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Sermon Notes on The Covenant of Eden

StNicholas Goulburn

The Covenant of Eden
Sermon Notes from Sermon
Presented by the Reverend Ross Hathway

Genesis 2:4-17


How do you measure a human being?
We cannot measure ourselves by examining ourselves in terms of ourselves, by evaluating ourselves against a non-relational abstraction such as ‘human potential’.

Nor can we abstract God into an impersonal ‘truth’ apart from our hearing and responding to the words he uses to call us into life, into holiness, into relationship.

We can understand neither God nor ourselves in any living, adequate and mature way that is an impersonal, non-relational way.
When God’s calling and our walking fit together, we are growing up in Christ.

God calls us. He doesn’t hand out information to us.
He doesn’t explain. He neither condemns nor excuses.
He calls.
Adam in the garden disobeyed God’s command and broke the intimacy that had been created by God’s speech.
The equilibrium between God’s word and Adam’s walk was destroyed.
God called again and began the process of getting Adam back in relationship with the word that made him in the first place, setting him again in a position of responsiveness to God’s calling.
Later (Abram) Abraham in Ur was called by God to leave his country and go to Canaan.
There he would initiate the formation of a people of salvation.
Abraham set out, walked westward across the desert.
His responsiveness to God’s call resulted in Abraham becoming our father in the faith.

God gave him a promise a covenant.
Land descendants and blessings. An undoing of what Adam did.

Then Moses tending sheep in Midian was called by name at the burning bush:
‘Moses! Moses!’ He heard his name called and learned the name of the One who called him:

‘Yahweh.’ Moses’ personal response, his ‘walk’, to that personal call at the burning bush developed into a congregation of people walking out of Egypt through the sea into freedom.

We will see God calling David and Solomon and how they like Adam listened varyingly.

Jesus on the shores of Galilee called four disciples by nameàbecame 12.  
From Acts we have seen how they became the company that the Holy Spirit formed into the church at Pentecost.
A man named Saul walking on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians was stopped in his tracks by a voice that addressed him by name: ‘Saul! Saul!’

Like Moses 1,200 years before him, he learned the name of the One who called him by name; this time the name of the One who called was ‘Jesus’.
And in that calling Saul’s very own name was changed to Paul.
Saul was converted on the spot from chasing down Jesus followers to being a follower – Jesus’ call and Saul’s response became Paul’s walk.
à Keep in step with the Spirit.

God speaks the decisive word that puts us on the way, the road, the path of life.
It is a word to be listened to and obeyed, a word that gets us going.
Fundamentally, it is a call: God calls us.

Application for us?
The response to God’s calling is walking. Walk is what we do.
We follow God’s call.
We respond with our lives.
We don’t start out by thinking about God.
God is not an idea.
We hear and respond. We obey.
But our obedience is not that of a mechanism/robot.
We hear our name and respond to the triune God --the One who calls us.

Call comes into our ears, bringing us into a way of life that has never been experienced in just this way before.
It’s a promise, a new thing, a blessing, our place in the new creation, a resurrection life.

When the calling and walking are in equilibrium, we are worthy.
We are in the balancing scales, in sensitive and simultaneous touch with the God whose name we know and the God who knows our name.
God calls; we walk, aware of the delicate, sensitive connection between call and walk,
It is a relation that is never one-sided but always reciprocal.

This is what it means to grow up in Christ, to live into maturity, to become worthy, healthy.
As our language matures in these God-initiated conversations along the Christian way, they become increasingly personal.

This is God’s yearning.
We are a bunch of different people united by Jesus, heeding God’s call on a journey.
And God uses us in calling others to join us.
As we study God’s walk with his people in the past and his supreme calling in Jesus may we truly know his blessing and the fulfillment of his promise.

Doubting and Believing [Sermon Notes]

StNicholas Goulburn


Doubting and Believing

Sermon Notes from Sermon

Presented by the Reverend Ross Hathway

on the 18th Of June, 2017

John 20:24-31 & Ecclesiastes 1:12-18


Introduction: A Sceptic: is a person inclined to question or doubt accepted opinions. That is a cynic or a scoffer.

