Where Do You Get Your Ethics From?
We are in the middle of a series on Christian Anthropology and Kingdom ethics?
Anthropology is the study of what makes us human - it looks at human where humans came from, human behaviour and how humanity formed cultures and society. Christian anthropology considers these things through the lens of the Bible. Ethics is the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles which govern people’s behaviour. Kingdom Ethics looks at the virtues and value systems which underpin our behaviours as followers of Christ.
Over recent weeks we have been looking at the origins of humanity and what it means to be created in the image of God.
We have seen that the Bible shows us that we were not just some cosmic accident and we didn’t just evolve from nothing, but we were created and made by God in His image. Everything about us had a purpose in its design, even our biological sexes. He needed two biologically different humans to bare His image fully.
Humanity was the pinnacle of Creation. God’s masterpiece. We have been fearfully and wonderfully made.
Genesis 3 tells us that within the Paradise Garden God placed Adam and Eve. Within the Garden was a serpent. This serpent was an adversary who was agent of darkness, on a mission to stop Humanity’s assignment and steel from them. Specifically He was after the authority they had been given.
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3)
Knowledge lies at the heart of the struggle between the two kingdoms, because knowledge is where the adversary mounted his original attack on humanity.
The Apostle Paul explained the nature of warfare in the world.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.(Ephesians 6:12)
The Greek word principality comes from the word “origin” or “teaching.” In other words, demonic principalities teach people what to think.
The origin of these kind of thoughts is often not logic and reason; instead they are rooted in principalities…what the Bible calls “the spirit of the power of the air”.
The Apostle Paul said:
3 For though we walk in the flesh [as mortal men], we are not carrying on our [spiritual] warfare according to the flesh and using the weapons of man. 4 The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 being ready to punish every act of disobedience, when your own obedience [as a church] is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)
The enemy of humanity is in a war to control culture. He knows that the most powerful force operating in our world is culture. Culture is an self-sustaining ecosystem of an associated group which is revealed by a set of common beliefs, values and behaviours that are effortlessly and unconsciously transmitted from one generation to the next. In its rawest form culture can be reduced down to a set of beliefs. Beliefs form our values and our values determine our behaviours. By apprehending a person’s thoughts you can automatically cause a particular behaviour.
Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. (Romans 6:16)
Drinking the Kool Aid
Obedience requires a decision and agreement to a suggestion (a thought). In essence what you decide to embrace will cause you to come under the influence of whatever is behind the suggestion. Paul, in this verse, shows us that our agreements produce either a positive (life) or negative (death) effect. The outcome is ultimately derived from the source (“origin”) of the thought. Our thinking is a life or death matter and is why Paul tells us to take captive every thought that passes through our heads and pass it through the Jesus filter.
Our agreements to thoughts activate a spiritual principle which causes a subjection (slavery) to the source behind the thought. Again this can be both in a positive way, towards God, or in a negative way, when we come under the influence of the enemy. The enemy understanding the spiritual dynamics at play temps us to agree with his lies. Once a person tastes his forbidden fruit they come under his influence in this area of life, to the point to which he is able to construct a stronghold in person’s life which is where a person robotically behaves in a way.
Strongholds are bastions of thought, which become secure places from which the enemy is able to further penetrate a person’s life (Strongholds of Godly thinking are what the Bible calls the renewed mind). Principalities and powers strategize their infiltration into humanity by creating a consensus of thinking in an area thereby allowing them to achieve the Devil’s prize which is to be able to control culture.
Culture is so powerful because its influence happens at an unconscious level. Under the influence of a culture people do not know why they act as they do. They mindlessly follow the flow.
God gave me a vision this week of a compass. The outer cover was lifted off it and the insides of the compass were like a clock, and a hand was tweaking the cogs within it. Then the thought came to me, “Are you sailing on true north or magnetic north?”
Did you know that there is a difference between true north and magnetic north. A compass hand is magnetic isn’t it? Because it is magnetic it actually shows us magnetic north and not true north. True north is the north geographic pole. True North and magnetic north are in the same general direction but they are not actually the same.
For most of us, the difference between true north and magnetic north is so negligible that if we follow magnetic north we will get to our destination. This is because the variation between magnetic north and true north is pretty minor, the matter of about a few hundred miles.
Did you know that the location of the magnetic north pole changes over time. In contrast, true north is a fixed spot on the globe: the true north pole is found at the conjunction of the lines of longitude, the point at which the earth’s axis exits the globe. Magnetic north varies position from year to year; true north is unchanging.
Adding to the confusion is magnetic deviation, caused when nearby metallic objects or electrical equipment influence the compass needle. Deviation is especially a problem inside ships and airplanes and in areas containing a lot of metal ore. Like declination, deviation must be overcome, usually by means of auxiliary magnets, in order to find true north.
