Friday, 27 October 2017

The 500th Anniversary Of The Reformation


October 31st is Reformation Day. This year’s Reformation Day is doubly significant for those who identify themselves as ‘Evangelical’ because it marks the 500th anniversary of what was to become the moment when the Reformation began. This was when a German monk and Professor of Theology, Martin Luther, nailed 95 objections (called ‘Theses’) to the door of the University of Wittenberg in the customary manner for commencing an academic dialogue. But that nail into the door of Wittenberg’s academy did much more than start a debate among academics and priests. It was quite literally the moment that changed the world.  
The first of many biographical sermons which F.W. Boreham preached in his 126 sermon series (and later published in the five volume series Texts That Made History), was on the life of Martin Luther and the text of Scripture which changed his soul. He notes-
Carlyle has a stirring and dramatic chapter in which he shows that every nation under heaven stood or fell according to the attitude that it assumed towards Martin Luther, ‘I call this Luther a true Great Man,’ he exclaims. ‘He is great in intellect, great in courage, great in affection and integrity; one of our most lovable and gracious men. He is great, not as a hewn obelisk is great, but as an Alpine mountain is great ; so simple, honest, spontaneous; not setting himself up to be great, but there for quite another purpose than the purpose of being great!’ ‘A mighty man,’ he says again; what were all emperors, popes and potentates in comparison? His light was to flame as a beacon over long centuries and epochs of the world ; the whole world and its history was waiting for this man !’
F.W. Boreham, ‘Martin Luther’s Text‘, “A BUNCH OF EVERLASTINGS“, Epworth Press, 1920 
Martin Luther preaching
Martin Luther preaching against the false teaching that salvation could be bought with money and that salvation was only attainable by faith in Christ and His finished work on the Cross.
Martin Luther became aware that the Roman Catholic Church was teaching something about salvation which directly and violently contradicted the Scriptures. He objected to the superstitious and unbiblical practice of Roman Catholic priests selling ‘indulgences’ to deliver dead family members out of ‘Purgatory’ (a place where dead souls went to be purged from their sins and thereby become fit for heaven). Indulgences were certificates issued by the Catholic Church granting release from Purgatory. In reality, these certificates were a pathetic attempt by the Pope to elicit vast sums of money, largely from those least able to afford it and least in a position to know otherwise! Luther confronted the central teaching of the Roman Catholic Church head on – that salvation from sin is only available through the ministrations of the Roman Catholic Church, with the Biblical truth – that salvation from sin is only available through faith in Christ and His substitutionary and atoning death on the Cross
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Galatians 2:20
Martin Luther objected to this obscene notion of Purgatory and the sale of Indulgences. He taught what the Scriptures taught about the sufficiency of Christ and His work for our salvation. 
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9
Martin LutherLittle wonder those inspired by Luther became known as ‘Protestants’. Martin Luther had protested against the teaching of the Roman Church that salvation could be merited by adoration of relics (supposed artefacts of dead holy people). In fact, Luther protested against any teaching which taught that salvation could be derived from any means other than Christ and Christ alone. Later, those supportive of Luther would coin the ‘Five Solas’ (the Reformation’s foundational statements of belief), with Sola Fidé – ‘Faith Alone’, Sola Scriptura – ‘Scripture alone’, Solus Christus  – ‘Christ alone’, Sola Gratia – ‘Grace alone’, Soli Deo Gloria – ‘Glory to God alone’.
Martin LutherOriginally, Luther and the original Protestants became known as ‘Gospellers’ or Evangelicals (the Greek word for ‘Gospel’ is transliterated into English as, evangel). His attempt to reform the Church failed, but the result of his efforts was a newly formed church, or a re-formed church. This movement of churches would be founded on the Five Solas. It would soon give rise to several gifted Protestant leaders who led Protestants from all over Europe into various communities of Christians which would become known as denominations – which perhaps in the wisdom of God has prevented a repeat of the abuses of another ‘Universal’ Church. These Reformers helped to organise and structure the church communities they led in different ways. But each were committed to the Biblical revelation that Christ is the Head – not any man appointed by men – and the only ‘Vicar’ (vicar means ‘substitute’) of the true Catholic (“universal”) Church. 
Thus, to be a ‘Reformed’ church is to be a church of Christ-followers committed to the Gospel of Christ which declares that God alone saves sinners by the merit of Christ alone. This Reformation Day, a day when some are pre-occupied with tricking or treating, spare a thought for Martin Luther and his legacy – a legacy which we are a part of.  
Pastor Andrew

