Gospel of Conviction or Convenience?

I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favourable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:1-3 NLT

 

I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 1 Corinthians 9:22

 

At first glance, these passages would seem to be at odds with each other. Some might say it’s a contradiction. Some others certainly use the latter to justify almost anything that goes on in church, with the risk that the Gospel is pushed into the background. So, to reach the unchurched, we try to become more like the world, or at least provide the entertainment they would be used to. Churches have become locations for: drop in centres, musical shows, movies, and arts and crafts of many sorts. Each probably good and innocent in their own right, but at what cost to the only message that saves souls?

 

What is the sole purpose of the church of Jesus Christ? Paul makes it clear to his young protege pastor Timothy. It is to “preach the Word of God” whether you think the timing is right or not. And Paul gives the reason – valid 2,000 years ago, and I suggest even more so today. The wise apostle argues that “a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching.” When numbers drop, with the best of intentions we use the church as a recruiting base but instead of giving the life changing gospel, we give them the same things the world gives and call it outreach and evangelism, but we don’t do it as well as the world, and invariably is compared and fails. It is worth bearing in mind that the ONLY thing that Paul tells his young protege Timothy to do is preach the gospel. No sidelines, no gimmicks, just the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ. Are we up to the challenge? After all, where else will the unsaved hear that life changing message of salvation in Jesus Christ?

Advertisements

First Do No Harm

You will recognise these words from the beginning of the Hippocratic Oath, which is taken by student doctors around the world, and ingrained into their minds even before they touch a patient. The reason is clear. If you can’t make the patient any better, then at least don’t do them any harm. Oh that as believers we would take the lesson to heart.

 

Some Christians are so used to ‘speaking the truth in love’ that they cannot, or will not, hold their tongue when they should. After all, the argument goes, it’s in the Bible, so it must be right. I would suggest that when the truth is really spoken in love, only good will be done. After all, God does not, and will not, do harm to His own witness. He may convince and convict of the sin in our lives through the Holy Spirit, but He can do that without our feeble attempts to speak for Him in a misguided ‘in love’ pretence.

 

Sadly, I have come across very few Christians who are loving or lovely, when they speak their version of the truth ‘in love’.

If Only I’d

Some of the saddest words we will ever utter are “If only I’d..”. They are always used after an opportunity has passed, or a chance wasn’t taken, or faith weakened. They also come to mind after any opportunity to recover and make things right have long since gone.

 

We all live with regrets, some small and some large. It’s normally the big regrets that give us the most conscience trouble because in hindsight you can see how different things could have been if a little more time and patience and faith had been invested in the situation that we felt was so bad. I would go one step further. The pain when we realise the better opportunity was missed is always greater than the discomfort we thought we felt in the first place.

 

However, there is no magic solution because for as long as human beings have made decisions, there have always been the ones we lived with happily, and those we put up with until something better came along. That better ‘something round the corner’ never did come, did it, so we are left with a regret that can easily turn into a resentment?

 

If we are happy to quote “God’s Will” when things are going well, why do we leave God out of the picture if things don’t go as we had thought? Has God changed? Did we misjudge God in the first case when we openly talked about His will for our lives? I think we are guilty (I know I am) of giving God credit when He does things we agree with, but we distance ourselves from any notion of God’s will in any turn of events which we don’t like. In other words, we only trust His direction sometimes and that makes us part time Christians.

 

I trust and pray that at the end of 2018, none of us will be heard to utter the dreaded words, “If only I’d….” (you can fill in the rest yourself…). Now, have a Happy and Blessed New Year!

Shame

It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. Ephesians 5:12

 

You don’t have to look too deeply to see the wisdom in these words from Paul. Recently, the media has been highlighting the seedier side of the celebrity world, with all the force of their hedonistic worldview. Of course, some even openly report these tasteless activities under the guise of being informative and open with their readers and viewers because it is in the public interest.

 

As believers, we can see through the fog. There is good reason for the sinful lives of people who have become famous, to go without comment. We don’t benefit from the exposure of the sin, do we? And that is what it is, it’s sin. The Bible calls it for what it is, and tells us not to help gossip the sin, because Paul reminds us that it is ‘shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret’.

