In desperate times, many people turn to desperate measures.
It was April 1945 – near the end of World War 2. The telephone rang in Adolf Hitler’s bunker. It was the Minister of Propaganda on the line, Joseph Goebbels.
He spoke to Hitler and he was ecstatic. Although the Allies were pressing from the West, the Russians from the East and soon Berlin itself would fall – none of that mattered.
He told Hitler that the stars foretold that the last half of April would be better than the first, and indeed a turning point.
Unfortunately for Goebbels’ horoscope, Hitler committed suicide on 30 April and Germany surrendered. Goebbels succeeded Hitler as Chancellor. He served one day in this post. The following day, Goebbels and his wife committed suicide, after poisoning their six children with cyanide.
Facing ruin, people will sometimes turn in their desperation to any resource that they think will give them hope.
Goebbels turned to the horoscopes.*
In 1 Samuel Ch. 28 King Saul turned to a medium to consult the dead.
Leviticus ch. 11 is all about clean and unclean animals and what the Israelites in Old Testament times could and couldn’t eat.
Therefore, every time someone hunted, ate a meal, went to a petting zoo, or came across roadkill, they had to ask themselves, “Is this clean or unclean?”
Land animals. Sea animals. Insects. Clean or unclean?
You shall not make yourselves detestable with any swarming thing that swarms, and you shall not defile yourselves with them, and become unclean through them. For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:43-45)
Ch. 12 is all about childbirth and how that made one unclean.
Ch. 13 is all about skin diseases and mould on clothes and how that made one unclean.
Ch. 14 is all about skin diseases and mildew in houses and how that made one unclean.
Ch. 15 is all about different bodily discharges and how that made one unclean.
What was the point of all these rules?
The point of the rules was not personal hygiene, but a picture or symbol of sin.
Most people don’t think they need their sins forgiven
Most people think that they are not as bad as Adolf Hitler, they’re not a serial murderer, they’re not corrupt like the Gupta’s and they’re generally nice people, so they really don’t need their sins forgiven. They don’t understand why Christians keep going on and on about the forgiveness of sin.
Let me share an illustration that I heard recently.*
The cross was not a sad mistake, as some may think, but crucial to the mission of Jesus.
At the cross, Jesus made a once-for-all sacrifice for the sins of the world. He made propitiation to God for all the sins of all of God’s people throughout all the ages.
Jesus’ death is central to Christianity.
The symbol for Christianity, is not an empty tomb or a dove, but a cross.
The importance of the cross may seem self-evident, but a characteristic of prosperity preachers, with their false theology and ”victorious” version of Christianity, is that they downplay the importance of the cross. They speak about victory, anointing and breakthrough; but they seldom speak about the sin-bearing death of Jesus.
Often as Christians we’re discouraged by sin in our lives. We’ve come to faith in Jesus, we’ve received the gift of the Holy Spirit and we want to life lives that honour God.
And yet we still lose our temper, still succumb to sexual sin, still covet our neighbour’s donkey or BMW, still tell lies, still steal lustful looks, still gossip at work, and still think racist thoughts. We continue to sin.
We may be overcome with a sense of failure and disappointment.
Many churches today have embraced the new sexual revolution in the name of love.
“As long as people love one anotherand are true to themselves”, is the new battle-cry.
These LGBT-affirming churches say that they are very loving and caring to affirm same-sex relationships, same-sex marriage and the notions of transgender and gender fluidity.
Churches and church leaders not affirming LGBT relationships are lampooned as bigots, homophobic and hatemongers.
In stark contrast, the letter of 1 John in the New Testament (the letter of love!), says that the LGBT-affirming churches and leaders are not acting in love, but rather in hate, because they are not telling those in their care the truth about sin.
Years ago, in South Africa, you were classified according to the colour of your skin and the coarseness of your hair. You were told where you could and couldn’t live. You were told which bus you could and couldn’t ride. You we told who you could and couldn’t marry. Racism is part of our history. South Africa, the USA and many other countries have struggled and continue to struggle with racism.
A good definition of racism is: an explicit or implicit belief or practice that distinguishes or values one race over other races.
A racist believes that their race, whatever it may be, is superior to other races.
Christians never set out to be caught in scandalous sin.
The pastor never set out to have an adulterous affair. The member of his church first came to see him after her close friend had died. She came for counselling to help her grieve.
They cried together and hugged and made another appointment.
At the next appointment, the pastor held her hand – he thought it would be a comfort – and when she left, after they made another appointment, they hugged again and shared a quick kiss. Meanwhile the pastor himself was feeling stressed out and undervalued; finally, there was someone who really appreciated his ministry.
The church appointments became home visits. The hugs lingered. The kissing increased. And they ended up sleeping together.
Bruce Jenner is a 1976 Olympic decathlon men’s event champion. He was given the unofficial title of “world’s greatest athlete” for the win and became “an American hero” by winning the event back from Soviet Union during the Cold War. He is also an American television personality and stepfather of the Kardashian children. In June 2015 Bruce changed his name to Caitlyn and began to refer to himself with feminine personal pronouns. He is now described as the most famous openly transgender person in the world. He, through surgery and hormone treatment, now believes he is a she. He has apparently “transgendered” to become a woman. And the world applauds his/her great courage.
King Manasseh is a conundrum. He was the most evil king Judah ever had and yet he was the longest reigning king. (cf. 2 Chronicles 33) In the Old Testament books of Kings and Chronicles every king’s life is summed up either by, “he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” or “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” No matter what the king’s military gains, political accomplishments, feats of bravery or economic successes, in the end it boiled down to this one thing.