Thursday, 3 October 2019

Dangerous Children

Social media and the news media have been awash over the last couple of weeks with Greta Thunberg, the young, self-proclaimed mentally ill, Swedish teenager who has been given a platform to stare down, berate, challenge, and otherwise scold the leaders of the world.

A lot has been said about this girl, about her handlers, about how she is being used to try and guilt so called “climate-deniers” into refusing to challenge her. Though from everything I have seen, she has had the exact opposite effect than what was intended. Most of what I have seen online has this girl memefied to the hilt like no one else in modern political discourse, other than perhaps President Trump himself. She has been mocked profusely, and in my opinion rightly so. Her proposals are dangerous, and doubly so considering most of her attacks on world leaders are correct: they are largely cowards who can be bullied into foolish action. If they were to implement her proposals it would lead to the destruction of every developed nation’s economy, mass poverty, starvation, and more.

Not only are most people not falling for her clear and utterly obvious stage acting performance, she has seemed to create more of an uproar against those who would seek to use a young girl for a cause like this, rather than win anybody over to the climate cult’s religion. Which is good, it shows more people are waking up to the strategies used by the globalists to push their agenda. 
But there is a more sinister undertone to this whole event that I think many people are missing, and to illustrate that event I want to talk about the Crusades you may not have heard of: the Children’s Crusades.

The Crusades are a favourite club that skeptics have long liked to use against Christians when seeking to denigrate our faith. Blaming Christians for the crusades can be likened to a punk kid punching the big kid at school over and over again, and then complaining to the teacher when the big kid hits him back. Every unbiased witness can see it was self-defence, the big kid was provoked, indeed he used a lot of restraint in not hitting the other kid back straight away. This is precisely the situation with the medieval crusades from 1095 A.D. to 1270 A.D..

They were, overall, a response to several centuries of Islamic incursions into the Western lands. “The immediate causes of the Crusades were the ill treatment of pilgrims visiting Jerusalem and the appeal of the Greek emperor, who was hard pressed by the Turks” (Schaff 1988, 221). Islam struck Christendom first, and continued to, long before a concerted effort was enacted by the West to strike back. “The aim of the crusades was the conquest of the Holy Land and the defeat of Islam” but it was inspired by countless Europeans who were incensed at the abuse which was perpetrated on Christians during their pilgrimages to the Promised Land (Schaff 1988, 220). Islam had struck Christendom, repeatedly, and viscously, and the Crusades were an inevitable and necessary response.

But that doesn’t mean all of the Crusades were all morally good, all effective, or even all sensible. Hitting the trifecta of being neither morally good, effective or sensible were the Children’s Crusades. But a little context is needed to help us understand how a Children’s Crusade could even happen.

The historical event of the Crusades is a fascinating one. A truly “Holy War” phenomenon like this had not been seen before, and has not truly been seen since (unless you include the Jihad war we are in right now, that the Western nations pretend isn’t exactly that). They created in the Western mind somewhat of a unique situation, where a strong and zealous “holy war” climate overcame much of Europe and forged in the Christian identity of many a desire for a righteous confrontation in the lands of the Middle East.

Though always holding a special, and unique place in Christianity, the mystical reframing of Jerusalem became a growing trend in European Christianity. Even though figures like Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and Jerome himself, advised people that Christ was with them wherever they may be, the desire to travel to the Holy Land grew amongst Christians,  

“The Holy Land became to the imagination a land of wonders, filled with the divine presence of Christ. To have visited it, to have seen Jerusalem, to have bathed in the Jordan, was for a man to have about him a halo of sanctity. The accounts of returning pilgrims were listened to in convent and on the street with open mouthed curiosity. To surmount the dangers of such a journey in a pious frame of mind was a means of expiation for sin” (Schaff 1988, 222).  

It became a spiritual height to aspire to, to be a person who journeyed to Jerusalem, simply because our Lord walked that very city (Schaff 1988, 222). It’s hard for the modern western mind to understand this desire for pilgrimage, but the medieval mind saw it as mark of true righteousness.

A religious fervour overtook many Western Christians in these two crusading centuries from 1095-1270. Yes, there were solid reasons to respond to the violence of Islam, yes there were practical reasons for wanting to defend Christian pilgrims from barbaric attacks. But it became more than that. It became a religious quest that many Europeans aspired to, to be a crusader, was to be something special, something set apart, something other worldly.