John 20: 24-31. The story of a sceptic turned believer – Thomas.
Doubt: Have you had times of doubting faith?
My experience is that quite a few believers do.


Mixture of things.
We are tempted to sin…
Today: When we doubt our faith, is it because we have started to believe something else?
The skeptical doubt we see on TV (chat shows) appears brave and authentic.
Comedians and scientists use their unbelief to connect with their audiences.
Doubt conveys a kind of knowing aloofness; an ability to stand courageously above the gullibility of the ordinary person/be cool.

But, there are ‘Honest doubters’ too.
We need to talk about it…
Great Christians have. Martin Luther, and Billy Graham.
Honest doubt is preferable to the kind of wilful ignorance or deliberate naivety of most popular religion of our culture.
But generally speaking people are more concerned for their reputations and sticking with received opinions rather than searching for the truth 

1. Doubt appears real, but has its limits
But, even honest doubt has its limits.
History of philosophy: It is simply not possible to doubt everything.
Doubts will tend to arise in one place because of increasing certainties in other places.

That is, People lose belief because of the presences of counter-beliefs.
When we begin to have doubts say about the resurrection of Christ we need to ask;
“What am I starting to believe in more than the Christian faith?”

We not told much about what lead Thomas to doubt.
Was he naturally sceptical or just crushed/overwhelmed by the disaster of Jesus crucifixion?
Like the others he still hasn’t got the necessary spiritual insight about who Jesus is.
John 14:5 Upper room> “Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way”.
What Jesus was saying just didn’t make sense of the world as he knew it. 
Consequently nothing in Thomas’ view of the world made him think that the report of the resurrection of Jesus was true.

He had witnessed miracles and had heard the teaching of Jesus and had even been prepared to die with him.
But still he cannot see.
So he demands tangible proof of the risen Jesus because he cannot think of a circumstance in which he might ever have to place his fingers in the wounds of Jesus. 

Read John 20: 24-25

He thinks he knows what he can’t possibly ever see.
This is very much how the beliefs of the New Atheists and the other cultured despisers of Christianity of our time work.
They tend to fly under the cover of the authority of empirical science, which gains its power from dealing with what is there in front of its face.
That’s why it can describe the world so well – it must deal with what is in the laboratory, and not with what is only there ‘in theory’.
God isn’t part of the theory, so God must go. 
TO SUMUP. Doubt appears real, but has its limits

2. Christianity is not a philosophy or a theory – it is an historical faith.
It’s about what God actually does rather than what human beings feel he ought to do. 
The Gospels are about eyewitness testimony.
They don’t ask us to accept a philosophy.
They invite us to the courtroom to hear the witnesses to what happened tell their stories – and to consider whether we believe the stories or not. 

3. Thomas’s theories are exploded by meeting the risen Jesus
A week later, everything dramatically changes for Thomas
John 20: 26-27
Thomas’ theoretical world dramatically collapses.
John 20: 28 > ‘My Lord and my God!’ What else could be said?
Then Jesus says some v significant things about the structure of Christian believing
John 20: 29-30.

4. Christian believing is believing the testimony of those who saw the events of the life of Jesus
Thomas becomes a necessary link in the chain of believing.
Eyewitness to the risen Christ.
His testimony will serve as evidence to those who haven’t seen Christ first-hand.
It will be the seeing and believing of the Thomas and the other apostles that leads to the hearing and believing of ‘those who have not seen’. 

Are the witnesses trustworthy or not? And how will their testimony be transmitted?
John 20: 31 > It’s written down for us who now come to read.
And the blessing of those who will believe without seeing that Jesus declared.

Doubting might be cool/sophisticated, but believing is blessed, it produces hope

Thomas, is a blessing to us who read and believe and have life in his name. 
It doesn’t mean all doubt is removed.
Doubt can exist alongside faith and not destroy it.
But ultimately believing is what connects us to the one who gives life abundantly.
We believe that death has been conquered, and sin has been defeated. It is a believing hope, in other words. And that changes everything.

