The                                              
Christian Pilgrim

 

Viewpoint Articles



These short articles first appeared in the Presbyterian Standard magazine. For more information on this magazine, please visit the website:

Presbyterian Standard


Index

The Power of Persuasion

The Rock of Offence

Time is Short

What is Prayer

Humility

Spiritual Credit Crunch

Spirit of Antichrist

Ripe for Judgment

Cultural Revolution

Implicit Faith

The Perfect Church

Hyperemotionalism

Christian Community

The Unholy Trinity

Hyperevangelism

Peace on Earth?

The Beauty of Hell

Reformation Required

The Fallacy of Democracy

The Danger of Extremism

A Mind of Our Own?



The Power of Persuasion

How many of us have longed for a power of persuasion? If only we had this power, we think, we could use it to help convert so many people and bring them into the kingdom of heaven. Many have indeed gone onto the mission field, become ministers or church leaders, with this very thought in their minds – but they are the ones who have ended up being followed, not Christ. And this is the problem.

Let me tell you of the lady I know who married a man whom one of her friends called “the most spiritual man I have ever met.” He was a church leader, running the Sabbath school and convincing many gainsayers with his human powers of persuasion. But she soon found out he led a double life, going out late at night to do dirty things with his Sodomite friends. It turned out he had always been like this, and had been abusing some of the children in the Sabbath school long before they got married.

Or what about the three people I have known in my life who have been convicted of theft (two of them were in the church, incidentally). They were the smoothest talking men you could possibly meet, persuading everyone that they were trustworthy. That is how they got away with their crimes for so long.

Or what about the top barrister I heard on the radio once, who said, “My job is to persuade people that black is white.” So much for the British legal system!

Or what about the tele-evangelists who can persuade people of all sorts of things which just aren’t true? Yes, if we had the power of persuasion, be assured we would not use it for the glory of God at all, but for our own ends. The power of persuasion is not a gift from God, but a lust from the devil.

The apostle Paul had such a lust before conversion. He was a terrifying figure, “making havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3). But after his conversion, look what he says: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

He, amazingly, did NOT use the power of persuasion that he had known from before his conversion, in order to win converts to Christ. This was a deliberate decision on his part. He subdued his carnal nature, and ability to persuade men with worldly wisdom, and determined only to present the truth in a straightforward, genuine manner, so that their “faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God,” i.e. so that their faith would be genuine. This is against all our natural instincts. Paul deliberately did NOT use a carnal ability of persuasion, when he knew he had one and could so easily have done. How many preachers are like this today? We should be thankful that “we have our treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

The poor in spirit are the only ones who will inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3), not those who know they have a power of persuasion and use it.

Jeremiah said to Baruch: “And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 45:5).

This is a call to us all.

October 2010

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The Rock of Offence

The world is full of unitarians, i.e. those who believe in one God, but deny the Trinity of Persons within the Godhead. This includes Jews, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses and many intelligent rationalist thinkers such as Benjamin Franklin.

All of these are agreed that belief in the Trinity is irrational. They say that we Christians believe in “three Gods in one God” and ridicule us. In the face of such opposition, we could be tempted to ask ourselves, why is it important for us to believe in the Trinity at all? But, we cannot avoid believing in it, because as we read our Bibles, we find out that:

God addresses Himself in the plural: (Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7).

The Son is God: (John 1:14,18; 8:58; 10:30; 1 John 5:20).

Divine names, attributes, works and honour are ascribed to Christ: (Isaiah 9:6; Jeremiah 23:5,6; Romans 9:5; 1 Timothy 3:15; Matthew 18:20; John 1:1,2; 2:24,25; 3:13; 21:17; Philippians 3:21; Hebrews 1:10-12; 13:8; Revelation 1:8; 2:23; Matthew 9:2-7; 25:31,32; Mark 2:7-10; Luke 10:22; John 1:3,10; 5:19-29; 17:2; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:16,17; 3:13; 2 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 1:2,3,10; John 5:23; 1 Corinthians 15:19; Hebrews 1:6).

The Spirit is also a divine Person: (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 33:6; Psalm 104:30; John 14:16,26; 16:8,13; 1 Corinthians 12:11; Acts 5:3,4,9; 1 Corinthians 2:10,11; Romans 8:2,11,15).

And these verses include all three Persons working together in unison: (Isaiah 48:16; Isaiah 61:1; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; 1 John 5:7).

Make no mistake, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost ALL require divine worship. Yet at the same time we must believe in only one God. Why do we have to do this? Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?

We know the answer: “That He might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death, give worth and efficacy to His sufferings, obedience and intercession, and to satisfy God's justice, procure His favour, purchase a peculiar people, give His Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.” (Larger Catechism Q. 38).

We must believe in the deity of Christ, because we are all so wicked and evil by nature. We need a Saviour, one who has done everything for us, because we cannot save ourselves – a fact which no unitarian understands.

We also have to be very careful here, because of the limitations of language. If we said that God was three Persons in one Person, then the unitarians would be right – we are being irrational. But we are not saying that. We are saying that God is three separate Persons, with three separate wills, who all work in harmony together as one God. Three Persons in one essence. We may not be able to fully understand it, but it is certainly not irrational.

The Jew has a veil upon his heart, the Jehovah’s Witness has his own erroneous translation of the Bible, the muslim has the wrong holy book altogether, and the rationalist places his own thinking above the Bible, so none of these can understand the truth. Christ is a rock of offence to them (Isaiah 8:14; Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:8). Yet what we believe is not irrational. In fact belief in a God who has manifested Himself in the flesh in order to save us from the wrath to come is our only lifeline.

He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.” (John 5:23).

July 2010

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Time is Short

Pride is a terrible thing. It is the exact opposite of the humility that the Christian should nurture. It is the foremost sin of the natural man. Men in their state of nature can do nothing but exhibit pride in themselves and their puny achievements. Job finds out that it is God’s work to “behold every one that is proud, and abase him” (Job 40:11). Indeed, “The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things” (Psalm 12:3). We are told that “....the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16) and that “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).

One of the criteria for a bishop is that he is “not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6). Of course this could just refer to the unregenerate that are within the visible church, but we know ourselves that regenerate people can get caught up all too easily with the bright lights of being offered an “office” in the church at a very early stage in their Christian walk.

All Christians should be continually learning about their faith. Truth is so important. One of the reasons why false religions seem to be taking over (apart from the fact that they are having far more children than the contraceptive-loving Protestants) is that they EDUCATE. The Jews have their yeshivas and the Muslims their madrassas, to educate their people in their religion. Christians have nothing. In Christian circles, only those who “feel the call” to the ministry (whatever that means), or go into “full time Christian work” (whatever that is) get any kind of education in their faith, and then they are very poorly trained in the truth as it is in the Bible. Most of them have a far higher view of man than the Bible teaches, and they end up relying on their own human powers of persuasion rather than the Bible, in their attempt to teach and convince others of the truth.

