Samuel Lindsay • September 16, 2021
Tongues are tinderboxes (and typing fingers are lighter fluid) - used for good and ill
I've avoided saying/writing much on current affairs recently because I didn't think it would be pastorally helpful. The last thing I want is for people to associate faulty human assessments with the eternal enduring wisdom of Christ. Even if clear delineations were made between human thought and divine wisdom, nuance is a sad fatality of much current-day communication, hampered even more so by the medium of writing that, as-of-yet, has not included facial expression and twinkles of the eye (though, emojis are having a good crack at that). Please don't think that something of a silence on the current affairs challenging the Church is a lack of care or willingness to engage, think of it as measured silence.
In a time when there's hour long press conferences in several states every day, an endless news cycle, and a vapid torrent of "information" on "social" media, a little measured silence all round would probably go a long way. We should all take to heart this wisdom:
"The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint,
and whoever has understanding is even-tempered" (Pr 17:27).
"Those who guard their lips preserve their lives,
but those who speak rashly will come to ruin" (Pr 13:3).
It seems as though the ones who talk the most and the loudest get heard (after all there's some weird people with big platforms), yet for us to follow suit and copy them is probably not becoming for the Christian. Perhaps it is time for us to get tactical and use our collective restrained and guarded words of hope and healing in a targeted way. Knowing that we have limited resources, limited opportunities to be heard and limited time, the way we use our words in the midst of the milieu ought to be constructive and Christ-oriented.
So take the following reflections as a series of curated thoughts, which are meant to help us to that goal, none of which are intended to be ex cathedra (I have a standing desk after all). They're not authoritative conclusions, but rather postulating and considering, hopefully in a way that others find helpful. I am the first to sin with words, toward my family and to you, so please forgive me if I err, and please don your flame-retardant coveralls so that the sparks don't catch.
The crackpots may be right
We find ourselves in the midst of ongoing "shake up" in life. Pre-2020, a.k.a. the "Before times," we would scoff at the idea that in Australia soon: people would be arrested for going to church; visiting the grandparents across state lines would be illegal; it would be an offence to leave the house without a government sanction; people would be refused entry to businesses/events on the basis of whether or not you've elected to undergo a certain medical procedure, and; the governments would be effectively on hiatus.
Yes, the way that previous paragraph was written is deliberately incendiary. Whether or not you believe that all such methods are justified given the circumstances, we can all agree that "alarmists" aren't as crazy as they first sounded. We may also be able to agree that if such drastic things can take place so easily then possible future "alarmist" ideas may come to fruition as well.
What is the point? The paradigms of this world have feet made of clay and iron - they can and will crumble, it's just a matter of timing. All the societal systems and technologies and authorities are contingent on the patience of God. The things we take for granted can come to end end at any moment, even our own lives. So whether these COVID days are a mere "totter" in the unfolding of history, or they turn out to be a time of toppling the current order, it is unwise for Christians to live as anything other than sojourners in a foreign land. Today we could be under Nebuchadnezzar, tomorrow Belshazzar, Darius next week and Cyrus next year.
Christ is the constant - He is the one who comes out on top. He is the one who will fill the whole earth. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You can't get into it with medicine, or public policy, or two weeks quarantine - it is only entered by faith, through grace, and in Christ.
While we may have very good reasons for caring a lot about the political and legislative affairs of our country, we should be somewhat unsurprised if it all goes up in smoke, or at least changes significantly, because this has happened time and time again before. Jesus warned us that all kinds of such shenanigans would take place before He came back.
If the world is utterly changed from the one we knew before 2020, it does not change the mission of the Church or the foundation of our faith.
"Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Mt 24:12–14).
Separation of Church & State... except when it's convenient for the state to interfere...
The old colloquialism that is adopted from the United States when maters of morality meet legislation (e.g. same sex "marriage", abortion, divorce, etc) is that the church should keep it's nose out of politics and stop trying to influence the country. Despite this being a misuse and misunderstanding of the concept of separation of church and state, it is nevertheless promptly forgotten when the knife is cutting the other direction with the state meddling in the operations of the church.
Unfortunately for Christians in Australia, we don't have convenient constitutional provisions to point at when the state government gets uncomfortably involved in religious affairs.
In theory in Victoria we have a Bill of rights which protects the movement of people in and around the state; religious practice as part of a community in public; and peaceful assembly. I say "in theory" because the fact that such rights can be suspended indefinitely should communicate to us that they are really kind of token ideals and not rights at all. The very idea of rights was born out of a Christian view of humans being made in the image of God, but we live in a society that doesn't recognise either God, nor the idea that there are some things the civil government does not have jurisdiction over.
I've written on a couple occasions about the way that authority is delegated under God means that the state (i.e. governments) shouldn't be telling the church how and when to worship. We should absolutely submit to them, even if it pains us, within their zone of authority, after all, "Rulers hold no terror for those who do right" (Ro 13:3), and "they are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer" (Ro 13:4). But the question is: what happens when they do become a terror to those who are doing right under God, and punish those who are doing good? Well there are many examples of how faithful believers should react in those situations, not the least of which were the Hebrew midwives, King David (before he was king) and the Apostle Paul. Render to Caesars what is Caesars, not what belongs to God.
