AUSTIN: What’s new?
JOHN: A lot.
AUSTIN: You’ve been busy. I’ve seen you on TV lately.
JOHN: Yeah. In a sense, I feel like it took me to get to 80 years before maybe the most critical moment in my life has taken place. I think it’s because there are more people listening to the Word of God at this particular time from this pulpit than ever in the history of our church in a regular way Sunday after Sunday because of the multiple dire conditions in our world. And there’s a greater interest in hearing the Word of God. It’s not just sort of inside the church, it’s outside – many, many people wanting interviews, wanting me to write articles, and even putting these articles on basically secular websites and things like that to hear from the Lord. I think this is a new experience; but I’m so thankful for the opportunity to do it.
AUSTIN: So back in March, the Livestream saw a lot more traffic because everyone was locked down. So that increased the amount of people looking here. But you’re talking about not just the Livestream looking at us more and more, you’re talking about the cultural changes taking place and people looking for answers.
JOHN: Yeah. I think there’s a level of desperation. I forget who said it, but people don’t take their life because they’re weary of the pain, they take their life because they’re weary of the pleasure. People are running out of pleasure. It’s becoming pretty common among young people, younger and younger all the time to take their lives. And it isn’t that they suffer from pain, it’s that they suffer from the meaninglessness of even pleasure. There’s a fear about the future, everything is shifting.
You have a generation of young people who’ve gone through university systems and they have been denied the true knowledge of God, true morality, true virtue, true character, and they are lost souls. I saw the other day six young people who were smashing stores, I think it was in Chicago. Six of them were upper-class, wealthy White kids. They’re the kids who ran out of pleasure, and so all that was left for them was a kind of nihilism where you start to smash and break things because nothing is left. So I think it’s a frightened generation who have been told that their truth is the real truth but doesn’t sell in the soul. Somebody can tell you that your truth is all that matters, you should feel no shame, you should believe yourself, you’re the most important person in your world. I can sell you that, but you can’t sell your soul that, because that’s vacuous, that’s empty.
So you have two kind of young people today: you have the conservative young people – conservative millennials who tend to be truth-seekers. You know, they’re the ones that listen to Ben Shapiro and people like that. They want to know the truth. They want to know what’s right. They’re truth-seekers. And I’ve had the opportunity to do some writing for them, and I love that.
And then there’s the liberal millennials who are just iconoclastic. They’ve run out of pleasure and they just want to tear down, burn and destroy; and it’s a lost generation. And because the kids are lost, the parents have angst and shame because they’ve lost their children and they have no hope for their grandchildren. And so there’s a sense of existential emptiness pervading this society; and wherever they might look for help, they don’t want to look to politicians because that’s a terrifying thing. They can’t look at educators, that’s equally terrifying. And those people who represent order and kind of sanity are under assault, like the police and any orderly, morally, upstanding kind of approach to life is mocked as hate speech.
So this generation is so utterly lost, and I wouldn’t necessarily expect that somebody my age and my convictions and all would find an opportunity to communicate. But the Lord has surprised me with that. So I’m grateful to be able to speak at a time like this when everybody’s wanting to hear a voice of truth; and all I do is open the Bible and say what it says. And that is the truth that God uses to transform hearts. I don’t have to empower that truth, I just have to preach it. The power is in it by the Holy Spirit. So, yeah, it’s a pretty amazing time.
For probably the last 15 or 20 years I’ve been kind of a joke to the pragmatists. To the church growth, church strategy people, I’ve been kind of an anachronism, I’ve been kind of like a dinosaur. But when the nation starts to burn and people are wanting real answers, they’re not going to go to a show, they’re not going to go to a superficial TED Talk when they want the truth. When they desperately need the truth they’re going to find the truth as God directs them. So this is a time for the truth, and it’s an amazing thing to see this all happening. The darker the night, the brighter the light, right? And the more despair there is, the more people reach out for hope. So just to be there and to have the opportunity to be as ubiquitous as we are because of the Internet is amazing, amazing.
AUSTIN: Shiny new programs have a lot of appeal in a time like this time? More overwhelming.
JOHN: Yeah, this is not a good time for superficial answers.
AUSTIN: No. No, because what are you supposed to do? The streets are on fire, the culture’s polarized, socialism’s on the rise. I mean, these are crazy days, and they’re not looking for some cheesy cartoon-illustrated superficial church program that’s coming down the pipe, the next thing that the pastor has. They need the truth.
JOHN: No. What is happening is superficial preaching is becoming obsolete. The people who thought they were at the top of the food chain in terms of ministry and effectiveness in a church are now void. They’re nullified because this is way too desperate for some superficial approach. You’ve got to tell people more than God wants them to be happy.
