Rationalists hack into Australia’s “no religion” in census data

By Spencer Gear PhD (New Testament)

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This article was first published in On Line Opinion, 4 July 2022.

Hugh Harris did it as a Rationalist in his Opinion piece on the census in 2017: ‘MORE Australians ticked “No religion” in the 2016 Census than any other belief category’ (Courier-Mail, June 27 2017).

Further ‘religion bashing’ came in 2017 from another Rationalist, Tosca Lloyd: “The pressure, then, for governments to take seriously the need for our society to secularise is more powerful than ever. But we still have a long way to go. While the requirement of all parliaments in Australia, state and federal, to cite the Lord’s Prayer at the opening of their deliberations is manifestly at odds with the notion of a secular government, there are less symbolic reminders of religious bias” (Sydney Morning Herald, June 27, 2017).

What tune did the anti-God pundits play for the 2021 census? They are on message: ‘The proportion of Australians identifying as Catholic declined from 23 to 20 per cent over the past five years while self-identified Anglicans dropped from 13 to 10 per cent. By contrast, the share of Australians identifying as “non-religious” has surged. Thirty-nine per cent of Australians now identify as non-religious, up from 30 per cent in 2016.

A representative of the anti-God Humanist Society, Heidi Nicholl, could not get away from harping on the “no religion” theme, ‘The 2021 Australian census results have shown a significant rejection of religiosity with the proportion of people choosing “No religion” increasing from 29.6 per cent in 2016 to 38.4 per cent in 2021, in figures released by the ABS.’ The title of the article was, ‘Census results mean religions should stop getting special treatment.’ Why should minority groups refuse to receive special treatment? A public outcry should follow if people claimed the Stroke Foundation should not be supported as it provides for a minority group of victims. The same should happen for the support of a third of the population with disabilities.

This census data indicates a decline in support for religion, which I find to be a good thing, and a decline in support for Christianity. As an evangelical Christian, I ask:

So what?

What is religion and do we need it? Religion is ‘the belief in and worship of a superhuman power or powers, especially a God or gods.’ There is nothing especially Christian about religion, particularly when it relates to serving ‘gods.’ Religion is easily contaminated.

The demise of religion could be a step in the right direction if it related to worship of the true God. We need to make it clear what will replace this breakdown of religion.

Is Australia becoming a nation to be evangelised?

The Rationalist, Humanist and Atheist may become excited by this failure of religion, but I look to the future with much hope because of the power of the Gospel to change lives for the better. These figures from the census are God’s call to evangelical (those who believe the Gospel) Christians to proclaim the Gospel.

Sign of the fish vectorI’m old enough to have read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in high school. This John Bunyan classic was looking forward to the celestial city, the City of God. Bunyan was thrown into prison for three months for refusing to follow an Elizabethan Act against religious freedom. In all, Bunyan spent 12 years in prison, giving him time to write 60 books. Since its writing, Pilgrim’s Progress has been translated into more than 200 languages.

All societies, whether rationalist, humanist, atheistic or Christian need to understand that their freedom to express their views is based on a worldview obtained from the Christian Bible: ‘And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”’ (Mark 8:34 ESV). The Old Testament also supported this view of freedom: ‘But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15 NIV).

The Rationalist can choose a rationalist’s worldview because God has given all people the freedom of choice. My experience is that few secularists are prepared to admit this freedom to believe whatever they choose came from God. If they want to give up God from the Aussie culture, be prepared to forego freedoms.

If the ‘no religion’ category falls further in future census data, Australia is moving closer to where the early church was with a preponderance of religions in the first century. However, this was a fertile field for this kind of Gospel proclamation.

Christians remained the largest religious group in the world in 2015, making up nearly a third (31%) of Earth’s 7.3 billion people, according to a new Pew Research Center demographic analysis. But the report also shows that the number of Christians in what many consider the religion’s heartland, the continent of Europe, is in decline.

Australia needs a widespread proclamation of this Gospel for positive numbers to increase and for God to be exalted:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV).

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 4 July 2022.

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Preachers as Poor Public Speakers

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By  Spencer Gear PhD

Some of the worst regular public speakers I have heard are Christian preachers. It is sad for me to admit this as I also am a Christian preacher – not as regular now that I’m retired. These preachers don’t speak loud enough for me to hear them in the congregation. This does not apply to all of them.

What are the problems?

Please understand that this is a personal perspective and I wish this article was not necessary. I write it to help preachers improve their communication skills. Unless these are improved, people will turn away from attending the church. My observation is that poor communication does not bother the club mentality.

These are some of the problems I observe and it’s happening in the church I presently attend.

1. Learn to properly project the voice

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides this definition of to project one’s voice: “to speak loudly and clearly. You need to project your voice better if you want to be an actor.” I add: “If you want to be a better preacher, learn to speak loudly and clearly.”

The last Sunday I was in church, the female leader was so poor at projection that I walked out of the service in the last hymn before the preacher. I could not hear or understand the leader. She could have been helped if the person at the sound desk wound up the volume for the leader. There is no excuse in the day of microphones for a leader not to be heard. However, a weak and feeble voice is an impediment for listeners to that speaker. Two men led the Lord’s Supper without microphones and I found them impossible to hear – even with my hearing aides in.

10+ Preacher Clipart - Preview : A Female Preacher | HDClipartAll2. Cool Communicators’ Recommendations on Projection:

Learn How to Project Your Voice

How to Project Your Voice in a Loud Setting

1. Put Yourself in Situations Where Getting Loud is Required

2. Talk to People From a Distance

3. Use an App to Visualize Your Volume

4. However Loud You Think is “Too Loud,” Speak Louder

5. Breathing and Airflow

6. Speak From Your Diaphragm

7. Straight Posture and Open Body Language

8. Wherever Your Audience is, Target a Point 20% Further Away, and Speak to That Place

These links should provide anyone with tips on how to project your voice. However, I recommend you join a public speaking club for critiques of your presentations.

3. People with Quiet Voices Should Not Be Leaders in a Church or Any Other Service.

For the above “Cool Communicators” reasons, quiet voices are made for sharing in a small group but not for leading a church service or sharing around the Lord’s Supper. Even in a small group, some projection of the voice is necessary.

4. Join a Public Speaking Club.

Toastmasters Brisbane  |  Public Speaking & Leadership | Alpha-Endeavour Club – Celebrating 50 Years  Paying jobs for me, after a short stint as a cost clerk, were as radio DJs at two radio stations and then as a TV newsreader. When I was hired at 4BU, Bundaberg, Qld., Australia, the manager recommended that I join a public speaking club, Rostrum (for males) to help my ad-lib ability and projection of my voice. Forum was the club for women, but now includes men.

Since my time in Rostrum, they seem to have gone out of favour and have been replaced by Toastmasters Clubs which allow both women and men to participate. I’m too old and without transport to be able to check out these clubs. However, the online material suggests joining such a club would enhance one’s speaking and leadership potential.

5. Homiletics Plus Public Speaking Club

Homiletics is “the art of preaching or writing sermons” (Oxford English Dictionary). In theological colleges, I recommend that all students who look forward to a public speaking/preaching ministry in the church should attend a public speaking club while in college and especially while learning homiletics.

Well-constructed sermons are useless unless the preachers speak loudly and clearly in projecting their voices. The sermon can be assisted by a person who knows how to moderate the volume at the sound desk.

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How to become a better listener

By Spencer D Gear PhD[1]

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(Source)

This article was provoked by the need to deal with a woman who sits at our dinner table (I’m in aged care). No matter what I or others discuss, her constant comeback is to give examples from her own life. She doesn’t seem to notice how self-centred her conversations become. Her conversations go something like this:

John: I have a bad chip in my thumbnail that looks as though it will tear away. I need help with somebody to clip the nail and not tare the skin underneath as I take a blood thinner.

Betty: That’s easy. Get one of your carers to do it. Look at my thumbnail that was clipped by a carer. That’s your best step. Another person at the table agreed with Betty.

Whenever I raise a topic, Betty most often goes to her own agenda and is very egocentric in how she responds.

Personal tips

These are my observations of what poor listening does to my communication:

I need eye contact to be maintained. If Betty’s eyes wander, it’s an indicator

she’s not listening. She is on track to give me her examples and not deal with my issue.

One of the best ways for me to know she is listening is for her to engage with me by questioning. I’ve raised the topic of the thumbnail. She could ask: “Since you have problems with the thumbnail on your left hand, why can’t you use the nail clippers yourself?” I’ve tried that but the nature of the nail tear caused me to not cut the nail. That led to her mentioning the need for a carer to do it for me. I’m reluctant to ask a carer as that has led to rejection previously.

I generally find the best way to keep the subject focussed is by questioning the other people. This also keeps the other people on task. Open-ended questions are the best, e.g. What would you consider is the best approach with this thumbnail crack?

Hal Gregersen, executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, said, “It’s really hard to walk into a conversation without my agenda being written on my forehead and your agenda written on yours,” he says. “Unfortunately with the hectic, chaotic, complicated pace of work life today, people are even more committed to getting their own agenda accomplished.”[2]

Tips for better listening

Young Caucasian Woman Isolated On Blue Background Listening To Something By Putting Hand On The EarThe keys to better listening are to keep the discussion on the other person’s topic and not on your response. Stephanie Vozza gives “6 Ways To Become A Better Listener.”[3]

If you want to get something done, remember that human beings have an 8-second attention span.[4]

It’s difficult to join a discussion, without taking my agenda with me.

