Friday 15 June 2012

2 Peter 1 v 16

This morning I want to turn with you to words of, Peter,. For we have not followed cleverly invented myths when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we gather here this morning we reflect on the numbers of people who have come through these doors over the years. There was a time when the church stood as a beacon of light in a dark world; a place where hope, inspiration and encouragement were given. Sadly to-day’s world thinks it can provide such things for themselves without any help from the Almighty.

These are dark days for the Church in this country. We live in a society which largely rejects God, and regards Church and Christianity as totally irrelevant to their lives.

Many of us here grew up when it was the natural thing as a child to be sent to Sunday school, sing in the church choir, and accompany parents to Church. People may not have known the Bible thoroughly, but they knew the main stories and understood what the major festivals meant.

The Church was held in general respect, and the Vicar was a prominent member of the community. Politicians were supportive of the Church and were Christian in belief.

Now that has all changed. Generations have grown up without having had any religious education and know nothing about the Church or the faith.

Politicians have enacted legislation which is offensive to Christian belief and teaching, and which is supported by all parties, .The judiciary seems intent on suppressing every expression of Christian faith by word or symbol.

What people fail to realise is that if Christianity is erased from public life it will create a vacuum which will be filled by something else less pleasant.

Our faith is mocked as being fairy tale stuff, fantasy, pie in the sky, and these are just the polite epithets.

But we do not follow myths of any kind. One day people will regret such attitudes. Jesus made it patently clear that there will come a day of judgement and in parable after parable warned that we face one of two destinies, one He called heaven and the other hell. People say God would never send anyone to hell, and that is right; but people may choose for themselves by their lives.

Jesus came into the world to save and we as His disciples must try to do His work for Him now.

The greatest revival of Christianity in this country came during the ministry of John/Charles Wesley If they were alive today they would have much to say at the way the Church has failed to proclaim the message they left, that salvation was through Christ alone, the value of a person’s life was measured by their faith, and the doctrine of heaven and hell.

For many preachers these are forbidden subjects fearing they may upset people, yet they are essential biblical doctrine and were not forbidden by our Lord. Today people are being drawn away from the doctrines of the Bible as judgement is becoming a censored word.

It is hard to quote the Bible without someone saying ‘Oh you shouldn’t say that.’ The Bible states, ‘salvation is found in no other name under heaven except Jesus Christ’.

The Bible states’ Jesus said no one can come to the Father except through me’, yet many preachers are dodging quoting this. If we avoid telling these verses how are people ever to come to know the gospel.
Our faith is not like other faiths which someone has made up, but rather comes from God.

I have taken services in so many villages over the last few years, and see the same small congregations, which is so sad. Residents have so much to be thankful for; beautiful homes in idyllic surroundings, without any of the social ills of the towns and cities. We seem to have lost Middle England.

Yet when I journey home I will pass a Church where they have to put on two services each Sunday because there is not enough room to accommodate at one. So things can happen if we are doing what is right by God.

We must all examine our witness and consider how we can get our message across.

Most of all we need to look at our services. I have been to services and rather than come out inspired I am demoralised, and say to myself what was all that about. Sometimes it seems as if services are done because something has to be done, rather than create an exciting experience.
Often we find the sermon is a homily to fill in up to ten minutes when it should be the focal point of the service to motivate and teach and inspire.

What however must be a major concern is false teaching within the Church. Unfortunately as society has turned its back on Biblical teaching, so an increasing number within the Church consider we should re-interpret the Bible to meet their modern ideas of morality. This suggests that God has got it wrong and He should be prepared to adjust to the age.

When I was ordained as a priest in the Church of England, I was asked by my Bishop to affirm that I believed the Bible contained all doctrine required for salvation and I would teach only that in Scripture and banish doctrines contrary to God’s Word. The Bishop then gave me authority ‘to preach the Word of God’. Why do so many preachers renege on their vow? I heard a Vicar state from the pulpit that she didn’t think the Bible should be taken literally. What happened to her ordination vows? Make no mistake she is not alone. Can you imagine a Muslim preacher challenging the authority of the Koran?

A church which rejects the teaching of the bible loses its authority. People have a right to expect men speaking as Ministers of the Church to do so, based on the word of God and not expressing personal opinions or preferences. The bible must be the supreme court of the church, the final authority in deciding all controversies. Alas in some Churches this is not so.

For years, first the Labour party and then the Conservatives, spent years in the political wilderness because they sent out mixed messages and no one knew for certain what they really stood for. The Church by not adhering to Scripture is doing the same, leaving people confused as to what we really believe and offer.

There is a reluctance by clergy to speak out for fear of being labelled as a bigot or being discriminatory. It is fair to say Christian preachers tend to modify teaching of traditional values to appeal to contemporary thinking, and for fear of offending one of the many discrimination laws promoted equally vigorously by vociferous minorities, so falling foul of the law, which is not enforced against other faiths with the same enthusiasm as against Christian preachers.

We have gone along with the incredulous acceptance that marriage, (that is m/w) is no longer the bedrock of society, but is no more acceptable than any other relationship. Now we are to have marriage defined to include same sex unions, and will no longer be able to state ‘man and wife’. And this enacted by a (alleged)Conservative government)

If ever the Word of God was needed it is never more so than now. It calls for people to turn back to God who is ready and able to meet the needs of everyone who turns to Him. The message we have for the world is centred upon the person of Jesus Christ and provides for a stable and well balanced society.

The world’s greatest need is to hear about Jesus Christ. All Christians, not simply all ministers, are commanded in Scripture to share their faith.

We put a lot of energy into fairs, fetes and garden parties, but treat them as just that without trying to reach out to the people who attend. We have parish magazines and newsletters, which mostly tell what HAS happened, and contains articles about gardening or other hobbies, pieces about where people have been, or of memories. There needs to be also a stimulating, provocative writing on a biblical theme. For 17 years I edited a parish magazine, which always included bible teaching, and I know it was read and appreciated, even when views differed.

The country is in spiritual death throes and in need of intensive care. This is why we must contend for the faith. How God must weep when He sees the Church singing His praise, pretending to be holy, whilst countenancing and failing to speak out on moral issues and totally ignoring His written Word.

My friends, it is the duty of the Church to teach the gospel and not to budge from it. We are not to be blown by every new spiritual wind so that we drift from our moorings. We are not to be superficial believers. Hold fast to the gospel once given by the Apostles who were taught by the Master Himself.
One of the biggest problems the Church faces is apathy, which is why Christianity has fallen to such low level. It is so easy in the times we live in to opt out, saying, ‘there is no point in fighting them.’ Can you imagine what would have happened if Winston Churchill had have said in 1940, ‘there is no use in us fighting, the enemy is too powerful.’ We must stand firm by the Cross.

Let us remember there are Christians being persecuted in non Christian lands with violence, arson, and yes even murder. Hundreds have been killed in the last few months in Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia and Nigeria. Whole villages ransacked, yet they valiantly fight on for their Lord and Saviour. We must show the same spirit.

Today, no less than in any other age, it is intense biblical integrity that is needed. Fearless courage and conviction, to stand for the truth --that Jesus Christ is the only name that saves.

Be at Church on Sunday and God bless you.

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