Sermon Five ~~ Justification by Faith

Have you ever been racked with guilt and shame that your bones ached? The guy that wrote Psalm 32 knows all about it. His bones were wasting away and his strength was being sapped out of him. He was in a really bad place. Do you relate?

Imagine being told that all you had to do was turn to Jesus, confess and repent and all (YES ALL) would be forgiven, that the past would never be revisited (although there may be consequences) and it would never be brought up again.

When I sit down to dinner with certain people, that is all they want to do, rake up the past, bring every last unpalatable morsel to the table and wonder why I have no appetite.

Because of Je–sus. There is no condemnation. We are justified freely by his
grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. Notice the words:

FREELY              GRACE                              REDEMPTION

CHRIST

Freely justified

Free grace

Free redemption

Follower of Jesus for free.

Justified means pardoned, there is no community service, no sentence – deferred or otherwise. There is freedom and it is free.

When we choose to be followers of Jesus we are pardoned from all sin. He shows his mercy and we accept forgiveness…

And then the real work begins … santification, being made righteous over time (lots and lots of it)

Having been physically ill from guilt is a powerful thing, not in itself, but when the guilt is gone, lifted, to be seen no more, the freedom is mighty.

Three poems…

Over the last three weeks I have been focusing on essays I must write without actually putting pen to paper. What happened instead was an outpouring of bad poetry on each of the three themes: all can be saved, Holy Communion and reviewing a book.

On Writing A Book Report

Clathrate of believers

                Not an enclave or conclave

But a lacy network

That grows in the Spirit

 

Antrorse facing people

With outstretched arms to all

                Not an enclave or conclave

But a lacy network

That grows in the Spirit

 

Adducent followers

Focusing on the Cross

Not an enclave or conclave

But a lacy network

That grows in the Spirit

All Can Be Saved – even you and me

God’s love is everlasting

His love is ever true

God’s love is just and perfect

Free to all of us

 

God’s love is for all

Everyone including you

God’s love is for all

Everyone including me.

 

God’s grace is so unending

Fathomless and ever so deep

Undeserved favour waiting

For me and for you.

 

God’s love is for all

Everyone including you

God’s love is for all

Everyone including me.

 

God’s mercy, oh God’s mercy

Gives all a real Hope

Of forgiveness to its fullest

Of life eternally.

 

God’s love is for all

Everyone including you

God’s love is for all

Everyone including me.

 

Meeting at the Table

Come, come

Come to the table

 

Come, come

Meet Him today

 

Come, come

Lay yourself bare

 

Come, come

Experience life

 

Come, come

Open your heart

 

Come, come

Accept the Lord in

 

Come, come

Blessed assurance

 

Come, come

Christ is the King

We Have One Messiah

We have one Messiah, His name is Jesus,

He sits with the Father in heaven,

From time begun, our King was present,

Became one of us, to save us,

Humble servant, majestic Lord,

We bow down to worship only You.

 

We have one God, we praise Him now,

Higher than anything, He is Lord,

Grace and mercy flow through Him

To us, sinners below, unworthy

Forgiveness and assurance,

We are eternally thankful to You.

A letter to Santa? the not poem

In response to the poem “A letter to Santa?”

 

I was watching a drama on ITV3 the other night entitled ‘Clash of the Santas’ and as the plot unfurled I found myself becoming more and more disturbed. It began as the children of the family explained to their dad that there was to be no Nativity this year respecting other religions. The dad says “what’s religion got to do with Christmas?”

The poem was written at the same time as watching the drama, real needs in the world, real needs within families are not going to be fulfilled by a fat man in a red suit. Not so much the images in the drama but the dialogue was disturbing because to place all your hope in an idol is wrong.

Now I have to confess I am a Christmas movie aficionado and love nothing more than to curl up in my blanket watching someone’s life changed around the holiday season. They tend to follow the same plot: there is a baddie who becomes a goodie, there is a victim who is vindicated, and all characters end the film with warm fuzzies and a happy ever after. The santa character is a mystical person – part angel, part social worker who puts the world to rights. The children tend to be right and the adults tend to be wrong. Marriages are fixed or singletons are united in a true and loving relationship. Christmas movies are fantasy, but in the main follow principles that can be found in the bible:

And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased;

and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matt 23:12)

and Matthew 5 the Beatitudes.

The movies themselves are cheap, made for tv movies that are usually vehicles for specific actors or singers. The sets can be seen moving and the lighting is atrocious, with shadows appearing in the wrong places, like a bad soap opera. All this is allowed because of the message of hope they bring and like bringing a daughter to a Justin Bieber concert, you just hope they get it: the hope they yearn for can only be found in Christ.

‘Clash of the Santas’ did none of this, there were no warm fuzzies that could lead a person to discover Jesus. From the press pack, the following excerpts:

‘The essence of the story, in true Christmas style, is about the power of believing in Santa Claus. Will Howie become a true believer?’

The writer, Jeff Pope says,

“But the real struggle was the story within the story. That question again: ‘Do you believe in Santa Claus?’ Unfortunately there are some people who don’t, who would like to spoil it for those of us that do. Howie Scott is one of them, and Colin Armstrong spends the entire film trying to persuade him to change his mind. Belief in Santa Claus goes to the very heart of Colin as, I suppose, it does in me.”

One of the main actors, Robson Green says,

“That Christmas is only magic if and when we believe it’s magic. Santa is real if and when we believe Santa is real. Clash of the Santas is really about having faith in the magic and wonder of Christmas.”

