I want to thank the officers of Co Donegal Grand Lodge for their kind invitation to speak at today’s demonstration. I’ve never been to the Rossnowlagh Twelfth before – in fact, I’ve never even been to Rossnowlagh before. So it’s a double first for me – and it’s good to be here.
How often do we hear people say, “The world is in a terrible state”? A lady said to her husband, “Will we watch the six o’clock news and get indigestion, or wait for the late news and suffer from insomnia?”
The news on TV and in the newspapers can often be depressing and bleak. Wars and rumours of wars. The ongoing threat of Islamic terrorism. Violent crime on the rise. Drug addiction at epidemic levels. In many ways, it seems that society is breaking down.
But there is one specific aspect that concerns me most of all, and that is the rising tide of godless secularism in the nations of the western world. It is alarming and frightening.
To properly understand it, we need to turn to the Word of God. Psalm 2 is one of my favourite psalms. It presents us with a panoramic overview of the unfolding of world history – and of the battle between good and evil, between God and Satan, between light and darkness. I want to take a brief look at this psalm under three broad headings –
I. A rebellion which will fail. Vv1-3
The psalm is like a dramatic stage play. The curtains open to reveal a scene of great noise, tumult and excitement. An angry crowd are being stirred up by the kings and rulers – by Prime Ministers and Presidents. They have held a conference and they are inciting the crowd to rise up in rebellion against God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
The aim is to break free from God and His laws, for these are seen as “chains” that bind. They want to be free.
Doesn’t that sound very familiar? Almost on a daily basis we are bombarded by calls for freedom. We all value freedom – but this is a cry to be free from Biblical teaching and Biblical standards in every walk of life.
Let’s just look at the Irish Republic, the UK and Northern Ireland.
Here in the Irish Republic, society is turning its back on its Roman Catholic faith and people are embracing a secular mindset, as we have seen in recent referenda.
The Pope is coming to Dublin next month, but I don’t think he’ll be able to halt the secular tide. Papal power in Ireland is on the wane.
By contrast with Ireland, the United Kingdom has a rich Protestant heritage.
We rejoice in the civil and religious liberties secured for us at the time of the Glorious Revolution.
Britain was richly blessed by the Reformation, but the British people have forsaken -and forgotten – their precious heritage. In reality, the UK is now a secular state.
Let’s look now at Northern Ireland. It’s changing radically and at break-neck speed. We are constantly bombarded by demands for “human rights” and “equality”.
These demands have been intensified since the abortion referendum in the Republic, and we are now faced with very militant and aggressive campaigns on issues such as LGBTQ rights and abortion.
These campaigns are being supported and promoted in influential circles – including sections of the media who are far from impartial.
Sadly, the secular agenda in Ulster is aided and abetted by a secular Protestantism – one which is godless and blinded by the spirit of the age. This secular Protestantism clings to cultural symbols but is empty of spiritual substance. As there is little or no understanding of Biblical truth among many Ulster Protestants, false views of all sorts abound. Those of us who hold to Biblical Protestantism are denounced as dinosaurs and bigots.
We had an example of that last week in the shameful decision to move the Belfast marathon from a Bank Holiday Monday to a Sunday from next year. A perfectly good arrangement has been changed. Churches will be affected and I know many folks who believe in the sanctity of the Lord’s Day and who will never be able to take part again.
At the heart of the secular agenda there is a revolutionary determination to turn society upside down.
And – as we see in the Psalm – there is a clear intention to remove the Christian faith from the public square. How often do we hear it said that we should keep our religion to ourselves. Christian politicians are advised to keep their religious views out of Councils, the Assembly and Parliament. Religion is not to be allowed to inform or influence public policies.
Every so often, attempts are made to reassure Christians that in a secular society the church will still be free to proclaim its Biblical beliefs. But I am far from reassured.
Yes, we are facing a great rebellion – a rebellion against God. But it is doomed.
II. A God who is Sovereign vv4-9
The curtains close and the stage is cleared. They re-open to reveal a calm scene, where a solitary figure is seated. This is God. The world today has a very low view of God. They mock Him. They take His name in vain. They view him as a hapless grandfather figure in the sky. But, friends, God is sovereign and omnipotent.
He is not even slightly perturbed by this puny rebellion. Instead, he laughs and derides the rebels. In God’s eyes, the mightiest of men are but grasshoppers.
He then speaks with sovereign authority and in wrath.
God is patient, longsuffering and full of mercy. But He will not turn a blind eye to rebellion.
There have been times in history when God has judged nations for their sin, and he could do so again.
Rev Henry Law, 18th century Church of England minister said, “God may be silent long; but patience is not impunity….When the appointed time is come, the sluice-gates open and wrath overflows. Who can conceive these terrors.. when God arises to execute due judgement on His foes!”
The Father then presents His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Again, the world has a low view of Jesus. He’s seen as a good man who said some good things about love. Some have said to me that he’d be in favour of the LGBT agenda.
But here he is set before us as a mighty figure. He is declared to be King of his church.
The church of Jesus Christ consists of all those – across the denominations – who have saving faith in Him.
The church seems weak and ineffective today, but take heart – Christ is building his church, and He has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
The psalm also reminds us that Christ who came as a baby to Bethlehem, and who died and rose again, will return in power and glory and in judgement. It makes it clear that Jesus will destroy his enemies. Revelation 11:15 tells us that “the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of the Lord and of His Christ”.
Today, we celebrate the victory of the king on his white horse, but in Revelation 19:11-16 there is a fuller picture of Christ on his white horse going into battle. It is a fearful and awesome image of the one who is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”.
Yes, the rebellion of man is doomed. History is moving towards the return of Christ, and judgement is coming. But we can’t stop there, for the psalmist now comes on to the stage to offer some words of advice.
III. A Saviour who loves us v10-12
The psalmist urges the rulers of the world to be “wise” and to turn to the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
He exhorts them to embrace Christ – to “kiss the Son” – before it is too late, and they perish from the way.
Sound advice for rulers. But the psalmist’s advice is good for us all. Christ will one day be the great judge, but today he stands before you as the Saviour. He loves you and He calls you to Himself.
Jesus said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”.
2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”.
He loves us – guilty sinners as we are. He loves those who are rebelling against Him.
As we saw, the rebellion is seen as a cry for freedom. The Bible makes it clear that all of us are born in bondage to Satan and that only God can give us freedom through faith alone in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Charles Wesley summed it up well when he wrote,
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee.
That is true freedom. We thank God for our civil and religious freedoms, but we are born in spiritual bondage and we need to be made spiritually free in Christ.
Jesus said, ”If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed”.
That’s the Gospel – the Gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone. It’s about a personal relationship with Christ.
Christ took your sins and sorrows and made them his very own. He suffered God’s wrath for you.
Have you turned to him by faith? Is he your Saviour?
It is my prayer that all who are here today can say “yes, I am a Christian. I am trusting Christ alone for salvation”.
Note the Psalmist’s final words – “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him”.
The only real antidote to the tide of secularism is a revival of true religion – a revival of evangelical Protestantism. Such a revival would transform lives and society. It happened in Ulster in 1859 and in the 1920’s – and it can happen again.
It is my prayer that God would look upon us in mercy and send revival to Ireland, Ulster and the whole of the UK.
And to Him be all the glory.