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Christian Pilgrim

 

Blog 2012



Index

Carols from Kings

Cry to God for Mercy

For God So Loved the World

I'm Saved, But I'm Not Getting Any Better

Bringing Ourselves Down

The One Thing Needful

Whatsoever is not of Faith is Sin

Brethren Assemblies and Dispensationalism

The "Discovery" of the Higgs Boson

Always on the Periphery of Things

The Loneliness of the Serious Christian

Democracy Fails Due to Selfishness

Ye Cannot Serve God and Mammon

One is Your Master



Carols from Kings

One of the problems of the current festival is the entertainment blitz on most of the major television channels. Normal programming is suspended for empty-headed films and so-called "comedy" shows.

Last year, as I was flicking through the channels, I came across the programme "Carols from Kings" on BBC2, which is an annual carol service from Kings College Cambridge. Not being a carol singer myself, it wouldn't have attracted my attention initially, but I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered it, particularly because of the Bible readings. They were all from the Authorised version, and every reader read in such a serious and solemn manner. I found this particularly delightful, and I put up with the annoying carols inbetween readings for the rest of the programme.

So, I was looking forward to this year's programme, which was on last night. Oh dear! I didn't watch all of last year's programme, but from what I saw last year, all the readings were from the Bible. This year was very different. Only four of the seven readings were from the Bible, the other three were poems written by proud men trying to be witty, and pretending they are Shakespeare. This, together with some of the more modern music, was definitely a downgrade from the previous year. But one thing stood out. The contrast between the words of silly men in their poetry with the plain, easy to understand words of Scripture. There is no comparison!

Oh, how we need serious, solemn, but so easy to understand Biblical religion back in our land today!

"Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?" Isaiah 2:22.

December 2012

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Cry to God for Mercy

The other day I came home from church praying for real Christian fellowship. It is few and far between. Even though we go to church every week and mix with others of supposedly like mind, church can be a very lonely place. Anyway, I am sure that sometimes the Lord has a sense of humour, because just after praying this prayer, I had a knock on the door, and there stood two Jehovah's Witnesses!

The lady then started her aggressive evangelism, as they usually do, not letting me get a word in edgeways. This should be a lesson to us all that when we evangelise, we should actually listen to others, and be willing to respond to them, rather than just going through a pre-planned speech. Anyway, she then suddenly asked me, "How do you think we can obtain eternal life?" Now, I knew that whatever I said, she would ignore it and tell me what she thinks regardless, but what an opportunity! Such opportunities do not come along very often, and when they do, we are usually taken aback and suddenly become tongue-tied, not being able to find the words to say.

I was in church once, and a visitor came and sat in the seat behind me. After the service, one of the elders came up to him to ask the usual questions, "Are you on holiday? Where are you from?" and so on. He did not respond, but just took a deep sigh and said from the heart, "How can I be born again?" What another wonderful opportunity! Such occasions are so very rare. The elder, just like me with the Jehovah's Witnesses, was so taken aback, he just waffled, he couldn't find the words to say either.

In response to the JW lady, I said that we need to repent and turn to Christ, to which, to my consternation, she agreed! Of course, what she meant by that statement and what I meant, were two completely different things. Anyway, after the JW's had gone, I felt my complete inadequacy, and racked my brains as to what I should have said. I came to the conclusion that in both the above situations, whether the enquirer is genuine as in the case of the man in church, or whether not, as in the case of the JW's, the answer must always be: Cry to God for mercy.

This statement would immediately imply that we cannot save ourselves, we need a Saviour outside of ourselves, our own efforts are worthless, and that we need mercy, lest a worse thing come upon us. The openings this answer could then lead to are immense.

So next time, I will have a bit more of an idea as to what to say. May the Lord grant such occasions again. In the meantime, as it was the Lord who brought those JW's across my path, I can at least pray for them, even if I never see them again. Who knows how much their hearts will be disturbed, and maybe opened, by the Lord as a result of them being prayed for!

"God be merciful to me a sinner." Luke 18:13.

December 2012

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For God so Loved the World

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16.

In evangelical circles, the above verse is always portrayed as the most well-known verse in the Bible, or "The gospel in a nutshell." So much so that the phrase "John 3:16" has been bandied about all over the place, at football matches, on hot-air balloons and I have even seen it as graffiti on a railway bridge in North Wales (as though it is the "Christian" thing to do to deface public property in that way). This is done under the guise of "outreach," even though Mr. Average Unbeliever in the street will not have a clue as to what the phrase "John 3:16" is referring to!

It really saddens me whenever I have heard this verse expounded in church circles, that it is generally interpreted completely wrongly. I would like to here present the true meaning.
On most occasions, the word "world" is highlighted, and it is emphasised that God loves the "world," with the grand assumption that the word "world" means every single person without exception that has ever lived or ever will live on earth. This cannot be true. Look at the following verses:

"The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him."  John 12:19.

"World" here does NOT mean every man on earth head for head by any means. It only refers to everyone who had heard about Christ at the time (and then it was an exaggerated comment by the Pharisees, and not true).

"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."  1 Timothy 2:4.

In context, "all men" here refers to "all kinds of men," yes, God has his people even from amongst kings and all those in authority (v.2).

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."  2 Peter 3:9.

Here it is again assumed that the "any" and "all" that God wills not to perish are every man head for head that ever existed. But look at the context – God is longsuffering to us-ward, i.e. towards us, the elect, the Lord's people and only them. These are the only ones God is "not willing" should perish, and He indeed effectually saves every one of them.

"And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:2.

This shows that salvation is not exclusively for the Jews alone ("ours only"), as the Jews had previously thought, but for people of every nation, i.e. "the whole world." It does not refer to every single person in the whole world because if Christ was the propitiation for everyone's sins, then everyone would be saved.

God does not love everybody or want to save everybody. Rather, God has a controversy with everybody, namely their sin, which needs sorting. Yes, God sent His Son into the world to deal with sin, but I really have a problem with anyone who thinks the gospel is saying "God loves you!" to everyone. The fact is that when we are speaking to people, we do not know whether God loves them or not. If they are in the Lamb's Book of Life, yes, He does, but otherwise, they are destined for the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels, where they justly deserve to be because of their sin. God cannot love those in hell, or even those on their way to hell whom God has no intention of saving. God is not wringing His hands over any of them saying to Himself, "Oh dear, those poor people, if only they had believed in Christ!" NO! God righteously hates them to all eternity:

"God is angry with the wicked every day." Psalm 7:11.

"The wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth."  Psalm 11:5.

"Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience."  Ephesians 5:6.

"Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels"  Matthew 25;41.

No love of God here.

And of course, we are all wicked by nature, and so we must admit that we are all deserving of such punishment. Just because God only saves some and not all, we should not complain to Him that He isn't fair because He doesn't give everyone an equal "chance" to be saved, rather we should be thankful that in His mercy he saves anyone at all.