Friday, 20 October 2017

That Jesus Doesn't Sound Like Jesus

I love technology. Sort of. But I don’t love everything it has done to us. Far from always making our lives better, the evidence seems to show that it has in many instances made us lazy. Its negative physical effects are well known, even its intellectual effects have been noted (largely by those who have cause to criticise bloggers for their unsubstantiated claims). But what is not talked about as much is its increasingly negative spiritual effect. This should specifically concern Christ followers.  


BibleChristianity has one outstanding characteristic. It has been said that other religions have also have outstanding characteristics. Hinduism’s outstanding characteristic is that it is diverse. Islam’s outstanding characteristic is that it is muscular. Buddhism’s outstanding characteristic is that it is peaceful. And Christianity’s outstanding characteristic is that it is true.
Followers of Christ worship the God of Truth.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6
The God of Christianity declared Himself to be the embodiment of truth (John 14:6). When accused of claiming to be The Son of God (Prov. 30:4Matt. 26:63John 19:7) and thereby co-equal with The Father God, He stood before Pontius Pilate as the Truth
Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” ¶ After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.”
John 18:38
When Jesus was charged with wrong-doing, He challenged His accusers to find Him guilty of any sin, which they could not do.
Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?
John 8:46
Thus, the heart of Christianity – its centre-piece – is Jesus Christ and His identity (the eternal, divinely co-equal Son of God), His nature (born as a human without sin and lived without ever sinning), and His atoning/redeeming work through the Cross and His resurrection. This centre-piece of Christianity is without negotiation. No Christ: no Christianity!
¶ For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
First Corinthians 15:3-5


Despite the Bible being so clear about the place of this, and only this, understanding of who Jesus is, to Christianity, there are some Church leaders who are now teaching another Jesus than the One presented in the Bible. Rather than Christ being the eternally begotten (uncreated, yet always been the) Son of God, who was conceived in a virgin, lived a sinless life, died an atoning death, and rose from the dead three days later, they teach that Christ was born a sinful human, who sinned just like us, and was eventually put to death. For example, “Dr. Karen Oliveto, the first openly lesbian bishop in the United Methodist Church, recently offered this message to her flock:
Karen_Oliveto-about_Jesus“Too many folks want to box Jesus in,” she wrote, “carve him in stone, create an idol out of him. [But] the wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting one, prince of peace, was as human as you and me. Like you and me, he didn’t have his life figured out.” Jesus had “bigotries and prejudices,” she added, even sins which He had to learn to overcome.
jesus-praying-all-nightThis is an appalling distortion of who Christ is. As disgraceful as this is, it is becoming an increasingly popular view. One confused talk-back caller called into an apologist to ask, “Did Jesus ever sin?” He went on to say that his daughter told him that  while he was in ‘big’ church, and she was in Sunday School, she was taught that since Jesus had contact with the dead (when raised several of them from the dead) He had ‘broken the Law of Moses’ and thereby, “sinned”. The caller’s daughter was quite confused by this and questioned her father about it. She went on to tell her father that the Sunday School teacher told her that Jesus was right to sin because He loved people more than He loved the Law of God. 
This girl, and her father, had every right to be confused. Jesus did not break any law of Moses let alone sin! And He certainly did not regard it justified to break the Law of God if He thought it was ‘unloving’. In fact, it was Jesus who prescribed every law in the Law of Moses!
¶ “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets;
I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Matthew 5:17
I can understand someone in Dr. Oliveto’s position needing Jesus to be a ‘sinner’ who was blighted by ‘bigotries and prejudices‘. But Jesus does not bend to our sinful proclivities. He will not be shaped into our image. A Jesus who says ‘sin is OK’, or had ‘prejudices’ is a Jesus different from the One who walked the shores of Galilee, or the One who was nailed to the Cross of Atonement! This makes Pope Francis’s statement about Jesus needing to “beg forgiveness from his parents” just as bewildering!

