A Climate of Fear

Over the last week we have seen fear run riot across our society. The corona virus, COVID 19, has ruined my potential holiday to Italy, but it has also single handedly plunging Europe, and indeed the world, into a recession.

In my life time I cannot remember hysteria like we have seen in the last few weeks. I’ve lived through 911, and I flew to Europe in September 11th 2001 in defiance of the fear of those around me. Today, in what is a genuine pandemic and global emergency, we have seen unprecedented levels of fear in the media and among governments worldwide.

Major sporting events have been cancelled, with no football in Europe, Asia or America. Concerts and festivals cancelled. In some places like Italy, schools, churches and museums are closed. Fear is everywhere, disrupting and controlling the lives of 7 billion people. But the Bible says,

 

Psalms 27:1 (ESV Strong’s)

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

 

Make no mistake, the world is enslaved right now. A few thousand will die of the corona virus, but billions will suffer financially as a result of the fear and hysteria created around it. So today I want to look at a Christian response to the corona virus pandemic…

 

THE WORLD USES FEAR TO CONTROL

 

Let’s make it clear we are seeing a worldwide tragedy unfolding.

 

Fears about the corona virus have wiped out nearly 4 trillion dollars in the US stock market, with the biggest weekly loss since 2008. Many countries are in total lockdown, and cruise ships are floating Petri dishes. Many are afraid to go out of their homes. Life appears to be grinding to a halt! It controls us. But,

 

2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV Strong’s)

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

So let’s exercise a sound mind and look at the facts, so we can shine a light of hope into a world plunging into darkness. In all the mess, the hysteria, the fear mongering, this is our moment to shine!

 

Matthew 5:16 (ESV Strong’s)

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

 

FACTS ABOUT COVID 19

 

Here are some facts you need to know about COVID 19…

 

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a new virus that had not been previously identified in humans. The virus causes respiratory illness (like the flu) with symptoms such as a cough, fever and in more severe cases, pneumonia. In rare cases, particularly among those who are elderly, have compromised immune systems or severe respiratory conditions, it can be fatal. It’s rare, but if you’re the one, it’s bad.

 

Spread of the disease can be limited by washing hands, staying home when sick and avoiding infected people.

 

I understand the role of hand sanitiser in this, but I am still unsure of the role of toilet paper.

 

The corona virus is a mild flu. It’s not the plague, or a flesh eating microbe. Because it is hard to tell how many are actually infected, the ratio of deaths to infections is high, around 3.4%. But epidemiologists agree this is grossly over estimated due to the lack of testing and confirmed cases. They believe it is under 1%.

 

Let’s talk numbers. Around 5,000 people have died of the COVID 19 so far. In the last 12 months it is estimated that 650,000 died of the common flu, for which we have a vaccine. 33 times more died of common flu. The largest pandemic in history was the Spanish flu of 1918, which infected 1/3 of the planet’s population and killed between 20-50 million people worldwide, double what world war 1 killed.

 

But the media, seizing and sensationalising figures like 3.4% death rate have driven this incredible fear within which we now live. While some is healthy, much of it today is destructive.

 

What does fear actually do?

 

1.      FEAR PARALYSES

 

Psalms 143:4 (ESV Strong’s)

Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.

New Living Translation

I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear.

 

The devil uses fear to paralyses you. Many people are so fearful they cannot act. Agoraphobics cannot go out of the house, clostrophobics have fear of small spaces, , acrophobics are afraid of heights. Pediophobics are afraid of dolls, decidophobics fear making decisions. Omphalophobia is fear of belly buttons, arachi-butero- phobia is being afraid of peanut button sticking to the roof of your mouth, and one we can all relate to is nomophobia, fear of being without mobile phone coverage. A moment’s silence for those on Vodaphone. My favourite fear of phobia is called Hippo-poto-monstro-ses-quippe-dalio-phobia: People who are afraid of Long Words.

 

Fear can paralyse you and control and ruin your life.

