Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15b). Moreover we read in Luke 15:2b the Pharisees accusatory, but gloriously true phrase, that ‘This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.’ It is great when sinners come among us and we should be rejoicing when they come among us at church. The question comes though: how do we handle them when they do come among us?
I fear that so very often when people come among us our thought is to not to ‘gospelize’ them, but to ‘christianize’ them. What is the difference?
We gospelize people when we seek to introduce them to the great saving grace of God in Christ and His cross. We are praying for them that they will come and taste that the Lord is good. We don’t allow their awkward habits, disturbing lifestyle or morally iniquitous ways to divert us from this goal. Rather, winning them for Christ is what we are fixed on and we will not be diverted.
We christnsiaze people when we see people come among us and want to change their lifestyle because we believe it to be incompatible with our Christian ways. So for the transgender person who comes we start to engage in a rectification process so that birth sex and chosen gender cohere. and as for the couple engaging in fornication we counsel them to purer ways.
When we christianize and don’t gospelize we are putting the cart before the horse. The horse is conversion, the cart is a godly life.
I have written about this before here. We should be welcoming people relentlessly, but our welcome should be a gospel welcome.
…..and He therefore knows who is going to be saved then where does that leave me?
Many people get themselves into mental and spiritual fixes through their consideration of the sovereignty of God in salvation. One of the ways is to tangle themselves up over the issue about whether or not they are called to salvation.
The Lord Jesus faced this issue in Luke 13:22-24
Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’ He said to them, ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.
He then went on to adumbrate the pain and bewilderment as those who thought they were saved, but had never entered into the door of salvation. Therefore they face eternal rejection and loss.
The approach of our Saviour is most instructive here. When the question about the number of people being saved was asked He did not get involved in a discussion about the electing purposes of God. Rather, He immediately challenged those in front of him to make sure that they are saved.
We do well to follow this example of Our LORD. When we are faced with questions about election and salvation the most important thing is to challenge those in front of us to repent and go through the open door which is offered to them in the Lord’s grace.
And if you are personally tangled up mentally and spiritually over this issue, my call to you, in the words of our Saviour is: Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Don’t let Satan divert you from the lord’s direct call to you to repent and believe the gospel.
So what did you think about it; the Royal Wedding last Saturday that is? So much has been written about the event, in particular the sermon by Michael Curry. Accordingly, I hesitatingly throw my little bit into the ring of information and opinion.
- After all the fanfare and grand entrance we had to listen to a man who seemed less than excited about what was happening. Could they have put someone on who had some more interest and engagement in his presentation. By the way it is important who leads and how we lead our church services.
- The wording he read was grand though. Talking about husband and wife and the fact of a man and woman coming together being at the heart of marriage. Good to hear. Mmmmmmmh where does that leave same-sex marriage? Finished and in the grave one would hope! But such is a vain aspiration I fear.
- Great to hear a confession of our Trinitarian God.
- At least Justin Welby was somewhat more lively.
- And then there is Mr Curry. Vast amounts have been written. Two most helpful contributions would be by Stephen Kneale here and David Robertson here. Here are some of my thoughts upon:
- The fact that he spoke with passion and warmth seems to have taken people aback. How can we have got into such a state that people expect to come to church and hear something delivered in a cold and detached manner. Surely it should be de rigeur that we preach with warmth and passion. Now passion and warmth are incarnated and therefore will vary from person to person, but they must be there.
- He did say some better things than most in a similar position have done. He did speak warmly of Jesus Christ.
- However, let us be clear; he did not preach the gospel. It is shocking that people in evangelical circles can be thinking the he “preached the gospel.” Do we really understand what the gospel is? See here for my previous thoughts on this.
- I am drawn back to Dr Lloyd Jones great teaching in his book on the Sermon on the Mount about how false teachers are known not by what they say, but by what they do not say. And normally that means lots of love and little sin and judgement which is exactly what was there on Saturday.
- I’m not sure what place a rendition of “Stand by Me” had in the context of a church service. More suitable for the reception I would have thought. But that is all part of wanting to have church to make me feel good rather than being challenged about the call of God on our lives.
- Hence, returning to Mr Curry’s sermon, it is all part of creating a certain view of God which is bolstered by a selective use of the Bible. Then we are encouraged to work ourselves into/towards this version God that has been revealed to us. And we all go away happy because this nice convenient God is now happy with us.
- Whereas the love of God is truly experienced when I submit in all brokenness before this mighty God and am totally dependent upon Him to raise me up and bring me to Himself. Now that is the love of God.
- The airbrushing of Meghan Markel’s divorce was interesting as well. No mention of it at all. Now I know the Christian gospel is all about forgiveness and restoration. But vows have been taken by Ms Markel previously and have not been fulfilled. Our society seems to be very casual about keeping your word and honoring vows. It is a startling thing about the Old Testament that vows were viewed in the highest regard. For a society to be bound well together, honoring of commitments is vital. It was all as if nothing had happened.
