Category Archives: The Gospel

Blessed to be Chosen by God

“Blessed is the man You choose, And cause to approach You, That he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Of Your holy temple.” – Psalm 65:4

This verse is wonderful. In it we see the fullness of what we need to do in order for God to call us “blessed”. The total sum of the requirement for us to be blessed in such a way is for God to choose us and cause us to approach Him. It is a sovereign act of God and we play no part other than response.

God's grace is wonderful.(Image courtesy of sxc.hu) Copyright held.

God’s grace is wonderful.
(Image courtesy of sxc.hu. Copyright held.)

The Gospel Message

The Gospel message is that of divine grace, not one where we earn favour.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His  great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” – Ephesians 2:4-5

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” – Romans 5:6

We were dead in trespasses and had no means nor manner of attaining the knowledge of God. Nothing which we ourselves could do would be able to give us life. We were dead to God, and as such were enemies of God, by our very nature children of wrath and our thoughts were constantly inclined against God. How then could a man that hates God come to approach Him? Such a man that is not only dead to God, but actively despises God, would in no manner want to approach Him.

And so we see in the opening verse that in order to be blessed we must approach God, and we can only do that because God has chosen us.

Herein lays great comfort. If we come humbly before the Living God in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ we can have that full assurance of faith that He has chosen us and that God Himself declares us to be blessed.

Do you yearn and hunger to come before the Father, to approach His throne of grace? Then I would urge that you do so, for it is God Himself that is calling you and if you respond to His grace then you will know that it cannot be by your own effort but only that God has chosen you for thus, and therefore He calls you blessed.

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Humility, not Pride, Is Needed

Human nature tends to be selfish. Our focus tends to be on ourselves, our wants and needs. We tend to think that our view, our opinion, is not only right but that it is our duty to win converts for our view. No, not everyone by any means thinks that people are longing to be corrected out of their “error” –  some are indeed self-less and wonderfully blessed to not be made to stumble in these ways – yet many others who do not fall at the first point are so happy in their own error that they will not seek to convert anyone and will immediately shut down any conversation that could see them being challenged themselves. I am not immune from both of these faults myself.

The Way of Love and Sacrifice

The "Humbling Door" at the Church of the Nativity. Humility is a much needed virtue. Image courtesy of Backpack Foodie/Flickr

The “Humbling Door” at the Church of the Nativity. Humility is a much needed virtue. Image courtesy of Backpack Foodie/Flickr

Jesus, on the other hand, shows a far greater way: the way of love and sacrifice. The Apostle Paul in Philippians outlines the way of Jesus and how we too should follow in this pattern:

Therefore if  there  is  any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any  affection and mercy,  fulfil my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let  nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. – Philippians 2:1-8

We must be ruled by Christ as our King, and He (having through the Holy Spirit inspired all Scripture), is our shining example – we should walk in love, and love is not proud or arrogant, but rather seeks the good of others before the good of itself.

In walking in humility we must acknowledge our own faults, sins and failings. We should not boast in any good deed but only boast in the Cross of Christ. We must esteem others better than ourselves. We must act and have the attitude that everyone else is due respect before us – and we must respect them and honour them as Christ would. (That does not mean we should shy away from discussing matters where we have knowledge, but we should not do so from a position of arrogance or disrespect, but be always bearing in mind that we are not yet perfected.)

Now some may say that “my sins are not as serious as his or hers!” Yet do you not know that it is only by the grace of God that you have not committed the wickedness which you so despise in another? The old saying goes “but for the grace of God go I.” The real issue that all have is not the particular expression of sin, but our sinfulness itself. It is our sinfulness that lies at the root of our problems with individual sins – and our sinfulness needs to be put to death – O how wonderful that Christ died to put to death our sinfulness! So? Can you boast of how little you’ve let sin impact on your life? Even if you’ve never murdered, committed adultery or robbed, unless you know the crucified and risen Christ then your heart is blackened with sinfulness just as severely as the murderer.

So, perhaps we could boast in our good deeds? Yet, without Christ, our good deeds are worthless and not really good at all. And if we have Christ, then it is His work in us, and not our own righteousness.

All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away. – Isaiah 64:6

Christ the Leveller

Jesus Christ is the great leveller of human relations. God is no respecter of persons: whether you have riches, status, position, power, ability or any other thing which man regards as a measure of success – God does not look upon such things as being deserving of favour. God shows mercy to whom He will – we can claim no credit ourselves but if we would come to Christ without regard for our position of success or lack of success then He will welcome us and receive us.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:12-13

Will you receive Christ as your Lord and Saviour? If you already know Christ, would you be willing to seek God – His Kingdom and His righteousness – rather than your own purposes and will?

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The Offence of the Cross

I have been prompted to make this entry in my blog because of the debate about Christianity and homosexuality.  Note that this was the prompt, but I am not going to focus on gay issues as my main point in this post.

There is a difficult, and at times un-Christianly bitter, debate within the Church between those who stand on Biblical principles in moral behaviour and those who suggest that the grace of God and the requirement to love all means that all or any behaviour is acceptable, providing it conforms to the World’s standards of morality.