To be clear for us today, the government is "out-of-bounds" when they make limits about how many people can join together to worship God, regardless whether their rules are specifically targeted at Christians or not: it's just outside their jurisdiction. However as long as we can accommodate their requested limitations while still being faithful to Lord Jesus, we will try. That means that we are trying to operate within the rules, but the rules will not be a barrier to us doing the things that Christ has called us to do.
It is pertinent to remember Pharaoh who tried to limit where and how many people worshiped God - it was not his job to say.
It is a great and noble matter for the state to care for it's citizens by seeking to protect us from a virulent disease (though the irony of murder being legal in Victoria is not lost on me). The evidence of their efforts are obvious: we have suffered the effects of disease at a much lower rate than other parts of the world. Kudos to them for working to provide a therapeutic treatment for the disease to the public free of charge! However good intentions do not justify all, and there are things that are more important than our lives. If the price of protection is being prevented from doing things God has called us to do - then one must make a choice between therapeutic totalitarianism or obedience to Jesus.
It feels like we have for the most part been able to have our cake and eat it too. Right now we're able to wind our way through the rules to still meet to practice hospitality, sing, teach, care, etc. and maybe even practice the Lord's Supper again soon - but these are not guaranteed, and they're not even allowed everywhere in our state right now. Throughout history Christians have often had to choose, and in this twilight it feels hard to know when is the right time to make those decisions. Nevertheless, if it's not today, it may be tomorrow, or next year, or in your old age a couple decades from now. We should be ready at every moment to chose Christ over the fleeting things of this life.
If there was a contagious disease with a high mortality rate present in our town, we would be justified in suspending our normal faith activities so that we don't contribute to the transmission of disease. I would argue that it would be unwise and unloving to meet at that time, and that we would be providentially hindered from undertaking many godly activities temporarily. But the simple fact of the matter is that often there has been little or no disease anywhere near us, yet we are still being legally coerced to act as if there is disease present.
It is one thing to act in love to prepare and protect people when there is an obvious threat, and another thing entirely to force everybody to "love" everybody else by protecting them from a disease that is not here, but may come here. I think something of the "innocent until proven guilty" rule should apply - absent until proven present. We can be prepared and ready to respond if illness comes to our town, but we cannot conduct flourishing human lives under God if we are always living as if everybody is carrying disease at every moment. Governments have had hard decisions so make, and wholesale policies always catch people in hard places, but I think is becoming increasingly obvious that things cannot continue in the way that we have been going. It is good to hear the premier is targeting lockdowns to the areas where the disease is present - I hope that will remain the case. This issue of illness and lockdowns may all blow over in the next couple months, but if it doesn't (like it didn't when 2020 ended), what do we do then? Never shake hands again? Never see our long-distance rellies? Never share meals in homes? How long is too long to wait? When is loving our neighbour through staying away, actually falling into the trap of not being loving at all? I don't have the answers, but I'm pondering these questions.
We do know that risk is inherent to life. To live is to suffer in some sense or another, yet as human agents God gives us the opportunity to manage that risk and respond to the suffering in a way that honours Him. We don't put other's lives on the line unnecessarily and in doing so we show love that puts other's benefit before our own. That said, I'm not sure never-ending liability-minimising and risk-reducing will gain us utopia.
Loving our neighbour may require us to risk our life for their benefit, as Jesus showed with his own life.
As Christians, we have given up our very lives, and in giving them up, we gain a better life in Christ, one that is secured with Him through the veil of death. While we're not to be be reckless with our bodies, we can be free to put them on the line as a worshipful offering to Jesus, by risking death and imprisonment, beatings fines and shipwreck. Giving up what we cannot keep to gain something we can't loose is a Christian tradition as old as Stephen the Martyr.
Christians all over the world often risk their lives to gather in worship (and even sometimes to practice their faith in private), yet I fear we're too coddled and will not be willing to risk a bit of bad publicity and fines to follow through with the implications of our faith if the times comes.
There's much more to postulate and wonder, and despite the length of this article, much has been left out. But, the closing remark is this: Come hell or high water, cling to Christ. If the current state of affairs is only three successive waves on a gusty sea, then great - cling to Christ and rejoice when the squall passes. If it turns out we're two years into a storm that lasts decades, the same rule applies - cling to Christ.
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose?... I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. ...
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then... I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. ...it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him..." Portions of Php 1:21–30.
Samuel Lindsay • September 05, 2021
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
As we continue though the Apostles creed we come to what is probably the most basic tenet of Christianity: we believe in Jesus!
It's in the name after all - Christians.
A fair chunk of the creed will go on to explore exactly who this Jesus Christ is, such as His parentage, place in history, what He did in salvation history past, and what He will do in the future!
Today though, we are reminded that Jesus is Christ, Son and Lord.
Christ or Messiah
Christ is not Jesus' last name, it's a title for Jesus. Though it's essentially used as a name in the New Testament.
So what does this mean? "Christ" is descended from the Greek kristos, and "messiah" is the Hebrew word. Both mean "Anointed one."
If you're familiar with your Bible you will know that there are many "anointed ones" throughout its pages, not least King David. But the word Christ/Messiah eventually came to be used in reference to the anticipated saviour king of God's people.
When Jesus came to earth He showed conclusively that He was THE Christ that people were waiting for.
