Sunday 29 October 2017

Today is Bible Sunday when we give thanks to God for His Holy Word which gives us guidance for living.

I want to speak on why the Bible is so important in the life of the Church, and the need to call people back to it. The
most essential purpose of the Church is to call people of this nation back to the Bible, and all of us in the Church should dedicate ourselves to do this. I believe the state we find ourselves in is due the departure from the Word of God.

We often hear it claimed that all religions are the same and all lead to God. This is unequivocally discredited by the Bible. Jesus said,‘no one comes to the Father except through me.’ If we say that all religions are the same, we are challenging Jesus and so lose our right to call ourselves Christian.

Islam, for example, worships Allah and maintains God has no Son, denying the divinity of Christ. Whilst Islam has a stronger moral and ethical belief than many Christians have, and we respect their beliefs, we cannot equate equality.

If we have any concern for the future of Christianity in this country, we need to change direction from the present way we are going.

The purpose of the Church is to preach the gospel message contained in the Bible, which we acknowledge is the authoritative Word of God, and provide spiritual teaching from the Book. This is what makes us unique and special, if we fail to do so, there can be no purpose in there being a Church, we just become an irrelevancy.

People need to be reminded of the part this Book played in the history of our nation. The true greatness was laid down by men in government who believed this to be the Word of the living God, as compared to government under David Cameron which seemed determined to overrule God, consistently departing from God’s truth.

Never has society exerted its own will against God as now. Trouble will always abound when God is rejected. The Bible states the way that God punishes people is by abandoning them to themselves, and says you have turned your back on me, so get on with things.

This weekend also marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The Church was born on Pentecost Sunday after the Ascension of Jesus, and the foundation was the teaching of the Apostles, who were instructed by Jesus, who commanded them to take the gospel to the world and make disciples. The Apostles did this and the gospel spread quickly without any of the wonderful technological aids we enjoy. Over the years men added unnecessary and false doctrines which changed the message.

In 1517 an unknown monk in the German town of Wittenberg recognised the abuses of the Roman Church and posted an article of 95 theses on a church door in the town, intending it to start a debate, but instead he unwittingly started a revolution and changed the world. Martin Luther recalled the Church to the gospel and created the Protestant Reformation. On Tuesday it is the 500th anniversary
Of that action.

Luther was lecturing on Paul’s Letter to the Romans and in verses 16/17 found the words which are at the heart of the gospel, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

First for the Jew, then for the Gentile. To the Jew first and also to the Gentile. 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 and for the state of Israel, which is the only nation in the Middle East where Christians can live without persecution.

This motivated Luther to write his theses, one of which states ‘the true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.’ This is the message the Church should now be preaching, but instead too many are more concerned with following an equality agenda which is obsessing the country. Luther’s stance was that any issue which tended to overshadow the gospel must be ignored and abandoned. He recalled the Church to follow he gospel.

Figures have just been released for Church attendance and are frightening; it looks as is the Church is falling apart. We desperately need to recall the Church back to the gospel as we see it flagrantly abandoning the teaching our Lord gave. Until we get back to the teaching of the Apostles there will be little improvement.

We have services of baptism in which we encourage people to make false promises; we tell that ways of living which are expressly deemed wrong in Scripture are perfectly acceptable; we hold funeral services which we infer heaven is open to all irrespective of their lack of belief in Jesus as the only way to God.

We 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. We live in a very aggressive secular society, one in which there are numerous minority groups who expect and demand consideration above their proportion. If we are to face the challenges of the day, we have to be people of the Bible, which is why sound doctrine has to be given.

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.

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. We should all be preaching on the same lines.

The Bible states the gospel is the power of God leading to salvation for all who believe. 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.

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.

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. 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.

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’.

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.

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.
Paul said, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel’, and neither am I.

Saturday 21 October 2017

Matthew 22 v.15/22

When we study a Bible passage there are three points to consider, what is it saying; what does it mean; how is it relevant to us in the Church today.

