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The O-word

It's a dirty word to Christians. It's also a dirty word to the secular world. It is to the shame of many Christians that this word is only uttered in hushed tones behind closed doors.


It feels a bit heavy, perhaps a bit old fashioned.


Maybe it scares us a little bit.


This word describes a major part of our discipleship.


Remember, disciples are the people who follow Jesus, that is Christians. Each Christian is a student/learner/apprentice of Jesus. Each Christian starts ignorant of matters of faith, and then becomes a novice, then continuing on grows into an equipped journeyman. We'll never overtake our master, Jesus, but we can certainly mature into greater and greater levels of knowledge and ability in godliness.


Yet, as I discussed last time, that all starts from the basis of God's grace. We grow from grace like a seed needs soil to grow. We can't start without it, we never leave it behind, and it is where our roots are planted deeper and deeper as we mature. You need God's grace to start and continue as a disciple of Jesus.


Sometimes we start to become disciples before we even know it. God's irresistible grace starts to draw us into the Way of Christ even before we realise what's happening. Then over time we become familiar with Jesus, recognise what he's done and make our discipleship official with baptism.


But sooner or later, we have to come to terms with the "O" word.


This is where the rubber meets the road.


This is where the hard yards of discipleship are. It's where the sharpening happens. It's where the purity is formed as the dross is swept away.


It's obedience.


It's what Jesus wants of his disciples, he said: "make disciples of all nations, ... teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19–20).


After Adam & Eve were given life and relationship with God, they were given commands, including the creation mandate and the rule against eating the forbidden fruit (Ge 1-2).


After Abraham was chosen and blessed by God, he was called to keep God's covenant (Ge 17).


After Israel was saved from Egypt, they were commanded to obey God's Law (e.g. Ex 19-20, De 28).


After you were rescued from the power of Satan, Sin & Death, you are called to obey Christ.



At face value obedience is rather simple: Listen to God, do what he says.


It would take an extensive review of the whole Bible to filter out all the specifics of what that looks like, but Jesus summarises it when he says: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets" (Mt 22:37–40).


If we were to parse it out a bit more, we could look to the 10 Commandments interpreted by Jesus as the picture of what obedience looks like.


It is the faithful loyalty and worship of the LORD while living within the boundaries He has created for us.


Some see obedience like the slavery of the show-dog to the whistle. Some may think of dystopian nightmares with tyrannical governments abusing their power. Some are fearful of the way their obedience has been abused by people taking advantage of them. Yet none of these are a good picture of our obedience to God.


God is the most good that there is. He is wonderful, He is love, He is righteous and holy. To obey his commands is to walk in the way of love and holiness.


Obedience is like the fences on lookouts and high boardwalks. They keep you from hurting yourself or falling to your death. They enable you to experience the beauty and wonder of God's creation. Fences and handrails aren't there to spoil your fun, or make life hard, they are there for your good.


God's commands are for our good. They enable us to live to the fullness of our humanity, just the way he designed us to be! There is joy and fulfillment in God's law, because it keeps us from falling to our deaths, or at the least from injuring oneself.


God's commands lay out the boundaries, and show us the best ways to live in His world. The LORD is our shepherd who protects us sheep from the dangers, while leading us to the best water and pasture. It is foolishness to break away from the Good Shepherd and try to make our own way.



For you parents, you need to teach your kids to obey the LORD. You do this by modelling it to them, but you also do it by teaching your children to obey you. Children learn their first lessons about submitting to godly authority by submitting to you: "Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord" (Col 3:20).


Sometimes it feels harsh to bend the will of a child to obey your somewhat arbitrary rules at home, but you must remember that when you are training them to make their bed and speak kindly, you are ultimately preparing them for a life of faithful obedience to their Heavenly Father. The stakes are much higher when children move from the testing ground of the home to the battleground of the world where their decisions have eternal consequences.


If we want kids who will outperform us in deeds of faith, we need kids who will out-do us in obedience.



Obedience will never win our salvation, Jesus' obedience did that for you, and you are saved through grace. But now, freed from the burden of winning it for yourself, and from the slavery to sin, by the Holy Spirit you are able to obey God's commands.


It will take time to get good at obedience, but here's the great joy of starting with grace: Jesus has already dealt with your failures. Just as an apprentice keeps trying until he get's it right, and the traveller keeps getting up when they fall down, you must not stop, but push on in your discipleship journey till you reach the destination.


"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him" (Jn 3:36.)


"Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked" (1 Jn 2:4–6).


"The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ..." (Tt 2:11–13).


