To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘The Gospel’ Category

The Bible Is Shocking

A common response to encountering the material of the Bible is to resent, even be outraged, by the judgement passages. The accounts about peoples and nations being wiped out (see the book of Joshua for example) and how God uses His people to fight and war against other nations and vice versa are shocking to people. As a result, people say that they do not want the God of the Bible because of what they perceive to be this shocking material.

The “judgement” parts of the Bible tend to cause this aversion whereas those passages on love are welcomed and appreciated. Is this a reasonable response? I suggest that it is not. It is the love passages that should shock us and not the judgement passages!

If we properly appreciate what happened in Genesis 1-3 we will start to have a different appreciation of these things. Genesis 1 and 2 is about how the God of perfect harmony and unity worked to create that which was beautiful so as to display and share this harmony and unity, which was and is eternally His. Most specially mankind was created so that he (Adam), being in the image of God, could enter into a glorious experience of knowing and living with His God and creator.

Adam had around him palpable evidence of the goodness of the Lord. Yet in Genesis chapter 3 we see how man chose to rebel against the God who had done nothing but good for him. Adam walked out on God giving him a V sign and so much more. This was defiance and rebellion of the highest order.

Given these facts, judgement should be seem as normal and catastrophe, war and misery should be anticipated as the disastrous judgemental outcomes of such a rebellious stance by mankind. For it to be otherwise would be for God to give the impression that life is better without Him, which it never is.

The outrageous thing in this context is that God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). It is absolutely breathtaking that God should take such an initiative to bring people bask into His fullness of life. It is shocking that God could be so generous that in Jesus He could work  so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26b).

The problem we have in grasping this understanding hinges on the issue of how we appreciate our humans condition. Our deceitful hearts, and the propaganda of the world, all cultivate the idea that we are pretty decent people and, if there is a God, He really should be nice to us.

This is a gross misrepresentation of the reality, which is that we, as the descendants of Adam, are those who have acted heinously. When we get this truth into our heads and are honest about what we have done to God, then we start to see things properly. And the outcome is that we have no difficulty with the understanding the judgement passages, it is the grace passages which shock us and we feel unable to get our heads around!

Oh praise Him for his grace; truly amazing grace.

Evangelism In The Darkness

I wrote here about how Christmas may not be the big time for evangelism that some assert. I am left wondering though, whether now we are entering the time of year when we have the most fertile opportunities to engage in evangelism.

January is recognised as the month of year when our moods are at their lowest. Many things combine. We are on the leeward side of the Christmas and New Year party season. There is the gnawing feeling that those parties just did not deliver the satisfaction that they promised. Moreover the excess associated with the holiday season has left us deflated about our appearances. And then there were those fractured relationships which were once again evidenced in the family gatherings over Christmas. Oh and don’t forget the debt-ridden bank accounts from all the necessary (and unnecessary) expenditure at Christmas. Then there is simply the process of putting away the Christmas decorations and realising how we put them up in much excitement for the holiday season and now it is all over; the parties and the holiday were not that great either.

Furthermore, there is the higher level of illnesses such as cold and flu. The weather often being dark and dreary does not help.

Put into this cocktail the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and there is much feeling that everything is not right, SAD is the condition that results from the reduced level of sunlight at this time of year. In passing I note, that the third Monday of January is  generally known to be the saddest day of the year.

So what does all that mean? It means that January is the time of year when it is most detectable that all is not well.  People are thinking, more than at other times, “there has got to be more than this.”

All this sits up as a free hit for evangelism. So there seems something wrong, in my observation, in the church going into something of a stupor at this time of year. We give it our best go over Christmas; now we will have our January sabbatical and get on with preparing for Easter in February.

I caricature, of a measure, but I feel there is more then a grain of truth in this. Are we just missing a great importunity through not being more sensitive to the emotional flow of our neighbours and our society more generally? Is it the case that the fields are ripest for harvest in January and the church is hibernating? How about re-thinking some of our strategies?

Oh and of course don’t forget this has everything to do with the eternal welfare of those around us. We love our neighbours most when we are willing to intervene to help introduce them to the Saviour. Right outside your door (and mine) there might be many who are more open to hearing the hope of the gospel than at any other time. So why don’t we get praying and get going and sharing our Saviour.

His Indescribable Gift

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Cor. 9:15) What a verse this is. Such a wonderful reminder, at this Christmas season, of how our Lord Jesus came into the world as Saviour. But the riches of the verse start to become even more sparkling when we delve into the context of the passage.

Paul is seeking to bring forth giving hearts from the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 9:6 he has asserted the agricultural principle of sowing and reaping to illustrate the reasonableness of giving. In the agricultural scenario the farmer will sow as much seed as possible in order to maximise the yield from his crops. In springtime he is not thinking about keeping as much seed as possible back in the barn. He is instead, thinking about getting as much as possible out on his fields.

When our hearts are in tune with God’s then we will be following this principle. Our default position will be to give as much as possible rather than keep as much back as possible. We want to share and give in order to bless.

Now with that in our minds let us look at our verse. In eternity God has dwelt in a beautiful, righteous harmony which is hard for us to grasp. Father, Son and Holy Spirit always there; always enjoying loving communion together; always delighting in each other. And as we think about what prompted the incarnation of the Son, we are led on to the thought, that the three persons of the Godhead concluded that the wonder of their bliss was too good to keep to themselves.

So the whole programmes of creation and redemption was played out by our beautiful God. Rather than keeping all this beautiful relationship within themselves, Father, Son and Holy Spirit determined to share it with others. All that is unfolded in Genesis 1 and 2 shows how mankind was created for the purpose of knowing God. Alas sin came in, but God was not to be thwarted in sharing His glory with others. And so there is the divine purpose of Jesus coming into the world. This is first stated in the proto-evangeleon of Genesis 3:15: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The Son is appointed to come as the head  crushing offspring of the woman. He has come as a love gift. God in His grace does not want to just keep Himself to Himself, but to share Himself with others.

