Individualism Within the Church?

‘He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works (Psalm 33:15).’

Psalm 33 is a beautiful song of hope (V. 18) for those who trust (V. 21) in the LORD. It speaks of God’s sovereignty and of His majesty. He surveys the world from heaven (V. 13) and from where He controls the affairs of men, but what is fascinating, ‘He fashions their hearts individually (V. 15).’ He knows all about them; furthermore He delivers their souls from death if they fear Him (V.V. 18, 19).

In the UK at the moment we are in the last week of campaigning before a general election; therefore we may ponder the following words from the aforementioned Psalm: ‘The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, and the people whom He has chosen as His own inheritance (V.V. 10-12).’

The intricacies of God’s workings are beyond fathoming; they leave us in awe of Him. Every single individual is fashioned by Him (Job 10:8; Psalm 119:73), and He places him or her in particular situations – perhaps in a family, in a town, in a principality within a nation. But what is more significant, He adopts His loved ones into His family (Galatians  4:5-7; Ephesians 1:5) – that is the one true church of Jesus Christ.

This morning while trawling through Twitter, I found a tweet from a lady who said she didn’t know what denomination she belonged to, as she had associated herself with several. She was perplexed, and I can understand why, but if she is a believer, then she is a child of God (John 1:12), and she is a member of the church of Jesus. However, as yet, she has not found a local church of which she is a missing, but necessary member (1 Corinthian 12:12-27). When she does find the church, it will be confirmed to her by the Holy Spirit that she belongs there and that she has a part to play. I pray that the Spirit might lead her to this church.

From within the nations God’s people are called by Him (1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:14) to join with Him in local churches. They are composed of individuals in Christ, collectively joined together as His identifiable living body on earth, and His Holy Spirit dwells within them (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Every member has his or her part to play, and ‘the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all (1 Corinthians 12:7).’ They are all gifted with talents they can use to God’s glory as they serve Him, and love one another and their neighbours as themselves.

Paul sums it up in Romans:

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another (Romans 12:4, 5).’

‘For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (Romans 14:7, 8).’

‘Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5, 6).’

Conclusion: There is no Place for Individualism

Each one of us is accountable for everything we do (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12), and although God has given us hearts, minds and bodies, He has made us [believers] to be integral members of Christ’s body, i.e., the church; therefore we must act in unison with Him and be submissive to Him and to one another (Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 5:5).

We are individuals, but we only have one character, because our identity is in Christ. We are His and He is ours. Christ is all in all (Colossians 3:11). Wherever we go, whatever we do (Galatians 3:23), whatever we think and say – along with our prayers, all of them are for honouring Him and for giving Him the glory.

Let is remember that He has placed us where we are for His purposes, i.e., to do those good works that He has preordained from before time (Ephesians 2:10). We are His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) and lanterns of His light; we are the salt that doesn’t lose its saltiness (cf. Mark 9:50). None of these things are possible in our own strength and power, but by His enabling through the Holy Spirit.

So although we are individuals with our own unique characters, we act in obedience to Jesus (Galatians 6:2), recognising He is abundantly worthy of our love and adoration because He died to give us everlasting life (John 3:16). He first loved us (1 John 4:19), and because of this we love Him. Most importantly our identity is in Him, and expressions of our individualism that conflict with our unity in Him are no longer of any significance, as they no longer have any place in our hearts.

‘Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called (1 Corinthians 7:20).’

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The Church Calendar

My wife recently bought me a calendar for next year. I find a calendar is essential, because without it I would forget appointments and the dates and times of future events involving me. A calendar is especially useful when it comes to arranging meetings and family get-togethers. Of course, today, all of these things can be programmed into the ubiquitous mobile phone. If you’ve got one of those speaking gizmos that are linked to your phone via Bluetooth it can page you in advance, advising when your next engagement is due.