Stephanie’s 6 Tips are:[5]

1. Listen to Learn, Not to be Polite.

2. Quieten Your Own Agenda.

3. Ask More Questions.

Listening with real intent means I’m going to be open to being very wrong, and I’m comfortable with that in this conversation, says Gregersen. “In a world that’s getting more polarized, being able to listen is critical to reducing unnecessary conflict at any level, within a team, organization, or on a broader political country level,” he says.[6]

4. Pay Attention to Your Talk/Listen Ratio.

Strive for a 2:1 ratio of listening to talking, says Eblin. “If you’re a note taker during meetings or conversations, try keeping track of how much you listen versus how much you talk,” he says.

5. Repeat Back What You Heard.

6. Actually Wait Until Someone is Done Talking Before You Respond.

This is the message of the Bible in James 1:19, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (NLT). I have broken this command personally, with its severe repercussions in my relationships.

Notes


[1] http://www.wright.edu/~scott.williams/LeaderLetter/listening.htm.

[2] Stephanie Vozza, https://www.fastcompany.com/3068959/6-ways-to-become-a-better-listener (Accessed 25 May 2022).

[3] Fast Company, “6 Ways To Become A Better Listener,” Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/3068959/6-ways-to-become-a-better-listener (Accessed 25 May 2022.)

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 31 May, 2022.

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How to Ruin Your Education and TV Viewing: Five Lessons from John Dominic Crossan

Here is my first book published by Wipf & Stock:

How to Ruin Your Education and TV Viewing: Five Lessons from John Dominic Crossan by [Spencer D. Gear]How to Ruin Your Education and TV Viewing: Five Lessons from John Dominic Crossan

by Spencer D. Gear (Author)


See all formats and editions

What will you do as a parent if your fourteen-year-old comes home from school and says, “You and the teachers have been telling me Columbus discovered the Americas. You’ve lied to me because that isn’t true. There are no such things as facts, and I decide the meaning of what is written in my textbooks. I’m the one who chooses the interpretation of any writing, including history and the stories of Columbus”? How are you going to answer, especially in light of what the Encyclopaedia Britannica states about Columbus?

This book examines how historical Jesus scholar John Dominic Crossan has dismantled education, TV viewing (by application), and religious studies with his postmodern deconstruction of the text. His theme is “I formulate it here as I see it.” Texts and interpretations are out of the mind of Crossan.

Using a hypothesis testing technique, the author challenges Crossan’s perspective that Jesus’s resurrection was an apparition and not a bodily resurrection. Even though he calls on others to “First, read the text,” that is not what he does. The philosophical crusher has found him out to be contradictory in his assessment of history in his autobiography and his own writings on the historical Jesus.

Read more


  1. Print length

    380 pages

  2. Language

    English

  3. Publication date

    April 17, 2022

  4. File size

    4428 KB

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 09 May, 2022.

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What a combination! Easter eggs, scavenging dogs & crucifixion

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Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary, Raphael, 1516–1517

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article was first published in On Line Opinion, 14 April 2022.

I visited my local shopping centre recently and saw all the Easter attractions. This is the time for Easter eggs but it has other ingredients that make it an attractive season. Of course, there’s the long weekend, plenty of sport on tele and the opportunity for gorging lots of chocolate. Talk about options!

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On 25 March 2022, Roy Morgan Research estimated “over four million Australians are planning a trip away this Easter with $7.1 billion to be spent on holidays, while around $1.5 billion will be splurged on food and chocolate, in a major boon for tourism operators and retail businesses.”

But why are there special eggs at Easter? Eggs symbolise new life and fertility. This Christian festival comes with little to frighten anyone in an era of religious extremism. Who could ever be offended by a cute chocolate bunny? Time Magazine reported: “The original story of Easter eggs starts in Medieval Europe, but it may or may not have originated with Christians.”

It could be very different if John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar were leading the agenda. For him, the cross spoke.[1] Jesus was not buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, as indicated by all four Gospels (Matt 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50-56; and John 19:38-40). Instead, Jesus was buried in a shallow grave to be eaten by scavenging dogs.[2]

From where did he gain that provocative information? It originated from the method he used – postmodern deconstruction – by which he engaged in free-play of interpretation. The reader of a narrative determines the meaning of a text. It does not come from the intent of the original author.

The paradox

But there’s a paradox here. Have you thought how strange it is that Easter eggs are identified with one of the most horrific ways of killing a person? This is the time of remembering the most famous death by crucifixion in history – that of Jesus Christ.

To be crucified for crime, the victim was lying on the cross on the ground and held down. They were nailed on that cross with crude, rough nails.

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The 17th-century painting Christ Crucified by Diego Velázquez, held by the Museo del Prado in Madrid

They were lifted up on the cross and it was dropped into a hole in the ground. They experienced unimaginable thirst and found it difficult to breathe.

Medical doctor, C. Truman Davis MD, explained that as fatigue came to the arms and cramps to the muscles, the victim experienced deep throbbing pain.

There were hours of pain, cramps, and partial suffocation as tissue was torn from the person’s lacerated back as it moved up and down on the rough timber. This trauma impacted the chest and began to compress the heart.

Mocking crowds

To make it worse for Jesus, the crowds would mock the victim (Matthew 20:19, Mark 10:34, and Luke 18:32).

But how does our culture remember Christ’s crucifixion at Easter? With chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies and jewellery! It’s almost impossible to walk down the street without seeing a version of the cross. Generally it’s on a chain around somebody’s neck or as ear rings. This is a far cry from the actual Easter event.

Malcolm Muggeridge

Malcolm Muggeridge, the famous British media personality, soldier-spy and later Christian convert, called this death the most famous one in history. He said that no other death than Christ’s has aroused one-hundredth part of the interest or been remembered with one-hundredth part of the intensity of concern. Muggeridge shocked the world with his conversion to Christianity later in life. St. Mugg”, as he was affectionately known, was clear in his new-found faith: “It is the truth that has died, not God,” and “Jesus was God or he was nothing.”

We are continuously confronted with troubles. Troubles in wars like the Russian-Ukraine conflict, troubles in families, and even disturbed personal souls.

Into the midst of this repulsion in our world, at Easter we remember the Jesus of the cross who died for our sins was resurrected. Why? So that we can have the opportunity to be set free from the guilt of our souls. Hence the association with eggs and new life!

Louis M. Lepeaux, French philosopher, politician and bitter opponent of Christ at the time of the French Revolution, once started a religion that he hoped would be superior to Christianity. He sought the counsel of the great French diplomat and statesman, Charles Maurice Talleyrand.

The originator of a new religion came to the French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perlgord and complained that he could not make any converts. “What would you suggest I do?” he asked. “I should recommend,” said Talleyrand, “that you get yourself crucified, and then die, but be sure to rise again the third day.”

Why should you bother to embrace the Christian message this Easter? The Christ of the cross changed the agnostic, Malcolm Muggeridge, into an active Christian who published Jesus Rediscovered. Millions of people have made the same life-changing commitment and discovered the joy that Muggeridge found.

Any old resurrection will not do.

Today, the religious and other media are dominated by the burial and resurrection of Jesus that diverge from the narratives in the New Testament Gospels. John Dominic Crossan objects to a Jesus who rose bodily. His claim is that Mark created the empty-tomb story and the sleeping disciples in Gethsemane.[3] This means Mark created the burial narrative involving Joseph of Arimathea.

When historical Jesus’ scholar, Crossan, stated that Jesus’ resurrection appearance was an apparition and not a physical appearance, was it possible to test this conclusion? To what degree are a scholar’s conclusions affected by the scholar’s presuppositions? That is what I attempted to do in my PhD dissertation, “Crossan and the resurrection of Jesus: Rethinking presuppositions, methods and models.”

For Crossan, Jesus was not buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea in the garden but was placed in a shallow grave to be eaten by dogs hunting for food. As for Jesus’ resurrection, it was an apparition (phantom) and not a bodily resurrection.

Refutation of Crossan views are found in the biblical text

Crossan admits his view is non-historical as a postmodern deconstructionist. His presuppositions are fixed, so he’s unable to listen to the text’s content. We know that Jesus’ resurrection was historical because of people’s seeing and touching Jesus after the resurrection, which cannot be accommodated in Crossan’s framework. The New Testament Gospels explained that Luke’s second appearance story of Cleopas and an unnamed companion (Lk 24:36-49), ‘in contrasting juxtaposition to the Emmaus story, emphasizes the “physicality” of the risen Jesus. Jesus invites them to touch him: “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and blood as you see that I have.” He also shows them the wounds in his hands and feet. Then he eats a piece of broiled fish. The point is that this is not another ghost story.

The emphasis in 1 Corinthians 15 is on a future resurrected body that is different from that which is experienced in earthly existence, but there is continuity – it is a s?ma (body), indicting some dimension of physicality.

Earle Ellis noted that I Corinthians 15 lacks a stress on the empty tomb. However, he contends that Paul did not have to say “empty tomb” because it is implicit in his term resurrection, anastasis. ‘The rising on the third day [1 Cor 15:4] can hardly refer (only) to “appearances”. Most probably it presupposes and implies the “empty tomb” traditions. Also, the seed analogy [1 Cor 15:36-38] presupposes a continuity between what is buried and the raised body. “Spiritual
body” refers to the vitalizing principle and has nothing to do with immateriality’ (see 1 Cor 15:4, 37, 44).

