Saturday 26 November 2016

Matthew 24
Today is Advent Sunday and for many Churches it is the start of the Church’s year. For all Christians it is a time when we think about the return of our Lord, although for so many people, they have not recognised His first coming. This is a very serious and important subject and should not be treated lightly. The teachings of the Bible are not acceptable to many folk within the Church, but they are quite clear. Let us look at them together this morning.

The Bible tells us that God will one day bring an end to this world. 380 times in the New Testament the return of Jesus is mentioned, and the whole Bible promises His return.
We are called to live by the teachings of Jesus, and are warned there will be people who mock the faith. They will do so in order to justify the sinful way in which they live.

People also scoff at any talk of Jesus returning or the suggestion of judgement, stating God will not intervene and asking why He hasn’t done so. They forget that one day to us is like a thousand years to God, who is giving time for more people to be saved.

They forget too, if they ever knew, that God did once destroy the earth and is saving up fire for when judgement comes. This will be without warning, leaving no place or time for hiding. The Bible calls for Christians to live pure and holy lives to avoid punishment that awaits the ungodly.

When we turn to the gospel passage we find Jesus had been talking to His Apostles on the Mount of Olives, who asked Him what the signs are of His coming back at the end of the age. Jesus answered there would be wars and rumours of wars, nations would fight nations--- there would be famines, ----earthquakes----Christians would be persecuted ----people would turn away from the faith. ----there would be false teaching---evil--wickedness.

You don’t hear much preaching on this subject, the Church tends to avoid it. The Church is remarkably quiet about anything which is likely to upset people’s tranquillity; there is reluctance in a politically correct obsessed society to suggest judgement or guilt.

But we are thinking here about the climax of world history, a point where any national psychopathic leader could, by pressing a button, unleash nuclear destruction on an unimaginable scale. So we may be nearer to the end than many think or want to believe.
It is true that such signs have been prevalent in each generation but they increase in their likelihood as time goes by. If you look at present world events, there are grounds for concern. Wars and terrorism are occurring all over our world.

A situation of utmost gravity exists in the Middle East where Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map, and world leaders seem to be deluded into thinking they can trust Iran, whereas Israel is more ready to face reality. They in turn are ready to attack Iran, and bearing in mind that the Bible prophesises the world will end in Jerusalem, we should all be concerned. The Bible states God will protect His ancient chosen people.

We see famines in Africa, earthquakes and typhoons of unprecedented strength, with one island which rarely has rain having had large parts destroyed by storms. False teaching aplenty is given in our Churches, to justify and make acceptable modern moral behaviour. Christians are being forced out of Middle Eastern lands, where arson and murder reign against them, and they are treated barbarically.

Jesus says all these kinds of things will happen in the last days, that is before His return.

In v.36, which opens our reading, Jesus states that only God knows when that time will be. He then compares life in the days of Noah to those relating to what will be happening when He returns to earth.

You remember the story of Noah. A lot of people laugh and scoff at it, but archaeologists say there is plenty of evidence that a flood did exist at one time over a certain portion of the world, the portion that Noah lived in. The Bible says that God looked upon civilization, and He saw the wickedness of men. Jesus said as it was then, so it will be in the day of the coming of the Son of man.

There are several things said about that day. First, it was a world in which marriage and home were abused. People were obsessed with sex. Emphasis was on immorality. Look at our world today; we are living in the same way as in the days of Noah. We see the same conditions today. Pick up a newspaper.

The Telegraph and Mail newspapers often feature religious articles on their websites and a lot of comments are made in response which are quite vitriolic; not just disagreement, but open hatred of religion. People do not like to hear their way of living is seen to be immoral by others. They want to live their lives without reference to God or biblical values.

One journalist wrote an article in response to a speech by the ex Archbishop of Canterbury, who had suggested the Church faced extinction. He stated the Church could not expect younger people (especially) to reject same sex relationships, or couples sleeping together outside of marriage, or the doctrines of the Church such as a Virgin Birth and resurrection, which SOME churches still do preach. He was in fact implying that the Church should drastically change its stance on such issues, although I think many within the Church have done so in thought and practice.

The Church of England has adopted a policy which states clergy should not engage in same sex marriage, yet in the Liverpool Diocese it is openly practised, seemingly with the Bishop’s approval. Other bishops openly campaign for same sex marriage, without any disciplinary action being taken.

