Saturday 17 January 2015

Almost a Christian
I want to turn to a verse in Acts of the Apostles, ‘almost you persuade me to be a Christian’.

During my years of ministry I have interviewed many people regarding baptisms, weddings or funerals, and the most common statement made is ‘we don’t go to church, but we are Christians’; or,’ ‘you don’t have to go to Church to be a Christian as long as you are a good person’. This is always volunteered, sometimes challengingly, indeed even aggressively; I suppose to ease the conscience. For someone who has no religious association or commitment to say this to a clergyman may seem to be both arrogant and impertinent.

A lady who was a stalwart of her local church once said to me ‘Vicar, I heard a man say on Songs of Praise last week that he had attended Church for many years but had only just become a Christian. What did he mean?’
This is a popular reaction. It is just assumed that if one is not an atheist or member of another faith one is per se a Christian. There is a little more to it than that.

The word Christian was originally a term of derision against the first followers of Jesus, and it is fast becoming an abusive term in this country by public officials, secularists and the judiciary, who want to eradicate Christianity from public life.

To become a Christian there must be an encounter with Jesus Christ. People have been urged to declare themselves a Christian without being told what that entails. Being born in a Christian country, to Christian parents, in a Christian home, does not make one a Christian. You cannot inherit Christianity. It is more than living up to a system of morals or ethics. Even Church attendance, however necessary and how much it is part of Christian life, does not on its own make you one. There has to be a conscious decision made, in which one wants to invite Christ into their life. You realise you have been offending against God and now want to live a life as laid down by Jesus and have Him come in to your life to give it new direction.

The Bible says we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and so we need forgiveness, and the only way we can get God’s forgiveness is through Jesus Christ, who died on the Cross to pay the penalty for our misbehaviour. You need saving from your sins, and the only way is through Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made on the Cross. You have to realise that and decide you need His forgiveness. You then make a positive decision that you will turn to Christ and follow His way of living.

That deliberate decision, and subsequent commitment, may come from
hearing a preacher. A lady used to visit my Church very irregularly and one day she came and after the service said, ‘whenever I come here I feel you are getting at me’. I pointed out that as I was unaware she would be attending it may be that someone higher than me was getting at her.

It may come reading the Bible; even if you have read something many times, one time God will use that word to speak to you.
It may come from seeing a poster with a religious message. The London City Mission posted many messages on the underground system, which spoke vividly to people. I found that posters with a catchy message on, placed on the Church notice board had an effect too.

People have on many occasions been introduced by a friend, which is why it is so important to let people know of our Churches and what they can offer.
However it comes, you will know it has come. Christianity is not a vague feeling, it is something you can know and you know whether you believe it or not.

This will necessitate a change in living. You know there are certain activities which are no longer acceptable; the ways of the world are replaced by the ways of Christ. This will mean you will inevitably declare yourself to be a Christian, which will involve mockery and taunting, and mean you can’t join in any falsehoods, immorality or things unethical anymore.

Of course there will be temptations to face. There will be Sunday mornings when you will not feel like going out to Church and you think, ‘oh they won’t miss me at church this morning’. Never feel you won’t be missed. Whilst I am sure your fellow Church members will miss you, God will certainly miss you. Church should come before the golf club or shopping trip or whatever. It is only one hour per week for most people, and if we can’t give that, then there is certainly something very amiss in our life.

The reason there is so much unhappiness, trouble, and broken homes in the nation, is through the absence of Christian values. Children are facing a deprived life in many homes as parents do not have the time, inclination, or belief, to teach their children basic bible stories, and so many children haven’t the faintest knowledge of any character or major festivals of the Church. A lot of schools have virtually given up teaching Christianity, often in preference to other faiths.

Be ready to take a full part in Church life and enjoy the joy of coming to share worship with your fellow Christians. The Church is here to bring people to knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is not a spiritual dispensary to hand out soothing syrup, but to proclaim God’s Message as it is written. We take the bread and wine at the table of our Lord, when we remember His blood shed on the cross for us, and as we eat the bread we remember the broken body given for us, and Jesus can become very close.

A Christian needs discipline in his/her life, for the Bible says we have to
take on those who are out to make us give in. The Bible likens the relationship of Christ and a follower to that of a husband wife relationship in marriage. When a man proposes to a woman to marry him and she agrees, they remain unmarried until they promise their commitment to each other in the marriage service. They then begin their life together facing both difficulties and happiness together. So in the Christian life it is when we declare our commitment to Christ, we become a Christian and face life with Him in all that life puts before us.

We all have to ask, ‘am I living the Christian life?’ People like to divide the world into two groups the good and bad, with ourselves of course in the good category. God is believed to judge the bad but would not judge us. It is too easy to see people behaving worse than us, and convince ourselves we are all right. The point is, whilst some are offending worse than us, we are all offending in some way. We may not plant bombs like some do, but the tongue can be equally explosive in its own way. So let us consider Christian living.

Jesus said, ‘behold I stand at the door and knock and if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me.’ In the East inviting a person to sit and eat with you infers you are inviting that person to have a special place in your life.

If there is anyone reading this message who has not yet invited Jesus into their life, then I urge you to consider making that decision and give Him that special place in your life, He is waiting at the door for your invitation.

But let us have sincerity. Today a cushy Christianity obtains in many places with the intention to say pleasant words which people want to hear. Rogue traders make goods and put the stamp of a famous name on them. Rogue Christian teachers are putting God’s stamp on their own brand of Christianity, even supporting behaviour which at one time would not even be mentioned.

We are witnessing in this country at the present time a rush of politicians wanting to put their name to Christianity. David Cameron has stated how important Christianity is, even professing evangelical zeal for the faith; yet he is the one who had a passion for same sex marriage without anyone being allowed by law to exercise their right of conscience against it. Eric Pickles has stated the importance of the faith and nobly restored the right of Councils to include prayers in their meetings following a Court’s ruling against it, but at the same time his Department which owns public buildings refused to allow Christian organisations to hold meetings because of their objection to the same sex marriage bill. True profession is matched by action.

These people are members of a government which continues the Labour government’s policy of waging an attack on the Roman Catholic’s wonderful adoption agencies, so sacrificing the chances of children from being placed into loving homes because it properly refuses to place children into care of two same sex people.

It is total and disgraceful hypocrisy to loudly proclaim Christianity and advocate and support that which is un-Christian.

Our nation so badly needs Christian men and women who are altogether Christians, not almost ones.

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