Samuel Lindsay

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Growing from Grace

As I look back over the pages of scripture in pursuit of the discipleship pattern, it starts to emerge right from the very beginning. The Bible presents us with particular characters or groups of people and how they relate to God. It starts with Adam & Eve.


They are made by God and put into relationship with Him from the outset. There was nothing they did to earn it or choose it, God just gave it to them. He gave them all the blessings, including the role of guarding and looking after the garden temple of Eden.


So this job they had to do, this blessing, this position in God's presence, came from God's kindness and generosity. Their faithfulness flowed out of what God already did for them.


The same goes for the next big figure in the Bible - Noah. Noah proved to be a faithful man for the most part, but his great deeds of faith flowed from God choosing him as an instrument to save humanity. God could have chosen Enoch before him, or perhaps one of Noah's sons (or anyone else He wanted!), but he chose Noah, brought him into covenant and called him to build an ark. God was the initiator, the provider and the saviour.


Who's next? Abraham. Same story!


God called Abraham into covenant, blessed him, and gave him great honour. It was not on the basis of anything Abraham had done, but purely out of God's grace. It was out of this new position that Abraham was called to walk faithfully before the LORD. God was the initiator, the provider and the saviour.


Same story goes for Israel, a nation chosen by God and covenanted with Him. He brought them salvation from famine under Joseph, and then rescued them from slavery under Moses. They were called to walk faithfully and obediently before the LORD, from the foundation of God's grace given to them. God was the initiator, the provider and the saviour.


The pattern continues across the pages of scripture: God brings people into relationship with Himself, God rescues them, and God calls them to live out their identity as the people of God. It all starts with what God does and who He is, not with us. God is the initiator, the provider and the saviour.


And that's what we saw in the Great Commission - it starts with a resurrected Jesus, who has done the saving work and earned the Kingship, now calling his people to live in a certain way.


This is where our discipleship must start, from God's grace. God saves us through Jesus Christ from Satan, Sin & Death, now that we're rescued we walk faithfully before Him.


It is because we are made citizens of the heavenly kingdom that we're now to act like citizens of heaven.


It is because we are adopted by the Father that we're now to live as Children of God.


It is because we are bought with the blood of Christ that we're now slaves of righteousness.


Our discipleship is us growing from the Grace of God, as if it were the potting mix that a seed needs to grow. There is little point trying to grow in God unless we have been planted by Him in Christ, and you can't remove us from Christ and expect us to live very long.


We need to be joined with God in covenant to experience the blessings from God and to have the path of faithfulness be anything other than an insurmountable burden. True righteousness is impossible outside the ground of the grace of God.


This means, try as you might, you will never be able to get anywhere in discipleship on your own steam. It's like trying to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. You can't earn it, you need the grace of God to unite you to himself and only then, from the ground of God's grace, can you grow and flourish.


Discipleship starts not with what you can do for God, but with what he has done for you.


"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:8–10).


Samuel Lindsay

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First Steps

Jesus is on the throne. He is presently ruling and reigning.


He has won. He defeated Satan Sin and Death.


Now he calls all people everywhere to repent and join his winning side. He is a gracious King who will forgive your past indiscretions, mistakes, blunders, sin and rebellion.


He won! Now the news of that victory is travelling across time and space, as the announcement of the Good News, carried by humans powered by the Holy Spirit, works it's way into every country, tribe, family and enemy encampment.


The nations are being reclaimed one heart at a time.


Now what? What happens when you want to switch to Jesus?


You used to walk contrary to the LORD God and now you want to belong to Him.


How then shall we live?


In the famous announcement from the resurrected Jesus before he ascended into heaven, he gave us marching orders:


"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:18–20).


Here we get the outlines of what we do next. Let me paraphrase it and flesh it out from the perspective of the person who wants to follow Jesus.


  1. Recognise Who Jesus is - He is the Ruler of the world. The one who is the rightful king over humanity because of his divinity (he's God), he's the rightful king because he is the human who won the kingdom, he's the rightful king because God the Father granted him all the authority and power.
  2. Become a Disciple - humble yourself and be willing to be taught a whole new way of living by Jesus. Put your trust in Jesus.
  3. Get Baptised - This is the sign of belonging. It is a seal that shows you belong to Jesus forever, and you have been cleansed by him.
  4. Learn to obey Jesus - and not just the easy bits, but everything that Jesus taught us, and it's all laid out in the Bible. This bit is not easy, it takes years of study and practice.
  5. Make new disciples - As you mature as a disciple, you also get to be involved in making more disciples, seeing more people saved and secure in Jesus.
  6. Remember that Jesus is with us - We're not doing this discipleship stuff on our own. Jesus is with his church, backing them up with his authority, power and presence. We just get on with what he called us to do!