"The next day John [the baptiser] was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
... Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus." (Jn 1:35-36,40–42).
The Only Son
There are a great many who are said to be sons of God, such as Adam (Lu 3:38), the nation of Israel (Ex 4:22) and spiritual beings (Ps 82:6–7). Yet, there is only one God the Son, the only begotten of the Father.
He is the one who is the very image of the Father on earth. Like Father, like Son. Jesus said: "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (Jn 14:9). So while all people and beings of the earth are in some sense fathered by God as the Creator, there is only one who is "the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being" (Heb 1:3).
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (Jn 1:14).
Jesus is our Lord, he is our Master and Commander, our Ruler and King. He is our "Kurios" the "one who is in charge by virtue of possession" (BDAG).
Because Jesus purchased us by His blood (Ac 20:28), we now belong to Him. Once we were enslaved to other masters, but now we are slaves of Jesus! (e.g. Re 1:1–2 LEB). It is good to have such a wonderful Lord who is so kind and loving, gracious and forgiving!
As Christians we willingly serve Him as Lord. We are seeking to be obedient to Him above all earthly masters. This is why we call our selves Christians, and not just God-ians, because the way that we serve and worship God is through Christ our Lord & Saviour.
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." 1 Th 5:28.
Samuel Lindsay • August 26, 2021
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
Fathers are a loaded subject for many of us. We have a diverse experience of dads in church and in the wider society. We have suffered from the sinfulness that affects all relationships, and from the undermining of the role of fathers in our cultural moment.
Some of us have had dads who were present and caring. Some of us had our dads taken away by circumstances beyond our control. Some of our dads left us behind. Some of our dads were abusive. Some of us had dads who were present in body, but not present in spirit. Some of us had dads who didn't love us enough to discipline us. Some of us have been these dads to our own kids.
So here's the hard part: when we start talking about God as Father, our good and bad experiences can affect how we approach God.
God reveals Himself as Father, which is analogous to something He built into creation and the human experience, yet, because the ideal of fatherhood has been damaged and undermined by sin and death in this world we cannot assume that our Heavenly Father is exactly like our earthly fathers. So while creation gives us some indication about what God the Father is like, we need Him to tell us what He means by that so that we don't confuse His good fatherly nature with the shortcomings that we have experienced.
So then what is God the Father like? Who is He?
For starters, He is fully God, just like the Son and the Holy Spirit. So He has all the characteristics that we associate with God in general - He is eternal, unchanging, perfect, creator, all knowing and all powerful.
Like the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Bible gradually unfolds the distinctive nature of the Father across its pages. In the Old Testament we get hints and indications of the way that God is three persons in one God, but for the most part the OT is very focused on highlighting the one-ness of God as the only one to be worshiped and obeyed as supreme.
Nevertheless, some of those hints that God was more than one person in the OT was where the invisible God is seen and spoken to (e.g. Jg 6:11–24, Ex 23:20-21), or where there seems to be multiple instances of God in action (Ge 22:11-12, Ge 19:24, Eze 8:2–4, Am 4:11). Jewish rabbis noticed this pattern and if you're intrigued you can look up the concept of "Two powers in Heaven".
So as the scriptures unfold the course of Salvation history we get clearer and clearer pictures of who God is as Heavenly Father. In general God was understood as Father to His chosen people Israel (Ex 4:22), however in the NT, and especially in the Gospel of John it is made abundantly clear that God that Father is an invisible distinct person in the Godhead (Jn 1:18, 5:37, 6:46, 14:9).
- sent Jesus and orchestrates the plan of redemption (Jn 5:17-20, 36-37, 14:10),
- raises the dead (Jn 5:21),
- is the source of life, even for the Son (Jn 5:26),
- enables people to come to Jesus (Jn 6:65, 10:27–30),
- sent the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:15–17, 15:26),
- loves those who love Jesus (Jn 14:21, 16:27),
- prunes those who are fruitful (believers) and throws away the unfruitful(Jn 15:1–8, Mt 15:13–14),
- judges, while also delegating judgment to the Son (Jn 5:22, Mt 16:27, 1 Pt 1:17),
- is in heaven (Mt 6:9, 23:9),
- is an object of our worship & prayers (Mt 5:16, 6:9, Ro 15:6),
- forgives sins (Mt 6:14-15),
- cares and provides for His creation, especially his own people (Mt 6:25–34, 7:7–12, 10:26–31),
- conceals or reveals knowledge to some people (Mt 11:25–26, 16:17, Lk 10:21)
- is merciful (Lk 6:36),
...and much more! But I guess you get the general picture!
God the Father appears to be the source and the director of the Son & Spirit; in the loving community of the Godhead He leads and provides out of Himself. Yet that love and provision does not stop within God, instead it extends to His creation, and especially to His chosen people who He has brought into His spiritual family through the Son.
This opportunity to think about God our Father is not intended to be an information dump, it is so that we can be blown away by the beauty, intensity and richness of our God! When we grasp who our God is in both His righteous holiness and His loving-kindness, we are drawn to Him and away from evil. We can, like children do of their earthly fathers, find joy and comfort in being His children. We know His protection, and also His loving discipline. We know that He will "bend over backwards" (e.g. Lk 15:3–7) to provide and care for His family, isn't keen on family division, and will get rid of any threats to family safety.
