Publication: Pastoral Letter, August 2003
Dear Friend in Christ:
I heard a story many years ago, about a pastor who wanted to demonstrate to his church what it was like to abuse the grace of God, and the gift of salvation. His deacons gave him a watch as a gift of appreciation, and did so before the entire congregation. After the pastor received the watch, he dropped it to the floor and stomped on it!
The congregation let out a collective gasp. (They did not know what the pastor and deacons knew; it was just a cheap watch.) Then, the pastor challenged the congregation not to do the same with God’s grace.
But, some may ask, if it is a gift, then it is yours and you can do anything you want to with it, right? No, the truth is, we bear accountability, and sometimes even more, for the gifts we receive.
In the 1970’s, I was given a ring. A pastor came forward after a service and said, “Brother Charles, the Lord wants me to give you this ring.” It was a large gold ring in the shape of a lion’s face with small diamonds set in the eyes. “The people I pastor gave this ring to me,” he continued soberly, “but I believe that I should give it to you.” We were both teary-eyed.
I could hardly accept such a gift – but nor could I reject it. It was months before I could even wear it. I didn’t wear rings or jewelry, ordinarily. However, I came to believe that I should and did wear this ring. I have worn it now for more than 20 years.
I could have sold the ring for a lot of money, or I could have simply not worn it. After all, it was a gift; I could do anything I wanted to do with that ring, right? Wrong! With gifts come accountability. Accountability is the ability to report on what we have done with opportunity.
Now let’s move from the personal to the corporate. Ann Coulter has written a new book entitled Treason. She chronicles and documents fifty years of efforts to subvert or destroy the United States. In the book she quotes Whittaker Chambers, who was the star witness against Alger Hiss. (Hiss was an American government official who was also a Communist spy during the “Cold War.”) About Chambers, she writes, “It had been his fate to witness each of the two great faiths of our time – God and Communism.”
Chambers said, “Communism is the vision of man without God.” It was man’s second oldest faith: “Its promise was whispered in the first days of creation under the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, ‘Ye shall be as gods.’” These were “irreconcilable opposites_God or Man, Soul or Mind, Freedom or Communism.”
Chamber’s journey led him into and out of Communism, and to be a witness against numerous communist spies. For that patriotic act, he was vilified in the liberal media and by liberal politicians. Chambers came to understand that “man without God” didn’t work. History later proved him correct.
However, it isn’t only Communists who have such a vision. Atheists, Secularists, New Agers, and others share that same belief. Many people who would not categorize themselves in those ways nevertheless attempt to live without God. But some groups consistently demonstrate that their true motive is to remove God from the social landscape_all the while enthroning human beings in His place.
Why is it that people personally and corporately seek to remove God from the equation? Is it because they do not want to be accountable? I believe so. They want the right to make up their own rules without consequence_and even to impose their “no sin, no fault” philosophy upon us all. And they are active at all levels of society.
The “accountability avoidance syndrome” began in heaven of all places. Lucifer was lifted up in pride. He was one of three archangels. He decided to lead a coup in heaven. He had not created – he was only a “manager” – but he sought to replace the Creator. He lost. (See Isaiah 14:9-15; Ezekiel 28:11-17; Revelation 20:1-3).
When Lucifer was cast out of heaven, he continued his mutinous crusade on earth and suggested that humanity could be god. He successfully planted his seed in the hearts of our earliest parents. Ironically, many people who deny the biblical account nevertheless prove its point; we as humans want to be “god.”
The war against God is a cosmic struggle which we find ourselves born into and dying because of. Between birth and death, this war has devastated untold lives. Why are so many people so determined to replace God? No doubt many are simply ignorant and blind to the consequences. Others do so because they refuse to be accountable. They want to take the gifts of God and use them however they choose. They “stomp” on them.
In the beginning, God created everything – then created mankind to manage what He had made (see Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8:6). The problem that many of us have is that when we discover or receive something, we act as though we created it. In order to deny our accountability, we deny the true Owner, deny that it was a gift, and then misuse it.