Even in the days of the Apostle Paul, there were people misrepresenting Jesus.
For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
Second Corinthians 11:4
And the Apostle’s response to those who were distorting who Jesus was, was to re-assert the truth about Jesus. (He particularly did so in his epistle to the Colossians.) If we would like to avoid the eternally perilous misrepresenting of Jesus, we would be well advised to learn from the Bereans, who are referred to Acts 17, who listened to the Apostle Paul then sought the Scriptures to see if what he said was true. If this same practice was applied to Dr. Oliveto’s statement about Jesus, or that Sunday School teacher, or even Pope Francis’s statement about Jesus, we would be prevented from believing lies about Jesus and in the process come to discover that the truth about Jesus is more beautiful than most realise.
Dr Andrew Corbett
Pastor Andrew

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Do Your Best

Do Your Best
It’s almost unbelievable who Christ entrusted with His mission to save the world! This motley bunch of original disciples were the most unlikely candidates for being the founding agents of global redemption. Yet they did it! And along the way, they stumbled, faltered, and probably let Christ down. But they did it! And this should give us, who stumble and falter, great hope, that Christ knows what He’s doing when He chose us
There are some churches around the world that are world’s best practice. Their music is world-class. Their ‘customer’ service is second to none. Their preachers are more inspirational than the best TED talkers. Their facilities are better than the best Westfield shopping centre. They hold international conferences which attract thousands of delegates. As far as churches go, these are the best. But they only comprise less than 1% of all churches around the world. For the rest of us in the 99% of churches around the world, we may not be among the best, but we are generally comprised of those who are doing their best. And it seems that Jesus is still entrusting His mission to people like us – people who stumble and falter.
At Legana we are blessed. We recently opened our new worship centre. Many people have told us that it is among the best in our State. It is a beautiful centre with plenty of room for growth. But it can cause us confuse being the best with doing our best. And this is one of the greatest dangers any church can face because it can lead to an overwhelming sense failure and even despair.

Paul’s Last Letter

The last letter the Apostle Paul wrote, that we know of, was his Second Epistle to Timothy. In it, he uses the expression “do your best” three times to his young protégé.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
Second Timothy 2:15
Being the best requires making comparisonsDoing your best simply means working with your availability, abilities, training, experience, and use of available resources. Sometimes each of these qualifiers (time, talent, training, experience, and resources) are limited. In the 99% of local churches scattered around the world, there are usually 20% of the people doing 80% of the work. I wonder if this is because the 80% who sit back don’t feel good enough to be able to serve? Paul’s injunction to young Timothy was to do your best to present yourself to God as a pastor of God’s people whose primary task was teach the Word of God to his congregation. When we do our best, we have need to be ashamed
Shortly after I began pastoring Legana I was nearly overcome with a sense of inadequacy as a preacher. Each Sunday morning before I went to church I would go on a prayer walk and cry out to God for His help. I asked and asked and asked that He might use me more effectively to teach His Word. I begged Him to make me into the kind of preacher who cared deeply for those I ministered to. I pleaded with Him to mould me into a persuasive preacher to rescue those who were wrestling with doubts and to enable me to deliver the antidote to doubt – the truth – in the power of the Holy Spirit. I sought Him for the insight to be able to convince the hardest sceptics and cynics to turn to Christ based on the evidence for the God of the Bible (shortly after this praying I was to discover F.W. Boreham). I have continued to surrender to Him prayerfully asking that He would help me to grow as a pastor, a preacher and a teacher – and I would value your occasional prayer for this as well. I have tried to do my best.
“That’s all any of us can do – our best.”
We may never be the best at anything, but we can do our best in everything. This is why, must to the surprise of many, I’m relatively relaxed about how we are doing as a church. We have an extraordinary percentage of our church who serve and give support. I am deeply grateful for everyone who volunteers to help in the various things that need doing in our church. I am grateful for you who offer yourselves to the Lord and prayerfully ask God to help you to do your best in however you serve. I have noticed that many of our young people have been doing this and have volunteered to help out in various roles. What I am also noticing is that there must be people asking God to help them to do their best. Because, when I began to earnestly seek God those few years back to help me to do my best as a preacher I became hungrier to learn and to grow. My openness to instruction and training increased. And I am seeing a similar thing happen among many in our church.
¶ Do your best to come to me soon.
Second Timothy 4:9 (Also see v.21)

