Posts Tagged Jesus

Jesus out of focus and Christmas with Christ

Cross out of focus © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

Cross out of focus © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

I greatly admire Christmas and it is at this season of the rolling year that I have a few traditions of my own. One such tradition I have is my reading of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens.

First published in 1843 after a visit to Manchester, Dickens clearly wrote the book with the aim of reforming the festival that was starting to fade. I think he did a good job of it. His term “humbug” was a masterly description. The problem is, Scrooge was in fact correct, Christmas was a “humbug”. A 19th century definition means ‘fraud’.

In the 21st century, Christmas is in fact a time for paying bills, acquiring heavy debts and a time where people indulge in constant spending, socialising, gluttony and alcoholism in an industrious commercial institution that focuses upon materialism and not the person of Jesus Christ. In that context Scrooge was correct; ‘Christmas sir is a humbug’.

But for me and many Christians, Christmas is not merely a time for gaining material or spending, and I certainly do not drink alcohol or indulge in gluttony. Christmas for me, is a time for remembering the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ and in that, Christmas is with me 365 days a year.

However, despite the fact that a secular Christmas has little to do with Jesus Christ, there is little doubt in my mind that many people today, Religious and none Religious would seek to abolish Christmas, and replace it with something else or nothing. In many ways, secularist culture has done just that, it has abolished the true historical meaning of Christmas.

Likewise, the use of the abbreviation “X” rather than “Christ” can be argued that the secularists have used a historic meaning. The letter “X” is from the Greek “Χριστός” which means Christ. The problem is that the majority of people, especially the secularists or average soul, has little or no knowledge of the Greek language, so “X” to them is just a letter.

Secularism has turned Christmas away from a festival where people celebrate and remember the birth of Jesus and turned it into a time of worldliness and sin and selfish gain. People are celebrating the sins that Jesus came to set us free from.

St Paul Outside the walls, Rome, Out of Focus © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

St Paul Outside the walls, Rome, Out of Focus © 2014 Simon Peter Sutherland

In the year 1647, the Puritan government in England banned Christmas and regarded it as little more than a snare of “Antichrist” and “Popery”. But today in the 21st century it is difficult to connect Christmas with the Roman Catholic Church or even as a Religious festival. We all know that for many people in the West, particularly in Britain, Christmas has little to do with the Lord Jesus Christ.

But for me as a Christian, the season is very much related to our Lord Jesus. He is everything! And even though we do not know the exact date or year when Jesus was born, we do know that the early Church made the decision to celebrate His birth at this time of year.

Because of a 4th century reference to Christmas in the calendar of 354 AD, we know that early Christians at Rome regarded the Nativity to have taken place on 25th December. However, Christians in the East celebrated the Messiahs birth on January 6th.

Moving forward in history toward the Protestant Reformation, I would think that no accurate case can be established to claim the 16th century Reformers denied Christmas. It is true that governmental 17th century English Puritans banned Christmas, but such was not the case with the 16th century Reformers. The facts remain that 16th century Lutheran, and Church of England Reformers continued to celebrate Christmas: that point is clear from history and the Book of Common Prayer.

Christmas reminds me in many ways of the Jewish season of Hanukkah, recorded by Jewish historian Josephus as “The festival of lights” (Antiquities X11) In this festival the Jewish people commemorate the establishing or rededication of the Holy Temple, and is an eight day holiday which starts on the 25th day of kislev. This can occur from late November to late December. Concluding for many on what we call ‘Christmas eve’.

It is clear to me that the things which Jewish people celebrate in Hanukkah were fulfilled in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I see that in and through Jesus, Judaism is made whole. Without Him I see little conclusion or fulfilment of the Torah and the Prophets. Not only is Jesus the “Light of the world” and not only has did He fulfil the prophecies but He has rededicated the Temple and purified it in His people. And if one desires to see Jesus in this, a good place to start would be throughout the Gospel of John, where Jesus is at the Feast of dedication during winter (John 10: 22-23) and also the book of Hebrews.

