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.

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