One of the great contributions, of many, of the Apostle Paul to Christian Western civilization is laying out in Galatians 5 the juxtaposition between those who live by the Spirit and those who live by the flesh. Paul calls it the fruit of the Spirit and the acts of the flesh. The reason I extend the comparison to a civilizational level is because the consequences of these two kind of lives go well beyond the merely personal; nothing we do is merely personal or interpersonal. The modern libertarian mindset is tragically mistaken because it makes personal choice a sacred right as if our choices only affected us, or at most a few people around us—they do not.

Paul uses a word in this context that is also tragically misunderstood, freedom. Because of the poison of secularism, people intuitively think of freedom as “doing whatever we want.” No, that’s not freedom, that’s slavery! Here is what Paul says freedom is actually for: 

13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.

Salvation from sin allows us to no longer be curved in on ourselves so we are now free to fulfill the law in serving others. Just think about Paul’s assertion about the entire law being fulfilled in that one command. Even as I’m thinking and trying to write about it at this moment, I’m mesmerized by the implications. Everything I do in relation to God is done in relation to loving other human beings. We are fundamentally relational because the Triune God, our Creator is. And just as John says He is love, so we are called to love. 

This has massive societal implications most Christians today are unfortunately unaware of or ignore. Because of two isms, Pietism and secularism, we have a bifurcated sense of reality. That word simply means to cause to divide into two branches or parts. Because of those isms, in our minds those parts are isolated, the branches don’t touch. One is our personal life and all that entails, and the other is “out there,” public life and all that entails. We tend to think the former has no bearing on the latter, when in fact the relationship is unavoidable and symbiotic; each depends on and influences the other, personal affects societal, societal affects personal. 

Because of the first Great Awakening and the profound influence of Calvinism in that era, America’s founding generation understood freedom as responsibility. Liberty would never be an excuse for license, or doing whatever we want. True freedom is the ability to do what we ought, to fulfill our responsibility to others. In this sense, Jesus says losing our life means we will find it.

The Implications of Two Ways of Life
We might think there are infinite shades of gray in how people choose to live, but that’s not the case. Certain ways of acting cause harmony, and other ways cause chaos. The line between those two is actually very thin. Let’s look at how Paul describes these two kinds of life: 

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 

Over the years when I would read this passage I would think how lefties and liberals despise Christianity, but what is it about the fruit of the Spirit they have a problem with? Imagine a society in which everyone exhibited such fruit. What’s not to like? In fact, as you can see from Paul’s statement about law, the fruit of the Spirit is the foundation of political liberty. The more self-governing a people are, the less need there is for law. Where the acts of the flesh reign, law is required to keep some semblance of peace. As we can see all around us, the further we get away from being a Christian nation, the further we get away from peace. The big cities in blue states make the case.

These implications are why America’s founders believed the American experiment would have been impossible without Christianity and the Bible. We could quote them all day long to prove that, but John Adams, not an orthodox Christian, is a good example. One of his more famous quotations makes this clear:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

This was affirmed by Congress six months before the Constitution was passed in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. In Article 3 it states:

Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

The Founders believed it was the Christian religion and Christian morality of a providentially ordaining God that made the American experiment possible. They knew the “acts of the flesh” would destroy it, and they were right.

Why America Must be a Christian Nation
Because of Pietism and secularism, Christians look at this passage and only see the implications for themselves and those they know personally, family and friends. Since World War II it’s gotten so bad that many Christians mock the very idea of a Christian nation; they’ll often use the supposed epithet, Christian nationalism. But what, dear reader, is the option? If a nation isn’t Christian what is it? I’ll tell you: it’s a pagan nation. We might call America (and Western countries in general) “secular,” but that is just another word for pagan. Since the progressive movement got under way in America in the early 20th century, the illusion grew that a secular society would mean freedom from the conflict religion creates in a society. America was supposedly going to be a pluralistic nirvana where all faiths and worldviews would be equal and have a seat at the secular public table. Secularism, however, is also a faith, and it refuses to allow Christianity any say in the public square. When Christians try, secularists scream, separation of church and state!  

