Articles about living out our lives in Christ Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, according to God commands.

Rev. George  D. Ball

PCEA Church and Nation Committee Statement on the Plebiscite 2017

If you are on the Australian electoral role you should receive in the mail a marriage ballot paper asking the question: should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry? Advocates for the ‘Yes’ campaign want to limit the debate strictly to the question. They don’t want to talk about the impact that change will bring. But the reality is that redefining marriage will have far reaching social, moral, religious and legal consequences that will be damaging to our society. Change threatens freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and will change what children will be taught in school. We are not scaremongering. One of the advocates for the ‘Yes’ campaign has said, ‘It might be stating the obvious but same sex marriage is far from the final frontier in the battle against homophobia.’ (Benjamin Law, Quarterly Essay: Moral Panic 101). 

We therefore encourage you to vote ‘No’.                                                                                                                          

We ask you to pray that people might be aware of the consequences of change to the Marriage Act and vote ‘No’.                                                                                                                 

We want you to keep informed on this issue. For up to date information visit the website of the Australian Christian Lobby, or Family Voice Australia.    

For a fuller statement on same sex marriage see the report presented by this committee and published in the Synod Reports May 2017 (Available to registered users. In PCEA congregations, see a Session member if you want to read a hard-copy).
We also need to understand that preserving a law will not save a nation. Hearts and lives need to be changed. The Gospel is the power of God that can alone change lives (Romans 1: 16). All need to be saved – the moral and the immoral – the religious and the irreligious – the heterosexual and the homosexual - for there is no one righteous – not even one. But God has shown us a way to be made right with him by placing our faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3: 21-26).
Thus, we ask you to beg the Lord to have mercy upon our land and be gracious toward us.  Pray that He might revive the church, restore our vision, and refresh our souls, to the glory of His name on earth.                                                                                                                 

‘Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people’ (Proverbs 14: 34).
   

 

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Rev. Andres Miranda

The Forces of Darkness

Matthew 4:1 –11

Perhaps one of the most overlooked problems of life is the presence of sinister forces that continually oppose everything that human beings can do to make life happy and sacred. So –beyond the disturbances that come to us from the environment and the tendencies towards evil that we are born with –we have to struggle with seductions to evil coming from Satan. Outside our physical reality, there are intelligent and evil entities all around us.

In Ephesians 5:12 Paul lifts the curtain of human reality, and he gives us a quick glimpse of this evil domain, which seems to be organised as a kingdom of “rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world”. They are inhabitants of the heavenly realms that want to subjugate the human race to their influence. If we believe Scripture, we need to face the fact that these evil superhuman beings exist in other realms of life –and that this realm is beyond the possibility of explaining it through human observations.

Now –Jesus came to show God to the human race. He also came to reveal what human beings are without God. I want to take this further, and say that Jesus also came to reveal the existence of these spiritual forces that oppose humanity. And it’s only when we study the conflict of Jesus with these evil forces, that we can understand their power and how we can conquer them. In Matthew 4 Satan comes to Jesus with three temptations –to make the stones into bread, to throw himself from the top of the temple, and to secure the kingdoms of the world. 

The story of Satan confronting Jesus in the desert, not only describes three different episodes of temptation, but the text also helps us to see that this hostile spirit follows certain methods for tempting people. Let me show you what I mean. In Matthew chapter 3, Jesus has come out from the isolation of Galilee, and he came to the Jordan to be baptised. There, he heard the voice of his Father saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

Then, the devil begins to tempt Jesus.  This immediately tells me that Christians are more vulnerable to the attacks of Satan, when they experience a new vision or a new understanding of God.  Having a new understanding God is more than thinking in a different way. When we have a new vision of God we experience practical understanding –and this understanding becomes the basis for the motivation of new actions of love and service and worship. No wonder the devil chooses this moment to tempt us. But the devil doesn’t stop there. He often comes to us with the suggestion that what he has to offer is a good thing. Look what verse 2 says:

After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

A hungry person must satisfy the need for food. So- Satan says to Jesus in verse 3:

If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.

That’s the first temptation. Notice carefully. Satan doesn’t tempt Jesus to do evil with some repulsive suggestion, but he comes to him with the proposition that he’s going to give him something that’s good in itself.

