One comment that has haunted me throughout the Covid-19 outbreak as been that of Prince Charles from early April after he had recovered from the illness. You can see the speech here. The particular part to draw your attention to is 3 mins and 40 secs in. In that section he says “we need to have faith in ourselves and in each other.”
Such a statement I found to be somewhat alarming and expressive of where we are at as a nation. As we draw to the end of 2020 we face an uncertain future, but there is optimism that the vaccines for Covid-19, which haven been developed by various sources, will lead to a transformation of the situation and restoration of our “normal” lives.
The alarming prospect is that we are very likely going to emerge out of the outbreak congratulating ourselves on having done so well to get through. It is a source of dismay that there has not been any sense of a turning back to God in the West generally and in our nation in particular. There has been no sense that we need God to help us through and out of our predicament.
I would want to make it clear that the providing of a vaccine, through the wisdom and capabilities of dedicated scientists should be a source of thanksgiving to God. However, I fear that there will be none of that. It will be, to put it in Prince Charles words, because we have had faith in ourselves and each other.
As a result a major opportunity has been missed. God has shaken us over the last nine months and we have refused to listen. We have refused to make any connection between our sinful wanderings and the turbulences of a coronavirus outbreak.
God is not mocked by our ignoring and rejecting of Himself. His grace has been shown in this shaking. We have refused to take heed. Should it be that we get through, it seems we will laud ourselves and not God. So as we venture into 2021:
- Might it yet be that there might be a turning back to the Lord.
- Might the church turn back to our God and cry out to Him to revive His work.
- May the zeal of the Lord fall upon us to passionately reach out to our communities.
- And in your wrath remember mercy dear Lord.
Here is our church newsletter for August 2020. It contains an article on repentance.
Yesterdays’s post here left many unanswered questions regarding how we respond to an awareness of the judgement of God.
One way we respond is to go all anti-China and anti LGBT+. So we have a moralistic, even militaristic, crusade. This would be like people get hostile with the Jews because thy conspired to kill our Lord on the cross. This is not where we should be going. All it does is lead us down a dead end where we all compete about the value of our different moralities.
Rather, the response should be that of repentance. We must go here to what our Lord said in Luke 13:1-5. After His observations about the calamities that were in the news at the time, the Lord rebuts any tendency to categorise sin and sinners. He then pleads No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (v3 and v5). The sensible response that we should have to the occurrence of calamities in the world whether they be natural disasters, viruses, “acts of God” or man-made is to realise that we are in a broken world. This world is broken because of sin. And I am a sinner who is culpable amidst all the mess around. I therefore need to repent. All these calamities give a message that sin ends badly. And I need to repent because if I do not turn back to God; it is going to end eternally badly for me.
C.S Lewis in his book The Problem of Pain famously said that Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
As with any calamity whether it be personal, family, community, national or global we need to ponder on the message that we are getting from God. Through the coronavirus God is declaring to us that all is not well. This world is not what is should be. In the original state of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 when sin was absent all was well. Adam and Eve moved with God. Sin wrecked it all. Today we need to return to God.
In that sense coronavirus is a mercy to shake us out of our complacency and make us think of these realities.
And praise God our repentance is not in vain when it is true and genuine. Through our Lord Jesus who died on Calvary’s cross we can can have full and free forgiveness of our sins. For those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ there is the returning to God. We once again can have fellowship with Him who made is for such. And this fellowship we be expedience in its fullness in heaven forever.
What is our greatest need as humans beings? Our greatest need is to know God. Our Saviour taught His disciples“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt. 7:21-23)
Moreover, He said to His Father And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3).
Being in a relationship with God is life. To not having a living relationship with the Lord is to be a worker of lawlessness and set for an eternity experiencing the rejection of Christ. The pain of that is beyond fathoming. It means an eternity of experiencing vanquished hope, total exclusion of from every blessing and blackness of darkness and helplessness forever. The eternal regret of what could have been will gnaw at the soul forever.
