245. “Learning to rejoice in the Lord no matter what!”  A Sermon on Philippians 4:4-7 preached at Port Macquarie  Anglican church, on Sunday 15th October 2017. [An 82nd Birthday gift to me from Stuart our Rector.)

It was the year 1988. I was moving from being the Dean of the Cathedral in Armidale to be in charge of the Healing Ministry in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney. It was obvious that the congregation would contain many people who were sick, sad, anxious and depressed. That’s why they came to such a service! How could I get them to be happy? Should I just teach them to join together in singing a song such as this one?  “I’m H. A. P. P. Y. I’m H. A. P. P. Y. I Know I Am, I’m Sure I Am. I’m H. A. P. P. Y.” [NOTE 1} I’m sure that suggestion would have gone down like a lead balloon! You can’t make people happy by telling people to sing a song about happiness. There has to be another way.

How could I help people in this congregation to get rid of their worries and anxieties? Fortunately a brand new song had appeared on the charts in 1988 which became an instant hit. The words sounded promising. There were really mainly 4 of them. They were, “Don’t worry! Be happy!” Would that have helped the congregation if we had sung it together? No! Of course not! It doesn’t help to tell people who are anxious not to be anxious. Happiness and peace have to be based on something solid. There needs to be grounds upon which an increase in joy and peace can be experienced.

Praise God that He has given us a recipe which will help those who need help in these areas to receive it.  It is found in Paul’s epistle to the Philippian church. It comes in the form of three commands which when obeyed can bring about a great change in those who need help to change.

Paul’s answer. In 3 commands

1]. The FIRST COMMAND

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”  It’s not a suggestion. It’s a command from the One who created us, who knows how we are meant to function in life. We note too that it is “Rejoice in the Lord!” Not simply “Rejoice always.” Well how do we go about rejoicing in the Lord? We set out to do so, by:-

Rejoicing In Who He Is

He is the Creator and Sustainer of this universe, the Lord and Master of everything in this world. We sometimes sing, “He’s got the whole world in His hands” showing that He is in control of the whole universe. The personal aspect of the song emerges as the song continues, “He’s got a-you and me brother in His hands … He’s got a-you and me sister in His hands… He’s got the whole world in His hands.” Nothing and no one is outside of His ultimate control! He cares especially for all those who are His!

 Rejoicing In What He Has Done For Us

He is the One who sent His Son into the world to die for sinners. Jesus, as He hung on the cross, cried out, Mar 15:34  “… “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

Here is the magnitude of God’s hatred of sin that it had to be punished.

Here is the magnitude of God’s love that He did something about it, in sending His Son, the sinless One, to die for sinful humans.

But that wasn’t the end. Later Jesus cried on the cross, “It is finished!” The work of redemption had been completed. As Mark records in Mark 15:37 “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” The writer to the Hebrews remarks on the significance of that incident as he/she writes, Heb 10:19 “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body.” It was a confidence based on the liberating truth that sin had been dealt with and that access to God was now available through His Son as the new and living way.

  • He is the One who forgives us completely as we trust in Jesus. Forgiveness became available through what Jesus did on the cross.
  • He is the One who gives us His Holy Spirit to indwell us and to transform us into His likeness as we put our trust in Him.
  • He is the One who adopts us into His family. Paul wrote in Rom 8:15 “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” We see the progression in Paul’s thought, adopted sons, children of God, heirs, fellow heirs with Christ, privileged to share in His sufferings and finally, being glorified with Him.

Rejoicing in the Lord should be our whole-hearted response to the love of God poured out for us in Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord.

2].  THE SECOND COMMAND

Php 4:5 “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” [“Gentleness” = reasonableness = graciousness= patience.]

We can be gracious to others because the Lord is at hand. The phrase “The Lord is at hand” has 2 meanings. It can mean that He is geographically close to His people and able to help them in their times of need. Jesus promised in His great commission in Mat 28:20, “… behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The word for “at hand” or “near” is the Greek word eggus, ἐγγύς  meaning near in time and space. ] It can mean that Jesus is about to return. It’s worthwhile hanging on to our faith in Him because He will soon come to vindicate His people. He is near in (our) time and in (our) space.

If the Lord is at hand in both these ways, then it means that we can relax.

  • We don’t have to force issues. He is in control.
  • We don’t have to ensure that our will is done. Like Jesus we can pray “… not as I will, but as You will.”
  • As Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer it is all about the Lord and His will and not about us or our will, Mat 6:10 “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” So we can be gracious to others knowing it’s all about Him and not about us. It’s His will that is to be sought and followed, not “ours” or “theirs”.

3]. THE THIRD COMMAND

Php 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

The word here for “anxious” is [merimnáō] which comes from [meris] meaning a part or a division. It means having a divided mind. A mind jumping from here to there and all over the place. A mind focussed on all the different possibilities that could happen, mostly negative. Thoughts out of control. A mind in a whirl.

  • How do you overcome it? Paul tells us in this verse 6. Some have put it in a handy little saying, “When in a fix, Philippians 4:6.”
  • Present your requests to God, ie., make them known to Him. He knows about your needs but He wants us to tells Him what they are. When we tell God in prayer what our needs are and He supplies them, we understand that He has listened to and has answered our prayers.

How do we make our needs known to Him? By:-

  • Prayer. Humbly telling God our situation as an inferior asks of a superior or a creature asks of a Creator or a child asks of a Heavenly Father.
  • Petition. [supplication}. Asking Him to supply our needs and the needs of those for whom we are concerned. The measure of His supply? Limitless, a never –ending supply, as Paul wrote in verse 19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” 4:19. Not “out of His riches ”but according to the measure of His riches in glory! Infinite resources. Enough for all the needs of all the people of every generation in every part of the world!
  • Thanksgiving. [Greek word is “eucharistía”]. It is the word used of the Eucharist or the Holy Communion service. It involves thanking Him for His faithfulness in the past and thanking Him in advance, in expectancy, for His answer to our prayers. As Jesus said, Mk 11:24, “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” They are ours in Him but will be released in His way and in His time and through whom He wishes!

What will be the result of obeying those 3 commands from God through St Paul?

v.7. You will experience the peace of God. God’s own peace. As Jesus promised in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” The peace of God brings an end to anxiety and fear.

