John Steinbeck – East of Eden
“I remember clearly the deaths of three men. One was the richest man of the century, who, having clawed his way to wealth through the souls and bodies of men, spent many years trying to buy back the love he had forfeited and by that process performed great service to the world and, perhaps, had much more than balanced the evils of his rise. I was on a ship when he died. The news was posted on the bulletin board, and nearly everyone recieved the news with pleasure. Several said, “Thank God that son of a bitch is dead.”
Then there was a man, smart as Satan, who, lacking some perception of human dignity and knowing all too well every aspect of human weakness and wickedness, used his special knowledge to warp men, to buy men, to bribe and threaten and seduce until he found himself in a position of great power. He clothed his motives in the names of virtue, and I have wondered whether he ever knew that no gift will ever buy back a man’s love when you have removed his self-love. A bribed man can only hate his briber. When this man died the nation rang with praise…
There was a third man, who perhaps made many errors in performance but whose effective life was devoted to making men brave and dignified and good in a time when they were poor and frightened and when ugly forces were loose in the world to utilize their fears. This man was hated by few. When he died the people burst into tears in the streets and their minds wailed, “What can we do now?” How can we go on without him?”
In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, mo matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror….we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.”
What does it mean in Romans 8:37 when Paul says that followers of Christ are “more than conquerors” (ESV)?
D. A. Carson gives some good answers to this question based on the context of Romans 8:
First, the “us” to whom the apostle refers includes all Christians. AllChristians are the ones whom God has foreknown, “predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son,” called, justified, glorified (8:29–30). The people referred to are not the elite of the elect; they are ordinary Christians, all genuine Christians.
Second, the actual evidence that they are “more than conquerors” is that they persevere regardless of all opposition. That opposition may take the form of horrible persecution, of the kind that Scripture describes (8:35–38). It may be some other hardship, all the way to famine. The glories of life will not finally seduce them; the terrors of death will not finally sway them; neither the pressures of the present nor the frustrations of the future will destroy them (8:38). Neither human powers nor anything else in all creation, not even all the powers of hell unleashed, can “separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39).
Third, as the last sentence already makes clear, that from which Christians cannot be finally separated is the “love of Christ” (8:35) or the love of God in Christ (8:39). At one level, of course, that is simply saying that no power can stop Christians from being Christians. That is why we are “more than conquerors.” But that point could have been made a lot of different ways. To make it this way, with an emphasis on the love of Christ as that from which we cannot be separated, reminds us of the sheer glory and pleasure that is ours, both now and in eternity, to be in such a relationship. We are not simply acquitted; we are loved. We are loved not simply by a peer, but by God himself. Nor is this a reference to the general love that God has for his entire creation. What is at stake here is that special love that attaches to “all who have been called according to his purpose” (8:28).
Fourth, the guarantee that we shall prevail and persevere, and prove to be “more than conquerors” in this sense, is nothing other than the sovereign purposes of God (8:29–30), manifest in the death of his Son on our behalf (8:31–35). “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (8:32). No greater security is imaginable.
Over the next month or so we’ll enjoy the ministry of three visiting preachers.
In September, Rev. Andy Clark will be visiting. Andy is the Assistant Minister at Sylvania Anglican Church in Sydney, a church that has committed to praying regularly for David and Crystal. Andy is married to Nicole and they have three little boys. Before theological study, Andy worked as a Physiotherapist at Nepean hospital.
In October, Rev. Canon Bruce and Heather Ballantine-Jones returns as locum Chaplain while David and Crystal and family attend that Bush Church Aid bi-annual conference in Victoria. Bush Church Aid partners with Anglican Dioceses around Australia to reach people for Christ.
Everybody has questions. But not all questions are created equal. Some questions are really big… and they can become sticking points to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In this series we will boldly tackle life’s Big Questions to help believers and unbelievers alike better understand the firm foundation of Christianity.
You can catch up on the first two sermons online:
|05.08.18||Big Questions: Hasn’t Science Disproved Christianity?||Listen online|
|12.08.18||Big Questions: How Could God Allow So Many People To Suffer?||Listen online|
|19.08.18||Big Questions: You Can’t Take The Bible Literally Can You?||Available soon|
|26.08.18||Big Questions: There Can’t Be Just One True Religion Can There?||Available soon|
|02.09.18||Big Questions: How Can A Loving God Send People To Hell?||Available soon|
Every Church is Dying
Every church is a dying church in some sense:
• Some churches are literally dying. They are slowly losing people and will likely shut down.
• Some churches are glitzy and successful. They look vibrant and alive, but they’re really only alive to themselves and their institution. They look alive, but they’re dying and they don’t know it.
• Then there’s the church that could be big or small, glitzy or drab, that dies to itself daily – that has taken up the cross and is more concerned with following Christ, no matter what it costs, than its survival.
All churches are dying. Only one type of church will experience a resurrection.
“The Kingdom of Nobodies” was a sermon on Mark 10:13-16 preached by Jono Thomas (the Combined Churches Children’s and Youth Minister) on Norfolk Island in January 2018.
Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)
The Little Children and Jesus
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
On Sunday February 11th we launch our new series, ‘A Beautiful Mess’, looking at 1 Corinthians.
Paul launched the Corinthian church and stayed there for about 18 months. A few years later, while Paul was in Ephesus, people reported to him that there were serious problems in the church. He also received a letter from the church that showed there was a great deal of theological confusion on a number of issues. Paul wrote this letter to a church that was in a mess; they were struggling with division, unresolved conflicts, sexual immorality and many other questions and problems that needed resolving.
Even though all this was going on, Paul was still able to write, ‘I give thanks to my God always for you’ and ‘you are not lacking in spiritual gift’. He didn’t just see the mess; he saw beauty amidst it all. Looking through the lens of the gospel he could see the beauty of what God was doing! Paul learned to focus on what God was doing amongst the mess, not the mess itself – a beautiful mess.
If God can use the Corinthian church, with all the challenges they were facing – then surely he can use us as well as we seek to love Jesus, love each other and love Norfolk Island!
Did you know it’s been 500 years since the Protestant Reformation? For the last month or so I’ve been sharing some short biographies of key reformers.
Today: John Knox (1513-1572)
John Knox is the Father of the Scottish Reformation. While working as a priest, Knox was introduced to the gospel through a man named George Wishart, who was eventually killed for his faith. Seeing his mentor martyred ignited a passion in Knox to devote his life to gospel preaching. Fleeing persecution, Knox went to Geneva and sat under the preaching of John Calvin. His time in Switzerland enabled Knox to produce theological works which inflamed not only the hearts of his fellow believers, but the hatred of those ruling Scotland. While he was pastoring an English-speaking congregation in Geneva, Knox’s goal was to return to Scotland and spark revival. His motto: “Give me Scotland, or I die!”
Finally able to return to Scotland, Knox’s gospel preaching was received by the burgeoning revolutionaries who were preparing to revolt against their Catholic Queen, Mary Queen of Scots. As the hostilities ended, Knox established the Reformed Church of Scotland – which became Presbyterianism. Knox’s fiery determination to stand with the gospel against human authority inspired his countrymen and left a lasting legacy of faithfulness. His ability to unite reason and passion in the pulpit has influenced centuries of preachers. Today, John Knox is buried, ignominiously, underneath a parking lot behind St. Giles Cathedral. You can visit him in space #23.