So you think you don’t have enough time?

Some people think that they don’t have enough time to investigate the claims of Christianity and in particular the claims of Jesus Christ.  They think that they have better things to do with their time.

Only – they do have enough time.  God has given them the time.  It is called their lifetime, but more particularly God has given them holidays – ‘holy days’ – in which to consider the matter.

God has given you seven weeks’ holiday every year; probably more than your employer.  It comes round every week –  the first day of the week called the Sabbath, which is Hebrew word for Rest.  It is your rest day.  Your employer cannot force you to work on it.  It is God-time  – your time to find and enjoy the fellowship of God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

If you neglect it, you are missing out on quality time with your God, and when you meet Him at the Judgement Seat you will not be able to say that He didn’t give you enough time.

God was the first to give us holidays.  “Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God” Ex 20:9-10.  Your employer should let you have the Sabbath off work, as your quality time with God.  This secular society calls it a Funday for the family.  It is more than that.  It is the family’s time to learn about, worship and enjoy God’s fellowship.  It is a gift from God.

Your employer may give you six weeks’ holiday in a year, but this includes six days of God’s holiday, so almost one week of the six weeks are God’s holiday anyway.

Welcome to a new outlook on life – your lifetime.

Control freakery is running wild

Prime Minister Theresa May was pilloried because she did not express public grief over the Grenfell Tower disaster in a politically correct manner.

It reminds us of the public mood at the time of Princess Diana’s tragic death.  Instead of allowing the Queen to grieve in her own way, the public demanded that she grieve publicly according to its politically correct opinion.

Public figures are now expected to express their grief over tragedy according to an unwritten politically correct script determined by the mood of the time.  This is control freakery.

Let people form their own judgments about how to express their grief.

Melanie Philips made a similar point tonight in BBC Newsnight’s Viewsnight.

Prince Harry has also criticised his being made to walk publicly behind his mother’s coffin as a 12 year old boy, although it is claimed that this was a family decision rather than a bureaucratic one.

Jump to attention

Many public bodies think that their authority allows them to call the public to jump to attention.

Take the tax office.  One will wait weeks and even months to get a response from them, but they expect you to answer them within so many days, with the threat of penalties – even although you may be away from home when they choose to respond, or you have pressing business, etc.  You must jump to attention when they say so.

A business would soon lose its customer loyalty with such an attitude, and many do.  This attitude is common wherever there is authority.  Jesus spoke against this abuse of authority, but few people know nor pay any attention to what He says.  He said that we should use authority to serve, not to be served.  Authoritarians abuse their authority to give themselves a sense of worth.  Jesus gives a sense of self-worth without the need for abuse.

There are many areas of public life where the public are kept at arm’s length by those in  authority – the justice system, lawyers and police, the media, council officials, etc.  Most people do not realise this until those rare occasions when they must interact with them.  However the average person encounters it in their employment, from individuals at work, even if not from their employer as such.  It leads to much of the mental health issues and lack of productivity at work.

In fact it begins at 2 years old – the terrible twos – when little children want to control their little siblings and even their doting parents with screaming tantrums.  Some people never grow up and they continue to control and manipulate others as much as they can get off with.  What they don’t realise is that they must give account to Him Who has the ultimate authority.

When did the Bible last change your thinking or behaviour?

Christians claim to be submissive to the Word of God. They acknowledge that they are not ‘the finished article’.

The development of their Christian character is effected by the Holy Spirit applying the Word of God to their thinking, speech and behaviour. It is called sanctification – ‘Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth’, prayed Jesus for His disciples in John 17:17.

Christians desire to be ‘fit for the Master’s use’ 2Timothy 2:21. Does the Lord use you? Are you open to His guidance? Does the Bible change you? Or are you beyond change? Some people’s views never change, which suggests that they don’t submit their thoughts to Scripture – ‘bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ’ 2Cor 10:5. When did the Bible last change your thinking?

Why don’t people change?

1. because they do not study their Bibles for themselves. Once a godly person sees the teaching of Scripture, his conscience is bound to it; but if a person rarely studies Scripture, it is unlikely to change him.

2. there is another reason. The fear of change and being thought unorthodox.

Many Christians are familiar with the concept of ministers and elders looking over their shoulder and not acting freely according to their own understanding and conscience because of what others might think. They are afraid of seeming to be unorthodox.

This is a recipé for disaster, curtailing one’s readiness to respond to the leading of Scripture.

So why does it happen? Usually because there is one person who pulls up others for what he perceives to be unorthodox. This person is rarely challenged in his thinking and may have ties to influential people, so that he has influence out of all proportion to his understanding. But he is orthodox! and this is all that matters. Rather, he is orthodox in the area he knows about, but he fails to see what others see and would like to act upon.

This ‘one man ruins all’ attitude is very common and very influential in the Christian church. ‘A little folly’ can ruin a reputation Ecc 10:1, but it can ruin a congregation and many other things.

It is time for individual Christians to remember and reclaim the liberty with which Christ has made them free. ‘Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage’ Gal 5:1.

