Treasure

John Bunyan (1628–88), who spent 12 years in Bedford prison for preaching the riches of Christ to lost sinners,[1] once wrote:

“The poor man that loves Christ is richer than the greatest man in the world that hates Him.”

Whilst the world searches after great earthly treasures like the man & his barns in Lk 12:13–21, Jesus gave this wisdom, Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Mt 6:20, ESV). Jesus warned such treasures are like “thorns” that choke the Gospel (the Parable of the Sower). What type of treasure are we seeking, investing in—an earthly one that does not last or one that is heavenly and true and that is eternal? Consider what riches the Bible says are available in Christ Jesus:

  • The riches of His grace, glory, kindness and patience, and wisdom (Eph 1:7; Ro 9:23, 2:4; Col 2:3);
  • The riches of full Gospel assurance (Col 2:2);
  • The riches of entry into the Kingdom of heaven (parable of the hidden treasure and precious pearl, Mt 13:44–6);
  • Treasure for the last days (James 5:3);
  • Not to mention the precious gifts of His Spirit, of prayer, of Scripture, fellowship in His Church, etc.

Jesus bestows, His riches on all who call on Him (Ro 10:12), and when we are in Him we can say, I count everything as rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. (Phil 3:8).

Where is your treasure? There your heart will be also (Lk 12:34).

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

 

[1] Here, he is very much like Joseph, c.f. Heb 11:26.

number your days…

Teach us to number our days and recognise how few they are, to that we may spend them as we ought. (Ps 90:12)

As humans we like to number things. Houses have numbers, registration plates have numbers, phones have numbers. We’ve also counted days for millennium. It’s what we do. We remember the years, we count the months, we tick off each day of the week. The older you get the quicker times seems to go too. Yet most live as if our days are endless, and try to suppress anything that might remind us that one day, perhaps today, or maybe in 50 years, we will physically die (see why- Ro 6:23), we will all die and then face judgement (Heb 9:27).

This verse reminds us of our need for humility, yes; our need to spend our days wisely, yes. But its greatest reminder is to measure our finitude in light of God’s greatness and our eternity. The “wisely” bit is a moral wisdom. In light of our limited days, have we used them to seek Jesus and find Him, to cultivate the greatest of all relationships with God the Father through faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins? Or, do we keep plodding on, ignoring the Almighty?

Someone once compared the average lifespan to a clock, this is what they came up with:

If you are 15, the time is 10:25 A.M.

20, the time is 11:34 A.M.

25, the time is 12:42 P.M.

30, the time is 1:51 P.M.

35, the time is 3:00 P.M.

40, the time is 4:08 P.M.

45, the time is 5:15 P.M.

50, the time is 6:25 P.M.

55, the time is 7:34 P.M.

60, the time is 8:42 P.M.

65, the time is 9:51 P.M.

70, the time is 11:00 P.M.

Where does this put you? How have you spent your life? Have you spent it seeking the Kingdom of God? What about Jesus? Where would you spend eternity if you died today? Eternity is a long time to be wrong, so let’s be morally wise and seek Jesus whilst He may be found (Isa 55:6-7). Then when time as we know it ceases and we enter into eternity, it won’t be an eternity of regret but one of eternal life.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

 

Resources from Revelation

Yesterday we finished off our summer People’s Choice series with a question about Revelation: My understanding of the book with the blessing, Revelation! (Rev 1:1–3 & 22:19–21).

Whilst I recognise many Christians whom I agree with on many other primary and secondary matters differ on our more detailed understandings of the end (and Revelation), and I therefore approach the subject as a whole with humility, I nevertheless believe my views to be robust and commend two resources that approach it similarly.

The first is an easy to read and accessible commentary (a series of sermons) on Wilsmhurst RevelationRevelation (there is only one chapter where I would depart from the author who is a classic pre-millennialist):

If reading isn’t your thing then check out a second, a two part video survey (11 min each) of the Book or Revelation (I firmly believe the book was written by the Apostle John, though the authors introduce another possibility at the beginning):


The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

 

What does the Bible say about the Death Penalty?

This was not a question raised in this summer’s People’s Choice sermon series but one that a news article I read about the Pope sparked. Pope Francis, a progressive and liberal pope, changed Catholicism’s official teaching on the death penalty to hold that it is now “inadmissible” because it “attacks” the “inherent dignity of all humans.”[1] This has caused praise from some RC’s and criticism from others.