As we continue reviewing discipleship over the next few weeks, we're going to flesh this out more, including by looking back to see the patterns of how we live as the people of God laid out across the pages of scripture.

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Letting Out the Clutch

Discipleship is the word I use to describe the pattern of the Christian life. The pattern is one of being a student, learner or apprentice of Jesus Christ.


Apprenticeship is such a great picture because it involves a master who knows everything there is to know about the trade and they must train the apprentice into maturity by passing on to them knowledge, skills and giving them opportunities to practice it themselves, all over the course of several years.


Our Christian walk is one where we start out as total novices knowing nothing. Then bit by bit we are trained in righteousness and grow in knowledge as we follow Jesus. This means that over time we should grow more and more, eventually being in a position to help those other apprentices following in our footsteps.


We're never going to surpass our Teacher Jesus, but we are still striving to enter into the fullness of what God calls us to in this life. That means we can and should be seeking to move forward in faith and practice as time goes on. This seems very natural early on as you become a Christian in those early days of faith, but over the years we can get preoccupied with other stuff going on around us, stick our faith in neutral and coast.


Cars with a manual gearbox are getting rarer and rarer, but I'm sure enough people have experienced them for this next analogy to work: When you're driving with a manual you have a clutch to disengage the engine. When the clutch is in, the engine is still spinning but there is no power going to the wheels. You can't get anywhere!


So, if you want to get going, you have to start letting out the clutch. As you gently let off, the clutch starts to engage, bit by bit. The plates in the clutch slip against each other as gradually more and more power is transferred through and you can get underway. You start slow and gentle and then build up speed as the wheel speed starts to match the engine speed.


For many of us, we're sitting there with our foot on the clutch preventing the power of God, the engine of our faith, from actually taking us anywhere.


Now if you let out the clutch too quick, if you just dump it, then everything stalls. If we turn around and decide we're going to be perfect Christians tomorrow, and start trying to run the race at 100mph you're setting yourself up for failure. You're still going to fail and fall, (and the grace of God will cover those failures). What we need to do is start the long march of faith expecting that it will take some time to get there.


We are being perfected in Jesus Christ, and He has seen fit to do that over time in the context of our church, our families and our community. Yet if we don't let out the clutch, we'll never get anywhere. If you don't start today, you won't have progressed tomorrow. The longer you put off starting, the longer it will take to get there.


As we engage the clutch of discipleship, it will mean coming more and more under the influence of God's Word and moving in conjunction with God's design. We need to turn the same way as Jesus and be brought up to speed by Him. As we are engaged more and more with Him we will be in sync and able to be taken wherever God wants us to go.


There are some basic patterns of discipleship that we all need to know. Unfortunately for those of us who strive on check-lists, you don't get handed a template for how many prayers a day and what to say and how much Bible to read, etc., but there are certainly some patterns that God has given for us take up. I'll be covering them in future weeks.


For today, just reflect. Are you sitting there with your cultch in? Are you expecting to grow in faith while not engaging with Jesus? The good news is that you don't need to stay where you are, you can grow and leave the stagnation behind.


"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" Tt 2:11–13.


"Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe." 1 Ti 4:7–10.


Samuel Lindsay

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From Milk to Meat

Keep the main thing, the main thing. Excellent advice!


It is sometimes said that one generation receives the Gospel, the next generation assumes the Gospel, and the next generation forgets the Gospel. It's a commentary on the tendency for the most wonderful and valuable of gifts, Jesus Christ our Lord, to be taken for granted over the passage of time, and eventually neglected.


The fruit of this trend can be Christians who rarely speak of the gospel, assuming that everybody already knows and accepts it. They move on to focus on other things, sometimes getting very wound up about conscience issues not directly addressed by God.


It is here that the advice to "keep the main thing, the main thing" is most relevant. We must never depart from the central core of our faith.


It is no good to have spokes if you have no hub to hold them.


A building without a foundation will fall.


Christianity without the Christ is a dead religion.


"[Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col 1:17).


Over the past couple decades it has been great to see the growth of the Gospel Centred movement. Christians and their leaders have been able to coalesce around the centrality of Christ and cross denominational lines to work together for the sake of the Gospel. We have seen the rise of the Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel, Reach Australia and others with a wonderful desire to see more gospel-centred churches planted and the gospel go forth!


So we have a renewed unity with brothers and sisters across the landscape of protestant Christianity because we're clearer on the non-negotiables. We have clarity about what joins us together and what are the most important things are.


Now the question is, what do we do about all the non-core stuff? What about everything else?


"Keep the main thing, the main thing," yes, and a loud AMEN! But what do we do about all the things that don't fall in that category?


