Christian Pilgrim


Blog 2015


God Does Not Love Everybody

Old People

Ground to Powder

Trying Too Hard

Our Own Importance

Skeletons in the Cupboard

Nobody Listens to a Word I Have to Say

The Use of Apocalyptic Literature

There's a Need Near You

The Welcoming Church


But the Church Doesn't Like Me

God Does Not Love Everybody

Many, many, many people – in fact the majority of professing Christendom – believe that God loves everybody. For anyone to come along and say that this is not true is a shock to most professing Christians. But we see from Scripture that Jesus only came to save “His people” from their sins, not everyone:

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21.

Many find this difficult to swallow, because they desperately want to believe in some kind of love of God for all men, so they invent a Messiah who died for the sins of all mankind, loves all mankind, and wants them all to be saved. Their “gospel” goes something like this: “Jesus loves you so much that He died for you. Don’t spurn His love, respond to His love by deciding to follow Him.” But this “gospel” is not the gospel of the Bible at all. For a start, the true gospel involves repentance:

"From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 4:17.

"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." Acts 2:38,39.

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" Acts 3:19.

"But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance." Acts 26:20.

Repentance is the dominating theme of the true gospel message, every time we find it in the Scriptures. This is a subject which is decidedly missing in the modern church.

Let us go through some common verses that people use to try to justify the false “gospel” of a love of God for all men, and then explain the real meaning:

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.

Yes, God loved the the world “so,” i.e. in this manner: only “whosoever believeth in Him” (i.e. not everybody) should not perish, but have everlasting life.

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.

i.e. Christ is the propitiation for the sins of not just (His elect) Jews, but for (His elect) people of all nations.

Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4.
All men” in context here means “all kinds of men,” even kings.

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.

To usward” refers to the elect alone, not all men everywhere. These are the ones the Lord is not willing should perish, i.e. “any” or “all” of us elect. And He will indeed save them all. God never has a frustrated desire.

If there was any kind of love of God for all men everywhere, then He would most certainly save all men everywhere from their sins. Surely He is powerful enough to do this if He wanted to.

Some people indeed teach that all men everywhere are saved to eternal life, and that no-one will go to hell apart from the devil and his angels, but that is totally unscriptural. There is a real place which Scripture calls hell fire. It is a place of everlasting torment, and it is populated not only by the devil and his angels, but also by many, many men and women just like you and me:

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41.

Everyone who ends up in this place has been given plenty of the Lord’s blessings in this world. Everything they had in this world, even every breath, was undeserved favour. Every second out of hell fire is a blessing, a mercy, to every one of us. No-one can ever say that the Lord was not kind to them:

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:44,45.

But the ones who end up in hell fire are those who are never thankful for any of the Lord’s blessings, or even acknowledge that any of them came from Him:

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Romans 1:21.

God eventually sends them all to the place they deserve to go, i.e. hell fire, which actually by right is where every one of us deserves to go for our sins:

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 3:18.

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.

In order to believe that salvation is limited to the elect, but still at the same time to try to believe in a love of God for all men, many theological sleights of hand have been developed. One of them goes like this: Because God can hate the elect for a time in this world (i.e. until they are regenerated), so God can love the non-elect for a time in this world (i.e. until they die and go to hell).  This line of reasoning is false for two reasons:

(1.) Firstly, God does not really hate the elect even for a time in this world. God loves the elect whom he has chosen from eternity with an everlasting love:

The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3.

Of course, they are born in sin just like everyone else. They are by nature children of wrath even as others:

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 2:3.

In their unregenerate state there was nothing lovely about them that God should choose them over and above anyone else:

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

But God knew which ones He had chosen from the foundation of the world. These He would, in time, regenerate to the praise of His glorious mercy:

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Ephesians 1:4-6.

And once saved, no man can pluck them out of His hand:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” John 10:27,28.

Therefore even whilst they were still in their sins, between their conception and their regeneration, God still loved them, even though they were unregenerate and living their lives just like the wicked, because He knew that He always had a plan to regenerate them.  

(2.) Secondly, God chooses His elect for a purpose. But He has to change them from their unregenerate state in order for this purpose to be achieved. He cannot choose, or love, an elect person and then let that person spend all his life carrying on in sin and wickedness until the time of his death. God forbid! That would be against His justice. Anyone who thinks that he is one of the elect, and who still carries on in sin (and there are many in the church today), cannot truly be one of the elect at all. The elect have had a new heart put within them. They have been regenerated, and would now rather loathe and shun sin, not continue in it:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Romans 6:1,2.

Rather, God chooses the elect, not because anything good can be found in them, and neither because they are any better than the non-elect, but he chooses them unto good works. He regenerates them in order to do the good works that He has already prepared for them to do:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10.

God always hates sin. He is displeased with the elect in time in their unregenerate state (because there is nothing in them for Him to love), but it does not follow that the opposite is true, indeed it cannot be. God cannot truly love the non-elect even for a time in this world because (1.) there is nothing lovely about them (just like the elect), and (2.) God is never going to grant anything to be lovely about them either, he is just going to leave them in that state. God has got no good works to ordain them unto, so God cannot possibly love any of them even for a time in this world. There is and never will be anything lovely about them, they are just like the devils – except that the devils are more powerful, not more evil.

Do you know, the older I get, the more evil I see in the world. We are continually told to “have faith in human nature,” but I can’t. When I was young, and didn’t know any better, I believed that lie. And when I did come across evil, it surprised me. But not any more. Human beings are totally depraved. There is no good in them whatsoever. They all live for themselves. That’s the truth. Only the Bible has this message about human nature, and only the Bible shows us the way out – Jesus Christ the Saviour.

God has, on the one hand, ordained the elect unto good works, whereas, on the other hand,  he has ordained the non-elect unto destruction, whereunto they were appointed:

But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption.” 2 Peter 2:12.

And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” 1 Peter 2:8.

For God to love anyone he must either see something lovely in them (which there is not in any man), or ordain them to something lovely, which he does for the elect but not for the non-elect. God can only love that which is lovely or that which he decrees to make lovely. God loves the elect not because they are lovely in and of themselves, but because God has ordained them to something lovely, namely regeneration, sanctification, good works and eventually glorification.

To say that God has any kind of love for non-elect men is like saying that God has some kind of love for the devil and the fallen angels. It is nonsense. Non-elect men, the fallen angels and the devil himself are all in the same situation, namely, with no hope of salvation at all, ever. It doesn’t unduly bother us to believe that there is no hope for fallen angels, so why does it bother us if ever we are told there is no hope for fallen men?

The only difference between non-elect men and the fallen angels is that the fallen angels all sinned and fell as individuals, whereas non-elect men all fell in Adam’s first sin. Indeed all men fell in Adam, and there was never any compulsion in God to save any of them, but God was pleased to send a second Adam into the world, our Lord Jesus Christ, to save his elect from the consequences of their sin, and leave the non-elect with those consequences.

Let us be clear: We  all, elect and non-elect alike, deserve to be left with the consequences of our sin. We all deserve hell fire forever. For God to save anyone is a mercy. Many people think it unfair of God to choose some and not others, but when we realise that NONE of us deserve mercy, then can we accept God saving even one, let alone a number that no man can number. This should humble us to the dust for the rest of eternity if we actually find ourselves amongst that number.

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” John 15:16.

December 2015

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Old People

A few years ago, a friend of mine was telling me about his father who was over 90 years old. He had just had a minor stroke, and was recovering, but, being full of this world, he kept on saying, “I am looking forward to driving again.” Of course, this was now highly unlikely at his age, but what do you say to someone like that? Do you say, “Yes, yes, yes,” which would be a lie, or do you say, “Look, get real, it’s not going to happen,” which would be the truth, but upsetting to him?

