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About this series
Hope of Nations
Standing Strong in a Post-Truth, Post Christian World
In the midst of these trying and challenging times, is there hope for America? In this new series called “Hope of Nations” our guest teacher John Dickerson, pairs his understanding of God’s Word with his skills as a reporter, to paint a picture of America’s potential spiritual future. Don't miss what we can learn from our past, and how we can protect our Christian values.More from this series
This is a little bit different series where we are engaging not only our hearts but also our minds. And so, buckle up, because we’ve got some really life changing stuff to learn today.
We all have some people in our families or workplaces, don’t elbow anyone, who is in their forties for fifties or sixties and when they do something wrong, they still act like it was never their fault. We’ve all got some people like that in our lives and the thing with parenting and grandparenting is now is our chance to try to get personal accountability and responsibility, some of these ideas into the minds of our little ones.
Because right now, it’s kind of cute, but the older they get, the bigger the implications and the consequences of their choices become. And the reality is what we believe about ourselves and how we behave has consequences.
We all desire, whether it’s for our kids, our spouse, a person you’re dating, your grandkids, we all desire for the people we love and for ourselves that we’d be living lives of freedom. And what I mean is free from drug addiction, free from alcoholism, free from sexual addiction, free from bankruptcy, free from impulsiveness or not being able to control a temper. Some people go through life and they keep losing jobs over and over again through their adult life because they can’t control their impulses and they have moments where they get heated and they lose their temper and they lose that job and then they go have another one for a few years and then it happens again. We want our kids and grandkids to be free from that. We want our kids and grandkids to have the best life possible.
So, the question we are asking today is this: how can we ensure freedom and prosperity for the people we love? What can you do? You can’t control their decisions and you can’t control their future, but what can you do to best set them up for success?
What can you do for the people you love to best put them on a path that leads to a life of freedom in their choices, and in their family, and in their future? Well, as always, when we gather here we open the Word of God to see: what does God say about this?
And Jesus actually answered this question directly in John chapter 8 and here’s what He said. He said, “If you hold to My teachings,” so, if you know them and do them, “well, then you’re really My disciples or followers.”
So, being a follower of Jesus is more than just being baptized and saying, “I’m a Christian.” That’s a start but it’s actually following after Jesus. And none of us do it perfectly and Jesus knows that. But the goal is to do it consistently. And Jesus says, If you hold to My teachings, if you make it your effort, you’ll fall down, but if you get back up and you keep trying to pursue My way of life, well, “Then, you will know the truth,” and this idea of “know” is you’ll know it not only in your mind, but you’ll know it in your experience. You’ll experience My truth, “and the truth will set you free.”
The truth will set you free. Here’s what we are learning today: God’s truth brings freedom. God’s truth brings freedom.
I think of that heroin addict, nineteen-year-old Micky, and I know that as my girls and my kids go through their teen years and through their twenties and through their thirties, I won’t be there on their shoulder every time a temptation comes their way. I won’t be standing next to them every time a dangerous opportunity presents itself. And so, the best thing I can do is get God’s truth into their minds and into their hearts so that when they are in those situations, God’s truth is there and they always have that ramp out to freedom of knowing God’s way.
God’s truth leads to freedom. And if I want my kids, my loved ones to experience freedom, I’ll teach them to know it and to understand it.
Point number one on your outline, very simply, God’s truth, when obeyed, sets individuals free.
And you’re in a room of people where individuals who have found Christ, have shared it with their relatives, and sometimes a whole family gets set free. A family that used to be defined by alcoholism or abuse or other generational vices that have been handed down but one generation decides to place their faith in Christ and it changes the story of the family tree.
God’s truth can set you free, God’s truth can set your family free, and we are going to see today, even bigger than that, when a whole bunch of people like we have in this room together seek God’s truth, it can actually affect an even larger group of people or a society of people if they pursue God’s truth.
Christ came to set the captives free. And it’s when we read God’s truth and believe it and do it that we live a life of freedom. And I know this not only from my own experience, but I have seen in my family God’s power to transform an entire family.
And I’ll summarize the story, but my grandfather became a Christian back in the 1940s, around World War II era. He was working on a Ford assembly line in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He was not a follower of Christ.