For example, the liberals would say that a homosexual priest is fine, but a serial murderer priest is not.  The Bible, in fact, and in the New Testament, classes both sins as equal.  The liberals dispute this.

Yet to move beyond the homosexual debate is, I believe, important.  The conflict over gay rights is currently to the fore, prompted by moves in the UK to prohibit Christian principles in the workplace and by moves in the US ordaining openly homosexual bishops.  But the charge is now often brought that the Church is obsessed with “gay bashing”.  Although the debate wasn’t started by conservative Christians, we have risen to the bait and it seems that much campaigning has been focused on this.

But it is important, I believe, to move the debate forward.  The UK, and the world, are being swamped by sinful behaviours, and they are not exclusively to do with sexual behaviour.

My own particular struggle,  with drink and drugs, needs to be brought to attention.  I would take the same approach to heavy drinkers and drug users as I would to homosexual practice, for the Bible treats them as equal sins.  Show love, offer help, but do not shy away from saying such behaviour is sinful.  I have a deep sorrow at my past drink and drug use, and now I would not thank those who said “never mind, roll around on the floor dribbling, God doesn’t mind”.  The truth is: God does mind, He calls it sin.

There are other issues too, such as the oppression and exploitation of the poor.  The degree to which this happens in the UK, from the human trafficking to the exploitation by clothes shops in using overseas sweatshops, is appalling.  Christians need to speak on these issues.

I want to say one more thing: there has been a growing move in the UK to make Church “fashionable”.  To make Jesus attractive.  Sometimes this borders on attempting to con people into becoming Christians.  It is done in the name of “making Church relevant”.  Yet, the Bible is clear that we should “speak the truth”.  We cannot accept the “fluffy God” or the “it’s okay Jesus”.  God, Jesus, is Holy.

We must be clear.  A refusal to obey God will result in judgement.  But God is so loving that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, that whosoever should believe on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

If we Christians truly live, breathe, and then speak the Truth, believe me we shall soon find, and rejoice in, the fact that Jesus Christ and His Cross are most offensive to those who refuse to believe.

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Why Doesn’t God Just Sort Things Out?

One question I remember hearing often is this: If God is so loving, why doesn’t He just stop all the wars and come down and make everything okay?

Perhaps, He did.  And we killed Him.

Jesus’ death upon the Cross marks the crossroads of life.  Many anti-Semitic Christians have asserted that it was the Jews who killed Jesus.  Christian Jews sometimes point out that it was the Romans who killed Jesus.  But we are all responsible.  The Jewish authorities orchestrated Jesus’ death, the Gentile (non-Jew) authorities carried the sentence out.  Both Jews and non-Jews bear responsibility.

Now, one may say: “But I wasn’t there.  If I had been, I would have had no part in it.”  Such a statement is understandable, yet profoundly arrogant.  Haven’t you ever said an unkind word about someone behind their back?  Maybe, as your friends laughingly mocked, you resisted for a while, but when you sensed that you’d miss out on the party unless you joined in, didn’t you throw in a smidgen of insult?  Trust me, no, trust God, when He says that “all have sinned”, and that if you had been present at the crucifixion of Jesus, you, like me, would have mocked.

But why did Jesus die?  Surely, if He’s God, He couldn’t die?  Some, such as the JW’s and Unitarians, deny that Jesus is God.  But Jesus Himself claimed to be the great I AM (one of the Names of God).  Thomas cried out “My lord and my God!”  Jesus said, “I and the Father are One.”  Maybe we can’t get our heads around God being three persons but only One God, but then I can’t get my head around the Hadron Collider.  It doesn’t make something not true just because we don’t fully understand it.

Okay, so God, as the Son, came to earth.  Why didn’t He just say: “Okay, I’m here now, stop fighting, stop bickering and we’ll have a party.”

There is the question of sin.  What would have happened if God had said that He would make everything perfect, bring justice and reward everyone.

Well, as God is just, He would have had to reward everyone according to the state of their hearts and their deeds.  Remember: all have sinned.  All are guilty.  All deserve to be punished.  So, God brings Justice and we all stand condemned.  It would have been a literal hell for everyone.

So, because God is loving, He sends His Son, who is One with Him.  God had already shown in stark clarity the method by which sin could be forgiven: only by the shedding of blood.  The Old Testament times are full with the blood of lambs, goats, pigeons and the like.  There is a law: sin causes death.  For sin to be forgiven, something had to shed its blood.

And so, at the Passover, God provides for Himself a Lamb.  A Lamb without blemish.  Perfect, pure, holy.  His Son Jesus.  Jesus’ shed blood makes the atonement.  If we accept that He died for us and believe in Him, we can receive that atoning work of the Cross: we can be forgiven.

We killed Jesus.  But Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  But that forgiveness only comes when we accept the Truth.  Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life, no-one comes to the Father except by Me.”  Jesus is the only Way of salvation, be you Jew or Greek or Roman or Indian or American or African or Australian.

So, a just God takes upon Himself our sin, a merciful God calls us to respond, and a gracious God offers us all, as many as would respond, life joyful and everlasting.

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