Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Advent: The Long Road to Bethlehem (1)

Bible Readings

  • Luke 1:26-38
  • Judges 13:1-24

Introduction

In Stay of Execution, Stewart Alsop, an apathetic Christian, discussed what it was like to live with incurable leukaemia. 

There was a period in which the disease was temporarily arrested. During this time, he discussed some variables with his physician. Finally, Alsop said, “There is one variable you keep leaving out.” “What’s that?” “God,” he said.

The doctor and the patient smiled. Alsop continued, “I don’t really believe in God, or at least I don’t think I do, and I doubt if my doctor does; but I think we both had in the back of our minds the irrational notion that God might have something to do with what happened all the same.”

Maybe this illustration describes the time in Israel before Samson was born.  God became an irrational notion in the back of their minds.

And maybe it also describes the general notion among Christians:  they attend churches, they expect to get married in churches, and to be buried with a church service, they attend the signing of Christmas carols, and might attend the odd Easter Service—all because God became an irrational notion in the back of their minds.

Spiritual life for many people only means to have their names on some membership roll.  Worship services are a good tradition, keeping one out of mischief on a Sunday because who knows, one can never completely discount the notion of God.  For some unbelievers praying to God in times of distress and discomfort becomes the last straw they hang on to—one never knows, maybe there is a god!

Does this describe your spiritual life? A “maybe” or “a just-in-case” relationship with God with no meaningful or effectual content to what you believe? No vitality, no living hope, no real substance, just a breathless, run-of-the-mill and bleached-out going through the motions, just in case God might be there, who knows?

It’s worse if this becomes the picture of a denomination, or even more deplorable if it describes the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

These might be the symptoms; but what is the underlying disease?

The church became an undesired social institution

Israel of the Old Testament is the church of God under the pre-Christ dispensation, and certain truths stare us straight in the eye.  

God redeemed Israel to be his treasured possession.  Once redeemed from the Egyptian bondage, God promised to make true to them his covenant promises.  This is the story recorded in the Scriptures.  Moses reminded the people:  

The land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. (Deuteronomy 11:11–12, NIV)

The Lord gave them this assurance:

I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. (Exodus 23:25–30, NIV)

Israel had to conquer the Land of Promise. It was the place where they had to make known the great Name of God by living as priests to the Lord, a nation of witness to the greatness of God’s Name.  This is God’s promise to them:  

… the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you. Every place where you set your foot will be yours… No one will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as He promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go. (Deuteronomy 11:22–25, NIV)

Listen to this undertaking of the Lord:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:5–6, NIV)

There were stipulations attached: they had to follow the Lord’s command: 

When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. (Numbers 33:51–53, NIV)

Why?

“ … if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them. ” (Numbers 33:55–56, NIV)

Well, God’s people of old were extraordinarily blessed.  They received a land with large, flourishing cities they did not build,  houses filled with all kinds of good things they did not provide, wells they did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves they did not plant (Deuteronomy 6:10–12, NIV).

But what happened?  How successful were they in taking possession of the land?  

When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labour but never drove them out completely. … the Canaanites continued to live there among them. … Zebulun subjected the Canaanites into to forced labour… The Asherites lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land because they did not drive them out. Neither did Naphtali drive out … the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those … became forced labourers for them. 

Judges 2 helps us to complete the picture:

They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshipped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. (Judges 2:12–14, TNIV)

Another perspective from the Bible:

Yet you have disobeyed me. I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you. (Judges 2:1–3, TNIV)

How did it play out in history?  This takes us to Judges 13.

The Amorites confined the Danites [the parents of Samson were of the tribe of Dan] to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. (Judges 1:28–34, TNIV)

But before we continue, let’s make some application to the church of today.  Is it true that the Christian church in Australia is losing ground?  That’s undoubtedly what the statistics show!  But how does it stack up against the promise and command of the risen Christ who said, 

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

There are obvious parallels with the church of today and the church of the Old Testament, isn’t it?  The death-nail is to make compromises with the world. It happens when the church walks away from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, watering it down, in an attempt to become more popular.  The war-cry is to become seeker-sensitive.  And the more we reach into the world, the more the world reach into the church.  Instead of being counter-cultural, we have become a cultural assimilating cultural body.  Our witness is watered down, our message has become stale and meaningless, the Bible is neglected in some worship services, church language and demeanour,  even worship music, is hardly any different from what the world has on offer.  We do these things to not be an offence, while it is exactly our calling is not to please the world, but to worship God.

