Thoughts for these days
Occasional comments on current events from a Christian perspective
Should you lobby your MP?
Recently we met with our MP to ask him to support our concerns over the marginalisation of Christians in Britain. Afterwards we discussed how we could encourage other Christians to get involved in active lobbying, in the hope of reversing or at least restraining laws which are now placing British Christians at odds with ‘officialdom’ in general. Given that this could now be nothing more than a rearguard action, we were uncertain whether it is something which The LORD is really calling His people to do. The last thing Mary and I want to do is to motivate Christians with a further set of false promises - there have been far too many of these circulating amongst the churches in recent decades.
Who is on The LORD’s side?
I pondered this question for a while and began to realise that such a call to arms needs to be accompanied with a warning that The LORD sometimes refuses to fight with His people. This may seem a strange thought to some, but the Bible reminds us several times that the important question is not, is God on our side, but are we on His? It is very easy to motivate people with promises of a better future, ‘prophecies’ of a more successful Church around the corner, or of a more Christian nation if we do a, b and c. Such offers of brighter tomorrows have always been welcomed with open arms. This is not a problem peculiar to the Church; it was a significant factor in causing Israel to entertain false prophets by the score, whilst at the same time persecuting those who brought The LORD’s true burden to them. About such prophets Jeremiah twice warned, “They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace.” (Ch. 6 & 8).
In the New Testament, Paul warned the ill-disciplined church in Corinth that those Israelites who died in the wilderness had all benefited from similar blessings to those enjoyed by Christians through the New Covenant. However, he reminded his readers that “with most of them God was not well pleased.” He said their wrong attitudes should serve as a warning to Christians to avoid the fleshly desires which had motivated those Israelites. Listing things such as idolatry, sexual immorality and being discontent with God, he emphasised, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” This passage (1 Cor. 10:1-14) is often summarised by the phrase, “Avoid Israel’s mistakes!”
If therefore I'm to encourage you as a Christian to roll up your sleeves and go into battle, then it is important to warn you of the things which caused Israel to be defeated by their enemies. I should also restate the obvious, that in Ephesians 6 Paul made it clear that our real opponents are not the politicians, the media nor the secular activists, but the principalities, the rulers of the darkness of this age and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places, which use such people for purposes they don’t fully understand. Also, if we are to “stand against the wiles of the devil” then “having done all, to stand”, then we need as Paul urges to be wearing the full armour of God in our own lives, (an ongoing commitment to truth, righteousness, faith, a knowledge of our salvation, a constant readiness to proclaim the Gospel of Christ and a desire to know the voice of The LORD so that we have a knowledge of His will).
A battle lost!
In Israel’s day, their enemies were the nations which stood in the way of them possessing the land which they had been promised by The LORD. After their deliverance from Egypt they made good progress across the desert and were soon approaching the boundary of that land. During their journey they had been given the Law through Moses at Mt. Sinai. This included the promises and warnings recorded in Leviticus 26. Eleven verses in this chapter list the benefits of being people who “walk in My statutes and keep My commandments”, whilst thirty warn of the consequences of not doing so. They are warned that disobedience will cause them “to be delivered into the hand of the enemy” by The LORD. It was failing to take this warning to heart which led to defeat when Israel first went into battle.
Israel had been delivered from Egypt and had seen Pharaoh’s armies destroyed without wielding a sword. However, when their Deliverer told them to go in and possess the land which He had promised to Abraham, they refused to do so. They refused because they were terrified by the unbelief of ten out of the twelve men who had been sent ahead as spies. Numbers 14 details how The LORD threatened to destroy them there and then; after Moses had interceded on their behalf, He promised not to do this, but instead decreed that that generation would die in the wilderness over the next forty years. At this point the people should have humbled themselves before The LORD and accepted His judgement, but the chapter ends with them attacking the Amalekites and the Canaanites, despite Moses’ warning that they should not do so. The consequence of that unbelief was that The LORD did not go with them, and they were driven back by their enemies.
A key Biblical commentary on this passage is Psalm 95, where David wrote, “Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion.” The writer of Hebrews cites this warning in chapters 3 and 4. The author does not beat about the bush, but strongly asserts that their failure to obey was the outcome of their unbelief and it was this which prevented them from entering into His rest. He commented on this event because he was reminding his Christian readers that post-Calvary there is also a rest for the people of God to enter into and he warns us against allowing our own unbelief to prevent us from doing this. My own reason for pointing out these things is slightly different. Israel lost their first ever battle because they fought it at their own instigation, rather than at The LORD’s command. They put themselves into that situation because of a double dose of unbelief. Their first rebellion was in refusing to attack the inhabitants of the land when they were commanded to do so. Their second rebellion occurred when they did attack them, having been told not to.
A second defeat
Forty years later, when Israel was next told to enter Canaan, they were on the whole more successful. Their most famous battle was actually not a battle. Once more they didn’t have to lift a sword until The LORD had taken Jericho for them. In His instructions before the victory He had told them that the gold, silver and other metals they would find there were to be dedicated to Him and they were banned from keeping them for themselves. Joshua 7 records how just one man disobeyed that command, taking a garment and some gold and silver and hiding them under his tent. Consequently when Israel next went into battle, The LORD was once again not with them and they were defeated by the men of Ai. The LORD told Joshua the reason for their defeat and the next day He pointed out through the drawing of lots who the culprit was. Achan’s disobedience, which arose from his failure to take God seriously, cost him far more than the value of the things he had coveted. He and all his family were stoned to death (for they had conspired with him) and their possessions were burned. The LORD then gave Israel victory over Ai.
