April 2016

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A Word Of WitnessLast week I published THIS POST, a Word of Witness, which I feel is so very vital and relevant to us in today’s uncertain times. On Sunday, I preached a similar message under the title of ‘Isaiah Speaks to Our Nation’. The other sermon offered here, ‘The Great Victory’, was preached on Resurrection Sunday and is also designed to give hope in our current circumstances.

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Isaiah Speaks to Our Nation

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Sermon Notes: Isaiah speaks to our nation Isa 59 vs 12 to 16

 

 

The Great Victory

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Sermon Notes: The great victory Col 2 vs 13 to 15

 

 

To listen to other sermons and download notes, click HERE

God Bless, Yours in hope and strength,

Christopher

 

 

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Revelation Revisited

A dragon outmatched by an eagle and a fish

Revelation Revisited Post 46

I was challenged to write my previous post on the current crisis in South Africa when I read Revelation 12:11

‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.’
We as Christians testify to the salvation and lordship of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who shed his blood for humanity and who rules now as lord of all. Furthermore, we are expected to place such a high priority on the calling to witness that our own comfort, even our very lives, are secondary.

Now those who hold to a futurist interpretation of the book of Revelation will think that I am quoting Revelation 12:11 out of context because they believe that this portion of scripture refers only to future end-time witnesses. By the same reasoning, they project verse 10 into the future: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God.’ Surely this is a grave error? True, the Kingdom of God awaits a final glorious manifestation, but the Kingdom came when Jesus was born to Mary, and it is present here and now in salvation and power. The devil no longer has any authority, and he has no access to heaven – he has been cast out, ‘hurled to the earth’. Part of our ‘word of witness’ is to proclaim the truth that Jesus reigns over all… right now.

I wrote about this in a previous post but I think it is worth repeating a portion of it here:

‘In Revelation 4:8 God is described as The One ‘who was, and is, and is to come’. His Kingdom has come, is coming, and is yet to come; the Lord Jesus came in person about 2,000 years ago, He is active now through The Spirit and the church, and He is coming again soon to judge the living and the dead. Jesus responded to His disciples’ delight that demons obeyed them with the words, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18) yet we know that the devil’s expulsion from heaven came when Jesus rose from the dead some time later. Time is not linear and one-directional in the spiritual realm as it is here on earth, but even so we can understand Jesus’ words as meaning that in His life and ministry on earth He was bringing about the devil’s expulsion from heaven; a ‘ministry’ that reached its dramatic climax when Jesus rose from the dead, and which continues to be manifest in the ministry of the church’.

I know I am not the first to say this, but it is a mistake to think that Satan has any real authority over anyone, least of all over Christians. It is equally mistaken to think that he has no power. Many people confuse authority and power and treat them as though they were two words for the same thing. Authority is the right to do something and power is the ability to do it. The devil has no right to do anything to anyone, for Jesus made it clear that He alone holds all authority when he declared that, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18) Yet it is biblically and practically undeniable that the devil is powerful. The book of Acts records how Jesus ‘went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil…’ (Acts 10:38). We underestimate our adversary when we think of him as a toothless pussycat rather than a roaring lion, but we overestimate his ability to harm us when we assume that he has the right to do so. When we become aware of demonic activity affecting us we have the delegated authority of Jesus to command that they cease and desist. We are not helpless victims, we are Christ-authorised and Spirit-empowered over-comers.

Revelation Revisited Star chartRevelation 12:13-17 contains a dramatic summary of 2,000 years of satanic activity on earth. The devil has two main targets in his sights; the Jewish nation and the Church. The ‘woman who had given birth to the male child’ (verse 13) represents Israel who ‘birthed’ Jesus the messiah through their finest example of womanhood, Mary. The reference to the ‘wings of a great eagle’ (verse 14) is drawn from the constellation of Aquila and symbolises the divine protection of Israel over two millennia of persecution. The devil has hunted down Jews wherever they have prospered, yet despite his most heinous and devastating onslaughts the Jewish people continue to flourish and the existence of the state of Israel continues to be a powerful testimony to the providence of Almighty God.