And there was a guy working on that assembly line next to him named Earl Peters. And Earl Peters started sharing with my grandpa the freedom that was available in Jesus Christ. And eventually, my grandpa placed his faith in Christ. And right away, Earl Peters told him two things. He said, “Hey, if you want to live the full Christian life, there are two things you need to always do. One, you’ve got to have a Bible and be able to read God’s Word for yourself. Second, no matter where you ever live, you’ve got to find a Bible-preaching church to be part of. And if you’ll do things, it’ll transform you.”
My grandpa did those things and it did transform him. And eventually, he started to share with his sister and his brother and his parents and it didn’t happen overnight, but over the course of about fifteen years, each of his siblings and his parents, because of the change they saw in him, they became followers of Christ.
Well, then, he raised his three kids, one of whom is my dad. And he raised them to know that God’s truth leads to freedom. So my dad raised me and I’m one of four boys and out of the four of us, I’m probably the one who wandered away the most, but God brought me back eventually, because as I went out there and saw the world as an investigative reporter I started to realize all that stuff in the Bible about how humans work and society works, it’s actually true.
And I came back and now today I’m one of four boys where each of us, you know, we’re imperfect, we sin like everyone else, we struggle in our marriages like everyone else, but you know what? All four of us boys, by God’s grace, we haven’t ever gone through a divorce or a bankruptcy or a major alcohol or other addiction. And that’s not because we are better people, it’s because our dad raised us to understand God’s truth and its power to set free.
Why do I tell that story? It’s not about me, it’s one example. This room is full of examples.
Where a whole family, it gets contagious, and God’s truth starts setting more and more people free. Some of you are here and you have tasted that. Some of you are here and you think, Man, I’d love that. And if that’s you, be inspired. God’s truth has the power to set not only you free, but also the people you care about. And if you think, Well, man, I have a grown child, or someone else that it could never happen, pray for their heart, gently expose them to God’s truth. It does set people free. Don’t give up. It doesn’t happen overnight, but God’s truth can change entire families.
I want you to know today that no matter what you feel like a slave to, you might feel like you’re a slave to something because of your choices in the past, or your choices recently. Or you might feel like you’re a slave to something because the family you came from and everyone in your family did that thing, is enslaved to that thing. You need to know today there’s no slavery in your life, there’s no vice that God cannot set you free from. And it’s His truth that sets people free.
Well, in this series, we are studying the society we live in and we are going to move now from Scripture to history, but don’t throw open your mouth if you’re not a history person. Okay? We are going to move from Scripture to history and we are going to see some examples of how not only families but entire societies or the majority of people in a society sought God’s truth, the Bible, and as a result, experienced freedom at a much higher level than other societies throughout history. And that’s point number two on your outline.
Those of us who live in the United States or in Western Europe, we don’t always realize it, but we actually inherit unusual freedom and we inherit unusual wealth because many in our society pursued God’s truth. Just like this works for individuals and for families, this works for groups of people.
God’s Word is like a seed. And when you plant God’s Word as a seed in your life, it leads to freedom. When you plant God’s Word as a seed in your family, it leads to freedom. And there are some societies – there are no perfect societies, just like there are no perfect families – but there are some societies that for hundreds of years did strive towards God’s Word, imperfectly, but consistently. And what we experience today is the benefits of these fruits at the top of the tree. Things like the scientific revolution.
So, we take for granted that we have lightbulbs and electricity and batteries. We take for granted that we have cars and we can fly on airplanes. Those things all wouldn’t have happened without the Scientific Revolution. The Scientific Revolution, we can measure, we can trace back in history, it came from one specific area, an area of Christian universities that were training people like Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal and Johannes Kepler who were all devout Christians.
The same is true of medicine. If we were born two hundred years ago, half of us in this room wouldn’t be here because of plagues and diseases that commonly would wipe out large swaths of the population. But a thing came along called the vaccine. The vaccine didn’t just evolve and come out of nowhere. It was discovered and invented by a guy named Edward Jenner, who was a devout Christian, who was trained at a Christian university.
We have modern medicine and modern hospitals that we are going to see trace back to a society that was pursuing the truth of God’s Word. So, I’m not here talking about America specifically, though this will overlap with America. But this predates the United States of America by many hundred years, okay?
The point is that there were these Christians who started institutions like Oxford University, which would give birth to Cambridge University, which would give birth to Harvard University. And these Christian universities all started by Christians and their graduates brought about things like Western democracy; modern education; social literacy, the fact that we can all read; the end of slavery, the abolition of slavery; the Scientific Revolution; and much, much more. These are the fruits, but they come from roots of people who sought God’s truth and God’s way of life.