 

Did you catch that? Even when these shameful acts are done in secret, or in the privacy of their own lifestyle, we do not have to mention it. In order to protect ourselves from this lifestyle, there are some things we can do or, to be more accurate, not do which will help.

 

How about not reading those newspapers and magazines which glorify the things that deliberately pander to the senses? How about being more careful with the TV programs we watch where adultery is commonplace and homosexuality is shown as normal? How about the movies we watch, and it doesn’t matter where the film is screened?

 

In all of this, ask yourself what the church is doing to combat the sinful lifestyle in our nation? We are reminded that the church is not the building. The church is me, and the church is you. What are we doing to try to turn the tide of what is acceptable, and those things which are now seen by the majority as normal? I’m sure God knows we should have a stronger voice from the pulpits of our churches, and more so from the lives of our leaders to start with. At pew level, we do not have to give the oxygen of ever more publicity to ‘what the disobedient do in secret’. It’s not that we can’t do it, more a case of do we want to?

Impressions

First impressions are not always wrong. Over my long-ish life, I have discovered that first impressions are usually confirmed as correct as time passes. What starts as a feeling, or thought, almost always turns into a certainty. But we do not, and should not, act on any first impressions because on occasion they can be wrong, and we do not have confirmation either way, well at least not quite yet. More time is needed for that.

 

I’m not saying this requires the gift of discernment. Perhaps you have been gifted in this, but experiences over the years may also have resulted in us recognising characteristics which draw people together, or maybe make us think ‘caution’, or ‘beware’. Don’t misunderstand me, I am certainly not advocating making an enemy, after all, we are told that a mark of a true disciple is Godly love for all, including our faith brothers and sisters.

 

Perhaps I need to be corrected, but I have found that we can almost immediately and naturally be attracted to a person and really get along with them. However, there are other times when I will love my brothers and sisters, but wouldn’t usually choose to have a coffee together. On a personal level, I do not like confrontation, so the ability to ‘love but not necessarily like’ a very few of my friends may work for me, and all the while does not affect my Christian walk. Question: Am I on my own, or is this your experience too?

Nearly

Having been around churches of various denominations throughout my life, I can usually recognise the differences, and even appreciate the things that separate us in theology and practice. I’m not going to argue that we have more in common, than that which separates us, but make another observation which has been growing in my mind over the recent past.

 

The one thing we all share, is the life changing gospel of Jesus Christ. Or it should be a common thread running through all evangelicals to some degree.

 

It concerns me that we are becoming ever better at talking about what the gospel is, than we are at preaching it. We have become clever and intelligent as we learn more about Bible times, and how the early disciples changed the world. Armed with this great knowledge, why do we not preach the gospel instead of talking about it? I see a real and fundamental difference, and in this case ‘nearly’ is not good enough for all and any of the mainstream church denomination family.

 

I well remember the induction service of a new pastor, and an old saintly pastor, close to retirement after many good years in the pulpit say to the new minister, “The pulpit is not here to have a conversation with your congregation, it is here to preach the Gospel”. The words were spoken many years ago, are true today, and nearly is still not good enough.

Blogger’s Block

You have heard of writers who get writer’s block, well its distant cousin is Blogger’s Block. There is little known about what causes it, but apparently it can be a small thing. I don’t know how you deal with the things on your mind, for my part I tend to write it down. I suppose that makes me a blogger of sorts. Not so much to get a response, but as a kind of therapy to face the issues that mean something to me.

 

I usually end up writing about matters of faith, because that is the subject that means the most to me, and in a normal week about 2 or 3 blogs will be written and possibly published on a couple of systems. Responses are good for the most part, and even those who would not claim to be of the same church or faith group will be positive in their comments. So, what has happened during this month’s dry spell?

 

When something rocks the foundation of your belief system, it drags you down, and in dragging you down you stop doing those normal routine things. The bottom line is that you don’t see a way to work through your ‘problem’, and so the Blogger’s Block happens. Fortunately this doesn’t happen often, and my solution is to give it enough time to percolate through my subconscious and convince myself the thing I worried about was never really a problem in the first place. Was it? Or is it still there?