Monday, 31 March 2008

Nina Simone - Sinnerman (Felix Da Housecat's Heavenly)

My daughter sent me this as a video response to 'The Easter Song' by Keith Green. It's a remix of the old black spiritual 'sinner man' sung by Nina Simone. Despite the original meaning of the 'spiritual' the video here focuses on the seven deadly sins which are:
1.Pride 2.Envy 3.Gluttony 4.Lust 5.Anger 6.Greed 7.Sloth.

These were originally thought up in the sixth century by Pope Gregory and issued to the church. This year the Vatican has issued an additional seven classed as "social sins."
"You offend God not only by stealing, taking the Lord's name in vain or coveting your neighbour's wife, but also by wrecking the environment, carrying out morally debatable experiments that manipulate DNA or harm embryos," said [Bishop Gianfranco] Girotti, who is responsible for the body that oversees confessions.
The seven social sins are:
1. "Bioethical" violations such as birth control
2. "Morally dubious" experiments such as stem cell research
3. Drug abuse
4. Polluting the environment
5. Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor
6. Excessive wealth
7. Creating poverty

What do you think of the old and new ones?

AS mentioned above the video is not based on the original spiritual. The original song is really speaking of the 'sinner man' who all his life has been alienated from God and doing his own thing. 'On that day' in the song is the day when he dies, or the 'Day of Judgement' when he tries to find refuge by running to the hills and the sea away from it, but they don’t offer any refuge.

Sadly it is all too late and his time has finally run out. It reminds me of John Bunyan's book ‘Pilgrim Progress’ when Christian, the main character of the story, warns his friends and neighbours, while they are alive and have the chance, to 'flee from the wrath to come'.

We have but one life to live and 'it is appointed to man once to die, then comes the judgement'. We have only one life to flee from the wrath to come and flee to God alone as our refuge. He invites us today, whatever we have done, be it great or small, one or all of the seven deadly sins, new or old, even the likes of murder or adultery are not beyond his forgiveness.

Though our sins are as scarlet he promises to make those who respond, white as snow. Today while we still have the chance He calls us to flee to him as our refuge to be forgiven, healed and restored.
As the writer of the famous hymn cries out:

‘Rock of Ages cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee’.

Monday, 24 March 2008

The Easter Song: Keith Green

Listen to this excellent hymn of worship.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Meditation for Good Friday

EXTENDED on a cursed tree,
Besmeared with dust, and sweat, and blood,
See there, the king of glory see!
Sinks and expires the Son of God

Who, who, my Saviour, this hath done?
Who could thy sacred body wound?
No guilt thy spotless heart hath known,
No guile hath in thy lips been found.

I, I alone, have done the deed!
'Tis I thy sacred flesh have torn;
My sins have caused thee, Lord, to bleed,
Pointed the nail, and fixed the thorn.

Saviour how shall I proclaim?
How pay the mighty debt I owe?
Let all I have, and all I am,
Ceaseless to all thy glory show.

John Wesley

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Which Theologian are you?

For 'Which Theologian are you?' CUT,PASTE,CLICK Answer the questions to see which theologian you are. Then send your answer as a comment to this post.

Monday, 17 March 2008

The Confession of St. Patrick

It is St Patrick's day today so I thought I would post part of his famous Confession. He was a godly man with both a passion for God and those without Christ, declaring:
'For that reason, therefore, we ought to fish well and diligently, as the Lord .. teaches, saying: Come ye after me, and I will make you to be fishers of men….. Hence it was most necessary to spread our nets so that a great multitude and throng might be caught for God, and that there be clerics everywhere to baptize and exhort a people in need and want, as the Lord in the Gospel states, exhorts and teaches, saying: Go therefore now, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit... And again He says: Go ye therefore into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature'.

These quotations(for full document click St Patrick on my links)will give you a feel for his passion and may the Lord grant the same to every reader.

Patrick, a sinner:

I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many. My father was Calpornius, a deacon, son of Potitus, a priest, of the village Bannavem TaburniƦ (in Britain); he had a country seat nearby, and there I was taken captive.