The devil says to Jesus, ‘Common, tell these stone to become bread, you need it! The tempter wants Jesus to use his powers for his self-interest.  But Jesus refused to do it. But there’s another side to this temptation. Jesus is the Son of God. He knew that. And the devil wants Jesus to misuse that relationship. Look what he said to him in the first part of verse 3:

If you are the Son of God

The devil didn’t say, “give up your relationship with your Father for a moment”, he’s actually telling him Jesus –use it and use for your advantage –use it for a perfectly natural human need –make bread. In verse 8, the devil is also using a temptation, which is coming from good logic. Look again what the devil says:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. All this I will give you, he said, if you will bow down and worship me.

That makes sense, right? Jesus came to get the kingdoms of the world, and to rule over them. And Satan is only offering to him precisely what Jesus came for.  This is a very cunning temptation. There’s nothing vulgar –offensive in the words. They are logical and seem to suggest something good and right.  That’s also the case with verses 5 and 6. Look what it says:

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down.

For it is written:“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

What can be more beautiful and inspiring than for the Son of God to surrender himself completely to the strength and tenderness of the Father? The devil is saying to the Lord; “Look here’s a great opportunity for you to prove the love and responsibility of your Father”. Go out to him! throw yourself down!. If God is your Father you’ll only find the tenderness of his love and the strength of his protective arms.

So- the passage shows that the devil is very subtle and a good logician. The text also underlines another method that the devil uses in his attacks –persistence.  After the temptations, verse 11 says this:

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

When you read this, it’s important to remember that the conflict between Jesus and the devil didn’t stop in the desert. The devil only left him for a while. Do you know when the devil finally left him? He left him on the morning of the resurrection. The devil never left Jesus alone until that time. The devil is very persistent. He followed Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane –he followed him to the cross – the presence of the devil is relentless and uncompromising (see Luke 22:28 -44). Only when Jesus came back triumphantly from the realm of death –these forces of evil left him and gave up their attempts to conquer and destroy the life of the Son of God. Remember the methods of the devil (1) he attacks when we are vulnerable, (2) he attacks when you have experienced a new vision of God, (3) and his temptations are based on the suggestions that seem to be good and right.     

So –how can we overcome the devil? First, be aware of the methods of the devil. To be aware is to be prepared. If you are aware of his method you are half –way to being victorious over him. Second, we need to protect ourselves against the devil by understanding the will of God written in the Bible. If we remain within the boundaries of the will of God we have a fortress that no demonic force can penetrate. The devil said: “Tell these stone to become bread”, Jesus answered, “It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus is saying here: My life is not the life you think it is. You think I only live for physical needs. You're wrong. My life is to live every word that comes from the mouth of God.

The secret of our victory is summarised by James 4:7:

Submit yourself to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Questions

What was the purpose of the temptations of Jesus?

  1. Jesus was the messiah. He knew it. In the desert he had to decide how he was going to win people to God. He could’ve persuaded the people to follow him by given them bread and material things. God did it in the past with the manna. Jesus also fed multitudes miraculously. What’s wrong with that? a) it would it been a bribe, b) would’ve been a denial of what he taught about giving –and not getting, c) it wouldn’t been a quick fix for humanity. The real problem is not physical hunger –but how to satisfy the emptiness of the heart. The only way to true satisfaction, in every sense of the word, is complete dependence in God.

 

Hebrews 2:14 -18 say that Jesus can help those who are being tempted. So- how can Jesus help?

First, he purifies our nature by making atonement for the sins of his people.

Second, Jesus knows what is like to be tempted.  From the beginning to the end of his ministry, Jesus had to fight the devil. The conflict between him and Satan didn’t start in the desert. The Lord Jesus faced temptations during his entire life. That’s why he can help us fight our battles.

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Rev. Andres Miranda

Through One Man

Heredity

Romans 5:12 –21

 

Every baby starts the journey of life with some physical qualities that are inherited from each parent. In the field of human development this is called heredity. The Bible also speaks of heredity. But it tells us something else. It tells us that not only do we pass on physical qualities from one generation to another, but we also inherit from the people that we are connected to –a serious problem. The theological description of this problem is the doctrine of the fall of man, or the doctrine of the transmission of sin.  Our text talks about this problem, and shows us very clearly that sin is part of our human inheritance.  Look what Romans 5:12 says:

 

Therefore, just as a sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because of sin.