I don’t know if you have ever been to a country in Africa or if you’ve been to India or China. If you’ve never experienced a culture that has never had major Christian influence, it’s hard to even describe how different it is.
But there are things we take for granted like paved roads and courthouses and laws and rights that are not common throughout world history. And really, what we live in is unusual.
And what I want to show you is that these things came about not from perfect people, but from people who pursued the Word of God as their truth standard.
And what we’re going to see today is that our generations have inherited orchards, massive orchards, vast land that is prosperous because of the people who came before us. But those roots were planted out of a pursuit of God’s Word, we’re going to see, many of those roots were.
So, let’s start with Oxford. You’ve heard of it before. It’s one of the oldest universities in the world. And Oxford is one of what I call these seed universities. What we call “college” or “university” today did not happen by accident. Every major leading university and college can be traced back just like a family tree to Oxford and a handful of these other seed universities. And here’s what’s unique about them: all of them started in churches. You can check it out for yourself, okay?
Oxford was a church school outside of a church cathedral. And the word “university” actually comes from the Latin word “to study all things”. Università. And so, these church schools that started to – they existed to train clergy to read the Bible and know the Bible, they started to say, “Let’s consider other things as well.” And at the cathedral school, they created a università.
This is why if you go to any major leading university in the world – Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Stanford – you’ll find a church in the middle of the campus because they grew out of churches. Believe it or not, that might sound impossible to you, but you can check it out for yourself.
Now, here’s the thing about Oxford if you look at the crest, there are three crowns, why? Well, because they were there to study God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. We call it the Trinity. What’s this book? It’s a Bible. Everyone at Oxford knew it was a Bible because they had to learn Latin and Greek and Hebrew to even be admitted into the università to study the Bible.
What’s written on the Bible? Well, it’s written in Latin. And what it says in Latin is, “The Lord is the light of me.” And in English, “The Lord is my light.” And every one of these students would have known from their studies that this was a Bible verse. The motto of Oxford is Psalm 27, verse 1, “The Lord is my light.”
Maybe you have heard the old cliché, “The light of learning.” The light of learning is this idea that truth is like a light that guides people out of darkness and it started a thousand years ago at Oxford. And other early seed universities, all of which, you can track them down yourself, grew out of Christian cathedrals.
Well, eventually, Oxford, some of its professors would go and start another Christianity università called “Cambridge”. And Cambridge, a number of its students were people like Isaac Newton. Isaac Newton who actually started out as a theology student, but his professors kept saying, “You’re really good at math.” And so, Isaac Newton was encouraged by his professors to study math. And he ended up becoming one of the founders or fathers of what we call the Scientific Revolution.
The Scientific Revolution was this unique time in history. By the way, if you don’t remember Isaac Newton, you had a picture of him in your high school or middle school textbook with an apple, right? He’s the gravity guy, okay?
But it’s a lot more than gravity. It’s called “Newtonian Physics.” And it unlocked the keys to the universe. People like Albert Einstein hundreds of years later would look back and say, “Through Newton’s principles, we’re able to do what we can do today with modern science.” Isaac Newton was one of Albert Einstein’s heroes who he looked up to.
But here’s the thing about Isaac Newton. He was not just a great scientist, he was a devout follower of Jesus. A fanatical follower of Jesus. And we have existing today thousands of pages of Isaac Newton’s writings and his journals.
Isaac Newton, as a student of Trinity College at Cambridge University, knew Syriac, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin as well as a bunch of other languages because that’s how you studied the Bible.
And Isaac Newton would actually go to the library at Cambridge and he’d pull out these ancient manuscripts of the Bible in all these different languages and it sounds crazy, it sounds like something a lunatic would do, but he would take measurements from the Old Testament about the dimensions of the temple and other things and he’d write those out in charts and he’d compare those to reality and somehow out of that genius of a mind, came Newtonian physics and the birth of the Scientific Revolution.
And you can go online today and you can read Isaac Newton’s journals. About half of them have been translated. He has so many of them, about half of them haven’t. But if you can go online yourself, search up Isaac Newton’s journals, and just type in the word “Jesus” and here’s what you’ll find. You’ll find quotes like this. Isaac Newton writing in his personal journal wrote this, “This is life eternal, that they might know the only one true God and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” Father of the Scientific Revolution wrote that in his journal. He was quoting John chapter 17.
