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"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee" (Isa. 60:1-2).

When the United States' founding fathers walked out of Constitution Hall, they asked Ben Franklin, "What do we have, a democracy or republic?" He answered, "You have a republic...if you can keep it."

America is a republic, or at least that's what it was set up to be. Yet many people mistakenly think it is—and was meant to be—a democracy. But it's not, though it's slowly becoming one.

The difference is, a republic is ruled by law, not people. A democracy, on the other hand, is ruled by a majority of people. In a democracy, all it takes is for the wrong majority of people to rule and you've got trouble.

America was created to be a nation governed by law. And those who were elected and appointed to positions of authority were expected to follow that law—that is, the Constitution of the United States. The danger is, when people of a republic cease to be people of principle, they stop following the law. As a result, the republic can be lost.

Today, America faces that danger.

Decades of Decline
I was born during World War II and grew up in postwar America. In those days, the nation was growing, the economy was growing, yet people still cared about each other. There was morality.

But then came the sixties. It was like day and night. After I came home from serving in the Navy and sailing around the world, I sensed a difference. The people in my hometown changed.

But that wasn't all—prayer had been taken out of the schools. When I had attended school, teachers led prayer every day. No one would have ever thought a day was coming when children could no longer pray in their classrooms.

Many sudden changes happened in this country, and with the seventies came more. That's when we licensed doctors to kill unborn babies by abortion. And another holocaust of life started.

Then, there were the eighties. They brought a different kind of change. A slight trend surfaced countering the radical changes of the previous 20 years.

Now, here we are in the twenty-first century. I have watched 50 years come and go, and from what I see today, we really do live in a different time—a time of moral and social decline. Having seen this decline firsthand, I recently began asking myself (and the Lord) what caused it? Why all this change in America?

Of course, it would be easy to say, "Well, it's the devil. Satan is behind it all." But a blanket statement like that does not cover the whole truth of the matter. It's not just the devil.

As I considered what could have given ground to the downward changes I've seen in our society, I suddenly realized the answer—people of principle.

Certainly Satan has eroded the foundations of our society, but only because we—America—are no longer a people of principle. Even more seriously, however, we as believers have not been people of principle; we have not been people of God's principles.

This isn't the first time God's people have witnessed and been a part of a moral decline due to a lack of principle.

Back to Boot Camp
In dealing with the moral decline of certain New Testament churches, the apostle Paul also saw the lack of God's principles in Christians' lives as the root to their problems. He had this to say to them:
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
(Heb. 5:12)
These Christians started off with a good foundation. But what happened? They slipped into carnal and immature ways. Then along came Paul to build on their foundation, only to find that it wasn't there anymore.

This was a man who had life-changing, empowering revelations about the mysteries of God to pass along. But instead of being able to give them strong meat to chew on, he had to spoon-feed them the milk of the Word. He had to go back to the basics of faith—repentance from dead works, baptism, laying on of hands, etc.

And that's what has happened to the Church today. We are not receiving revelation of the Gospel's mysteries because we do not know—and have not continued in—the basic, foundation principles of God's Word.

Paul went on to say, "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection" (Heb. 6:1). Once we lay these principles of God in our hearts, we need to go on and build upon them. But leaving these principles, as Paul said, doesn't mean we don't need them anymore.

When you build the foundation of a house, you don't stop there; you add to it. You put up walls and a roof and finish it out. And after building the house, you don't decide, "Well, let's go pull out the foundation. We're through, so we won't need it anymore." The whole house would fall apart if you did…which is the very reason America is caving in. Our foundation is slowly being pulled out from under us.

We cannot let go of God's principles and stand. Principles like faith, repentance and righteousness are what we build our new lives on. They are part of our lifestyle. We must lay them up in our hearts. Once we do, it's time to build on them.

To better understand what this nation—and the body of Christ—is lacking, let's turn to God's Word and study an example of the finished product. Let's see how God describes a person of principle.

Abraham: A Man of Principle
In Genesis 18, God makes some powerful statements about Abraham, the greatest of which is, "I know him..." (v. 19). Keep in mind that Abraham was a man with whom God personally shared important information, events of the future, and upon whom He was able to build nations. God knew Abraham and trusted him.

In verse 19, God goes on to describe Abraham by listing three characteristics that distinguish him as a man of principle. First, God says Abraham is one who "will command his children and his household after him...." Now that doesn't mean he's a dictator, ruling with a heavy hand.

