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

 

 

Membership

This past Lord’s Day we welcomed two new members into our Chapel family. We showed the following presentation to remind members about membership and to encourage and challenge those Christians who are not yet members to consider membership.

You may also be interested in these two videos:

Dare to be a Daniel!

Daniel is perhaps one of the most cherished of stories in the Bible about non-conformity to the world and faithfulness to God.

Daniel simply means “My God is Judge” or “God is my Judge.”

But like the beginning of the 23rd Psalm can we say with David and Daniel that possessive pronoun “my.” Is the Lord ours, are we His? If we have trusted in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and if we are following Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength then the answer is “yes, God is our Judge!” He has looked upon us, and because of our faith in Christ, counted us righteous (“just”) in His eyes. He judges us and does not find us wanting.

That our God is Judge is also a reminder to walk uprightly before Him, just like Daniel (Dan 6:4). We ought not conform to the world, for worldliness brings forth judgement. We are called to be faithful witnesses. Furthermore, the knowledge that God is our Judge, bolsters our resolve to stand firm when the world pressures us to conform. The world is not our judge but God so our aim ought to be to please Him. When the world chews us up and spits us out as a result—so be it—for the day or reckoning is coming. But blessed be the one who trusts in the Lord as his Judge and so is saved from the Judgement to come.

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).

 

A Chasm and the Cross

Darkness, an earthquake and more… What exactly happened on the cross?chasm

The Bible puts forward the rich and multi-faceted truth of the atonement to capture the magnitude of what transpired on the cross. It was the moment when God addressed the chasm sin had created between mankind and Himself to restore all rebels who would believe in His Son Jesus to Himself.

People often don’t make much of sin, but the Bible does and so should we! It says the chasm of sin is the difference between:

  • Life and death
  • Unrighteousness and righteousness
  • Heaven and hell

The Bible says there is only one way to get across, trusting in what Jesus did on the Cross. Are you trusting in Jesus for your salvation? Faith in Him is the only way to get across the chasm created by your sin.

I tell you the truth. Whoever hears my message and trusts in God who sent me has eternal life. They will not be condemned for their sin but have crossed over from death into life!  (John 5:24).

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

The Root of Bitterness

14Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Hebrews 12:14–15 [emphasis added]

Allow this passage to be a mirror into your heart, into the reality of your life…Does this describe what you are or what you are not?

If you have ever encountered raw and unbridled bitterness you know it is not a pleasant thing but rather a destroyer souls. If you have ever suffered from bitterness yourself but overcame this you also know how horrible bitterness is as a destroyer of your own soul.

Where does bitterness come from? The root of all sins is pride, the desire to be like God (Gen 3:5). As a fruit of pride the Bible says that bitterness is the mark of the world and of an unbeliever. Bitter is a sin! This word is only used 4 times in the NT though words similar to it are used many times more. We find it in Romans 3:14 where Paul says “no one is righteous, no not one.” Bitterness is then a mark of the unrighteous. We see it again in Ephesians 4 when Paul is contrasting the old and new life in Christ. Ephesians 4:29–32 says [emphasis added]:

29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Bitterness is a sin and leads to more sins (like irritability, anger, murder, strife, dissensions, slander, gossip, etc). Though not explicitly mentioned its cousins can be found in the vile list of the fruit of the world in Galatians 5:19, which is followed on by the stern warning, those who do [in the case of professing Christians, persist in doing] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. The list of the fruit of the Spirit that follows is another helpful mirror and is foreign to any bitterness. Which list best describes you?

James asks, What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel (James 4:1–2). When we do not get the way of our pride with God or others one result is we can become bitter.

The Bible calls all people to repent of this (and all) sin and seek the Spirit’s help to be transformed. Still, even Christians can succumb to the sin of bitterness (as the above mentioned passages make clear) either as one off’s or as a besetting sin. If a professing Christian persists in this sin it is clear they are not in Christ (Heb). To anyone who truly loves Christ this is a sobering thought that should cause us to put away (Eph) bitterness.