AUSTIN: And to know that God bestows the knowledge of Himself only through the Scriptures. And then Calvin said something like that, that that’s where people encounter God, and that’s what this generation needs.
JOHN: Yeah. And you know what’s so amazing about it is you don’t have to defend that. There’s a power in the Scripture that captures even a resistant heart with the reality of its own truthfulness. If I’ve learned anything in over half a century of teaching the Bible I’ve learned that it has immense power. It overwhelms people with its truthfulness. Even people who don’t believe it can’t escape the validity of it because it rings true in their own hearts. But just to think about having the opportunity to write articles for these websites where I normally wouldn’t be considered because I’m another generation or two removed at least, and I’m just biblical, and they’re saying, “Give us more, give us more, give us more,” because there’s a hunger for this.
AUSTIN: And those of us who know you well know how much of an evangelist you are. And you’ve always had that bent even as a young man preaching in the bus station down in the south. You’ve always been evangelistic. The baptism here is never still water; there’s always people coming to Christ in this church. And you’ve also been an evangelist to the church. And so as we’ve watched these last weeks – and our church is full of hundreds of visitors in the morning, and we’re grateful that they’re here – it’s just very clear that you’re mindful that there’s still a need for the gospel.
JOHN: Well, yeah. I’ve spent my whole life basically doing two things: trying to evangelize professing Christians so they become genuinely saved, because we know the tares are mixed with the wheat; and secondly, trying to feed the true believers the Word of God so they can be sanctified; and I’m very much aware as I’m preaching now and people are listening all over the world. And it’s pretty remarkable, I think within just a very brief time this morning more people had downloaded that sermon on Facebook than anything that’s ever come out of this pulpit in the past, and that’s amazing. What that means is that this is getting beyond where we normally reach. And I always want to include in it the sinfulness of sin, the hopelessness of man without God, and the answer of the gospel and the forgiveness and salvation that Christ offers. Yeah, there has to be that evangelistic emphasis all the time, and particularly now, because we have people listening who don’t just need to hear how the world should be, they need to hear how they can become right with God.
AUSTIN: So you talked about the wheat and the tares, and that’s been a hallmark of your ministry is talking about the danger of a false believer, the lordship of Jesus. In recent months I’ve heard you talking about Jesus is the head of the church and that our obedience is to Him over Caesar. It’s reminding me of the things that you said decades ago and have been saying all these years about the lordship of Christ. Let’s talk about the relationship between the lordship of Christ over the believer, lordship salvation, and the lordship of Christ over the Christ over the church. You think those two things are really one thing?
JOHN: Yeah, they are one thing, but they haven’t always been understood that way. In fact, Blaikie’s book on Scottish Preachers, written in 1880 or 1890, something like that, he chronicles how that in the church in Scotland believers acknowledge Christ as head over them. But the issue of Christ as the head of the church was not that clear, because when England was Catholic the pope was the head of the church. And when the particular king was a Protestant, didn’t want the pope to be the head of the church, the King of England became the head of the church. In fact, to this day, if you go to the Scottish Parliament Building on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and you look up at the very top of the ceiling you’ll see a seat for the king still in the building.
So the world was still trying to figure out not that Christ is Lord over the believer, but that Christ is actually the head of the church and not the pope and not the king. And it was in the battles of the sixteenth, seventeenth century that the church crystallized that because it was fought over. And I think that what typically happens in church history – you know this very well – is that doctrines get crystallized when they’re embattled, when there is a reason that we have to fight this battle And we’re back at that point right now.
I have great regard for the jurisprudent system. I have a great regard for the government and respect for authority. I have nothing but honor for the judge who – several judges who have weighed in on our case; and as of now, I think there have been five different judges – two individual and three on a panel. I have great respect for them and for what they do. But none of them individually nor all of them collectively is the head of the church. So they can adjudicate things in their realm, they cannot adjudicate things in the kingdom of God.
And the Lord is the head of the church, and that’s why we’re here regardless of what a judge says. They are not the head of the church. And that is where the church has taken its stand through its entire history. It’s always taken its stand there. And we have made heroes out of those people. There’s hardly a pastor alive today who wouldn’t go back, and if you asked him if he knew anything about church history he wouldn’t be able to identify the heroes of the Christian faith. And inevitably they were against the church of their time, whether it was Calvin who went against the Catholic Church and wrote systematic theology and commentaries and started a seminary; and his seminary became known as a school of death, because the guys that were trained there would go back to France and the Catholic Church would kill them because they preached the gospel. Whether it was John Knox who was hated and rejected, but was faithful to preach; whether it’s the covenanters; whether it was the Great Ejection in England when they threw all the faithful Puritan preachers out of their pulpits on one Sunday.
