A July 4th Meditation:
“In God We Trust.” Really?
Which God? Trust How?

 

[Editor’s Note: This blog post unpacks the biblical implications of our national motto. It shows how fulfilling its truest meaning is the only hope our nation has at this hour full of intensifying strife among us and nervousness about global upheavals directed at us. As you catch David Bryant’s sense of purposefulness for us through Christ, it will ignite fireworks of faith in your heart, not only on this upcoming Independence Day but also far beyond.]

 

To help you prepare to celebrate our freedom as Americans, let me quote someone who currently has no freedom.

His name is Newton Francis. He has spent many years and has many to go as an inmate at one of America’s best-known maximum-security prisons. What he did to be remanded there was tragic. What’s happened to him since arriving, however, has been glorious!

Now fully devoted to Jesus Christ, Newton helps give leadership to one of the most phenomenal “Christ Awakening movements” anywhere in our nation—inside a penitentiary! (That’s a whole other story.) Among many accomplishments, this brother (whom I’ve known for years) just published his first book, The Prisoner’s Hope Personal Bible—and it’s all about Jesus.

This week he wrote me with fresh insights about our national motto, “In God We Trust.” I want to share some of them with you. Then I’d like to pass along additional reflections Newton stirred up in me about the motto.

This blog post is meant to enrich your 2018 celebrations of this Fourth of July—by focusing on how the Lord Jesus can bring us as a nation into the fullest implications of our motto in order for America to truly realize the destiny God wants for her.

 

 

 

 

What an Audacious Claim
for Any Nation to Make!

 

Listen to what Newton (his friends call him Carl) thinks about the claim we state on all our money:

What would move a nation with such bold authority as to inscribe on its currency, “In God We Trust”? No mystery—this is the working power of God himself inspiring a nation that He is the sole source of their revenue. You can’t find a dollar without finding God. This currency penetrates the nations where the Bible is refused and banned, with resounding testimony of a whole nation: “In God We Trust”! We have nothing for Caesar. All we have belongs to God. How humbling a way for a nation to honor its Creator.

He’s right, you know. Never in history has any other nation (other than ancient Israel) dared to assume such a claim about its entire population. How did this come about?

Although at different points in our history the phrase had been incorporated into hymns and patriotic songs, “In God We Trust” was voted into law as the official motto of the United States in 1956 because of the ominous threat of atheistic Communism during the Cold War at mid-20th century. It was a unanimous Joint Resolution of the 84th Congress, signed by President Dwight Eisenhower. It declared that as our national motto, the words must appear on all American currency, both paper and coin. Shortly after, these words were placed above the dais in the House chamber (between the clock and flag).

All of that is well and good—and positive.

Yet, the very wording forces me to ask two prior questions:

1. Out of all the deities on planet earth, including a colorful array worshipped in our own land, which god are we being called to trust in? Does knowing this make any difference concerning our strength and fate as a people?

2. Once we settle that question, what are we to trust this god for? In fact, what does “trust” really mean for a whole nation? Is it something we as Americans even know how to do?

My initial thoughts follow. I would enjoy hearing from you about how you might answer these same two questions.

 

 

 

 

 

WHO Do You Trust?

 

Beyond question, when it came to “God,” our Founding Fathers—including most of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence—held to a vague, remote, providential personality. He was veiled in mystery, responsible for the creation of the cosmos, designer of the human race, generally in charge of the outworking of nature and history, and willing at times to intervene in the affairs of peoples.

Thus, they concluded that among the “laws of nature” built into running his universe was the principle that all humans are equal by virtue of having the same Creator—equal in terms of three indisputable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Beyond that, it was anybody’s guess. John Adams saw God as a stern, New England, Old Testament-shaded Being. Thomas Jefferson saw him as merely a benevolent force, which is why he literally used scissors to cut out of the four Gospels everything (like all the miracles) that showed Jesus to be anything more than a wise and determined social reformer. In his first inaugural address, George Washington portrayed God as “Divine Providence” (leaving a lot to the imagination as to what that might include).

