The United States of America is in steep decline. She is so because of God’s righteous judgment upon her.
What she has so passionately wanted—sin—the righteous Judge of heaven and earth judges her with: sin and more sin. According to, God “gives her over to a reprobate mind,” so that she does “those things which are not convenient.” “Not convenient” is “not suitable” or “not appropriate,” somewhat of an understatement to point out that even common sense would not allow one to behave as our society does!
Our society asked for sexual liberty in the name of avoiding puritanical hypocrisy—such was their excuse. God gave it to them in the form of a sewage swamp of pornographic filth that cannot be drained. And now Oprah Winfrey, the former Baptist-turned-actor and current media-mogul-millionaire becomes a presidential hopeful, because she eloquently called out some sex-abusers in Hollywood—the very sewer main that filled the cesspool in the first place and made her rich. Presidential hopeful Oprah Winfrey!
Our nation asked for crudity and vulgarity in the name of free speech, and gets it until it comes out her nostrils, such that even former President Obama reacted by asking for a “Civility Tour” to turn back the tide of hurtful speech and murderous ways.
We asked for violence and became violent in ways we ourselves are shocked at.
The United States and other “developed” countries are in a world of trouble.
So is there nothing more for us than this gloomy jeremiad? Weeping, shall we write our own prophetic lamentation and say, “Thou art very wroth against us, Amen”? (See.)
That would be wrong because, as I indicated last time, there are vital lessons for Reformed believers in this. As we live in and seek to be faithful in a world of men that profess to be wise but instead have become fools, we can profit from sober reflection on God’s Word.
First, let us get off (or stay off) our high horse and repent.
The Pharisee that we are by nature shows himself without much shame at times like this. “God, thanks that we are not like them!” In her public voice, the church can sound a lot like the Pharisee, if she is not humbly careful. She can sin in the very way we accuse our society of sinning: go on a kind of self-righteous rampage, fixating on one sin or one form of sin, while guilty of many others. Of course, this caution to carefulness is not a prohibition of exposing error. It only means that exposing the horrible evils in our land must be done in humility, the humility of seeing the beam in our own eye also. And our hopelessly sinful natures, in which are all these sins. All of them.
Second, let us learn that God judges sin with more sin in the church, too.
Romans 1 is so familiar to many of us that we could probably quote much of it by heart. What must not be forgotten, however, is that the reality of God judging sin with more sin applies not only to the reprobate world in paganism, but also to the church. The church or Christian family that embraces, even countenances, a sin may find herself awash in that sin in ways that she is shocked to see. The explanation? The righteous judgments of God.
In martyr Stephen’s last sermon, he reminded the Jewish high priest and council of all this. Applying Israel’s ancient history to their present situation, Stephen told of when Israel made a calf at Sinai, and “rejoiced in the work of their own hands.” In judgment, God “turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven” (). “Gave them up” in the Greek is the same word Paul uses in Romans 1 to describe God’s judgments upon the reprobate pagans, upon those who never heard the gospel. Acts 7 teaches that God also gave Israel over to more sin as punishment for sin. Israel wanted Egyptian idols; God gave them idols until they were inundated with idolatry and worshiped the host of heaven! “In the place of light corruptions,” says Calvin, “came gross monsters of idolatry.” From one feigned god, Calvin aptly explains, “there comes, by and by, a hundred; and from one superstition a thousand.”
Do the people of God want sports and entertainment beyond what is reasonable? In your generations He may give it to you so that your grandchildren are consumed by sport and entertainment in ways that will make even common sense shake her head in amazement. Do you want liberty to use your time in foolish (not even vile, but simply foolish) pursuits on the Internet? Do you imagine that a little sexual sin on television will remain a little sin? God will see to it, in His righteousness, that it does not. Who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind ().
Does your consistory countenance some sin in the congregation because it’s too painful, or sensitive, or unpopular, to deal with? The little leaven that will soon leaven the whole lump does so because God makes sin work like leaven. In the chemistry of yeast is the sover eign hand of God. In sin’s ‘leavening’ power is the same sovereign hand of God.
Third, from the progress of sin learn the dynamics of sin…and addictions.
God’s law according to which sin produces more sin is like the law of gravity. The inevitability of it is plain to all. The difference is that I need not understand the law of gravity, only reckon with it. When I get on my roof to clean out the gutters, fifteen feet above the concrete patio below, it is not helpful for me to understand how gravity works, only that it’s one of God’s inviolable laws in creation. But when I deal with sin and God’s ‘laws’ that govern sin, it is advantageous for me to know something about it, both with regard to the nature of sin and the sinfulness of my nature. God’s Word explains the dynamics of sin.
For example, Paul teaches that communication with sin and sinful people truly influences our lives for evil: “Evil communications corrupt good manners” (). “Communications” is fellowship, and “manners” refers to conduct. From the word for manners in the passage we get our word ethics and ethics pertains to conduct. Fellowship with evil corrupts a man’s ethics, morals, conduct. Listening to and observing with pleasure what is sin will inevitably lead to a corruption of his own life.