So throughout church history we’ve always given honor in the past to those who are not subject to the powers that try to invade the kingdom of God. And I’m not doing anything differently, and neither are any of our elders – you included. We’re taking our stand where God’s faithful leaders have always taken their stand. It isn’t that we don’t love those people. It isn’t we don’t respect them. It isn’t that we don’t want to see them come to faith in Christ; we do. It isn’t that we’re angry with them. It isn’t that we don’t think they provide unnecessary service in the world; they do. But when they step in and tell the church whether it can meet or not, they have overstepped their bounds, because Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
So we will do what Christ calls us to do. And like the apostles, we’ll obey God rather than men, and we’ll take the consequences, whatever they are. They may begin this week, I’m not sure. Possible.
AUSTIN: Yeah. And if you end up going to what we call in New Mexico la pinta, I guess I’ll go with you. I may need bail money, MacArthur.
So I think what you just said is so crystalizing and helpful to think about that I wonder if you’re actually preparing future generations of pastors to make a similar stand. Do you think that this is what’s ahead for us in the future?
JOHN: I think we’ve had enough of the pragmatic stuff. I think the church has been sold out to pragmatism – weak-willed, unbiblical preachers that are just personalities; narcissistic, self-focused personalities, brokering their charisma and their skills and their communication ability to build what they call a church, when it isn’t a church at all. Life is far too serious for those. They’re making daisy chains. What they’re telling people is shy of what people want to hear. It’s time again for the Word of God.
Life is far more serious, at least from my perspective, than it’s ever been; and I’ve been around a long time and seen it in a lot of forms. But I’ve never seen the level of despair. And I think I have to add that this level of despair that’s in our culture – as you know because you work with university students – has been being developed for the last 30 years or more in the university system. They’re the ones, they’re where everybody’s trained to be godless, immoral, self-centered, shameless; and you can’t keep sowing those seeds decade after decade after decade without producing a generation of people who actually believe that.
But that kind of hedonism is empty, void. They can’t establish a meaningful self-identity, so they have to find a tribe where nobody questions them or is allowed to question them because that would be hate speech; or they become nihilistic and nothing means anything. They can’t establish meaningful relationships, certainly not lifelong relationships. So this is not a time for frivolous, superficial pop psychology answers to people’s deep-seated questions. And when you realize as well everybody lives forever, everybody lives forever, the eternal things weigh heavy on my heart.
AUSTIN: When we think about the consequences of Jesus’ lordship in our lives – we’re talking about eternity, we’re talking about the consequences of all that we’re facing right now – what is the worst thing that can happen to us as a church? I mean, we go up against the county, we go to the Supreme Court potentially. I mean, what’s the worst thing that could happen to us, MacArthur?
JOHN: Well, the worst thing that could happen to us would be to stop being the church. The worst thing that could happen to us would be not to be here and not to be proclaiming the Word of God, not to be living to the honor of Christ, not to be the shining light on the hill. We need to do this. And the world is looking at us. The entire world is looking at us. I can tell you that because I don’t know how to do social media, but all the people who do show me all the streams of things. And you know, there’s everything out there – good, bad and indifferent. But the attention of the world is on us.
And I think we’re beginning to see other pastors be strengthened, other pastors say, “Hey, we need to be the church. We need to open the church. We need to not be afraid of this effort to terrify people.” This is a massive effort to reset the entire global culture, including the United States of America, and the only way you can do that – doesn’t take an army to conquer a nation, it just takes fear. And it doesn’t even have to be a real fear, it just has to be an artificial fear that people buy into.
So this whole world and this culture is being manipulated in horrendous ways out of fear. And the one thing that we cannot demonstrate is fear, because we don’t have anything to be afraid of. The worst thing that could happen to us is we all go to heaven, and that’s the best thing that could happen to us. Shy of that we’ve got nothing to fear.
AUSTIN: In the year 2000 a book came out with your name on it called Why Government Can’t Save You: An Alternative to Political Activism. Some people have been asking, “MacArthur, has your view of the Christian’s relationship to government changed since then?”
JOHN: No, I take the same view of government that the prophets in the Old Testament took. I take the same view of – well, you heard my view of government today: “You call the government to account when it steps out from under the conviction of the true and living God.”
I was serious when I said this morning, when I heard the presidential candidate, democratic presidential candidate say if he gets elected he’s going to fill the White House with Muslims, I think he thought that was advancing this culture. But that is where we are, that there is no difference in the mind of leaders in this country between the true God and Satan. There’s no difference. You can have God or you can Satan, it really doesn’t matter. That’s how far gone we are.