  1. His peace is indescribable. It “transcends all understanding.” [Verse 7] We can never describe the full depths of the peace we can experience in this life. It has to be experienced to be believed. Even then there is more to experience and more to come to understand about the peace of God.
  2. His peace guards our hearts and our minds. [NOTE 2] Our mental and emotional health are protected by a sentry. It is the peace of God standing guard to keep our hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus our Lord. The readers in Philippi would have understood this figure of speech. Philippi was a Roman garrison city, protected for every hour of every day. The inhabitants would have dwelt at peace knowing that no invaders could come and disturb their peace.

When our focus is right, directed on the Lord and we continue to rejoice in Him as a Person and in what He has done for us, we can experience deepening measures of His peace.

Paul believed that if his readers were to follow what he had written, then they could know the peace of God. But as he wrote a few verses later, they would experience the peace of God coming from the God of peace, Php 4:9 “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” An inner peace coming from the God of peace!

ACTING ON THE PROMISES OF GOD. Let’s do what God has commanded us to do

I want you to think of an area of concern that you have. It may be for yourself or for a loved one or for a friend. It’s something you’ve had on your mind and you can’t stop thinking about it.

Let’s hand that thing over to the Lord in prayer. We act on what St Paul wrote, Phil 4:6 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

You can join in the prayer if you wish or pray it silently as I pray.  [It may be helpful for readers of this article to pray the following prayer to the Lord. He will hear your prayer!)

“Lord I admit that I have been anxious about this concern.

  • I now bring it before You in prayer and hand it over to You. (Tell the Lord what it is. Take your time in doing so.) 

  • I thank You Lord that You know about it and that You know what to do about it. Please work in the situation I have brought before You in prayer.
  • I thank You that You have heard my prayer. I thank You for the answer You are bringing in Your way and in Your time.
  • I now accept the peace You give me through Your Son Jesus Christ.
  • I thank You that this peace which surpasses all understanding, will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.
  • Accept my thanks for hearing my prayer and for answering it, In Jesus name. AMEN!”

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[NOTE 1] In a lovely touch, as I spelt out the words of the song, many in the congregation spontaneously began to sing it!

[NOTE 2} “Guard” is phrouréō, φρουρέω which is a military term. It means to keep guarded!

Blog N0.245. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Tuesday 17th October 2017

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Glorification, Healing, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, STUDIES IN PHILIPPIANS | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

244. How can we learn to rejoice no matter what? An answer in Philippians 4. [The Epistle for Pentecost 19 in 2017.]

“Rejoice always.” Some people may say, “I wish I could!” Others may think,  “How cruel to say such a thing. My life is just so difficult!” Still others may say, “We don’t think it is humanly possible to be always rejoicing when there is so much evil in the world.” Indeed they all have a point. There is sometimes little to be joyful about in some people’s lives. Many are simply in survival mode! Joy is not an emotion they frequently experience!

However we need to note that Paul in Philippians 4 is not simply saying, “Rejoice always!” Rather the words are “Rejoice in the Lord always” in verse 4. There is a world of difference. What does it really mean to “rejoice in the Lord?” Let’s see it in its context. Below is a simple outline of chapter 4 in which we see that verse 4 is pivotal. If one is really rejoicing in the Lord then a whole lot of things fall into place. Here is the outline with comments to follow.

1). The Command To Stand Firm In Faith in the Lord. Verse 1
2). The Command To Stand Firm Together In Faith In The Lord. Verses 2-3
3). The Command To Rejoice In The Lord. Verse 4.
4). The Results Of Rejoicing In The Lord. Verses 5-7

i. Being appropriate at all times. Verse 5
ii. Trusting in God always for everything. Verse 6
iii. Experiencing the peace of God. Verse 7

1). The Command To Stand Firm In Faith In The Lord. Verse 1,

“Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” Paul introduces the note of “joy” in this exhortation to his readers in Philippi. He calls them his “joy” and his “crown”. Their response to his message had brought him joy and he saw their commitment to Christ as a crown to be placed on his own head as a reward. [NOTE 1 below}

Paul had already written that he hoped to hear of them that they were “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” Phil 1:27, He wanted them to be united in spirit, united in purpose, united in ministry as they stood firm, side by side for the gospel.

The church as the body of Christ has to be at unity within itself or it has no real witness to the world of how God can bring about reconciliation among different sorts of people. Some in the church in Philippi weren’t united as 4:1-2 shows. Two women had fallen out and had to be reconciled to each other.

2). The Command To Stand Firm Together In Faith In The Lord. Verses 2-3,

“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. (3) Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have laboured side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

The phrase, “to agree in the Lord” [αὐτὸ φρονεῖν ἐν Κυρίῳ] literally means “to think the same.” Paul wanted them to come to a common mind in the Lord, to end their disagreement.

Standing firm in the faith means standing together in Christian unity and ministry. This is essential, not optional in the body of Christ. Euodia and Syntyche who had been previously involved in the ministry of reconciliation with Paul, HAD to be reconciled. Otherwise it was a denial of the saving power of the gospel and of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Paul had elsewhere written on reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5 as being part of His new creation, 2Co 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

God could not use Euodia and Syntyche in the ministry of reconciliation while they refused to be reconciled to one another. Their ministry would have no legitimacy or authority while they remained out of fellowship. They were not embracing the grace of God which would have enabled them to act graciously in forgiveness towards each other. For the sake of the Christian witness in Philippi, reconciliation had to take place.

3). The Command To Rejoice In The Lord. Verse 4,

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”  We note that this is a command, not a suggestion! It’s more than singing, “I’m H.A.P.P.Y” (There’s nothing wrong with that as a child’s song but Christian joy has to be much deeper than that. We have to have a reason for our happiness). The reason is that we can rejoice in the Lord Himself. (Noting that Paul saw Jesus as “Lord” and as “my Lord”. Php 3:8 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Paul’s mind was fixed on Jesus as the ground of his happiness.

Paul rejoiced as he focussed on Jesus having experienced His love, mercy, grace and power.
He rejoiced in Jesus as he thought of His teaching which declared the will of His Heavenly Father.
He rejoiced in Jesus as he remembered the promises of Jesus.
He rejoiced in Jesus because He could recall his experiences of the presence of Jesus throughout His life.
We have to move from rejoicing in the fact that we are believers, and have learnt Jesus’ teachings and know His promises, to personally and individually rejoicing in Him. Rejoicing in Him at all times and in all places! Paul himself was rejoicing in the Lord in prison awaiting death. He had done that previously in Philippi when he had been imprisoned there earlier in his ministry, as we read in Acts 16:25, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”  [A captive audience with a difference!]

It means for us being able to say from the heart, “I’m so glad to be in Your presence Lord.” Perhaps this could be a missing feature in some worship circles as real deep genuine joy can be so infectious and so liberating for those who join in it. It is rejoicing in a person, the Lord Himself, in spite of all that is going on around oneself.

4). The Results Of Rejoicing In The Lord. Verse 5-7

A number of things fall into place when we fix our eyes on Jesus in adoration, praise and thanksgiving. We rejoice in His love for us and for His presence with us and in us. If we have enthroned Him as Lord of our lives then we know our lives are in His hands. It means:-

i. Being appropriate at all times. Verse 5. “Let your reasonableness (graciousness, gentleness) be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” The phrase  “The Lord is at hand” has 2 meanings. He is geographically close to His people and able to help them in their times of need. Jesus promised in His great commission in Mat 28:20, “… behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The word for “at hand” or “near” [The Greek word eggus, ἐγγύς  means near in time and space] can also mean that Jesus is about to return. It’s worthwhile hanging on to our faith in Him because He will soon come to vindicate His people. He is near in (our) time and in (our) space.

If the Lord is at hand in both these ways, then it means that we can relax. We don’t have to force issues. We don’t have to ensure that our will is done. Like Jesus we can pray “… not as I will, but as You will.” As Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer it is all about the Lord and His will and not about us or our will, Mat 6:10 “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” So we can be gracious to others knowing it’s all about Him and not about us. It’s His will that is to be sought and followed, not “ours” or “theirs”.

ii. Trusting in God always for everything. Verse 6. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Jesus promised His disciples in all ages, John 15:16 “You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.” (HCSB)

All things are ours in Him, but we need to ask for them in faith and then to reach out in faith to receive them. Paul wrote that God is motivated to give to His people, Rom 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” If He gave the greatest gift He could give (the gift of his Son) then He is motivated to give us the lesser gifts (in comparison with Jesus) of healing, blessing, guidance etc. Paul wrote something similar in 1Cor 3:21 “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 1Co 3:22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all are yours, 1Co 3:23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” All we need is ours in Christ. We just need to ask Him for it! If it is accord with the will of God then it is ours, to be received in His way and in His time.

The final blessing coming from rejoicing in the Lord is that we can know a peace in our lives that can’t be fully described.

iii. Experiencing the peace of God. Verse 7. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [NOTE 2]

a. We can never describe the full depths of the peace we can experience in this life. It has to be experienced to be believed. Even then there is more to experience and more to come to understand about the peace of God.

b. This is none other than God’s peace. It comes only from Him through Jesus the Prince of Peace. As Jesus said in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.”

c. It guards our hearts and our minds. Our mental and emotional health are protected by a sentry. It is the peace of God standing guard to keep our hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus our Lord. The readers in Philippi would have understood this figure of speech. Philippi was a Roman garrison city, protected for every hour of every day. The inhabitants would have dwelt at peace knowing that no invaders could come and disturb their peace. When our focus is right, directed on the Lord and we continue to rejoice in Him as a Person and in what He has done for us, we can experience deepening measures of His peace. Paul believed that if his readers were to follow what he had written, then they could know the peace of God. But as he wrote a few verses later, they would experience the peace of God coming from the God of peace, Php 4:9 “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” An inner peace coming from the God of peace!

I conclude with a very meaningful translation of this passage from “The Message”. Php 4:4 Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Php 4:5 Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! Php 4:6 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Php 4:7 Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life.

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[NOTE 1] “Joy” is the Greek word [chará, χαρά] which Paul uses 5 times in this short epistle. He uses the verb form “rejoice” [chaírō, χαίρω] on six occasions.

[NOTE 2] “Peace” translates the Greek word [eirḗnē, εἰρήνη] from which we get the English word “eirenic.” It can mean the absence of conflict but is much, much deeper than that. It can mean tranquility and even wholeness. Many see it as close to the Hebrew word “shalom” in meaning.

[P.S. This article is a revised version of article No 067. Lenten Studies on Philippians. Part 6. “Rejoicing In The Lord.” Philippians 4:1-7. Posted on April 2, 2012]

Blog No.244. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Friday 13th October 2017.

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Creation, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

243. Is The Antichrist At Work In The World Today? (Does this account for the present chaos throughout the world?)

Many people were opposed to Christ during His life on earth. As He said, “He who is not with Me is against  Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters .” Mat 12:30 and Lk 11:23. He enlarged on that by including His followers in that rejection of Him, Mar 9:40 “ For he who is not against us is for us.” Mark 9:40. We see that opposition to Jesus continuing right through His ministry on earth. Eventually those who were against Him, were able to have Him put to death. We note though, that the opposition against His cause continued, as His followers were persecuted after His death. His followers have been persecuted throughout human history. They are being persecuted today. They will be persecuted tomorrow and way into the future. Why is that so, in this so-called loving, inclusive, tolerant society?

We get one answer from the record of St Paul’s encounter with the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus. Saul of Tarsus [as he was called at the time] became the great persecutor of the church and was on the way to Damascus to imprison even more believers. The risen Jesus spoke to him as he was journeying and challenged him with these words, Acts 9:4, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” In persecuting the disciples of Jesus, he was in fact persecuting Christ Himself. Jesus responded to Saul’s question, “Who are you, Lord?” by replying, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Acts 9:5. To persecute His followers was in fact to persecute Christ.

 Such people were against Christ or were anti-Christ. The word “antichrist” comes from combining the word “anti, αντι” with the word “Christ, χριστος” to make the one word “antichristos, αντιχριστος”. There are many people in today’s world who wonder whether we are seeing the Antichrist in all that is happening around the world. Some wonder whether terrorism directed particularly again the followers of Christ, stems from this influence. Others wonder whether the increasing violence we see on University campuses and in public meetings when conservative speakers are scheduled to speak, also comes from this influence. Others see the Antifa and other violent groups as possibly a manifestation of this influence.

Who or what is the antichrist? The antichrist appears to be the spirit or spiritual attitude at work in those who do not give God the Father or God the Son, their rightful place in their lives. We note the following in the Bible.

 1).        There were individuals who were called the “antichrist” in the Bible

The apostle John wrote that the antichrist is every person who deceives others by denying that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Such people are liars who deceive people by denying the incarnation of Jesus

  • 1Jn 2:22 “Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son.” As Jesus said, to reject Him as God’s Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, was to reject the Father who had sent Him. Their denial of Jesus as the Messiah who had come into the world, was a lie. It was the opposite to the truth revealed in Jesus’ incarnation.
  • 2Jn 1:7 “I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” John repeats what he wrote in his first epistle, that each individual who denies the incarnation of Jesus is the antichrist who deceives.

 2).        John also sees the antichrist as a spirit [the spirit of antichrist] at work in and through people. Such a spirit is not from God and denies the incarnation of Christ.

  • 1Jn 4:3 But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” John saw that the antichrist was at work in the world of his day. The antichrist was characterised by the denial of Jesus as the Christ [God’s long-promised Messiah] who had become incarnate in the world.
  • However, John encouraged believers by affirming that they were on the victory side and that the One who indwelt them by His Spirit was greater than the powers of darkness at work in the world and through people not committed to God. The believers had victory through Him. 1Jn 4:4 “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
  • John warned his believing readers that because the “antichrist” people were not committed to God, they were of the world and not of God. As such they did not have true spiritual understanding and saw things only from the standpoint of the world. 1Jn 4:5 “They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.”
  • The apostle John saw the people in the world as either belonging to God, or not belonging to God [1Jn 2:23 “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”] Believers were now in the light and no longer remained in the darkness. [John 8:12 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”] Believers were no longer condemned in the sight of God, [Joh 3:18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”]
  • It is no wonder that the (unbelieving) world listens to such deniers of Jesus. They talk the same language with the same darkened understanding having never been enlightened by coming to the light to be able to believe. They have been blinded by the god of this world, as Jesus said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.” John 12:40. Or as Paul wrote, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Cor 4:4.
  • Those who don’t belong God have darkened understandings, “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” Eph 4:8. It is sad but true that unbelievers cannot understand the spiritual truths understood by those who have committed themselves to Christ.

 3).        Such antichrist people do not commit to the people of God

John wrote about the antichrist in the singular and in the plural. He said that at this last hour the antichrist [singular] would come, “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming.” 1 John 2:18. But then he added that there had been a number of antichrists [plural] who had come already, “Even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” In one sense, we are living in the last hour or in the last days between Jesus’ first coming [with its attendant death, resurrection and ascension, His sitting down at the right hand of God and His sending the gift of the Holy Spirit on all who believe] and His second coming in glory.

He also added that one characteristic of the antichrists who had already come was that they did not stay within the Christian community. They really did not belong to the people of God. Many had come into the Christian fellowship but had moved away from it, as he explained, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” 2:19. True believers would have remained in fellowship with the community of faith. Their withdrawal showed they were not true believers.

 4).        Such antichrist people have no desire to listen to God or to the Spirit of truth speaking through God’s people. They are characterised by falsehood.

John makes a strong contrast. The people of God listen to true believers like himself. But the antichrist people do not listen to true believers, “We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.” This unwillingness by the antichrist people to listen to faithful believers showed the difference between truth and falsehood, “This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” 1Jn 4:6.

 We see an example of this in Act 7:51 where Stephen challenged his hearers with these words, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.” Shortly after, they demonstrated their hard heartedness as they tried to silence him by rushing him whilst covering their ears in order to avoid hearing his words, Act 7:57 “But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him.” It is unfortunately true in our world today that if opponents to the Christian message cannot silence the message, they try to silence the messengers by denigrating their integrity, or by issuing threats or by bullying and intimidation. In some cultures, murder is the ultimate weapon used to bring silence.

 Some observations

The above are the references to the term “antichrist” in the New Testament. It would be tempting to go on and compare these verses with similar passages in Daniel where someone is mentioned as opposing the Lord and His anointed. Or to compare Paul’s mentions of the “man of sin” and the “lawless one” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and 8 or passages in Revelation.  However we will leave that for another time.

It seems from what we have looked at above, that the spirit of antichrist can work through those who are opposed to Christ [“anti Christ”] in any way. They can become an agent of the antichrist even as Peter became an agent of Satan by trying to stop Jesus going to the cross, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Mat 16:22-23. What seemed to be genuine concern on the part of Peter was counter-productive to the cause of Christ.

Could that be happening in today’s world? Could there be those who are opposing the purpose of God because they are blinded to spiritual realities and are seeing things only from a human perspective? Could there be those who think they are serving God by trying to silence opinions that they disagree with? Could the spirit of antichrist influence people in today’s world?

Only God truly knows! But it is a mark of Christian love to question why there are those who seem to want to mock and even silence traditional church teaching and replace it with another gospel. How could that happen in the world of today? How might the spirit of antichrist or the antichrist attitude be seen today where some appear to be against Christ or anti Christ in what they are saying?

People appear to be anti Christ or opposed to Christ in the following ways.

  • When they deny that Jesus was God’s agent in creation. The Bible teaches that He was the Creator of the universe. Col 1:15 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” To deny that truth is to be anti Christ!
  • When they arrogantly think they can “save the planet” whilst ignoring Jesus as THE sustainer of the whole universe.  As believers in our Creator-Redeemer-Saviour, we see ourselves as stewards of what He has given us. That means we are motivated to care for His creation [including humans] as best we can. We are not movers and shakers who think we can control the world apart from Him. To deny that He is the sustainer of the universe is to be anti Christ!
  • When they deny that Jesus was and is the Son of God who came into the world to save sinners. To deny that truth is to be anti Christ!
  • When they deny that Jesus died on a cross to bear the penalty for the sin of the world. For such people to teach that such a truth is ugly or unpalatable is an affront to Him and a denigration of His sacrificial death. To fail to appreciate His sacrificial death for sinners is to be anti Christ!
  • When they suggest that humans are basically good, whereas Jesus said we are evil by nature but can be transformed by His power. Mat 15:18 “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” To teach the opposite of what Jesus said, is to be anti Christ!
  • When they deny that He is the only Saviour, and teach that there are other ways to God in addition to Jesus. Jesus clearly taught, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” Jn 14:6. To teach there are other ways to God is to be anti Christ!
  • When people say that Jesus’ teaching is no longer relevant today, is to be anti Christ!
  • When people ignore His teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman. Jesus went back to the origin and purpose of marriage when He said in Mat 19:4-6, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” To teach that marriage can be between people of the same sex, is to be anti Christ!
  • When people deny that there will be a future judgment by Jesus, is to deny what Jesus said, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.” Jn 5:22. To deny what He affirmed about judgment is to be anti Christ!

 Summing up, it can be said there appears to be little indication in the verses we have looked at regarding the Antichrist that such a figure will appear at the last days. That may be because the spirit of antichrist is always present in every generation when people become “anti Christ” in their attitudes and beliefs.

A Sadness

One of the saddest things I see happening in the world today is that there are many folk who are desperately trying to be as loving and accepting and as tolerant as they can possibly be, who may caught in the same dilemma Peter faced above in Matthew 16. Here is the situation. Peter had been the recipient of a wonderful revelation from heaven, namely that Jesus was the long-promised Messiah or Christ. In answer to Jesus’ question about who people thought Him to be, Peter had blurted out, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Mat 16:16. Jesus accepted that title and told Peter that this truth didn’t come from human reasoning. Rather it had been a revelation from God Himself, “And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.’” Mat 16:17. What a privilege Peter had been given. He was the first among the disciples to verbalise this truth about Jesus that He was indeed the Messiah.

Now comes the dilemma. Jesus told them about the future. His future. “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” How would Peter respond? He responded with grace and courtesy. He took Jesus aside privately. He wanted to rebuke Him, but not publicly, “And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’” Mat 16:22. Peter was going to make sure that such a tragedy would never happen to His friend Jesus.

Was Jesus impressed with Peter’s declaration of loyalty? Let’s see! “But He [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Mat 16:23. Peter had at one moment been a spokesman from God in declaring that Jesus was the Christ. Moments later as he responded in what seemed to be human love and compassion, he had inadvertently become a spokesman for Satan. How? In tempting Jesus to depart from the will of God for Him by avoiding the cross. Peter’s apparent love and compassion had been misplaced. He had got it right in proclaiming the person of Jesus. But he had got it very wrong in trying to divert Jesus from His God-given role as the Messiah, to suffer for sinners.

The will of God is described in the scriptures. It is what God wants, not necessarily what we want. We want others to be happy and fulfilled. But it has to be in accord with the plan and purpose of God for His creatures. No matter how much we admire, love and respect those wanting to be joined in same-sex marriages, such a relationship is not part of God’s purpose for His creatures according to the Bible.  In fact as we have seen in previous articles, same-sex activity is contrary to His purpose and will. Not just same-sex marriage but same-sex activity! To encourage same sex couples to marry [even by voting ‘Yes’ in the plebiscite], would seem to be a loving thing to do in the eyes of some people. But if same sex activity is contrary to the will of God then encouraging the acceptance of such relationships as marriage is not a loving act but could be seen as a cruel one! How cruel it may be for anyone to encourage another person to contravene the will of God for any purpose whatsoever! Christian love [agape] seeks the best interests of all people everywhere at all times. It means telling the [gospel] truth at all times and not seeking to win support for ourselves by seeming to be loving, accepting and tolerant but in fact being unwise, unloving and dare I say it, anti Christ!

There has to come a time in the lives of all of us when we repent of all sin and commit ourselves to do the will of God, no matter what. There is no ultimate joy and fulfilment is acting outside the will of God. To affirm something as lovely when God Almighty calls it something entirely different is not only unwise. It is also unloving. True fulfilment for us as humans, is ceasing in every way by our words and deeds to be anti Christ and humbling ourselves to believe in Him, to trust in Him and to obey Him, in all things. And in a loving way, to encourage others to do the same. To His glory! And for the benefit of all humankind!

Blog No.243. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Thursday 28th September 2017

 

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242. Romans chapter 1 in outline. What does it tell us about the world today?

Recently someone asked me if I could do an outline of Romans 1 that might be easy to follow. They said that they had read about God giving people up in Romans 1 [in three places] but that didn’t sound right to them. They said the passage also seemed to have some relevance to the same-sex debate that is taking place in Australia at the moment and so a better understanding of the passage would be helpful. Though I have written a lot on different parts of the passage in previous articles, I thought I would have a go at covering the passage from Romans 1:18-32 in one article.

What I have tried to do is to set out the material in 3 columns.

In the first column on the left I have put what God has done as recorded in the text of Romans 1:18-32.

In the middle column, I put the response of people to what He has done and the results of their response, again using the text of the passage.

In the right-hand column, I have made some comments on the passage. I have also commented on what the effects of people’s responses has had and continues to have in the world today.

So moving from left to right in each row, please follow me on this journey through Romans 1:18-32.

WHAT GOD DID HOW HUMANS RESPONDED AND THE RESULTS EFFECTS IN THE WORLD THEN AND TODAY
Rom 1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. The truth about God is not obvious to humans. In fact it is held down or suppressed by ungodly and unrighteous behaviour.
Rom 1:19  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.   There is a revelation of God in His world today. The Creation bears witness to a Creator for those who have eyes to see.
Rom 1:20  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. The creation bears witness to the power of God and in some measure, to His character as the One who is sovereign over His creation. He us seen as a God of order, purpose and design.
Rom 1:21  For although they knew God, ·       they did not honour him as God or

·       give thanks to him,

·       but they became futile in their thinking,

·       and their foolish hearts were darkened.

·       No honour is being paid to God the Creator by many people today

·       He is not being thanked by many for the privilege of being part of His creation. Nor is He thanked for providing “our daily bread” and our breath.

·       Futile thinking. Thinking without consideration of God and ignoring His purpose in creation, is futility.

·       Darkened hearts. When people turn away from the light of God they live in darkness. Many people love darkness more than light. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” John 3:19.

Rom 1:22  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, ·       People really do believe themselves to be wise.

·       Actually they are fools in God’s eyes. [As Psalm 53:1 puts it, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”]

Rom 1:23  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. ·       They are focused on creation rather than being focussed on the Creator Himself.

·       Exchanging God for parts of creation is Idolatry!

Rom 1:24  Therefore God gave them up ·       in the lusts of their hearts to impurity,

·       to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves,

·       Their desires lead to moral impurity.

·       Dishonouring their God-given bodies through which they were meant to glorify God.

  ·       Rom 1:25  because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie

·       and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

·       Humans do an exchange by replacing God with a lie.

·       Humans worship aspects of creation rather than the Creator Himself

·       They serve the creation rather than the Creator.

Rom 1:26  For this reason God gave them up ·       to dishonourable passions.

·       For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;

·       Many do not honour God through their God-given bodies. They follow their own passions and desires.

·       Female homosexual practice is one result of this exchange of natural [phusikós, φυσικός] for the unnatural, [para phusin, παρα   φυσιν  meaning beside or against nature]. Perhaps a parallel sexuality contrary to what God intended in His creation.

  ·       Rom 1:27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another,

·       men committing shameless acts with men and

·       receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

·       Male homosexual practice is also a result of this exchange of unnatural in place of His natural.

·       Shameless acts [in the sight of God]

·       We are not told what the due penalty is. “Due” can mean inevitable, so there was and is an inevitable result.

·       “error” means that men were wrong to do what they did in behaving shamefully with other men.

  Rom 1:28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God Many today do not acknowledge the existence of God, nor do they observe His commandments.
1:28 (continued) God gave them up ·       to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. ·       “Debased” means unworthy or unacceptable to God.

·       Their debased minds led to behaviour which was unacceptable to God.

·       Rom 1:29  They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice.

·       They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.

·       They are gossips,

A debased mind has characteristics. Paul uses “filled with” and “full of” to describe the enormity of debased mind characteristics. Many of these sins are breaches of the 10 Commandments.
·       Rom 1:30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, ·       Haters of God and disobedient to parents are also breaches of the 10 commandments.

·       “Inventors of evil” in finding new ways to commit sin.

·       Rom 1:31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Here is an “A” list not to be proud of! Some alliteration in the Greek text. Putting an “a” or an “an” in front of many Greek words changes a word to the opposite meaning. These words begin with “a” or an “an”.

·       Foolish is asúnetos, ἀσύνετος. Opposite of being wise.

·       Faithless. asúnthetos,

ἀσύνθετος. Opposite of being faithful.

·       Heartless. astorgos, ἄστοργος. Opposite of having [family] love.

·       Ruthless.  aneleḗmōn, ἀνελεήμων Opposite of being merciful.

Instead of being what God wanted them to be, they were and are even today, the opposite.

·       Rom 1:32  Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Privilege always carries responsibility. People have the responsibility as creatures of God to live responsibly before Him as their Creator. Their guilt is seen in two ways.

·       They do the wrong things listed above which are deserving of God’s judgment.

·       On top of that, they actually involve others and encourage them to do the same wrong things they are doing.

We note that the phrase “God gave them up” doesn’t mean that God gave up on them and wanted nothing more to do with them. Rather it means that He gave them over or handed them over to do what they wanted to do. They misused the free-will He had given them even as people do today.

In fact, you could say that Romans 1 is a good description of the world today in its rebellion against God. The behaviours we read about in Romans 1 are still in the world today and many of them are on the increase. It’s what happens in any generation when people turn from their Creator to do their own thing. It helps us understand why the world is as it is, and why it is getting worse as the creatures God has made [as male and female] refuse to submit to their Creator and to His plan for humans and to His purpose for the whole universe.

Blog No.242. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Thursday 21 September 2017

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241. Homophobia. Who Is Guilty? A Surprising Possibility!

In Australia, we are now in the process of voting in a plebiscite. The question for the plebiscite is this “Should the law be changed to allow same sex couples to marry?” There were many folk who were not in favour of a plebiscite because they believed that nasty things could be said during the time of the plebiscite. That has already shown to be true even though the nasty language seems to be coming mainly from supporters of one side of the argument. As journalist Miranda Devine commented recently, “SO now we see why rainbow warriors didn’t want a people’s vote on same-sex marriage. It was because they knew we’d see their true, intolerant colours. Yes campaign HQ knows thuggery won’t win over Middle Australia, but their foot-soldiers are revealing themselves as fascistic bullies who vilify and intimidate anyone who dares to disagree.” [NOTE 1] Language such as “homophobes” and “bigots” is being used to berate those who intend to vote “No” on the issue. These are serious accusations and perhaps we should look more closely to see what is mean by the term “homophobe.”

A “homophobe” is described in some dictionaries as “a person who hates or fears homosexual people.”  Or those who have an “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals.”  The Cambridge English Dictionary has the definition of homophobia as “a fear or dislike of gay people.” There are many in the homosexual world who say that those who do not accept homosexuality as a life-style or who say homosexual activities are wrong, are guilty of homophobic attitudes or hate towards them. Thus they see many Christians, Jews, Muslims and others who reject homosexual practice as being homophobic, bigoted and guilty of hatred.

 Living In A World Where There Are No Absolutes

If we live in a world where there is no God, there can be no absolutes.  Where there are no absolutes, everything is relative. People in such a world simply conform as much as possible (mainly to their own advantage) to the changing cultural patterns of the day. Those who criticise or condemn the behaviour of their fellow humans are seen as biased and bigoted. Who are they to pass judgment on another person’s behaviour if there are no absolutes to follow?  So, it is argued, in a world where everyone is free to do their own thing, people shouldn’t be critical of the behaviour of others who live differently from themselves. It would mean in such a world, that no one is in a position to criticise anyone else. In such a world, different kinds of sexual activity among consenting people would have no value judgments placed on them.

But What If There Is A God Of This Universe? (And it would naturally be a very big ‘if’)

What if there happened to be a God in charge of this world? One who created it? One who made certain demands of His creatures? What if this God has revealed Himself in His creation? What if He has given messages describing what He wanted, to people like Moses and the prophets? What if this God gave them commandments like the Ten Commandments and many other commandments over a period of centuries? What if He has declared many things to be wrong in His sight? What if He caused to be written, the words to males in Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. And also in Lev 20:13 “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.”

What if He inspired His apostle St Paul to record His will in the book of Romans where Paul states that homosexual behaviour is part of the result of the general judgment of God upon people who reject Him? Judgment in the sense that He has deliberately allowed people to do what they wanted to do, to exercise their free-will as they rebelled against Him and against His will for humans. The three verses in Romans chapter 1 stating that “God gave them up” or “handed them over” don’t mean that God has “given up” on such people. Rather He “delivered them over” to their passions or allowed them to fulfil their own will while rejecting His will, Rom 1:26  “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” What if this God is saying that homosexual activity is not in accord with the purpose for which He created the different sexes in His world?

What if homosexual practice (as described in verses 26-27) is included with the other sins coming from human rebellion that Paul mentioned in Romans 1 such as, Rom 1:28 ”And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless?” What if this God includes homosexual activity as one of the results of the general rebellion of humans against their creator?  What if He also condemned them for giving approval to others who also practiced the same things, as St Paul wrote in Rom 1:32, “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them?”

In such a world, with such a God, it could appear that the homophobic people (those who hate homosexuals, by their definition) are those who engage in homosexual activity. Why? Because they involve other people in activity that this God has declared to be contrary to His will.

A Surprising Possibility

So the “surprising possibility” might be this. If there is a God who created this world, then many of those who try to warn and discourage those engaged in homosexual activity, are those who truly care about them. They care enough about them to be concerned for their present welfare and for their eternal future. On the other hand it would mean that the real homophobes (those acting without love, and with hatred towards homosexuals) in this world in which God exists, would be those who involve and encourage others in their homosexual activities! If this is God’s world, then to deliberately encourage another person to participate in activities condemned by Him, would never be an act of love in the sight of such a God. It would be an unloving act, a homophobic act because it does not seek the best interest of the other person.

Does it really matter which way we vote?

Mind you, if there is no God, then none of this matters one little bit. In such a world you are free to make your own choices in life about everything. But what if God does exist and has revealed His will for how the humans He created are to behave? For many people this would be the classic inconvenient truth! Better in the eyes of many such people to deny the existence of God! Better to mock Bible teaching! Better to ignore the teaching of Jesus that marriage is between a man and a woman! Better to prevent young people from hearing Bible truths which speak of these “inconvenient” truths! Better to intimidate people wanting to attend [or force to cancel] meetings where the value of a “No” vote would be discussed! Better in the eyes of such people to besmirch the character and motives of those who would seek to help them understand this truth, that in a world in which God exists, actions and attitudes have consequences!

If God did exist then it means we would have the awesome responsibility of living in the way He meant us to live, and not contrary to it.  It would mean that people would need to seek His help to refrain from all sexual activity outside His will, AND from all the other things St Paul mentioned in Romans 1:28-31 as coming from a debased mind. It means that everyone should be turning away from “all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossip, slander, hatred towards God, insolence, haughtiness, boasting, new forms of evil, disobedience to parents, foolishness, faithlessness, heartlessness, ruthlessness.” God is not picking on homosexuals. He sees all these sins in Romans 1:18-32 as contrary to His purposes and destructive to the welfare of mankind. He wants all people to repent of sinning in all the above ways and to seek His forgiveness in Christ. He wants all people to seek for His grace and help to overcome the temptations to be involved in all these practices that He sees as sin. He wants all humans to live in the freedom that Christ came to bring by His death and Resurrection and by sending us the Holy Spirit to indwell us and to empower us to live in His way and by His power.

The need to face reality and not live in denial

If the reality is that there is no God, then you can do as you like. However, if God does exist and has told us what He likes and what He dislikes, it becomes an entirely different matter. Issues then are not just based on human rights and values (important as they are) but on His values and His will and purposes for humans in this world. Reality, is the world as God meant it to be, not necessarily what seems right and loving and fair to humans. To ignore or neglect or rebel against His revealed purposes and will, is running away from reality. It doesn’t matter how important are the politicians who tell us we need to vote “YES” as a human right, or how attractive are the same sex oriented celebrities who are trotted out to encourage us to support “love” relationships, God is still God. His will is His will. His world is His world. We are His creatures, privileged to be alive in His world BUT now and eternally responsible to Him for the way we live our lives.

As I have written above, many of those who are concerned about the homophobia they believe they see in others who are against same sex marriage, may themselves be guilty of homophobia when they involve others in their homosexual practices or encourage homosexuality. True love is seeking the best interests of every other person, which means encouraging them to enter into the centre of God’s will for them. His will, according to the Bible, does not allow for same sex activity.

Let’s face it! We have all fallen short of God’s glory! None of us is perfect! We all need forgiveness! But forgiveness only comes as we repent of all our sins and ask God for His grace not to do those things again. Only a God who exists can enable people to refrain from all the things mentioned in Romans 1. From all the indications in the Bible, the God of the Bible would be delighted to help those who asked for His help. Many of my friends who once cried out to Him for help to overcome various temptations, have found He is always ready to help those who humbly turn to Him. Not only that but they have found that He is able to keep on strengthening them to live in the way He always wanted them to live. Therein is freedom! And reality! In God’s world!

[NOTE 1] Miranda Devine in The Daily Telegraph on Sunday 17th September 2017.

Blog No.241. Jim Holbeck. Posted Sunday 17th September 2017

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240. If in doubt about a change in the definition of marriage in Australia, don’t vote for change!

In an article in The Australian newspaper on Tuesday 12th September 2017 Joe Kelly and Simon Benson wrote, “Malcolm Turnbull has been ­accused of handing a “blank cheque” to the parliament after the government declared it would not move to provide religious protections before the same-sex-­marriage survey is finalised. Senior ministers yesterday confirmed that no bill outlining ­religious protections would be ­endorsed by the government until after the result was declared, arguing it would only be required should a Yes vote be returned.

The decision flies in the face of a warning from former prime minister John Howard, revealed in The Weekend Australian, calling for ­religious protections to be outlined before the end of the postal survey so Australians could participate with the full knowledge of what they were voting for.”