Muslims and Jews can debate, we can’t. Rhetoric, logic and hermeneutics have long gone out of the Christian’s curriculum. When the average Christian is confronted by any of these people, he cannot respond. He flounders for an answer, then embarrassingly changes the subject or walks away. Maybe he can find an Arminian tract on the subject to give to them, but this is a far from adequate response.

Yes, we need education. We should be taught the truth, and the truth will set us free. But there is something more. Something far more fundamental. If all we had was knowledge, then, even though we knew jolly well that it was God-given, we would still become proud of the fact that we know so much. We are Calvinists. We are exclusive psalm-singers. We believe in the cessation of the gifts. Yes, all very good and correct. Nothing wrong here. Except that such knowledge alone continues to feed that dreaded giant within us, pride.

We need knowledge, but we also need to practise it in our lives. Our knowledge should always affect our behaviour, our attitude to others, our whole way of life. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).

The Lord gives Christians so many opportunities to teach truth or to help their neighbours. Time is so short here. Have we a neighbour that needs help? Is a work colleague in financial difficulties? Of course we shouldn’t necessarily help everyone we come across, Christ didn’t. We, like Him, should discern those in real need; but the challenge remains that we should continually be asking ourselves what we are doing about the practice of our religion? After all, it is the truth.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).

April 2010

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What is Prayer?

"Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of His mercies" (Shorter Catechism Q. 98).

But, if God knows all that is in our hearts anyway, why pray? He knows our every need, desire, thought, and whether we are genuine or not. But He has still ordained prayer as a necessary part of our worship, both in public and in private. Why is this?

Most people have no idea what genuine prayer is. They know nothing of any kind of real communication with God, but think that God can be placated if they go through some kind of ritual which they call prayer. So we see, for example, millions of muslims every Friday, going along to the mosque for twenty minutes, performing the same ritual week by week, and coming away afterwards, thinking that they have "said their prayers."

Now this is very strange. If someone approached the Queen, and upon being granted an audience, just went through a ritual and left again, she would be none the wiser as to what they wanted. If they continued to come every week at the same time, and did exactly the same thing each time.... how can this be put without offending muslims.... she would surely be questioning their mental state! And yet there are millions of people of whatever religion (including many professing Christianity) who really think that God can be pleased with that kind of behaviour. How can any of it be called true religion?

We have been given a model prayer, the Lord's Prayer, to use as a template for our own prayers. But if we reduce it to a mere recital, or indeed use anyone else's written prayers in a similar manner, we are no better than the muslim, or the papist, or the Greek Orthodox priest going through his ritual.

If we do eventually come to realise that extemporary prayer is what is required, there are still many pitfalls to avoid. Saying prayers in a certain manner, using stock phrases we have heard others use, trying to impress people by how many Bible verses we know, or attempting to be eloquent in prayer; all these might impress our fellow churchgoers, but it will certainly not impress the Lord of glory.

The Lord does not want from us either, on the one hand, empty, blind, superstitious ritual, nor, on the other, people-pleasing orations. He wants real, heartfelt prayer. A genuine communication with Himself, outwardly articulating our every desire and thought. Of course He knows them already, and does not need us to tell Him what they are. But the point is that it is for our benefit that He has ordained prayer, not His. We need to put into words what we really believe, to acknowledge to ourselves that this is indeed what we genuinely, truly believe in the depth of our hearts. Many people do not want to go there, it frightens them too much. So they put on their veneer of religion, to try to impress others, but more especially to try to convince themselves that they are not as totally depraved and wretched as they really are.

We are told that everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth (Luke 11:10). So does this mean that God will give us anything we ask for? Of course not. Only if it be the Lord's will, do we get anything in this life. So we see again that real prayer does not change God's will to be more in line with ours at all, but rather it changes our wills to be more in line with God's.

So then, when we pray, we should not be like the hypocrites; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Neither should we use vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking. Instead, when we pray we should enter into our closets, and when we have shut the door, pray to our Father which is in secret; and our Father which seeth in secret shall reward us openly (c.f. Matthew 6:5-7).

January 2010

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Humility

When Augustine of Hippo was asked what was the first precept of the Christian religion, he answered, "First, second and third, Humility." But what is humility? Do we really know what it is, and, more to the point, do we practise it?

In order to humble ourselves to the dust where we belong, we always need to keep in mind three things especially:

We know nothing yet as we ought to know (1 Corinthians 8:2). We are but of yesterday, and our days upon earth are a shadow (Job 8:9). Of course we must know something, else we would be imbiciles, but our knowledge of the things that matter, i.e. the things of God, which we can only receive out of His Holy Word, is so small. We fill our lives with little things of no consequence, and never think of the one thing needful. In all the so-called knowledge that men have, there is very little of real worth in it. Even if we could understand all mysteries and all knowledge; if we have not charity, we have nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2).

We can speak nothing of much significance. Most people try to hide their ignorance of spiritual things by exuding forth a veneer of outward knowledge, but they give themselves away by their worldly conversation and practice. Of course, it is not that we ought to know nothing, and be proud of it. Ignorance is NOT the mother of devotion, as Roman Catholics would have us believe. We can know truth from the Bible. But the little we do know should be channelled to edify others. "Let all things be done unto edifying" (1 Corinthians 14:26). If we do not edify others, we should keep quiet. "God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few" (Ecclesiastes 5:2). It is the job of the minister to edify his congregation. He is also to be humble. However, because in Reformed churches we believe in the centrality of preaching, we must be ever wary of the tendency of this to result in an unhealthy elevation of the minister in the eyes of the people. Men are exalted too highly by the congregation, and, sadly, too many ministers love to have it so. When a minister steps into a pulpit, he should take off his spiritual shoes, because he is standing on holy ground (Exodus 3:5).

We are nothing. Meditate well on this. God does not need us. He can and will save all His elect without the need of the likes of us. "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man that thou visitest him?" (Psalm 8:4).

When Job finally saw the Lord, he said, "Behold, I am vile. What shall I answer thee? Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further" (Job 40:5). Do we truly see our own wretchedness? Here is something to keep us in the lowest place. God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. We should therefore humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt us in due time (1 Peter 5:5,6).

Above all, we should let this mind be in us, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, "being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:5-8). How many Christians do you know who make themselves of NO reputation?

Christ had no beauty that we should desire him (Isaiah 53:2). He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; despised and esteemed not (v.3). On the one hand He had His unique purpose in life, which we are not to emulate; but surely He is to some degree an example to us as to how we should live our lives, "for even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in His steps" (1 Peter 2:21).

April 2009

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Spiritual Credit Crunch

The twentieth century will go down in history as the century in which the currencies of the world took themselves off the gold standard (something durable, divisible and, above all, tangible) and put in its place.... hot air. Confidence and rhetoric alone now holds up every currency in the world. As soon as confidence in a nation disappears, as has recently happened in Zimbabwe, the currency becomes useless. Governments, who make the money, have the sweeping power to freeze bank accounts and seize assets at any time. Banks have for too long been free to spend all the cash we throw at them by "investing" it in things that don't exist. And we have all got used to thinking that if we keep inflation at below 3% we have done well! ­ - whereas, of course, inflation only exists at all because governments print more and more bank notes.

