(image courtesy ianmacky.net)
By Spencer D Gear
“If I had my choice, I’d much rather be the mercy shower than the prophetic voice” (Keith Green).
“Making an open stand against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness which overspreads our land as a flood is one of the noblest ways of confessing Christ in the face of His enemies” (John Wesley).
“The prophets threw out and denounced any message that didn’t speak to the true need of society…. Let’s be as bold as the prophets, and raise forcefully a prophetic, compassionate voice to vigorously confront–not accommodate–our dissolute world and careless Christians… We face a sinning society that has wilfully rebelled against God and now is reaping the ravaging harvest of its sin. We must boldly put back into our Gospel message such words as repentance, sin and judgment, and speak with the grief of God” (John Anderson).
The one who speaks for God will have a prophetic voice:
I. WHAT IS A PROPHETIC VOICE?
It does not refer specifically to the gift of prophecy of I Corinthians 12 or Romans 12.
Our nation is going downhill rapidly and is asleep to its peril. A prophetic voice will get in the way of our secular society and confront forcefully the unrighteousness and ungodliness of the nation, state or city and present God’s message so the people of Australia will be confronted with God and His requirements and have the opportunity to come to Him.
Australians have little sense of God or their sin. They need to be cut to the heart over their iniquity. A prophetic voice will be compelling in its manner. We desperately need to hear from such bold voices today. They face the issues with a fair dinkum manner that calls us to account for our sins, warns us that judgment is coming and commands us to repent.
The church is too often more concerned with being ‘nice’ and congenial. But Australia is in dire spiritual danger. The times demand this kind of prophetic voice. Or, to put it another way: We are at a stage in Australia’s history where we need to hear those who speak for God. Remember Peter’s words on the day of Pentecost: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40).
However, too often the church is more interested in success, peace, prosperity, church growth and the current doctrinal fad, than in confronting sin.
A prophetic voice will say: You are wasting your time looking to human beings and government for solutions to the rot that is eating into Australia. A change of government will not do it.
When the people heard Peter’s preaching, they were “cut to the heart.” A prophetic voice will stab Australia’s conscience and through it God will bring conviction of sin. As Charles Colson has pointed out so powerfully: “The crisis is not political; it is moral and spiritual. And so is the solution. That’s why Christians are the only ones who can offer viable solutions.”
A prophetic voice will powerfully alarm Australians with these conclusions:
A prophetic voice is a warning voice.
Remember the tragic accident that happened at Hobart a number of years ago when the large ship accidentally slammed into that large arching bridge over the Derwent River? It knocked out several pillars holding up the bridge and a whole section of the bridge plunged into the river.
Cars travelling over the bridge began falling into the river. I understand that one car came to a stop right on the edge of the broken section. The driver leaped out of his car and ran back on the bridge to stop others from plunging into the river. To his horror, as he waved frantically and shouted warnings, the drivers ignored him and sped on to disaster.
This is one of the tasks of a prophetic church. It will warn and confront, but with compassion, love and grief.
II. WHAT WILL MOTIVATE US TO BE PROPHETIC VOICES?
I find it amazing that a secular Australian historian, the late Manning Clark, could see the need so clearly and many Christians are missing it. He said: “What distinguishes this generation from all its predecessors is that no one has anything to say: no one knows the direction of the great river of life.”
However, if you are open to get the Lord’s burden and delivering it, I suggest the following:
A. Read the Prophets
Begin seeing our country, its dilemma and the solution, from God’s point of view, as you read the Old Testament prophets, Isaiah-Malachi. Bathe your reading in prayer, asking the Lord to show you His message for Australia. This will help you get to know God’s heart for a nation that is racing toward judgment.
Jeremiah 10:10 is critical to understand: “But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.”
Maybe this will cause you to repent towards God for the inexcusable sin you have allowed to prosper in this country by your silence. (e.g. What have you been doing about the mass slaughter of unborn children, the killing of the elderly and distressed by euthanasia? What have you done about pornography in the family market place? What have you done about the avalanche of sex and violence on network television and on videos?)
B. See Australia’s sin from God’s perspective
When Paul visited Athens and looked around the city, he became “greatly distressed to see the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). J.B. Phillips’ paraphrase reads: “While [Paul] was there, his soul was exasperated beyond endurance at the sight of the city so completely idolatrous.”
Although Athens represented the highest level of culture (sculpture, literature, oratory and philosophy). Whatever Paul may have felt in the way of artistic appreciation, the sense that was foremost in his mind was his “great distress” over the worship of gods. This is not some irritation or sudden temper. It was a settled reaction he had arrived at. He was provoked to anger, grief and indignation, just as God Himself is, over sin and idolatry. It was inward pain and horror. This moved Paul to share the good news of the gospel with the Athenian idolaters.
When this happens for you, you will develop:
1. Moral indignation
Leonard Ravenhill goes even further:
2. “We need a baptism of holy anger”
“To me it is a shocking commentary on a patent Christian feebleness that while in the first century 120 men could move from an upperroom closet and shake Jerusalem, nowadays 120 churches claiming a like experience of the Holy Spirit can be in one of our cities and yet that city at large hardly knows they are there. In our spiritual warfare we churches must be guilty of shooting with dummy bullets.”
I believe Ephesians 4:26-27 often has been misapplied. The NIV reads: “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
Kenneth S. Wuest’s expanded translation says: “Be constantly angry with a righteous indignation, and stop sinning. Do not allow the sun to go down upon your irritated, exasperated, embittered anger. And stop giving an occasion for acting [opportunity] to the devil.”
