home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > March > THIS WILL ONLY TAKE A MINUTE

I’m a huge fan of the Jason Bourne franchise. In the first instalment, Jason eventually becomes aware of a CIA conspiracy to assassinate uncooperative international political figures called Operation Treadstone. But unlike many of the internet conspiracy theories, Jason has good reasons to believe that Treadstone was more than just a theory, because he discovered that he was central to it, and interacted directly with its proponents. That is, Jason engaged with the ‘primary sources’ of the conspiracy which enabled him to verify it. This is also what I would like to encourage all those who too quickly and too easily embrace the various conspiracies that are going ‘viral’ on the internet. But I think my greatest pastoral concern is for those ‘spiritual’ conspiracies being promoted on the various social-media platforms which are demonstrably wrong which I think deserved to be categorised as conspiritual conspiracies.   

¶ They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.”
Genesis 37:18-20

 

WHAT IS A CONSPIRACY?

A conspiracy is generally thought of a sinister, secretive, plot, involving a limited number of people. When some suspect that a conspiracy may be in play they often develop a theory in an attempt to account for certain key details and raise objections to the official explanation. Many conspiracy theories place great credence in the idea that there are powerful people who have often formed secretive societies (such as the Illuminati or Cabul) are essentially manipulating and deceiving the general public to increase their own power. These conspiracy theories leverage people’s general sense of life’s unfairness—which is what makes them so appealing because people’s run of ‘bad luck’ can actually be shown to not be bad luck but the result of a sinister conspiracy to monitor and manipulate people to their detriment. This concept makes for a great movie plot-line and divides the world into an “us and them” or “the good guys (us) and the bad guys (them)”. George Lucas built the Star Wars franchise exactly around this conspiratorial motif. The 1999 Hollywood (or should that be Sydney) blockbuster, The Matrix, was also built on the idea of a world where nearly everyone was deceived by ‘the Matrix’ conspiracy.

For a conspiracy to sound plausible it has to have elements of verifiable truth. For example, there was a conspiracy theory that NASA didn’t actually land a man on moon but staged it in a studio with cameras to make it look like it. One of the supposed elements supporting this conspiracy theory was that the American flag which Buzz Aldrin planted into the surface of the moon didn’t flutter like a normal flag. That was true. But there is a simple reason why it didn’t: the atmosphere of the moon isn’t like that of earth’s breezy flag-fluttering atmosphere. Today we have sophisticated telescopes that can actually detect some of the artefacts left behind on the moon from the various lunar landings.

He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end.
Job 5:13

 

BIBLICAL CONSPIRACIES

Conspiracies do happen though. Several unsuccessful ones and one global one (still underway) are referred to in the Bible. Joseph’s brothers conspired against him and it seemed that it had initially succeeded. Mordecai uncovered a plot (a conspiracy) to assassinate the Emperor. Sanballat and Tobiah conspired against Nehemiah but were thwarted in their schemes. Haman conspired to kill all Jews but was outwitted by a teenage Jewish girl named Esther (Esther 7:6-7). Judas conspired against Jesus to betray Him (Mark 14:10). Some Pharisees conspired to overrun a squad of Roman soldiers and kill the apostle Paul whom they were guarding (Acts 23:12).

As for the scoundrel—his devices are evil;
he plans wicked schemes
to ruin the poor with lying words,
even when the plea of the needy is right.
Isaiah 32:7

And when the three-days-dead corpse of Jesus suddenly and dramatically came back to life and walked out of the tomb His cold lifeless body had been placed in, there was a conspiracy to cover up the facts and spin an alternate narrative.

¶ While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
Matthew 28:11-15

 

