Australians claim God is an important factor in their lives. That is surprising information from the book "THE RELIGIOUS FACTOR IN AUSTRALIAN LIFE" based on the Australian values survey. It indicates that only 4.5% of Australians claim to be atheists. 60% of Australians rate the importance of God in their lives on a scale of 0 - 10 as being 6 or more. 86% of Australians identify themselves with a denomination; 66% of Australians pray occasionally or more frequently; and 27% attend Church at least once every month, the highest I can remember.
Although the pattern of religion in Australia is changing because of increasing secular attitudes, and the variety of religion is increasing due to immigration, religion is still a major factor in the Australian psyche. This says among other things:
* we are more religious than we think;
* we know we need God and turn to Him often;
* we hate religious cant but need authentic faith;
* we know much of life is counterfeit and not lasting.
How do you find authentic faith in a counterfeit world?
1. LIVING IN A COUNTERFEIT WORLD.
We are disillusioned when our clear-eyed optimistic hopes of rebuilding society and helping people who have been hurt, crash. We get sucked in, taken down and used by people we trust. They take us for a ride. We get hurt by people we are trying to help. We suddenly see this world as it really is.
Many people find counterfeit friendships. We trust people and so become venerable. We get hurt by people who pretend to be our closest friends, but who use us and leave us disappointed.
Many people display counterfeit emotions. We learn from bitter experience that people who show us warm emotions can also be very cold underneath. Some talk of love but in action are violent. Abused wives have heard all the words of love but have received the punches that prove the words were counterfeit. Counterfeit emotions hurt.
Many people find counterfeit justice. They have been punished but deep within they know they have been a victim of counterfeit justice. People put out of their homes by landlords who can get more rent from others know life isn't just fair!
Many people discover counterfeit security. They put their trust in possessions, in property, in power. But a money and materialism mentality soon finds that, as Jesus says Lk 12:15 "a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Our security does not lie in what we possess, but in Who possesses us. Why is this world so counterfeit?
Many people find Society wears a false face. Many people wear a mask of respectability but underneath many are corrupt and dealers in death. Society ladies and artificial socialites, well-known business men, colourful racing identities, accused judges, solicitors and politicians wear false faces. A false face is part of our counterfeit world.
Many people find Satan is the great deceiver. Behind the corruption and false fronts lie the depraved hearts seduced by Satan from God's way. Jn 8:44 "Satan is a liar and the father of all lies." There is evidence in our own experience: Rom 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
When we were first started street work in George St Sydney's theatreland in the mid 1980's, I was sitting with one of our first streetworkers in the George St McDonald's late at night. It was his office for the work he did among the streetkids. A fifteen year old boy stopped and sat with us. He was a young male prostitute from Kings Cross. The boy was obviously defeated and insecure.
He works The Wall, a notorious homosexual pick-up point. We asked his name: "Me name's Trash, everybody calls me Trash because that's what I am. I'm no good Trash". He left his home when he was twelve after his parents had split up. He moved into a squat in Darlinghurst with some other street kids. Before long he had become a drug addict. He met some men who paid for his habit, and he became a homosexual prostitute. For three years he lived with a variety of men but was then hustling himself as a street prostitute to pay for his drug habit. He was thin, diseased and dirty. My friend asked him about the danger of AIDS, but he replied: "Yer going to die sometime. Might as well be sooner than later. Who wants to live anyhow? Life suxs! There's no way out. Nobody quits this scene alive - I'm 15. It's a cert that I wont see 20. But that doesn't matter - I'm just Trash."
At that point Trash walked out. He needed some more pick ups, to get some more dope. How long do you think he lasted? Last Thursday week a 14 year old boy, Jai, took a heroin overdose and collapsed in our "StreetSmart". Rebecca and her staff gave him CPR, and kept his heart going until we got him into hospital. Our staff sat beside his bed. He recovered. This week, with a friend, they overdosed with heroin again. This Friday Jai died.
He will be buried tomorrow. He was 14 years of age. This world is counterfeit. It speaks of death and dying. It's futile. It's false. It's fake! Trash was right. None of us quits the scene alive. You are going to die sometime. For some, life suxs! But God does not make trash! There must be another way. There is only one answer: an authentic faith.
2. AN AUTHENTIC FAITH IN A COUNTERFEIT WORLD.
There are people who are willing to rip you off even under the guise of religion. Scientologists stand on the street corners tonight with a pad wanting to ask innocent sounding questions for their survey, but in reality spreading bait for innocents abroad. Yet other people, at cost to themselves spend their time in helping others come to an authentic faith. What are the marks of such a faith?