We need a baptism of holy anger against the immorality, injustice and unrighteousness in our country. Anger that will lead to action!
C. Intercessory Prayer
The desire and burden to be a prophetic voice will be gained on your knees and will be followed by action. John Anderson asks:
“If this world is headed into judgment, if we are in the last days, why are not Christians rushing into the streets urging–demanding–repentance and righteousness from us? Why is not intercessory prayer a primary emphasis? Where is our heart after God? Why are Christians in the West as materialistically settled in as the rest of our idolatrous society–something Christ warned us about?”
When you know God and live for Him, you walk to the beat of a different drum. You “discern with a different ear and eye, to show us the true from the false, and the correct way from the incorrect… Society’s most pressing need today is for men and women who know God.” You get to know him by spending time with him.
But be prepared for the consequences. Through the centuries, men and women who have known God and brought His convictions to their world have been killed or ostracised.
My prayer is that in these times of crisis, God will raise up men and women who will be prophetic voices in Australia.
D. Come to a biblical understanding of what it means to”salt” and “light.”
Read Matthew 5:13-16 and Eph. 5:11. We have a commission to:
- Be the salt of the earth to stop the world from going putrid.
- Let our light shine by doing good works.
“We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). It is this law of the Kingdom of God that motivates Christians to love and serve their society. This has been the case throughout Church history. It has been the Christians who have started hospitals and schools. They have given welfare assistance and fed the hungry. They have campaigned to end the injustices of slavery, prison degradation, hunger and deprivation. Even though government agencies have taken over the work, it was Christians who gave the initial thrust. Even today, Christians contribute many of the resources for private charities of compassion. How many atheists, for example, do you know who have been active in founding hospitals?
This does not mean that Christians are the only ones who do good works. However, for the Christian it is a matter of obedience to God’s commandments. We do works of mercy, justice and compassion. We have a godly obligation to obey God’s description of what we are: the “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.”
This “cultural commission” (as Colson calls it) also includes the need:
- To expose the deeds of darkness (Eph. 5:11)
“Expose” (elegcho) can be used in several contexts:
- For the Christian leader in the church, he/she has the task of rebuking church members (I Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 2:15) and of convicting opponents of their error (Titus 1:9, 13).
- The New English Bible translates Eph. 5:11, “expose,” as “show them up for what they are.” It means to show someone his/her sin and urge the person to repentance. It means more than just exposing an evil, but to show it to be evil and do our best to correct it. It is not merely to reply to an opponent, but to refute him/her. It does not mean just to silence opponents, but to convince them of their error.
This is the consistent and sustained battle of New Testament Christianity against personal sin and sin at all levels of society. It is the Christians’ responsibility to bring to light the true character of a person and his/her conduct.
We may not want to do this, but we have no other option. This is what the light invariably does. Evil deeds, personally, interpersonally, nationally, deserve to be exposed, unmasked, rebuked. That’s the God-given responsibility of the church (Christians) inside and outside the church. Those who live in the light cannot be neutral about the world of darkness.
“Sin must be exposed. One is not being `nice’ to a wicked man by endeavoring to make him feel what a fine fellow he is. The cancerous tumor must be removed, not humored. It is not really an act of love to smooth things over as if the terrible evil committed by those still living in the realm of darkness is not so bad after all.”
To do less than this is to be flagrantly disobedient to God and a contributor to the destruction in our degraded society.
- This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the world (John 16:8)–exposing sin.
That’s what the cultural commission, of being salt and light, involves. If we are negligent in this area, society will become putrid, go from bad to worse–all because the Church is not doing its job. We evangelical Christians must be inspectors and correctors of evil. To be less is sub-biblical. I believe one of the most prominent reasons why Australia is in the wretched state it is in because the church isn’t being the church. But there is always the tendency of salt losing its saltiness (Matt. 5:13). A prophetic voice is a church that has become tasty again.
Edmund Burke spoke of “little platoons.” These are voluntary groups of citizens (individuals or groups) who perform works of mercy and oppose injustice. These are the salt and light that Jesus said the church was to be. These “platoons” will shape the conscience of Australia. Or, as Charles Colson put it, we are called to be “communities of light.”
There is something fundamental about salt, as a preservative, that must be remembered: As a youngster on the cane farm near Bundaberg, I remember my father curing hams for the family. He would have to rub the salt into the pork–rub it hard and long. It wasn’t enough for him just to put the salt in a dish in the smoke house to cure ham. To preserve meat, salt must be rubbed deeply into the meat.
The parallel is that Christians are not meant just to exist in society. We must penetrate it (be rubbed in). This is compulsory if our needy society is to be stopped from becoming rotten. There are two primary ways this can be done:
“We must not only serve the physical needs of those around us, but articulate Christian values in a responsible way to a secular world…
It is time for Christians to show that Christianity is the Truth of total reality in the open market place. Francis Schaeffer believed, “Most fundamentally, our culture, society, government, and law are in the condition they are in, not because of a conspiracy, but because the church has forsaken its duty to be the salt of the culture.”
Then add the fact that governments are promoting ungodliness. The Scriptures are clear: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
“Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law resist them. Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully”(Proverbs 24:4-5)
“Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law” (Proverbs 29:18).
1. If the church is to become a prophetic voice, what do you expect it to do?
2. If you, personally, are to become a prophetic voice in your community, in what actions do you expect to be engaged?