Now when it comes to the times and dates of church meetings, events, etc., a church will usually publish it’s own calendar. The church of which I am a member produces a monthly calendar that can be downloaded from the church website. That’s really useful, because it informs members as to what’s going on. Hardcopies are also available for those who do not have access to the Internet.

The Legacy of Constantine

Over a period of five hundred years after the Christian church came into being at Pentecost (Acts 2) pagan influences brought about a remarkable change in how it worshipped and assembled.

Constantine, as early as 327 AD, constructed a building on the lines of a Roman basilica as a place of worship for the assembly, and many more were built for his state-sponsored church. This was a travesty, because it changed the nature of the church; instead of independently worshipping as separate churches in people’s homes, Christians were forced to assemble en masse. Typically, under his pagan leadership, Constantine adorned the Church of the Apostles in Constantinople with monuments to the twelve apostles, and he placed them in a tomb that was reserved for himself. This was blatant, pompous glorification of self.

By the late fourth century things had worsened, and more and more pagan customs were absorbed into their religious practices, along with liturgies, sermons, clerical vestments and a hierarchical leadership structure.

Churches today still suffer from Constantine’s legacy, not least by honouring *liturgical calendars.

Liturgical Calendars

The earliest of these calendars was a compilation of feast days, fasts and saints’ days. Today similar cyclical calendars are adhered to throughout Christendom. They lay down schedules of worship that must be observed through the liturgical year. Calendars of denominations vary, but in the main their substance is the same.

The Church of England’s liturgical calendar is similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church. It is divided into seasons – the first being Advent, followed by Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter.

The ‘feast of Christ’s nativity’ was first observed by the Roman church in 336 AD, but it must be pointed out that there is no biblical evidence supporting the view that New Testament Christians observed the same feast. They did not make the 25th December a day of celebration or of remembrance. Indeed, even now, biblical scholars are divided as to the actual date of the birth of our Saviour.

Why Follow a Calendar?

Since the early church did not commemorate the birth of Jesus, why do Christians celebrate it today?

The same question could be asked of the observances of Epiphany, Lent and Easter. Likewise is there a biblical statute that obliges a church to meet on a **Sunday for worship? Some point to the assumed fact that NT Christians regularly met on a Sunday for the breaking of bread, but there is no specific biblical text stating they regularly assembled (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2) on a Sunday.

Scholars might reason that because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday, the early church chose to worship and remember Him on the first day of the week. They could further ague that as Jews kept the Sabbath on a Saturday, by worshipping on a Sunday, Christians would witness to the fact that they were no longer bound under the Law of Moses. They were freed from the Old Covenant through the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood (Luke 22:20).

This freedom in Christ was taught by Paul the Apostle, although he along with other Christians, referred to the Jewish calendar (Acts 16:13). In that context he wrote in Romans 14:5-6 that: ‘One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.’

It’s obvious that the Jewish converts were struggling with their new identity. In that respect Paul implored the church at Colosse: ‘Therefore let no one judge you in food or drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ (Colossians 2:16, 17).’

So I ask again, why do so many churches today subscribe to liturgical calendars like those of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church?

There is only One ‘Memorial’ Ordinance

Jesus only instituted one memorial ordinance, and that was the breaking of bread ‘in remembrance of’ Him:

At the Passover supper before His death on the cross He ‘…. .. took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you (Luke 22:19, 20; cf. Matthew 26:26-29).”’

Concerning this same ordinance of our Lord, Paul had a direct revelation from Jesus specifying that the memorial should be commemorated for ‘as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).”’


Those who subscribe to liturgies are into ‘works’ that do not bring salvation to them or to anyone; for salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8, 9).

If a church is to honour Him, the members should consider the matter of observing particular days, remembering what Paul said to the Roman church, “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind (Romans 14:5).’”

*The Liturgical Year

**Special Days

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Authority Under God

‘Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God (Romans 13:1).’

The Father’s Authority

God the Father sent Jesus (John 5:22, 23; 10:36; 1 John 4:14) to reconcile all things to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19; Colossians 1:20), and when His mission has been fully accomplished, the Son will be subject to the Father: ‘Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).’