 

And again in verse 19:

 

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

 

The apostle Paul is making a contrast between Adam and Jesus, the representatives of the human race, to show us the consequences of the sin of Adam and the value of work of Jesus. The apostle tells us that everyone that starts to live in the human race becomes dysfunctional from the beginning, right from the moment of birth! In fact, Paul is even more specific. He says that all human beings have inherited evil tendencies from someone before them. It doesn’t matter if that person was your father or your mother, Paul tells us in verse 19 that through the disobedience of Adam “many were made sinners”. So- we are sinners by birth, and we are sinners because Adam transmitted his sin to us.

We have a tendency to different forms of sin in our natures. And because of this sinful tendency inherited from Adam all people will die as the punishment of sin. You see, from the time of Adam sin and death became inseparably connected. Sin is very serious. It’s universal and it has terrible consequences. This text also underlines an important teaching about the character God. What’s that? God deals with us individually and personally. But what about Exodus 20:5?

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me

 

Doesn’t this text show that God punishes children for the sin of the parents? No. It doesn’t? Read it carefully. Listen again:

I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

 

The meaning is pretty straightforward: If the generations continue to hate, they’ll be punish. Then verse 6 says:

But showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

 

So, if the father or mother show covenantal faithfulness, but the son hates the Lord –the son, not the parents will be punished. Moses and Paul want us to see that God won’t punish people because their parents were unbelievers. God will punish people because our inherited tendency to sin makes us disobey God. But there’s another important truth in the text that Paul explains side by side. That truth is found in the same passage, in the second half of verse 20:

Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.

This statement is obviously connected to verse 19:

 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

 

So- “where sin increased, grace increased all the more”. The contrasts here are between the reign of death and the reign of grace. And between the one through whom the trespass came, and the one through whom the free gift came. Now, notice how the contrast is emphasised by the phrase, “grace increased all the more”. Paul is saying that in the gift of grace we have an overwhelming provision for the catastrophe of inherited sin.  Sin doesn’t have a chance with the large, unlimited amounts of divine forgiveness Paul calls grace. No matter how far the sin of Adam has, and is spreading, the blessings of the work of Jesus are even more extensive and rich for our deliverance. We have two inheritances in the world then: one is the inheritance that we are born with and makes us do sinful things. But we also have an inheritance available in Jesus Christ that releases us from the power of sin.  This inheritance is more than power to be righteous. Think again about the magnificence of verse 20 and 21:

but where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

 

Paul mentions three consequences of the grace of God coming into this life because of Jesus Christ: (1) The reign of sin has been overthrown, and (2) in its place the grace of Jesus takes the throne and begins to reign, and (3), the result of all this, is the inheritance of a kind of life that goes on and on, without end. Not just eternal. But a kind of life that is transformative, abundant, and unlimited in possibilities for a living a real life with God.  What this passage says is not complicated:  It’s now possible for every human being to escape from the actions of Adam and Jesus by choosing a relationship with either of them. By faith in Jesus, a person can be set free from the all the inherited consequences of sin. By continuing in the inherited tendencies of the sin of Adam, a human person will be excluded from all benefits of the work of Jesus.

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Rev. Andres Miranda

In Him we Live

In Him we live and move and have our being...

Acts 17:16-28

We’ve talked about the problem of self. The self is our internal environment where thoughts, the sense of identity, and spiritual desires take place. Self is who we are. And the self can be a problem when we don’t know ourselves. Now –we’re going to focus on the pressures that disturb the human person from the outside.  Every human person lives in two domains of existence –the domain of the bio-psychological and the domain of interactions with what is outside the skin.

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Rev. Andres Miranda

The Problems of Life

Self

Psalm 8

In this song the psalm-singer incidentally touches on one of the most serious problems of human life –and it’s a problem that includes all other problems. The problem is to know who we are. If human beings knew who they were –there wouldn’t be conflicts in our personalities. When you know who you are –you can look into your relationship of yourself with yourself, and you become what you should be, and you also find God. So, I repeat: the most serious problem that we face as human beings is the problem of self –“knowing who we really are”.   

Who I am? What I am? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What is the meaning of these conflicting aspects of my personality? What is man? That’s the question! And to answer it we’re going to focus on some observations that David makes about what we are.