This religious fervour spread throughout all the classes of Europe’s people, and all the age groups; including the children. “The crusading epidemic broke out among the children of France and Germany in 1212. Begotten in enthusiasm, which was fanned by priestly zeal, the movement ended in pitiful disaster” (Schaff 1988, 266).  

Any movement which encourages children to become sacrificial lambs and lay down their lives for its cause has gone to far. These highly religious climates can have side effects that causes everyone to recoil in horror, but too often this comes after the fact. During the height of the religious fervour adults egged the children on, used them as examples of innocent virtue, and even used them to shame other adults who are not as zealous for the cause,

“The French expedition was led by Stephen, a shepherd lad of twelve, living at the Cloyes near Chartes. He had a vision, so the rumour went, in which Christ appeared to him as a pilgrim and made an appeal for the rescue of the holy places. Journeying to St. Denis, the boy retailed the account of what he had seen. Other children gathered around him. The enthusiasm spread from Brittany to the Pyrenese. In vain did the king of attempt to check the movement. The army increased to thirty thousand, girls as well as boys, adults as well as children…They reached Marseilles, but the waves did not part and let them go through dryshod as they expected” (Schaff 1988, 266-7).

“The centres of the movement in Germany were Nicholas, a child of ten, and a second leader whose name has been lost. Cologne was the rallying point. Children of noble families enlisted. Along with the boys and girls went men and women, good and bad” (Schaff 1988, 267). (Emphasis mine).

Those in the German retinue reached Genoa in August 1212, their “numbers had been reduced by hardship, death, and moral shipwreck from twenty to seven thousand.” A report from the time says that Innocent the 3rd refused to let them free of their oath to defeat the Saracens (Schaff 1988, 268). They made their way to Brindisi, where some of the children sailed, and were never heard from again (Schaff 1988, 267).

“The fate of the French children was, if possible, still more pitiable. At Marseilles they fell prey to two slave dealers, who for “the sake of God and without price” offered to convey them across the Mediterranean. Their names are preserved, - Hugo Ferrus and William Porcus. Seven vessels set sail. Two were shipwrecked on the little island of San Pietro off the northwestern coast of Sardinia. The rest reached the African shore, where the children were sold into slavery” (Schaff 1988, 268).

These children were literally fed into the hands of these despicable, opportunistic adults. Their fate? Well, the same horrible fate of all of the other small children sold in Islamic slavery in the Medieval age. Pope Innocent the third summarized their pilgrimage thus, “They put us to shame. While they rush to the recovery of the Holy Land, we sleep” (In Schaff 1988, 268).

Yes Pope, they put you to shame, but not by their relentless zealotry, but because of the inability of the adults of Europe to protect these children from their small minds, and lack of wisdom. Children are not to be leaders of mass movements, they are the next generation which we adults must dedicate our whole lives to guarding, until they are adults themselves.

Scaff (1988,266) rightly describes the Children’s Crusade as “the slaughter of innocents on a large scale.” Because that is precisely what they were. But bad adults, for their own purposes, both accompanied and egged on these child Crusaders because of the heightened air of the moment. It’s one thing to send a well trained and equipped, and battle ready force of soldiers to Palestine to liberate Christian pilgrims, it’s another thing entirely to allow children to be caught up in the atmosphere to march themselves.

But Pope Innocent’s words could almost be read on the cover of a modern newspaper or online news site. A modern Pope Innocent the Third analogue might say, “They put us to shame. While they skip school and rush to the steps of parliament to protest climate change, we adults sleep.” Or as one actual headline in the Guardian reads: “My generation trashed the planet. So I salute the children striking back” (Monbiot, 2019). We live in ever increasing radical times.

There is a hint of the Child Crusade leaders Nicholas and Stephen in Greta Thunberg. Children like her are dangerous, precisely because there are so many adults around her who will delight to use her to inspire other children to dangerous action. And like the climate of the Crusading era, we live in a similarly zealous religious climate where people will seek any and all means to achieve their radical ends.

The climate cult appears to be the fastest growing religion of our age. They have their core doctrine, anthropogenic climate change, which cannot be challenged by any evidence to the contrary. They have false prophets, Al Gore and most of the media. They now have child saints, Greta Thunberg. They even have a means of propitiating sin: carbon offsets, which coincidentally make the false climate prophets rich, just as indulgences once made corrupt Popes rich. They have their crusade: to lower the western nations emissions, drastically by 2030. And they even have their end time prophecies: global destruction in 12 years…or whatever the new number is. It changes more regularly than an American charismatic predicting the return of Christ.  