Rather, it means he takes responsibility for his children. Many of our nation's problems exist because parents are not commanding their children. They are not taking authority or being responsible for them.

In particular, fathers have shirked their responsibility to the point where laws have been passed to make them take care of their children—even to feed and clothe them. It's hard to imagine a father not wanting to care for his children, but because we are no longer people of principle, we now rely on laws to force them to fulfill their responsibility.

God says about Abraham, "He will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord" (v. 19). The second characteristic of Abraham that distinguished him as a man of principle was that he was an example for his family to follow.

A father's responsibility includes setting that example—it's not the pastor's, not the athlete's, not the movie star's. It's the father's. Father should know best—and live it. When I was growing up, he did. Now, he's portrayed as a fool, a bungling idiot. Watch most TV depictions of a father and you'll see a man who can't make decisions. He's continually made fun of by everyone.

So it's not enough for you to command your children and to be their authority, you also need to be their model. Whether you're a parent or not, you should be a good example to your household and community.

I know you parents have plenty of pressure on you to give in and not stand up as people of principle. Everything in the world is pulling on you. Even your family pulls on you to compromise at times... "Oh, do we really have to go to church today? Why can't we...." But if you don't remain a steadfast person of principle, you'll get watered down, you'll start letting things slide, and before you know it, you'll have lost your standard of God's principles.

Meanwhile, your family is watching and they too begin losing their principles. Eventually, the next generation is raised without principles, and moral decline takes over.... Have you seen the bumper sticker, "If it feels good, do it"?

Finally in verse 19, God says Abraham "will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment...." Justice means "rightness" or "moral virtue." Plug that into this scripture and it reads, "Abraham will teach his household rightness and moral virtue."

Being a person of principle can be like paddling a boat upstream—it can get pretty tough. While everyone else is drifting lazily downstream, you need power and life to go against the flow. You need strength to follow rightness and moral virtue.
Judgment means "verdict, a sentence or decree, and the penalty that suits a crime." In my home state, at last count, I heard there were 15 prisoners on death row. And some of them have been there more than 10 years. So why haven't they been executed?

The reason is the appeal system; it tends to drag on and on, which creates a problem.

There is a law of nature that says for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Apply that to our judicial system and you can see that because the judgment isn't carried out, we have to build bigger jails to house more and more criminals. To criminals, the judicial system is a joke, so they keep on breaking the law.

Some people say that proves the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime.

Not true! The truth is, punishment for crime has been diminished to almost nothing, and the result has been that the foundation of judgment has slowly crumbled, giving way to moral and social decline. Though I have seen more than 30 years of moral decline in America, I still believe there is hope to turn this country around. How?

Declaration of Principle
Consider this question: Why was it so important for God to find a man like Abraham, a man who would command his children, a man who would set the example for others to follow, and a man who would do justice and judgment—a man of principle?

Read God's final comments about Abraham in Genesis 18:19 and you'll see why. You'll also see the hope there is for America. "So the Lord may bring Abraham what He has promised him" (AMP).

God was looking for a man to bless. But God can only bless those who build and live their lives on His principles and on His Word. America was once a nation of people who built their lives on God's principles.

But as we have ceased to be people of principle, as the Church has ceased to be established on God's principles, we have, in effect, tied God's hands to where He cannot bring to pass in our lives and in this nation all that He has promised.

How can we even begin to turn around a nation that has been declining for decades?

If we as believers want all of God's blessings in our homes, in our businesses, and in our nations, then we must begin by declaring God's principles and living them—in our churches, classrooms, and public offices.

Then, we must build on that foundation. As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:14-15,
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures (NKJV).
I have lived long enough to see a generation change. Sadly, though, the change has been for the worse. Yet, in my lifetime, I have seen that people of principle never change... because the principles of God never change.

Source: One Word From God Can Change Your Nation
by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland
Excerpt permission granted by Harrison House Publishers

Author Biography

Happy Caldwell
Web site: Agape Church
Happy Caldwell is the founder and Pastor of Agape Church, a strong, Spirit-filled body of believers in Little Rock, Arkansas. He is Founder and President of the Victory Television Network, which operates two full-power Christian television stations in Little Rock and Hot Springs, Arkansas. He is also President of the International Convention of Faith Ministries (ICFM) located in Little Rock Arkansas.

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