This is evidence that there are in fact only two societal realities. We learn this from God’s call of Abram out of Ur of the Chaldeans:

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

Then the Lord promises to bless him, and through him all the nations of the earth. This is how God started to make a people for Himself, a people set apart from the pagan nations. For the next 2,000 years God slowly built an alternative culture and view of reality to paganism, and in Christ that was fulfilled. Now God’s promise to Abram to bless the nations through His people to the entire earth would begin, taking His God-Heaven life and spreading through the entire earth. How does this happen and what does it look like?

When the fall happened in Genesis 3, God told the serpent:

15 I will put hostility between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.

This told us life in a fallen world would be hostility between two forces, one represented by the serpent, paganism, the other represented by the seed of the woman, Jesus. There is no in between; we are on one side or the other. The serpent could do some damage, as we’ve seen for thousands of years, but the seed of the woman has the upper hand because he will strike the serpent’s head. In a word, God was promising victory to His people in the battle for reality in a fallen world. Unfortunately, most Christians don’t believe that because they live by sight and not faith in God’s promised victory, one reiterated throughout both Testaments.

On a practical level this looks like the fruit of the Spirit, and government exists to create the environment where that fruit can flourish. We call that liberty and justice. This requires government to be limited but also strong with very specific tasks toward public justice and peace. It very much looks like the United States of America as founded. This doesn’t mean other forms of government cannot fulfill these tasks, but only as Christ is acknowledged as King and ultimate authority can that happen. 

Isaiah 2, Fruit of the Spirit, and Christ’s Body
This chapter is a Messianic declaration of the victory God promised to Adam and Eve in the garden. It starts thus:

In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
    as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
    and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.

Not too long ago I saw this as a prophecy of the consummated heavens and earth when Christ returns in his glory at the resurrection to judge the living and the dead, but that is not accurate. Rather, this is a declaration of the power of the gospel to transform not only people but nations. We are in the last days which started when Jesus rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and sent His Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Clearly this mountain Isaiah speaks of is metaphorical, and the temple is not a literal temple (the temple that did exist was destroyed in 70 AD); Jesus is the temple. God through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit by His word now teaches us his ways that we might “walk in his paths.” In other words, that we might exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.

Zion and Jerusalem are also metaphors; God’s law mediated through the gospel will go out from his eternal throne to the entire earth. Verse 4, however, is a problem for many Christians because they can’t see this happening in our fallen world because there are still disputes and wars. Isaiah is clearly saying, though, that judgment between nations and disputes of many people will still exist, meaning this prophecy is for the fallen world now after the Messiah came and accomplished redemption. We learn here that these are the implications of the gospel on an international level between nations. Unfortunately, because of those isms I mentioned above, most Christians can’t conceive Christianity could be applicable to anything beyond our personal lives. God begs to differ.

Let’s ask some questions. Why does war and conflict exist? Sin. And what did the gospel come to remedy? Sin. And how does the gospel do that? Through people, specifically Christian people who have been redeemed and live in obedience to God reflecting the fruit of the Spirit. If you look back at that passage in Genesis 3, the seed is Christ, and we are his body, his church, striking the serpent’s head. It isn’t we ourselves who claim victory over the devil and his works, the “acts of the flesh,” but Christ working through us as his body on earth.

I recently read a beautiful example of Christ’s body working in The Voice of the Martyrs magazine. A North Korean defector to South Korea was staying at a resettlement center and was encouraged to explore different religions. He went to meet people, and eventually went to a Christian worship service. In his words:

At first I just went to the church because I was lonely, but through the serving and love of the Christian people, then I became curious about the Jesus they believed in. As I learned more about Jesus, then I met Jesus.

That is how it works! How God’s kingdom spreads on earth and permeates the nations. In due course not only will there be an absence of war, but the instruments of war will be transformed into instruments of peace and production for flourishing in God’s created order. Prior to Christ and the gospel, the nations such as they were only knew one value: the will to power. The stronger survived, the weaker were conquered in a never ending cycle of war and conquest. That slowly changed with the coming of Christendom, but much of the world rejected Christianity and suffered for it. The 20th century is evidence of that. We have a long way to go as we continue to fight the fall and pray and work for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.


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