up on the screen. I'm just joking, but for a moment, you were like, oh no, the things that I post about are a lot of things that are kind of frivolous and just kind of fun. And then maybe even for some of you, if you are honest, you would realize the things that you post about a lot are what you think needs to happen in this nation to which you belong. You spend a lot of vocal time, you spend a lot of time in feed, maybe you’re even using your money trying to get things accomplished so that this country becomes what you think that it should become. Maybe right now you're looking at our country and you're concerned that we're sort of heading towards socialism, and you look at that and you see that as a really bad thing, and so you spent a lot of your voice, a lot of your time talking about how bad that would be if we went down the road to socialism. And I want you just to imagine for a second, imagine you got your way and everybody in the whole country said, socialism, we're never going to do that, we're going to become more free market, more capitalistic. If that happened, you know what we would be, we would be a capitalistic country in darkness, because capitalism doesn't bring the light that only Jesus can bring. And you might be on the other side, you might be like, I don't know what you're talking about, we need more socialism, we need more socialized medicine, we need the government to do be doing more to care for other people.

Dan Franklin: [00:31:39] And if you think that. And if you got your way and we became a fully socialist nation, do you know what we would be? We'd be a socialist nation in the darkness. I'll be honest, I've been thinking about this, as some of you have been following the Supreme Court case with the Mississippi law, that's before the Supreme Court right now that relates to abortion. And there's wondering right now, is Roe v. Wade actually going to go down, or are there going to be things that change in our country? And I know we probably have different people in different places here, I believe that abortion is evil, I believe scripture is, clear on that. I would love for our nation to be a nation that says that abortion is evil and we're not doing that anymore, and if we were, if we absolutely got rid of abortion in our country, you know what we would be? We'd be a pro-life nation in the darkness, because even being pro-life doesn't bring the light of Jesus Christ. How much time, and how much money, are we spending doing the very thing that is at the center of our calling. That we are declaring that somebody has brought us out of darkness and into His wonderful light? That's our charter, that's our calling, that's our goal. And finally, what Peter tells us is that we also have a national history. I don't know, as an American, have you ever thought of yourself as being like, do you know what? I was on the Mayflower. Like, that wasn't just them, like that's a part of me, like that's a part of my history as an American that I'm part of coming over on the Mayflower and bravely coming into a new land. Or you think about 60 years ago and you think, you know, I was part of that march with Martin Luther King Jr. for the rights of all men, and for equal rights and civil rights, like that's a part of me because I'm an American, and so I own that as part of my history. And it's a powerful thing when you think of those terms, when you start to think of yourself as participating in your nation's history. In verse 10, Peter tells us what our history is.

Dan Franklin: [00:33:45] He says, "Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." Once we were far off, not only were we not a nation, and not connected to one another, we weren't connected to God. I know a number of you are going through the advent devotional that we promoted last week from Matt and Lauren Chandler. And if you were going through it this week, and by the way, we bought some more, we do have some more outside if you couldn't get them last week, it's going to be worthwhile to jump in. But really, the first week of our readings are all about Genesis three and are all about sin coming into the world. It's a dark beginning to advent. it's like, isn't this supposed to be about hope? But it's about sin because that is our story. Our story is that there is a time that we were not a people, that we did not belong to God, that we sinned against him and that we were far from him, and it's the story of God making us his people. It's about the fact that there was a time where we hadn't received mercy, by the way, didn't deserve mercy, still don't deserve mercy, but through the sacrifice on the cross of Jesus Christ, we got mercy. Our story as believers, our national history, is not about a group of people that faced hard times and then found a way to fight their way through them. Our story is about helpless, godless sinners who are dying in the gutter and God raised us up. That's your story if you're a Christian, that's my story as a Christian, and that's a story that you might not share with your American neighbors who look just like you and do a lot of the same activities that you do. But do you know who you do share it with? You share with your brothers and sisters in Kenya, in Thailand, in Mexico, in Honduras, in Australia, in England, in France, you share this with the citizens of the nation to which you truly belong. That is the story that we're living in, and that's why that's the story that we are proclaiming. We are citizens of the United States, which is not something to be ashamed of, not something that we have to have a problem with, and it's something that we participate in, in realizing that we do have a responsibility to the nation that God has put us in as exiles, but it's not our true country.