With this in mind, we come to John 3:16. Those who think that it means that God loves everybody, not only emphasise the word "world," but also emphasise the word "so." They assume (another assumption!) that it refers to extent, "God SOOOOOO loved the world," in other words, God's love for the world was so great that he performed the most extreme, ultimate sacrifice He possibly could by sending His only begotten Son to the cross to die for sin. Now, yes, this is indeed true. True believers are saved by such a great and costly salvation, for which we should be eternally thankful. But this is not the meaning of the word "so" here.

Strongs Concordance is useful at this point, and I reproduce the entry for the word "so" in full:

"3779. houto, houtos: adverb from 3778; in this way (referring to what precedes or follows):– after that, after (in) this manner, as, even (so), for all that, like(-wise), no more, on this fashion(-wise), so (in like manner), thus, what."

It does NOT refer to extent at all. It means "in this manner." We use this meaning regularly in English. If I am trying to show you how to do something you have never done before, I show you, and say, "I do it, so." In other words, "in this way, in this manner." And this is exactly the use of the word in John 3:16.

The verse begins with the word "For," which means that it refers to the preceding verses. Let's take a look:

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  John 3:14-16.

The preceding verses refer to the incident of Moses lifting up the brass serpent so that everyone who looked upon it did not die when they were bitten by the real serpents in the wilderness:

"And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived."  Numbers 21:6-9.

So, it is "in this manner" that God loved the world. Not in the manner of God loving everyone, otherwise God who is all-powerful, would save everyone from hell-fire, if He truly loved them. Rather, God loved the world in this manner, namely, "that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Note it is only "whosoever believeth in Him" who do not perish, but have everlasting life, just as only those who looked to the brass serpent were the only ones who lived and the rest died.

So, we should stop trying to tell people that God loves them, interpreting John 3:16 wrongly, because we do not know whether he loves them or not. Rather we should be telling people that their sin separates them from God, and call them to repent and look to the Son of God and what he has done on the cross to save His people (Matthew 1:21 – i.e. not everybody) from their sins. Maybe then, the Lord will have mercy on them.

"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."  John 3:17,18.

"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." John 3:36.

"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."  John 6:37.

December 2012

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I’m saved! But I’m not getting any better!

Have you ever asked the question: What is the minimum amount of doctrine we need to know in order to be saved? It is quite a common question, especially in Protestant circles, as many people have different opinions on this matter. It is quite an important subject really, so we need to think on these things to be clear in our own minds.

In Christendom in general (i.e. including Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches), most churches would probably believe in baptismal regeneration actually, but they would still have some minimum standards they expect their followers to believe, notably the Apostle's or Nicene Creed, or at the very least the doctrine of the Trinity. Protestants, however, would go further and say that we need to "believe the gospel" personally for ourselves in order to be saved (after all, that's what the Bible says), but what "the gospel" actually is, seems to be in dispute:

Is it:
- that Christ died on the cross as a substitutionary atonement to take away sin?
- that Christ died for me personally?
- that I must repent and exercise faith in Christ in order to be saved?
- that we must believe that Christ atoning sacrifice on the cross is the alone and sufficient  sacrifice for our sin, without anything of our own, either in whole or in part being at all added to it?

All of the above are true statements, but I would like to suggest that the answer to the question: "What is the minimum amount of  doctrine we need to know in order to be saved?" is none of these things. The answer is actually.... nothing!

Is this heresy? Surely Paul's answer to the Philippian jailor is our minimum requirement:

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Acts 16:31.

Surely, we at least need to know about Christ, his atoning work, and put our trust in Him for our salvation? Well, hang on a moment, let me explain.
 
The Bible is quite clear in that we are saved by grace alone:

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."  Ephesians 2:8,9.

"Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began"  2 Timothy 1:9.

"But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."  Titus 3:4-7.

We need to read the Westminster Confession of Faith's chapter on Effectual Calling to understand this more fully:

"Chapter X. Of Effectual Calling.
I. All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased in His appointed and accepted time effectually to call(a), by His Word and Spirit(b), out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ(c); enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God(d), taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh(e); renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power determining them to that which is good(f), and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ(g): yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace(h).

(a) Romans 8:30, 11:7; Ephesians 1:10, 11. (b) II Thessalonians 2:13, 14; II Corinthians 3:3, 6. (c) Romans 8:2; Ephesians 2:1-5; II Timothy 1:9, 10. (d) Acts 26:18; I Corinthians 2:10, 12; Ephesians 1:17, 18. (e) Ezekiel 36:26. (f) Ezekiel 11:19; Philippians 2:13; Deuteronomy 30:6; Ezekiel 36:27. (g) Ephesians 1:19; John 6:44, 45. (h) Song. 1:4; Psalm 110:3; John 6:37; Romans 6:16-18.

II. This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man(i), who is altogether passive therein, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit(k), he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it(l).

(i) II Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:4, 5; Ephesians 2:4, 5, 8, 9; Romans 9:11. (k) I Corinthians 2:14; Romans 8:7; Ephesians 2:5. (l) John 6:37; Ezekiel 36:27; John 5:25.

III. Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ through the Spirit(m), who worketh when, and where, and how He pleaseth(n): so also, are all other elect persons who are uncapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word(o).

(m) Luke 18:15, 16, and Acts 2:38, 39 and John 3:3, 5 and I John 5:12 and Romans 8:9 compared. (n) John 3:8. (o) I John 5:12; Acts 4:12."

We see here quite clearly that:

"Salvation is of the Lord"  Jonah 2:9.

And that:

"No man can come to me [Christ], except the Father which hath sent me draw him"  John 6:44.

The faith and repentance that we need (to respond to the gospel call to repent and believe in Christ, when we hear it), are both gifts of God given to us:

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God"  Ephesians 2:8.

"Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."  Acts 11:18.

We cannot whip these attributes up from within ourselves. Therefore we need to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit first, before we can receive and exercise them, in order to respond to the gospel call.

So, does this mean that we can all just sit back in our armchairs and do nothing, thinking that if God wants to save us, He will do so in His own good time, but if not, that's just the way it is? Of course not. God forbid that we should think that way! People use this as an excuse not to bother with the things of God at all.

What we must still do is realise our inability to respond, and cry to God for mercy, to grant us these gifts, even though we don’t deserve them. Even if God will not hear us and we end up in hell-fire for ever, that's just what we deserve anyway, so God will not have done anything wrong. But the Bible tells us that He does save some, by putting a new heart within them so that they can respond in faith and repentance, and this is a marvellous thing, and indeed our only hope.

Am I saying then, that it is possible to come to salvation without even knowing about the Lord Jesus Christ? e.g. What about people who practice other religions? Can they be saved even though they never come into contact with the Bible, a church or anything else which proclaims the truth? Again, I say, God forbid!