So this isn’t about politics, this isn’t about activism. Activism is where you destroy. In other words, your goal as an activist is to destroy whatever exists that you don’t like and replace it with something else, and you use manipulation and political means or social means to do that. All I want to do is preach the Bible to the culture, to its people, to its leaders. And it’s amazing how much has opened up and how many people are willing to hear this. And I am very encouraged when I get a message from the President thanking me for taking the stand I’m taking and telling me that he’s behind me and he’s got my back. That’s pretty amazing to hear.
AUSTIN: Twenty years ago you wrote these words in that book: “Rather than demanding our rights and creating for ourselves a world where we feel safe and accepted, we need to see the deep spiritual needs of the world and concern ourselves with offering people hope through Jesus Christ.” That’s what being a living sacrifice is all about.
JOHN: Right. So that was in the era of the moral majority. And I had an issue with the moral majority because it doesn’t matter if you go to hell moral or immoral, it only matters that you go to hell. Doesn’t matter whether you go to hell as a policeman or a prostitute. Doesn’t matter if you go to hell as an unconverted moral man or the dissolute immoral person on the planet, morality doesn’t do anything. But if you push morality, if you just push morality, morality, morality, we’ve got to be moral, we’ve got to be moral, we want to create a moral country, you begin to develop a hostility toward the immoral people. And it was in that era when I wrote that that – I forget the exact year – that I got a call from the White House when George Bush was president. And some White House people had been listening to a sermon I did on “The Deadly Dangers of Moralism, Deadly Dangers of Moralism,” and I got a call to go back there and to talk with them about the fact that they were so hostile toward the other party’s immorality that they had turned the mission field into the enemy.
And the problem with fighting for morality is all you end up with is Phariseeism. If you want to know what the moral majority looks like go to the New Testament and look at the Pharisees. That’s the moral majority: lost on their way to hell, whited sepulchers, denounced by Jesus, completely moral and totally lost.
So we’re not for morality; that’s what I was talking about this morning. I wasn’t telling people to be moral, I was saying, “You’d better submit to God or you’re going to be judged.”
AUSTIN: It’s a stand for righteousness.
JOHN: It’s a stand for righteousness, justice, truth, honesty, worshiping the true and living God. Yeah.
AUSTIN: I loved this morning’s sermon, let’s talk a little bit more about it. You took us on kind of a tour of the Psalms and the prophets and even into the future, talking about how the nations must obey Jesus Christ, and that they will answer to God, not just individuals, but nations; and that’s undeniably clear in Scripture. It’s part of the motivation for missions: the national focus of the Scriptures that every knee will bow, every tongue confess; we go out into the world. All of that was kind of coming together in this morning’s sermon. It was a tremendous, just look at our responsibility to be that example of worship and righteousness to an unbelieving world.
JOHN: Right, and we have to be like the prophets and we have to warn the rulers of this nation and every other nation of the dire results of turning away from the true and living God. That is a formula for judgment, that without remember, unless one comes to faith in Christ.
So that’s taking the Scripture – I know there have been – somebody told me there’s some people who are criticizing, saying, “Well, MacArthur’s looking at government as a theocracy.” No, no. Whoever made that up isn’t thinking very clearly, which is a life career for people on the Internet.
AUSTIN: It doesn’t pay well.
JOHN: No. Yeah. But I wasn’t talk about – there’s only been one theocracy in the history of the world and that was Israel. And when they sinned against God, God judged them horribly and horrendously; and they’re still under His judgment till they come to Christ, and He’ll restore them.
The next theocracy will be the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. There’s nothing theocratic about the US or any other nation. We’re not talking about a kingdom on this earth ruled by God, we’re talking about rulers acknowledging the true God for the sake of the blessing that that brings to their people in a temporal sense. And they will be held accountable for that, as will the nations.
AUSTIN: So a theocracy in the past is real, a theocracy to come when Jesus Christ rules on His throne. In the meantime, we all live in a very pluralistic society. Our neighbors are Jewish and Muslim. And we live in a world where there’s going to be lots of different views of the world. So help us think about how we should relate to both the world around us in light of what you said this morning, the accountability the whole world has, and how we relate to our government that’s not going to be a Christian government ever.
JOHN: Well, it’s a God-ordained government. Marriage is a God-ordained institution. Government is a God-ordained institution, Romans 13, and it’s ordained for the well-being of man, the protection of those who do good and the punishment of those who do evil, so you can have a functioning culture and a functioning society that can enjoy the benefits of common grace and can allow God to be seen and manifest in the order of that society, much more so than in the chaos of a dysfunctional society.
