Tag Archives: freedom

Thinking about Gay Marriage on Independence Day

The Supreme Court of the United States of America legalized same-sex marriage. Will freedom be denied those of us who believe that same-sex relationships are sinful? What about the spiritual future of our culture? Can we get a word from our Lord about how we should respond?

In 1 Peter 3 we read that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears on their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those doing evil.” This is a quote from Psalm 34, which was written some 1,000 years earlier. Peter applies an ancient and established truth to current circumstances. The passage of time had not diminished the Bible’s truth.

This is a much-needed affirmation about the Bible and about the God of the Bible. Our circumstances will change, but God’s word and his character do not change. His holiness and righteousness, his love and mercy, they are established and they will never alter.

Leviticus 18 has not changed. Romans 1 has not changed. God’s design for human sexuality, for marriage and for family has not changed. God’s design for marriage is still one man and one woman committed to one another for life, raising their children together and enjoying their grandchildren. And more than that, Christian marriage is still meant to be a living parable of the love relationship between Christ and his church. None of this has changed. Nobody, not even the Supreme Court of the United States of America can change these fixed realities.

But our country’s definition of marriage has changed. It has moved sharply away from God’s design. Will those who believe in God’s design for marriage be penalized in this rapidly changing moral storm?

The text from 1 Peter 3 continues: “Who will do you harm if you are zealous for good? But if you suffer because of righteousness, you are blessed.” Jesus agrees with the notion of suffering for doing what is right. In Matthew 5 he says, “Blessed are the ones persecuted for the sake of righteousness, because theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.” But do American Christians actually believe that suffering is a blessing? In other countries, China for instance, Christians understand these frequent Scriptural statements about suffering for the truth. Because of our religious freedom, this aspect of the faith is unfamiliar territory in the U.S.

1 Peter 3 continues: “Don’t fear what they fear, nor be upset.” Fear is not the answer. Fear is never to be our master. God has not abandoned his people or his plan. He can still be trusted. Some may fall away, but those who believe will discover the anointing of God’s power enabling them to represent him faithfully regardless the cost.

So what should we do? Next, 1 Peter says, “Set apart Christ as Lord in your hearts, always be ready with an answer to everyone who asks you for a word about the hope which is in you.” Notice that it does not say that we should always be ready to defend our right to speak, but we should be ready to speak.

Christians in America have sometimes been quicker to defend a right than to exercise it. Tell believers that they cannot pray and they will line up for battle, rightly so. But do those same believers take the time to attend a prayer meeting? Instead of fighting for the right to speak, we must speak what we know is right.

But what about religious freedom? Is legal same-sex marriage not a threat to our religious freedom? Should we not fight for our religious freedom? It has become popular to call religious freedom our first freedom. But is this really true? Religious freedom is a great heritage, a right for which many fought and bled and died. Our first freedom as believers, however, is our freedom in Christ, not political liberty but spiritual freedom.

A person can be politically free and spiritually bound. It is also true that one can be politically bound and spiritually free. Given the choice, we would embrace both freedoms simultaneously. Forced to choose, we relinquish our political liberty in order to remain faithful to our Lord.

The kingdom of God has advanced for millennia, often without the benefit of religious freedom. In fact, sometimes religious persecution has spread the fire of the faith more effectively than religious freedom, which sadly seems to produce spiritual complacency.

We are instructed by 1 Peter 3 to be ready to give a word about our hope. What is our great hope? It is not freedom of religion, nor is it freedom of speech. Our great hope is not the Constitution of the U.S.A. Religious leaders who tell followers of Jesus that they should put their hope in freedom of speech, freedom of religion or the Constitution are at best confused and at worst false teachers.

The Bible tells us to set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts, not our political freedoms or our political documents, as helpful and brilliant as these things may be. Our struggle is not a battle for religious freedom but a battle for spiritual truth. What should we do? We must set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts and be prepared to speak about him, nothing less.

Richard Foster, Grace Baptist in Camden, AR, July 3, 2015

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Consequences of Losing Our First Freedom

We exist on a tiny island of religious and political freedom that is surrounded by a vast sea of religious and political oppression. Wherever you go in history, whatever culture or nation or society, on every continent, you find religious oppression and the political oppression that is always its wicked sister.

Almost 400 years ago a small band of religious separatists braved the North Atlantic in a ship called the Mayflower. They were fleeing what we now call the Old World, Europe, a place where governments imposed religious belief. If you disagreed with the government about religion then you were not politically free, in fact, you could be in grave personal danger.

Almost immediately the group that came to the New World was tempted to remake that Old World system. Some insisted that they use the government to enforce one religious belief and limit the freedoms of all those who disagreed.

Prominent among those who demanded full unhindered religious freedom were Baptists. Religious freedom is a part of our heritage that we should know about and hold dear.

It took a long time and much effort, but in 1833 the last state in the Union disestablished its state church and created a healthy separation between church and state. Our forefathers learned from hard lessons that political freedom only stands on the solid rock of religious freedom.

In 1993 then President Bill Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law. It was written to protect this precious freedom because serious threats to that freedom are growing like weeds in our society.

At that time the president called religious freedom our “first freedom.” He was right. Without religious freedom we will not be free at all.

Sadly, we are in danger of forgetting these lessons and losing what so many people worked and fought very hard to gain. What a tragedy if all the blood and tears that were given in payment for our religious freedom are forgotten by a younger generation.

Confusion is one of the best weapons of the enemy. Religious freedom is being painted as hate and bigotry. If a baker refuses a cake to a gay couple’s wedding then that person must be financially crushed and publicly humiliated.

The gay couple can still get a cake for their wedding. In fact, the gay couple can still find food, clothing, housing, jobs and so forth. What the gay couple apparently cannot abide is the fact that someone, anyone, might disagree with their beliefs. The power of the government must be used to crush anyone who dares hold a different opinion from the gay couple.

Some appeal to Jesus, saying that he would bake the cake for the gay couple because he loves everyone. It is true that Jesus was a friend of sinners. He spent time with them and he did love them.

But Jesus did not reach out to sinners because he wanted to affirm their lifestyles. He did so in order to change them. I do not believe the gay couple wants a cake from someone who is trying to persuade them to change their lifestyle.

The point is this: those who wish to bake the cake for the gay couple in order to reach out to them with the love of Jesus should do so because of the firm convictions of their heart, not the coercion of Washington, D.C.

Do we still live in a land where we are free to follow the dictates of our consciences?

May we stand firm and not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery,

Brother Richard Foster

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Podcast: Freedom of Religion and the Old Testament II

Freedom of Religion in the Old Testament II – Listen

Are our freedoms in the United States of America eroding? If so, in what areas are they eroding? Why? Brother Richard discusses this issue in-depth in this message, “Freedom of Religion in the Old Testament.”

This is the conclusion of a two-part series on freedom of religion and the Old Testament.

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Podcast: Freedom of Religion and the Old Testament


Freedom of Religion and the Old Testament
– Listen

Freedom of Religion in the Old Testament – Watch

Are our freedoms in the United States of America eroding? If so, in what areas are they eroding? Why? Brother Richard discusses this issue in-depth in this message, “Freedom of Religion in the Old Testament.”

This is the first message in a two-message series.

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Our First Freedom

We exist on a very tiny island in the vast ocean of history. Surrounding us are hundreds of millions of people who face persecution for their personal religious convictions. Stretching back for millennia are the stories of untold billions of souls who lived in fear and persecution, denied the right of religious freedom.

For most of human history in most every culture or society, religious beliefs have been imposed by coercive measures. Those who dared to dissent endangered themselves and their families. Religious freedom was not even a consideration. Conformity was demanded. Any deviation from the accepted religious belief and practice was seen as a threat to order, a threat to society.

Then Jesus uttered revolutionary words, insisting that people should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. He surprised the powers of this world when he announced that his Kingdom is not from this world. Clearly he was introducing an innovative idea: the notion that two distinct kingdoms exist in the world, the church and the state.

Jesus also stunned his followers by defining his disciples not by nationality, or ethnicity, or ability, or geography, or politics, or wealth, or any other human status, but simply as those who are willing to accept the demands of discipleship. He invited social outcasts to be his followers and he allowed powerful and privileged people to reject his invitation and simply walk away.

So our Lord introduced two ground-breaking truths. First, church and state have distinct missions in this age. Second, people should be free to accept God’s truth without coercion and to reject God’s truth without persecution. Upon these two fundamental realities a new vision for religion in this age rests: individual God-given freedom of religion.

After centuries of political and religious oppression, the founding fathers of our country forged a new nation that incorporated and applied Jesus’ revolutionary ideas. In keeping with his revelation about two kingdoms, they adopted a Bill of Rights that prohibits government from establishing religion or from prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

America has experienced a season of religious freedom that is stunning in its contrast to the rest of world history. What people in Europe bled and died for, we have come to take for granted. And now our complacence seems to be resulting in a steady erosion of this precious first freedom, our freedom of religion.

Jesus warned his followers that they would be hated in the world on account of their loyalty to him. John’s Apocalypse foresees a time when God’s people will be universally ostracized and persecuted. These things must happen before the Lord comes and establishes his kingdom, a kingdom no longer divided into civil and religious realms.

When our Lord chooses to turn the page of history and remove the invisible hand of protection that keeps us from suffering the mistreatment of government, so be it. But until then, let us not give up our precious, hard-won first freedom simply because so many people are uninformed, uninvolved, and uninspired.

May the Lord of our salvation continue to bless us with freedom and with the wisdom to use it for his glory,

Brother Richard

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