Religious activity, even of the grandest sort, does not supersede the necessity of relationship. Casting our demons and doing mighty works are pretty impressive. Alas the performers of such sensational activities are hell-bound without a relationship with Christ.
A critical purpose of the incarnation is so that we can be bound into the eternal life which the Father and the Son share. This is so gorgeous for us to contemplate.
So we need a relationship with God. We need it desperately. It cannot just happen though! Because of our sin we are excluded from God’s favourable presence. But the good news is that Christ came to save us from our sins. His cross is the place of our coming to know God. When we bind ourselves to him and Him alone by faith then we come to know God. Our sins are removed forever and our souls bound to Christ. That is life; that is relationship; that is blessing.
Oh what good news this is. Our life secured with God forever.
Hoping for a brand new 4×4?! Well here is something far better on offer. And if used regularly (and appropriately) this will enhance you life more than any elaborate 4×4 will.
So here is my 3×3 for you:
I WAS WRONG
I AM SORRY
PLEASE FORGIVE ME
To have that 3×3 in our lives, marriages, families, churches, workplaces and communities will lead to all such realms being much enhanced. We are not talking about disingenuous manipulation here, whereby an apology is used for selfish purposes. Apologises are to be made out of love not self-protection or self aggrandisement.
Alas, the problem is often the other way. There are too many people who do not seem to have “sorry” in their vocabulary. Either these people are perfect, which is unlikely or self-deceived or proud. The latter two amount to the same thing. We are talking about people caught up in their own self-interests.
Rather, when love is found among us then there will be the beautiful functioning of this beautiful 3×3. What an impact that will have for you and me in all realms of our lives.
Please please accept the offer of this 3×3 today and I promise it will revolutionise your life.
I am pondering here upon the experience of being a unbeliever and wondering how they can go on in life. When I say unbeliever I am referring to those who do not acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Saviour; those who have not repented of their sins and believed in Jesus as their Saviour.
Now life can be tough for the believer; sometimes very tough. We read of Paul and Barnabas how they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said. (Acts 14:21b-22). Many hardships can be experienced by those believing in the Lord. However, always there is hope. There is hope of eternal blessings secured by our Lord and Saviour which we will fully enter into by-and-by. Moreover, there is knowledge that our sovereign kind Lord is watching over us to work out all things for His glory.
However, for the unbeliever there is none of this. They are ultimately cast out on the sea of life, with all its uncertainty, without any sure and certain hope concerning the future. They do not have faith and thereby they do not have God and that means no hope. Amidst all the camouflaging of eternal issues and the pursuit of the pleasures of this life, there still remains the great uncertainty of death and beyond.
Moreover, they have no anchor for the soul in the turbulence of life. There are no everlasting arms underneath them promising to strengthen them and comfort them.
Oh what a fearful position it is to be unsaved. Is that you? You may have plenty of religion, but if you do not have Christ then all is not well. So come and find Christ as Saviour and enter into the joyous privileges of being a Christian.
This post from last week leads me to think about how leaders should demonstrate their leadership in repentance. This is essentially counter-intuitive because the thinking of the world is that you have to prove yourself to be strong and in control if you are a leader. However the godly leader is not of that ilk.
The model of our leadership is a Saviour who was humble and lowly of heart. Now our Saviour never had to repent of any sin. However for us who are weak in our beings and prone to wander from the ways of God there should be the readiness to repent.
This so important because it is how we display the gospel into our family and into our church. Parents and church leaders who are not repenters set a bad example to those under their care. The gospel we affirm, after all, is a message which has its fulcrum in repentance. Gospel grace swings into our lives when there is repentance. Forgiveness is experienced when there is repentance.
So parents and church leaders make sure that you are a leader in repentance. Children and church members who see their leaders ever proving their strength and refusing to face up to their sins are hindered from seeing the gospel clearly displayed before them.
What happens when you are challenged about an attitude you have or something you have said or done? How do you react?