We are continuing the Lectionary journey through Matthew’s gospel where Jesus has been rebuking the chief priests and leaders of the Jews in Jerusalem for not giving proper guidance to the people and for disobeying God. Now those men have joined together and are preparing to set a trap question for Jesus, hoping to discredit Him in front of a gathered crowd. So united are they that two parties, normally divided opponents, have joined together.

The country was occupied by the Roman army and the authorities had put in place three taxes. One was a produce tax which people had to pay, a tax partly with produce and money. The second was an income tax of 1% of income. The third was a poll tax which was paid by all aged 14/65 and amounted to a denarius. It was this coin which was to be centre of the question; a denarius was a coin on which was stamped the head image of the Emperor.

Jesus was told how wise and clever before asking ‘is it right to pay taxes to Caesar’? They had tried force, now resorted to flattery This placed Jesus in an awkward situation for if He said yes it is, that would upset the Jews who thought only God was a king, and it was not right to call anyone else a king and pay tax, one which they resented and hated. If Jesus had said it wasn’t right they would have reported Him to the Romans for Him to be arrested and punished. Therefore it seemed to them He would be caught out whichever way He answered.

Jesus asked to see and then took the coin, and asked whose head it was on the coin. When they said it was Caesar, He told them to pay to Caesar what was due to Him, and render unto God what belongs to God.

Jesus in His wisdom never laid down regulations, but gave principles which are why His teaching is timeless, but people find them uncomfortable and try to suggest they only applied to the days of Jesus’ time on earth.

We now have to apply the teaching of Jesus to Christians and the Church in the present day, for the words of Jesus are enduring for people of all ages even though so many hears have passed.

Render to God what belongs to God. If Jesus was here today I am sure He would have much rebuking to give to the leaders of the Church for the way they have failed Him, led people astray and cast aside much of what God laid down in Scripture, which Jesus endorsed.

Whilst it may be unfair to all Christians, but is factual, is that the Church of England in this country sets the image for people by what it says and does, for they command the attention of the press, being the established and largest Church. I regret so much they are not creating a right or desirable image, although other denominations are failing somewhat, and it appears to me only the black Pentecostal Churches are endeavouring to be faithful to the Bible.

We are not rendering to God what belongs to Him. He gave us the Bible and a large part of the Church is using only parts which please them. If anyone read the report of the last general Synod of the Church of England they could be excused for thinking it referred to some secularist institution.

Bishops were proposing legislation which flew in the face of what God has laid down; they overruled His Word blatantly; and whilst officially opposing same sex marriage, are now proposing services of blessing for that which they are supposed to not support. Services are to be formed to cater for purposes, which again are against God’s teaching. It has become in places an apostate Church, as will any other which adopts the same practices. This is quite shameful and completely against the stated beliefs and Articles of the Church

Next Sunday is Bible Sunday; this service was once held on the 2nd Sunday of Advent, but for some reason I cannot trace, was moved to the last Sunday in October, when individual churches can decide whether to follow the normal lectionary or the special bible readings. To do this demeans the Bible and reveals what part it plays in the life of the Church.

In Acts we read of the first Christian Church meeting devotedly to the teaching of the Apostles, which became the foundation for the Church. Our Lord’s last words were for the Apostles to go into all the world and make followers. This they did without any of the wonderful technological aids we have.

From the earliest days the Church has always been under attack and whilst we face an aggressive and forceful secular lobby, our most insidious foe is the liberal wing of the Church, which wants to rewrite the Bible to ignore all that does not meet modern thinking. We are consequently losing member at an alarming rate without attracting new people, for we have nothing special to give which they cannot find outside he Church.

Life for many young people today can be very hectic and full of pressure. The Church should be a place where they can find hope, peace, comfort and reassurance. Unless we speak the things of Jesus we will not meet their needs, and it is tragic if we let a vociferous minority impose the things of Caesar unto God to satisfy their desires. We must get back to the teaching of the Apostles.

