Sermon Six Righteousness of Faith

The righteousness of the law given to Moses expected perfection. There was no allowance made for falling short. It was all about being perfect without interruption or intermission.

Wesley argues that righteousness of faith is different from its counterpart of the law. The law is perfect, it comes from the Lord and He is perfect. But we are not. Anyone who thinks they no longer sin is kidding themselves and Wesley points out the errors in this thinking. We are given the gift of faith and forgiveness, covered in a covenant of grace.

We don’t deserve salvation, we don’t deserve anything from the Lord. We are not entitled to anything. But He loves us so much, the whole world and everyone in it, He sent His only Son Jesus Christ. Righteousness of faith is the condition of justification and present and final salvation.

It has been described to me that to aim to be Christ like we actually have to aim. There is no gain in firing arrows at the floor if the target is on the fireplace. But we have to start somewhere. Some people won’t come to church because they think they aren’t ready enough, clean enough, good enough or worthy enough. If we are to reach out to people in this world, we have to somehow show that walking into church is just like putting a stamp on a letter and posting it. It in itself is an act of faith. The first step into a building, for some people, is a giant leap of faith. They don’t know what we will make of them or what they will make of us. There are so many barriers to that first initial step, our role is to not make ourselves a barrier too.

There is a swathe of moral relativism and being part of a church community does not change this. Perhaps we expect more of our pew partners, but why should we? Unless we walk in another’s shoes we can not know where they are at and what has brought them thus far.

John Wesley said at the end of the sermon:

Now, at this instant, in the present moment, and in thy present state, sinner as thou
art, just as thou art, believe the gospel; and “I will be merciful unto thy unrighteousness,
and thy iniquities will I remember no more.”

In our English:

Now in this very second, this moment, and just as you are, yes you are a sinner so am I, but just like that, with all your stuff, all your backstory – believe, have faith in the gospel (the good news) of Jesus Christ and He will be merciful and forgive your sins, and they will be forgotten. No need to hang onto old friends, shame & guilt, make new friends with LOVE.

Sermon One ~~~ Salvation by Faith

The words written and spoken over two hundred years ago are as fresh today as back then. My favourite line has to be “and being saved from guilt they are saved from fear.” In the Bible it says ‘Do Not Fear’ 365 times, that one time for each day of the year. So how come there is so much fear in the world, in our country, in our churches?

Having trust in the Lord, having assurance and having faith allows us to joyfully sing, joyfully praise the Lord no matter what the trial. And wow don’t we have some trials!

One of those special people in my life has the balance of faith and good works right in their life. It is from the root of faith that good works spring forth, not in our own strength but in the Lord’s strength. When we think of those special people, we see faith in action.

The faith that saves us by the grace of God. We don’t deserve to be saved because we are full of sin, but when we turn to the Lord and confess & surrender our lives to Him, we are saved. Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

I am returning to the Sermons and daily discipline

A year last November I told someone my next project was to voice record Wesley’s sermons in the language it was written in. They didn’t see the point, but then they had not voice recorded the reworded Sermons on Several Occasions. Possibly when they had studied them it came easily, the language, the nuance, imagining a group of miners just out of the pit listening to this preacher guy on or off horseback, imagining the smells & sights, the noise – was there any?

On Wednesday night a preached to a completely silent room, the children were dozing and the adults without exception had their eyes raised looking at me as I delivered God’s message to His people. I wonder when Wesley preached in the fancy Anglican churches was there silence or was the moving of frock coats and skirts as people became more and more uncomfortable as Spirit’s sword pierced their hearts through the words of John Wesley.

I reckoned back then and still do, that I need to know what it was like to hear those words come from a mouth and so I begin a new challenge. One sermon. One voice recording. One small piece of interpretative text or reaction to the words. One day.

Now just like Frank Jenner I am not going to beat myself up if I miss a day but I am intending to complete the challenge in 141 days, minus the travelling days and one day off a week bring me to mid- August.

john wesley

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
    Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
    your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own;
    give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
    your wine vats will brim over.
But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline;
    don’t sulk under his loving correction.
It’s the child he loves that God corrects;
    a father’s delight is behind all this.

Sermon Forty The wilderness state

john                                                    audio clip

Being a reader, editor and proof reader I have come across many “wilderness” books. The wilderness years of Winston Churchill and Adrian Mole (now there’s a contrast!) come to mind immediately. Blood Meridian is a novel based on real life events in the desert of the Mexican border with the States. But another one of my pastimes is film. In films deserts are sandy places not unlike Inch beach without the water. The sand scours the skin. My favourite wilderness in film from a cinematography point of view is the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Dying in a hail of bullets in a remote chapel someplace along the border previously mentioned. So desperate, so caught in a corner, that there is no place left to hide, they were hunted down and then killed.

Sometimes in our peachy happily clappy Christian life something happens that makes us doubt everything, including God’s sovereignty in it all. We are floored literally by some life event and we end up in the wilderness. Immediate desert after a time of abundance. What floors us is as individual as to how long it takes us to rise again. Some of us don’t languishing in a place not fit for human habitation, where breathing in and out is a chore that we want rid of. Not every Christian goes through this so if someone tells you we all do, we don’t. It is a specific time for specific people.