God the Father also sent the Holy Spirit (Acts 2): ‘“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you (John 14:26).”’

So the Father had the authority to send both the Son and the Helper [Holy Spirit] to accomplish His will. One of the purposes of His sending of the Helper was to ‘testify’ of Jesus: ‘“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me (John 15:26).”’

This verse also tells us that Jesus Himself was a co-sender of the Holy Spirit with His Father. All three Persons of the Godhead worked together in harmony (cf. Genesis 1:26).

It must be remembered that Jesus, ‘who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name (Philippians 2:6-9).’

Note that it is God the Father who exalts the Son.

The Authority of Jesus

Jesus said, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does the works (John 14:10).” 

The indwelling Father did His ‘works’ through His Son who spoke with the authority of the Father.

Jesus also said, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me (John 14:24).”

Therefore the words of Jesus while He was on the earth were the very words of His Father.

After accomplishing what He was sent to do, and shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him (John 17:1, 2).”

God the Father gave Jesus ‘authority over all flesh’ for the purpose of saving some to eternal life and glorifying His Father.

After rising from the dead and appearing to many (Acts 13:30, 31) before His ascension, Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18, 19).”

Effectively, Jesus gave authority to His disciples to preach the good news of salvation in His name to the nations. His disciples today have this same authority. In fact Jesus has commanded them with these words: ‘having gone, then, disciple all the nations (Matthew 28:19 Young’s Literal Translation).’

While carrying out His mission on earth Jesus was repeatedly challenged as to who gave Him authority to teach His gospel. ‘Now when He came into the temple, the chief priest and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave You this authority (Matthew 21:23)?”

The people, too, were astonished, because ‘He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes (Matthew 7:29).’

Not only did Jesus demonstrate His authority by what He said, but by what He did. He healed the sick (Matthew 4:24), cast out ‘unclean spirits (Mark 1:27) and raised the dead (Luke 7:11-15; 8:49-56; John 11:38-44).

Authority Within the Church

To the Corinthian church Paul wrote, ‘For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed. – lest I seem to terrify you by letters (2 Corinthians 10:8, 9).’ [See also 13:10.]

The writer of Hebrews told the church to: ‘Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you (Hebrews 13:17).’

Paul using his authority instructed Timothy, ‘And I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve (1 Timothy 2:12, 13).’ He also instructed the Corinthian church, ‘For man is not from the woman, but woman from the man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels (1 Corinthians 11:8-10).’

He wrote these words to Titus who was supervising the church in Crete: ‘Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men (Titus 3:1, 2).’

On similar lines Peter wrote to the scattered churches: ‘Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good (1 Peter 2:13).’

These leaders within the church exercised their authority and exhorted those under them to respect civil authorities.

Satan’s Authority

Even the devil [satan] was given authority, for He said to Jesus, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours (Luke 4:6).”

Couched in the figurative language of the Book of Revelation we find that the devil [the dragon] gives his authority to the beast: ‘Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority (Revelation 13:2).’

But the power and the authority of the devil has been restrained until the day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:10); for Jesus triumphed over him at the cross, and He rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. From there at the right hand of the Father He rules over His church and waits until the Father makes His enemies His footstool (Matthew 22:44).

Final Authority

‘‘Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says, “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).’

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I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life

‘Jesus said to Him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).”’

The Trinity

Jesus describes Himself as ‘the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).’ We know that God is Spirit (John 4:24), and Jesus is God (John 10:30). God is also One God (Galatians 3:20), but at the same time He is three Persons (Matthew 28:19). He is the tripartite God, who, in theological jargon, is the Trinity.

All of this seems confusing – almost incomprehensible, and yet if we are to know God we must understand the relationship of the three Persons of the Godhead, i.e., the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Regarding the apparent conundrum of the three Persons, God does not leave us in the dark; for His Son is the Light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5), and He sent Him to reveal Himself (2 Corinthians 4:4; Hebrews 1:3) and to bring us salvation (1 John 4:14).