The Father listens to His children and cares for them. He adopts us and His children out of slavery to sin and death. He opens our eyes of faith, instructs us and disciplines us as we need. The Father seeks to save His people and bring them into the spiritual household of God through His Son Jesus by the the Holy Spirit.
So whether your dad was very much like God the Father, or otherwise, know that God our Father far surpasses all earthly fathers. He is the ultimate father both as Father to Jesus Christ and as our creator, as well as our own heavenly spiritual father who causes us to be born again into His heavenly family.
(In this following passage there are a bunch of "he" & "his" pronouns referring to both the Father and Jesus the Son, so I have bolded all the ones that appear to refer to the Father specifically)
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ." Eph 1:3–10.
Samuel Lindsay • August 19, 2021
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
To be honest, I'm a bit at a loss of where to start. I've stood pondering how to introduce this topic for some time.
And that's probably a good place to start in itself! To speak about God is both one of the most simple and massive undertakings a mere human can put their mind to.
God is bigger and more complex than we can imagine, so any efforts to contain Him, even in words, is an exercise in futility.
And yet, words are the very thing that God has used to convey Himself to us, to make Himself known to the world. Speech is what He used to create the world in which we live. When He entered into His own world in a way that we could perceive and understand Him, the Word of God became a man.
Where then to start? Maybe at the start?
God was there at the beginning!
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Ge 1:1.
Before the world was, God was there. He is from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2). He has no beginning or end.
He is such a constant of reality that He could describe Himself simply as "I am who I am" (Exodus 3:14). This description seems to be in part an explanation for God's "personal" name which we write as YHWY (a.k.a Yahweh or Jehovah) which is related to the Hebrew of "to be". So God is the one who "is" and the one who causes things "to be". We render this personal name in our English translations of scripture in capital letters as "LORD".
Despite the fact that He has given us His personal name, and many other descriptive names like Lord (Hebrew: adoni, Greek: kurios), we seem to default to God (Hebrew: elohim, Greek: theos). Why? Maybe because we don't want to be guilty of misusing God's personal name?
It's worth knowing that, like the Hebrew or Greek, the word "god" in English is a descriptive word. It is a type of being like "human" or "animal" which also describe types of living beings.
Yet usually, when we use this word "god" to describe the ultimate being of the universe, we're not using it in a merely to describe one god out of many many gods, but as the chief of all gods: God of gods! Capital "G" God. The Great God (Deuteronomy 10:17).
Out of all the other powerful spiritual beings that exist beyond this earthly plane, our God is not just "another" god, He is not just a kind of supercharged angel, nor a worthy opponent to Satan, no, He is the supreme of all spiritual beings. All of creation, all of earth and heaven is under His power and authority (e.g. Psalm 82, 135:5–7, Isaiah 37:16, Job 40-41). Everyone should give their worship and loyalty to Him.
"O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth." (Is 37:16 ESV).
On one thing the scriptures are absolutely clear - there is no one like God. He stands apart. He is utterly distinct form all others. There is only one of Him: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Dt 6:4).
Yet, even though there is only one God of Gods, and Lord of Lords, the unfolding revelation of scripture reveals to us that in our one God there are three persons. We get hints and glimpses of this in the Old Testament and it is more fully revealed in the New Testament. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all persons in the one God. But we will talk more about this next week!
I wrote more on this topic, but I didn't want to make this article too long. If you want, you can read more here!
Samuel Lindsay • August 12, 2021
Throughout history there have been many attempts to summarise the essential elements of the Christian faith. This is no mean feat! All of the Bible is about Jesus, and so it is hard to pick and choose the most important elements to include in a summary.
These summaries, often called creeds, are put together in forms that are intended to be memorised and repeated, so that whether or not you can read (or even have a Bible, what a luxury!), you can remember and repeat the core elements of our faith.
Interestingly, the English word "creed" itself comes from these summaries which begin with the words "I believe," which in Latin is "credo".
These creeds can never replace the words of God himself, but they are drawn directly from God's word and they often clarify what we believe over and against some wild theories that may be used to twist the scriptures. They're helpful tools in a world of false teachers (more about this on Sunday!). It seems that even in the scriptures we have snippets of early creeds that may have been in use before the New testament was fully written (for example 1 Corinthians 15:3–7, Romans 1:3–4, 1 Timothy 3:16).
There is a novel popular notion that you may have run into around the traps: that we have no use for such creeds. This is quite untrue, and not least because it has been demonstrably useful to the church across the ages. It's rather sad to see when folks adopt such frivolous and prideful attitude towards the received wisdom from those who have lived and suffered for Christ before us so that we could receive Gospel truth. Add to this the hypocrisy that often accompanies such a sentiment with the statement "No creed but Christ" which is in fact a creed in itself.
To say "I believe in God" means little to the world full of Muslims and Jews and Ba'hai who say the same thing.
To say "I believe in Jesus" means little to a world full of Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons who say the same thing.
So who is the God and Jesus that we follow as opposed to all those who would say the same thing but have a completely different religion to ours?
When summarising to ourselves and to others the right teaching (a.k.a orthodoxy) we have received, God's word is our source, and we are benefited by having the succinct explanations of God's word contained in these creeds.
