Garments Unspotted!

“Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy.” Revelation 3:4

It is an easy task to hold up Christ’s letters to the Seven churches of Asia and point out the similarities and dissimilarities between them and our situation today.

We are all familiar with the term the ‘faithful few’ and when we look around at the state of Christianity on the West we can see its application.

If we are aware of the decline and worldliness of the Church and shallow Christianity of many (if not even ourselves) we can only wonder what Christ’s all-seeing  gaze beholds when he scrutinizes the church as he did ‘Sardis’ so long ago.

C.H. Spurgeon preaching from this text.  points to the high numbers of people professing Christianity yet found to be devoid of sincere religion.

We today, are more likely to remark on the fact that even the ‘profession’ of Christianity is becoming rarer by the day.

We hear of the ‘Post Christian ‘era and all the evidence supports the claim.

Even among those who would appear before us as Christian teachers and leaders, very few hold to a traditional and scriptural view or belief in Christianity.

How many of them openly reject the long held doctrines and teachings of Scripture?

The number of Church buildings and congregations is significant though decreasing, yet how many of them contain ‘living Christianity’ or holy and vibrant Christians.

So many of our modern Church groups have a ‘name to live’ but are dead.

The ‘show’ goes on, but it is a hollow sham.

Yet there are those who have kept their garments white: Although they are not always in the most congenial circumstances and more often totally adverse, they maintain their purity and witness intact.

Spurgeon further points out that the church at Sardis was at ‘death’s door’ yet was for the most part unconcerned with the prospect of extinction.

I suppose so long as there were numerous other churches and fellowships we could attend if our own were to close, we would not be so much concerned. Yet churches are closing left right and centre.

Buildings which some years ago echoed with the sound of God’s praises and the sound of the gospel are now private homes or night clubs.

The only point I would I would make in echoing Spurgeon’s concerns is to ask ‘Are we among those who are concerned by these things?’

Do we seek to keep our ‘garments’ clean and white? What would Christ say to each of us when focused by a ‘Sardis’ like gaze?

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How Readest Thou?

Currently at the church I attend, the minister is doing a series of sermons on the book of Isaiah.

While I am familiar with the prophetic writings, I find that a bare reading of them yields little that catches my eye and upon which I can build an article on.

Yet our minister has succeeded in applying this portion of Scripture to our modern age and the Church in its task and difficulties.

The point I would wish to make is that much of our reading of Scripture is of no more value than the reading of any other work of whatever nature.

I think we could all benefit from a renewed interest and reading of the Old Testament, side by side with our study of the New!

Many of the prophets of the Old Testament are topical for the current age as indeed they have always been in the past.

The prophet’s concern for the social evils and injustices are rightly grasped upon by many modern activists in their desire to right perceived wrongs in modern society.

What they fail to find in their use of these inspired works is the spiritual aspect of all these ancient writings.

Much of our Christianity while it pays lip service to the need for our relationship with God it pays far more attention to the ‘well being’ and ‘fulfillment’ of human beings in this world as well as human relations to each other.

As pointed out before this activity is akin to erecting a towering superstructure without any concern to lay a firm and enduring foundation.

Putting the ‘Cart before the horse’ is something we all do. The Christian life is not merely a ‘lifestyle’ or philosophy for living, it is a life founded upon a Holy Spirit regeneration of nature and applied faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is not possible for the un-renewed person to live the Christian life or bear the fruit that life in Christ produces. Therefore much of the professed Christianity we see today dwells in external conformity but is devoid of spiritual reality.

While we admit that too often Christianity has historically veered from being exclusively either ‘ministries of mercy’ to the physical needs of mankind, to being concerned only about the ‘ souls of men’: the need is to ‘make the tree good’ i.e. living in union and communion with Christ ,and thereby bear the fruit that God seeks in our Christian lives.

This concern for true ‘spirituality’ is not limited to the ‘New Testament’ but is to varying degrees the teaching of all revealed Scripture.

The reality of ‘Union’ with Christ is something we should seek for in ourselves and desire for others.

 

 

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Garments Unspotted!

The hope of the Resurrection!

Preaching in 1856, C.H. Spurgeon reproaches himself for not imitating, as closely as he should have done the Apostolic’ ‘staple’ of preaching the Resurrection of Christ.download empty tomb

He goes on to say that even among professing Christians belief in an actual physical resurrection is not believed.

While many hold to the immortality of the soul as did the ancient Greek philosophers, the idea of the body rising to newness of life through Christ is mocked by many.

Witness Paul’s encounter with the Athenians and their final rejection of the Apostles message of Jesus and his resurrection and later on of his dealings with the unbelieving Jews on this very subject.