This is what we remember at Easter. He is the Jesus who died, was resurrected bodily, and changes people’s lives. He was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb and not in some invented creation by Crossan or somebody else. The resurrection body of Jesus could be touched and he ate broiled fish with the disciples (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:24-29).

Jesus’ resurrected body guarantees victory over death and it will be only apprehended when the same physical body that died is risen from the grave (see 1 Corinthians 15:54-55). That’s why it’s important to understand the risen Jesus was a physical body.

Bibliography

Crossan, J D 1988. The Cross That Spoke: The Origins of the Passion Narrative. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock.

Crossan, J D 1998. The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D with Watts, R G 1996. Who Is Jesus? Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus. New York: HarperPaperbacks.

Notes


[1] Crossan 1988, The Cross That Spoke.

[2] “Jesus’ burial was not in a tomb hewn out of stone but was in a shallow grave where his
body became prey to scavenging dogs” (Crossan & Watts 1996:152-153).

[3] Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, 557.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 08 April 2022.

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What is heresy?

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

I was blogging on Christianity Board on the topic, “Heresy?” where the person asked:

“Every denomination has some teaching or doctrine that we would not agree with.
How would you explain the difference between an incorrect teaching and
a heretical teaching…?
IOW,,,when does an incorrect teaching become heretical? Thanks.”[1]

In the Septuagint (LXX) – the Greek translation of the Old Testament – hairesis is found occasionally as meaning free choice or voluntarily (e.g. Gen 49:5; Lev 22:18).[2]

Like hairesis in Josephus, [the word] denoted in the first instance the trends and parties within Judaism. But soon, when certain minim separated themselves from the orthodox Rabbinic tradition, it came to be used only of trends within Judaism opposed by the Rabbis. . . . The term thus stigmatised certain groups as “heretical.” This sense is found in Rabbinic writings belonging to the end of the 1st and early part of 2nd century A.D. . . . At the end of the 2nd century the term acquired a new meaning, being applied not so much to the members of a sect within Judaism as to the adherents of other faiths and esp. Christians and Gnostics.[3]

New Testament and heresy

For the Christian who takes the Bible seriously, heresy is based on the Greek noun, hairesis. The Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich Lexicon gives the foundational meaning as “sect, party, school” (BAG, 1957, p. 23).

It was used to describe the “party of the Sadducees” in Acts 5:17; the Pharisees in Acts 26:5 were described as “the strictest sect of our religion.” In the secular literature of the first century, it meant “heretical sect.”

In a later sense they were called “a dissension, a faction” (1 Cor 11:19; Gal 5:20). They also were called an “opinion, dogma . . . a way of thinking” (2 Pet 2:1).

clip_image004Schlier considers heresy must be understood ‘against the Hellenistic and Jewish background. The usage in Acts corresponds exactly to that of Josephus and the earlier Rabbis [Ac 5:17; 15:5; 24:5, 14; 28:22]. . . . In these passages the term has the neutral flavour of “school.”’[4]

Schlier concludes:

“Against this background, it is impossible to solve the problem of the derivation of the special Christian sense of heresy. . . . The separation of non-orthodox groups, the heterdox parties, came to be designated heresy. . . . The basis of the Christian concept of hairesis is to be found in the new situation created by the introduction of the Christian ekklesia. Ekklesia and hairesis are material opposites. The latter cannot accept the former; the former excludes the latter. This may be clearly seen in Gal 5:10 where hairesis is reckoned among “he works of the flesh, along with [sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition]. Yet neither here nor else in the NT does hairesis have a technical sense. In 1 Cor. 11:18f we see even more clearly the impossibility of hairesis within Christianity.[5]

Heresy in the early church

In the age which followed NT hairesis, it

was still understood as an eschatologically threatening magnitude essentially opposed to the ekklesia. . . . Within Christianity hairesis always denotes hostile societies and there is always consciousness of an inner relationship between heretics and the secular philosophical schools or Jewish sects . . . which they also describe by the term hairesis. What the Church usually has in view is Gnosticism. As seen by the Church, the Gnostics form schools.[6]

So anything that was taught that was contrary to that for the early church – opposing Scripture – was called heresy.

So, this gives a wide field for relevance and challenge, especially in light of how denominations add to Scripture in topics such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper, allegorical interpretation of Scripture, etc.

Applications

To sum up: A heresy in today’s understanding is a sect whose way of thinking is dogma that promotes theology contrary to biblical Christianity – an heretical sect. This includes infant baptism, the Lord’s Supper as Real Presence, Covenant Theology, Once-Saved-Always-Saved, and worship of Mary.

An example would be the Jehovah’s Witnesses today who do not believe Jesus is God and they reject human beings as having an immortal soul. Mormonism fits the same category as heresy.

From a Christian perspective, Islam is heretical as it does not promote the Trinitarian God. Islam rejects Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

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(Burning of heretics during Spanish Inquisition)

Works consulted

Arndt, William F. and F. Wilbur Gingrich, tr. & adapt. of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur, 4th and aug edn 1957. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edn licensed to Zondervan Publishing House for sale only in the United States of America).

Schlier, Heinrich 1964. In Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol 1. Ed by Gerhard Kittel, tr & ed Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes


[1] Christianity Board, “Heresy?” November 21, 2021. Available at: https://www.christianityboard.com/threads/heresy.44320/ (Accessed 7 February 2022).

[2] Heinrich Schlier 1964. vol. 1, hairesis, p. 181

[3] Schlier, 182.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 182-193.

[6] Ibid., 183,

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 07 February 2022.

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Living as an evangelical Christian in a secular society

The Honourable

Scott Morrison

MP

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Morrison in 2021

30th Prime Minister of Australia

Incumbent

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Taking a stand for biblical values on sexuality

Citipointe Christian College, Carindale, Brisbane, has taken a stand for biblical sexual values and that has meant telling the truth about homosexuality. The effect has been fury of the secular agenda piled by the pro-LGBTIQ+ community and media against this Christian College.

ABC News, Brisbane reported: ‘A parent and teacher at a Brisbane Christian college that is demanding parents sign a contract affirming students identify as their birth gender and that homosexuality is “sinful”, says she is looking for another school for her child to attend’ (“Brisbane’s Citipointe Christian College defends demanding parents sign contract on student gender identity, homosexuality”).[1]

The News item continued: ‘In an e-mail to parents . . , principal Pastor Brian Mulheran said the new clauses in the enrolment contract were included to “ensure that we retain our Christian ethos, which is the foundation of what has made the College what it is today”’.[2]

The contract states “the college will only enrol the student on the basis of the gender that corresponds to their biological sex” to maintain consistent with the college’s “Christian Ethos Requirements”.

It goes on to state that the college “acknowledges the biological sex of a person as recognised at birth and requires practices consistent with that sex”.

Another clause states the college has the right to “exclude a student from the college” should they not adhere to the “doctrinal precepts including those as to biological sex”.

To keep their child enrolled at the school, parents must agree with a set of “religious beliefs” laid out in a “Declaration of Faith” attached to the contract.

Part of the declaration states that “any form of sexual immorality (including but not limited to; adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, bisexual acts, bestiality, incest, paedophilia, and pornography) is sinful and offensive to God and is destructive to human relationships and society”.[3]

Morrison’s view when it becomes law

Now that homosexual marriage has been legalised in Australia, what is Morrison’s view? Notice how he dodges the journalist’s questions:

Scott Morrison says he supports the law of the country but wouldn’t say if his personal opposition to same-sex marriage has changed since it was legalised. . . .

Mr Morrison abstained from voting for marriage equality when it passed the House of Representatives in 2018, and he voted “no” in the national survey.

When asked if he is still personally opposed to same-sex marriage, the prime minister replied: “It’s law. And I’m glad that the change has now been made and people can get on with their lives. That’s what I’m happy about.”

When pressed on whether his opinions have changed, he told reporters in Perth: “I always support the law of the country” (SBS News 2019).[4]

So, he supports Australian law but didn’t own up to his personal beliefs about homosexuality in 2019. I wonder, as a Pentecostal Christian, whether he accepts the Bible’s view on the topic. See Romans 1:25-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

God’s view is different from Morrison’s. Those who practise homosexuality (male & female) will not inherit the kingdom of God. Whether ScoMo is a PM or an ordinary Christian, he should support the Bible’s view.

Scriptures: Christians must obey government, but not at the expense of biblical teaching.

I’ll examine two biblical passages relating to Christians and government. They are:

(1) Romans 13:1-5 (NIV):

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

Let’s apply this to what is happening at Citipointe Christian College where the College has been forced to remove its statement on homosexuality from entry requirements.

The Guardian Australia reported:

While Citipointe Christian College says it “deeply regrets” that the contracts made students feel discriminated against, the principal says the school has the right to maintain its ethos and the “freedom to continue to provide an education based on our shared beliefs”.

Rom 13:1-5 is not addressing a local issue but the laws of the State and nation. God sets up authorities. He is in control of them – no matter how bad they are. I struggle to understand these verses in light of the Nazi governments, and those of Pol Pot, Idi Amin, etc. However, I have to accept that God allows these horrific regimes to punish the people.