In the Lord's providence, we now see the bloated economies of the Western world coming home to roost. Like Tyre, our merchants are being ruined, "Thy riches and thy fairs, thy merchandise, thy mariners, and thy pilots, thy calkers, and the occupiers of thy merchandise, and all thy men of war, that are in thee, and in all thy company which is in the midst of thee, shall fall into the midst of the seas in the day of thy ruin" (Ezekiel 27:27).

The biggest problems of the global crisis will occur in those countries that are historically Protestant. The Protestant work ethic legitimately gave them the most wealth to begin with, but it has all been frittered away by subsequent generations of godless humanist economists living on the back of it.

This was all preceded by the spiritual decline in those nations in the eigtheenth and nineteenth centuries. This will go down in history as the time in which spiritual "inflation" took place. Taking their eyes off the Reformed Confessions, the likes of Isaac Watts and John Wesley infiltrated the church by deliberately using their popular hymns as a very successful vehicle to bring in their false theologies. The people remembered words set to music far more than long boring passages of the Bible or Confession of Faith, and were turned from the right way which leadeth unto life into believing the hyper-inflated claims of Arminianism, telling them that God loves them all without exception. In the new theology, the love of God was so broad that it excluded nobody (although it could never actually save any of them). Following on from this we had the huge revival movements whereby great orators and persuasive men kept the lie alive by claiming that the number of those that would be saved would be far more than the actual number that God had ordained in eternity. Confidence in the hot air of their eloquence keeping the whole system going.

And now, when we criticise the likes of Wesley, D. L. Moody, Billy Graham and so on, it is we who are thought to be the ones not in touch with reality, whereas it is these "revivalists" who are the problem, and have such power over many people, even today, that they will bow at their every word.

Well their bubble has well and truly burst. No-one goes to church any more. The only thing we have left expanding in Christendom today is the Charismatic movement, keeping a brave face on things, still believing that we can bolster ourselves up by a lot of happy singing and man-centred testimonies, falsely giving its followers a sense of well-being, without the reality to back it up.

So, can we continue on like this? Just as economically we need to get back to a gold standard before all our currency turns to dust, so in the church we need to get back to the gold standard of the Reformed Confessions, which are solidly based on the Bible. Otherwise muslims, humanists and men of all other religions will continue to laugh at the church and everyone in it, and they would be right to do so.

January 2009

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Spirit of Antichrist

One of the first passages to be expunged, when the Westminster Confession of Faith is being modernised by wicked men, is the part which states that the pope is "....that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church, against God and all that is called God." In this more enlightened age, so they say, we must reach out to our Roman Catholic brethren, rather than unjustly clinging to a belief which was of its time, and is no longer relevant.

However, at the Reformation, unlike today, there was only one church in Western Europe, namely, the Roman one. What was being taught was that salvation from sin was only possible through the church itself, rather than Christ alone. Consequently, the church had carte blanche to fleece the people of their wealth, threatening eternal damnation if they didn't pay up. The ultimate protection racket. The people were deliberately kept in ignorance and had no choice but to follow - until Luther et al told them the truth.

Long before the Roman Antichrist raised his ugly head, Christ Himself had exactly the same problem of authoritarian leadership controlling the masses in the visible church of His day. His main antagonists were the Scribes and Pharisees - ­ the church hierarchy - ­ who sought false witness against Him, to put Him to death (Matthew 26:59), then incited the crowd (of good church-goers) to demand His crucifixion (Matthew 27:20).

Now, in the 21st Century, we no longer have one edifice which calls itself "the church," but rather thousands of groups, sects and denominations, all of which claim to be at least some manifestation of it. So is the pope still the Antichrist today? Well, yes, he is the leader of by far the largest of these groups, controlling with an iron hand millions of followers, who have implicit faith in his every encyclical. But the apostle John also teaches that there are "many antichrists" (1 John 2:18), and indeed we see this to be the case.

The spirit of antichrist is that which confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh (1 John 4:3) and this is done wherever ambitious men practically deny the work of our Saviour by exalting themselves in the church over and above Christ, in order to get the people to follow their every whim whether right or wrong. Vast tracts of the visible church, whatever denomination, are populated by blind followers, because they have become terrified that a show of disunity is the worst thing possible. This occurs even to the extent of refusing to stand up for truth and righteousness. Political manipulators and hero-worshippers - ­ a lethal cocktail! "Having men's persons in admiration because of advantage" (Jude 16).

This sycophancy goes on, even in the best of Reformed churches. The minister is beyond reproach, and we are not allowed to disagree with or say anything against our ministers (even constructively) for fear of reprisals. "How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" (John 5:44).

Do not misunderstand. This is not a call for anarchy. We must and we should set up visible churches according to Biblical principles. There will be some good men in high places, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who could indeed use their position to great effect. But the point is that ambitious political maneoverers will always manage to work their way to the top and seek to gain total control. We should simply realise that this is unavoidable, in the Lord's providence; and not give in to them, but rather put our trust in God alone to keep us from the evil, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

"The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not." (Matthew 23:2,3).

October 2008

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Ripe for Judgment

As the antediluvian world waxed worse and worse, ripening for a judgment to come upon the whole earth, God raised up Methuselah in the bosom of the church. His name means "After he dies, the judgment." He was a witness to the world of the flood that was to come in the year of his death. In the Lord's longsuffering this man lived on the earth longer than any other, 969 years, during the last 120 of which Noah built the ark, to the saving of his house.

Many times in subsequent history judgment has been graciously delayed by the Lord who raised up godly leaders to bring His people back to Himself. The times of the Judges clearly showed this, as did good kings such as David, Solomon, Joash, Hezekiah and Josiah, to name but a few. But the sins of the people eventually caused the Lord to bring Nebuchadnezzar through the gates of Jerusalem to destroy the Temple and carry them all into exile.

A few generations later the Lord gave Ezra and Nehemiah the task of rebuilding the city and the new Temple, albeit one a lot smaller than Solomon's, to show that the Lord had not forgotten His people. At a later date God even used wicked Herod the Great to begin to redevelop the site into the largest and most majestic Temple that ever was, dwarfing Solomon's first Temple in size and beauty. But the glory was short-lived. It lasted barely a generation. The Lord chose to use that one particular generation and the most glorious Temple that ever was, to be the place where, in the fulness of time, the eternal Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

Wicked hands crucified the Lord of glory and His prophecy about the Temple, that not one stone would be left upon another, came to pass in A.D. 70 when the Roman Emperor Titus razed the city to the ground.

The Lord deals with all the nations in a similar manner. After a thousand year reign of popery in northern and western Europe, God raised up a mighty Reformation to re-establish true religion. Particularly blessed were the nations of England and Scotland. The pope and his influence were cast out of both realms. The Bible was translated into the language of the ploughboy, revival came and true religion prospered.

