Saturday, 28 February 2009

Blinded by the Light 2 Legalism - The Truth

Legalism - The Truth

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no-one can boast. (Eph. 2:8)

We need to realise that there is absolutely nothing we can do to save ourselves. If God had not freely given us salvation, we would have been forever lost. We grasp hold of salvation simply by believing that it is possible, and by accepting the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf.

God puts no conditions on this. He does not require a certain form of behaviour or level of good works before he justifies us. We come as we are, good or bad. The important thing is that we come, and believe.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. (Col. 2:13-15)

Having been saved, we can take no credit. God did it without reference and without response from us. We were not even consulted when the plan was formulated, and Jesus came to die for us. God's love overflowed to us when we were far away and he did what was necessary to bring us back.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. (Col. 1:21-22)

God, the Almighty Eternal God, declares all those who have believed to be completely and absolutely righteous in his sight. God is willing to say, over each one of us, however hard we've tried, that we are righteous in his sight now and for ever, whatever the future holds.

Previous posts in this series:
Further posts to come in this series:
Legalism: The Trap, The Solution
Magic Formulas: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Answers to Everything: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Scripture Twisting: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Superstition: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Elitism: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
The Need to See: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Blinded by the Light - 1

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

These are uplifting, glorious words. We are so grateful, as Christians, to be in that position. We look with pity on those people in the cults who are deluded. No matter how sincere their desire to serve God, they have been deceived by false doctrines. Christians believe, quite rightly, that we are in the light and those people in the cults are in the dark.

Unfortunately, the security we feel in being in the light can make us complacent and blind to the fact that Christians are prey to many of the same errors which are found in the cults. If we do not study the scriptures and nurture our relationship with God, we too can find ourselves confused, misled, and wandering away from the truth. Let me give you another, more sobering scripture:

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things. (Romans 2:1)

The message of salvation is clear, there can be no mistake. The only way to God is through Jesus Christ and his sacrifice. We cannot merit anything by our own efforts, but must lean on the grace of God, which gives us what we do not deserve, and saves us from what we do deserve. This does not make sense to the logical human mind.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
but in the end it leads to death. (Prov.14:12)

We need to change our perspective, and look at things from God's point of view, before we can understand. But even after we have accepted it, the "old man" keeps intruding and we can easily loose sight of it again.

James tells us that the word of God is like a mirror that shows us who we really are and where we stand. We were saved because we looked into that mirror, saw the truth, and acted on that truth. Yet as soon as we go away from the mirror, we forget what we look like. We forget that we were reconciled to God through the efforts of Jesus, not our own. We look for things to do to put us right with God, or make our Christian lives more effective.

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:23-25)

We have grasped the perfect law that gives freedom, and we need to hold on to it and enjoy its blessings. But for every truth there is a trap, a subtle distortion of truth into which we can fall. Unless we are aware of these and are on our guard, we can find that we are losing that joy and peace which we knew when we were first saved. Satan is cunning. We are watching for wickedness and evil traps, so he works in subtle ways. Little by little, when we do not realise, he will lead us away and rob us.

The Psalmist pleaded with God: "Restore to me the joy of your salvation" (Ps.51:12), and the Lord condemned the church in Ephesus: "You have forsaken your first love" (Rev.2:4). I am sure that they did not callously and deliberately turn their backs on God. Indeed, they are praised in the preceding verses. But somewhere along the way, they forgot.

In the following sections we will look at some of the traps into which we can fall. Each of these is a distortion of the truth, so we will look at the truth, the trap, and the solution to the problem. It is my prayer that you will be able to recognise where you may have been deceived, and may be helped back to the truth of the "perfect law that gives freedom."

Further posts to come in this series:
Legalism: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Magic Formulas: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Answers to Everything: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Scripture Twisting: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Superstition: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Elitism: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
The Need to See: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution

Monday, 23 February 2009

A Happy Marriage

Today is my 35th wedding anniversary. I have taken a week off work and we are spending some extra time together. When I look back over our married life, I don't see plain sailing and all wine and roses. So what keeps a marriage going for 35 years?

