Saturday 5 August 2017

1 Thessalonians 2:13-16
Its is truly a pleasure to be back here to join you in worship, I always look forward to seeing you all. I come today in two guises; one as a Circuit preacher, and also as a member and speaker for the Bible society. At the back of the Church there is a stand with some Bible Society magazines which you can take if you so wish, there is no charge, they are given free, if you wish to make a donation to the Society then that is appreciated but without any obligation.

Most thinking people will rightly wonder what the future holds for this country. At present half of the nation wants to be free from the bondage of Europe and the other half do not. This division is also played out on the political scene. We have a Prime Minister unsure of herself and her cabinet where there is more interest in personal ambition than national concern, and the main opposition party has revealed its word cannot be trusted as it is now disclosed that they lied greatly in the recent election; such is the integrity of modern day politicians

As Christians we have to be also concerned that there is massive division within the Church, where at the highest level of Office there are those more concerned with pushing so called ‘gay rights’ than what they are, by virtue of their position, called to preach, and those who see a more urgent agenda to win souls for Christ.

This was a Christian nation, and the Bible was an important and influential part of life. Our politicians were largely Church members and respected the teaching of Scripture; now that has all gone, and whilst the Church was perhaps not over evangelical, it would never have contemplated introducing services to accommodate people who wished to follow a way of life contrary to the teaching of the Bible.

In today’s Epistle, Paul was writing to a Church which was newly gathered and were facing strong opposition, as those of us who are today as we try to be faithful to the Word of God. The Jews hated the gospel and tried to hinder the preaching of it to the Gentiles. It is one thing to oppose oneself, but to try and dissuade others is wicked. This is one of the most serious sins man can commit against God, and it is happening now; the secularist agenda is to wipe Christianity out of the public arena. They seek every means to obstruct and find grounds to complain of offences committed by Christians.

If people wish to oppose our faith, that is a matter for them, God gave us all free will, nor is it phobic to state what one reads in the Bible. If a person wishes to act illegally or immorally then they must be prepared to face the consequences, and we are entitled to tell them. A preacher’s task is to tell people what they need to hear rather than what they prefer to hear. I can’t imagine any responsible preacher setting out to purposely offend anyone.

I have to friends who are in a same sex relationship and we meet socially and enjoy doing so. I expect they know my views, I suspect they may have peeped at my internet writings, but it is not for me to judge them or others, but it is my duty to preach what the Bible says.
In other words, what God has said, and He alone will be all our judge.

A very prominent pastor in the United States was once asked by a presenter on a chat show, what his opinion was regarding a moral question. He wisely stated, ‘as a pastor I do not have an opinion. If the Bible states something is wrong, I say it is wrong, but that does not mean I love you any less as a person’.

Christian Concern, a legal defence team are defending and supporting many people in the Courts of our land from people who will not allow us to express an opinion; tolerance to them is you believe what we believe, and there are no absolutes allowed, all is relative where one sets their own belief and action. And it goes on in the Church; Ministers are living lives which directly are opposed to the Bible,which is why the Church is falling apart, God builds the Church, and will not bless and support where there is flagrant abuse of His teaching, especially by those who ought to know and act better.

Paul thanks God that the Thessalonian Christians had not only welcomed God’s Word,. but had taken it into their lives; they realised the power of that Word. There is really only one issue at stake. Is the Bible the Word of God and will we insist that our ministers preach the divine inspiration of the Bible? Everything else is secondary.

This is the hearing of the heart. There is a difference because it’s very possible to come to Church and listen to a sermon and then dismiss what you hear; happily I think most people do try to let it have an effect

In saying all of this, I point out that our heritage lies with those who believe the Bible. Much has changed. I’m sure that John and Charles Wesley would hardly recognize our church today. They knew nothing about computers, or any modern technology. But one thing would please them; there are still some of us who believe the Bible as faithfully as they did.