What can we learn from these two defeats experienced by Israel? Do they have any relevance to the situation of the Church in Britain and other Western societies as we see the advance of secularism and the marginalisation of Christians which results? I suggest that we must first acknowledge that unbelief and the disobedience which it generates have been far too abundant in the Church, as they were for Israel in the wilderness. Whilst we should not have a rosy picture of the past (Ecclesiastes 7:10), we should also recognise that in recent decades Christians have failed to agree with their God on far too wide a range of issues. The majority of Christians have desired friendship with the world far more than they sought to walk in The LORD’s ways, which is a familiar quality of human nature. Consequently for many years now we have failed to stand firm for Him and for His standards. Instead we have accommodated the alternative ‘morals’ of the godless, not wishing to offend them. How can we expect The LORD to fight with us when we have not heeded the warning of Psalm 95, and have allowed our own hearts to be hardened against His voice?
Jesus warned His disciples that they could not serve two masters; either His Father or the god of this world will have final say in the choices we make. Many Christians, not having ears to hear, have failed to take seriously our Saviour's command to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” By failing to trust Him to provide all our needs, we have ended up taking the values and the things of this world into our lives so much that they are firmly lodged in our churches, as well as in our families. If we desire to see the tide of secularism turned, we should first examine ourselves to see whether we have allowed its values to become embedded in our own thinking? Do we live with desires, ambitions and values which The LORD has decreed belong to those who are perishing? One paradox of Scripture is this: whilst Christ told us we must love Him more than we love our family, the Israelites in Deuteronomy 28 were warned that disobedience would cost them their wives and their children. Could we, like Achan, be sacrificing our children and their futures through our unbelief in the seriousness of our God’s commands?
An invitation to dinner
By now you may be thinking the the situation is hopeless, since much of the Church is shot through with unbelief. Before you throw in the towel, let me offer you some hope. It is true that throughout history the Church has been a field full of wheat and tares growing side by side. If we pin our hopes for the future on a Church without faults, then we will be crushed by despair. Christ recognised this when He addressed a church which was such a mixture it was neither hot nor cold. His message to the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3) has been relevant to the Church in every century since John recorded it. Unfortunately one of His most famous statements therein is also one of the most misquoted. The door on which He described Himself as knocking on was not the life of a non-Christian individual, but that of an apparently Christian church. This church however had excluded their Saviour from their meetings. Christ’s remedy for this unbelievable situation was not to call for a church meeting to vote Him back into membership, but a promise to individuals who were willing to hear His voice and to open the door to Him. To those willing to do this, He said He would dine with them and them with Him. I encourage you therefore to take your eyes off the failures of others in the Church and fix them firmly on Jesus Christ and to determine to keep your own relationship with Him open and living.
Should you therefore lobby your MP? I hope you will, but I don’t want you to do it on my say-so alone. You need to know His will for you. Concerning many things we have the testimony of the Scriptures to guide us, but without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, living by them is reduced to legalism. We all need to be regularly dining with Christ and paying close attention to His words to us. From that fellowship will come a concern to stand up for Christ in every situation as His ambassadors on earth. Remember though, we won’t be able to stand firm in that battle unless we are doing the same at home, at work, or anywhere else where we find ourselves pressurised to agree with the world. In particular we need to resist the pressure to bow before the aggressive secularism which is at large in society today.
If you are prepared to stand - by yourself if necessary - with the God of righteousness, if you are prepared to turn away from unbelief in every aspect of your own life, you will want to publicly agree with Christ and make it clear that you will not call evil good, nor good evil. In that case, it may be worthwhile telling your MP that you are concerned about the way our culture and our legislation is rapidly shifting to a place where to seek to live by an informed Christian conscience is considered a danger to society!
Stand for Christ not for Britain
Whilst I hope that many who read this will take up such a cause and will engage in a prolonged conversation with politicians, what I cannot promise you is that a flow of correspondence with MPs will guarantee that the tide away from Christianity in Britain will be turned. If that is your motivation for speaking out, I don't want you to be overcome by despair should your hopes not be realised. As I said at the start, abundant false promises of revival and the subsequent reformation of society have been circulating for decades. None of these have been fulfilled and this is because they based on human hopes and not on Biblical truths. It has rightly been said that those who believe an illusion end up being disillusioned.
In Matthew 24, when answering questions about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of history, Jesus warned His disciples that as His return approached, His followers would be “hated by all nations for My name’s sake”. In a similar passage (Luke 21) Christ posed the question, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” It is very possible, taking these and other passages seriously, that the secularisation of Britain is part of the events which must take place before every eye sees Him, before every knee bows before Him and before every tongue confesses that He is Lord to His Father’s glory. If it is, then to work for its reversal will result in despair for those who do so. Far better to be motivated by the desire to honour Jesus Christ, your Saviour and Redeemer, and to confess Him before all you know.
I close with the words of Christ: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33
Randall Hardy - March 2011
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© Randall Hardy 2011
This page last edited March 2011