God talks an awful lot about stuff in the Bible that isn't the central tenants of our faith. So should we just gloss over it? Take a passing run at understanding it and then go straight back to John 3:16?


God gave us the whole Scriptures, and we are reminded that "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Ti 3:16–17). Remember, Paul would have been thinking primarily of the Old Testament, meaning that the Holy Spirit expects that even the bits we neglect most are still profitable for our equipping and training.


I put to you that it is not sufficient to only dwell on the rudimentary elements of our faith that everyone can agree on and not plumb the depths of God's revelation where things are going to get a little more complex and harder for us to grasp.


God expects his people to get the foundations down pat, (keeping the main thing the main thing) and then grow into spiritual maturity. The New Testament church was reprimanded for not growing from the fundamentals. They were stuck drinking the milk of infants when they should have been chewing the solid food of maturity:


"...though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity"... Heb 5:12–6:1.


You can understand why people get stuck only drinking milk. Let me give you a few reasons why:


  1. It's easy. It's nice. Continuing the metaphor of infant's milk - you don't need to do anything. It's handed straight to you. You can grow lazy in the knowledge of Christ, not seeking to know him more but merely being content to let things coast.
  2. You're not taught. Unfortunately there are some leaders who themselves have only lately been introduced to solids, and they think it's too much for the average person. They don't teach believers that there is so much more for them in Christ, leaving them languishing in immaturity. That's how we end up with people who have been Christians for decades who don't understand historic Christian doctrine.
  3. There can be conflict. Most of us naturally shy away from conflict, and that's probably a good thing. But this aversion can be unhealthy if it prevents us from reaching maturity. When we start engaging with the parts of scripture that are not as clear to us, we need to wrestle with our pre-conceptions and have our understanding tested. When we shy away from the difficulty it is much easier to get along and be unified (at least a façade of unity). Plus, we may have been hurt in the past by those who forgot we were brothers in Christ and they savaged us in a way that should be reserved for heretics.


We would benefit greatly from learning to deal well with conflict, and I don't just mean when two parties are upset with one another, but the healthy way in which we can sharpen iron with iron as brothers and sisters engaged in matters of eternal significance. We should be able to in love stand united in Christ while we hash out the harder to understand bits. It's no light matter to seriously undertake to know God better, serve Him more faithfully and love one another more holistically.


Yes, the main thing must always remain the main thing, and it should get the most air time, but this should not be a barrier to God's people growing to spiritual maturity. Something can still be important, even if it is not the most important thing.


So follow some rabbit trails, immerse yourself in God's word, feed a curiosity about spiritual things, and talk it through with your spiritual family. You're not lone wolf, so in the context of the flock (church) hone those powers of discernment and get stuck into some meat.


"Make me to know your ways, O LORD; 

   teach me your paths. 

Lead me in your truth and teach me, 

   for you are the God of my salvation; 

   for you I wait all the day long" (Ps 25:4–5).


Samuel Lindsay

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Kids & Church

Parents know what it's like, rocking up to church beleaguered from the effort to get the family to church at a decent time and with all their clothes on.


You manage to retrieve all the baggage from the car (why does it feel like moving house every time you go out?) and plonk yourselves down in a seat. You sigh.


Now the hard part begins.


You corral the kids in the row, you break up fights, you quiet their noise and you listen to the complaints. You make 4 trips to the toilet and have to clean up a spilt drink.


You hear none of the sermon except a few lines here and there. After the service you manage a few brief conversational moments in-between dealing with the kids, but nothing like the deep fellowship you've been longing for. Then you pile in the car to go home with grumpy kids and spouse for a hurried late lunch.


We wonder: "Is there any point? Why do we do this to ourselves?"


I'm here to tell you that it is all worth it. It is very valuable!


All the hard yards are worth it! Do not give up! You're labouring for eternity!


You're making little disciples, shaping them week-in and week-out.


Let me give you several intensely practical thoughts to help you see the value, and equip you for joyful, purposeful church with your family, shouldering the burden for the better.



You're teaching your Kids What is Important

Prioritising regular church attendance for your family shows the kids what is valuable. They learn from your attitude and habits that we are a Christian family, who regularly gather with other Christians to worship God, be instructed by God from His Word and to fellowship with other believers.


You're teaching them, not that God is marking attendance, but that it's a joy and a privilege to gather for worship, and an opportunity to serve others.


If we fall into the trap of only gathering with other believers when we think it is for our benefit, we teach our kids that church is foremost about convenience.