We tell of God making a beautiful world for man woman and child to live in mutual love and happiness, but we have all fallen short of God’s expectations. Jesus was sent into the world and suffered a cruel death on the Cross so that all misdoings and sins could be forgiven by God, and all who are prepared to believe in Jesus and accept they are forgiven because of His death, will be forgiven. But this requires more than a verbal promise, we must follow the teaching given to us in the manual God provided for our guidance and observance; it is called the Bible.

To day we are witnessing people at all levels in the Church, clergy and lay, who are flagrantly disobeying that teaching and acting in a way which is clearly wrong. In the case of clergy, this is a complete disregard of the vows made in front of God in His house. Such will be remembered when one day Jesus is faced.

Let us all re-commit ourselves to render unto God those things belonging to God.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

What an unpleasant world we are living in, so much hypocrisy and urge of people to slur those no longer in this world and so unable to defend themselves. Are the police encouraging this by their enthusiasm in pursuing them?

The Chief Constable of Wiltshire has spent a lot money on investigating allegations against an ex Prime Minister, irrespective of the effect it will have on active (live) policing, and to what effect? Nasty suggestions, which cannot be proved or disproved, are being levelled against a dead man. Why were they not made when he was able to defend himself? How reliable are the alleged victims?

Having one dead Bishop castigated as a villain and predator, which could be but may not be true, we now have another Bishop named across the newspapers as an abuser of men and women. I knew Bishop Whitsey, he was my bishop and I found him to be a kind, considerate, understanding man, who was also a polite and courteous man.

I met him on numerous occasions and find it hard to believe the alleged crimes he is now accused of THIRTY years after his death. I know fellow clergymen who would confirm his concern for any of his clergy and would always be ready to visit any of them who were taken ill or had a problem. I have read the words of one of his accusers and am not impressed. He states he is mentally affected twenty years after meeting the bishop, and his desired career was abandoned because of the experience, I think this raises the question would he ever have been suitable for the ministry when one considers what he would have had to meet up with.

If the police in Cheshire can devote 13 months into investigating this matter, it would be most interesting to note the real crime statistics.

It is all so easy for example to take the putting of an arm around a shoulder as a friendly gesture of concern,and turn it into an allegation of abuse.

I think it all rather disgusting and tawdry and I am surprised leading clergy are rushing to apologise beforeany guilt established. If it takes all this time to get upset, then one must wonder on the credibility of the amount of stress suffered. We have all been young at one time, but most of us would have reacted positively if anyone laid an improper hand on us; we certainly would never have considered making allegations against the dead.

Remember how many mocked Cliff Richards who suffered real distress when he was so publicly named by an accuser thirty years later after an alleged assault. The police had to shamefully back off for lack of any evidence.

I will be amazed if the police can establish anything improper about Victor Whitsey. He was known as a man’s man, achieved high military rank prior to ministry, and until proved to be true surely honour and fidelity requires no condemnation.

Saturday 14 October 2017

The gospel passage comes from the 22nd Chapter of Matthew’s gospel and is the parable of the wedding feast. This is one of a series of parables our Lord is delivering in which He exposes the failures of the chief priests and leaders of Israel, and rebukes them for allowing the people to ignore Him as the Messiah, and their general disobedience to God.

If Jesus was here to day He would most certainly be rebuking the chief priests of the Church as they let the Church drift away from its moorings of the Bible, to sail off into the muddy waters of society, and to allow and make provision to embrace and accept behaviour which is incompatible with Scripture, and for acceptance to the Kingdom of God.

There is a picture of a king who wants to give a feast for the marriage of his son, and such a feast would traditionally last for days. In accordance with Jewish tradition invitations would be sent out to the proposed guests without any set time the being stated, but when the food and preparations were complete servants would be sent out to say all was ready and for them to attend.

At first guests were making excuses, which were received badly by the King for it would be considered insulting, and when further servants went out they were brutally treated and even murdered. The king was furious and sent his army to kill the murderers and burn their city.