 

2.      FEAR CONTROLS

 

People with phobia are controlled by their fear. The enemy wants to control peoples lives, and He uses fear to do it. It stopped me traveling to where I wanted to go, it may stop all travel. It’s stopped sporting and cultural events, and it is controlling how people live. It makes people buy toilet paper.

 

Romans 8:15 (ESV Strong’s)

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

 

People right now are slaves to fear, because it is controlling their behaviour. It does not set you free, it enslaves you. Right now the whole world is being enslaved by fear.

 

3.      FEAR LIMITS POTENTIAL

Fear stunts your progress and growth. If you are fearful, you are afraid to step out and try something, so you miss opportunities to develop.

 

Joshua 1:9 (ESV Strong’s)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

When you live enslaved to it, your potential is limited. When you come to Christ, why should you be afraid, because your life is in His hands?

 

2 Corinthians 5:7 (ESV Strong’s)

for we walk by faith, not by sight.

 

People who let fear control and limit them are walking by sight, but we are called to walk by faith.

 

4.      FEAR CHANGES OUR FOCUS

 

What you’ll notice right now is that people’s focus is completely absorbed by fear.  What is everyone talking about? What is Facebook full of? Being afraid causes us to focus on earthly, immediate, fearful things, not one long term or important stuff. In a year’s time. Will you be afraid to shake hands or walk past toilet paper without buying it?

 

In this fearful climate, this is your opportunity to

 

Colossians 3:2 (ESV Strong’s)

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

 

To focus on loving and caring for people, not on your own preservation. Much of what people are currently focussed on is not fact, it’s sensationalised fear.

 

FEAR ITSELF

 

At the start of his presidency, Franklin D Roosevelt faced the Great Depression. People were starving, unemployed, destitute and without hope. At his inaugural speech he said these words, “We have nothing to fear except fear itself.” I think these words are appropriate for right now, don’t you?

 

Yes, it is powerful as we are currently seeing. It is terrifying, it is destructive but it is not our master, Christ is!  People in this world fear dying, but they also fear living. People fear not having enough money, but they also fear to lose the money they have. They are afraid of the virus, but also are afraid a recession.

 

A few might be infected with COVID 19, but all of us are infected with fear!

 

Peter experienced fear when he stood by the fire while Jesus was being tried.

 

Elijah had a mighty victory against the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel, then ran in fear of Jezebel.

 

Fear respects no one! Anyone can fall victim to fear. Even Timothy, with the Christian upbringing in the home, his training at the feet of Paul, and spiritual his gifts, fell victim to fear. Yet through it all God says,

 

Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV Strong’s)

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

 

The phrase “fear not” is used more than 80 times in the Bible, because God knows the enemy uses fear to decrease our hope and limit  our victories.

 

So I believe that right now God is calling us to stand without fear in a climate of fear! And as Steven Wright once quipped, “What happens if you get scared half to death twice?”

 

HOW CAN WE OVERCOME FEAR?

 

This world calls sinful behaviour normal, and attacks Christians without mercy. But this same world is now running scared, and I believe we have a unique opportunity to shine into their darkness…

 

Philippians 2:14-15 (ESV Strong’s)

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

 

We can shine and overcome fear when others are victimised by it. How?

 

1.      WE HAVE GOD’S FAITH TO SEE THINGS CLEARLY

 

Hebrews 11:1 (ESV Strong’s)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

 

Faith sees differently. Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. There was no one there. Without downplaying the seriousness of a pandemic, you do not have to swallow the sensationalised fear mongering that the media is peddling. The eyes of faith can see the long term, eternal and important things. Faith doesn’t lurch from crisis to crisis, it believes for greater things to come, and it offers what the others cannot offer… Hope!

 

2.      WE HAVE GOD’S POWER TO CONFRONT FEAR

 

An experienced paratrooper was asked how many jumps he had to his credit. He responded, “Twenty‑five.” Then, with his head held low he added, “Actually, it was only one jump.” … “I only jumped once, the other twenty-four times I was pushed.”

 

Sometimes God will push us in order to help us overcome our fear. He wants us to know that the power to overcome is present not because we are great or better than anyone else, but because He is present in our lives.