But worst of all, they have their fingers tips in schools where countless young children, disenfranchised by the modern godless society we live in, and with increasing amounts of depressive and other mental disorders, are at the mercy of their teachings, and their radical agenda. And it just so happens that these children have been trained by the modern school system and media, to look to their peers for inspiration, rather than to wise, and stable adults (which are becoming a rare breed). They have been trained to be inspired by the Greta Thunbergs of this world. This makes her dangerous, and the people behind her even more so. Our children are just a means to their wicked ends.  

This all looks like a recipe for disaster, a modern version of the disaster of the Children’s Crusade. Unless we do what adults are supposed to do, and challenge the whole global cult narrative, and make sure our children, and the parents we can influence are protecting their children from the growing calls to climate radicalism.

We should no longer laugh at the Climate Cult, it is coming for our children, and this makes it dangerous, and a force to be opposed. The Greta’s of this world are dangerous, precisely because many of our world leaders are foolish enough to be led by children.

Isaiah 3:12 “12 My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.”

Men of the West rise, you are needed.  

Schaff, Phillip, 1988, A History of the Christian Church.
George Monbiot, 2019, My generation trashed the planet. So I salute the children striking back

Monday, 30 September 2019

The Golden Age of Women in the Home

Supporting and encouraging mothers in the home is vital for the survival of our civilization.
From the introduction to Grimm's Fairy Tales:
"So why did the Grimm's call their book "Children's and House-Tales"? The answer is part of their liberal [read democratic] belief system. A lot of related tendencies - love of country, individual rights, and representative government - were tied up with the liberal cause. The people who championed theses ideas, and who benefited most from them, were middle class men like the Grimms - who had a good education, but didn't belong to the circles of aristocratic power, and who made their living in business or through their knowledge. Another belief that was common among the middle class had to do with the place of women and men in the world: it was a man's job to go out and earn a living, whereas a woman's place was in the home and with the family, having children and bringing them up as virtuous citizens. This is why, when the Grimm's father died, their mother did not find a job, as she might have today, but instead took care of their younger siblings at home. For her to work in the fields or do laundry or become a servant would have been seen as shameful, only something a lower-class woman would do. These scruples may seem silly to us today, but it was one way people like the Grimms showed that they were different from, and better than, those beneath them on the social scale and those of the upper classes. (Aristocratic women certainly didn't have to work, but they could still participate in public life and be influential through their wealth and connections.) To the Grimms, men were the producers of culture, whole women were the reproducers. Thus, "Children's and House-tales" to the Grimms, the tales mothers told their children were the storehouse of "real" German heritage, culture, and beliefs."
To summarize men went to work to provide for their families and build the societal structures to help the culture flourish, and the mothers passed this culture on to their children through education in the home and this ensured that the next generation were saturated in the traditions which ensured their culture would flourish.
If you are wondering why our culture has been so thoroughly inverted, twisted, broken down and decayed (to put it mildly), look not further than this one fact: the vanguard of our culture, ennobled women equipped and supported to educate the vast majority of our future leaders in the home, have been almost completely done away with, and now most men and most women both slave for the man in the workforce, and the raising of children is given over to complete strangers, who rarely share the values we hold dear. And often have values which are completely the opposite of what we hold dear.
Make no mistake, the idea of women being able to stay at home, and encouraged to do so, was not a state of oppression, but a short window of a golden age which we are fast losing. For most of history everyone worked for the man, and the middle class did not exist. We are fast seeing that golden age fade away, and the forcing of men and women to both work is part of the reason it is.
Note above: the idea of women being able to stay at home was once seen as a liberal (freedom encouraging) innovation of a highly successful society. Wicked people turned it into an insult, and an idea that many today believe, but are afraid to say publicly. Let's not let our society return completely to the age of everyone, man and woman, serving the rich, but instead create homes where passing our culture to our children is again a priority.

The Brothers Grimm 2011, Grimms Complete Fairy Tales, Canterbury Classics, San Diego

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

The Pharisees Weren’t Church Leaders

So often you will hear like for like comparisons made between church leaders and Pharisees. People will say stuff like: Jesus reserved his harshest criticisms for the religious leaders. A famous passage where Jesus does this is Matthew 23 where Jesus gives us such pearlers as: “2 The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” (vv.2-4). Or how about this: “15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (v.15). Or this one here, “You blind fools” (v.17). “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness” (v.27). And my favourite verse in this whole passage - “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (v.33).