The king decided the feast would not fail and ordered his men to go out and bring all outsiders to the table. One man was seen not wearing a wedding garment and so upset the king who had him bound and thrown out.

The meaning is the king represents God; the son is Jesus; the servants are the prophets and John the Baptist; and the outsiders are the Gentiles. The feast is for the coming of Jesus into the world, and likened to the gospel story of salvation. Like all the teachings of Jesus, there is an enduring lesson for each age, no less than our time.

The Bible throughout reveals that God chose Israel out of all nations to be His specially chosen one; God has also given advantages and blessings to other nations, which Jesus indicated would happen in the parable. He said the hand of God which was first intended for the Jew would be extended and given to both Jews and Gentiles.

What is a matter of concern for Christians is that there are far too many men, and now women, holding office in the Church, some in high places who want to re-interpret the Bible to fit in with modern populist thought. Let us be honest, there are not just a few within the Church, whose style of life will not be accepted by Jesus the supreme judge, and it is particularly unacceptable for clergy who are here to preach the gospel, to be unworthy. They are acting like the chief priests who Jesus is here condemning for disobeying God by not following His teaching, and will have to answer for so doing.

We can’t just be holy on Sundays and revert to any lifestyle we choose for the rest of the week.

There are plenty of people who have little time for Christianity, their own lives are too important to them to be involved with the Church. Others are openly hostile and only mention the name of Jesus as an expletive. Christianity is not the gloomy faith that is often painted by many who fear they will lose too much pleasure if they become Christians.

This parable tells us all are invited to the feast, but many people are so concerned for their present life they are losing the chance of eternal life. In all His teaching Jesus made it clear this life is a preparation for an after life. He never avoided pointing out this meant there were two alternative places heaven or hell. People say God would never send anyone to hell, and that is true He lets us make the decision by how we live our life now.

We are reminded that the appeal of Christ to us is not so much to consider how we will be punished if we challenge God, who expressed His way, but how much we will lose if we don’t follow His teaching. Those who did not go to the wedding were punished but their real tragedy was they lost the joy of the feast.

We are being offered the chance to be taken into the presence of God, and be given a place in heaven. If we do not follow Christ some day our greatest pain will be in the realisation of the precious things of which we have denied ourselves by doing our own thing. In the last analysis, God’s invitation to us is of His amazing grace.

God is still offering a place in heaven to all who will seek His Son. There is no charge, which has already been paid by Jesus when He died on the Cross to cleanse us of all sin. We do have to put our faith and trust in Jesus and realise there is no other way to God except through Him.

God is making it all so easy by providing all we need. The Son has put us right with God and the Father will pardon and receive us. In addition He has given us written guidance for our lives by providing the Bible which will set out His plan.

All false religion will one day be exposed. God sees into our hearts and just as the king threw out the man at the wedding for being improperly dressed, so God will not enter unto His kingdom those who ignored Him in this life.

The second part of the reading puzzles many people; why was the man so roughly treated as to justify being thrown out.

Jesus is portraying the Gentiles being gathered in together with sinners. Whilst the door is still open to all, when they come they must come with a life that is going to measure up to the love which has been shown to them. A person cannot go on living a kind of life lived before coming to Christ, there must be purity, holiness and goodness. A sinner may come but cannot remain a sinner.

There is also a lesson in that the way a person comes demonstrates the spirit in which they come. If you go to a person’s home for dinner, you don’t go in the clothes you wear to the gardening. It may not matter to the friend, but out of courtesy and respect we present ourselves worthy of the invitation and kindness shown to us.

So when we come to worship we don’t need to be on a fashion parade, but I think some of the sights I have seen are quite offensive. Such dressing would not be worn if the person was visiting royalty or at a civic function, why on earth do they think they should come to the king of king’s house. I watch the services from America and the people dress most smartly worthy of meeting the Lord.

The dressing of our minds however is of prime importance as we should dress in clothes of expectation, coming in clean hearts and minds, with humble penitence, faith and reverence. In His Holy Word God said He should be worshipped with reverence and awe.