 

Psalms 112:6-8 (ESV Strong’s)

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.

 

Why be fearful? We can face our fears with His faith and trust God. Others have nothing, others can be consumed by fear, but we can have faith!

 

God is like a father standing in the pool beckoning his child to jump into His arms. The child is reluctant. At last, the child sees the father’s large, strong arms and smiling face, and jumps. There is no way that father is going to let the child drown! That is how God wants us to trust Him in every situation.

 

God willing, Fiona and I are headed back to Fiji, where I did my scuba diving ticket. I’m going to meet the same people again. In my course, on my 4th dive, the locals had failed to clean a valve and it seized up, causing my air to stop when I was 18m underwater. I nearly died. But an hour later I went back to another dive. I chose to confronted my fear, and I will do so again this week.

 

3.      WE HAVE GOD’S LOVE  TO CAST OUT FEAR

 

1 John 4:18-19 (ESV Strong’s)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.

 

We have love to cast our fear. But this is not our love for God – it is His love for us. You need not fear; He loves you!

 

You see, it is not just God’s strength that causes us to trust Him, it is His love! He loves us and even if we are going through hardships, He is working behind the scenes to bring about a good purpose.

 

Romans 8:28 (ESV Strong’s)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

 

All things, even the tough ones, even the scary ones! When you truly know the God of all creation loves you, and cares for you, and will never let your foot slip, then you can face anything, any virus, any persecution, any fear!

 

Psalms 121:1-4 (ESV Strong’s)

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

 

If you can trust Him to save your soul, you ought to be able to trust Him to take care of you. You are His beloved child.

 

4.      WE HAVE GOD’S SOUND MIND TO CONTAIN FEAR

 

Sometimes we know God, we eve trust God but our mind runs riot. As I plunge into the Emerald water and dive lower and lower, my mind imagines death and destruction, sharks coming out of the gloom, all kinds of fears! They’re not real, they are my imagination.

 

A large, old Bible, frequently used by Abraham Lincoln during the critical years of the Civil War, falls open easily to Psalm 34. One page of that Bible has a smudge where the President placed his finger often. It’s this verse…

 

Psalms 34:4 (ESV Strong’s)

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

 

We face fear, just like the rest of the world, but let not your mind be troubled.

 

2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV Strong’s)

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

Let me finish by examining this verse in the Greek, because we can gain valuable insight into how we should behave right now.

 

God gave us a spirit not of fear. The Greek word for fear used here is not the usual PHOBE, but it is DEILIA, which means timidity or cowardice. It is a call to, when faced with a fearful situation, choose courage over cowardice. To confront, stand firm and defeat the enemy, and not cower back in this climate of fear.

 

But what of the three descriptions of the Spirit we do have?

 

Power. The Greek for power is DYNAMIS, which is strength and power due to an inherent ability. It is used to describe powerful influence by wealthy people, the power of having and army or huge resources behind you and the power to perform miracles. It’s the word from which we get the English DYNAMITE. Explosive power. The power is not of your own doing, but you channel the power.

 

LOVE. The Greek here is AGAPE, unconditional, unrelenting, all triumphing love that knows not limits and no bounds. Perfect love comes from God and casts our fear.

 

Sound mind. In Greek SOPHRONISMOS, meaning self control or control of one’s behaviour and thoughts.  It means being sensible, not foolish, being balanced not alarmist and being Christ centred not crisis centred.

 

IT’S TIME TO STAND

 

When the world is running in fear, we can stand against the fear with power, love and a sound mind.

 

So, we must be sensible. Ease up on handshakes, hugs and missing, but let’s not fall into line and fall victim to the fear tactics of the enemy. The corona virus is big, but my God is bigger, and we can show the world how to live by faith when they are cowering in fear.

 

Now, there is one type of person here in this service, or out in the world, that has a right to be afraid. If you have never trusted Christ, you are one heartbeat from meeting God.

 

Hebrews 9:27 (ESV Strong’s)

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

 

Without Christ fear has free reign, you are it’s slave and it is your master, but when you come to Jesus, His love and power creates a sound mind that does not live in fear.

