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Focus on the Family Broadcast

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Why Liberty Requires Responsibility

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Why Liberty Requires Responsibility

Pastor Andy Stanley explains why Americans must exercise moral values in order for the Constitution to work properly, and why dependence on the implementation of more laws won't fix our nation's problems.

Original Air Date: July 4, 2016

Today's Guests

Episode Summary

Pastor Andy Stanley explains why Americans must exercise moral values in order for the Constitution to work properly, and why dependence on the implementation of more laws won't fix our nation's problems.

Original Air Date: July 4, 2016

Episode Transcript


John Fuller: On today’s “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly, we have pastor Andy Stanley, providing insight about the intent of the authors of our Bill of Rights.


Pastor Andy Stanley: We are all accountable to God for how we exercise our individual rights. They believed that we as individuals and as a nation were accountable to God for how we exercised our individual rights.

End of Teaser

Jim Daly: As we commemorate the 4th of July today, we’re gonna take a fascinating look at our how individual rights need to be coupled with a high degree of personal responsibility in order for our system of government to work properly. Andy Stanley has a lot to say, so we’re gonna dive into his message after he had listed many of the items in the Bill of Rights, such as the freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble, the freedom to bear arms, the right of due process and a jury of your peers and also, freedom from illegal search and search and cruel and unusual punishment. He’s already covered that.

John: Well, and we’re gonna begin the audio as he explains the critical 9th amendment and here now is Andy Stanley of North Point Ministries on today’s “Focus on the Family.”


Andy Stanley: Now the guys, the group that wrote the Bill of Rights and wrote our Constitution, they were so smart. They knew that as times change, the Bill of Rights and the specifics of the Bill of Rights would need to be adjusted. So, they came up with the Ninth Amendment.

They that eventually future generations may look at the Bill of Rights and say, “Oh, these are the only things that U.S. citizens have individual freedom regarding. So, they came up with the Ninth Amendment to say, hey, there may be other things in United States of America. There are other individual rights that go beyond what’s listed.

And so, here’s what the Ninth Amendment says. It says, the enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights–the ones we just talked about—shall not be construed to deny or disparage other—talkin’ about other rights—retained by the people. So, that’s just a lot of gobbledygook language to say, “Hey, we’re not listing all the individual rights in these amendments. We’re just listing some specific ones, but there are other ones that go beyond the ones that are listed. Isn’t this fascinating?

So, anyway, if we were to rewrite the Ninth Amendment in our 21st Century vernacular, it would’ve, you know, write it the way that we express it as we think about our individual rights, here’s what it might look like. We would write it this way.

That we have the right to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want, as long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s amendedninth amendment rights, because that’s how we think as Americans. I’m an American. I can do what I want. I have a right. I have a right. I have a right. And next time somebody, you know, says, “Hey, you don’t have a right,” you just declare the Ninth Amendment. They’ll go, “What’s the Ninth Amendment?” The Ninth Amendment gives me all the rights that the other amendments didn’t mention specifically.

Now, here the problem. Every parent knows this. Every parent knows this. If you give someone rights, but you don’t couple those rights with responsibility, things go horribly wrong. Did anyone ever have the car keys taken away from you when you were a teenager livin’ at home? Anybody?Like, why are you so shy? It’s like being proud, so I’m taken away. Yeah. (Laughter) And so what happened? You’re old enough to drive. The government gave you a license. Dad said or mom said, “Okay, here’s the keys to the car.

And then you came in late or you came in with, you know, a tire not exactly right or it wasn’t even the right tire. Where’d you even get that tire?” You know, whatever your deal, something was dented or bumped or you didn’t do somethin’ else at home. And what did they do? They said, “You’ve had the right to drive the car, but we’re removing the right because if you’re irresponsible, we remove the right.”

Because every parent knows with rights come responsibilities. In other words, individual rights must be coupled with individual responsibility or things go bad.

In a nation where there are rights without responsibility, it results in anarchy, that liberty without responsibility actually undermines liberty, that liberty, as we’re gonna see, can gobble up liberty. That if everybody demands their individual rights with no consideration for other people and without taking responsibility for the outcome of their liberty, ultimately everybody loses their liberty.

Which brings us to a really important question and I’m sure you’re way ahead of me. So, why is there no Bill of Responsibility? Why are there Bill of Rights in the Constitution, but there’s no Bill of Responsibility? And here’s why. Because the authors of the Bill of Rights assumed—this is so important—they assumed moral guardrails that would provide an, sort of an impetus for personal responsibility.