The maturing Paul

At a conference of Christian political party leaders in Leissigen, Switzerland, in 2013, I heard the following observations made by Valeriu Ghiletchi, a member of the Parliament of Moldova and a former President of the European Baptist Federation.

He drew attention to four stages of the apostle Paul’s life and ministry, to show his changing self-image:

  1. About 49AD: in Gal 2:6 Paul writes: “But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it makes no matter to me: God accepts no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me”.  Valeriu glossed this as: “It makes no difference to me. Those men added nothing to my message.” Paul was very self-confident.
  2. About 55AD: in 1Cor 15:9 Paul wrote: “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God”.
  3. About 60AD: in Eph 3:8, after his prison experience, he wrote: “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
  4. Finally, in 1Tim 1:15 about three years before his death, he wrote: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

This is a very useful observation.

Prior to his conversion to Christianity, Paul considered himself to be ahead of his equals in the Jews’ religion Gal 1:14, and some of this competitive spirit is manifest in the epistle to the Galatians, where he considered himself to be at least equal to the apostles if not ahead of them.

Immediately after his conversion, Paul’s credibility was called into question, and Barnabas helped to overcome suspicions about Paul’s conversion Act 9:27.  Barnabas also head-hunted him in Tarsus for the work among the Gentiles in Antioch Act 11:22,25.   Paul was aware of his unique ministry and from an early stage he had to defend and assert his calling.  This is seen in Gal 1: 1,11-12 and he asserted his independence from the other apostles in Gal 1:17-19.  Fourteen years later Gal 2:1 he ascertained that his doctrine was the same as the other apostles Gal 2:2, and asserted that they had not added anything to his knowledge of Christian doctrine nor events in the life of Christ Gal 2:6.

However, by the time of writing 1Cor 15:9 Paul considered himself to be the least of the apostles, minimising and contrasting his right to be called an apostle compared to the other apostles.  This does not mean he minimises his apostleship; rather he magnifies the office in Rom 11:13 written about the same time, but he does not insist upon the designation being officiously applied to himself.  He does not with false humility suggest that he is worse than the other apostles at fulfilling the apostolic office; rather, he asserts the opposite in 2Cor 11:5 “For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles” and “for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing” 2Cor 12:11; however this was in the context of a challenge to his apostleship and he felt compelled to speak thus.

Still later, during his imprisonment, he coins a Greek term ‘less than the least’ Eph 3:8 to describe how he compares himself to the saints.  He has moved from comparing himself equal to the apostles in the epistle to the Galatians, to the least of the apostles in the epistle to the Ephesians, and now he is less than the least of the saints – a saint nevertheless.

Finally he comes down to the level of describing himself as “the chiefest sinner” in 1Tim 1:15.

This is the great apostle to the Gentiles maturing for glory, like the weeping willow tree, which stoops lower the older it becomes.

Pride

Pride was the first sin, originating in the devil 1Tim 3:6.

It is closely allied to independence – the desire to be independent of God. This was the devil’s first temptation of man Gen 3:5. Sin is a separating force and results in death Jas 1:15. The essence of death is separation. Spiritual death is separation from the life and fellowship of God. Temporal death is the separation of the soul from the body. Eternal death is the separation of the person from the life and fellowship of God eternally. On the other hand, spiritual life is the knowledge and fellowship of God Jn 17:3.

Christian life is the fellowship of Christians in interdependence as the members of Christ’s body 1Cor 12:21. Pride disrupts this fellowship. There are a multitude of manifestations of pride.

Whereas pride can manifest itself in bombastic talk, this needs to be carefully analysed. There are those who speak in order to show off how much they know, but this needs to be carefully distinguished from those who talk in order to convey information to others. In the case of the latter, the pride of their hearers can be demonstrated in their response.

The pride and jealousy of hearers can be detected in:-

1. dismissing the speaker as ‘lecturing’ – journalists frequently said this about Margaret Thatcher’s interviews. Rather, Thatcher put across interesting information for listeners, and they resented her knowledge, which they dismissed as ‘lecturing’.

2. in their silence. They don’t want to show up their own ignorance, so they wisely keep silence Pro 17:28. However, their pride manifests itself in not making enquiry because this is to adopt the attitude of pupil or learner – or a disciple! They justify this proud attitude by claiming that they don’t want the speaker ‘to get too big for his boots’, but in truth it is to avoid their adopting the position of learner. They do not “esteem others better than themselves” Php 2:3. Their pride prevents them humbling themselves before others, even in their speech.

3. ignoring other Christians. This is contrary to Php 2:3 and 1Cor 12:21.

Christian behaviour

Many Christians can reel off the five points of Calvinism, but what are the five points of Christian behaviour?

They do not exist, because it is more likely to be 505, or 5005.

There are systematic theologies galore, but there is no systematic theology on Christian behaviour. There are books on Christian behaviour, but no systematic theology. For lack of such a theology, Christians keep making the same mistakes; congregations grow and fall apart; denominations likewise; and the Christian church makes slow progress.

Such a theology will have been written and learned by the time the Millennium arrives, for the church in the Millennium will practice Christian behaviour in all levels of society.