This is why I cannot bring myself to baptism services. Baptism is a most sacred sacrament in which a person has been touched by God and has opened their heart to receive Christ. There is a sense of repentance and commitment, and in the Bible that is when people were baptised. The Church in its dubious wisdom opened the way for children of committed Christian parents to be baptised, but in many cases this has been adopted to include all and sundry who make promises they have no intention of keeping.

I can’t go into this any more deeply on account of time, but it is a mockery to say a child is born again, one of the most evangelically treasured phrases, and to ask the parents if they have repented of sin and turned to Christ. Apart from the fact most have no idea what is called for, if they did some would find it hard to answer truthfully.

So the meaning of the parable is clear. God has provided the feast of the kingdom. It is the wedding feast for his Son. The invitation goes out far and wide. Many are invited, but few show by their response that they are chosen.

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Nehemiah 8 ,v.1 to 4, 8 to 12
This morning I want to turn with you to the reading from the Book of Nehemiah. We do not study the Old Testament very often, so it may make an interesting change.

Nehemiah was a Jew, taken into exile by the Babylonians and after they had been defeated by the Persians, he became a cup bearer to the King, later becoming civil governor of Jerusalem.

The people of Israel had been taken into captivity and after 70 years were returning to Jerusalem, their spiritual homeland then in ruins, to rebuild their lives and homes. The walls of the city had been destroyed and needed to be rebuilt. This was completed with great and concentrated effort.

On completion Nehemiah knew that there then was a need for a firm spiritual and moral foundation. He realised that a nation needs more than material works and wealth, it needs a spiritual dimension. Today so many people are greatly affected by the philosophy of the world, and are too ready to follow ideas and fashion from the media, ideas and attitudes that we are hardly aware of as being wrong, but feel compelled to adopt.

People are not sure what to believe, especially when the Churches are unsure of what they believe. People outside of the Church see us engaging in arguments over matters when we have the Word Of God to provide answers.

So on the first day of the seventh month, probably mid September, Ezra the priest was sent for to bring the Scriptures which had been given by the Lord. The place where they met was by the Water Gate, the seventh gate, a prominent number to the Jews, a number signalling perfection. There were a series of gates, sheep, fish, east, etc. this gate was the symbol of the Word of God -- the water of the Word, the reviving power of the Word of God. There could have been no more appropriate place for them to assemble.

Ezra read it aloud from daybreak till noon to all the people in the square. This indicates the tremendous desire of these people for truth. They listened and the fact that they stood for so long shows how much they wanted to hear from God. They were simply crying out for His guidance. They were not looking at the clock to see if the service went over the bare hour.

Today, people see the truth as being what each person reckons as being most suitable to their needs, which is why they lose their moral compass and just drift in a confused state.

How sad that now so many young people have no opportunity of hearing the Word of God. No longer is it taught in many state schools, and parents have neither the knowledge nor the will to teach or even encourage them to do so. A generation is growing up without any knowledge of their Christian heritage. There are wonderful modern translations which put the Scriptures so clearly.

Muslim children learn long passages of the Koran and are encouraged by their parents. Jewish children are taught the Commandments according to the instruction in Deuteronomy. The ten fingers are used to relate to the ten Commandments

Sadly religion is being phased out of the majority of peoples lives, aided by a secular press, an anti-Christian judiciary and political establishment largely devoid of Christian belief.

Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform. At one time central pulpits were common in the Free Churches, and I do have the pleasure and joy of preaching in a Methodist Church where they still have the pulpit in the centre and high. In the Church of Scotland, it used to be a custom for the Beadle to open the service by carrying aloft the Bible down the centre of the Church to place upon a lectern.

Then we learn with what care it was made clear what the meaning of Scripture was. They read from the Book of the Law of God, giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. The purpose of every act of worship is to hear from the Word of God, not some lecture on climate change.

