Book Sale

Saturday 31 December 2022

New Years Contemplations

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I don't agree with those who say that New Years Eve is just another day. It is not, it is an ending, the end of a solar cycle, another year has passed, and a new one is dawning. And it is a natural and good time for reflection. 

God created the seasons, the days, the weeks months and years, for us to recognize their rhythms and differences.  

Genesis tells us that each day is to have night and day. And each week seven days, six for work and one for rest. And God created the seasons as well, Genesis 8:22, "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” The seasons are different, with different offerings. Winter gives us coolness and time for rest. Summer gives us heat and time for production. Spring brings the breaking of new life and the flourishing of beauty. Autumn warns us that the cold is on the way, and that we should prepare. 

The seasons are all different and built into this world, they are not man-made ideas. They were created by God for humanity to observe and identify and understand their timings and differences, "It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out" (Prov. 25:2). God intended for mankind to study the different rhythms and times and structure our lives according to their different offerings.

The Bible itself reflects on the beauty of the differences of the days and what each new day brings us, 

"22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

    his mercies never come to an end;

23 they are new every morning;

    great is your faithfulness.

24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

    “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lam. 3:22-24). 

Each new day brings new mercies, new grace and new beginnings. It is not just another day, it is a new opportunity to receive mercy and good things from the Lord, to face new challenges, to start again, and afresh. 

Jesus himself reflects on this same idea, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matt. 6:34). New days give us an opportunity for new beginnings, and as each new day will have its own problems, don't view them as just a continuation of progressing time, but as new and individual gifts from God. The end of night is a closing, the waking up in the morning is a new beginning. We are supposed to reflect on this. 

Some Puritan might jump in here and say, but we aren't supposed to observe days.

"16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God" (Col. 2:16-19). 

Paul is simply observing here that observing special days does not make you holier before God. But I am not arguing that they do. I am observing that each new beginning, each new day, week, month, or year, is a new offering from God, a new gift from the Lord above, to help you to contemplate, reflect and ultimately repent from what you have done wrong and look forward to a new day and a new beginning. Why do you think the Bible says not to let the sun go down on your anger? It is because God wants you to start afresh on that new day. 

So, this New Years take the time to reflect and contemplate on your successes and failures in the past year. Reflect on the goals you have achieved and the ones you have not, and on the ways you have not maintained your faithfulness, and rejoice in the fact that the Lord gives you another year, a new start to work on these things again. Rejoice in the Lord who gives us these winding down of old days and these ramping up of new days. He is good to us. 

Friday 30 December 2022

Be Good Citizens


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Sermon 10. Be Good Citizens (Titus 3:1-7).

Introduction –

One thing we know about the Bible is that it is never controversial. It presents a mild mannered saviour, who is always perfectly polite in the Old Victorian way, who goes out of his way to never offend anyone around him. And it presents a series of simple moral guidelines that if followed never breed controversy and never make your life more difficult…

…And of course, that is nonsense. Despite what people say at Christmas about Jesus coming to give “peace and goodwill to all men” Jesus himself told us Matthew 10:34-36 –

“34 Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.”

Jesus told us he brought with him a sword that shakes up all the old structures and creates division simply because of its declaration of truth. Remember we observed over the last couple of weeks that the coming of the king changes everything, his truth is a sword that naturally divides.

That sentiment that people say at Christmas time about peace and goodwill does come from a Biblical idea and even a verse, and we will come back to it, but what we know is that Jesus was not shy about being controversial. He acknowledged that he is controversial, the Bible acknowledges that the word of God is a sword and therefore will create divisions. Where truth is spoken divisions will happen, it is unavoidable. Light pushes against darkness, truth confronts lies, this is how it has always been and will always be in this world.

We should not avoid wrestling with difficult topics, just because they cause controversy. Unnecessary controversy is a waste of time and damaging in many ways. But saying truthful things that might create divisions is something that is required of every believer. You and I are commanded to wield the sword of the truth, knowing full well that it will create issues for us and others.

Today we are going to talk about an issue that will likely dredge up some recent controversy. Not because we want to do that for fun, but because the text for today demands it. Titus 3:1-7 forces us to wrestle with some principles that in recent years split friendships, families, churches, and society and this is all still fresh in our minds. But because the text goes where it does, we are going to go there today as well. Today we are going to talk about being good citizens and what this means, biblically.  

