(February 15, 2019) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, considers Australia’s future…
Recently Australia Day, January 28, resounded with the singing of our national anthem, the last line of which the first verse is ‘Advance Australia fair.’
However, in reflecting on Australia – its past and present, and thinking about its future – I sense that a more appropriate final line is not a statement but would be a question – ‘Advance Australia where?’
So the question is… As a nation where are we going? In what direction are we heading?
Before Australia had been put on maps, for over 1500 years many people had speculated that there was a large continent in the southern hemisphere for which there was no documentary evidence. Then, just over 400 years ago in 1606, the Portuguese explorer Fernández de Quirós sailed into the southern waters and, discovering that large landmass, called it La Austrialia del Espiritu Santo which means ‘The Southland of the Holy Spirit.’
The Southland of the Holy Spirit
What a great name for a country! How wonderful it would be if the Spirit of God really had sovereign authority over this nation!
What an amazing country Australia is, what remarkable progress it has taken in such a short time and what incredible potential it has. From its establishment of a penal settlement for British convicts in the late 18th century among the indigenous people in a land that had not been touched by hundreds of years of European cultural and scientific advance, Australia has made outstanding progress.
Australia is indeed a land of great…
- Natural gifts
Yet, sadly, Australia has been caught up in the spiritual sickness that is seriously affecting Western countries today. For hundreds of years Western civilisation had been strongly influenced by Christianity and therefore its values were biblically based – even though people have often failed to live according to those ideals. But in recent years there has been a significant shift in people’s attitude regarding those values.
Consequently we’re now seeing that God is being mocked, Christian moral principles are being turned on their head, the Christian religion is being suppressed and Christians are being both persecuted and prosecuted. And this is happening in cultures that have for centuries had a Christian foundation – including Australia.
Proverbs 14:34’s profound words
‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.’
What is righteousness? Many Christians think that ‘righteousness’ is one of those religious words that sound impressive but are hard to understand. In fact the opposite is true!
The key to understanding the meaning of the word is found in the first five letters – RIGHT. ‘Righteousness’ is –
- Doing the right thing
- Saying the right thing
- Thinking the right
It means living a life that is right in the sight of God. And the writer of Proverbs says that it is this that ‘exalts’ or ‘elevates’ a nation. God’s word provides the foundation that enables us to keep on the right path. Psalm 119:160 declares of God, ‘Your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.’ They don’t change!
While Proverbs 14:34 says that ‘doing, saying, thinking’ the right thing as defined by God lifts a nation up, the opposite is also true – ‘sin is a disgrace to any people.’ While this word was first addressed to Israel, the principle is true for all nations. Righteousness raises up; sin pulls down. Righteousness builds; sin destroys.
1. Acknowledge the Contrast
We’re living in very significant times. 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. Decency, sound ethics, common sense and free speech have been sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.
A major power-shift is taking place today – a power-shift that exposes a spiritual struggle. The challenge to Christian values today is not just a change of emphasis, nor a rise of alternative political ideologies, nor a move towards more enlightened and progressive ideas and ways of doing things.
Current events reveal that a spirit of depravity, deceit, confusion, atheism and misrepresentation has been sweeping through the world – a world in which…
- People talk loudly about their rights but say little about their responsibilities.
- Lives have been ruined by the mere allegation of impropriety.
- Freedom of speech, belief and religion are being forced to yield to what is deemed to be the current politically correct positions.
- News media disregards facts and edits the news in order to promote lies and propaganda.
- Christians are often presented as the hated enemy. Christian values are dismissed as irrelevant and Christians are increasingly being prosecuted in the courts under so-called anti-discrimination legislation.
Should we be surprised? Clearly not. Didn’t Jesus say to his disciples, ‘If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you… 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’ (John 15:18-21).
Just before he was taken to be crucified, Jesus prayed to the Father, ‘I have given them (his followers) your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world’ (John 17:14).
What is the underlying cause of this hatred? The apostle John makes a striking statement, ‘We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one’ (1 John 5:19). John didn’t minimise Satan’s activity in the world but explicitly drew attention to two fundamentally opposing kingdoms – God’s and Satan’s. Throughout the New Testament we see that this fact of a fierce struggle between these kingdoms lies at the heart of the gospel message.