The status quo is the new normal 

Judges 13 sketches the church of God at a low watermark.  Something like a refrain runs through the book of Judges every time a new judge is announced: “The Israelites did what was wrong in the eyes of the Lord…” But this phrase is missing when the angel of the Lord appeared to Samson’s mother.  

With other judges, the people cried to the Lord for help, but not at the time when Samson’s birth was announced.   For forty years those whom Israel was supposed to dispossess, became the oppressors.  And it seems Israel got used to the situation.  They took the role is servants in the land which God gave them to possess and to reign for God’s glory.  

It got so low, that our chapter in Judges paints a picture of God’s own people not even knowing what His real name was.  The writer of the book used God covenant name JHWH, but Samson’s mother uses a generic term for God, “a man of God” or ”a godlike man”.  Her husband used another name, ‘Adonaj.  Maybe for longer than they had been married, there was no messenger of God.  It is only much later that they understood that it was indeed God who appeared to them.

The status quo of not knowing God became the new normal.  Not knowing Him also meant not knowing his will for them.  Even worse, not knowing Him, indicated that they have lost hope on salvation and freedom from oppression. Being dispossessed and living in bondage became normal.

This is a very sad state of affairs for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ:  if we don’t know and serve Him as Lord and Saviour, we will accept the lowest denominator as the standard.  The life of the church becomes stale, colourless, with no vitality, no living hope, no real substance, just a breathless, run-of-the-mill and bleached-out.  Churchgoers are going through the motions, just in case God might be there, who knows? And while the world laughs and scoffs, we take it as normal.

And just don’t rock the boat to upset the world!  When Samson began to terrorise the Philistines in an attempt to set his people free, of his own people rebuked him:  

Three thousand men from Judah said to Samson, “Don’t you realise that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?” He answered, “I merely did to them what they did to me.” (Judges 15:11, NIV)

It might be that the true man or woman of God who takes Christ on his word is considered to be the enemy of the very people who are supposed to be God’s conquering army under the banner of Christ.  

Conclusion

Brothers and sisters, our Canaan is the lost world to be conquered with the Gospel of Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  The church of God needs to be like a marching, invading army.  

Our series for advent goes under the heading, “The long road to Bethlehem”.  Samson was not the ultimate deliverer; he just “began” to deliver (Judges 13:5).  The final Deliverer was born in Bethlehem many years after that.  His deliverance was comprehensive and definitive.  In His Name, we should march forward, uncompromised.  The minute we become worldly, we lose, and God only becomes an irrational notion in the back of their minds.  But, He then becomes our enemy.  

Let’s fall at the feet of Christ and witness Him to the fallen world around us with undivided loyalty.

Amen.

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From hurtful mockery to joyful hope

Bible Reading

  • 1 Samuel 1:1-20

Intercessory Prayer (based on Psalm 94)

Loving Heavenly Father,

You are holy and just, and You deal rightly with those who oppose You. You hate the arrogant, who stands up against You as Sovereign Lord.

As we worship You now, the scenes of wicked men who terrorise your church and kill others without reason, burn vividly in our minds.  Arrogant people blaspheme You.  We bow before You to whom retribution belongs, and we ask: “How long?” How long will You allow them to crush your people and trample upon your church?  The helpless fall under their atrocities as if You don’t take notice.

Yet, in your eyes they are dull fools.  They think You, who fashioned the ear, cannot hear; they think You, who formed the eye cannot see.

Nations are under You; You are sovereign.  Use the Gospel message to rebuke the evildoers.  You know their thoughts, and You know that every man’s life is but a breath.

We don’t always see it that way, but your discipline is for our good.  Your teachings are pure.  From it we know that there will be a day of judgement for the wicked.

We praise You for not forsaking your church, because we are brought in the blood of Christ.

