Beneath the banner of the woke
As a Christian who still loves to sing the old hymns, one of my favourites is “The Banner of the Cross”. It is one of those soul-stirring songs that reminds us that our time on this earth is not characterised by peace, it is characterised by war – a spiritual war.
The author, Daniel Whittle, served in the American Civil War, obtaining the rank of Major. Even after leaving the army, he was known as Major Whittle for the remainder of his life. Although he worked for a watch company after the fighting, in 1873 he became a revival evangelist in the D L Moody association. Although there is no written record of the inspiration behind the hymn, no doubt Whittle’s time fighting in the Civil War led him to introduce parallel themes into his hymn writing.
In our Australian Army, there are four distinctive forms of Honourable Insignia currently in use: Standards, Guidons, Colours and Banners. Originally, the Colour was the focal point of the regiment. During the noise and confusion of battle, even if the commander was killed, hope was always present whilst the Colours remained intact. On the verge of ultimate defeat the troops would concentrate around the Colours, which would become the scene of its last defense. From such times, records of epic gallantry and acts of heroic self-sacrifice have been associated with the Colours. Regiments often adopted “Colour Guards”, composed of experienced or elite soldiers, to protect their Colours. As a result, the capture of an enemy’s “standard” was considered a great feat of arms. But by rallying the troops around the Colours, the intent was to stir up new hope and greater efforts – while the Colours still remained aloft, the battle could still be won.
In the aforementioned hymn, “Banner of the Cross”, one of my favourite lines is: Though the foe may rage and gather as the flood, let the standard be displayed. And beneath its folds, as soldiers of the Lord, for the truth be not dismayed! Do you immediately see some important lessons even in one short passage? As the Bible tells us, particularly in these last days, the intensity of the battle is going to increase – the foe will rage and come against us like a flood. But this is no reason to surrender. We must not allow the enemy to isolate us and destroy us one by one – we must rally around the cross, for there we find the mercy, strength and grace of Jesus anew. We are not fighting for man’s opinion – we are fighting for God’s truth. An eternal truth!
In Exodus 17 we read of an interesting name for God: Jehovah Nissi. After Joshua gains victory over the Amalekites, we read in verse 15 of that chapter: And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-Lord-Is-My-Banner. What this passage asserts is the intention of Moses to orient his life and actions according to the Lord’s intentions – always walking underneath His banner. The same theme is repeated in Isaiah when he writes about the Messiah and in this case, the banner is a rallying point for the regathering of a remnant, who will enjoy the peace of the Millennial Kingdom. Chapter 11, verse 10 reads: And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.
When Charles Spurgeon preached about the church, he said this about banners:-
· Banners were carried for distinction, so that the army could be clearly identified.
· Banners were carried for discipline, so that the army could be organised in its work.
· Banners were carried as a sign of activity, indicating that something was about to happen.
· Banners were carried as a sign of confidence, willing to engage the enemy.
How dismayed Spurgeon would be to witness the state of the church today. Distinction, discipline, activity and confidence have been replaced by despair, doubt, apostasy and cowardice.
Having stared down communism and fascism, the church has buckled under the soft weight of wokeism. You see, in the church today, you have the awake and you have the woke. The awake know they are awake. The awake also know the woke are woke. The woke think the awake are asleep. Consequently, the woke think they are the ones who are awake, but they are in fact deceived. 1 Timothy 4:1: Now the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy. 2 Timothy 4:3: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Wokeness is incompatible with the Biblical worldview because it attributes intrinsic guilt or innocence to the individual based on their group identity, regardless of individual actions. Proverbs 17:15 condemns this line of thinking: He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord. What wokeness does is attributes evil to so-called “oppressor” races and social structures rather than to the real problem – sin. The concept of being woke is an attempt to create moral boundaries without God. It offers only a bleak and hopeless world in which a stern and constantly shifting morality subjects all to a judgement from which there can be no redemption or restoration. Far more preferable is the message of the gospel which, while it points to our deepest moral failures because of the fall, offers us forgiveness and a changed life through Jesus Christ. Sadly, some pastors are ignoring the gospel and Great Commission, instead choosing to take up the social justice causes of our day in order to gain popularity with the world. They blindly jump on the latest cultural train without filtering its ideology and its goals through the lens of Scripture. In so doing, the principle of cultural relevance is being held in higher esteem than revelation through God’s Word.
But so many ministry resources are now being directed to wokeism. Did Paul face the Roman tyrant for the sake of wokeism? Did Corrie ten Boom suffer the horrors of a concentration camp for the sake of wokeism? Did Richard Wurmbrand suffer 14 long years of torture in a Communist jail for the sake of wokeism? Did untold missionaries sail the seas and face the spears for the sake of wokeism? No, they stood resolute and faced their plight because they stood for the truth. And the church must do the same.
So let us not rally around the banner of wokeism, but around the banner of the cross. What the pulpit prioritises, the people will pursue. Our pulpits should be prioritising the preaching of the gospel and the urgent warning to all humanity that God’s wrath is about to fall on this Earth in the form of the Tribulation Period. God isn’t concerned about how well you conform to culture – He is concerned about whether you are justified by saving faith in Jesus Christ.