Australia’s Zeal. 25.1.2015
Travelling abroad often brings perspective, and our recent trip to S.E. Asia did exactly that. Within two minutes of being with several taxi drivers in Kota Bharu (Malaysia) I knew exactly where they were in their practice of Islam. Such dialogue was completely without embarrassment for religion has a clear public face there. On another road trip I found myself in the front seat with a driver who shared that the one thing holding him back from turning to Jesus was that as the oldest son it fell on him to pray for his Chinese ancestors. Without embarrassment he allowed me to pray with him that Christ would release him from this burden. It is however an incident at Perth Airport that provides the key to what the Spirit is saying to the churches here on this Australia Day.
Waiting to board our plane I was approached by a man who asked me if I was “A.L.”; I suspected that he was referring to a local Christian leader but to test it out I asked him a series of questions. “What does ‘A.L.’ do?”…“He’s a writer.”…“Who does he write for?”… “A magazine.”…“What sort of magazine?”… “A general magazine.” The inquirer was decidedly uncomfortable in confessing he was a Christian. In sharp contrast to my S.E. Asian examples so many Australians are embarrassed about their spirituality. Praying about this incident I discerned it reflected a lack of glory in our Christianity, for a sense of the glory of God in Christ always imparts confidence to speak his name (2 Cor 4:6). I believe our discomfort in speaking about Jesus publicly will soon change, not because of our piety but through a sovereign shift in global perceptions of spirituality.
Very soon after returning to Australia I was awake in the middle of the night with a conviction about a global intensification concerning all forms of faith. Whether it is radical Islam, the dreadful treatment meted out by Burmese Buddhists to their minority Islamic population, or the rise of militant secularism in the West we are witnessing a global heating up everything to do with religion. Whilst this will make conversations about Christ easier it is also activating other forces. We must expect an increased emphasis on religious pluralism in mainstream Western culture; “There’s only one God anyway and why can’t we work together through multi-faith cooperation to bring peace to our planet?” Personal faith will be tolerated as long as it is “inclusive” but “proselytism” will be increasingly banned in the public sphere. These are broad trends, but the Spirit is seeking to intensify the spirituality of Australian Christians by releasing us from certain strongholds in our national history.
It is 100% acceptable for the average Ocker to get intense about sport, family, outdoor activities and generally “having a good time” but religious intensity makes you a fanatic. The instinctive Aussie downplay of religious feeling is deeply rooted in our national history. Founded and policed as a penal colony the first generations of native born white Australians were considered an inferior class by the British born. The citizens of our nation soon turned away from the inner emotional world with its intense pains of rejection and turned to the achievements of the outer world; hence the adulation of sport. We remain an out-there people who find introspection uncomfortable. Nationalistic zeal flourished with WW I but unlike Europeans or Americans our patriotic enthusiasms have never been deeply fused with religion. Mainstream Australia can make an easy cultural shift from its passion for music to the sort of intensity in fellowships like Hillsong, but intensity for eternal things like “sin, righteousness and judgement” will likely lead to charges of craziness (cf. John 16:8; Acts 24:25; 26:24). The one great stronghold holding back Church and nation from an unapologetically intense profession of public faith is that we have failed to share Jesus’ passion filled desire to honour God as Father above all things (John 5:44; Rom 12:11).
A Father’s Honour
Other religions sanction the killing of family members and blasphemers in order to restore divine honour. Only Jesus seeks to restore honour to God as Father through the intensity of self-sacrifice. By cleansing the temple he fulfils the prophecy, ““Zeal for your house will consume me.”” (John 2:17; Ps 69:9). Unlike the religious zealots of other creeds Christ’s intensity to honour God as a loving Father means he must endure God’s judgement against all those who dishonour him (Mark 14:36; 15:34). So intensely passionate is the Son that the Father comes to be honoured as he deserves that he willingly sacrifices all things. Only by the supreme sacrificial act of the cross can the reputation of God as our compassionate Father be restored (Rom 5:6-8). Christ’s way to reveal the Father is the same today (Heb 13:8). Self-sacrifice in service for others is only form of spiritual intensity that can reveal to our fellow Australians that God truly loves them. This will only happen when the Aussie Church regains the spiritual sense that to be a disciple of Jesus means to honour of Father and Son above all things and at whatever personal cost (John 5:22 cf. Mal 1:6). When we have this “honour revelation” we will share the unlimited zeal of Jesus.
Just one power can immerse us in this longing for the honouring of God. By exaltation from death God gave Jesus “the name above all name so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:5-11). The mutual honour of Father and Son to be revealed at the Last Judgement is the result of the Spirit’s empowerment of Christ in death and glory (Rom 1:4; 1 Tim 3:16; Heb 9:14). Only when our Aussie Church is immersed in the Father’s promised Spirit can we ever honour him with the zeal of the Lord (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4; 2:33).
The revelation to our frightened fellow Aussies that the one true honour killing is the cross will require unprecedented actions of sacrificial love by the Church. God is calling his people to move past their adolescent emotional spirituality into a new and maturity spiritual intensity before this can take place we must first confess our inherited fear of being overpowered by such a passion. This is the prevailing sin of the national Church. To confess this sin and allow the Spirit to cleanse it away will have dramatic consequences. True zeal for the Father’s honour will incite great satanic opposition playing upon the fears of our countrymen concerning fanatical religion; “you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (Matt 24:9). Can we conceptualise an Australian Church publicly and unashamedly living for the honour of the Father and the Son? With God such a thing is possible (Mark 10:27).