When I was working in a hospital, I got to know an old lady who kept on coming into the hospital chapel to sit in the quiet for a while. She always said that she was in hospital to visit a friend, but was very economical with any details about this “friend.” I actually gave her a lift home once, and she lived over twenty miles away on her own in a little cottage, and did the trip to hospital nearly every day on the bus. She became friendly with another old lady who did the same thing, but lived nearer to the hospital. Both ladies had children, but they all lived a long way away in the south-east of England and were more concerned with their successful jobs than looking after their parents. On the rare occasion that they visited, they would maybe stay for a day or so, take mother out for a nice meal, tell her they loved her, then go away again for another year. Anyway, these ladies continued to visit the hospital for many months, far longer than people usually stay in an acute hospital; then it dawned on me that these ladies’ “friends” that they were supposedly visiting didn’t exist. That was their life. Going out every day to visit an imaginary “friend.”

These two examples are typical of the only sort of thing a lot of people have in their old age. Millions of people live every day:

Having no hope, and without God in the world” Ephesians 2:12.

The older people get, the more difficult it becomes to encourage them to carry on living, because there really is nothing for them to look forward to in this world any more. They are so close to eternity, and yet even then, they still refuse to think about their impending, inevitable death and life beyond it. They want to hang on to this vain, empty place.

Most people today are programmed to believe that there is nothing after death at all. The logical fallacy that brings them to this conclusion is the same logical fallacy that tells them there is no God. Just because we cannot see, hear, feel, smell, taste or detect God with scientific instruments, therefore, they conclude, He doesn’t exist. Similarly, we cannot sense anything after death (apart from a few strange people who think they can), therefore, they conclude, there is nothing. This logic is totally false. The conclusion is not a good and necessary consequence from the premise at all. There was a time when we could not “detect” electricity, nuclear reactions etc., but that does not mean that they did not exist.

A while ago, the news mentioned the statistic that 800,000 people in the UK are “chronically lonely” and that up to five million have television as their main form of company. The only suggestion the government gave was that we all ought to visit such people more often, and that we could learn from Asian cultures where there is “reverence and respect for old people.” That’s it. That’s all the advice we are given to solve this problem. Firstly, I don’t want someone visiting me just to talk about the weather, I have Darren Bett to do that for me on my TV. Secondly, Asian cultures respect the old because they worship the dead. I, for one, certainly do not want to be worshipped after I’m gone.

Christianity teaches proper, real, sincere respect and care for old people:

If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” 1 Timothy 5:8.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27.

All of us really, truly need to prepare properly for our old age, and indeed our death, because such is the inevitable consequences of sin:

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23.

It is so important to realise that:

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

Firstly, most importantly, we need to repent of our sins and make sure we have made our peace with God by putting our trust in our Lord Jesus Christ:

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 5:1.

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10.

Assuming we have done this, and have truly been made a new creature in Christ, Christians then need, not to talk about the weather with each other, but to encourage one another in the faith; not speaking of the things of this world, still clinging on to memories and good feelings here, but speaking of heavenly things. After all, this is not our home:

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1.

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.” Colossians 3:1-3.

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.

For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” Hebrews 13:14.

I remember a few years ago in the town where I was living, there were two Christian men from two different churches, one in his eighties and another in what we call “the prime of life” in his thirties with a young family. Both had contracted terminal cancer at the same time, and both found themselves lying next to each other in hospital beds. What a providence! They spent their last few days on this earth looking forward to eternity. “I wonder what it is going to be like!” “Just think, no more sin!” What a joyful time they must have had! And this is how we should be when it is our turn to go.

Are we really ready?

When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8.

November 2015

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Ground to Powder

"And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” Matthew 21:44, Luke 20:18.

This statement of Christ’s is mentioned twice in the Bible, in Matthew and Luke’s gospel, and in both accounts it comes straight after the parable of the householder who plants a vineyard then goes away for a long time. Occasionally he would send a servant to check on the vineyard, but the husbandmen would always beat them and send them away. Finally he sends his son whom they kill. This is a parable, of course, about the Jews dealings with all the prophets throughout their history and then finally with Christ. After telling this parable, Christ quotes from Psalm 118:22,23:

Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. ” Matthew 21:42,43.

The Jews had so many privileges. They were miraculously saved from slavery in Egypt by Moses, taken through a parted Red Sea, and kept for forty years in the wilderness before being taken by Joshua into a fertile land on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. On the way they were given the Law of God written on tables of stone. They were given the Scriptures. They were sent the prophets. And finally, the greatest privilege of all, through them the Saviour of the world was to be born in due time.

But they didn’t recognise Him. And they despised the prophets and other means of God’s intervention. Not only that, but throughout their history, they neglected to keep the very Law that God gave them. The Old Testament is a sad history chronicling all of this.

All along they thought that their pedigree would be enough to save them. How proud!

They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.” John 8:39.

I am not getting at the Jews for this. If God had chosen any other nation to bestow upon them His special privileges, they would have done exactly the same thing. It is the pride of man that is the main problem.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” 1 John 2:16.

And actually, the more we look into this subject, the more dominant a theme pride is found to be in Scripture.

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” Genesis 6:4.

In the very beginning of the Bible, after the fall of Adam, and Cain murdering Abel, we come across this brief mention of believers marrying unbelievers. The children they produced became “men of renown.” i.e. men full of themselves and their own status in the world. God calls this “wickedness”:

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5.

Later on, Job wanted to dispute with God as to why many unpleasant and painful things had come upon him, for what he thought was no reason. But when God finally answered, He said:

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. Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret. Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee.” Job 40:11-14.

And even King Nebuchadnezzar discovered this:

Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.” Daniel 4:37.

Here we find out God’s primary work in the world, namely, to abase all those that walk in pride. Only God can do this. Man is so proud, he is totally incapable of bringing himself down. Yet that is exactly what the Lord requires of him.

We don’t know much about the fall of Satan, but we do know that he must have fallen before man fell, because it was an already fallen serpent that met Eve in the Garden of Eden to tempt her. There are two passages in Scripture which seem to give us some understanding of Satan’s fall. The first is in Isaiah, and is primarily about the fall of the king of Babylon. The second is in Ezekiel, and is primarily about the fall of the king of Tyre:

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” Isaiah 14:13-15.

Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” Ezekiel 28:13-15.

If we apply these passages to the fall of Satan, we see that pride was the first sin. Satan wanted to be greater than God. If we apply these passages to the fall of the relevant kings, we also see that pride is the predominant sin, the sin from which all other sins proceed.

Given this fundamental problem with fallen human nature, we begin to see something of God’s plan for the human race. It is to completely break the pride of man in all its shapes and forms.

The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low.” Isaiah 2:11,12.

This is what the Lord is doing with every one of us. His ultimate aim is to destroy our pride and to make sure that in the end, God alone is exalted.

And how does He do this? God provides a “stone.” This is the “stone” mentioned in Psalm 118:

The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.” Psalm 118:22.

Notice here that the “stone” that is going to be rejected by some, is the very same “stone” that will be embraced by others as their head corner stone. Of course this refers to Jesus Christ, who is at the same time a savour of  life to those who are going to be saved, and a savour of death to those who reject Him:

For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life.” 2 Corinthians 2:15,16.

Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation:

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.

To those who will be saved, He is precious, but to those who will reject Him, He is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence:

Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” 1 Peter 2:7,8.

Let’s look at our text again:

And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” Matthew 21:44, Luke 20:18.

When I first came across this statement, I thought that the ones who fall on the stone were true believers, because it is good for us to be broken. In contrast, unbelievers will all be ground to powder. But I’ve now completely changed my mind.  I now realise that exactly the opposite is the case.