The preaching of the gospel (which is the spreading of the truth of the Bible throughout the world), and the responding to it (which can only be done if God regenerates the heart), is the ordinary means of salvation. This is the means that God normally uses to bring people to Himself. Ordinarily, God uses means. So, it is always the church's job to proclaim the gospel, and to bring people into contact with and to a knowledge of the truth of the Bible.
Ordinarily the Lord works by, in His providence, causing all those He wants to be saved (which is not everybody, contrary to popular opinion) to come into contact with the truth somehow. Whether it be into contact with the Bible itself, or a tract or a gospel meeting or a church, if God wants someone to be saved, he will make sure they come into contact with the truth and then give them a new heart in order to embrace it.

But God is always free to work without, above and against means if he so wishes. This is the case, for example, for all elect persons who are incapable of being called by the Word, such as elect infants and elect imbiciles. But we should never presume on this. Ordinarily, the job of the church is to bring people into contact with the truth, tell them about Christ, and leave the rest to the Lord as to whether He saves them or not.

What I am trying to get across is that it is not what we know that saves us, neither is it what we believe, but salvation is only of the Lord. Many people go to church for years, and know their Bibles backwards, but they are not saved. Only when the Lord regenerates their heart does the truth of the Scriptures, that they have known for many years, come alive for them. This is regeneration, and we can do nothing to attain it for ourselves. Neither our faith, nor our understanding, can help get us to heaven, otherwise we could boast that we did something our neighbour didn't do, namely have faith, or understand the Scriptures better. No, no, no. Salvation is of the Lord alone. We learn everything else later, after we have been regenerated, as the Holy Spirit teaches us and leads us into all truth.
 
Once we have been saved (been born-again, become a new creature, had a new heart put within us – however you want to describe it), then the Scriptures really come into their own. Christ prayed to the Father (with regards his disciples):

"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." John 17:17.

Ahh! This is the role of the Scriptures, and the reason we need to stay close to the Word of God for as long as we are in this world. Look at the church, particularly Protestantism, today. It is fragmented into many different divisions. How can this be? Well many people in the church are unregenerate, but apart from those, it never ceases to amaze me how many true believers, who indeed do shew the fruit of the Spirit, and to all intents and purposes we must accept them as our brothers and sisters in Christ, have such different views on spiritual things. This is where the Scriptures come in, to guide us into the truth, and this is the reason why they are so important.

We are justified by grace through faith alone, but we are sanctified by the truth, the Scriptures.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism states:

"Q.35. What is sanctification?  A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace(a), whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God(b), and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness(c).

(a) 2 Thessalonians 2:13; (b) Ephesians 4:23,24; (c) Romans 6:4,6."

I really don't think I agree with the latter part of this statement. Being enabled "more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righeousness" sounds to me too much like, "Every day in every way I'm getting better and better." And this is just not true. I'm not getting better and better. I'm just as much a totally depraved sinner in need of Christ the second before I die as I was the second after I was conceived, even though inbetween I have been born-again and had a new heart put within me. If for one moment I was getting better and better, it would mean that the more mature I got in the faith, the less I am in need of Christ, which cannot possible be.

Christ said of Himself:

"And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth."  John 17:19.

Sanctification cannot possibly mean our getting better and better, because Christ said that He sanctified Himself, who was altogether perfect, and could not possibly get better. Rather, Christ here meant that He was setting Himself apart from the world more and more as He got Himself ready to perform the task He was about to endure on the cross. To us, sanctification is a becoming more and more set apart from the ways of the world and all false doctrine, in order to live for Christ, and this is directly proportional to our knowledge of the Scriptures. Only as the Holy Spirit opens the Scriptures to us, can we be more and more set apart unto the Christian life and away from the world's ways of doing things. This is therefore vital for our walk in this world, which is the practical outworking of our faith. The nearer we are to Christ and the truth and the right way, the more we can be Christ-like in our daily lives. So we need to keep close to the Scriptures to do this.

Now we will never be entirely sanctified whilst we are on this earth, as John Wesley believed. Far from it. We are not getting better and better so that one day, maybe, in this world, we will not be able to sin any more. Neither should we believe that now we have been given a new heart, we are instantly sinless and the person we used to be doesn't exist any more. No, no! Rather, we are more and more being separated from the world, the flesh and the devil. Only after death, is sin got rid of completely from our lives (what a glorious thing to look forward to!!). But whilst we are in this world, we have been given new hearts, and the Holy Spirit within us, to understand the Scriptures, in order for us to be able to nurture the fruit of the Spirit. This is how the Christian should spend his life – mortifying the old heart, and nurturing the new heart. As we do this, we become more and more sanctified – i.e. set apart from the world and every false doctrine – and conformed to the Scriptures. But we are still the vile sinners that we always were by nature.

Upon having a new heart put within us, our slavery to sin is immediately broken, so anyone with an addiction has hope! It can be broken, if you come to Christ! However, sin itself will still be there. We have our slavery to sin broken, but we still need victory over individual temptations as they present themselves to us. The drunkard can have his habit broken if he comes to Christ, but it would still be a good idea for him to avoid the liquor house!

Christ tells His disciples that they need to pray daily:

"forgive us our sins..... And lead us not into temptation"  Luke 11:4.

Job, a true believer throughout the book named after him, but especially after his experiences mentioned therein, comes to the mature spiritual conclusion of a well-exercised believer:

"Behold, I am vile"  Job 40:4.

"I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."  Job 42:6.

No Wesleyan sinless perfection here. We now have a battle going on within us, which was not there before:

"I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? "  Romans 7;14-24.

This is not a description of a person before conversion to Christ (there was no battle going on at all in his soul, then), neither can we say it was something else not relevant to the Christian today, such as Paul, a Jew, telling us of his experience in relation to the Jewish law. No! It is the truly converted Christian, now! With the spiritual battle against the flesh continually going on within him until he dies! Our proper understanding of this, leads us to see our sins more and more. Our very need of Christ then becomes clearer and clearer as we grow in the faith, and we can truly say with Paul:

"I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."  Romans 7:14-25.

"Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift." 2 Corinthians 9:15.

What our sanctification does, is give us a modicum of victory over sin, as we need it. It does not make us better and better people, because then, resisting temptation would become easier and easier. We should never think of sin as a doddle to get over:

"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."  Galatians 6:1.

In the Christian life, we do grow in two things as we mature in the faith. We:

"grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."  2 Peter 3:18.

The more Scripture we know, as we mature in the faith, the more weapons we have in our armoury, as we fight the world, the flesh and the devil. Overcoming sin does not become easier, but we have more weapons at our disposal in the constant battle that we have against our spiritual enemies – a war which will not end, nor become easier, until we rest and go to be with Christ, which is far better.

One day, in heaven, there will be no more need of the Bible. Sin will have gone from our lives completely. There will be no more need of setting ourselves apart; we will be apart from our enemies for ever, as they all get thrown into hell-fire and we don't. But whilst we are here on this earth now, we need the Word of God, for our sanctification:

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."  Romans 12:2.

November 2012

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Bringing ourselves down

How arrogant we all are! The problem with this world is that men exalt themselves too highly. The greatest need that we all have is to bring ourselves down in the sight of God, in the sight of other people and in the sight of ourselves. This is the one thing that we cannot and will not do.