Sadly many Christians take the attitude of ignoring what is happening in society, adopting the posture of an ostrich with its head stuck in the sand! But ignorance of what is happening in the world is not a commendable Christian position.
- Jesus told his disciples, ‘Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen’ (Luke 21:36).
- Paul wrote, ‘Let us not be like others who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled’ (1 Thessalonians 5:6).
- Peter gave this advice, ‘Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8).
How can we meaningfully…
- Minister to the world if we don’t know what is happening in the world?
- Pray for our leaders, as the Bible tells us to, if we don’t know what to pray about?
- Pray for revival if we are unaware that revival is desperately needed?
If righteousness is a characteristic of God’s rule and about embracing God’s values and living righteously with right words, thoughts and deeds, then unrighteousness, which opposes God’s values and is evidence of Satan’s rule, is about living with wrong words, thoughts and deeds.
And how vigorously that wrong way of life is being promoted in society today. From some politicians who stridently try to replace God’s ideals with their own distorted standards, and from so-called ‘celebrities’ who crave more ever attention by spruiking their godless idea, Satan’s kingdom keeps making inroads.
We need to watch, be alert, and be aware of how Satan has made so much progress in Australian society today and how his kingdom of destruction, deceit and death has gained so much ground. Satan’s attempt to dethrone God started in Eden when Eve was persuaded to disobey God’s command and it has continued right up to today.
The point I’m making is this – we need to acknowledge the contrast between the life-giving works of righteousness that belong to God’s kingdom and the destructive works of sin that belong to Satan’s kingdom. Do you remember how Jesus described this total contrast between those two kingdoms? He said, ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.’
Steal! Kill! Destroy! That has always been Satan’s strategy. Let me give you an up-to-date example of this. It happened in America just recently. Under the pretence of protecting women’s rights, the governor of New York, surrounded by three smiling women, signed a bill which stated that the abortion of an unborn baby may take place at any time, right up to the moment of birth! Yes, that is New York, but our practices in Australia are not far behind. Steal! Kill! Destroy! That is what lies at the heart of Satan’s vile plans that he convincingly persuades people to embrace.
But in the verse that says that Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy, Jesus offered a totally contrasting alternative. He said, ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10). The total contrast that Jesus offers is to enrich, give life, restore and save in fullest measure!
In the Greek language Jesus’ use of the word ‘I’ here is emphatic! He alone is the source of life and righteousness!
2. Admit the Consequences
What then are the consequences with such a struggle that has been always with us, but which is transparently evident today?
(i) Careful and considerate living are replaced with self-indulgence and self-gratification
This then is marked by a society in which people are encouraged to make their own rules, live by their own corrupt ideas and self-indulgently chase a decadent life-style.
Of course, this is not just a phenomenon of this modern age. Jesus also drew attention to it when he said, ‘People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed’ (Luke 17:27-30).
We know from Genesis that both Noah and Lot lived at a time when their societies were very corrupt. People just did their own thing without a thought ever being given to God or God’s requirements. They were unaware of – and likely would have laughed at the idea – that they would experience God’s judgment. But it did come and for them it was too late! God’s judgment fell on those wicked generations. Can we say that this will not happen to us?
(ii) Truth is replaced with lies
The word ‘truth’ is one of the most frequently used words in the New Testament – in Greek the noun occurs 111 times. The Greek word for ‘truth’ can also be translated by the word ‘reality.’ What is true is real! One of the dominant philosophies of today is called Relativism which claims that ‘there is no universal truth but many different truths’ and consequently each person has their own truth and each is equally valid! So according to this view, truth is anything you want it to be!
When Jesus stood before Pilate to be judged, he stated that his mission was to reveal and declare the truth. After Pilate had heard all the false accusations laid against Jesus by the Jewish authorities which condemned him as a liar and rabble-rouser, Jesus said to Pilate, ‘For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me’ (John 18:37). Pilate then asked the question that millions have asked throughout the ages, ‘What is truth?’
