S.I.N.

head in sandSelf- Inflicted-Nonsense, that is how the world views sin. Sin is an oppressive concept that stifles human freedom and flourishing. I am my own master. I will do what I desire. No one or government or religion can tell me what I can or cannot do. Why would you constrain your own freedom by nonsensical rules and traditions? The idea of sin is repulsive to the world today because it limits what I can do. It is a remnant of past authoritarian structures and legalistic religiosity. Cast them off has been the mantra of recent decades! Be free!

  • That one day in seven is different and special—sacred to the Lord, na- I’ll do what I want with my time!
  • Respect due to parents, no way—we are equals!
  • Sex before marriage, get with the times!
  • Marriage, what is that anyway…simply what I want it to be…cohabitation, heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual, polyamorous, etc, etc.
  • Gender constructs, completely socially fabricated!!!
  • That the government has the right to “bear the sword” of justice, how absolutely medieval that I might be held accountable for my actions.

The list goes on…self-inflicted nonsense! All a complete and utter load of nonsense!!!!!

Well let’s pause and look at an alternative. Recognising that many of today’s trends are an overreaction caused by past abuses of authority and nominal religion, might the idea of sin not be self-inflicted-nonsense but truth and a reality meant to spare us countless and needless dangers and harm? We’ve taken a huge leap from the notion of having some personal freedoms designed to ensure there was some civic freedom within parameters, to a culture of near total permissiveness.

Listen to this counter challenge from 1 John 1:8:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

WOW! What a different way of looking at things. Sin is as real as this computer screen you are reading this blog on. If we deny its reality, then we are actually self-deceived, the ones believing the nonsensical idea that there are no moral absolutes. As this verse was initially addressed to Christians who denied they kept sinning, if that was the case the Truth (Holy Spirit) was not in them. Similarly, if you are a non-believer who denies the reality of sin, the truth is similarly not in you and you are a liar.

Sin leads to harm and destruction and death, but walking in God’s Law leads to life. In fact, the Bible says God’s ways were designed for our good (Deut 10:13). It is when we follow them we flourish! It is when we walk in them that we find perfect freedom (Ps 119:45).

But more than speak of sin, the Bible makes clear that bad fruit is not the ultimate issue but the root. It is not merely the symptom we need to address but the underlying disease. The Bible also uses sin to speak of a disease of the heart (Prov 4:23; Mt 15:18–20).

The Law of God is good and true, yes, but it cannot save us because we cannot obey it perfectly, because we are actually not free but our hearts are enslaved to sin (Ro 6:16). We may even come to believe in the truth of 1 John 1:8 but that is still not good enough because we’d still be enslaved to sin even if we acknowledge it is real. We need God to open our eyes to believe the Gospel, the good news of freedom from sin available through faith and forgiveness in Jesus Christ, and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who will help us live lives pleasing to God. Then the Law no longer is a threat of judgement but a promise, with God saying ‘I will get you there!’

As much as the world thinks it is free and sin does not exist, the reverse is true, sin does exist and the world is enslaved to it, which is why it loves it so much and will fight under any convenient banner or excuse to self-justify its own sinful actions (Ro 1:32). True freedom can only come in recognising sin is not self-inflicted-nonsense, but something that is real and that we need saving from. Only then will we be free and flourish as the Lord intended.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

A 2.5/3 for the Royal Wedding Sermon (and yet a…)

A 2.5/3 for the Royal Wedding Sermon (and yet a…)
A number of people I spoke with commented on how “good” the Royal Wedding Sermon was that was preached by Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church of the USA. If you haven’t seen it you can watch it here:

*This brief analysis is not being offered under the old proud preacher’s adage, “it was a good sermon but I could have preached it better.” It also recognises that where the Word of God is faithfully preached, even if it is not entertaining, we are called to listen remembering the story of Balaam, “if God can speak through an ass…,” he can speak through a faithful preacher, no matter how dull or unpolished, so we must listen.

