Paul’s Letter to America*

*Excerpt from “Paul’s Letter to the American Church” – Pastor Doug Ward – Mundelein Church of the Nazarene – January 1, 2023

1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, with my friend Douglas, to the saints in the States who are called to be holy by our Lord Jesus Christ: grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank God every time I remember you because of your work in spreading the gospel around the world and in every nation. When I think of all the people around the world who have been reached because of your generosity it fills me with joy. I am filled with affection for all of you because of your work in sharing the gospel with Jew and Gentile, African and Asian, and from Antioch to Spain.

My prayer for you is that your love might be perfected and that it may grow so that you may discern not what is merely good, but what is best so you may be kept blameless as we await the return of Christ. My highest hope is that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God through the grace of Jesus Christ.

Until that day live worthy of your heavenly calling in Christ Jesus. May your generosity continue for we know that God will continue to use your gift to His glory around the world. While we may not see the direct benefit of giving, God is using your generosity to redeem a world. Stand firm, and do not be fearful of anyone who opposes you knowing that you are being saved.

2 I have written this letter so that there may not be any division among you. I have heard that you are divided as perhaps never before. I would expect to hear of such things among the pagans, but not in His church. Is Christ divided? Certainly not! My hope is that God’s people would be of one heart, one mind and one soul. After all, we share one faith, one Lord, and one baptism.

I have been a servant of this faith through God’s grace, and my task is to spread this grace among those who have never heard of the gospel. God’s purpose is that the grace and wisdom of God should be made known to every ruler, power and tyrant in the world. Earthly rulers thrive on division and dissension and amass power by promising to protect “us” from “them.” When God’s people overcome the petty divisions of this world, we announce the good news that God’s kingdom is here. When Jew and Gentile, Republican and Democrat, Bears and Packers fans love each other, the church proclaims to every ruler that Jesus is Lord. If Jesus is Lord, then the governor is not, the Senator is not and no President is either. Yet I hear that fear has been allowed to run rampant among you. Even now, you are experiencing the consequences of fear that has been left unchecked. The principalities and powers of this world use fear to divide and control. We should remember that we serve a Savior who has been raised from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father far above every power and authority. Why then, should we fear?

When we allow the divisions of the world to divide God’s people then we also announce that we are no different than the world, and the weak and beggarly power of earthly rulers is necessary. If we as God’s people divide and pull away from each other over carpet color, new vs the old pastor, or music styles during worship then our actions proclaim that we are no different than the world around us. In this present evil age, there are always times of hardship for God’s people.

I have heard that some are placing undue importance on political power which results in division. There are even reports that some are pulling away from your brothers and sisters in Christ because of political allegiances. Such behavior should never be present among those who call on Christ Jesus. In times like these we should be reminded that our citizenship is in heaven, and we serve Jesus who sits far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every name that has been named, not only in the present age but in the age to come. We serve a savior who came to us from the heavenly places and we should remember our savior would be unwelcome at both political party conventions.

3 As I mentioned earlier in my letter your generosity has been used by God around the world. The gift that you give is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also an expression of praise to God. You have been materially blessed in ways that overflow to you. These gifts are not given to enrich you alone, but to also be used to bless God’s people in the States and around the world.

As I have stated in other letters each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not because you have to, but because the Lord loves a cheerful giver. Even as you give remember that God is able to bless you far above what you can even imagine, so that in every situation you will have all you need to demonstrate good works. You can trust that God is able to enrich you in every way so that you can be generous in any occasion, and because of your generosity many will give thanks to God. The purpose of each talent that we have and the blessings with which we are endowed is to bring glory to God, and not to simply amass for ourselves. As I look at your churches and blessings, I can only thank God for His wonderful gifts, even as I wait to see what your continued generosity will accomplish for the gospel.

4 You live in a culture that has abandoned the glory of God for a vain and tragic pursuit of lesser gods. The character and goodness of God can be seen in the majesty of Creation yet your society worships what ought not to be worshipped. It considers things that are not gods as godlike, and has forsaken the truth of God for lesser things which we know are nothing. You claim to not know idols but you worship images created from airbrushing and photoshop that are every bit as contrived as any wooden idol. You seem willing to trade a life with someone created in the image of God for a 2 dimensional image from a computer screen. As a result, where once clarity stood, now confusion reigns. We vainly believe that everything is not only permissible, but equal to the new life that the resurrection makes possible. Many look at the lost culture in which we exist and desire to condemn the things that culture values but God would find destructive.