To be sure, there will never be a perfect summary statement that encapsulates the complete fullness of what we believe about God, not least because language itself is always changing and words can loose their meaning. But, that shouldn't stop us treating with respect those creeds that have stood the test of time and are universally believed by Christians across the world.
The most ancient and respected creed we have is commonly called the "Apostles Creed". While there are wonderful legends around the formation of this creed, it's pretty evident that it was not the apostles themselves who formed this creed, but its drawn directly from their teaching that is preserved in the New Testament.
This creed is so basic, and self evident from the scriptures, that someone who does not believe the apostles creed will have serious doubts thrown on their faith. That's why we as a church include a reference to this creed at the top of our statement of belief: "Our proclamation to be Christian distinguishes us from other world religions and cults. Therefore, we adhere to both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds."
Given this creed has been a tool used by the Church throughout history, is a succinct summary of our faith, and is a short-hand guide for judging teaching, I thought it would behove us to spend a few weeks walking through it in these weekly articles, especially those parts that may seem a bit odd to our modern ears (e.g. "He descended into hell" or "I believe in the holy catholic church").
For now, here is a copy of the "Apostles" Creed. There are a few slightly different versions, but this is sufficient for us:
I believe in God,
the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
He descended into hell (or Hades);
on the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy Catholic Church,
the communion of Saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
Who knows, you may find a new found love of the creeds, and their usefulness. Or perhaps be comforted by the unity we share with all those believers who have gone before us. Or maybe be reminded afresh of the God that we serve and what He accomplished in time-history to save a people for Himself.
(P.S. Yes, I did use the word "behove", and no, I'm not sorry :P )
Samuel Lindsay • August 07, 2021
Well, I'm sure we all expected that there would be another lockdown or two before the year is out, but I'm not sure any of us were ready for it to be so soon!
If you're anything like me, you're probably experiencing a range of reactions right now, some which may be godly, some which may be a bit more questionable...
Something different today, here is some advice for you.
Our Sovereign God
When you hear news of another lockdown, it may be easy to shake your vocal fist at various people who you think are most to blame. It could be someone who didn't stick to the restrictions, or maybe Mr Andrews and his experts. We need to remember, that while people have their share of the blame, God is still on the throne and bringing history to His own conclusion.
Nations come and go. Diseases come and go. Wars come and go. But God remains steadfast, and so do His promises. The inconveniences we face should never lead us to forget this fact.
We can, if we're not careful, become grumblers and blasphemers. If God is in ultimate control and we're continually complaining about the state of the world, in some sense, we are complaining against God.
We are at the mercy of His divine providence. Although we mourn the brokenness of the world, and act to address sickness, injustice and whatever else is in our power, it is not our job to second-guess God.
No one likes a back-seat driver.
LORD, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His glory covered the heavens
and his praise filled the earth.
His splendor was like the sunrise;
rays flashed from his hand,
where his power was hidden.
Plague went before him;
pestilence followed his steps.
He stood, and shook the earth;
he looked, and made the nations tremble.
The ancient mountains crumbled
and the age-old hills collapsed—
but he marches on forever.
You came out to deliver your people,
to save your anointed one.
People Who disagree with you
Right now, it is really easy to start picking sides:
Are you pro-lockdown as a control method or anti-lockdown?
Are you pro-border control or anti? Slow burn or eradication?
Are you pro-vaccine or anti vaccine? Vaccine passport or no?
Should Christians meet despite the restrictions or stay home?
We should be free to talk about such things, but to talk about them in a loving way, in light of God's truth, without fear that we will be judged as uncaring, unloving or unintelligent if we disagree. As is the case with most things in life, it's rarely back and white, so please don't pigeonhole someone because they're in a different place to you. Nuance is often the first casualty of a passionate discussion.
While these current hot-button topics are quite important, they should not lead us to become splintered and partisan, especially in the church where what unites us is not our opinions on public policy, but Christ Himself. In good conscience people land in different places, don't let your opinions divide you from your brother or sister.
Be careful that your passionate beliefs in those matters don't shine brighter than Christ in your life.
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Ga 6:14).
Just a reminder that governments don't have authority to tell Christians when and how they can and can't worship Jesus. We have graciously gone along with many of their "requests" for the sake of honouring and helping them in their God-given job to provide the civic leadership in our country, but don't loose sight of who's in charge of the Church (hint: it's Jesus!).
I want to do some more thinking and writing on this topic. But not today!
As with most moments in life, God is interested in our heart. In this new lock-down season where is your heart at?
It is very easy to chafe at the yoke that is once again being laid upon us, and we want to buck it off. But why? Where's your heart at?
Perhaps you're someone who applauds the lockdown, not because you like it, but because you think it's the right thing to do. But why? Where's your heart at?
In either case our hearts can be misplaced, and I'm not trying to make a case for either, I just want you to have the self awareness to know where your heart is, in case it needs to be realigned with Christ.
We can be seeking freedom from lockdown because we actually see ourselves as the captains of our own life and destiny. Anything that challenges your own will and desire is seen as an attack on your idol-god: yourself. If this is you, perhaps lock-down is here to humble you, and see yourself as part of God's plans rather than your own.