Noah tried to warn his fellowmen of coming judgement, but there was a sceptical unbelieving and casual unconcern. The more Noah preached the more they laughed at him. God said man was too evil, so He was going to make it rain for forty days and destroy the earth. But God saw Noah was a good man of moral integrity who worshipped God faithfully.
God told Noah how to build a ship, and when Noah did so everybody laughed at this crazy guy building a ship out in the desert. Today you would have television crews from around the world taking pictures. But then the rains came and how they must have wished they had listened to Noah

This is how it will be before Jesus returns to an unbelieving world which will be living as they choose. People laugh at this story and at today’s gospel; they call it a myth and fairy tale, but they will find out one day.
When Jesus returns, just as the flood brought sudden judgement His return will do the same. People will be caught unawares as they will be unprepared through rejecting Christian teaching. The world will be separated even between families and friends as Jesus taught. The Bible is clear – there was a beginning and there will be an end, when Christ comes again.

Jesus stated two people will be together, one will be taken to be with Him, the other will be left. A person who has accepted Jesus, who died on the Cross as their Saviour, will be safe on Judgement day. A person who has not will be let behind. There will be no chance to make a decision then, we have to be ready beforehand and decide we want to accept Him now. The Bible states, ‘now is the day of salvation.’ God has given everybody a chance to decide and choose. These are Jesus’ words, not mine.

This is a very serious truth to consider, for the Bible teaches that the consequences are drastic, some will be saved for eternal life and the rest will be lost. However much we might like to conclude there is a different ending, the Bible leaves us with no doubt.

The last verses of our passage call on us to be ready, and we are expected to spread the gospel message, particularly to our families and friends, for we will never have warning. The Bible states now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation

There is a grossly mistaken notion that as long as one is honest and a nice person one is assured of heaven. That is not what the Bible teaches. Many people who are atheists are honest and nice people. There has to be a personal commitment to Jesus. The Bible states, ‘salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved’. Jesus said, ‘no one comes to the Father except through me’. The Church has not always given sound teaching on this; indeed there are those who do not accept those words.

Whilst it may be comforting to believe that we can all get to heaven regardless of one’s beliefs, and we like to please our fellow men and women, it is quite cruel to mislead if it is not true. It is like telling a blind person standing on the footwalk of a busy road it is safe for him to cross when ready. Others say if you just follow your conscience you’ll be fine, but consciences become dulled and hardened. We need to be prepared just as any responsible householder will take care of their property against theft, for burglars do not give notice of their coming.

This is why it is so important for each person to make his/her own decision whether to follow Jesus in His teaching, commands and demands He makes on us.

You see the Bible is all about commitment. We are reminded of the superficiality of commitment in our own time. Less than 10% of people think God worthy of one hour per week to visit a Church. Yet if you were to ask people their religion, the vast majority would reply C of E and seriously consider they were Christians. They would be mortally offended if you suggested otherwise. Very few people seem it necessary to think of Jesus, even less to do anything about it.

Some Christians have sincerely gone to extremes to prepare for Jesus’ return. Jesus never called us to do anything more than to be faithful in all that we do and always to thing to the best of our ability and be ready to greet Him either here on earth or in heaven.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

It has been obvious for some time that in the United Kingdom the view of many people is that democracy means giving people a choice, and then if the result is not what expected and desired to hold another, and as many as necessary to get the desired answer. This attitude in paired with hypocrisy in several ways, notably displayed currently by State and Church.

The European Referendum revealed a clear majority to leave, yet there are strong demands for another to be held to cancel that one.

Senior, and some not so senior clergy, have disgraced themselves in commenting. Whilst everyone has a right to an opinion and difference, need it be so unpleasant. Each Sunday in the General Confession we regret ‘we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves’.

How I wonder do people like the ever ready to comment maker Giles Fraser square that regret when he is quoted as despising ukip supporters; or the Vicar in Kent who criticised Trump and Brexit supporters in the Remembrance service at her Church, causing some veterans to leave the service; or the two Bishops who voiced their racist accusations; or the jolly female attention seeking Vicar who is getting to be a regular on television who is quoted as saying ‘I hate it when I have to agree with a Tory’.
Do these people not realise a majority of supporters of Brexit and Trump, (who they have not given a chance to prove himself) would probably be the same people who attend And/or support the Church, and are very likely to be offended by stupid and offensive statements? This is not what attracts, but certainly dissuades.

