Friday 25 October 2019

This Sunday we celebrate as Bible Sunday; the day Churches thank God for His Word, and this year we also celebrate the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation which was 502 years ago on Thursday.

Martin Luther was a law student walking home when a violent thunderstorm took place and frightened him so much, he prayed that if delivered safe he would become a monk.  This he did and became a bible tutor at Wittenberg University in Germany.

The Roman Church at that time was using indulgences as it was held when a person died, they went to a place called purgatory whilst their ultimate fate was decided, but if you paid a sum of money to the Church, your soul would be released and go straight to heaven. It was even extended so that you could pay an indulgence for someone close, and further extended so you could pay for any sins you may commit in the future.  Then one day whilst studying Romans 1 he came to verse 16/17 where we are called not to be ashamed of the gospel. 

The Bible states, ‘do not be ashamed of the gospel, it is the power of God for salvation’. But the Church from the very highest level is ashamed; it leaves a group of Muslim mothers to protest at the indoctrination of young children, a process being ordered by the government without parents being allowed to object. It is the church which should be protesting loud and vigorously.

The Gospel is that Jesus died on the Cross in order that we may be forgiven of our sins, he taking the penalty for us in order that God would accept us God as a righteous God hates sin, which separates us from him. We believe the gospel was the power of God for salvation.

The gospel tells us how God makes us as being righteous in his sight, through faith; it is through faith that this occurs.  Jesus didn’t deserve to die but did so for us; we don’t deserve to live, but can because of Jesus.

When Luther read this, he realized the corruption in the Church’s message, for one could be saved by just believing in Jesus Christ.  He then posted a list of 95 theses on the door of the Cathedral in which this was explained, and then had to be protected by retreating to a castle where they ensured his safety.

He was called before the Pope and Church leaders and told he must recant, but said the epic words, ‘my conscience is taken captive by the Word of God, I cannot recant so help me God.  Here I stand I can do no other.’ How wonderful if all clergy could say likewise when we are called to compromise on our preaching.  

Luther’s courage and brilliance of mind caused seismic reaction throughout the Church in Europe and across eventually the world, and still has effects today.  How dearly there is a need for a new Reformation in the Church today, which has capitulated to outside forces obsessed with causes which are abhorrent to Scripture, yet are readily accepted by the highest echelons of the Church.  How God must weep when he sees how his Church has let him down and betrayed him. This why we cannot expect God to bless the Church when it colludes with a decadent society.

There are multiple Churches where today will not be so recognized Bible Sunday, for their Ministers treat the day as just another Sunday.

We have to face the fact, however deplorable it is, that the bible is not given the recognition it merits, based on the fact the Bible is the heart of the service. The Bible has in fact been cast aside in places where it is preferred to bow to modern culture, so that we have leaders in the Church calling for the bible’s teaching of morality to be ruled as unacceptable.

Allied to this is the fact that the Bible has become less relevant, to even many people within the Church, including those whose duty is to teach the Scriptures.  Thereby, whereas once people might have thought twice before acting in consideration of what the Bible taught, there is less restraint.

For those of us who love the Church and want to see it grow, the present state is a matter for concern.  Congregations are generally falling due to members dying or becoming too unwell to attend, or just becoming disenchanted at the way the Church has departed from its origins.

The Church of England has less than a million members out of a nation of 66 million, and is losing members at a rate of 1,000 a week.  The Methodist Church is closing Churches by the week.

The Bible also states, ‘guard the gospel’. Jesus Christ created the Church and gave command to his Apostles to take into the world all he had taught and commanded them to do. We exist for that purpose and anything else is superfluous. Bible illiteracy is at an all -time high.

We may use the words of Paul when writing to the Galatian Church. “I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God who called you to himself through the living mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the gospel but is not the gospel at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or an angel from heaven who preaches a different gospel than the one we preached to you”.

Paul told Timothy he is to preach in and out of season, meaning Timothy should use every opportunity of getting the gospel message out to people. Paul realised this would not be easy, for there were those who would not wish to hear anything which did not fit in with their way of thinking and more especially with their way of living.

There were preachers willing and desiring to give that teaching, they are called false preachers. This is so to-day which is why some are trying desperately hard to re-interpret the Bible to make it more acceptable.

The message we have for the world is centred upon the person of Jesus Christ and provides for a stable and well-balanced society.  In God’s plan the people who have been touched by the gospel have a role in influencing the world, to be as salt and light. God gave Himself in Christ for us.

God took the initiative because we are all sinners who cannot save ourselves and Jesus died on the cross, so that we could be saved. He died and laid on himself God’s judgement for all the sins of those who would believe on Him.

He is the only way. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. When we accept that sacrifice, the Holy Spirit of God comes into our lives and changes us from within.

This is the gospel we should be guarding and proclaiming. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ which must constantly be guarded. We have the responsibility to make sure that the message of the cross continues to go forth.

This tells us our faith is not like that which someone has made up, but rather comes from God.  Furthermore, it was given with the understanding that nothing needs to be added, amended or subtracted from.  Anyone who does so is a false teacher.   God will not ignore false teaching, and will pass judgement on such people.

When Christians lose the beliefs that have kept the Church together, they begin to fall apart and disintegrate.  It is fatuous and irrational to suggest that biblical injunctions which do not conform to modern requirements can be re-written.  If people are to be saved, they must know the truth.

But there is a basic question that we should all ask ourselves from time to time: Why do we go to church? Is it just to sing hymns or to meet other people, both of which are commendable?  But when you go to Church what do you hope to hear?  Is the sermon something you find boring and wish there was none? Or do you look forward to hearing an exposition of God’s Word’.  

The first Christian Church met for the purpose of hearing the teaching of the Apostles, for fellowship with other Christians, the partaking of Holy Communion.  This is a good example to follow.  We have that same teaching as they received, it is called the ‘New Testament’

The primary reason we attend Church on Sunday is to learn about God, to grow closer to Him and know how we can have a relationship with Him, all else is secondary. Knowing Christ, becoming like Christ, is what we are here for.    Knowing what God wants us to believe and do what God thinks.

If ever the Word of God was needed in its original unadulterated form, it is never more so than now.  We need to call people to turn back to God who is ready and able to meet the needs of everyone who turns to Him. 

People are right to expect that the church will declare the Word of God as it was given, even if they choose to reject it. People have a right to hear the Word of God when they come to Church, but there is a reluctance to preach true Scripture.

There is a desperate need for a Church which will speak above culture, which is obsessed with issues of gender and sexuality; a Church which defines God’s order of creation as gender as being male and female; which proclaims the Bible’s definition of marriage as heterosexual between a man and a woman.

 A Church where the men and women in the pulpits are prepared to put God’s Laws above human law; where those men and women are not prepared to be afraid to follow the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ and teach the gospel he delivered; and ready to confront the bullies who desire to silence them, even those within their own church.

People need to know there are still Ministers we really do believe what we say, and are not all hypocrites making our own rules as we go along.

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