Just to confuse matters, many commentaries believe that both those broken and those ground to powder refer to unbelievers, because both are unpleasant things to happen to people. Which do you prefer? Being broken or being ground to powder? All of this goes to show how it is so easy to read a verse in a superficial way. Men so easily get everything wrong.  

I would suggest that when it says “whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken,” it is talking about all those who stumble at the “rock of offence,” the disobedient, those who do not come to the Saviour. They will live their lives full of their own importance, full of their own pride in themselves, but in the end they will be broken by the Lord.

On the other hand, those who will have the stone fall on them, to be ground to powder, these are true believers. We should want Christ to fall on us. All right, put it another way – we should want the Holy Spirit to fall on us. We should want an end of ourselves, our selfish desires and lusts. We, as true believers,  should want our pride to be ground to powder. And this is exactly what Christ does in our sanctification.

When we come to the Lord, the rock of our pride is dealt a fatal blow. It has been cracked. No longer will it reign supreme. But there is still so much pride within us that needs to be dealt with. For the rest of our lives, we need to take the fragments of remaining pride and have them ground and ground and ground by Christ, until they are merely powder.

Moses ground the golden calf to powder:

And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.” Exodus 32:20.

This is what we should do with all false idols and delusions of grandeur in our life.

King Josiah was the only king of Judah who actually got rid of the idols in the land, and he ground them to powder so that absolutely none remained:

And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people.” 2 Kings 23:6.

Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove.” 2 Kings 23:15.

And when he had broken down the altars and the groves, and had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the idols throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem.” 2 Chronicles 34:7.

And Isaiah compared the iniquity of Judah to chalkstones – not granite, – stones that can be beaten down and crushed until there is only powder left:

By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up.” Isaiah 27:9.

The Christian’s calling is to renounce self, abase self, be finished with self. This must be emphasised above anything else. The purpose behind this is that eventually we will only ever exalt God in our lives:

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

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

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” Isaiah 40:4,5.

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Luke 9:23,24.

This is the Christian life. It is totally the opposite from the self-esteem, self-worth, self-confidence, “it’s all about me” philosophy of the world. And God will not finish dealing with us until the last vestiges of pride have been exterminated.

This is why we receive trials in our lives. This is why God has put us all in bondage to decay and death. Only on a death-bed are we weak and humbled enough for God. Let us therefore live our lives as though we were always on our death-beds.

My strength is made perfect in weakness....For when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9,10.

 We are finished with self. Living for God alone is the Christian’s calling.

But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God.” 2 Corinthians 1:9.

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.... reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:6,7,11.

October 2015

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Trying Too Hard

After we have come into a real, saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, one thing we are given is a tremendous zeal for the Lord:

For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” 2 Corinthians 7:11.

And this is good. We want to tell everybody about what has happened to us, and we want them all to come into the same state of salvation that we have received.

Yes, it is possible to know absolutely that you have had every one of your sins completely forgiven, and will for certain escape the judgment to come. But there is one thing you must realise. You must repent of your sinful way of life and turn completely away from it to the only wise God our Saviour, or you cannot possibly receive this salvation and will instead perish eternally. All men:

...should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” Acts 26:20.

If anyone truly repents of his sin and turns to Christ for salvation, he shall be born-again, he shall have a new heart put within him, he shall have the gift of the Holy Ghost placed within him and become a new creature:

Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38.

You will know when this has happened to you. It will be a real change in your heart. You will no longer want to sin, you will now hate sin and desire only to flee from it. Cry to God for mercy until you know this change has occurred and that you have truly been granted forgiveness of sin and repentance unto life:

Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” Acts 11:16-18.

Anyone to whom this real internal change has happened must consequently have a desire in his heart for that same change to take place in other people. Paul certainly had this:

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” Romans 10:1.

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.” Acts 26:28,29.

But, being pretty stupid creatures, when we are witnessing for the Lord, we so often put our foot in it and ruin our witness by maybe an unwise word or an unwise action. I am sure all of us have done this many times in our Christian walk. I think that most of the time the problem really is that in our zeal for the Lord, we try too hard.

Our first warning about this ought to come from Jehu. He was zealous for the Lord, and in his zeal he destroyed all the Lord’s enemies round about him:

Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD.” 2 Kings 10:16.

This God commended, and rewarded Jehu for it:

And the LORD said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” 2 Kings 10:30.

Now, we should not go around committing genocide like this today, but the Old Testament pattern of Israel destroying its enemies is a picture of the true believer’s spiritual battle in destroying spiritual enemies in his life:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12.  

But the warning to us here is that, after all his zeal, we find that Jehu was not a true believer after all:

But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.” 2 Kings 10:30-31.

So remember that zeal in itself does not necessarily mean that we have been truly changed in our heart. Let us make sure that the change that has happened to us is real, and our consequent zeal for the Lord is out of a true love for Him and gratitude for what He has done for us.

Our second warning comes from another unbeliever – a girl who followed the apostles:

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.” Acts 16:16,17.

This girl was demon-possessed, and so she could not have been a true believer either, yet she spoke the absolute truth. In that sense, she was a good witness. But her “mad” tone of voice, and her obviously unregenerate lifestyle were going to be a hindrance to the spreading of the gospel. That is why Paul rebuked her.

Again, the warning to us is that we can say the right things with our mouths easily enough, but does what we say really tally with how we live our lives? Have we truly changed? Have we truly been given a new life in Christ and consequently live in an appropriate manner?

So, after those two examples of unbelievers showing tremendous, but false, zeal for the Lord, let us now look at a believer – the man in the land of the Gadarenes in whom dwelt many devils. Christ cast them all out, and he was changed immediately:

Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind” Luke 8:35.

What a change had instantly taken place! No longer was the man unruly, naked and uncontrollable, but he was now  “clothed, and in his right mind.”

The major part of our witness to the world is not necessarily our words, but our lifestyle. Have we changed like this man had? Can people see the change? Have we started producing the fruit of the Spirit, which no man can produce without having had this real, internal change from the Lord?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” Galatians 5:22,23.

This is our major witness. Many times it would be far better to keep quiet and just let our actions speak louder than any words.

Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.” Luke 8:38,39.

Christ told this man to “shew how great things God has done” unto him, which would have been primarily by displaying his new life, and how he had changed from what he had been. But at the same time, he was so joyful, that he could not help but speak to everyone he met of the things that had happened to him.
And of course, we ourselves often get so excited about what God has done for us, that we also want to share it with everyone around. Which, at times, may overwhelm people a little, and cause them to reject us. This is another problem with trying too hard. We should just try to be sensible:

The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.” Isaiah 50:4.

But we should also be ready at all times to give an answer:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” 1 Peter 3:15.

Even then, we still fail. A question comes up out of the blue, and we aren’t ready to answer it. We mumble some kind of answer, the conversation moves on, then five minutes later we think of what we should have said, and the opportunity has gone. How much better could we have done things! Trying too hard again!

And then sometimes, when we are in a stressful situation, we can so easily lose our temper, or we say something unnecessary, or at least not becoming of our status as saints. Every time this happens, we run the risk of our witness to the world being completely ruined.

Just imagine someone who knows you are a Christian, sees your new life, your meekness, your temperance, your gentleness, all of which could not have possibly been produced by yourself, it has to have come from the Lord. This is good. What a witness! Even without your words, they have seen something different about you. You are not like anyone else they know, all of whom just live for themselves. But then one day, you get stressed and lose your temper. The first thing they will think is: “Aha! They’re not different after all, they’re just like the rest of us! They’re just putting on a show of false humility.” And consequently, they will completely dismiss our religion, and the God whom we serve. What do we do then? We need to know the answer to this, because it will happen.

Well, firstly, the experience should make us far more careful in future. Yes, none of us will ever be perfect on this earth as long as we live. It is our future hope that one day we will be given new bodies which will not sin any more. But secondly, we should apologise for our behaviour and try to explain truly the situation to any offended party, if they will listen. If they still ridicule us, we cannot do anything about that.