They assumed there were these moral ethical guardrails that everybody understood and that everybody would stay between the guardrails, so they didn’t really need to expound on “be responsible,” because they just assumed a level of responsibility among the people of America and this made perfect sense, because there was a bit of a foxhole mentality. They had just come through the Revolutionary War. :”We’re no longer English”, you know. We are Americans. There was a value system that was throughout the colonies.

They weren’t all Christians, but they all pretty much believed in God in this. They defined God as God of the Old or the New Testaments, so there was synergy around a moral code, an understanding of what it meant to take care of your neighbor. And in those days, you had to take care of your neighbor, because if you didn’t take care of your neighbor, your neighbor wasn’t gonna take care of you.

This is throughout the literature of that Colonial period and that, you know, the period of the war and following it, during the time of the writing of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The most famous example of this, the one that we all studied in school is actually in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

And here it is again. You know, you heard it or read it 1,000 times, but listen to the significance of these words and look for the way they tied the divine to the personal. Here’s what they wrote. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” It’s like, right; I mean, everybody knows that or do we have to write this, that all men are created [equal]? I mean, now, how else would we get here? Everybody’s created. We got that.

“That they are endowed by their Creator,” here we go, “with certain unalienable rights.” So, where does your individual right come from? They would say, “Well, your individual rights came from God, that we don’t have rights because the government gives us rights. We have rights because God gave us rights. These rights actually came from God.

“That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” There was an assumed connection between God and rights, that God, not government, was the One that bestowed upon American citizens these individual rights, which meant that we are all, that we are all accountable to God—don’t miss this—we are all accountable to God for how we exercise our individual rights . They believed that we as individuals and as a nation were accountable to God for how we exercised our individual rights.

Now John Adams and I picked John Adams because John Adams was against slavery and John Adams apparently never owned a slave. John Adams was the second President of the United States, vice president for George Washington a couple of terms, wrote so much stuff. Here’s what John Adams wrote. Think about the significance of these words.

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.” Our Constitution was written, made, created only for people who are moral; that is, they believe there is a moral sense of right and wrong that stood outside of their personal understanding of right and wrong, a moral and religious people. In other words, this Constitution was written with the assumption of morals and religion.

Listen to the second half. “It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” In other words, if there is no sense of morality that stands outside a human being and if there’s no sense of divine accountability, this experiment in freedom will fail. If we simply give people individual rights, but there’s no sense of individual accountability to God, this experiment in freedom will fail.

Liberty will devour liberty. Eventually my rights will compete with your rights. And when my rights compete with your rights, who’s to say who’s right? When rights collide, the courts are gonna decide. It means that suddenly, our government must create law, after law, after law, after law, after law, after law, to address every single possible eventuality.

Do you know why we have so many laws? Because the laws have to cover every single eventuality, because American citizens are constantly looking for loopholes. “Aha! That one’s not covered. I’m free.” “Aha! You didn’t say it exactly right. You gotta let me go.” “Aha!” “Aha!” “Aha!” And any culture where everybody’s looking for a loophole, because their only accountability is to government and to written law, ultimately the courts have to decide.

Now here’s the problem with law. The law represents for the most part, the law represents the minimum requirement. The law answers the question, how low can I go? (Laughter) Okay, how fast can I drive without gettin’ pulled over? In other words, where is the line, where is the limit?

And what happens is, when there’s only law and there’s no sense of accountability, divine accountability, personally or nationally or corporately, we go as low as we can possible go, because after all, we want to know exactly where the line is. How far can I go without being arrested? How far can I go without being imprisoned?

The law doesn’t inspire greatness. The law can’t inspire excellence and the law can’t inspire or create virtue. It can only answer the question, how low can you go? Traffic laws are important, but traffic laws do not create courteous drivers. Tax laws cannot make you generous or financially responsible. Civil laws don’t make you civil. Neighborhood association standards don’t make you a good neighbor, right? The laws are powerless. Laws are powerless to inspire.

As a result, here’s where we are. We have individual rights regulated by law. Individual rights, free to do whatever you want, say what you want, you know, sleep with who you want, run around with who you want, do what you want. You know, protest a soldier’s funeral, heckle the President’s speech. I mean, we’ve got all kinds of, you know, incredible laws.