John draws on another star sign, Aquarius, to describe the satanic onslaught against the Jewish people and the protection that God affords them. He writes that ‘from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.’ (Revelation 12:15-16) The brightest star in the constellation of Aquarius is Sa’ad al melik, which is an Aramaic phrase meaning ‘the record of the pouring forth’; its Hebrew name means ‘the river’. The water pouring from Aquarius is depicted in the star sign as being swallowed up by a fish whose name is Piscis Australis, and the brightest star in this constellation is named ‘the mouth’. Of course, the fish has from the very beginning been a symbol of the Church of Jesus Christ. Antisemitism among Christians is an anathema for we are called to stand in unity with the Jewish people and to protect them when they are persecuted.

The chapter ends with a graphic depiction of how the devil has rechannelled his hatred from the Jewish people to the disciples of Jesus; ‘Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.’ (Revelation 12:17). But take heart fellow Christians. Peter wrote that our ‘enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings (1 Peter 5:8-9). And James added; ‘Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’ (James 4:7). Jesus, of course, summed things up when He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John16:33)

In my next post, I plan to start explaining the infamous beasts of Revelation chapter 13 and I am sure you will be fascinated and ultimately encouraged by what happens to them.

 

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God in our constitution

A Word of Witness

South African Constitution

This is a long post, but one which I feel compelled to write. I hope you will read it through to the end and then comment freely to add your ‘word of witness’.

There is a foul wind blowing across the nations of the world, and its malignant force is most obvious in the land of my birth, the Republic of South Africa. Many local voices are speaking out at this time, but we all need to add our words until the gale of righteous protest is strong enough to counter the evil wind we confront. We all have something to say, we all have a circle of influence, and we are all citizens with birth rights and responsibilities.

It is easy to identify the effects of this noxious squall: poverty, violent crime, economic woes, and political instability. These are just broad categories, but the effects are intensely personal. Our people are dying, our women are being raped, many of our youth are derelict, addicted and without hope. Our currency is becoming increasingly worthless, our education standards a cause of sad derision, and our political antics a pathetic parody of leadership.

What is not so obvious though are the underlying causes of our current calamity. It is too easy and trite to simply blame the past, but we have to go deeper, for the underlying issues that blighted the past are the same that are devastating the present. And it will come as no surprise that the same malevolent causes of our current condition have been evident throughout human history.

The prophet Isaiah identified them in the ancient nation of Israel when he raised his voice and proclaimed:

“For our offenses are many in your sight,

and our sins testify against us.

Our offenses are ever with us,

and we acknowledge our iniquities:

rebellion and treachery against the Lord,

turning our backs on our God,

fomenting oppression and revolt,

uttering lies our hearts have conceived.

So justice is driven back,

and righteousness stands at a distance;

truth has stumbled in the streets,

honesty cannot enter.

Truth is nowhere to be found,

and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey”.

Isaiah 59:12-15

When we investigate the causes of today’s obnoxious gusts we find three low-pressure areas; injustice, unrighteousness, and untruth. Furthermore, there is one calamity that has given rise to this malign trinity, but to appreciate this fully we first need to understand these three.

Injustice has been a problem for our nation for several generations. In the past, it was most evident in racial prejudice and social inequality. Today it manifests in a number of ways. It is unjust that power, privilege, and wealth are in the hands of a few while the majority live in want of all three. In the past, the culprits were exclusively white, but today colour is not the determinant, despite the vain attempts of government mouthpieces to say otherwise. It is unjust that many politically connected criminals go free while multitudes of lesser offenders languish in an overloaded penal system. It is unjust that millions of our young people are subjected to expensive and increasingly worthless education. And it is unjust that those who deeply desire to work the land, run business, and contribute to society in other ways cannot do so because the opportunities are given to the family, friends and sycophants of those in power.