Now we have seen the United States is similarly affected. In the Presidential election, at one stage opinion polls suggested Trump was ahead in the popular vote, causing opponents to cry that it was Electoral College votes that counted. When Trump trounced Clinton in the Electoral College we were told repeatedly how Clinton had more popular votes, and now a vociferous minority are trying to annul the election.

Sunday 20 November 2016

Last Sunday I led a service of Remembrance at which we thought of the brave young men and women who served in the Armed Forces in two world wars and localised wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We thought of lives lost and terrible injuries for life that were incurred, but also of the ideals and principles for which those men and women fought for. I often wonder what they would have said if they could see the state of the country today. There seems so little comparison. Would they think their sacrifice was worthwhile?

This morning I want to draw your attention to a verse from the Old Testament, ‘when the foundations are being destroyed what can the righteous do?’ What then are the ‘foundations? ’

The foundations that are spoken of are the foundations that support a society and prevent it from crumbling, the social, moral, ethical, political and religious foundations. Without much effort we can see those foundations are slowly falling apart, there is a general breakdown in society

Christianity has been the faith of this country for over 1500 years, and has brought and kept this nation as one, Christianity is being wrecked and the ensuing collapse of Christian values has led to an unstable society in which family life is being destroyed, and a moral and spiritual vacuum has been created. Now Christianity is being fazed out of public life by politically motivated people, ideologues in the government and civil service who betray the culture which nurtured them.
Politically, our governments once exercised their role with Christian values in mind, but recent successive governments have shown little, if any, concern for Christian standards.

Legislation has been introduced which offends and contradicts Christian teaching and belief. In addition, we have restrictions placed on the expression of our beliefs, something which does not happen in relation to other faiths. Until recently we had a Prime Minister, who by his intransigence made freedom of religious expression a legal offence, with the paradox that you can incur a greater penalty for quoting the Bible to support your belief than you may for committing burglary or physical assault. You may be suspended from employment for wearing a Cross, but not a hijab.

The moral boundaries have been swept away to such an extent that there are now no absolutes, all is relative and you just do your own thing and make up your own standards. This is being taught in our schools and universities, and in intellectual circles the Bible is seen as some form of hate literature. People believe they can do without God.

In our politically correct society it seems the power of evil is so great that decent people are afraid, even in danger, if they voice criticism. They are accused of bigotry and all kinds of phobia Dark clouds are descending on our culture. We all know this to be true yet we feel powerless to stop the slide into the abyss. Isolation from it all is impossible. We can’t escape from it anywhere.

Our children and grandchildren are growing up in a world so very different from the previous generations. They will never know it was once forbidden to use a four lettered explicit word on radio/television; ; that marriage was only between a man and woman, and only a woman would be called a wife, they will never know the word ‘gay’ meant an expression of healthy happiness. Many will never have been to a school where there was a (Christian) Assembly each morning, and where the Bible was part of their education.

Our newspapers regularly tell of people claiming huge sums of money for minor injuries whereas a soldier who loses a leg or an arm gets so little.

In contrast we read the pathetic story of a man suing a baker because the baker whilst agreeing to make a cake for the man nevertheless refused to put a slogan on the cake because of his religious belief and faith. The man claimed his feelings ‘were hurt’.

What then shall the righteous do?

The righteous are represented by the Church, and whichever denomination you choose, it may reasonably be said is not fit for the purpose our Lord created the Church.

A great difficulty arises within the Church in that it does not speak with one voice and message and therefore lacks credibility.. At present we have those who are theologically conservative trying to be faithful to Scripture, whilst those of liberal persuasion, want to rewrite those parts of Scripture which do not conform to modern morality and social custom. It is fatuous and irrational to suppose biblical injunctions, which do not conform to modern attitudes, can be reinterpreted to suit to-day’s requirements. The Bible does not need any amendments. We have allowed the absolute authority of the Bible to be challenged, so that people venture more and more away from its teaching. God will condemn those who challenge His authority

This can only cause confusion in people’s minds. They can be excused for saying if the Church can’t make its own mind up, how can they expect us to believe and trust them. No Muslim would ever think of challenging their holy book, the Koran, and look in amazement that even within the Church, there are those who dispute much of our Holy Book.

The Church is beginning to look more influenced by the world rather than the other way round. The more we try to be relevant, the more irrelevant to our purpose we become. We should not be blown away by every whim of public opinion, but let our anchor hold in the storms of life. Let us stand for the old standards, the way Christians once did no matter how difficult that might become, and not go with the trend of the times where the secularists are setting the agenda.

