Thursday, 31 October 2013

A pivotal verse for a pivotal day

31st October 1517 was a pivotal day in the history of the church of Jesus Christ. The nailing of Martin Luther's 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral has been seen as the spark which lit the fires of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. Whilst earlier men such as Wycliffe and Hus had also rejected the teachings of Rome and sought to turn the church back to the teachings of the bible it has been the actions of Martin Luther which have been traditionally viewed as the start of the Reformation. So significant were his actions on 31st October 1517 that this date has become known as Reformation Day, although sadly that fact has been forgotten by many Protestants. What better verse then to consider on this day but the words with which Luther had struggled, yet were also the means of converting that great Reformer, and bringing him out of the darkness of Romanism into the glorious light of the gospel:
'For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith'. (Romans 1:17)
For a long time Luther had struggled with a sense of guilt of his sin. Although he had lived the life of a monk, and been devout in doing so, he knew that was still unrighteous in the sight of God. The demands of the law were such that all his prayers, penance and pilgrimage had not given him peace, either within himself or with God. When he considered the justice and righteousness of God, he could not understand how a man could possibly be justified in the light of God's holy justice. Luther's own words describe how he felt:

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

No beauty contest

Today's Northern Ireland news has featured the fact that Parliament Buildings in Stormont will host the Miss Ulster beauty pageant at the weekend. The news has caused significant debate, particularly because of the entry requirements for the competition. The news that entrants must be aged 18 - 24, be at least 5ft 7ins tall and must be between a size eight and twelve has caused two of the judges to withdraw from the event, stating that they had been unaware of these restrictions. It is not our intention to comment of the rights or wrong of such an event, but simply to use it to as an illustration of an important truth; how will be be judged when we meet God?

1st Samuel 16:7 says that 'man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart'. Whilst the Miss Ulster competition will be concerned mainly with the outward appearance, it is our spiritual condition that will be important when we stand before God on the great day of judgement. Your size, age and looks will matter not, nor will many or those things which people often rely on for acceptance with God. The church you have attended, your baptism, your membership of various religious institutions will count for nothing. You will not be asked about your contribution to the social needs of society, nor how much you have given to charity, nor the list of good works you have done. The only question which will matter on that day is what have you done with Jesus which is called Christ. Social standing, wealth and popularity will mean nothing.

Perhaps you look like a Christian, you act like a Christian and you talk like a Christian. If lined up alongside other people you would be picked out as the one who must be a Christian. You would win the contest. But have you ever been born again? If not then you are disqualified and when you stand before God you will hear those awful words 'I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity'. You have the perfect outward appearance, yet inwardly it is a different matter. Perhaps it is now time to concern yourself with the soul which will live forever rather than the body which will die and corrupt in the grave. 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God'.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Why I am a Free Presbyterian

Why am I a Free Presbyterian? First and foremost I am of course a Christian, but why do I attend the Free Presbyterian Church? Perhaps it is a question you would also do well to ask yourself if you too attend the Free Presbyterian Church. If attend another denomination it may also cause you to ask some questions about the church which you attend. Yet first of all there are issues which we must clearly state are NOT the reason we are Free Presbyterians.

Family influence: Perhaps you are a Free Presbyterian simply because your parents and grandparents before were before you. This is a very perilous position to be in, to be without a personal conviction about the stand of the denomination but to be part of it just because those before you were also. Personal conviction about the truth of God’s word is essential for the future of the denomination if we are to stand steadfastly in times of testing and trial. I am a Free Presbyterian because it is the church I choose, not because of others.

Hope of salvation: I am not a Free Presbyterian because I believe it save my soul. If you hope that your Free Presbyterianism will somehow help you in the day of judgement then you are greatly mistaken. If you have not accepted Christ as your own and personal saviour then you may as well have sat in the chapel all the days of your life listening to a priest blaspheme the name of Christ for it will do you as much good as having been a Free Presbyterian. Acts 4:12 says that ‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’. Salvation is not found in any church but in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Protestants and images of Christ

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6)

When God delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai the application of the second commandment was clear to all. Having come out of the land of Egypt, the Israelites had been surrounded by idol worship, the many Egyptian gods depicted in the form of statues and hieroglyphics. The children of Israel had been living among the Egyptians for many years and had been influenced greatly by that idolatry. Evidence of this was clearly seen by Moses as he descended from the mount to find the people worshipping a gold calf which they had instructed Aaron to build. This was not to be the last time that the people would turn to idol worship, indeed not until they had endured seventy years of Babylonian captivity did they finally turn from it.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The awe of God

Psalm 33:8 says 'Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him'. This verse gives us a principle which ought to govern every aspect of our lives; namely that we should be in awe of God; having that feeling of fearful wonder coupled with adoration. The Collins English Dictionary gives two definitions of awe; Firstly that of it being 'overwhelming wonder, admiration, respect, or dread' and secondly that it is 'power to inspire fear or reverence'. These definitions do go some way to explaining how we ought to be in awe of God, and the effect that awe should have upon us. So much of the awe of God has been lost in today's church, and one reason for this must surely be that we do not have the right understanding of the person and nature of God.