These verses point to the danger of getting too close to government in dependence on school funding. Citipointe demonstrates how Big Brother could have influenced the changing of the values of a school’s ethos.

(2) Matthew 22:19-21 (NIV),

19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

The obvious application is to paying taxes but its impact may stretch further with Caesar’s requiring Christian institutions to change their values.

We must obey God rather than human authorities.

‘But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority”’ (Acts 5:29 NLT).

This sums up the Christians responsibility to government, especially when the values of Christians clash with those of regimes. I consider that is what we have with Citipointe Christian College and its values that clash with those of government.

In my view, Acts 5:29 is causing some potential clashes when private schools receive so much funding from federal and state governments. There is a temptation to toe the government line rather than being true to their Christian heritage.

Governments who want to trash or compromise biblical values.

See my articles:

clip_image003Tolerance, homosexuality and not inheriting the Kingdom of God

clip_image003[1] Homosexual unions, homosexual marriage, mass media & politicians

clip_image003[2]Why should we oppose homosexual marriage?

The personal disappointment for me is that our Pentecostal Prime Minister is not standing beside the Citipointe Christian College’s leadership in the promotion of sexual Christian ethics.

Notes


[1] Accessed 1st February 2022.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] SBS News (AAP) 2019. Gay marriage is the law: PM Morrison, 13 May. Available at: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/gay-marriage-is-the-law-pm-morrison (Accessed 5 February 2022).

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 05 February 2022

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Scott Morrison, Christian colleges, & biblical Christianity

The Honourable

Scott Morrison MP

Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison.jpg

Morrison in 2021

30th Prime Minister of Australia

Incumbent

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article first appeared in On Line Opinion, 14 February 2022.

I was shocked to read our Prime Minister’s reported view that he does not support the Citipointe Christian College’s promotion of the ethics of biblical Christianity. He did not say it in such straight-forward language but stated,

The federal government will seek to amend a contentious section of the Sex Discrimination Act alongside its Religious Discrimination Bill, in a move that follows lengthy discussions between the Prime Minister’s office and key backbenchers over the past week (The Sydney Morning Herald, “Church schools will lose right to expel gay students as PM deals with moderate Liberals,” (February 3, 2022)

Let’s make it clear: “Moderate liberals” are not supporters of what the Scriptures state about homosexuality. The Coalition government wants “to lock in the support of moderate Liberal MPs ahead of a potential vote on the bill in the next sitting fortnight” (“Church schools will lose the right . . .”

Wouldn’t it be amazing to read a mass media press release that states the Coalition wants to woo Bible-believing Christians in the community and support their views on sexual (including homosexual) ethics – straight from the Bible?

blue-corrosion-arrow-small  “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18).

blue-corrosion-arrow-small  “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another” (Rom 1:24)

blue-corrosion-arrow-small  “God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom 1:26-27).

blue-corrosion-arrow-small “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice” (Rom 1:28-29).

Citipointe Christian College Aerial View(photo Citipointe Christian College campus)

Elsewhere in the New Testament, the Bible states that these acts of homosexuality have this consequence:

Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Instead of trying to save his political backside for the next election and satisfying the LGBTIQ+ people, he should be representing ALL people and telling the truth about where homosexuality will take people. Bible-believing Christians have been betrayed, in my opinion, and should see the political craftiness of Morrison and give up on him at the next election. I’m not convinced an Anthony Albanese led government will present a better option but at least its ethics will be secular and not in the guise of Christianity – as with Morrison.

The truth about sexual and other sins

Where are the Bible-believing MPs who will speak God’s truth on the eternal penalty of that sexual aberration? Will they speak up when voting on the Religious Discrimination Bill?

Morrison admitted, “My kids go to a Christian school here in Sydney, and I wouldn’t want my school doing that either,” he told Brisbane’s B105.3 radio (Church schools will lose right to expel gay students). He was addressing the Citipointe Christian College issue. So, is he saying he doesn’t want a Christian school to tell the truth of the homosexual lifestyle and its eternal ramification?

Citipointe Christian College should feel let down by a Christian Prime Minister who seems to be playing political games for the next election so he can save “soft” Liberal Party seats. He has lost my vote to one of the minor parties that supports and practises biblical standards.

In my view, Morrison has practised reverse discrimination by compromising biblical Christianity and its ethics on sexuality and sucking up to the LGBTIQ+ community to make it look like support for that view. It is a politically correct view that may cost him at the next election.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 04 February 2022.

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Grow up in your faith: I Peter 2:1-3[1]

Plant Growing On The Tree Trunk

(image courtesy publicdomainpictures)

By Spencer Gear

A. Introduction

As we begin a new year, it is good to look back over the last year to see how the Lord has blessed and to see what needs to be changed in our lives. On June 2 2006, I had the honour, sad though it was, to conduct the funeral service of my father-in-law, who died at age 95.

Dad had lived with my wife and me for the last 12 years of his life. During our conversations he had made it clear that he wanted me to conduct the funeral if I were alive. But he must not be buried from the evangelical church in which he was raised. He attended that church until 1992, because of his wife’s commitment to the Lord Jesus.

But he was adamant. Do not bury me from that church. I want nothing to do with that church, even at my death.

Why? His mother died when he was 8 years old from the influenza that swept the world in 1919. His father remarried and his step mother would go to that church and praise the Lord with hallelujahs and other spiritual gestures. But during the week she would treat the five step-children like second-class citizens – so he told us.

This was an example that turned Dad right off the Christian faith –his step-mother’s hypocrisy. Dad lived with that nasty memory for 87 years.

You and I know that his step-mother will not be an excuse when he stands before God. But this matter of the Christian life and the gap between what we say we believe and how we live, is how the apostle Peter begins the second chapter of I Peter.

From I Peter 1:13 to 2:3, we are taught:

1:13-16 As he who called you is holy, you also be holy

1:17-21 Live in reverent fear (of God)

1: 22-25 Love one another

In this article, we deal with 1 Peter 2:1-3. It begins with “therefore” or “so.” It is based on what has preceded this verse.

v. 23: You have been born again;

v. 25: “The word of the Lord remains forever”;

“This word is the good news that was preached to you.”

Therefore, what are we do as people who are genuinely Christian and who stand on the eternal Word of God?

In the first 3 verses of I Peter 2 we have the fourth teaching on what it means to live a holy life to grow spiritually. To grow spiritually, we must

blue-satin-arrow-small Put away certain things;

blue-satin-arrow-small We must long for or crave for certain things; and

blue-satin-arrow-small We must have tasted something.

B. First, if we are to grow spiritually, we must “put away” or get rid of certain things in our lives (v. 1)

Tree With Green Leaves And Roots. Isolated On White Background. Flat Style, Vector Illustration. What are they?

 

1. You must put away

clip_image001 All malice

clip_image001[1] All deceit

clip_image001[2] Hypocrisies

clip_image001[3] Envies

clip_image001[4] All slanders

Paul uses “all”, three times in this list. If we are to be growing Christians, there must be zero malice in our lives; zero deceit; zero hypocrisy, zero envy and zero slander. All of these apply to our relationships with other people. This is where people will notice the most important change that comes into your life when you become a genuine Christian.

Peter says that we must get rid of these:

a. All malice

This is totally comprehensive – all malice must be gone if we are to be truly Christian in our living. If we express malice in our relationships with others our love for others disappears.

“Malice [in English] is a desire to inflict pain, harm, or injury on [other human beings][2].”[3] Most often we do this with our words but it can lead to physical injury of other people in our anger.

Here, this word does not mean viciousness (although there should be no viciousness in the language and deeds of a believer), the word (kakia) is “a special form of vice . . . the evil habit of the mind.”[4] This is the kind of evil thinking that leads to all kinds of evil actions. It means “baseness, meanness, all good-for-nothingness, disgracefulness.”[5]

Getting rid of malice towards others relates to the second half of the 10 commandments (Ex. 20:12-17) and their equivalent in the New Testament. See my article, “Compare the Ten Commandments with New Testament teaching.”

clip_image003 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Dishonouring your parents must be gone if you are really Christian. This becomes especially touchy if a Christian’s father has physically abused the mother; if the mother has committed adultery; if father or mother has sexually abused another, and there are other disturbing family circumstances.

The Scriptures require you as a Christian to get rid of any dishonour towards your father or mother. You must not endorse any such evil behaviour. You must oppose such evil actions, but they are still your parents. Honour your father and your mother does NOT mean you endorse their behaviour. Get rid of all dishonour in the way you treat your mother and father.

clip_image003[1] Back to the 10 commandments: “You shall not murder.” This should be self-evident. Put away all baseness in your thinking towards those who have committed murder. You must get rid of thinking about killing anyone. You must not kill another or yourself.

clip_image003[2] “You shall not steal.” What do you do with the boss’s time? Are you an honest worker? Do you give an honest week’s work for your pay, or do you steal your boss’s time. It’s so easy to take little things from your place of work. That’s stealing.

clip_image003[3] “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.” It’s so easy to gossip about another. Sometimes that’s false testimony.

clip_image003[4] You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”

Let’s put this into 21st century language: “You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife or husband, or any of your neighbour’s circumstances, including the cars your neighbours drive, the house they own, the TV, computer, goods of any sort that they own.” If we covet human or physical things, we are not growing up in our faith. The only thing that I want to covet is a better relationship with Jesus which will mean better relationships with other human beings.

The next few things that Peter mentions that we must “put away” are examples of kakia (baseness) that we have just been teaching about.

Get rid of

b. All deceit

Put away your crafty ways, your cunning methods, any thinking and actions that are meant to con another. That was part of your old lifestyle and it cannot continue. The original meaning of this word for “deceit” was “a bait for fish.”[6] Get rid of all intents that you have “to deceive and to mislead others to their own hurt and to our own supposed advantage.”[7]

In 30 years of family counselling, I have encountered more than my share of Christian parents, youth and children who are deceivers in how they relate to one another. Nothing undermines marriage and family as much as parents and children who are not up front and honest in the family. Deceivers in a family devastate family unity.

How have you been deceiving your parents? How have you been deceiving your spouse? Get rid of it immediately. Confess to God and to that other person. Yes, confess to the other.

Another form of wickedness that must be gone from the Christian’s life is:

c. Hypocrisy

I’ve already introduced this in my own extended family, of how a mother’s hypocrisy left a permanent mark for 87 years on her step-son. We as the people of God need to talk about how our hypocritical living affects us personally, the family, relationships in the church, and relationships with others.

It must be gone in all relationships. There must be no difference between what we say we believe and the way we live. If Jesus doesn’t make a difference in our relationships, I have to question the person’s salvation.

There’s more bad behaviour that must be gone after we become Christian.

d. Envy

Set Of Banana Palm Tree With Fruits. Exotic Tropical Plants With Green Leaves And Flower, Isolated On White Transparent Background. Eps10 Vector Illustration.This is more difficult for us in a materialistic Western society. We envy the things of others; the jobs they have. When we see the good fortune of others, we envy what they have. Get rid of all envy in your life. Next is . . .

e. Slander

We know what this means. Or do we? Get rid of “all speaking against others that runs them down.”[8] Remember what Jesus said in Matt. 5:22? ‘I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca,” [an Aramaic term of hatred] is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.’

Slander has no place in the Christian life.

Imagine what would happen if Christians were known for no malice, no deceit, no hypocrisies, no envies and no slanders? Do you think that a few people would we attracted to our Jesus because of the change in US?

First, if you want to grow spiritually, you must get rid of those things.

 

C. Secondly, if you are to grow spiritually, you must long for or crave something (v. 2).

You not only have to get rid of some things, you need to deal with some growth issues.

1. You start doing certain things (vv. 2-3):

a. Live like newborn spiritual babies.

This is a parallel verse to:

clip_image0051 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,. . .”

clip_image005[1] It’s also similar to 1 Peter 1:23, “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.”

man reading BiblePlease note what I Peter 2:2 does not say. It does not say, “I’m speaking just to brand-new Christians; this is teaching only for babes in Christ.”

Remember to whom Peter is writing! In 1 Peter 1:1 he wrote: “To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout” Asia Minor (which is Turkey today). This is not teaching just for new Christians, but for all believers – elected by God for salvation: Live “like newborn [spiritual] babies.” Peter is not contrasting solid spiritual food for grown Christians with spiritual milk for new Christians.

Peter wants all believers, whether new or old in the faith, to crave to be nourished by the Word of God. His point in using this kind of language, “like newborn babies” is this: “A baby[9] longs for nothing but his/her mother’s milk and will take nothing else, so every Christian should take no spiritual nourishment save the Word of God. The imagery is beautiful and expressive. Look at a baby at his/her mother’s breast. In this way you should [always][10] drink the milk of the Word.”[11]

Peter understood the meaning of what Jesus stated in Matt. 18:2-3, ‘He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”’ Peter carried this further to apply it to all Christians: Live like newborn spiritual babies.

What does that mean?

b. “Long for pure spiritual milk” (v. 2)

If you don’t have this desire, your salvation must be questioned. What is pure spiritual milk? How do I long for it? The word “spiritual” (ESV) is based on the Greek, logos, the Word. It’s an adjective, the logikos. The KJV helps us with a translation that is closer to the original understanding: Crave or long for “the sincere milk of the Word.” The NASB, “the pure milk of the word.”

We don’t have an exact equivalent in English for the logikos that the KJV and NASB translate as “the word.” This word is used only twice in the NT, the other place being Rom. 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” KJV: “reasonable service.”

Here in I Peter 2:2 we should think of this word in association with the milk. It seems that 2:2 is reflecting back with us to I Peter 1:23, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” So, if you are to grow in your faith, you must crave the Word of God. Remember how this Word is described in 1:23: “the living and enduring word of God.”

Yet, this is what is attacked so often today. I sometimes interact on Internet forums with atheists and agnostics. One of their most frequent targets is what they call the old fashioned, antiquated, irrelevant Word of God. For those of us who want to grow in the faith, we know that we get our world and life view from “the living and enduring word of God.”

reading children's biblePeter is saying that all Christians must live like new spiritual babies, with a craving for “the milk of the Word” (KJV).

Notice what Peter calls this “milk of the Word”? “Pure” or “unadulterated” milk that belongs to God’s word. It is not like any other spiritual food. ‘It is without the least guile to mislead or to deceive. [Any] other (human) word (teaching, doctrine, spoken or written) is not “guileless.” This divine Word . . . is perfectly safe for babes to take although they, being just born, have no ability to be careful as to what they drink.’[12]

You are to crave this Word of God if you want to grow up in your faith. You are to “long for this milk and no other. . . . To cease longing for the divine milk is the most serious sign of spiritual decline, which soon ends in spiritual death.”[13]

I’m reminded of Ps. 119:20, “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.”

There’s a problem in doing this for some in our world. I was reading The Voice of the Martyrs magazine, April 2006, and I read this:

clip_image007 Whom do you think might have made this statement? “We and other reverend fathers of the spirituality have determined the said and untrue translations to be burned with further sharp correction and punishment against the keepers and readers of the same.”[14]

These are the words of the King of England’s “declaration regarding those associated with the first English New Testament to be printed. It was translated by a brilliant Christian and fugitive—William Tyndale.”[15]

clip_image007[1] I also read: “Vietnamese Pastor Than Van Truong won 44 new believers to Christ while imprisoned for his zealous Christian witness [in Vietnam]. After his release, following [a Voice of the Martyrs’] postcard campaign, we asked him what his greatest need was and he said. . . We need more Bibles![16]

Why did he suffer? It was for promoting the Word of God. All Christians around the world are commanded to crave the milk of the Word. For some, that will place them in jail; for others they lose their lives.

We are favoured here in the Western world. I have 20 different English Bible translations in my library. According to the Bible League:

clip_image008 “in Africa there are an estimated 200 million church members still waiting for their own copy of the Scriptures.

clip_image008[1] “In Indonesia, there are approximately 2,400 people a day making commitments to Christ, and about half of these new converts will not have access to a Bible.”[17]

Two years ago my wife and I took our annual leave and attended the

Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne. We arrived a few days early and read this in The Age newspaper (Melbourne, Australia):

clip_image009 ‘An evangelist who preaches the “old time religion” [that’s the Bible-believing Christianity I believe] is asking hearers to stake the living of their lives upon beliefs for which there is no evidence whatsoever and that fly against humankind’s painfully acquired knowledge of the world and of themselves. That is not simply, as we today are taught to say, a ‘big ask’ but an outrageous ask.”[18] Who said this? It was no secular journalist ruminating on the Christmas message. It was John K. Williams, a retired Uniting Church minister, in a message he preached at St. Michael’s Church, Collins St., Melbourne, January 18, 2004.’

Why do you need to crave the milk of the Word?

c. “So that you may grow up in your salvation” (v. 2)

Surely that’s stated as clearly as it can be. If you are to grow spiritually and mature in your salvation, you must crave, long for, the Word – and spend time with God in His Word.

Peter speaks of childhood and growing into adulthood as God’s ideal for our growth. We are to be like babies, always longing for God’s milk in the Word so that we grow in salvation. That is our destiny, the design of our faith.

Let’s stop for a moment to draw out some practical applications.

clip_image011 How many times this last week have you craved for the milk of the Word of God and spent time with God in His Word? You will tell us your view of being obedient to God by being obedient to what God is teaching from this passage.

clip_image011[1] If you are not longing for the Word and spending time in it, you will NOT grow in your salvation. God knows no other way of getting worldly thinking and action out of your system.

clip_image011[2] Do you have a method of reading through the Word of God? You need exposure to both OT and NT.

clip_image011[3] For me, it takes about 18 months to read through the entire Bible, reading 2-3 chapters a day. There are 1175 chapters in 66 books of the Bible. You can get through the entire Bible in a year if you read 3.2 chapters a day. That’s not a lot (until you reach the one chapter of Psalm 119).

clip_image011[4] Why is it important to get the Word of God into your soul? So that “you may grow up in your salvation.”

If you spend time with mainly ungodly people and feeding your mind with TV, newspapers & radio, you’ll be programmed by non-Christian and ungodly thinking. If you program your mind with the Simpsons, Home & Away, and Harry Potter, you’ll not grow in your faith. I’m convinced that Bible reading, Bible study, and prayerfully meditating on the Word, should be helping us to know God’s view of all things that are happening in our world:

clip_image013 What’s God’s view on marriage, homosexual marriage, defacto relationships, rebellious children, and unfaithfulness in sexual relationships?

clip_image013[1] How does God view war, abortion, euthanasia and suicide?

clip_image013[2] What about submitting to government – local, state and federal? What does God say?

clip_image013[3] John Blanchard has written a brilliant book, titled: Does God Believe in Atheists? Read Romans 1 for your answer.