There was a time not that long ago when this was hardly controversial for Aussies. It did not create discomfort for most of us believers. But our world is changing, and becoming less Christian, and we are commanded to be good citizens of two kingdoms: our earthly society and God’s kingdom. The tension and controversy comes in where these two kingdoms collide.

So, let’s examine what Paul says about being a good citizen, and how we should navigate those times when these two kingdoms collide.

Be Good Citizens (vv.1-2) – Paul begins by telling the Christians in Crete to be good citizens, “1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” To be honest, I prefer how the KJV translates these two verses, because it makes more sense of the original, particularly in the last phrase, “1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, 2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.” The Christian’s default setting is to be a good citizen, who does not want to break the law, who respects governmental authority and is generally peaceable and good to live around.

I don’t know any Christians who are not like this. Most Christians, though not perfect, make good citizens and good neighbours. Paul is saying be the kind of people that people want to have as their neighbours, and that governments want to have as their citizens. People who are not troublesome and bothersome, but noble and good.   

I think the ESV translates verse two very poorly, because “show perfect courtesy to all men” is not what the passage says in the original language. It also says something very limiting in modern Western society, where perfect courtesy is interpreted through the grid of the Victorian era and includes ideas about what sorts of forks to use, and what suit you should wear at what sort of meal, and never being harsh in your speech. This makes no sense, when the words behind this passage being translated are better rendered “showing all meekness unto all men.”

Jesus showed “all meekness until all men” but he did not always fit our ideas of perfect curtesy. 

In other words, Paul is saying, be humbly self-controlled with all people. That can mean something very different to perfect courtesy. It means bear with them in patience and control your passions around other people.

This is incredibly wise. In essence what Paul is saying is we should be self-controlled citizens, who want to obey the authorities God has put in place to govern society.

Christians are not to be anarchists, who believe that government should not exist, but model citizens. It is foundational Christian doctrine that God institutes governments for the good of humanity. It is one of the things God does to limit evil in the world, and Paul in Romans 13 and Peter in 1 Peter 2, both tell us that government exists to punish evildoers.

What do they mean? Well, we will come back to this.

Christians are also not to be revolutionaries or rebels for the sake of ungodly causes. There are all sorts of organizations in our society that want to overturn everything about our society, these people are not friends of the gospel. Christians should defend and uphold good traditions which protect the nation from disaster.  

We are to live this way, because we have been transformed.

A Transformed People (vv.3-6) – We are to be good citizens, not because the government is God, and the highest authority of our lives, but because we are now different, “3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. The reason we reorientate our life, is because we have been changed from what we once were.   

Paul is saying, there was once a time when we lived like unsaved pagans. This would be different for different people, with varying degrees.  

-        Some of you were born into a Christian home and cannot remember a time when you were not Christians in culture, if not in actuality.

-        Some of us lived lives of out and out rebellion, rejecting many of the teachings of God and engaging in the things this world has to offer us.

But all of us at one point, before we were believers were alienated from God. Even if our behaviour was good, it was still sinful in the eyes of God and fell short of his glory.

I can’t help but observe that Paul likely has himself in mind here. He was particularly bad before he was saved, he was a self-righteous enforcer of God’s law, and he had become so wicked at heart that he had persecuted God’s own people.

Many people can relate to Paul, maybe not to the same extreme as him, but a lot of people have been saved from a rough and rebellious life. This would have been especially true in Paul’s day, when many people were being saved from a godless Judaism or pagan Satan worship.

A society of unregenerated people can be a dangerous place. It’s not that everyone will be as evil as possible all the time, but there is less restraint on wickedness. Many societies in the past were honour/shame cultures. Societies where if someone wronged you, you were forced to get revenge by honour. When Paul says, “passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” He means this was literally a part of the culture of Rome, Greece and other societies in that day.

Vengeance was an expected thing. A wronged party must avenge themselves. Hatred for petty slights was common. Law was a means of dominating others, maliciously hurting others, and getting one back over others.

The advance of the gospel through society began to change this, and the decline of Christianity in the West will see society again become more like this. Get ready for it.

But the key thing we want to focus on in our message today is why we exhibit this change.

People of a New Kingdom (vv.4-6) – The reason we bring change is because we have been made citizens of a new kingdom with a new heart, and we are made new by our good and gracious king,  - “4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,…” Paul wants us to draw our motivation for being good citizens from the fact that we are now citizens of a new kingdom.

We have been saved by the kindness of our God.

-        Not because of works, but because of his mercy.

-        God does this by regenerating us, that is making us born again, and renewing us by the Power of the Holy Spirit. Through what Jesus Christ has done on our behalf.