That’s why the debate over the nature of the Bible is so crucial. If the Bible is the word of God, then it is utterly and completely authoritative, and if it is faithfully preached, what the preacher states is what God has said; he/she is speaking for God. If the Bible is the word of God, it is utterly exclusive in its claims. It does not ask or seek for our approval, and it does not need or allow any subtraction, addition or amendment. God never asks us to correct the New Testament. The Bible stands approved as read.

Verse 14 warns that once you declare yourself a Christian, and then emphasise by saying you believe the Bible is fundamental to your life, you will find you are not as popular as you were amongst your friends and even in some cases family as well. I once had a lady who was told by her husband she had to make a choice, the Church or him, one had to go. Young people now find this a problem with parents.Being a Bible believing Christian means accepting the opposition it brings.

In verses 15/16. Paul turns to the function of ministry, how pastors have the responsibility to both their Church and the people within them. They are called to define clearly the gospel coming from God in unshakable conviction, and realising their commitment to proclaim it; there is no room for doubts. Church leaders making changes to Scripture to be more pleasing to society, which is contrary to the solemn vows they made at ordination to guard and teach the gospel as it was written, and some preach with reluctance and diffidence, which is a disgrace to the Church and offensive to God.

Verse 16 tells us two things about God’s judgment. There is a limit, a line, and a point of no return for each person. If a person wishes to go on offending God they must realise that whilst God is a patient and forgiving God, and a God of love, He is also a God of wrath for those who deliberately challenge Him.

Coming back to politicians, they need to be reminded God passes judgment on any society that rejects his Word. Western nations have turned their backs on God and we are seeing some of he consequences. People may mock those of us who speak of God’s judgement, but look at the mess here in Britain and the United States. Our nations had two disastrous leaders in Cameron and Obama who not only redefined God’s teaching of marriage, but the same men tried to impose on other nations. If you believe the Bible, you must accept its judgment on society.

Some years ago there was a well known man appointed as a bishop who upset many believers by mocking the resurrection story and Virgin birth, the rock of our faith. When the time came for him to be consecrate at York Minster one evening, there was a flash of lightning struck the Church blowing the roof off. There was no record of lightning in any other place close to the Minster, just that one spot and people say they did not hear thunder. A lot of people believed God was answering, but others just laughed at the suggestion of God being involved. The Archbishop of York at the time was quite offensive in response to the suggestion saying God would not do such a thing. He obviously did not know his bible well enough or would have known it says, 'See how God spreads His lightning around.' (Job 30 v 36)It was an amazing coincidence, almost beyond belief, if it was a coincidence. Why do people think God is unable or unwilling to make Himself known?

Above all, let us as Believers not drift away from our spiritual moorings, like some who let them get carried away by every wind of public opinion. We do not need public opinion to tell us what to believe, God has already told us. We must be like Martin Luther, whose 500th anniversary we celebrate in October and say. ‘Here we stand. We can do no other’; even when it will not find favour with those unbelievers around us.

Never be afraid to make your Christian belief known. This does not mean you have to go to excesses, just to let it be known you attend your Church.

We have as a Church the great message that no only we can tell, and we should not avoid doing so. That God in His great mercy and grace sent Jesus to lead people to salvation, and died on the Cross so that all who believe in Him and accept Him as Lord and Saviour will have their sins forgiven and be fit to live eternally with Him in heaven.

We are not as fortunate as the United States where they have wonderful large Churches with outstanding ministries which reach out across the world, but there are preachers around this country in various Churches who are getting that message out, may God bless them and their ministry. The Chief Executive of Christian Concern, who is a barrister and a member of the Church of England Synod,is an oustanding Christian speaker, whose gift is far too limited; certainly the most inspiring and devotional one I have heard. And she is not a Reverend, or Very Reverend or Right/Most Reverend, just Andrea Williams.

In the absence of any personality on the Christian scene at national level in the Church, each local Church must be its own evangelical witness. I pray that this lovely Church here will do so and stand out as a beacon love and hope to all who pass and live by.

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