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

Archive for the ‘The Gospel’ Category

How Do I Become A Christian?

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

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.”

Faith

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).

Stomach Churning

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”

#EveryoneMustKnow

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.

 

 

 

 

Effective Ministry

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.

Apologetics And Evangelism.

Let us define these two terms to start with:-

Apologetics: “That aspect of Christian theology which seeks to set out and demonstrate the credibility and plausibility of the Christian Faith” (Alister McGrath in The J.I. Packer Collection).

Evangelism: The presentation of the Christian Gospel to people with a view to them embracing that message and being saved.

It would be my contention that apologetics is a part of evangelism. When apologetics comes to be divorced from evangelism then it has lost its way. If we are just seeking to prove that the Christian message is credible and plausible then we are just competitors in an intellectual game. If we win the argument then we can pat ourselves on the back. If we lose then it’s a shame, but there are no great consequences.

However, the message of the Bible, and that of how Jesus Christ came into the world, is not a message which is simply to be pitched in among all other theories, philosophies and messages to vie for supremacy. It is rather the message of how God is working in the universe to bring glory to Himself. It is not “a message” – it is “the message”. All other messages are trying to make sense of this world. However, they never will do because they do not argue from the true source which is that of Scripture. But we do have to be aware of the need to seek to engage with people in this culture. If we just do evangelism without any thought of apologetics we are very likely to fail to evangelise. This is because we will not be engaging with people. They will hear this message which has no connection with their lives and thereby dismiss it as utterly irrelevant because it has no traction into their situations.

Listening to messages from Word Alive in 2013 by Dan Strange are helpful. He seems to have got to the heart of this issue. His assertion is that many people are so far away from the knowledge of the gospel, that we really do have to track a long way back as regards to getting them to consider this gospel as relevant. In getting into their situation we are always seeking to come where people are. This is the great truth that is at the heart of our faith. Jesus, being Immanuel which is God with us, tells us of one who has come close. He has come where we were. God has not just shouted from a distance. We need to come where people are. We need to listen to them. And we need to respond. Is this not one of the salutary lessons from the ministry of Francis Schaeffer? He met the people of the 1960’s and 1970’s where they were and accomplished much as a result. In seeking to meet people where they are though, we are not just seeking to sanitise their thinking. Rather we are seeking to show that their thinking is askew.

Accordingly, although we may not be quoting Scripture all the time we need to be declaring biblical truths. We are impotent if we lose the biblical revelation at the basis of our interaction with the world. This is because God has given His revelation of His mind to us as human beings in the Scripture. The Bible is His Word and it is the only place where His mind is revealed. Always Scripture must drive our argumentation. We need to remember in all our argumentation, that we are seeking to bring people to consider the claims of Christ. In every interaction we should always have in mind that we are headed for the cross. If that is not the case we are just the aforementioned intellectual duellists.

In all this though, we should remember that the things of God are not naturally discerned. Ultimately, it is without question that the Christian message is credible and plausible. But people will not grasp this until they have faith and God reveals his mind to them . As Paul says to the Corinthians. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Cor. 2:14).

And so we pray that the Lord would give people understanding. And that is not just understanding that Christianity is true which it is of course. But understanding of the message of the gospel and they would thereby be saved.

(Original post from Venabling on 27/10/2014)

Place Of Rest.

One of the most distressing things about my recent episode with tooth pain (which I wrote about here) was finding that the place of rest had become the place of pain. There were a couple of days when I was pretty fine whilst going about my normal business, but when I lay down I could feel the pain develop in my mouth.

When we are tired we look forward to the place of rest. We look forward to the refreshment that that affords. But suddenly I was deprived of that, even worse I was given pain instead of pleasure.

We need rest as human beings. The Sabbath principle is a principle which means that rest is granted to us for our benefit. When we are deprived of rest, we do not function well. This experience somewhat mangled my mind. The place of rest becoming a place of pain was a sobering experience.

I am left wondering about this. It is common place to say of someone when they have died that they are “at rest” or they should “rest in peace.”. But what do these phrases, which are used so casually, mean. The alarming thing is that for so many that hoped for rest in eternity may well find it not to be so. The Word says that there is no rest to the wicked. Isaiah observes ‘There is no peace,’ says my God,for the wicked.’  (Is. 57:21). That means no rest! And for those who die as “the wicked”, there is eternally no rest. This statement necessitates defining who the wicked are. The wicked are those who are outside of Christ. In Christ we are constituted righteous by the free grace of our God. Outside of Christ we are still in our sins; we are wicked.

In Matthew 7:21 -23 we read the following words of our Lord Jesus:

‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

Here we have those presuming they will enter the place of rest, but it is not so. They are declared to be evildoers – the wicked. The place they thought would be for rest becomes rather the place of pain and that forever. I tremble to write such things; but it is true. Which leads me to ask of you if you are reading this; how is it with you?

For all those who are still “wicked” I urge you to flee from the wrath to come. Come to the One who offered and still offers rest (see Matt. 11:2*); eternal rest. Oh to have the blessing of being cleansed from all sin, free of all guilt; accepted in Jesus Christ. How wonderful it is to be no longer wicked because of Christ.  So I urge you again; Come to Him.

Graveyards.

It is good for Christians to visit graveyards. They are good to visit because they are sobering places. They remind us of the reality of death and therefore of the finitude of life. As you wander around a graveyard you can ponder upon long lives and short lives. Whatever the length though, following on from the principle outworked in Genesis 5 death came to each individual and to each generation.

We live in a generation which camouflages death. The latent desire is to avoid death and to put it away into never-never land. But a graveyard tells us that is a deception. Death is real. This life which we are living now is not on a permanent loan, but it is a temporary lease. As we read in Hebrews 9:27-28 death and judgement are appointed to all.

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Then study the gravestones. Consider that the person buried there is not a figment of the imagination, but a real person. A person of history with real relationships passed away. Read what it says of them. Perhaps there are times when you alight on a gravestone and think yes they must have had real faith. Such is the way of the Lord and His grace.

Moreover a graveyard reminds us of what really matters in life. All the “toys” we acquire will soon be gone as Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy 6:7:  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

And in the context of our perspective on the needs of others we are reminded through a graveyard that real people around us are all heading into a real eternity. They need to know Christ. Oh how people need to know Christ!

(Original posted at Venabling on 13/10/2014)

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