Believing is not accepting a superior theory:
It is just a matter of seeing as Thomas saw – or at least, of believing his testimony: Christ is risen – my Lord and my God.
Dead men do not rise from the dead, it is true.
But that is only a theory. 

It is important to acknowledge the presence of doubt,
Let us be honest with one another about our struggles in believing.
But ultimately, at the end of all our questions and problems and conundrums and paradoxes, stands the figure of the risen Jesus.
And we meet him, the tables are more than turned. He is risen: and the sheer fact of his life brings us trembling to his feet to exclaim with Thomas: My Lord and my God!

God and judgement or How can a loving God send people to hell? [Sermon Notes]

StNicholas Goulburn


God and judgement
How can a loving God send people to hell?
Sermon Notes From Sermon
Presented By The Reverend Ross Hathway
On The 28th Of May, 2017

Psalm 145:17-20 & Luke 16:19-31

Introduction: Sarah Irving Stonebraker, article “How Oxford and Peter Singer drove me from atheism to Jesus”.
This morning: Judgement implies hell. New atheists don’t like this.
A quick scan of references:
19 references to Hell or Hades in New Testament.
60-70 texts warning directly of the judgement of God in the future.
Dozens of others indirectly refer to the judgement of God in the future.
Psalm 145. Righteousness of God: loving to those who call on him and honour/fear him.
Luke 16. Parable of the Rich man and Lazarus.

(a)  There is continuous existence after death.
There is the reality and torment of Hades. 
(The abode of the unsaved dead between death and judgement).
There are no second chances after death.
The impossibility of the dead communicating with the living.

Context is the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.
God is just, impartial and sees all.
He is discerning about the condition of the human heart.

The rich man is sent to hell to eternal torment.
The poor man goes to be with Abraham.
At the time of Christ this was the same as saying he was with God eternally, because Abraham was the Father of the faithful people in the history of ‘Old Testament’.

Illustration: The concepts of heaven and hell are increasingly alien to our postmodern world.
Nowadays, the idea of God’s judgement and being lost and condemned, forever is too much for people.

Illustration: Furore of Margaret Court in the newspapers in May.
To make absolute a truth claim is an affront for a lot of people.
If you want to know what water is like, don’t ask a fish.
We need to be become convinced ourselves about what the Bible says, if we are ever going to have conviction in our lives about God’s judgement.

The Bible’s Outline
Sin is slavery.
Idolatry is slavery.
Sin is not just about breaking rules.
It is making something besides God our ultimate value and worth.
Often it is the misuse of good things God has made.
Substitute Gods are relentless enslaving us mentally and spiritually even to hell if we let them.
It can be an idea, our business our career, our art, even our family.
It can be our house and the fittings.
Bunnings can be.
We try to find salvation through worshipping things that end up deceiving, controlling and ultimately destroying us.

CS Lewis in the Great Divorce.
People stubbornly choose hell.
In fact, they are enslaved because they freely choose to be.
They would rather have their freedom (as they define it) than salvation.
Genesis 3:4-5 Adam and Eve: the serpent’s delusional lie, is that if they did as God said they would lose their human greatness.
But, their choice actually ruined their greatness.
Hell is as Lewis says: the greatest monument to human freedom.
THE SUMUP. Sin is slavery.

Hell is less exclusive than so called tolerance.
What do you say to the person who says I don’t think God would send a person to hell for holding the wrong belief?
The majority of thinking out there is that we develop a good record and show it to God and he owes us.
The Gospel says God gives us Jesus / salvation, then we offer ourselves to him (for example, Mark 8, Romans 12 etc).
In other words, to say a good person not just Christians can find God is to say that good works are enough to find God. (Ephesians 2:8)
You can believe that faith in Christ is not necessary or you can believe that we are saved by Grace, but you can’t believe in both at once.
So to say that good people can find God and that bad people can’t is really quite exclusive.

The Bible, say that people who know they aren’t good enough can find God, and the people who think they are good do not find God.
So, non-Christians who believe their moral efforts help them reach God are excluded.