Did not know God:

I was then about sixteen years of age. I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people---and deservedly so, because we turned away from God, and did not keep His commandments, and did not obey our priests, who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought over us the wrath of his anger and scattered us among many nations….

His Conversion:

There the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my abjection… and watched over me before I knew Him, and before I was able to distinguish between good and evil…...Hence I cannot be silent….about the great benefits and the great grace which the Lord has deigned to bestow upon me in the land of my captivity….

His Concept of God:

Because there is no other God, nor ever was, nor will be, than God the Father unbegotten, without beginning, from whom is all beginning, the Lord of the universe….and His son Jesus Christ, whom we declare to have always been with the Father, spiritually and ineffably begotten by the Father before the beginning of the world… by Him are made all things visible and invisible. He was made man, and, having defeated death, was received into heaven by the Father; and He hath given Him all power …in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess to Him that Jesus Christ is Lord and God…He has poured forth upon us abundantly the Holy Spirit … who makes those, who believe and obey, sons of God and joint heirs with Christ

Why evangelise:

For He Himself has said through the Prophet: Call upon me in the day of thy trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shall glorify me….. Although I am imperfect in many things, I nevertheless wish that my brethren and kinsmen should know what sort of person I am, so that they may understand my heart's desire. ……Whence I, once rustic, exiled, unlearned…this at least I know most certainly that … I was like a stone lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me up, and raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall. …..I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to my brethren and sons whom I have baptised in the Lord---so many thousands of people

The power of Prayer:

….After I came to Ireland---every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed---the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. My spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a 100 prayers, and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountains; and I used to get up for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm… because the spirit within me was then fervent.

Learning to hear God’s voice:

One night I heard in my sleep a voice saying to me: `It is well that you fast, soon you will go to your own country.' And again, after a short while, I heard a voice saying to me: `See, your ship is ready.' And it was not near, but at a distance of perhaps two hundred miles…and then I took to flight, and I left the man with whom I had stayed for six years. And I went in the strength of God ….and I feared nothing until I came to that ship.

God answers prayer – transport:

And the day that I arrived the ship was set afloat, and I said that I was able to pay for my passage with them. But the captain was not pleased, and with indignation he answered harshly: `It is of no use for you to ask us to go along with us.' And when I heard this, I left them in order to return to the hut where I was staying. And as I went, I began to pray; and before I had ended my prayer, I heard one of them shouting behind me, `Come, hurry, we shall take you on in good faith…’

God answers prayer – food:

After 3 days we reached land, and for 28 days we travelled through deserted country. They lacked food, and hunger overcame them; and …the captain said `Tell me, Christian: you say that your God is great and all-powerful; why, then, do you not pray for us? As you can see, we are suffering from hunger.' I said ... full of confidence: `Be truly converted with all your heart to the Lord my God, because nothing is impossible for Him, that this day He may send you food….for He has abundance everywhere.'.. With the help of God, it came to pass: suddenly a herd of pigs appeared on the road before our eyes, and they killed many of them.... and fully recovered their strength… From that day they had plenty of food. They also found wild honey…

Hearing God’s voice in prison:

And once again, after many years, I fell into captivity. On that first night I stayed with them, I heard a divine message saying to me: `Two months will you be with them.' And so it came to pass: on the sixtieth night thereafter the Lord delivered me out of their hands….….

Britain: a prophetic vision:

And again after a few years I was in Britain with my people who received me as their son…There I saw in the night the vision of a man, whose name was Victoricus, coming as it were from Ireland, with countless letters. And he gave me one of them, and I read the opening words of the letter, which were, `The voice of the Irish'; and as I read the beginning of the letter I thought that at the same moment I heard their voice…and thus did they cry out as with one mouth: `We ask thee, boy, come and walk among us once more.' And I was quite broken in heart, and could read no further, and so I woke up.