What is just or unjust is meant to be determined by the justice system of the nation, and it is here where the foul wind is blowing strongest. Despite their transparently disingenuous protestations to the contrary, the political leaders of our land are consistently attacking our juristic foundations. The examples are all too numerous: flouting international law and then protesting that our nation should not be subject to it, blatantly overturning the lawful ruling of the Public Protector, and then pleading ignorance of constitutional law; and so on, ad nauseam. The government agenda is obvious as it seeks to break down that which it is constitutionally responsible for upholding. The latest, not so subtle, onslaught against justice came the other day. The constitutional court ruled that our president had acted in a way that violated the constitution of the country, and his response was to address a gathering of traditional leaders and state that he would be very happy if matters could be settled outside of the legal system because judges dealt only with cold facts and did not take into consideration other perspectives. I need say no more!

The second low-pressure system over our land is unrighteousness. At a social level, this translates as, ‘lack of moral virtue’. When we look at the lives of our president and his henchmen, what do we observe? We see adultery, fornication, greed, corruption, lying, and arrogance. I am a 68-year-old with the incredulity that comes with age, but what of our young people? What models are they observing, and what are they aspiring to as they seek to emulate the powerful figures in our nation?

And as for truth, well Isaiah expressed it better that I ever could when he said that ‘truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey’. It is appalling to realise that we expect politicians to lie. When they spin the truth, distort the truth, or just flat out lie, we tend to grimace or laugh and wait for the next outrageous fabrication. Quotes given in blatant isolation of their context, half-truths and pathetically nonsensical prevarications are the norm. Yet politicians are supposed to be servants of truth, justice, and the wellbeing of the people. They should be held to the highest standard and we, the citizens of the land, fail ourselves and future generations when we do not demand the best from them and of them. But, as it stands now, truth is a swear word, honesty an inconvenience, and anyone who shuns this evil becomes a prey, as is obvious in how our Public Protector has been treated.

It is no coincidence that Matthew applied Isaiah’s prophecy to the Lord Jesus when he said; “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim JUSTICE to the nations” (Matthew 12:18). And Paul was choosing his words carefully when he concluded his sermon to the people of Jerusalem with; “The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the RIGHTEOUS One and to hear words from his mouth” (Acts 22:14). And Jesus was quite specific when he declared; “I am the way and the TRUTH and the life” (John 14:6). So, to look for justice, righteousness, and truth we need to look to Jesus, the divine incarnation of these qualities.

Now, the underlying source of our bad national air is also found in Isaiah’s words; ‘For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God,’ When our new constitution was hammered out some twenty years ago, it was presented to the nation as the body of fundamental principles by which our secular state would be governed. Accordingly, the preamble to the constitution reads ‘We, the people of South Africa, Recognise the injustices of our past; Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity. We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic…’ The original document did not read this way, but commenced with the words, ‘In humble submission to Almighty God, we the people of South Africa…’ The label ‘secular state’ carries with it the idea of being non-religious, and so the first six words were erased from the constitution. This, in my view, was a disastrous deletion. Those six words would place the constitution and the people who are governed in terms of it under the authority and providence of Almighty God. They imply that there is a higher source of authority and that the constitution itself is an expression of the values established by this higher power, God. Those six words would have given context and perspective to all that the constitution embodies and a final point of reference for the way our government lives up to their constitutional obligations.

If we, the people of South Africa, are to survive the poisonous winds that threaten us, then we must restore Justice, Righteousness, and Truth to our nation.

Ultimately we must restore the lost phrase to our constitution; ‘in humble submission to Almighty God’. And this restoration must start with us, ‘the people of Almighty God’. It is we, who are sons and daughters of the Most High, who need to raise the standard and raise our voices. If we, the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, do what is right, if we speak out to the rulers of our land, and if we humble ourselves and pray for divine intervention, will God not bring a mighty Revival hurricane to blow away the foul wind of corruption, lies, and violence that pollutes our nation?

What can we do to make a difference? We can recognise the true causes of our national ailment, we can speak out into whatever circle of influence we have, and we can pray and ask God to send a mighty wind of revival through the church and across our nation. In this wind of the Spirit, the injustice, unrighteousness, and untruth of our current leaders will be exposed. In this wind of the Spirit, Christian men and women will be inspired to stand up and ascend to the positions of power in our land. In this wind of the Spirit, we the people of South Africa will be refreshed and empowered to take our place as citizens of a nation that is in humble submission to Almighty God.

