St Andrews day is coming up (November the 30th). The Free Church now holds it as a day of prayer for church and nation. Yesterdays blog looked at the collective insanity amongst the governing classes which seems to be growing on a daily basis – Transmania
Today I want to take a look at the deeper cause of this confusion – of which Transmania is only a small part. It is tied in with Romans 1. The greatest punishment that God could ever inflict upon us is to leave us to what I call the Burger King version of society ‘have it your way’. You could call it the Sinatra version (I did it my way), or the Fleetwood Mac (Go Your Own Way). But whatever you call it – the assertion of human autonomy and sovereignty is disastrous. God as man recreates. Man as God destroys. John Owen in his ‘Sermons to the Nation’ (Works vol 8) and ‘Sermons to the Church’ (vol 9) is insightful and helpful on this.
Owen asks the question: “What concern have we in the sins of the day wherein we live?” (Discourse III, vol. 9 p.365)
He answers that all sins may be classed under two heads – irreligion and immorality.
Irreligion itself can be divided into atheism and false worship. Atheism is found in the heart (it is not primarily a matter of the mind or intelligence). Owen identifies four signs of atheism in the nation:
- “By horrid, cursed, blasphemous swearing; which is a contempt of the name of God. And when did it ever abound more in this nation?”. The answer is today! I cannot switch on the TV, walk down the street or speak in schools/universities without hearing coarse, ugly and blasphemous language.
- By reproaching of the Spirit of God.
- By scoffing at all holy things; as at the Scriptures – at everything that carries a reverence and fear of God; so that a man who dares profess a fear of God in what he does, makes himself a scorn.
- Contempt of all God’s providential warnings is another proof of atheism. Never had a nation more warnings from God’s providence, nor ever were they more despised.
Owen speaks of a 17th Century England which is characterised by coarse language, mockery of the Gospel and a refusal to listen to the warnings of God. Sounds familiar?
Owen then goes on to speak of immorality in the nation: “It would be an endless thing, to go over the sins that reign among us: oppression, blood, uncleanness, sensuality, drunkenness – all to the height, raging and reigning in the nation” . But what really hit home to me was his description of the ‘security’ within the nation. Occasionally there is a wake up call with some disaster and people wake as from a slumber but soon close their eyes and go back to sleep again. That is true in the nation – but then Owen asks why Christians should care about the sins of others.
The answer comes from Scripture – Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed. (Psalm 119:136). Not only do we need to be free from these ‘abominations’ we need to be those who mourn for them in our nation and communities.
“The name of God is blasphemed, the Spirit of God reproached, a flood of iniquity spreads itself over the nation, the land of our birth, over the inheritance of Christ, over a nation professing the reformed religion; all things go backward – every thing declines. Indeed, brothers, if you will not, I do acknowledge here before you, and to my own shame, I have great guilt upon me in this matter, that I have not been sensible of the abominations of the nation, so as to mourn for them and be humbled for them, as I ought to have been. And you will do well to search your hearts, and consider how it is with you; – whether indeed you have been affected with these things; or whether you have not thought all is well, while all has been well with yourselves and families, and, it may be, with the church, that may have no trouble upon that account.”
Are we not too secure in our middle class churches, with our comfortable lives? Have we become so comfortable in the midst of sin that we do not see it with the eyes of God? Do we weep for the blood being shed (the slaughter of the unborn)? the damage being done to our children in the name of ideology? the destruction of the family? the crass materialism and the gap between rich and poor? the exploitation of the weak by the powerful? the replacement of God by the State? the destructiveness of vice and addictions? the decline of education? the culture of death? false religion? misogyny? racism? injustice? cruelty? mockery and abuse of our precious Lord Jesus?
It’s a dangerous prayer but perhaps all Christians should pray that the Lord would open our eyes, minds and hearts that we would see, understand and feel his grief. As Freddy Mercury sang at Live Aid “Oh, what must He think of the mess that we’ve made, of the world that He created?”.
And then we need to pray the prayer of the Psalmist that we might see the solution:
“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” (Ps 119:18)