 

1 John 4:4 (ESV Strong’s)

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

 

If you don’t know Jesus, I want to give you the chance to come to Him right now and begin to conquer your fears whatever they may be.

 

Sometimes, even when you love God, you need reminding that He is greater, He is in you and He will protect and lead you. Whether you are fearful of the coronavirus, or struggling with fear of loss, loneliness, failure or any other fear, this is for you. Some of you in business look ahead with fear.

 

I have asked God for a special Anointing to conquer fear today. If you are fearful, come and let’s triumph over fear together. Let’s lay our fears aside and trust God completely.

 

So let’s finish with a promise from God, for you and I today as we face the threat of the corona virus…

 

Psalms 91:1-11 (ESV Strong’s)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,

my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler

and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his pinions,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

You will not fear the terror of the night,

nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,

nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,

ten thousand at your right hand,

but it will not come near you.

You will only look with your eyes

and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—

the Most High, who is my refuge—

no evil shall be allowed to befall you,

no plague come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you

to guard you in all your ways.

The Tolerance virus is the next in our series… We’ve looked at these mind viruses over the last few weeks, but of all the viruses we will look at this one is perhaps the virus of this present age.  Mind viruses are those programs the devil implants into our psyche via our society which influence the way we live, the things we do and the attitudes we have.

 

Remember, these viruses are small programs planted in our culture and society that can dramatically affect our thoughts, words, actions and feelings. They do this by affecting our subconscious, so often you won’t even be aware of the effects of this virus, but they are taking control of your life.

 

We’ve looked at the love of the world virus, rampant consumerism which we all experience. We’ve seen that, despite technology and social media, the loneliness virus affects more people than ever before. We’ve also examined the stress virus, which affects us all and kills some of us.

 

But today we look at a virus gaining power, the spirit of our age and this virus is called the tolerance virus, and to date this virus is winning because it affects not only you and I but also those with power and position.

The constant mantra in the media and social media that we must be tolerant. We must tolerate everybody’s views and opinions, and challenging them is the cardinal sin against society.

 

If what I say in this message offends you, chances are you are infected by this mind virus. The pressure to accept this virus from our society, especially the media, is greater than ever before.

 

Luke 17:26

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.

 

A couple of prowlers broke into a department store in a large US city. . . . They took nothing. But what they did was ridiculous. Instead of stealing anything, they changed the cost of everything. Price tags were swapped. Values were exchanged. These clever pranksters took the tag off a $395 camera and stuck it on a $5.00 box of stationery. The $5.95 sticker on a paperback book was removed and placed on an outboard motor. They repriced everything in the store!

 

Crazy? You bet. But the craziest part of this story took place the next morning. The store opened as usual. Employees went to work. Customers began to shop. Many bargains were had. The place functioned as normal for four hours before anyone noticed what had happened.

 

You might think life goes on as normal, but I believe we face the greatest moral crisis in our history. They’re trying to change the tags, and we need to recognise and take a stand against the virus of this age!

 

THE TOLERANCE VIRUS- TODAY MORE THAN EVER

 

I’m going to use a lot of material Pastor James McPherson used in a recent convention, because I think he really has a perspective on this, and you as believers need to have your eyes open to the sinister, powerful and destructive nature of the tolerance virus. I’m not going to tell you what to vote in the plebiscite, I want instead to look at what is behind the issues.

 

I cannot recall a more emotionally charged issue we have had to face as a church than same sex marriage. But recognise that this is not the whole issue, it’s just a symptom of this virus.

 

This mind virus tells us, in the media, by politicians, by our friends and all over Facebook, that we must be tolerant. We are told that all people, from gays to transgenders to Muslims to environmentalists, have a right, an almost divine right, to express themselves and be whatever or whoever they want to be. Tolerance preaches that we must accept them, everything they say and everything they want to do, because that’s who they are. Our media is tolerant to every group and opinion. From gays to transgender to sex workers, and from Muslims to atheists to New Agers.