Parliament, not the Government, would legislate changes

If that is so, then it presents a scary scenario. It would seem that Parliament and not the Coalition government would be setting out legislation regarding religious freedom and freedom of speech.  There is no reason to feel comfortable about that situation. If, as many pundits believe, Labor will be in Government at the next election, if not before, there could be severe restrictions on both religious freedom and freedom of speech. Consider for a moment what has been said previously by Labor spokespersons. In an article by Jason Tin in News Corp Australia Network in May 2016 he wrote, “The Opposition has already promised to introduce marriage equality legislation into the Parliament within the first 100 days of the next term. The new LGBTI commissioner will cost $1.4 million over four years, with the appointment tasked with being a “champion” of the community’s rights.”

 What changes could we expect if the “Yes” vote prevails?

Jason Tin in the same article also wrote, “Labor’s leader in the Senate, Penny Wong, yesterday announced the commitment to appoint an LGBTI discrimination commissioner to the Australian Human Rights Commission, which would cost $200,000 in the first year and $400,000 a year after that. “An LGBTI Discrimination Commissioner will ensure lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex Australians can feel safer, more secure and more included in Australian society,” Senator Wong said at an event in Melbourne. “The Commissioner will address structural discrimination, work towards ensuring our schools, workplaces, and communities are free from discrimination.

He quotes her words as she spoke about bigotry and discrimination, “We are here because we reject hatred, we reject bigotry and we reject discrimination,” she said. But most of all we are here because we believe in a principle — the principle of equality.”

That means then that Labor in its declared anti-discrimination policy will honestly and fairly outline this policy as well, “Labor’s leader in the Senate, Penny Wong, [will one day announce] the commitment to appoint a discrimination commissioner to the Australian Human Rights Commission, which would cost $200,000 in the first year and $400,000 a year after that. “This Discrimination Commissioner will ensure that all those who are NOT lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex Australians will feel safer, more secure and more included in Australian society,” “The Commissioner will address structural discrimination, work towards ensuring our schools, workplaces, and communities are free from discrimination (against all Australians of all political persuasions and gender identifications.”)

 Equality which is really about equality for all Australians!

Is Penny Wong really going to push for that sort of equality for same-sex folk and for those who are not same-sex? Of course! She is committed to it. As she has stated openly, “We believe in a principle — the principle of equality.” The principle of equality demands equality for all, not just for some groups.

Mind you they could scrap the appointments of all discrimination commissioners and save the money and the associated divisiveness. Many think the whole “Human Rights Commission” could go as well!

 Will this “equal equality” really happen?

If justice is justice, and fairness is fairness and non bias is non bias and non-discrimination is non-discrimination, then it could! However, one would not think so, based on what is happening at the moment in Australia and overseas. The bias is heavily weighted in one direction especially in the media.

What should happen right now if we have to vote?

It is obvious that with so little transparency about what is happening and about what could happen in the case of a “yes” majority, the wisest thing would be to vote “No” to changing the definition of marriage until political parties get their act together. When they are able to  formulate their intentions and learn to communicate them in truthful transparency, then it might be time to vote. But not until then. Bullying from either side to force a result is not called justice. It’s called bullying!

This present definition of marriage in the Australian “Marriage Act of 1961” is looking better day by day, “Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.” And our Creator God gives it the tick too! After all, it was His idea!

Blog No.240.  Jim Holbeck. Posted on Tuesday 12th September 2017

 

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239. What is involved in Voting Yes or No for same-sex marriage?

The question being put to eligible Australian voters in the plebiscite on same sex marriage is this, “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”

The question seems to be innocuous enough. But there are some difficulties with it. For example, what is meant by “the law?” Do those voting know what the present law is?  In what ways will a change in the law (allowing same-sex couples to marry) affect other aspects of the legal system for all Australians? None of these topics seem to have been addressed at the moment and yet people could be voting on this matter in a matter of days, if not hours.

It’s a bit like signing a blank cheque and hoping that those to whom we give it will not abuse the opportunity we are giving them to do the right thing. Signing blank cheques is a sure recipe for people to take from us more than we were expecting to give them. What freedoms might people take with our vote if we voted for a change in the law?

 What is “the law” that could be changed as a result of our voting in the plebiscite?

 Well it is certainly not the law of God our Creator. His word is eternal and He has already informed us what He intended marriage to be and should continue to be.  Gen 1:26 “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it…”

When Jesus came to earth as the Son of God He was asked about divorce. However He went back to the beginning and quoted these words from Genesis chapter 1 as He replied, Mat 19:4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5  and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Not only are these words the teaching of the greatest teacher who ever lived, and God’s anointed, the Christ, but He was also God’s agent in creation as the New Testament declares in many places. (NOTE 1) The One who created the world and the people in it might know a thing or two about His creation! And about marriage! And about who qualifies for marriage! And who doesn’t!

 Well is it the law of the land (which may or may not submit to God’s created order?)

It appears that what is being referred to, is this section from the Marriage Act of 1961, “Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.” That definition seems to be in accord with God’s created order and certainly marriage has been seen as that relationship over millennia. So why should it be changed?

Here again there is confusion. Does a change in the law mean that the definition is changed to something like this, “Marriage means the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.” However, many same sex couples (by their own admission) don’t want their relationship to be monogamous. So, will the definition become, “Marriage is the union of two people?” Or something more insipid? We haven’t been told, to my knowledge.

It seems to be a big fat cheque we are being asked to sign with no indication of what will follow a “Yes” vote. Will freedom of speech be guaranteed if same sex marriage is approved.  Not just for religious celebrants and groups but for every Australian. Will the victimhood cease with a Yes vote and will accusations of bigotry and homophobia cease against those opposed to same sex marriage.

Unless these factors are addressed immediately, like in the next day or so, especially the issues of religious freedom and free speech, one would be a fool to vote “yes” when all these issued have not been addressed. Signing a blank cheque is bad enough. Signing a death warrant for personal and religious freedoms would be infinitely worse.

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(NOTE 1. John wrote of Jesus,  Joh 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” And Joh 1:10 “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”

Paul wrote of Jesus, Col 1:16 “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”

The writer to the Letter to the Hebrews wrote, Heb 1:1 “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.”

 

Blog 239. Jim Holbeck. Posted Monday 11th September 2017

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