First point. His rhetoric was great. That he managed to raise a few royal eyebrows and break the homiletic mould of traditional nominal Anglican formality and dryness in a way that captured people’s attention was due to his African-American preaching rhetoric (which I confess I have always appreciated). In terms of public speaking at least, it drew people’s attention and engaged.

Second point. He used lots of Biblical examples and metaphors. He referenced many passages of scripture and unashamedly mentioned God, Jesus, love, the Bible, etc.

My half-point. He used a tablet and appeared “cool.”

Yet despite scoring a 2.5/3, his sermon ultimately receives an F. For all that it has been applauded for we must be discerning and see how it failed, and as such gave a false representation of Jesus, the Gospel and Christianity to millions of viewers, most of whom don’t know Jesus (what a millstone!).

Here are just three examples that should disturb you:

  1. Curry presented the mainline liberal “Gospel” of social initiative or love (works!). You can listen to a likewise disturbing presentation of such things on his website. He is able to arrive at such conclusions by being vague and subjective in all his approaches to the Bible, Christian terms and truth.
  2. Curry does not know what the Gospel is. He says on his website, “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.” Yet, he neither knows God nor love. He spoke of following Jesus example of love. He spoke of the power of redemptive sacrificial love and that if we loved we could redeem ourselves, others and the world. Yet God, the Gospel and true love are not rooted in such things, but rather “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10). God’s love is displayed in rescuing sinners through the Cross; faith in the Gospel redeems us not human works or actions.
  3. He also quoted 1 John 4:7b (“whoever loves has been born of God and knows God”) to suggest that if you love in any way you are God’s child in a specific sense (universalism!). John’s context, however, is one of speaking to Christians and of love being a fruit of faith and repentance.

Jesus spoke of false teachers being wolves dressed up in sheep’s clothing. Bishop Curry is a wolf. His ecclesial position, Christian-like language, positivity, worldly popularity are all a guise to spread untruths and heresy. That he did not share any robust Gospel truth should come as no surprise to the discerning viewer because he is leader of one of the most liberal sects in the United States. Curry’s Episcopal Church is under sanction by the worldwide Anglican communion for unorthodox views on marriage and sexuality, something of which he proudly acknowledges he is an advocate for.

If you’d like to read a more in depth article on the sermon I would recommend you click here.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

 

 

Time to seek the Lord!

Today is the day of salvation. 2 Cor 6:220180409_190800

Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Isaiah 55:6

Last week I was visiting Ilfracombe in north Devon. Near the quayside is a church and as the spire draws your attention heavenward your eyes pause at the clock and a clear and gold statement that reads, “IT IS TIME TO SEEK THE LORD.”

I was encouraged that this church has this timeless message featured so prominently (and also surprised no one has complained to take it down[1]).

I wonder how many people notice it or take time to heed its message. We are living in a day and age in which too many people are busy, but busy about the wrong things. We focus on fleeting worldly things, rather than seeking the Lord Jesus and the things that are eternal.

The saying (almost certainly gathered from Bible verses as those quoted above) remind us of some simple truths:

  1. We need to seek the Lord (and the promise we will find Him when we do, Deut 4:29).
  2. Today is the day to seek Him and not tomorrow (for tomorrow may never come, or we may be called to meet Him today and not be ready).
  3. There will come a time when we can no longer seek the Lord (when He will no longer hold out the offer of peace with God through the Gospel but rather the sceptre of judgement).

And for the Christian comes the challenge, are we taking time to invest in the Lord, perhaps it is time to recommit to pursuing Him more diligently?

There is no time like the present to seek Jesus Christ.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] Years ago a church in Bath painted John 3:16 on its roof tiles (in what is now a World Heritage City!). Recently the church needed to repaint it and wanted to update the Bible verse to modern English from the KJV and they faced a backlash, whilst had they put it up from scratch they probably would have faced a similar backlash; sometimes you cannot win).

