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Civil and Religious Liberty: God’s Priority

Skip Dodson


Skip Dodson embraced the Advent message as a 25 year old aerospace engineering graduatestudent. Over the past three decades he has served as a Bible worker, a district pastor, anadministrator, and as a college dean and religion chair. He is currently serving as a self-supporting missionary based in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Skip has been united in ministry for25+ years with his wife Renee. The couple have two young adult children, both of whom are partners with them in mission.


  • March 20, 2021
    11:00 AM
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Before we begin this morning I would like to take a moment to remember the Lord's Prayer and see His Holy Spirit as we consider this most important subject so please it's with me as I kneel. Father in heaven we pray for your divine guidance this morning we pray that your purpose will be fulfilled in the presentation of this message Lord the world is being brought to a grand climax of history and the issues that will divide the folks into the sheep and the goats are coming to a head. Father help us to be on the right side of these questions or we ask you this in Jesus' name and police in your Holy Spirit to open our eyes to your word in Christ's name again we pray. My father always claimed that we were directly related to Alexander Hamilton one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence now I have never studied this stuff for myself but I can tell you that my father was not one to just make up stories so I don't reason to doubt what he said perhaps this is where we get our love of liberty as a family. Regarding religious liberty Hamilton said this. He said Remember civil and religious liberty always go together. If the foundation of the one be sacked the other will fall of course meaning in due time. Thus it is no surprise that the rights of conscience were given 1st place in the Bill of Rights in the American Constitution the document over which Hamilton had significant influence as you know. The 1st Amendment says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or here's a very key part of the of the amendment or prohibiting the free exercise their off that you stop upon for those words and more recently just think about your half ago or so the 45th president of the United States Mr Trump said this. The United States is founded on the principle that our rights do not come from government they come from God This is a moral truth as proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence and in shrine in the 1st Amendment to our constitution this bill of rights. Our founders understood that no right is more fundamental to a peaceful prosperous and virtuous society than the right to follow one's religious convictions. Now you can disagree with. The president on other issues if you look many have but there is no question that in this matter. Is opinion is without question and correct. I say friends it is an ominous sign of the times that so many of our current political class seem ready to discard the American constitution calling it a document created to enshrine white supremacy. Better be aware friends this pathway though it may seem to flatter and patronize certain groups of people will ultimately need lead to tyranny and oppression of all people. The issues of civil and religious liberty are actually front and center in the Bible if you have been paying attention as you read it but we often fail to recognize this because of because we have been in the habit at least until maybe the last year or so of taking these liberties for granted we don't have to read very far into scripture to see the very 1st denial of civil and religious liberty I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago but it bears repeating it. Came killed his brother Abel Why because he was unable to persuade him through reasoning that his way of worshipping God was equally as valid as that of his brother and so. He murdered. God wasn't convinced of Cain's argument either by the way became could not get to God if he could have gotten to God he would have. From that story right through the Old Testament and into the New Testament we find this great theme and that is that God is that the founder of civil and religious liberty and I want to demonstrate that truth to you today that the repression of these liberties was the foremost concern in the history of God's people in the Exodus from Egypt. If we had time we could examine the formation of the Nation of Israel and Palestine we could note that its civil and social structure was designed to maximize liberty on every level and we could observe Well this parallels in certain key respects the formation of our own nation the United States of America. Perhaps we will do that on another occasion. Got a good teaser in there once in a while. But let me summarize my introductory remarks by this stage as has been true throughout the Bible and now in an amplified way the final conflict of Earth's history will also turn upon these same issues namely Is there a right way and a wrong way to worship God. And perhaps the most important question of all who has the authority to decide that question. Should those who hold a minority opinion be allowed to follow the dictates of their conscience even in times of crisis these are the main questions to be settled in the final episode of the great controversy but I want to suggest to you that they have been at the central focus of the great controversy from the very beginning. And so with that in mind let's take the example of the Exodus this morning I want to point out how the issues of civil and religious liberty where the central concerns of God and His people time. Exodus Chapter 77 in verse 16 I hope you'll turn there with me please. Exodus Chapter 7. Verse 60. Notice what Moses is told to say to Pharaoh the king of Egypt. God says to Moses and you shall say to him the Lord God of the Hebrews set me to use saying notice these words now everyone let my people go that they may serve me in the wilderness but so far you have not obey note that civil and religious liberty are placed here side by side did you catch it. Civil liberty in the phrase Let My People Go. And religious liberty that they may do what everyone serves me in the wilderness. That God preserves to Pharaoh