Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Undivided loyalty to the King, Jesus Christ (3)

Bible Readings

  • Daniel 3:8-18
  • Revelation 13:11-18

Introduction

My dear friends in Christ,

Long before I arrived at uni, Steve had been there. It seemed that Steve had an academic problem: the lecturer to teach him Greek 1, was a classmate who did Greek 1 with him when Steve was repeating it for the third time.  

It took us a while to work out why Steve did not at first succeed.  Before every exam, Steve would go through all the old exam papers and work out the most likely questions.  Even for oral exams, Steve would do his research.  To predict questions, he teamed up with Math students who had access to the mainframe computer.

But Steve did not pass the exams.  Why?  He focussed all his energy on poorly-directed preparation.  Yes, he was spot-on with the questions, but he was unprepared to answer them!

Scores of Christians read copious amounts of books and articles to work out what the number of anti-Christ is — the 666 — and what the signs on the forehead and the hands of his followers mean.  All of these studies remind me of Steve:  one can be occupied to work out what all of this means, but when it comes to standing the test against anti-Christ and his godless strategy against the church of Jesus Christ, the fascination with all the symbols blur the mind to the point that we find ourselves arranging the deckchairs on a sinking Titanic.  

Biblical hermeneutic 

We have to carefully follow principles of Bible exegesis:  This means that we do not go to the text with preconceived conceptions and read those into the text; this can make us biblical ventriloquists.  A real danger is to work from history or read the newspapers first and then go to the Scriptures to see if we can find something to give us light on our pre-shaped mind.  The process really should be the other way around:  we must first of all honestly study the Bible, interpret it within the context of the book itself, understand the type of literal category we are considering, interpret the cultural, and historical background of the author, and know the broader context of the Bible itself. Only then can we come to conclusions and applications for our day.

Reading Revelation 13, we need to understand that the category of literature:  It is apocalyptic—it is full of mysterious and symbolic language, written in times of distress, and puts some emphasis on salvation, either in a new world to come or in another world beyond.

John wrote his apocalypse in a certain historical setting, surrounded by certain cultural and historical events.  The Revelation was not supposed to mean something only for the church just before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  When the letters were delivered to the congregations of Smyrna, Ephesus, Sardis and the others, the Christians then did not only read the first three chapters of the book and disregarded the others because they did not apply to them.

What are the implications of what we have just said?  At least this:  if we interpret the book as if was only written for our day we might, with spectacular mental gymnastics, come up with unbelievable speculations which will surely leave us red-faced in years to come.  

I received an email last week of someone who concluded:  It seems clear to me that the Ottoman empire was the next empire after Romans which was in power when John wrote Revelation, and then there was another empire that controlled the middle east/old world and then this will be revived again at the time of the end. 

Interesting about the articles attached to the email is that there is no solid interpretation of the Scriptures.  At one stage the number 666 is interpreted as pointing to the shape of a set of floor tiles in the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem:  the first “6” is the outer lines,  this second “6” represents mini triangle within the bigger one, and the third “6” represents the six-sided polygon.  The conclusion is that this “666” is the symbol of the ancient Rempha (or Chuin) also known as Moloch, which is another representation of Nimrod, husband of Semiramis, queen of Babylon which the Rothschilds, who were papal knights, put in the flag of Israel.  

One can only ask, “What would the folk in the seven congregations make if this interpretation!”  This is not how to read Revelation!

Another common wrong interpretation of Revelation is to narrow the implication of the message down only to the restoration of national Israel. Reformed understanding of Bible interpretation surely sees Israel as the descendants of Abraham out of which the Messiah had to be born.  To understand how we should read the Old Testament is to look back from the New Testament as the fulfilment of the prophecies. To understand the New Testament is to interpret it as a continuation of the prophecies—all having its meaning in Christ and his completed work of salvation. Only then do we understand that all believers in both eras are of Israel because all who believe in Jesus Christ are children of Abraham (Galatians 3:29).  Believers of the Old Testament together with believers of the New Testament together make up the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This means the real Israel of the Old Testament was made up of those who expected the coming of the Messiah, together with those who actually received Christ when He came were included into the true Israel of which Paul writes in Romans 9.  National Israel as we know it today is not the church, and as such not the unique nation of God; it is a political entity.  Some nationals of that state believe in Christ, and many more will come to faith in Christ, and together with believers from all nations of the world who worship Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, they are spiritual Israel.  References to Jerusalem, Israel and the people of God in Revelation should be understood within this framework.