In the end, in every circumstance, we have to leave it to the Lord to deal with other people. We find it so difficult to change ourselves – in fact it is impossible, we need the Lord to do it for us. How much more difficult therefore will we find trying to change other people?

Only the Lord can change hearts and get people to understand anything of a spiritual nature, we can do nothing. We have to leave everything to Him. Preachers cannot change one soul, no matter how hard they try to persuade others into the kingdom. More of them ought to realise that, rather than shouting the way they do.

However, that does not mean that we should just sit back and do nothing. The Lord normally uses means, and so He could well be using us as an instrument for bringing the people that we know around us under His influence.

In Queen Esther’s day, there had been a decree sent forth to destroy the Jews. Ordinarily, this decree could not be reversed. But Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, told her, in her privileged position:

For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14.

So Queen Esther, at the possible risk of her life being lost, approached the king, and the Jews were eventually, as a result, saved from slaughter. If she had done nothing, God would have produced deliverance from somewhere else, but at the expense of her father’s house. Inaction on our part will never thwart God’s plans, but may have consequences for ourselves.

And so we should recognise our nothingness and absolute inability, and that we need the Lord for everything:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7.

Of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.” 2 Corinthians 12:5.

My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9,10.

This may be especially significant in the case of a chronic situation. Maybe you have a son or husband who is a drunkard or a drug addict. You have been praying for years and years, yet nothing seems to change. Every so often he would come home in a terrible state and interrupt the peace of the household in some, maybe violent, way. You have tried everything to try to bring him to the Lord, yet nothing has worked. In the end, we have to stop trying at all, recognise our total inability to change him and just place him in the Lord’s hands completely.

Now, I have known several people who have been converted from such a life of sin, after the mother has been praying for years and years, so we should never give up prayer. But I have also known some who have never changed, and died an early death instead. Whatever happens, we must trust in the Lord to deal in the way He sees fit, and acknowledge that the Lord is good.

One thing we do need to do is to stop trying too hard. Rather, we need to spend more of our time in prayer. This is the only way to get results. We need to trust in the Lord, and begin to let the Lord work through us, as instruments to fulfil His purposes. So, in whatever circumstance the Lord puts us in, let us make sure we stay close to Him, pursue godliness, love Christ, and be different from the world.

All this is so that no man may glory, but all the glory goes to the Lord:

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-29.

September 2015

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Our Own Importance

I don’t know about you, but I spend far, far, far too much time every day on the internet. Whether it is checking my (mainly junk) emails, checking my bank account, doing my shopping, searching for information about something or other, or writing these articles. The fact is that today we do nearly everything using a personal electronic device such as a tablet, smartphone or maybe just an old-fashioned computer. When I see so many young people on the bus, or on the train, or in the street, completely absorbed in their smartphones, I cannot help thinking that they will all have eyesight problems by the time they are fifty.

I complain about myself spending too much time using these devices, but I am just a light user. I have never got involved with the inane practice of using social media. People today would rather text each other than speak face to face, or even by phone. And millions are engulfed in such a thing. This is all life is to them.

Everyone who does not know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour is living an empty life:

Having no hope, and without God in the world.” Ephesians 2:12

Your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers.” 1 Peter 1:18.

Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.” Psalm 49:20.

Living for self, living for this world only, living for pleasure, fame, fortune, whatever you live for, if it is not living for God, your life is meaningless:

For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.” Ecclesiastes 6:4.

Isaiah tells us that God has indeed given all men over to meaninglessness deliberately to “sift” them with the “sieve of vanity”:

And his breath, as an overflowing stream, shall reach to the midst of the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity: and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err.” Isaiah 30:28.

But there is a purpose behind this. God has done it in order to bring His people to Himself:

For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,” Romans 8:20.

For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.” Ecclesiastes 2:26.

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,” Ephesians 4:17.

People fill themselves with a sense of their own importance. They want to be somebody in this world. Yet, we only have to go to a graveyard, and we will find plenty of people who had that very same sense of their own importance, yet they are now totally forgotten. And that will be every one of us one day.

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Psalm 90:10.

But does becoming a Christian change things at all? Well, we do know that whatsoever we, as Christians, do for the Lord, it is not a waste of time:

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58.

We now have a real purpose, namely to glorify God:

For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:20.

But there are still far too many Christians who have far too high a sense of their own importance as well. We now live in the days of the professional preacher.

I was on the internet (again) the other day and came across the details of a self-styled preacher. It was like a CV. Their qualifications and experience were all listed, and at the bottom it said “Speaking fees £300 per day.” And this person seemed to be quite a popular speaker.

I went to a church last week, at which the woman who preached was the daughter of the previous minister (who died last year). After the service, I met her uncle, who went on to tell me that he was one of eleven children, six of whom became ministers. I found this all very odd. I have no objections to a tradesman, like a butcher, passing his skills on to his children to carry on the family business, but the church should not operate like a family firm. Ordinary folk in the pew just cannot relate to whole families making their living from going into “full-time Christian work.”

The salaries of ministers who live in my area are also very eye-opening. One gets £30,000 per year (he was asked to take more but refused!), and another gets £22,000 per year. And I know of one church who insists that members tithe and insists that their minister gets the equivalent of a headmaster’s salary. And what’s more, in most cases, a minister usually also gets a house, a car, all his bills paid, and doesn’t have to pay any council tax.

Now, what do you think of all these examples? Frankly, I am appalled. “Preaching” has become just another profession.

Was Amos a professional preacher? No. He was a farmer:

Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: and the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.” Amos 7:14,15.

Was Paul a professional preacher? No. He was a tentmaker:

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

But did not Paul say that we should pay full-time church leaders?

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

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 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 5:17,18.

No. These verses only show that reasonable expenses should be given to those who work for the church. They certainly do not allow a generous salary, nor do they allow a fully-fledged business to be made out of the church.

But this is what we have today. We have web sites dedicated to Christian job searching. We have the “Christian” music scene, the “Christian” bookshop scene, the Christian Resources Exhibition. Speakers who refuse to speak unless they get their £300 per day (or whatever they charge), certainly won’t lower themselves to speak for free whilst making a living doing something else like sewing tents.

How much did Amos get paid for prophesying? Or Jeremiah? Or anyone in the Bible?? Nothing. The whole “Christian” scene today is utterly unbiblical and corrupt.

I came across a web site recently, which I found so good, I have added it to the “links” page. It is called the “Scion of Zion Internet Ministry.” It is a web site maintained by Dr Ken Matto. He was a preacher, but 17 years ago he became disabled, and since then can no longer get to a church at all. So he started an internet ministry, which, from what I have seen, is very good.

But who is he amongst so many? Yes, the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth:

We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” 1 John 4:6.

His site, and mine here, are just two small witnesses amongst so much absolute trash – trash that has far more money and professionalism behind it, that is followed by a lot more people than our simple web sites ever will be, but that promotes so much wrong teaching.

Let us not get involved with any of it. Let us no longer listen to silver-tongued smooth-talking professional speakers or go to great Christian conferences. Let us no longer follow the business models these people put forward. Remember that businessmen only ever become businessmen for the money. Rather let us develop the spirit of discernment and listen to unpaid, ordinary people, who know their God and have real insight into the ways of the Lord. These will not be found at the Christian Resources Exhibition or at Spring Harvest. They will be found in the quiet corners of many of our churches. Some will not be found in churches at all. These are the ones to follow and listen to.

So how are we to number our days?

Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:11-12.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13,14.

August 2015

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Skeletons in the Cupboard

A very common question against the truth of God is "How can a God of love send anyone to eternal torment in hell-fire forever?" The strange thing is that these very same people also ask the question "How can a God of love create a world with so much evil in it?" So on the one hand, they accept that the world is full of evil, yet they refuse to believe in the just punishment for that evil.

