Not America First, Jesus First

By the headline, you already know what this is about. Another Christian is going to get all self-righteous and judgmental about America, right? Let me ask something before you answer. How much of God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and power should He dial back and remove from the world before it’s “just enough” for you?

How much less Jesus would make your life comfortable and free from Christians talking about him too much? Any less than all of Him is none of Him. Any less than all of Jesus puts him back in the tomb, dead. If we could be righteous on our own, then we could afford to believe in “America First.” For my part, I know it has to be Jesus first, or nothing at all.

After Jesus rose from the grave and spent 40 days appearing to hundreds of people, just before he ascended to Heaven, he told his disciples this:

And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)

This statement was meticulously vetted and recorded by the writer of Acts, generally believed to be the Gospel writer Luke, a physician.

Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Some people in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (the latter two are known by Americans as the “West Bank”) have more sense than we do in America. If you follow Jesus in those places today, you are in for far more than just reeducation, sensitivity training, and hurled insults. Instead of names, you’ll get the sticks and stones, and broken bones will be the least of your injuries.

In America, we don’t get it. We think Jesus is the guy hanging on the cross at the altar of the local Catholic church. We think Jesus is the baby in the manger at Christmas. We think Jesus is the friendly guy feeding 5,000 with loaves and fishes on the mountain. We think Jesus is the lamb who takes away the sin of the world. And He is all those things, but those things are rubbish compared to who Jesus is.

And Jesus is not American. Americans are far, far too comfortable with our religion. We have not the fear of the Lord. We casually make statements like thus-and-such is God’s anointed candidate. We attend church and feel like we’ve done our duty to God.

But look at our society, look at our leaders, look at our politics, and it’s plainly obvious that we have not done our duty, as a church, as a people of God, as a nation.

It’s totally unconscionable that our choice for the leader of the free world comes down to a lying criminal scoundrel and a lying huckster scoundrel. How could God be pleased? In Revelation 21:8, God said,

But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

God is saying to each of us: Look at your society, look at your church, America. Look at yourself. Are you cowardly, failing to act on principle because of what others might think? Are you putting your trust in a person to solve your problems–America’s problems–instead of God? Are you idolizing a candidate instead of the One who created you? Do you have more regard for abominable, sexually immoral liars than you do for the Lord?

Check yourself before you wreck yourself, as we say in the South.

Post World War II Germany was as destroyed a country as has ever existed in the world. The result of a rejection of God and elevation of culture over fear of the Lord, the country that produced the Reformation faced impossible problems. Billy Graham wrote of his meeting with the German Chancellor.

I was invited to have coffee one morning with Konrad Adenauer before he retired as the Chancellor of Germany. When I walked in, I expected to meet a tall, stiff, formal man who might even be embarrassed if I brought up the subject of religion. After the greeting, the Chancellor suddenly turned to me and said, “Mr. Graham, what is the most important thing in the world?” Before I could answer, he had answered his own question. He said, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ is alive, then there is hope for the world. If Jesus Christ is in the grave, then I don’t see the slightest glimmer of hope on the horizon.” Then he amazed me by saying that he believed that the resurrection of Christ was one of the best-attested facts of history. He said, “When I leave office, I intend to spend the rest of my life gathering scientific proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” It was the fact of the resurrection of Christ that called the disciples to go out as burning young revolutionaries to change the world of their day. They preached that Christ is alive. This should be our message every day of the year.

Jesus is alive. He is watching us and speaking to us. We can accomplish nothing in our own righteousness. Either it’s Jesus first, last and everything in between, or America is never going to be great again.

About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

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