So, both approaches to God are exclusive, but the Gospel is way less exclusive.
It says it doesn’t matter what you have done, or who you are.
It doesn’t matter if you have been at the gates of hell you are so bad, the Gates of heaven are wide open, you can be welcomed fully and instantly in Christ.
THE SUMUP. Hell is less exclusive.

No Love without wrath.
How do you reply when people say that their God is too loving to exclude people one for their sin?
Answer: What about the cross?
Didn’t it cost God agony?
They reply that it was not necessary.

Great irony here. People want to make God more loving but in doing so they make him less loving.
They end up with a sentimental God who is just passive, benign, like what people see Buddha as.
You end up with nice feelings and ethics but it is not the love of the God of the Bible.
There is no joyful self-abandonment, no humble boldness, and no constant sense of wonder.
No Love so amazing so divine that it demands my soul my life my all.
Christianity: The essence of salvation is knowing a person.
As with knowing any person there is repenting and weeping and rejoicing and encountering.
The Gospel calls us into wildly passionate intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
Infinitely better than being mastered by idols.
That is the core of true salvation.

A wrath-less God cannot be a loving God.
The God of the Bible is fiercely passionate about people.
He doesn’t just shake his head in dismay and just let foolishness pass like we might do if we were a relative stranger or when reading the newspaper.

Anger isn’t the opposite of love.
Hate is the opposite of love and the final form of hatred is indifference.
Illustration:. How the Nazi hierarchy viewed the Jews.
A parent who loves their child hates in them the traits of lying, drunkenness and being a traitor.
If we as imperfect as we are can feel that way about our flawed children,
How does God feel in his moral perfection?
God’s wrath is not a cranky explosion, but his settled opposition to the cancer of sin, which is eating the insides of the human race, that he loves with his whole being.

It is because of the doctrine of judgement and hell that Jesus’ proclamation of grace and love are so astounding.
If we dismiss hell we automatically depersonalize and degrade the necessity of the cross.
Yes, God will judge.
Challenging. The text tells us that human being are slaves to sin.

Are we listening?
And I think that’s why the rich man’s brothers would not have listened if Lazarus had been permitted to go and tell them.

Can you be good without God? [Sermon Notes]

StNicholas Goulburn


Can you be good without God?
Sermon Notes From Sermon
Presented By The Reverend Ross Hathway
On The 21st of May, 2017

Psalm 34 & 1 John 1:1-10

Rationale:  Christians have accused atheists of being immoral and recently atheists have responded that it is quite possible to be good without believing God.
Christians should recognise that this is true: we are made in God’s image and God preserves good in the world.

We need to thank God for ‘good’ atheists
Bible speaks of the idea of ‘common grace’.
That is, God cares for his world;
He maintains human society far more than any of us deserve.
One way he does that is to preserve something of his image in all people.
One reflection of that image is that people still have a sense of right and wrong and sometimes live from that. 

Paul in Romans 2 > Gentiles who “who do not have the law” but “do by nature things required by the law” (Romans 2:14).

Conscience is hard wired for us.
Paul’s point is not that any Gentiles are morally perfect but that Jews cannot pride themselves that they are better than Gentiles.
Gentiles, without the law of Moses, do the right thing, while the Jews, who do have the law, are often shown up as sinners by that very law (Romans 2:17-29).  

So the Bible doesn’t teach that only people who have proper beliefs can be good.
(The kind of goodness we are thinking of here is not an absolute goodness of lives lived in full devotion to God but the relative goodness of people who show care for their neighbours and act with a recognisable integrity).

But the discussion needs to go to another level.
The question is not whether atheists can be good, but whether atheism is as a worldview offers a vision of real goodness.
Can atheism really make sense of our moral experience or provide satisfying account of ethics/moral principles and values?  

(To put it another way) How do you think about ethics apart from God?

Consequentialism is one attempt to get ethics going without God. It holds acts are good or bad as depending on consequences. Good consequences are those which are preferred by people (or other beings) who are affected by an act.

Evolutionary ethics is another attempt to develop a non-theist ethic.
Human biology has developed a conscious concern for others and from this developed a capacity for making judgements about right and wrong.
The suggestion is that these developments proved to be advantageous for human beings and therefore should be promoted.