We take hands in unity against the wicked.  With you people world-wide we join in prayer against the plans of evildoers.  From You is our only help.  Without You we are helpless and we would have long ago been wiped from the face of the earth.

We stumble, but your steadfast love keeps us from falling all together.  The things of this world weigh heavily on our hearts, but your promises cheer our souls.

You stand against the wicked who pass laws to justify injustice.  Your people who live by your will have become enemy; good is called evil, and evil has become good.

We take refuge in You, because You are steadfast and faithful; with You there is no shadow of turning.  We long for the day of your return, Lord Jesus.  Not only will we stand before the Father in your righteousness to behold your glory and holiness, but You will finally deal with evildoers.  You will vindicate your church, but the arrogant and the godless, those whose names are not in the Book of Life, will be thrown into the pit of destruction, the eternal lake of fire.

And now we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, yes, come soon.  Amen.

Introduction

My dear friends in Christ,

Last week we learnt about Israel in the time of the Judges.  They turned their backs on God and became the scorn of the nations around them.  Sex and sexuality, marriage, morality, and the very heart of the Bible became subject to human reinterpretation.  The result was disastrous.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  Then, a whole series of events led several people to once again search the Scriptures as the life-giving Word of God and challenged people to order their lives and churches on principles found only in the Bible.  The result was astounding: although thousands paid with their lives for turning against the teachings of the Roman Church, many millions more came to worship Christ as the only Saviour.  They were led out of the bondage of sin and tradition, out of fear into the freedom of grace in Christ alone.

Just recently I read about another reformation which is underway.  It goes under the banner of “The Reformation Project”.  Yes, there needs to ongoing reformation.  But The Reformation Project which is happening in Orlando, Florida, might travel like a wild fire across the globe.  What is it?

Its overt message is to “affirm” LGBTQ in and around Orlando, Florida. The pastor of Joy Metropolitan Church, who is in a same-sex relationship, and the founding pastor of The Impact Church of Orlando want Christians to discuss ways to make Orlando churches supportive of the LGBTQ lifestyle, regardless of their churches’ theological positions on marriage and sexuality.

We just cannot learn!

While all of this is happening, we cry out with Psalm 94, “How long, O Lord?”  Why has the church of the Lord Jesus Christ become the scorn and ridicule of the world?

Maybe the parents of Samuel asked the same question.  How would God turn around the hopeless state of his people in their time?

Solution in unexpected places

In the first few verses of 1 Samuel 1 there’s a rundown of the ancestry of Samuel.  We read names (because the God people are important—and He knows our names, and even have the names of those who worship his Son, written up in the Book of Life), but the more we read the less we know about them.  They lived in Ephraim and had earlier relations who came from Ephratha, which was near Bethlehem, the city of David.  They were in the line of Levites who served the Lord.  But that’s all we know.  They were no influential family, and not connected with influential people.  In fact, they were almost nobodies.

This fits the theme of the book of Samuel:  God makes something out of nothing.  Later we will meet the family of David, where David was the least of his brothers, but mightily used of God who chose him to be king.  When the Philistines were camped against the people of God, it was not the mightiest soldier, but the least who would slay Goliath.

That’s how God works.  He resists the proud, but calls the humble. He passed the people of fame and chose a humble girl and her carpenter fiancé, who no one knew anything about, to be the earthly parents of the Saviour of the world.  He passed the learned of the day, but called unschooled fishers to be his disciples.  It was the derided prophet who ate locusts and wore clothes of camel’s hair who announced the Messiah to the people.  It was the apostle, who call himself the “untimely born”, the least of all sinners, who became the mouthpiece of God to the Roman Emperor.

This is God’s operational plan to restore his people who had become the scorn and derision of the world.  And that principle is still at work.  He passes the wise of this world, but uses the simple and poor to have them proclaim the Kingdom of Christ.

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21, NIV)

Today He knocks on your door.  Don’t protest like Moses that you cannot talk; don’t protest like Gideon that you are the weakest and come from an insignificant family line.  The Lord does not use those who are able, but He enables those whom He calls.  He calls you to follow Him.  Today is Pentecost Day:  You will receive power when the Holy Spirt comes over you, our Lord promised his disciples.  And his power they proclaimed the Word about Christ and God gave them thousands who were ordained to eternal life.