 

Us vs. Them

This year our theme verse is Romans 12:2a and our motto is “Don’t conform! Be transformed!”

This focus on being apart from the world could logically lead, quite dangerously, to some very harmful and unbiblical positions (superiority, seclusion, hate and a lack of evangelism to name a few). There is an “us vs.” them mentality in the Bible, but lest the existence of this lead us into any hazard allow me to offer some ballast that should keep the ship stable and on course (lest we end up embracing aspects of the Amish or the Exclusive Brethren who pervert John 17:16 to be in but not of the world).

The Church is to be an inclusive yet exclusive community.

The Church is an Exclusive Community:

A constant drum beat throughout the Old and New Testaments is that the people of God (the elect) form an exclusive community, special to Him, with certain blessings and responsibilities unique to them in their relationship with the Lord.

Consider verses on the special nature of His people, both Old Covenant and in the New:

It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

The Bible also speaks about two ways: the wicked and the righteous (Ps 1); the wise and the foolish (Prov 9); those who are spiritually dead and those made alive in Christ (Eph 2); and those destined for hell or heaven (Mt 25:46).

The Bible also places restrictions such as limiting baptism and communion to believer’s, and likewise “marrying in the Lord.”

All of this centres around one’s response to Jesus and His Gospel: 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12).

These are just the tip of the iceberg for as one scans the pages of Scripture one will find these sorts of texts at every turn. The Bible does not just teach this exclusivity, it shouts it!

The Church is exclusively made up of the redeemed in Christ. If you are not in Christ you are outside the benefits of His body, the Church. In this sense the Church is exclusive.

The Church is an Inclusive Community:

HOWEVER, the Church is also inclusive! There are plenty verses to demonstrate this too!

First of all for the truly regenerate grace is humbling and never encourages pride: But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (Eph 2:4–5). Grace is of a humbling nature.

God’s general will is that: all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:4) and He calls Christians to extend the Gospel call to all nations (Great Commission Mt 28). If the Lord has had compassion on Christians (Mt 9:36) then we ought also willingly be obedient and extend that same offer to others, treating them not with disdain but remembering such were we (1 Cor 6: 11a) and loving our enemies as Christ loved us (Mt 5:44).

Therefore, whilst the benefits of the Gospel are limited to believers its invitation is universal (or inclusive, meaning open to any who would believe).

Whilst we journey under this year’s theme bearing this healthy tension between exclusivity and inclusivity—the us & them— in mind, we will not go astray.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Culture meets the Church

We live in an interesting time culturally speaking. In fact there are elements of modern culture that are downright disconcerting. Consumerism, materialism, narcissism along with a whole host of other “isms” plague us. Today seems to be all about me, the ultimate sign of how far society has moved away from God (the first sin was pride, Gen 3:5, see also Ro 1:25). What is perhaps even more troubling is the way culture is leaking into the Church. Whilst we as the Church are not supposed to be conformed but be transformed (Ro 12:2) sadly in many areas believers allow culture to lead them rather than the Gospel of Truth. One area this has become apparent is in “church hopping,” switching churches frequently whenever they cease to meet your needs or try to hold you accountable. In speaking with our missionaries recently who serve in South Korea this is even a problem there! Instead of continuing on I thought it would be worth re-blogging a couple of different articles and a video by an American Christian comedian (the discerning Brit will be able to read between the lines):

What if the church doesn’t meet my needs?

7 bad reasons to leave a church (and while we’re on it, what might be 7 good Biblical reasons to leave a church?)

And finally, check our an comedic episode of “Church Hunters”:

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

What happens to children when they die?

What happens to children when they die?Baby

This question was asked in this summer’s People’s Choice summer series and because of space in that series and also because it may be more clearly delivered in type, I address it in this blog.

This is not a question unique to today (though emotionalism and universalism perhaps make it more difficult to address). Infants died in Bible times, pre-modern Britain, and indeed still today. Although infant mortality has decreased, still children die, particularly the unborn (miscarriage, abortion[1], the disposal of embryos in fertility treatments, etc).[2] So long as there are children and so long as there is sin and death this question will be relevant.

