Sunday, 7 April 2013

Changing our Time

Last Sunday, we changed the time or at least our clocks. Almost fifty years have passed since Bob Dylan crooned that the times they are a-changin. Sadly, few actually realised that his words were not merely pictures in a song but explanations of a massive move away from the Christian heritage of the Western world. Five decades later, we are experiencing far more than even he imagined. Of course, we have to ask what brought about the change. After all, it was easy to change our clocks. Was it similarly easy to change our society? From today’s perspective, it looks like it was.

One reason why the change happened so easily was that Christians forgot that they are always involved in a spiritual battle. I can look back to times when God worked in powerful ways in our churches during the past half-century. Yet here we are today numerically much smaller that we were fifty years ago despite having had such good times. One reason for the decrease is the fact that the church did not pray as it should have done. The good times actually hid from us the fact that something sinister was taking place around us. And because the church did not really pray about it, the times have changed easily.

Another reason why the change happened so easily was that Christians forgot that Jesus wants them to be united together. During the last half-century I have heard and read a lot about church distinctives, and written about them too. But we have failed to maintain one distinctive that Jesus asked his people to have. We exist in a divided church (I am not referring to our congregation or to our denomination, although sadly we have known such experiences). Instead I am suggesting one basic reason why it was so easy for the change to happen in our society, and that reason is the sad fact that the cause of Jesus is riddled with unnecessary divisions.

A third reason for the easy change is that God has left our society to its choices. It has turned its back on its heritage and raced away from it. The race has been a sprint and the change has been rapid. Yet it is very serious to be left without divine wisdom. Society gave up on the Bible and the God of the Bible let them do so. And when he removes his restraint, the change is easy.

One could go on. But the question is, can things be changed again, this time to seeing spiritual recovery? We all know the answer to that question. Of course, God can do so. But when will he do so? Probably when his people engage in earnest prayer for his glory to be seen again in our society. I have a nightmare about the Day of Judgement. It concerns the possibility of Jesus saying to me, ‘Why didn’t you pray more earnestly about my cause?’

Books with dust on them in public libraries and second-hand bookshops tell us that God answered earnest, desperate prayer in the past and changed the society of the time. It is easy for a society to change when it is departing from God, but it is hard work spiritually to turn it round. But we are called to get involved, and God has given us great promises to use in his presence. He will be delighted when we repeat them to him with longing in our hearts. And who knows what he will then do in response?