Monday, 27 May 2013

Robert Shaw quote on toleration and liberty of conscience

In today's politically correct society where all beliefs are considered to be equally valid, and toleration is presented as making no distinction between them but allowing all views, the following quote is of interest to the Christian. It is taken from the introductory essay in Robert Shaw's Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

'But there is a very prevalent and yet very false method of thinking, or pretending to think, respecting toleration and liberty of conscience. Many seem to be of the opinion that toleration consists in making no distinction between truth and error, but regarding them with equal favour. This opinion, if carefully analysed, would be found to be essentially of an infidel character. Many seem to think that by liberty of conscience is meant that every man should be at liberty to act in everything according to his own inclination, without regard to feelings, convictions and rights of other men. This would, indeed, be to convert liberty into lawlessness, and to make conscience of licentiousness. But the Confession proceeds upon the principle that truth can be distinguished from error, right from wrong; that though conscience cannot be compelled, it may be enlightened; and that when sinful, corrupt and prone to licentiousness, men may be lawfully restrained from the commission of such excesses as are offensive to public feeling, and injurious to the moral welfare of the community. If this be intolerance, it is a kind of intolerance of which none will complain but those who wish to be free from all restraint of law, human or divine.'

Sunday, 26 May 2013

The Christian living for the weekend

Many people today live for the weekend. Their employments and duties during the week can be endured only with the prospect of 5 o’clock on a Friday evening when they can once again engage in their social life. The entertainment of the world is all that keeps them going during the week; once Saturday night has ended it appears to them that those things which they enjoy most are finished for another week. Next Friday cannot arrive soon enough for them. When we make this statement you might imagine that we are referring to unbelievers, yet it is equally the case with many Christians. They too, like the world, look forward more than anything to those social events at the weekend when they can get back to enjoying themselves. Whilst a time of lawful recreation and relaxation is not to be denied, the spiritual benefit or appropriateness of that which many Christians involve themselves in is questionable to say the least. Are our weekends spent more in the company of the unsaved than with our fellow believers? Do we find ourselves at ease with, and desirous of the atmosphere and pleasures of the worlds entertainment? Is this not a cause for concern? The weekend ought to be a time that the Christian looks forward to, yet for a different reason to the world, for the reason that it includes that one day in seven set aside for the worship of God. Do we look forward to the weekend because we have a hunger for the preaching of God’s Word, or do we live for the weekend in the same manner as the world?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Jeremiah, Judah and Northern Ireland

This week Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson launched an attack on his critics describing them as 'a tribe of Jeremiahs'. No doubt he chose the term considering them to be nothing but doom and gloom merchants, yet it was a very poor comparison to make and detrayed an ignorance of scripture. Jeremiah was God's appointed prophet, sent to warn the people of Judah against the judgement which God would very soon visit upon their land. Whilst to many at that time this seemed to be a very depressing message, it was not a message of Jeremiah's choosing, but that which God had revealed to him. In the eyes of the Lord Jeremiah was a faithful servant, one of but few in a time of spiritual apostasy. For the First Minister to describe others as a Jeremiah in a derogatory sense indicates that he looks at Jeremiah from the viewpoint of the ungodly, something which he would do well think over. The faithful Christian would not be disheartened to be described as a Jeremiah, indeed our province could do with many Jeremiahs, a tribe of them would do the land no end of good. Peter Robinson's comments were unwise and unscriptural, and although they were used in the political sphere, they give us cause to think of spiritual matters, of Jeremiah's ministry and what comparison can be made with the times we live in, particularly the spiritual state and direction of Northern Ireland.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The exclusivity of heaven

There is a very prominent view in Northern Ireland society today that everything we do must be inclusive. Catholic and Protestant must be brought together in education and social venture. Every event organised by local councils must be branded as being inclusive, no-one should be left out. Right across the United Kingdom and indeed across the world, the message that is promoted is that all religions are to considered of equal value, each offering its own way to God. To suggest that there is only one way to God, that certain lifestyles are incompatible with Christianity, and that not all are worthy of heaven is to be a bigot, to be narrow minded. Or so we are told.

Although this view is prominent in society, and even in many Christian circles today, such a teaching is contrary to scripture. That there are many ways to heaven and that we should be inclusive is our views is politically correct and popular, yet it is not the view of the bible. Jesus Christ said in John 14:6 that ‘I am the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me’. Heaven is not inclusive but exclusive, it is not open to those professing all faiths or none, but to one faith alone; that which is founded in Jesus Christ and his all sufficient sacrifice for sin.

The way of life is narrow, not broad, for Revelation 21:27 makes it very clear that there is a great restriction on entrance into the kingdom of God; ‘And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life'. Only those who ‘are written in the Lamb’s book of life’ will be admitted, but all others will be excluded from the presence of the Lord forever, not because of class or race or creed, but because of their sin. All of mankind, without the cleansing blood of Christ, is defiled in the sight of God, working iniquity, and bringing upon themselves the judgement of God. Such a condition leaves them outside of the kingdom of heaven, and there are no exceptions. There is no salvation  or forgiveness of sin to be found in the religions of Islam and Buddhism or any other of the worlds religions, nor in the nominal observance of Christianity. Whilst heaven is not exclusive to a particular denomination it is still exclusive to those who have been washed in the blood of Christ, those ‘whose hope is in the Lord his God’.

The question for you then is will you gain access to the kingdom of God? Have you been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ or will you be counted among those who shall ‘in no wise enter into it'? The rules concerning our entrance into God’s kingdom are not flexible but the same for all men. You cannot barter your way into heaven, there is but one way, through God’s own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. If you trust in him today then you will be brought into that family of God, and partake of all the benefits which are exclusively bestowed upon his children. If not, then you will be barred from heaven and the presence of God for all eternity.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

10 Tips for using Facebook effectively in Christian witness

The rise of social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter has had a huge impact on how people interact with each other. Our lives are now communicated to others 24 hours a day, news travels faster than it ever did before, almost instantaneously. We communicate with more friends, more often, and more easily. Whilst social media websites can bring problems they have also brought many opportunities, not least for how Christians can seek to spread the message of the gospel and be a witness for Christ. Here are 10 tips on how you can use websites such as Facebook effectively as a Christian.