There are all sorts of problems with this conclusion.
Most of all: a naturalistic ethic can’t get a hold on the kind of principle of ‘justice’ that our sense of justice wants.
> A really satisfying ethic needs a compelling vision of goodness and justice.

Without God we can’t make sense of goodness (or justice or truth)

That is why God is basic to ethics.
Atheists will sometimes argue that morality was around a long time before religion (particularly Christianity).
Plato, however, thought that goodness, justice and truth existed in a transcendent realm which found a reflection in world we experience directly.
Without knowing the true and living God he had an inkling of a greater goodness which gives direction to life.
That seems to be an example of what Paul was talking about in Romans 1.
(Very different to the atheistic position which rejects any transcendent reality).

Meeting goodness.
We don’t have to settle for an inkling of what goodness is like, because God has revealed himself. The opening verses of 1 John say that in Jesus God has made himself available to be heard, seen and touched so we can have fellowship with him.

This God is “light” and in him is no darkness.
He is perfectly, thoroughly, ravishingly good.
So when we know him we are called to live in His light
He has made that possible through Jesus.
We have a wonderful compelling vision of goodness in Jesus.
We meet a God who is a servant and lover,
He gives up his own rights and power to suffer for his creation;
He loves the truth and is utterly faithful,
He faces lies and betrayal for our sake. > Cross.

When the atheist asks where we get the idea of God’s goodness from we point to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Jesus doesn’t just show us what goodness is like…
He invites us into fellowship with him so we share in his goodness.

It is not easy to describe God’s goodness because it is so wonderfully immense.
Puritan: Stephen Charnock describes God’s goodness:
“A boundless goodness that knows no limits, a goodness as infinite as His essence, not only good, but best; not only good, but goodness itself, the supreme inconceivable goodness.”
The Bible speaks often, and with great delight, of God’s mercy, compassion, grace and patience. Psalm 34 is a wonderful reflection on God’s goodness.

It leads us through a contemplation of the signs of God’s goodness: he answers, saves his people and protects his people (Psalm 34:3-7, Psalm 34:17-20); he provides for his creation (v10); he judges the wicked (vv15-16). It also shows us how we respond to the good God: praising him (vv1-3); pointing others to him (v11); and taking our moral direction from him (vv13-14).

At the heart of the psalm is an expression of the deep joy and satisfaction that comes from fellowship with the good God: “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” (v8), good in life comes from God (v12). Psalm 34 reflects on Israel’s experience of God. We can takes its words as ours with even greater confidence because of Jesus.
God cares for his people and his world and gives us satisfaction in fellowship with him through Christ

Ultimately an atheistic worldview leaves life barren and purposeless.
At the very best it offers us the chance to impose our own desires onto the world to make our own moral vision.
The reality of God is an invitation to live in fellowship with the Light and enjoy his light, to taste and see that he is good.
Our challenge is not just to show that this makes better sense than atheism but to live it well.

Atheism and the Real (inconvenient) God [Sermon Notes]

StNicholas Goulburn


Atheism and the Real (inconvenient) God
Sermon Notes from Sermon
presented by the Reverend Ross Hathway
on the 30th of April, 2017

Jeremiah 10:1-16; 1 Corinthians 8:1-6

Illustration:  In his Sydney Morning Herald column Peter Fitzsimons’ regularly mocks sports stars who attribute their success to God. He points out the problems with these claims. What’s going on when they don’t win? Is God off the job?
And what would happen if two divinely blessed teams clashed? Who would get the win then? The god who blesses you with sport wins is a nice god to have.
You can accuse Fitzsimons of taking cheap shots, but you have to admit that belief in God can be rather convenient and comfortable.

Today is the first of four sermons dealing with some issues facing Christians and particularly in the face of what is called the new Atheist movement.