When we married, it really was 'until death do you part'. We were committed to making it work. 'For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.' It seems to me that too many people think that love is like in the movies, and they walk off into the sunset, happy ever after. Life has not been smooth. We have had many hard times, and many times when we have fallen out. But we have found that when all the trappings are taken away, underneath it all we really love each other, and more importantly we believe our love is something worth fighting for.

And sometimes it has been a fight. Sometimes a fight between ourselves, but more often a fight against the world and troubles it brings. We have had unemployment and ill health, and we are now both disabled to some extent. But our relationship has risen above it. Love isn't static. Once you find it, you need to learn and grow all the time. People change as time passes, and your love needs to change along with it.

In our case, having a strong faith that we share has been a major factor. For the past 22 years we have been Christians, and God has blessed us. Through prayer He is a strength to us both. When no one understands how you feel, there is One who does. We pray for each other and we can pray together over our family and our challenges.

I don't apologise for the soppy stuff. The attitude of many today seems to be that couples stay together until it gets rocky, or they fall out. If what you have is real, it's worth fighting for.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Surprise Poem

Last night I surprised myself. My Mslexia diary has a suggested exercise each month, and February's was poetry. I haven't written much poetry for years, but I decided to have a go. The exercise was to respond to a poem using some words from the original. Here is the original:
Snowdrops, by Charlotte Smith
Wan Heralds of the sun and summer gale!
That seem just fallen from infant Zephyrs' wing:
Not now, as once, with heart revived I hail
Your modest buds, that for the brow of Spring
Form the first simple garland - Now no more
Escaping for a moment all my cares,
Shall I, with pensive, silent, step explore
The woods yet leafless; where to chilling airs
Your green and pencil'd blossoms, trembling, wave.
Ah! ye soft, transient, children of the ground,
More fair was she on whose untimely grave
Flow my unceasing tears! Their varied round
The Seasons go; while I through all repine:
For fix'd regret, and hopeless grief are mine.

I used the same metre, and the same last word on every line, for my response:

What though the rainclouds bank and winds blow gale,
And Autumn's warmth and colour taken wing.
Though daily there is rain or snow or hail,
And fading is the memory of Spring.
Just at the darkest hour, when no more
Can music sweet or friendship lift my cares,
'Tis then, as hesitantly I explore
The frozen ground, and mid the chilling airs
I see your tiny blossoms gently wave,
And stand with heads so proud above the ground.
You bring a ray of hope back from the grave,
And promise of the seasons turning round.
Then my despair with winter's dark repine
And come no more, as joys of Spring are mine.

Hope you like it.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

'Probably No God'

The British Humanist Society, supported by the famous atheist and Christian-basher Richard Dawkins, are about to launch an advertising campaign on about 800 buses around Britain, which says "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." I'm sorry, I just have to laugh, and not because I believe differently.

Why say there's 'probably' no God? An atheist is someone who believes there is no God, so why not have the courage of your convictions and say 'there is no God'? If you're not sure, you're an agnostic. And if you're not sure, why would you advertise it? And what if you're wrong?

The advert continues by telling people to stop worrying. Why worry about it, if you're sure that there's no God? And if you're not sure, why don't you find out? I think most people don't care one way or the other. God doesn't figure in their thinking at all. Maybe this advert will backfire and start people worrying about whether there's a God.

And now for the Christian bit: God is faithful to His promises, and if anyone honestly tries to find out if there is a God, they will get an answer - just as I did. When I talk to people about my faith I ask them to make an informed decision. Instead of speculating, or 'worrying', get the information so you can decide for yourself. No-one can make you a Christian, except God Himself. Christians can only explain, and point the way.

So here's my challenge, to the British Humanist Society, Richard Dawkins, et al: Stop worrying, and find out. And if you're not worrying, why? It's the most important decision of your life.