The Best Is Sometimes Just Being There

Paul’s plea for Timothy to come to him (in prison) soon is heart-warming. Paul goes on in this epistle to reveal that he knew he was about to die soon. Indeed, he would. Toward the end of 64AD, shortly after the Apostle Peter was crucified by order of Caesar Nero, the Apostle Paul would be beheaded by order of the same tyrant who executed Peter. His plea to Timothy reminds us that while we can each do our best, sometimes we can be the difference in someone’s life. At this lonely time for Paul, he longed to see Timothy, his son in the faith (1Tim. 1:2). None of us should dismiss the encouragement we are by just being there. Paul longed for Timothy to just be there with him in this trying hour. Coming to worship on Sundays, even if you don’t serve as a volunteer, is being an encouragement to others. Do your best to come to worship on Sundays.

Give Christ Your Best Shot

The beautiful thing about Church is that it is comprised mostly of people who are not the best and we know it. But with the help of the Holy Spirit we are each learning to improve and to spur one another on to even greater effectiveness for Christ. So don’t worry if you’re not as good as someone else, or that many others are better than you at whatever, just keep giving Christ your best shot. And somehow, I suspect, that just as He established the church with faltering, frail, and stumbling servants, He will probably culminate His church’s closing efforts with similarly weak and faltering servants like you and me.
Pastor Andrew.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Let's Do The Twist With The English Language