The Church should be following the example set by the Apostles who were taught by Jesus who sent them out to proclaim His gospel. They went out across the world telling of the unique and divine Birth of Jesus; His being sent by God to do His work on earth, to die upon the Cross for the forgiveness of all our sins, that we may be made righteous in God’s sight, and was risen from the dead and continued to teach |His Apostles until ascending back to heaven. God then sent the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost with the message that all who accept Jesus as Saviour will be granted salvation.

The Bible states a house which is divided among itself will fall and such is the reason for the poor attendances at our Churches. If we gave them the full story of Jesus rather than the half hearted adulterated preaching now being given we may well find more interest in the Church.

There is false teaching being put out which is readily being accepted rather than the factual one, that one only has to be a nice honest person to attain a future place in heaven. There is also a marked reluctance to preach the need for repentance and personal acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

We need to be more positive, even aggressive, in giving people a clear vision of what it means to be a Christian and to have a Christian based society. We now have to proclaim it boldly and challenge those who try to put us down.

So, what for the future of the Church? There is hope and confidence if all members realize there is no hope if they are content to sit back and say ethereally, ‘God will provide’. Christ did say ‘I will build my Church’, but He expects a little help from His friends.

We need a daring programme of revival, which God is challenging us to make. We within the Church need to ensure our services are always meaningful and encouraging. However, there is reluctance within some Churches to preach a vibrant Biblical message for fear of being criticised as being offensive to other faiths.

Whilst Christianity has been the faith of this country for centuries, in recent times our Churches have retreated and allowed a secular agenda to exercise undue influence on both society and the Church. People, I believe, are longing for and wanting spiritual leadership. Our strength is limited only by our faith. .

Instead of religious leaders writing letters to the press about politics and climate change, they should be writing against the marginalisation of our faith.

When you become a Christian you effectively become like a soldier, there is warfare between what the world wants and what God has laid down, and we enter a battlefield. The Bible calls on us to stand firm and not yield.

Every army needs to attack, and we should be promoting Christianity as vigorously, as other faiths push their faith, armed with the two edged sword of truth. Our faith is based on the historical and divine Jesus Christ who calls for people to turn back to God. Never let us be ashamed to tell the story of a Saviour who gave His life on the Cross, so that all we unworthy people may have our sins forgiven because He died that we may be made righteous for heaven when our life on this earth is over.

All who treasure the Christian faith, and the memory of those who gave their lives to preserve a Christian heritage, must work and pray for a spiritual revival of the Christian Church. The valiant hearts that died to preserve the loveliness of these lands we call Great Britain, will not be failed by God.

May we well remember the sacrifices others made on our behalf that we might be here at this hour? We must never ever forget the lives of so many gallant young men and women given that we may have peace in our lives, and Christianity in our hearts.

Saturday 12 November 2016

(Ephesians 6 v.10/18)
Today we gather once again on this special day, to remember the great sacrifices made by men/women, many of whom paid the supreme sacrifice of their lives, whilst others were injured and disabled for life.

As the years roll by, the number of those who were alive during the last World War grows ever smaller reducing by the year. But the memories do not fade, as we recall how this nation stood alone on the brink when all seemed to be lost and there was even talk of surrender. But God raised up a man who refused to surrender and instead rallied the nation to perform such heroic deeds.

How sad and shameful so many young people do not, and will not, try to learn of this glorious chapter of our history, never having had to endure the horrors and hardship of war. Such has been the direction of education in recent years in (state) schools, they have little or no knowledge of what was done that they may have all the priviliges they now enjoy. To so many Churchill is the name of a dog representing an Insurance Company rather than one of the greatest Prime Ministers of this country.

We think of the brave young men, some barely left College, who defended our skies or were shot down over German cities; others who perished on a French beach, or drowned in deep waters, or were tortured in a Japanese prison camp; they gave heir lives for principles they loved or believed in.

We have to add those who fought and died in Afghanistan and Iraq in wars which should never have been started, as we replaced one horror for even worse.

All these men and women would have cried for the ideals which took their lives, to be remembered and honoured. What would they say if they knew what things were going on this country now? Would they wonder if their great sacrifices were worthwhile as they looked at us? How disillusioned, as they looked at their injuries; those who came home with shattered limbs, or blind eyes, and saw people making huge compensation claims for minor injuries, and taking legal action for hurt feelings caused by mere words.

How would they react to see some pumped up public official saying the flag they fought under could not be displayed lest it upset someone from another country?

Those men and women had a faith and a belief, and now we Christians have to take over that fight. As they fought the Battle of Britain, we must fight For Britain.

The world has largely rejected Christianity, without having anything to put in its place to combat the evils of the world. All we hear today is about ‘human rights,’ yet in all walks of public life, even to the highest level of government; we have flagrant deceit, corruption, being economical with the truth and unrestricted immorality, the sort of behaviour which sends out the wrong message to the young and gullible.

Under the guise of equality, all manner of restrictions are being enacted to restrain freedom of speech and religious faith. People can be perfectly equal without being the same. Until recently we had a Prime Minister who by his intransigence made freedom of religious expression a legal offence, and so a greater penalty could be given than if convicted for burglary or physical assault.

Christian principles and values were the foundation of this nation’s base, as were many of the social institutions and the legal system of the country. Our nation’s future depends on the acceptance of the standards of the Bible.

Not all who condemn the moral slide are bigoted and narrow minded. Those who fought for their country, all those veterans knew what counted in life as they fought for a safer world. The men on the fighting lines knew things had to get better. .

We have a society which is encouraged to forsake a Christian consensus and live, not by Christian principles, but by substituting other principles. We are submerged in a world that is committed to falsehood, which is why we are called to proclaim the truth.

Today, there will be people in all our Churches who would not normally be there, thus revealing a spiritual content in their lives. Indeed, almost all people have some spiritual longing; there are so many of these people who would be of enormous value to the Church and who in turn could add so much to their lives. Within each one of us there is a need for things which money can’t buy, and desires which we cannot express. Whilst the majority may not be willing to accept it, we all need a spiritual life. We need God and the forgiveness, which He offers in Jesus Christ. Without this our souls are restless. The only obstacle is a lack of motivation.

Many people are like the two British soldiers who found themselves lost in the deserts of Iraq. They eventually came across an American Officer in his jeep. As they approached him they didn’t even bother to salute and simply blurted out ‘excuse me mate, can you tell us where we are?’ The General took umbrage at their casual attitude and sternly replied, ‘Do you know who I am?’ at which one of the soldiers turned to the other and said, ‘Now we are in real trouble, we don’t know where we are and he doesn’t know who he is!’

Neither do we know who we are and why we are here, so we just live for today and who cares about tomorrow. And that is how we will remain unless there is some communication from the outside, from the One who has made us. A godless self-centred life is a fruitless and empty one.

We need a daring programme of revival, which God is challenging us to make. We within the Church need to ensure our services are always meaningful and encouraging. However, there is reluctance within some Churches to preach a vibrant Biblical message for fear of being criticised as being offensive to other faiths.

Whilst Christianity has been the faith of this country for centuries, in recent times our Churches have retreated and allowed a secular agenda to exercise undue influence on both society and the Church. People, I believe, are longing for and wanting spiritual leadership. Our strength is limited only by our faith. Will that faith let us move mountains or stumble over mole hills?

When you become a Christian you effectively become like a soldier, there is warfare between what the world wants and what God has laid down, and we enter a battlefield. The Bible calls on us to stand firm and not yield.

When the Romans invaded a country they would burn their boats so there could be no means of retreat, hence the saying burning our boats. God is telling us He will give us all the power we need and the Bible calls on us to put on the whole armour of God.

In today’s passage Paul is giving guidance and draws on the imagery taken from a Roman soldier’s uniform with a portrayal of Christian life as a warfare, using spiritual metaphors for the resources given to the Christian soldier.

Paul looks at the belt which holds the soldier’s uniform together, a breastplate to defend his heart, sandals specially made with spikes in the soles to enable to get a good foothold on the ground to dig his feet in and a helmet to protect his head. A shield protects him from the darts of the enemy and he has a sword to go on the attack.

Applying them to the Christian, Paul is referring to the belt of truth which is the gospel, which holds our faith, and we must have a pure heart to live according to that truth, and then stand firm and not let our head be turned by false teaching.

Every army needs to attack, and we should be promoting Christianity as vigorously, as other faiths push their faith, armed with the two edged sword of truth. Our faith is not someone has made up; it is based on the historical and divine Jesus Christ who calls for people to turn back to God. Never let us be ashamed to tell the story of a Saviour who gave His life on the Cross, so that all we unworthy people may have our sins forgiven because He died that we may be made righteous for heaven when our life on this earth is over.