We have lived on the back of the prosperity of such a mighty work of God for nearly 500 years. Until now. After basking under God-given deliverance in two world wars, men soon forgot Him and began to put their trust in themselves instead. Three generations have now grown up without a Bible, and with self as the god they all worship. And we are now blissfully unaware of how close and ripe the nation is for judgment.

FACT: With the expansion of the EU, Eastern European Roman Catholics are flooding into the United Kingdom, now making Roman Catholicism numerically the largest Christian denomination in the land.

FACT: Muslims, with their emphasis on arranged marriages (mostly to non-UK citizens, who then immigrate), have an average of six children per family.

FACT: Our self-centred culture would rather promote abortion, contraception and sodomy than the "burden" of bearing children to be the next generation.

On December 20th 2007 the Queen became the oldest living monarch that our country has ever had. The Lord in His longsuffering is giving us a Methuselah of a Queen before the final judgment on this land deservedly comes, at the time when the Lord sees fit to take her out of the way. For the first time ever we have the real, frightening possibility of having a President of the United States with a covert, murky, muslim background, and an overt, muslim-loving, Bible-hating British king.

Anyone for a prayer meeting?

July 2008

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Cultural Revolution

On 27th December 2007, a fight broke out between Greek Orthodox deacons and Armenian priests in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (supposed site of Christ's birth) over church chores. The (mainly muslim) Palestinian police had to wade into the fracas with batons to separate the warring factions. After a 1927 earthquake, the damaged Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (supposed site of Christ's crucifixion and burial) took 32 years to be repaired because the rival occupant Greeks, Romans, Armenians, Syrians, Coptics and Ethiopians couldn't agree amongst themselves.

Why are we mentioning these things? Because to the outside world, this is the face of Christianity. Humanly speaking, how can the local muslims and Jews ever think that Christ has anything to offer them, when all they see is such activity? And even when they graciously set all that aside, they enter these supposed places of worship, take one look at the faithful bowing to statues and kissing rocks, and look for the nearest exit. Wouldn't you?

Things are not much different in the West. Tourists in their thousand flock to great cathedrals full of their priceless art treasures, and think they have somehow had a great religious experience, just because they have seen the Mappa Mundi or a piece of Thomas a Becket's skull (as if their "seeing something" means anything).

Christianity has become so integrated into whatever local culture has embraced it, that it has ceased to be what it was meant to be - God's only appointed way of salvation for all nations - and become something completely different, namely, just another culture. When people in a muslim or Hindu country have a "Christian" minority amongst them, quite often the Christians are persecuted because the majority see the Western style, with their open-necked shirts and guitars, infiltrating their culture, and they don't like it. But if their own religion is merely outward behaviour anyway (whereas only the Christian has a true inward change in his soul), then they can only expect that our religion is something similar.

So we need to somehow get across to people that true Christianity is not just another outward "cultural thing" like every other religion, but is a real inward change of heart. How difficult this is - to try and explain an inward reality to someone who has never experienced it! Of course the Holy Ghost is required to effect any inward change, but we can do some things outwardly which can be at least helpful to others:

(1) We should be finished with ecumenism. To openly join with others in things we know to be unbiblical (such as hymn singing), for the sake of an outward appearance of unity to the world out there, just gives that world the idea that these practices are pleasing to God. Could we be wrong? Oh yes, we most likely are in some areas, but we should be being continually led into all truth (sanctfication), and growing in knowledge and grace all the time.

(2) If a tradition is Biblical, then we need to make sure we keep it, but we should not do things for the sake of doing them just because "mother church" has always done it that way. For example, if our church celebrates "Christmas," we should have nothing to do with it, even if that means we get sidelined and ostracised in the church.

(3) How we must get across the inability of man to save himself! True humility is here. Monks, nuns, muslims bowing down five times a day and Jews rocking as they ritually say their prayers cannot please God, because nothing men can do is able to placate Him. God must take the initiative in salvation, all we can do is cry for mercy.

(4) What we do outwardly should be heartfelt, serious, and not merely going through the form of things. All other religions, and many professing our own, have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5).

April 2008

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Implicit Faith

In chapter 20 of our Westminster Confession of Faith, it states that "the requiring of an implicit faith and an absolute and blind obedience is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also." Here we see that true faith, which is a gift of God, is not blindly following a person or church without thinking, but rather, faith is that by which a Christian "believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein" (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 14). i.e. true faith is believing and embracing truth as it is revealed to us personally; not because of any pressure put upon us to do so from outside.

This pressure comes in many forms, of which two will be mentioned here. Firstly, nearly all who profess a religion seem to blindly follow their particular faith or denomination because their fathers before them did so. Of course, if our fathers were right, all to the good; but why should they be? How crazy is the world, when we see one person profess Islam solely because they were born into a muslim family, others profess Judaism or Romanism for the same reason. Or let's get closer to home, people professing to be Methodist, Baptist or Free Presbyterian - automatically assuming that it must be right because they were born into it. Just try, for example, to convince a Methodist, Baptist (or Welshman) that singing hymns in public worship is a sin. They will be most perturbed by your reasoned, Biblical arguments for exclusive psalmody, because they cannot bear to think that their fathers were all wrong. Now bring this closer still. If we see these traits in other people, surely we must continually be asking ourselves, in what areas do we blindly follow those around us, rather than thinking through our faith by the Holy Ghost revealing the knowledge of the truth to us personally?

But, we may argue, thinking through issues is too complicated for me. How can a simpleton like myself know the truth? This leads us directly to the other main form of implicit faith, namely, that we would rather rely on the church or the minister to tell us what is true or not, so that we can blindly follow them instead. Now the minister is specifically set apart to study the Word of God, so he should certainly not be dismissed lightly. In fact if you disagree with the minister, it is probably you that are wrong, because, if he is doing his job properly, he knows more Scripture than you do! However, on the other hand, he is not perfect. How often do we find the minister elevated far too highly in our churches. We are taken in by his oratory and his dog collar, and assume that he is beyond reproach. Rather than search the Scriptures for ourselves, we search the database of our minds to see if we have heard a good sermon from a minister, then repeat it almost verbatim, as though that is the end of all strife.

So, when we are wondering which is the right thing to believe, we must be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11), who "received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things be so". Not being prepared to blindly believe even the words of an apostle, they compared Paul's words against Scripture before accepting them.

And what about our poor capacity to understand? Should we not rely on men of far greater intellect than ourselves? Well, firstly, other people are worth approaching for their opinion. This includes the minister, other Christians, church documents, commentaries, books etc. They could well help us in whatever difficulty we have at the time. However, secondly, greater intellect is not necessarily an advantage, as God has generally hid these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them unto babes (Luke 10:21). Thirdly, we may have only one talent to the minister's ten, but we are to make what we can from that one talent, and live our lives according to what we know for sure from the Scriptures, rather than following other men, constantly trying to be like them.

"Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).