God is control

God gave John the visions “to show his servants what must soon take place.” (Revelation 1:1)  The message was meant to encourage the believers for times of distress.  It was intended to help them interpret what was going on around them on political and church level.  

John writes about Christ, the Living  One, who was dead but who is alive forever. He holds the keys of death and Hades (Revelation 1:18).  John takes his readers to the throne in heaven.  God is on the throne—He rules the world—and worshipping him, were twenty-four elders representing spiritual leaders from both the Old and New Testament era.  (That this is the case, is also seen in Revelation 21 where the new Jerusalem is described as having twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written on them. The wall of the city has twelve foundations with the names of the twelve apostles written on them.  The number of those inside the city is mentioned in Revelation 14 as 144,000.  This number is the complete number of believers from the Old Testament and the New Testament: 12 X12 X 000 = 144,000).  

Before the throne of God is the Holy Spirit of God; there are four living creatures who never stop proclaiming, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8).  At the right hand of God is Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who triumphed.  He is the Lamb who was slain but lives forever.  To Him those around the throne of God bring the same praise as they bring to God, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” — seven attributes, meaning completeness.   (Revelation 5:12).  

So, never forget this scene:  in whatever comes your way on this world, and in whatever you have to suffer for Christ, He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings.  All other rulers are under Him.  

The anti-Trinty

Over the last two Sundays, we had a brief look at chapters 12-13.  The context is this:  Satan lost his position in heaven and declared war against Christ.  He is focussing on the people of God.  With his two off-siders, they form the anti-trinity:  they parade godlike, they are powerful and fearsome.  John’s readers are warned to be careful to not fall for their cunning and craft.

Godless governments and states are controlled by the Devil, who employs all political and economic tricks to entangle and entice Christians into worshipping him, rather than Christ.  

The false prophet

A false Gospel

The third party in this anti-Trinity is described in verses 13:1-18, our reading of today.  He is a parody of the messianic Lamb of 5:6 and is the antithesis of the Lamb. It, too, is a lamb with horns.  Like the first beast, this beast speaks with the devil’s full authority: “he was speaking as a dragon.” (Revelation 13:11)  

This beast has primarily a religious role since it is later repeatedly called “the false prophet” (16:13; 19:20; 20:10). In contrast with the true prophet, who calls people to worship the living God, this prophet leads them to worship the state. This beast may take many forms and may at times be equal to the state, as well as with false prophets within the church.  Our Lord warned:  

For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. (Matthew 24:5)

They appear harmless but, 

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15)

The false prophet professes to represent the truth and appears harmless as a lamb, but he reveals his Satanic nature because he speaks with the authority of the dragon.  His message is the same deceptive speech of Satan that led Adam and Eve into rebellion against the Authority of God.  The first beast, the godless leaders of states, speaks loudly and defiantly against God, but the second beast makes the first beast’s claims sound plausible and persuasive, sounding harmless like a lamb. False teachers in the church are encouraging compromise with the culture’s idolatrous institutions, which are all associated in some way with the Roman cult of Emperor or state worship. The Nicolaitans, false apostles, and Jezebel in chapter 2 show how the churches fell for the deception of this beast. It takes a discerning Christian to detect the evil intrinsic to the second beast.  

In control of the Dragon

The false prophet’s purpose is stated openly in verse 12:

It makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. (Revelation 13:12, ESV)

The false prophet mimics his authority on the credentials of Christ’s apostles:  [1] Just as Christ sent out his disciples under his authority (Acts 1:1–11), the false prophet too is the successor of his master in both ministry and authority, [2] Just like the apostles preached about the risen Christ in Acts 2:22–47, he too attempts to persuade others to worship his master who looked like his was slain but somehow was resurrected, [3] Just like the apostles did in Acts 2:43; 5:12, and  15:12, he too performs miraculous “signs” as concrete manifestations of his authority. [4] Like the true prophets receive their inspiration from the living Christ, likewise the false prophet receives his inspiration in the presence of the beast. 

He employs every trick in the book to convince people that his master represents the real object of worship.  He tries to present his master as the one who controls the nations, who has the power to overthrow all who dare stand against him. As a master of deception, he performs miracles, even causing fire to come down from heaven.  Do you remember the magicians in the court of the pharaoh who mimicked Moses when his staff turned int snake?