We can be favouring lockdown because maybe we're afraid of death and are seeking a society that has no effects of sin, like illness. When we look to defeat death apart from Christ, we're doomed to failure, because the soul that sins shall die. What is more important than prolonging people's lives is preparing them for inevitable death and meeting God in person. If this is you, then lockdown is here to remind you that all our efforts to put off death are ultimately in vain outside of Christ.
And there are an hundred more ways that we could examine the state of our heart with relation to the goings on in the world today, but this is meant to be food for thought, to provoke reflection, not a direct address of everybody's specific heart place.
The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it? (Je 17:9).
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (Ro 5:5–6).
It is time to close. I've written some, and not written even more, but I hope that these meagre bites of advice might find a place with you for your faithful service toward God as we enter a new lockdown. I haven't couched a lot of these thoughts in light of specific scripture or scriptural implication because it seems self evident to me. However, if you reckon I'm off track, that's ok, happy to chat about it sometime!
Samuel Lindsay • July 30, 2021
These last few weeks I have written several times on discipleship, and especially on some of our obligations as disciples. This is a good thing! We're super confident in Jesus' saving work on our behalf (it is finished!), but we don't want to become complacent. So, like the Bible itself, we should spend time exploring how we are called to live in response to the Gospel, including the shouldering the responsibilities God has for us and the standards He has set.
The thing is, we may get unbalanced in our approach to discipleship if we are only ever monitoring those rules and responsibilities. Our Christian walk can become a trudge as we just knuckle down to try to live right without regard for the blessing and joy we can experience now. To be sure, sometimes the going is hard, and things get difficult, but we don't need to have our hearts downcast while we go down the hard road.
So what goes alongside our hard labour in the Lord? What gift do we have from Jesus that will aid us through the ups and downs?
We can have joy!
Joy is something that is for us as Christians. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit that we expect to produce as part of our discipleship (Gal 5:22).
Joy, as you may know already, is not so much an emotion, as it is a state of being. It is tied to things like gladness and happiness, but it is something that pervades us in such a way that we can have joy even when we don't "feel" happy. We can have joy even when the going is rough.
Why? How is it that we can have joy even when the circumstances are dark?
It's because joy is tied to victory.
For example: "May we shout for joy over your victory, and lift up our banners in the name of our God." (Ps 20:5).
In many other places the Old Testament speaks to this idea that joy and rejoicing comes with triumph, or with the assurance of triumph. People would find joy in the coming of God's victory (e.g. 1 Chr 16:33).
So, if joy is tied to victory, then we can have joy as long as our victory lasts!
Our victory has been won by Christ already! He has triumphed over death, and sin, and Satan! Because He has won, we can continually have joy!
"They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away." (Is 35:10).
This is why Christmas is always thematically connected to joy. It's because the incarnation of Christ was God enacting His promises to save His people, to win them for Himself.
Christ coming into the world was God kicking down the doors of Satan's stronghold.
Christ coming into the world was part of setting you free of your slavery to sin and death.
Christ coming into the world has secured peace with God by the blood of the cross.
You, dear bothers and sisters, do not need to wait for your mood to lift, or the sun to shine, or the day to get better before you have joy. If you ground your joy in Christ, who has already secured your life and salvation, you can have joy in any circumstance. His victory will never fail, and He will not fail to fulfil His future promises either, so that means your joy doesn't ever need to fail.
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Php 4:4.
"In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity." (2 Co 8:2).
"...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Heb 12:1–3).
Heyink, Brenda. “Joy.” Edited by John D. Barry, and others. The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016.)
Flooding Creek (FCCC) • July 22, 2021
It may surprise you to find that repentance is a feature of our discipleship. Remember that Christian discipleship is where we follow after Jesus as apprentices, students, cadets. We become life-long learners of Jesus who are, through the power of the Holy Spirit, learning to obey everything Jesus said, even while we seek to make more disciples just like ourselves (Matt 28:19).
So, if we're learning to obey everything Jesus commanded, what was the first recorded command during His earthly ministry?
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (Mt 4:17. See also Mk 1:15).
Jesus' forerunner John made this message of repentance loud and clear, then Jesus amplified it in His preaching. In fact Jesus mentions repentance in His summary of the meaning of the Old Testament, as one of the last things He said to His disciples in person: “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Lk 24:46–47).
A call to repentance is a key feature of the Gospel proclamation that we respond to as Disciples. Repentance is part of the package of having faith in Jesus. It is inseparable from faith. As we discussed at church recently, we receive our salvation through faith, but that faith is visible and demonstrated through our actions. As John the Baptist would put it: "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." Mt 3:8.
What did Peter tell the Jews, who were convicted under Gospel preaching, to do? "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." (Ac 2:38).
Repentance is tied up with faith as part of faith and an expression of faith at the same time. To have true faith, is to repent.
Ok, so it's clear then that repentance is needed to start our discipleship, but what about down the road? What about when we're already believers? Well, one of the things that makes the Christian life so simple is that the way that you start in faith, is the way that you continue in faith! It doesn't get more or less complicated as you walk the road of faith. When Paul was writing to the established Corinthian church, to take them to task over some of their sinful practices, he clearly expects that it'll lead them to change their behaviour: "yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance." (2 Co 7:9). John too, in his letter to Christians reminds them that when they fall into sin, they must repent - "We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin" (1 Jn 5:18) - and confess their sin (1 Jn 1:8-2:1).
