Wednesday 19 May 2021


On Sunday we are celebrate Pentecost, when Peter made that dramatic sermon which led to the conversion of three thousands of people. That was a great day in the history of the Church, for it was then that the Holy Spirit came on the Church in a very special way. The Holy Spirit was the source of all guidance for the Apostles, bestowing power and courage, and was that which Jesus had promised.

This was one of three great Jewish festivals which every Jew who lived within twenty miles of Jerusalem was obliged to attend, and was also known as the festival of weeks, because Pentecost fell on the fiftieth day after the Passover festival.

We are told they were all together in the one place, which was the Temple Courts, when suddenly a sound like a blowing wind and fire filled the whole place. A breath of wind was understood to be a symbol of the Spirit of God, and they able to speak, and fire his holiness which destroys all impurity.

The Apostles were able to speak in other languages of all the people present. The list of nations represented covered most of the area where the Jews had dispersed.

When people are confronted by something they cannot understand they generally respond in one of two ways; either by trying to work out what was meant, or by dismissing with contempt. The crowd accused the disciples of being drunk, which was dismissed by Peter as it was at nine o’clock in the morning.

Peter who had taken over leadership of the Apostles, stood and preached his sermon. The pattern and theme he followed was common in the early Church; an explanation of events followed by relating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. This was accompanied by a call to repentance and to be baptised.

The people who heard Peter were cut to the heart, meaning they were deeply convicted. They began to realise God was involved in their daily lives.

The doctrine of baptism is a sacred one, it is admission into the Church as a Christian person, and should be undertaken in a serious manner, and not seen as a ritual to proceed a party, in which any appreciation of Christianity is not even vaguely recognised.

No Christian doctrine has been so abused as that of baptism. Everywhere in the New Testament before baptism has been administered there has been a declaration of faith and a commitment made.

To be sincere in the act of baptism, it should be given when a person, having been touched by God, realises the death of Jesus on the Cross was for the forgiveness of all sin, and realises their life needs to be changed to live as Jesus commanded

Looking at the events recorded in Acts, the normal pattern to becoming a Christian is that someone ‘repents, believes, is baptized, and then receives the Holy Spirit’.

 An overwhelming majority of Christians over the Church’s history have felt that it is right to baptize the Children of Christian parents. Some equally sincere and committed Christians refuse to baptize anyone not old enough to decide for themselves.  I do not want to debate the issue here, but from a purely logical view, if the Bible states a person should repent, believe and make a confession of faith, it is impossible for infants to this, and further, for an unbelieving parent to state on his/her behalf, is ludicrous.

Repent is a word generally misunderstood. Most people think it just means saying sorry. The word biblically means to change your way of living and acting. You accept Jesus was not just a great teacher and social worker, but was the Son of God. You turn your way of living to be worthy of being a follower of Jesus.

To believe in God means more than just hearing and something  meekly accepting, the devil knows God exists and works against God.  In the biblical sense, believe means, you are convinced that 2000 years ago Jesus Christ died on a Cross, and on the third Day God raised him from the dead. You accept Jesus did it for us, he died in our place, taking our punishment for us, and because of this God forgives and sees us as being righteous.

 Having made a confession of faith that you accept Jesus died for you, and you accept Him as Saviour, you have repented and believed and can now be baptized.

I quote from John Wesley in his sermon on ‘the way to the kingdom’,  Now cast thyself on the Lamb of God, with all thy sins, how many soever they be; and "an entrance shall" now "be ministered unto thee, into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

 During the early years of the Church the practice of baptising infants of practising parent believers, who would bring up their children within the family of the Church. As the years passed the practice has developed, where outside of the Baptist denomination, someone telephones the local Vicar or Minister to arrange a baptism and are told to be at the Church at a time and date. Vows and promises are made, which everyone present knows will not be honoured. 

Having seen the discord caused by those attending, who invariably take over the Church with little or no regard for the rest of the service, I find myself not attending such services, and would certainly not take one of these indiscriminate baptisms.

I love the Church, which has been the major part of my life, and I hate to see it so abused. It was in fact on Wesley day (May 24) that I first began ministry at a small Methodist Chapel in Cheshire.  

God comes to us in different ways as we seek to serve Jesus.  It may be we see a poster outside a Church with a message, which immediately touches us; others through friends telling them of the Church and their own experience. But most are brought to Christ through biblical preaching, which is why it is so important for all preaching to be thoroughly bible based.

