Saturday 30 December 2017

As we come to the end of another year and consider the next, we should bear in mind the parlous state of the Church in many places in our land. If we are to see an improvement in the coming months, we need God on our side and perhaps it would be wise to listen to words of two great Saints of the Bible, the Apostles Peter and Paul.

Peter states, ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven by which men must be saved’. Paul states ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation’.

The response from many people, even within the Church is ‘you can’t say that it’s too narrow it’s discriminating and exclusive’. So many within the contemporary Church would find this objectionable.

Why are they shocked that there is only one way to be saved, Shouldn’t we be utterly and thankfully amazed that there is a way to be saved at all?

The Bible is a book all about salvation and there has never been any doubt that the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ. He is the focus and climax of the Bible from start to finish. This has been the message from all the great evangelists.

Today, no less than in any other age, it is this intense biblical integrity that is needed. Fearless courage and conviction to stand for the truth that Jesus Christ is the only name that saves.

We will find that we will meet opposition when we declare our faith, we shouldn’t be surprised, and we should expect it. Public officials are ever anxious to erase Christianity from the public arena.

I read that more people are turning to Islam rather than Christianity because of its more decisive morality.

It is true to say that Islam is a moral religion and its clerics promote it vigorously. The Islamic faith is challenging the Western world, and whilst there is too much violent aggression in the process, we have to admit sadly and shamefully that there is generally a more ethical and moral basis in their faith than many Christians have.

They see millions and millions of abortions, and in America the previous President gave millions of dollars to an abortion clinic in America, where there was evidence suggested of very improper dealings; and in other Western nations abortion has become alternative form contraception.

They see drugs; the obsession with illicit sex; same sex (so called) marriage; the pornography and smut; the breakup of homes; young people smashing and looting and rioting; and they don’t want it in their countries.

It is also true to say Christian preachers tend to modify teaching of traditional values to appeal to contemporary thinking, and for fear of offending one of the many discrimination laws promoted equally vigorously by vociferous minorities, so falling foul of the law, which is not enforced against other faiths with the same enthusiasm as against Christian preachers.

At the present time in this country we don’t go to prison for spreading the gospel, (not yet that is) although we are getting there, as punitive legislation has led to some preachers being arrested by police for preaching biblically, with a zeal not displayed against criminals.

The last government enacted legislation which was anti-Christian, and against the beliefs and conscience of Christians, and eradicated 2000 years of Christian teaching by legislating for same sex marriage. Our present Prime Minister is for ever telling us she is a Vicar’s daughter and goes to Church every Sunday, which is glorious to hear; what a pity it doesn’t make itself manifest in her judgements; for example supporting the proposal to have children of tender years to be taught of various kinds of sexuality and encouraging children to question their gender.

'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’. These are the words of the great Apostle Paul.

The gospel story we are called to proclaim is the good news about what God has done to rescue us from the consequences of our sin. Each of us falls short of the standard that we ought to meet, and so justice demands that we pay a price.

The problem, fundamentally, is a moral one. People like to pretend that morality is just some arbitrary set of rules made up by other people who want to control how we behave. It’s not. But God has given us the chance to be absolved from the mess we have got into, and the punishment we deserve. He has done this through the Cross.

Whilst a price has to be paid for our sins, God decided to help us by taking that punishment upon Himself. On the Cross Jesus suffered a most cruel punishment on our behalf so there is no longer any price for us to pay. But that requires us turning from our sin and putting our faith in Him and living according to the standard laid down by God in His Holy Word.

Why should anyone be ashamed to tell that story?
We may not be able or indeed desire to preach in the same way as of old, but whilst we may change our style we still have an important message to proclaim and it must not be watered down to suit modern susceptibilities.

To be ashamed infers that one is reluctant to admit to something, a desire to disassociate oneself from it. There is an ever present strong temptation to do so when there is so much theological and moral confusion; when you are dismissed as a fundamentalist for believing the Bible; when there is so much opposition; when there is encouragement to water down the gospel to make it more acceptable; when we don’t want to declare our faith in case we are sneered or laughed at.

We cannot be ashamed of the gospel. How would people hear? And how can they call on the One they have not believed in. And how can they believe in the One they have never heard. And how can they hear if no on preaches it to them.

How many Church members are embarrassed when asked if they believe? Indeed how many are ready to acknowledge they attend Church. How would we answer if asked to give our opinion on moral questions? If you are not ashamed you are ready to speak out about your faith.

The reason Paul was not ashamed and was eager to preach the gospel, was because it was the power of God for salvation, a teaching scorned by so many in the world. There is no other power known to men which can do that. All other religions have a philosophy, we have a man. No other spiritual leader can forgive, only Christ can forgive.

The Bible states ‘no one can come to the Father except through Jesus Christ’ Paul said you may be ashamed of saying these things but I am not. The Bible states ‘God did not give us a spirit of timidity’

How many preachers would be ready to stand in one of our Cathedrals and state this? How many would be allowed to? So many preachers are afraid of what people, and especially what the papers would report. But look at the praise heaped on Pope Benedict by the press for his bold and brave words when he told the politicians to stop interfering with the Christian faith, and calling for a vigorous Christian outpouring to combat the aggressive secularism pervading our society. How we miss that fearless and forthright man.

We must stand shoulder to shoulder with Peter and Paul behind the almighty power of God and the sacrifice made on our behalf by Jesus Christ, and we must proclaim Him as Lord and Saviour.

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