 A barren church

Elkanah had two wives.  Penninah was the one with sons and daughters; Hanna was barren.  Penninah scorned Hannah and caused her much pain and grieve.

The writer of 1 Samuel informs us of a very sad fact even before the story of Hannah begins:

Now this man [Elkanah] used to go up year by year from his town to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. (1 Samuel 1:3, NRSV)

The verse speaks of the faithfulness of the parents of Samuel, but the term “year by year” also gives us a hint of a time in Israel when the worship of God was a drag.  Why?  The priests had no appreciation about the holiness of God.  Chapter 2:2 tells us:

Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord. (1 Samuel 2:12, NIV)

Dead, ritualistic religion had no impact on the people and therefore no impact on the world around them.  No expectation, no hope.  Just go through the drills.  Barren theology, waterless clouds.  What happened between Hannah and Penninah was a vivid description of the state of the Old Testament Church then.

When the church lose sight of the glory and holiness of God, of his worship and of his Word, scorn depends upon it from all corners, and it becomes barren, without any future.  People don’t see the need to turn to the church because the life of Christians is no different from the life of those who don’t go to church.  And in a planned ploy to silence the message of Christ, the cry of the world all along from is that the church becomes more worldly.   “The Reformation Project”!  The church is reaching so far out to the world, that the world found a way to reach into the church!

Hannah’s troubles were representative of the troubles of the church then.  She was barren and she was a mockery.  The world taunts the church, “We have the numbers, you are losing yours!”

And all along the church tries strategies not founded in the Word.  It tries entertainment; it preaches a Gospel of prosperity; it even allows in its number the very people whom God disapproves and hates:  the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who have sex with men, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers (1 Corinthians 6:9–10, NIV).

It is so much different from the first Christian church in Jerusalem.  About that church we read:

No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. (Acts 5:13–14, NIV)

Where do we stand?  What is your expectation for your church?  Was there any exception whatsoever when you woke this morning and got dressed to come to church? Or have you come go just go through the drills?  But inside there is barrenness.  We run from the ridicule of the world, but  we don’t run to God in repentance.

It is only when the church of Christ corporately, and every member of it, begins to show spiritual fruit of a life planted in Christ, a life made new by the blood of Christ, a lifestyle drenched in the holiness of the Spirit of God, that it will become attractive again.

How can we be serious about being light and salt in the world if we only live in the shadow of what it means to be a Christian, and if we have lost our saltiness?

A new beginning

Hannah’s hurt drove her on her knees.  Someone writes:

Certainly we are right to think that only God could bring something important out of the unimportance and “barrenness” of 1 Samuel 1:1, 2. (John Woodhouse)

Hannah’s action (to all appearances insignificant) will turn out to change not only her life but the life of the nation and, indeed, if we dare to see it, the history of the world.

The Bible records: “Hannah rose”.  She became active while the others were still “sitting” – even the high priest, Eli.  Hannah prayed.  Hannah prayed to God.  The prayer of Hannah should be the prayer of the church:

“Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” (1 Samuel 1:11, NIV)

Remember Micah’s mother in Judges 18 who gave her son away to idols?  Hannah is the opposite:  she wished her son to serve Almighty God all the days of his life—the only son she ever had was the one she gave away!

“Hannah begged God to do for her what he had done for Israel in the days of Moses. She was asking God to do what God had shown to be his characteristic behavior toward his people.” (Woodhouse, J. (2008). 1 Samuel: Looking for a leader (p. 30). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books)

Conclusion

The difference between Hannah as representative of the barren church of the Old Testament and us, is that God already gave us his Son.  He is the Head of his church.  He died for it; He shed his blood for it; He rescued it and sanctified it; HE overcame death for it; He rose and He intercedes for it and gave his Spirit to it.

That prayer of Hannah is answered.  From Ephratah, through the line of David the Messiah has come!  Our hope is in Him; He is our message—but He has be our life!  He must be our mission!

Reformation always takes us back to Him, his Word, his salvation!  An insignificant priest nailed his theses on a church door in Wittenberg in 1517, and the fire of the reformation was lit.