Romans 12:18 says, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. In all honesty, have we done our part to be at peace with others? Are we at peace with God? If we are not we are not at peace and we’ll rob not only ourselves but others of peace. Use Scripture as the lens to examine and address the root of your bitterness. Are you mad at someone or God? Are you content with your circumstances? Do you need to speak with someone to settle a score (Jas 3:17)? Are you harbouring a grudge? Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to ask for forgiveness? Are you taking your concerns to the Lord in prayer? Are you following Matthew 18 regarding concerns with a brother or sister (if not you will become bitter)?

Bitterness is an invasive root. Ask Jesus to help you eradicate it from your life.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

An oft misunderstood funeral passage

*Taken from a recent funeral address.

John 14:1-6

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Our second reading is a very common reading at funerals; sadly it is commonly misunderstood. Permit me to put it in context for us and draw our attention to the personal hope it offers us today.

Jesus’ followers were scared; Jesus was speaking of leaving them (ch.13) & returning to heaven (that is the context). It is near the end of His earthly ministry right before His death, resurrection, & ascension to heaven where He reigns and whence He will return to judge the living and the dead (Apostle Creed).

BUT they were on the other side of the cross, they didn’t have the blessing of hindsight as we do. So this talk deeply troubled His followers. Jesus was their friend, their teacher, it upset them that he was speaking of leaving; just as no doubt we are troubled and saddened at [name]’s departure. So Jesus said to them, Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me (v. 1).

Jesus IS God, God the Son. If we believe in He whom the Father sent, we believe in the Father. If we don’t believe in Jesus we don’t believe in God, just like Judas. But if we trust in Jesus as the Lord and the Saviour like Thomas and the other disciples did, a place will be made for us in God’s kingdom, which is what is meant by the metaphor of the Father’s house. That is the ultimate reason Jesus came, to prepare—to die and rise again, defeating sin & death—so all those who’d trust in Him for salvation and follow Him would be assured of a way to heaven, Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (v.6), an assurance [name] found before He died, and Good News of assurance & peace that Jesus offers to all who fear death & mourn [name]’s departure today.

A psychiatrist recently said that if guilt and inner turmoil were taken away, 2/3 of the patients in her hospital could go home!

Some great wisdom, because forgiveness and peace with God is what we are ALL looking for & what we ALL need…. Indeed, as that early Christian Augustine put it, our hearts will go on being restless until they find their rest in Him [Jesus Christ].

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Membership, Conflict and Discipline

This past Lord’s Day I preached on the body of Christ, what it means to join it and what its life ought to look like. Three related matters didn’t make the cut for inclusion into the sermon, so here they as tasters:

Church Membership

When we place our faith in Christ we are in Him, meaning we share in His benefits. At the moment of justification we are then adopted into His body, the Church. This is what is often referred to as the invisible or holy catholic (universal) Church. How is this tangibly manifested, through the visible local church. We see this throughout the NT, believers engaging in the life of local churches. In Acts 2:42 it even says they devoted themselves to the fellowship. Sadly, too few Christians in these post-modern anti-institution days think we are required to become members of a local Gospel church but Church Membershiphere at the Chapel we believe this is how we formally identify with the body of Christ and its mission. A great resource for the membership sceptic, enquirer or already member is Church Membership: How the world knows who belongs to Jesus by Jonathan Leeman. I have a copy and it is worth you getting your own. It is the only book in the 9 Marks series I have read but if the rest are as sound and as helpful as this one I heartily recommend them all. If you can’t pick up the book check out their blog. I am convinced of the necessity of the principle of local church membership. Don’t remain aloof with some abstract I’m a member of the invisible church only club idea—join a church!

