In view of the this Fourth of July, I think it would be good for us to think about our nation—about the way it’s changing very rapidly from what it once was and about how God would have us respond to that change.

The fact that America is changing in a very fundamental way is virtually undeniable. Regardless of whether you think this was ever a Christian nation, you’ll probably agree that there seems to be more and more of a non-Christian and sometimes even anti-Christian tone to the culture of our nation.

And of course, with the decline of Christianity in America, we also see the decline of morality in America. In fact, morality is declining at such a breathtaking rate that is sometimes feels as though we’re in a freefall. Kind of like when you riding on a roller coaster and the roller coaster takes you down so quickly that it feels like you’re just falling. I think that’s the way many Christians feel with everything that’s happened in our nation just over the past 30 years.

And Christians are responding this situation in many different ways. Some Christians just seem like they’re angry at society and are acting as if something they owned has just been taken away from them. Others have become confused in the midst of the cultural chaos, questioning things they’ve never questioned before and wondering whether those who accuse them of bigotry and intolerance actually have a point. And other Christians seem like they’re just trying their best to ignore everything that’s changed, as if ignoring it will somehow make it all go away.

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul says something I think we would do well to take to heart as we consider how to respond to the changes in our nation: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

Here’s the main thing I’d like us to take away from this text: God calls us to be firm in our convictions but focused in our efforts.

Notice what Paul says in verse 3: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.” And he then goes on to summarize the gospel message—that is, the message about Jesus.

So that message, Paul says, is a message “of first importance.” That means it’s more important than anything else. It’s priority number one. If we could only communicate one message across to the world we live in, this should be the message that we try to get across. That’s why I say that we should be firm in our convictions but focused in our efforts.

The gospel is truly the centerpiece of the Christian message. The main message of Christianity isn’t “Adopt conservative values.” It’s, “Look to Jesus for salvation.”

Trying to convince non-Christians simply to adopt biblical values is like telling a cancer patient to start exercising and eating better. It’s as if you’re saying, “Hey Jeff, I’m sorry you’ve been feeling weak. After all, you do have cancer. Maybe you should just try eating better or getting more exercise, and see if that helps.”

If you say that to Jeff, number one, I don’t think Jeff will want to be your friend anymore. And number two, that’s some pretty worthless advice. Now, I’m sure changes in diet and exercise might be of some physical value to Jeff and may even help him feel a little bit better, but that’s not going to cure his cancer.

And in the same way, both biblical values and political action are important, but only the gospel offers real hope for America. We can pass all the legislation in the world, but only the gospel can change people’s hearts.

Therefore, our task is to remain faithful to the work God has called us to do, focusing our efforts on the place God tells us to focus our efforts—on the gospel. Don’t compromise on other issues, but don’t let those distract you. Instead, keep your focus on that message that’s “of first importance.