There is more than one wilderness, though. Sometimes a sin that we hadn’t brought before the Lord, by omission rather than design, rears up and causes us to enter this state. For others it is the realisation that something has got to change. Whatever causes us to enter, the losses are the same and interlinked.

The first is loss of faith, people no longer trust God, after putting all their trust in him they suddenly find they have lost their spiritual strength and have become as weak as non believers. So they lose the love. Where is the love? The love is in the connection, when we sever the connection the love is still there but we cannot feel it anymore, we are not plugged into that personal relationship. And so to joy, with no faith and no love there is no joy, not the temporary happiness that abounds at a tea party but that deeply rooted joy that comes as a gift from the Spirit. Where peace was, there is now a chasm as wide and as deep and as long as can be. Where once the person was basking in the glow of the love of God, now there is turmoil, insecurity, doubt and all measure of devilish thoughts. And finally we lose the power of Jesus Christ, that power over sin.

What does cause it? Sin committed deliberately can darken the soul in an instant. Like there is a boy who when he was eight years old I swore that when he was a grown up I’d give him a beating for all the bullying he inflicted on one of my children. He is twenty now, still walking, still has a pretty face. Why? Because in the meantime my heart was softened by the love of God until I could say clearly from the bottom of my heart I loved this boy. My clucky mother hen natural instincts supplanted by God’s love. We love because He loves.

We can quite easily wander into the desert by omitting things in our spiritual life and this is possibly why John Wesley was so diligent in this area.

Just like there are many wildernesses and deserts there is equally only one way out. It does make sense. Wesley says there are a variety of cures but I say one. The lying down of oneself at the Cross, hand it all over to Lord, ask for forgiveness and ask for the strength to forgive. Let go of the “what if’s” If it surrounds a death, be assured no one knows when the time will come for our earthly hearts to stop whether we are ninety or nine hours old. If it surrounds a sin get rid of it. A relationship, healing. Whatever is causing you to doubt God’s sovereign rule in your life, get it out of here because it is not of God.

I was once placed in the wilderness for my own good and it was a very enlightening period. I discovered lots of things about pink, I discovered a lot of things about God and me or me and God too. I was not there from doubt or fear, but I was there for a reason and I had stuff to work out before I could be brought out of the wilderness through the refiner’s fire, a shinier person than before, ready to hear what he had in store for me.

[and then I wanted to go back to the desert!] briefly before I was given tools to proceed.

Sermon Fifteen The great privilege of God’s children

john                                                   audio clip

 

This is an odd sermon because it sets its stall out in the title but then does not mention privilege again. But the reading which is taken from 1 John 3 gives it sub heading and in there is the crux of the sermon.

IF WE ARE CHILDREN OF GOD WE DO NOT SIN

Now I sin and you sin and the whole world sins. If we are children of God we do not sin. Does this make you and me children of devil, slaves to sin. Yes it can mean that but we have the Holy Spirit guiding us so when we do sin by a thought or an action we are convicted by the Holy Spirit. We can choose to ignore the prompting of the Spirit but if we do we go down a spiral that could have us like David.

Relativism is the problem that pervades the church. I know – a non Christian philosophy in church.

“I might be prideful but compared to sister xxx I am doing okay”

“I might say the Lord’s name in vain but compared to brother xxx I don’t do it that much”

We compare ourselves, we can even see ourselves as higher Christians and I know many people hurt be these so-called righteous people who can tell other people where they are going wrong but sit in pride and arrogance. We should always keep our eye on some examples from the Bible, come before the Lord as the taxpayer not the Pharisee. I had the great privilege of spending time with a lovely sister in Christ this week. We were discussing the ten commandments in Exodus and I asked what her favourite one was? Yes I know not the easiest of questions to answer. She said, “I don’t know about favourite ones but I know which ones everyone else is breaking.” It was a precious moment in our time together.

We might talk about a fellow sister or brother in Christ to our spouse, we might see a person in church and make a judgement as to whether they are born of the Spirit, we might do and say many things in our own strength that are not of the Lord.

BUT

If we do not pay close attention to the prompting of the Holy Spirit we will be steeped in sin. Yes we do mess up, we have to be honest and sincere about that. We are not perfect.

BUT

If we are to be authentic Christians we know this and work on the aspects that need to change. My default setting as INTP but in my transformed life I am doing and saying and thinking things that fellow INTPers would baulk at. I am fascinated by what the reaction will be from people who knew me before tomorrow.

Wesley points out a step by step route whereby David committed murder and adultery, where Peter caved at man’s perspective (the Law) and not God’s and also when Barnabas and Paul disagree.

He points to these people but he doesn’t point out how they came back to right thinking. In this there is an omission. He is expecting us as Christians to never sin so points out how to keep from sinning but he isn’t graceful to those of us who do sin and continually ask for forgiveness for this bad thought or deed.

Abstractly someone was saying “Honour your mother and father,” well in very real terms if I were to fully honour my father I would not be a child of God, so I sin to the person not to God. Ultimately God is love, God wants us to be in continual communion with him. It is the distractions that we get caught up in, the devil is in the detail.

He concludes his sermon by saying Watch and pray without ceasing, so that you may always believe, and always love and never fall into sin. Wise words because if we are focused on the Lord and his ways which are perfect then maybe we won’t sin ….