Throughout the history of God's people, repentance has always preceded salvation when the people are going astray. Just look at Judges! It is only when people are serious about turning to God and belonging to Him that God will to act and save them. They have to realise the futility of their current ways and give them up. He hands them over to the consequences of their actions in order to shake them to their senses! God is always the one who does the saving (redeeming his people, crushing their enemies), but He only does it when people are playing for His team.
If you're out on the field, playing football, you can't be passing the ball to the other team and kicking goals for them and expect your team to win. It just doesn't compute! God is willing to give victory to His team, but He won't put up with His people playing against Him. That's why He let Israel be conquered. That's why He sent them prophets to warn them! (e.g. Ezk 18:30–32)
To be sure, we need the Holy Spirit to awaken us, and to help convict us of sin, but now that you are awakened to the sin in your life, turn away from it! Turn to God! Stop playing for the opposing team! God's grace will overcome our fumbles, and our past, present and future deliberate sins, so go to Him for forgiveness. But, that forgiveness isn't given to enable us to keep living in rebellion towards God! It is prideful insolence to ask God to overlook your indiscretions all the while deliberately piling up a stack more.
Brothers and Sisters, I know how easy it is to stumble, to be drawn aside into sin and take great pleasure in it. I know that is easy to excuse those sins that don't seem to be hurting anybody. It's easy to blame that sin nature that still clings to your flesh.
We're still on the field. We're still in the game. It will be a struggle so long as we live in this sin-infested world. So, we must keep coming again and again to recognise the errors of our ways, and then turn back from them. When we are sinning, we must amend our ways, change our minds, do a U-turn, and put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature (Col 3:5).
God uses this iterative process to grow us in godliness and faithfulness. The ongoing process of conviction, confession and repentance is sanctifying us and making us more like Christ as we continue to rely on him to live in freedom from sin.
If you get turned around, and find yourself kicking goals for the wrong team, then you must recognise that and make changes. Repentance is lived out, like Zacchaeus who repaid those he swindled (Lk 19:7-10), like the Israelites who put away their idols, like Paul who stopped persecuting the Church and took the Gospel to the nations.
Friends, when we see the sin in our life we must repent and believe - turn your back on that sin that pushes you away from God, and put your trust in the one who has saved you from it's eternal consequences. Jesus died in your place, making atonement for your sin, making peace with God through Jesus blood shed on the cross (Col 1:20).
I encourage you, next time you're at church, or even in your homes, to strike up a conversation about repentance. Share a story of repentance. Ask for advice on how to reject sins from older Christians. Ask someone follow you up on your commitment to cut off the hand that causes you to sin (e.g. Mt 5:29-30).
Repentance may be hard going, but it is worth it. Whatever we give up will pale in comparison to what we gain in Christ.
"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." Jas 4:7–10.
"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Re 3:19–22).
Flooding Creek (FCCC) • July 01, 2021
Last week’s article brought to our attention the attitude of our Christian faith as one of ongoing discipleship. It’s for everyone from infants to adult converts to old and wise believers. We’re all on the way, following our Teacher, Shepherd and King: Jesus.
So much can be said on this topic, so it’s worth spending a few weeks fleshing out some of the implications of this mindset. So first, let’s consider the deliberate action of disciples.
We love to glory in the powerful action on God’s part to save us, and rightly so! We were lost in sin and darkness; essentially spiritually dead. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:4–5 ESV). God acts to save us, and it is Christ’s work, not our own, which has earned and secured our salvation. We are recipients!
Not only that, once we have been made alive in Christ, we are secured there by God, who will protect us and sustain us (e.g. Jude 24, John 6:39)!
So then, being recipients of God’s abundant mercy and His promises to bring us safely home, do we just sit back and relax? God’s got it sorted so I should just kick up my feet and go along for the ride, right?
By no means!
God has saved us into a new way of life that is not selfish or lazy. He has saved us into relationship with God. He has saved us into His family, with all the benefits and obligations that entails.
Christ went and made our atonement on the Cross, and yet He also says to His disciples, “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Mt 16:24–25). So while Jesus has won our freedom, He calls us to a way of life that mimics and follows Him.
Ours is an active faith, where we are freed from the burdens of having to cleanse ourselves, make atonement for ourselves, and pay our spiritual debts for ourselves. We are freed from the eternal consequences of death and sin, and we are freed from the clutches of the Devil. So now, as freed people, we actively take on Christ’s yoke, which is easy and light, ready to pursue Christ’s agenda for our lives (Mt 11:28–30).
We actively take up the commission to go and make disciples everywhere (Mt 28:18-20).
We actively pursue holiness, without which no-one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14).
We make every effort to:
Enter by the narrow door;
To do what leads to peace and mutual edification;
To keep the unity of the Spirit;
To present yourself to God as one approved;
To enter the Sabbath rest of God;
To confirm your calling and election;
And, to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with God.
Our Freedom in Christ frees us to pursue these wonderful goals with relish. The Holy Spirit empowers and enables us to make these lofty goals a reality when we put aside our earthly, dead-end pursuits.
