Favourite Passages from the Bible – 1

Ephesians 2:8-10 – ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, but it is a gift from God; not by works, should one boast.  For we have been created by God in Jesus Christ to do good works previously prepared by God for which we should walk.’

These two verses are two sides of the same coin.  On one side, it is telling us that our salvation is only possible by faith, not by works, and that we need to be saved.  And yet, on the other side, once we are saved, God has called us to a whole-life of service to the world according to Yahweh’s will.  Each one of us has a unique role to play in the world, that no-one else can fulfil.  And yet, this ministry is part of the jigsaw that is the Church.

Saved – ‘Sozo’ – deliver out of danger and into safety; used principally of God rescuing believers from the penalty and power of sin – and into His provisions (safety). It also has the meaning of healing and being made whole ie being in a right relationship with Yahweh.

Grace – ‘Charis’ – a gift from Yahweh – He does not have to give us salvation – He could allow us to live incomplete lives and be condemned, but because of His love for His creation, He sent Jesus Christ to take upon Himself all our sins and rebellion and die on a Cross (the consequence of sin) and through His resurrection, made it possible for or sins to be washed away and for reconciliation with Yahweh Himself.  The gift is freely given despite our rebellion.

Works – ‘Ergon’ – many people feel we need to earn our salvation, especially those who follow other religions like Hinduism and Islam.  But, with Christianity, it has nothing to do with us, it is Yahweh’s action, His gift that allows us to be saved.  All we have to do is accept it willingly and agree to give our lives over to Him, so as to lead a fulfilled and complete life.  That does not mean we are necessarily healed of physical ailments, but more it is about our relationship with Yahweh and the life that flows from it.  Hence the importance of being willing to do what works, Yahweh has already prepared for us – in our homes, work, neighbourhood and church and in the world.  The Greek word ‘ergon’ is the root of the word ‘ergonomics, the study of doing things efficiently.  Hence, the importance of seeking to be in tune with Yahweh, so that our ‘yoke’ is easy.

So, in conclusion, these two verses summarise the importance of Jesus as Saviour and Jesus as Lord of our lives.

 

The Gospel – 4

Repentance – what does that mean to you?

When we look at society and the church, there is much wrong, all of which saddens God.  It probably, in fact, makes Him angry.  When one reads Jeremiah, God is very angry with the Jews, for they have gone down a road of idol worship and moral bankruptcy.  This leads to them being beaten in war and taken off into captivity.  There are many other occasions when this happens to them.

Idol worship is not just about worshipping ‘physical’ or ‘imaginary’ gods, it is also about who do you turn to in times of trouble, and where are your priorities in life.  Because of the easy availability of credit, the UK has been a society of debt.  As individuals we owe more than the debt of that of the Two-Thirds World!  The gap between the rich and the poor gets wider. Then, there is the obsession of 24/7 entertainment and lowering moral standards.  The list goes on.

But this list of woes is not just happening in society around us, it is also happening within the Church.  What can we do about it?  First, as individuals we need to recognise afresh that we are sinners, but at the same time, that God can forgive, if we repent as well as forgive others.  God calls us to be perfect, so that we can be salt and light to those around us.  We need to show that the Biblical version of loving God, each other in community, and others unconditionally as well as ourselves, works.

Secondly, we need to be serious about repentance, on a national scale, through going through a period of preparation and ending with a national day of repentance called by the leaders of all the churches in this country.  We also need for it to lead to ‘fruit’, especially in the relationships between church groups, and in our lifestyles, to make God first in our priorities and not to be ashamed of Him.

Will anyone hear?

The Gospel – 3

You may notice that throughout the various themes in the pages on ‘The Gospel of the Kingdom of God’, I talk about not all Christians entering Heaven.