The Father chose Mary to bear and give birth to His only begotten Son Jesus (1 John 4:9). Mary was a virgin (Matthew 1:18), and she was not without sin (Romans 3:23); but through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) Jesus was conceived and He grew within Mary’s womb. At the right time of God’s choosing and the right place, Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-7), Mary gave birth to her first Son. As such He was and is unique – both truly Man (Romans 5:15) and truly God (1 Timothy 2:5). Having been born through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

The conception and birth of Jesus was perhaps the most important miracle of God; for without Jesus there could be no salvation (cf. Galatians 2:21). The whole of mankind would be condemned to everlasting hell.

Jesus the Way

‘Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:19-23).’

In addition to being the Truth Jesus tells us He is the Way. Of course, He is the Way to the Father. We cannot enter into the Holy of Holies, the very Presence of the Father, except through the mediation of Jesus who died and made a way through the veil of His body (Hebrews 10:19, 20). Jesus cleanses us and takes away our sin (1 John 1:7) and He makes atonement for us. In His righteousness and perfection through the shedding of His blood we can enter into the presence of His Father (Acts 2:28).

Jesus the Truth

‘“However, when He, the Spirit of *truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come (John 16:13).”’

Jesus is who He says He is. He cannot lie; for He tells us He is the Truth (John 14:6). This informs us that He is the absolute Truth. Every truth is based on the fact that Jesus is the Truth (1 John 5:20). You cannot have variable or different kinds of truths, nor can truth be relative to situations or circumstances. Truth cannot be based on something that is not fixed and sure, and that is Jesus who is the Truth; He’s the same today as He was yesterday and will be forevermore (Hebrews 13:8).

Built into each one of us we have a knowledge of what is right and wrong (Romans 2:15; 1 John 3:18-20). We all know that if we tell a lie it is wrong to do so (cf. Exodus 20:16). If we are sons of God our desire is not to lie; indeed, in obedience to Him we will not lie. The Holy Spirit dwells in us (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19); therefore we cannot willingly lie. Jesus lives in us, and we in Him (John 17:21); therefore how can we deliberately lie? Our desire is always to tell the truth. The Spirit testifies ‘of the truth (John 15:26)’ and He gives the glory to Jesus (Ephesians 1:13, 14).

Jesus the Life

“I am the resurrection and the **life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this (John 11:25, 26)?”

Not only is Jesus the Way (John 14:6) to the Father, but He is the One who calls His disciples (John 15:16) and teaches them to walk in His ways (John 8:12). He is our Exemplar (1 Peter 2:21). Without Him there would be no life. He is Life itself (John 1:4; 1 John 1:1, 2; 5:11). Jesus said He is ‘the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).’ Jesus is eternal life (1 John 1:2) and He is the Resurrection and the Life. He is the One who gives life (John 5:21; 6:27). Amazingly He gives physical life to both the good and the bad; and He gives His Holy Spirit to those of His choosing (John 3:3-8). In Him they have eternal life; for He is eternal. He has always existed and He will always exist (1 John 5:20). Our [believers] eternal life is in Him.


*Believing the Truth

**The Meaning of Life

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Is there Hope Beyond Lawlessness?

‘Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).’

Just imagine you are an avowed hedonist who lives on a planet whose name is Utopia, and you are curious to learn about a strange people who inhabit a not too distant planet called Earth.

In the rainbow ‘thought-bubbles’ hovering above your head are the enticing words, “Maybe life on Earth is more pleasurable than here?”

Fired by your insatiable lust for pleasure, you beam yourself down. On landing successfully, and hidden beneath your cloak of invisibility, you observe the earthlings. You are utterly amazed, because instead of being civil to one another, many of them abuse, hate, and even kill their kindred (Exodus 20:13).