Now, here’s the thing, I’m not cherry picking. It’s not like, “Well, there are a lot of seed universities and Oxford is just one of them that happened to be Christian. Look it up. They were all Christian. You can look up the founders of the Scientific Revolution and see for yourself that ninety-eight percent of them were Christians.
And more than half of them didn’t just go to church on the weekend, but they were like Isaac Newton where they are journaling about their love for Jesus. Blaise Pascal, another father of the Scientific Revolution, was such a devoted follower of Jesus, he wrote a poem to Jesus called Pascal’s Memoriam, and he actually carried it in his coat pocked everywhere he went. It was this passionate poem about his love for God and how Jesus had transformed him.
Robert Boyle, if you remember from chemistry a thing called Boyle’s Law, was such a devoted follower of Jesus that he wrote a book called The Christian Virtuoso, in which he argues that it’s a Christian worldview that enables the best pursuit of science.
Johannes Kepler who invented the modern telescope and eyeglasses – the list goes on and on of devoted followers of Jesus who were graduates of Christian universities who unlocked the Scientific Revolution.
You’re like, Why does that matter? I don’t care about history. Here’s why it matters: if you remove the Scientific Revolution from history, we don’t have electricity, we don’t have lightbulbs, we don’t have airplanes or cars. All those things built on the Scientific Revolution.
And just think about this: for thousands of years, people studied science in China, people studied science in Buddhist cultures and in Muslim cultures, but the Scientific Revolution didn’t come out of any of those. For some reason, it came out of these Christian themed cultures. Were the people perfect? No. But were they pursuing the Word of God? Very clearly if you read their writings, they were.
Well, the same is true of education. I mentioned Oxford and Cambridge. And it was a group of graduates from Cambridge who were pursuing the Word of God. And they looked around and as they could read the Word of God for themselves, they looked at their society and they said, “We want a more pure expression of Christianity,” and they were so motivated, they said, “A group of us, we are going to leave everything, we are going to travel on wooden ships across the Atlantic to a new world and we are going to start a new society.” They were called the Puritans. And some people came to North America to make money.
But the Puritans did not come for that reason. They came to create a society for their kids where their kids could read the Word of God and have complete religious freedom. They were called the Puritans. They were graduates from Cambridge, most of them. And when they arrived, they, the first thing they did was build their houses. Next thing they did was build a church. And the next thing they did was say, “We need to start a Bible college so that our kids will have pastors who can read the Bible,” and they raised money for that Bible college and one of the pastors who led the charge was a guy named the Reverend John Harvard.
And so, they named their Bible college after him and today it’s called Harvard University, the first university in the United States.
Here’s a plaque that you’ll see etched into the stone at Harvard University. By the way, a lot of my friends who graduated from Harvard don’t know this, so if it’s new to you, you’re not alone, okay? But it’s documented clearly. You can look it up for yourself, okay?
“After God had carried us safely to New England and we had built our houses and built our place of worship,” essentially, this is a little pamphlet that they gave around to raise money for their Bible college. And they said, “We realize we’re going to die eventually and our whole dream of coming over here and making a society where people can freely read God’s Word, it won’t happen if we don’t train the next generation of ministers,” is the word they used. “And so, let’s all pool our resources and start this Bible college,” which would become Harvard University.
Now, here’s the thing, you can look up Yale’s founding charter, and in the second line, you’ll see, “For the propagation of the Protestant Christian religion.” You can look up Princeton’s founding and you’ll see it was founded by a group of pastors. I’m not here to talk about Ivy League colleges, but here’s the thing: whether it’s IU, University of Michigan, Ohio State, Stanford University – the people who founded those colleges trace back to Harvard or Yale or Princeton, who trace back to Cambridge, who trace back to Oxford. That’s why I call it a “seed” university.
If you remove Christianity from world history, you don’t have higher education. If you don’t have higher education, you don’t have engineers, you don’t have doctors, you don’t have scientists, you don’t have attorneys. Our whole way of life we take for granted would go away.
And you can go to places in the world like South Africa and places in the Muslim world where Christianity is outlawed, and you can see what it looks like. It looks like the Dark Ages. It takes you back a thousand years if you remove Christianity.
Well, it wasn’t just the university, that same group of Puritans created social literacy. What does that mean? That’s the fact that you and I can read today. Did you know if we were born five hundred years ago, that you wouldn’t be able to know how to read and neither would I?