The Reformation 500 years ago stands as a beacon of light and testimony to the work of Almighty God who is building his church – even against the mighty powers of this world.  And as we prayed in the words of Psalm 94:

For the Lord will not reject his people; He will never forsake his inheritance. The Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the Lord our God will destroy them. (Psalm 94:14, 22–23, NIV)

Let’s go home, face the world, and look up to Christ with joy in our hearts.  He has overcome; He calls to Himself those the Father had given Him.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev. D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 4 June 2017

 

Man-made Religion

Bible Readings

  • 2Timothy 4:1-5
  • Judges 17:1-13

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, we are commencing a new sermon series today under the topic “The king is dead; long live the King!”

This phrase was first declared when Charles VII ascended to the French throne after the death of his father Charles VI in 1422.

The Royal Council in England proclaimed: “The throne shall never be empty; the country shall never be without a monarch.”  So, in 1272 when Henry III died while his son, Edward I, was fighting in the Crusades, Edward was immediately declared king.

Our sermon series will not have as source the British kings, but the kings of Israel.  They lived and died, but the promised Messiah King (capital “K”), Jesus Christ, lives forever.  The Israelite kings failed and as such were precursors for the perfect, righteous, all-powerful, sovereign King who overcame the power of hell, sin, death and Satan.  Of Him the Bible declares:

“You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” (Psalm 2:7–9, NIV)

Today and next week the Word will come from the last few chapters of Judges, and the messages will help us to understand that we should focus, not an earthly king to guide us, but on God in Jesus Christ, our King.

Just as a margin note this:  God assigned to the king (or governments), to the church and to families separate spheres of authority—all of them are under God because this world belongs to Him, the Creator. But the church does not rule over governments; in the same way governments do not rule over churches, and let it be clear, neither government nor church has authority over families. In an ideal world all three these spheres of authority would be in harmony as they are governed by Christ through his Word and Spirit.

This is a bit of a long introduction, I know.  Moving into the sermon, let’s bring into focus the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.  Without going into detail it is safe to say that the Reformation was needed because the church lost its direction when they lost the Bible as the authoritative Word of God for life and worship.  Foreign elements were dragged into worship and the tradition of the church was given equal authority alongside the Bible.

Our reading from Judges 17-18 provides a perfect example when man makes his own religion—and still call it worship.

God’s command to Moses

The phrase “as the Lord commanded Moses” (and variations of it) is repeated about 100 times in the Old Testament.

The way the Lord wanted to be worshipped was spelled out very clearly, in detail.  God is holy, and his people had to keep that in mind. Wilful worship, fashioned around personal preference, have no place in the Bible.

The book of Judges repeatedly records how the people did evil in the eyes of the Lord—which is another way to say they shunned the commands of the Lord for their own interpretation—they did as they saw fit.  Things got so bad, so quickly, that priests in the direct family line of Moses, maybe even his grandson, led a whole tribe of God’s people into idol worship.  We’ll get to that shortly.

False, man-made religion

As soon as the authority of the Word is swept under the carpet, man quickly replaces it with something he conjures up from his own sinful mind.  Interestingly, men never quits worshipping; he only fashions false worship in the place of true worship.

Judges 17 tells the story of a man called Micah.  First he stole silver from his mother.  She pronounced a curse over the silver, and maybe over the one who stole it too, which made her son worried, so he gave her the silver back.  Usually when people of old prayed a curse over something they consider it the property of the entity in which name the curse was pronounced.  Should it found it would then be dedicated to that entity.  This was the reason why she dedicated the silver.

But listen to what she said:

I solemnly consecrate my silver to the Lord for my son to make an image overlaid with silver. I will give it back to you. (Judges 17:3, NIV)

Give it to the Lord?  To the Lord who forbids making idols?  Well, it sounds like a good idea to give something to the Lord, even if it is lottery money!  No ways!

This event was most probably what stirred Micah to think that he was some special person too.  Sometimes mothers, or parents, need to be careful with the way in which they encourage their children!  Many are on their way to destruction because Mom and Dad can’t see anything wrong in things they do.

So he built a shrine, and put his silver idol in it.  For good measure he added a few more idols.  He declared his son a priest and made an ephod for him—the vest the High Priest wore when entering the Most Holy.  So, here we have an own private man-made religion!