Wherever you go it is seems they all disobey authorities, governments, kings and queens (Titus 3:1, 2), and even their offspring disrespect their own fathers and mothers (Exodus 20:12). Anarchy and lawlessness reigns among them.

You ask yourself, “Why?”

By chance you find a tattered Book in a pile of trash that is destined for a recycling plant. The Author of the Book is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15), the Creator of the Universe – God the infinite eternal One who made all things (John 1:1-3).

Probing deeply within His Book, which is called the Bible, you discover that without exception all earthlings suffer from an ailment that some call sin and others lawlessness (Romans 3:23; Cf. 1 John 3:4). It is a pervasive and deadly disease that is inherited from the first of the earthlings, the man Adam.

God formed him from ‘the dust of the ground  (Genesis 2:7),’ and He gave Him a woman whom He formed from one of his ribs (Genesis 2:22). Adam named her Eve (Genesis 3:20), and she became his wife (Genesis 2:24, 25). They were the progenitors of all the earthlings.

God commanded them to multiply and to fill the face of the earth (Genesis 1:28; 6:1; 9:7), but because of Adam’s lawlessness God decreed that they and their offspring would die (Genesis 2:17; 1 Corinthians 15:22) – spiritually and physically.

The more you probe into the Bible you discover there are a number of earthlings who have been cured of Adam’s disease. They have been chosen by God (Deuteronomy 7:6; Cf. James 2:5) to be His special people (Deuteronomy 14:2), and they will never die (John 11:26). He has separated them from all the tribes of the Earth (Leviticus 20:26; Matthew 25:32), and He has miraculously infused them with His life-giving Holy Spirit (Joh 3:3-8) who enables them to love Him and their neighbours as themselves (Luke 10:27).

This Holy Spirit utterly transforms them (2 Corinthians 5:17), and instead of bickering, abusing, hating and killing other earthlings, they pray to God whom they call their ‘Father (Matthew 6:9),  and they ask Him for opportunities for sharing His love with other earthlings. No longer lawbreakers, they obey the law (Galatians 6:2) of HIs Son Jesus, who is Christ, the Messiah (John 1:41; 4:25) .

As you continue to satisfy your curiosity you discover that their Father God lavishes His love upon them (John 3:16; 1 John 4:16), and He gives them faith (Ephesians 2:8) in Jesus who sacrificed Himself on a wooden cross many years ago. By dying and suffering in their place He annulled their lawless deeds. He made them precious (1 Peter 2:4) and acceptable to His Father. As He hung on the cross, this Son of God voluntarily gave up His life (John 19:30) in exchange for the lives of His Farther’s chosen ones (Ephesians 1:4).

He died (John 19:30) and he was buried, but two days later His Father miraculously raised Him to life (Acts 10:40; 1 Peter 1:21). In like manner He will raise to life His chosen earthlings (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Thereafter they will live with Him and Jesus in a new world yet to be formed by God (Revelation 21:1).

You are amazed to discover that in this new world there will be no hatred, no murders, no anarchy, no rebellion and no lawlessness (Revelation 21:4, 8, 27) – only perfect love (1 John 4:8). The Father and His Son (Revelation 21: 22) and the indwelling (Isaiah 57:15) Holy Spirit, united with the reincarnated earthlings will live there for evermore (1 Corinthians 15:50-54), and they will have countless pleasures (Job 36:11; Psalm 16:11; 36:8).

You conclude that your lustful, pleasure-seeking life on planet Utopia is by comparison with the life to come for God’s redeemed and chosen people a meaningless vanity (Ecclesiastes 2:1; 12:8).

Tragically since you are not an earthling, you have no place on Earth, nor do you have an inheritance (Ephesians 1:11; Acts 20:32; 26:18) in God’s new world. You are without hope (2 Thessalonians 2:16), and your only option is to beam yourself back to the planet from whence you came: a place of lust, selfishness, delusion and death.

If only you were an earthling you would plead with God for His mercy and ask for His forgiveness, and you would turn from your lawlessness.