Controlling science

In our day modern inventions, “new” scientific research, and electronic wonders are getting a controlling influence over the minds and actions of people. People are absolutely in its spell, and cannot live without it. 

Computer forecast models for climate change is referred to as “science has spoken”. Just last week a professor of the James Cook University was fired because his own scientific research results questioned the acceptable trends, and he is not alone.  What happened to the scientific method which demands that the same tests and experiments must deliver the same results when performed by other scientists?  What happened to peer review?  Students are not taught to think but to just regurgitate the ideas of lecturers.

Fantastic computer models and computing devices, based on augmented reality (miraculous signs?), bring to life extinct animals based on very scanty evidence, and the theory of evolution is projected over it to “with certainty” tell us how they looked like and where they lived.  It is sometimes hard to distinguish between reality and animation. Documentaries with real-live animation are presented with commentary and “science” which makes it almost impossible to argue against it.  

Unscientific prove about the outcomes for children is put forward against centuries of family units between a father and a mother. The sexual revolution, driven by gay and lesbian groups,  as well as hostile feminist propaganda, promoting a society opposite to accepted Biblical norms, and are forced upon civilisations as a tool to force the world to bow before the image of the beast.  

The servant of both the dragon and godless states

The power (verse 15) vested in governments, and even the UN with its handmaiden, the World Council of Churches, is enormous.  Everything has to be sacrificed at the altar of political correctness. Social pressure on Christians is extensive, just ask Christian bakers.  Mass media outlets and TV bosses choose what they want to present, deliberately ignoring opposing ideas — and devout followers of Christ become the target of ridicule. And as a result, they lose their voice.  

When it comes to Revelation 13:16, which talks about receiving the sign of the beast on the right hand and the forehead, very many predictions have been offered, most of them nothing more than wild speculations.  Some are outright preposterous and would leave the folk in the congregations to whom the apocalypse was written in absolute bewilderment. 

A servant of financial institutions

The mark hints to the state’s political and economic “stamp of approval,” given only to those who go along with its religious demands.  Keep in mind that the Devil, along with godless world political structures, as well as the false prophet do one thing very well:  they mimic God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The mark on the forehead, which is the name of the beast and the number of his name, is the parody and opposed to the “seal” of Revelation 7:3–8, which is God’s name written on the foreheads of true believers.  We also read in  Revelation 14:1: 

Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1, ESV)

The Name of our Lord is also on the foreheads of those who will be gathered in heaven with Him.  Just as this invisible seal and the divine name on believers signifies God’s ownership and spiritual protection of them, so the mark and Satanic name mean those who belong to the devil and will undergo eternal punishment. It is most likely also invisible.

A battle for our hearts and minds

John writes to the early church which was under attack of the devil, and the same message which applies to us today.  The “forehead” represents ideological commitment, and the “hand” represents the practical outworking of that commitment. Keep your mind free from influence from him who desires your destruction, and keep your hand from doing what he wants you to do.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2).

Just as the early Christians were excluded from trade if they did not set their minds and actions into going along with worldly demands and emperor worship, so Christians in all ages can be excluded from general financial activity.  Is it possible to include a cashless society where all members of society must use prescribed methods to trade?  Someone also thinks that money as we know it will be phased out in favour of an economy of carbon credits.  Our cars and household goods are already carbon measured, and it would not be impossible to read our energy consumption in terms of carbon debits.  To spread the privilege of energy evenly across the populations of the world, individuals will have to earn carbon credits, and will only get what they earn, the rest will be divided with the rest of the world.  This seems plausible if international power grids are developed in a world without national borders.  It will also restrict carbon consumption to prevent so-called climate change. Is it possible, but one must guard against fantastic schemes and speculations.

The identity of anti-Christ

How can we identify anti-Christ?  What does his number 666 mean?  Some ascribe numerical values to letters, and so get possible names.  Indeed, if one would translate the name “Nero” into Greek and then add up the numeral values, one can arrive at 666.  The problem starts when the spelling of Nero in Greek can differ widely between scholars.  One can actually identify Hitler and Henry Kissinger as the ant-Christ if you pick the right language to work from.  The dilemma is that John does not give his readers any indication that they must do some mathematical calculation.  Remember Steve who did all the research but never passed an exam? Don’t miss the point here.

