Saturday, May 10, 2008


Jeremiah 23 How To Influence Your Culture


The book of Jeremiah challenges our societal and cultural beliefs.

The book of Jeremiah deals with those who set the cultures of our communities.

1. “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” [This is]the Lord’s declaration. 2 “Therefore, this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the shepherds who shepherd My people: You have scattered My flock, banished them, and have not attended to them. I will attend to you because of your evil acts”—the Lord’s declaration.

The history of humanity is the story of bad shepherding hurting the people.

The Lord is speaking to those who form the communities ideals, beliefs, values and mores. The shepherds specifically indicated here are the Kings, governors and prophets and priests who set the communities beliefs and understandings. Today, those identified here as the people who provide the core beliefs of the community are the tv producers directors talk back hosts, government leaders, teachers, lecturers and pastors of churches.

Consider what happened in Australia during the 70’s and 80’s. There was a movement in education to secularise education in Australia. At the same time there was a movement towards multiculturalism.

Prior to the 70’s education in the government schools was primarily protestant parochial. With a higher immigration rate in the early 70’s in the Whitlam years, there was a need to accept multi culturalism. The buzz word of the early 70’s was multi-culturalism. For the Australian education system this meant a choice between pluralism or secularism.

The system chose both.

The education system moved from protestant parochialism to religious pluralism

‘Multicultural’ is a term that describes the cultural and linguistic diversity of Australian society. Cultural and linguistic diversity was a feature of life for the first Australians, well before European settlement. It remains a feature of modern Australian life, and it continues to give us distinct social, cultural and business advantages. The Australian Government’s multicultural policy addresses the consequences of this diversity in the interests of the individual and society as a whole. It recognises, accepts, respects and celebrates our cultural diversity. The freedom of all Australians to express and share their cultural values is dependent on their abiding by mutual civic obligations. All Australians are expected to have an overriding loyalty to Australia and its people, and to respect the basic structures and principles underwriting our democratic society. These are: the Constitution, parliamentary democracy, freedom of speech and religion, English as the national language, the rule of law, acceptance and equality.

This vision is reflected in the four principles that underpin multicultural policy:

Responsibilities of all – all Australians have a civic duty to support those basic structures and principles of Australian society which guarantee us our freedom and equality and enable diversity in our society to flourish

Respect for each person – subject to the law, all Australians have the right to express their own culture and beliefs and have a reciprocal obligation to respect the right of others to do the same

Fairness for each person – all Australians are entitled to equality of treatment and opportunity. Social equity allows us all to contribute to the social, political and economic life of Australia

Benefits for all – all Australians benefit from the significant cultural, social and economic dividends arising from the diversity of our population. Diversity works for all Australians.

The new policy statement also maintains a commitment to the goal of communicating the relevance of multicultural policy to all Australians. However, it responds to changing times and needs with some new strategic directions and focuses. It gives particular emphasis to:

the goal of community harmony and social cohesion

the government’s access and equity strategy, which aims to ensure government services and programs respond to the realities of Australia’s diversity

promoting the benefits of our diversity for all Australians.

Australia’s approach to immigration from federation until the latter part of the 20th century, in effect, excluded non-European immigration. The ‘White Australia policy’ as it was commonly described, could not, however, withstand the attitudinal changes after World War II, and the growing acknowledgment of Australia’s responsibilities as a member of the international community. In 1966, the Liberal-Country Party Government began dismantling the White Australia policy by permitting the immigration of ‘distinguished’ non-Europeans.

The prevailing attitude to migrant settlement up until this time was based on the expectation of ‘assimilation’ – that is, that migrants should shed their cultures and languages and rapidly become indistinguishable from the host population.

From the mid-1960s until 1973, when the final vestiges of the White Australia policy were removed, policies started to examine assumptions about assimilation. They recognised that large numbers of migrants, especially those whose first language was not English, experienced hardships as they settled in Australia, and required more direct assistance.

The education system also moved towards secularism.