If you agree with what I have written, then please share this article so that our combined voices can go out into our circles of influence.

 

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The Weapons of our Warfare

truth-is-the-word-revelations-email-44

We know that the devil is at war with the church.

This truth is implied and stated in many parts of scripture and set out clearly in Revelation 12:17; ‘Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring — those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus’. The question is; “How are we to fight back?”

The text most frequently quoted as an answer to this question is 2 Corinthians 10:3-4:

‘For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds’.
So what are these non-worldly weapons? Conservative Christians would probably answer, “evangelism and prayer”. Other Christians would include things such as Spiritual Mapping, Prayer and Praise Warfare, and Binding Demons.

Spiritual Mapping, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is the attempt to determine the identity of supposed ‘territorial demons’ controlling areas and organisations. Before these areas can be ‘won for the Lord’, the demon principalities must apparently be identified and their methods of manipulation discovered. Once this has been done the ‘spiritual warfare’ commences with aggressive prayer and praise sessions intended to show the demons that the Kingdom of God is invading their territory. The third strategic assault is to ‘pray against’ these demons and to ‘bind’ them in Jesus name.

My first exposure to this ‘spiritual warfare’ was a statement by Yongi Cho, the South Korean mega-church pastor, that he never attempted to evangelise a new area before his people had obtained a ‘clear heaven’ through spiritual warfare. Now the problem with this is that Jesus neither practiced nor taught it, and neither did His disciples. On the contrary, Jesus’ instructions were to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, make disciples, heal the sick, cast out demons, and (yes) raise the dead. So either Jesus did not know that the secret to success was to first conduct ‘spiritual warfare’ or the Bible fails to record this important principle…. Nonsense!

Even the conservative idea of combating evil simply by praying is dodgy. Prayer is communication with God, and this includes asking Him to act in cases of demonic interference, iniquity, hardness to the Gospel, and so on. However, I can find no biblical evidence that prayer in itself is a form of power. Yet, somehow many Christians seem to think that if enough people pray then their combined prayers will magically cause something to happen. In my opinion, unpopular as it may be, this approach to prayer is just another religious attempt to place the control of circumstances in our hands instead of God’s, and the so-called spiritual warfare I have described earlier is also just another form of religious arrogance.

The book of Revelation gives an insight into the real practice of spiritual warfare when it states that the believers overcame the devil by ‘…the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death’ (Revelation 12:11). The basis for our warfare is the victory of Jesus Christ over the devil and all the powers of darkness, and the ‘weapon’ we use is our testimony to this victory. We exercise dominion over demons and all dark spiritual forces by virtue of the authority of the Lord Jesus and our assurance that He has delegated this to us. At another level, we testify through both words and deeds by speaking out and living out our belief and faith in Jesus Christ as the source of salvation and truth. While the keys to deliverance from demonic control are the authority of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, the key transforming agents in human society are spiritual regeneration in and through Jesus, and the application of what He taught and modeled in all aspects of our lives.

Witnessing through what we say and how we live usually solicits one of two responses from the ‘worldly’; either they are positively impacted and respond by seeking Jesus, or they are hardened and act against us through marginalisation and even overt persecution. The last part of Revelation 12:11 that reads, ‘they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death’ has been a painful reality for many persecuted Christians over the ages.

Part of our ‘spiritual warfare’ witness is to speak truth into and through our circles of influence, and in my next post I intend to add my voice to the growing number of believers who are speaking out at this time into the abysmal state of our national affairs.

 

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Satan cast out of heaven

The Devil is in the Detail

Truth Is The Word Revelation Revisited Post 43

“He is risen. He is risen indeed!” The 2016 commemoration of Crucifixion Friday and Resurrection Sunday are now ticks on the calendar, but their reality and influence live on in all Jesus-followers.