How can we counteract this? Find ways to build the anticipation for church and prioritise the gathering. For example:

  • Remind the kids day/s before that Church is on Sunday and the things they will be able to do at Church.
  • Get everyone to prepare their clothes for Sunday before they go to bed on Saturday.
  • Make Sunday breakfasts a little special, maybe have a special cereal.
  • Give the kids a coin to pop in the offering box.



You're teaching your kids How to Worship

How will our kids learn unless someone teaches them? Parents have the first responsibility to instruct their kids in this way. How do we do it?

  1. By Example - Watch me do it
  2. By Explanation - Tell them what is happening
  3. By Practice - You have a go, join in!


The weekly gathering is a key part of our week to week discipleship, and it forms the patterns that we follow in all of life. As the kids join in bit by bit on Sunday (with your help) they learn to Praise God, Repent, Thank God, Pray to God, Hear from God and Respond to God. Then these things take shape in their faith walk throughout the week.


Sure, it will take years before kids can listen to a full sermon, but steps you take early on will be building blocks to that goal.


You can also invite your kids to serve with you as you serve, get them to do age appropriate things that help with set up, or music or greeting or whatever. You're teaching them how to serve God and others.


Prepare hearts and minds ahead of time.

One of the challenges for families in church is that sometimes they are doing things that they don't do regularly. The kids then are unfamiliar with how things work, and it is hard to get them into a groove with church when we only do it once a week.


The good thing is that many of the skills that benefit kids in church are just good skills for all of life. For instance:

  1. Learning to be quiet at times - great for church, and waiting rooms and when you have a friend round for a cuppa! Practice having quiet play times at home once a day. Start small and stretch it out. Same goes for time to sit still.
  2. Prayer - Learning to talk to God themselves and listen to other pray on their behalf.
  3. Music & Singing - great for church, good for family worship times and good life skill!
  4. Learning to read God's Word - Surely I don't need to convince you of this one!
  5. Learning to write down questions they have, and notes to help them remember important things.


I'm sure there's more, but you get the idea.


Here are some specific things you can do to prepare for church:

  • Read the sermon passage together as a family on Saturday (see newsletter Reminders below)
  • Review the teaching and topics from the previous Sunday, sing the songs again if you know them.
  • Have regular family worship times, usually quite short, but more involved with older kids (Read, Pray, Sing). This gets us always in the habit of hearing from God, talking to Him and praising Him.


You're encouraging Others

As you do the hard yards, and labour for your family's spiritual growth in the gathering, you...

  • Are an encouragement to other struggling parents to keep on going,
  • Are an example to people who aren't yet parents, showing them the way to go,
  • Are an encouragement to older people who find great joy in seeing young people grow in the Lord,
  • Are an encouragement to your kids as they get to see others who love Jesus and serve him. They get to see other examples of godliness and hear the same truths you teach them confirmed by other faithful believers.



Now, there is much more to say, but I'm sure the practical examples outlined here are more than enough to get the brain thinking about your own family. But please don't load yourself up with burdens and guilt. Each day and each week can feel like and endless, fruitless loop at times, but if we seek to walk faithfully, taking one upward step at a time, it's not long before we can scale mountains.


The Lord will forgive our failures, the guilt from our mistakes as parents. It was all taken away by the blood of Jesus. But now, as ones put right with God, let's serve him faithfully in the way we raise our families.


"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (Dt 6:4–9).


"And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ ” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped" (Ex 12:26–27).


Samuel Lindsay

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Real Love

If I could have a wild guess, I reckon your perception of love has been affected by the world.


The way that love is most widely understood in the modern psyche is that of a feeling of devotion or affection toward someone or something else. On top of this, feelings themselves are held up as undeniable guides to truth.


But it's hogwash.


Let's be blunt about it.


Feelings are blind guides, and they're not our masters.


God made us to have feelings, and they're good, when they are subservient to Him. Including growing affections in courting.


But the world would have us as unreasoning beasts, enslaved to our instincts. Acting on any and every indelicate intention with a chorus of applauding onlookers saying "so brave," "so authentic," "love is love."


This kind of existence is a shadow of the beauty and glory that God has called his people to embody. We are his crown on creation! Stand forward and live as image bearers of God! Exercise your God-given humanity!


In this wonderous vocation, we are called to love.


Not to search for love.


Not to "fall" in love.


Not to feel love.


No, we are to love. To do it.


Love is not passive, it is active. It requires action, and work and sacrifice. Love is not a magic anointing that rests at times on those people, and then over there on others.


Love is done, it is given, it is cultivated.


And, love is not always reciprocated.


Love comes first from God himself, the source and example of real love. He loved us first, with great patience and sacrifice. Not only did he keep promises to wayward and unloving people, He sent his only Son to be a sacrifice to make atonement and take away our sin.