By the time we get to Abraham Lincoln, “God” had pretty much distilled into the personage envisioned by most Americans today—a generic though semi-personable, intelligent but enigmatic sovereign and lofty figurehead for a civil religion readily embraced by most Americans. He was a god to call on at times of national mourning, in the midst of violent war, during annual celebrations, in times of natural disasters.

In his 600-page watershed study, America’s God, Mark Noll, Notre Dame University’s distinguished professor of history, establishes that by the time of the Civil War, the concept of God in our nation, in both the North and South, had been tragically “brought down by the . . . synthesis of Christian theology and American ideology.”

Thus, our national religious overtures have been infected by a sub-biblical view of deity, leaving us with a watered-down concept of the Almighty.

Noll purports that America’s “God” had become merely the prime moral governor, lawgiver, judge, and dispenser of rewards and penalties (not unlike the Islam’s Allah in many ways). He concludes at one point: By the opening year of Lincoln’s presidency, the Christian view of God had essentially been “trivialized” and replaced.

In other words, America’s “God,” our jointly embraced Higher Power, is found to be far off the mark of the claims about God in the New Testament.

Jesus nails the difference for us in John 14:

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him . . . Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? (emphasis added).

Scores of other New Testament writings back up his claim, but there’s not enough space to present them here.

But the conclusion is inescapable:

No Jesus. No God.
Know Jesus. Know God.

It’s that simple. And that profound.

On this 4th of July, we need to come to grips with how pervasive in our land is the concept of a distant, tolerant, shiftshaping, grandfatherly, “generic God” who sits at the head of our national civil religion.

Unwittingly for most, but practically speaking, day to day this is the “God” whom we claim to trust as a people. This is the “God” who adorns our currency.

This brings me to my fundamental premise in this blog post:

If America is to survive and thrive, it will be by divine intervention and reclamation, by the transforming power and grace coming from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—the one true God before whom there is no other.

Therefore, for decades now I have called for the only hope we have as a nation:

We must as a people experience a profound, pervasive, Spirit-driven, nationwide awakening to the supremacy and majesty, to the greatness and glory, to the all-sufficient redeeming reign of God’s sovereign, saving Son—Lord of the nations and ruler of the kings of the earth (Revelation 1)—Jesus.

This is the One of whom the Bible says in Colossians 1:15-20 (making him the only hope for America):

We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.

He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe . . . get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross (The Message, emphasis added).

 

 

 

Who Do You TRUST?

The dictionary defines TRUST as: “A firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.”

Have you ever experienced anything like the picture above—where you’ve been on a hike in rugged territory and found yourself in a fix with only one option: to reach out, take another’s offer to pull you to safety and trust that person to do what they claim they are able and willing to do? How did it make you feel knowing someone was there for you, in whom you could put total confidence in a moment of helplessness?

On the other hand, have you endured a relationship where you concluded, as in the title of this popular Prince ballad: “Eye Love U But Eye Don’t Trust U Anymore.” Trust can easily be dashed to pieces if it is placed in the wrong person for the wrong reason in the wrong way.

As noted above, when we say, “In God We Trust,” first we need to decide which “God” we’re trusting: What’s his nature? What is he up to? What are his promises? Where is his power? How do we find him and how do we make contact with him? Important questions.

Rather, trust is having “a firm belief” in the totality of who that “God” is and what he offers and then putting ourselves into his hands.

Taking a step further: Trust, as used in our motto, requires a commitment to that “God,” a surrender to what that greater Person is ready to do, a willful abandonment to him—in the way patients submit to a surgeon and his skills as they go under the anesthesia.

Once again, there’s only one totally reliable option to “trust” for true wholeness—for restoration as an individual or as a nation. The Bible brings us back exclusively to the Lord Jesus Christ, who said at the opening verse of that same section of John 14: “Trust in God. Trust also in me.

Fundamentally, Jesus meant one thing. He was saying to all believers—to all Americans who claim to have faith in God—something like this:

You started out trusting God without fully knowing all he is. Now, however, I have been among you and you have been introduced to the fullness of the living God as you’ve grown closer to me, because the Father and I are one—one in essence, in nature, in purpose, in power. So then, take up the trust in God you’ve experienced until now; take it and transfer it and expand it and anchor it in me as God’s Son and your Savior, Lord of all, Hope of the nations, Healer of broken hearts, Fountain of all wisdom, Renovator of the entire universe.