This sharing could only be brought to fruition by the Lord Jesus coming into the world. Paul seeks to pass on something of this when he says to the Colossians; For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross (Col. 1:19-20)

This all ties in with the context of 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 as we see how a giving heart leads to blessing. God did not keep for Himself all of the triune joy of His relationship within Himself, but was set to share it. And that meant the incarnation; that means Calvary. Oh what a gift. Oh what a God. Oh what blessing is now ours.

So as we ponder upon the giving heart of God this Christmas, let us worship and praise. And let us further ponder upon whether our hearts are godlike and therefore prone to share.

Two Gospels

There is a great message here by Rupert Bentley-Taylor. In it he refers to two gospels

Gospel of Performance

This is based on what I do and what I achieve. It is based on me recommending myself to God so that He will be pleased with what I have done. It is ultimately a false gospel. It is flawed because of the frailty of humanity waylaid by sin and rebellion against God. Everything about it is false because this is true We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away (Is. 64:6).

So the gospel of performance is no gospel at all.

Gospel of Grace

This is based on a salvation which God has achieved. He has done everything and He kindly bestows His saving goodness on all who believe. In this gospel I am declared wrecked in my sin and an offence at a holy God. In such a condition He reaches down to rescue me. Historically He reached down in the sending of His Son to bring salvation through His cross. There in His dying he was undertaking the wrath exhausting work of salvation by His cross. Experiencially, I received this grace when, by the Holy Spirit, I believed in the blood shedding, risen Saviour.

Oh this is true gospel.

 

Which gospel are you believing? There are only two; performance or grace.

 

 

Upheaval In UK

The biggest surprise we should have concerning life in the UK is that things have continued to be so stable for so long. The fact that we seem to be entering a time of turbulence should not be a surprise.

One of the themes of scripture is the collapsing of government and societies which set themselves against God and His ways. The ejection of Adam and Eve from the Garden In Genesis 3:22-24 was the first example of this. The flood events in Genesis 6-8 and disrupting of the people through diverse languages in Genesis 11 all showed God causing upheaval on account of the people’s sin.

The rejection of God’s ways over the last century in the UK through the propounding of alternative moralities and the exaltation of man, must inevitably have consequences. The foundations of have gradually been eroded and the new superstructure of society is standing on very flimsy foundations.

So as we face increasing turbulence. In so many ways not only though the shenanigans surrounding Brexit, but also through the knife crime on our streets, extensive drug use, dismembering of families, etc. As we face these things we should not be surprised.

I have written here previously about how long the West might last.

But praise God amidst turbulence we can turn to the Rock. Let us rejoice in these words of David from Psalm 40:1-4

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.
Blessed is the man who makes
    the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
    to those who go astray after a lie!

In turbulent times we cannot find rest in the times, but only in our God. May the days we are set to go through be days when the church of God draws away from the “rocks” of this world to the only true rock, our God Himself. And in the Lord’s grace may many who have placed their hope in this world repent and come and join us there.

Weddings And Funerals Etc.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practise cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. The clear implication of Paul’s teaching here is that we should be not be underhand in any of our methods in seeking to advance the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Mr Hinton (I have written about him here) took our wedding some twenty three years ago. I always remember him saying in anticipation of the wedding that we were inviting people to a wedding and not a gospel meeting. Now, I admire that attitude that determines upon making the gospel known at weddings and funerals, for example, but we should never forget the purpose of the occasion. Yes it may well be that people are in a situation where they can hear the gospel for one of the few times in their lives, but we should never forget the purpose of the occasion they are attending.

Those attending should know that they are at a funeral or a wedding and should not feel that a slight of hand has been pulled to use that occasion as a means of cornering them with the gospel.

Of course our Lord Jesus is most precious to us and we should want to make known the message of the Lord’s grace that focuses on Him. And we can do this sensitively and appropriately at both weddings and funerals. But let us not appear manipulative in doing this.

If people suspect what we are being deceitful then all the power that comes through a true God-honouring funeral or wedding conducted for the Lord’s glory can be lost because people suspect what we are up to.

This same principle applies in arranging other events such as evangelicalistic meals. If there is going to be a talk tell people beforehand.  So people know what they are coming to.

Conviction of Sin

Whatever, happened to “conviction of sin”?

How is the gospel presented so very often today? It is presented as a means of improving your life. People are told that their lives are not what they should be and if they “come to Jesus” they will be improved. Therefore in embracing Jesus their average “run-of-the-mill” lives are pepped up so that they are now fulfilled. But is this right?

The Bible speaks of the work of salvation in far more radical terms. The Bible speaks of us getting a new life and not an improved life. That is the implication of the “born again” term. Technically this is referred to as the doctrine of regeneration. Upon believing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour we are granted new life. Those who are dead in sins are made anew.

Critical in the experience of salvation is the conviction of sin. Our Lord Jesus said that when the Spirit of God comes he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgement, because the ruler of this world is judged. Sin is the barrier that keeps us from salvation and we need to be convicted of our sin.

To be made aware of our sin is not a human construct. Rather, it is constructed by being in the presence of God. It comes about through becoming aware of who God is and how He and His standards are revealed in His Word. The Holy Spirit uses such means to convict us of our sin and bankrupt state before God. It is only those who have been ransacked by the Word who cry out for the rescuing mercies of God which are found in our Lord Jesus.

The challenge is for us as Christians whether we be preachers or not to be faithfully declaring the need for people to be broken before God because of their sin.

 

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