The Bible is full of exhortations to humble ourselves:

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14.

"When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person." Job 22:29.

"When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble." Psalm 9:12

"LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear" Psalm 10:17

"My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad." Psalm 34:2.

"The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit." Psalm 34:18.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Psalm 51:17.

"The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God." Psalm 69:32.

"Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud." Proverbs 16:19.

"A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit." Proverbs 29:23.

"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Isaiah 57:15.

"But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word."  Isaiah 66:2.

"He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Micah 6:8.

"Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:4.

"And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." Matthew 23:12.

"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." James 4:10.

It is the meek that shall inherit the earth (Psalm 37:11; Matthew 5:5). The proud and arrogant are those that the Lord hates, and will one day judge:

"Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him. Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place."  Job 40:11,12.

"The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things"  Psalm 12:3.

"Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off."  Psalm 138:6.

"Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD"  Proverbs 16:5.

"For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch." Malachi 4:1.

"God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble." James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5.

But to humble ourselves is something we cannot do by nature, because every hour of every day we continually think too highly of ourselves. We always think we know what is right. We think we can do things for ourselves. We think we are worth listening to. We are at all times so full of ourselves. Wretched men that we are! (Romans 7:24), if only we would recognise this problem within!

Actually, in reality, despite what we think, we are nothing and know very little:

"For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow" Job 8:9.

"And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know." 1 Corinthians 8:2.

"For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself." Galatians 6:3.

"For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." James 4:14.

We all desperately need to have a new heart put within us, to be converted, to be born-again, to become a new creature, to have Christ dwelling within us. Only then can we begin to change. Otherwise it is impossible:

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh."  Ezekiel 36:26.

"Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."  Matthew 18:3.

"Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."  John 3:3.

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."  2 Corinthians 5:17.

"Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"  2 Corinthians 13:5.

"Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:27.

So, if we are truly one of the Lord's people, have truly been born again, have truly had a new heart put within us, we should always be trying to bring ourselves down in our own estimation. This is a major part of our sanctification. Only if we have this new heart can we ever begin to do this. The Christian life is one of mortifying the old heart and nurturing the new heart:

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”  Romans 8:13.

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry”  Colossians 3:5.

In fact one big giveaway as to whether someone in the church is truly born-again or not is that eventually they will display their arrogance and inability to be able to truly humble themselves in this way.

With the old heart still there after the new one has been given us (and don't ever pretend that this is not the case – the old heart is the Christian's greatest enemy in this world!), we will always find difficulty humbling ourselves, because of indwelling sin and the arrogance still remaining.  But if we don't start to bring ourselves down, we can be sure that the Lord will do it for us. Every one of us living is in bondage to decay and death. Slowly we become weaker. This is indeed the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). Also, the Lord brings difficult or sad providences upon us all. These things are sent to bring us down, to humble us, so that we may have a right view of ourselves. We should be thankful in every circumstance, especially when such like events begin to start happening to us.

The recent case of Tony Nicklinson was in the news recently fighting for the right to "die with dignity" as the euthanasia supporters call it. He had "locked-in syndrome," a perfectly healthy mind in a body cut down by a stroke and unable to move. He thought that such a condition was torture, and demanded the right to be assisted to die. Thankfully the courts ruled against him. "I had some fun" was all he could say in a note left after he died. As if that would wash with God on Judgment Day. But he could have done such a lot!

"But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him. Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD." Psalm 3:3-5.

A Christian in such a "locked-in" condition can do all of these things! He is not hindered in the slightest by physical incapacity. Yet Mr Nicklinson would rather die because he can't "have fun" physically in this world any more. What a pathetic state to be in.

Let us make sure we have the new heart God promises his people, and that we nurture it, bringing down self to the dust where it belongs.

"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time"  1 Peter 5:6.

October 2012

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The One Thing Needful

"Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." Luke 10:38-42

It is so, so easy for all of us to fill our every waking moment with things. Thoughts and ideas about our activities in this world engage our minds constantly. Indeed, sometimes we cannot even get to sleep for thinking about them, but our minds can be buzzing long into the night.

Now, whilst we have breath on this earth, the Lord has given each child of His work to do, and so we, of course, should do this to the best of the ability given to us, and that would include thinking, planning and using our minds accordingly. These are therefore perfectly legitimate things to be doing. But in our busy-ness, we often miss the one thing needful. We need to prepare and be ready for our death.

Are we ready to die and go to meet the great Judge of all the earth? You may say, "Yes, because I have trusted in Jesus." Very good, may that indeed be so. But we cannot just sit back, trust in a decision we supposedly made many years ago and then forget about it. There are still warnings in the Bible to be diligent to always be ready:

"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."  2 Peter 1:10,11.

Not that we can lose our election once we have it, that would be impossible, we cannot be un-born again. But we must make the fact sure in our own hearts and minds, continually examining ourselves for our own benefit:

"Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"  2 Corinthians 13:5.

We are exhorted by the Lord to spend our time watching and praying:

"Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is."  Mark 13:33.

But most people are too busy with their little lives in this world to be bothered to do much of this. Thoughts of heaven are very far away most of the time. Only when trouble comes do we begin to reconsider our lives in the light of eternity.

I am talking about professing Christians here. As for the pagans, they cannot do this. They have no hope. This world is all they have. They either think that death is the end, or they invent something beyond it which is pleasing to their carnal nature. None of them want to come to terms with the truth that:

"It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."  Hebrews 9:27.

But Christians should be so much more focused on eternal things than they are. Our critics accuse us of being so heavenly-minded that we are of no earthly use. But this is impossible! Our problem is that we are nowhere near heavenly-minded enough. We can only do the work we have been given to do down here properly – i.e. to the glory of God –  if we view it in the light of eternity. So many of us busy, busy, busy ourselves with church activities. Working in our "corner of the Lord's vineyard" for what? To get more people in to our cosy little denomination? To make a name for ourselves in the church? But are we ready to die?? That is the question. I fear that a lot of the time, sadly, Christians keep themselves busy to avoid thoughts of eternity, rather than to prepare for it.

It has to be said that most Christians seem to have tunnel vision, and cannot see beyond the activities of their own little church ghetto – as though theirs is the only denomination in the world, and the whole of Christ's kingdom is dependent upon them. They can't seem to be able to pass the baton on, to ease up in any of their busy-ness. Even Paul recognised the need to do this, as he handed over his work to Timothy:

"For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."  2 Timothy 4:6-8.