All who treasure the Christian faith, and the memory of those who gave their lives to preserve a Christian heritage, must work and pray for a spiritual revival of the Christian Church. The valiant hearts that died to preserve the loveliness of these lands we call Great Britain, will not be failed by God.
May we, on this special day, well remember the sacrifices others made that we might be here at this hour? We must never ever forget the lives of so many gallant young men and women given that we may have peace in our lives.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Congratulations to America on the election of their new President.

After months of being sneered at and mocked by all the National Press and CNN; despite all the confident pollsters telling that Hillary Clinton would win, Donald Trump has made fools of them not only by winning, but winning decisively having taken all the so called swing States, leaving the liberal elite in California and some of the North Eastern States. No big entertainment people, none of the dramatic speeches of the Obamas, no massive organisation bankrolled by the intelligentsia,

Now the Churches will be safe, whilst the climate change devotees, environmental lobby and Planned Parenthood will be uneasy. Trump has shown he can choose wisely in picking Mike Spence as his running mate, and the brilliant Kellyann Conway as his campaign manager.The prospect for America must seem good for its people.

Monday 7 November 2016

So our American cousins are going to the polls tomorrow. They have probably the worst choice of candidates ever put forward for their beloved Presidency.

If anyone thinks we have problems in this country over Brexit, they ought to look at present America. We got rid of a liar and cheat and replaced him with a true Christian and Conservative lady, who appears to be doing well, showing the integrity we lost under her predecessor.

Some weeks ago we were told that Clinton had been let off for what was euphemistically named careless handling of her emails, 30,000 having gone missing in addition. This was after her husband had ‘accidentally’ bumped into the Attorney General at an airport. Then last week it was reported the Director of the FBI had re-opened the investigation following the discovery of 650,000 emails on a server somewhat connected to Clinton’s computer. We were reliably informed that the determination of this would take weeks to resolve, which was well after the election result. Now we are told they are all clear and no action is needed. In other words, we are expected to believe they have got through reading 650,000 emails in such a record time. Are we all considered to be stupid or na├»ve?

Of course Trump is hardly what one would expect to be Presidential material, especially when there were so many excellent Governors who sought the candidacy. But I believe Trump would be more reasonable to control than Clinton who seems to have such a high impression of her own capabilities despite having notable record of success in her previous actions.

It looks as if the Republican hierarchy may have lost the White House, and I hear Congress may be at risk, but they have only themselves to blame for such arrogant hypocrisy. They did nothing to stop Trump for representing the Republicans, and yet they refuse to vote or support him, which is shameful.

Surely the American people at large won’t put Clinton in the White House. If they do they will need to sing God bless America more forcefully than they have ever done.

Sunday 6 November 2016

This morning I want to turn to Paul’s Letter to the Romans, in Chapter 10, looking at verses 1 to 15

Paul was specially and uniquely called by God to be an Apostle to the Gentiles, but he never forgot his own Jewish people. This Letter was directed to the Jews who were carrying a mistaken belief, but its teaching is equally applicable to us, as all Paul’s Letters are.

Paul’s greatest desire was to make people Christians, a noble cause and one we could wish all preachers to-day to adopt. He was concerned the Jews were being misled to follow the wrong way to salvation, which can only be achieved by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord.

The Jews believed that all that was necessary for salvation was to keep the Ten Commandments, but no one can keep the Commandments for it is like a chain, if you break one link it all falls apart, and the Bible states if you break one you break the lot, and we have all, without exception broken at least one. Therefore one cannot be saved by the Commandments.

The word ‘saved’ does cause an emotional response with a lot of people, as it conjures up an image of being approached by a Charismatic Christian asking are you saved brother (sister).

I read of a man sitting in a theatre when someone came up and asked if the vacant seat next to him was saved, and he wittingly answered, ‘no, but I am’, at which the person moved away quickly.

God sent Jesus to supplant the Law and make it possible for all people to be saved if they accepted Christ as having died on the Cross to obtain forgiveness for the sins they committed.

Coming to the heart of this passage, verse 9 states, ‘if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved’.

Confession that Jesus is Lord, and singing the hymn, is not an intellectual title or a casual statement, it means much more. You have to believe fully in your heart this is so, and have no doubt that God raised Him physically from the dead; that is the heart of the Christian message. So when you do believe and are prepared to confess with your mouth, God accepts you as righteous. We are in fact at the doctrine of justification by faith.