January 2008

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The Perfect Church

Millions of people throughout the world profess Christianity as their religion. The vast bulk of them are ensconced in the errors of either popery, with its continually sacrificing Christ again and again in the mass, or in Eastern Orthodoxy, with its elevating of all the decisions of the first seven Ecumenical Councils above the Scriptures. It is plain to see that both of these huge organisations have degenerated into synagogues of Satan, where the true way of salvation has been completely obscured. Most of the poor wretches in these churches (who we can have nothing but pity for) are there either ignorantly, or because they were born into the church and know nothing else, or out of fear of reprisals from the clergy if they ever thought of leaving.

When we then look at the Protestant churches, do we find much different? We ought to find God's blessing there, after all, they became the "keepers of the oracles of God" (Romans 3:2) and the "pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15) at the Reformation. But what do we see? The Protestant churches have fragmented a thousand different ways, each group having nothing to do with any of the others, and each having their own set of theological beliefs which they call the truth. An "infallible" pope has been replaced by an army of "infallible" preachers speaking "ex cathedra" from their pulpits.

But this cannot be possible. There is only one truth that exists in reality, and this is found in the Bible. But just as every individual believer in the world makes mistakes in his interpretation of Scripture by reason of the infirmity of his sinful flesh, so no one church can ever claim a monopoly on truth. Otherwise we have a sect, not a true church.

So, as we are faced with a plethora of churches around us, which one do we join? This is a modern day question. In the past there was very little choice in the matter.

In this world, the Christian life is one of growing "in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). We are sanctified "through the truth" (John 17:17). As we grow in the faith, we are continually changing our beliefs to conform to the truth as we come to know and understand more of what we read in the Scriptures. So whilst we have a duty to join ourselves to the visible church, how can we, who are constantly changing, find a home in an organisation which is constantly the same?

We can catagorically state that the Westminster Confession of Faith is the most mature and best human statement of faith that has ever been produced on the face of the earth, which summarises the truth of the Bible. But we have a problem. What about genuine believers who are not yet fully convinced of all of that truth? Of course our churches only require a credible profession of faith for membership - complete subscription to the Confession is only required for office bearers - so these folk are indeed very welcome as members in our congregations. But they are also welcome in many other churches, and if they have a choice, they will always end up migrating to the church nearest in belief to what little light they have received so far. Hence the multitudinous variety of churches continues.

What a terrible thing separatism is! Men setting up their own little empires, and expecting people to blindly follow them! Even Presbyterian churches are not exempt from this sinful behaviour. Even where doctrine, worship and practice are exemplary, we still find eloquent, influential men exalting themselves in church courts over and above truth and righteousness, persuading the majority to follow their every whim. It is a great comfort to realise that the true church is invisible, and that the Lord converts His people and keeps them unto eternal life despite the machinations of men!

"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 3:2-3).

October 2007

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Hyperemotionalism

When we think of Nehemiah's injunction "the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10), we should immediately recognise this as the true inward joy of the believer after discerning the goodness of the Lord in saving him from his sins. This should give the believer an inner peace, which the world knows nothing of, and this is to be his comfort and witness before the world. No matter what outward circumstance is thrust upon us in the Lord's providence, we have this "joy unspeakable and full of glory", because we receive the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:8,9).

We must therefore be sorely vexed when we see Scripture passages like these being used by false professors of the faith to blackmail people into thinking that if they are not in a kind of hyperemotionalistic state all the time, exuding "joy" and continually smiling from ear to ear then they are not true believers, or at least not being very effective witnesses.

Just because we are called to "rejoice evermore" (1 Thessalonians 5:16), this does not mean to say that we are at the same time never called to "weep with them that weep" (Romans 12:15) when the circumstances prescribe it.

The crunch comes of course when we ask the question: Was Christ like this? Did He go about with a broad grin on his face, full of "joy," and thinking of sin as a light matter? The very idea is blasphemous. He was known as "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). The only mention we have of him ever "rejoicing" in spirit was in the fact that spiritual things were hid from some and revealed to others by God (Luke 10:21) ­ - the doctrine of election. Christ is our measure. Growing in grace is all about being more and more Christ-like, until we shall "be like him" (1 John 3:2). This should make us humble, sober and, most of all, serious.

But there is one more problem to address with regards this issue, and that is the problem of spurious conversions.

Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormons), John Wesley (whose heart was famously "strangely warmed") and many other false teachers had what seemed like a conversion experience, and, if they had been alive today, they would be welcomed with open arms into communion in many modern churches as a result. But when we look a little deeper, we see that these cases were nothing more than passing emotional impressions. But they convince themselves that these were real evidences of conversion, and consequently begin to aggressively promulgate their false views to all and sundry, fully persuaded they are called of God to do so. People who have had this sort of experience will be the hardest to be convinced, humanly speaking, that they are wrong. We can bring the truth to them and they will hate it, just as the unconverted heathen would. But worse than the heathen, these men already think they are saved, and therefore not in need of being taught the way of God more perfectly (Acts 18:26).

Our duty is to bring into the fellowship of the church all those who have a "credible profession of Christ," not those who have simply had an emotional experience at some point in their lives. This is the difference. Not that emotions are never involved in a true conversion, they often are, but they are not the yardstick we use. We must look at the life and walk of the professing believer over a period of time for outward evidences of true faith, not focus in on one dramatic event and blindly agree with them that it must be real.

In all seriousness, we cannot rely simply on a person's "experience of God" in order to determine whether they are truly in the faith, because experience will only ever be subjective.

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1).

July 2007

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Christian Community

Modern technology has advanced enormously over the last 100 years. Things are so much more convenient nowadays. We can travel halfway around the world in less than 24 hours and we can buy anything we want at the click of a mouse and it will be delivered to our doorstep. Man seems to have achieved such a lot.

But is this really an improvement? Where is God in all this? At the same time as these conveniences have come along, the churches have been closing down. Many people now have to travel huge distances to get to church, or at least a church where the truth is still preached. We may argue that it is thanks to the motor car we can get to such churches, but the fact remains that once there was a church in every parish, and it is thanks to the motor car, and subsequent centralisation of everything, that they have now nearly all closed down.

It is not only distance that keeps people away from church. Thanks to "tape ministries" and the internet we can now purchase or download thousands of sermons from anywhere in the world, by our favourite preachers. With this technology we need not bother even going out of our own living rooms in order to get our spiritual food every week, we can just worship at home instead. Indeed we can listen to as many sermons as we like on our iPods every day as we travel to and from work or do the washing. Surely, the country must be full of very spiritual people as a result of all this technology!

But it isn't. The lack of spirituality in the world today is staring us starkly in the face. Why is this? There is one vital thing that is missing - a sense of Christian community.

Because very few live within walking distance of their church, it is also very likely that they do not live within walking distance of each other either. Therefore the only time Christians ever meet is on the Sabbath. As a result, conversation after church tends to be a superficial asking after each other's welfare during the week rather than upon spiritual things. No-one seems to be bothered by this weekly ritual - that is until a major incident occurs such as a death or serious illness. Then we find out who our friends really are.

Is this what Christianity is all about? Just a glorified social club one day a week and very little else? It is time to take stock. We need to radically change our lifestyle.