Throughout the New Testament, the phrases ‘The Kingdom of God/Heavens’ refer to Heaven itself.  And so when Jesus talks about entering Heaven, He often mentions the ‘sheep and the goats’, and the ‘wheat and the chaff’, and does this in the context of believers.   It is not, as some Christian writers assert, just about how good a life you lead, it is more on whether you are doing His will.  And this centres around loving God wholeheartedly, loving one another completely, loving others including your ‘enemies’, and loving yourself.  Jesus explains how to apply this through His teaching.

This viewpoint does not negate that becoming a Christian is by faith alone, it is more about when you become one and start the journey of faith.  hence, the importance of discipling people according to what is taught in the Bible.

We need to see discipling itself starts before one becomes a believer, for one needs to fully understand what it means to be a believer, otherwise many problems will service and maturity won’t happen easily and many will end up in Hell.

Such teaching also raises the importance of not just talking about God’s love, but also His justice – the consequences of not following Him.  For that is what Jesus taught, and taught often.

The Gospel – 2

I oten feel that baptism is often not taken seriously enough by churches, especialy in the preparation for the ‘event’.  Part of the reason for this is a lack of understanding of what the Bible teaches about it.  When we look at the original word in New Testament Greek, ‘bapto’,we find it has three significant meanings:

1. To dye.  At the time of Jesus, cloth was often soaked in a dye to give it its colour.  Now the dye would permeate the material thoroughly, so that every inch of it would be soaked in the colour.  This then becomes symbolic of seeing the word ‘baptism’ used in the sense of a ‘totally committed faith/belief’,  I believe that this is the case in Acts 2:38.  So, in this and many other instances, the writer(s) is talking about having a faith that is real and has depth to it and not about being baptised in water.

2. To wash.  This is the usual understanding of ‘baptism’, as in Matthew 28:19.  But when you look at some passages, like when John baptised, there is also a link to confession of one’s particular sins done publically at the same time. To me this is all about taking this step of faith in following Jesus really seriously and seeking to be ‘cleansed’ of one’s sins and become ‘clean’, by publically naming them, and that Jesus is the only one who can ‘cleanse’ you, and thus you become ‘pure’ in God’s eyes. This, of course, is only possible because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  So, as one is put under the water, one is symbolically ‘dying’, and then as one comes out of the water, one has been ‘resurrected’, made ‘new’ or ‘clean’.

3. Entering the Church.  Baptism also symbolises the entrance of the believer into the Church, and becoming part of the family, becoming one with fellow believers.  So, as part of the ‘liturgy’ of the baptismal event, there should be a declaration by fellow believers, welcoming that baptised person into the worldwide family of God. (I need to think further about this.)

So, one can see that there needs to be preparation for baptism, to help the believer understand the cost of following Jesus, the benefits of being part of the worldwide family of God, and the need to leave the past behind in declaring their particular sins publically.

But, one must also see that the Church then has the responsibility of continuing to mentor them, encouraging the believer to get into the Word and apply it in every part of their lives as well spending time with God.

The Gospel – 1

Matthew 24:14 – The Good News (Gospel) of the Kingdom

Whenever Christians talk about the Good News, they basically talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus and its meaning for the non-believer.  But, as you read the the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), you will see that Jesus sees it in a wider context.  In fact all His teaching is the Good News!  From His first sermon in the synagogue until He ascends to Heaven, He talks about relationships between humans and God and between humans themselves.  He also lets know how to see transformation in our homes, workplaces and society in general, and then through the community of Jesus-followers, showing how it is done corporately, to the world.

In the sixties, there was the renewal movement within the church, when we began to learn about freedom in worship, personal and corporate prayer, as well as spiritual gifts.  Then came the seventies and the small group movement took off.  As the eighties started, we were taking on board evangelism and church growth.  And finally, evangelicals recognised that there was a world out there which was hurting.  Hence, the social justice movement grew.  Since then, we are struggling to bring them all together, with groups focusing on several of the above themes, but not all of them.  Of course, there are exceptions, but we still find it difficult.