B. Motives for Seeking Revival
b. Second motive: for the sake of the lost
2. Remember the State of the Nation
[I use Britain, my own nation, as an example here. But, if you don’t live in Britain, you could write your own equivalent article relating to your own nation]
It is possible to fall into negativism, doom, gloom and paranoia by focusing on the bad aspects of society. Human nature tends to fall into this approach and it is strengthened by the media’s emphasis on bad news.
It is obvious that there are around us many good, loving, caring, generous people. Some news reports of people showing kindness and making sacrifices can be profoundly moving. Thank God for what is called in theological circles “common grace” or “the general work of the Holy Spirit.” This is referring to the Holy Spirit bringing the good out in people, as distinct from bringing them to faith in Christ.
However it would be very naïve just to focus on the good aspects of our society. The fact is that our society is deteriorating morally and spiritually in serious ways and we Christians need to take that seriously, to pray about it and to counteract it.
It is instructive to read St Paul’s description in Romans 1:18-32 of humanity ignoring God and becoming involved in false religion and spirituality. He describes how this led to widespread sexual depravity – heterosexual and homosexual – and it is only after this description of extensive sexual depravity that he went on to say that humans fell into “envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.” He then added: “They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil …”
Paul’s description applies to our society quite remarkably. The worst sin in society (even amongst decent, kind people) is godlessness. God is largely ignored in our society and that is fundamental. But interestingly that has led to a huge revolution in sexual practice. Almost every news bulletin includes reports of sexual depravity. Sexual sin is not the be all and the end all of wrongdoing. But, as Paul says, history shows turning away from God as a society does lead to extensive sexual depravity.
We look first at the most serious failing in society:
1. We are a nation which is increasingly godless
According to a recent poll Britain has a lower proportion of religious people than in 58 other countries. 53% of Britons say they are not religious (5% more than in 2015 and 19% more than 1983). 71% of people aged 18-24 in 2016 said they had no religion, (up from 62% in 2015).The number of people calling themselves Anglicans has halved since 2000 to 15%. This may be partly because people are now willing to be honest about not being religious but the statistics still show alarming decline. China, France, Japan, Russia and North Korea are the only countries less religious than Britain.
Will Heaven, managing editor of The Spectator, wrote in the Telegraph in March 2018 “Religion is ‘moribund’ and Christianity has ‘probably gone for good’ as Europe’s default faith, a gloomy survey told us last week. It found that a majority of young people in a dozen Western countries have no religious affiliation whatsoever. The Victorian poet Matthew Arnold once described the “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” of the sea of faith. …. Each census shows the collapse of religion to be the biggest single social trend in Britain … When the Queen promised to “maintain the Protestant reformed religion” at the 1953 coronation, things were different: Her Majesty knew that more than two thirds of the English population were baptised Anglicans. That world has vanished.
Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum, said recently on Radio 4 that Britain is trying to become the first society to function without religious belief at its core. He said that religion provides the narrative that explains our place in the world and rituals that bind people together. He added: “In a sense, we are a very unusual society. We are trying to do something that no society has really done. We are trying to live without an agreed narrative of our communal place in the cosmos and in time. Our society is, not just historically but in comparison to the rest of the world today, is a very, very unusual one in being like that. We are exceptional. It’s important to know that we are different.” The change began in the 1960s and it does mean we have changed very profoundly.”
How Britain needs revival!
2. We are a nation ignorant of basic truth about God.
History Channel commissioned OnePoll to conduct an online survey of 2,000 UK adults about their knowledge of the life of Jesus Christ. Although more than seven in ten reckoned they had a good grasp of the Christmas story, quite a few were ignorant of some of the specifics, including one-fifth who did not think Jesus was born on Christmas Day. If anything, there were even more gaps in respondents’ knowledge of His later life, one-fifth unaware that He had twelve disciples, three-fifths that Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, and one-quarter that Good Friday witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus.
3. We are a nation which is undermining marriage and the family.
The rate of marriage in the UK is still quite high but marriage is declining as an institution. Cohabitation outside of marriage is widespread and single parenthood is growing. Also the divorce rate has grown considerably. Then there is the issue of same-sex marriage which, however popular with some, undermines the nature of marriage and the family.
Ecologist Edward Goldsmith wrote: “The institution of the family has decayed in modern times, so converting society into an alienated agglomeration of disconnected individuals, susceptible to arbitrary, remote and authoritarian governance.” [i]
The Gay Liberation Front Manifesto published in 1971 and revised in 1978 finally states its aim: “The long-term goal of Gay Liberation, which inevitably brings us into conflict with the institutionalised sexism of this society, is to rid society of the gender-role system which is at the root of our oppression. This can only be achieved by eliminating the social pressures on men and women to conform to narrowly defined gender roles. It is particularly important that children and young people be encouraged to develop their own talents and interests and to express their own individuality rather than act out stereotyped parts alien to their nature.”
It may take a generation before the very serious effects of the sexual revolution are recognised by society. But it is very instructive to look back at how things have changed in the last 20 years or so. Some early 20thcentury attitudes to sexual morality, namely that sexual intercourse should be confined to heterosexual marriage, are now seen as antediluvian. The media have, of course, been a major factor – effectively brainwashing the population into a radically different approach to sexuality.
The sexual revolution is not the only important challenge facing us. But it is a catalyst guaranteed to transform society in a way contrary to the teaching of God’s Word and the church.
4. We are a nation which practises abortion on demand.
It is interesting that almost two-thirds of British people interviewed for a recent ComRes survey said the upper limit for abortion should be lowered from the current 24 weeks to 20 weeks – with a fifth saying it should be reduced to 12 weeks. Is it possible this is the beginning of a reaction against the following statistics:
In the UK some 9 million babies have been aborted since 1967, and about 200,000 per annum currently. Most people tend not to think about it but, unless we are sure those babies were not fully human, that is an extremely serious issue. If they were fully human, as the Bible teaches, (even though tiny and out of sight) that would be mass killing.
In 2017 British MPs voted by 172 to 142 in favour of totally decriminalising abortion up to 24 weeks. They were backed by the Royal College of Midwives and the British Pregnancy Advisory service. Cathy Warwick, head of the Royal College of Midwives stated that abortion was never wrong but is a mother’s choice.
The Evangelical Alliance commented: “Decriminalisation grants the unborn protection only in so far as it’s the property of its mother. Now, women holding the power of life or death over their children is framed as a victory for equality.”
5. We are a nation which idolises money.
Armando Iannucci, writing in The Guardian, said “Politics was once about beliefs and society. Now it’s a worship of money.” He continued: “For the first 70 years or so of the 20th century, politics debated the power and limits of the state: the manifestos of the parties reflected how much or how little each party felt the government should involve itself in the lives of the individual. Everyone accepted there was such a thing as society, and we were given regular chances to define it. Politics was about passion, and imagination, and foresight. Now it’s just accountancy … Education became all about getting us ready for jobs … Health became a mysterious and un-debated obsession to turn our hospitals into market economies.” [ii]
These are just some of the aspect of serious decline in British society. But they are more than sufficient to show how desperately the country needs Revival.
[ii] “Politics was once about beliefs and society. Now it’s a worship of money”, The Guardian March 8th2015, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/08/armando-iannucci-money-at-heart-of-politics-general-election-2015