In our modern secular society the Christian is being more and more marginalised. Men cannot get work because most jobs available include compulsory Sabbath work. Ladies cannot find modest clothing in high street shops. Children are being forced at school to believe lies. Christian groups are being denied government funding unless they agree to employ sodomites. Instead of having to put up with any of this, it is high time that the Christians all got together and worked for each other, creating a counter-culture, which would generate its own economy. Where are the Christian teachers? dressmakers? hatters? shoe-makers? printers? book-binders? leather-workers? carpenters? farmers? We have lost the skills needed for any of these trades in our pursuit of worldly gain.

But is this not advocating world flight? Well, we should indeed be salt and light in the world whilst it is possible, but there should also be that sense of belonging to a community, because when the currencies of the world collapse or persecution comes, both of which are inevitable (unless the Lord intervenes), the world will not help us then. Muslims and Jews have their own wealth stored away for such a time, but the Christian, like the world, thinks that things will carry on the way they are, and that there is no problem.

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

April 2007

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The Unholy Trinity

As an Asian born in Great Britain, having been brought up a nominal muslim, I soon came to find out the hard way that we were a despised minority by some members of the white majority around us. However, my family and I did not retaliate, knowing full well that most white people would also be very saddened at finding such persecution coming from within their community.

I went with my friends to a state school, but I knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn't a Christian like the white people were. The older I got the more I began to wonder and think about my faith. When I went to visit my white friends they offered me ham for tea, and I felt so stupid having to decline their kindness. Was my religion true after all or was it just an empty superstition that I had unthinkingly grown up in? The Christians seemed just as kind as ourselves, so what was the difference? Couldn't we all simply put aside our differences and live together in peace?

So I started to try to find out what the Christians believed. I did not have to go further than school to find out that they believe we all evolved from monkeys over millions of years. What a disgusting thought! I know Allah created me, it is so obvious! School was also very explicit when it began to teach me things that shouldn't be mentioned about personal relationships. Surely these Christians can't believe in being that promiscuous, can they? School was the first place that opened my eyes to begin to see the evil ways of the Christians.

Having despaired of being taught anything good and wholesome at school, I looked elsewhere for my answers. Surely the media would promote the values of a Christian society, so I spent my time watching television and reading the press. What a sight hit my eyes when every programme seemed to promote sex, alcohol and sodomy. Did Jesus Christ really allow his followers to freely go after these things? I only have to walk down the street and they are all scantily dressed like their celebrity heroes, frequenting their pubs and gay bars. And no-one from any church is telling them not to do these things, so it cannot have been forbidden by Christ.

I then turned to see what the British government was saying. The Prime Minister prides himself that he is a Christian, so he should be a leader worth following. But wait a moment! He is in league with that other great Christian the president of the United States, and look what they are doing: killing peace-loving muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. These Christians are more evil that I thought. Unprovoked attacks on innocent muslims, and we cannot respond easily because their weaponry is far superior to ours.

Finally in despair I had to conclude that Christianity must be the greatest evil in the world, and I began to study my Koran seriously for the first time in order to cleanse my thoughts from the foul things I had discovered. To my surprise my Koran taught me that this is exactly the case! Churches are full of idols, our mosques have been duly cleansed. Church-going women are dressed immodestly, our women cover themselves so as not to show the form of their bodies.

What therefore should I do to rid this world of such a scourge as Christianity? Again, my Koran told me: "Fight against them until idolatry is no more and Allah's religion reigns supreme" (Sura 2:193); "Seize them and put them to death wherever you find them" (Sura 4:84); "annihilate the infidels" (Sura 3:141). What is more, my reward in heaven will be great, married for ever to dark-eyed houris (Sura 44:54).

So, it wasn't a difficult decision to make at all. I strapped a bomb to myself, went to the crowded shopping mall and detonated it. But there seems to have been some mistake. No houris. No chaste virgins. Just a constant, bitter, excruciating torment in this flame.

January 2007

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Hyperevangelism

If we listened to some ministers in Reformed circles, we would rapidly come to the conclusion that the greatest scourge in the church today is "Hypercalvinism" - a belief that because salvation is not for all men, therefore the gospel is not to be preached to all men. However, although "Hypercalvinism" does exist, and indeed is a problem, the numbers of its proponents are very small, and a far greater scourge is rampant which is decimating the church and causing havoc to the cause of Christ, and that is the problem of "Hyperevangelism."

But don't we believe in evangelism? Of course we do! The Lord Himself commanded us to "preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15), and based on that command, we heartily do so (not, incidentally, based on the false premise that God wants all men to be saved). However, the problem is not whether we should evangelise or not, but rather the fact that for most evangelical churches, that is all they do! All their activities are geared towards an aggressive "get them in by all means" approach, which not only waters down the worship and preaching to fit a fictitious "seeker" (who always seems to have a mental age of about five), but also compromises the gospel of saving grace.

Anyone out there who does respond to invitations to come to one of these churches, soon finds out that the church has nothing to offer, only more advice on how to "get them in." No wonder that many soon become disillusioned with the church and leave - thus negating the original plan!

People are made to feel guilty if they are not overtly evangelising, and the whole thing is perpetuated. It is often pointed out that, "if the church doesn't evangelise it will die," conveniently forgetting that Christ Himself said, "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). God will build his church. He doesn't need us. We could just sit up by the fire in a nice comfy chair and do nothing, and not one of God's elect will be lost, God will still do all his pleasure. However, of course, if we do sit by the fire and do nothing, we will be being very disobedient. We have work to do! That is why we involve ourselves with the life of the church, not because God needs us in any way, shape or form. We must never forget this.

What is the solution? The solution is not to stop evangelising altogether, neither is it to use modern gimmicks which will soon perish with the using, but rather to make sure that there is something in the church to bring people to hear. Teaching should therefore be paramount. Adults as well as children need catechising these days - the last three generations have lost their knowledge of the truth. Of course this alone will not convert people, conversion is solely the work of the Holy Ghost; but we can propagate truth. We can tell people about Christ, His work, His attributes, His glory, and tell them how He wants us to live. We have so much to tell others about! Even if no fruit is found immediately, many can testify to the fact that when they are converted later on in life, they remember what they were taught in catechism class, and are eternally grateful for it.

Only then will believers grow in the faith, and evangelism will be a natural outworking of that faith, and not something that is altogether forced.

Of course evangelism is important, but not at the expense of everything else.

"Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves." (Matthew 23:15).

October 2006

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Peace on Earth?

A few years ago, the Secretary General of the United Nations made an incredible statement. He said, "When we all join together, we are the ultimate power." What arrogance! Putting the decisions of men in the place of God. Yet this is the typical belief system of the people who are in charge of our world today.

Mr Anan, you need to open your eyes. Look around you. See the hills, mountains, streams, stars and everything this universe consists of. Then tell us who the ultimate power is. Men are nothing in comparison. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world" (Psalm 19:1-4). The evolutionist shouts to everyone that these things are not true, but it is only to try to convince himself that there is no God, so he can carry on his immoral lifestyle. Have you ever met a humble evolutionist? (And this goes for proponents of all other false religions too).

