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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…

Standing Fast in Hard Times

The magazine article for September:With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. (1 Peter 5:12 NIV)It was a tough time for the church. The society around didn’t know anything much about Jesus, “living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and destestable idolatry” (1 Peter 4:3) and they were increasingly antagonistic towards Christians - even when they were only doing good things. It could have been worse (in time it would be), but there were insults, mockery and unjust punishments. To be a Christian was to be be despised rather than respected. That was how it was in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) when the apostle Peter wrote to them.Perhaps that sounds a little familiar to now. Once we might have thought we lived in a Christian country, but things seems a little more like 1 Peter 4:3 in the UK now and bit-by-bit we seem to be seeing Christia…

Building on the Rock

My August magazine article, which also briefly reflects my concern with some of what was said around General Synod about Jesus the Word and the word of God the Bible.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24 NIV) The artist Michaelangelo said that:
“There is no greater harm than that of time wasted.” If that’s true, then a lifetime that has been wasted is a terrible thing. It should make us fear getting to the end of our lives and looking back on a wreck of wasted time and opportunity. So how can we make sure that our lives are not wasted?

Jesus tells us a short story about wise and foolish builders (Matthew 7:24-27). It’s perhaps one of his most famous and one that children have often heard in school or in Sunday School. It’s so simple. A wise man builds a solid house by choosing a solid foundation. When the storms come, it stands up to them. The foolish man builds a weak house, on …

Conservative Evangelicals and Homosexuality - Same-Sex Attracted Non-Christians and the Church (Part 10)

A key question in this discussion is: how should the church love those who experience same-sex attraction? In the last blog, I began to look at some of the implications for the church of the Biblical view of same-sex relationships that I have outlined. In that blog I focused on the impact of the pressure of the change in society and the conflict within the church that has caused. In that conflict, the tendency seems to be to paint those who take a biblical line as harsh, unloving and homophobic. This is sad, because nothing could be further from the truth.

In thinking about how a church can be faithful to what God has said on sexuality and show love and compassion to those who experience same-sex attraction (which is also what God says!), it can help to think of people in different situations. Inevitably this will involve some generalization, but hopefully it can still be helpful. In this blog, I want to reflect on how Christians and the church should respond to non-Christians who exp…

Article IX: Of Original or Birth Sin (Part 1)

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Introduction Whatever you believe, you have to be able to explain the existence of evil or wrong in the world don't you? We all have a sort of inbuilt antenna or conscience that reacts when we see something we feel is morally wrong. It picks up those well publicized evils: Nazi Germany, the horrors of the moors murders, the vileness of some of the sex abuse cases at the moment and so on.

But it also works at a more personal level.  Our consciences prick us when we know we've done something wrong: the lie we tell, the gossip we share, the unkind thought we have. We know that evil exists within each one of us. It's something that seems to come naturally.

As a parent, I don't spend my time teaching my children to be naughty.  That came naturally enough. No, I have to spend time teaching them to be good.  You know in yourself that even when you're being “good” that behind that is a whole bunch of mixed motives.  I'm good when people are watching, because I want the…