Tuesday 5 February 2019

Acts 2 v 36/44

In the days before this Epistle begins Jesus has just died on the Cross. He had been falsely convicted, subjected to 39 lashes from a leather belt lined with steel studs, had a crown of thorns placed on his head, and they gave Him a heavy cross to carry. He stumbled along the road with that cross until Simon of Cyrene had to come and help Him carry the cross; then they put spikes in His hands and feet. He never uttered a sound. The pain, the thirst--His tongue was swollen double. He hung hour upon hour on that Cross.

Jesus suffered all that so you and I may be forgiven for our sins. Jesus need never have gone to the cross. That night God could have said, "Jesus, you do not have to go to the cross." But God did not say that to His Son. There was no other way.

Simply put, it is that God wants all people to be saved, but that can’t happen if we are sinners. The Bible states all have sinned and fallen short of the standards of God. We all need to be forgiven and that requires a penalty. God sent Jesus, his only Son, to pay the penalty for us when he took our place on the Cross and died that we may be forgiven. Whilst mankind has turned its back on God, God has not turned his back on mankind

In the Cross we see the love of Jesus Christ displayed in a way that defies explanation. God loved us so much that he stepped in and did what we cannot do. He loved us so much that he gave his only Son to die for us. The truth is that we are sinners and cannot save ourselves. The good news is that God would not sit idly by and do nothing. He has provided a way. It is the way of the Cross, the only means of salvation.

On our Bibles, we wear or display the Cross; to others the cross is just a piece of jewellery with no significance.

To get a better idea of its meaning as a cruel method of execution, it is like someone being immaculately dressed wearing an electric chair on a chain around their neck or a hangman’s noose or guillotine as a piece of jewellery. Everyone who wears a Cross should bear in mind what it stands for.

The message of the Cross is the very heart of Christianity, it is the message of the Christian gospel. This is the message Peter would tell the people at Pentecost who had rejected God and lived their lives as if God did not exist; they needed to repent and turn to Christ and 3,000 people committed themselves to do so.

We are told they responded as they were ‘cut to the heart’; in other words, they were deeply convicted. They devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles, who in turn had been taught by our Lord Himself; they didn’t need persuasion or coercion, they were eager to learn. They were filled with awe, and their praise and worship was inspiring, others who saw and heard joined. I wonder how many of our congregations could say they were filled with awe and felt inspiration?

Quite recently I saw a Church on Songs of Praise, it was a black Pentecostal Church, and they were singing ‘leaning on the everlasting arms.’ It was exciting and thrilling to see the joy on the faces of that congregation as they sang so heartily; they were filled with awe and inspiration and exuded inspiration. No wonder it was well attended, as other Churches of similar worship style are.

Christianity is meant to be a joyful faith. The Bible states, ’tell the message of Christ in all its richness singing hymns and spiritual songs with thankful hearts’.

The wonderful thing is God has graciously made possible for us to have that Apostolic teaching; He has left us with copies of those Bible classes, it is called the New Testament, and it is on that the Church was founded.

The result here was that the believers shared the good news widely through the area, telling what God had done for them through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Such was the vibrancy of their faith that it had spread widely and people were speaking of their devotion. The friends of those believers began to ask questions about what had happened to make such a change in those believers’ lives; unbelievers were seeing the grace of God being displayed in the lives of the believers and were impressed with what was happening and were attracted.

There is a false Christianity around today. For most people a Christian is someone who is not of another faith, or is an atheist; that is not the Bible’s definition. A Christian is someone who is a fully devoted follower of Jesus, accepting the message of the Cross. You are not born a Christian nor are you a Christian simply because you were born into a Christian family, or in a Christian country.

We cannot call ourselves a Christian country now. There are Christians living here and Christian influences have been felt in this country; but today we are a heathen, pagan country. We are away from God. We have beautiful churches, but our hearts are far from God. The heart itself must be changed so that you become a follower of the Lord. A Christian is someone who responds to the gospel message.

Have you ever wondered why two people can hear the same message and respond in opposite ways? It happens because one man hears words, while the other man hears the message. It is the Holy Spirit who takes human words in preaching and makes them alive inside the human heart.

The Bible tells us that God knows the secret working of our hearts, and when He knows we are ready to acknowledge Him through Christ, by whom alone we can come to God, He by His amazing grace chooses and calls us into His family. God finds us before we find Him.
In order for a person to be converted two things must happen first—something from God’s side and then something from the human side; but God’s side must come first.

It is possible for people to come for Church for years, listening to the Bible being read, listening to preaching, singing devotional hymns, yet never opening hearts to God. You have to come with ears and mind open so God can enter your heart.

There are people who put on a Christian front. They act like Christians, they read the Book, and sing the hymns, but they have no reality of Christ in their lives. That kind of Christianity is worthless. If we want to be men and women of God, we are to follow the teaching God has provided for us. This clearly set out in the Bible and readily available for all to follow.

Being a Christian is not an easy life for there is much opposition to a faith which makes one feel uncomfortable when they live as they like rather than the way they should, which is why we have to count the cost. You may find friends become not so friendly.

There are so many people who do not understand the gospel; why Christ had to die on the Cross; why the Church should place so much stress on the Cross. This is because the Church has become so disconnected from the Word of God; it has no firm statement of belief and so is unable to fulfil our Lord’s commission for the Church to teach the gospel; bible illiteracy is at all-time high. The Bible has been cast out of a lot of churches and when the church turns away from the Bible the nation does so as well.

Liberalism is tearing the Church apart by trying to supplant biblical authority for cultural expression and denying the infallibility of the Bible with trendy social issues replacing the Cross of Christ.

Luther wrote ‘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.

We have to accept that the Church exists primarily for one purpose, to proclaim the Christian gospel. If we restrict that then we have no claim to be here. If we are to face the challenges of the day, we have to be people of the Bible.

Everyone has a choice to make between two points of view, black or white, no grey; two fundamental absolutes that can never be reconciled because they produce different responses to the gospel.

We have to make a choice now in this life for our future when this life is over. If you are hoping for a future life in heaven, you too must come to the Cross in simple faith and believe Christ was willing to die for you and accept him as Saviour. We are warned we have to do the will of God and he guarantees a future life

Jesus was very clear in His teaching; in parable after parable He spoke of two roads, of sheep and goats, of tares and wheat, of heaven and hell. People say live a good life, there is no need to worry we are all going to heaven for God would never send anyone to hell. That is true, God lets people choose to go by rejecting the gospel.

Jesus makes a profound statement which goes to the heart of Christian faith and belief. He states He is the only way to God. People are falsely being told all religions lead to God. There has to be a commitment to Christ and acceptance that his death on the Cross was for your sins too.

I once went to Birmingham before the days of satnavs and stopped to ask a man the way to where I was heading. He told me I would not be able to get there by myself but he would take me as he was going that way. He got into my car and guided me there. That is what Jesus is saying to you; you can’t get to heaven unless I take you.

The Bible states of Jesus, ‘there is salvation in no one else. God has given no other name under heaven by which we may be saved.

The once great Methodist Church was built on strong Biblical foundation. The greatest revival of Christianity in this country came during the ministry of John/Charles Wesley If they were alive today they would have much to say at the way the Church has failed to proclaim the message they left, that salvation was through Christ alone, the value of a person’s life was measured by their faith; by the manner in which they lived their lives, and the doctrine of heaven and hell.

Never be ashamed to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but like Paul be proud to tell of his death on the Cross.

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