But we have one simple job. The role that the church plays is to put on display the transforming power of Christ. What you heard in those testimonies tonight: transformed lives, just totally transformed lives. The church is that collection of transformed people, and they’re letting their light so shine before men that they may see their good works and glorify their Father who’s in heaven. Or as Paul says, “You’re lights in the world.” The church then is light, and we talked about that a few weeks ago as salt. It has a subtle influence of righteousness, and it has an open declaration of truth and being light.
But also, the church is primarily called to proclaim the gospel, and that starts with focusing on the true God. So if I were to look at my responsibility to America, what I did this morning would be what I would call pre-evangelism. It’s not actually going through the details of the gospel, but it’s saying there’s only one God, and He has revealed Himself in His Word, and you need to come to Him and worship Him and honor Him and obey Him or you will be judged. You will forfeit blessing in this life, and you’ll forfeit blessing forever in the life to come. So you start pre-evangelism by your definition of God.
I remember when I was in Moscow some years ago, and I sat down with a bunch of Russian pastors around a table. And these are, you know, godly guys who’ve gone through a lot of suffering and persecution in Russia. One of them said, “The Muslims worship the same God we do, right?” Now that’s a pastor, a faithful pastor. And I said, “No, the God of the Bible is God, and the god of Islam is Satan. Satan, not God, Satan.” But that’s sometimes hard for people in the Middle East to get because the term “Allah” is the term “god”; and you see it even in a Bible in Arabic.
So we have to begin with sorting out the true and living God, which is what I was saying today, and calling nations to acknowledge the true and living God. I’m not asking America to go into dietary laws. They were basically set aside in the New Testament, we don’t need to bring them back. I’m not asking them to adhere to any of the sort of separational behaviors that God gave Israel to keep them separated from the Pagans; those were all set aside: “Don’t let anybody hold you to a new moon, a festival, a Sabbath,” you know, any of those externals.
AUSTIN: And you don’t even expect them to act like Christians.
JOHN: No, I don’t. But I expect that if they’re ever going to come to the knowledge of the true God, whoever comes to God must believe that He is – right? – Hebrews. So you have to start by believing in the right God.
So what I did today is so utterly foundational by saying there’s only one God, and if you don’t come to that one God, you are under judgment. And if you’re a leader, that judgment is multiplied because you’re leading an entire population of people away from the true and living God. But that is the norm. That’s what Romans 1 is saying: “When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God.” They basically replaced Him with created things – you know, animism and gods of their own making – and the wrath of God is unleashed on that.
So I don’t – you would see this, of course – there’s a lot of evangelical preaching about, “Come to Jesus and He’ll fix your life.” But there was recently a survey – you probably saw it – of evangelical Christians, and a third of them thought Jesus was a created being. Well, if you think Jesus is a created being, you’re not an evangelical, you’re a heretic. That is a satanic lie. But that’s what a third of evangelicals believe.
So what I’m trying to do at some point is go back to Square One; and that was Square One today. That’s why you go to the Old Testament, right? The Old Testament has got two simple messages and they basically were laid out by God in Deuteronomy – you’re familiar with them, very familiar with them – 26 to 29, right? You come to God and you obey His Word and – what? – you’re blessed. You disobey and – what? – cursed. That’s what the Old Testament is telling you from beginning to end: you obey God, you’re blessed; you disobey God, you’re cursed.
That was essentially the summation. I was going to go there this morning, but I ran out of time on that one. But I’m trying to start where you have to start. He that cometh to God must believe that He is, that He is the God He is and not some figment of somebody’s imagination or some false god.
AUSTIN: And the survey you’re referring to is done by a reputable evangelical organization, Ligonier. They call it “The State of Theology.”
JOHN: Yeah. Actually LifeWay did it, and they passed it on to Ligonier. It was kind of a LifeWay, which is Southern Baptist survey.
I honestly don’t like those surveys because I think they’re revealing in that a third of evangelicals think Jesus was not God, but He’s a created being by God. When you say that’s what evangelicals believe you’ve just created a new kind of evangelicalism. So the effect on me is that’s tragic; those aren’t evangelicals, those are heretics. The effect on everybody else is, “Oh, I could be an evangelical because I don’t believe He’s God either.”
So now you have just widened the tent, and they give those questions and give you a percentage of surveys; and what those surveys actually do is recreate a false form of Christianity in people’s minds. You would think that they’d be as discerning as we are and say, “Wow, that’s a tragedy.” But the undiscerning person’s going to say, “Hey, I can be one of those,” and you wind up with a trojan horse.