Yet any Pope, who RC’s believe has “papal infallibility” in his pronouncements (1870) should not be our guide to this subject, nor should subjective contemporary feelings about justice, but rather what God has to say about the matter.

Before we turn to that, it is interesting that 2015 was the first year more people in the UK were against capital punishment than for it. Interestingly, when it was officially struck off the books by MP’s in 1998 the popular support for it was much higher than 50% (higher still when MP’s ended the practice in the 1965).[2]

Many Christians have bought into a faulty view of God’s love and justice and divine order for human affairs that would see them heartily agree with the Pope’s decision (forgetting government authorities are appointed by God and “do not bear the sword in vain” [Ro 13:4]). One can interestingly note a corresponding tie between the decline of Christianity and Christian values in the UK and the corresponding decline in support for the death penalty.

Much of our British legal heritage stems from the wisdom of the Law of Moses. Though this was intended for the theocracy of Israel it was applied to national legal systems across the West. It was the bedrock upon which Western civilization was built. Those Christians who oppose capital punishment, however, often cite that Christians are no longer under the Law of Moses, particularly its legal provisions. In this, aside from moral obligations, I would agree as they were fulfilled in Christ. HOWEVER, the biblical mandate FOR the death penalty precedes the Law of Moses, meaning that its application is universal. God instituted the just practice in Genesis 9:6:

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God has made man in his own image.

There is obviously much more that could be said about the Biblical parametres around and wisdom for the practice of capital punishment, but what is ultimately ‘inadmissible’ and something which attacks the ‘inherent dignity of all humans’ is when governments fail to fulfil their God given mandate of bearing the sword as He instructs and thus be His instruments for justice and for the punishment and curtailing of evil.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-45042130

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32061822

Is it appropriate for a Christian to attend a Christening?

Is it appropriate for a Christian, convinced of credo-baptism (believer’s baptism by immersion), to attend a Christening (a so called ‘infant baptism’ or what I term ‘anti-credobaptism’)? This question is much different than ‘is it appropriate for a Christian, of any secondary conviction, to attend a same-sex marriage (the answer to which must be a resounding no for even an evangelistic desire to befriend such individuals can in no way trump that God pronounces it as an abomination and therefore to attend is to celebrate what God does not).

This is an important question for if one is convinced that the anti-credobaptist stance is completely unscriptural, then to attend it is to condone what is misguided or nominal. (*This dilemma doesn’t pertain to anti-credobaptists attending a credo-baptist service because they still occasionally practice credo-baptism).

On the one hand I would be inclined not to attend on these grounds, for your attendance would be in one sense false given your disbelief in any form of Biblical meaning in the ceremony itself. Consider the following words so often recited from the Book of Common Prayer on such occasions (after the priest has ‘baptized’ the child):

Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this Child is regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits, and with one accord make our prayers unto him, that this Child may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning.[1]

A credo-baptist, or a Scripturally discerning anti-credobaptist, could not in good faith affirm words that speak of baptismal regeneration and justification, that we are born again not by the work of the Spirit, nor adopted into the body of Christ by faith, but because of an act of works. Other wording in the order of service is also deeply disturbing or misguided, not to mention the nominalism that is often (though not always) present in those performing the vows.

So on the one hand it would be completely appropriate not to attend such a ceremony so long as you voiced this reservation with gentleness and respect (1 Pet 3:15b) and still sought to preserve the actual relationship (*this could perhaps be done by agreeing to come to the family gathering afterwards to show your love of the family, if not your approval of the ceremony).

On the other hand, if one intentionally took the opportunity to share with the family your reservations at the outset and that you’d be attending for their sake and not the ceremonies, then this could likewise be an important Biblical talking point.