So, they were lazy, hypocritical, whitewashed tombs, snakes, vipers, and children of hell. I could give you a rundown of modern versions of all these insults, but I want to keep my job as a pastor, so I’ll let your imagination run wild. But suffice it to say Jesus hammers these mongrels with enough invective that we can pretty accurately declare that he didn’t like these guys at all.  

Now, the common, and very powerful application that is often made is as mentioned above: Jesus reserved his harshest criticisms for the religious leaders, and therefore so should we. And there is certainly more than a grain of truth in this, as the Pharisees were religious, they were often leaders, and as Jesus said, they sat in Moses’ seat. This application is then further extended to filter down to every level of the church leadership, and then on to all Christians who have what is considered unreasonably high standards of behaviour, or are considered too judgemental, or who add to the commands of scripture, or who nullify passages of scripture because of certain traditions, etc. Every Christian is aware of the way this teaching on Jesus' anger towards Pharisees is used to challenge church culture.

I have made many similar applications myself in many sermons over the years. And I will put my hand up and admit to being a Pharisee more than once, and I take very seriously the need to examine myself, reserve judgement, and seek not to put burdens on people with my teaching, so as to not be a Pharisee in practice. But I know I don’t do it perfectly, I admit that, many of us Christians fail in this regard more than we should.

Now there are those who see Jesus attacking these religious leaders and they add this to their application of this passage: you should never use such strong or harsh language with non-believers, because Jesus only reserved it for Christian leaders. But here is the quandry: the Pharisees weren’t church leaders. So, to compare them to church leaders is not quite exact or completely accurate.

The Pharisees would better be described as thought leaders, culture leaders, culture pushers, or even culture watch dogs. Some of them would have been synagogue leaders, and members of the Sanhedrin, or part of the Levitical priesthood, etc. But there is a really big difference between Jewish culture in the 1st century AD and our culture in the modern West that people often miss: the Jews in first century Israel, and indeed prior to that century, lived in a culture that did not separate the Church and the state, as we do in our modern culture. Therefore, in their culture there wasn’t a distinction between the religious leaders, and secular leaders, there was just the leaders. Our modern culture has, to a large degree, split the leadership of the church, and the wider society apart. Where, apart from the occasional exception, religious leaders and, say, government leaders, or culture leaders are not the same thing.

So, it would be much more accurate to say that Jesus was attacking the leaders of the Jewish people. When he says that they sat in Moses’ seat this means that they sat in the role of judgement of the people on what was right and what was not right. Moses was a prophet, he was a Levite, but he was also a judge who had to determine what we would consider both civil and religious matters of law. So being in Moses’ seat would include our modern equivalent of religious leaders, and it would also include, judges, politicians at every level, media commentators, opinion journalists, and many other people in our modern culture.

Indeed, if I were to explain it this way: the Pharisees were the equivalent of the thought police in their day, who rallied up antagonism against those who broke social taboos, expected synagogue leaders to tow their very strict, but to some degree subjective, interpretation of a morality code, who got people fired and persecuted for not living according to their values, and made everyone around them walk on egg shells regarding what they said and did…who would this remind you off?

Well it sounds so much more like the modern progressive left than the actual Church in 2019.

Don’t get me wrong the Church has engaged in such behaviour at different points in the past, and likely will again in the future. But the Church is no longer the dominant cultural force in modern Australia. People don’t get harassed at work for not wearing crosses, or Jesus fish, and not celebrating Christmas. They get harassed at work for not wearing rainbow flags, or celebrating pride month, or sharing Bible teachings that contradict our sexular culture.

The new cultural leaders have a very different ideology to the Pharisees of the 1st century, but they are the exact same type of person: they are the people who want to enforce their morality on others, who make others feel judged and pressured into complying, and who, even though they are a minority, punch above their weight precisely because they are so radical.

So, when you realize that Jesus wasn’t talking to church leaders, he was talking to culture leaders in a religious society, and that equivalent people in culture can be found both inside the church, and outside the church, then you realize that Jesus didn’t reserve his harshest words just for corrupt religious leaders. He reserved his harshest words for leaders who harm people. He reserved his harshest words for leaders who police people according to ridiculous standards of morality, they themselves don’t even try to uphold. He reserved his harshest words for those who like whitewashed tombs virtual signal on the outside, but on the inside have evil intentions, and love the attention virtual signalling affords them.

If you took a Pharisee and transported him to today’s world, he might not recognize much of the world we live in today. But he would work out pretty quickly who to cosy up to so that he could gain the social recognition in society he craved, and it would be just as likely he found those people outside the church as in it.  