Before I begin to give a basic and introductory response, I want to emphasise that I do not embark on seeking to answer this question as if from a distance. My wife and I lost a child through miscarriage and we have had close friends and family members suffer the loss of both unborn and newborn children. Something else that I must stress before I proceed is that this question is often approached through emotionalism. While our affections have a role to play we must submit ourselves to Scripture, conceding that our ways are not God’s ways (Isa 55:8–9). Generally when we are uncomfortable about something in the Bible God is correct and we are wrong. If you proceed in reading this blog please pause, pray and be open to reason [or reasoning] (James 3:17). Christianity is like a train and the order of that train is important. First must come the locomotive, then the car and finally the caboose. Put another way, first must come fact (or the promises and truths of God), then faith (or belief in those) and then feeling. Get the order wrong and the train soon runs off the track. Get the order right and it runs smoothly along.

The question centres around salvation and namely, if the Bible teaches human depravity and the need of salvation (which it clearly does), what about children? It also touches upon our beliefs about what the character of God should be in relation to this question, either leaning toward His love (how could a loving God allow…) or His justice (God is soft on sin if…).

Numerous passages and verses in the Bible teach human depravity, but three are perhaps most pertinent to this subject.[3]

The first is Psalm 51:5 where the Spirit says through David: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. This verse teaches that not only from birth but from conception we are sinners.

The second is Ro 5:12, which addresses why we are born sinners. Here the Spirit says through Paul: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. This means that because the head of the human race—Adam—sinned, all humans are born sinners (original sin). Not only are we born guilty sinners by nature but we also co-opt into sin through sinful choices throughout our lives.

Thirdly, and perhaps the most challenging, come passages like Deut 20:16–18 and 1 Sam 15:2–3 where the Spirit says the following about the destruction of the Canaanites:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

We must remember that these last passages speak of judgement because of societal sin of a great magnitude (with simply a different means than say Sodom and Gomorrah) and not genocide. Traditionally this total judgment has been understood by Christians as a real event backed up by archaeology, but also as a picture of hell.

If children had no sin, children wouldn’t die. As death is a result of sin generally, children as well as adults tragically die.

In light of these three passages, we return to the question.

There have been at least 7 ways that Christendom has sought to answer this question.

  1. All children go to heaven (universalism: that God ultimately accepts everyone because He is “love”).
    1. This has been the death knell of ‘liberal Christianity.’ The basic teaching of the Bible is that sinners are saved through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Jesus’ death did not save everyone but only made that salvation possible. Jesus died to save those who would believe in Him, He died to save His own (Jn 10:14). The Bible clearly teaches that notall humans are saved.
  2. No children go to heaven.
    1. Based on the above passages and that children cannot believe some do not think any children go to heaven.
  3. Christened children go to heaven (Roman Catholicism).
    1. Roman Catholics believe one is saved by faith+sacraments+works. One of the sacraments is to christen children. In a sacrament the church is seen as having the authority to dispense God’s grace on earth. As such those children who are baptised are saved, hence why Roman Catholics are so quick to want to baptise their children. The clear teaching of the Bible that we are saved by faith and not by works (whether personal or ecclesial [by the church]) discounts this view.
  4. Children who die before the “age of accountability” go to heaven.
    1. Another popular view that seeks to balance accountability for sin and the need for faith in salvation is this one: that children are only subject to the penalty of hell if they reject Christ after some arbitrary or subjective “age of accountability.” If they haven’t reached that age they go to heaven. But what is this age? Is it 4, 6, 8, 12, 20, 40, 80? The Bible doesn’t say, because it doesn’t exist. Anyone who has worked with children knows that children wilfully choose sin from a very early age and should be held accountable much earlier than 18!
  5. In His mercy God applies the meritorious work of Christ to children because He is a God of grace.
    1. In this view children do not exercise normal faith in Christ that is needed by those who can choose, but rather He has mercy upon whom I have mercy (Ro 9:15). While it is true that God has mercy upon whomever He will (in this passage as it relates to election), the consistent teaching of Scripture associates receiving this mercy in faith. The strength of this view is it fights universalism by appealing to the need for the work of Christ. The downside is that nowhere in the Bible is this clearly stated.
  6. Only elect children go to heaven (or children of the elect are saved).
    1. This was the view held by the founders of our chapel. Article 10.3 of our founding confession said this: “Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit,[12] who works when, and where, and how He pleases:[13] so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.[14]” (The Scriptural proofs for some of these show that even the most robust theologians need to bend Scripture to address this question). In this view infants who are elect are saved without faith shown on earth[4] according to the mercy of God. A similar view believes children of believing (elect) parents are saved on account of the faith of their parents. This view would account for why not all children (like those of the Amalekites) are saved and why some possibly are, but no one could know who an elect child was or was not, because the elect are normally only justified through faith on earth.
  7. This is a mystery best left to the Lord (my personal view).
    1. I do not stay awake at night wondering about the eternal state of my unborn child. Why? Because I entrust its soul to an all wise, good and sovereign God and accept His will, whatever it may be. While point 6 comes closest to sounding reasonable, I believe that because the Bible does not even remotely touch upon this subject clearly, it therefore must not be a subject God wants us to concern ourselves with, otherwise He would have told us.