"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us" (1 Jn 4:9–12).


God's love is intentional, it is not just some vague force or feeling, but He loves a specific people in a specific way, just as a husband is called to love a specific woman in a specific way.


"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Eph 5:25–27).



In order for us to love God, we must know Him. In order for us to love Jesus we must know him. In order for us to love the brothers & sisters, we must know them. We need objects for our love, and we need to know how to love them.


It is interesting that when Paul is praying for the Philippian church, he asks for something to accompany their love:


"It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment" (Php 1:9).


It is Paul's desire that as their love grows, so too does their knowledge and discernment. This would be my prayer too, especially for those of us to a predisposed to chase the knowledge and discernment without love.



Real love is tangible, and the love of God has been revealed in the Gospel. It is obvious to anyone who would dare to look. It is not a mere feeling that God has toward us, but a demonstrated action of God in human history.


Can people say the same of you? Is your love tangible? Is it real?


"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself" (Mt 22:37–39).


Samuel Lindsay

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The New Paganism

"Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you." (1Jn 3:13).


God told us not to be surprised. But I'll admit it, sometimes I'm still surprised!


--


We Australians have failed to teach our children in the nurture and admonition of the LORD, so subsequent generations have spurned Him. Like the Israelites, we have grown lazy in our wealth and not given proper honour to the Giver of all good gifts. What used to be a Christianity infused nation is fast driving out anything Christian related.


What will fill it's place? We are creating a new national religion that is broadly a copy of the same religion being formed in other western nations. We are made to be worshippers, so if not the LORD God, we will find idols to worship.


Wherever you look around the world, people live in groups that often become nations. These groups are usually tied together by shared cultural, geographical and religious identities. Australia is part of the multi-cultural globalisation experiment, where we have tried to create a nation that is has no shared cultural or religious identity, and, many of us are removed from our geographical roots. We have little that ties us all together except a citizenship.


The cliché says "nature abhors a vacuum," and more pointedly, Satan will leverage any opportunity to oppose God. With the decline of Christianity and it's cultural effects comes something else to fill it's place.


--


We Christians were deceived. We thought that with the rise of more religions and more "alternative" points-of-view in Australia that Christianity would simply be a voice among the many, and a loud voice at that. After all, we can just be tolerant and respectful of differing views, right?


We though that in the public sphere that it would be a true contest of ideas, where the best ideals for humanity would be vigorously tested and enshrined in law for the good of us all. Surely God knows best, so His ethics and ideals would always win, right? If it were a fair debate, with unbiased participants, that would be the case.


Alas, when the masses are left to their own devices, their carnal desire drives the agenda. It is only by the grace and design of God that anything but godless chaos can come out of us.


The fool says in their heart "there is no God, and I hate Him." And so it is no surprise that when given the option, most people will trend away from the LORD and His Word. Fools despise wisdom and instruction (Pro 1:7).


--


What is this new religion being formed in our society? It is a new paganism. It is disguised as being no religion at all, it is portrayed as the progressive movement toward a utopian society (just like communism before Christians are oppressed, murdered or exiled).


The new paganism is much like the old versions, seen in animism, Hinduism or Greek/Roman religions. There is a proliferation of gods and associated idols. There are respected priests and temples. There are rituals to be observed. The state will endorse certain elements of the religion, and rejection of this religion is seen as being incompatible with ones cultural identity. In fact, refusal to pay homage invites the wrath of the spirits or gods, and so people who won't bow the knee must be excised from society for the safety of everyone else. Perhaps this paganism can tolerate our subversive faith, but only if we keep quiet and hidden.


It's worth exploring the shape of this religious development further, but there is not the space here. Instead, let's look at the fruit, or evidence of this shift that is quite visible to Christians right now.


The Church and its Christians are not respected on the public stage any longer. Both are being muscled out through mockery, furore, indignation and false humility, all at the behest of the new pagan ideals. The pagan adherents hate Jesus and they act on it by shaming and punishing his followers (Jn 15:18–25).


Example 1 - Israel Folau controversy

Israel is an evangelical Christian footballer. He believes the Bible. He posted on social media the truth that sinners will end up in hell unless they repent of their sins and turn to Jesus. Included in the list of sins that lead to damnation was homosexuality. This created outrage! He wouldn't abase himself before the pagan priests, so he was fired.

Israel was not allowed to publicly profess the tenants of his faith and be a high-level footy player.


Example 2 - Victorian Liberal Party Exposé

The ABC recently did an exposé on implied branch stacking by Christians from Gippsland. It appears that a whole bunch of new members of the Liberal party were all Christians and from connected churches.

Now while there there may be concerns from my end about their theology and practice, getting involved in politics is fine! The principle that ordinary Australians can get involved in a political party to contribute on policy and candidates is a significant element of our political system. It is a good thing for Aussies, and specifically Christians, to contribute to making political parties and politicians better under Christ.

Yet, the fact that the ABC highlights accusations of infiltration by Church groups quoting people saying "It's very unnerving," "worrying me," "completely taken over," goes to show how Christians are seen as a threat and not a benefit to a political party.


Example 3 - Essendon CEO

Andrew Thorburn was made CEO of the Essendon Football Club - a powerful and prestigious position. Yet, after only one day in the job, he was forced to resign!

Why? It turns out that Andrew is also on the governance board for City on a Hill, a group of evangelical Christian churches across Australia. It was decided that Andrew could not be a leader in his church and a leader of a football club. Some media outlets made much of the fact that City on a Hill has teaching that condemns abortion and homosexuality, and so it was in conflict with the values of the club.

When faced with a choice between the two - Andrew chose to serve the Church. He later said: "Today it became clear to me that my personal Christian faith is not tolerated or permitted in the public square, at least by some and perhaps by many."


Stories like these are coming up more an more, and not just around evangelical Christians. The other day there was controversy surrounding a planned Bible reading at a service at a catholic school! It was the content that was the problem, it went against the new pagan ideal.

There's also been recent stories and legal action around evangelical Christians schools with Biblical sexual ethics that show up in their Statement of Faith and Codes of Conduct for students and staff.


--


Do not fear.

Do not be anxious about these things.

They are only mentioned so that Christians may observe the trends and be aware of what is happening around them. It should help us prepare for what we might face in the future. (To be fair, my assessments may be off. Perhaps you have better insight?)


We shouldn't be surprised when we face pushback, persecution, public shaming, ridicule, rejection and the like. Jesus told us it would happen.


What do we do? How do we respond? In some sense nothing should change. We should continue to be faithful to the LORD; Repent of sin, trust Jesus, obey him, and proclaim his Gospel. In fact this is how we overcome the world opposed to God:


"This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"

1 Jn 5:3–5.


We don't need to shrink back. Although we may wisely choose to group geographically and institutionally with other Christians, we don't need to hide away. Our faith is one that will overcome a sinful and rebellious world in Jesus Christ so let's wear it with joy.


God has plans for making this world a better place, including what we presently call Australia, and we should get aligned with His plans. It starts with discipling the nations to trust and follow Jesus (Mat 28:18-20). It was also prophesied:


"All the ends of the earth shall remember 

   and turn to the LORD, 

         and all the families of the nations 

   shall worship before you" (Ps 22:27).


That prophesy doesn't take a back seat because we're not socially acceptable right now. God "commands all people everywhere to repent" (Ac 17:30), "and everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved" (Joe 2:32), but "how then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?" (Ro 10:14).


God changes nations by changing individuals. If we would desire to see our nation forsake this new pagan religion and turn to God, then we must make disciples. We can only make disciples when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed to those who need to hear it.


"How beautiful upon the mountains 

   are the feet of him who brings good news, 

         who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, 

   who publishes salvation, 

   who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns' " (Is 52:7).


Samuel Lindsay

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Waters of Baptism!

I have just returned from a journey across south eastern Australia. Travelling inland cross-country was fantastic, we got to see so much interesting country.


One of the features of rural Australia are rivers and creeks that are either quite sedate or even non-existent for most months of the year, yet when the rains come, they all become murderous torrents of brown water gushing down the arteries of the bush. From trickles across floodways to swollen torrents, there is water everywhere!


Water is a lifeline to the rural communities, yet it is also their destruction if they are not careful to escape its chaotic rampage. Water can cleanse and sustain yet also destroy.


In the waters of baptism, similar pictures are on display. It is cleansing, lifegiving water but also the water of destruction under the wrath of God.


Peter tells us that Noah's family passed through a type of baptism, God carried them through His wrathful deluge (1Pe 3:20–21). Similarly, Israel passed through the waters of the Red Sea while that same water would crush the Egyptian army. To pass through the waters is to escape God's judgment.


We deserve that judgment, yet God choses to save. He saves his people and brings them through judgment to new life.


Being plunged beneath that water, it is as if we are going with Jesus down into the grave, yet he is our Ark, he is our vessel through the judgment to new life on the other side! (Rom 6:3–4). We die with him and we will rise with him, just like we rise from the waters.