As believers we are meant to be true north people and not magnetic north people. True north is a metaphor for Jesus because He is never changing. When someone says, “Jesus is my true north,” they are saying that Jesus is their constant, unchanging source of truth and life.
What if, unbeknownst to us, we think we are True North people but in reality we are actually magnetic north people.
If True North is Jesus what do you suppose magnetic north is? I want to propose to you that magnetic north is actually the culture of our World.
In NZ a few years back Tip Top Ice cream put a TV ad out that asked the question “Togs of Undies?” They poked fun at the fact that on the beach a man’s swim suit is are their speedos and not their underpants.
How is it that society has come to a common conscientious that it is not ok wearing your Speedos more than 200 meters from the beach?
But it is not just Speedos is it? Society determines what is acceptable or otherwise in most issues.
- Ways of the road – Letting people into lanes
- Not talking on the London Underground
- Old people’s home – “Hello”
Society on the whole gravitates towards social consciouses around all sorts of issues. Over time pretty much everyone ends up conforming to the social norm. If you don’t become socially alienated.
These social consciousnesses happen slowly over centuries and whilst they do change over time, these changes happen extremely slowly.
Changes in cultures happen in similar ways. Cultures are always morphing and changing. Normally the changes are barely detectable but they are happening all the time. If you were to drop a marker pin in the place where culture is today and then come back a few centuries later it is likely to only have moved a few centimetres.
In fact since the birth Western century culture has remained relatively stable. There is a name sociologists give to this expression of culture.
“Christendom” is the name given to the religious culture that has dominated Western society since the fourth century. Awakened by the Roman emperor Constantine, it was the cultural phenomenon that resulted when Christianity was established as the official imperial religion, moving it from being a marginalized, subversive, and persecuted movement to being the only official religion in the empire… Christianity became an official part of the established culture of the empire.
Michael Frost. Exiles
Since the 4th century Christendom has been Western Society’s bearing North. On the whole True North, Jesus and the Bible, and magnetic North (Christendom) have been in the relatively same vicinity.
If you asked me aged 4, when I first started school in the 1970s, “So what are you going to do when you grow up?” I would have told you that I when I left school some 15 years later I was going to work in my dad’s business. I also planned to get married to the woman of my dreams, and together we were going to have a family.
Who gave me this master plan for my life: Society. Everyone around me was largely living this way and doing this.
This is largely the Christian blueprint for living.
But what you don’t realize was that I came from a nominal Christian home. My parents were not born again. We were not thinking God, or how we could live to please God.
Back then, even in the 70s, society was still largely Christianized, and certainly much more so than it is today. No matter how dormant the Christian faith was even in the 70s, what people thought about the world was through a Christian lens, even if they claimed not to be a Christian.
Non believers acted in ways they didn’t even know aligned with the bible, in the ways they viewed life, thought about the world, themselves and other people. Today, half of all marriages end in divorce. But it hasn’t always been this way. In fact, divorce was once taboo. From 1867 to 1879, the annual divorce rate was 0.3 divorces per 1,000 Americans. By end of the 1970s, the annual rate had risen to 5.1 divorces per 1,000 Americans, an increase of 1,700%.
Even so, back in the 70s society looked at unmarried, cohabiting couples as odd. Homosexuality, which also was happening, was illegal. Extramarital affairs, which similarly happened, were considered bad things by society.
Who told society these things? The culture that subconsciously influenced them. Society was their bearing.
Magnetic North and True North were pretty much in the same place.
The Post Christian World
Scientists tell us that there is a random phenomena called Brunhes–Matuyama that they can see in the earth rocks which show us that over the earth’s history there has been a geomagnetic reversal, which in layman’s terms means that the positions of magnetic north and magnetic south switch.
Scientists don’t know why these geomagnetic reversals happen, but there have been 183 reversals over the last 83 million years. The last Brunhes–Matuyama reversal occurred 780,000 years ago and lasted 22,000 years. Some scientists believe that these reversals happen incredibly quickly, perhaps within the lifespan of a human, which is crazy fast given the age of the earth.
I think that this geomagnetic Brunhes–Matuyama reversal is a great metaphor for what we have seen happen in the last 50 years of recent history to Western culture.
The general societal norms of Christendom which had been consistent for centuries have been broken apart, redefined, and reconstituted.
Christian Apologist, Ravi Zacharias says:
In this new century, we have lost all definitions of what it means to be human, and what sexuality, life, and the home are all about. We are on the high seas, battling the storms of conflicting world views without a compass.
Features of Post Christian Society
Today we live in a Post-Christian society. What we mean by the term post-Christian society is more to do with the drift and rejection by our culture of the largely Christian beliefs, ethics and practices of society, than the abandonment of the Christian faith by society.