It is vital that the Church teaches in simple terms. One of the greatest communicators was William Barclay, who put things so clearly that all who read his writing came away with an understanding of the passage. He also gave an impartial exposition which it is the duty of every preacher with integrity. We are there to teach Scripture, not engage in some academic or intellectual alternative.

This teaching of Ezra had such a profound effect upon the people that we are told they wept as they listened. They did so because they realised how their lives had gone astray and they had wrong thoughts and ways. These people saw the holiness of God contrasted against the evil of man.

They felt convicted about the way they had been living their lives. We all need to examine our lives from time to time to see what needs to be corrected. Sometimes however, people feel they are too great a sinner to approach God, but He is ready to forgive and forget because of the sacrifice made by Jesus on the Cross. The Bible states, ‘there is no condemnation for those who have accepted Jesus Christ’

There is general agreement that a severe moral decline has occurred in the world, allied to the decline in religion and especially with the disregarding of the Bible. The Bible provided a foundational basis by which people were guided.

The two great Presidents in America’s past, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, were devout Bible readers who let it guide their great responsibilities and made no secret of the fact. Many other leaders of that nation were similarly influenced, but sadly the present one does not appear to be. Anyone in doubt should read his inauguration address

Christians should be eager to read the Bible, and thereby be made more aware of God’s intention for this life. It would be interesting to know how many Church members actually read their Bible at home. For many Christians, the only Bible connection they have is from the readings in the Sunday service. A Bible Society study revealed 40% of Church members do not read the Bible at home.

During his Crusades Billy Graham would ask the people if they had brought a Bible to hold it up, and thousands of Bibles were raised. Such days and practices are now long gone. Some Churches still have Bibles in pews so that lessons can be followed and the preacher can be tested against Scripture.

It may be asked, ‘why do I need to read the Bible?’ The Bible gives us access to the mind of God. The more we read the more we will know God’s intention for us. Just as you spend more time in a person’s company you get to know them better, so as you spend time with God through His Word, the better you will know Him.

The whole Bible is about God’s offer of salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. We need the Bible to have a relationship with God and it brings us into the presence of God. All true Christian ministries should be based on the Bible; it is our only authority for the Church to exist.

When the word is opened up, people begin to understand themselves. This is the great thing about Scripture. When you know God you begin to understand yourself, because you are made in the image of God. These people in Jerusalem were soon growing in self-knowledge as they began to hunger for the Word of God.

The great tragedy of our day is how few churches seem to understand this power of Scripture. Across the country there are churches in which there is little life. The services are dull and dreary because the Word of God is not central. Whenever there has been a revival in the Church at the forefront were men like Charles and John Wesley or Evan Roberts in the 1904 Welsh revival, men who were boldly preaching the Bible.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of the greatest preachers of modern times once stated, ‘the primary task of the Church and Christian Ministers is the preaching of the Word of God. The decadent times in the history of the Church have always been when such preaching has declined.’

Of all that is happening today, the most frightening thing is the lack of a sense of sin in society, a total lack of moral values. People are doing terrible things -- murdering one another, raping one another, hurting each other right and left -- but they do not feel they are doing anything wrong. That is what the Word of God is given to correct. It awakens afresh an awareness of what is causing the wrong.

We learn from the Scriptures that as individuals, and as a nation, we have turned our backs on God's ways and wisdom. We have ignored his laws. We have missed the glory of his plan. We have messed up the beautiful world that he gave us. When we see the sad results and hear them poured into our ears continually by the media, it makes us weep, doesn't it? It makes us sorrow for all the fine young people who are being destroyed by these terrible practices.

The reason for Scripture is that it reveals God to us and the relationship is so real and personal that it seems to be a face to face encounter. No other book has such power to transport us beyond earth to heavenly places.
If the churches of this land saw the Bible in that light, and listened attentively and eagerly to what it was saying, and learned how to conduct their lives according to the wisdom of this Word, do you think our world would be in the condition that it is today? I am sure your answer is "No." We desperately need the wisdom of the Word to instruct us how to live.

The primary business of Christians is to understand the Word of God so as to think God's thoughts after him -- to learn to think like God. It is not only important to know what the Scripture says, it is even more important to know what it means!

Monday 2 October 2017

Matthew 21 v 33/46 Part2

Before we look at Jesus’ Parable of the Vineyard, we need to understand the setting in which it occurs in the Gospel.
Jesus has finished his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem and has made his triumphal entry into the Holy City. The entry provoked those who were inclined to deny his spiritual authority. The stage was now set for the telling of the parable.

Jesus was being interrogated by the chief priests and the teachers of the law as He arrived in Jerusalem on the final stage of His journey to the Cross. He had caused a sensation when He threw the money changers out of the Temple and was defeating His interrogators when He told them this parable. The Jews knowing the Old Testament would have clearly understood what Jesus saying was based on a passage from Isaiah

It was a common practice for wealthy Jews or foreigners to own farms and then rent them out to tenant farmers. The land would be fenced in to set boundaries and to keep out intruders.

Jesus spoke about a master who rented out his vineyard in which there would be a winepress and a watch tower. The grapes would be crushed and the juice would run through a pipe into a deep compartment and then put into jars. The watchtower was for a man to keep watch for impending animals or thieves.

At harvest time the owner sent his servants to collect his share of the yield which the tenant was expected to have ready.The tenants proved to be wicked men, dishonest and cruel and when they arrived to collect the fruit they were refused and one servant was severely beaten, another was killed outright and a third was stoned to death.

It may be thought the master would have acted equally as violent in response to the death of his servants, but he did not rather giving the tenants another chance. He sent further servants and they were similarly treated.
In desperation he finally sent his son believing they would not kill him but they did. The chief priests listening knew that Jesus was getting at them.

The vineyard in the story represents Israel and the master to be God. The servants are the Old Testament prophets who God sent to guide Israel into lives of righteousness and obedience to God,. The Son of course was Jesus.

Jesus was explaining what was going to happen in Jerusalem. He had come to seek and to save that which was lost. He had come in order to draw men to himself,in just a few days after these words were spoken,He was going to offer himself as a sacrifice for sin.

The kingdom of salvation will then be taken from them and given to the Gentiles. Jesus is the chosen but rejected stone of God’s building. In other words, this parable told the people how God viewed them, as his defiant and rebellious people who had taken for granted all the privileges he’d given them, the covenants and promises and his shepherding care. The parable told them of their responsibilities which they’d dismissed. Finally it told them of the consequences facing them of killing God’s Son.

The Bible throughout reveals that God chose Israel out of nations to be His specially chosen one and this can be understood by the way Israel has prospered down the ages. Just in our lifetime we saw how the combined military might of all the surrounding Arab nations attacked Israel, a country only the size of Wales, yet within seven days Israel triumphed and defeated her attackers. Military experts have agreed that it is beyond human experience and understanding that this could have happened without divine involvement.

In addition most technological, medical, and agricultural discoveries and inventions have originated in Israel and been made available for the benefit of people across the world. More nobel prizes for science and arts have been awarded to Jews than any other nation. But still they have abandoned God and often suffered the consequences.

God has also given advantages and blessings to other nations, which Jesus indicated would happen in the parable. He said the hand of God which was first intended for the Jew would be extended and given to both Jews and Gentiles.

Jesus said the answer is simple; the tenants were not satisfied with being tenants they wanted to be owners. A tenant is someone who is accountable to someone else and pays rent. Jesus is pointing out the same is true of human beings generally, we are accountable also to God. We owe Him a debt of moral obedience who gave us such a beautiful world to live in and we have to pay the debt.

Jesus pointed out that responsibility involves two people. Our moral nature demands that as we were put on this earth as tenants, we owe God our creator. We are often not content to be just tenants in the vineyard and to give some fruit back to God

Jesus said the corner stone was the most important stone for the building and is central to the building, now Jesus himself; the builders are the leaders of Israel, and they are about to crucify him, and they assume that they can get away with that. Jesus says the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. He is actually talking about his resurrection when He overcomes the death they thought they had accomplished.

Finally Jesus shows us the patience of God who has given rebel human beings the opportunity one after another to repent only to be treated with neglect. But God is full of grace and mercy and is always ready to offer, but His patience is not infinite.

The passage end with the chief priests wanting to arrest Jesus so as to silence Him, and this is what is happening in this and other Western countries; an attempt to silence Jesus. All Christians must unite to make sure they don’t succeed.

Whilst the parable was told many years ago to Israel it would be a mistake to think it has no meaning or lesson for us. The words of Jesus are everlasting and apply to our lives equally. We learn how the generosity that God shows can be rejected and not appreciated, and the response that He expects be avoided.

The United Kingdom has had experience of God’s concern with many blessings. We have however allowed the secularists to exercise their agenda, which is to drive Christianity right out of the public arena, and create an atmosphere where any criticism of the most minor kind, or to an alternative opinion, of the oppressive political correctness, is to be labelled bigotry or one of the many kinds of phobia which now exist. The Bible is so little known by people under the age of 40 years that we are no better than a pagan nation.

This is why so many things have gone wrong and will continue to do so and dreams of a better society are just a fantasy. What the country will be like in twenty years is just too horrific to imagine, unless there is a spiritual and moral revival.

Clergy in all times and places are put on notice by the Parable of the Vineyard. Jesus is the owner of the vineyard, the Lord of the Church. All clergy are appointed to be faithful servants, but we see instances where the leaders are acting more like the chief priests and failing to fulfil their responsibilities to the owner of the vineyard.

A most relevant problem to the Church, and one of the reasons for such low attendances I believe, is the lack of credibility of the current Church. If you studied the report of the last General Synod of the Church of England, you could reasonably ask if it was truly doing its task of preaching the Christian gospel; there is no accord on what it believes and it is certainly not fulfilling our Lord’s last commission to preach the gospel to all people; but it is not confined just to the Church of England.

We have the opportunity through the ministry of the Bible to be close to God, but the Church, with the exception of the (black) Pentecostal Churches, has largely turned from the original writing of the Bible to follow an adapted version which caters for the culture of society. This has happened with the approval of some bishops. . The Bible seems to have become a rough guide, to be applied when it is convenient. God has the right to expect a less rebellious attitude and more obedience to His given Word.

Ministers in the Church must accept their first duty is to teach God’s Word, as it is written in Scripture, not as they might like it to be written. But even more; by their life and action to live the Bible.

It is a sad fact that there are those in ministry whose priority is to further their own careers and consequently steer away from giving answers and guidance on moral and social issues.

Lay people have an essential part to play .In daily living to remember the responsibility of acting worthily of the Lord and not succumbing to the inevitable pressures faced by the majority who will be unbelievers.

This basic and fundamental rejection of God tells you what is wrong with human nature. Whilst we accept there are those who are sinful and blind to their sinfulness, there are far too many people who claim to be religious without there being very much credibility to their claim. They attend Church, profess to be holy and good people, sing enthusiastically and listen to the Bible being read, but it means so little to them because they have their own ideas and desires as to how much they will accept.

We see how human irresponsibility can get out of control when activists in the political scene call for widespread civil disobedience to bring down a democratically elected government just because it doesn’t please them or satisfy their personal ambitions, which is very wrong, even if the government is lacking somewhat.

The moral bid for autonomy has led to us throwing off our debt to God, doing what we like with His creation causing ecological problems which the Green Party are fond of telling us about. The greed of humans, the selfishness and the concern for without responsibility, and the resentment against authority has led to political rebellion, combined with the obsession for so called equality without realising we can be perfectly equal without all being robotically the same.

Remember the words of God, ‘if my people, who are called by my name, pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will heal their land.’

My God bless you and be at Church on Sunday