Reading the entire press pack, there was one thing missing, Jesus, and for me the true meaning of Christmas is remembering back 2000+ years to when God came down to earth and that He’s coming back again. It is a joyous celebration of the birth of Christ tinged with sadness for what we, as humanity did to him and with anticipatory excitement of Him returning.

So yes I love to watch Christmas movies, but now I have discovered they have to dovetail with God, if there they are only based on the ‘magic’ of Christmas without the substance of faith and belief in God. At the end of ‘A Christmas Carol’, a book which has been adapted into dozens and dozens of Christmas films ends with an apt ending to this piece:

“God Bless Us, Every One!”

Sermon Nineteen Salt and light

john                                                    audio clip

Don’t you love it when a sermon preached centuries ago speaks to you. Well this one did me. My default would be to be a hermit spending time with the Lord on my own. For the past eleven days whenever given the opportunity that is exactly what I have been doing, well to be honest I have been doing it since beginning of October.

Sometimes it is needed. Just you and God. Sometimes he is the only one we can turn to. But in the midst of this I still met in fellowship with other Christians and I attended services of worship and witnessed in the world. But I jealously guarded my time with him. Any interloping was curtailed and my primary focus was on the Living God.

Wesley quite rightly points out that Christianity is a social religion. I wonder how he would use Facebook? Would he be part of this revolution of social media? Would Jesus post on facebook? How many followers would he get?

There is a time for solitude with the Lord, we need that time, and he loves that time he gets to talk to us too. Wesley uses two traits of Christians, meekness and peacemaking, and puts forward the argument that we cannot hone these attributes without other people. How can a person be gentle and mild in their own company? We can’t help people know peace if we don’t interact with them.

There is a tendency among Christians to keep to their own, send their children to Christian schools, have only Christian friends, indeed at some points in history and in the world today there are those whose only contact with other people is in Christian circles. A bubble of Christianity.

But within that bubble stuff still happens, and people still react to the stuff in worldly ways. So the bubble is never quite as pure and holy as people would believe.

Jesus called us salt and light. Hermitage is keeping your saltiness by keeping out of the world. But true salt goes out into the world makes friends with the world without taking on the world. It is a tough task. To keep salty in this dark degenerate world is a feat. But we are not doing it on our own. We have the love of God with us, the Spirit guiding us and Jesus walking with us. We have other Christians for fellowship. Quite often when I am weary of the world and I feel like I am hitting a wall with my tender forehead I go seek fellowship with a close sister in Christ.

I sit in her chaos and feel peace

When we have emptied ourselves out, He fills us up. When we think we have loved all we can love, God gives us more love to share. When our heart breaks over the destruction of lives and we think we can’t be instruments anymore, of God’s peace, he gives us the strength to carry on.

When we are in the world and the distractions come at us thick and fast, our heads spinning with all the worldly things the Lord gently helps us through the quagmire and leads us to safety. There is a very present danger that we will lose our saltiness, because we stop being stepping stones to Christ but become full of our own importance, the focus goes on us rather than the Lord.

And we avoid places, we avoid witnessing in places. A very gentle and mild missionary I know has been commissioned to work with a section of our community but he can’t face them. They are so, the opposite of him, he cannot go and witness to them. I pray he overcomes this because he has a message for these people from the living God that he loves them.

Wesley says it is impossible to conceal Christianity. Yesterday I was around people I used to know, when I lived and worked somewhere else. They didn’t recognise me and I could’ve maintained that “not knowing” and was sorely wishing I could but that would have dissed the God who made me new. So I introduced myself and one person said, “have you had surgery or something,” God gave me the words (I know they weren’t mine) “transformed in Christ” and smiled widely.

Note: smiled widely, not wryly or shyly or any other adjective I usually use for how I smile. The conversation moved to people we had in common, the people who I no longer know because I am no longer on the margins of humanity.

So this sermon spoke to me, I need to go back to that world and witness to those people, not because my outside has changed but because my inside has changed. I cannot hide the light of God in me under a bushel.

Wesley is right, the only way to stop  a candle lighting the way is to put it out. Why would I want to do that? So then the balancing act of making sure all the glory and praise goes to God and that his light is seen in those particularly dark places.

Jonny Vegas, I know from John Wesley to him, talks about having the stage presence of Jonny Vegas but going home as Michael Pennington. As Jonny Vegas he is angry and controversial as Michael he is meek and mild and a Christian. I would see my life not in terms of when I am in the world and when I am in the Christian bubble. But that my life is authentically Christian in every place I am, in every thought, word and deed.

Wesley’s language is old, obviously but interestingly he uses the word religion a lot. We have sullied that word and made it something less than it is. When we say religion we are talking about the rituals, the pomp and ceremony. “I am not religious, I am a follower of Christ” for example. God wants every Christian to be visible to all around to show them the truth of the Lord.

The root of our faith is in the heart, but because of the love and mercy and grace given to us freely we have produced branches. The branches reach out into the world  revealing Him to the world through what we do and say. A tree can have many branches and little root and it can die. But a firmly rooted tree can stand steadfast, sharing the good news with all around producing fruit, good fruit.

We are called to be living sacrifices dedicated to his service and pleasing to him, as salt go out into the world and season it, as light be the beacon that brings people home to Christ. Hope is in him alone.

Your Light Must Shine

This world is too dark, Christians everywhere need to come out into the world and let their light shine so the world can see Christ, the light of the world.