This World is God's World (4) October 2022
This World is God's World
News & comment from a Christian perspective
By Peter Ratcliff
PICKING THE BEST FIGHTS
Some are cowards and others are always fighting. Personally I hate fighting.
I gave up trying to win arguments with my sister when I was about 5 as I realised it was pointless. Since then I have tended to give up fighting for everything and would rather walk away. And when diplomacy fails we are perfectly entitled to walk away rather than fight.
As Christians we might get into many theological battles. Yet what do we achieve? Of course we should make our case but there is a time to quit. Indeed sometimes we will have no choice but to simply be thrown "out of their synagogues" as Jesus said in John 16:2. If we do what we believe is right, then, we might say: so what if others refuse to agree!
There are two dangers here. One is that we fight on every front against every error to the extent that we wear ourselves out and lose our joy in the Lord.
The other danger is that we throw in the towel completely so that we no longer fight any essential battle.
But there is one war we will never give up and that is the battle against sin. And this war brings us into many battles. Chiefly we go on the offensive to call sinners to repentance and faith. We may feel tempted to moderate our message but it is impossible. And the wonderful thing is that the more we engage in this fight, the stronger we get. Taking the Gospel to other people may leave us with a few scars but the Lord will deliver us.
So, pick your fights and be encouraged!
PRAYING FOR EACH OTHER
We have been doing some street preaching most Fridays this year and felt we needed to post on Facebook to ask friends to pray for us. The prayer has been blessed with lovely and lively sessions of outreach.
But shouldn't we always pray? Yes, but Jesus showed and taught that we find it hard and in Luke 18 he taught that we should not faint. He gives much help.
One aspect of this help is that we pray for each other better than we do for ourselves. This is because our prayers for ourselves can be too difficult or introspective. We can pray more plainly and directly for others. Perhaps we even pray more believingly for others. Whatever our fault, the Lord is very gracious in providing such means. Let us be fervent in our prayers for each other and for the success of our churches.
GRIEVE NOT THE SPIRIT OF GOD
We need the Holy Spirit without whom we can do nothing. If we grieve the Spirit through sin and he depart from us, then all our preaching will be in vain.
Where is the blessing? We can preach the blessing of Christ with us but where is the blessing?
We must forgive one another. Matthew 6:15. If we cannot forgive because of ongoing unrepentance or bitterness or hardness of heart, then we must bring one another together and mediate. Matthew 18:15,16. "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother."
This should be sufficient but if not, "But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established."
Christ died for his people therefore the people of God must hold each other in extremely high esteem. 1 John 5:1. We cannot rest when this fellowship is broken. We cannot come to the Lord's Supper unless we have tried to do everything possible to restore it. If we do not make this effort then we grieve the Spirit.
That is not to say that we ignore church discipline. We must then be forced to take sides too. But we must respect the consciences of others and not let a root of bitterness grow up. We must not be hardened by loyalty to one another. We must stand boldly but full of love.
Positively Romans 14:19
Negatively 1 John 3:14; 4:20
OUR MISSION FIELD
"The people are breathing but they are not living". These are the words of a woman in Aberdeen at a crisis centre. She was describing life to Donald Morrison, Home Missionary of the Free Church of Scotland Continuing.
Mr Morris on told us that despite the hardness, after giving out mountains of literature during door to door visitation, there had been some encouragements. One man had been thinking about going to church but didn't know where to go or what to do or to say, so was very thankful to be visited.
Mr Morrison said, "We can never speak to the wrong person about Christ."
What was particularly affecting was how Mr Morrison began by reading a part of his testimony when called to the ministry, especially how, despite a clear call, he felt himself completely unable. It is right that God makes us feel completely unable and to feel that what lies ahead of us is completely impossible. This strange feeling is sent to humble us so that we put our whole trust in him and that, when we have success, we give all the glory to God and not to ourselves.
Mr Morrison was speaking at the September 2022 School in Theology held at Larbert. www.schoolintheology.org.uk
GETTING TO THE POINT
If folk see our Bible or have some reason to ask us a question regarding our faith, the first thing they tend to ask us is what church we are from. This very frequently leads into the question of what we think about women's ordination, homosexuality and transgender. At this point we need to be wise lest the opportunity is quickly lost. We must recognise that the person asking the question is most likely doing so because they believe that Bible believing Christians are opposed to these things. If they can do this they can, in their opinion, quickly end the conversation, feeling convinced that we are bigoted and that the claims of religion can safely be ignored.
Therefore we need to be wise. It is often best to assume that the person asking such a question is coming from the perspective which believes that men and women are completely interchangeable and that homosexuallity is a fixed state. Therefore they conclude that to call a person to repent of homosexuallity is unkind.
We need to engage with these people as those whom we assume have no understanding of the basic creation of man as male and female, of the fall of man, of the lost state of man and of the inability of man to revive himself.
We can briefly explain that the greatest need today is not to propose alternative politics but to consider our ways and to consider the claim of Christians that we have been forgiven and accepted by God and that we have peace and joy and everlasting life.
If our investigator continues to say that surely Jesus would accept everybody, we need to make it clear that Jesus accepts nobody. All have sinned. All require what the Bible calls a new birth.
Furthermore we need to explain briefly that we quite understand that people without God will look for happiness by following impossible imaginations such as alternative identities. We also point out that these alternatives will never satisfy.
Most importantly we want to emphasise that the Gospel is the only way, not because we are trying to exclude any particular sort of person, but rather because, if salvation was not simply the faith of a despairing soul in the perfect Christ, then it could never be sure or joyful. See Romans 4:16.
Then we can urge the person to not trust in their own works or imagination but rather to cast their souls onto Christ and receive this amazing saving grace.
Then they will know that we are not against them but are bringing them the most wonderful message of salvation so that they might come to know the love of God in a way far greater than they could ever have imagined.
500 YEAR LUTHER NEW TESTAMENT
Did you know that September 2022 was the 500th Anniversary of Luther's translation of the New Testament into German?
Don't be surprised the there are no celebrations. After all, who wants to remind people about the Gospel of salvation when they are enjoying sin? Any depravity is preferred. See Romans 1:32.
Luther's September Testament was the first translation for ages and notably the first to be printed and produced in large numbers to revive souls out of the gloom and doom of the Roman Catholic religion with its unknown Latin and very dark ages.
And what about this: Luther was in hiding and he translated it in only 11 weeks. Translations today typically take many years!
Admittedly Luther's quick translation was revised with help from Melanchthon but even that didn't take long. Pray for Bible translators today that they may have both accuracy and speed!
And let us celebrate the great work of God in previous generations, praying for great things in our own day.