Layers of RevelationSo, after a brief interlude, I am back to contemplating the rich images and text of Revelation Chapter Twelve. It is a key part of the book because it marks the start of Part Four of Revelation and also contains the clearest connection to the ancient message of the constellations. I think that the best way to continue my coverage of this chapter is to deal with some of the details; but be prepared because you know the saying ‘the devil is in the detail’. Previously I was concerned that some folk may lose sight of the big picture, but I now want to try to prevent important details from going completely out of focus.

Chapter 12 starts with a description of a woman ‘clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head’ John is keying linking the image to the constellation of Virgo, the sign in the heavens and explaining its meaning. I have mentioned in a previous post (where you can see an image of this portion of the star chart) that Israel was sometimes referred to as the wife of Yahweh and that the nation’s greatest moment came ‘when Mary, her finest offspring, gave birth to Jesus Christ’.

The next two verses (Revelation 12:3-4) interpret the meaning of the constellation Hydra which depicts the devil as a dragon/serpent. Heads, horns, and crowns stand as well-known symbols of societal position and power. The great red dragon in the sky is set on devouring the Christ child as soon as he is born, and we know that Satan sought to kill Jesus from the get-go; working through his servant Herod to murder all children under the age of two in the vicinity of Bethlehem in the evil hope that one of them would be Jesus. But he failed because God sent an angel to tell Mary and Joseph to take the child and flee to Egypt.

I have previously explained how  Revelation 12:5 compresses the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus into one amazingly brief statement, but the next verse contains some detail that needs explanation. It states that ‘The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.’  The number 1,260 is a key to interpreting this verse. You see, an ancient Jewish prophetic month consisted of 30 days and so 1,260 days equates to 42 months or 3½ years in prophet-speak.  Daniel predicted that a great satanically inspired national leader would arise in opposition to God’s plans in and through Israel, and he said that ‘the saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.’ (Daniel 7:25) It became generally accepted that Daniel’s ‘times’ should be seen as years but also as a broken period of time. You see, the number 7 represented perfection and completion, and so half of that signified a broken and incomplete period. Jesus ministered for 3½ years before He was crucified and John’s original readers would have understood the connection to Daniel’s prophecy.

So, the message of verse 6 of Revelation 12 is that God has and will continue to preserve His people against the devil’s onslaughts. The Jewish race has been terribly persecuted for millennia yet it survives and thrives, and this is evidence of God’s faithfulness. Just so will the Lord preserve believers in our day.

I have covered a verses 7 to 12 in my previous posts and recent sermon but there are two particular verses that need more attention.

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ”. (Revelation 12:7)
The question  is, ‘Does this only apply to the very end of all things?’ The answer is that it applied to the time that Revelation was written, it applies to us right now, and it will apply when Jesus comes again to usher in the end of days. In Revelation 4:8 God is described as The One ‘who was, and is, and is to come’. His Kingdom has come, is coming, and is yet to come; the Lord Jesus came in person about 2,000 years ago, He is active now through The Spirit and the church, and He is coming again soon to judge the living and the dead. Jesus responded to His disciples’ delight that demons obeyed them with the words, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18) yet we know that the devil’s expulsion from heaven came when Jesus rose from the dead some time later. Time is not linear and one-directional in the spiritual realm as it is here on earth, but even so we can understand Jesus’ words as meaning that in His life and ministry on earth He was bringing about the devil’s expulsion from heaven; a ‘ministry’ that reached its dramatic climax when Jesus rose from the dead, and which continues to be manifest in the ministry of the church.

This last aspect reflects in verse 11 of Revelation 12 which declares:

‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death’.
Satan is overcome by the believers who constitute the church, and their victory is not achieved through power, or politics, or wealth, but through their self-sacrificing testimony in word and deed about .. Jesus.

Revelation 12 verses 13 to 16  are an elaboration of verse 6,  with the added insight of how the constellations of Aquila and Aquarius tell this part of the unfolding story – but I will need to unpack this in a separate article, so watch this space.

Well, the devil may be in the detail, but the overriding message of this part of Revelation is Jesus’ victory over him and God the Father’s protection of His people. Hallelujah!

 

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About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.