 

The media is tolerant to every group in society… except Christians! And folks this is going to get worse before it gets better. I believe that we will see more persecution of Christians in our country in the next 5 years than we have seen in the past 200 years.

 

A Muslim girl shares her beliefs and its, “You’re so brave to share your heart, good on you.”

A Christian shares even an opinion and its, “You’re a bleep, bleep prejudicial bigot!”

 

Christians have not attacked, sworn at, slandered or mocked by supporters of gay marriage. And Media people like Tim Minchin can produce a song full of swearing and cursing attacking Bible based Christians called “I Still Call Australia Homophobic”, he can call us all sorts of despicable, sexually based insults but we, apparently, are the bigots, not the guy swearing and cursing at us!

 

In fact things have degraded to the point where perhaps the greatest sin of the modern world is not sexual deviancy, paedophilia, robbery, adultery or murder, it’s having an opinion that is different to the perceived majority, or rather the loudest minority. Society will tolerate slave labour if the products are cheap enough, Muslim customs and eating habits if it pays well enough, and blatantly hyper-sexual gay mardi-gras, but it will not tolerate a Christian with an opinion. They call us narrow minded, prejudice, bigoted, sexist, racist or just plain ignorant, yet have a look at the media and you’ll see that one side is slandering, mocking and reviling, attacking without mercy or respect, and it’s not Christians!  And all the time the big winner is satan as this tolerance virus digs itself deeper and deeper into our collective subconsciousness!

 

STOP LIMPING?

 

Let’s look at 1 Kings 18, at Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. You probably know the story, but I want to highlight something just before the big showdown, how 2 men of God faced the degradation of society in their day…

 

Elijah was standing against great evil. And that great evil of Baal worship, manifest in the form of King Ahab and Jezebel, attacked him, in fact were hunting him down!

 

1 Kings 18:10

As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my lord has not sent to seek you.

 

Obadiah did things differently. He was part of the royal court, caught up in all the goings on. He was a good man, but part of the royal court, weak and afraid, so he hid and fed 100 of God’s prophets.

 

1 Kings 18:13

Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, how I hid a hundred men of the Lord’s prophets by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water?

 

He did not oppose publicly like Elijah, but as part of the establishment , without forsaking his privileged position, he did what he could.

 

And that is what we see today with the tolerance virus… some stand up and say no and get mercilessly attacked, while others float along and try and quietly, winsomely do what they can to not conform.  They try and stay comfortable but do a bit to oppose it. But if we are to ever combat this virus, we have to have an opinion, and it has to be Biblical. Not my opinion, not yours, not Pauline Hanson or Bill Shorten or anybody else… the Bible is our standard!

 

On Mount Carmel in the big showdown, Elijah said this, and it is still powerful today…

 

1 Kings 18:21

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

 

That word limp is apt, because in Hebrew the word means dance. How many Christians are dancing between God’s opinion and the world’s. Flipping from one to the other, tossed here and there by the latest opinion on Facebook. Today, church, is the day we stop dancing, the day we stop limping, the day we drive a flag into the sunburnt soil of this country and say “Enough!” And listen, if you are reading Facebook and watching the news more than reading your Bible, you have no chance because you won’t even be sure of God’s opinion!

 

 

HOW DO YOU TEST A SOCIAL IDEA?

 

You can ridicule people, you can kill them, you can silence them, but you cannot silence an idea, good or bad. So how do you examine an idea to see if it is true or not? One great way is to take it to the logical extreme and see if it holds true.

 

For example, the idea that salvation is available to all who repent…

 

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

 

So, if you repent can you be saved? Yes. What about if a murderer repents? Yes. Ok, what about a mass murderer, say Ted Bundy? Yes apparently he did that. Ok, what about Adolf Hitler? The answer again is yes, just or not, God’s promises holds true.

 

Now let’s watch this fascinating video where the same logic is applied to some of the social questions we currently face.

 

So if someone talks about homosexuality, they say it’s OK to be gay, because that’s how you were born and you always have a right to express who you really are. That’s fine. Let’s push it a little further. That means that if you’re a paedophile, you should also have the right to express that. If you’re a psychopath, perhaps you have the right to kill whoever you want, right? I mean, you’re just expressing your inner, natural tendencies, right? The tolerance argument doesn’t hold.