Not only is it a picture of rescue, it is a picture of cleansing. It is a symbolic washing on the outside, that represents God's work on the inside in taking away your guilt and regenerating your heart. The water is a symbol of cleansing your conscience before God (1Pe 3:21). It's a sign that you have been forgiven!


Baptism is also a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit. Across the Bible the Spirit is associated with water, like the rivers of life that proceed from God's throne. Jesus is the one who baptises with the Spirit, yet it is symbolised by us being anointed with water.


Baptism is a loyalty pledge. It is giving allegiance to the LORD as the one whom you serve. In the spiritual war for the universe, it is a sign to the spiritual and physical world that you're no longer up for grabs, but belong wholly to God though Christ.


Similarly, it is a sign of consecration. Just as circumcision was the old covenant sign of being set-apart as one of God's people and holy to Him, Paul tells us that baptism is effectively a circumcision of the heart performed by Jesus (Col 2:11–12). Your sins are forgiven, and you are made alive with Jesus.


There are many overlapping images going on in baptism, and we do well to remember that all of these pictures point us back to Jesus and the work that he has done to save people. Baptism is not primarily about one or another person's individual experience or decision to have faith in Jesus, it is about Jesus and what he has done, is doing and will do. He is the Saviour!


As you see the destruction of swollen rivers and vast floods, remember baptism as a sign of your safe transport to new life in God.


Samuel Lindsay

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Deliver us from Evil

We're coming to the end of what has been nick-named the "Lord's Prayer." We should probably call it the "Disciples Prayer" seeing as this is what Jesus used to teach them how to pray! It's a pattern for us to follow.


In Matthew's Gospel the prayer ends this way:


"And lead us not into temptation, 

   but deliver us from evil" (Mt 6:13).



It should be obvious from the outset, but you can see how these last two lines fit naturally together. As we pray that God would keep us from pursuing our temptations, it is followed by a complementary but opposing plea.


It features a big "BUT". Deliver us from evil, lead us this way as opposed to the other way. We could go this way, BUT deliver us from it.


Like a good Father leads his Family away from unnecessary danger,

like a good Captain avoids the rough seas,

like a good King manoeuvres for peace,

we pray that God might deliver us from evil.


Yes, it is a prayer for delivery from the evils of our own making. With sin-twisted hearts we will pursue evil and even try to invent new evils. We will have evil residing in our hearts. We need rescue from this.


"Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" - Paul (Ro 7:24).


Yet, it also seems to be a broader request to be delivered from the evil outside us too. This includes the evil powers manifested in the world against God, and the evil results that affect those around us.


"Pray for us, ...that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one" - Paul (2 Th 3:1–3).


Deliver us from Evil!



This is not a prayer that nothing bad will ever befall us, or that we will never suffer. After all, Jesus promised us many trials and great suffering, so to pray that these things never happen would be to pray against the expressed will of God in Jesus Christ. Instead this is a prayer for deliverance that may come through trial.


"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand." - Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Da 3:17).


"I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one" - Jesus (Jn 17:15).


If we are going through trials, we take comfort that the Lord watches over us. He is like a faithful shepherd, who may take His flock through wolf territory or past the bears den, but He will always comfort and protect them from being overpowered and consumed.


"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 

   I will fear no evil, 

         for you are with me; 

   your rod and your staff, 

   they comfort me" - David (Ps 23:4).


Even if we loose our life, that is no trouble to our God, because he can deliver us even from the grave! The evil of death is not longer a threat to us because it is overcome. Death bows and abases itself before the King of Kings so that the tyranny of death has become a vassal whose days are severely numbered.


Deliver us from Evil!



In some sense this plea is a summary of everything else in the Lord's prayer! It is evil to take God's Name in vain, or to stand against His kingdom and will. It is evil to look to our own hands as the source of our daily needs. We have done evil against our God and so we need forgiveness, and it is evil to withhold forgiveness from others. It is evil to follow our temptations. To be truly delivered from evil means that all the other pleas in this prayer must be a reality.


From the first Man and Woman, we have been plagued by evil. And yet even from that moment of rebellion, God began a comprehensive plan of redemption that would see the snake Satan crushed and God's people delivered. Jesus is the Snake crusher that delivers His people from evil by dealing with it at the cross.


He dealt with the internal evil - the indwelling sin; the external evils - the wicked powers; and the resultant evils - like death. Soon the effects of this evil on God's good creation will be fully undone, with a New Creation and resurrection bodies.


We have been delivered from evil in Christ, we are presently being delivered, and we will be delivered in the Day to come.


Pray this prayer with confidence in what Jesus has already done and what he has promised to do.


Deliver us From evil!



"[the Father] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" - Paul (Col 1:13–14).


Samuel Lindsay

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