-        God changes us completely on the inside so we can live in a very different way.

In other words, Paul is saying, I Corinthians 6:19-20 - “19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

We are to be submissive to rulers, authorities, magistrates, be ready to be good, and be meek with others, because we are people of the true King, and that is how he wants us to live. We do it to bring him the glory.  

As Paul says at the beginning of Titus, “1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ…Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior” (Tit. 1:1-4).

We have a new king, a new allegiance, and we are to follow what he says. Government is not our God. Money is not our God. Our boss is not our God. No human authority or power is our God. The Lord God, maker of heaven and earth, is our God, and we want to honour him, so we respect those in authority of us in the way he tells us to.

Anyone disagree with this? I don’t think any Christian disagrees with this. And here is where we get our conflict and our controversy. Because what happens if the authorities God tells us to obey step outside their God-given authority?

Kingdoms Colliding – What makes this question interesting is when we examine the lives of the people who wrote the Bible we see that many of them were killed, unjustly by government officials.

-        Jesus was killed by the Jewish government and the Roman government, as a lawbreaker. They worked together to crucify him.  

-        Paul was executed by the Roman government as a lawbreaker. He was imprisoned multiple times and eventually executed.  

-        Almost all of the Apostle’s were killed by various governments around Rome, as lawbreakers.  

-        Stephen, the Deacon, was martyred by the lawful officials of the province of Judea, and an official of the Sanhedrin, Paul, approved of his execution.

-        Paul himself, as a Jewish agent, put many Christians in jail and worse, Acts 26:9-11 – “9 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.”

Paul did this as an official agent of the Sanhedrin, which had the responsibility of governing Judea, alongside the Herodians and the Roman officials.

Remember, even though the Sanhedrin were religious officials, the ancients did not separate religion from secular government, they were intertwined. Therefore, Paul was an official agent of part of the legitimate governing authority of his day.

He used this authority to persecute and punish Christians who did not obey the Jewish law. They used Roman law to persecute Christians as well.

Note this point, persecution is almost always legal. It is almost always official. It almost always has the stamp of government authority.

Indeed, just before Paul wrote this command in Titus, he had been imprisoned in Rome, and just recently released, on account of his Christianity, and he would soon be rearrested and executed after writing these words to Titus.

Christians were arrested for all sorts of reasons. It’s not just that they preached the gospel. They undermined businesses based on idolatry, they were accused of disturbing the peace, they were treated like insurrectionists, faced trumped up charges, all sorts of reasons.

So, a brief reading of just the New Testament shows us that all of the Apostles and the Lord Jesus Christ himself came into conflict with the authorities of their day, just seeking to be good and faithful teachers and witnesses to the truth.

So, we can see that just saying, “obey government” is not the full story of what it means to be a good citizen in Christian terms. Because Paul himself, and Jesus were persecuted as bad citizens of this world. Both were killed, by the governments of their day.

Are you going to say that Jesus and Paul deserved it? Because that is what a lot of modern Christians say about their brothers and sisters facing trouble from conflict with the authorities.

So this is not as simple as people would like. This is a Christian principle where the Bible forces us to think and pray hard. Paul outlines for us why it is not that simple in one of his other letters.

Servants of God – Remember Paul told us that he is a servant of God, and we know that we are servants of God. But, and many people forget this, the government is God’s servant as well, and just like any other servant of God, they are bound by his commands, and are to submit to his authority, and stay within their own sphere of authority. Paul tells us in Romans 13:1-10 –

“13 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. 8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (KJV).

Paul is saying in more details here, what he said before in Titus. Let’s observe just a few points:

-        The highest authority is God (v.1) – So who is our highest authority? God. Who is the governments highest authority? God. God sits above both individual man and government. Correct?

-        We obey Government, because it is his servant (vv.1-2) – Government is God’s servant, just as much as Paul, you or I, and therefore, as God’s servant government must follow the commands of God. As God’s servants we also seek to follow the commands of God.

-        Government is God’s servant for good (v.3-6) – just as we are expected by God to do good, so is government. God is not ok with people or governments doing evil, and we only have authority to do the good God allows us, everything else is disobedience. This is true for people and governments.  

-        We obey for the sake of conscience (v.5) – We don’t obey just because we are afraid of government, but because we want to have a clear conscience before God. That is our primary motivation for everything, because we are people of the king.