There are two things, however, that the Bible does clearly teach: 1) personal comfort grounded in the promises of God (vs. speculation) for those who mourn the loss of a child, and 2) the personal need to respond to the Gospel.

  1. For those who have suffered the loss of a child comfort is available in the face of such loss but it does not come from speculating about your child’s salvation but hoping in the promises of God such as, Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted (Matt 5:4).
  2. The Lord commands all people everywhere to repent… (Acts 17:30).

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] In 2015 there were 185,824 in England and Wales (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/17/abortion-rate-england-and-wales-five-year-high).

[2] I believe it is possible to differentiate between the immorality of abortion for instance and issues of infant salvation.

[3] Jesus saying, “let the little come to me” has as little to do with salvation as it does baptism, rather Jesus is breaking down barriers in the apostles hearts, because the Gospel was not meant for “us” (the disciples or the Jews) but for them (Jews and Gentiles and all who believe).

[4] This is very similar to forms of universalism where it is believed people will get a second chance before entering heaven to believe (but see Heb 9:27).

Half-way evangelism

I recently played host to some family member tourists from Canada. As part of the usual trail of places we took them too, it included some historic churches, cathedrals and abbeys. Often people treat these religious sites as merely sites of historic and architectural interest, no different from a National Trust Property or museum. So, I always value it when the community that represents the building has hourly prayers and asks people to pause to remember it is a Christian place of worship, or when they put up panels explaining the essence of who Jesus is and what Christianity is about.

If you had to write such a panel or explain this to a friend what would you say? Perhaps you might try writing something down yourself, looking up a couple Bible verses to include, it would be a helpful exercise to prepare you for evangelism.

Sadly, some of these panels or leaflets, while beginning with good intentions, end up being a form of half-way evangelism. Consider the following example I came across. There is lots a Christian could say “amen” to, but also much that remains to be said and a few questionable statements. Have a scan to see what you think:

leaflet

Your thoughts?

Allow me to share mine…

1st Paragraph: Amen and amen!

2nd Paragraph: This begins well but in the list of extraordinary things the main reason he came (to defeat sin and death) is not mentioned? The last sentence is also somewhat fuzzy, not necessarily wrong just a bit fuzzy. Perhaps something better would have been to say, “He lived the perfect life we cannot live to show us what it means to live uprightly before God and others” or something to that effect.