Very poignantly the Bible records:

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. (Judges 17:6, NIV)

The story goes on.  When a young Levite from Bethlehem, whose task it was to teach the people in Law of the Lord, found himself in Micah’s house, he got a job offer: “Live with me and be my father and priest, I will give you ten shekels of silver a year, your clothes, and your food.”

Private gods, private shrine, private priest, private religion.  When Alice was conversing with Humpty Dumpty, she rebuked him for misusing words. Humpty replied, ‘When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less’.  Alice protested, asking if she could really make words mean different things, to which Humpty answered, ‘The question is, which is to be the master – that is all’.

Micah was the master.  And he was satisfied with his choice.  Listen:

“Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest.” (Judges 17:13, NIV)

It’s like a bank robber that gets away with the loot unscathed and then go to the prayer meeting that night to thank God for his safety and provision for his family!

The tragedy of this chapter in the Bible is that people all along thought they worshipped God.

People in our day do the same.  They worship, and even call on the Name of God, but they have long left the Bible on the shelve as a forgotten book written for people thousands of years ago, not for modern people.  Someone writes:

I cannot stomach the whole notion of hell by conservative Christians today. Such a punishment, however conceived, does not fit the crimes (“sins”) I have done. I am not consciously rebelling against God because I sincerely do not believe he even exists. I’m following what I have come to believe to the best of my abilities as a thinking and educated person.

He continues:

How is it possible for God to foreknow the future? How is it possible for a being to never learn anything, and to always and forever exist as three-in-one without ever growing incrementally into something more and more complex? How is it possible for there to exist a being who is 100% man and 100% God with every essential attribute necessary for both?

He comes to this conclusion:  “… we must believe the writings of ancient superstitious people to do so?

But we should not only point fingers to people far away—it is sometimes much closer than we think.  How do we know and apply the Bible into our daily lives?  Is the Bible our sole authority for life and worship?  How many times do I hear the expression, “I think God would be happy with …”  Or, “I don’t think the Bible is against …” How can people make claims like this?  On what basis?  Our Confession says “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.”

Never can we carry something into our worship and life which cannot stand the test of the Word of God.

The fruit of man-made religion

The tribe of Dan had still been looking for a place to settle and in their journey to the north—a land they proclaimed to be God’s provision for them!— they came to the house of Micah and his private priest.  They offered the Levite promotion.

Come with us, and be our father and priest. Isn’t it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than just one man’s household?” (Judges 18:19, NIV)

He accepted and with his idols they carried him away.  Not only did they have a very unbiblical view of God, their worship was nothing short of an abomination in the eyes of God.

And Micah.  Well, they stole his god.  Listen:

You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away. What else do I have? (Judges 18:24, NIV)

After a 2011 decision allowing gay ordinations, 270 congregations left in 2012 and 2013. And church analysts estimate upwards of another 100 churches may leave as presbyteries vote on a proposal to rewrite the church’s constitution to refer to marriage as being between “two people” instead of the union of “a man and a woman.”

In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, some 600 congregations left in 2010 and 2011 following the denomination’s 2009 decision allowing the ordination of pastors in same-sex relationships.

If it was the true God of heaven and earth the Danites worshipped, losing Him would be impossible.  Anyone who worships any god other than the Almighty stands to lose it—if not in this word, then in the one to come!

The Bible has a word to say about the clan of Dan:

There the Danites set up for themselves the idol, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land. (Judges 18:30, NIV)

They lived in Israel, but they were never of Israel!

Conclusion

My dear friends, this year we will celebrate the Reformation of 500 years ago when the Bible was rediscovered, which led to the light of the Scriptures to shine in all its facets, predominantly over the western world.  It changed the face of education, health care, care for the aged, financial systems, governments, and most importantly, it changed people’s lives for eternity.

What if we lose it again?  What if it once again gathers dust on shelves?  What if we end up having our own private religion.  As Paul writes:

“…the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3–4, NIV)

If a church lose the Bible, it loses Christ.  If if loses Christ, it has no King.  All others are dead, but long live King Jesus!

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 21 May 2017