Recently I have come across people who fill their retirement travelling all over the world preaching. Now, there is nothing wrong with preaching, but when the activity completely takes over our lives, preparation for our latter end takes a back seat. I also know of ministers in their 70's who still feel they have to fill their lives with church work, even though they have health problems and should have calmed down their active participation a long time ago. STOP!! Whatever age we are, and in old age particularly, our great need is to prepare ourselves for the great translation which is death. As Christians, we should not be so full of busy-ness in this world that we neglect readiness for the next. All of us still, even after many years as a Christian, have a long, long way to go before we can be fitted for heaven, because we are still so full of the ways of this world in our hearts. And we just can't seem to learn to wean ourselves off this world. Help us, Lord! Change us, Lord! Make us ready! Sanctify us by thy truth, thy Word is truth (John 17:17)! Sadly, we would rather stay here. We quite like our position and place in the church we are in, and the work we are doing. I even suggest that some of us, if we do ever get to heaven at all, would be bored spending the rest of eternity no longer in control of what is happening around us any more. This should not be. This world is a merely a preparation place for the next. May we all realise that this is so.

"A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."  Ecclesiastes 7:1-4.

"For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."  James 4:14.

"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory."  Colossians 3:1-4.

William Perkins (1558-1602) wrote a very good book entitled "How to Die Well", which can be found in volume 1 of his Works available on the following web site:


http://digitalpuritan.net/william-perkins/

September 2012

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Whatsoever is not of faith is sin

What do you know about the Exclusive Brethren? Having started to attend an Open Brethren church in recent weeks, I have been reading a lot about the Brethren movement. In nearly 35 years as a Christian, I have never come across the EBs at all, even though they have thriving congregations. This is mainly due to two things: (1) they never advertise their services and (2) I have never ever lived in a place where they have had a congregation.

Having said that, I was visiting my aunt in Lincoln last year, and had cause to go into Lidl supermarket. A group of women came in to the shop wearing blue headscarves and long dresses. They appeared just like one imagines sect members to dress, and I pointed them out to my wife who told me she had noticed similarly dressed people in Cardiff where she used to live. Thinking about this now, I am guessing that they were EBs. The last time we were in Lincoln, two men were preaching in the open air and handing out tracts. I got two tracts from them, and the only contact address available on them was the tract publisher, which I have since found out to be the official EB publishing arm.

The EBs tell their people to shun the Internet, so official information about them is scarce, but two web sites help:

(1) www.theexclusivebrethren.com

This is their official web site. From this I found out that they do believe in open air evangelism, trying to persuade people to embrace Christ, but then they deliberately don’t invite people into their meetings:

While brethren engage in open-air preaching (street preaching) and we distribute Bibles and gospel tracts to attract people to Jesus as Saviour, we do not seek to attract members of the public to join the Exclusive Brethren”  (“Living Our Beliefs” by Bruce D. Hales).

The site has no contact details or list of meeting houses.

(2) The other useful web site is:

peebs.net

This is a site set up to help people escape from the EB’s! This does have a list of meeting houses, but it is compiled by ex-EBs, so is not definitive.

The EBs are clearly a sect. They deliberately stand apart from the rest of society, they dress differently, they tell their people to shun the internet, television and radio. Women must wear long hair and a headscarf, etc. etc. I could go on. And they are strictly regulated in all these distinctives.

However, whenever I have come across a sect before, it has always been one which clearly has false theology, e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. These groups are easy to dismiss, as all we need to do is point out their error of not believing that Jesus is the divine Son of God and we have done our job. But the intriguing thing about the EB’s is that they are relatively sound on the basics of theology. They DO believe that Jesus is the divine Son of God, and that salvation is by grace through faith – indeed they are more Calvinistic than the Open Brethren (I suppose they see themselves as ‘chosen’!). Yes, I would disagree with them on some issues such as their Immersionism and Dispensationalism, but there are many mainstream churches that I would also disagree with on these issues too. In a similar situation there are the Amish in America, who are not of a Brethren background but Mennonites. They too have a reasonably sound theology with regards the being of God and salvation, but they too believe in keeping themselves separate from everyone else in a certain strict code of practice.

On the one hand, both these groups are very attractive. They have a real sense of Christian community amongst themselves, which is completely missing in mainstream Christendom. They will genuinely help each other out practically, financially and prayerfully, and there is a true Christian communal spirit amongst them all. Also, personally, I too believe that shunning the internet, television and the radio is a good idea (as it brings the world into our homes and most of it completely wastes our time when we could be doing something far more useful). I also fully believe that we should dress modestly and be separate from the world and its ways. So many practical things I thoroughly agree with EBs about!

This is all so attractive. Yes, I want to become a member!! Except that…. (and there is always a catch!)… Even though these groups are reasonably sound in their beliefs, the members are obliged to blindly follow instructions from the powers that be without question. The leaders will not tolerate anyone thinking for themselves and if ever someone disagrees with the system in any way, however small, they are disfellowshipped in the cruellest of ways, the consequences of which quite often splits families right down the middle.

The EBs are led by one man at the top. At the moment it is an Australian called Bruce Hales, who recently chartered a jumbo jet to visit Europe (proving that these people are not short of cash!). The “Man of God” as he is known wields the power. Members have to blindly follow his every whim. In fact, in 1970, there was an incident in Aberdeen where a previous “Man of God” was found in bed with an elder’s wife. This incident split the EB’s in half. Many recognised the problem straight away, left and formed new assemblies outside of his control, but others (amazingly, including the elder concerned) still blindly followed the man, regardless of the obvious sin he was caught in, and indeed regardless of his regular drunken behaviour. These are the EBs we have with us today. This whole idea reminds us of the Jonestown massacre in 1978, when 918 members of a different sect, at the instruction of one man, were quite happy to commit suicide.

So, how do we respond to such groups?

Firstly, we should learn to never follow a man or a group blindly. How we need to be aware of this in today’s modern church scene! How many people in the mainstream churches do this! And if anyone does not toe the line on any issue, maybe they are not disfellowshipped in such a cruel manner as the EBs, but they would at least be marginalised in the church.

Secondly, we should never impose standards on others in an authoritarian way. Yes, if our own hearts personally, upon the reading and understanding of Scripture, tell us not to watch television, to dress modestly and to flee from the sinful ways of this world, then we as individuals should do so. But we have no right to impose such beliefs on other people by force, even if those beliefs are Scriptural and right.  If the Holy Spirit working on a person’s heart has not convinced them of such things yet, then we should by all means encourage them in the right way, but always remember that

whatsoever is not of faith is sin” Romans 14:23.

Is our church asking or expecting us to believe or do anything that we haven’t truly been convinced in our own heart is right? Yes, we may be wrong and the church right, but until the Holy Spirit working on our own hearts convinces us of the truth on the matter – and we are all growing in grace and knowledge and changing our ways as a result of what Scripture we have understood and embraced – we have no warrant to blindly follow anybody. Indeed it is sin to do so. We are responsible to the Lord alone in all things. The ideal church should be broad enough for both “weak” and “strong” believers to be able to get along together.

Read Romans 14.

August 2012

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Brethren Assemblies and Dispensationalism

Last Lord’s Day for the first time in my life I attended a Brethren assembly. I have always been put off going to one because I do not agree with their Premillennial Dispensationalist views on what they believe is going to happen in the last times. I have heard from ex-Brethren members that this is a major issue in the movement, so I have consequently always avoided going to worship in one of their assemblies before. But, having been so disillusioned by the lack of seriousness in any of the other churches in my local area, last week I decided to attend one to see what it was like.