3rd Paragraph:

  • 1st sentence: yes
  • 2nd sentence: add…”and for who He claimed to be”
  • 3rd sentence: somewhat vague and universalist (meaning because He died we are all okay without personal faith in Him). How about, “But through His life and death He knew he would atone for the sins of all who would believe in Him, reconciling them to God.” (1 Jn 2:2, 2 Cor 5:18)
  • 4th and 5th sentences: hurray, back on track. Amen!
  • Last sentence: fine

4th Paragraph:

  • 1st sentence: “…are Christians” should read “claim to be Christians” for many who identify as Christian are only nominally so (Mt 7:21). Perhaps they were trying to point to the giant wake Jesus left behind Him as a tool to encourage others to think about following Him?
  • 2nd sentence: Wait a minute! How about, “Through Jesus death and life changing and life giving gift of the Holy Spirit believers are given life to the full, starting now and for eternity.” (John 10:10)
  • 3rd sentence: great

We certainly do not want to be automatically confrontational when we encounter such leaflets (remembering 1 Pet 3:15b), however, we do need to be zealous for truth (Jude 3) and as we are we will be sharpened in our knowledge of Jesus and His Gospel, help others to be so, and together more able to effectively spot error and proclaim with purity the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

How endorsing homosexuality crosses the Rubicon

I would much rather write today about the wonders of authentic Christian faith but in the day and age in which we are living in often find it necessary to equip us against the tossing seas of error that threaten the truth (Jude 1:3).

Since homosexual marriage was legalised in the UK in 2013 many in the church have entered into great discussion on the subject, jostling between the direction culture is heading and what the Bible says (don’t be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind [Ro 12:2]). Trying to make the church relevant by giving into culture in certain matters will only make it less potent and relevant. Given that I am from Canada, the fourth western nation (after the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain) to make such unions legal in 2005, I have had even more time to reflect on the subject and write today to briefly demonstrate how endorsing homosexuality as a church or Christian crosses the Rubicon.

Firstly, what is the Rubicon? It is a figure of speech, quite similar to the phrase “past the point of no return.” It refers to a river in north-eastern Italy that the general Julius Caesar crossed heading south in 49 B.C. The significance? It was illegal under Roman law for a legion to enter Italy and by crossing he effectively declared war on the Senate and eventually brought about the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire. Caesar was intentionally doing something that he knew would have far reaching consequences that could not be [easily] undone. In a nutshell to cross the Rubicon means “to commit oneself irrevocably to a risky or revolutionary course of action.” Endorsing homosexuality is a departure from the “faith once for all delivered to the saints.”

History_Ask_History_Crossing_the_Rubicon_SF_HD_1104x622-16x9

How does endorsing homosexuality cross the Rubicon in ways which other authentic Christians may disagree yet still enjoy varying degrees of fellowship and cooperation? Many Christians disagree over the place of women in ministry, the subject and mode of Baptism, predestination, forms of church government, pacifism/ just war, and divorce.

The answer to the above question is that those are all secondary issues, which whilst very important (and an improper view will produce negative effects on personal and corporate Christian life), are not primary issues. Divorce is an interesting comparison to homosexuality. The reason why it does not cross the Rubicon is because while condemning divorce the Bible does make some exceptions, unlike homosexuality. The greater the theological agreement between Christians the greater the level of missional cooperation (Amos 3:3) and this begins with primary theological matters related to the Gospel (what it means to be saved and know and please God through Jesus Christ). The issue of homosexuality crosses at least three primary lines of Christian beliefs: Scripture, the Gospel, and sexuality.

Rejects the doctrine of Scripture

Central to the Christian faith is that the Lord has spoken light into our darkness by revealing Himself in the Bible. While we must remember context when studying the Bible (literary, theological, historical) the book in question is no ordinary human book but “sacred writings” inspired by God, because “All Scripture is inspired by God and useful…” (2 Tim 3:15­–16) and “every word of God proves true” (Prov 30:5).