But this is what I don’t want you to miss. This is a recipe. This is a recipe for you and for me to be as selfish as we can legally be. And in this system, rights become nothing more, rights become nothing more than an exercise of power. And at the end of the day, the culture we are finding ourselves is simply this. The rich will always rule the poor. Women will continue to become more and more of a commodity. Children will always be the victims. If it’s legal, it’s moral. If it’s legal, it’s moral. If it’s legal, it’s moral.

Law informs conscience. Well, how do I know how bad I’m supposed to feel about somethin’? Well, what does the law say? And everybody looks for a loophole. Pretty sad, isn’t it?

And here’s the zinger and maybe you would be surprised to hear me say this. Maybe you disagree and I hope I’m wrong, but I am convinced, like many of you are, that our legal system is permanently, our legal system is permanently decoupled from a sense of divine and moral absolutes as a nation.

But there is hope and the hope is you. The hope is about 60 to 70 percent of the citizens of the United States of America consider themselves to be some kind of Christian. And our conduct, our conduct as Christians has more potential to bring about more change than any candidate we elect or any law that we have passed, because all the law’s gonna do is define more clearly how low we can go and all our candidates and all of our government leaders, all they can do is enforce the law.

The behavior of Christians in this nation has more potential to take us back to a place where we’re not simply relegated by law with no sense of divine accountability. The only hope for our nation, it’s not who we elect, although you need to vote. It’s not the laws that are passed, although you need to pay attention.

Ultimately, it is the behavior of the people and there are enough Christians in this land to take us back to a happier place, in spite of who gets elected and in spite of which party that you’re a part of and let me prove to you why I know that to be the case.

Program Note:

John: Well, that’s Pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Ministries on this 4th of July edition of “Focus on the Family.” And you’ll hear in a few moments how you and I can make our country a better place to live starting today.

Now we’re offering a free audio download of this inspirational message so you can listen again and pass it along. You’ll find that at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. Let’s return now to Pastor Andy Stanley on today’s “Focus on the Family.”

End of Program Note

Andy: Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul,who wrote letters that became part of the New Testament, these valuable, valuable letters. We call ’em books of the Bible, but they’re not really books. They’re ancient letters.

And in one of these letters, he’s writing to Gentiles and there was some confusion about their relationship to the Old Testament. And they were being taught by some people, “Hey, you gotta do the entire Old Testament. You gotta keep the entire Old Testament law, you know, the dietary laws, and what you wear, you know, where you go, Sabbath, all this stuff.

So, he’s writing them a letter explaining to them, no, no, no, no, no, no. Now that you are Christians and you’re Jesus followers, you are not under the Old Testament law; you’re under a different law. You’re to approach life in a different way. And so, in making his case, he gives us direction as Christians as to how we should respond—don’t miss this—how we should respond to our personal freedom. When all of a sudden we realize, I’m free; I’m free; I’m free.

Do you remember, guys, the first time you got in your mama’s car and nobody was with you and you had just gotten your driver’s license? Does anybody else remember this? And you looked at the speedometer and the speedometer went up to 120. (Laughter) You’re thinkin’, “I wonder.” You know, so there I am in my mom’s four-door beige Catalina with a 454, four barrel, barreling down 285, really watchin’ the speedometer more, ’cause baby, I’m free. Nobody in the car with me. I can do whatever I want.

Well, that’s what we all do with freedom. As soon as we’re free, our natural inclination is to use those freedoms for personal advancement or personal benefit. And the Apostle Paul comes along and say, “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.” You’re Christians. You have been given a stewardship of freedom and as Christians, it is so important how you respond to your freedom.

And in this little piece of this letter, he says, “You, my brother and sisters,” talkin’ to the Christians in Galatia, “you my brothers and sisters were called to be free.” And then here’s the command. “But do not use your freedom,” your stewardship of freedom, “to indulge the flesh.” Because He knows me and He knows you. Two thousand years later, He knows what you’re up to. He knows that when everybody’s away and you can watch anything you want to on television, you go as low as you can possibly go. When nobody’s lookin’ you do the kinds of things that you only do when nobody’s looking.

But you’re Jesus followers. You’re Christians. Do not leverage your freedom for your personal benefit to the neglect of what God has called you to do.” Don’t ask the question, what can I get by with? Don’t ask the question, how low can I go?

Instead, he says, “Instead, instead, do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh. Rather serve one another humbly in love.” And here’s the thought. No one can make you do that. There is no law that can force you to serve another person. The law will not inspire you to serve another person. The law will simply draw a line on how selfish you can be. And Paul says, “Look, God has called us to leverage our freedom and to use our freedom to do something for other people.” You have a right not to, but you have the opportunity to.

