Part 30


July 3, 2020


For the past twenty-nine weeks, we have dealt with this nation’s earliest founders, the covenant they made with each other, and the covenant they made with the Lord to establish a nation under God, a nation that would spread the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ around the world.  We have talked about the fact that every one of the 13 colonies established the fact that their existence was due to the favor of God. The fact is that everyone of the 50 states that now exist pretty much followed the example of those first 13 colonies who began the formation of this nation.

Today and for next two weeks, I want to deal with Thomas Jefferson, his letter to the Danbury Baptist church, his faith, and the subsequent abominations to his letter by the FDR Supreme Court.

Socialism is the religion of those who trust in the government of man; it is the religion of those who want to make man's government to be God; it is the religion of of those who truly hate God, who hate Jesus Christ (they won't admit to that, and in fact will argue just the opposite) and oppose with every corpuscle of their being a supreme, final, "buck-stops-here" authority that is higher than theirs. 

Over the years I've had more discussions than I can count with people who want to argue their religion with me.  I'm not interested in arguing religion.  Any religion!  There isn't a religion known to, or formed by, man that's worth a grain of salt!

All of my conservative friends and associates, please bear with me.  I'm warning you that my next statement is likely to raise the hackles on the back of your neck so just stand back for a minute and let me explain.

Thomas Jefferson was right when he wrote the Danbury Baptist Church that, "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."  What Jefferson was referring to, of course, was not imposing a state-sponsored religion.

Before you blow your lids, let me explain.  The pastor of the DanburyBaptistChurch was trying to get the doctrinal position of his church incorporated into American law and the Constitution, which was at the time still being debated and amended.  Jefferson had a high regard for personal worship and a low tolerance for the imposition of religion by heads of state -- even if that religion named the name of Jesus Christ.

Doctrinal positions come and go.  Doctrinal positions are the atrophied thoughts of men and women etched in stone without regard to the reality of relationship.  Churches and denominations and organizations think through a position, and then set that position down on paper as a marker of where they stand on an issue -- based on where they are or are not in their relationship with God and with the Lord Jesus Christ.  That begins the definition of religion.

Jefferson wasn't afraid of having leaders express themselves with regard to their own personal faith, but he recognized that people grow and change, and that their relationship with God throughout the years tends to alter previous hard-line stances on matters of belief.  Having a position etched in the Constitution reflecting where an organization or group of people stood at any moment in time regarding their relationship with the Lord ran the risk of turning faith into religion, and then imposing that snapshot of their convictions on the nation as a whole.

Let me digress for a minute.  We all know how the FDR Supreme Court in 1947 and 1948 ruled in McCollum v. Board of Education that, "in the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between church and state.'"  Since McCollumforbade religious instruction in public schools, it appeared that the court had used Jefferson's "wall" metaphor as a sword to sever religion from public life, a result that was and still is intolerable to many Americans.

What few people seem to be aware of is that the final text of Jefferson's letter to the DanburyBaptistChurch had some 30 percent -- or twenty-five lines -- of the original text deleted by the President prior to its sending and subsequent publication.  Within those deletions we find Jefferson's true intent -- and Brother, did the FDR Supreme Court ever misconstrue it.

Several years ago, when Louis Freeh was still FBI Director, he was approached by the then-director of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress with a request for the FBI to use its state-of-the-art technology to restore Jefferson's obliterated words on the original manuscript of his letter.  Freeh agreed, and the FBI was successful in restoring Jefferson's scratched out words, making them once again legible for everyone to read.

What Jefferson originally wrote was, "confining myself therefore to the duties of my station, which are merely temporal, be assured that your religious rights shall never be infringed by any act of mine and that."These lines he crossed out and then wrote: "concurring with"; having crossed out these two words, he wrote: "Adhering to this great act of national legislation in behalf of the rights of conscience";next he crossed out these words and wrote: "Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience I shall see with friendly dispositions the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced that he has no natural rights in opposition to his social duties."