Augustine once illustrated this reality when he told a story of his friend Alypius. Alypius had no interest in the mixed-martial-arts of his day (the combat of the gladiators), but his friends convinced him to join them at the arena one day anyway. When Alypius could no longer avert his eyes because of the lusty shouts of the crowds, he looked, and was forever changed. Augustine said that his friend “was run through with a wound in his soul more lethal than the physical wounding he longed to look at, and he fell more pitifully than the one whose fall the shouting was about…. He was no longer the person he had been when he came.” What changed? Alypius no longer loathed violence. Why? Because communion with sin corrupted him.1
“Evil communications corrupt good manners.” Bad company changes a man’s ethics. Being entertained by sin has its effects as certainly as missing the first step coming off the roof. And with much greater damage. Whether that is watching gladiatorial combat, pornography, or other sin, the ‘law’ has no more ‘give’ than the law of gravity. We observe this.
We can even understand something of it. What we may understand is that God made man’s nature in such a way that those with whom we fellowship change us to be like them, that is, to look like them, spiritually. They change us into their “image.” When we live in the presence of God, more and more we become like God. He conforms us to His image. Conversely, as we live in the presence of the wicked, more and more we become like the wicked—in thinking, wanting, speaking, acting, willing, doing. Like it or not, it is the way God made us.
So our parents, wisely, warned against watching television—much of it, in any case. And not only because they realized it would be sinful to watch the swill of sinfulness on it, but because they had the spiritual sense that sin begets more sin.
But it is worse than they may have recognized fifty years ago. Sin begets more sin, lies more lies, slander more slander, sex more sex, until one is enslaved by the sin. Such is the horrible but God-ordained reality of sin’s workings. The day Adam ate, everything changed, fundamentally. So sinful misuse of alcohol engenders more misuse of alcohol until one is enslaved by alcohol. And sinful misuse of the computer to view what is not “convenient” begets more misuse until the Devil has a man by the throat and he will “let goods and kindred go” and probably “this mortal life also” simply to view what is unseemly. Whether or not we understand the psychology or physiology of this, we certainly understand the theology of it: Sin begets more sin, so far as to enslave a man. Sin then “reigns” in his body, has “dominion” over him, so that he obeys its overpowering passions (see).
That helps us understand why every country that rejects God is bound to sink into a morass of evil. And attempting to redeem our culture by a so-called common grace (which is no grace) will be no more effective than flapping my arms to break my fall from the roof.
Fourth, let us hear the footsteps of Christ in the USA’s demise.
I indicated earlier that I was discouraged to see that the country in which I now live is not the land in which I grew up: hazy and happy southern California in the late ’50s and ’60s. But the Lord uses such discouragement to pry my cold but very much alive fingers off this world’s goods. We are far too enamored of this earth and not nearly enough in love with the life to come and the return of Christ. The demise of the ‘beloved’ land of my youth reminds me loudly that this earth is not my home; I’m just a-passing through. I may be thankful when my land prospers outwardly, but must not become thisworldly. The ruin of my country and the fear for my grandchildren must translate into fervent instruction of them and myself: Look for Christ’s return! Without being lazily ‘anabaptistic’ in my worldview, I fix my hopes, not on the renovation of this present world but on the coming again of the Lord Jesus.
Did not Jesus teach us so? He made clear that, along with false prophets, damnable heresies, love waxing cold, rioting in the daytime, and wars and rumors of wars, what will mark the last days and forecast His soon return is the very iniquity that we see abounding in our country today. Men and women will continue to eat and drink, marry and give in marriage, as though the world will continue as it always has. Scoffers, walking after their own lusts, will mock our anticipation of Christ’s return, but only because they are willingly ignorant of what we know. He shall come and judge the ungodly; He is not slack concerning His promises (see). When we see Him, all our Christian hopes will be satisfied.
Because we know these things, so Peter exhorts, be diligent to be in peace, without spot, and blameless. Beware that you do not fall away from your own steadfastness, led away with the errors of the wicked. Grow in grace. And hope for heaven (ff.).
Finally, let us preach the gospel so that God’s people love Christ.
Preach in such a way that God’s people love Jesus Christ because they see that He is “altogether lovely” ().
Let us preach (pray for your preacher to grow in this) so that God’s people see Jesus, as did John, full of “grace (beauty!) and truth” (). So that they behold a lovely Jesus, sexually pure, true to His bride, never unfaithful, with ‘eyes’ for her alone. So that they see the One whose love even for our bodies meant that He subjected His body to the worst violence. So that they see Jesus’ so-great love for our name that, while He spoke truth in love, He subjected His own name to a campaign of hatred that would make Facebook’s worst blush. Beautiful Jesus. Indeed, He is “altogether lovely.”
And when we love the lovely Jesus, we will not love this world. When we love the Christ “full of grace” (spiritual beauty!), we will see the downfall of our nation to be preparation for the rising up of the Son of God in all His glory and beauty.
“By mercy and truth (of Jesus) iniquity is purged (from us)” (). Come, Lord Jesus!
1 For this story I am indebted to a recent talk by Dr. Carl Trueman, “What Augustine Teaches us Today.”