But what if the government tells you to do something that you cannot abide because it crosses a boundary you cannot cross. What happens if your conscience says you must obey God not man? What do you do there?

This is why Jesus, Paul, and the Apostles, found themselves persecuted and killed by lawful governments, because they all found themselves in situations where God’s commands contradicted man’s commands, and they chose to follow God over man.

For this, they were killed.

For this same reason countless millions of Christians died by legal persecution. Because a government said something that contradicted God’s word, and they could not comply.  

Let me ask this question: if Government is God’s servant, is it allowed to disobey God? No. No more than we are. God is the highest authority remember.

So, if we follow for conscience sake, then what happens if our conscience says, “I can’t comply?” What happens if our conscience says, “This is evil, I will not go along with this?” What do you do?

Limits of Government Authority (Rom. 13:3, 9-10) – The first thing you have to do, is understand the limits of governmental authority. Paul shows us these limits in two ways in this passage.

First, the government is only authorized by God to punish evil - “3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same…”

Government does not get to define evil. It must punish the evil that God says it is allowed to punish. God determines what is good, not man.

Second, it is only authorized by God to punish with the sword those things on the second tablet of law –

“9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

Notice, that all of these commandments here, in the context of government authority, come from the second tablet of law. Therefore, this limits the sphere of government where the State can use the sword to punish.

Any commandment in the Old Testament that transgresses love for you neighbour, deliberately hurting your neighbour, is covered by this law. As Paul says, “if there by any other commandment” about “working no ill to your neighbour.”

This includes seeking to kill them, lie about them, steal from them, steal a man’s wife, etc, do these things and you can be punished by the law, according to Paul.  

Early Baptists argued that the government exists to punish people for things that deliberately hurt our neighbours. Because government exists to protect life and liberty. So, when it comes to life and liberty the government has every right to stop you hurting your neighbour.

But does this give government total authority over your body? No, your body is God’s. Does this mean the government can make laws saying you should have to put something in your body you don’t want? No, this is going too far. Does this mean the government can coerce your conscience on matters of belief? No, because your conscience is judged by God and God alone.

In other word’s government is a good gift from God, that God ordains to protect people from evil, to collect taxes, to stop murderers and adulterers, but when it goes beyond this, it goes beyond its authority and disobeys God.

If you ignore your conscience and follow ungodly commands, you also disobey God.

Ergo, living in this world, seeking to be citizens of both this world and the heavenly kingdom is going to create conflict eventually. For different people this will provoke different areas of conscience. It is not an accident that Romans 13 which talks about obeying the authorities, is followed by Romans 14 that is all about conscience issues on disputable matters,

“2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables... 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind…7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;…” (Rom. 14:7-10).

On disputable matters Christians are going to fall down on different sides of issues, and we are supposed to allow for that kind of freedom. In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.

There is so much more we could talk about with this, but I think reflecting on how this relates to Christmas is the best way to conclude our sermon this morning, so you can see that what we are talking about here is Orthodox, old school Christianity.

The Kingdom Revolution – Up until very recently in our culture, these kinds of conscience issues were not a big problem for most of us. Our culture was heavily influenced by Christianity, and through many trials and tribulations, Christians had created a culture where we could live peaceably together without state persecution. It was the coming of our king that made this possible, in fact, look at what Mary says about her own pregnancy,

Mary’s Song, Luke 1:46-47, 51-53 

“46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.”

Mary foresaw what the coming of her son into the world would do, it would upturn kingdoms and change the world forever, “51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;…”

The coming of Jesus, that changed everything, was going to mean that oppressions would be opposed, and the humble would be lifted up.

Part of the way that the coming of Jesus overturned kingdoms, is because it created a people, the Church, the people of God, who knew that they should obey governments when governments were obeying God, and they should obey God all the time, no matter what, even if they suffered for it from governments.

These people knew that even though government had no right to punish them for following God, because the authorities had the sword and were often ruled by evil men, they would suffer anyway, and they faced this with joy. Counting it as a reward to be treated as their saviour was.

It was the peaceful suffering of countless believers like this, who wanted to obey their governments as much as they could, be good citizens of their homes on earth, but also good citizens of heaven, that brought about this change.

Through the efforts of these Christians oppressions were opposed and ceased throughout the world. This is at the heart of the message of Christmas, as Mary tells us, and as the great Christmas carol O Holy Night says,

“The King of kings lay thus lowly manger

In all our trials born to be our friends

He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger

Behold your King, before him, lowly bend

Behold your King, before him, lowly bend

Truly He taught us to love one another

His law is love and His gospel is peace

Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother

And in his name all oppression shall cease.”