You will never get God’s understanding of all of life without a good understanding of God’s Word. To grow, crave and spend time in the Word.

One of the most damaging things that is happening in so many churches is that preachers no longer want to systematically preach through the Bible (that’s not the case in this church). I believe we need to do that to be obedient to what Paul said to Timothy in 2 Tim. 4:2: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”

I hear many preachers who preach about the Word but few who actually preach what the actual Word says. We get lots of preachers’ opinions that don’t seem to be directly related to the Word. I’m not talking about hints about how to apply the Word of God. “Preach the Word” is what Paul told the young pastor, Timothy. I’m convinced “It’s a sin to bore God’s people with God’s word.”

That means there is a need for clear outlines by the preacher, along with plenty of applications for the people in the pew.

If you are to grow in your salvation, you need to crave for the milk of the Word.

 

D. Thirdly and finally, if you are to grow spiritually, you must have “tasted.”

Young Trees At Water ShoreYou will never ever be motivated to grow in your salvation and to get to the point of craving the Word of God, if you have not tasted that the Lord is good. Peter is asking his readers to recall their Christian life with the Lord.

Perhaps Peter is reminding us of the Psalmist in 34:8, “Taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

Please note what this does NOT say. It does not encourage us to “taste” or experience God. We are to taste “that the Lord is good.” The Lord is good in making salvation available to us, but he is especially good in making the precious milk of the Word available so that we may grow in our salvation. You will especially taste the Lord’s goodness when you read the word.

Is this world going to go on forever? What’s the end of the world going to be like? Why is there so much evil in the world? When I watch the evening TV news, I have to ask: Where does all of this violence and sadness come from? Where will the Christian and non-believer be one minute after death? You won’t find ultimate answers to any of these questions than from the Bible – the Word of God.

E. Conclusion

Why do we treat the Bible as though it is just another book? Why don’t we spend more time with God in reading the Bible more often? Could it be because we are disobedient Christians? The consequence is that we will not grow in the faith if we do not do this.

Have you tasted the Lord’s goodness?

Since the pure milk of the Word is the place where you will be helped to grow up in your salvation, it should not be surprising that some liberal church leaders and the secular world attack the Bible.

This is what God says in his Word:

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation– if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (ESV)

Will you believe God and act on His Word and so grow in your faith? That’s the challenge of the Word of God today.

F. Bibliography

Kistemaker, Simon J 1986. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1966, Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter; St. John, and St. Jude. Peabody, MASS: Hendrickson Publishers.

Trench, Richard C 1953.[19] Synonyms of the New Testament, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Available at: https://archive.org/details/synonymsofnewtes00treniala/page/n5/mode/2up (Accessed 31 January 2022).

G. Notes


[1] I preached this sermon at Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church, 7 January 2007.

[2] The original said, “Our fellow man.”

[3] Simon J. Kistemaker New Testament Commentary: Peter and Jude, p. 31.

[4] Richard C. Trench 1953, Synonyms of the New Testament, p. 38.

[5] R. C. H. Lenski 1966, Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter; St. John, and St. Jude, p. 77.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Lenski used the word, “Babe,” and I have used baby for all “babe” uses in this passage.

[10] Lenski used “ever.”

[11] Lenski, p. 78.

[12] Ibid., p. 80.

[13] Ibid., p. 78.

[14] Brian Edwards 1976, God’s Outlaw: the Story of William Tyndale and the English Bible, Darlington, England: Evangelical press, p. 93, cited in The Voice of the Martyrs, April 2006, p. 9.

[15] Ibid., VOM, April 2006, p. 9.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Bible League, available from: https://www.thebiblenetwork.org.uk/about-us/faq/ (Accessed 31 January 2022).

[18] Williams, J. K. 2004, ‘It’s not good enough for us’, The Age (Melbourne, Australia), [Online], January 19, Available from: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/01/18/1074360629928.html [10 June 2006].

[19] The original edition was published in 1894.

Field And Tree At Sunset

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 31 January 2022.

clip_image015 clip_image016clip_image016[1]clip_image016[2]clip_image016[2]clip_image016[2]

STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH

Because of the incredible blessings you have received

1 Peter 1: 3-5 (ESV)[1]

A. Introduction

What would happen to your faith if you were one of the survivors in the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and some of your family died in those house ruins?[2]

Christian people were overcome by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.[3] How does faith survive among such devastation?

clip_image002

(photo Indian Ocean tsunami courtesy Wikimedia Commons)[4]

It’s hard to imagine how a Church can survive in Communist North Korea. According to Open Doors, a ministry to the persecuted church, there are about 400,000 Christians living in that country . . . and they desperately need our prayers and support.

North Korea is [considered to be ] the most oppressive nation in the world. There is no freedom of thought, speech, expression, movement or religion. It is the utmost restricting and punishing place on the planet.

Being a Christian in North Korea is extremely dangerous and difficult to conceal. One in three people [is a] government [spy]. If you don’t regularly bow down to a statue of Kim Il Sung, it’s noted [by these spies].

About 200,000 prisoners are serving life sentences in labour camps. . . . Prisoners work for up to 18 hours a day. Anyone who talks risks 8 days in solitary confinement in a 0.6m x 1.1m cage. . . . Torture, executions and experiments occur daily.

Many thousands of prisoners are Christians. “Christians are the most severely abused,” testifies Soon Ok Lee, a former prisoner. “In seven years I saw many believers die, yet they never denied Jesus”.[5]

What is it that keeps these persecuted North Korean Christians firm in their faith? (400,000 of them in a country of 23 million, with such severe persecution)

It’s the same kind of faith you will need when you are ridiculed for your faith in Australia. It’s the faith that you need when the going gets tough.

In First Peter we find why Christians stand firm in the faith when the trials come.

We hear so little of what is happening to the small Christian church in Iraq. I read recently “that Christians and churches are being seriously affected by the internal turmoil across the country. Not only are foreigners being hijacked, but indigenous Iraqi Christians are also disappearing. [Open Doors] contacts stress that in most of these cases, the kidnappers are not Islamic extremists, but more often are young people trying to make some easy money.”[6]

We find it difficult to identify with persecution like this. What did Jesus say about this kind of situation? “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20 ESV).[7]

Let’s get to our text in First Peter.

B. Why did Peter write this first epistle?

clip_image004 It is a very warm pastoral letter with lots of encouragement for Christians who are scattered and persecuted. I Peter 5:12 states, “I have written to you briefly, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it”.

clip_image004[1] Peter wrote this epistle to believers who were experiencing these kinds of things:

clip_image006 1:6, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials”.

clip_image006[1] 2:21, “For to this you have been called because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

clip_image006[2] 3:13-14, “Who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled”.

clip_image006[3] 3:17, “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

clip_image004[2] Do you get the picture? Peter wrote this epistle so that these early believers would “see their temporary sufferings in the full light of the coming eternal glory. In the midst of all their discouragements, the sovereign Lord will keep them and enable them by faith to have joy.”[8]

clip_image004[3] This is a very practical and relevant message for us in Qld. in the 21st century.

As we look closely at I Peter 1:3-5, we are taught to

“STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH: Because of the incredible blessings you have received.”

That’s the title of my message today. 1 Peter 1:3-5 teaches us to stand firm in the faith…

Firstly, because of the incredible blessings you have received in Christ; and

Secondly, because of your inheritance as believers.

Let’s deal with the first major reason.

I. STAND FIRM IN YOUR FAITH because of the incredible blessings you have received (vv. 3-5)

In I Peter 2:9, Peter uses this kind of language about the people of God: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (ESV). Through God’s “great mercy”, these early Christians had received blessings beyond anything your boss could offer. Marriage will not give you what God has given.

A business woman’s multi-millions of dollars will look like chicken feed when compared with the blessings of the people of God.

It’s appropriate that Peter begins v. 3 with an exhortation to praise, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Conservative Lutheran commentator, Richard Lenski, writes this: “There is too little contemplation of God, too little praise of him in our hearts, especially in our earthly distress.”[9] Would you agree or disagree? Do we praise God enough? Do we know how to praise Him?

The psalmist did and he encourages us to praise like this:

Psalm 103:1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits –

3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed (NIV)

There is so much to praise God for. Let’s not be slack about it. Peter calls us to praise:

clip_image008 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter is singing the true glory of God when he meditates on God’s great salvation through Jesus Christ. When Peter thinks on the blessings of salvation, he has nothing but praise for God the Father.

By way of application:

Please pause a moment, and think of what you have been saved from. You know your past and what you did and were when in rebellion against God. What did it take for you to be turned around? Could you change yourself? Of course not, if we are talking about deep inner change! Let’s pause a moment for you to praise God for who he is and the salvation that he has brought to your life.

You may have a family member who is:

clip_image008[1] Threatening suicide;

clip_image008[2] Rebellious children who run away, wag school and abuse parents.

clip_image008[3] Parents who are guilt-ridden because they can’t control their kids, kids on drugs, stealing, vandalising, etc.

clip_image008[4] Adultery, broken families, talk of legalising homosexual marriage;

How do you survive as a Christian in these circumstances?