And then, he takes us to one of the most common and well-known phrases in all of the Bible. He says, “For the entire law, the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command, love your neighbor as yourself.” Love your neighbor as yourself.

Just, when you get up in the morning and you think about how free you are and can say whatever I want, do whatever I want, assemble wherever I want, use my money any way I want. I am free. I’m gonna leverage my freedom to love my neighbor as myself. I’m gonna do unto others all day long, as I would have others do unto me.

I’m gonna treat my wife the way that one day I hope my daughter’s husband treats her. I’m gonna treat the people I work with the way I wish I had been treated when I worked at that other company. I am gonna look at everybody in my life through the lens of, “how would I want to be treated?” and I’m just gonna do that.

Imagine one single day in America where everybody did that. Do you know what? This is why Paul is so brilliant. If everybody did that, there would almost be no need for any of our laws, because when a nation looks up and asks the question, “How good can I be?” all the detail, all the fine print becomes irrelevant. Because when I leverage and you leverage your freedom for the sake of the other people around you, the world becomes instantly a better place.

The policemen, all they had to do all day long is direct traffic and it’d be so frustrating. It’s like, Come on, come on, come on.” “No, I’m waitin’ for them.” “Come on.” “No, I want them to go first. You first; you first; you first.” “No, you first.” (Laughter) The policeman’s like, “Come on.” It’s like “Sure, look, there’s a mile of traffic.” “I know, but I just don’t want to be first.” (Laughter)

“Well, now here’s an apple, sir. I got an apple for you. I thought about you this morning, ’cause I knew you were gonna be about here directin’ traffic, ’cause everybody’s lettin’ everybody else go first, you know.” [You] may say, “Andy, that’s silly.” No, listen. That is basic Christianity.

The Apostle Paul, look up here, 2,000 years ago, 2,000 years ago he looks into the future and he says, “Hey, 21st Century American church, if you don’t get this right, let me tell you what’s going to happen. “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” If you bite and devour each other, “That’s mine.” “Well, that’s mine.” “Well, I was here first.” “Well, that’s my right.” “Well, you know the law says. I’m getting’ an attorney.” “Well, I’m gonna get an attorney. I’m getting’ two attorneys.” You know, you know, sue early and sue often; sue early and sue often. You know, that’s kind of our whole thing, right?

Americans are America’s biggest problem, not people from the outside, because we undermine our own liberty when we leverage our liberty for us alone. As long as it’s my individual Bill of Rights and my rights crush your rights, at the end of the day, at end of the day, we undermine this experiment in freedom and this experiment in liberty.

And here’s the thing. We have more rights than any other nation on the planet and we have more rights than any other nation that’s ever been on the planet. And apart from a moral compass, those rights will become our undoing. We will devour ourselves in our quest to be free as individuals.

But the church and only the church can turn that around, not by becoming a unified voting bloc, [but] by becoming a unified obedient block, where we wake up every single day and decide, “I am going to leverage my freedom for the sake of protecting your freedom, rather than simply exercising my own.” Imagine a day like that in America.

I’m gonna give you four little statements that are applications. These aren’t specific. I’m just tryin’ to get your mind going. What does that look like? It looks like this. You decide, I’m gonna do what’s just, not what you can justify. I’m not gonna ask how low can I go or what can I get by with? I’m gonna ask, how high can I reach and how can I help? How high can I reach and how can I help? I would like for all of us to say, because some of you haven’t said this in so long, okay. I want us to say together, “How can I help?” Ready?

Andy and Audience: How can I help?

Andy: If you would like for everyone that you work with at work to pass out, just walk into tomorrow and say, “How can I help?” “Oh, I don’t do that around here. See around here, I help myself and you help yourself and I try to help myself to some of what you’re helping yourself to, but we don’t help each other.”

Now you just walk in tomorrow and say, “Hey, hey, how can I help? How can I help? Husbands I’m tellin’ you, you have to make sure your wife’s layin’ down. “Honey, how can I help?” (Laughter) It’s like, who are you? Someone stole my husband’s body.

And our heavenly Father says, “Look, I look down on a sin-sick world and I ask the question, “What can I do to help?” And the only way to help them was to send them a Savior. It cost Me My Son. The least you can do is to turn to one another. I’m not askin’ you to die for anybody. I’m just askin’ you to ask the question, ‘What can I do to help?’”