 

Now before some of you get offended, I’m not trying to upset you, or to equate gayness with mass murder.. We are not talking about the issue, but the logic behind the issue. I’m just saying the idea that having certain tendencies gives you the divine right to express and pursue them anywhere, any time isn’t logical. Good and decent behaviour in society through the ages has been built on people not giving full vent to their inner tendencies, but apparently not today!

 

 

SYMPTOMS OF THE TOLERANCE VIRUS

 

So what are the symptoms of this virus we see today?

 

1.     WE DON’T BELIEVE FACTS, WE BELIEVE SLOGANS, AND FAMOUS PEOPLE

 

Advertising has know for years that slogans get into your subconscious mind, just like a virus. Many people put their minds on autopilot and just believe slogans, that master manipulators have designed to let the virus into our minds.

 

Let’s test this…who do you think of when I say, lower prices are just the beginning. Just do it. Finger lickin’ good. You can’t beat the real thing. Even from decades ago, it puts a Rose in every cheek. A little dab will do ya… now here’s a modern one…

 

Marriage equality: does that mean I can have 5 wives? Can I marry my 5 year old niece?

 

Love is love: does that mean I can marry my cat?

 

Al Gore said, The science is settle: famously used about climate change, but thousands of scientists say it is far from settled!

 

Another interesting fact of modern life is that we listen to the opinions of celebrities and sports people, as if they are experts in another field.

 

So a famous singer has a political opinion… a famous sports person has a comment on a moral issue. What in the world makes us think that the opinion of people qualified in one area automatically are qualified in a completely unrelated area!

 

Bruce Springsteen thinks Donald Trump is a moron. He’s entitled to his opinion, but he doesn’t hold a political science degree. Hugh Jackman says, “Australia is at its best when we value equality over prejudice and fear. Gay marriage will benefit marriage by allowing it to embrace more loving committed couples who uphold its values.” Great actor, but is he the moral compass of our country?

 

Notice the choice he gives you… equality, or prejudice and fear. You’re either tolerant or a prejudicial, fearful bigot, and heaven forbid you express an opinion contrary to what the celebrities believe!

 

Many Christians fall victim to the tolerance virus, not because they don’t believe in God or want to make a stand for Him, but because they are just too confused by the biased media barrage to know what they believe about anything!

 

Ephesians 4:14-15

so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

 

 

2.     OUR OPINIONS CHANGE EVERY YEAR

 

 

If you are governed and influenced by the tolerance virus, your opinions will change every year, depending on who is in power, or who is speaking out. Society changes its opinion Year by year, and you will fall victim to that if popular opinion is the yardstick you use.

 

Moral standards are in decline, because people like you and me no longer give them strength. What use to be called perverted is now an alternative lifestyle, what use to be hard core porn is now acceptable in movies. The tolerance virus uses movies and TV, books, songs and the Internet to change the way we think. Telling you you’re either tolerant of everything, or a prejudicial bigot! But,

 

Hebrews 13:8-9

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace,

 

The sad fact is that today we no longer have truth, we have only the truth of the moment, which is fashion!

 

Someone once tried to insult me for my Biblical opinions saying, “The problem is that instead of looking at the Bible through society, you look at society through the Bible!” I thanked them, because this is exactly what we need today. If you look at the Bible through society, things change every year. But the Bible stands forever, and looking at society through the Bible gives a stable perspective!

 

 

3.     WE ARE EASILY OFFENDED

 

Get on Facebook today and say that you do not support Gay marriage, and watch how aggressively and caustically you will be attacked, in under 10 minutes by people you’ve never heard of! Our society is becoming as unforgiving as Islamic militants. Remember Salmon Rushdi? He wrote a book called the Satanic Verses, offended The Islamic faith, and had a death sentence pronounced on him. I recently saw a poster saying, “Beheading for all who insult the prophet!” Did you know more than 100 Aussie young men have gone off to join these jihadists? And we are told to be tolerant of this religion of peace!