Wherever a credo-baptist comes down, it is important to uphold Biblical convictions, both of the unScripturalness of anti-credobaptism but also of engaging with anti-credobaptists evangelistically or apologetically and in a meek spirit. What should be a no go is to fail to do either.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/book-common-prayer/public-baptism-infants

Firstfruits

Honour the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. (Proverbs 3:9–10)

September is here and so Harvest will soon be upon us, even though many crops we remember that the Lord has blessed us with have already been gathered in. Such was the case with my honey harvest, which is collected in early August and harvested soon after. Despite the drought, because bees like warm weather, one hive produced a whopping 170lbs! At Harvestime the ancient Israelites were commanded in Leviticus to bring the firstfruits of their crop (or wealth if a merchant)—the very best devoted to the LORD—as a sign of their thankfulness to God and in conjunction with their tithes and offerings, a recognition and sign of their dependence upon Him. Whilst our worship no longer operates in quite the same way under the New Covenant, the principle of firstfruits, and the wisdom of the proverb, is still worthy of our acceptance. Do we bring Him our best (a sign of God’s worth), the first (an act of faith and expression of His priority in our life) or anything at all (an act that worship’s God, or fails to, as the great provider). Bringing our firstfruits in time, giftings, service and monetary gifts is a very important spiritual discipline to cultivate. When we honour the Lord He will in turn honour us. We can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving.

 

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

 

 

Wixing up our Mords

[Jesus] said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,[1] and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’ (Luke 24:46–7)

These words are spoken near the very end of Luke’s Gospel of the Gospel message, yet when many Christians speak of the Gospel it doesn’t mound such like Jesus’ words. Often the Gospel of love is referenced, though those words are never used in Scripture, but rather that God is a loving God whose general love was displayed in the sending of His Son and who pours out His special love to those redeemed through faith in His name; in fact His love being an encouragement to seek Him with the promise that He by no means casts away those who come to Him (Jn 6:37b).

You also often here ‘Gospel’ phrases like, ‘Jesus died for everyone, all you have to do is believe’; or ‘on the cross Jesus paid for the sin of the whole world, do you believe this?,’ or, ‘Jesus loves you and died for you, all you need to do is receive His love’; etc, etc, etc. Yet if He died for all than He His blood cannot be all sufficient, or He must not be all powerful, for He doesn’t follow through and save all those ‘He’s died for.’

I used to speak this way, but I’ve learned to be more discerning with my words because words matter. Words express truth and lead people to a fuller or lesser knowledge of the truth. What Jesus says at the end of Luke’s Gospel is the Gospel. It is a message to repent and ask Christ, on the basis of his work on the Cross, to forgiven your sins, the love of God being an encouragement to believe (vs. Him being an angry or vindictive god). We would more rightly speak of Jesus dying so that all who believe (i.e. the elect) on His name might be saved through repentance and faith (Jn 1:12).

What Christians often confuse here, sometimes through a simple lack of discernment caused by want of discipleship or sometimes a result of misguided teaching, is the universal call of the Gospel message and the limited nature of the atonement.

The Gospel invitation is open to all, it is universal, to be proclaimed to all nations. Countless Bible verses express this such as, “anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21) Thus, anyone might be saved if they approach Christ in faith. What a gracious message to undeserving sinners!

Yet, the Bible is also very specific that Jesus death on the cross was specific, particular, limited, especially for those the Father had given Him (Jn 6:37a). Jesus died to save His own! (c.f. Jn 10:3). Ephesians 1 says that he chose to redeem from sin this unworthy elect group “to the praise of His glory,” mentioned three times to emphasis salvations focus is God.

The universal Gospel call is glorious, still more the specific love of God shown to His elect people through faith in Jesus Christ (Ro 8:28–39, the favourite v.28 is often cherry picked out of its wider context). God didn’t have to save anyone, that He chose to do so is utter grace.

So, as Christians, let’s not wix up our mords about the Gospel, it’s far too precious for that. Let’s know it, share it clearly and do so with conviction, just as Jesus at the end of Luke’s Gospel commands us.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] Jesus’ Death and Resurrection not only accomplished salvation but they also testify that He is God’s Son and can be trusted. Belief in these historic events is a prerequisite, or bound up in, believing the Gospel.

The Miracle of Life

Yesterday in our People’s Choice series we dealt with one of the most important social and moral issues of our day, abortion. Here is a helpful little video followed by a resource link to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. You may also want to listen to the sermon on our sermons’ page.

Society for the Protection of Unborn Children:

SPUC-Logo

A Painful Preacher of the Truth

If you venture to beautiful Worcester and pay a visit to the cathedral there is a tomb with an epitaph on it that is well worth seeing on your visit. As you enter the cathedral from the north turn left down the side aisle. Just before the north transept you’ll find the tomb of Nicolas Bullingham (1511?–76).[1]

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Heb 13:7).