Dan Franklin: [00:36:13] I'll be honest, I love living in the U.S., but I'll still say, thank God, it's not our true country, thank God that he has something greater for us, thank God that he has given us hope in a place where every tear will be wiped away one day by the hand of God, where there will be no more death, and no more grief, and no more mourning, no more race conflicts, no more injustice, no more sorrow, and no more separation, but that every tear will be wiped away and we will be in the country to which we were all always made for. And it also means it's worthwhile asking ourselves some questions about how we live in that country. So I'll ask them to you now as you think about this. Are you blending in or are you standing out? Would anybody around you be able to differentiate you in the way that you talk and then the way that you live from just a good American person, or do you stand out as part of the holy people of God? And a second question, are you advancing the cause? Are you advancing the cause of making sure that the United States is more free, and that we don't lose religious freedoms? Or are you part of advancing the cause of the Gospel going out to the nations? Are you using your gifts within the church? Are you using your money for missions, or just because there's a political party that you align more with? Are you advancing the cause? And finally, are you living out the story? Is your life reflecting the idea that you were a helpless, godless sinner who was called out of darkness and brought into the light of Jesus by his sacrifice and by his great grace? Here's what I want to have us do right now, we're going to take a couple of minutes of just silent prayer. And I'm going to invite you during this time of silent prayer to focus especially on two things. The first is this you, might be looking at all this and you might say, you know what, I frankly have got to repent. Because either my attitude towards my nation is that it really has been what's most important to me, or my attitude towards my nation has been arrogant dismissal and not wanting anything to do with it, maybe there's some repentance that needs to happen.

Dan Franklin: [00:38:28] Maybe there's repentance that needs to happen because you're looking at yourself and saying, I haven't been looking to stand out, I've been looking to do everything that I could to blend in so that I won't look like a person who set apart for something different. There may be repentance needed, and prayer for us as God's people to reflect God's country. But here's the second thing I want to invite you to pray for during this time of silent prayer. You have brothers and sisters in Christ, in nations all around the world, exiles just like you're in exile here, and they're dealing with the same thing of trying to figure out how do I stand out for Jesus in the midst of the nation? And just as we would probably love for them to be praying for us as we navigate this, we want to pray for them as they navigate this. So I'm going to ask you right now, go ahead and bow your heads. We're just going to take some quiet time of prayer. Go before the Lord, remember, he is full of grace and truth, and so if you're feeling smashed by conviction, God is a God of restoration. We'll take a couple of quiet minutes of prayer and then I'll close us after we're finished with that. Father, we come to you as your people. We come to you as your people by your grace and mercy that you brought us out of darkness and into your light. Father, we pray that you lead us through the repentance, and the guidance, and the help so that we truly do reflect Jesus in this land that you've called us to live in as exiles. We pray for you to lead us to be a blessing to this nation, and we pray that you also lead us to be a voice of prophetic witness to this nation of the Gospel of Jesus. Father, we pray for our brothers and sisters around the world. We pray that in the nations to which you've called them to be exiles, that you give them the strength and the perseverance and the hope to continue to walk with you and shine the light of Jesus into the dark places that you've placed them. We pray this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dan Franklin: [00:41:23] Amen. Amen. I want to invite you to stand as I'm going to read a word of benediction over us. You can also see as you're standing, we've got some folks on either side of the stage. If this is a Sunday where you're like, I got to do some business with God and I need to pray with a brother or sister, we've got people to do that. But as a benediction for all of us, what I want to read is actually the next two verses that come right after the verses that we've read. First Peter chapter 2 verses 11 and 12 say this, "Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12Live 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. Amen. And God bless you this Sunday.

Recorded in Upland, California.
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Life Bible Fellowship Church
2426 N Euclid Ave
Upland, California 91786
(909) 981-4848