Therefore Scripture is trustworthy, authoritative and sufficient. Because God is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” (Mal 3:6, Heb 13:8) the truths He has spoken to us remain the same today just as they were 2000 years ago, from eternity past, and into eternity future. If the Bible is from God we listen and obey, if it isn’t we can do what we want, but that is not Christianity.

The problem with endorsing homosexuality is it forces one to crop out significant portions of Scripture as uninspired (under the guise they are culturally bound texts) such as Gen 19; Lev 18:22, 20:10–16; Rom 1:23-27; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10; Jude 7. The problem is that not only is the cultural argument untenable, but that in dismissing these passages one dismisses a consistent teaching of the Bible that is intricately interrelated to other key texts and teachings of the Bible. To affirm homosexuality is to dismiss Scripture, including Gospel passages.

Rejects the Gospel

The Gospel message begins with the bad news of sin and ends with the good news of forgiveness from sin through faith in Jesus Christ and [eternal] life in His name. To reject homosexuality as sin is also to reject the Gospel. In 1 Cor 6 (cited above) verse 11 reminds the Corinthian believers that “such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” When we know we fall short of God’s perfect standard (Mt 5:48) and that faith in Jesus offers us not only forgiveness but the power to change, that is good news in light of our present circumstances. Homosexuality, similar to other sins, separates us from God. The good news is that—whatever our sin(s) or past— we can be restored to God through faith and repentance in Christ and transformed by His Spirit into new creations (2 Cor 5:17). If sin is not sin and the Gospel does not have the power to change it is not a message of good news.

Rejects God’s design for marriage, sexuality and gender

To endorse homosexuality is not simply a different Christian view on human sexuality, it is an entirely different worldview. All Christian teaching on marriage, sexuality and gender (including Jesus and Paul) trace their roots to Gen 1:26–28 and 2:22–24. This is further filtered through the lens of God’s moral standard in the Law such that when in the NT Jesus and Paul quote Genesis and the Law they are showing continuity and agreement with God’s original design consistent throughout Scripture. When Jesus warns the “sexually immoral” that includes homosexuality because it is a stock phrase used by Jesus to refer to the moral standard for sexuality expressed in the Law.

People can dismiss what the Bible clearly teaches on the subject, they are free in matters of conscience to do that, however, it is misguided to say the Biblical worldview for marriage, sexuality and gender is in anyway compatible with those views that endorse homosexuality.

Many objections have and will be made to similar lines of thought as those presented here. I would refer such people to 2 Tim 4:1–5. If we degrade Christ (His Word, Gospel and designs), He will surely degrade us. Recent studies show that generally those churches that remain true to orthodox Christian teachings (such as marriage and sexuality) grow, whilst those who go ahead of such teachings (2 John 1:9) are in general state of decline. Unlike many divisive issues within the church in the past this issue is a Rubicon that will separate the wheat from the chaff. Many churches and individuals have already or are considering crossing the Rubicon. To the former I would exhort you with the aforementioned words, to the latter I would say the following. While Caesar crossed the point of no return, whilst endorsing homosexuality does depart from orthodox Christianity, unlike the Rubicon, through repentance in Jesus Christ, a turning back to Him, restoration is graciously possible.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Post-truth, alternative-facts and fake news

Post-truth, alternative-facts and fake news

What is truth? (John 18:38)

Those are famous words uttered by Pontius Pilate. Whether he meant them as a retort, a genuine question, or both has been debated, but his question has been echoed down through the centuries.

“What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus as the Truth himself stood before him. Here was the man who brought truth and reality into being at creation. Here was the man who delineated the bounds of truth (morals) and told us to tell the truth because otherwise we would be acting contrary to His very nature. Here was the man who will judge all people by the truth and whether they knew the Truth at the end of time. It is a perennially good question to ask!

Truth, simply put, is “that which is in accordance with fact or reality.”

Sadly, we are living in an age that relativizes truth, pushes it to the corner, says it is in the eye of the beholder, that it is not relevant. Humanity has moved from knowing the Truth (pre-Gen 3) to a place where very often it is suppressed in favour of our version of the truth.