Conflict

No one likes dealing with conflict, which is why most people run from it. That, however, is not the wisdom we find in Scripture. That got David into big trouble when he failed to address Amnon’s sin (2 Sam 13). He went against this proverb from Ecclesiastes 8:11: Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. Whilst the conflicts we face may not be so severe, the consequences of not dealing with them will be just as painful. So, don’t let the sun go down on your anger (Eph 4:26). If you have an issue with someone in the body, deal with it. This is the process Jesus gave:

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15–17).

In other words try to solve the issue at the lowest common denominator. Don’t escalate it by taking it to the top right away (any good church leader should challenge you to first deal with the situation yourself [unless there is a safety issue]). Remember that one of the fruits of the Spirit is to be “open to reason” (James 3:17). Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ (Eph 5:21) and trust the Lord will be faithful to your attempt to bring peace to the body (Ro 12:18).

*If this involves an Elder, not because they are perfect but because Christ’s image is at stake, the Bible requires two or three witnesses for any such charge (1 Tim 5:19).

Discipline

One of hardest things a local church will have to do is discipline one of its members. Just as the Lord disciplines us for our benefit so too the church is to discipline members as medicine for their souls (and the local body, purging it of “poison”). Yes this has been abused but double YES it is still biblical. The best example is from the Corinthian church. In 1 Cor 5:2 Paul demands a man be removed from the church for incest. This story happens to have a positive ending for in 2 Cor 2:5–11 it appears he repented and was restored. 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14–15 and also Titus 3:10—to reject a “divisive person”—are also passages to keep in mind on this subject.

Discipline lets the member know they have sinned or erred in doctrine and gives them the opportunity to repent and be welcomed back into fellowship (always the goal). To the watching world discipline says that we do not associate that kind of belief or behaviour with following Jesus and so long as they persist in it we do not recognize them as part of it.

Here again you may want to check out the 9 Marks series, Church Discipline: Medicine for the Body by Jonathan Leeman.

May a robust commitment to what the Scriptures teach on these matters for the body be used to build up healthy churches.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

 

God-confidence

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I the LORD your God, am with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

Whilst it is good to believe in yourself to the extent of not being falsely modest of the natural gifts you have (remembering with gratitude these are from God!), and whilst it is good to challenge oneself to sharpen and hone those gifts, ultimately the self-confidence promoted in society today is misguided because it roots its confidence, strength, trust and hope in SELF—Just do it! (Nike slogan). It teaches that believing in your own actual or potential strengths will save you. It doesn’t recognise that we are finite and limited beings who can’t do everything and anything, nor does it take into consideration the effects of sin on our lives which impairs what we could do. Ultimately, it fails to use those God given gifts for God’s own glory and instead risks self-glorification.

This is a far cry from what Jesus taught in the Gospel, to abide in Him…for apart from Him you can do nothing (John 15:5b). It is the complete opposite of the wisdom of Proverbs 3:5–8 that tells us to trust in God rather than in a reliance on self. It is far better to trust in God and find our confidence in His promises, including His promise to be with us always when we trust in and follow Jesus. We must remember that whilst we have value as persons created in God’s image, in the grand scheme of things we are a mere vapour as Ecclesiastes tells us. When we use our gifts to honour God there is meaning. When we seek his help he blesses and multiplies our gifts. When we trust Him we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil 4:13). We can do the impossible with God (Lk 18:27). Salvation, meaning, bounty, infinite power, peace; trust in self cannot produce these things. It is no wonder that our society that champions self-confidence is still chasing after the wind, leaving only despair in its wake.

God-confidence over self-confidence is the essence of what Joshua learned. God told him before he assumed his duties as Moses successor, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I the LORD your God, am with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9). Insofar as he trusted the Lord the Israelites were victorious (like at Jericho), but when they trusted in themselves they were defeated (like at Ai). In light of this may we have God-confidence as we trust in the One who is unfailing and in His promises which are ever true. You may want to learn this song, which the Lord inspired and which I taught to the village school to help us learn about God-confidence as we focused on our termly Christian value of courage. May it draw to mind this promise and may the Spirit enable you to remember it when you are facing discouragement. To listen click here. Jos 1.9

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

 

 

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