By Spencer D Gear
- “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke).
- “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).
At a time when Australia is in moral disarray, who decides what are the `right’ values for government, education, media, etc? Does the church or the state decide? Or, in a free society, do we leave it up to the individual conscience or the 51% vote?
We live in a society that is wanting to throw out absolute, transcendent moral values–what Richard Neuhaus calls “a naked public square.”
1. The Naked Public Square
Secular historian, Will Durant, said:
“The greatest question of our time is not communism versus individualism, not Europe versus America, not even East versus the West; it is whether men can live without God.” The Durant’s went on to say that “there is no significant example in history before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.” 
One of the greatest leaders in the first few centuries of the church, Augustine of Hippo, wrote the book, The City of God, one of the most influential writings in church history, to defend the role of Christianity being essential for preserving society.
If society is to be restored, God’s transcendent truth must be proclaimed, demonstrated and brought to bear on our society. Obviously, non-Christians are incapable of this. Jesus said that this was essential for the church–to be salt and light. Christians are failing Australia if they fail to stand up and be counted for God’s truth in all areas of society.
I am convinced that if pagan Australians understood the Judeo-Christian ethic and its influence in secular society they would seek it. The Kingdom of God has a dynamic influence in culture. It is left to us to be salt and light. Otherwise, it will continue to be a naked public square. Is that the kind of society you want to live in? What will you do about it?
2. Where Is the Church?
Crime and violence skyrocket; sexual promiscuity and venereal disease are rampant; the poor and homeless are marginal; who protects the unborn, the defective and the elderly? Day after day I deal with rebellious youth and disillusioned parents. Where is the church?
Remember what the Durants concluded: “There is no significant example in history before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.”
Charles Colson, in Kingdoms in Conflict, wrote:
“If the real benefits of the Judeo-Christian ethic and influence in secular society were understood, it would be anxiously sought out, even by those who repudiate the Christian faith. The influence of the Kingdom of God in the public arena is good for society as a whole.”
But who will proclaim the Kingdom of God so that society understands the Christian ethic?
A. “ASLEEP IN THE LIGHT”
Keith Green’s song is pointed right at the church:
Do you see, do you see,
All the people sinking down?
Don’t you care, don’t you care,
Are you gonna let them drown?
How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come?
You close your eyes
And pretend the job’s done…
The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can’t fight
‘Cause it’s asleep in the light.
How can you be so dead
David Wilkerson agrees: “The church is asleep, the congregations are at ease… Its shepherds are mostly slumbering or chasing after their own dreams. Only the sleeping church could have allowed the abominations now poisoning it.”
The moral madness in Australia is worsening. For non-Christians, life goes on as usual with few concerned. Almost nobody is alarmed. Apathy has overcome the culture and the church. But that won’t stop the judgment that is coming.
The people of Noah’s day did not expect the catastrophe, but it came just the same. While we live in relative luxury, gross injustice is being perpetrated with the shedding of innocent blood. But what does a fat society and a sleepy church do? “Give us another drink!” South Australian Christian ethicist, John Fleming calls it “decaffeinated Christianity.” John Smith says we are a “delinquent church.”
For Israel, it took a Lion’s roar through the true prophet, Amos. What will is take to awaken Australia’s Christians, let alone the culture? God has already given Christians His orders:
“And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to WAKE UP FROM YOUR SLUMBER, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here” (Romans 13:11-12).
It is time to wake up!!
John Anderson in his prophetic book, The Cry of Compassion, wrote:
“Spiritual and moral issues are too crucial; the destiny and care of immortal souls too consequential; and the health and direction of society too pivotal, for us to be inaccurate for any reason when delivering God’s message. The lawyer’s mistakes go to jail, the doctor’s mistakes go to the cemetery, but the minister’s mistakes go to hell!”
B. WHAT HAS PUT THE CHURCH TO SLEEP?
Are we going to suffer the same fate as Israel? When Israel forgot God, He “gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them” (Ps. 106:15).
I put it to you that some of these factors have anaesthetised us:
1. We are asleep because we have forsaken our first love and have courted materialism (live for the now).
2. It has put us asleep to spiritual reality as we have pursued pleasure (hedonism).
We would rather dump ourselves in front of the TV tube than be vigorously involved in the public debate to challenge our culture.
3 We have allowed our spiritual vitality to be sapped by accepting that in a pluralistic culture our Christianity becomes a private matter.
Christians have learned to shut their mouths.
4. We have also bought into pragmatism–what is good is what works.
5. Could is even be that we are practising Christianised secularism–living as though material things are more real than spiritual reality? What happens in time is more important than the events of eternity?
Think of your life over the last month! How much time, energy and money have you invested in pleasure and material things? How many times have you created opportunities to witness for Christ? When did you last challenge the ungodly actions of your community? How many in your church do the same thing?