Thomas Jefferson was no God-hater.  He was, however, the target of religious zealots and extremists who sought to label him an "atheist" because he refrained from using his pulpit as President to make religious declarations.  I won't take the time today to put his letter to the Danbury Baptists in its entire historical context, but suffice it to say that he took the opportunity to use that letter to answer his accusers.

To quote from the Library of Congress essay on Jefferson's letter, "One of the most obnoxious features of the Federalists' American monarchy, as the Republicans depicted their putative project, was a church established by law, and Jefferson doubtless expected those who read his message to understand that, by supporting "British" fasts and thanksgivings, the Federalists were scheming, as always, to open a door to the introduction of an ecclesiastical tyranny.

In indicting the Federalists for their "Tory" taste for thanksgivings and fasts, Jefferson was playing rough. Thanksgivings and fasts had regularly been celebrated in parts of the country since the first settlements: to sully them with Anglophobic mudslinging, generated by the partisan warfare of his own time, as Jefferson did, was a low blow. But who was being more unfair: Jefferson or his Federalist inquisitors, who continued to calumniate him as an atheist?

The unedited draft of the Danbury Baptist letter makes it clear why Jefferson drafted it: He wanted his political partisans to know that he opposed proclaiming fasts and thanksgivings, not because he was irreligious, but because he refused to continue a British practice that was an offense to republicanism. To emphasize his resolve in this matter, Jefferson inserted two phrases with a clenched-teeth, defiant ring: "wall of eternal separation between church and state" and "the duties of my station, which are merely temporal." These last words -- "merely temporal" -- revealed Jefferson's preoccupation with British practice. Temporal, a strong word meaning secular, was a British appellation for the lay members of the House of Lords, the Lords Temporal, as opposed to the ecclesiastical members, the Lords Spiritual. "Eternal separation" and "merely temporal" -- here was language as plain as Jefferson could make it to assure the Republican faithful that their "religious rights shall never be infringed by any act of mine."

I've somewhat gone astray from my original purpose for today's discussion.

Incorporating religion into government decree or mandate secularizes and waters down the entire purpose for faith and relationship with God.  Government does not exist for the purpose of furthering religion.  Government exists for the exclusive purpose of providing "a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." (I Timothy 2:2-4)

Government exists exclusively as God's plan to bring about an orderly society in which the Gospel of Jesus Christ has free intercourse.  It has always existed for that reason.

I believe that Jefferson, despite his obvious rancor against his accusers and attempt to use the Danbury letter as an answer, saw how polluted the Gospel became under the English church-state, and under the rule of despots throughout history who attempted to misuse and abuse the Gospel for personal gain and power.  He determined that worship should be the free exercise of people in a relationship with God -- not a state or government-sponsored religion.

His subsequent acts as President demonstrated that.

Let me repeat something I've probably said dozens, if not hundreds, of times.

Religion is nothing more and nothing less than man deciding the terms of his relationship with God (or some false god) in order to avoid responding to the Lord Jesus Christ on His terms within the framework of a love-relationship.  It matters not whether the religion calls itself "Christian" or not.  Every single church denomination, whether it be Evangelical, Pentecostal, or HighChurch, sets boundaries for its adherents through doctrines that prescribe what people can or should believe, and how they can or should worship God.  Those boundaries do not take a love-relationship into account.  They don't, in fact, even take into account a personal, one-on-one interacting, intertwining relationship with a very-much-alive Jesus Christ.  They have become "Christian" religions: religions that name the name of Jesus Christ, but stop short in some area of responding to the Lord as He directs.

Every single religion is such because it negates personal responsibility and personal responsiveness to the Lord Jesus Christ.  The world today is filled with religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Shintoism, Hinduism, Animism and fistfuls of others far too numerous to name.  Some of these religions promote the worship of false gods.  Others supposedly honor God Almighty, but propose ways to please God that are neither based in reality nor relationship.

A genuine one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ changes everything.  Christianity, when it departs from the religious concept, goes from being a religion to being a personal relationship with a living Lord and Saviour.  Once that takes place, everything changes perspective.