Let's do the twist
Spare a thought for our lexicographers at the moment. They have had to work an enormous amount of overtime lately. Lexicographers are those dear people who fuss about words and their meanings. They are the ones responsible for compiling our dictionaries. Generally they get to work at a leisurely pace and update our dictionaries every decade or so with the addition of those new words which have been adopted into our vocabularies. Of late, this has included such words as, “Google” which was originally added to our dictionaries as the name of a website (a proper noun) and then had to have another entry under it when it became a verb (‘I’ll Google it!”).
But in the last few years, these poor lexicographers have had to work their fingers to the bone trying to keep up. Their overtime hasn’t been devoted to the addition of a few new novel words such as ‘hashtag’ or ‘tweet’, but by overhauling of long-held definitions. Words which have universally been understood and thereby ensured the undemanding workload of lexicographers, have now come to mean something quite different from what they actually mean. This makes the lexicographer’s job very difficult as they flounder to make sense of it all as words now no longer mean what they mean. 
Here’s some examples that have now got lexicographers in a tizz.
WordLexicographical MeaningAttempted Twisted Meaning
verb: feel intense dislike for
noun: feelings of hate and revenge
verb: when someone disagrees with you
noun: differing point of view
discriminationnoun: the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sexnoun: the suggestion that distinctions can be made on the basis of capacity, capability, or biology.
logicaladjective: of or according to the rules of logic or formal argument;  characterized by or capable of clear, sound reasoningadjective: it agrees with my opinion
unfairadjective: not based on or behaving according to the principles of equality and justiceadjective: when I don’t get what I want
gendernoun: either of the two sexes (male and female)
noun: whatever a person identifies as; this identity can be fluid and can include –
homosexual male, lesbian female, bi-sexual male or female, transgendered male or female, man-boy attracted, to name a few. 
marriagenoun:  the legally or formally recognized union of a man and woman voluntarily entered into for life to the exclusion of all othersnoun: the legal union of any two people
gender-dysphorianoun: the psychological disorder of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex. noun: the feeling of being trapped in a body which does not correspond to the gender one wishes to identify with.
racismnoun: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superiornoun: the unfair prejudicial treatment of a person based on their lifestyle choices
rainbownoun: an arch of colours visible in the sky, caused by the refraction and dispersion of the sun’s light by rain or other water droplets in the atmosphere. The colours of the rainbow are generally said to be red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Identified in the Bible as a promise from God that He would never again flood the world of man.noun: representing sexual attraction diversity 
noun: a strong feeling of affection, a great interest and pleasure in something
verb [with object]: to show deep affection, unwavering commitment to for another’s highest good
noun: a strong feeling of sexual attraction for someone
verb: to act on feelings of sexual attraction, to eroticise 
noun: a mid-twentieth century concept used to describe sexual attraction and grounded in one’s natural gender
noun: something which defines a person’s identity with which they are involuntarily assigned from birth. A key concept developed in the tactical book, After The Ball, where the authors proposed that if they could persuade society that there was such a thing, it would make same-sex attraction appear to be normal and natural.
Of course, these are just samples of some of the key words which have been distorted so severely that their recent usage is virtually the exact opposite of their actual meaning. Unfortunately, this propensity for twisting words into novel meanings is not just confined to our street-vocabulary. It is now increasingly occurring in how people understand the Bible.
Pivotal Bible words such as ‘sin’, ‘love’, ‘Jesus’, ‘God’, ‘Scriptures’, and ‘Hell’, have all been twisted beyond recognition from their actual meanings. Sin means to miss the mark of the acceptable standard (Rom. 3:1023). Yet, word-twisters would have us believe that it means acting contrary to our true feelings. This is despite the Bible declaring that our feelings are subject to corrupted inclinations which – if left untamed – will result in our harm and ultimate demise (Gen. 4:7Gal. 5:16).
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
Romans 7:18
The word ‘God‘ has similarly been twisted from its actual meaning – the all-powerful, self-existent, omni-present, omniscient, unchanging, triune, creator of the universe, and final Judge of all mankind; to – a celestial-type being or force whose supreme existence is to ensure my happiness


It has been said that, “He who defines the words used in a debate has already won the debate!” Words have power. I remember when my father in-law died suddenly. I was devastated. I was asked to take the funeral. I wondered how on earth I could say anything to bring any measure of comfort. I found myself saying, “No words can make any difference” to which I felt the sharp and instantaneous rebuke of the Holy Spirit. “Never say that words can never make a difference! Words can heal. Words can comfort. Words can strengthen!” This is why it is so distressing to me to have to endure the butchering of language at the moment. Too many people are going unchallenged with their word twisting. For example, last Saturday night the ABC 7PM TV News reported that a lesbian Uniting Church minister from Goodwood Road, Adelaide, was displaying a rainbow flag with a “YES” across it. They reported that the minister was receiving much “hate mail” as a result. Of the two examples they presented (which had respondents pointing out that such a position was contrary to Scripture) neither expressed any hate whatsoever. But it seems under the twisted words regime being thrust upon us, their disagreement with the lady in question was deemed to be ‘hatred’. How bizarre.  
Little wonder then that the general public who are generally unaware of how language is meant to work has been lured into the trap of accepting that disagreement is hate. The other day, Karen Dickson announced on her Facebook Page that she had just voted “No” in the Same-Sex Marriage Postal survey. One her FB Friends commented on that post that they could no longer be her friend because of Karen’s differing views! How bizarre.
The current practice of word twisting is making any possibility of having a sensible debate virtually impossible. When logic, normally grounded in research and reason, is twisted to mean nice feelings, resulting in the acceptance of the nonsensical slogans such as “Love is love” we are in peril as a society. This is so concerning to those of us who understand that words which once meant something have now been kidnapped and held to ransom by word-twisters because this makes the unsuspecting general public susceptible to being willingly persuaded that black is white and night is day. Quite frankly, it’s enough to send any lexicographer around the twist!
I conclude with a comment from James Parker who knows a thing or two about words and their power:
Pastor Andrew