I knew that their morning service is always the “Breaking of Bread” service, so I fully expected to be excluded from taking the elements, but upon being asked if I had been baptised by immersion, no more questions were asked and I was allowed to partake. It is strange that the mode of baptism was so important to them, and more searching questions were not deemed necessary. Having said that, I don’t mind not being personally examined by an elder, so long as at least the table is “fenced” and a verbal warning is given:

he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”  1 Corinthians 11:29.

Sadly in most churches today, this is not the case, and if 1 Corinthians 11 is quoted at all, the reading never gets as far as this verse.

The service was a breath of fresh air when compared with all the other churches that I have been in over the past few years. The men who spoke seemed to be very exercised in their Christianity, in fact the whole meeting reminded me of a Scottish Presbyterian prayer meeting, except that no-one waited to be called on to pray, they just seemed to “know” when it was their turn. I found the seriousness delightful. I do however have some reservations. Firstly, there was no reading of Scripture. Secondly, the elder who gave the “sermon” or exposition of Scripture, or whatever they call it, only spoke for about ten minutes. This, to my way of thinking, is about half an hour too short. The sermon was, inevitably, on part of Revelation chapters 19 and 20 – yes, a sermon on the last times!

Having said that, I understand that the shortness of the sermon is only the case in the “Breaking of Bread” service. They also have a Gospel service on Lord’s Day evenings, where the sermon would be of a reasonable length, and a Bible Study in midweek, where an elder expounds Scripture verse by verse – where else would you get that these days!

But what do the Brethren actually believe? Well, because of their independency and their low view of Creeds and Confessions, it is very difficult to find out – different assemblies vary. The web site www.brethrenonline.org gives a very useful summary of the main points that most of them would believe:

“– The verbal, plenary inspiration of the original manuscripts of the Bible.

– Pretribulational, premillennial and dispensational.

– Non-charismatic, but recognising the “non-sign” gifts.

– No salaried minister. Gifted brothers minster as they are able. Gifted sisters will often minister among each other at ladies Bible studies, conferences etc. However, they do not believe in an “every man” ministry (that is to say, they believe that every believer has a ministry but not every believer is called to be a preacher), but only ministry by those who are gifted.

– Church government by a plurality of elders who meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

– Some have deacons to attend to physical ministry (e.g. taking care of the chapel). Deacons are not in a decision making position.

– Often, the meetings are unstructured. This is especially true of the Breaking of Bread service, but can also apply to the Reading Meetings and Open Meetings.

– Clear evangelistic witness.

– Most open assemblies hold a middle of the road position with respect to election and free will. Some can be found at either extreme. Most exclusive meetings hold to election.

– Trinitarian.

– Most hold to the doctrine of Eternal Security.

– Believer’s baptism by immersion. A significant number of brethren in the “non-open” assemblies believe in and practise Christian household baptism.

– Eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ.”

All this I would suggest is pretty reasonable. The major issues I would disagree with them about would be Immersion and Dispensationalism.

All round, I enjoyed the service I went to, and after my first experience, I would be delighted to go there regularly, except for my concern that I don’t know how much they major on their Dispensationalism. If every other sermon is going to be on this one subject (as ex-brethren members have told me it is – although such persons would be biased!), it would soon get tiresome. But, more importantly, it is not just a different view on future events that is the problem. I could indeed live with that – just avoid the subject in conversation, and it would be all right. But I really need to find out how much their dispensational views infuse throughout the rest of their belief system, into subjects which I would not at first glance have considered were connected.

For example, I have read that they believe that many parts of Scripture are for the Jews only, whilst other parts are for Christians only (they call this “rightly dividing the Word of truth,” a misunderstanding of 2 Timothy 2:15). So the Sermon on the Mount (which includes what we call “The Lord’s Prayer”) and the book of James is for Jews only, as is most of the Old Testament, only select part of the New Testament being relevant for us Gentile Christians today.

If this is true, then indeed what appears on the surface to be a small difference of opinion on what is going to happen in the future, really does end up as a major issue, not least because most of the Bible then becomes irrelevant for us. Can I continue to go there and worship with them if their belief system is so infused at all levels with what I am convinced by the Holy Spirit is wrong teaching? It would be very difficult to do so.

In a similar vein, I have just been to a Bible meeting organised by another group (not connected with the Brethren). The address was excellent, telling us how we should keep close to God and His Word in all the trials of this life. Good stuff. Except for the fact that the speaker was trying to promote the views of the organisation he represented, of which neither I nor the Brethren would agree with some of their articles of faith.

Now, I am also fully convinced – as much as we can be in this world without seeing their hearts – that both the Brethren I met and the speaker at the Bible meeting were truly born again of the Spirit of God, because they were all very good, exercised Christians. So we ought to have been able to have fellowship with one another. However, I am also utterly convinced that the Holy Spirit has told me that they are both wrong somewhere. The Brethren would be utterly convinced that the Holy Spirit has told them that both the speaker at the Bible meeting and I am wrong somewhere and that they are right. The speaker at the Bible meeting would be utterly convnced that both the Brethren and I are wrong somewhere and that he is right. And we would all spend our lives promoting our particular positions all believing them to be right, completely unable to fully work or cooperate with each other. Even though we are all truly born-again of the Spirit of God, we will all probably die believing in our own particular positions, when actually we disagree with each other quite profoundly.

How can it be that on the one hand we have all been truly born-again of the Holy Spirit – and therefore we all ought to have the Spirit of God in our hearts guiding and leading us into all truth – yet at least some or all of us are so very wrong?

These things are surely sent by the Lord to humble all His true believers to the dust, where we belong.

"Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you".  1 Peter 5:5-6.

July 2012

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The “Discovery” of the Higgs Boson

Yesterday the news bulletins were full of the so-called "discovery" of the Higgs Boson, which for nearly fifty years before has been only ever a theory in scientists' minds. Atheistic scientists are the first to condemn Christians for believing only what they want to believe and not believing in reality. The opposite is the truth. Here we have a classic example of scientists only believing what they want to believe rather than believing in the reality of what the Bible teaches.

How did the universe begin? Ask me, I know!! You don't have to build a multi-billion pound Hadron collider to find out.

"Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."  Hebrews 11:2.

"For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day."  Exodus 20:11.

If we want to know how the universe was created, God has to reveal it to us, because none of us were there at the time.

For more information on scientists only seeing what they want to see, take a look at the following entries on Wikipedia:

    * Pathological science
    * N-ray
    * List of experimental errors and frauds in physics.

July 2012

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Always on the periphery of things

There are so many people in the churches today, who just blindly follow what is taught in their particular church, and will not think for themselves. This has to be wrong.

When the Lord truly converts a soul, He puts a new heart within us, he gives us His Spirit to live within us and guide us into all truth and we become a new creature:

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh."  Ezekiel 36:26.

" Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come."  John 16:13.