the urgency of the decision he says but so far you have not hey. There's a point at which the divine patients can be worn out and Pharaoh was approaching that point. The but before we get into the details of the story let me make this general observation and that is that civil government is the governments of any kind are under obligation to God to recognize that he has granted both civil and religious liberty to their subjects this is true even of governments where heads of state do not acknowledge. I point this out because when the initial request is made to Pharaoh in Exodus Chapter 5 verse one. Where Moses says let my deepest go that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness what is Pharaoh's response well Pharaoh says this who is the Lord that I should obey his voice and let Israel go I do not know the Lord and moreover I will not let Israel go now the question is how does the Lord respond to this. He does not say Oh pardon me fair I should have known better than that make such a demand of you since you do not acknowledge me as God then you have every right to treat my servants and your citizens however you wish. Is that would God says. Oh. That's not what God said at all. Even though Pharaoh king of Egypt did not accept that God had any of those already over him the obligation to step out from between him and his servants and not to restrict their freedom was still binding upon Pharaoh was it not yes it was as it is on every government on planet earth today. They are they to do with Pharaoh are under obligation to let go of God's people. Now I want to point out some specific things that are especially relevant for our generation in the several encounters that we have record of between Moses and Aaron and Pharaoh. These come under one main heading really and that is this. God is not pleased when the civil rulers don't stay in there or lay you understand what I mean by that Silverwood government has a certain purpose in this War God has ordained civil government to maintain law and order but when civil authorities go beyond this and presume to impede the Free Exercise of Religion they begin to invite the judgments of the Almighty God So to start with let's take a look at Exodus Chapter 8 versus 25 through 27. Exodus Chapter 8 verses 25 through 27. They have a favor called Moses and Aaron and said Go sacrifice to your God with him in the land. But most said it would not be right to do so for the offerings we shall sacrifice to the Lord our God are an abomination to the Egyptians if we sacrifice offerings abominable to the Egyptians before their eyes will they not stone us we must go 3 days' journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord our God as He tells us. Now here interesting only favor it proposes to limit where God's people could worship him. Now this is a situation in which Vera would probably say that he was really not restricting religious liberty he had plausible deniability it right just go and worship him away again I mean what's the problem I'm not restricting your liberties. However Moses and Aaron under inspiration of God were not going to buy this. Here is the real problem. This limitation as you may know in the text would set them up for persecution rather than to give them the freedom that God had stipulated do you see that because Moses says if we do that the Egyptians are going to do well they will stone us. Because the things that they would sacrifice to God were an abomination to the Egyptians so the Egyptians when they saw that type of worship which was so foreign to the way they worshipped their gods they would say this is horrible We can't allow this to happen. And so they would persecute Heber's so Pharaoh would deny that he was restricting their liberties but the reality is he was restricting their liberties because he was using the people of Egypt as his proxy persecutors in order to get to the Hebrews you understand what I'm saying. So by attempting to place limits on the location for their worship he would necessarily limit the manner in which they would feel free to worship. Moses response to Pharaoh says it all we must go 3 days' journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord our God as He tells us so here we see that God would accept no limits on where his people could worship they were to follow his direction it's not those of the stake in this mad. Now this was not the only limit the Pharaoh sought to place upon the he Bruce if we turn now to Exodus Chapter 10 we can see another situation another encounter the Pharaoh had with Moses and Aaron and c Other than it's the Pharaoh sought to impose. I think you are probably noticing along with me that the entire story here seems to be turning on the Free Exercise of Religion doesn't it are you seeing that friends Ok good now Exodus Tucker 10 verse 3. So most city are and went in to Pharaoh and said to him thus says the Lord the God of the gave Bruce how long will you refuse to humble yourself before I let my people go that they may serve me there you have the same x. or Taishan to both civil and religious liberty repeated for if you refuse to let my people go behold to morrow I will bring locusts into your country and they shall cover the face of your ole And so that no one can see the way and they shall eat what is left to you after the hail and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the in the field and they shall fill your houses in the houses of your servants of all the Egyptians as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seed from the day they came on the earth to this day in other words there's going to be a time of trouble as never was. Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh. Now versa then Pharaoh servants said to him. How long shall this man be a snare to us let the men go that they may serve the Lord their God Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined. Let me just pause here for this isn't in the manuscript. But I need to bring it. Do you think the this is the 1st time in in the history of the world where political folks do things that are ridiculous even though people that are close to them were advising them to do something else that makes more sense they were it was not willing to listen to his advice as he kept trying to have it is way this is how you know when people are power mad. But let's get back to the text. So most and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh Exodus chapter Ted verse 8 and he said to them Go serve the Lord your God but which ones are to go Moses said we will go with our young and our old we will go with our sons and our daughters and with our flocks and herds for we must hold the feast of the Lord. But he said. The Lord be with you if I ever let you and your little ones go look you have some evil purpose of mine no go the minimum you and serve the Lord for that is what you are asking. And they were driven out from its presence now 1st we should miss the reason behind the restriction of the liberty of God's people we see it here in verse 3 in these words How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me what is the motivation when governments step in between God and His people and presume to tell them how they must worship God nothing but pure pride and self exultation it was the same in the story of never get an answer and the 3 he Bruce and the fiery furnace was in it the same thing it was it not the same thing in Daniel Chapter 6 with the den of lions stand Darius and so on. Here we see the same thing the Book of Exodus happened centuries before but the same principles are involved as I mentioned earlier government exists to regulate the interactions between people but it is not and never has been the prerogative of any man or government to presume to dictate in matters of religion these things are between the individual and God a low but there's another point that we need to make here regarding this passage notice 1st state police at 1st Pharoah appears to be cooperating. Go serve the Lord your God Well doesn't that sound good maybe we're making a little headway. But then it was to us but which ones are to go. Now most response is very clear everyone was going. There was no one that was to be left behind the worship of God was for the entire her but at this point Pharaoh blows a gasket he proposed history strict who will go and worship as if the others could get their religious experience by proxy now Pharaoh never studied under the modern revolutionary leaders but he was not an uninformed as to how to manipulate people groups besides he was moved by the very same rebellious being that has inspired the modern socialist revolutions all over the world so we know that though he knew that the way to conquer a people is to gain control of the minds of what particular group of them. Their children. Their children and you've. Thus he sought to keep them away from the truth over way from right religious influences. Now if you're listening carefully you'll recognize that all this sounds strangely familiar. If you would search out the reasons for the National apostasy and decline that we're looking at here in our own nation you will find a fruitful field in the universities of this country social pressure has erected a barrier against the Bible and its truths especially in secular universities but also shamefully even in many professedly Christian schools this equivalent This is equivalent to what Pharaoh proposed to do in the Exodus Oh yes you old men you could go worship but leave the children to me. I'll say as an aside here that we should immediately be suspicious of any movement that specifically targets the younger generation and teaches it to distrust the wisdom and experience of their parents which all at the same and that. Things like this have never ended well. God demonstrates His will in this matter through Moses response to this base counterproposal of Pharaoh he would accept no limitations of this guy all the people were to answer to God for themselves as individuals men women and children and so they must all appear before God and be instructed of him together as families. Now I want to make one final survey shouldn regarding the Exodus and the interactions between Moses and Aaron and Pharaoh and this comes from Exodus Chapter 10 versus 24327. Verse 24 begins then Pharaoh Moses and said Go serve the Lord your little ones also may go with you only let your flocks and your herds remain behind. But Moses said you must also let us have sacrifices and her offerings that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God our livestock also must go with us not of who shall remain shall be left behind for we must take of them to serve the Lord our God and we do not know with what we must serve the Lord until we arrived there. But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart and he would not let them go. No hear that fair were proposed to restrict how they he Bruce would worship God. He was willing to let the people go but wanted to restrict what they would take with it now I want to point out also that this was not merely a restriction of their religious or free exercise of religion but it was also a severe financial restrictions because you recall that at that time people counted their wealth not in how many shares of Apple they owe but rather on many cattle they possessed this was an also an effort to control the message which would be presented to the worship service. What would the worship service of God in the Old Testament be without a reference to sacrifice. And what is the preaching of the Christian message today without a reference and a basis in the sacrifice of Christ it would be little more than in him before. France the gospel of Christ has always been the object of save having a cape and even today people are not so much opposed to the worship of a generic God But when you bring up Jesus Christ and His righteousness then you may expect a total onslaught from the devil. But there was more to this restriction even then these 2 things more than just the financial hardship that would place them in more than just an effort to control the message that would be presented it was also an effort to prohibit any further development and of truth for Moses said to Pharaoh we do not know what we must serve the Lord until when. Until we get there till we arrived there Moses opening up the possibility that God would reveal duties to them in the wilderness that he that they did not know about yet Pharaoh all was not willing that this should happen because it might mean that he would have less control over the Heber's friends this idea of the unfolding of God's truth is one of the pillars upon which the great 2nd Advent movement is found it is this principle that has necessitated throughout sacred history the be still of