So can "peace on earth" be achieved by believing that "we are the ultimate power" and that there is no God? Mr Anan, you are very deluded indeed. "Peace on earth" and all of us "getting on" with one another is not the driving force of true religion at all. Why not? Two reasons. Firstly, because we cannot do it. We cannot love one another even if we wanted to. It is impossible in our fallen nature to do so. We always get it wrong. Secondly, because "getting on" with one another and living our lives solely to be able to be at "peace" with one another effectively amounts to our worshipping each other rather than worshipping God. True religion is to exalt God. God must be put in his proper place as King of the universe, having created all things by the word of His power in the space of six days and all very good.

To God belongs all the glory because He is all powerful, almighty and the only one worthy of all our adoration. Can anyone deny that? Yet people do deny it in their thoughts, words and actions when they spend all their time trying to "get on" with one another at the expense of forgetting God. "How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" (John 5:44).

Our very nature since Adam fell has been one of only caring about our own things, our own thoughts, our own feelings, our own satisfaction. We don't even give God the time of day, let alone love Him with all of our heart and mind and soul and strength. We can't even love our neighbour properly, whom we can see visibly with our eyes. No wonder God is angry at men for their obsession, by nature, with their feelings and themselves.

What is the answer then? God cannot be appropriately exalted unless man is abased to the dust where he belongs. And only there can we begin, as men, to "get on" with one another.

Therefore, we must cast aside our preoccupation with ourselves and this vain empty world, which is passing away. Our hope is not here. All of us will have to leave it behind one day. Rather we must set our minds on things above, making God everything and man nothing. If we make man anything more than this, we are exalting ourselves too highly, we will not be able to "get on" with one another and we would be denying God His rightful place; just as Cofi Anan does when he blasphemes God by saying that "We are the ultimate power."

July 2006

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The Beauty of Hell

Hell is described, by Jesus Christ, as a terrible place of eternal conscious torment in body and soul for ever. It is described by Christ as "hell fire" (Matthew 5:22, Mark 9:47), "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:48).

The problem is that hardly anyone today believes it exists, despite the fact that Jesus Christ talks about it more than anyone else in the Bible. It is no good doing what the modern translations of the Bible tend to do and deliberately change the word "hell" to "the grave" or "Sheol" or something else which tries to hide the terribleness of the place, because whereas in some places it may be possible to do this without altering the meaning of the passage, there are plenty of other places where one cannot get away from the idea of the continual torment which takes place there.

No-one today likes talking about hell - probably because they find it difficult to believe that anyone deserves to go there. They might even believe that people should be punished for a while, but in the end everyone will be saved. But this is not what Christ teaches. Indeed he teaches us that we should fear hell, and the thought of going there. "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28).

God casts people into hell for ever. This is the clear teaching of Jesus. "But isn't that a bit extreme," one might ask, "surely none of us deserve to be punished for ever, even wicked murderers should be relieved of that after a long time, shouldn't they? And we are nowhere near as bad as they are." The problem with such an attitude is that the person saying it thinks he knows better than God. If we believe that "The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works" (Psalm 145:17), and we still turn around and say that He is unfair to send people to a place of conscious torment for ever, then we are complaining against God, who is perfect. The real problem is not that God is not perfect, but that we have such a high view of ourselves.

If God says that we deserve hell for ever, then we should not argue, otherwise we exalt ourselves above measure. Our very nature is corrupt to the bottom of our souls. "There is none that doeth good, no, not one." (Psalm 14:3). "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). We should not compare ourselves against examples of gross evil, but rather against God's commandments.

Hell is a beautiful place. It is a place of perfect punishment. If it was too much punishment or too little punishment, then God would indeed be a cruel, unjust monster. As it is, it is the perfect place of punishment for the unrepentant, totally depraved, natural man. Modern psychology tells us exactly the opposite. We are told to have a sense of self-acceptance, self-esteem, self-worth and so on. Nothing could be further from the truth. Reality is exactly the opposite and we are deceiving ourselves if we follow the "positive thinking" psychologists of today. Truth and reality are what we will have to face up to eventually and we should not try to kid ourselves otherwise.

We should accept the fact of our utter depravity, then repent and turn to Christ. He "shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21), and although we deserve hell, we will be saved from it.

Cry out for mercy. "Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD's anger." (Zephaniah 2:3).

April 2006

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Reformation Required

Even a cursory glance at church history will show us how quickly men will depart from the true religion of the Bible. Within a few generations of the death of the apostles, the church had drifted far from its original Biblical base. In the fourth century, the vast majority of Christendom had amazingly denied the deity of Christ. It was left to Athanasius to set himself "against the world" to win the day and establish the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity as orthodoxy. No sooner had this victory been won than the bishop of Rome began to vaunt himself above the other presbyters to set himself up as God, sitting "in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The Dark Ages of his reign lasted almost a millennium, during which the truth of God was only kept alive in such places as a few hidden valleys in the Alps, or an obscure Leicestershire backwater, from where a local minister sent out his "poor preachers."

Then one German monk came to understand, in the Lord's providence, the meaning of the words "The just shall live by faith," and he, Athanasius-like, took on the world, and the glorious Protestant Reformation had begun. The errors and abuses of Rome were exposed and cast out of the church, and the Bible was again given its rightful place in the pulpits of the land and in the hearts of the people.

But where are the fruits of these attainments today? Where are the godly ministers preaching truth from their pulpits now? Where are the godly magistrates striving to establish the one true religion in their land and extirpate all others? Where is morality and godly living in the church-goers, let alone the people at large? These all seem to have disappeared from modern society.

One of the great accusations that the papists hurled at the Reformers was to say that, if works play no part in our justification (which they don't), then we can ignore God's laws, live how we like, and we shall still surely be saved. This of course is a totally false charge laid at the Reformers' feet. If one is truly born again of the Spirit of God, then a love for the law of God automatically follows as a result.

However, sadly, the papists appear on the face of it to have been proved right. One only has to look at the state of the so-called Protestant church today and we can see what they mean. The Bible has been taken out of the pulpits and the law of God is ridiculed to such an extent that such practices as sodomy and abortion are not even considered as wicked at all, but rather promoted. The Ten Commandments are taught nowhere, and the papists and muslims seem to have more outward morality than most Protestants. What a sad state of affairs!

So what can we do about all of this? The Protestant church is desperately in need of another Reformation. Not a reformation this time from a works-religion - that victory has already been achieved - but rather one from the opposite error of Antinomianism. Salvation is not unto licentiousness, as the papists falsely accuse us of believing, but unto a keeping of God's law out of love and gratitude for the salvation He has freely given to us. "If ye love me, keep my Commandments," said Christ (John 14:16).

Bringing the world and its vices into the church has been the death-knell for Protestantism. We have allowed ourselves to be too influenced by its wicked ways. Prayer and repentance are indeed much required, but we need also to take stock of our lack of understanding of the exceeding broadness of God's commandments, and again realise that we have spiritual duties to perform whilst we are here on this wilderness journey.