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Common Grace

‘Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O LORD, Your preserve man and beast (Psalm 36:5, 6).’

‘The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works (Psalm 145:9).’

What is common grace? It is God’s loving and favourable disposition towards the human race, which stops short of effectual salvation through the gracious atonement of His Son (Cf. Romans 3:24).

So then, there are two communities: the saved and the unsaved. The former is in appearance identical to the latter, but God’s unmerited favour [saving grace] is given to the former. God’s common grace [universal favour] is dispensed to both communities, and both profit from His gifts of the sun and rain.

‘…… for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45),’ and Psalm 36:5, 6 declares:‘Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens, and Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O LORD, You preserve man and beast.’

God graciously preserves all men and beasts (Psalm 36:6) until such time as He determines to end their lives. He feeds them and clothes them and sets them in their particular communities. So God bestows gifts upon individuals regardless of their moral status. This is the nature of God’s common grace.

Psalm 145:9 states: ‘The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works,’ and verse 17 continues:‘The LORD is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works.’

Intrinsically everyone has some of God’s characteristics because we are made in His image (Genesis 1:26; 9:6) and He has endued us with a sense of what is right and wrong [good and bad] (Genesis 3:22):’“for in Him we live and move and have our being, as some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring (Acts 17:28).’”’

Therefore because of inherent common grace most parents love and care for their children.“Or what man is there among you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:9-11).”’

So evil men and women are capable of kind acts, and in the providence of God they treat people kindly. King Cyrus, for example, was unregenerate, and yet he was an instrument of God’s grace. He carried out God’s will by helping repatriate the Israelites (Isaiah 45:1-4).

Two Communities

There are two communities, and both are physically related, since they are the offspring of Adam and Eve – There’s the church community which is composed of God’s people who have been saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8), and there’s the community of the unsaved who lack faith in the Saviour.

The church is separate from the world, and spiritually alive in Christ, because its members have been given new life through the power of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8). In Christ they have everlasting life (John 3:16). They are no longer dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).

The church is a blessing to all, because it generally supports civil law and order and the payment of taxes for the provision of things like hospitals, schools, local government, the police etc. (Romans 13:1-7).

The church cannot turn a blind eye to the homeless or to those ensnared by addictions; nor can it ignore the plight of the innocent who are trapped and enslaved by evil slave masters. It opposes persecution and injustice, and it prays for God’s blessings on those who do not know Him. It volunteers and helps in practical ways by assisting when tragedy strikes, such as during recent floods in the Midlands. By doing these things the church is a facilitator of God’s grace. As it loves its neighbours it is a witness of Christ (Matthew 19:19b; Galatians 5:14).

The Scriptures inform us that wickedness will increase (2 Timothy 2:3), but the end will not come until there is a complete breakdown of worldwide law and order. This will signal the time of the coming of the the Antichrist [the Man of Sin] (1 John 2:18). With restraints gone, the Antichrist will step forth (2 Thessalonians 2;9, 10), and human law will cease to reflect God’s law.

The unbelieving community [although recipients of God’s common grace] will be condemned (V.12), but through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, God’s people will be saved to eternal life (V.V. 13, 14).

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At the Name of Jesus

‘“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also, but all these things they will do to you, for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me (John 15:20, 21).”’

Fallen Men and Women (Romans 1:18-2:3)

People do not like it when you tell them you have a very *personal Friend (John 15:14) whose name is Jesus. Jesus is not welcome by most of them. They are annoyed by Him. His very name is an affront to their way of life and their interests and all they love. Most of them are selfish, and as far as they are concerned the world revolves around them. What they desire and what they want is what counts! They are egocentric to the core, and many of them don’t care about fellow human beings. They have no conscience (1 Timothy 4:2) and no feelings for the deprivations and sufferings of those less fortunate than themselves. As long as they are ‘all right Jack’ the world is ‘hunky-dory’.