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."  2 Corinthians 5:17.

As we grow in the faith, we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit interpreting the truth of God's Word to us:

"But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."  1 John 2:27.

"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."  John 17:17.

Notice that all this is AS INDIVIDUALS. The new heart and the Holy Spirit are within each individual true believer. We all shall be accountable to God in the end AS INDIVIDUALS.

" So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God."  Romans 14:12.

We are all growing in the faith as we are being led by the Holy Spirit, but all of us are as individuals being led in different ways. We start from different positions in life, and we grow in different ways at different times, as the Lord shows us and leads us. But if we are truly being taught by the Holy Spirit, we are all heading the same direction. So at any one time there will always be differences between any two individual true believers. This is normal. So when I meet other fellow Christians, who have truly been born again of the Spirit of God, I am thankful and I can have fellowship with them, even though I cannot agree with them in everything they believe. This is fine. I have no problem with this. But when it comes to dealing with churches, I have a big problem. When you choose a church, you are choosing a place that you wish to be associated with personally at least to some degree, yet you must choose a package deal, some parts of which you will always disagree with.

I used to belong to a church in which I had fellowship with truly exercised Christians, but the church, as the church, officially taught the view of the end times known as Postmillennialism, which I cannot agree with. Maybe I am wrong and the Holy Spirit has not convinced me of these things yet, or maybe they are all wrong and I am right. I believe the latter, and will do so until I am convinced otherwise – of course I am always open to being convinced otherwise by the Holy Spirit and Scripture. Everything is fine in the sense that I could have true fellowship with true believers, but I would always only ever be on the periphery of the church because I do not believe this one issue, which is one of the church's official teachings. Similarly, last weekend I visited a brethren assembly – see separate article for more details on this. Again, I could have true fellowship with the true believers there, but because the church itself taught the view of the end times known as Premillennial Dispensationalism,  I would have a problem committing myself fully to the church because again I would end up on the periphery because I would not blindly follow them all in this particular doctrine.

Now let's think of a subject that I believe, but most other people don't. Exclusive psalm-singing. I am thoroughly convinced that the Holy Spirit has taught me that we should only sing the Psalms when we are worshipping God, and not hymns or songs of human composition. So I don't sing hymns or other songs in church. Now, there are several exclusive Psalm-singing churches out there, so should I join one of them and be happy? Well, I would agree with their doctrine on Psalm-singing, but not only would there be other doctrines I would not agree with the church about – thus again putting me on the periphery of things – but I would also see a problem in that I would not be having fellowship with 99.9% of all other truly born-again Christians in my area because they would not join the church I was in because they could not sing their hymns and other songs in it, so they would join another church more suitable to what they want instead.

But does all this matter? Can I not just accept that there will be differences between what I believe and the church? Well, yes, I do accept this, indeed God has organised it to be so in His inscrutable providence, no doubt to stop us trusting in a visible church or men for anything, rather than in Him alone. But this does mean that I, indeed every true believer, can never be 100% supportive of, or happy in, any visible church as long as we are on this earth.

In other words, this proves beyond doubt that no visible church on this earth can satisfy. The true church is invisible. Only the Lord knows who are His. We must realise that on this earth we will always be without the camp, strangers and pilgrims here – yes, even strangers in the visible church.

"Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his."  2 Timothy 2:19.

"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city."  Hebrews 11:13-16.

"Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come."  Hebrews 13:13-14.

July 2012

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The Loneliness of the Serious Christian

We are such base, worldly creatures, aren't we? The other day I spent far too long watching events connected with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee on television. It was so sad to see millions of people dancing in the streets with no thought for eternity

"having no hope, and without God in the world"  Ephesians 2:12.

Last week I was in my local Asda supermarket. Whilst my wife went to fight with others over the contents of the reduced items shelf, I stood there with the trolley looking at all the other people around me. They too were full of themselves, their own little lives, also walking

"in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness"  Ephesians 4:17-19.

Every time we go out of the door of our houses we are surrounded by such pathetic creatures. And then, the day after having watched too much television, I realised that I myself couldn't concentrate. I could only think for a few seconds before images came popping up in front of my eyes all the time. I had become just like them, my mind filling with this-worldly garbage, of no consequence and no use whatsoever. Of course, I should have realised this would happen, because this is what I too was like all the time before my regeneration by the Holy Spirit:

"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." Ephesians 2:1-3.

So I realised how important it is to stay close to the Word of God. Only by the Word of God can we be sanctified, i.e. set apart from the ways and thoughts of this world unto a far far better life:

"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth."  John 17:17.

We need to be set apart in this manner so we can begin to be Christlike in our walk in this world. Only then can we produce fruit worthy of our calling:

"to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God"  Colossians 1:9,10.

But this experience begs the question, What is the church to do? If we have services with hour-long Bible-based sermons – which would suit nicely all the exercised Christians – then the people who only have an attention span of a few seconds will be driven away. But on the other hand if we dumb down the church to try to appeal to all these people with attention deficit syndrome, then no-one in the church will ever grow in the faith at all.

Sadly, the church of this modern age tends to the latter of the two extremes mentioned above. Hence, for anyone who really loves the Lord and wants to grow in the faith, it is a lonely time. We love the Lord, and want to grow in the truth. We ideally want to attend a church where the sermons stick close to the Biblical text, the truth is taught in all seriousness, and the people genuinely love one another. But such churches are very few and very far between. The modern-day Christian has to forage for his food daily, wherever he can find it. In the end of course, this can only be found in Christ, not in any one human institution:

"I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture."  John 10:9.

So how do we reach out to all these people living their lives oblivious to the reality of the impending judgment coming upon all the world because of our wretched, sinful human condition? Well, the very last thing we should do is try to laugh and joke our way into their hearts. The subject is far too serious for that. Did Christ do that? Of course not! Most sermons these days seem to be a cross between a cosy little chat and a comedy routine. This is not going to impress anything upon anyone. They will just laugh back at us and carry on their pathetic lifestyles. No, a genuine and serious demeanour is the very witness we need to be in this world. We need to be genuine, i.e. not political manoeverers putting on a show like all the rest, and serious, because after all, the subjects of God and eternity are deadly serious. But who is willing to witness for Christ in this manner today?

"Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober."  1 Thessalonians 5:6.

"But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you."  Titus 2:1-8.

June 2012

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Democracy fails due to selfishness

I write this the morning after the French and Greek general elections and three days after local elections in the UK. The results of all these elections have one thing in common. They prove conclusively that people will always vote for what they (think they) can get for themselves, rather than for what is right. No-one will ever vote for austerity – which is what is desperately needed to get these countries out of the terrible debt they are all in. Now, I am not trying to make any political point by saying this, but rather I merely seek to show beyond doubt that this problem is the fundamental flaw in democracy itself.