That’s right, you sang about this every year at Christmas, but the songs were so familiar to you, you missed it. It is those who submit to God, that enjoy his peace and goodwill, “Luke 2:13-14 – “13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (KJV). Jesus offers peace and goodwill to those who bend the knee before the king.

Conclusion – So, Paul does want us to be good citizens. Good citizens of our nation, and good citizens of the kingdom of heaven. And when we are forced to choose, not by our own choice, but by wicked men who usurp an authority that is not actually there, we should always choose to obey God over man, even if that means we suffer for doing so, because we have a better hope than anything this world offers, as Paul says in verse 7, “so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

This is the hope we look forward to. Let’s hope and pray that we get to live quiet lives, humbly submitting to the authorities over us. But let’s also pray that when we are forced to choose, we choose with Joshua who said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Let’s pray.

Thursday 29 December 2022

Christian Nationalism And Old Testament Law

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I was asked my opinion on how the Old Testament Law should apply in a Christian nation. Is Christian Nationalism incompatible with the gospel, because of its utilization of Old Testament principles of law? 

Here was my response:

When it comes to enforcing laws for your nation you only have four options: 

1) The Anabaptist position - this is that Christians should be involved in no government organizations that involve the sword. This means police, military, magistrate, politician and more. Complete divorcement from all government involvement is required. Governments should still govern righteously, but Christians should not get involved in government. The flaws of this position are obvious and this is why Baptists and virtually all other Christian denominations reject this position. While Anabaptist communities are successful in some parts of Europe and the USA, their way of life is very limiting and does not spread easily. So, their approach makes it hard for Christianity to advance. Though it can preserve elements of Christianity for centuries in traditional form in the right circumstances (it's a version of the Benedict option, really). 

However, these commune type Christian expressions, to my knowledge at least, only survive in deeply Christian lands, where they are defended by favourable Christian magistrates and warriors or in wilderness areas like deserts or mountain tops, where asailing them is too costly. 

There are only 3 more options for drawing your laws for society: 

(2) Ancient philosophers,
(3) Modern philosophers and 
(4) Mosaic law. 

All man-made religions fall into either the second or third category, as do all other secular approaches to law, including humanism, Marxism, socialism, nazism, progressivism, libertarianism, etc. Then there is God's law, the final, or fourth option. 

When you accept that Christians are not only allowed to be involved in government (do all you do unto the glory of God), but that it is a good way to love your neighbour (the man most commended by Jesus in the Bible bore the sword for a living; the centurion of Matt. 8, and John the Baptist noted that soldiers could enact justice in society), then it is foolish not to at least learn from the Old Testament law. 

After all, this was Paul's position, 

Romans 13:8-10 - "8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." 

Paul observed in the context of discussing the State enforcing laws, that these laws should be guided by the laws of God. He explicitly quotes the second tablet of the Mosaic Ten Commandments, and then notes that applying all the laws pertaining to the treatment of neighbours fulfils the principle of love. This is a Christian Nationalist approach if I ever saw one. Paul's argument is: governments are God's servants and should rule like they are, for the righteous good of people. 

The Baptist historical position is that the laws pertaining to loving your neighbour should still be enforced, and the ritualistic and preistly laws (the priesthood, food laws, etc) no longer apply, because they are fulfilled in Christ. All versions of Christian countries apply either a similar approach, to varying degrees of this, or draw even more heavily on the wider Old Testament laws. 

Many of the more egregious beliefs of false religions, can be curtailed by an application of second tablet of the law. They can also be curtailed by limiting who can live in your society. Which really is an extension of loving your neighbour. 

I think Locke's approach in Letter Concerning Toleration is the best, and led to the most free societies ever, the modern English descended nations. These post Reformation English speaking societies achieved a balance between liberty and godly societies, at least for a time, until we ignored Locke's warnings. 

Locke warned in Letter Concerning Toleration about the dangers of strangers, especially from vastly different religious cultures, being allowed to live in your society. Ergo there is wisdom in banning or heavily limiting immigration, and placing limits on foreign trade, because international trade promotes immigration. By limiting these things you reduce the influence of foreign ideas and false religions in your society, and you prevent the quick the corruption of your law codes.