The Bible states, ‘by grace you have been saved through faith, it is not your own doing, it is the gift of God and not by your own works.’

Something in us always wants to add to God’s free grace. It’s humbling to admit that we can do nothing to earn our deliverance from sin. Imagine what heaven would be like if we had to earn our way there. People would be trying to outbid each other and probably boasting how important they had been in the world.

When I was being inducted the Rural Dean who was a real traditional English gentleman (and there’s not many of us about), introduced me to a man and mentioned some of the positions he had held in his Church, and the man was really indignant because some obscure committee was omitted. There really are people who join the Church for egotistic reasons. Heaven would be just like that if you had to earn your way there. But it won’t be like that, when Jesus died on the cross, he paid the full price for your salvation. God alone gets the glory in your salvation. Jesus did all the work when he died on the cross.

A lot of people think like the Jews. I have been told countless times all one has to do is to be good, not to steal or be dishonest and not harm anybody, and you will go to heaven; no need to go to Church, sing hymns and read the Bible. They will learn to regret this belief.

I have been watching a series on television in which a young police constable is partnered on duty by an attractive young police woman who is fond of him, but he does not respond. His Sergeant tells him he should make a decision and respond, as one day he will regret not doing so; and then says the two saddest words in the English language are, if only.. There are so many people who will one day appear before the Lord and say, ‘if only’.

Jesus himself warned that on the Day of Judgment many will claim to have been His followers, but He will say to them, ‘depart from me. I never knew you.’ Millions have not the slightest idea of what it really meant to be a Christian.

People have been attending church for years, listening to the Bible being read, singing praise to the Lord, and have been very religious, yet have never come to the time when they have acknowledged Jesus as Lord, yet the Bible calls on us to do so.

We have admit to the fundamental fact that we live in an evil world and we all become tainted and lost, but by the grace of God He gives us an opportunity to come to Christ and be saved. The majority of people do not consider they need saving as they think their lives are already safe. The thought they are sinners is mortally wounding, as one Vicar discovered when he put a notice outside his church saying this Church is here for sinners; half his congregation were absent the next week. Sin is not just murder, theft and immorality; it includes pride, jealousy, envy, anger and hatred

Verse 11 states that all who believe in Jesus will not be put to shame, but there are too many Christians who are ashamed to admit they follow Jesus.

Verse 12 reminds us that God has no favourites, and will accept all who call on Jesus.

There follows three questions all inter related. How can they call on someone they do not believe in; and how can one believe if they have never heard of Jesus; how can they hear unless someone tells them of Jesus.

These questions need to be taken seriously by the Church, for the fact that so many people just do not understand the Christian faith is really an indictment on us.

A question often asked is what about those who have never heard of Jesus. If someone is in such a remote place where the Bible has not been taught, they will be judged by how they responded to their conscience, for everyone has a sense of what is right and what is wrong. However, if it is a case of just not bothering to listen or find out, then the responsibility will be on them.

Behind the message, of course, is the messenger. The message has to be communicated and the way that God chooses is through the preaching of the Word and the praying of Christians, the yearning of their hearts over those who are not yet saved.

People are touched by God by various means, perhaps through a poster, a friend, an occurrence in one’s life, but the principal way is through the preaching of the Bible.
This I believe is where we are failing badly, right across the Church. The Bible calls on us to preach the Word; in other words the Scriptures, with sound doctrine, not adding, subtracting or amending what God caused His writers to state in the Bible.

We in the Churches must make a greater effort to concentrate on the fundamentals of the faith. There is too much a willingness to amend Bible teaching to be popular, avoid being called narrow minded or bigoted, or ally with society’s standards and beliefs; and take every opportunity of doing so.

On Easter Sunday last year a service was held in one of our great Cathedrals, offering a wonderful opportunity of getting the message out, but instead there was a sermon which completely wasted the chance by an address on social issues.

Regularly Church leaders are eager to write to the press on a variety of matters social and political. A Bishop wrote asking for everybody to fast one day of the week in prayer for climate change; this at a time when the Church attendances are falling.

As people have a cause to believe in with an eternal future at issue, one might have thought that would have been a prime issue for him to concentrate his mind on.

There is however a marked reluctance to speak out on moral and ethical matters when the Church should be giving a lead to the country.