THE FIRST WIDESPREAD CONSPIRACY TO PRESENT A SERIOUS THREAT TO CHRISTIANITY 

By the middle of the first century Christians were increasingly under threat from what we might call a conspiritual conspiracy. This threat had all of the hallmarks of a conspiracy but also had the added danger of lacing it with a spirituality that claimed to be Christian. Proponents of this conspirituality joined themselves to local churches and did what conspiratorialists do well – they redefined terms and offered a different narrative of the gospel story. They claimed that everyone outside of their group was blind and needed to be ‘enlightened’ in order to see the truth. They claimed that those who had been promoting the gospel and the stories of Christ’s life and ministry were deceiving people. Every person, they claimed, had the light of truth within their soul and by the correct spiritual practices could unlock that knowledge. These spiritual practices involved keeping certain rules, frequent fasting, avoiding the material world as much as possible, and most all, being taught the true knowledge. This philosophy came to be known as the Knowledge (the Greek word, gnosis) which in English is translated as Gnosticism. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians was written to counter the conspirituality of the Gnostics and to prevent their conspiracy to undermine Christianity from succeeding. The Gnostics taught that since the material world was evil, the Son of God did not actually take on a body of flesh, instead He just docetically appeared to have flesh. This Gnostic conspiracy was also countered by the Apostle John – 

¶ And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,
1John 4:2

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.
2John 7

John’s response to this conspiritual conspiracy reveals how we are to test the truthfulness of a conspiracy or conspiracy theory. John pointed people to the verifiable facts which countered the conspiracy. While Gnosticism continues to try and weasel its way into the Church through its conspirituality including: the hijacking biblical language to radically redefine its terms, inventing a different narrative about Jesus merely being an enlightened person who attained divinity by discovering the True Knowledge (“gnosis”), attempting to discredit the Scriptures so that its sexual moral standards where merely the opinions of first century Jewish bigots, and claiming that Constantine was responsible for inventing modern Christianity — still need to exposed and challenged wherever and whenever it rears its ugly tentacles. But, there is actually an overarching and more sinister conspiracy which was around at the inception of Christianity and still seeks to secretly and wickedly manipulate the unsuspecting.

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them…But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible
Ephesians 5:11,13

Today, conspiritual-conspiracy theorists frequently attempt to invoke biblical prophecy to support their claims and nearly always completely ignore the biblical context and fulfilment time-frame given in the Text.  Added to this, their conspiratorial interpretation of these biblical prophecies within the time-frames they assert nearly always prove to be false.

 

THE DEVIL’S CONSPIRACY

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Second Corinthians 4:4

The Devil’s scheme is to blind, deceive and destroy all the divine image bearers – for eternity. The apostle Paul told the Ephesians to put on the armour of God against to counter this scheme. I suspect that many Christians today tremendously underestimate just how insidious this devilish conspiracy is. Our Enemy attempts to hinder and thwart every effort we offer to advance the cause of Christ, and we need to heed the teaching and examples given in the Scriptures to be able to counter it. These biblical insights are also adaptable to discern whether any conspiracy theory is more than just a theory.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith [in the truth].
First John 5:4

 

HOW WE CAN ANALYSE A CONSPIRACY’S TRUTHFULNESS

Many of the claims within many conspiracy theories cannot be tested. What scant evidence there is supporting it is drawn from the opinions of people who, like the ancient gnostics, claim to know something as a fact but cannot provide the supporting verifiable evidence. Their appeal to “Do the research” often points to an unfounded but very authoritative-sounding opinions of often anonymous sources. This is why the early conspiracy to discredit the physical resurrection of Christ quickly failed. It couldn’t be substantiated or corroborated by the known facts and because it was built on a lie it almost certainly involved inconsistent retelling of the false narrative promoted by the corrupt priests.

Conspiracies depend on ignorance and incomplete evidence. In the 1957 classic movie, Twelve Angry Men, starring Henry Fonda, a young Hispanic man is being tried for murder. Initially the evidence looks overwhelming in support of a guilty finding by the jury. There was apparently his finger prints on the murder weapon, an eye witness, someone who heard the young man say “I’m going to kill you!” and several other convincing proofs. But one of the jurors wasn’t quite convinced and since the trial required a unanimous vote by the jury they had to continue their deliberations. The one unconvinced juror then went through each piece of evidence and showed that it actually didn’t correspond to the narrative presented by the prosecutor, and the jury unanimously came to realise that the young man was not guilty. This highlights that evidence is often interpretted within the story that it is presented not the actually context of the event it relates to. Whenever you hear a claim that sounds as if it is linked to a conspiracy it might be worth considering what the original context of the evidence was first.

