Yes, there can be good government and it is necessary. Government, as our founders understood it and as we must understand, should be “of the people, by the people and for the people.” The phrase “for the people” must not be interpreted as “taking care of the people.” Good, healthy, effective, appropriate government is always under control, never in control. Healthy government serves the people, but never enslaves them. It is not dominant, it is primarily a protector and never to be seen as a provider. The general welfare must not be interpreted as it is today by many in power and many within our own population.
Our founders and the framers of the Constitution knew that the freedom — actually true liberty — they offered demanded responsible citizens. Benjamin Franklin was asked if the meeting in Philadelphia had created a monarchy or a republic. Franklin answered, “A republic – if you can keep it.” Franklin, along with the other founders, knew that in order for liberty to be maintained, it would have to be supported by principled statesmen who were actively engaged in the task of governing themselves, encouraging all citizens to hold fast to truths espoused in the Declaration of Independence.
With deep conviction, I am openly stating that I believe we are on the verge of losing freedom’s blessings because we have too few responsible citizens. The church has not understood the importance of living under the control of God with the powerful spirit of God providing the strength for us to not only enjoy the privileges and possibilities of freedom, but also to protect them.
Ronald Reagan made many great statements concerning freedom. As a matter of fact, I often find myself chuckling inside when I hear all the talk today about the “Reagan revolution” and about the difference his election and years in office made when many who reference it were in elementary school or teenagers. They were truly distant observers, but thank God they have enough wisdom to be excited about the wonderful change in course that occurred beginning in 1980 with the election of this unlikely candidate. Reagan’s leadership helped lead to the end of the Cold War and the downfall of the Soviet Union.
I was privileged to personally discuss with Reagan the principles of our founders. I shared with him that I had held the actual parchment upon which George Washington had written with his ink-scroll pen sharing some of his beliefs you can read in a book called Sacred Fire. The father of our nation was brilliant and full of conviction. When I asked then-Governor Reagan if he had read some of these statements and had come to understand the principles of our founders, he answered emphatically, “Yes!” And not only that he appreciated them and admired Washington, but he knew our founding fathers’ beliefs were right.
I asked, “If you happen to be elected by the American people, will you hold fast to those principles?” He said, “Without wavering and without compromise,” and he said it with passion that I found inspiring as a 36-year-old evangelist in love with God and concerned about the church and the nation.
Reagan made this statement, which is among many classics: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on to them to do the same or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States when men were free.”
I do not want to be found among those who will be asked what we were doing when freedom died. By the grace of God, with His help and the help of those who share common concerns and with Christians of conviction, I will not allow freedom to die on my watch.
Jesus tells us that the truth will set us free. To compromise the truth is to compromise freedom and its blessings. Our nation is in the process of doing it and we are marching not only toward the death of freedom, but also the destruction of meaningful national life. We are presently following the course of decaying nations and those we can observe around the world where intellectual, moral and economic systems are collapsing. Some in power today are actually suggesting we follow other nations’ tragic course. May God forbid it and may we stand together to prevent it!
History reveals our founders believed they were on a journey similar to that of Israel’s exodus from Egypt to God’s Promised Land. Moses was their hero. His farewell address delivered on Mount Nebo references the choices God offers those desiring true freedom. Martin Luther King, Jr. repeated these words the night before he was assassinated in 1968, and Ronald Reagan repeated them while standing at the base of the Statue of Liberty celebrating our nation’s birthday in 1986.
“See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and adversity. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God to walk in His ways and to keep his commandments. But if you turn away, you will certainly perish. You shall not long endure on the soil that you are crossing the Jordan to enter. I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse, choose life that you and your offspring shall live.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-19)
The life that was being offered was a life of freedom, fullness and fruitfulness. God has granted us both the privilege and responsibility of being overseers, good stewards of all that He had entrusted to our watch care. We are to tend to our business and maintain legitimate self-interest, but never lose our focus on God and the importance of others. We must understand what it means to be our brother’s keeper, and it by no means indicates that we should turn responsibility over to some dictatorial, controlling power base. We might as well have a ruthless tyrant in power. If we fail to govern ourselves and remain in control of the powers that be, we will witness anarchy.
Those of you reading this article, in spite of all the current pressures, live at the greatest moment in human history. You can be the guardians, the gate keepers, the restorers of the foundation and the wall builders maintaining our precious liberty. Let not your hearts be troubled. Keep the faith. Fight the fight as a good soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ with the whole armor of God and the sword of the Spirit, don’t bend and don’t bow before the godless influences of this world and you will not be crushed and enslaved by the powers in this present world!
Jesus said the gates of hell (deception, defeat, destruction, and debt) will not prevail against the church standing upon God’s revealed truth. For some time, Christians have allowed hell’s gates to prevail while they sit in church. Now is the time to waken from slumber, confront the culture and help restore freedom’s blessing. People of faith can and must inspire strong, stable, effective, limited government power.
I am praying all believers will understand the importance of what prophets, founders and statesmen have known and proclaimed:
“Now listen, today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. I command you this day to love the Lord your God and keep His commands.” – Moses in Deuteronomy 30:15
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future upon the capacity of each and every one of us to govern ourselves, to sustain ourselves in accordance with the Ten Commandments of God.” – James Madison
“Return to Me and I will return to you…” – Malachi 3:7b
“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” – Jesus
“The Constitution is not an instrument or government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” – Gov. Morris who wrote the first draft of the Constitution
“Liberty necessitates the diminutization of political ambition and concern. Liberty necessitates concentration on other matters and mere civil governance. Rather, ‘Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, free men must think on these things.’” – Patrick Henry (quoting Philippians 4:8)
“True freedom is living under the control of God, not under the control of any other power or influence.” – James Robison
“Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely expressed for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent ideological busybodies.” – C.S. Lewis
“I am only one – but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. ” – Edward Everett Hale, poet and former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate
“Unless a man becomes the enemy of evil, he will not even become its slave, but rather its champion. God himself will not help us to ignore evil, but only to defy and defeat it.” – G.K. Chesterton
The Spirit within me bears witness with these wise statements and I will gladly spend the rest of my life inspiring others to action. God is calling us to far more than religion. He is calling us to repentance and restoration. Religion is strong enough to make men hate one another, but not strong enough to make men love one another. God is calling us to a life filled with the power of transforming love and the boldness of New Testament believers to stand against the powers of this present darkness. A dying world is waiting for the release of the river of life flowing freely from the lives of yielded believers.
When God rules in individual lives, sound principles will prevail. Leaders will no longer be chosen because of personality, party affiliation or skillful communication. The principled population will insist that sound principles determine government’s role, commitment on the part of representatives, and responsibility on the part of the governed.