Friday 2 January 2015

ROMANS 1 v 16/25
Why do so few people attend Church? Where going to Church was once as normal as going to work or any other activity, this is no longer the case.

It is generally recognised that this is largely a godless nation. Most people believe that there is a God, they just don’t want Him to interfere in their lives. We forget or ignore the fact we owe life and breath to Him, but we still want Him to be available when we have a problem in our lives. People get annoyed when He does not act to their bidding even though they have no time for Him at other times. We were created with a soul, with a spirit. All of us were made in the image of God. All of us were made to have a relationship with God.

But there is a section of people who do feel a spiritual need, as was witnessed at Christmas when many Churches saw increased congregations.

We have to also accept that the Church exists primarily for one purpose, to proclaim the Christian gospel. All other activities are subsidiary. It is good and helpful to have involvement in social activities, but the primary means of bringing people to Christ is through the preaching of the gospel. If we restrict that then we have no claim to be here; people can get social amenities from many sources, they can only get the gospel from the Church.

What has dissuaded a lot of people is the failure of the Church to preach a united message. The Bible states a house divided against itself will fall, and politicians have found to their cost that any Party which is divided in its policies will lose support. So it is with the Church; people are confused as to what we believe and teach.

People have a right to expect a positive message when they attend Church, a biblical message. This is why Billy Graham became the most successful preacher of all time. His preaching was uncompromising and people flocked in their tens of thousands to hear him, and they respected him for his directness.

The Bible should be the basis for ALL our preaching, it is the foundation of all truth. We cannot just pick and choose which parts we want, and cast out those which are not popular with society or might cast doubt on our way of living. We should all be preaching on the same lines.

The Churches have largely replaced God’s law to placate and win favour from the State and its people. Consequently fidelity to Scripture is avoided because preachers are ashamed to preach the Bible.

This brings me to v16/17 of today’s passage from Romans.
‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; to the Jew first and then the Gentile.. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: the righteous shall live by faith’.

Paul is writing to Christians in Rome, the mightiest city of the day, a city full of learning yet also full of immorality, where Christianity would not be appreciated, and he was ready and eager to go and preach the gospel no matter what the cost even though Christians were in danger of persecution; a sort of London of the day. He had been beaten, stoned and left for dead as a result of his preaching, but never gave up; now he is in the most powerful city in the then world. We need to look at particular words in the passage.

Paul says he was not ashamed, in fact he glorified in the gospel and that is what all Christians should do. But sadly I fear we all do not. How many Church members are embarrassed when asked if they believe? Indeed how many are ready to acknowledge they attend Church? How reluctant to answer if asked to give our opinion on moral questions? If you are not ashamed, you are ready to speak out about your faith.

Some people are fearful of their friends finding out they attend Church in case they get mocked, or because it might restrict the way they want to behave. Remember the words of Jesus, ‘for whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this sinful and adulterous generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of the Father’.

Jesus in His preaching had two effects; He either saved people or upset them. If we study the preaching of Jesus the people did not always go away smiling, even His own disciples walked away from Him at one time. We like to read and hear the stories of Jesus as long as they do not place too much of an obligation on us. But many did believe in Him and went away with a different reaction.

Preachers now should be prepared to tell the Bible as it is written, telling people what need to hear rather than what they might like to hear. Preachers can however be intimidated and be frightened of upsetting modern susceptibilities. To preach fundamental truth will inevitably cause some upset. But let us take heart from Paul who faced all that could be put against him, and so caused Christianity to spread throughout the ancient world.

I have been to three services in recent times when there has been a child being baptised, with people who have not been to Church for a long time, if ever. What an opportunity of preaching the gospel, yet there has been a nebulous sermon meaning absolutely nothing.

Paul is emphasising there is nothing to be ashamed of. Whilst preaching has now become out of favour, it is nevertheless the
primary way of bringing people to know Jesus Christ.

We may offer what is hard for sceptics to believe, but that should not stop us telling it. When we tell how God took a young Jewish girl and caused her to conceive by the power of the Hoy Spirit; that when this child became man He performed miraculous deeds and eventually gave His life by a cruel death on a Cross, in order that God would forgive people of their sins: that three days late would rise from the dead as a sign that one day all who believe in Him and accept Him as Saviour, would live eventually with Him in heaven.

The gospel does annoy people, so the Church has tried to dilute the message to please and conciliate people to such an extent that it has nothing special to offer. If it is just another social organisation with a religious flavour there is no cause for people to support it.

Then look at what is meant by the gospel. How many Christians I wonder would be able to answer if asked what the gospel is?

The gospel is the story of Jesus Christ, who gave Himself to be crucified for our sins in order to reconcile us to God. Why should anyone be ashamed to tell that story? We all no doubt are ashamed of things we have done in our lives, and the things we have said but wished we hadn’t, and that is understandable. But we allow ourselves to become ashamed of something for which there is no need to be ashamed of.

The reason he is not ashamed is because the gospel is the power of God leading to salvation for all who believe.

For all who believe. This power is for everyone who believes. This means more than just believing there is a God, the devil accepts that. It is not enough to just hear and say you believe, it demands a response. God wants all people to turn to Him.

To the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Greek is meant to refer to non Jews)The Jews were God’s chosen people. Jesus sent His Apostle to the lost sheep of Israel, for as God’s people He wanted them to have salvation first. When they refused to listen to Him God directed the Gentiles should be brought into the Kingdom. Let us remember, all but one writer of the Bible was a Jew; our Lord was Himself a Jew; and we worship the God of Israel, and we should pray for the mission to the Jews.

For in it the Righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. We cannot make ourselves righteous before God, but we can be through Jesus’ atoning death. Jesus acts as a bridge between God and us, putting us in good standing in God’s eyes, making it thus possible for us to be acceptable to God. This is God’s powerful way of bringing all who believe to heaven. We are saved by grace (Great Riches At Christ’s Expense) through faith, and when we believe fully in Christ we are in a right relationship with God.

Faith. You must have faith and believe. We are prepared to place our faith in many people, but reluctant to trust in God. We travel by plane and put our faith that the pilot knows what he is doing although we know nothing about him. If you go to the doctor for some illness and he gives you a prescription, you then get dispensed and take, trusting the doctor and the chemist, but you don’t just leave it in a cupboard if you want to get better. So with the gospel; there is no point in just seeking a spiritual prescription; you have to take that by faith, which means reaching out to God and accepting the gospel.

The key word is righteousness, which means to have a right standing in God’s eyes. It’s a legal term which means to declare “not guilty” and to declare “innocent of all charges.” When we believe, repent and have faith, we are justified, just as if we had not sinned.

When we use the word justified in normal language, we mean we try to prove we were right in our actions. But we cannot prove ourselves to God; He is the One who puts us in the right when He forgives by His grace through our faith.

In conclusion, never be ashamed of the gospel. When Paul wrote to Timothy he told him not to have a spirit of timidity, but be ready to preach the word that God saved us by His grace which He has given us through Christ Jesus.
Let us Christians be as proud of our faith as other faiths are of theirs, remembering there is salvation in no one else than Jesus, for there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we can be saved.

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