We have received much, both from God and the faithful stewards who preceded us. Jesus said, “Unto whom much is given, much is required”(Luke 12:48). He reinforced this reality through direct teaching and numerous parables. Americans in particular have a tremendous responsibility to God, the Owner, and to our forefathers.
The Bible begins with Creation and delegation, and ends with accountability. This is an amazing sequence as we realize many different people wrote the Bible over a period of approximately 1500 years. They all upheld the principles of God’s ownership and man’s stewardship accountability.
It is significant that France gave us Great Reformers such as Calvin and the Huguenots, and also the so-called “Enlightenment.” It is also significant that the Reformers had to leave France and many were killed. The leaders of the Enlightenment, who denied God and accountability, were idolized. Both streams – Reformation and the Enlightenment – run through American history as well. Fortunately, up until now, the Reformation has had the greatest influence.
When it comes to recognizing God, there is no difference between Communism and the Enlightenment. In fact, the Enlightenment created the environment for Communism. They both deny God and enthrone humanity.
My wife and I were recently the guests of Paul Petrie, a close friend. With his help, we were able to meet with the leader of a European nation that had been under Soviet control. He told us that one-third of his nation had been lost; one-fourth had died, due to Communist brutality, and the rest had fled.
Estimates of lives lost worldwide due to Communism run from 50-100 million, far more than those lost to the evils of Nazism.
The evidence is overwhelming that efforts to run society without God, and without accountability, are worse than futile; they are brutal. This is true of nations and individuals. But from the Garden of Eden to the great Judgement Day, accountability is an inescapable principle.
What has the “You can be a god” idea cost us? Consider the lawbreaker, the corporate thief, the tyrant who tortures his own people, and their enablers who advocate “no sin, no fault” philosophies. Consider the broken families and casualties of them. What has the loss of accountability cost us?
REIGNING IN LIFE
How can we restore order to our own world and influence the world around us? How did we lose order? We lost order and peace when we lost our sense of accountability. Adam and Eve’s decision to be “as god” did not prevent a visit from the true God who asked, “Adam, where are you?” He didn’t ask because He didn’t know where Adam was. He asked because Adam didn’t know.
We can regain order by regaining our sense of accountability to God. Of course, we must deal with our sin and past failure to be accountable. Thank God, He sent His Son to be our offering for sin and to reconcile us to Himself.
Romans 5:17 tells us that Adam lost his ability to rule because of disobedience, but through Christ’s obedience, we have received His righteousness by faith, and that through Him we will reign in life. We can still rule our lives and God’s gifts to us, if we are reconciled to the true owner. We can even increase our resources if we are diligent to obey and understand that we must give an account.
His government produces righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. It puts things right, brings peace, and allows us to enter His joy by being productive. His government allows us to avoid the trouble caused by our own ways, and focus on the productivity of His ways.
Accountability is not a bad thing to be feared, unless of course you despise the true owner. It is a good thing. It is a good thing for children to be accountable to parents, for Christians to be accountable to leaders, for business and professional people to be accountable, and for political leaders as well. I believe that even the media ought to be accountable to some judgement.
PRINCE OF PEACE
Jesus is the Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:6; John 14:27; John 16:33; Acts 10:36). His government in our lives brings us peace – peace with God and the peace of God. The apostle Paul states, “Let the peace of God reign in your hearts.” Inner peace is a major evidence of our peace with Him and our willingness, even gladness, to be accountable.
God is good and His mercy is everlasting. Failing is not fatal if we take it to Him. Failing to acknowledge Him will be fatal, ultimately. A wrong attitude toward God – thinking that He is “a hard master” – is the beginning of trouble. Believing that He loves us and is there to help us is the beginning of progress.
So, what is the greatest gift that He has given? Without a doubt, it is the gift of eternal life and the ability to share it with someone else. And how are we doing with that stewardship? He will ask us that one day. I hope it will be a joyful experience. Anti-God people are active; we cannot afford to be asleep.
Scripture References: Isaiah 14:9-15; Ezekiel 28:11-17; Revelation 20:13; Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8:6; Romans 5:17; Luke 12:48; Isaiah 9:6; John 14:27; John 16:33; Acts 10:36