6. Then add compromise.
The late singer-evangelist/prophet, Keith Green, would preach, “No token prayers, no compromise.” His message was for the church to quit compromising, stop listening to the voice of the world, and start living committed lives. He said Christians are too often
“tempted to bow to other`false gods’–to go with the crowd, to not speak out for what is right, to be ashamed of our convictions. So we compromise. We bow to invisible idols of acceptability, fear, pride, lust, greed and secret sin.”
Keith sure had a pointed way of telling it like it is.
7. Have we spent quality time with God to hear His heart for a degenerate world?
John Anderson asks two penetrating questions that we need to consider:
a. Has the Church become secularised, accommodating the world instead of confronting it? Have we been seduced by today’s paganism?
b. Has the message of the Church become an echo instead of a voice?
I believe the church must take considerable responsibility for what is happening in our culture. The cruelty, depravity and apathy continue. The silent church lets it happen. Look what happened in Victoria recently when church leaders stood against Jeff Kennett!
What will it take for God to get the attention of a materialistic, wayward church that has lost its direction? For Israel, Amos 1:2 says, “The LORD roars…and thunders!!” God woke them through the prophet Amos.
C. THE RADICAL CHURCH
Through 20 centuries of the church, many of Christ’s followers have proclaimed and lived a wishy-washy form of his teachings. Christ’s demands for building a righteous society (Matt. 5:13-16) have been done away with. Too often, we are preaching dull faith that is concerned about what it will do for the person in meeting personal needs and offering personal benefits.
Like the person who said to me recently that he had come to Christ because he needed someone to help him deal with the stress and responsibilities following his father’s death. There was no mention made of sin, repentance and the cost of following Jesus. Too often the gospel is proclaimed as giving self-esteem to the lowly, instead of release for the captives and reconciliation with an angry God.
The central message of Christianity is radical. It cancels out sin and answers our most basic needs to know God, find salvation, find meaning and authority in life.
A person said to me the other day that she is considering Islam because it is a total way of life. That’s the radical nature of the church: Christ is to be the ultimate authority that a person requires. God is to rule every aspect of what He has created. Life, death, relationships and earthly kingdoms are all under His control.
Because of this total authority (Lordship), many non-Christians resent Christianity. We are commanded to “seek first the kingdom of God.” This means we are to seek to be ruled by God alone–voluntarily, of course. This means no employer or Prime Minister can have ultimate control of one’s life. Jesus alone is Lord!
1. The Church must be the Church
In the early years of Christianity, the barbarians were prevented from over-running Europe by the Church being the Church. The Gospel was proclaimed. Monastic communities were characterised by discipline, creativity, community spirit and moral sanity. The Scriptures were preserved, prayers were offer, land was cleared, towns built, crops planted and harvested, whole communities were cared for, education was developed and communities became literate, the underprivileged were sheltered, hospitals were opened–all in the name of Christ and the church.
The church challenged the value systems of the barbarians and the Roman Empire. This is what the church must do today. We must serve as examples of truth, decency and civilisation in a culture that is becoming dark. Although made up of redeemed sinners, what other institution except the church, has the capacity to challenge culture and witness to God’s transcendent standards of absolute justice and righteousness?
As Charles Colson states prophetically: the great paradox is that if the church is to do anything useful for culture and conquer the invaders who are aggressively promoting anti-Christian world views, it must “concentrate on being faithful to its identity in Jesus Christ. The church must be the church. That is its first duty.”
To be this, the church must be committed to faithful proclamation of the gospel, biblical obedience and working for justice and righteousness (faithful to Matthew 25 and the prophetic exhortations of, for example, the Book of Amos).
We must not be motivated by our desire to make an impact on society, but by our desires to obey the Lord and please Him. Australia needs a church that will be a community of care, compassion and character. We have an obligation to proclaim the truth, act as salt and light, and hold Australia morally accountable to God. But it will take radical obedience.
The survival of Australia is dependent on the dynamic reform that will take place through redeemed individuals who will practise pure religion according to James 1:27: “Look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Is the church prepared to take up this challenge?
The church will only be the church when it is faithful to its holy God and obediently serves Him.
2. The Church is in need of healing
Labelling Christians can be dangerous and divisive. Too often the church is divided by doctrinal differences. We need to know the difference between breaking fellowship over essentials (e.g. the deity of Christ) and non-essentials. Liberals have been readily identified with social concern, while evangelicals are noted for their evangelism. This is labelling. The biblical mandate is that we should care compassionately about winning people to Christ, but also strive for the righteousness of God’s justice.
We need to be healed from the compromise that has seen the church embrace the world rather than expose its foolishness. Dare I suggest that one of the greatest instruments of seduction is the television set where the on/off switch is not used in a Christ-honouring way. Is David Wilkerson too radical when he says:
“The world is about to burn and its foundations shaken by the almighty hand of God, and Christians sit nonchalantly before their television idol, wasting precious time…sitting before [the] Babylonian idiot box, losing their zeal for God… Satan is succeeding through television in a way not possible by any other kind of demonic invasion… Television is now not innocent, not wholesome, and not worthy of the moral standard of a devoted lover of the Lord Jesus Christ…
God’s name is taken in vain, marriage and fidelity [are] scorned, religion is satirized, and holiness is jeered. Satan’s aim is to get the whole world, including Christians, to laugh at things holy and sacred. Even situation comedies mock morality; and all that is pure, honest, and Christian is ridiculed. How sad that Christians laugh at what should be making us weep. How dare we continue to drink in that which grieves and infuriates the Holy Spirit! Will we not be judged for it?”
The world needs to be confronted by real Christianity. How can this happen if the church is not authentic? I pray that the healing of these divisions will become a priority.
3. The Old Testament Prophets Speak
The Old Testament prophets have been sadly neglected by many Christians. Yet, the writing prophets from Isaiah to Malachi consist of 17 of the Bible’s 66 books. We ignore them at our peril. They are strategic books because God was speaking to Israel, Judah and the nations of the world at crucial times–times like ours.
If Moses, the Israelites’ idolatry and sin, were “examples” for Christians to follow or not to follow (according to I Cor. 10:6, 11), might the prophets also be written for our example?
John Anderson believes
“the reason the prophets spoke as they did was because they knew Almighty God. They knew His Word and heart; they knew His holiness and His love; they hungered and thirsted for righteousness. They knew His voice and became His voice. They were motivated by the heart of God and their voices became cries of compassion to their world. Because they so knew God, they spoke in His Name to rebuke the sin around them, called for justice and righteousness, warned of judgment and pressed for repentance. They stood with God against the sinner’s sin, not the other way around.”
God did not send prophets to tantalise the itching ears of the people with predictions of the future. They were sent to turn people back in repentance. There message was: “the Day of the Lord is coming. Be different, change, get ready.”
One of the prophets with a desperate message for Australia in the 1990s is Jeremiah.
A. JEREMIAH (CHAPTERS 2-6)
Here Jeremiah give the steps for Israel as it races towards God’s judgment.
1. Devotion to the Lord (2:1-3)
- the goodness of God
2. Rejection of the Lord (2:13, 17, 19)
- strayed (2:5)
- followed other gods (2:11; 5:7)
3. Sinful actions
- people defiled the land (2:7)
- evil deeds have no limit (5:28)
- pours out her wickedness (6:7)
- wash, but stain of guilt remains (2:22)
- rebellion and backsliding (2:20-3:5; 5:6)
4. Religious leaders backslide
- ignored the Lord (2:8)
- rebelled against Him (2:8)
- prophesied lies }
- ruled by own authority } 5:30-31
- people loved it }
- false prophets (2:8, 25)
- preached peace, deceit (6:14)
A particularly devastating exposure of the motive, method and message of lying prophets is in Jer. 23:9-40. They were “godless” (v. 11), spread ungodliness throughout the land (v. 15), committed and supported wickedness like Sodom (v. 14), spoke “visions/delusions from their own minds” (vv. 16, 25). God did not speak to them (vv. 21-22). Their lying message was, “You will have peace… No harm will come to you” (v. 17). Like Jer. 6:14, they preached peace and deceit. However, the truth was: “the storm of the Lord will burst out in wrath… The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart” (vv. 19-20).
Let’s get back to the steps of a nation racing towards judgment:
5. Idolatry (2:5, 25; 3:1)
6. Judgment (4:12f, 18; 5:15; 6:26)
- consequences of wickedness (2:19)
- judgment threatened (2:35; 3:5)
- wrath of God threatened (4:4, 8; 6:11)
- tell it to the nations (4:16; 6:18-19)
Particularly note Jeremiah 10:10: “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”
Now back to the steps toward judgment:
7. Mercy (a plea to return to the Lord)
3:12-13, 22; 4:1-2
- acknowledge guilt (3:13)
8. Watchmen (6:17) who sound the alarm
(4:5, 19; 6:1, 8)
- of disaster
- tell the nations (4:16)
- warning (11:7-8)
9. Resistance to warning (5:21, 23; 6;10)
- scoffed at the Lord and warning (5:12-13)
B. HOSEA (CHAPTER 4)
Here are the steps to God’s destruction, directed towards Israel.
1. [Previous devotion to God recorded elsewhere in OT]
2. Departure from the Lord (v. 1)
- no faithfulness
- no love
- no acknowledgment of God in the land
- destroyed by lack of knowledge (of God’s law)–v.6
3. Depravity in action (v. 2)
- lying & murder
- stealing & adultery
- break all bounds (habit of sin is widespread)
- bloodshed follows bloodshed [for us it’s abortion, infanticide, euthanasia]
[cf. punishment for sin: 9:7, 9]
4. Religious leaders stumble (vv. 5, 9)
- “like people, like priests” (v. 9)
5. Idolatry (vv. 10-18)
[cf. 8:4-5, 7; 9:10]
6. Destruction (v. 19)
[cf. ch. 5; 7:13; 10:5-6; 12:2; 13:7-9]
7. Warning of disaster (5:1)
- sound the alarm (8:1)
- watchmen (9:8; 11:10; 12:6)
8. Mercy (plea to return to the Lord)
[6:1, 3, 6; 10:12; 11:8; 14:1-2, 4]
- repentance (11:5)
9. Resistance (7:10, 13; 14:2)
Hosea, a contemporary of Amos, gave the last word from God to Israel. He warned that there would be dreadful days when they were captured by Assyria (see especially 11:1-9 of Hosea). This devastation came in 722 BC “because they refuse[d] to repent” (11:5). This is a dreadful warning to any country that continues in idolatry, gross sinfulness and rejection of the one living, true God.
In commenting on Hosea chapter 4, James Montgomery Boice, asks:
“What happens when a people reject God? What happens when we turn our back on such knowledge? The answer is that we begin a downhill course. God is the source of all good. So if an individual or people will not have God, they will have the opposite in increasing measure.“
Is that what we are having in Australia? From Jeremiah and Hosea, a definite pattern develops when a nation forgets and rebels against God. It is a slippery slope towards judgment that is as certain as God is sovereign.
C. THE PATTERN OF DECLINE IN ANY NATION
4. Destruction (Judgment)
5. Desire (of God to extend mercy)
6. Disaster Warning
7. Deafness (Resistance)
A similar pattern for non-Christians can be found in:
D. ROMANS 1:18-2:5
1. God’s warning of wrath (v. 18)
We must make it clear that God’s wrath (anger) does not mean that he gets irritable, is bad-tempered, or is unpredictable. God’s anger is an essential quality in his character. It
“describes the controlled and permanent opposition of God’s holy nature to all sin. Such opposition to sin on God’s part is not a whim or a mere decision or occasional mood, but the reaction of his perfect holy nature to sin. Anger, then, is as essential to the nature of God as is love; without anger God would not be God.”
2. God’s revelation of himself (vv. 19-20)
3. People rejected God (v. 21)
4. Sinful thinking and hearts (v. 21)
5. Idolatry (v. 23)
6. Gross sinfulness (vv. 24-25)
7. Judgment through sinful consequences
8. God’s wrath poured out (2:2-5, esp. v. 5)
In both Jeremiah and Hosea, the religious leaders turned away from God and contributed to the destruction of the nation. Could this be happening in Australia?
What, then, is needed in the church? For a nation heading towards judgment, we need Christians who will “put the trumpet to [their] lips” (Hos. 8:1), give the Lord’s roar (Hos. 11:10) that “you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always” (Hos. 12:6).
Both Jeremiah (6:17) and Hosea (9:8) call such a person
He/she is to sound the alarm that judgment is coming, unless we repent. See also Ezekiel 3. Individuals and the nation are to be warned (Jer. 4:16; 10:10).
The watchman’s job was to sit on the wall of an ancient city and alert the people of the city to any coming danger. From Ezekiel, we understand that if the people heard the warning, but ignored it, they suffered the consequences–the blood would be “on their own head.”
However, if the watchman was asleep and didn’t warn the people of the approaching danger, it was the watchman’s fault if they were harmed, and the blood of the people would be on the watchman’s hands. The watchman would be held accountable.
I believe the application is that certain Christians are watchmen. God wants us to warn people and this country that disaster is coming. If we continue to reject God, indulge in idolatry and depravity, God’s judgment is coming. The issue is not WHETHER but WHEN and HOW.
There are two sides to God’s judgment. Repent or perish! As Gary North puts it:
“The rude awakening is coming. It always does. Men cannot go to sleep at the wheel indefinitely. There will be an accident. Or more accurately, there will be a nasty result. You cannot expect civilization to sleep at the wheel forever, with the engine running at top speed, and not crash. Such crashes are hardly accidents.”
Australia urgently needs a church that will announce the coming crisis.
WE NEED A SCHOOL OF THE PROPHETS WHO WILL BE WATCHMEN AND WATCH-WOMEN!
John O. Anderson, The Cry of Compassion: The Church’s Needed Voice in Today’s World. Klamath Falls, Oregon: John O. Anderson (PO Box 152, Klamath Falls, OR 97601, USA), 1992, p. 81, emphasis added.
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 October 2015.