If this is the case, and it surely is the case, then maybe we in the church should not get so pedantic and precious when every now and then someone responds to the Pharisees of the modern sexual culture in the same way Jesus spoke to the Pharisees of his day. Every culture has its harmful culture police, who place insane burdens on people’s backs. And in every culture they should be challenged by those who believe in the beautiful, the good, and the true, whether they go to church or not. And if sometimes they are harsh, like Jesus was harsh to the Pharisees in sharing his message, then that's ok. There are many things we should imitate Jesus in, and one of those things we should imitate is Jesus' anger towards leaders, whether thought leaders, culture leaders, or other people powerful people, who harm people with their ridiculous virtue signalling moral policing. The next time you see someone challenging the cultural progressives the way Jesus challenged the Pharisees, harshly, rather than simply telling them to be more polite, stop for a moment and ask yourself: might their anger be warranted? There are times when it is the only just response. We should be slow to anger, but not so slow that we allow people to be harmed.         

Thursday, 4 July 2019

The Good News You Are Rarely, If Ever, Told

There is an aspect of the gospel that you don’t hear about very often anymore, which we will get to in a moment…

If you speak to any Christian they will tell you that the gospel is good news, indeed Gospel means good news. Many Christians will be able to tell you what the good news contains – they will be able to tell you that it is the message that God has saved sinners. Paul tells us this very clearly in 1 Corinthians 15 for example. Romans 10 also expresses a similar thought, as do many other passages. The good news that people recognize is that Jesus died on the cross, paid the penalty for our sins, and rose again achieving victory over evil, and sin, and paved the way for all who believe in him to also be resurrected. If the Christian you speak to is not able to express this message, they will at least recognize it, and will be able to express it with just a little prompting.

But even though this is what is of first importance in the gospel, there are important aspects of the good news that you probably never hear about, even in some of the really good churches that still preach the gospel. This could be for many different reasons. Maybe the pastor is not trained deeply in gospel theology. Maybe they are influenced so much by a particular way of sharing the gospel that they have gone down a very narrow track. Maybe they have just forgotten that there is more to the gospel that gives it reason to be called good news. Or maybe it is some other reason. But whatever the reason, so many Christians were willing to hammer Israel Folau, because they saw his gospel presentation as lacking when he shared his now infamous tweet.

Now I have said to many different people, I support Israel Folau’s right to free speech, and while I wouldn’t share the gospel exactly as he did, because I find it a bit tacky, nothing he said was wrong, nothing he said was unbiblical, and nothing he said was even half as harsh as how many preachers in the Bible itself even talk. I’ve heard him called a jerk by some. But if he was a jerk, then what was John the Baptist when he was way harsher? But still many Christians criticised him, many Christians saw him as way too harsh, and many Christians were embarrassed by how he shared it. Why though?

Well probably for several reasons. Some Christians are just embarrassed that the Bible is so blunt about sin. They find this hard to deal with, because our culture has trained us to always focus on the positives. These kinds of Christians only want to express the “lovey” parts of scripture and not the other parts. They also don’t want their non-believing friends to know just how many things the Bible calls evil, that the world thinks are ok. They will say something like: I save that message for one on one conversations, which is just another way of saying, they rarely mention it. Another reason is that most people are peacekeepers in personality, they can’t stand confrontation and will do everything they humanly can to avoid it. I find this incredibly frustrating myself, but it is just a fact we must live with; most people recoil at the first sign of confrontation, and are willing to criticize those like Izzy who are not afraid of it at all.

Also, many Christians have been trained for a few decades now to bend over backwards to not offend unbelievers in their presentation of the gospel. From friendship evangelism, to presentations of the gospel that obscure even a hint of judgement and wrath of God, many Christians have been trained to see something as blunt as Izzy’s post as unnecessarily harsh and confronting, and therefore unnecessary. This stylistic disagreement is then backed up by certain proof texts, which are used to condemn any Christian who doesn’t come across as so kind and polite in their message presentation that they appear like a gentle-hearted camp counselor putting a band aid on a crying toddler. Never mind that this standard would exclude no less than John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jesus himself, it is still a standard many people hold to because of years of conditioning. But there is another reason why, which I want to focus on in this blog.

A lot of Christian’s don’t understand the various ways in which the good news and the gospel are actually shared in the Bible itself. Some of which would terrify the average peacekeeping Christian. I was reminded of this again when reading Nahum chapter one recently. Have a look at this presentation of the gospel:

Nahum begins:

“1 An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh.2 The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. 3 The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. 4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. 5 The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it.” 