Betrayed by his dearest friend:

I was attacked by a number of my seniors who came forth and brought up my sins against my laborious episcopate …..As cause for proceeding against me they found---after thirty years!---a confession I had made before I was a deacon. In the anxiety of my troubled mind I confided to my dearest friend what I had done in my boyhood one day, nay, in one hour, because I was not yet strong. I know not, God knows---whether I was then fifteen years old: and I did not believe in the living God,…But the more am I sorry for my dearest friend that we had to hear what he said. To him I had confided my very soul!

Learned to always give thanks:

Hence, then, I give unwearied thanks to God, who kept me faithful in the day of my temptation, so that today I can confidently offer Him my soul as a living sacrifice---to Christ my Lord, who saved me out of all my troubles. Thus I can say: `Who am I, 0 Lord, and to what hast Thou called me, Thou who didst assist me with such divine power that to-day I constantly exalt and magnify Thy name among the heathens … and not only in good days but also in tribulations?' So indeed I must accept with equanimity whatever befalls me, be it good or evil, and always give thanks to God, who taught me to trust in Him always without hesitation…

Numerous plots and dangers:

Now, it would be tedious to give a detailed account of all my labours or even a part of them. Let me tell you briefly how the merciful God often freed me from slavery and from twelve dangers in which my life was at stake---not to mention numerous plots, which I cannot express in words…

Many people born again:

For I am very much God's debtor, who gave me such grace that many people were reborn in God through me and afterwards confirmed, and that clerics were ordained for them … for a people just coming to the faith

Fish well and diligently:

For that reason, therefore, we ought to fish well and diligently, as the Lord .. teaches, saying: Come ye after me, and I will make you to be fishers of men….. Hence it was most necessary to spread our nets so that a great multitude and throng might be caught for God, and that there be clerics everywhere to baptize and exhort a people in need and want, as the Lord in the Gospel states, exhorts and teaches, saying: Go therefore now, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit... And again He says: Go ye therefore into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned. And again: This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all nations, and then shall come the end.

From idols to true God:

Hence, how did it come to pass in Ireland that those who never had a knowledge of God, but until now always worshipped idols and things impure, have now been made a people of the Lord, and are called sons of God, that the sons and daughters of the kings of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ? ….

A slow learner:

Hence I ought unceasingly to give thanks to God who often pardoned my folly and my carelessness, and on more than one occasion spared His great wrath on me, who was chosen to be His helper and who was slow to do as was shown me and as the Spirit suggested. And the Lord had mercy on me thousands and thousands of times because He saw that I was ready, but that I did not know what to do in the circumstances. For many tried to prevent this my mission; they would even talk to each other behind my back and say: `Why does this fellow throw himself into danger among enemies who have no knowledge of God?' It was not malice, but it did not appeal to them…

Freely you have received, freely give:

When I baptized so many thousands of people, did I perhaps expect from any of them as much as half a scruple? Tell me, and I will restore it to you. Or when the Lord ordained clerics everywhere through my unworthy person and I conferred the ministry upon them free, if I asked any of them as much as the price of my shoes, speak against me and I will return it to you…..Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity, or whatever it may be; but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God Almighty.... as the prophet says: Cast thy thought upon God, and He shall sustain thee.

Faithful witness to the end:

So, now I commend my soul to my faithful God, for whom I am an ambassador in all my wretchedness; but God....chose me for this office---to be, although among His least, one of His ministers…. But what can I say or what can I promise to my Lord, as I can do nothing that He has not given me?... I pray to God to give me perseverance and to deign that I be a faithful witness to Him to the end of my life for my God.

Total Commitment:

If ever I have done any good for my God whom I love, I beg Him to grant me that I may shed my blood with those exiles and captives for His name….I am firmly convinced that if this should happen to me, I would have gained my soul together with my body, because on that day without doubt we shall rise in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as sons of the living God and joint heirs with Christ, to be made conformable to His image; for of Him, and by Him, and in Him we shall reign.

Rewards of Faith:

For this sun …rises daily for us because He commands so, but it will never reign, nor will its splendour last; what is more, those wretches who adore it will be miserably punished. Not so we, who believe in, and worship, the true sun---Christ, who will never perish, nor will he who doeth His will; but he will abide for ever as Christ abides for ever, who reigns with God the Father Almighty and the Holy Spirit before time, and now, and in all eternity. Amen.