That is, Secularism is generally the assertion that certain practices or institutions should exist separately from religion or religious belief. Alternatively, it is a principle of promoting secular ideas or values in either public or private settings over religious ways of thought.

In one sense, secularism may assert the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, and freedom from the government imposition of religion upon the people, within a state that is neutral on matters of belief, and gives no state privileges or subsidies to religions. In another sense, it refers to a belief that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be based on evidence and fact rather than religious influence.

Barry Kosmin of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture breaks modern secularism into two types: hard and soft secularism. According to Kosmin, "the hard secularist considers religious propositions to be epistemologically illegitimate, warranted by neither religion nor experience." However, in the view of soft secularism, "the attainment of absolute truth was impossible and therefore skepticism and tolerance should be the principle and overriding values in the discussion of science and religion.” This is due to the near-complete freedom of religion (one may believe in one religion, many religions or none at all, with little legal or social sanction), as well as the general belief that religion does not ultimately dictate political decisions.

In Australia it is not freedom of religion, but freedom from religion that is promoted in education. Secularism can also be the social ideology in which religion and supernatural beliefs are not seen as the key to understanding the world and are instead segregated from matters of governance and reasoning. In this sense, secularism can be involved in the promotion of science, reason, and naturalistic thinking.

However the Secular Party of Australia, feels that pluralism has replaced relativism as the dominant philosophy within the educational system. “Secularism has been eroded and replaced by tacit endorsement of all forms of religion, especially in education. Religious intolerance is increasing, as is social disharmony.” Webpage

In his song “Imagine”, John Lennon thought of a world without countries and without religion, where there would be no motivation to kill and die and where people could live in peace and brotherhood.

The Dictatorship of Relativism Address to the National Press Club, Canberra By + Cardinal George Pell Archbishop of Sydney 21 September 2005

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger preached the homily at the pre-conclave Mass and warned against the rise of “a dictatorship of relativism”. It is an evocative phrase which frightened some and provoked confusion in others. Taking as his text St Paul's warning to the Ephesians (4:14-16), that “we must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine” but “must grow up” in Christ and in love, the Cardinal offered the following reflection:

“Every day new sects are born and we see realized what St. Paul says on the deception of men, on the cunning that tends to lead into error (cf. Ephesians 4:14). To have a clear faith according to the creed of the Church, is often labelled as fundamentalism. While relativism, that is, allowing oneself to be carried about with every wind of 'doctrine', seems to be the only attitude that is fashionable. A dictatorship of relativism is being constituted that recognizes nothing as absolute and which only leaves the 'I' and its whims as the ultimate measure.”

Relativism is powerful in Western life, evidenced in many areas from the decline in the study of history and English literature, through to the triumph of subjective values and conscience over moral truth and the downgrading of heterosexual marriage.  None of this is entirely new: relativism is an antique theory.  The great thinker and father of history Heraclitus [History 3, 38] noted that different cultures differ in their basic beliefs and customs, and at the dawn of our philosophical tradition the Greek philosopher Protagoras challenged the religious and moral wisdom of his day, arguing that each individual’s own opinions are the measure of truth [see Plato Theaetetus 151eff].

This theory has so far received no official sanction – usually because wise men and women have seen that either relativism is the real truth about the Universe, in which case relativism is wrong since there is a real truth, or relativism is not the real truth, in which case we should all stop thinking about it.  The danger today is that people do not even think this far to see the inconsistencies.

One reason for optimism is that no one believes deep down in relativism.  People may express their scepticism about truth and morality in lecture rooms or in print, but afterwards, they will go on to sip a cappuccino, pay the mortgage, drive home on the left side of the road, and presumably avoid acts of murder and cannibalism throughout their evening.  People, unless insane, do not live as relativists.  They care about truth and follow clear cut rules.