I once read this out in a Bible study for middle school aged youth, and I asked them if they had ever heard God described this way. Many said no. They had almost all grown up in church, yet they had never heard this before.

Nahum continues:

“6 Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. 7 The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. 8 But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. 9 What do you plot against the Lord? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time. 10 For they are like entangled thorns, like drunkards as they drink; they are consumed like stubble fully dried. 11 From you came one who plotted evil against the Lord, a worthless counselor.”

God is condemning Nineveh, through Nahum the prophet, because they were a wicked nation who did much evil in the world; including how they treated God’s people, Israel. Indeed, God’s people had been utterly devastated and oppressed by this nation, but the good news is that they will not be so for much longer:

“12 Thus says the Lord, “Though they are at full strength and many, they will be cut down and pass away. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more. 13 And now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds apart.” 14 The Lord has given commandment about you: “No more shall your name be perpetuated; from the house of your gods I will cut off the carved image and the metal image. I will make your grave, for you are vile” (Nahum 1:12-14).

God is angry at Nineveh for how they have conquered and oppressed nations, including Israel, and it’s remaining tribe, Judah. Therefore, God is going to step in and do away with them. They will face his judgement and Israel will no longer be afflicted and oppressed by the bonds of Nineveh. So why did I call this a gospel message? Well because Nahum says this: “15 Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace! Keep your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows, for never again shall the worthless pass through you; he is utterly cut off” (Nahum 1:15).

You see a big part of the good news of the Bible’s message, is that God will judge the enemies of his people. God will bring the wicked to judgement. This is both a promise and an aspect of the good news. Why is this good news? Because as Christians we are commanded to not initiate violence against our enemies, we are commanded to love them, give them a glass of water in a time of need, we are commanded to act as Christ would have. But this does not mean that those who mock Christ, mock us, and persecute, exclude, bully, or simply try to sideline us will get away with it. God will make things right. God will judge the wicked and his wrath can be terrifying. 

You won’t hear this message preached as much as it used to be, for the reasons I outlined above. But it is an integral, biblical, and foundational aspect of the good news of the Bible. And it is not just an Old Testament emphasis, indeed whole books of the New Testament, including Jude and Revelation carry a similar message. God is not someone to be messed with, he will not be mocked, people reap what they sow. When the God says vengeance is his, he will repay, he means it. A lot of evil is done to his people in this world, Christians are persecuted in most countries in the world in horrible ways. God is watching, he will one day act decisively to vindicate his people.  

Thankfully, God gives people chances to escape this wrath. That’s why his son died on the cross, so people could have an opportunity to be saved from judgement. But judgement awaits all who do not repent. Hell is a real place where real people will really go. You see because Israel Folau believed this he was willing to risk his career (which turned out to be a very real risk) and reputation to warn people, and he used blunt, up front and thoroughly biblical language to do so. So many Christians have just been sheltered from this aspect of the gospel for so long, that they forgot how cutting the message of the gospel can actually be. For some it is a message of salvation, to some it is foolishness, but to others it is a stumbling block because they find it inherently offensive, and some aspects of it are designed to offend.

Maybe if more Christians heard the fullness of the gospel taught more regularly, they wouldn’t be so surprised when somebody pulls out the aspect of the gospel that they don’t hear often: God will judge the wicked, if they do not repent. This is good news, God cannot be a good God if he does not deal with wickedness. He either dealt with it in Christ for all who believe, or he will deal with it on judgement day for all who don’t. What future awaits you? I hope it is not judgement, but I’d be lying to you if I said that there isn’t a judgement awaiting all who have not trusted in Jesus. If I were to lie about this, then I would be placing myself under God’s judgement, and I would be unloving according to God's standard, and I don’t want to do either.

Please consider this while there is time.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

A Few Good People – What Does It Take For God To End A City? (Genesis 18:16-19:38).

Sodom and Gomorrah. If there is a day coming in Australia when there will be passages of the Bible it is illegal to read or preach on, this will be one of those passages. It is one of the most famous passages in the Bible and it gives us famous phrases like Sodomy and Sodomite, but for some reason not Gomorrahy or Gomorrahite. There are many people in this world who would consider this passage hateful, and let’s face it, there are probably many preachers who have preached this passage in hateful ways. It’s not like the church is always spot on about how we talk about sin in general, and some sins in particular.
As Christians we are not to hate anyone, but even though this is true, we will still be accused of hate, because much of our world stands in opposition to God and his word. And as Christians we are commanded to stand on God’s word, no matter what comes. So, if, and more likely, when this passage and others like it become illegal, we still have to teach it, and we still have to be willing to say things our world doesn’t like. And no matter how lovingly we try to say these truths and talk about sins like homosexuality, we will still be accused of hate.