You don’t have to be going through such extreme conditions. You may be persecuted for your Christian convictions. For you, this first epistle of Peter has some exceedingly good news.

Just in case you haven’t remembered what God has done for you through Christ, Peter summarises some of the blessings for us. Surely these are enough to convince us to hold to our faith firmly.

Never forget these blessings that are taught in I Peter 1:3-5.

A. YOU HAVE BEEN CHANGED FROM THE INSIDE OUT.

Look how this inner change is described.

1. Firstly, he has given us new birth

Or, as the ESV translates it, he has “caused us to be born again.” This language is so familiar to many of us who are evangelical Christians that we just gloss over it. Please don’t. What has happened to you, if you are born again, is like going into your mother’s womb again and coming out a totally new person, from the inside out. The image baffled Nicodemus (John 3:3-9). It still puzzles those who have not experienced it.

You have been given new birth because the life of God has been implanted in your soul. This is the whole Trinity in you to give you a new life and a new view of the world. Your heart is filled with new powers, new motives, new thoughts, and a new desire. You are not the same.

It is ours because of God’s “great mercy” (v. 3). God saw us in filth, need and rebellion. He was moved with compassion. Eph. 2:4 says He is a God who is “rich in mercy.” Mercy is God’s compassion for the helpless that results in action to bring them relief. “Mercy is a word specially used in the New Testament of God’s kindness in bringing in the outsider and the unworthy, the Gentile and the sinner, to share in His salvation, and in the glories or riches of His Christ”[10] You can read about it in Rom. 11:30-32; 15:9; Eph. 2:1-7; Titus 3:5.

Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw the hungry crowd. But he did more than that. He provided them with the bread and the fish to eat (Matt. 15:32). That’s mercy.

God saw our wretched state, aliens who would rather shake our fist at God than move towards him. We were rebels. In mercy, he offered us new birth through Christ’s death.

It is a new birth that gives us:

2. Secondly, a living hope (v. 3)

We live in a “no hope” world. If we want to put a person down, we call him a “no hoper.” Just think of what has happened to hope during the last century. Two world wars, Hitler’s gas ovens and the deaths of 6 million Jews, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the atomic age ushered in with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Vietnam War; the killing fields of Pol Pot’s Cambodia. The slaughter in Rwanda, Zaire, Port Arthur, the war in Iraq, and the rebellion in the Middle East. The Indian Ocean tsunami, the earthquake in Haiti.

Some of the adults and young people I counsel, who are contemplating suicide, tell me they see no hope in the future. They say life is hopeless, meaningless.

A former federal minister of education wrote to The Australian newspaper back in 1997. He said this:

The thematic currency of youth suicide is our failure to transmit a sense of belonging and meaningful purpose to young people. . . . We have created a culture in which young people frequently feel they have nothing other than themselves in which to believe. The mesh of values that held Australian society together 30 years ago – God, king and country – has been systematically dismantled. . . leaving only a vacuum. . . The price of our shallowness is being paid by our children.”[11]

The hope that people had in the optimism at the beginning of the 20th century is dead in the ashes of wars, crime, violence and high unemployment. When you glory in what human beings can do and achieve, you will be bitterly disappointed, even shattered.

For the believer we have a “living hope.” The opposite, “a dead hope,” is what we would call hopelessness. For the Christian it is a living hope because it is in what God has done. Verse 3 makes it clear what God has done. It is a living hope ONLY . .

3. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (v. 3).

What’s the big deal about the resurrection? If you read the 643 pp of this book, The Birth of Christianity by John Dominic Crossan,[12] you will learn that

clip_image010The resurrection of Christ was an “apparition.”[13] An apparition is a ghost, spirit, phantom or vision. His view was:

clip_image010[1] “Bodily resurrection has nothing to do with a resuscitated body coming out of its tomb. . . . Bodily resurrection means that the embodied life and death of the historical Jesus continues to be experienced, by believers, as powerfully efficacious and salvifically present in the world.”[14]

So, there was no empty tomb for Crossan. It was a phantom experience, an apparition and is only a religious experience for believers in the present world.

To the contrary, Dr. N. T. Wright, a British evangelical and former Anglican bishop of Durham, wrote the 817 pp of his book, Resurrection of the Son of God,[15] to refute theories like Crossan’s apparitional view of the resurrection. Wright believes the Bible and is convinced that:

clip_image012 The resurrection of Jesus “was the single event through which the world, and Israel, were changed for ever.”

clip_image012[1] “In particular, Luke insists on the bodiliness of the risen Jesus.”

clip_image012[2] In Luke 24:36-42, “Every line, almost every word, in this scene demonstrates the point. For Luke, the risen Jesus is firmly and solidly embodied, able to be touched, able to eat.”[16]

So, for N. T. Wright, there was a bodily resurrection of Jesus. The tomb was empty and you could touch the resurrected Christ.

For Crossan, Jesus resurrection was an apparition, a phantom, a vision. What happened to Jesus’ body for this scholar? It “did not undergo resurrection (no Easter) and after his execution, was probably eaten by wild dogs”.[17] That’s what he says.

There is a battle raging in scholarly circles over the resurrection of Jesus. But for many of us ordinary Christians, Christ’s bodily resurrection from the grave needs to be emphasised.

If there was only Golgotha, we would have a dead Jesus, rotting in the grave. It is because of the resurrection that we have a living Saviour and you can become a new person in Christ. It is a hope that will not die because of the one who conquered death. It matters what the resurrection was.

As Bill & Gloria Gaither’s song puts it:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because He lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know who holds the future

And live is worth the living just because He lives.[18]

A person once said to me, “I’m going to live it up for all I can get now because I’m going to be dead a long time.” He was dead wrong! You’ll be alive a mighty long time—for eternity—but where you will be, heaven or hell, will be determined by how you respond to the resurrected Jesus in this life.

For what do we hope? What are we looking forward to?

B. AN INHERITANCE (v. 4)

This is why we stand firm when the going gets tough.

This was familiar language for Jewish readers. They had heard lots about the inheritance that God had for his people. Canaan, the Holy Land, was their portion. They were wanderers in the wilderness after coming out of slavery in Egypt. They looked for the Promised Land. After being brought back from Exile in Babylon, they were looking for their inheritance in the Land God had provided.

But the “land flowing with milk and honey” didn’t fulfil Israel’s hopes. They were soon into idolatry; there was strife between tribes; the land was overrun by invaders. Surely there was something more than this for an inheritance! Was there any lasting hope?

We have seen lots of great things for those of us who live in the ‘Lucky Country’ of Australia. We have wealth beyond measure. Our natural resources are something to behold. The technology in the land is amazing. The sunburnt country has so much beauty. We have one of the best welfare systems in the world.

But in the midst of this splendour, there is so much ugliness. Surely there is more to yearn for than this land of Australia!

Australia or Israel is not the inheritance that the true Church is expecting. Verse 4 says it is an inheritance that

1. Is imperishable

Moths and rats will not eat it up. It will not rust. Thieves will not break in and steal it. No destructive force, natural or made by human beings, will injure it or take it away.[19] “Unlike any inheritance in this world, it is not exposed to destruction.”[20]

It is an inheritance that

2. Is undefiled

It can never spoil. No stain or stink of sin will be there. It is so pure and lofty. Imagine an inheritance that is worth more, much more, than gold. No contamination from anything related to sin. There will be no brothers and sisters fighting over the will to get their share. It will be unspoiled wealth. The believers’ inheritance cannot be “defiled from outside.”[21]

This inheritance

3. Is unfading

The idea behind this word, says Richard Lenski, is that it is

“never withering, (never) disappointing, (never) becoming old and worn. The delight of it will never lessen or grow stale… Our inheritance will never lose anything through age or sickness on our part or through any damage to itself; it will never be marred by impurity; and it will never lessen in delight because it has been enjoyed for so long.”[22]

Unlike a physical inheritance in this world, it cannot “decay from inside.”[23] But there is more. What makes this inheritance even more remarkable is that the security system is out of this world.

4. It is “kept in heaven for you.” (v. 4)

Literally, it has always been kept and is presently being guarded and will be kept there until you reach glory. God is guarding you. He keeps you safe. What a blessing this is!

Please note that this inheritance is:

5. For you through faith (v. 5)

Faith is not to be thought of as some way for earning your inheritance. Never! However, faith in Christ must surely be our response to God’s mercy and love.

While our inheritance is kept in heaven for us by God, we, as faithful believers, are living on earth,

6. “Who by God’s power are being guarded” (v. 5).

Did you grasp what I just said? Your inheritance is guarded by God’s power. God has not left the church without protection in this hostile world. God continuously “guards” the church. Yes, even this church. “Guarded” is an old military term meaning “to garrison.”[24] A garrison is a military post that is permanently established and stays on guard 24 hours a day.

The church is guarded by God’s power every moment of every day.

The psalmist reminded Israel: “[The Lord] will not let your foot slip—he, who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Ps. 121:3-4); Psalm 34:7, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

The power of God guarded . . .

clip_image014Daniel in the lions’ den;

clip_image014[1]Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo in the fiery furnace.

clip_image014[2]It set boundaries around Job when he was afflicted;

clip_image014[3]It freed Peter from Herod’s prison;

clip_image014[4]It preserved Paul when he was surrounded by dangers, hardships and persecutions.

clip_image014[5]The faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11 tells us that, through faith, God guarded those who “were tortured and refused to be released. . . . Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned” (vv.35-37 NIV).

clip_image014[6]However, others were guarded until God took them to heaven: “They were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated” (Heb. 11: 37).