Sadly today truth has again become a victim to the agenda of scheming people. Regrettably we cannot trust the news media to report the news. Instead many reporters put their own spin, their own interpretation of the facts, and often, if there are no facts to back up the story they want to tell, they make them up! Someone once commented that truth was the first causality of war. And in the spiritual war that is waging today, truth certainly has severely suffered.
Truth is not subject to public opinion which continually changes. Truth doesn’t change. Jesus is the truth. The word of God is the truth. God’s ways are true ways!
(iii) Religious faith and freedom are replaced with the tyranny of atheistic conformity
We are living in a dangerous age in which Christians are seen as the enemy and Christian principles are considered to be primitive and abhorrent. The very values on which this nation was founded are now dismissed as irrelevant at best and dangerously radical and intensely offensive at worst. Once the nation’s moral compass is discarded, the ‘ship of state’ that we call Australia is heading for rocks on which it will be destroyed. Where are we going as a nation? What direction are we heading? The signs indicate that the compass is broken!
3. Accept the Charge
As Christians living in this great land we have a choice. It is exactly the same choice given to the people of Israel by Joshua after he had led them into the Promised Land. They had claimed the land as their home but they were surrounded on all sides by their enemies who worshipped many gods, practised human sacrifice and included prostitutions as an aspect of their religion. The Israelites were confronted by two alternatives:
- Blend in with their neighbours, not to rock the boat, not to draw too much attention to themselves.
- Or acknowledge the debt they owed to God who had rescued them from bondage and had led them to this wonderful land and to live in commitment and faithfulness to him.
And this was the challenge Joshua gave almost 3500 years ago, ‘Fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. … But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:14-15).
That same charge is still as relevant to us today as Christians living in Australia – ‘Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.’ A choice has to be made.
As Christians are we going to stay silent and mind our own business, not rock the boat and just blend in to the society in which we live? That certainly is the choice that has been made by many Christians today. But it is worth remembering some verses in Acts where we read that when Peter and John were instructed by the authorities to keep quiet about their faith, they 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 4:19-20). The bold and brave choice they made was one obeying God even if it meant disobedience to the authorities, regardless of the consequences.
That same choice was also made by thousands of Christians in the first few centuries after the church was formed. Because of their vibrant and living faith in Jesus Christ, they unashamedly spoke of Jesus to others wherever they went and the church grew at a phenomenal rate.
But there was a cost! Many thousands of those early Christians were persecuted and cruelly executed because they would not deny Jesus Christ. The word ‘martyr’ originally meant ‘witness’ but, because of those brave and committed Christians its definition changed, meaning ‘one who dies for his or her faith.’
I believe that that is the sober challenge before us today. Many Christians have chosen the way of silence. Others have chosen the way of compromise. Still others have chosen to surrender. But as a Christian, wholly committed to God, there can be only one honourable choice – no surrender! Paul gave us this solemn charge: ‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world’ (Romans 12:2).
This fair land of Australia needs us, we who call ourselves Christians, to surrender only to God, to stand firmly on his word, to hold fast, to be committed to working and witnessing to our fellow citizens who are not Christians and to pray for Australia that his Holy Spirit may move across this land in power.
There is an additional verse to our national anthem that is sometimes sung. There is some debate about who actually wrote it, but I wish it truly were included in our national song as it expresses the Christian hope of Jesus being truly honoured in this land…
With Christ our head and cornerstone
We’ll build our nation’s might
Whose way of truth and light alone
Can guide our path aright
Our lives a sacrifice of love
Reflect our Master’s care
With faces turned to Heaven above
Advance Australia Fair
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair!
Dr Jim McClure, author of several books and Bible study series, welcomes questions from Christians seeking enlightenment on biblical perspectives.
Recommended are his enlightening Grace Revisited and Looking for Answers in a Confusing World; also Overview of the Old and New Testaments, Love, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, The Masonic Deception, Word of Life in the Old and New Testaments, Interpreting the Letter of James. All are available in electronic version in EPUB, Kindle and PDF formats with hyperlinks and offered free. Link for orders and questions: firstname.lastname@example.org