The people of the world respond by looking to self-justify. Their default position is to justify their actions and assert the rectitude of what they have done. Upon realisation of their rightness they smugly move on having proven themselves once again.
The people of God respond by looking to repent. They seek to examine the situation to see whether they have doing anything wrong. Having seen what is wrong they repent with brokenness of spirit. Whereupon they seek God for help to not sin again in the future.
Of course this is reflective of the world view of each. The people of this world have never seen the full measure of sin to which they are prone and vulnerable. They do not see the gravity of doing that which offends the Lord. Whilst the people of God are only too aware of their weakness and their tendency to fail the Lord and others.
We must note that we are speaking of generalisms here and the basic tendencies found in the godly and the worldly camps. There will be times when the people of this world realise they have done wrong and will apologise. And there are times when the people of God conclude that they have done right and will explain such.
These observations do not take away from my basic premise through of how the world and the church generally operate.
This is demonstrated in scripture when our Lord speaks of church discipline in Matthew 18:15-17. Through the process of personal encounter, small group encounter and then church encounter the sinning man clearly sees what he has done wrong. However the ongoing (and concluding) action by the man is to refuse to repent. So we read If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matt. 18:17). This man is to be treated like the world because he has acted like the world. When a case of outright sin is brought before him he self-justifies rather than repents.
So – hey, what about you and me? What is our default position when we are challenged?
It is a grievous aspect of church life when the occurrence of sin in the church leads to someone being excluded from the fellowship. To have undertaken this and dealt with the matter can be seen as the necessary completion of church discipline. However, church discipline that is just left in such a situation is always a failure. Church discipline is only really fully successful when there has been the necessary repentance and restoration. Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 is working through, with the Corinthians, the need to restore a repentant offender who had been disciplined for his sinful actions. This man is most likely the man who has had an affair with his stepmother in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.
The Corinthians seem to have taken the matter too far and were reluctant to restore such a man. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow (2 Cor. 2:7) is Paul’s word to them. If they do not do this then there would be a danger of Satan making inroads in the church and the repentant man’s life. Paul says they must receive the broken man back in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (2 Cor 2;11).
Church discipline is always very sad; we should never be satisfied until there is full restoration. When people are out of fellowship through unrepented of sin then there should be grief about such a situation.
Life is full of mistakes.
Some of the mistakes we make are because of willful stiff-neckedness. Whereas others happen because we are badly advised, caught up in unfortunate circumstance or simply through our frailty in understanding matters. Whatever the cause mistakes still happen, and will happen, in our lives.
In considering how we respond to mistakes in our lives we need to be aware that mistakes are not good. If we greet our mistakes with indifference then we are set for lives which accomplish little, are of little honour to God and of little help to others.
We need to commit ourselves therefore to responding well to our mistakes. Here are some thoughts.
- The source of many of our mistakes is sin. It is that selfish willfulness to reject God’s way and choose our way. In a sense these are not mistakes they are sins. Such sins need to be confessed. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Moreover, true repentance means we “never want to go there again”. We forsake those sins.
- When we fall into mistakes, through our own ignorance or weakness, the main response should be to learn. We are fools if we do not learn from our mistakes. If we fail to learn we are likely to repeat those mistakes. And if we continue to repeat our lives will be a total disaster.
- Some times the learning will mean training. This may be low-key training such as just speaking with somebody to gain insight into what went wrong. Or it may be more formal such gaining a new skill seek to avoid repeating the mistake.
So we want to eradicate mistakes from our lives as much as possible. But in this world with all its fallen-ness, with our own fallen-ness and weakness mixed in, mistakes are inevitable. The key to life, in the end, is not endlessly strategising to avoid mistakes, but rather learning from our mistakes.
As a footnote I would be suspicious of someone who makes no mistakes. Such people are very likely not fully living. This is because true living involves pushing on and pushing out. That means risk and where there is risk there is a likelihood of mistakes being made.