What a wonderful world this could be! There are many things for which we can be grateful, so many benefits that we can enjoy as we live in the 21st century. But …there is also a darker side!
How things have changed in recent decades! In today’s topsy-turvy world solid moral values, which have stood the test of time, have been turned upside-down. In the name of political correctness decency, sound ethics, common sense and free speech have been sacrificed.
Consequently a spirit of depravity, deceit, confusion and misrepresentation has been sweeping through the world.
1. Today’s disordered world
(i) Sexual distortions
Sexual immorality, gender fluidity and biological confusion are being touted as being indisputably ‘normal.’ To advance its agenda the LGBT community has been responsible for major alterations of the English language. Words that once had clear and obvious meanings have been given them a twist! It has been very successful in using the ‘The Humpty-Dumpty Principle of word-definition’. I am referring to an interesting conversation between Humpty-Dumpty and Alice in Lewis Carroll’s book, Through the Looking Glass, where we read:
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
Deliberately varying the definition of a word when making an argument is an act of deceitfulness!
In the name of open mindedness, all kinds of depravity have been redefined, ‘regularised’ and deemed acceptable. For example –
- A person’s gender is self-defined. This means that one may decide to be a male one day and a female the next – and swap between the two according to how one chooses to perceive of one’s self at any particular time!
- Now men dressed as women (or in some cases just claiming to be women) are permitted into women’s toilets, and vice versa.
- In some parts of Australia schools are being encouraged (and in some places soon to be legally required) to teach their students homosexual and transgender practices, encourage cross-dressing, require ‘straight’ children to play the role of gays and lesbians, and give advice on how to deny one’s biological sex.
- The myth of ‘marriage equality,’ which has seen many countries passing legislation to secure the right to marriage for same-sex couples, has distorted the definition of words in many absurd ways, including a man calling his partner ‘husband’ and a woman calling her partner ‘wife.’
(ii) Slaughter of children
At the same time as moral corruption deepens contempt for the value of human life increases.
The slaughter of children in the womb continues unabated to a degree exceeding the ancient practices of child sacrifice. On the altar of ‘family planning’ literally millions of babies are massacred every year. The World Health Organisation estimates the yearly figure of abortions to be around 40-50 million!
(iii) Contempt for human life
Alongside this maelstrom of the murder of the unborn, contempt for the value of human life is demonstrated on the streets as drug-addicts ferociously lash out at unwary people, often causing death.
Further, we are horrified by the unspeakable acts of the death cults that butcher innocent and unsuspecting men, women and children in the name of their god. We watch nightly on television the organised and systematic acts of terror and destruction by Islamic terrorists.
(iv) The role of atheism in opposing Christianity
Furthermore, as all this is happening, atheism is being rapidly embraced and proclaimed while Christianity is being ridiculed (often in the media). Christian beliefs are being maligned and dismissed as irrelevant and Christians are increasingly being prosecuted under so-called anti-discrimination legislation – even within those countries that were founded on Christian principles – and their rights are denied!
Christian morals are publicly scorned, Christian beliefs are derided, Christian witness is silenced in the name of ‘avoiding causing offence,’ Christian businesses are targeted and Christian employees are required to avoid saying, doing or wearing anything that could be taken as evangelising.
The media is quick to criticise the church, mock its beliefs and scoff at its practices. And political parties, seeking to give the appearance of identifying with community whims, blatantly and proudly parade their defiance of God’s ways and his laws.
2. The culture of the world
We read in Matthew 4:8-9 that just before Jesus began his ministry, ‘the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”’
William Barclay, the New Testament scholar, has commented on this event as follows: ‘What the tempter was saying was, “Compromise! Come to terms with me! Don’t pitch your demands quite so high! Wink just a little at evil and questionable things – and then people will follow you in their hordes.” This was the temptation to come to terms with the world, instead of uncompromisingly presenting God’s demands to it. It was the temptation to try to advance by retreating, to try to change the world by becoming like the world.’
The scriptures reveal that it is the devil’s influence that actually lies behind the world’s culture and when we observe what is happening in the world, this becomes apparent.
