Reading: Acts 26:9-22 & verse 28
(a) It is customary for people believing all sorts of odd things, to call themselves 'Christian'.
(b) The spectrum is amazing! Everything from, Jehovah's Witnesses, to Mormons, to Christian Scientists to all sorts of people suffering from a Christless religiosity of one kind or another.
(c) Some time ago in a pub, a man said to me, "After all, it doesn't matter what religion we are - WE'RE ALL CHRISTIANS, AREN'T WE?"
I had to be honest with the man, and tell him quite simply, that it just was not true as far as the Bible was concerned!
(d) People have sometimes come to me, and told me in no uncertain terms that I am NARROW in my beliefs, and I should change with the times.
They seem totally unaware that YOU OR I HAVE NO AUTHORITY TO CHANGE, WATER DOWN OR ADJUST THE BIBLE'S TEACHING ON THE WAY OF SALVATION!
(a) With all the theological jargon that's floating around today, people are becoming more and more confused about where the dividing line between a Christian and non-Christian is!
(b) Some years ago, I attended a Minister's Fraternal, and was responsible for giving the spiritual thought. The usual system was that you kept away from anything that was in any way controversial. You know the old fallacy, "Better to
concentrate on what unites us rather than what divides us!"
THE TROUBLE IS YOU END UP WITH A WISHY WASHY COMPROMISE THAT SAYS AND MEANS NOTHING AT ALL!!
(c) I asked them straight - "WE ARE MINISTERS ENTRUSTED WITH GOD'S MESSAGE! BUT WHAT IS THAT MESSAGE. WHAT IS A TRUE CHRISTIAN???"
(d) I could not believe some of the answers I received!!
i. One minister stated that we became a Christian at INFANT BAPTISM!!
(INDEED AT ONE CORPS, A WOMAN CAME TO ME ABOUT DEDICATING HER CHILD, ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED THAT IF THE CHILD WAS NOT 'CHRISTENED' THEN THE CHILD'S SOUL WAS IN DANGER!
No matter how much I tried to tell her, that was a misconception carried through the reformation from the Roman Catholic Church, she seemed unconvinced!)
ii. Another minister believed it was at CONFIRMATION!!
iii. Yet another believed it came through HOLY COMMUNION!
iv. The most striking answer of all came from one minister who said,
"WHO ARE WE TO SAY WHO IS A CHRISTIAN AND WHO IS NOT??"
(e) God help the unsaved people of this world if even the clergymen do not have the spiritual insight to know what a true Christian really is!!
I said I felt it was nice to meet for coffee and a chat, but it concerned me greatly that we could have no unanimity on what were the makings of a true Christian!
(f) Mind you, I have been even more shocked to find some Salvationists sounding an uncertain note about this very thing, and passing it off as if it didn't really matter!!
My dear friends, it is a matter of ETERNAL LIFE AND ETERNAL DEATH!
(g) In 1880, Catherine Booth (wife of General William Booth) said, "All through the New Testament, and indeed the Bible, no truth is taught with greater force and frequency than this, that without a vital union of the soul with Christ, all ceremonies, creeds, beliefs, professions, church ordinances, are sounding brass and tinkling cymbals, and all who trust in them will be deceived. This is the very essence of the Gospel!" (From the Booklet, "They Said it.")
(a) I never make any excuse for our Salvation Army Doctrines - they are founded upon the Word of God! They are very explicit and unambiguous in what they state regarding Salvation!
(b) Our 7th doctrine states,
"WE BELIEVE THAT REPENTANCE TOWARDS GOD, FAITH IN OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND REGENERATION BY THE HOLY SPIRIT ARE NECESSARY TO SALVATION."
(c) You will see how perfectly this doctrine fits in with our Bible Reading!
i. Verse 20 tells us we must repent reminding us of how Jesus says that WITHOUT REPENTANCE - WE WILL PERISH! We must turn our backs upon our sin and cast it from us!
ii. Verse 18 Paul emphasises the necessity of EXERCISING FAITH! As he says in Ephesians 2, "By Grace are ye saved through faith!." Needless to say, he is speaking of faith IN CHRIST! Faith in the wrong person or thing, leads to disaster!
iii. Verse 22 Paul tells that the transformation or REGENERATION in his own life, was continuing "unto this day", reminding us of the words of Jesus to Nicodemus when he said "Ye must be born again." We must live in newness of
life! We must be DIFFERENT INSIDE! We cannot live by the old standards anymore!