Nothing matters more than truth to our country.  Differences about important issues such as war, slavery, abortion, euthanasia are different claims to moral truth, not merely competing preferences.  Some who have never been deprived of truth can give it up too easily, perhaps using talk of relativism or secularism to camouflage their actual commitment to money, success, possessions, power.  But these are ambiguous goods: they can be misused and are rarely distributed fairly.  It is getting to the truth about things and having the integrity to live by that truth that is the ideal we should pass to the next generation.  By comparison, relativism is bankrupt: it offers no future because it is not livable; and where it is a camouflage, what it camouflages is gnerally rotten and often shaped by greed.

Jesus said “I am the Truth” and for this he, and countless good men and women, lived and died.  Nobody lives and dies for relativism: people do not sacrifice themselves for a theory which states that such a gesture is merely relative.

The abolition of truth does not ensure a proper tolerance of diversity, but removes the constraints on any passing majority opinion and prevents us from discriminating legally between the tolerable and intolerable.  Relativism is a position that explains a self-obsessed, overly materialist, ethics-lite minority – and that, I firmly believe, is not Australia today and not the Australia we want for tomorrow. Many think that Australia is now a secular society (some Catholics and many secularists like to talk like this) but in the 2001 census 68% declared themselves Christian and only 15.48% declared themselves without religion, a decline of 1.45% from 1996. 

And so there is the dance of death, secularism, with its relativism and multicultural pluralism. And the one thing that has suffered is truth.

Here is a nation standing on the brink. They are on the eve of their destruction. Why? Well the short Christian answer is that they have rejected God and His Word.

1. You Face The Tolerance Of our Times

You Face Pluralism’s Perspectives

Robert F. Kennedy: Ultimately, America's answer to the intolerant man is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired

Robert Louis Stevenson: There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it behooves all of us not to talk about the rest of us.

Pluralism is not wrong in itself. Multiculturalism allows for a freedom of religion. It allows this diversity of belief. A free church in a free society is the concern for Baptists everywhere. I will defend to the death your right to be wrong!.

But there has come with multiculturalism the terrible death of truth in relativism. Unthinking secularists have, in celebrating the diversity of beliefs moved to relativism. Rather than maintaining a respect for truth, they have adopted the view that there is no real absolute truth.

You Face Pluralism’s Problems

Every voice is authoritative because every voice has its own experiences.

Paul McCartney: I used to think anyone doing anything weird was weird. Now I know that it is the people that call others weird that are weird.

The problem is that there is absolute truth. The one salient oversight? God is and He has spoken!

22 If they had really stood in My council, they would have enabled My people to hear My words and would have turned them back from their evil ways and their evil deeds. 23 “Am I a God who is only near”—[this is]the Lord’s declaration—“and not a God who is far away? 24 Can a man hide himself in secret places where I cannot see him?”—the Lord’s declaration. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?”—the Lord’s declaration.

You Face Pluralism’s Prophets But not all who claim to speak for truth speak the truth.

The Tyndale commentary says Given two men dressed in similar clothing, each claiming to be God’s messenger and prefacing his remarks with “This is what God says”, it must have been far from easy to decide from external appearances which person was proclaiming revealed truth. Closer observation, however, would have made the difference between true and false prophets apparent. (R. K. Harrison)

False prophets

• live in a way that displeases God

• by breaking his law

The land is full of adulterers; because of the curse the land lies parched and the pastures in the desert are withered. The prophets follow an evil course and use their power unjustly. (Jeremiah 23:10)

“Both prophet and priest are godless; even in my temple I find their wickedness,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:11) among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no-one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.” (Jeremiah 23:14)

“… from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has spread throughout the land.” (Jeremiah 23:15)

The warning of Jesus

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them.” (Matthew 7:15-16)

Don’t be deceived

Don’t be deceived by what they say “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

Don’t be deceived by what they do “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’” (Matthew 7:22)

The only thing that matters is who you know

Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:23)

If you know the Lord you will not persistently do evil.