My concern is not as much for the world as it is for what is practiced in my churches. You should live such an exemplary life among the pagans that they see God in what you say and do. Why condemn those outside the church when we grow ever more comfortable with the sin that exists within our body? What if our homes were an example of grace more than a reflection of our culture? In light of the degraded culture around us you should: submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Husbands, love your wives and give yourselves wholly to them just as Christ sacrificed Himself for the church. Wives respect and support your husbands in all you do, as is pleasing to the Lord. Children, obey and honor your parents in everything, for this will make your life easier. Parents, raise your children tenderly and be careful to avoid making them feel diminished and bitter lest they become discouraged. When you go to work give your best effort all the time. Do this not only when your employers are watching but also when you are working alone. While this is always a good idea, don’t do this solely out of self-interest but out of reverence for Christ, for whom you are an ambassador. Remember, it is the Lord whom you are serving, and you will be rewarded richly from Christ.

5 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, and you live in a place that has a reputation for freedom. Yet freedom is meaningless without the responsibility that accompanies it. You have forgotten the weight that those with freedom must carry. The Spirit grants freedom so we can love our neighbor and serve with a whole heart. Real freedom always serves the Lord and your brothers and sisters. My fear is that you have forgotten that responsibility and freedom has become nothing more than a desire to do whatever you want. When freedom is used to indulge our sinful nature then slavery is inevitably the result.

You live in freedom, yet your land is marked by a slavery to lust and material pursuits. In a desire to constantly chase after a false ideal of joy you have become slaves to substances that degrade and destroy. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sex outside of marriage, pornography, idolatry, discord, dissensions, drunkenness, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. May our life in the Spirit never become a source for personal arrogance or pride, and may we never show conceit or envy, instead let us rejoice in the Lord always.

6 In every generation there is the temptation to substitute a vibrant walk with the Spirit with mere obedience to a written code. I formerly gave my life to a zealous pursuit of this code because I hoped that by perfectly following every rule, I would be closer to God, and I kept every rule blamelessly. I thought my performance of keeping every rule perfectly would be for my personal benefit. To my surprise I finally was able to personally experience God that day on Damascus Rd. but it had nothing to do with the law that I formerly zealously followed. More importantly, I once considered law following for my profit, however I now realize that was actually a loss. In fact, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. Following the law led me further away from the God I loved, not closer.

I now see the Jewish legal code in a new light. The problem is that the law was never intended to bring life and it was never meant to be the centerpiece of God’s purpose for His people. The law was only given after His promise given to Abraham to redeem His people. The law was meant to serve as our baby-sitter, keeping us safe from our worst tendencies, and teaching us the nature and character of sin. The law was meant to take our tendencies for selfishness and show how those tendencies are contrary to God. It was a temporary measure until the fullness of time came, and Jesus walked among us, died on a cross, rose again and gives us the offer of new life. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.

I always remind my churches that it is the Spirit who gives life and sets us free from the power of sin. The law cannot overcome sin but God has already defeated sin by dying on the cross. Through a walk with the Spirit the righteous requirement the law always pointed to can be fully met in us, who live according to the guidance of the Spirit. So set your heart and mind on what the Spirit desires and not on your own wishes. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because ofHis Spirit who lives in you.

We must always remember that the redemption which Christ provides is not for ourselves alone. The entire world is imprisoned by sin and is subject to the decay and degradation which inevitably accompanies sin. The world groans with us as we await our redemption and adoption into the family of God. We are saved into this great hope. Even if we do not have the fullness of this hope yet, we wait for it patiently. On those days when we are frustrated and have doubts, we know that the Spirit intercedes in our behalf in alignment with God’s will. So in a world where people and powers seem arrayed against us we can say with confidence, if God is for us, who can stand against us?

7 Therefore, since we serve Jesus Christ who stands at the right hand of the Father in our behalf, Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I hope to come personally and visit you for a while if the Lord permits. When Douglas comes continue to receive him as you would the Lord, and do it with others who serve faithfully among you. Always live carefully and purposefully. Stand firm in our shared faith and be strong and courageous. Do everything with a heart of love. Always think the best of each other and strive for full restoration in all things as you live in peace. As you do this the God of love and peace will go with you. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

May be an illustration of 1 person, standing and text that says 'Paul's Letter To America'

Pastor Doug blogs at Sacred Cynicism.

To view the original message CLICK HERE

6 comments

  1. This is very well written. It seems very Pauline-like. Scriptures given that Paul wrote go hand in hand with his desire for the church.
    What would Paul write to us today?
    Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like various passages from Galatians and 1st Corinthians in The Message version. This I do like as it does not pretend to be a translation and does put in perspective our American church. Blessings and Happy New Year to you Barb.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Doug has captured the style of Paul’s writing (as he referenced many passages from Paul’s letters in scripture) and his heart for truth–with no sugar-coating. Please let him know: kudos for creativity and accuracy!

    Liked by 1 person

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