(d) Any Salvationist who does not believe such fundamental truths as these, is most certainly in the wrong church.
(e) Any Christian who refuses to accept these basic truths of God, must re-examine what they think has made them a Christian, and seriously re-assess themselves. Because, to be blunt, ─ if they are not a Christian according to
God's 'ground rules', they are not a Christian!!
(f) Too many are Christians, only ON THE OUTSIDE!
William Booth said, "To get a man soundly saved, it was not enough to put on him a new pair of breeches - to give him regular work, or even to give him a university education. These things are all outside a man, and if the inside
remains unchanged, you have wasted your labour!" ("Darkest England and The way Out")
(a) It means that someone relying on their church membership to get into heaven, will quite literally end up in hell and the lake of fire!
(b) It means, that no matter what denomination or church label a person prefers to wear, be it Church of Scotland, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Salvation Army or whatever: UNLESS THEY HAVE REPENTED OF THEIR SIN, ACCEPTED IN SIMPLE FAITH THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AS THEIR SAVIOUR, BEEN BORN AGAIN OF THE HOLY SPIRIT - UNLESS ALL OF THAT HAPPENS, THEY ARE LOST FOR ALL ETERNITY!! DAMNED!! THERE ARE NO IFS AND NO BUTS!!
(c) Let no-one be misled by the one who says, "That's the way the Officer sees it - it's just his way!" "He's Irish!"
TOTAL AND COMPLETE RUBBISH!!
IT IS THE WAY THE WORD OF GOD SEES IT!! AND IT IS THE WAY OUR DOCTRINES PROCLAIM IT!!
(d) There cannot be any soft peddling or watering down, for it is not me, BUT GOD WHO STATES IT AS A FACT! You or I will change God's Message at our peril!!
(e) Time and time again, I have been told, "YOU HOLD A VERY NARROW VIEW!"
Thank God for that, for the Bible tells me that it is THE NARROW WAY THAT LEADS TO ETERNAL LIFE, and THE BROAD ROAD THAT LEADS TO DESTRUCTION!!
(a) "THERE IS NO OTHER NAME UNDER HEAVEN GIVEN AMONGST MEN WHEREBY WE MUST BE SAVED!"
(b) Perhaps there is someone here who has been living under a DELUSION - someone who has allowed the wool to be pulled over their eyes.
(c) Over and over again, the Bible states very clearly that there is only ONE WAY TO HEAVEN - through He Who said "I AM THE WAY."
He waits to forgive and to make anew all who will come to Him!
(d) Perhaps there is someone else, and you've been neglecting to tell others the true Gospel, to warn them, because you've been misled yourself into thinking that if they believed whatever they do that somehow IT'LL BE ALL RIGHT ON THE NIGHT! IT WILL NOT!!!
How would it be if the doctor in the hospital says, "This patient doesn't know they are dying, therefore they'll be all right, and I wont need to give them this life-saving drug!" Ridiculous! I Know! But that is how many Christians view the plight of the unsaved!
(e) As I am continually reminded, everyone is entitled to believe whatever they want - true - but it does not mean they are right - and it does not mean it will keep their soul out of hell!! WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO INFORM SUCH PEOPLE OF THE TRUTH OF GOD AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE!!
Let us remember that Jesus said, many will come to Him on Judgement Day and say, "Lord, Lord, we did this, that and the other in Your Name," and the Lord will say, "Depart from me.... I never knew you!"
Often in the pubs, down through the years, I have sung the song "Sinner Man", which reminds them of a day of Judgement which is to come!
(f) We must stop listening to man and his stupid misconceptions!!
WE MUST SEE WHAT GOD SAYS IN HIS WORD, BELIEVE IT, AND ACT UPON IT!!
(g) The minister said, "Who are we to say whether a person is a Christian or not?"
WE DEAR FRIENDS, ARE GOD'S AMBASSADORS!
WE ARE ENTRUSTED WITH HIS MESSAGE!!
(h) God says in Ezekiel 3:18,
"When I say to the wicked, 'Thou shalt surely die'; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand."
IF AS CHRISTIANS YOU AND I FAIL TO EFFECTIVELY GIVE THE MESSAGE - PEOPLE WILL PERISH!!
THEY ARE RELYING ON US! GOD IS RELYING ON US!!