If we believe the biased agenda of the BBC (and all the other western news agencies), we would think that democracy is the answer to all our problems. And the West tries to export its form of government to other areas of the world which have never had such a thing before, and don't know what to do with it when they get it. Look at Iraq. Whilst Saddam Hussein was in power, the Christians were safe and able to worship freely. Once he had been removed by the Americans in the name of "democracy," they now have to flee for their lives away from their muslim neighbours, because the government protection has gone. And the same thing can be seen happening in other Arab countries such as Egypt. The BBC are thrilled by the so-called "Free Syrian Army" in Syria fighting for "democracy," but they do not report the information that Barnabas Fund is telling us, namely that this "Free Syrian Army" were using Christians as human shields, their homes having been invaded and ransacked, an evangelical school and care home for the elderly having been occupied and shelled, and bombs having been deliberately placed in the Christian areas of Damascus and Aleppo. (see website www.barnabasfund.org). So much for what the BBC call "democracy," which is nothing else but "mob rule" under another name.

Democracy sounds so good at first, but every democratic country will eventually destroy itself because the voters are all (as the Bible indeed tells us) slaves to sin, and will only ever vote for selfish ends. Of course, dictators are exactly the same by nature, but the problem with a democracy is that the people are duped into thinking they have got real power, so if things don't go according to the way they would like, they can always claim the fundamental human right to riot in the streets, which in a democracy seems to be the definition of "freedom of speech." We need to understand that democracy is no better than any other form of government. It is certainly not worth fighting for. We should not seek salvation in a form of government. As long as we are selfish creatures by nature, we all as individuals need a Saviour to save us from our sins, not a magic external solution to the problems of this world, because there are none.

When the Messiah came into the world, the Jews of the day did not recognise Him, because they were looking for a freedom fighter to free them from the yoke of the Roman occupation:

"He came unto his own, and his own received him not."  John 1:11.

"When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone."  John 6:15.

Let us not make the same mistake in looking for an answer in this world. Let us look to the next world as our true home, repent of our sins and come to Him whom to know is life eternal.

"Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."  Colossians 3:2.

"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."  John 17:3.

May 2012

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Ye cannot serve God and mammon

The more Christian web sites I have visited, the more uneasy I have become seeing people asking for money to maintain them.

I think the main reason for coming to this conclusion is that so many "ministries" ask for donations in this way, many people actually receiving enough to make a living out of it, some even becoming multi-millionaires as a result. I want none of this. I originally set up this website for one purpose only – to propagate what I consider to be the truth. If no-one listens, fine. I am not answerable to anyone else, I leave my judgment to God, as indeed we all must do.

But we see so many "ministries" in the name of Christ asking for money all the time. I heard recently of one unbeliever who, just as an experiment, wrote off to all the major so-called "Christian" tele-evangelists he could find to ask them all how he could become a Christian. 50% did not reply at all, and the other 50% just sent him some information about how he could send money to them – only one of these also enclosing a short tract containing the information that he asked for.

We may feel that the Bible condones asking for money when it says:

"Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." (1 Corinthians 9:14)

and

"For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward." (1 Timothy 5:18)

But we also see that whereas we do have a Scriptural warrant for receiving money from the church if necessary, the apostle Paul voluntarily foregoes this privilege to make sure that he does not abuse his power in the gospel:

"But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me . What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel."  (1 Corinthians 9:15-18).

Even whilst he was on his missionary journeys, he also, for his own upkeep, still continued his trade of making tents:

"And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers."  (Acts 18:3).

I would suggest here therefore that anyone working on church business should by all means have his expenses paid for by the church, but not be given the fat salary that modern ministers get today. I know of a local minister of a church near me who gets £30,000 per year for his salary. The church wanted to give him more but he graciously (!) refused. If he preached two twenty minute sermons a month that is a generous estimate. The "ministry" today has become a gravy train [dictionary definition: "Slang a job requiring comparatively little work for good pay and benefits"].

Anyone in the "ministry" or "full time Christian work" is in a world of their own, and I really don't want anything to do with it. There are web sites you can use to trawl through the "Christian" jobs that are available, as though Christians in a secular job are second rate. There should not be this dichotomy.

Hence my reasons for not having a donation button on this web site.

April 2012

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One is your Master

"But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren." Matthew 23:8.

I used to have lots of Christian books, but the older I get, the more time I now spend reading the Holy Scriptures alone, and I hardly touch my library at all these days. Now, I'm not saying it is wrong to go to others for advice or help (including going to the authors of Christian books), but we must realise eventually that men can only help us so far. Not only do they have limited knowledge, but they are also prone to errors and wrong thinking - as indeed are we ourselves! Only the Holy Scriptures are inerrant and completely trustworthy.

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."  2 Timothy 3:16.

In the reading of my Bible, over the last few months I have been slowly working my way through Matthew's gospel. Too many people these days rush through Scripture and miss so many things which can be found there. I read verse by verse and think through each verse slowly until I can to some degree grasp it (asking the Holy Spirit to help me understand it of course), before going on to the next verse. I commend this form of Bible reading to you all.

One major thing I have noticed in my reading is that, whereas Christ had compassion on the multitude, He had not one good word to say about the church leaders of His day. This culminates in chapter 23, where He pronounces eight "woes" on the leadership of the church, and concludes in verse 33:

"Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?"

Strong stuff. But very true.

Yes, there were good men in the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus to name but two, and it is not wrong to be in church leadership. If you are, then use your position for good; but most likely you will be sidelined by those unregenerate men (and women these days) who want status in the church on earth.

The Sanhedrin consisted of both Sadducees (liberals who deny the resurrection):

"The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection." Matthew 22:23

and Pharisees (evangelicals, who interpreted the Scriptures too literally, and completely missed their Messiah when He came):

"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." John 5:39,40.

So we see that no church on earth is not affected by this phenomenon. We need to recognise it and avoid following men and movements. No church on earth can satisfy, only Christ.

There are very few places on this earth where the eternal world meets this one. Death is one of them, and in this I include near-death experiences, such as severe illnesses, earthquakes, famines, etc., all of which are ordained in the Lord's providence to one end - to get men to repent:

"There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Luke 13:1-5.

If it seems a harsh thing to say that God ordains all these things, then we must always remember that Christ said:

"All these are the beginning of sorrows." Matthew 24:8.

Compared to hell fire, these are nothing. We must never, ever ask God to give us what we justly deserve, because it would be much worse than anything we can experience on this earth. We should only ever cry for mercy.

This world is not under Satan's control, as Jehovah's Witnesses teach, nor does everything happen by random chance, as the humanists believe, but God is in control of all things, ordaining all things to His greatest glory in the end. This should be our comfort in this world.

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28.

The reading of Scripture is therefore a very precious thing. It brings us to the point where the eternal world meets this one before death can come anywhere near us, so we can prepare for the inevitable whilst we still have breath, reason and life. Sadly, when we are well, eternity seems so far away, and we often don't have the inclination to bother about it. Let us prepare ourselves properly for eternity, read our Scriptures, not follow men and their whims, but follow Christ alone, who will lead us to glory.

"These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." 1 John 2:26,27.

January 2012

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