Friday 7 August 2020

ROMANS 1 v 16/25
Why do so few people attend Church? Where going to Church was once as normal as going to work or any other activity, this is no longer the case. Consequently life has become more course, evil and unsettled.

It is generally recognised that this is largely a godless nation. Most people believe that there is a God, but just don’t want Him to interfere in their lives. We forget or ignore the fact we owe life and breath to Him, yet  still want Him to be available when we have a problem in our lives. We were created with a soul, with a spirit. All of us were made to have a relationship with God.

Most people are seriously worried about the future, the economy and pandemic which the government must deal.The Church must awake from its slumbers, and deal with the spiritual state of the nation. Once the Church guided the country in moral and spiritual matters, not lately however.

Paul’s greatest desire was to make people Christians, a noble cause and one we could wish all preachers to-day to adopt.  He was concerned the Jews were being misled to follow the wrong way to salvation, which can only be achieved by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord.

It has to be accepted that the Church exists primarily for one purpose, to proclaim the Christian gospel. The true treasure of the Church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God. Those were the words of Martin Luther which 503 years ago turned the world around, and created the Protestant Reformation.

 All other activities are subsidiary. It is good and helpful to have involvement in social activities, but the primary means of bringing people to Christ is through the preaching of the gospel. If we restrict that then we have no claim to be here; people can get social amenities from many sources, they can only get the gospel from the Church.

It is the belief of most people that when they leave this earthly life, there is a place reserved for them in heaven. I readily concede the Church has encouraged that belief, but in doing so it has mislead, and offended Jesus and the Bible.

Jesus made it very clear that He is the door to heaven, and the only way. Jesus was sent to this earth by God to tell that God loves all people and is willing to receive them into His heavenly Kingdom.  Entrance into heaven is limited to those who trust Jesus Christ, and him alone for their salvation.
But first, they must be cleansed of all sin and this can only be done by accepting that when Christ died on the Cross to obtain forgiveness of sin, He was including you in His death for the sins you have committed, and He must be accepted as your Lord and Saviour.

 Confession that Jesus is Lord, and singing the hymn, is not an intellectual title or a casual statement, it means much more.  You have to believe fully in your heart this is so, and have no doubt that God raised Him physically from the dead; that is the heart of the Christian message.  So when you do believe and are prepared to confess with your mouth, God accepts you as righteous.

The Bible states, ‘by grace you have been saved through faith, it is not your own doing, it is the gift of God and not by your own works.’  God in His infinite goodness has graciously forgiven you of all the wrongdoing in your life, past and present.  

Something in us always wants to add to God’s free grace. It’s humbling to admit that we can do nothing to earn our deliverance from sin. Imagine what heaven would be like if we had to earn our way there. People would be trying to outbid each other and probably boasting how important they had been in the world. Grace saves us through faith, there is nothing we can give or add, it is a free gift of God, but like all gifts has to be taken in order to appreciate.
When I was being inducted to a parish the Rural Dean who was a real traditional English gentleman (and there’s not many of us left), introduced me to a man who wanted  me to know how important he was. Heaven would be just like that if you had to earn your way there. But it won’t be like that, when Jesus died on the cross, he paid the full price for your salvation. God alone gets the glory in your salvation. Jesus did all the work when he died on the cross.

The word ‘saved’ does cause an emotional response with a lot of people, as it conjures up an image of being approached by a Charismatic Christian asking are you saved brother (sister).

I read of a man sitting in a theatre when someone came up and asked if the vacant seat next to him was saved, and he wittingly answered, ‘no, but I am’, at which the person moved away quickly.
 I have been told countless times all one has to do is to be good, be kind and honest, and you will go to heaven; no need to go to Church, sing hymns and read the Bible.  They will learn to regret this belief. I am reminded of a saying that the two saddest words in the English language are…..if only.
Jesus himself warned that on the Day of Judgment many will claim to have been His followers, but He will say to them, ‘depart from me. I never knew you.’

People have been attending church for years, listening to the Bible being read, singing praise to the Lord, and have been very religious, yet have never come to the time when they have acknowledged Jesus as Lord, yet the Bible calls on us to do so.

The Jews believed as many people now do, that all that was necessary for salvation was to keep the Ten Commandments, but no one can keep the Commandments for it is like a chain, if you break one link it all falls apart, and the Bible states if you break one you break the lot, and we have all, without exception broken at least one.  Therefore, one cannot be saved by the Commandments.

The Bible states , ‘if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved’.

You have to accept in your heart that Jesus has done for you, something no one else possibly could, made you righteous in God’s sight. You accept this by faith, and live that faith.

Faith. 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.

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. This is God’s powerful way of bringing all who believe to heaven. We are saved by grace (Great Riches At Christ’s Expense) through faith, and when we believe fully in Christ we are in a right relationship with God.

The key word is righteousness, which means to have a right standing in God’s eyes. It’s a legal term which means to declare “not guilty” and to declare “innocent of all charges.” 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.

The glory of Christianity is that it has a message that is grounded in history. It is objective truth, not just something that someone has made up.  It is not some feeling that you are following that you hope will work out; it is the story of historic events. One of these events is the coming of Jesus as a baby in the manger of Bethlehem, the coming of the wise men from the east and the uproar and unrest that it caused in the kingdom of Judea, beginning with Herod the king himself. That is all part of history. Then there was the resurrection and the events that followed in the church. These are all historic events -- objective truth. That is our message.

The gospel is the story of Jesus Christ, who gave Himself to be crucified for our sins in order to reconcile us to God. Why should anyone be ashamed to tell that story? 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.

Paul says he was not ashamed, in fact he glorified in the gospel and that is what all Christians should do. But sadly I fear we all do not. How many Church members are embarrassed when asked if they believe? Indeed how many are ready to acknowledge they attend Church? How reluctant to answer if asked to give our opinion on moral questions? If you are not ashamed, you are ready to speak out about your faith.

Paul is emphasising there is nothing to be ashamed of. The reason he is not ashamed is because the gospel is the power of God leading to salvation for all who believe.  This power is for everyone who believes. 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 may offer what is hard for sceptics to believe, but that should not stop us telling it. When we tell how God took a young Jewish girl and caused her to conceive by the power of the Holy 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 late 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.

Some people are fearful of their friends finding out they attend Church in case they get mocked, or because it might restrict the way they want to behave. 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’.

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.  Whilst preaching has now become out of favour, it is nevertheless the primary way of bringing people to know Jesus Christ.

Never give up studying God’s Word and meeting other Christians, there is always someone who can help you. During the years of my ministry I have had the joy of knowing I have led people to know Jesus, and it has made all the effort worth while, but I have been on the other side and led by the most devoted man I personally  knew in East Africa. I have also coincidentally, since been inspired by a lady from East Africa. I owe them both much.

If you want those you love to be with you in heaven, take note of the Bible when it states, Now is the time for salvation. There is no such thing as leaving it until you face death and make a deathbed confession, you may well leave it too late.

In conclusion, never be ashamed of the gospel. When Paul wrote to Timothy he told him not to have a spirit of timidity, but be ready to preach the word that God saved us by His grace which He has given us through Christ Jesus.

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. 

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