AUSTIN: Do you think the word “evangelical” is even useful anymore? Are we evangelical?
JOHN: Well, euaggelizō means to preach the gospel. It’s a good word. But we have to keep changing words.
R. C. Sproul and I used to talk about this a lot. We’d be on a golf course and he’d say, “Johnny Mac,” he’d say, “we’ve got to come up with a new word because evangelical’s no good anymore. It’s been coopted by all kinds of people.” So one day he said, “I got it. We’re going to be imputationists.” I said, “That’s not going to work, R. C., they’re going to think we’re cutting off people’s limbs. No, that’s...” “Yeah,” he said, “you’re probably right.” So I think he went to heaven without a word, you know. We never got that conversation finished. We’re still trying to find a word.
AUSTIN: We’re Christians.
JOHN: True believers, may be two words.
AUSTIN: Yeah, and we’re evangelical in that we –
JOHN: Preach the gospel.
AUSTIN: So, again, this morning I think was an epic journey where you brought all people and all nations under accountability and condemnation through the witness of the Scripture to the one true God through His Son Jesus Christ. There’s no other way; you made that very clear. So in thinking about how individuals and nations need to respond to that, and how individuals need to respond to that, in light of all that’s happening in our culture – I’m going back to that politics idea a little bit – there’s maybe two extremes. People could make the idols that you talked about in this morning’s message. They can make politics and idol and think that’s the secret: “If we can just get control.” That was what you were warning about with the moral majority.
JOHN: Yeah, they’re not our enemy. They’re not our enemy, they’re our mission field.
AUSTIN: Right. So political idolatry over on one side, and then some kind of political, maybe, apathy or ambivalence. Is the way the Christian relates to government somewhere in the middle there?
JOHN: Well, I would say we only relate to government on one basis, and I said that this morning. Those that uphold the true God and His law, we affirm; those that do not, we cannot affirm. It’s that simple. It’s not really economics in and of itself. But I’ll promise you this: somebody who upholds the true God and His Word will have the right economic view of personal responsibility, will have the right moral view. There is no such thing as one who gives honor to God and upholds His law who wants to forward the LGBTQ agenda or any other deviant agenda.
So I think at one point in the message, I can’t remember exactly, I said the only distinctive mark that we’re looking for with anybody who’s running for any position of power is, “What is his view, and what has been a demonstration that he holds that view with integrity of the law of the true and living God?” Sometimes a Catholic will do that. Sometimes a Protestant will not do that. So that’s the only issue. We can discuss economics. We can discuss the error of giving away too much and not expecting people to earn it and having some sense of dignity in the accomplishment of that. Those are other issues to be discussed; and the Bible discusses those as well. But it’s never politics to me. Politics by definition is the art of compromise. The only way politics works is through compromise.
So historically the idea in America was to get these two parties to give and take; and if you could get them to give and take, you could work out a common agenda. We have seen that come to a grinding halt. Those two parties don’t work together at all. They’re far worse than any time in my life because the animus and the angst is so deep because it’s no longer a discussion about economics, about labor and ownerships, it’s all moral. It’s all, “Will you accept the LGBTQ agenda? Will you accept transgender? Will you accept homosexual marriage? Will you accept the abortion of babies maybe even after they’re born, the killing of an unwanted baby?”
But that’s not politics, that’s morality. So for us as Christians it’s easier now than maybe it was 25 or 30 years ago to navigate the balance between power and labor, but which doesn’t seem to be the issue today; it’s all moral. And while we condemn the immorality and we support those who are moral and will uphold the law of the true and living God, we don’t hate those people, because they’re not the enemy, they’re God’s enemy, but they’re our mission field. And we’re told to pray for them, and the assumption is to pray for their salvation.
By the way, I hope what I said reaches the ears of some of the people who need to hear what I said today. But that’s the business the Lord is in. I’m in manufacturing, He’s in distribution. I come up with the sermon and He does what He wants with it.
AUSTIN: You were on a Skype call or a Zoom call, whatever it is, this week with a bunch of pastors.
AUSTIN: The Master’s Fellowship, and I was listening in on that, and you spoke to them about some of the questions they had in their churches; and so I wanted you to take a few minutes and talk to our church tonight. There’s still some folks who aren’t with us yet. They’re either not comfortable or they work in health care and they can’t come into the crowd quite yet, or they’re immunocompromised. Can you be a healthy church member and be livestreaming in this season? Do you want to say something to those folks?