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David Kerridge

The New Exiles

b2ap3_thumbnail_Leaving_The_Manse.jpg

With the rise of secularism in Australia, and the increasingly rapid decay of standards based on a Christian ethic, is the Reformed faith best suited to weather the storms of the coming "exile"? Here is an encouraging article by Carl Trueman (Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary) about the strength of a Reformed outlook to withstand the prevailing attitude in the US, which is certainly mirrored here in Australia. It is well worth reading. 

 

 

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David Kerridge

Tolle Lege

 Conversion of St Augustine

In this fresco [by Benozzo Gozzoli on the walls of Sant Agostino Church, San Gimignano, 15th Century] , St Augustine hears a voice in the seclusion of a garden commanding him to "take up the book and read". Following this command, [which he believes to be a word from God], he takes up the epistle of Paul to the Romans, and starts reading Romans 13:13 ff., which warns sinners to "put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." On the right his intellectual friend Alypius is reaching out to him with his hand. Two old friends, on the left side, are keeping their distance from his on account of his change of faith. The phrase coined by St Augustine, "credo ut intelligam, intelligo ut credam" - "I believe that I might understand, and understand that I might believe" - appears to have been visually translated into this picture. From Web Gallery of Art

Reading is fundamental to the Christian life. Reading the Scriptures (or having them read to us, and expounded in preaching) is the way by which we come to a knowledge of the Truth. Without the word written we cannot know about God (except in the general sense of what is revealed to our eyes in Creation. Rom. 1:18-20). Neither can we know His works of Creation and Providence, or the way that He has revealed how we may be saved in Jesus Christ.

Augustine of Hippo tells us in his Confessions  that, when he began to be under conviction of sin, he was instructed by a voice he assumed to be divine to "take up and read" ("tolle, lege"), he took up the Scriptures and read words that convicted him of his sin. This act of reading led to his conversion. It is the same in Pilgrim's Progress, that great work of John Bunyan. The book opens with a vision of the main character, Christian, reading and tormented by what he reads, because he is under the conviction of sin that the book brought to his mind. The book is obviously the Word of God.

But more than anecdote or works of fiction, the Lord Jesus (the Word), witnesses to the power of the word by the Spirit to bring conviction of sin and new life. Upon his resurrection, Jesus not only appeared to the disciples to show that He had power over sin and had conquered death, He opened the word of God and read and expounded Scripture to them. By this, he brought them to a full understanding of the redemption worked out from eternity and recorded for all in the Bible (Luke 24:27). The regenerative power of the Holy Spirit works in the word read and preached to bring new life to us who believe (Acts 17:11; Rom. 15; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; et al.)

It follows then that we must be reading people. If we are to know of salvation we have to read, or have the word read and opened up to us by preachers. But we also need to grow in the Christian life. To grow we need to read again and again and again. We need to read and feed on that which nourishes us. Scripture first, to make us understand what God would have us do, and how we should live, but also those books that help us to understand Scripture. Read biographies - read about the lives of those changed by the Gospel, read about those who carry the Gospel forth, taking the word into all the world. Read about the heroes of the faith, the martyrs, the faithful preachers and teachers of the Word that we have read and are learning. Read theology - the study of God and His work in the world, read it in Systematic form, or from an Historical perspective, or follow the flow of theology through the word in Biblical Theology. Read works on Apologetics - books that do not apologise for the faith, but argue the Truth of the Word that we read against the worldviews of those who reject that Truth.

The problem is that we are increasingly a visual culture whose retention of concepts and ideas seems to decrease even as we are reading more and more online. We seem to absorb smaller and smaller fragments of information (take this blog for instance!) and, instead of connecting and researching and hunting down ideas, we let them float about us in a swirling miasma. We need to take up and read, but we also need to understand what we read.

As we go along, I'll recommend books here because reading is one thing we must do to grow and mature in the faith. We all need to take time to stop, find a quiet corner, or rest under the shade of a tree and read good books. Books that lead us on to contemplate Christ or help us to understand and enjoy our life in Him. You don't have to give up your novels, your magazines and your comics. We all need some light relief at times. But begin to feed on more of the Word and good Christian literature. Read it online if you want, but make sure that you use your browser's reader, or reading apps to cut out the distractions and flashing lights, ads and notifications, etc, etc, that can make reading online a disjointed and unfruitful experience. More on this soon...

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