Every time John uses a number in Revelation it has a symbolic meaning.  So, why would he, in this case, use a real number?  The beast, although he parades as God while appearing to achieve divine perfection, always embodies imperfection; he always falls short.    Only God is perfect:  of Him, the number seven is used.  The three Person of the Trinity gives as 777.   Three sixes are a parody of the divine trinity of three sevens. That is, though the beast attempts to mimic God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, he falls short of succeeding.  

My friends, our text calls us to wisdom to see through the deceptive and imperfect nature of the beast.  He is an imitator, nothing more.  Adam and Eve could not see through his schemes and fell for him.  

The beast is the supreme representative of sinful humanity, separated from God and unable to achieve divine likeness, but always trying. God created man on the sixth day, but without the seventh day of rest and communion with God, Adam and Eve would have been imperfect and incomplete. The 666 for the Christians should emphasise that the beast and his followers fall short of God’s creative purposes for mankind. They are fake gods who can offer nothing but death.

Conclusion

Be careful of compromise, not just with the Roman emperor, but with all the facets of the state in collusion with religious, economic, and social aspects of the idolatrous culture, which all epitomise fallen humanity. Be like Daniel and his friends:  when they needed it most, they were on their knees before God where they found insight and strength to combat the evil.  Keep in mind, their steadfastness before Nebuchadnezzar to acknowledge:  

I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honoured Him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34–35, ESV)

Amen.

Sermon preached by the Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 24 March 2019

 

Advertisements

Living on God’s earth (1)

Bible Readings

  • Genesis 1:26-2:3
  • Psalm 8
  • Romans 8:18-25

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

During our time away over Christmas, I made a point of it to have a date with our grandchildren.  I took them for a milkshake.  Discussions ranged from every-day topics to the progress in their education. NSW experienced a few sweltering days, and just to be mischievous, I threw in a few questions about what they know about climate change.  I was amazed to discover that for them, everything they hear through the mass media is actually what they are taught in schools as absolute fact beyond doubt.

At that point, I decided to prepare a few sermons on the Christian worldview about creation and living on God’s earth.  

How do we as Christians understand what is going on around us?  What is our role as human beings being placed on earth?  Are we perhaps running out of resources to live meaningfully?  Is the world overpopulated? Is there reason to be stressed and go into panic mode about these issues?  What are the do’s and don’ts?  How do we understand the calls for caring for our environment?  Is there any direction in the Scriptures about these issues?

In the sermon for today I will not endeavour to give exhaustive answers;  in the following week or two, we might go there.  But today we will look at some basic principles of the Biblical worldview.

Worldview 

What is a “worldview”?  In short, it provides us with guideposts to understand and interpret the world we live in.  We might ask questions like, “Where does the world come from?”, “Where do we as humans beings come from?”, “What is our purpose on earth?”  “What is the future of the world?”,  “Where will all of this end?” This is not a comprehensive list we as Christians may ask, but let’s stick with it for the moment.

The Marxist has a different worldview, and the atheist holds to a different worldview.  In our day environmentalists have a different worldview.  They will answer these questions differently, and they might even ask completely different questions. Each worldview represents a different angle, depending on a different belief or philosophical system.  But are they correct?

But what is the Biblical worldview?

God, the creator

We take the Bible seriously when it declares: 

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1, ESV)

Who does not take the very first verse in the Bible seriously, undermines the authority of the Scriptures, and logically forfeits the right to believe anything in the rest of the Bible says as worthwhile to believe in.  

Out of nothing God created the universe and everything in it.  He created the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth, the sea, every living creature on the earth and under the earth.  He created everything according to their kind, which means that plants since the beginning of time were plants, animals were from the beginning animals,   insects from the beginning were insects, and human beings were from the beginning human beings.  Evolution between the different kinds never happened, but evolution within species meant that, for example, dogs with the genetic material already available within the original pair of male and female dogs, could rearrange itself to adapt to different environmental demands.   

Man as God’s representative

Mankind was created to be different from the animal kingdom.  God created man and female and He Himself put his breath into them, something not attributed to the rest of what God created.  We read:  

then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:7, ESV)

Adam and Eve were the first human begins, and they were directly created by God.  Of them the Bible says more in detail:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26, ESV)

The purpose God had with Adam and Eve and their offspring was to represent Him and to have dominion over the rest He had created.  God gave them a special blessing for this task:  

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28, ESV)

God created everything within the space of six days.  Then we read this statement:  

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31, ESV)

What do we deduce from this? 