Bullingham is worthy of remembrance, consideration and imitation for a number of 20180804_125714_Richtone(HDR)reasons. He was an early English Protestant Reformer. Appointed chaplain of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, he soon developed ministerial interests in Lincoln. During the reign of Roman Catholic Queen Mary, he sought refuge in exile on the continent, returning in 1559 to become Bishop of Lincoln. Here he continued his work of reform, appointed priests “well versed in the scripture” and also serving actively in the House of Lords. In 1570 he became Bishop of Worcester. His epitaph in the cathedral reads:

Here born, here bishop, buried here,

A Bullyngham by name and stock,

A man twise maried in Gode’s feare,

Chief pastor late of Lycolne flock,

Whom Oxford trained up in youthe,

Whom Cambridge doctor did create,

A painful preacher of the truthe,

He changed this life for happie state.

He was Bishop of Lincoln and then Worcester.

The third last line is what I was personally most interested in, “a painful preacher of the truth.” Here ‘painful’ should not be understood as boring or even excessive, but rather as earnest. He was earnest concerning the Truth (Jesus) and His truth (God’s Word). He no doubt laboured deeply for his listeners to hear and understand and believe the truth of God themselves and so be saved and changed. What that this would be a label applied to all preachers (and indeed Christians) today, that they’d be “earnest preachers of the truth,” not giving in to the world, rightly handling the word of truth and preaching, perhaps not entertainingly, but plainly with such pain over the souls under their care, striving to be a means used by the spirit to cause godly pain or grief in their hearers’ hearts (2 Cor 7:10). Ah, yes, that God would raise up Christians who would be on fire for the Lord Jesus and His Word (Jer 20:9b).

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] Julian Lock, “Nicholas Bullingham,” Oxford DNB <oxforddnb.com> (August 2018).

Children, a blessing

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127:3–5).

Rebekah and I continue to give thanks for our new son. We are very grateful for the flood of cards and small gifts we’ve received from family, friends, Chapel and community (in fact we have never received so many cards!). We also gave thanks for him in the presence of the Lord recently with a special service of dedication on the Lord’s Day (NB-not infant baptism).

The most basic view of children in the Bible is that they are a gift, a blessing and a delight. Indeed, having children is one of the great callings of a husband and wife in the creation mandate (Gen 1:28, “be fruitful and multiply” [sexuality is not only about pleasure but procreation and the calling and joy God intends in this]). If someone jadedly or sarcastically thinks contrary they have a wrong way of thinking and need to renew their mind to conform with God’s will on the subject (Ro 12:1). Many people today think children a drudge, something that is the unwanted fruit of lust, something that gets in the way of having the newest car or biggest house (itself an indicator that marketers have done a fabulous job duping many parents so that they think they have to have everything for their children and so they become expensive and so is generated the myth that children need to be costly). Many people have children as the last item in their checklist because it is the done thing (and their life checklist is also often out of whack in terms of order and priorities). Ironically, there would be no immigration crisis in most Western nations today if people had retained a biblical view of children because the birth-death ration would be stable and allow the welfare states that have been created to sustain themselves, and thus we’d have no need of mass immigration. I digress. Now, getting back on track, to be sure there are many parents who do have children because of that innate desire to fulfil Gen 1:28, but I am especially drawing attention to extremes. For some parents children are a burden, and yet for others they become a burden because they pander to them excessively—creating little devils—all under the false cultural teaching that a parents job is to ‘make them happy’ (which is foolish because we all know that is a mirage we can never arrive at).

The Bible balances these two extremes. It counters the first example by teaching children are a blessing from the Lord, and the second by stipulating that parents spiritual commission is to raise their child to love and fear the Lord and walk in His ways (Deut 6:1–10).

Further reflection on text: Behold, listen, says the Bible. Children are a heritage, a gift, from God. It commends having 7 of them (the traditional number of arrows in a quiver and the number of perfection, but which ultimately means many, i.e. more than one or two [if possible]!). And here also is parental responsibility and investment (any fool can make a baby, it takes a man to raise a child), for these are needed to turn children into mature and useful godly adults (children of one’s youth). When you stand with your grown children at the gate, the place of justice and community decision making in the ancient world, you will have no shame in your children. You will love and respect them and they you, and as their father (or mother), you’ll stand at the front of a unified and respectful family, united against any enemies and held in honour and respect.

This is the Biblical vision for parenting and may it be wonderful in our eyes!

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris