The Citizen

"They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans and have thrown us into prison; and now they are sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out." Acts 16:37

Every time someone tries to convince me that being a Christian requires a pastor or a follower of Christ to be a door mat for the forces of secularism, I point them to this passage of Scripture. When Paul opened his heart to the Lordship of Christ, his brains didn't fall out, and his citizenship papers weren't nullified. He stood up.

Note to self: STAND UP!

Paul took his beating, but he wasn't going to be run out of town. He had turned the other cheek, but he wasn't going to let misguided magistrates kick him in the pants. He appealed to The Rights of a Roman citizen. He was a citizen of Rome, by birth. and as such, he was granted certain rights that were protected by law under the authority of The Roman Republic. Good to know. Rights have a way of being swallowed up by the beast of bureaucracy and consumed by ever-expanding government. Rome had both. So do we.

The founders of this nation intended for citizenship to be honored, and granted only to those who could give proof they were willing to make an investment in the nation, not be a drain on it. They had studied their Bibles, the history of Great Empires, the works of philosophy and politics, and determined that the rights of the citizen were supreme over the power of The State. In their new nation, these rights would be protected. That was the only reason for the existence of the government. Anything more was tyranny.

When the Constitution of the United States was framed, and presented to the states for approval, in the eyes of many pastors, it did not offer enough protection for Religious Liberty. Baptist pastors in Virginia, led by John Leland, petitioned James Madison for protections for Religious Liberty. They were not alone. Many feared Religious Liberty was vulnerable to the power of expanded government. They were right. Religious Liberty still is, more than ever.

The result of the skepticism held by those who had witnessed the tyranny of an all-powerful central government was a Bill of Rights. It was offered in the form of essential amendments to the U.S. Constitution. These amendments were offered as protections for their God-given rights as citizens of the new nation.

Take a wild guess at what the FIRST AMENDMENT dealt with in the Bill of Rights. The primary function of this new government would be to protect the right of Religious Liberty.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Today, there are those who believe the role of the church is to take a steady, brass knuckled back slap in the arena of politics, entertainment, sports, or anywhere else in the public square. When over-wrought secularists, and their enablers wring their hands in angst or crease their brow with disapproval, the church is supposed to take another step back into the dark recesses of irrelevancy. Not a chance. Not on my watch. STAND UP!

Eric Metaxas, author of a powerful biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, has stated, “There is a fundamental misunderstanding of the separation of church and state. The church is to be protected from the state. Not the reverse. People have divorced faith from public life, mostly because of this misunderstanding.”

Metaxas has made this application. “If the church had been the church in Germany, had stood up and spoken loudly, as one, they could have won. But they were timid, just as Christians are timid now on so many issues. The church has to be heroically, courageously vocal. People will suffer because the church has not stepped up and lived out the faith we claim to have.” Thank you Mr. Metaxas.

The reaction of Paul should be examined carefully,and adopted immediately. He was claiming his rights as a citizen of Rome, but did not see any conflict in doing so as a citizen of Heaven. The most pious among us know that this world is not our home. That is true. Our home is in Heaven, but our feet are on earth. "Singing I'll Fly Away" while being smeared with manure can leave a bad taste in your mouth. Stop singing, and start praying. STAND UP!

Until God calls us home, Christian citizenship is not an option, but a calling to bloom where you are planted. Genuine Christianity is not a matter of pretending you love the taste of secularist manure. The Fruit of The Spirit rises above what is piled upon the believer. Genuine fruit doesn't hide under it. One of the nine expressions of The Fruit is "faithfulness." Christian citizens must be found faithful to exercise their rights as stewards of a republic. If they don't those rights will atrophy from disuse or be severed from them by government abuse.

The two essential expressions of Christian citizenship in a republic are (1) Registering to Vote. (2) Getting out to Vote. These are the twin towers under assault from cultural terrorists who intend to bring down the influence of Christian citizens in this nation. Don't let them do it. If you don't register to vote or fail to vote, the terrorists win. Fight back. Praying in your prayer closet is great preparation for entering a voting booth. Do both.

"Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are. However God may engineer your circumstances, your duty is to pray. Never allow yourself this thought, “I am of no use where I am,” because you certainly cannot be used where you have not yet been placed. Wherever God has placed you and whatever your circumstances, you should pray, continually offering up prayers to Him. And He promises, “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do . . .” (John 14:13). Yet we refuse to pray unless it thrills or excites us, which is the most intense form of spiritual selfishness. We must learn to work according to God’s direction, and He says to pray. “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38)." Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest"

One person is all God needs to start a movement. Paul was one citizen. His hope was not in Rome. His hope was in God. He held dual citizenship in both Kingdoms. While he carried out his mission on earth, he intended to hold the Roman Republic accountable to and responsible for its mission: protect Roman citizen. When his rights were infringed upon, he called for the recognition and reinstatement of them. He did not offer his abdication of them. Thanks Paul.

The Spirit of Christ in Paul gave him the courage to, "STAND UP!" When faced with the easy way out, Paul said, "No indeed!" (v. 37) These two little words should become the battle cry of the Christian citizen's engagement with the culture of rampant secularism. STAND UP!

Even if they are alone in doing so, pastors must voice prayers of intercession for the people in their pews to STAND UP! A new generation of Christian citizens must take on their mantle of responsibility. Pastors must lead their people to understand their privileges, rights and responsibilities as Christiana citizens. This kind of dual citizenship taps the power of Heaven to make a difference on earth. This nation needs a Great Awakening, a revival of virtue, a turn around, a movement of God's Spirit. Prayer prepares the way for it. Anything less is not enough.

The task appears insurmountable, and the aroma of the fear of failure is in the air. Take another whiff. Manure makes great fruit. Rise above it. Talking about what is thrown at you only increases its stench. Praying about it releases the aroma of The Fruit of The Spirit. Bear fruit. When you are tempted to quit, or to quietly take the next beat down, lying down, PRAY! When you pray, kneel and say, "No indeed!" Then...STAND UP!

Prayer is powerful mouthwash. Praying takes the taste of quit and failure right out of your mouth. When you kneel in prayer, The Spirit releases courage in your heart. STAND UP!