1. An authentic faith is real. Paul warned Timothy about people 2 Tim 3:5 "having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them." Look at the believers who possesses the authentic faith, and you will see the difference it makes to their lives. Start with a person who has real faith.
2. An authentic faith thinks impossibilities. Nominal religion is scared of thinking the impossible. Artificial faith can not cope with anything that demands a miracle to achieve it. As an old hymn says:
"Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees and looks to that alone,
Laughs at impossibilities and cries: It shall be done!"
3. An authentic faith trusts where others fear. Most people operate by fear - fear of being sick, unemployed, becoming old, rejected, not up with others.
But authentic faith lives by faith unafraid. They go into the future unafraid and confident, knowing Rom 8:28 "that in all things God works for the good of those who love him."
4. An authentic faith receives rather than achieves.
So many people think their own achievement makes the difference with God. They wear themselves out by striving to be good enough.
A research poll of 7000 young people showed that the following agreed with these statements:
"To be accepted by God you must try to live a good life" 60%.
"God is satisfied if a person lives the best life he can" 70%.
"The Gospel emphasis is on God's rules for right living" 56%
All three viewpoints are totally wrong! The majority answered wrongly because they are basing their relationships with God upon their own efforts, trying to achieve a good relationship with God by sincerely living a good life, by doing the best they can, by following God's rules for living.
This is completely wrong! That is living as if Martin Luther never lived and the Protestant Reformation had not happened; as if Paul's writings on justification by faith have not been read; and as if Jesus had never died upon a Cross! For Jesus did not come to earth to give us a new set of command-ments, a new teaching, some new rules which make us exhausted trying to be right with God.
We become right with God not by anything we do, but by accepting in trust what Jesus has done for us upon the Cross. As Paul put it: Eph 2:8-10 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."
But how can you find an authentic faith? In 1 Cor.3:18-23 Paul indicates that your must become a fool in the eyes of this world. v18 "If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise." True faith starts with a humbling of self, and in a refusal to trust the standards of the world.
Further, you must not trust in your own achievements. Your ultimate wholeness and salvation is not achieved by anything you do, but by Whom you have believed. You must not trust in human achievement, but solely in Christ: "Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy Cross I cling.".
Further, you must commit yourself to Christ in total obedience. Here is one of the great verses in the Bible: 23 "you are of Christ, and Christ is of God." Only an authentic faith can enable you to stand in this counterfeit world.
I took part in a most unusual ceremony this week. Here in Wesley Mission I sat with an older man and a young girl. They both gave me permission to tell their story. He is a married Australian who is not living with his wife and children. Sometime ago he went to the Philippines to get a young filipino girl who would meet his sexual needs. He negotiated with the parents of a young teenage dancer in a bar. He paid tens of thousands of dollars to buy her as his sex slave. He brought her back to Sydney. He dominated her life. She gave him sex. One night he heard a sermon that cut him deeply. He started to come on his own to this 7pm congregation. Two years ago, he committed his life to Christ, and he has grown as a Christian incredibly.
He was still living in this sexual relationship. He encouraged her to attend one of our other services at Wesley, where she made a commitment to Christ. They discussed their situation, and this week, they sat in my office with a document they wanted to sign and me to witness. It reads:
12 February 1998
A Commitment to live by the Truth Jesus teaches us.
I, ........, age 57 of .......Street Sydney 2000 and Ms ......, formerly my defacto wife, age 22 hereby make this commitment to Almighty God, in the name of Jesus Christ to break-off our adulterous and sinful relationship which we entered into, before we accepted Christ as our Lord and Master. Now that Jesus has brought us up from the spiritually dead and give us both spiritual life, we have examined our hearts and decided it is no longer possible to live this way, as true believers of Christ, even though we still love each other.
For both of us believe passionately, to be a REAL CHRISTIAN, we have to OBEY and give up our sins and our pleasures to glorify Jesus and the Kingdom of God through Righteous Living, so that Satan would have no foothold on us.
Signed .........; Signed ...........;
Signed by witness: Gordon Moyes, Servant of Jesus Christ.
This is an amazing document! They confessed their sin. We prayed together and God forgave their sin. The young girl shed tears in my arms. The older man was doing the most noble thing he has ever done in his life. They left to go now to separate apartments he has provided for them both and to a new life. I have arranged for a mature Christian woman to take the young lady under her oversight. Both of them are now free, because they have found in this sinful world an authentic faith. Jesus Christ is so real to them both that they have started new lives. Do not trust the values of this world. Trust in Christ alone. Find an authentic faith.
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