Pure Motives for preaching:

Behold, again and again would I set forth the words of my confession. I testify in truth and in joy of heart before God and His holy angels that I never had any reason except the Gospel and its promises why I should ever return to the people from whom once before I barely escaped.

My Confession: a gift of God:

I pray those who believe and fear God, whosoever deigns to look at or receive this writing which Patrick, a sinner, unlearned, has composed in Ireland, that no one should ever say that it was my ignorance if I did or showed forth anything however small according to God's good pleasure; but let this be your conclusion and let it so be thought, that---as is the perfect truth---it was the gift of God. This is my confession before I die.
The Shield of St. Patrick

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me; Christ to comfort and restore me; Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

St Patrick's Breastplate

Apart from Ken Read's errors in stating that Patrick prayed this every day ( It was basically taken by someone from his Confession and there is no evidence he prayed it every day).Errors from history, ( there were Christians in Ireland before he went there and before he died it was NOT largely Christian, Some wrong notes also ( As if I can be a judge, so you may disagree with me). Yet, this is a great song with great words.Let it encourage your soul and may you have a great St Patrick's day.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Meditation by J.I. Packer “He knows me”

What matters supremely is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it–the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind.

All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is not a moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters.

This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort–the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates–in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

'A Man In Christ' by Samuel Brengle

This slightly edited essay was taken from a chapter in the book 'Love slaves' written by the saintly Samuel Brengle who was a leader in the American Salvation Army almost a hundred years ago. In this essay he reminds us that that we can be in Christ, what this condition means for the believer and how it may effect those they have contact with :'Wrapt in that wondrous fellowship he knows there is a Heaven; and to lose God, he knows, would be Hell'. Ak

I knew a man in Christ,' wrote Paul. Think of one writing: I knew a man in Bonaparte, in Buddha, in Caesar,' and we shall see at once how striking, how startling is this expression. We should be not only startled but shocked to hear this of any but Christ Jesus. But the Christian consciousness is not offended by hearing of 'a man in Christ.' It recognizes Him as the Home of the soul, its hiding-place and shelter from the storm, its school, its fortress and defense from every foe. He is not simply the Babe of Bethlehem, the Carpenter of Nazareth, the first of the religious teachers of Palestine, and victim of Jewish bigotry and Roman power. He is the Prince of Peace, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, in whose bosom we nestle, and in whose favor we find peace and comfort and Salvation.

Do you know any man or woman in Christ, my brother, my sister? How many Soldiers in your Corps do you believe to be in Christ? -- to live in Him, to walk in the unbroken fellowship that being 'in Christ' must imply? Do you know twenty? Ten?

But let us not judge others. Paul was not doing so. He was very generous in his judgments of his brethren. He addresses his letters as follows: Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.' ' Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi.' ' Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God... to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse.'

He reckoned his brethren to be in Christ, but this man whom he 'knew in Christ,' was not one of them, but himself. He was the man. There was no doubt about his being in Christ. He wrote with complete assurance. Can you speak with such assurance, my Comrade? Do you know yourself to be in Christ? Or ever to have been in Christ? What a profound fellowship and union!

But listen to Paul further: 'I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body I cannot tell: God knoweth); such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man (whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth); how he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful (or possible) for a man to utter.'

Did you ever have a moment, or an hour, in which you were lost in fellowship with the Lord, having no thought of time or space, in which experiences were wrought in you, emotions swept through you, purity and love and power and comfort and assurance were imparted to you, that you have never been able fully to explain or express in words, or which, possibly, you have felt to be too sacred to try to tell or describe?

Such was Paul's experience. He was the man to whom the words make reference.

And many people who are in Christ, possibly most or all who are in Him, have had some such moment -- just a moment, or an hour, long or short it may have been, but indescribably sweet, precious above gold or silver, and memorable above any and all other experiences of life.