 New Atheism, also called evangelical atheism[1] or, often pejoratively,[a][3] militant atheism and fundamentalist atheism,[2][4][5]is a movement promoted by some atheists of the twenty-first century.[6] This modern-day atheism and secularism is advanced by critics of religion,[7] a group of modern atheist thinkers and writers who advocate the view that superstition, religion and irrationalism should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever their influence arises in government, education and politics.[8] The phrase "New Atheism" was coined by Gary Wolf in a 2006 article in Wired magazine.[9]

Atheist criticism echoes the prophets and challenges us about which God we believe in.
When we respond to the atheist criticism we may have to reconsider our own view of God.
One of the themes of the new atheists is that the age old concept of God can be explained scientifically or naturally.
Their explanation is that our minds are wired to find patterns of explanation and a personal intentionality in the universe in order to give life meaning.
The role of religion is seen as creating and reinforcing social cohesion, unity structures.

These arguments got back to a German C19 philosopher who said religion is an expression of human consciousness, and the idea of God is a projection of human nature.
Humans need someone like us to be in control of affairs, so we embrace the idea of a divinity who reflects our nature and guarantees what we most desire.
Other people had said this but he went further and said religious faith is a problem.

This is an important question for Christians to face.
Perhaps believing in God is just a way of helping us cope with a big universe.
Is religion just a ‘crutch” to lean on.

That is, Is God a Human Invention? Interesting re the first 2 commandments,.
The prophets of the Old Testament made a similar point about idol worship etc. .
They mocked people whose gods were convenient and comfortable and controllable.
In Jeremiah 10 the prophet ridicules people who have to decorate their gods so they are beautiful and nail them down so they don’t fall over.
Even then they can’t talk or walk.
Jeremiah is shocked that living breathing people could bow down to lifeless figures.
The Israelites of the time were worshipping a fraud.
The result is that they are “senseless and without knowledge” and “shamed” by their  idols (Jeremiah 10:14).

The contrast with the true God is huge.
He is the great king and ruler, no one is like him (Jeremiah 10:6-7).
He made the whole universe by his wisdom and understanding and rules it all. F Collins.

Paul builds on the same ideas in 1 Corinthians 8, idols are nothing – only the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is the true God.


Three points are worth making:

  • We must not be afraid to say that other gods are nothing.
    If we let people define ‘god’ broadly and not biblically then we have to agree that god doesn't exist.
    Our discussion is not about a general theistic god, but only the true and living God who is the Father of Jesus.
  • God must not be repackaged to make him more comfortable – we have to know him as transcendent, majestic, infinite, eternal and the God of wrath and judgement. Absolute knowledge of good and evil come from him.
  • Our thinking about God can be idolatrous, we can shrink the true God to a size that suits us. 

Here are some of the ways we try to repackage God: 
Policeman, parent, Grand Old Man, Heavenly Mate, Perfectionist, Busy God, Contractual God, Santa Claus, Divine Mr Fix-it, CEO, Magician, Military Chaplain, Backstage Manager, Murmuring Voice, Spoil Sport. Someone to Outsmart to Bless us. You can add to the list.  

So, how do we find and keep our idea of God true?
The short answer is: keep going back to the Bible.
We need to particularly look at Jesus to keep challenging our view of God.

The full scope of revelation in Jesus will blow apart our shallow ideas of God.
It turns out that God is more generous, more holy, more beautiful and more terrifying than we’d ever dream.
The God who made all things will call everyone to account and owes us no favours. Compared to him we count for nothing.
Remember Jeremiah 10:10: “the LORD is the true God …  the living God …  the eternal King, when he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.”
J.I Packer. “There are few things stressed more strongly in the bible than the reality of God as Judge”.
Yet this God takes on humanity and sinks to the depths of our pain.
He becomes obedient even to death and bears for us the burden we cannot bear.
He restores us to know and love him so we can be what we are truly meant to be. 

Knowing the true God in Jesus frees us from the prison of our own projected desires and returns us to true worship.
The new atheist philosopher lay bare the false gods, but can only offer a universe where we worship ourselves.

Conclusion.  “Are we falling into the trap of making our God too convenient?”…
An Inconvenient truth… Al Gore.
The God of the Bible is an inconvenient truth when people hear of Him.
But when we know him it makes sense and is wonderful.
For God is love. He has shown us the only way the only truth and the only Life…