Machiavelli notes that the freest nation in all of Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries was Germany because it neither permitted immigration in any meaningful numbers, nor did it allow much free trade from outside of Germany. They traded liberally within, which preserved their culture and identity and their liberty. Once you permit both these things, immigration and international free trade, your laws will be corrupted because it encourages your society to tolerate things your laws were never intended to tolerate, because you will have people in your society who live in ways your laws did not envision. Locke makes a similar argument in the 17th century work Letter Concerning Toleration.

So Christian Nationalism, with varying degrees of application of Old Testament principles, is both biblically and historically the best approach. As observed by some of the greatest thinkers in history, and Paul's own writings support this.

Wednesday 28 December 2022

The Bubble Is Popping?

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The Australian housing market is one of the most expensive in the world. Everybody here just continues to agree to pay far over the value for a house, just because they can, whilst also expecting the bubble to continue growing. And for a long time this has worked for a lot of people. People have charged and received exorbitant prices for homes, because people just believe no matter what they pay, it will sell for much more. 

But is this game finally ending

“Misalignment in housing prices, combined with the expected rise in interest rates as central banks normalise monetary policy, suggests a significant risk of a correction in housing prices.”

The IMF said that in Australia this year house pries may be as much as 50 per cent above what a median household can afford, indicating unaffordable housing.

“The average household would need to spend more than 40 percent of its disposable income to afford housing priced at the median,” it said.

“Spending a large share of disposable income on housing-related expenditures is often considered to be a sign of unaffordable housing."

Trying to predict when the Aussie housing market is going to crash, is seemingly impossible. I have been waiting for the housing bubble to crash since the early 2010's. I know people who have been expecting it quite a bit longer. All the signs are there of a coming big crash, but again and again they manage to kick the can down the road. It's remarkable. It's like the economic rules don't apply. 

The Labor government is planning to ramp up immigration next year to record levels, for several reasons. Maybe that will have the effect of maintaining the housing bubble for longer. If it does, it will be at the continued expense of average Australians who are increasingly becoming mortgage slaves; husband, wife and sometimes more. 

Once a house loan was a manageable, if still significant, part of the working man's income. With simple living he could work outside the home, his wife could manage the home and the kids had clothes, food for school, and decent, but basic, holidays. Now it takes mum and dad both working for an ordinary family to provide a similar basic lifestyle. Sometimes that doesn't work. I know people who are renting out half their home just to keep it. Increasingly adult children are staying home well into adulthood, even with a spouse and kids, or moving back home, to save for a house. 

A correction needs to happen, will 2023 finally be the year? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing is for sure, government policy is not making life easier for the average Aussies. The average bank though is making out like bandits.  

Tuesday 27 December 2022

The US Is An Oligarchy

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I know this might not need to be said for some. But I had a guy tell me in an online discussion a while back that I needed to read what a Republican system is, because, as he asserted America is not an oligarchy, it's a Republic. Obviously he had not been paying attention to how the wealthy have co-opted his political system. 

I observe that right leaning conservatives tend to be blind to oligarchic influences on their nation, because they see merit wherever there is wealth. However, this is often a false lense. Once society coalesces enough wealth in the hands of a small enough group of people, then wealth becomes its own kind of "merit". This is oligarchy in its formation stages. 

So I thought I'd put this here for future reference:

"Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

In English: the wealthy few move policy, while the average American has little power.

The two professors came to this conclusion after reviewing answers to 1,779 survey questions asked between 1981 and 2002 on public policy issues. They broke the responses down by income level, and then determined how often certain income levels and organised interest groups saw their policy preferences enacted.

"A proposed policy change with low support among economically elite Americans (one-out-of-five in favour) is adopted only about 18% of the time," they write, "while a proposed change with high support (four-out-of-five in favour) is adopted about 45% of the time."

On the other hand:

When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it."

In other words America is an oligarchy and trending more that way as time goes on. 

This might not be news to you, but I've encountered Americans who still can't accept this. Not that the Australian political sphere is much better. Our government appears to more and more tend to minority interests as time goes on, rather than mainstream Aussie culture. Such is the tendency of decaying societies. They forget what is important. 

Monday 26 December 2022


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Praise God for rest. 

"3 When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, 4 you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:

“How the oppressor has ceased,

    the insolent fury ceased!

5 The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked,

    the scepter of rulers,

6 that struck the peoples in wrath

    with unceasing blows,

that ruled the nations in anger

    with unrelenting persecution.

7 The whole earth is at rest and quiet;

    they break forth into singing" (Isa. 14:3-7). 