Oh, how invaluable is such an experience to a soul, especially in a time of fierce temptation! It sweeps away for ever the intellectual and moral and spiritual fogs and uncertainties that becloud the mind and heart. It fixes a man's theology. It settles for him the fact that he himself is a living soul, morally and spiritually responsible to God. He feels the breath of eternity in him.

Wrapt in that wondrous fellowship he knows there is a Heaven; and to lose God, he knows, would be Hell. Henceforth to him, Heaven and Hell are realities as assured as light and darkness, as truth and falsehood, as right and wrong. This experience establishes the Godhead of Christ. He knows that 'Jesus is Lord,' not by what he has learned from his teacher, from books and creeds, but 'by revelation,' ' by the Holy Ghost.'

If in hours of depression and temptation, the enemy of his soul should suggest a doubt as to these great truths, he can instantly rout his foe by recalling the intimate revelations of that sacred experience which it is not possible to utter.

There are two experiences mentioned by Paul in this portion of Scripture. One is abiding -- the blessed, but common everyday experience that is new every morning and fresh every evening; that the dust and toil of the day, nor the stillness and slumber of the night, do not break nor disturb; it is the very life of the Christian. The other is a transitory experience; but for a moment, comparatively.

'I knew a man in Christ,' that is the abiding experience. We are to live in Christ. Daily, hourly, momently we are to choose Him as our Master, walk with Him, look unto Him, trust Him: obey Him, draw from Him our strength, wisdom, courage, purity, every gift and grace needed for our soul's life. The supply of all our need is in Him. Our sap, our life, our leaf and our fruit are from Him.

Cut off from Him we wither, we die, but in Him we flourish, we bring forth abundant fruit, we have life for evermore. Hallelujah!

'I knew such a one,' writes Paul, 'caught up to the third heaven -- into Paradise -- and heard unspeakable words:' that is the transitory experience. It passes in an hour and may, possibly, never in this life be repeated, any more than was the 'burning bush ' experience of Moses repeated, or the 'still small voice ' experience of Elijah, or the Jabbok experience of Jacob, or the transfiguration experience of Jesus.

Those experiences were brief, but their effects, their revelations were for eternity. They were not abiding experiences, but windows opened through which earth glimpsed Heaven. The memory of that vision was imperishable, though the vision passed. The veil was withdrawn, and for one awful, rapturous moment the eyes of the soul saw the face of God, and the spirit of a man had unutterable fellowship with its Father.

The man who has had such an experience will be changed, will be different from his former self, and different from all other men who have had no such experience.

Henceforth for him 'to live is Christ,' and the great values of life are not material, financial, social, or political, but moral and spiritual.

Blessed be such a man, if he be not disobedient to the heavenly vision; if, like Mary, who treasured in her heart the things spoken of her Baby Jesus, so he treasures up the sacred revelation given to him in the moment of vision!

We cannot command such moments. They come to us, come unexpectedly, but they never come except to the man who is in Christ, the man who day by day lives for Christ, seeks His face, meditates on His ways and word, takes time to commune with Him, wrestles with Him in prayer, seeks to glorify Him by good words and works, and waits and longs for Him more than they who through tedious hours of weary nights wait and long for the morning.

Let no humble earnest Officer be discouraged because he does not constantly live in such rapturous fellowship. Paul did not remain in Paradise. It was a brief experience and was followed by that troublesome 'thorn in the flesh.' These glimpses of Heaven, these rapt moments of fellowship are given to confirm faith and fit the soul for the toil and plodding service of the love-slaves of Jesus, who fight and labor to help Him in His vast travail to save a world of sinners from sin, from the Devil's grip, and from Hell.

The common, everyday, abiding experience is a lowly, patient, loving life in Christ -- This may be ours unbrokenly, and it should be.

'If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,' or creation, wrote Paul. He breathes the atmosphere of Heaven, while plodding the dusty roads of earth with his toiling fellow-men. He diffuses peace, he promotes joy, he kindles love, he quiets fear, he comforts mourners, he heals the broken heart.