We plainly see that justice is not done by God in this world, so there must be another world beyond death where justice IS done. There must be a place, colloquially known as hell-fire, where all those who practise evil will be punished. Otherwise God ceases to be just.

The problem most people have is not merely in the belief of a place of eternal torment, but in the belief that they personally deserve to go to such a place for ever because of their own sins. No-one thinks that they are that bad by nature. But we are.

The fact of personal sin against a holy God is hidden from us by the world around us. The media, the government and the education system - whatever country you are living in - is feeding you the propaganda that people are generally good at heart. They would say that only a few spoil this theory - the ones that get the headlines in the newspapers. But there seems to be so many of them these days! People you wouldn't even have thought of. Rolf Harris was always that nice man who came into my living room every Friday evening on my television set.

And so the world goes on in its own sweet way, thinking (or at least wanting to think) that most families are "normal." No problems, all smiles, everything going along quite smoothly. Yes, we have illnesses and death to cope with, but other than that, most people ought to be living a reasonably happy and fulfilled life, so we are told. But I put it to you that everybody, yes everybody, including YOU, has a skeleton in their cupboard somewhere in their family.

We don't like to talk about it of course. When we live our lives, we never speak of that sister who tried to commit suicide last week, or that son who has become an alcoholic or that drug addict brother who stole money from his grandmother to feed his habit, or that uncle being on the sex offenders register. Oh no, we don't talk about things like that.

And that is how the churches behave as well. They also feel that they have to put on exactly the same show of "normality," the only difference being that they add a religious dimension to it. And the churches really think that that is what true Christian witness ought to be. But this is where they go terribly wrong. When we have a real problem - My uncle is sexually abusing me - I've got this addiction I can't control - my husband wants a divorce - I think my son is a homosexual - the Christians run a mile away. They don't want to know. Unless you are "normal" and come to church every week with your cheesy smile, happy attitude and idyllic family life, they will distance themselves from you. They don't want to get involved.

You may think I am exaggerating. Here are a few examples I know about:

A friend of mine used to go to a conservative evangelical church. One Sunday morning, she arrived a bit early. She saw one lady already sitting in the meeting hall at the side on her own, quietly praying. This lady was going through a divorce and had already worked up enormous strength just to be there. But an elder of the church turned up, saw her, and called across the hall in a loud voice, "Hello Mrs ******, We've just come back from our holidays in Switzerland. We had a wonderful time!" That was an elder. He had no idea how to care about the poor lady at all.

Or what about some people I know who thought that their son had become a drug addict. It wasn't true actually, but they really had concerns about him. They spoke about it to an elder who they thought seemed approachable, but ever since then, that elder and his wife have kept their distance from them.

Or how about the two stalwart families in an Evangelical church who were absolutely delighted when one family's son announced that he wanted to marry the other family's daughter. Wonderful! A real joining together of two of the main families in the church. So they got the previous minister to perform the ceremony - he had left to become principal of the church’s theological college, and had therefore since become a big name in the church. It was a huge event in the denomination at large. The marriage lasted three weeks. They are now divorced, but the point is that the church can't cope when these things happen. Reality is an embarrassment to them. It can cope with the big, happy events, but not with things that they think shouldn't be happening in the church.

I could go on and on with examples. Yes, individuals in the church will maybe care. But the churches as a whole are totally insensitive to any of us having real problems. They think that Christians just should not have that sort of mess in their families.

So we have two major concerns here, one for true Christians and the other for non-Christians:

True Christians will always be upset by this attitude, and find themselves on the periphery of church life. True Christians would be honest with themselves. They know the problems that exist in their family. But then they see the “perfect” families outwardly displayed by the minister, elders and church stalwarts, and they feel so far from how they are told they ought to be.

But at least true believers have the Lord to lean back on when the church lets them down. What about unbelievers? They also see the “perfect” families put forward by the stalwarts of the churches. And they will run a mile. Such an outward witness has absolutely nothing to do with their real-life situation at all. So they simply walk away. The church has nothing for them.

What a terrible witness the churches are to believers and unbelievers alike.

Let us all be genuine with one another. All of us have some skeleton in the cupboard. Let's all be real. Only then can believers help one another properly, and only then can we all be a true witness to outsiders.

July 2015

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Nobody Listens to a Word I Have to Say

I was leading a Bible study group the other week, and it became obvious to me afterwards that, although they said to my face that they thought my talk was good, they had actually not listened to a word I had to say. And this was not the only occasion that I have experienced this phenomenon. This has prompted me to write this article.

Firstly, I have to ask: Why should they listen to me? Who am I that people should drop everything and change their views to follow my ways of thinking instead? I am nothing. I always will be nothing in this world. Now, that does not necessarily mean to say that I am therefore not worth listening to. Whenever I speak the truth from the Bible, the Holy Spirit can use it to change people and help me be useful to others. It is the Word of God that is living and powerful, not me:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12.

But of course, the lesson here is to realise that only the Holy Spirit can do this. I am totally incapable. And this is what everyone who is in a leadership position ought to realise about themselves. We are nothing. But if we do speak, we must make sure that we stay close to the Bible:

If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” 1 Peter 4:11.

And this has also led me to ask the question: How does leadership actually work? Let us take a random example. Let us suppose that the church leader firmly believes that the church should keep traditional worship, because it is Biblical. But a sizeable number of the congregation want to introduce a modern, loud, thump, thump, thump “worship band” into the service.

First of all, the leader can preach from the pulpit why he believes the way he does. That is the first thing he should do. But it is not up to him with his persuasive arguments to win the day. After he has preached on the subject, he then has to leave it to the Holy Spirit to convince his congregation, one at a time, that what he is espousing is the correct Biblical practice. He would pray of course, but he can do no more than preach and leave it to the Lord to change hearts. If the congregation still disagree with him after he has preached, he can continue to preach about it, but if he does that too often, of course, he runs the risk of getting the sack. Or, put it this way, eventually either his congregation will leave or he will.

I do not understand churches who try to force people to fit in to a certain way, even if that way is Biblical. For example, churches who insist the ladies cover their heads in the worship service. Now, I am convinced that this is a Biblical practice, but we cannot force ladies to do this. All we can do is preach from the Scripture (1 Corinthians 11:1-16) and leave it to the Lord to convince them. If we try to force all the ladies in our congregation to cover their heads, which some churches do, not only would most ladies probably end up going elsewhere to worship, but also, there would be some who stay but who would be doing it against their own consciences. The Bible clearly states that such an attitude is wrong:

Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Romans 14:28.

Many, many ladies are true believers, but they would not have come to the truth on this matter yet. Many, many young people are true believers, but they still love the excitement of modern music and having a “worship band,” and they have not yet matured enough to understand that worship should be serious and solemn. In fact, all of us, even though we are true believers, will die before coming to the truth on many things. Should we be either forced out of a church because of our ignorance, or told to outwardly perform a practice that the Holy Spirit at the present time in our spiritual growth has not convinced us of yet?

I really do not understand how church leadership works at all. The Holy Spirit convicts and convinces individuals. Only then, when people understand Biblical principles in their hearts, will they change for the better. No leader can force people against their will to do anything. Only the Holy Spirit can change hearts, and at the same time He make us willing to change:

Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power” Psalm 110:3.

Oh yes, there are plenty of forceful leadership types in high positions in the church who use their assertive behaviour to gather a following behind them. They have the power to get people to believe their every whim. The so-called “Christian” television channels are full of these arrogant people. But that dominating, aggressive attitude cannot possibly be right. True religion is far, far from this sort of attitude.