the gift of prophecy you see that and especially Is this true in the last days pharaohs sought to tamp down on this principle and prevent any further advancement of God's truth among the people he must have known that a faithful application of that principle would lessen his despotic control. Now friends we are aware from our study of the Book of Revelation that civil and religious liberty liberty will not always prevail even here in the United States and especially anywhere else in the world. The question that we should be asking at this point is by what means will this happen. Now the old Adventist narrative is that persecution will be brought about when religious conservatives put pressure on lawmakers to enact legislation to enforce their doctrines. I wouldn't disagree with that these people will be involved however I don't think we're paying in enough attention to the imminent threats to civil and religious liberty posed by the folks on the opposite end of the political spectrum. There was a time when many avenues believe that always should that we should do all we can to put the most liberal politicians into office because we thought this would guarantee our liberties for the longest period of time. Well friends I think we've all lived long enough to see the fallacy of that thinking. It is high time that we stop paying so much attention to political party that's how many of you'd like to say amen to that. We had better start taking note of the issues in the policies instead just because one party or another is in power doesn't signal that it's time for a nap. The very restrictions on religious and civil liberty that we see being resisted by God's messengers in the Exodus from Egypt are currently being enacted before our eyes in our own generation by people who call themselves liberals and progressives who would have guessed that happened happen again I say it is high time to wake out of sleep and stand up for our rights so much as God's right to our unrestricted service here is the real question with which all of us ought to wrestle. How much authority does the civil government have in relation to the worship of God. Does God recognize the right of civil government to place limits on or band gatherings of his people if you say yes by the way we've seen all of those things over the past 12 months if you say yes then I have a follow up question. And that is what point does it stop if civil government has the right to limit ban or specify certain conditions under which religious gatherings can be held then why could it not also specify what day we are allowed to worship. How could we logically go along with one set of restrictions and still hold that another set of restrictions of a similar kind of goes too far in our study today I think we've seen how God feels about such efforts to restrict his people in their efforts to worship Him freighted the question remains are your feelings in harmony with those of God or not. Now long ago Pastor James coasts. Of Canada was arrested for holding a church service maybe you've heard about this. Is great sin was that he did not follow the restrictions imposed by the government regarding facemasks and he did not follow the arbitrary limits on how many could worship before I go any further with this I want to say that if anybody would like to wear a face mask to church No but I'm not going to say anything about if people feel more comfortable with that they should have the freedom to do that. But I'm not sure that the government has the right to impose such restrictions on God's people. That would say they do not have that right if you would like to wear a face mask you're welcome to work. James Coats was put in prison in the night bail. Because he helped this worship service is why fair and coast spoke out against this injustice that was done in her native country of Canada she told Tucker Carlson on Fox News Thursday evening this is definitely not the nation I grew up in how many of you could resonate with those thoughts. Even though she's speaking of Canada we're talking about the United States this is happening all over the world. She says for a while I think our freedoms have just been slowly stripped from us and so slowly over time that we didn't even realize it she also said we're on a dangerous road right now and I think because we've just been in the pot for so long boiling that people are really realizing the danger that we're facing as a nation. Here's what I think I think they're going to be a lot of people like James and error codes who take hold of the truth in the last days and are used of God to stand up for the right. They may not know it now. But there will come a time when people like them will make their stay. Here so no other right and right right or put it just over a century ago behaved careful attention to these words. As the storm approaches a large class who have professed faith in the 3rd angels message but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth of band and their position and join the ranks of the opposition you say well how could that happen. Listen how it happens. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit what is the spirit of the world in this generation it is one of oppression and tyranny and control and power and it's not a spirit of liberty. By uniting with the world in a partaking of its spirit they have come to view matters in nearly the same liked and when the test is brought they are prepared to choose the easy popular side. Thus friend. I'm concluding this morning by asking you this question by way of appeal. Where do you intend to stand on this matter at the end there will be to auctions only. We can recognize and submit to the authority of God and to his word as it relates to the Free Exercise of Religion. Or we can submit to the enactments of men in order to get a law which is a going to be for you. When brought to this final test may God help each one of us to say with that noble Peter as he responded to those in the Sanhedrin who would restrict the free exercise of religion in history. We must obey God. Rather than man. This media was brought to you by audio verse a website dedicated to spreading God's word through free sermon audio and much more if you would like to know more about audio verse or if you would like to listen to more sermon leave a visit w w w audio verse or.


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