We have examples of this in history. Did you know that the ancient Romans called Christians ‘atheists’? They called Christians atheists because they believed in only one God and denied all the rest. The Romans were highly offended by this, highly offended. It was one of their motivations for persecuting Christians and restricting their freedom in Rome. The Christian message that only Jesus was Lord, was a direct challenge to the Roman worldview, highly offensive to the Roman way of life, and yet the Christians spoke this truth anyway. If we want to call ourselves by the same name, we too should be willing to speak unpopular truths, that offend. And this morning this sermon will cover some of that.

But this passage is about more than just homosexuality, that is a big part of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, but there was more to the wickedness of this city than just that. This passage has a lot to teach us about our role in the world as Christians and as the growing family of God. And it has a lot to teach us about God’s judgement, God’s mercy and desire to give humanity time. So, let’s go through this whole passage and see what God has to teach us today.

1.     Abraham’s Role In The World (18:16-21) – We start here with Abrahams role in the world, which actually highlights our role - “16 Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. 17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” 20 Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

1.1  God is planning to go down to Sodom and Gomorrah to see whether or not they need a good butt kicking, but before he does, he wants to let Abraham in on his plan? But why?

1.1.1       Because Abraham is going to be God’s representative in a dark world, and he is going to teach his children to also be God’s representatives in a dark world: “19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

1.1.2       Abraham is going to be a minority God follower in a majority God rejecting world. Some of Abraham’s descendants will find themselves in cities just like Sodom and Gomorrah. So God wants to let Abraham in on his plans. Abraham’s response it pretty awesome.

2.     Abraham Questions God (vv.22-33) – Abraham challenges God.  “22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” 27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33 And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.”

2.1  I love the boldness of Abraham here, but also his heart. He cares about the righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah, of whom he is probably thinking of his nephew lot, and his family.

2.2  But he is also realistic. Ah, God, would you save Sodom for 50 righteous people…when he knows there’s not 50 good people in that city. So, he bargains down.

2.2.1       Wickedness tends to drive good people away. But not Lot, Lot had chosen the land in the Valley near Sodom. Even though Genesis 13:13 says, “Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.” This tells us Lot wasn’t the brightest of blokes, or the most righteous.

2.3  But God’s response to Abraham is pretty awesome here, Sodom is an incredibly wicked city, but God would refrain from destroying it for just 10 good people. 10 righteous people who are not opposed to the Lord.

2.3.1       This would have been a comfort for Abraham as he knew he and his descendants, would be among the righteous people living in wicked cities. 

2.4  Billy Graham once famously said that if God did not judge the USA, he’d have to apologise to Sodom and Gomorrah…, actually his wife said it and he quoted her.

2.4.1       But there are righteous people in America. I know some of them personally, there are many, many of them in fact. God restrains his judgement on the nations to give his righteous people an opportunity to have an impact on those nations.

2.4.2       As descendants of Abraham we carry on his legacy of being a blessing to the nations, all nations, all people, God creates his family to change the world. What God is saying is if we here today had been in Sodom and Gomorrah, he wouldn’t have destroyed it, because there would have still been hope for the cities.  You know that this means: we can turn this ship around here in Australia. I really believe that. I refuse to be a defeatist Christian.

3.     Sin City (Gen. 19:1-11) – “19 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth 2 and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant's house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” 3 But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. 4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” 6 Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, 7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8 Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” 9 But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. 10 But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. 11 And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.”

3.1  Now there is no doubt that homosexuality is involved in this situation in Sodom, all these men in this city want to “know” these angels of the Lord. In other words have sex with them, in fact in this context, sexually abuse them.

3.1.1       It’s obvious that this is a city where God’s created design for sex to be between a man and his wife has been completely rejected. But there is more to the sin than just that, this city has been completely given over to wickedness of many kinds.

3.1.2       They are so wicked that they want to harm these visitors, who they obviously do not realize are angels (nor does Lot likely know this either).

3.2  Hospitality was a big deal in this culture, Lot says to them, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8 Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

3.2.1       It’s pretty shocking to us that Lot would offer his daughters to protect two strangers. There are two ways to handle this statement:  1) Lot is just being dramatic. He could be saying something similar to: why don’t you take the clothes off my back as well. Like someone may say to a bank today.  2) Or he is serious in his commitment to provide hospitality. To us today we think of hospitality as bringing someone into your home for a coffee, and cake, or maybe for a meal. But in the ancient near east, and even today in the Middle East when you took a visitor into your home they came under your complete protection. It is one of their highest cultural laws.       The movie ‘Lone Survivor’ highlights this very well (explain how the Afghani man takes the US Navy Seal into his home and protects him from the Taliban).

3.3  So, homosexuality is a problem in this city, but they are also seeking to attack the weak, or at least who they think are weak. We are told this in Ezekiel 16:49 “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” We are also told this in Jude 1:7 “…just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” So, what is at the heart of their sin? These cities had inverted everything that is good.

3.3.1       They had inverted God ordained sexual roles. The men of this city, are lusting after these new men in town. Homosexuality is an inversion of sexuality. One our culture celebrates. But so is every other form of sexual sin (expand).  

3.3.2       They had inverted hospitality. Instead of protecting the strangers they wanted to abuse them. Instead of using their wealth to care for the poor, they oppressed them.

3.3.3       In other words they had become the epitome of a selfish, self-love culture. What happens to a culture when you completely reject God, the same thing that happens to the solar system when you boot out the sun: everything goes haywire.

3.4  The whole basis of Christian morality is this: what God says is what we shall do: because he is the sun to our solar system. He is our creator and knows what is best for us. This city was filled with people who said: we are our own gods. Because this is what we are saying, when we determine that our way is better than God’s way.

3.4.1       Whether it is homosexuality, or adultery, or living selfishly with our wealth, or taking advantage of those who are weaker than us, or anything like this, it all goes against God’s design for how humanity is to live. How do you save a city like this? With righteous people.

4.     A few good people – We are told in 2 Peter that Lot was a righteous man, whom God saved, but he wasn’t very effective. “14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. 15 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” 16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. 17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away… 23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. 27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. 29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.”

4.1  His sons in laws did not take him seriously, neither did his wife. In fact if you keep reading you will see that Lot’s daughters weren’t very righteous either. “30 Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters…34 The next day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine tonight also. Then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” 35 So they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. 36 Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. 37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. 38 The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day…” If this family had lived today they would be a reality TV show family. They could called it: Keeping Up With the Lot of them, or Desperate Cave Daughters, or something.

4.1.1       Lot had failed to be a blessing to Sodom and Gomorrah, even though he was a judge in the city, ruling at it’s gate. He had failed to have an impact.

4.2  But this is where Abraham and his descendants come in: it was through them that God wanted to impact the world for righteousness. Through Abraham teaching his children the way of righteousness, and his children teaching their children, and their children teaching their children.

4.3  In other words, how do you save a city like Sodom or Gomorrah? With a few good families raising their children in righteousness and sharing the way of God.

4.3.1       I know what some people here are thinking right now, let me answer it this way. I was watching this Star Trek style comedy and this planet is about to be destroyed and Cmdr. Kelly Grayson says, “Captain there’s families on that planet.” And the pilot whispers loudly to himself, “There’s probably plenty of single people too.”

4.3.2       I just laughed, because it’s so true, single people often get left out in situations like this. Jesus was single, Paul was single. But what’s fascinating is that they both dedicated their lives to building families around them – brothers and sisters in the faith. Building the Family of God.

4.3.3       There is a place for all of us in building the family of God, and there is a place for all us in having an impact on our city, such that people are saved from destruction – and this is our purpose in this world.

5.     Conclusion: Judgement – There is a judgement day coming. Those are the stakes. To paraphrase Israel Folau – Hell awaits everyone who does not repent. Turn or burn may sound harsh, but that is what it all comes down to in the end. Everything else is just extra. I feel like we have forgotten about just how frightening the judgement of God can be on wickedness.

5.1  There are pastors who won’t talk about.

5.2  There are pastors who publicly won’t call out sin, or particular sins like homosexuality and greed and gluttony, etc. There are other pastors who pretend that these are the only sins.

5.3  There are pastors who like Lot give people the impression the judgement of God is nothing to fear. Our role as Christians is to make sure people are aware. For some judgement day will be worse than it was for Sodom and Gomorrah. For everyone who repents it will be better. Trust in Jesus while there is still time, and take that message to others.

5.3.1       All it takes is just a few good people to get the message out there, and we’ve got more than that.