Just as Babylon was defeated, so has the greatest of oppressors, the Devil, been defeated by Jesus on the cross. Therefore we can rest and rejoice. Not everyday do we rest literally, because we are not yet in the fullness of his kingdom, but still we can take days to rest and be quiet and rejoice at evil being defeated. And our souls can rest in him perpetually. 

Enjoy these days of rest. They give us a window in our rest with him. Enjoy the good gifts God has given you. 

Sunday 25 December 2022

Christmas Day 2022 – The Scandal of the Incarnation (Luke 2:1-21)

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Merry Christmas. Today is Christmas day, the most wonderful time of year, and Christians everywhere are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. But for some people this day is not as wonderful as they once felt it to be. Have you heard the old saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder and familiarity breeds contempt.” We human beings can become so familiar with a truth, so used to it, so accustomed to it, that it can start to really lose its impact on us. I think this is true for Christmas day. It has been such a blessing for so long for so many people that we can forget just how beautiful and powerful it is.

Keith Green has this beautiful song, called My Eyes Are Dry, where he says this,

“My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine.”[1]

He wants to be made freshly aware of the beauty of the truth about Jesus again. This is my prayer for you this morning, that Christmas would be made alive to you again. There are two kinds of Christmas wonder, and we need to, I think, never lose the sense of both of them. The first is the wonder a small child has at the joy of Christmas day. The expectation and excitement that they get at the fading away of the year and the joy of Christmas coming. I think you lose this once you get a bit older and it really starts to come back again, once you have had kids. I really enjoy buying my kids presents, it is good to be see their joy on the day. The other kind of wonder is the joy you had when you first realized what actually happened at Christmas, the joy of the salvation we have in Jesus. The Bible calls this our first love. We never want to lose our first love, and when we feel that we have we need to ask God to help us restore it again.

So, let’s examine once again what actually happened on that Christmas day, so long ago. And yes, I know it was not technically called Christmas day yet, but who cares, let’s explore it anyway and examine the scandal of the incarnation.

The Scandal of the Incarnation (Luke 2:1-5)

Have you ever considered what a scandal the birth of Jesus was in many ways, to the people of this world? Of course, from our perspective it is not, but in many ways to the people in Jesus’ day, something had happened they could not get their heads around or accept,

Luke 2:1-5 - “1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.”

The scandal is in those words, “Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.” This account starts off pretty mild. It begins with a call for a census of the Roman people and subjects, and Joseph takes his betrothed with him to be counted in the census. They were not quite married yet, betrothal happened sometime before the marriage, and betrothed women were not supposed to be with child. It starts off mild but ventures into the remarkable.

We know that Joseph at first felt the scandal of this, because we read this in Matthew 1:18-21,

“18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

We tend not to give ancient people much credit. The modern sceptic often mocks the incarnation and the virgin birth of Jesus by saying, “That was just a bunch of superstitious peasants in a superstitious age. They would believe anything they are told.”

But what was Joseph’s instant response when he finds out his wife to be is pregnant? “19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” Joseph wanted to quietly put her away, to save her the shame of what he thought had happened. He didn’t believe Mary for a moment, these people knew how babies were made. What convinced him otherwise? An angel of the Lord telling him how the baby was conceived.

We also know that some people in Israel did not believe the account of Mary and Joseph and considered it be a scandal. In one of Jesus’ debates with the Jewish leaders, some of them respond to him, “You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God” (John 8:41). When Jesus challenges the Jewish leaders about who they truly represent, they hit him with the, “at least we know who our father is” line.

Which falls flat because Jesus really is from God, and they really were not.

I show all of this to highlight that the incarnation is not easy for the natural mind to accept. Because in the incarnation we have the coming together of God and man; two natures, divine and human, in perfect union in one body, fully God and fully man.  

It’s not just a miracle, it’s the miracle of miracles. And it is hard to understand for all of us.  

It’s not just hard to understand. To the ancient Jewish mind, it was scandalous in the extreme. Because God was considered to be completely other than man, unknowable in a sense. In their view, God and man could not come together and yet they did.

Everything we have talked about so far, is partly why Peter wrote this, 1 Peter 2:6-8,

“6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”

The incarnation trips some people up. It is to them a scandal, a stumbling block. The Apostle’s got it, and the disciples got it. The message of salvation is foolishness to those who are perishing, but the power of God to those who are being saved. The carol writers got it too,

“Gentle Mary laid her Child

Lowly in a manger;

There He lay, the undefiled,

To the world a stranger:

Such a Babe in such a place,

Can He be the Savior?”