- And then there is the magnificent white wedding dress. Yes it was respectable and all that. But is not the white wedding gown supposed to be a declaration of virginity? Which leaves me wondering?!
Just some thoughts.
Many people come unstuck because they wrongly apprehend what makes someone a Christian. Therefore, let us initially answer our question negatively by establishing some of the things that do not make someone a Christian.
- Being born into a Christian family does not make you a Christian because all are brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin. (see Psalm 51:5).
- Infant baptism or christening does not make you a Christian because a baby cannot “repent and believe in good news” (Mark 1:15).
- Living a good life does not make you a Christian because the LORD Jesus said “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31b-32)
- Doing lots of impressive spiritual activities does not make you a Christian because the LORD Jesus anticipated a day when he would say to many who had done remarkable things, “I never knew you; away from Me, you evildoers!” (Matt. 7:23b)
These things being so, then who are Christians? Quite simply in the words of our Saviour they are people who have repented and believed the gospel. Exercising repentance towards God and faith in our LORD Jesus Christ makes someone a Christian (see Acts 20:21). Let us then look at the two words which sum up the conversion experience; repentance and faith.
Repentance involves a grasping that you are going in a wrong direction and that you need to turn around and go in the right direction. We all have walked in the ways of sin and that is serious. We realise it is serious when we come into the holy presence of God. Isaiah did this and confessed “Woe to me, I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). Peter did this and confessed to the Lord Jesus “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8b).
Repentance is vital because if we die in our sins we will eternally suffer the judgment of God on account of our sins.
Revelation 21:8 gives a solemn disclosure of this as we read of the unrepentant having “they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur.”
As we turn from our sins we simultaneously believe the gospel concerning our LORD Jesus. The gospel is that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). For all those burdened down with their sins He says “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
The LORD Jesus is the Lamb of God (fulfilling all the Old Testament prophecies) who is the taker away of the sin of the world (see John 1:29). He died on the cross to bring forgiveness. The principle is established that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (see Heb. 9:22). Now he has shed His own precious blood and there is a fountain flowing for sin and uncleanness (see Zech. 13:1). He is raised from the dead and His work is done. He has made eternal redemption (see Heb. 9:12). Let us come then believing in our LORD Jesus that we might have all our sins washed away in His blood (see Rev. 1:6).
Oh please turn and believe the gospel. The consequences of not doing so are too awful to consider; “how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation”! (Heb. 2:3).
As your weekend dawns sorry to dampen your spirits with some stomach churning bad and sad news.
So I write here to mention four things I noticed on the BBC website over the past couple of days:
- Here is a man being allowed to participate in a women’s team in Australia. (Here are my previous musings on this phenomenon)
- Here is Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black announcing the birth of their (?!) baby
- Here is an article about a man breastfeeding his (presumably) baby.
- Here is a lesbian couple proposing to each other.
So what can be said:
- Yes my stomach did churn in aversion to some these happenings. I trust that is not just because of my cultural susceptibilities, but because these things are heinous to my God.
- It interesting how acceptable all this has become so quickly.
- The BBC blithely records it as if we are all supposed to be onside with it all.
- Yet it is all rejecting the Master’s plan for His creation.
- Marriage is between a man and a woman for life.
- Children are given to a married couple in marriage.
- We are born male and female.
- Behind it all are lives seeking for meaning. Yes looking in the wrong places, but still looking. We should be compassionate and point to a greater hope in Christ.
- As churches we need to stand firm and declare that these developments are wrong before God and harmful for humanity.
- Amidst the darkness the light should shine brighter. How are we shining as Christians and churches.
- When our Lord comes into situation He always changes for the better.
- My cry goes up “Even so come Lord Jesus”
It is around about one year ago when the idea behind “EveryoneMustKnow” was birthed. The idea was that all in Feltham would have opportunity to know the gospel. Whether it be through leaflet, billboard, verbally or whatever, everyone needs to know the gospel.
I was reminded recently of the fundamental rectitude of this thrust when I read the apostle Paul writing to Timothy and stating in 2 Timothy 4:17
But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.
I was encouraged by this scripture to know that we are standing, in harmony with Paul for the desire to get the message out. We want all to know the gospel. So we have produced a leaflet and it is now available in a whole range of languages. We have a website and there is a desire to push it beyond Feltham. So a year on, progress had been made. The Word has gone forth. The message has been proclaimed in written form and that has been made verbal on other occasions.
So we thank God for the progress so far and look for more, and for the Lord to honour His Name in salvation and a rich harvest. The webpage providing details of the project is here. It also provides links to other media etc.
This for Mez McConnell is worth 5/10 minutes of your time to think through the issues of serving the Lord. He addresses serving the Lord in the realm where Mez has been called, but it has much that generally applies to the Lord’s work.
Here are two quotes:
- If you’re serious about ministry then you’re serious about prayer.
- Nobody of note that ever accomplished anything for the kingdom did it without facing a cauldron of opposition and misunderstanding.