Because it’s not just about what I can justify. I want to do what’s just, do what’s responsible, not simply what’s permissible. Do what’s responsible, not what can you get by with, not what can I get by with? But what’s the most responsible thing? Now look up here. If you are not willing to take responsibility for the potential outcome of a decision, don’t do it.

Somebody has to become responsible for your irresponsibility. I mean, how many years are we gonna talk about the debt of this country and the thing, you know. We call it kickin’ the can down the [road]; kickin’ the can, kickin’ the can, kickin’ the can.

Look, here’s the deal. We as a generation are having to take responsibility for a previous generation’s irresponsibility. So, let’s just stop with that and decide as Christians, we don’t do that. You’re not gonna hear me say, “that’s my right.” You’re gonna hear me say, “that’s my responsibility. That’s my responsibility.” Now I know you’ve never said that out loud, so let’s just practice that one, too. Ready?

Andy and Audience: That’s–

Audience: –my responsibility.

Andy: Yeah, try that one at work. Ah, I’m not gonna do it. That’s my responsibility. I own that. Well, we don’t do that here. We argue and we get attorneys. No, no, I’m just gonna own it. That’s my responsibility.

Third, do what’s moral, not what’s modeled. Come on! Listen, listen. At some point, a generation has to stand up and say, “Hey, it doesn’t matter how low we can go. It doesn’t matter if it’s illegal. We are going to embrace; there’s gonna be a consensus of morality and we’re gonna do this for other people’s sake and for the next generation’s sake. We are done taking our moral cue from the people around us.”

You do what’s moral, not what’s modeled, because in your community, whatever your community is, and in the world in which you live, you are already seeing, you are already paying for a culture that has said, “I can do what I want, with whom I want, when I want, as long as it’s legal and there are no consequences.” There are consequences. You are part of a community and it costs all of us and ultimately, it undermines all our freedom.

And if you are a following of Jesus, the sexual ethic of the New Testament is so clear. You honor God with your body. You don’t sexualize a relationship outside of marriage and you don’t allow yourself to be imprisoned or mastered by anything. And you’re a better person and your community’s a better place and suddenly, we become the models, instead of modeling ourselves after culture around us. Come on. Simple.

And the last one and this is sort of the catchall, it’s just honor God. It isn’t complicated. Honor God. What does that mean? It means, every time you make a decision, you ask what would be most honoring to God

And you know what’s interesting? Regardless of how much you know the Bible, regardless of whether or not you grew up in church, you know the answer to this question intuitively. It is self-evident. And this question points us back to the Founders’ belief that individual rights assume individual accountability to God.

I love the Bill of Rights. I love the fact that we’re a nation of law. We can do better and we must choose to do better and God has called those of us who are His children to do much better, because we have been called. We have been commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Let’s make good use of what has been given, given, given to us as Americans. Thanks for bein’ here. God bless you.

Audience: (Applause)


John: What an inspirational vision of America from Pastor Andy Stanley on this special 4th of July edition of “Focus on the Family.” And what hope this message gives for our nation.

Jim: It is a hopeful message, John and if we can all just work on Andy’s last point there, to honor God in everything we do, our nation would be a great place to live and to raise our families again. And in fact, I think this message is so important, I’d like to offer it as a free download. And here’s the promise you gotta make me. Just share it with a friend or a family member and we would be glad to do that.

John: You can get the download at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio and if for whatever reason you have trouble with that, we’ve made it pretty easy, but if you have trouble, go ahead and give us a call tomorrow. Our offices are closed today to celebrate Independence Day, but tomorrow we can walk you through the process.

Jim: Well, and let me just remind our listeners that here at Focus on the Family, we are working hard every day to provide hope and help for your family and thousands of others. And I just need to say it. If you can help us today to overcome a summer shortfall, your gift will be matched by generous friends to the ministry here. Please donate online today or call us tomorrow. Our operators will be here and let me just say thank you ahead of time for helping us help those who are in need.

John: Yeah, we’re listener supported and we need your generosity right now in a special way. So, please go to www.focusonthefamily.com/radio and contribute generous and get that free download of today’s program.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly, I’m John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. You’ll hear from the parents of two members of the very popular band, Switchfoot.


Mark Foreman: When you raise a teenager, particularly with the breaks on and say, “Stay away from that,” “Don’t do that.” “Don’t go there,” “It’s not attractive to a teenager. The teenager wants to know when do we get to play? When do we get to do this thing that you talked about, going out into the world?”

End of Excerpt

John: You’ll hear how you can raise kids that are in the world, but not of the world, on the next “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly, as we once again, help your family thrive.

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