The very name of Jesus is an anathema to them. They ask, “Why does He give His love freely (Romans 5:8)? Why does He forgive those who hate Him (Cf. Matthew 12:32)? Why does He show kindness to the weak, widows, orphans (James 1:27), the disenfranchised and the poor of this world?” Why is He merciful towards them (Deuteronomy 7:9)?”

They are so far removed from such love by their sin, they have no understanding of God’s love. Therefore it makes no sense whatsoever to them.

Jesus is an enigma to them. They do not get it. They reason that if He is such a generous, caring and loving person – a God of love (1 John 4:8), why does He judge people and send them to hell (Revelation 20:13-15)? Yet at the same time they try to convince themselves there is no such place as hell, so why should they care? They are not going to end up there, but they have a nagging doubt.

Paradoxically, although they claim they do not believe in Jesus, they resent His commands. They dislike Him and rebel against Him (Cf. Isaiah 65:1, 2). They say, “Who is He to tell us we should not have sex outside of marriage? What right does He have to define marriage? Indeed, why should marriage be between one man and one woman for as long as they shall live (Genesis 2:24)? Furthermore, what’s wrong with men who identity themselves as women? Why can’t they be allowed to act as if they are (Cf. Deuteronomy 22:5), even though they cannot bear children and they are endowed with male genitalia?” They ask, “Why shouldn’t men have sex with other men, or women with women (Romans 1:26-28)? Why shouldn’t women have the same freedom as men and have whatever sexual relationships they desire?”

They resent what they perceive as unwanted and unwarranted intrusion into their lives. For that reason there’s no way they could have Jesus as their Friend. Besides, He would also have to be their King (1 Timothy 6:15)! No longer could they live as they want……… But what they don’t know is that true freedom, joy (1 Peter 1:8) and satisfaction can only be found by those who have a loving relationship with Jesus. No one could have a better Friend (John 15:14, 15); for He loves His friends to the extent that He gave His own life for them so that they may live with Him forever (John 3:16).

Salvation, Judgment and Jesus’ Exaltation

Christians, just as your Friend was persecuted, so too, you can expect to be persecuted by those who hate (Cf. Deuteronomy 7:10) His name (John 15:20, 21).

Your solace and consolation is in Him, because He is **all-knowing and He loves you. He knows absolutely everything about you – even more than you know yourself. He is the One who made you (Psalm 139:13-16), the One who has charted and predestined your life from beginning to end (Ephesians 1:11). He sustains you, He feeds you, He clothes you, and by His Spirit He guides you. He loves you. He makes you members of His body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27) and He gives you brothers and sisters in Him (Matthew 12:50). He bestows upon you an inheritance (Acts 20:32; 26:18). That is why you love His name.

By contrast, His wrath will be revealed to the unrepentant who ‘suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).’

They know of God; for He is ***evident to them (V. 19) by His works of creation, by His Word the Bible, and through His Son, but they do not give Him the glory (V. 21). They worship and serve ‘the creature rather than the Creator (V. 25).’ ‘In the lusts of their hearts’ they ‘dishonour their bodies among themselves (V. 24).’ They know they deserve hell, and that they deserve God’s judgment, and yet they do not turn in repentance and kneel before Him while asking for His forgiveness. In their stubborn, self-inflicting blindness and deafness, they are determined not to see, and not to hear, and not to understand.

But if through God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8) they humble themselves and repent of their sins (Mark 1:15) and ask Him for His forgiveness, He will grant them their request (Matthew 7:7-11) and give them His peace (Philippians 4:6, 7).

There will be no escape from judgment, for everyone: saved or unsaved, will bow the knee at the name of Jesus (Philippians 2:9), and confess He is Lord. Some will reap eternal life, and the others will reap everlasting torment (Cf. Daniel 12:2).

In all of this, Jesus will be exalted – His name will be held on high; for He has the highest of all names:

‘Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9,10).’

*Jesus is Personal

**The Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence of God

***The Mystery of God’s Progressive Revelation

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