In 2016 Oxford Dictionary defined their word of the year as post-truth. Here “post” doesn’t mean “after” as in “post-war” but “beyond” or “irrelevant.” They define it as:

Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

Truly, this signifies that we’ve moved from being a theonomos culture (where the law of God or the law of nature is self-evident), to where we are not even a heteronomous culture (where someone else sets the law, like a king or a dictator) but have arrived at an ever increasingly autonomous culture where each person decides what truth is for them (the irony being that as soon as they disagree with another’s version of the truth they protest and cease to be autonomous but become heteronomous wishing to impose their view militantly on the other. Hence they operate under the guise of tolerance which is really selfishness).

little-golden-bookMost recently we have seen post-truth at play in politics with the coining of another new term: “alternate facts.” This was poked fun at by countless people on social media including by this meme (or spoof) of the old children’s book series Little Golden Book, where a dog is a cat and an egg is soup. It seeks to make the point that post-truth is downright silly.

Fake news has also come into our vocabulary with trust in the mainstream media falling to 32% in the USA. Who are we to believe? Who is telling the truth? What is truth? While I believe in the freedom of speech I cannot help but see that many of those who are “crying wolf” have contributed to the epidemic. The reason why some are using “fake news” is not so much because news has been fake but because it has very often been highly biased and very often interpreted facts narrowly within one worldview (liberal). The very people who have often called evil good and good evil are now upset a similar tactic is being used against them.

It is my prayer all of this post-truth, alternate facts, and fake news nonsense will not drive people into their particular prejudices and result in ignorance but cause us to wake up and ask what is truth?

God asserts that truth is real and that it matters: “do not bear false witness” (Ex 20:16) and “abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Ro 12:9), and that the Bible is God’s standard of truth (Amos 7). Christianity is based on facts (Luke wrote “an orderly [eyewitness] account…that you may have certainty” about Jesus [Lk 1:3–4]). Jesus claimed to be the Truth (Jn 14:6), and that in knowing Him as the Truth would “set you free” (Jn 8:22). That upon believing in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins we would not only be reconciled to God (the greatest reality) but receive the “Spirit of Truth” who would “guide us into all truth” (Jn 16:13). This is not arrogance but a recognition that sin clouds our minds, and that when we have come to Christ and put on Christ we receive a new worldview, a new lens, a new way of looking at things.

It is my hope that as people react against post-truth it might lead them to consider the life giving truth claims of Christianity. The horrible alternate is that we truly are living in a time when people will “turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into lies” (1 Ti 4:4).

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Be on the lookout!

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

In January we looked at Jesus’ promise from Matthew 16:18, I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Jesus is on the offensive, the devil is on the defensive. Yet while his power was defeated at the cross it would be a mistake to let down our guard because he is still dangerous. This is exactly the spiritual wisdom Peter gives us in a passage we’ll be examining at Bible study this spring. It is generally when things are going well as a chapel and as individuals that the devil chooses to strike. Why? Often in those instances we let our guard down. Peter, however, says we should never be spiritually naive and always have our guard up because 1) lions strike without notice, 2) they are always on the prowl, and 3) if we’re unprepared the results can be messy.

The devil is especially concerned when people and churches draw near to Jesus. He doesn’t want that and will stop at NOTHING to disrupt this. As a Christian, do not think temptations and trials of various kinds will diminish the more mature you become, rather the devil’s attacks will intensify. Likewise, he’ll seek to disrupt the unity, faith and peace of a growing congregation. How does he do this? Often by fostering a spirit of jealousy, bitterness, strife, pride and rebelliousness that will show itself in gossip, slander, anger, a reliance on worldy wisdom, and disrespect toward others and leaders (see Eph 4). In effect he tries to take our eyes off Jesus. So let us resist the devil, be on our guard and be on the lookout—firm in our faith—fixing our eyes on our shied and defender, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris