Saturday 25 November 2017

Whose side is the Church on—Jesus or the world? Luke 14 v.25/34

By the term ‘Church’, I mean the entire membership at all levels in all denominations.
This may at first seem a ridiculous and pointless question, but I ask all who hear or read, (for it is in a fuller version on the internet) to think of your own belief, faith, and most importantly consider your response.

Whenever Jesus preached He had two effects on His listeners, they were either saved or offended and stopped listening. If I should inadvertently offend anyone I ask you to consider why you are offended; is it because something said makes your conscience feel guilty or makes you feel uncomfortable because it is being pointed out you are doing something you should not be?

It has been my privilege and joy to be able to take services at a large number of Churches in and around Bedford, but few have congregations above 30. When I revisit some time later, I notice it is smaller. Some of course will have gone to be with the Lord, but other just have fallen away, perhaps disheartened by what they are not hearing. We should be asking why? How many are followed up to find the cause of leaving; that may be able to help us do better. Remember the parable of the lost sheep, and how heaven rejoices when one sinner returns to follow Christ.

In our gospel passage, Jesus said we have to give Him first consideration in life, even above family. He used the word ‘hate’ our dearest, but in the understanding of that time this meant loving less. He had not intention of us hating our own family; that would have been against all else He had preached.

An example of what He was getting is what happens very often in families where a parent does not want their child to become a Christian, or even a bit religious. Husbands and wives are vulnerable too, as a lot of men object to their wives spending time at Church. One wonderful lady in a past Church of mine had a husband who worked on an oil rig and was away for long periods, but he found she was attending Church regularly and told her she had a choice, him or the Church. From her position she chose him to preserve the marriage and think of the children; she had such a personality many were influenced by her.

Much Christian work has been stifled because children say they want Sundays for other things - sport, parties - so whole families are kept away from Christian services. But of course we rationalise it - we don't want to make Christianity too hard otherwise it might put them off, so we have to make it convenient. But that's not what Jesus says here.

Jesus expects us to put Him before all else. This does not mean living a sort of monastic life, but it does mean we may have to change some ways of our life. He does however give us a choice, if you follow me He said.

Jesus said, ‘Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.’ This is the demand to put Christ before self. To carry a cross was a public statement that the one was to die.

Jesus was calling on His followers to die to their own indulgence and follow the way of life He had laid down,
which will inevitably mean going against the tide of society’s culture; not engaging in any activity which is contrary to Holy Scripture.

Modern man/woman want to challenge this and point out it is the 21st century and they have the right to join that culture, but Jesus said unless you follow all that I taught you "cannot be my disciple." Jesus is not willing to enter into a debate He wants to take your life mind, body and soul.

When you give your life to Christ, you change your way of living. You cannot live the same old life. You cannot go on living for the world. You cannot go on letting materialism and secularism control your thinking and your way of living. You now live for Christ. You now live in the fellowship of the church. He does however give us a choice, if you follow me

Today the Church is very ready and willing to accommodate the modern attitude and change the gospel message. The problem with that is you try to appeal to a generation and indulge them when there is little chance of a seismic change of mind, and in the process lose, as we are doing, the more established older generation. People to day are not prepared to deny the temptations we face; it means you really do become non conformist

If however we look at the Pentecostal Churches, especially those led by lack pastors, and even evangelical churches in the main denominations, there is massive support from all age ranges. We don’t need to change the Bible and adopt gimmicks which offer small returns, just get back to the Bible

We must strive to tell how Jesus can make such a difference in a person’s life, having a divine presence in all our hours of need and worry.

Jesus said, ‘I will build my Church’, and on the day of Pentecost it was born. The foundation of the Church was the teaching of the Apostles who of course were taught by our Lord Himself.

Twelve men who revolutionised the world having committed their lives to Jesus with whom they had lived, seen die, and come back to life.

So if we can truly claim to be an Apostolic Church, we must teach all that commanded that Jesus commanded, social, moral, and spiritual. In other words, the pure Christian gospel

We tell how God took a young Jewish girl and caused her to conceive by the power of the Hoy Spirit; that when this child became man He performed miraculous deeds and eventually gave His life by a cruel death on a Cross, in order that God would forgive people of their sins: that three days later would rise from the dead as a sign that one day all who believe in Him and accept Him as Saviour, would live eventually with Him in heaven.

Only Christianity has a Cross at the centre of its faith. Only Jesus suffered an horrific death on the Cross, a death made for criminals who were made to parade through the streets with a crown on his head beaten 39 times with a leather belt fitted with metal studs to cut the skin, stripped of clothes and nailed through His hands and feet on the cross, and all for the sake of paying the penalty for the sins you and I commit.

He could have refused to go there, but went willingly so we could be forgiven and put back in to a relationship with God and made us fit for heaven, where we will live on day with Him. God said this is what man has shown and done to my Son; this is what I have done, and showed by raising Him to life again.

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. This means some sacrifices have to be made by us, not a lot to ask when you consider the sacrifice Jesus made for us.

If you read the Church of England’s report of General Synod you could be forgiven for thinking you were reading a secular document. Bishops suggesting we override the bible; make accommodation for all kinds of morality.

There is now an obsession for changing gender and the Church is willing to adapt services to accommodate people. God said ‘I knew you from the womb’ ,He would therefore know whether a boy or girl so why are we joining in this mad obsession to change gender even involving children of five It is utter madness and irresponsibility.

In the latter verses Jesus was stressing the need to think of the consequences of following Him and used two analogies of a builder who starts to build a house without thinking if he has the means to finish it. Or of a king going to war without assessing if he has the resources to meet the enemy he is attacking.

So with a Christian there is the need to count the cost. Christ said, ‘If you are going to follow me, you have to go back and take your stand with me no matter what it costs.’ They may laugh, they may sneer, they may not understand. You may stand out like a sore thumb. But you absolutely refuse to cheat, to lie, be immoral, even if it costs you your life.

You get up on a Sunday morning, and the weather is bad, you don’t feel full of vigour, so you decide you will miss church. If it were a football game, or similar activity, it doesn’t matter how it rains or snows, you would be right there. But let a little bad weather come up, and coming to Church is too much.

In the Christian life you have to discipline yourself. We are to discipline our minds so that we keep our minds on Christ, and Christ is first in our thinking.

Jesus never sought quantity, He chose quality, and it is more profitable to have a faithful reliable few than many who are totally indifferent to the call and demands of our Lord and whose hearts are not full of love for God.

The Lord doesn’t ask his hearers to make some vague decision, about some vague kind of discipleship following a vaguely known Master. He does not plead with them to come; he commands them, It is going to be a life changing and costly decision to follow him. It will mean taking up your cross each day; this why we must count the cost first.

Tolerance can become counter productive. We’ve been reaching out to others for years now We need to go back to being selective, exclusive and mysterious, which will call people to wonder; that is the only way we can once again become desirable; that is the only way great loves stories are born. We don’t want part-time believers. The church may attract when it has fancy services where free meals are served and receive a tenuous popularity, what we seek is absolute love and total devotion to God and a continuous presence.

There are too many nominalists who feel they may come to church a few times a year and can claim to be Christians, they were confirmed with a bishop’s hands on their heads, they were baptized by an impeccably orthodox preacher, they joined a lively church and attended more often than that. All seemed good for a while, but then troubles came, their friends had no time for Christianity and soon they gave up. They had failed to count the cost of coming to Christ. Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

This is why a person must count the cost before committing themselves or will end up totally disillusioned.

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