But test everything; hold fast what is good.
First Thessalonians 5:21

This is why we can have great confidence in the accounts given in the Bible. Two of the four evangelists (Matthew and John) who wrote Gospels were eye-witnesses to many of the events they describe – particularly and critically – the resurrection appearances of Christ. Rather than appealing to a “trust me when I tell you…” approach, the Biblical writers of the New Testament invite readers to examine the evidence for themselves and consider carefully what they have presented. They do not present their accounts anonymously or in an only share this after I’ve died memoir approach. When the apostle Paul could say that the physically resurrected Christ was seen by up to 500 people at one time and that most of these people are still alive (1Cor. 15:6), he was inviting verification of the facts that he presented (and we have no record of anyone ever refuting Paul’s claim). This made the claims of Christianity verifiable and it therefore makes the further claims of Christianity about a spiritual new birth testable and verifiable today.

¶ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 20:30-31

Your pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. Therese Stepanovic

    With everything going on in the world and particularly in our own backyard it is more important than ever to seek Gods truth through knowing Gods word. There are so many people ( I encountered 2 this week) who didn’t know what Christianity was about and didn’t understand the different denominations.

    Thank you Ps Andrew.

    Reply

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CHRISTOLOGY AND CLIMATE-CHANGE

Climate change activists are raising valid concerns about the eye-watering fragility of our planet. As far as that goes, they are more right than they know. Life is only made possible on earth due to a very long list of high fine-tuned at-the-same-time parameters. These parameters are millimetre perfect. Take for example the gas mix of our atmosphere which is comprised of oxygen, nitrogen, argon, carbon-dioxide, methane, hydrogen, and neon. Our atmosphere consists of 21% oxygen. If it was even slightly more than this our atmosphere would be highly flammable and thereby life on earth would not be possible! Naturalists (those who dismiss the reality of the supernatural rule of God) fear that human activity risks a mass-extinction event including us humans, within thirty years unless things change. But they overlook one very important fact! Jesus Christ is Lord!

WHAT CHRIST SAID WAS NOT JUST ABOUT FOOD

There was a time when Jesus was chided by authorities for not washing hands! These authorities weren’t concerned about hygiene or virus control, they were concerned about spiritual purity. What Jesus said in response to them has powerful relevance for how some people feel about the spiritual implications surrounding the current corona-virus, the covid-vaccines, and how authorities are enacting lockdowns and travel restrictions to deal with it.
Both Kim and I have both been doubly vaccinated. We willingly check-in by QR code everywhere we go. We comply with all State and National Governments’ travel restrictions. We do all of this for the sake of our conscience as we strive to love God and to love others. I know that there are believers whom we love who disagree with us. But I also know that there are far more believers who just confused by the whole issue and they too are striving to love God and to love others. For those have concerns about the health implications of the covid vaccines, we strongly recommend that they seek medical advice. But if this is not your primary concern, if the spiritual implications are, then I hope that I have given you some theological reasons not to be fooled by those who assert that all those who are vaccinated will be receiving the mark of the beast, and by so doing will have their salvation revoked. 

THEY SAID IT COULDN’T BE DONE!

What often looks impossible today in the realms of technology, travel, power generation, medicine, and even church, often becomes common-place tomorrow. But it takes those who are prepared to dream and dare — despite their critics. I’m looking for people who are prepared to dream and dare with me. Our city of Launceston has many fine churches but it is yet to see what the God of the Impossible can do with a church that is prepared to dream and dare. When I read the closing book of the Bible I am captivated by the ‘dream’ of God to see people redeemed from every tribe, nation, and tongue that will eventually comprise a number so vast that no-one could possibly count them! (Rev. 7:9). This is God’s grand dare for the Church and I’m in on the dare! Perhaps we too could dream of a church made up of people from an many nations, tribes, and languages as possible! Perhaps we could dare to dream of a church so significant that hundreds come each Sunday just to find out for themselves what God is doing! And when the day comes — and the day will come — that such a church exists in our city of Launceston, Tasmania, we will remember that there many who said “It couldn’t be done!”

PRAISE HIM IN THE STORM

PRAISE YOU IN THIS STORM

Storms come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes there’s a gradual build up, white fluffy clouds gradually becoming darker and lower, but sometimes they seemingly come from nowhere. Sometimes storms are foreboding and scary and long. Sometimes they are light and short and finished soon after they start. Sometimes there are strong winds, sometimes rain, sometimes thunder and lightning, sometimes all of them!