Let us work towards bringing back a love for the law of God into the churches once more, not in order to be saved, but because "the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (Romans 7:12).

January 2006

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The Fallacy of Democracy

In a world in which we see totalitarian regimes oppressing their people, it is all too easy to go along with the media bandwagon declaring that giving the people "democracy" is the answer to all their problems. "This will finally give the people the freedom they should have by right," is the cry. Indeed, when we think of democracy we tend to compare, for example, oppressive muslim lands controlled by powerful, unelected Emirs, with the wonderful "free" democratic countries, all of which tend to be "Christian," at least in name. We therefore get the impression that democracy is somehow connected with Christianity. However, if we look biblically at the situation, we see that this is far from true.

Democracy throughout history has not necessarily been a good thing. The greatest war this world has ever known, was brought about by one man, Adolf Hitler, who came to power in Germany.... by the vote of the people! Democracy as a form of government is no better or worse than a dictatorship. The only difference being that a dictatorship is ruling at the whim of one man, whereas democracy is ruling at the whim of the mob.

Democracy falls to the ground because man has a wicked sinful nature, and does not know what is best for himself. This is one thing the politicians will never tell the people. Oh yes, he knows what he wants, and the politicians pander to his lusts all right, but the very nature of man is to exalt himself and abase God. This is anti-Christian. Therefore living our lives simply according to the will of the majority will always be a mistake.

Biblical history is replete with examples of the will of the people in action. Every time it is in connection with rebellion against God. The Tower of Babel in Genesis Chapter 11 is an example of what men will do if left to themselves, namely build a one-world government to the glory of man, without any reference to God. In the Exodus, time and again the people complained to Moses about their lot, even causing Moses to speak unwisely himself at one point (Numbers 20:10-12). In the time of the Judges "every man did what was right in his own eyes," following every charismatic leader they could find, and changing their minds continually as to who they should follow (e.g. Judges 9:22-23).

After Solomon's death, the people of Israel rejected Solomon's son Rehoboam to set up a man of their own choosing instead (1 Kings 12:16,19,20). Subsequently whenever they had a king they did not like, they simply overthrew him and set up another, until God finally cast them out of their land. In the church too we see no difference. The priests "murder in the way by consent" (Hosea 6:9). The majority always get their way. And of course the greatest of all acts of wickedness was the crucifixion of Christ: it was the people who chose Barabbas to be released and Christ to be crucified, a decision which Pilate, being a good democrat, gave in to.

If the Bible teaches nothing else, it teaches us that if people are allowed to choose their own way, they will apostatise from God and set up their own false, self-exalting philosophy instead. The truly Christian form of government is not to make our decisions dependent solely on the will of the majority. This simply encourages political manoeuvering, with the most persuasive always getting their way.

Rather, our way should be to continually seek the mind of the Lord in prayer and supplication, humbling ourselves before Him, and not making our decisions until we have clear light on the matter. Let us away with man and his reason and decision-making. Instead, let us, "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts," live "soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Titus 2:12-14).

October 2005

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The Danger of Extremism

In the light of recent bomb attacks in London, the government seems to be pressing ahead even more urgently with the introduction of new legislation in an attempt to try to stop any more "extremists" from carrying out their wicked crimes. Such legislation as making it an offence to "advocate violence to further spiritual beliefs" may seem to be quite irrelevant to the Christian community, because we know that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:4); consequently the true Christian would never use such this-worldly techniques to propagate his religion (unlike Islam which seems to have spread itself through North Africa and most of Europe and elsewhere mainly by the power of the sword).

However, Christians should be wary of two potential problems with the hurried introduction of new legislation. Firstly, "advocating violence," "intent to murder," etc., are already crimes in this country, so the addition of a "spiritual" or "religious" element to these laws is quite meaningless. It rather tends to imply that there is some deeper belief held by the framers of these laws that "extremists" are anyone who simply has a different worldview from themselves, such as those they term "religious" people. And where do they go to find out who exactly is an "extremist"? In the case in point with regard to muslims, they have only spoken with the mainstream liberal mosques, and not with those who believe that the authority for truth lies in their "holy" book, their Koran. Switch this over to Christian circles. Where will they go to find out what Christianity teaches, and who therefore the "extremists" are within Christendom? To the mainstream liberal churches in the ecumenical movement! True Bible-believing Christians will be seen as the "extremists," who, as a result, will be granted no rights and at worst will have their activities curtailed.

Secondly, this could be the thin end of the wedge. It could lead to the government making it illegal to "incite religious hatred" or to "sell or possess extremist literature." Of course, Christians do not hate anyone. Rather we are called to love our enemies (Luke 6:35) and, if it be possible, as much as lieth in us, to live peaceably with all men (Romans12:18). We have nothing but pity for all those who are caught up in the bonds of sin and false religion. We are only concerned that they should be set free from their bondage by coming to a knowledge of the truth. However, the rulers of the land may not think this to be so, but rather when we believe and indeed proclaim that "homosexuality is sin," "Islam is a wicked false religion" and "the pope is the Antichrist," which are all true statements, we could easily be misconstrued as hating all who think differently on these things. If laws ever come into being whereby we are no longer allowed to proclaim anything as sin, and a transgression of the holy law of God, then the persecution has begun.

Let us not fret when these things seem to be coming to pass, rather let us realise that all things are within the providential control of the Almighty, and that the words of the psalmist are true: "They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied" (Psalm 37:19).

In the meantime let us encourage one another to pray for our rulers, as Paul taught Timothy: "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men, for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

July 2005

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A Mind of our Own?

The French parliament is currently debating a bill which criminalises the act of "mental manipulation." The whole purpose of the bill is to outlaw many of the techniques used by the sects who prey on vulnerable, emotionally fragile, people who get caught up in these organisations and who end up dependent upon them. Whilst we must agree that such people need our protection and help, we cannot help thinking that the framers of this bill have a far more sinister aim in mind, namely the eradication of all minority religions, amongst which orthodox, Westminster Standards Christianity will no doubt be included. However, it seems to have slipped the minds of the politicians who framed this dangerous bill that it is not only religious groups that can be involved in the shady activity of "mental manipulation."

Probably the greatest "mental manipulator" of the twentieth century was Adolf Hitler, who was a politician, not a religious leader! Also, there are millions of people today who are brainwashed by the media and the state education system into believing that the Theory of Evolution is true. Are these now to be prosecuted?

The whole art of successful brainwashing is to feed people information in such a way that they do not realise that they are being brainwashed. Indeed, advertising works, as do most of the techniques people learn in their modern management training schools.

We therefore fear that if such a bill should ever get onto the statute book of any country, Biblical Christians, as a minority group, would be unfairly persecuted by having their leaders charged with this crime. At the same time, those who ought to be prosecuted for the crime of "mental manipulation" would be allowed to continue their brainwashing techniques - for no other reason than that they are in the majority. Safety in numbers means that the masses will never accept that they are the ones being duped by politicians, educators and other so-called "experts."

July 2000

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