Writing in the Daily Telegraph on 28 December 1999, Giles Worsley complained: ‘Nobody seems to know exactly what it is we are celebrating … We certainly do not seem to be celebrating the 2000th anniversary of Christ’s birth … Christianity barely features among the Millennium’s activities’.
This is symptomatic of the spiritual condition and confusion that reigns in our nation both in secular institutions and the religious establishment. For thousands of years the Jews awaited the Messiah. God kept his promises. Christ came and, through his death and resurrection, conquered hell, death, Satan and sin. Yet no one wants to know.
At Christ’s first Advent, God became man in the ‘Anointed One’. But today the opposite concept prevails, namely, that man has become God (though the idea has been around since the Garden of Eden).
For example, people have chosen to focus on man’s achievements rather than on God’s gift of his beloved Son. Personalities of the past have received the highest accolades. Karl Marx has been dubbed ‘the greatest thinker of the century’ because of his Communist Manifesto, published in 1848 with Engels. Yet, the world has a short memory. It has forgotten that communism was one of the greatest scourges of the twentieth century and that its chief exhibit, the Soviet Union, collapsed in 1991.
Society has forgotten that God became a man 2000 years ago. This is the mystery of all mysteries, and the miracle above all miracles. The Son of God, the Messiah of Israel, and the Saviour of the world, became a man. Believe that fact, and there are glorious prospects. Deny it, and there is no hope.
The media have de-emphasised Christ, presumably for two reasons. One is the desire not to offend, and the other a fear of marginalising non-Christian religions. But where will compromise and toleration lead mankind? Love is now equated with uncritical toleration. This is indicative of the muddled thinking of the age in which we live.
What will the new millennium bring? Heretics and unbelievers will abound. People will attend less to their souls and more to their bodies. Obsession with sex will become the primary focus in the media. There will be denial of guilt and wrong. Personal development and self-actualisation without God will be encouraged. Earthly happiness and pleasure will be vigorously pursued.
We may even see biblical Christianity outlawed as narrow-minded and offensive to some sections of the community. Persecution may return — unless, of course, God sends revival.
The Queen’s message on Christmas Day placed Christianity on the same level as the other religions of the world. But Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam can never stand on the same level as Christianity, for they are man-made religions. By its very nature, Christianity is in direct conflict with these faiths, being a revealed religion whose unique founder is the historical Jesus, the incarnate God. It is blasphemy to consider the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as one god among many.
Religious pluralism is now the preferred alternative. It is considered too narrow-minded to think Christianity is true. But Christianity is different from all other religions. Its founder rose from the dead, and that is what makes his claims unique and true. World religions seek to earn salvation. But Christ has earned salvation for sinners on the cross, and his righteousness is a gift imputed to them.
Fair-minded historians of the future will record that this was the millennium that forgot Christ and exalted man. What went wrong?
Firstly, there was denial of the existence of God. This is subtle. People say they believe in God, yet in word and deed they deny him. In practice they have embraced ‘God is dead’ theology.
Higher criticism and liberalism have done much damage to the modern mind. People are managing to live without God. This has become more of a feature today than perhaps we appreciate. People are happy with vague notions of God’s existence and with superficial religion. Western society has made many advances, but spiritually it is bankrupt.
Secondly, evolutionary speculation has been accepted as fact. In 1859 Darwin published On the origin of species and the ideas promoted there have become the modern curse of mankind. Using them, men have ‘changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the [creation] more than the Creator’ (Romans 1:25).
The more society grows in materialism, the more it blinds itself to the reality of God. Though many people do acknowledge the existence of God, they prefer that he remain at a distance. They only want God when things go wrong.
Thirdly, society has embraced a non-biblical morality. Homosexuality is widely accepted as an alternative lifestyle, ignoring the historical lesson that such practices have led to the downfall of societies in the past. Gay adoption is promoted. Marriage is undermined. Respect for the orthodox family unit as the basic building-block of society has gone.
Today, we are witnessing an increase in lawlessness as foretold by Christ (Matthew 24:12). The marriage bond can be easily broken by divorce. Millions have been murdered through abortion. The contraceptive pill, introduced in 1960, has provided an excuse for the rise of the ‘permissive society’.
The English Churchman (No. 7512) points out that ‘One third of all pregnancies outside of marriage end in abortion. 70,000 children a year are subjected to sexual abuse. 40% of doctors say they would be prepared to commit euthanasia. British teenagers take more drugs than those in any other European country. 12,476 pupils are permanently excluded from school each year’.
Morality is no longer absolute. Everything is relative. God’s commandments are no longer relevant, we are told. Every person must be allowed to do his or her own thing. Self-centred philosophy is encouraged. Biblical morality is an outdated concept. Once again, man is exalted and God’s commandments are relegated to insignificance.
Confusion and compromise
Fourthly, ecumenical activity among churches has led to confusion and compromise. The rejection of the fundamentals of Christianity and the undermining of the Word of God have been the chief sin of the ecumenical movement.
Major initiatives between Roman Catholics and Evangelicals to resolve historical doctrinal disagreements have led to subtle compromises. There is a weakening of resolve on the part of many Evangelicals toward Rome’s teaching. Everywhere, the search for the lowest common denominator in doctrine has become the engine for a rapid decline into apostasy.
In fact, divisions are necessary to maintain God’s Word and the cause of truth. I do not hear the Bible arguing for God to get along with the devil. Neither do we see the Lord God sitting down with the devil and negotiating truth away. It is unthinkable. What fellowship has light with darkness?
False doctrines old and new
Confusion reigns in many churches. The Virgin Birth, and Divinity of Jesus, his work of atonement on the cross, and his triumphant resurrection, are disbelieved. Atheism is a growth industry, even within the professing church.
The ascendancy of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe has led people to forget its terrible past. I have yet to hear Rome saying sorry for the people she burnt in the fires of persecution. Neither has Rome revoked the doctrines of the Council of Trent, especially those that deny justification by faith.
The modern Charismatic movement has also confused matters. We have witnessed doctrinal confusion here on an unparalleled scale. Weird and unscriptural practices have gained prominence. The quest for ‘some new thing’ has become the passionate preoccupation of its followers. The sufficiency of Scripture and the primacy of preaching have been forgotten. It should be no surprise that the Charismatic movement has been one of the major stimuli for rapprochement between Protestants and Rome.
The year 2000 should be one in which we, as Christians, renew our commitment and surrender to Christ. It should be one of witnessing, and living in loving discipleship. My aspiration for the millennium is that God would stem the tide of iniquity and error, and send revival, demonstrating his holy hand in the affairs of men.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the only hope for the world. Freedom, truth and peace are in him alone. If we are to make a millennium resolution, then let us remember the Lord Jesus Christ’s reply to a question: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Matthew 22:37-39).
We should pray for our leaders, for the Royal Family, the Government, and the whole nation, that God would heal our land for his glory.
Whatever happens, Christ will be vindicated in his church. God’s revelation of himself to mankind has resulted, and will yet result, in multitudes being brought into the kingdom of Christ.
Let us pray that God will bring in even more souls into his Kingdom in the new millennium, through the gospel of the crucified and risen Saviour of sinners. ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will toward men’ (Luke 2:14).