People didn’t believe the statement about the virgin birth because they were unsophisticated ancient peasants, they believed it because of the signs that followed that conception.

A Lowly Birth (Luke 2:6-7)

Think about this, think about the glory of God. Think about the majesty of his being. Think about the angels that attend to him continually, think about the presence of his might and light and glory, and think about all this veiled and wrapped into the body of a little boy in a place where animals sleep, “6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

The king of the universe, what does he deserve? And yet this what he received:

“Away in a manger

No crib for a bed

The little Lord Jesus

Laid down His sweet head

The stars in the bright sky

Looked down where He lay

The little Lord Jesus

Asleep on the hay.”

When the Bible says that for a little while he lowered himself to be lower than the angels, it really means that. Jesus, the son of God, did not just become a man, he became an ordinary man, of no earthly power or majesty. A carpenter’s son, who lived in an obscure village, in a humble existence.  

He did this, so that he could experience what you experience in your everyday life. He experienced what it meant to have parents, and siblings (and he did have siblings, half brothers and sisters (Matt. 13:55-56)). He also experienced what it was like to work, what it was like to be lost by his parents, what it was like to be human in every way.

You could say the real scandal is that we don’t give him the honour he deserves.

Humanity is so fallen, so broken, so rebellious, so shattered in so many ways by the problems of this world, that we could not make our way to heaven. Heaven had to make its way to us. And it did, in the form of The Son of Man.  

And yet we often think we know better than our Lord. That is the real scandal, and praise God, our Lord is even gracious to us when we do that.

We in our pride seek to orientate our own lives according to our own desires, making ourselves God in his place. But he, in his infinite humility, took on the form of man, to experience life from our perspective so that he might suffer in our place.

He took on a lowly birth for us. He took on frail human flesh for us. He took on the trials and tribulations of this world for us. To save us from our sins and the power of Satan.

The Angel’s Worship (Luke 2:8-18)

And this is why the Angels worshipped,

“8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,

    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.”

What do the angels do, when the birth of Jesus happens? They go and tell some shepherds. The Shepherds were terrified, but I love what the angels say,

“10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

It is right for mankind to be afraid of the incredible glory of perfect beings. The angels are not deities, they are simply created beings, but they reflect “the glory of the Lord”, because they are in the presence of the Lord continually. Our sin mars the image of God in us. It diminishes it, harms it, causes it to be very tarnished. But the righteous angels carry it with them.

But these angels are just so excited at the birth of the king, the birth of the one who “will save his people from their sins” as the angel told Joseph. And because of this they proclaim and worship, “13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

They worship because they get it. They get how magnificent this whole event is. They understand the magnitude and the joy of this moment. The Bible tells us that Angels celebrate when one lost sheep is found. How much more were they excited when the saviour of the sheep was here?

“Hark! The herald angels sing

‘Glory to the new-born king

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled"

Joyful all ye nations rise

Join the triumph of the skies

With angelic host proclaim

‘Christ is born in Bethlehem’

Hark! The herald angels sing

‘Glory to the new-born king’”

It’s fitting that they come and celebrate with some godly shepherds. Because the chief Shepherd has been born and he is here to gather his flock, attend to his people and heal them from their hurts and wounds. He is here to set things right and lead his sheep to greener pastures.

Are you going to follow him?  

Mary Treasured These Things (Luke 2:19-21)

All throughout these momentous events is the humble young woman Mary, who rejoiced in the magnificence of all that occurred,

“19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.”

The one person who was privileged to know all along what had happened, was Mary. Joseph at first did not believe, but the angel convinced him. Mary’s family believed, because of the miracles they themselves experienced in the Lord’s presence (cf. Luke 1:39-80). Many of the Jews did not believe the account, some until after the pouring out of the spirit, many never. But Mary knew all along. And she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

For many this event was a scandal. Remember, “Mary, his betrothed,  who was with child.” Those would be scandalous words except for one thing, the miracle of God,

Luke 1:35-38 - “35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God…37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”

The life of Jesus proved to many that he was from God. For those of us who believe, we can sometimes forget how glorious this event was. For some others they cannot get their head around the idea of God being man, in the flesh, living on earth.

That is the real scandal, to me, is that some reject their true King. But he has come, he has achieved salvation for us on the cross, and he offers this to all who would believe in him. Turn to him now because he is returning. Turn to him now while there is still time. Merry Christmas.



[1] My Eyes Are Dry, Keith Green,