This brings me once again to my fundamental premise in this blog post:

If America is to survive and thrive, it will be by divine intervention and reclamation, by the transforming power and grace coming from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—the one true God before whom there is no other.

Therefore, for decades now I have called for the only hope we have as a nation:

We must as a people experience a profound, pervasive, Spirit-driven, nationwide awakening to the supremacy and majesty, to the greatness and glory, to the all-sufficient redeeming reign of God’s sovereign, saving Son—Lord of the nations and ruler of the kings of the earth (Revelation 1)—Jesus.

Our nation must become saturated with the reality of the REAL and TRUE God, who is none other than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our nation must become saturated with a life of DEPENDENCE and RELIANCE and wholesale COMMITMENT to God’s Son as the One who brings us to the Father, shows us the Father, unleashes upon us the promises of the Father, and carries us forward in the purposes of the Father.

That is just as true for a nation of 360 million other Americans as it is for each one of us who can say, “this land is my land.”

 

 

 

Turn This “Independence Day” Into
the Beginning of “DEPENDENCE Day” for You!

Take five minutes—or more!—on July 4th to pray for nothing less in this hour than a nationwide Christ Awakening movement that will awaken and revolutionize our churches first of all and then spread across our whole land, beginning with a fresh encounter with the wonders of God’s Son in your own life.

Then take time to ponder the words from the radical Christ proclaimer, Martin Luther, in his introduction to his commentary on the Book of Romans:

TRUST in Christ is a living, creative, active and powerful thing. . . . It is a bold TRUST in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor in Christ that it would risk death a thousand times TRUSTING in Christ. Such confidence and knowledge make you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, while you love and praise the God who has shown you such grace through his Son (emphasis added).

What if this approach became the way of life
for every American who claims that
“In God We Trust”?

Again, I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on this topic.

 

 

About the Author

Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and to Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com

 

 

 

2 Comments
  1. Don Peter 3 weeks ago

    Hi David. Thank you so much and for sharing Newton’s message. There can be more freedom in prison than outside sometimes!
    I wanted to share that I was at Westminster Chapel in Bellevue taking part in a Franklin Graham Decision America Pacific Northwest prayer meeting led by Steve Rhodes from the BGEA in Charlotte. It was wonderful and very encouraging. Unfortunately our dear brother Steve Hall as not able to be there.
    The worship was led by a gentleman from the Brooklyn Tabernacle, Eddie Washington. I was very moved by his leadership in worship. He was fantastic. I wanted to share my appreciation so I talked with him after the event. In our dialogue I asked him is he knew, or knew about, David Bryant. He thought he had, but when I mentioned Concerts of Prayer then he did. Apparently his church to some degree has been a part of these kinds of events.

    • Author
      David Bryant 2 weeks ago

      Don, so nice to hear from you. Glad to see you continue to faithfully serve our Lord Jesus. As to a couple points you made here: (1) Over 20 years ago we founded “Concerts of Prayer Greater New York” (COPGNY) as a local expression of Concerts of Prayer International. Since then COPGNY has been the single greatest force (by the testimony of many leaders here) for bringing hundreds of pastors and churches together for historic impact on NYC. For example, I led a COP at Times Square Church with the Billy Graham and his entire team on the stage as part of the event before his Central Park Outreach. I could go on. So it is strange to hear that someone who serves in NYC would not be aware of all that’s been going on. We just completed “Jesus Week” led by COPGNY that brought together hundreds of churches as we reached out to hundreds of thousands of residences in NYC boroughs in all kinds of ways for 7 days, climaxing with a celebration rally outside at Herald Square in Midtown! (2) But then, Brooklyn Tab is one of the handful of churches in NYC who have decided to stand apart of most of what the Body of Christ has been doing and simply remain in their own world and with their own focus. Unfortunate but true, too often. So that probably explains some of the confusion by your friend. In any case, whatever the motivation as long as Christ is being proclaimed for who he is and ALL he is, then I can only rejoice (Philippians 1). Press on with HIM, Don, as you are doing. And join hands with other leaders, as you’re doing. Every blessing to you in Christ Jesus. David

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