A post-Christian society is a particular sort of Christian society that has a particular set of dynamics at play within its culture.
Now these changes are not all bad. We have seen incredibly positive shifts in the rights for women and children. The unhealthy structures of religion have been broken.
As post-Christendom began to bite increasingly and society began to exchange ideas a major a huge social force began to take effect on society. This social force is something which social commentators have called deconstructionism.
Deconstructionism is the term that sociologists give to a particular phenomenon of the post Christian world. In the post-Christian world, the absolutes of Christendom are actively targeted and pulled apart.
Deconstructionism takes perspectives on subjects and pulls them apart. The very heart of the philosophy behind deconstructionism is that there is no one way of looking at life, understanding and the world. We can look at it at all sorts of ways. The positive side of deconstructionism is that it can lead to greater understanding about life. The negative side of deconstructionism is that it can suggest that there are no absolutes about any persecutive in life.
Truth – Within Christendom truth was well defined. Deconstructionists believe that the notion of truth is a contrived illusion, misused by people and special interest groups to gain power over others. In other words in society today there is no absolute truth. I have my truth you have yours.
Authority – Within Christendom the King or delegated rulers were the the establishers of authority. Lines of authority were clearly delineated. In post Christendom authority is seen as false and corrupt.
Morality – Within Christendom as I indicated was largely in line with the Bible.
In post Christendom morality is personal – Moral ethics are relative, subject to personal opinion. Liberal ethics has arisen. Morality is defined as each person’s private code of ethics without the need to follow traditional values and rules. A lot like the last verse in the Book of Judges:
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)
Religion – Within Christendom Christianity was the State religion. The Judea-Christian values underpinned all governing laws. The American Constitution, though seemingly advocating for a separation between church and State is inherently Christian in its make up. In our post-Christian world all religions are of equal value. The more inclusive a faith is, the more people are embracing it. This explains the gravitation towards the New Age religion, spirituality. Within the post-Christian world, the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ as being the only way to God are rejected.
So how do you know if you sailing towards MAGNETIC NORTH and not True North?
I want to end by asking the question Jesus asked me this week. “Are you sailing towards true north or are you sailing towards magnetic north?”
If you are taking your bearings from Magnetic North I need to tell you that you are no longer heading in the same direction as Jesus. There has been a seismic shift.
When you abandon Biblical Historical Orthodoxy
What I mean by the Biblical Historical Orthodox view is that this is the doctrine of the Church that was established by the Early Church Fathers and which has remained the unchanged position since this time.
Biblical Historical Orthodox doctrines are foundation stones which should not be messed with.
During this foundational time the main Christian Biblical creeds were defined and established. It was a huge battle.
THE APOSTLES CREED 120AD
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
These creeds established the foundation stones of our faith. They are sacred stones which are not to be messed with.
Proverbs 22:28 says:
Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.
The first base of the Christian faith, starts with submission to God. Submission to God starts with submission to His word.
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name. (Psalm 138:2)
You can’t go on beyond this base. Reductionism tells us that the Bible is no longer authoritative. By authority we mean that it carries authority as God’s Word, and they submit to the commands in it. (KJV). What this means is, if people believe they are hearing something from God, but it contradicts the Bible, they are hearing wrong.
Reductionism says that only the words in red matter and the words of Paul are the words are just the words of a man. If you believe this, then you have drunk the Kool Aid.
It is not that the Bible is against questioning, “Mary asked the Angel who told her she was pregnant, “How can this be?” But the difference to her questioning and John the Baptist’s father, Zachariah’s questioning, who when told by the angel that his wife Elizabeth was pregnant asked the same question as Mary, “How can this be?” was the spirit behind the questioning.
18Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
34″How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
Luke 1:18, 34
Mary asks the angel with an open heart, and receives an answer that defies logic. Zachariah question contains unbelief. The difference is humility. Humility is related to humbleness, and humbleness is related to submission. We can ask questions about God, life, and things, but it is the moisture of our questioning that is important.
When we make the Bible a lesser text
When we make the Bible comparative to prophecy. Authorative.
When we say there are no absolutes
Even though our society tells us that it’s narrow-minded to believe in ultimate truth, Jesus claimed to be the “only” way to the Father. He also said He was the “Truth” and the “Light.”
When we abandon either truth or love at the expense of the other.
Love and truth go hand in hand. I have seen some great people let go of Bible truth because they feel the Bible truth is unloving. I have seen people hold onto truth and in the process look more like the pharisees than Jesus. Jesus held on to truth and love. To the woman caught in adultery He showed love, “I do not condemn you.” But equally He told her, “Go sin no more.”
Other Sermons In This Series
October 29, 2019
October 16, 2019
September 24, 2019