JOHN: Yeah. It’s no different than any other year. It’s no different than any other flu season, you know, you’ve got to be careful if you have issues; and I understand that. I’ve never made an issue out of it.
I think there’s a lot more going on than a virus for sure. As I have been saying, California rate of COVID is one one-hundredth of one percent. It’s infinite testimony. We have the lowest death rate in the continental United States of any state from this, and it’s a lot lower than the numbers indicate, and the average age of – or the mean age of the people who die with, not from COVID, but die with it is, I think, 80. So we understand that older people –
AUSTIN: And we like octogenarians around here.
JOHN: Thank you. Thank you. But I don’t want to tell people – look, I would tell anybody if you don’t feel, well stay home, if you feel like you have a compromised immune system and you don’t want to expose yourself to something. But that’s just normal common sense life. You don’t have to buy this fear that we’re facing this unheard of death that’s lingering around us. We’ve been, what, nine weeks at Grace Church. You’re here, you’re not sick; and I don’t know what else we can say. You don’t have anything to fear. But anybody who’s sensible and doesn’t feel well, of course. And if you feel a little bit safer, you know, with a mask or something, that’s your choice to make. You might want to read a little more about that.
AUSTIN: We’re aware of how you feel about the masks.
JOHN: Well, it’s not so much how I feel about the mask, yeah, it’s how I feel –
AUSTIN: Don’t mind them as much, but he questions their efficacy.
JOHN: No, it’s how I feel about the mask you’ve had in your pocket for three months.
AUSTIN: This one. This one’s, this one’s six months old actually.
JOHN: I don’t think you take that one into surgery.
AUSTIN: I also think my beard will kind of prevent its effectiveness. So let’s talk to people who are outside of our church and who – I mean, there’s a lot of people in our culture who are genuinely afraid.
JOHN: Oh, yeah, that’s the idea. Yeah, that’s the idea.
AUSTIN: I love Hebrews chapter 2, verse 15, that the reason Jesus became incarnate.
JOHN: Was remove the fear of death.
AUSTIN: Yeah, to take us out from that slavery that enslaved us all our lives: the fear of death. Talk to our people about talking to their culture about – it’s not that we’re daredevils, that’s not what’s going on. We’ve always lived without a fear of death.
JOHN: Yeah, it reminds me of what Groucho Marx says, “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
What is there to fear in death? Death, far better to depart and be with Christ. And I understand that might be the perspective of somebody my age and not somebody, yeah, a lot younger. But we understand even more than that. We understand that the years of our lives are determined by God, and that’s all written in His book. He wrote down the number when we weren’t even born – right? – when we didn’t even exist. When we were being woven wonderfully in the womb He numbered our days.
Somebody asked me the other day if I get mad, and I said, “What would I get mad about? What is there to be mad about? What? I’m blessed beyond comprehension. I’m going to heaven. I’m watching the providence and the power of God unfold. What’s there to be mad about?”
“Well, do you worry about things?” “What’s there to worry about? What’s there to fear? My years are predetermined and they’re in God’s hands, and there’s perfect calm in my heart. I’m not concerned about what the courts might do or what punishment or whether somebody’s going to haul me off to jail or whatever. That would just be the next adventure.”
I had a friend years ago, Ralph Keiper, and he had a little favorite thing he did when he’d fly. He would get the stewardess and he would say, “What would happen if this plane crashed?” Well, you don’t normally say that on a flight to the stewardess. But it was the way he introduced the gospel. She would say, “Well, sir, I don’t want to talk about that.” “Are you afraid of that?” “Well, isn’t everybody?” “No. For you there would be something to fear. For me, that would just be a novel way to get into heaven.” He did that in a kind of an off-handed kind of humorous way.
But, yeah, just to understand that your life is already determined if you’re faithful, unless you go before your time because of sin. So just be faithful, be joyful, be sensible. You know, you don’t want to walk into a contagious ward and be foolish. You don’t want to lie down on the freeway and say, “Okay, God, it’s not my time yet, so make sure they go around me.”
But, yeah, I think we should be joyful. And that’s what people pick up when they come here is there’s so much joy on Sunday mornings in this place. People are really amazed at that. There’s not fear, there’s just joy; it’s unbounded joy. And they see all these kids all over the place and families, and there’s just no fear. And that’s for a couple of reasons: one, we know this thing isn’t what they’re telling us it is; and we also know that God’s in control of all of our lives. And that’s part of our testimony in this day, and is why I’m telling pastors like on that call, “Open your church, have church.” I don’t think the powers that be are going to let up on any of this until people finally say, “We’re not doing it anymore. We’re just not going to do this.”