 

Fiona and I have been attacked on social media several times in the last 6 months, despite being totally innocent. We’ve been told we are hypocrites, we’ve been sworn at told we are unworthy of being pastors and even threatened physically. And it’s not just Christians being attacked. One football blogger recently had death threats made against him because he passed an opinion on a player. As a society, we are so easily offended and that’s part of the action of the tolerance virus! And what’s more, people are taking offence for others, not themselves. The people offended and attacking Christians on the gay marriage issue aren’t even gay themselves! According to Roy Morgan research, just over 3% of Australians consider themselves gay.

 

Proverbs 19:11

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offence.

 

A sign of Christian maturity is not being easily offended. And when you are offended, you respond in a measured, godly way, not in a raging rant on social media!

 

 

4.     WE LOVE NOVELTY

 

With war, terrorism, moral issues and finances to speak about, todays’s tolerance virus wants you to focus on the trivial and novelties of this world.

 

Dozens of Christians killed by Muslim extremists in a 2017 bus attack, rates barely a mention. But a guy convincing his sister of a zombie apocalypse or a rescued goat who wants to wear a duck costume goes viral and gets thousands of clicks.

 

While the Internet was nearly broken by stories about Harambe the gorilla, Kim Kardashian and a soccer mom wearing a Chewbacca mask, we hear barely a peep about the confirmed 1207 Christians murdered this year alone by Muslim extremists. In fact, we champion being tolerant to Muslims and gays, but how tolerant are Muslims to Christians or gays in Muslim countries. Here’s a fact…of the top 10 countries where you can be killed for being gay (forget the marriage thing), all 10 are Muslim.

 

Today we love novelty so much that trivial pursuit is not just a board game, it’s a lifestyle!

 

Colossians 3:2

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

 

5.     WE CANNOT SEPARATE LOVE FROM APPROVAL

 

Our society offers only this choice… do you approve of everything I do, or do you hate me? This extreme thinking overlooks the true nature of love, and the substance of Christ’s love for all of us.

 

How many of you recognise that you can love your children, but not agree with everything they do and not give them everything they think they want?

 

I was talking to a young girl who is transgendering, and she asked if I still loved her, and will I support her decision. I said yes and no. Yes I love you unconditionally, no matter what, but no, I do not support in any way your decision. I explained that my love for her is independent of my agreeing with her.

 

Romans 12:9-10

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; (IT DOESN’T SAY TOLERATE EVIL) hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.

 

Frankly, church, we have not excelled at separating love and approval. If we disapprove, we reject the person, just as they choose to reject us. Look at that verse… we need to love those we disagree with, unconditionally, but that does not mean we approve of them, their decisions, their sin or their lifestyles. We say we hate the sin and love the sinner, but in practical terms this has always been difficult.

 

According to our society, which is heavily infected by the tolerance virus, to love a gay person or a Muslim or a Catholic or anybody else, we must approve of everything they do, or at least tolerate it. We have a glaring need today to separate love and approval.

 

Fiona and I once attended a dinner hosted by gay friends of ours. Yes, your pastor has gay friends! When they learned that I was in ministry, one of the guys took me aside and asked if I approved of his lifestyle. Put on the spot, I prayed a quick prayer and said this. “No, I don’t approve of your lifestyle, but then again, my lifestyle is traveling around the world preaching about Jesus, which I don’t think you approve of. So if we both let our disapproval go, can’t we just be mates?” He said it was the best answer he had ever heard. We are firm friends to this day.

 

In reality, my approval or disapproval meant little. What my friend really wanted, and what I gave him, was love, acceptance and respect. That’s what most people want. You can love these folk, care for them, respect them and honour them without approving of their lifestyle choices. The tolerance virus doesn’t say this, but Christ does, and who are you going to believe?

 

WE ARE THERMOMETERS NOT THERMOSTATS

 

Christians are called to be salt and light to a dying world, but instead of setting the moral temperature we are just measuring and reflecting it. We are no longer thermostats, we are simply thermometers. We abdicate responsibility and allow others to set the moral climate.