So, what is the answer? Every visible church in existence has a certain way of doing things, which may or may not be Biblical. Yes, we have instructions in the Bible as to how we should set up visible churches on this earth, so we do have a pattern. But even with the right outward pattern – which we should indeed be striving for – we can only live in the light of what we have personally received from the Lord at any one time. Our conscience should never be violated by anything anyone says. But, if, through another person’s words, the Holy Spirit is speaking to us, our consciences will be changed to receive the truth that we could not see before.

This is the true Christian life. It is not about following eloquent preachers and forceful men. It is not about joining a certain church or other. It is not about outward, this-worldly persuasive powers telling us what to think at all. It is about the Holy Spirit convincing us in our hearts. This is Christian growth. And all of us, not just the church leaders, should be encouraging each other in the faith. Not that people should listen to us, but in order that the Holy Spirit may work in people’s hearts through our words.

June 2015

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The Use of Apocalyptic Literature

The Bible contains many different kinds of writings. There are historical books like Genesis, Samuel and Kings, poetic books like the Psalms and Song of Solomon, wisdom books like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and letters of practical Christian living in the epistles. One type of writing is what is known as “apocalyptic literature.”

I don’t like using the word “literature” to describe the Bible. The Bible is not just another piece of literature, like the Works of William Shakespeare. The Bible is the Word of God. Shakespeare was a dirty old man from Birmingham. The two things are completely different.

However, there are sections of the Bible which are “apocalyptic.” This word simply means something that is revealed, which is normally hidden. The major “apocalyptic” passages (although not the only ones) are the book of Revelation, Daniel chapters 7 to 12 and Zechariah chapters 1 to 6.

The question is: How do we deal with such passages? There are many different interpretations, which one, if any, is correct?

We need first of all to look at the Scripture to see how such passages are introduced:

After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven” Revelation 4:1.

And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened” Revelation 15:5.

Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.” Ezekiel 1:1.

Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21,22.

But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55,56.

And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” 2 KIngs 6:17.

And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, and saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth” Acts 10:10,11.

All of these passages are introduced with “The heavens were opened,” or a similar phrase. So they are a description in human terms and in human language, of heavenly, spiritual things.

But we cannot properly speak of heavenly things whilst we are in these bodies. They are too much for us to take in. At one point, the Apostle Paul:

was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” 2 Corinthians 12:4.

And others who had seen glorious things were overwhelmed, and were told not to write about them:

And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.” Revelation 10:4.

And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” Daniel 12:8,9.

Heaven is so glorious, and God is so great, that no man can see God and live:

Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:16.

And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” Exodus 33:20.

So when we approach these apocalyptic passages, we must be very careful. We need to realise that God is condescending to us and describing heavenly things, which we cannot grasp, in terms of earthly things that we do know about. This is in exactly the same way as when we are told that God has hands, feet, eyes, etc. God is a Spirit and does not have these things, but it is helpful to us to think of Him as though He does have these things, for our own benefit whilst we are down here.

The most important thing to understand from all of this is that we should NEVER take any of these apocalyptic passages literally. So many people think they know what these passages are teaching. They have the book of Revelation sussed. They know exactly the meaning of the book of Daniel, and Matthew 24. Rubbish.

But, does this mean that these passages are totally useless? Well, of course not. They are in the Bible. They are therefore useful.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable...” 2 Timothy 3:16.

But these passages are not there so that we can know exactly what to believe and have a good argument with our Christian neighbours about it. Rather, they are there to make us familiar with heavenly things, so that when we get there, we will already have some idea of what to expect.

Are you ready for heaven? If we are one of the Lord’s people, that is where we are going. We really only spend such a short time down here compared with eternity. All of us need to become more heavenly-minded.

There is an argument which says that it is possible to be “too heavenly minded that we will be no earthly good.” But I really do not think this is the case. As long as we are in these bodies we will always be far more full of this world than any of us would want to be. I suggest that heaven will be quite a shock to every one of us when we get there, because we are all still so carnal by nature in our hearts.

We should be spending our days down here on this earth doing the good works that God has got for us to do here, but we should also be making ourselves ready for the next place, which is our eternal home.

Down here we are just unprofitable servants, merely doing our duty:

So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” Luke 17:10.

And we must all remember that on this earth, we are but dust:

Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Genesis 3:19.

We cannot understand much of these apocalyptic passages, but they are there to make us familiar and ready for when we finally leave this earth and arrive in our resurrection bodies, in our forever home.

Stop pretending you know everything about what is said in these apocalyptic passages. Humble yourself beneath them. And get ready for the great move from things temporal to things eternal.

May 2015

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There's a Need Near You

On 26th January 2015 the first female bishop was ordained in the Anglican Church. Over a thousand people gathered at York Minster to witness this event. Upon the Archbishop asking the congregation, “Is it now your will that she should be ordained?” a thousand people shouted, “Yes!” and a single lone voice shouted, “No, not in the Bible.” This sums up the state of the church in the UK today.

It is estimated that 5% of the population of the UK are regular church attenders. That would be approx. 3 million people. If only one in a thousand of those cared about the Bible and used it as their sole authority (as the above ordination ceremony suggests), we would have three thousand people in the whole of the UK who are truly Bible believing Christians. This is 0.00005% of the total population, or to put it another way, in a city of 100,000 people there would be five. And that number would include some who say they believe in the authority of the Bible but are still not born-again.

No wonder that we have become a nation of Elijahs. We think we are the only ones left. More and more people are giving up going to church altogether and worship on their own at home instead. They are not weird. They just love God and care about the things of God, and they find that the established churches (whatever denomination) are failing them. 3 million are attending church, but the vast majority do not really care about the things of God in their hearts. Church to them is just a glorified social club. Truly exercised believers in these churches are few and far between.

But it is not all bad news. In Elijah’s day, there were still true believers in the land. It is just that Elijah never knew about them.

Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:18.

Today, God is still working. If He was not, He would have wrapped up this world long ago. We simply have difficulty seeing what is really happening.

I am currently living in China, and it never ceases to amaze me here that there are newcomers at every single service. The minister (embarrassingly) asks new attendees to stand up, and there are always some. They are all given a little booklet, which is a catechism and details about the church services. When was the last time a newcomer came to your church? And, more to the point, what did you do about it?

And why should people come to your church? As opposed to any other church in the area? Do you think that you are the only true church and the others are all wrong? And how do people decide which church they go to? It usually ends up being a matter of taste in music, or friendliness of the members, or some other worldly reason like that.

I have recently been reading reviews on the Internet of people going to various churches as a “mystery worshipper.” What is a very good “Reformed” church in London with excellent teaching, was let down by the welcome and insistence afterwards that the visitor be dragged down the corridor by his wrist, against his will, to meet the pastor. In contrast, another review was of someone going to the annual Jehovah’s Witness convention in Liverpool, and the reviewer was overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people, and their knowledge of their Bible. That shames most of us. Actually, this all goes to prove that first impressions do end up being important in the decision-making of a lot of people as to which church they attend.

In the UK today, We have lost it. The churches have become ghettos. Everyone is stuck in their ruts. Evangelism, to most people, is simply the means whereby we get people to swell the numbers in our own particular little church.

Most visitors who come through the doors of our church to a service, never come again. But we do not get too bothered by this. We think that it must be their fault. It does not cross our minds that visitors may not like the way we do things, or the music, or the style of worship, or the unfriendliness of the people, or a million other things. We just think that people who only come once, do not come again because they are not true believers like we are. We cannot see beyond our own group, our own church. Our own church has become God’s kingdom on earth to us.

Humanly speaking, this church situation in the UK today can never change. Consequently there is no real witness for Jesus Christ anywhere in the land today. We need to pray for a change. We ourselves need to change. We cannot change things, but with God, all things are possible.