For some people there is indeed a dramatic experience, such as Paul had on the Damascus Road, whilst for others there is a growing in grace. A man and woman may meet at a social occasion, and such is the chemistry between them they fall in immediate love and marry soon after, which may or may not last. Another couple may meet, find they enjoy being with each other, and gradually become totally dependent upon each other and spend the rest of their life together without ever being able to determine exactly when that came about.

Thousands attended the great Billy Graham Crusades in the 1960s/80s, and were immediately affected by the atmosphere of massed choirs leading joyous praise with so many people, and hearing the preaching of the most successful preacher in all Church history. They rushed forward to the altar call, committing their lives to the Lord, but on returning to their local parish Church, found 1662 Matins, with chants of canticles and indifferent preaching, were disillusioned. Their faith was not sincere enough to support them.

 Others just grow in grace to love the Lord by attending regular worship, without being able to identify when they reached the point they were committed.   We each come as the Lord calls us, and most people do know when there was that moment, we understood what the gospel was all about. For me, it was being at a Pentecostal meeting in Mombasa in Kenya.

Charles and John Wesley, who are in our minds at this time, experienced the Holy Spirit in special ways, too. Both were ordained into the Church and ministered as such for some years, yet both had deep spiritual experiences which changed their lives in May 1738, and went on to do greater things as a result. It was on Pentecost Sunday that Aldersgate Chapel in London, saw the conversion of one of the most greatest Christian servants in Church history.

 On this date John had gone to a small chapel in Aldersgate in London, when there was a discourse on Luther’s Letter to the Romans, when his spirit was strangely warmed and moved. He then understood that forgiveness of sins and acceptance by God was a free gift from God, and there was nothing we can do on our own to make us acceptable in God’s sight; this was all accomplished by God through the death of Jesus on the Cross.

We are called to believe that we too can have the biblical doctrine of assurance, that we can by God’s grace and through faith know our sins will be forgiven and be assured that by His death on the Cross Christ has given us eternal salvation

Charles wrote his most loved and famous hymns afterwards, and experienced a ‘strange palpitation of heart,’ and just a few days later John felt his heart ‘strangely warmed.’ From that time on, the Wesley’s were used powerfully by God to spread the news of salvation.

Christianity owes so much to these two brothers, and it is tragic that what was once a great evangelical outreaching Church, has lost so much of the fervour of these two men. I believe if they could know what is being preached in some of the Churches, and the beliefs of members that they can live in accordance with society’s standard rather than those preached by them, they would be horrified. One of Charles’ standard beliefs was, ‘that the value of a person’s life was to be measured by their faith and manner of living and not only by Church attendance.’

The once great Methodist Church was built on a strong Biblical foundation. It was first started when Charles went to Oxford, and with some friends started a Holy club, in which they met to join in worship and visit the sick. Because of their methodical actions, they became known as Methodists.  The group was started by Charles so earning him the right to be called the first Methodist, which is contrary to general thinking, which attributes John to be the founder. He did become the leader and developed it.

 Many will remember the great evangelical preaching of yesteryear for which Methodism was known, but alas there is not much of that today.

 I led a service recently in a well-recognised Methodist Church, and later received an email from a retired Methodist Minister, accusing me of being a bigot, (despite the fact he had walked out of the Church, something I would never consider doing in the name of tolerance) because I didn’t give an alternative explanation of the resurrection, gender and marriage, to how the Bible defines those subjects. When I wrote ask him what are the alternative explanations, bearing in mind the resurrection is at the very heart of Christianity, he never had the courage or ability to answer.  Yet the resurrection is at the heart of the Christian faith and cannot possibly be amended to please the doubters

Jesus told the Apostles they were to be His witnesses and that duty has now been passed down to His Church and all its members. The Church can be His witness by faithful preaching of Scripture, as all its Ministers vow to do at their ordination, and offer people a credible and united teaching. Individual members can do so by their manner of living, reflecting the image of Christ rather than the ungracious kind we too often see.

The Bible goes on to tell us that the people converted to Christ on that first Pentecost Sunday continued to meet to listen to the teaching of the Apostles, and the Church grew. When the Church today preaches, and listens to the teaching of the Apostles, it too will grow.

 Why is the Church not preaching the Word of God, and all Jesus commanded?  Why do somany object to quoting the Bible? The reason is, they don’t truly believe, and are even ashamed of it.  I have suggested many times, there has to be faithful bible preaching. God is just not going to bless anywhere if there is wandering away from that Word

 There is a statement which should be proclaimed from every Church pulpit, ‘the true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God’.  Any other issue must be considered secondary, the gospel is central and anything which threatens to challenge the gospel, must be ignored.

 I close fittingly with the words of John Wesley, ‘“I want to know one thing, the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. ... At any price give me the Book of God’.

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