 

Isaiah 58:1

“Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet;

declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.

 

How can we sit by idle quietly conforming to the world then wonder why the moral fabric of society is falling apart? Look at any civilisation or culture in history, the Romans, the Greeks, the Babylonians, right through until today, and you will find that the decline of their civilisation is preceded by a moral decline. And our nation will be no different! We’re practically there now!

 

2 Timothy 3:12

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

 

It’s time we stood up and said enough is enough, even if we are attacked and insulted! But we need to do so in love, genuine, respectful, honouring love. I don’t agree with you, but I still love you.

 

 

SO HOW CAN WE TREAT THE TOLERANCE VIRUS?

 

According to Pastor James McPherson, our society has deified tolerance and demonised intolerance.

 

We are told that tolerance is always right, and our media is tolerant to everybody, from gays to transgenders, from Muslims to atheists, except a Christian with an opinion. But, argues Ps James, we need to be tolerant of people, but intolerant of ideas. What does this mean?

 

Tolerance applies to people. Jesus, our great example, loved and accepted people, and was roundly criticised by religious people for dining with sinners…

 

Luke 15:2

And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

 

 

Jesus then goes on to share the parable of the lost sheep. Clearly He tolerated sinners, prostitutes, etc. he cared, He loved, He reached out to them, He didn’t despise them!

 

Tolerance must always be applied to people, but intolerance must only be applied to bad ideas.

 

The reason our roads are somewhat safe is that police are intolerant to speeding and running red lights. Imagine if they tolerate such behaviour… the roads would be bedlam. Christ dying on the cross doesn’t mean that God suddenly tolerates sin. He is Holy, so totally intolerant of sin, but Jesus hung on nails for 6 hours one Friday and gave His life because He was tolerant of people… nails didn’t hold Him there, love held Him there! He loves us, despite what we have done, but that doesn’t mean He gives us licence to continue in our sin!

 

You cannot cure the tolerance virus by being tolerant of bad ideas or intolerant of people. We will not win by abusing people more than they are currently abusing us. There is only one way ahead for us church…

 

WE HAVE TO COUNTERACT THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE…

 

The spirit of the age preaches tolerance, but then attacks aggressively those who oppose their message. Attacking them back achieves nothing… we have to find a better way.

 

2 Timothy 1:7

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.(sound mind)

 

We are not to cower in fear when these tolerance issues come up. But according to this verse we are to show love towards all, power in our unity and solidarity together and a sound mind… a sound mind is intolerance to evil ideas, but this must be set alongside our tolerance towards even those who sin, and even those who attack us!

 

You can’t beat this virus by attacking them back more than they attack you!  Our greatest strength is the love of Christ.

 

For too long we have been intolerant of people because we have a firm belief in the things of God. We’ve hated both the sin and the sinner. We haven’t said that, but that’s how we have acted. We must never stop standing for what God says is right, but we have to temper this with love and respect.

 

But the flip side is not that we become spineless and weak willed…

 

Ephesians 4:14-15

so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

 

We need to stand unmoved by the seas that rage around us. But we need also to stand in love

 

I’m not going to tell you what to vote for in this plebiscite. Let your conscience and God’s Word show you the truth. But I will tell you that, as a pastor, I will not be marrying gay couples, I will not be allowing them to marry in our church. However I  will continue to reach out to and love friends who are gay, transgender, Muslim, Hindu or anything. I will commit to loving them and praying for them, respecting them as people and treating them with respect, even when they venomously attack me and slander me, but I will never agree with them because to me, God’s Word is clear.

 

THE CHALLENGE

 

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

Today in Australia the tolerance virus wants you to conform to the pattern of this world. This morning I’m going to ask you to instead be transformed by the renewing of your mind. How? My challenge is this today…

 

  1. Will you commit to knowing the mind of Christ more by reading His Word, so there is no confusion?
  2. Will you commit to loving those who persecute you, no matter how vile or venomous the slander is?

 

John 15:18-21

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.