Response to Brian Tamaki – We don’t worship an Ogre in the Sky!

This past week Brian Tamaki, the Bishop of Destiny Church, claimed the recent earthquakes were caused by New Zealand’s sin, and especially homosexuality. While he might be correct about the effects of sin touching all of creation; does that then mean earthquakes are caused by homosexuality? Let’s think through a few things that will help us understand this issue.

A Groaning Creation

The Story of Scripture begins with God creating everything and declaring it good. A world where there was harmony between God, man and creation. It was a world without murder, theft, abuse, adultery, physical or mental diseases, and tyranny. These things are abnormal to the world God created, because they did not exist before the fall of man, nor were they part of God’s ‘good’ creation He originally made. 

Man’s sin affects much more than just man,  it has spread to the entire world.  The Scriptures say the very soil is cursed as a result of sin entering the world, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22). The Earth we live on screams a message of brokenness to us in its draughts one year and floods the next. Soil is plagued by weeds and disease, and the ground literally splits under foot.

This broken world carries a message for man. The message is not, ‘if you sin God is going to get you,’ but rather, the broken world declares that sin has already “gotten” all of creation.  The hope then, as taught in the Bible, is that God will redeem his creation from the corrosion and destruction that is caused by sin. He did this through the person and work of Jesus Christ.  

The Ogre in the Sky

Many people see God as an ogre in the sky waiting for us to make a mistake so he can pounce upon our lives with punishment. Brian Tamaki points to Leviticus 18 as a prooftext of God’s ogre-ness towards Canterbury. The context of this section of Scripture is to exhort Israel to stay away from the sexual and worship practices of the Canaanites.  

For the Canaanites everything was permissible; including men having sexual relationships with their mother, daughters, aunts, granddaughters, and other men. God says because of their sinful lifestyle the land will, “vomit out its inhabitants.” God is personifying the land to make a point that he is repulsed by the sexual wickedness of these people and will remove and replace them in the land.

This chapter has everything to do with God blessing and warning his people to remember and obey their covenant promises to Him, and nothing to do with the 2016 earthquakes in New Zealand. Does that mean earthquakes are at the will of mother nature and not God? Certainly not. Scripture never attributes any natural event to mother nature, but always to the sovereignty of God.

Though God is sovereign over the Earth, he never tells us why the weather behaves the way it does. When we begin to attribute catastrophe to the sin of the closest city we end with interpreting every storm or infectious disease as punishment from the ‘ogre in the sky’.  Who wants to worship and love a God like that?

What did Jesus say? (2 examples)

In Jesus’ day there was a common belief that one’s suffering was God’s punishment for wrong doing. Teachers would often find a blind or sick person, stand over them and use them as an example of what happens when we sin.  That is why in John 9, when Jesus passed by a blind man without rebuking him for his sin, the disciples actually stopped Him and asked, “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus’ response is not what they were expecting, “neither this man sinned nor his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” He again teaches something very similar in Luke 13 where the tower of Siloam fell on eighteen Galileans. Jesus asks, “do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent you will likewise perish.” 

Jesus did not believe in karma and neither should the church. When given several opportunities to attribute catastrophe and sickness to God’s judgment Jesus does not, but rather he points the crowds to their own need of repentance before they come face to face with the living God after death.   

How should the church respond to catastrophe?

Earthquakes are an easy opportunity to point the finger of blame at the world, but Jesus never does that. How should we respond? First, remember nothing in creation lies outside the scope of the fall. We live in a glorious yet ruined world. When natural disaster strikes, our anger should not be at people or the earth but at sin itself.  

Sin is our enemy, not people or natural creation. The battle we fight must begin in our own hearts. 

Secondly, in tragedy there is opportunity.   Jesus uses tragedy to point people to their greatest need of salvation.   The Christian church alone values all people because they are created in the image of God.  Here is the spring of man’s dignity.  The gospel of Jesus Christ demands all people be treated with dignity and respect; and natural disasters provide an opportunity to do just that.   

This is not the end of God’s story.  C.S. Lewis says, “when Christ rose from the dead death started working backwards.” The resurrected Christ is the first fruits of what God will do for man and for all of creation. The Christian hope is that when Jesus returns he will make all things new and man will dwell with God in a world free from the curse of sin, working the way it was designed.

– Rusty

Luke 18:9-14 “Too good to need grace?”

Tim Keller once said, “Religion says you are saved by giving God your righteousness. Christianity says you are saved by receiving from God His righteousness.” The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax collector illustrate this idea well, and in this sermon Rusty shows why no one is too good or too bad to be saved by Christ.

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Luke 18:9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:1-8 “Praying for Justice in a Neither Nor World”

We live in a world where people neither fear God nor respect men, in other words. This means that many simply do what is best for themselves. If we hope for justice, it must come from God, which is why He calls us to pray for justice on a regular basis.

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Luke 18:1-8

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Luke 17:1-10 “The Pain of Forgiveness”

Forgiveness is not easy. As CS Lewis said, “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.” Despite this, forgiveness is necessary if we are to live in freedom. In Luke 17, Jesus gives us the answer, forgiveness is an act of faith, not feelings.

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Luke 17:1-10

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin[a] are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.[b] Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Will any one of you who has a servant[c] plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly,[d] and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants;[e] we have only done what was our duty.’”

Luke 16:19-31 “Lazarus and the Wealthy Man”

People often say something like this, “if God would just do something amazing to reveal Himself, then I’d believe.” In Luke 16, Jesus tells a parable that addresses this issue. The truth is, God has revealed Himself through His Word and Spirit. If this doesn’t convince us, then nothing will.

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Luke 16:19-31

There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.[a] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

Luke 15:1-7 “The Savior and His Sheep”

The Bible compares us to sheep often, while this isn’t the best compliment, it is true. The good news is that Jesus is a really good shepherd, and he pursues his lost sheep until he finds and rescues them. There is a great celebration in Heaven every time a lost “sheep” returns to Christ.

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Luke 15:1-7

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 14:25-33 “Renouncing all to gain Christ”

Following Christ isn’t simply about saying a special prayer and using the perfect words. Following Christ demands everything – it calls us to love and worship him far above everyone and everything else and to trust in him as Lord. Even though you have to give it all, it’s worth it.

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Luke 14:25-33

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

 

Psalms 37:1-11 “The Meek shall inherit the Land”

In Psalm 37, David says “the meek shall inherit the land.” Jesus would later say something similar, but most people today don’t really know what meekness actually is. We think of it as a negative thing, but the Bible, in particularly Psalm 37, offers a better definition.

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Psalm 37:1-11

Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
    be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
    and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.[b]
Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
    Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off,
    but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
    though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
    and delight themselves in abundant peace.

 

Luke 13:22-30 “The Narrow Door to Eternal Life”

Will salvation come to all? Or few? And how are we saved? Controversial questions today, but one Jesus answered many years ago. Rusty explored Luke 13 to explain the gospel and how we are actually saved.

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Luke 13:22-30

22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Luke 12:22-33 “Worry gives you nothing”

Worry and anxiety takes the possible evils of tomorrow and applies them to today. We cannot enjoy today because we fear tomorrow. Because of this, worry gives you nothing but loss of life. Fortunately, Jesus gives us an alternative in the gospel.

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Luke 12:22-33

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[c] 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,[d] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his[e] kingdom,and these things will be added to you.

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

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    Starting December 25, 2016, Sunday Morning Worship takes place at 10am in the Piano, located on 156 Armagh Street. Free parking for GPC attendees is available off Oxford Terrace.