  • This world belongs to God who created everything according to plan.
  • God gave everything needed for his creation to reach its fullest potential 
  • What God created is for his glory.
  • Mankind was created in the image of God, as God’s representative to act as stewards over God’s creation.  Mankind is separate from other created things.
  • Mankind is called to have dominion over all other created things.
  • Nothing you and I see, perceive, touch or possess belongs to us.  This world is God’s dominion.
  • Mankind has a responsibility to care for creation.  We will be held accountable for the way in which we stewarded what belongs to God.
  • To have children and populate the world is a command from God who will provide what we need for as long as we live under the Headship of God.

Man as under-creator

There is something else we need to keep in mind:  When God finished creating, He rested.  His rest means that He did not create any further.  It does not say that God withdrew from creation as He was only involved in what He created for six days and then in some way became absent from what He created.  When God rested, He made everything which man needed to live to the glory of God, and in principle, He provided all the raw materials required by mankind to be his representatives.  He even made it possible for Adam and Eve to have children.  In this sense then can we say that God made man his “under-creator”.  

To be extremely blunt we can say that God never built a house, but he provided man with the raw materials and the know-how to build a house.  God never build a power station, but He created the world with all the potential, and man with the intellectual expertise to build a power station.  As man developed his skills and employed the God-given raw-materials, he exercised his dominion of creation as God indented.  

God planted into Adam and Eve an affection and love for one another to have communion out of which they (in a limited sense) then became the creators of Cain and Abel.  They did so because they received from God their breath—which is life—to pass on to their children.  But Adam and Eve did not have the potential to become more than human beings.  They could never become God, although the serpent trapped them into the idea that they could be like God!

This aspect of being under-creators and having children according to God’s plan within the relationship of marriage is critical.  The abuse of sex for own pleasure, or for any other desire or purpose, distorts God’s design for man to be under-creators, and instead of the intimacy between husband and wife, sexual relationships become a curse and the original blessings are removed.

Therefore same-sex marriage carries with it the curse of no procreation.  Sexual relationships of any kind, be it of the heterosexual or homosexual kind, outside of God ordained marriage is an aberration of God’s design and instead of children considered being a blessing from God, they are found to be a curse which has to be aborted. Sexual desire then become an instrument to satisfy sinful man and stand opposed to a God-given gift to glorify his name.

Fallen man

Our biblical worldview prevents us from glorifying man.  The Bible is clear that man fell into sin.  The consequences are devastating.  Instead of living in a world which was created “good indeed”, man faced a world which became his enemy.  Every effort of mankind to have dominion over creation became a struggle against pests, drought, pain, sickness, floods, natural disasters, etc.  

“… cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17–19, ESV)

Instead of childbirth being a joy right from the beginning, God said:  

To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16, NKJV)

The word in Romans 8: 

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20–21, ESV)

I buried my puppy that had a brain tumour.  I cried my heart out for the little fellow in full knowledge that he was part of this creation which was subjected to bondage, not because he committed sin, but because my sin caused his suffering and death.

Paul in Romans 1 writes of the result of sin:  

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, (Romans 1:18, NKJV)

What is this unrighteousness and ungodliness of men?  

… although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:21–23, NKJV)

 Sin brought disruption between God and man:  God is holy and man is not!  Sin brought death.  The first person born to man became the murderer of the second:  Cain killed Abel.  

Conclusion

In part then, this is our Christian worldview.  In weeks to come, we will elaborate on it and also contrast it with other worldviews.

But there is something which gives sinful mankind hope.  This hope is in the Second Adam, Jesus Christ the Son of God, our Saviour.  The Bible teaches us:  

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:15–17, ESV)

Our worldview includes underserved grace in Jesus Christ.  And he who trusts Christ for salvation his this hope:  

…we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.(Romans 8:23, ESV)

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 6 January 2019.

Evolution and Christianity

Atheist Richard Dawkins pointed out a few years ago that Christians who try to mix evolutionary ideas with Scripture, thereby essentially saying that Genesis is not trustworthy, were “deluded.”

When asked if there was “a defining moment” when he decided he didn’t believe in God, Dawkins replied as follows:

Oh well, by far the most important was understanding evolution. I think the evangelical Christians have really sort of got it right in a way, in seeing evolution as the enemy. Whereas the more, what shall we say, sophisticated theologians are quite happy to live with evolution, I think they are deluded. I think the evangelicals have got it right, in that there is a deep incompatibility between evolution and Christianity, and I think I realized that about the age of sixteen.

Makes one think!

No parental consent needed

If your daughter develops a headache at school and went to the head office for a tablet, she might need your consent first for the school staff to give her a paracetamol tablet.  She might be allergic to something and the school does not want to be sued.

On the other hand, the school might think it good to administer drugs to your child known to be associated with depression, liver cancer, sudden blindness, heart attack, stroke, and hepatitis and blood clot without your consent.  The medical conditions mentioned do not take into account the enormous psychological effects on your child, or even the moral implications.

Say no!
Say no!

Advocates for this practice usually cry wolf against chaplaincy at school, while promoting counseling by those not “brainwashed” by religion!

The reason why the school might administer drugs without your consent is that your daughter might be pregnant, or your son might become a father himself!

New York City schools distributed 12,721 doses of the “Morning-After Pill” to students last year, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The 40 school-based “health centers” also performed thousands of injections of long-term contraception and implanted intrauterine devices (IUDs).

Under state law, schools do not need to obtain parental consent to dispense the drugs. The $2.7 million program has provided contraceptives to 22,400 teens as young as 14.

Parents, without their consent, contribute to the tax to pay for the drugs which are destroying the lives of their children.

A study published in December by a University of North Carolina professor found that widespread use of “emergency contraception” had no effect on pregnancy or abortion rates but “led to a statistically significant increase in STD rates.”

Are schools forced into this situation?  There are a wide range of factors leading to this this untenable situation.

  • Let’s be honest, many children don’t have any form of relationship with any of their parents, and vice versa.
  • Fathers have become conspicuously absent, and in many cases would not even know who their children are.
  • There is no respect for marriage, and the sanctity of life.  A large percentage of teenagers have no idea why God instituted marriage. To them sex has become a form of social past time.
  • Schools are stuck with the dilemma of students who do not have a home to go back to, a mother who cares or a father who will stand up for his daughter.
  • Don’t forget the atrocious teachings (doctrines?) of the Feminism, claiming rights without responsibilities.
  • Add to this the dogmas of evolution, humanism and liberalism (all these are faith-based systems!).

The experiment has miserably failed!

Handing out contraceptives and morning-after pills are by no means solving the problem, it’s aggravating it.

What then?

It would be abject stupidity not to once again look at the biblical view of life, marriage, sex and morality.  It stood the test of time, every time.  Societies were transformed once these principles were applied right through history.

I just wonder how long is our society going to exploit corrupt theories before we bury our pride and bow before the authority of God.

Reformation

Jesus Christ, the center of creation, the message of the Bible

Scripture Readings:

  • Daniel 2:24-45
  • Revelation 5:1-14

Introduction

There was a time in history when the official church burned on the stake those who dared translate the Bible from Latin into English.  There was a time when only a few priests had the privilege of having a copy of the Bible; it was however in a language that neither he nor his congregation understood.  Scores of priests did not have a Bible to preach from, and many other had no scholastic training whatsoever.  In some cases some became priests because their parents were rich and could buy a parish for them; they then had to make ends meet by asking exuberant amounts of money to baptize children, perform marriages, funerals and take confessions.

Little wonder then that many of the lay people were ignorant to even protest against abhorrent practices like indulgences and the teaching of purgatory.  They were defenseless against any false teaching and had to just believe what was preached and taught from pulpits; papal bills contained many unscriptural demands and teachings against which no ordinary Christian could stand up.

Those times are described as the dark ages.

Let’s jump some 500 years ahead.  The Bible is translated into hundreds of languages.  About every Christian in the West can read, and many others are anticipating the publication of a portion of the Bible in their mother tongue.  It is not uncommon for the average Christian family to have at least two Bibles in their homes.  There is a study Bible for dads, for mothers, for girls, for boys, for singles, for teens, for soldiers and for students.

Yet, over us sweeps a tidal wave of illiterate Christians who cannot defend their faith.  For many churchgoers Moses and David are books in the Bible, while Genesis 1-11 is nothing more than a myth.  The Creator God is not worshiped any more, because the so-called science of Evolution make them feel unaccepted in this world where science has now the benchmark for faith.  Many Christians cannot defend the Biblical teaching of marriage in an increasing secular world where cohabitation has replaced marriage.

Only bout 4% of our population attend church on a regular basis, while the figure is lower for most of Europe.

As we celebrate the Reformation which started in 1517, many others right across what was formerly known as Christian countries choose to celebrate the renaissance of the occult in halloween, a celebration of divination, necromancy, human sacrifice and cruelty to animals.

What has happened?  Have we forgotten the original impact of the Reformers as they discovered and practised the teachings of the Bible?

  • Most of the languages of the world were first codified and put into writing by Christian missionaries.
  • More schools and universities have been started by Christians than any other religion, nation or group.
  • Christian Reformers and missionaries have succeeded in bringing about the abolition of slavery, cannibalism, child sacrifice and widow burning.
  • Those countries which enjoy the most civil liberties, are those lands where the Gospel of Christ has penetrated the most.
  • The Gospel of Jesus Christ is life-changing, history making and nation transforming. If it doesn’t change your life and the lives of those around you, then it’s not the Biblical Gospel.

The Reformers emphasized God’s Sovereignty, that Scripture alone is our final authority, that Christ alone is the Head of the Church, and that justification is by God’s Grace alone, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, received by Faith alone. The Reformers’ teaching on the depravity of man, the Covenant and church government have influenced positive political and social developments in liberty throughout the Western world and beyond, establishing checks and balances, the separation of powers and constitutional authority.

It might be that by ignorance, or just plain inactivity, we might lose what they fought for.

Why is the Bible so important?

I want to the time of Daniel and learn some lessons from the chapter we read this morning.

Daniel and his friends were in Babylonia at the time.  There were in a group of people who were taken into captivity to Babylon in 605 B.C.  After Jerusalem finally fell in 586 B.C. most other Jews were also deported to Babylon.

A concentrated world

We need to understand that Babylon was at the time the cultural pivot point, learning pinnacle and government seat of the world.  Babylon, and what it represented, was in more than one way a mini world.  Daniel acknowledges this fact when he speaks to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:

Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold. (Daniel 2:37–38, NIV)

It was almost as if the world revolved around Babylon, while it was shaping the rest of the world.  The world did as Nebuchadnezzar wanted.  There was a world culture, a science of the world dominated by Babylon, and also a world religion.  Daniel 3 tells us more about that.

A troubled world

God had a plan with Nebuchadnezzar: He wanted the king to know that not he, but God is sovereign. So God gave him dream one night.

The king’s dream about the statue out of gold, silver, bronze and iron/clay really troubled him (Daniel 2).  He had to know what it means.  So he called in his wise men: magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers – more or less the scientists and religious thinkers of his day.

He expected what was humanly impossible from them: not only did they have to interpret the dream, they also had to to tell him what the dream was.  Yet knowing was terribly important, because, although he didn’t know it at the time, it would disclose God’s plan in history.

The credibility of the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers was at stake.   They stared being cut in pieces in the eye.

They admitted, “There is not a man on earth  who can do what the king asks.”  Exactly! They were right, only the God of heaven knows.

Further, “No one can reveal it to the king except the gods.”  Halfway correct this time, gods know nothing (Isaiah 44:17-18), only God does.  “They do not live among men.”  Correct, or maybe not: gods don’t, God does.

Their credibility was in tatters.  He called in his head butcher, Arioch, a man you do not really want to meat.   “Chop them up!”

A world in need for the Word

He needed to know the meaning of the dream and his wise men could not help.  What did not know was that God was troubling him all along.

Daniel appears on the scene. God’s perfect timing and planning.  Your wise men have got it right in one aspect. They said:

The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.” (Daniel 2:10–11, NIV)

Those who reject the Bible, reject God.  Those who reject the Bible God Himself calls fools.  Those who don’t listen to the Bible cannot say anything about the meaning of history and the purpose of life.  Man is then his own measuring stick, and to get him out of his predicament of meaningless, he tries to lift himself up with his shoe laces. They who deny God and his Word keep running into themselves and their so-called scientism delivers no-one from nothing, because it worships the created rather that the Creator.

So, Daniel has the answer:  it is the Creator God in heaven and his Word who unlocks what seems impossible to the wise of this world.

but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. (Daniel 2:28, NIV)

Daniel went home and called his friends together and they had a prayer meeting, pleading for mercy from the only God, “the God of Heaven” concerning the dream of the king.  During that night God revealed Himself and the mystery was solved.  The next morning they had another prayer meeting, now to worship God for his wisdom and power, for the fact that He is sovereign in the way He unfolds history;  they thanked God for giving them his Word!

Daniel returns to Nebuchadnezzar and proclaims the greatness of God: There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.  Daniel explains and interprets the dream of the king.  He explains what is going to happen through the Neo-Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman Empires.  But he does not stop there.

While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. (Daniel 2:34, NIV)

All of these empires would only be an lead-up to the Messianic Empire of Jesus Christ, the Son of God “that will never be destroyed.”  He is the Rock cut out from the mountain, but not by human hands.

In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. (Daniel 2:44, NIV)

The Bible, the story of the plan of salvation

Why is the Bible so important?  Because it is about God’s Self-revelation in Jesus Christ.  History belongs to God, because He made time.

When man turned against God and rebelled against Him in paradise, God puts into action his eternal council to rescue sinful man. What was planned in eternity now plays itself out in earthly history.  The eternal Son of God would fill the pages of the Bible to show in history how God will see to it that his banquet hall will have the full number of the elect sitting at the table of the Son.  History and the future without the knowledge of Christ as the focal point has no meaning.

For many eastern religions time is nothing but a meaningless repetition of events.  But for the so-called learned West life is meaningless, death is meaningless, and everything in between is meaningless.  Man is his own god who sets his own rules – and he lives a futile life, and he dies like a dog.

The Word of God is about Jesus Christ

Paul sings a song about Christ:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 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. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15–17, NIV)

When John saw the vision we read about in Revelation 5, he wept because there was no one to open the scroll.  God sat on his throne with that scroll which was the key to the unlocking of God’s plan of salvation on earth.

There was no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth to break the seals of the scroll.  If it depended on man, history would remain a closed book, meaningless and without purpose.  That’s why John wept.  An elder pointed him to someone:

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5, NIV)

John looked and he saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain.  He was at the center of the throne:  everyone looked at Him.  The horns he had tells of power, and the eyes tells of the Holy Spirit.  He is all-powerful, almighty and full of all knowledge. He took the scroll from the hand of God – and now those around the throne of God fell down to worship Him. They brought to Him the offering of the prayers of the saints – those whom God called to Himself through the blood of the Lamb.  He is worthy to be worshiped as God!

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God people from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9–10, NIV)

Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world, and yet it play itself out in history.  The promise to send one who would crush the head of the serpent given in paradise is the promise who would be fulfilled when Jesus Christ died on the cross and raised victoriously on that bright Sunday morning.

So, all the kings and kingdoms mentioned in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar were set there by God’s purposes to lead up to the kingdom of Jesus Christ.  His is the King of kings and his Kingdom is over all kingdoms.
God reveals Himself by his Word, his Son, our Saviour.  The Word, the Bible is about Him.  It is true and infallible.  He is Immanuel (Matthew 1:23), God-with-us, the One who came to make his dwelling with us (John 1:14)

Many wise men are rejecting this word, and they will continue to do so.  Their credibility is at stake – that is lest they fall before the the Son and kiss Him.  If not, He will destroy them (Psalm 2:12).

Jesus Christ, our only Gospel

Paul writes to the Corinthians:

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:2–5, NIV)

It was this message, only found in the Bible – the true Word of God – that was rediscovered by the Reformers 500 years ago.  Their motto then became:

  • Sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”)
  • Sola fide (“by faith alone”)
  • Sola gratia “(by grace alone”)
  • Solus Christus “through Christ alone”
  • Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone”)

Their message was clear because it was to based on human or ecclesiastic tradition – they got it from the Bible only.

They set the world on fire, and no martyrdom or stake could stop them.  Their message spread around the world and millions found a new reason for living as they were taken to the Christ of the Bible.  Governments were changed; schools and hospitals became commonplace; universities popped up all over the place; slaves were set free; women were restored into society as image-bearers of God; books were printed by the million; the world were discovered, and most important of all, souls were saved by the faithful preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To them, and ultimately God, we owe the gratitude to have the Bible in our own tongue to read and understand, and hear God speak to us like He did in words of encouragement to his church whenever they found it difficult to move on.

Conclusion

My dear friend, where is your Bible?  Does it have fresh fingerprint from your hand on it as you studied it?  Can you defend your faith in this world hostile towards anything Biblical?

May God give us once again the vision for his Word and his Son as He did in the days of Luther, Calvin Knox and others.  We are in desperate need for it now that we are engulfed by this tidal wave of humanism and secularism.  Sola Scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, sola gratia, soli Deo Gloria.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 28th October 2012