I think businesses, it’s just crushing what’s happening to people who have spent their whole life building a business, until they say, “I’m sorry, I’m going to open my store, I’m going to open my shop, I’m going back to business.” Until people finally say, “We’ve had it, we’re not buying it anymore,” and there’s an overwhelming movement back, they’re going to keep the control, because control is the ultimate head trip for somebody who wants power.
AUSTIN: Mac, I admire your faith, and I think that this season isn’t different than other seasons because you’re a black-and-white guy: you read the Bible, you believe the Bible, you respond to the Bible. And what I’ve seen in your life is you treat providence the same way. When things happen in our world that seem so, to us, 20/20 or unguessable or erratic, you have this same demeanor you have toward Scripture: you see this is God’s will. And it’s something I think is so helpful for our church and for me personally, as you lead us and you model that faithful response to both God’s Word and to providence. So, thank you, Pastor, you’re taking good care of us in these days.
JOHN: Thank you. Thank you.
AUSTIN: Mac, you got a final word?
JOHN: Well, I would just say just maybe a good wrap-up point is this is an incredible, incredible moment in the history of the church for you to be here. Don’t you feel that way? I mean, this is amazing to be a part of this and to have the focus on us. I’m glad they’re looking at a place that exalts the Word of God, that believes in God, has strong faith, mature believers, kind of fearless, willingness to stand in the will of God and take what comes. But do it with love.
You know, I was saying to Jenna Ellis who’s our constitutional attorney, I was saying twice in my life this has happened. Back in 1978 there was a case called the Nally case, and I, along with some of our other pastors were sued for clergy malpractice. This was the first lawsuit against clergy for clergy malpractice. There’s medical malpractice, but there was no such thing as clergy malpractice. This was a novel invention. And what had happened was a young man, a UCLA graduate who was coming to our church and taking some classes in seminary had taken his own life. And his parents sued the church. They said that he had a predisposition to depression, and my preaching on sin had exacerbated his depression and brought about his suicide. So we were culpable for that suicide.
So we were hit with this lawsuit. And clergy malpractice was a threat to all churches because – and on the other side, the people that came along with the family that sued us, were the psychiatrists and the psychologists who wanted the church out of the counseling business so they could have all the money. They don’t like the idea that religious organizations do counseling. And amicus briefs were filed on our side by the rabbis and the priests who wanted to continue to be able to counsel people in their religious communities. And so this case went for ten years, and it went ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court; and we won at the California State Supreme Court level. And they pushed it to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision of the California Supreme Court.
That was in 1988 I think when it was finished, and there has not been a whisper of clergy of malpractice since 1988. That was a watershed decision by the Supreme Court of California upheld by the United States Supreme Court that saved endless churches from being sued for something a pastor said in a counseling situation to someone. You can’t even comprehend how critical a case that was. It was absolutely critical. There’s a book on it written – published by the University of Kansas on the Nally case – Nally versus Grace Community Church if you want to read about it.
But again, the Lord picked us to fight that because we had Sam Erickson who was probably the top constitutional lawyer in the country was one of our elders. He’s since gone to be with the Lord, and he knew that Constitution very well, and we won that on the First Amendment. Here we are all these years later and this has come, and again we’re the church that’s standing in the gap; and the Lord has brought along Jenna Ellis who’s just an unparalleled constitutional lawyer to be on our team. And I think the Lord picks carefully who fights these battles for the sake of other churches.
So I’m anxious to see this thing keep moving ahead so that we can protect the future right for churches to be the church in a dying culture. If ever this culture needed the true church it’s now. And the good part of it is, it’s going to filter out the weak and shallow churches, hopefully, which may be what the Lord has in mind – purging.
AUSTIN: Pastor, will you pray for us?
JOHN: Father, we do thank You for allowing us to leave the darkness and come to the light by Your grace and your sovereign will. Thank You for bringing us to this place for such a time as this in history. Thank You for this blessed and beloved congregation of people and all those who recently have joined with us. Thank You for saving us, sanctifying us, giving us the hope of eternal glory. Thank You for using us to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus Christ in the world around us. Thank You for pouring out blessing on us so that people can see the transforming power of the gospel.
We ask that You would keep Your hand on Grace Church. May we never do anything that would remove us from the circle of Your blessing. And we pray that You will move the hearts of all who sit in judgment on us. May they recognize that You are the true and living God, and You expect men to rule righteously and justly. We would pray that You would even use this time and this season to bring to salvation some of the leaders that are a part of this very, very challenging opportunity. We would pray for the salvation of all those who come near this church, and may they hear the truth and repent and believe. Continue to protect us and use us for Your glory, we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
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