Every Friday evening at the church nearest to where I live in China there is an “English Fellowship” which I attend regularly, simply because it is the only English meeting I can get to. I have no choice, like I would have in the UK. The meeting is usually frequented by young Chinese wanting to learn English. I have to say that it leaves a lot to be desired. Every week they have a “worship band” playing modern, loud “worship songs,” followed by a talk in English by various speakers. Depending on the speaker, some messages are good whilst others are absolutely terrible. Oh yes, and they use the New International Version of the Bible. If that was a church near you, would all of that put you off going? If it does not quite match all your requirements? Most people I know in the UK would not go to a meeting like that and go elsewhere instead – somewhere where things were a lot better. And there would be no shortage of alternative churches to go to. But I go to this meeting because I have to. It is the only meeting in English anywhere near here. So I make the most of what I have got. But the thing is, I can help. I can be there to gently lead these poor young people into the right way. Someone needs to teach them. Should I just leave them there to imbibe all sorts of wrong teaching, just because I do not agree with their way of doing things and would have preferred to have gone to a far better church if there had been one nearby?

There are too many churches in the UK. We are spoilt for choice. Praise the Lord He is closing a lot of them down these days. This is a good thing. Far too many people in the UK are so involved in their own church “ghetto” that they cannot or will not help other Christians in other church situations, because their churches, well they’re not quite as good as ours.

There is such a need out there, both in other churches and also amongst those who have given up going to church altogether and are worshipping at home. Yes, I agree it is very difficult to find out where the need is, but it is there. God will lead you to it, if you pray to Him to show you where it is. And then, if we all do this, we can be the Lord’s instruments to completely transform the church in this land.

The days of institutional, denominational, minister-controlled churches are over. But maybe we individual true believers have been put where we are for a purpose. Do not think that you must move home because there is no church in your area to your exacting specifications. I was given that advice once, and it is wrong advice. Instead, start praying that the Lord may show you the spiritual needs in your community, where you are now. Wherever you are, there is a huge need right now. Make the most of your opportunities in your particular situation, and stop pursuing the perfect church. It does not exist.

April 2015

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The Welcoming Church

Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger? And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” Ruth 2:10-12.

Ruth was a Moabitess. She came from a family that worshipped Moabite gods. But through a series of events, which are described in chapter 1 of the book of Ruth, she renounces the gods of her homeland and becomes a believer in the one true living God of the Israelites.

And in these verses she is welcomed into the Israelite community by Boaz. She had left her family and their false gods, and come to join the worshippers of the one true living God, whom she had never met before.

This was a big step. And many people today are taking exactly the same step, from all kinds of backgrounds, when they come to a true knowledge of God in their hearts for themselves.

They renounce all the other gods and philosophies that they previously knew, because they now know for sure in their hearts that they don’t exist. But this brings them into direct opposition to the rest of their families.

Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” 1 Peter 1:18-19.

They now understand that the religion of their families was a “vain conversation” received purely by tradition, with no basis in fact. Only the one true God Lord of heaven and earth is real to them now.

So they will inevitably be persecuted by their families.

Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.” Luke 12:51-53.

They can therefore no longer put their trust in their blood relatives, so where can they go?

Ultimately, of course, all men will let us down. But true believers do have the Lord, who will be faithful to His people until death.

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” Psalm 27:10.

But in theory, there should always be the church to go to. In this passage, Boaz welcomed Ruth, who was from a totally different religious background, with open arms. And this is how we should behave to outsiders who want to join us too.

But, sadly, most churches in the West today are mainly made up of people who have been born and brought up in the church. Most of them go to church purely out of tradition, and have no idea about the fundamental change of heart and life that a true Christian really has.

On the other hand, people who have been converted to Christianity from other cultures and religions are so much more aware of the fundamental heart change that has happened to them. The new life in Christ really means something to them, and they are able to relate to each other so much better than they can relate to most Western church-goers.

Someone from outside, from another culture, another religion, or even just another church, will always remain a bit of an outsider in most Western churches today. They will be shown kindness, but the underlying attitude is that they are not really “one of us.” How sad.

Having myself been converted from a non-Christian background, never having had any kind of upbringing in a church, I have always felt on the outside, no matter which church I have attended.

Having said that, this did give me a great advantage, namely that I had no pre-conceived ideas about what Christianity should be like. So when I came to a saving knowledge of the truth, I had no “baggage.” The Scripture was altogether different, fresh, new to me. People with church backgrounds tend to have “baggage.” When they come to Scripture, they cannot see the true faith with clear eyes, because they will always have their church’s preconceived ideas in front of their eyes of understanding, and that will always taint their view on things.

For example, one thing that really stood out for me when I first came across the Bible was the Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew chapters 5 to 7). I read it and was so refreshed to see such wonderful teaching. It was so opposite from the world. I just knew it was the truth. A few years later, I excitedly told someone with a church background about how this Scripture was instrumental in the Lord leading me to faith, and it didn’t move them at all. In fact they were surprised. “You’d never heard that before?” they said. Well, no, actually. They had been born and brought up with hearing it on a regular basis, and consequently it actually meant very little to them.

I have therefore always had a problem relating to anyone born and brought up in a church (any church). But I have had such sweet fellowship with people who have come to faith from outside the church. They are far more alive to the things of God. They are so much more understanding of the difference Christ’s teachings really are from all other teachings out there in the real world, beyond the confines of a church upbringing. They know far more clearly about the new birth, the new heart, the Lord’s guidance. Whereas to life-long churchgoers these things are mainly unknown, or at least they generate very little interest.

So, what is the church to do? We need to be more like Boaz. He was a life-long churchgoer, but he had been truly born-again. He really had had a new heart put within him, and was a true believer. Wake up, life-long churchgoers! Get you a new heart:

Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Ezekiel 18:31.

Boaz never left Israel because of the famine, like Ruth's mother-in-law Naomi, did. He stayed in the community of God’s people in Israel. But he was still able to truly welcome Ruth, the outsider, into the community of the church.

What is your church doing to welcome complete outsiders into the faith? Ex-muslims, buddhists, atheists, thugs, drug addicts etc.? Let us pray that we can be inclusive of people from all kinds of religious and secular backgrounds. But the only way we can do this truly, is if we ourselves have been born-again in the heart like they have.

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” John 3:5.

March 2015

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Millions of people in the world today are depressed. What should we do about this? The medical profession, with all their knowledge, can’t help. All they do is spend lots of money on counselling services, mental health units and putting the patients... er... sorry, clients... on antidepressant tablets probably for the rest of their lives.

I read an article on depression in a newspaper once, and the writer said, quite rightly, that “Depression is a bout of absolute sanity.” And this is true.

Solomon, the wisest man in all the earth said:

I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” Ecclesiastes 1:14.

Everything in this fallen world is vanity. Everybody is going to die one day. And everything is in bondage to decay and death. These things are just fact. All of us should get real, and accept truth. If this world is all there is, then of course it is a depressing thought to realise that everything here is vanity. What is the point of anything, if this world is in a continual state of sin and decay?

What surprises me is that there are so many people who are not depressed. So many think that this world is wonderful, that they can achieve such a lot in it, that there is so much excitement here, so much to do to keep them occupied. Yet they are all going to die one day, soon enough. This life is all so very brief. And it is all so full of sin. How can anyone actually enjoy anything here?

I think at this point we need to separate in our minds depressed people from those with what the Bible calls “evil spirits.” Both would be treated by a Psychiatry Department, so to this world they are both very similar. But really they are completely different.

Christ and the apostles came across many people with “evil spirits.”

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.” Acts 16:16-18.

This lady spoke the truth. These men were indeed the servants of the most high God shewing the way of salvation. In most church circles that would be called good witnessing. But she had an evil spirit, which Paul cast out. If he had not done that, people would begin to equate having an evil spirit with true religion, which of course it is not.