A false prophet speaks like this: he says what he has dreamt up

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:16)

But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word? (Jeremiah 23:18)

He speaks a message of peace that requires no change of behaviour

I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds. (Jeremiah 23:21-22)

While a false prophets ideas may sound great, they possess no power:

Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the LORD. “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? (Jeremiah 23:28-29)

2. You Form The Basis Of Your Beliefs

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral

About a hundred years ago, someone noted how Wesley interpreted scripture, and formatted what has come to be known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. There are basically four "lenses" of epistemology, how we understand anything..It is a way that we have any hope of understanding life.
Proverbs 13 highlights each of these:
12 Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
This comes by REVELATION
13 Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.
This comes by TRADITION
14 The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
Pro 13:20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
1Cor 11:16 But if anyone wants to argue about this, we have no other custom, nor do the churches of God.
Tradition of the community
Pro 15:22 Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.
This comes by REASON
15 Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard.
This comes by EXPERIENCE.
16 Every prudent man dealeth with knowledge: but a fool layeth open his folly.
The unifying thread that makes all this happen in our relationship with God is the Personal relationship that we have with Him through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Consequently, now knowing Him, we see everything differently
2 Corinthians 5:16 From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way. Even if we have known Christ in a purely human way, yet now we no longer know Him like that. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.
Revelation becomes the supreme way we have of knowing. But that revelation is interpreted through the authorities of reason, tradition and experience.
As baptists we would consider that reasonable ways of looking at scripture would then be our secondary authority in matters of faith and conduct (respecting the liberty of the conscience) and then thirdly the authority of tradition or community in interpreting scripture (validating our right of free association).
And of course our personal experience of the Lord (regulated by the preceding three "authorities", scripture,r eason and tradition) brings us to the priority of the Lordship of Christ in our daily living.
That these ideas significantly harmonise with scripture and reality make me glad to be a Baptist.

Life is full of decisions. Where do I go on holidays? What job should I choose? What should I have for dinner? Which side of the bed should I get out of? Should I get out of bed at all? Making decisions is a fundamental part of being human; we can't avoid it, and we do it all the time.

Often when we make decisions, we rely on authorities to help us. So, for example, if you were to make a decision about investing money, you'd consult various authorities: investment advisers, friends and relatives, a company prospectus, and so on. Some of those authorities will be better than others!

Similarly, when it comes to make decisions as Christians, there are various sources of authority that we can turn to. For example, if we want guidance about how to be a good husband/wife/son/daughter/brother/sister, we would look to various authorities. There are at least four ‘authorities’ that we can identify in our Christian walk:

There's the Bible, of course: helpful Bible passages like Ephesians 4 will give us good advice about family relationships.

There's also the church: a Christian friend or minister can encourage and give you wisdom you may not have otherwise thought about.

There is also reason: it can be useful to think about it ourselves.

And there's experience: we have all learned something from our experience of good and bad family relationships!

However, there come times in our lives, and in the lives of our churches, where these various ‘authorities’ can be at odds with one another—or can even contradict each other. When this happens, we need to make a decision about which authority we listen to first and foremost. This is what we mean by the phrase sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura means that when different authorities contradict what the Bible says clearly on matters of faith and Christian conduct, we will go with the Bible as our authority rather than those other authorities. So, for example, if a man comes to me with an ‘experience’ of a vision from God that told him that he must divorce his wife in order to marry another woman, then I would reject that ‘authority’ on the basis that the Bible says that this behaviour is wrong.

Sola Scriptura is something that we need to insist on in controversial situations. It's not an issue when the Bible, tradition, reason and experience all agree. But when there is disagreement, we need to make the hard decisions. So, for example, the current debate about homosexuality and church leadership is an area where various ‘authorities’ are vying for our attention.

3. You Formulate The Content of Your Communication

Preach the Word.

Some people think that preaching is an ineffective and outdated form of communication ..some people preach.. “The day of preaching is dead.”

But this overlooks the place of scripture.

