IntroductionThe current crisis confronting Western Christianity is far beyond its spiritual capacities. As the sun goes down on the Church’s long-favoured position many believers are in a state of shock. I felt this in my own heart as I graded articles the other week by under 31’s for Christian Today. Prose-wise they were fine, but their spirituality powerfully reflected two tendencies hindering the work of the Spirit.
The first was a reversion to moralism. Writers grieving at the recent late-term abortion laws in New York responded with principled moral arguments about the value of human life. Such arguments assume a sensitive conscience in the hearer.
This is exactly what is absent in our depraved post-Christian times (cf. Eph 4:18 ESV). As such, the ethical concern comes across as, “You’re saying I’m a bad person.” This route is a dead end. I was even more traumatised in reading articles dominated by the experiences of the writer.
Personal experience essentially constitutes the content of social media, but many Christian young people seem not to have been taught that it’s always about Christ, not about them. “it’s no longer I who live, but Christ” (Gal 2:20 ESV). We’re in an altogether bad state.
Wave after wave of wickedness has broken in upon our culture in the last half-century. From “sex, drugs, rock and roll”, to legalised abortion and homosexuality, escalating in a same-sex marriage, various euthanasia laws, gender fluidity and so on. Anyone who speaks out against such things is a “bully” making victims. A cage comprised of sexism, racism, ageism, ableism and many other “isms” is closing in on us.
Accompanying this is “phobiaisation”, attributing an opponent’s views to an irrational fear/hatred. Speak out and you are labelled as Islamophobic, homophobic and so on.
This maneuver of categorising Christian concern as non-rational negates logical debate and moves dialogue outside the order and reason of God’s creation. Such “moral insanity” is fundamentally demonic (cf. 1 Cor 10:20 ESV); “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12 ESV).
The foundational space in which the Church engages hostile culture is not the public square, as if we were with Paul in Athens (Acts 17:16-34 ESV), but a transcendent plane of reality beyond the visible confines of this world. In this space Scott Morrison, Donald Trump, Jordan Peterson etc. cannot help the Church. Only Jesus can, and his Spirit has something to say which we will find very unpalatable (Rev 2:7 ESV etc.).
There are times in the history of redemption when the Lord releases ravagement on the earth. This is the theme of Revelation 6, and it peaks with the elevation of the beast who “was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them” (Rev 13:7 ESV).
Jesus said of his own life-end, “When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” ” (Luke 22:53 ESV). He prophesied the same for us, “ “you will be expelled from the synagogues…those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” ” (John 16:2-4 ESV).
The apparent overwhelming triumph of God’s enemies is integral to a victory that comes through self-sacrifice. vs.27 “there were gathered together against… Jesus,… Herod…Pilate… the Gentiles and… Israel, vs.28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28 ESV)1)See Biblical References cf. 2:23 ESV.
With God presently “handing over” (Rom 1:24,26, 28 ESV) our culture to greater and greater spiritual stubbornness normal methods of reasonable persuasion will fail. When immersed in the “hour of darkness” Jesus didn’t become moralistic, miraculous or political. He focussed on self-sacrifice through prayer in the power of the Spirit.
The cross seemed like a form of madness to Christ’s closest confidantes, “Peter… began to rebuke him…“This shall never happen to you.” ” Jesus identified this spirit speaking through Peter as “Satan!” himself2)See Biblical References Matt 16:21-23 ESV cf. Mark 3:21 ESV.
The Lord pressed on to his Passion in “the eternal Spirit” and the revelation of “ “Abba! Father!” ”3)See Biblical References Heb 9:14 ESV; Mark 14:36 ESV. Jesus knew that only such supreme spiritual realities could shape his life as an intercession powerful enough to cast out the darkness controlling the world4)See Biblical References Isa 53:12 ESV; 1 John 5:19 ESV.
Likewise, the kind of crazy unclean spirit controlling our society will only “come out” (Mark 9:29 ESV) when a certain extreme quality of prayer is offered by the Church.
In his suffering and death, Christ appeared utterly foolish to the practical men of this world (1 Cor 1:18 ESV). Likewise, for a major move of God Christian discipleship will have to come across to the average Aussie as a slight form of madness.
Paul was so labelled (Acts 26:24 ESV), as were the early Christians and martyrs. Where Christians live free of selfish ambition about career, live by choice in economic modesty, and never “take care of number 1”, they are always thought of as “strange” (1 Pet 4:4 ESV).
The time must come when the sanity of believers will be seriously questioned as we are labelled deranged religious nuts engaging in various forms of self-harm. Deprived of physical persecution, how else can we share in the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet 4:13 ESV)
Only by sharing in the mockery of the cross (1 Cor 4:13 ESV) can we know how much the Lord has honoured us by his death5)See Biblical References Matt 27:31 ESV; Acts 20:28 ESV; 1 John 1:7 ESV.
If no-one has ever labelled you as somehow crazy for following Christ, you should re-examine your call. Persecution may be no recipe for revival, but my experience of Christians from around the globe who have been truly oppressed for Christ is that suffering for Jesus always breeds true discipleship.
Such discipleship is the need of the hour. Like it or not, because the Lord loves his Church and the lost so much, he has Australia on a trajectory when to be called “Christian” will mean to bear the label “fool” (1 Cor 4:10 ESV).
When this condition comes we will see the Spirit of glory rest on us (1 Pet 4:14 ESV).
The old KJV translation for 1 Peter 2:9 KJV has a lot to commend it, “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”. Hallelujah for such weird wisdom – the wisdom of Jesus and his cross!
MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 23rd February 2019 Location: Unknown
Author: Dr. John Yates
YouTube or PODCAST:
23rd Feb, 2019.
23rd Feb, 2019.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||See Biblical References cf. 2:23 ESV|
|2.||↑||See Biblical References Matt 16:21-23 ESV cf. Mark 3:21 ESV|
|3.||↑||See Biblical References Heb 9:14 ESV; Mark 14:36 ESV|
|4.||↑||See Biblical References Isa 53:12 ESV; 1 John 5:19 ESV|
|5.||↑||See Biblical References Matt 27:31 ESV; Acts 20:28 ESV; 1 John 1:7 ESV|