Three times in John’s Gospel, Jesus describes the devil as ‘The prince of this world’ (12:31; 14:30; 16:11). This description of Satan shows that Satan’s grip on the world is powerful indeed as he seeks to influence people to follow his directions; consequently his malevolent influence is brought to bear on world cultures. Satan exercises a significant influence on the standards, views, objectives, feelings and expectations of all people. His power to persuade and distort similarly affect, to a greater or lesser degree, everything we do as humans.
All things are contaminated by him as he seeks to dominate the world and bring it under his control by distorting the truth, making false promises and corrupting the good. Paul expressed it this way, ‘Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the good news. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT).
3. Persistent hostility against the church
Satan obviously saw the church as his greatest threat to his plans of world domination! Consequently from the beginning he did his best to overcome the establishing of that opposing kingdom with its alternative values.
It is unsurprising, therefore, that shortly after the church came into being on the day of Pentecost, it encountered vigorous opposition and about one year later its first martyr, Stephen, was stoned to death. ‘And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria’ (Acts 8:1).
As the church grew and its good news was proclaimed abroad, efforts increased to silence its voice and to destroy its influence. Christians in the first three centuries were outlawed, persecuted and martyred by their thousands, and at various times and in various places that persecution has continued to this day when more Christians are being persecuted than at any other time in history.
Jesus foretold that this would happen. He said, ‘If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you … If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you… because they do not know him who sent me’ (John 15:18-21).
And just before he was taken away to be crucified, Jesus prayed to the Father regarding his followers, ‘I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth’ (John 17:14-17).
4. Two opposing cultures
In 1 John 5:19 we read a striking statement, ‘We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.’ In this verse Jesus was explicitly drawing attention to two fundamentally opposing cultures – his and Satan’s. Throughout the New Testament we see that this fact of a fierce struggle between these cultures lies at the heart of its message.
When Jesus began his ministry, he revealed his wholly positive manifesto for humanity – ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Luke 4:18-19).
In contrast, in John 10:10, Jesus summarised Satan’s wholly negative manifesto – ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ In this verse Jesus spelt out the challenge of the two alternatives – oppression and death or abundant life.
When preaching the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7), Jesus was describing the nature of a Christian culture that stood in unwavering opposition to the world’s culture. He began (Matthew 5:3-11) by using the word ‘blessed’ nine times. This word (Greek: makarios) means ‘tremendously blessed’; it speaks of a God-given joy that the world can never give nor take away. Jesus repeatedly preached about this alternative kingdom and counterculture that has ‘blessing’ rather than ‘destruction’ at its heart.
5. The Christian’s role in God’s counterculture
When Jesus described his followers as ‘the salt of the earth’ and ‘the light of the world’ (Matthew 5:13 and 14), he was spelling out the challenge of living by the principles of his counterculture. In other words, the followers of Jesus Christ have a responsibility, as ‘salt’ to be …
(i) a preserving influence that counters corruption in an inherently evil society, and
(ii) enhancing the flavour of society in a positive way.
And as ‘light’ they have the task to act as a light for truth and goodness in a dark world of sin and spiritual ignorance (cf Ephesians 6:12).
That is the challenge Jesus gives to us as Christians, but it is often difficult to rise to it! Christians repeatedly chose the so-called ‘easy way’ of compromise. There is a persistently strong temptation to align our values with those ‘politically correct’ ones currently advanced by the secular world, especially when we want to stand firmly on, and to promote, the values that belong to the kingdom of God but know that such a stance may expose us to opposition, ridicule and abuse from others.
Many Christians try to walk the path of compromise, but following Christ is certainly not take us along that path. That was something Peter and John discovered early in their Christian life. We read in Acts 4 that the Sanhedrin, the authority for setting ‘politically correct’ opinions, objected to Peter and John’s preaching about Jesus Christ: ‘Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard”’ (Acts 4:18-20). For them compromise was not an option!
In Revelation 2:12-17 we find the letter of the Risen Christ to the church at Pergamum. Jesus first commended the Christians there: ‘You remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me.’ But then he said, ‘Nevertheless, I have a few things against you.’ While some held firmly to their Christian values, even to the point of death, there were others who had chosen to compromise.