What does it mean to be guarded for us?

7. The coming of salvation: ready to be revealed in the last time (v. 5)

We have salvation now that makes a radical personal difference in our lives. But Peter is reminding the church of the final deliverance that will come at the end of the age. There will be horrible persecution and sorrow in the days ahead and just prior to the return of Christ, from Satan’s final assault. Revelation ch. 12 speaks of Satan being cast out of heaven and filled with fury “because he knows that his time is short” (Rev. 12:12).

Famous theologian, H. Richard Niebuhr, was on the streets of New York City when he was approached by an evangelist with this question, “Are you saved?” Niebuhr always took people seriously. He paused a moment and gave this thoughtful reply, “I was saved by what Christ did; I am being saved right now; I shall be saved when the kingdom comes.”

We don’t know what the evangelist said. But Neibuhr stated so well what Peter is trying to get across to us: “Salvation spans time. It is grounded in the past; it is experienced in the present; it culminates in the future.”[25]

Without a doubt, we, who believe, have begun to experience a true and great salvation now (Luke 19:9), thanks to Christ’s death on the cross. The joys of salvation come through our daily discipleship (2 Cor. 6:2). However, the absolute wonder and the full dimensions of salvation will not be known until the crowning day of our salvation when Jesus comes again.

When Jesus returns, the church will receive the great deliverance. Salvation will be accomplished then.

What a God we have and what a blessing to know that we are guarded by the power of God in this way—in life and through death.

After listening to all this heavenly emphasis, maybe you are tempted to say what Karl Marx said. This is pie-in-the-sky stuff. Isn’t Christianity the religion that is the drug that the ruling classes are using to keep the under-privileged satisfied with their lousy lot? Isn’t this keeping your heads in the clouds so that you don’t have to become involved in solving some of the problems of today’s world?

Of course, this Christian hope can be abused and misunderstood—and it has been. However, it has been the Christians whose hopes have been in heaven who have made a dynamic impact as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” Where would we be without committed, evangelical Christians such as William Wilberforce who helped to eliminate slavery from the British Empire. It was George M?ller who helped the orphans in England and lived by faith to receive funding for his ministry.

Another John Howard, besides Australia’s former Prime Minister, influenced by the Wesleyan revival, brought about prison reforms in England. Elizabeth Fry continued his work.

In 1774, [John Howard’s] evidence to a House of Commons committee [in the UK] led to two Acts which aimed to improve conditions in gaols. His published writings on the subject were widely read and his detailed accounts of inhumane conditions caused dismay.

He advocated a system of state-controlled prisons in which the regime was tough, but the environment healthy. In 1779 the Penitentiary Act authorised the construction of two prisons in accordance with his own theories.

He advocated a regime of solitary confinement, hard labour and religious instruction. The objective of imprisonment, he believed, was reform and rehabilitation, not just punishment.[26]

William & Catherine Booth founded the Salvation Army and its ministry to the needy has a continuing international reputation.

David Wilkerson went to New York City to work with the junkies and help them be delivered from their drug habits through Christ and established Teen Challenge. Where would the welfare of our country be today if the church withdrew its ministry to the hurting people?

Those who have a living hope and know their inheritance is in heaven, never to be spoiled, have most often got their hands dirty in the real world of people and their problems.

Even in this letter of First Peter, Peter has some urgent things to say about life in the present. In chapter 2 he deals with how we are to relate to government and our bosses. Marriage and family come into focus in chapter 3. Chapters 3 & 4 deal with how we should respond to suffering for doing good. This is very down-to-earth stuff for those who are chosen people and a holy nation.

So, what has Peter taught us from I Peter 1:3-5? We know that for persecuted believers, for those of us experiencing very hard times, we can stand firm in the faith because of our incredible blessings. They are:

clip_image016 You have been changed from the inside;

clip_image016[1] You have an inheritance.

You have been changed from the inside by being

a. “given new birth in Christ”

b. And a living hope.

What is that new inheritance that will help you to stand firm? It is the salvation that

a. Can never perish;

b. Never spoil;

c. Never fade;

d. Kept in heaven for you;

e. Through faith;

f. Shielded by God’s power.

Please note v. 3. It is given to believers, not because they deserve it, but because of God’s “great mercy.”

And this salvation that we are now experiencing will be fully revealed when? V. 5, “In the last time.” This will be at the glorious unveiling of our full salvation at the Second Coming of Christ.

It has often been said that many Christians are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. That’s not biblical Christianity.

Here in I Peter, those who are sure of their inheritance in heaven and have a living hope that longs for their eternal reward, are most actively involved in this present world — through evangelism and practical ministry. You might ask, “Should we focus on this world or the next?” I think the question is wrong. Rather, it should be, “Does your future belong to a human being’s pride and resources or to God’s grace?” Since our future belongs to God’s grace, our lives ought to demonstrate “Christianity with its sleeves rolled up” to the needy – wherever and whenever.

“Vietnam’s tribal Christians are under physical and spiritual attack. Two brothers tell us their story, and ask us to stand with them through prayer.

“‘Who is teaching your class? Who else studies with you? Why do you believe in this Jesus?’ The policeman barked his questions at Nate, [the policeman’s] eyes filled with disdain and fury. ‘Help me, Lord!’ Nate prayed, pleading for the strength to keep quiet and not give away any details of the secret Bible classes.

“After the interrogation came the second beating – worse than the first. When he’d arrived at the police station, he’d been taken to a room and hit with a wooden club. When Nate refused to talk, the policeman struck out at him again. ‘They hit me over and over again with the club and told me they would beat me to death. One of them kicked me in the groin and then I was hit on the head,’ recalls Nate. I collapsed, falling unconscious to the ground.'”

Troy tells a similar story.

“Nate, Troy and other “Galilee [Bible School]” students from their J’rai tribal group have resolved to keep studying God’s Word. ‘The Holy Spirit has comforted me and helped me to stand firm without fear,’ explains Nate. ‘I am so blessed to be part of the Bible class because I am getting to know Jesus more and more. I will keep studying – even if it leads to my death.”[27]

What is it that keeps these persecuted Vietnamese Christians firm in their faith? The same inheritance that is yours and mine in Christ, through His vicarious atonement and resurrection. It’s the “living hope” that we have, through Christ’s death and resurrection.

clip_image018

(Street in Vietnam, courtesy Open Doors)[28]

Notes


[1] Preached by Spencer Gear at Gin Gin Baptist Church, Gin Gin, Qld., 11 July 2004; it also was preached at Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church, 24 June 2007; and at Maryborough Presbyterian, 7 Feb 2010.

[2] See “2010 Haiti earthquake,” Wikipedia, available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Haiti_earthquake (Accessed 21 January 2022).

[3] See details at Wikipedia, “2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami,” Wikipedia, available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Indian_Ocean_earthquake_and_tsunami (Accessed 21 January 2022).

[4] Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2004-tsunami.jpg (Accessed 21 January 2022).

[5] Open Doors, Australia, “The most punishing place on the planet. . . North Korea,” letter, January 2006. Available from PO Box 53, Seaforth NSW 2092; www.opendoors.org.au; email: opendoors@opendoors.org.au

[6] The Door Openers Club, Frontline, June 2004, Open Doors Australia, P.O. Box 53 Seaforth NSW 2092. Website: www.opendoors.org.au.

[7] Unless otherwise stated, all scriptural quotations are from the ESV (English Standard Version).

[8] Edwin A. Blum, 1 Peter, in Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 12). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981, p. 213.

[9] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg publishing House, 1966.30.

[10] A.M. Stibbs, The First Epistle General of Peter (The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries). London: The Tyndale Press, 1959, 75.

[11] Dr. Brendan Nelson, The Weekend Australian, January 11-12, 1997, 20.

[12] 1998, San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. I studied the book for my PhD dissertation.

[13] Ibid., p. 550.

[14] Ibid., p. xxxi.

[15] 2003, Fortress Press, Minneapolis.

[16] Ibid., p. 657.

[17] In Crossan, J. D. 2000. A long way from Tipperary: A memoir. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco., p. 133.

[18] Words and Music by William J. Gaither; Recorded by William and Gloria Gaither; ©1971 BMI All Rights Reserved. Words available at: http://www.alighthouse.com/lives.htm [24th August 2004].

[19] Lenski, 33-34.

[20] A.M. Stibbs, 75.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Lenski, 34.

[23] Stibbs, 75.

[24] A.T. Robertson, Word Studies in the New Testament, Volume VI (The General Epistles and the Revelation of John). Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1933, 83.

[25] Lyman Coleman and Richard Peace, Study Guide for the Book of 1 Peter (Mastering the Basics). Littleton, Colorado: Serendipity USA, 22.

[26] UK Parliament, “John Howard and prison reform.” Available at: https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/laworder/policeprisons/overview/prisonreform/ (Accessed 21 January 2022).

[27] Open Doors Newsbrief, July 2004, p. 1

[28] Available at: https://opendoors.org.au/world-watch-list/vietnam/ (Accessed 21 January 2022).

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