The Lord Jesus highlighted the need of preaching Luke 8:1 Soon afterwards He was travelling from one town and village to another, preaching and telling the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with Him,

Paul gives us a warning about these last days 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

The Lord says through Jeremiah 23 :16This is what the Lord of Hosts says: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They are making you worthless. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the Lord’s mouth. 17 They keep on saying to those who despise Me: The Lord has said: You will have peace. To everyone who walks in the stubbornness of his heart they have said, No harm will come to you.” 18 For who has stood in the council of the Lord to see and hear His word? Who has paid attention to His word and obeyed? 21 I did not send these prophets, yet they ran [with a message]. I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. 22 If they had really stood in My council, they would have enabled My people to hear My words and would have turned them back from their evil ways and their evil deeds. 23 “Am I a God who is only near”—[this is]the Lord’s declaration—“and not a God who is far away? 24 Can a man hide himself in secret places where I cannot see him?”—the Lord’s declaration. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?”—the Lord’s declaration. 25 “I have heard what the prophets who prophesy a lie in My name have said: I had a dream! I had a dream! 26 How long will this continue in the minds of the prophets prophesying lies, prophets of the deceit of their own minds? 27 Through their dreams that they tell one another, they make plans to cause My people to forget My name as their fathers forgot My name through Baal worship. 28 The prophet who has [only]a dream should recount the dream, but the one who has My word should speak My word truthfully, for what is straw [compared]to grain?”—the Lord’s declaration. 29 “Is not My word like fire”—the Lord’s declaration—“and like a sledgehammer that pulverizes rock? 30 Therefore, take note! I am against the prophets”—the Lord’s declaration—“who steal My words from each other. 31 I am against the prophets”—the Lord’s declaration—“who use their own tongues to deliver an oracle. 32 I am against those who prophesy false dreams”—the Lord’s declaration—“telling them and leading My people astray with their falsehoods and their boasting. It was not I who sent or commanded them, and they are of no benefit at all to these people”—[this is]the Lord’s declaration.

The one salient oversight? God is and He has spoken!

Two of the foundational tenets upon which life and indeed the church are built are the actuality that God is and the reality that God has spoken. Because God is and because He has spoken, it is His word that is authoritative for our lives. Tips of the above sort flow from a relativistic influence which flows from a loss of Scriptural authority with its concomitant commitment to the aforementioned verities: God is and God has spoken.
Thus, the answer to the question, "[Do you believe] the Sunday morning sermon should be designed primarily to reach lost people or teach Christians, as well as the answer to contemporary preaching tips is the same: God is and God has spoken. Because these things are true, the design of the sermon springs from the words God has spoken. We refer to those words as the text [of Scripture]. The thrust of the text will be the thrust of the sermon.

Faithfulness to God and to His word really is the issue for only God's word has the power to change lives (Rom. 1:16f).Paul Dean, the Dean’s List

I remember speaking with one ex-Bible college lecturer recently who said, "I quit my job (after 25 years) because these days the young men (of his particular denomination) don't want to preach what's in their Bible's, they just preach the first thing that pops into their heads."

Friends, if we would impact our culture, we must be shepherds, influences, who preach the WORD of God.

In 1990 I had a meeting with several of Chuck Swindoll's pastors at the church he then pastored.   I was privileged to sit in on one his own home church pastor's meetings.  Chuck Swindoll pastored the 5000 strong First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton in California. At morning tea break, he looked over to me, and asked a question. "What do you think is the most important thing you can do for your church?" I thought for a moment, "Preach the Word of God."  He said, with a broad smile I will always remember, "That's what it is all about." and his junior pastors clapped me. I was humbled.  And I was re-inspired.  Why had I come to the USA looking at church growth methodologies, when all that was important was preaching His Word!

No dreams of new methodologies. No visions of personal greatness. Only one thing matters.  Preaching the Word of God.  28 The prophet who has [only]a dream should recount the dream, but the one who has My word should speak My word truthfully, for what is straw [compared]to grain?”—the Lord’s declaration. 29 “Is not My word like fire”—the Lord’s declaration—“and like a sledgehammer that pulverizes rock?

If we would be shepherds that positively influence our culture, we must live by God's Word, allowing that to be the core of our beliefs, and behaviour. And we must consistently and constantly teach God's Word.  This must be the content of our communications.

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