Similarly, the storms of life. Sometimes we feel or see them coming and then they are upon us…but sometimes they…

THE OLOGIES

This Sunday I conclude the BECAUSE HE IS series. Each of the six instalments of this series has dealt with a truth about God. My hope throughout the series so far has been that I might introduce those unfamiliar or less acquainted with God to experience a richer, deeper and more intimate knowledge of Him. My motive for doing this has been to lead someone who had never loved God to come to gladly love Him — and for those who were in like of God to become besotted with their love for God. I have repeatedly said throughout this series so far that I have not wanted this to be merely a series of lectures or just interesting information for your fancy. (Added to this, I have confessed that Kim has forbidden me from lecturing this series!) But now, as I prepare to conclude this series this Sunday, I want to give you some of the theological background behind what I consider to be one of the most important series of sermons I have delivered. 

HEARING THE WILL OF GOD

Christianity is a dynamic (always changing) journey with the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit within us who works within us to desire to do and pursue the will of God (Phil. 2:13). It is the illumination of the Spirit that takes God’s Word as we read, study, and meditate on it, and makes it seem fresh and alive to us. And it is the Word of God, which He, the Holy Spirit, inspired men to write so that we could clearly discern the will of God for our lives. You don’t need a word from God to know what God’s will for your life is. You don’t need to attend a “Learn To Hear The Voice of God” seminar, or to read a book on the topic. Instead, you just need to dialogue with God in prayer through pouring out your heart to Him with your requests, petitions, confessions, and thanksgiving; and then, prayerfully read His Word as the light of the Holy Spirit illuminates it to your soul.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Second Corinthians 4:6 

Perhaps if more believers were led by the Spirit like this, less Christian marriages would end, less churches would be split, and less Christians would walk away from Christ and His Church after becoming frustrated by the false belief that since these presumptuous Christians have apparently mis-heard God so wildly, the reason must be that God doesn’t actually exist. This is one of the most pressing issues that needs to be confronted today — especially among those of us who identify as Spirit-filled Pentecostals.

LOOKING BEYOND THE MOMENT

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THE BENEFITS OF A DAILY DOSE OF VITAMIN R

The Greatest Exponent of what vitamin R can achieve within a person was the One who introduced vitamin R in small doses to His twelve followers. There initial dose came from simply complying with the request to, “Follow Me.” This they did for some three years or so. After watching Him intently, they then got a larger dose when they were told to, “Go…and proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” And as every example of those who have ever received a near maximum dose of vitamin R bears witness, just before they received their ultimate dose vitamin R they felt two universally common sensations: inadequacy and inability. Yet, as everyone who has received such high doses of vitamin R from the One who gives the ultimate enabling strength found in vitamin R, somehow they were supernaturally enabled to do the very thing they felt both inadequate and unable to do!

A PICTURE IS PAINTED BY A THOUSAND WORDS

The most difficult challenge you’ll ever have to deal with throughout your life is others. They’ll make you angry, get you frustrated, and hurt you. At the root of these challenges will be miscommunication with others and communication breakdowns. Your ability to understand how language and communication really works could save you from much of this heartache. But the most unrealised — and by far the potentially greatest source of — heartache may eternally shock untold numbers of poor souls when they realise too late that they did not respond to God’s communications.

THE BUSY FOOLS ARGUMENT WITH THE BUSY WISE

What makes our busyness wise busyness? It’s when our busyness is doing what Christ wants for the reasons that He wants it done. It’s when we are busy without neglecting the priorities of spiritual disciplines and our obligations to those we are responsible to and for. This is why, when Christ calls someone to take on a greater responsibility in His Kingdom it is almost certain that they are already busy. I am not at all suggesting that a Christ-follower needs to be frenetic in their busyness for Christ, or that they should never sabbath (two points I have tried to make clear in this Pastor’s Desk by contrasting the busy wise with the busy foolish). But I am hoping that those who have been following and serving Christ for some seasons will recognise the doors of opportunity that Christ will enable them to walk through wisely. And as they do, and we do together, may we begin to see glimpse of the Great Commission being fulfilled in our valley-city.