I almost entitled this sermon How the Devil Stole America, but realizing the power of the Gospel, I found it more accurate to call it How God got America Back! I cannot imagine anyone not agreeing with the assessment that we are between the Devil’s theft of this nation and God’s recovery of it. To call America a Christian nation is ridiculous. Let me give you a few examples — not that you need them — of the non-Christian, atheistic and even pagan stance of many in our land.
First, consider what has happened to Sunday. Can you remember when stores were not open on Sunday, when it was difficult to find a place to eat out on Sunday? When people gathered in homes for “Sunday dinners.” Sunday is just another day for most of our society. Grocery stores even plan their grand openings for Sunday. Some sports leagues plan their ball games on Sunday morning; non-profit organizations plan races and other events on Sunday morning. This nation, and you and I, need one day among the seven days of the week for worship and rest, and rocking on the porch and visiting the neighbors.
Stay with me a little longer. Reverence for the Sabbath is but one of the Ten Commandments. We have, as a society, rejected the Commandments. There is truth in the cartoon that shows Moses standing at the foot of the Mount, looking upwards and saying, “God, they say they won’t accept them unless you change the wording to Ten “Suggestions.” Yesterday I was glancing through a church paper and read of a church in Nashville that has voted not to have any more weddings in its church until it can have homosexual weddings! I understand that the Bishop and the local leadership of that denomination in our area are against that position. It does show how confused some churches are, however. Laying aside homosexuality, our level of moral expectation has dropped to a disturbing level in all walks of life.
Stay with me. In our land, Christianity is ridiculed or ignored in the medium of most influence in our society — television. At the same time, atheism and paganism are held up as models and ideals. When did you ever see a television character who was a devil-worshiper or a Buddhist or some other faith portrayed as weak and confused? How often do you see a Christian character portrayed as strong, courageous and likeable?
Walk a bit further with me. Liberal theologians are gutting the faith. You know that while I am not a Fundamentalist, I am fundamental in the faith. And while I appreciate scholarship and hold an earned Ph.D., I am shocked at the betrayal of the Christian faith by some scholars. One example of what I mean is the television program that aired in the week before Easter, entitled From Jesus To Christ. It featured the presidents of several large and rich seminaries and an array of scholars. I sat down to watch it with high expectation. The first half was nothing to brag about, with the scholars afraid to acknowledge Jesus’ miracles and ending with His death instead of the resurrection.
The second segment, which I watched on tape, did it for me! As the scholar spoke of how the early Christians dealt with Jesus’ death [again, he conveniently forgot the resurrection] he brought up the Kenosis, the emptying passage of Philippians 2:5-11, and began to quote it as the early Christians’ understanding of Jesus. I am not lying — he quoted the first few verses which speak of Jesus’ being born as a man, His suffering and His death on the cross and stopped there, ignoring the continuation of the passage in the next verses to speak of the exaltation of Jesus as Lord, and the bowing of every knee before Him! The whole passage of six verses is all of one piece; an early hymn to Jesus; no reputable scholar who believes in Jesus would divide that passage, thereby denying the resurrection and lordship of Jesus! That’s when I got off the exercise machine and turned off the TV, saying to myself that I didn’t have to watch that junk! When the shapers of the faith gut the faith, we are in trouble!
It is not just the liberal theologians who have twisted and gutted the faith — on the other end of the theological spectrum are those who, operating from convictions just like the liberal scholars, push an agenda to control the political life of America. Worse than that, they want to control what you and I believe, and think, and how we express our faith. They turn many honest, thoughtful people away from the faith.
One other word and I am through with examples of how it is ridiculous to call our land a Christian land. Many church members have a mindset that asks “What’s in it for me?” Too many church members are there because of what the church can do for them, rather than what they can do for the church. We all have a spiritual gift which needs to be used to build up the church.
Don’t mishear me, now. The church should be in the business of reaching out to folks who are not Christians — folks who are immature, folks who are hurting and need our help. But, as you become a church member, you ought to be developing and maturing spiritually; you ought to be asking what God wants you to do in His church.

