The Founders knew that democracy requires morality, a basic insistence on character and integrity by the culture. Returning to such a conviction is essential to our survival and future as a nation.
How to build character
Believe in absolute truth and objective morality. To claim there is no absolute truth is to make an absolute truth claim. We accept relativism when it is convenient. By this standard, the Holocaust was just “Hitler’s truth.”
Either the Bible is God’s word or it is not. Either Jesus is God’s Son or he is not. What is his standard for us?
How do we relate to others?
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca,” is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:21-24).
What about sexual sin? “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).
What about those who do evil to you?
“You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42).
What about enemies?
“You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
But we cannot keep God’s word without the help of God’s Spirit. And so we come to the focal text of our study: “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). The text could be translated literally, “Keep on being controlled by the Spirit.” How does this work?
Remove all that hinders the Spirit. Ask the Spirit to bring to your mind anything which prevents his control and power, confess what comes to your thoughts, and claim the forgiving grace of God.
Ask the Holy Spirit to control and empower you, and believe that he has. Nowhere does the Bible tell us how it feels to be “filled with the Spirit.” Stay connected with him through the day in worship, prayer, and communion.
Ask his help for those areas which tempt you. You cannot defeat them in your strength, or the enemy would not waste his time tempting you in these ways. Give them to the Spirit every time they attack you. See them as viruses sent to your computer—as soon as you recognize one, call the IT specialist who will come and remove it. View them as bombs left by terrorists—as soon as you realize that one is nearby, call the bomb specialists to defuse it. Don’t try to deal with it yourself—ask for the help of God’s Spirit living in you (1 Corinthians 3:16).
It is critical that America experience a moral rebirth, for the sake of our future as a democracy. Such a rebirth begins with us—with you and me. Where are you tempted morally today?
In 1831, the French scholar Alexis de Tocqueville came to America to study our nation. Here is his report: “I searched for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there. I searched for the greatness and genius of America in her fertile fields and boundless forest, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her public system and her institutions of learning, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
Does democracy require morality of you?