In him Christ sees 'the travail of His soul,' and is satisfied. (Isaiah liii. 11.) In him the long, stern trial and discipline of Christ's incarnation and the bitter agony of His cross, begin to bear their full, ripe fruit, and the Master rejoices over him with joy, 'rests in his love,' and 'joys over him with singing.' (Zephaniah iii. 17.) In him 'the earnest expectation of the creation,' which 'waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God,' and which 'groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now,' begins to be fulfilled, the long night of earth's shame and sorrow and sin is passing, and the dawning day of the reign of peace and righteousness is breaking. Hallelujah!

I knew a father in Christ whose children said, 'It is easy to be good when father is around'; not because they feared him and must be good, but because goodness flourished in the sunshine of his Christlike presence.

I knew a husband in Christ whose wife said, 'He is like David, who returned to bless his household.' His presence was a benediction to his home.

I knew a man who had been a hard, brutal drunkard, but was now a Salvation blacksmith 'in Christ.' One day a farmer brought his mare to this blacksmith to have her shod, and with her he brought straps and tackle to strap her up, for she was so fearful or so savage that no one could shoe her otherwise. But the blacksmith 'in Christ' said, 'Let me get acquainted with her.' He walked around her, stroked her gently, and spoke to her kindly and softly, while she rubbed her soft nose against him, smelled his garments, and got acquainted with him.

She seemed to make a discovery that this was a new creature -- a kind she had never met before, especially in a blacksmith's shop. Everything about him seemed to say to her, 'fear not,' and she was not afraid. He lifted her foot and took off a shoe, and from that day forth he shod that mare without strap or tackle, while she stood in perfect quiet and unconcern. Poor horse! she had waited all her lifetime to see one of the sons of God, and when she saw him she was not afraid.

And the whole earth is waiting for the unveiling, the revealing, 'the manifestation of the sons of God' -- waiting for the men and women, the boys and girls, who live in Christ and in whom Christ lives. When the world is filled with such men or controlled by them, then, and only then, will strikes and wars, and bitter rivalries and insane hatreds, and disgusting and hellish evils cease, and the promise and purpose of Christ's coming be fulfilled.

Samuel Logan Brengle (1860-1936) was an American Methodist born in Indiana who joined the Salvation Army in the 1890s. He was mightily used of the Lord--even more so through his many books, which were chiefly written during a convalescence following being badly injured while street preaching. He was described by one observer as a kindly, literate and articulate man who left good memories with nearly everyone he met.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

A Litany for humility

I was sorting out a multitude of books tonight in my Attic/study( so I can now see all my old ones which are behind the newer ones)and I came across an old gem by George Verwer. The first time I read it( now over twenty years ago)I was just coming out a very destructive and spiritually abusive group involved with the 'Discipleship' or 'Shepherding' Movement.Biblical Discipleship and Shepherding are certainly an important part of Christian and Church life but this Movement totally turned what it should have been to that of worship towards the leaders and using that position to control and manipulate the members.Many still suffer from the effects of it and now sadly have walked away from Christ (see Ezek 34). Reading this Roman Catholic Litany introduced by George in his book 'Come live Die' (Now 'Hunger for reality')reminded me again what true discipleship and devotion should be towards Christ and none other.May it be a challenge to your own heart. For those who are reading this and have suffered at the hands of abusive spiritual leaders, there is a way back through Christ who binds up the broken hearted. For those who are in such a group at the moment, you are free to leave in the name of Christ and encouraged to stay free and to never enter again that yoke of bondage. AK

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
Deliver me Jesus,
from the desire of being esteemed,
from the desire of being loved,
from the desire of being extolled,
from the desire of being honored,
from the desire of being praised,
from the desire of being preferred to others,
from the desire of being consulted,
from the desire of being approved,
from the fear of being humiliated,
from the fear of being despised,
from the fear of suffering rebukes,
from the fear of being forgotten,
from the fear of being wronged,
from the fear of being suspected,
and Jesus grant me the grace to desire
that others may be loved more than I,
that others may be esteemed more than I,
that, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
that others may be chosen and I set aside,
that others may be praised and I go unnoticed,
that others may be preferred to me in everything,
that others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Only one Way to God?: Evangelism and the Uniqueness of Christ

Living in a pluralist society is a fairly recent development for those who live in the West: even more so in Northern Ireland. However it was always the case for the early Church. Nowadays one does not need to become a ‘missionary’ to meet people of other faiths. In fact as they have come to our country Christians have more opportunity to build long term relationships with them and show them Christian friendship. This is both a challenge and opportunity to the Church in Northern Ireland.

However postmodern relativism and the Religious pluralism can cause Christians to imagine that Christ is not unique and that somehow all Religions lead to God.
Advocates of such religious pluralism also charge Christians who hold to the historic faith of the Bible as being both religiously intolerant and imperialistic.

One such advocate W. Cantwell Smith states that any kind of Christian exclusivism is ‘morally unacceptable’ if it means ‘we are saved, you are dammed’. He would also reject Jesus is the only incarnation of God or the only Saviour.

It has become standard in this area of study to note three main approaches by which theologians have responded to religious pluralism: exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism. Netland provides a concise summary of these reference points:

Exclusivism maintains that the central claims of Christianity are true, and that where the claims of Christianity conflict with those of other religions the latter are to be rejected as false. Christian exclusivists also characteristically hold that Jesus Christ is the unique incarnation of God, the only Lord and Saviour. Salvation is not to be found in the structures of other religious traditions.” Historically this position has been the orthodox evangelical position.

Inclusivism...holds that[although] God has revealed himself definitively in Jesus Christ and that Jesus is somehow central to God’s provision of salvation for humankind, they are willing to allow that God’s salvation is available through non-Christian religions.”

This is the position most closely associated with the Second Vatican Council. There are some evangelicals who argue for a modified or diluted version of inclusivism.

Pluralism parts company with both exclusivism and inclusivismby rejecting the premise that God has revealed himself in any unique or definitive sense in Jesus Christ. On the contrary, God is said to be actively revealing himself in all religious traditions... Christian faith is merely one of many equally legitimate human responses to the same divine reality.‘It renounces every claim that Christianity is ‘unique’, ‘definitive’, ‘final.’(Stott)

” John Hick is the most well-known figure from this position. Others include
Paul Knitter, Dan-Cohn Sherbock (from a Jewish perspective) and the
Dalai Lama (from a Tibetan Buddhist perspective)

The word exclusive used here is used in a theological sense and is not used in any personal, social or attitudinal sense of excluding others (for God so loved the world).

It is speaking here of exclusive truth namely:

There is one living, personal God who is the creator of all, that is including ourselves. As human beings uniquely of all creatures, we are made in God’s image and are spiritually aware of God and morally accountable to God.

Human beings have rebelled against God in the moral disobedience of sin and are alienated from God in such a radical way that they can not save themselves or know God truly by themselves.

God has taken action to save human beings uniquely through the history of the Old Testament Israel since Abraham, with the intention of bringing blessing to the nations.

Jesus of Nazareth was the unique and final incarnation of God in a single historical human life. He both completed God’s self revelation, and achieved God’s work of salvation on the cross. Through his revelation and ascension God vindicated him as Lord and so he is rightly to be worshipped as such.

Salvation is therefore to be found only in and through Jesus Christ. Adherents of other faiths, in common with all other human beings, are made in the image of God and share in the benefits of general revelation conscience and nature. But other faiths as such can not be ways of salvation, for that is only in Christ.

There is therefore a radical discontinuity between the revelation and salvation of God in Christ and other religions. (‘The Uniqueness of Jesus’ Chris Wright)

This is essentially the conservative evangelical position which was championed in the last century by the Swiss theologian Karl Barth.

Questions to think about.

While is agreed that ‘salvation is through Jesus Christ alone’ does this necessarily mean that ‘salvation is only through actual knowledge of Jesus Christ and conscious faith in him.’?

In this question I am not thinking of those who have rejected Christ but those who have never had the opportunity to hear the message and therefore never had the opportunity to respond.

(1)There are those who argue ‘DEFINITELY NO’.Salvation is only achieved through repentance and faith in Christ. Biblical support is strong: Matt:7.14;John 14.6;Acts 4.2.Rom.10.13-14;1 John 5.12.

It has been argued that if this were not the case the motivation for evangelism would not be strong. This position is sometimes referred to as ‘restrictivism’. Critics of this position sometimes argue that God would not send people to hell just because they haven’t believed in Jesus if they hadn’t even heard of him. In other words it is not THEIR fault that they didn’t believe as no one told them. This argument at first sounds strong. But the Bible clearly teaches that all mankind stand under God’s judgement because of our sinfulness whether we have heard of Christ or not.

It also teaches that not all human beings are as sinful as everyone else. Nevertheless this position holds the view that ‘those who will experience the wrath of God and all that is intended by the Bible’s warnings of hell will do so, not because they did not do(i.e. trust in Jesus) but because of what they did know and nevertheless did (i.e. sin against the light of conscience and knowledge of God available to all. Rom.118.32)

(2)Possibly Yes.
Some evangelical believers hold the view that only through Christ can people be saved but nevertheless those ‘saved’ will possibly be more than those who consciously put their faith in Christ. In other words, there may be some who, though never having heard of Christ’s life and work, turn to God in some sort of repentance and faith.

Arguments put forward include the example of the O.T. saints e.g Abraham ( Gen 15.6 and Rom 4.3) Non-Israelite believers. The widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17.24) Naaman( 2 Kings 5.15-18) Also Noah, Job and Daniel (Ez.14.14,20)
The argument goes that as those above found favour with God before Christ, is it not possible that people living today in the ‘AD world’ though ‘informationally BC’. can have a relationship with God and experience His saving grace.

Another argument used is that of the destiny of children dying in infancy and the mentally defective. Throughout Church history it has been the dominant view that such people will be saved without exercising faith in Christ.
It should be noted that the above arguments do not argue for (1) a universalism in which everyone will be saved (2) Salvation is by sincerity or (3) salvation is found in other religions.

Those who hold this view still affirm that Jesus is the final revelation of God and the sole source of salvation. This view asserts that there will be multitudes of who have never heard the name of Christ will nevertheless be saved by the grace of God.

Grounds for this argument include :
Pagan saints-example of OT saints who were not of Israel should not be regarded as exceptional but rather ‘prototypes’ of the much larger body of people throughout the world who will be saved.

Control texts.- traditional interpretation use ‘control texts’ which emphasise God’s wrath and judgement, and the few that will be saved ( Matt.7.13-14;Rom 1-3;Eph.2.12.However if texts which emphasise the universality of God’s saving love were used ( Jn.12.32;1 Tim2.3-6;4.10; Tit2 .11; 2 Pet.3.9) there would be much greater optimism about salvation for those who have never heard the message. Advocates for this position include Clark Pinnock and John Sanders.

It has been argued that unless the church accepts the Restrictivist view of(1)i.e.those who never hear the gospel are without exception eternally lost, one has no motivation for evangelism. This is not necessarily the case. That God may save others who have never named Christ is really God’s business. As a Church we are commanded to bring the message of salvation to the world and for us it is a question of obedience to that command. If God in his mercy saves others without the Church having brought the message to them it will be a cause of great rejoicing and praise to God for his mercy.
It is not a reason for the Church to diminish the preaching of the Good News.The New Testament is full exhortations to the Good News with the neighbours,whether they live at the other end of the street or the other end of the world.Let our passion be that of Charles Wesley who declared:

I would the precious time redeem,
and longer live for this alone,
to spend and to be spent for them
who have not yet my Savior known;
fully on these my mission prove,
and only breathe, to breathe thy love.


D.A. Carson. The Gagging of God; Christianity Confronts Pluralism.
C. Pinnock. Wideness of God’s mercy: the finality of Jesus Christ in a world of Religions.
Christopher Wright. The Uniqueness of Jesus
John Stott. The Contemporary Christian
Ajith Fernando. Sharing the Truth in Love: How to relate to people of other faiths.
H. Netland Dissonant Voices : Religious Pluralism and the question of truth