When a person is only nominally a Christian, that is, claiming to be a Christian while, at the same time, failing fully to embrace, practise and affirm the fundamental beliefs, principles and ethical teaching of the kingdom of God, the Christian witness of that person becomes so diluted and so distorted as to be unrecognisable.
Likewise when a culture is only nominally Christian, the contrast between the world’s culture and Christian culture becomes somewhat blurred. Apart from a clearly defined Christian counterculture that is grounded on scriptural values – and a commitment to them – a person or a country may be Christian in name only. The fact is that Christian and worldly cultures have clear and fundamentally different bases and they stand in unequivocal opposition to each other!
The theologian, Dr R Albert Mohler, has commented, ‘If you can’t tell the difference between the church and the culture, it isn’t that the church has been victorious over the culture; it’s because the culture has been victorious over the church.’ Today the world’s culture has been scoring many significant victories over the church!
James boldly stated, ‘Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God’ (James 4:4). James was not writing about the world in a contemptuous way, rather it was worldliness that he scorned, that is, worldly values, pursuits, goals and practices that are opposed to God.
We cannot serve Christ and Satan! We cannot live transparently as Christians while supporting the worldly standards of deviant political correctness. We cannot endorse both the counterculture of the kingdom of God and the fallen culture of the world.
6. The Lord’s Prayer and counterculture
It is so easy to rattle off the Lord’s Prayer without actually reflecting on the radical teaching it contains. For example, it addresses the subject that we call ‘counterculture.’ Consider the following phrase, ‘… your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6:10).
This phrase is incredibly confronting in that it challenges us truly to recognise Jesus as King in our lives and to make his will and agenda our priority. Although we were born into the kingdom of this world over which Satan wants to rule, as Christians we have become citizens of the kingdom of God.
Paul wrote, ‘He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves’ (Colossians 1:13). Consequently we have the God-given responsibility to live for God rather than kowtow to Satan.
The phrase we are looking at is grammatically described as an imperative. William Barclay more accurately translates Matthew 6:10 as ‘Let your Kingdom come: Let your will be done, as in heaven, so upon earth.’ That is to say, ‘Let your Kingdom actually become a reality on earth.’ For this to happen we have a role to play in God’s plans! Our priority is to seek the advance of God’s kingdom, not only in praying for it but also in faithful and uncompromising commitment to living it!
The apostle Paul presented us with this challenge, ‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will’ (Romans 12:2).
God loves the world he created, as John 3:16 tells us, but he wants to see his people live according to his cultural principles and not Satan’s. The reality is that because anti-God forces are very active in today’s world, allegiance to Christ will prove costly!
But it is only when Christians choose faithfully to live by the radically different values of God, boldly to declare their allegiance to him and unwillingly live in an uncompromising relationship and commitment to him, that the world will see the glory of Jesus Christ and the power of his gospel to transform lives and to change the world.
Come, set your rule and reign
In our hearts again;
Increase in us we pray,
Unveil why we’re made.
Come, set our hearts ablaze with hope
Like wildfire in our very souls.
Holy Spirit come invade us now
We are your church,
We need your power in us.
We seek your kingdom first.
We hunger and we thirst.
Refuse to waste our lives
For you’re our joy and prize.
To see the captive hearts released,
The hurt, the sick, the poor at peace,
We lay down our lives for Heaven’s cause.
Build your kingdom here.
Let the darkness fear.
Show your mighty hand.
Heal our streets and land.
Set your church on fire.
Win this nation back.
Change the atmosphere.
Build your kingdom here
Unleash your kingdom’s power,
Reaching the near and far.
No force of Hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts.
You made us for much more than this.
Awake the kingdom seed in us.
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ.
(‘Rend Collective’, from the album Campfire)
In his well-researched Grace Revisited he reveals grace as having a strong active meaning and is like a many faceted diamond out of which shines a greater understanding of the great God we worship. Normally $35 but now offered free by Dr Jim in EPUB and MOBI versions to anyone who contacts him at firstname.lastname@example.org