Some have complained recently of the lack of preaching on the Resurrection. Whether this is actually the case I do not know.

I know of one American preacher that focuses on the Resurrection yet would ‘unhitch’ a great deal of other Scripture and doctrine.

This would be like holding up the roof of a building yet removing the walls and foundation.

As a teaching, belief, doctrine and practice Christianity is all of a piece. You cannot grasp one part of it and discard all else without ruining and despoiling the whole.

The Resurrection is the ‘imprimatur’ of God on the saving work of Christ it is proof that ‘New life’ is available through His Son. Yet it cannot be separated from the ‘atoning’ work of Christ upon the Cross, the incarnation and the progressive revelation of the Old Testament.

Spurgeon further says that the Resurrection of Christ and the hope of our resurrection through Him comforts the believer in the loss of dear ones and strengthens in the face of their own death. He reminds his hearers that even the ‘dust’ of God’s people is precious in His sight and will raise the self same person although exalted at the last day.

Would that we believed and trusted in this hope more than we do!

Spurgeon concludes this section of his sermon by reminding his hearers and us, that if the bodies of believers are to be raised again and are precious in the sight of God, we should look after them not so much in healthy living although this is important, but rather by living holy lives and not misusing our bodies for sinful purposes and looking lustfully for sinful things.

We who are constantly reminded by the world that we are our own and to spoil ourselves need to hear the gospel message that we are no longer our own and have been bought with a price. It is because the Christian now belongs to God that we know He will not allow us to perish.

The’Glorious Revolution’!

The ‘Glorious Revolution’ in 1688 was a pivotal point in British history and Christian liberty.maxresdefault

The reign of the ‘Stuart’ Kings was one of almost constant persecution of ‘nonconformists’ and the enforcing of liturgy and regulated worship on the non-established churches.

The Puritan, John Flaveldownload (1) preaching at this time, Warns and advises young ministers of the necessity of using this new found liberty to preach the Word freely and unhindered and the spiritual attitude necessary to maintain it.

We in the West, have had liberty to proclaim the gospel message for many years yet one wonders how much advantage of this freedom has been taken by ministers and believers.

The period which followed the period of the ‘Glorious Revolution’ was characterized by a slide into moderatism, the preaching of morality instead of the ‘gospel’ and moral decline in the wider society. This was the state of society until the ‘Evangelical Revival’ and Whitefield and Wesley etc.

One point common was commonly made by the Puritans that we can sin away ‘the Day of Grace’ and by our sloth and faithlessness squander our opportunities for proclaiming the word of salvation.

It appears that the time will come when the proclamation of the gospel will be curtailed and limited by a society and belief system that reviles Christian truth and holy living. This fact gives impetus to the need to make fuller use of our Christian liberty while it remains to us.

It also increases the guilt of those who are even now ‘re-casting ‘the gospel message into something other than what it is.

The responsibility of how we use the short space of time we have left for the furtherance of the kingdom is upon us all!

Yet we must also remember that it was during the dire times of Church history that  it was at its most flourishing and Christians were at their most faithful and obedient and indeed holiest!

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Cures for all that ails you!

Rummaging through old newspapers brings you into contact with old advertisements promising cure and results that would now be regarded as nothing more than ‘quackery’. (Though I think we can see a return to this sort of advertising in many of our television ‘infomercials’)

You find products and tinctures that will cure your toothache by ‘killing the nerve and filling the tooth’.  Miracle lotions than will rid you of grey hair or pills that cure everything from lumbago to dyspepsia.Beechams_Pills-Scribners_189105.jpg

They have treatments for ailments using ‘new-fangled’ electricity that will spark new life into you no matter how lethargic you feel now.th1884_electric_nerve_pencil_toothache_japanese_pain_remedy_advertising_trade_card_1_thumb2_lgw.jpg

These ‘ads’ are sometimes accompanied by stirring ‘testimonials’ by ‘Mrs. or Mr.’ ‘whoever’, from a respectable distance away, extolling the virtue or ‘Dr Zoonbraums miracle pills’.

It was not until you sent your postal order for two shillings and either received a ‘placebo’ sugar pill or nothing at all that you realized you had been ‘Had’.

But still the advertisements appeared.

We humans veer between skepticism and gullibility. When the message of the Gospel comes it is often met by suspicion or otherwise as a ‘Quick fix’ to all our problems without looking to closely.

 

While we must not believe everything we are told, the gospel invites us to ‘Prove all things’ 1 Thess. 5:21 and when we find for ourselves the reality of God’s Truth and experience the ‘Love of Christ’ we are to ‘Hold to’ it.

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The hope of the Resurrection!