I was four years old when I began to have personal experiences of seeing and being visited by angels.  When I was seven years old, I saw Jesus for the first time.  The Bible went from being theoretical to being real.

I realized the truth of the statement made by the apostle Paul, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."  (See 2 Timothy 3:16)

Scripture may have indeed been penned by men, but they wrote under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is not some mystical, ethereal being: He is a real personage, a part of the triune Godhead.  He speaks directly to those who will listen.  He leads -- again, directly -- those who will follow.  He teaches and prepares those who will submit to become like the Lord Jesus Christ so that individuals may enter into a real one-on-one place of fellowship with Him.

Scripture isn't theoretical.  It isn't mystical.  It isn't some kind of philosophy.  It is a practical record of the plans and purposes of the Lord Jesus Christ for a people who are willing to enter into a personal, living, day-by-day relationship with Him.  It serves as a guide to bring us to that relationship.

The Bible doesn't work for people who try to use it for philosophical purposes, or for people who try to equate it with the Quran, or the writings of Confucius, or any other philosopher who lived throughout history.  It is set apart from every other single written work by virtue of the fact that it is the authoritative word of God, spoken to and through men who lived a personal relationship with Him.

What also sets it apart is that there is nothing written in Scripture that cannot be tested and proven.  Jesus made some bold and stupendous statements which are either true or they are not.  If they are true, they can be proven.  If they are false, then everything He ever did or said was a hoax.

Jesus said, "I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No man cometh to the Father but by me."  (see John 14:6)

That sets Him apart from every other leader that ever lived.  Mohammed never claimed that he was the only way to God.  Buddha never claimed to be anything but a prophet.  Confucius never claimed to be anything but a philosopher.   No one else in history has ever said, "I AM THE WAY."  No one else in history has ever said, "NO MAN COMETH TO THE FATHER BUT BY ME."

Those statements are either true or they are false.  They either stand on their own merit as truth, or they fail because Jesus was a fraud.  Jesus was not "a good man."  He was not just "a prophet."  He was not, as Mohammed suggested, "another messenger sent from God."  Jesus Christ either was the Son of God, or He was a raving lunatic.  There are no two ways about it.

If indeed He was and is the Son of God, if indeed He did provide the only way of redemption so that man could enter into a genuine relationship with God the Father, then that relationship is not religious, and it is not a religion: it is reality.  That, in summary, is what separates true Christianity from religion: it is a relationship with the Lord God -- not a religion in which you hope to please God.

Those who argue religion fall on their own merit.  Their arguments make clear the fact that the Bible -- to them -- is simply a book of religious statements or arguments.  The argument they often propose that it wasn't written by God is simple proof in itself that they do not know the Lord personally.

When I speak of a relationship with the Lord, I am talking about entering into and enjoying every thing Jesus promised to "those who believe."  That said, now being past my 78th birthday, I have experienced over the past sixty-plus years virtually every single promise that Jesus ever made to His believers.  I have been healed of numerous diseases.  I was raised from the dead at age 41 after dropping dead of a heart attack.  I have seen broken bones healed instantly.  I have seen the deaf made to hear, the blind made to see, the crippled made to walk.  I have seen cancers disappear, tuberculosis vanish, Parkinson's Disease wiped into nothingness.  I have seen countless thousands of people's lives changed beyond description because they entered into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and allowed Him to become the Lord of their lives.

This is not a religion: it is a relationship.  And, my friends, it is a relationship open to you if you are willing.

In case you are missing out on real fellowship in an environment of Ekklesia, our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:30AM Pacific.  That conference number is (712) 770-4160, and the access code is 308640#.  We are now making these gatherings available on video usingZOOM.  If you wish to participate by video on ZOOM, our login ID is 835-926-513.  If you miss the live voice-onlycall, you can dial (712) 770-4169, enter the same access code and listen in later.  The video call, of course, is not recorded – not yet, anyway.

Blessings on you!




Regner A. Capener

Temple, Texas 76502

Email Contact: CapenerMinistries@protonmail.com


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