Friday 19 May 2017

I appreciate it is expected that the sermon will relate to one of the readings, but I also believe that it is necessary at times to consider issues which are of vital importance to the Church’ and by that I mean the wider community of Christians.

The most pressing problem facing the Church in this country at the present time is that of falling congregations. We have reached the position where less than 2% of the population attend Church on any regular basis. In the majority of Churches the congregation is of the older age range and predominantly female. (just look around)

In consideration of this I ask you to think for a few moments as I speak to you, ‘is the Church fit for purpose?’ I mean of course the Church nationally.

We must then define what we mean by ‘purpose’ in this sense.
The Church is here to worship God; to proclaim Christ as Lord and Saviour who died on a Cross to pay the price for mankind’s sins; and to be the nation’s conscience on ethical and moral issues. Are you sure it is adequately fulfilling that role?
Is it making disciples?
Is it leading people to worship?
Is it teaching that Jesus is the ONLY way to God?
Does it teach that Christians must live their lives according to the rules God has laid down in Holy Scripture?

Whilst there has never been a time when all people went to Church, the majority did especially in the villages where the Church was a central and important part of life. Now the residents have lovely homes in nice areas, free from the anti social behaviour which plagues other places, yet see the Church as just a place as a nice background for weddings and baptisms, plus it adds to the charm of an English village scene. If we were to issue a letter to each household here telling them this Church was closing, there would be uproar (how dare they close our church)

This morning, I want to turn with you to the smallest book of the Bible, the Letter of Jude, and the 3rd verse.
‘Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints’; every word matters. To ‘contend’ means literally to fight and defend the gospel; we are in a battle.

‘Faith’ refers to what all Christian true believers hold in common. We accept the Bible as God’s holy Word, the virgin birth of Jesus, his sinless life, his death and resurrection, his ascension in heaven, and his second coming to the earth. It includes following the doctrines of salvation, the Holy Spirit, godly living, and all the teachings of the Bible.
This faith has been ‘entrusted’ to the saints, the biblical name for Christians, and we are called to guard and protect the truth, for Christianity is in danger of being fazed out by secularists here and in other Western Countries.
It was given ‘once and for all’. It was not a temporary statement of faith, and it was not meant to be added to, amended or re-interpreted. It was based on the teaching of the Apostles, who were commissioned by Jesus to proclaim.

Christians in this country are now facing increasing harassment by people who are intent on preventing us from speaking out on moral and ethical issues. Street preachers are especially targeted, but people are losing employment for entries in support of their faith posted in personal social media sites. Even the Courts turn against us, when it was ruled in a Bristol Court that quoting verses from the King James Version of the Bible was offensive and constituted a criminal offence and fined two preachers over £2,000for doing so. We have reached a stage where it is open season to attack the Church.

The Church nationally has failed to speak out to protect and support harassed Christians. The silence of the Church is an affront to God; it is expected to be the voice for the nation in moral matters; we should be protesting loudly.

When legislation was enacted which is in direct contravention of Scripture, and that legislation is protected from people criticising it or passing any adverse comment, the Church could not even make its mind up whether to oppose or support, as some Bishops actually rejoiced. It was a national disgrace.

Bishops are keen to write to the papers about political issues, food banks and climate change, but have left faithful Christians to suffer for fidelity to their Church and faith.` One bishop incredibly called for all Christians to fast one day a month for climate change; it didn’t occur to him to put the Church as in need of prayer and fasting.

What must be a concern is that which troubled Jude; he found preachers within the Church who were preaching false doctrine and advocating a gospel which fitted within their personal desires. They taught that the grace of God would forgive any sin; just act as you wish God will forgive you. Jude saw this as rejection of God’s word.

This is why it is so relevant for us today, for we have to face an identical situation. There are godless men, (and women) who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny the clear teaching of Jesus Christ. Every so often someone pops up calling for a back to basics campaign, but no one knows what the basics are.
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 modern ideas of morality; this suggests that God has got it wrong and He should adjust to the age.

One of the biggest problems the Church faces is apathy, it is so easy in the times we live in to opt out, saying, ‘there is no point in fighting them’, it is the way of the world. Can you imagine what would have happened if Winston Churchill had have said in 1940, ‘we must give in the Germans are too strong for us.’ We would be speaking in German. (Ich wuerde Ihnen auf Deutsche spracken)

What people fail to recognise, is that if Christianity is displaced, a spiritual vacuum is created which will surely be filled by something else, and the certainty is that it will be something quite unpleasant.

Secular humanists have set out an agenda which is well organised and aggressively pursued with the aim of changing our culture by an attack on the family, the moral climate, and to faze Christianity right out of the public arena. Inroads have been made into ethical and moral values whereby there are no absolutes and all is relative, everyone just sets up their own standards.

I accept that Ministers have the primary duty of contending for the truth. There is a reluctance by some clergy to speak out for fear of being labelled as a bigot or being discriminatory. On ordination all priests are called upon to preach the pure Word of God and to banish all false doctrine, and vow to do so.

But all be Christians must be ready to stand up and be counted. This can be done by showing an example in the way we live, doing so worthily of our Lord, lives that are distinctive, standing apart from foul talk, gossip and conduct unbecoming.
We need to be contending for the faith, especially to any non believers in our families, and challenging those who mock. Show the same commitment as Muslims do for their faith. No one pushes them around or makes any demands upon them. Have you ever heard a Muslim cleric question the Koran?

Jesus saw the world as a decaying and dark place and needing a curative effect. Jesus said the world is in darkness and needs Christians to shine in the darkness. The world in its creative state is a wonderful world, but in reality is also a place of evil and suffering.

In God’s plan the people who have been touched by the gospel have a role in influencing the world, to be as salt and light. Salt to be a cleansing influence; light to shine in dark surroundings, in which we live and work; we are the moral disinfectant. We have to stand up for Biblical ideals. We must stand firm by the Cross. If salt is mixed with impurities it loses its effect and becomes rotten like matter around it. Jesus is the light of the world and we should reflect that light in our lives.

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. How pathetic if we let some vociferous secularists silence us.

If we had to face giving up our faith (as many in Islamic lands are being challenged to do) or give up our mobile phones, which do you think we would choose. The reason why we wouldn’t want to lose our phones is that they have become a part of our lives in a way, sadly, that our faith has not. You don’t willingly suffer for something that has little personal value to you.

Rather than contend for the gospel we can deny our Lord by denying we are Christians to avoid being mocked, or to avoid embarrassment. How many are prepared even admit they attend Church. 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.

You and I are called to contend for the truth. Do not let anyone tell you that you do not count. You count tremendously, so glory in what God has called you to do and be faithful to His command. Our Lord’s last great commission was to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations; let us not fail Him.

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