Ezra and Chronicles
Now shift gears. Wednesday evening in our Bible study, we examined the books of 1 Chronicles 1 2 Chronicles 1. Most folks think these books are just duplicates of dusty history of the Jewish people already covered in the books of Samuel and Kings. To think that is a mistake, however. To try to understand the spiritual history of Israel by 1 Samuel 12 Samuel 1 and 1 Kings 1 2 Kings 1 alone, without using Chronicles also, is like reading only one of the four Gospels and thinking you have the full story.
I and II Chronicles was written as one book, probably by the scribe Ezra 1, in the middle 400s B.C. At that time, both the northern and southern kingdoms, Israel and Judah, had been destroyed. The people had been taken into exile. You remember the stories of Daniel and Esther, among others. Now it is 75 years later, and Ezra and Nehemiah 1, lead groups back to Palestine from Babylon. They return, repair the temple, build up the wall around Jerusalem, and begin life again.
This is when Ezra writes Chronicles, whose Septuagint name means “things left out.” Ezra isn’t interested in the political fortunes of the kings; he is interested in the religious history, not the political history. He is saying in Chronicles that worship was the key to the greatness of David and was more important to David than armies. As he writes of the importance of the temple and worship and the religious life in the time of the kings, he does not completely gloss over the sins of David and Absalom; he stresses divine judgment and repentance. Ezra says that God acted back in those days when the people repented and prayed. Divine intervention comes when God’s people humble themselves and pray.

Ezra and Us
But, you say, what did this view of Ezra – that worship was the strength of the nation — have to do either with his time, or us today? Here the preacher was doing pretty well, condemning evil right and left, and suddenly we are back in the middle of the Old Testament, talking about Ezra and the temple and how worship was the strength of the nation in David’s time! That’s exactly the point. Ezra is telling these people who have no king, and will never have a king again, that the glory and strength of the golden days of David can be theirs! That it was due not to the king and his armies but to the power of worship in the land. Ezra is saying that when God’s people repent and worship, God intervenes:
If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now Mine eyes shall be open, and Mine ears attend unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there for ever: and Mine eyes and Mine heart shall be there perpetually. (2 Chronicles 7:14-16).

Worship is the Key
I come to the good news, the Gospel, of this sermon. I’ve spent most of the time on how the devil stole America. Now hear how God will get America back. It will not be done through political take-over. Legislation will not make America Christian. And while that is true, I think we are wrong in putting all religions on an equal footing in America. We can have freedom of religion and still declare Christianity to be the favored faith of this land. If go to India, I expect Hinduism to be the dominant faith and to have privileges other faiths don’t have. If I go to Thailand, I expect the flavor of the land to be Buddhist. In the light of our history, we need to say Christianity is the religion of most of America, and it is favored. If we don’t do something of this nature, Christianity may be a minority religion in this land sooner than you think.
Regardless of how true that is, Ezra’s lesson for us is that the morality of a nation, the spiritual strength of a nation, comes not from its armies or its politics, but from its worship. Ezra would say to us, emphasize worship! America will come back to God through worship. Now hear me, he is not talking about a style of music, about whether the service is Sunday, or Saturday night, or whenever.
By worship Ezra means (1) the repentance and humbling of God’s people before Him. (2) He means prayer — soul-searching prayer that begins by searching our own hearts and asking if we are hindrances to what God wants to do in our land, in our church, and in our lives. (3) By worship, he means coming to God’s house. He means a recovery of the sacredness of God’s house and of regular gathered worship.
“This world,” the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. William Temple, said, “can be saved from political chaos and collapse by one thing only, and that is worship.” Dr. Temple proceeded to define what worship is: “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” And when our worship takes place in the reality of the death of Jesus Christ for our sins; when we realize that we come to worship a risen Lord who can change our lives and make us new people, then we go away with power to be God’s leaven, God’s light, God’s salt, in this evil, broken, weary world. That is how God will get America back. By the average Christian being renewed by repentance, prayer and worship.
I noticed a number of years ago that Dallas Cowboys defensive back Deion Sanders turned over more than twice the amount of his first book advance, totaling over $1 million, to a Christian youth ministry. He said, “for so long, I showed the children Deion, but now I’m going to show them J.I.M. — Jesus in Me.”
Would you resolve this morning, in worship of Jesus, that God will be allowed to use you in His plan to take America, and the world, back from the devil?

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