A person with an “evil spirit” can never be a true believer. We should never think that they ever could be, even if they are in our churches (which many are). True believers will always be sober:

Then they went out to see what was done: and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.” Luke 8:35.

True believers will know the truth and the truth will set them free.

But not only do people with “evil spirits” come to church regularly, many depressed people do too. And many true believers can be depressed.

At  one point in his life, it is said of Elijah:
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” 1 Kings 19:4.

David said:
For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.” Psalm 88:3.

Even Job fell into this trap. When everything was taken away from him, he was initially fine, and said:

Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21.

We are told that up to this point,

In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” Job 2:10.

But then when his friends came along to try to help him, Job got depressed, and said:

Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.” Job 3:3.

The key to the book of Job is found in chapter 32. Job's problem was that:

He was righteous in his own eyes.... he justified himself rather than God.” Job 32:1,2

Until he acknowledged that the Lord was righteous and he just a sinful creature by nature, he could not be restored.

In all these Biblical cases, the person who got depressed, got depressed because he took his eyes off the Lord and eternal things, and just focussed on this world. That is the big mistake. And this is the case every time a true believer gets depressed. They think too much of this world, and not enough on the next. We need to keep ourselves focussed on things above, not on things on the earth.

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.” Colossians 3:1-3.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

The one thing all depressed people have in common is that they turn inward on themselves. By doing this, they make themselves utterly useless to everyone around them. Not only that, but they use up the time of all other people who try to help them. The helpers could be doing something useful themselves instead. I’m sorry to be so harsh, but that is the way it is.

Should a depressed person therefore contemplate committing suicide? Well, whoever we are, depressed or not, one thing is for sure, we will very soon be forgotten here. Go to a graveyard. Look at all those graves over, say, 50 years old. Who remembers any of these people? Only really evil men get remembered, like Adolf Hitler.

Go ahead. Commit suicide. Nobody is going to remember you anyway. But there is an alternative.

It was said of Jesus Christ that He “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38).

By nature we are all so selfish. Because we cannot see the next world with our eyes, we find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe people who talk about it. All we see is what is here, now. What is here is sin, death and decay. Therefore we give up on life altogether. It is a logical progression.

A depressed person should be told, “Do something useful. Help a little old lady across the road.” Of course, they won’t. They might say something like, “Nobody cares about me, so why should I care about anybody else?” Which is a fair comment.

When I was in the cub scouts (a long time ago now), they had a motto that we should try to do one good deed per day. (They probably still have this motto today, I don’t know). But how many of us actually did a good deed every day, or indeed a good deed at all? None of us. It sounded good, but nobody actually did it.

So, if we find such difficulty by nature to do even one good deed a day when we are well, how much more will a depressed person find it difficult to do this. All of us, depressed or not, need a Saviour.

There is only one hope for any of us. It does not matter whether we are depressed or full of this world. We all need a Saviour to save us from our own sinful nature. If we do not recognise this as the fundamental problem, there is no hope for any of us at all. We may as well give up all hope. Everyone by nature is in this condition.

The first and most vital thing we need is to repent of our sins. Cry to God for mercy. Call upon Him for salvation. The Lord Jesus Christ was sent into the world to save us from our sins. No other religion in all the earth can save a soul from sin.

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.

For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.” John 5:22-23.

People criticise Christianity for being so narrow and exclusive. But if we do not acknowledge the Son of God as God’s Word and Saviour to mankind, then there is simply no hope. We need a Saviour. He is the only Saviour. All other religions cannot save, because they all think that there is something we can do to impress God, whereas there is absolutely nothing we can do at all.

Come to the Son. He will make you free indeed.

Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:34-36.

February 2015

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But the Church Doesn't Like Me

I have just become incensed (again!) at an article I read in a middle-of-the-road evangelical church’s newsletter. The whole article was about people who profess Christianity but do not go to church. It states that Christians should go to church. Here is a quote from it:

"As you read through the New Testament, it becomes apparent that the concept of an isolated, independent, free-lance Christian is completely foreign to the Scriptures. The early believers lived out their Christian lives within the context of a church and it was for their good and the good of their fellow-believers that they did so."
Now there is a lot of truth in this statement. It is right that we should, if at all possible, be connected to a church. There are far too many people who are exactly “isolated, independent, freelance” Christians. They do not think that they need to have a church.

They think that they are God’s gift to the world, and that they alone are right. If a church differs from what they believe, even if only slightly, they are off, doing it alone. They think that they are the only one carrying the banner for God. What a burden! Yet all churches differ from what we as individuals believe. Furthermore, we as individuals all differ from one another. There is no perfect church, neither is there a perfect individual. We have to accept this.

Some think that God has individually called them to a specific work, like to be a missionary somewhere. They have not been sent by a church, they just “fancy themselves” in this role. So, maybe at great hardship to themselves, they give up a proper job and go and work full-time supposedly “preaching the gospel.” But no-one has sent them. They are doing it off their own backs. The whole concept of giving up a secular job to go into “full-time Christian work” is not a good witness at all. Thousands of Orthodox Jews do not go into “secular” work, but rather live in their ghettos claiming unemployment benefits off the state of Israel. In other words, they are scroungers. Being in “full-time Christian work” is actually a very poor witness to everyone around. People will think, “He’s telling me what to do and believe, but he's not actually doing anything himself.”

Yes, there are many people like this, and the article I read is quite rightly criticising such for not humbling themselves enough to join a church.

But there are an equally large group of Christians who are on their own, outside of any visible church, who cannot help being in that position. They just don’t fit.

All churches have a way of doing things. A way of speaking. A way of dealing with one another. The services are done in a certain way, with a certain vocabulary. They have their “fellowship teas,” where everyone is supposed to chatter about anything and everything, and enjoy doing so. The church supports certain missionary organisations, which everyone is expected to contribute towards. They have their own way of speaking and doing things. It is difficult for me to get this across really, because if you are in the middle of one of these churches, you do not realise this. You are just part of it, and go along with everything, thinking that your church is the whole of what real Christianity is all about. But it isn’t. Only if you look in from the outside do you see what I mean. People, like myself, who have been converted from completely outside of any church, can see these things a lot more clearly than those who have been born and brought up in such an environment. Inside your “bubble” you cannot see beyond it. I put it to you that there are many, many people who just cannot “fit” into the systems that the churches have, so they end up not going to church at all. The churches should be catering for these people.

Also, a lot of people have the sort of personality that means that they cannot join in social gatherings like other people can. They cannot have, and do not particularly want to have, an enormous social life, like most of the rest of the membership of the church. Just a few real friends will do. They too will always be on the edge of the church as a result. Most church-goers spend all their time laughing and talking in their enormous church social scene, and they just do not notice – or do not want to notice – someone who just does not quite fit into it.

It is this latter group of Christians that I have sympathy for. They end up thinking that because they cannot fit into the church’s way of doing things, for whatever reason, then the church does not like them. And there is a lot of truth in this statement. Churches run along in the way they go because they have always done it that way, and they do not stop to help such poor fellow believers. If you do not fit in and do things the way the church wants or expects you to do them, you are not really one of us. And this is why the article made me angry.

I have no sympathy for those who set themselves up in an independent freelance way, and do not see their need of a church at all. But I have every sympathy with those who, for whatever reason, do not quite “fit” in to the way a church does things, and so are isolated, or at worst alienated as a result.

Churches, realise this is your problem, not theirs. Open up your bowels of mercy wider to encourage and accept these people. Oh yes, your cosy little social group may be disturbed by doing this. You church might be affected and changed in some way if you embrace these people. But this is the Christian way. We follow the Lord, not men’s ways.

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” Colossians 3:12-14.

But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” 1 John 3:17.

If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Philippians 2:1-4.

January 2015

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