My fear, dear brothers and sisters, is that so much of the church in Australia, (perhaps ourselves included) lives in so much ease and comfort that we have had our spiritual senses dulled. We’re drunk on the spirit of the age, and we have lost sight of the goals of our discipleship. We have forgotten to number our days and instead squander them with little regard for the account we must give to God or displaying His glory in this world.
We have come halfway up the Hill of Difficulty, to the Pleasant Arbour where we tarry to delight in the assurance of Salvation and being clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Yet we must not sleep here, in a place designed to be a mere rest stop for weary travellers. We ought not presume upon God’s grace by saying “I have come far enough and it is pleasant here, I will wait till the Lord brings me home”. While there is light for walking, we must press forward to the Celestial City (let the Pilgrim’s Progress reader understand).
The cliché saying is: “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” There is wisdom here. For us who have slowed our discipleship to a stumble, or have been entangled at Vanity Fair, or not yet even set out, here is the encouragement: Take a step. Tomorrow is another day given by God’s grace, use it for His glory by lifting your head, setting your eyes on the prize and stepping forward.
It is hard to start again when we have spent so long sitting still, but the endurance required for the journey ahead is built over time. Perhaps the next step will be easier. And the one after that easier again. Soon enough you will feel the wind of the Holy Spirit fill your sails and blow you into that safe harbour you long for.
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Paul - Php 3:9–14.
Flooding Creek (FCCC) • June 24, 2021
One of the most helpful ways to think of the Christian life is as discipleship. All believers, and even soon-to-be believers, are somewhere on the Way to spiritual maturity and “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” Eph 4:13.
We’re all students, learners, followers, apprentices, pilgrims of Jesus.
This side of heaven none of us can ever be said to have “made it”. There’s always more room to grow in godliness and faithfulness. In fact, it seems to be a strange phenomenon that the more Christians grow in godliness, the more they see the vast gap between themselves and Christ. But I digress…
Jesus commissioned His Church to be a disciple making people:
Then Jesus came to [the eleven disciples] and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Mt 28:18–20.
Those 11 disciples were faithful to the call in making more disciples, so much so that billions of people around the world today claim to have faith in Jesus! For us, that is an encouragement that our labours to see more people come to know God are not in vain. Especially seeing that Jesus promised to be with us in that task!
For you and I, there are three ways I think are helpful to consider our disciple making efforts.
First, we remember that it is a process. Very few of us have Emmaus road experiences like the apostle Paul, where we’re struck down and humbled by God in a moment! Usually God uses ordinary means over time to bring us step by step to a clearer understanding of Christ. He prepares the soil of our hearts so that when the seed is sown, it can take root!
Australia, and many post-Christian nations, are finding that their society is becoming increasingly “pagan”, in the sense that people are openly un-Christian and not schooled in our faith. Fewer and fewer people know anything about Jesus, let alone the other popular Bible stories like David & Goliath, Noah & the Ark, or Adam & Eve. Given this shift it will be unsurprising to learn that it takes longer (on average) for people to become Christians at the moment. If they are further from even the basics of faith, there will be more ground to make up. So even though it may take weeks and months and years of sharing Jesus with others, you may be laying the groundwork for the future faith.
And once people take on faith for themselves, it will still take time to come to any spiritual maturity. Just as we are patient with the younger children in our lives, knowing that it takes time to grow in experience and understanding, be patient with the believer who is just starting out, in fact, be patient with everyone! (e.g. Ephesians 4:2)
Second, discipleship is a whole of life experience. We can’t expect to turn up and do 1.5hrs discipleship on a Sunday and still grow. What apprentice can do so few hours and expect to become an expert in their craft?
We must learn to be people who lay our whole lives at Jesus feet, for Him to mould and shape it into something that pleases Him instead of ourselves or others (e.g. Luke 9:57–62). This is hard, as the rich young ruler discovered! (Luke 18:18–25) It is good for us to consider and make changes that bring each part of our lives into continual obedience and worship (Romans 12:1–2).
Third, children of Christians are disciples with a head start. Treat them as such! You parents have a wonderful opportunity to start early and help initiate their discipleship from the beginning. Imagine an older person, who has lived long in the ways of the World, how hard is it for them to unlearn decades of sinful attitudes, habits and responses? By God’s grace God can save the one who seems furthest from faith, but what if you helped children from the start to walk as disciples of Jesus so that when God’s Spirit awakens their faith the pump is primed?
The devil is not interested in giving your kids a chance to grow up and “choose for themselves”. He’ll happily disciple your kids if you’re not up for it. Our fake nobility of such trite sayings as “I don’t want to force religion on my kids” is a cop-out. Now, that’s a barbed sentiment, but I hope you’ll forgive me for being forthright, because its a serious matter. To be sure, we can’t force faith on our kids, it can only come from a heart captured by Christ, but we can certainly “start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Pr 22:6.
One of the ordinary means that God uses for making lifelong faithful followers of Jesus, is parents, friends and relatives who labour to lay the groundwork in their earliest years. Consider is this: your kids are being discipled by adults in their life anyway - we’re showing them how to live, act & think. The question is not so much “are you discipling?” but “what are you discipling them into?”
As you continue your walk of discipleship, consider how you can help others start theirs, or how you can use your gifts to help those following along a few steps behind.