The Bible states that it is God who adds to the number of people attending a Church. In the book of Acts, He did so because the people were devoted to the teaching of the Apostles. Therefore, if we seek to have God add to the Church today, we should be sure that all preaching and teaching will be that given by the Apostles and left for our learning in the New Testament.

The glory of Christianity is that it has a message that is grounded in history. It is objective truth, not just something that someone has made up. . It is not some feeling that you are following that you hope will work out; it is the story of historic events. One of these events is the coming of Jesus as a baby in the manger of Bethlehem, the coming of the wise men from the east and the uproar and unrest that it caused in the kingdom of Judea, beginning with Herod the king himself. That is all part of history. Then there was the resurrection and the events that followed in the church. These are all historic events -- objective truth. The great thing of the Christian faith is not that we are presenting some philosophy, but a faith that is grounded in events that cannot be explained away. That is our message.

There is an urgent need for such message to be preached without fear or favour, but I have been at Churches barely mentioning the basic facts of our faith. We have to be as forthright and determined to preach our faith as we see the preachers of Islam doing so in respect of their faith. You will never hear a Muslim cleric challenging anything in their Holy book.

In the absence of any person at national level with the charisma to inspire, each local Church has to be its own evangelist and I pray that your Church will be an inspiration in the days to come.

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Matthew 7 v 13/14

Here we find Jesus talking to His disciples and to a great crowd of people gathered on a mountain. He is preaching to them describing the character for Christians and the rules by which they are to live. He turns to teach about salvation.

He taught there are two gates, to two roads, and two masters.

He said there are two destinies, heaven and hell and divided people into two classes. There are only two roads, no third, no alternative. This is not generally liked as it is seen as being too restrictive, too bigoted and intolerant, and we don’t like to be judged. Yet in spite of all this, Jesus says we must enter through the narrow gate. So let us look at the choice we face and consider honestly which road each of us is on and to where heading.

It is like coming to a crossroads each road going in the opposite direction. On the broad road you enter by a wide gate and the road is spacious, there is plenty of room on it and there are plenty of people on it. It is the road of self-gratification without any restrictions. There are even otherwise decent men and women on it, so many claiming to be Christians albeit without due cause. It is widely assumed, and strongly encouraged by the secular press, that if you are honest and sincere you will go to heaven.

You see the Bible is all about commitment. We are reminded of the superficiality of commitment in our own time. Less than 10% of people think God worthy of one hour per week to visit a Church. Yet if you were to ask people their religion, the vast majority would reply C of E and seriously consider they were Christians.

As we come to the narrow gate leading to the narrow road, which Jesus wants us to take but says only few take it, and those who do must do through Him. John 14 despite being non correct in many Churches now, still states ‘no one can come to the Father except through Jesus Christ.’ He is the only way.

Being narrow these days means you are classed as bigoted or phobic. You are expected to be broad minded, be modern, 2+2=5. The road is narrow because it is the way of truth and truth is always narrow. It is the way of holiness and righteousness.

Jesus said there is a life to come and it is a long life, it is eternal, and there are only two destinies, and as you come to the crossroads, you alone choose, God will not push you. He gave you the ability to choose and lets you do so. Where you end up in eternity will be determined by which road you take, so what you do in the world is important.

One of these roads leads to destruction the other to life with Jesus. He took time to remind people of the seriousness of salvation. He wanted all to be sure of the future. People do prefer the easy road in life but Jesus made it plain He wants us to journey down the difficult road and enter the narrow gate.

Neither can the narrow road be pursued if we are motivated by a desire to please society. True disciples of Jesus Christ will not play to the galleries or form values according to the passing approval of people in general. God’s approval is all that matters.

Finally Jesus speaks firmly and rather profoundly when He says not all who think they are to enter the Kingdom of heaven will in fact do so. But it can be hard to be a Christian in this country at the present time and many find the going too hard and strenuous and the opposition oppressive. Any open expression of our faith is likely to lead to suspension or dismissal from work. There is so much harassment of Christians which is not reported here and you have to listen to the American news channels to discover what is going on in this country.

As Christians we must always seek to glorify the Lord in our ways and speech.

Jesus warns us that there must be a clear acceptance of His teaching and total obedience to it. Just to recite a creed and attend Church is not enough. We honour Jesus by calling Him Lord and sing hymns expressive of our devotion to Him. The lips that sing His praise should never be the lips that start trouble.