Light in the darkness

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5 NIV)It’s certainly dark at the moment! It’s that time of year when it’s dark when you get up, dark early in the evening (or more like late in the afternoon!)and even when it is daylight it can be pretty gloomy with heavy clouds and heavy rain!It’s dark in another way though. When Jesus’ disciple John wrote his book about the life of Jesus, the theme of darkness and light was prominent. Darkness points to active evil and rebellion against the Creator of the world. John pictures the world that Jesus was born into as filled with darkness and the same could be said now.Just in the last few weeks we’ve had revelations and claims about MPs and film stars relating to sexual abuse. In Rochdale we’re far from unaware of the reality of such terrible things and this is just one example of many where it seems like darkness reigns. The world can be terribly dark because of evil, as we humans reject God’s commands to …

Article IX: Of Original or Birth Sin (Part 2)

The concept of sin is increasing important for Christians and Churches to hold onto. In fact one of the great weakness of the church in the west and the Church of England, the denomination in which I minister, is that it has lost a grip on the doctrine of sin. It's particularly important, because the Bible is clear that sin has terrible consequences.

It's quite a while ago, but I did a blog beginning to look at Article IX of the XXXIX Articles of Religion which are the statement of doctrinal belief of the Church of England. This article focuses us on the stated doctrine of sin in the Church of England. Here is part 2!

IX. Of Original or Birth-sin Original Sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is ingendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth alway…

Happy Reformation Day - 500 Years Old Today!

"We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:15-16 NIV) For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. (Romans 3:28 NIV) 
OK, so I know lots of people will be celebrating something else today, but that's a bad thing - seriously celebrating evil spirits and the devil what are you thinking of!

How much better to remember that 500 years ago today a monk called Martin Luther started a fire which spread across the western world and beyond. He had finally grasped, in the face of the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, that you could be declared righteous by God by faith and faith alone. Listen to what he said in his commentary on the book of Galatians:

God's Discipline and the Lord's Supper

Having preached through 1 Corinthians a while back, we’ve more recently been looking at the doctrine of Lord’s Supper as we work through the Thirty Nine Articles. I’ve been struck at how strong Paul is in 1 Corinthians 11 about those who take the Lord’s Supper unworthily.

If you know the book of 1 Corinthians then you’ll know the context of the church. It’s a church (like so many today) riven with sin - divisions, sexual sin, pride over spiritual gifts. The particular focus in 1 Corinthians 11 seems to be that when they meet for the Lord’s Supper there are divisions between the haves and the have-nots to the extent that the haves have so much that they get drunk (1 Corinthians 11:21)! Paul calls this “despising the church” and goes on to say that:
whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:27 NIV)It couldn’t be much worse could it? Despising the church and sinning against …

The Word of God in Hard Times

Hard Times in the UKI think increasingly orthodox evangelical Christians are recognising that we are beginning to face hard times in the UK. The culture, especially as seen through the lens of the media, has decisively turned against us on issues of life, marriage, sexuality, gender, parenting and truth.Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t think things are as bad as they have ever been or as bad as they are in many places around the world - I don’t want to exaggerate. However, it does feel like we face pressure to conform to the world around or lose out. Although this feels commonplace in the New Testament and across history, for most of us, this feels like a change.Hard Times in 1 PeterWe’ve been studying 1 Peter as a leadership team and we’re just beginning to preach through it. Although there are obviously differences from 1st Century Asia Minor, it does seem in many ways to be a book that relates well to our current situation. There is clearly suffering and pressure to conform to the w…

Justification by Faith Alone

For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. (Romans 3:28 NIV)On 31st October 1517 a German monk named Martin Luther nailed a document of 95 theses or short theological statements, to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg in Germany. This act was the start of what became called the Reformation, when the good news of Jesus, which had been buried in the medieval Roman Catholic church, was rediscovered leading to the formation of the protestant or reformed churches (including the Church of England). This year we celebrate 500 years since that critical event.Perhaps the must important of Luther’s theological rediscoveries was the truth of justification by faith alone, which we see expressed very clearly in Paul’s letter to the Roman churches. For Luther this was “the article with and by which the church stands, without which it falls”So what is it and why does it matter so much?To understand justification you need to imagine yourself as a defe…

Conservative Evangelicals and Homosexuality - Same-Sex Attracted Christians and the Church (Part 11)

In the last blog in this series, I looked at the question of how a church should pastorally respond to same-sex attracted non-Christians. This time I want to consider how the church should respond to same-sex attracted Christians.We are a Church of Saved SinnersFirst, it’s important to say that every local church is a church of saved sinners. In the Bible, the major focus of the “church” is not the building, or the denomination, or the institution. The common meaning of the Greek word translated as church (ekklesia) is “assembly,” i.e. the people of God assembled together. The people in this case are, of course, those who have repented and believed in the good news of Jesus (Mark 1:15). So, the church is the assembly of saved sinners.It is not just that we were sinners and now we’re perfect - each time we meet should make that clear, however much we try to put our Sunday best on! No, the Bible is clear that we live with an ongoing conflict with sin (Galatians 5:17). So the church is m…