I think Christmas has been hijacked by secular culture and I think that unless peoples hearts and minds are won over to the Truth, there is little that can be done about that. Christmas for secularists merely implies faith, hope and gluttony:

  1. Faith in “Evolution”.
  2. Hope in “Science”.
  3. Indulgence in the flesh.

A person cannot honestly take Christ out of Christmas and continue to celebrate the festival as though He never was who He said He was, it is intellectually dishonest. And as for the mess that the world makes of Christmas, should we really expect anything else? The world would turn every celebration into a hotchpotch of drunkenness and fleshly pursuits, and entertainment. So what more can we expect? It is up to each one of us to be different, because we are different. We are not of this world, if we belong to Christ. Thus, it is up to us to know and understand what we believe and it is up to us to show the people of the world the historic Truth behind the Christmas many know and love.

Many Christians are speaking out for the Truth, but far too many Christians in Britain desperately need to start speaking out!

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Jesus is “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men” Christmas 2012

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men”Luke 2: 14

Christmas starts with Christ St Ann's Church, ManchesterFor some unknown reason to me, the so-called nativity texts of the gospels are, for the most part only explored at Christmas.

So often in England we hear the passages from Matthew and Luke read out during Christmas services, followed by traditional carols and verses from the prophet Isaiah. All very well and good but somehow I feel that much of this tradition is little more than going through the motions, a tradition rather than an understanding? A reading rather than a knowing.

It feels to me that when read in most churches in England at this time of the year, the texts of Matthew and Luke appear to lack reality and historic value. People appear to look at them as though they are just ancient myths and stories based upon some real historical events. It has become a culture to believe the Biblical narratives have been retold and edited to a persuasion by ancient spin doctors. Grand assumptions have been made by modern scholars and people have bought into it through ignorance and lack of knowledge.

The original gospels were never written to be told as fairytales or myths but actual eye witness accounts.

But still, the claims of some modern scholars dominate the minds of many. Many people seem to believe the claims, just because scholars make them.

Yet anyone who can think for themselves know that scholarship so often takes its position and defends it regardless of evidence or contrasting opinion.

I do not respectfully disagree with the many claims of modern critical scholarship which has infiltrated the church, I disagree full stop, with no respect whatsoever and I do so not without historical evidence.

Today amongst many, the knowledge of the historical reality of the gospels has become a lost goldmine of which the location is known only by the few.

I often sit within whichever church I choose to attend at Christmas listening to Christmas services, enjoying the carols and the splendour of the season, followed by a walk through the town with all its glittering lights and nativity scenes.

I am glad that the enemies of Christianity have failed in their attempts to remove the nativity scenes from our streets, even if they have corrupted much of the so-called Christian church.

But still, this year I have been pleased to see churches packed with people and an array of carol singers. I have at times, felt the Christmas spirit and the text from Luke has rung so often within my ears, “on earth peace, goodwill toward men”.

But there is no peace on earth, I say to myself. The earth is filled with horror, evil, wickedness and violence which at times is hard for the human to cope with.

This week I have read of the horrors of children murdered in a school in America. I read of wars, theft, lies, corruption, I see evil films being played on Television, filled with bloodshed and human beings slaughtering one another, treating humans like a butcher treats animals and all in the name of entertainment. I often ask the question, ‘are people stupid or what?’ do people not see that what the eyes take in, the mind conceives and what the mind conceives, the flesh gives birth to?

It is a wicked world we live in.

I see new atheists seeking to destroy Christianity with falsehood, lies, and delusions. I see corrupted sciences attempting to take God out of His creation and claiming the earth and humans are a product of chance. I hear people tell me that evolution is a fact, yet when I refute the theory I am insulted like a child by a bully in a playground. Yet in reality, the theory of evolution cannot be seen without embracing Charles Lyells “principles of geology” and philosophy that the present is key to the past. Even Darwin confessed this in chapter 9 of his famous book. It is for this very reason that modern evolutionists deny the flood, because if the flood is proven, it will disprove the theory of evolution.

I see modern evolutionists ignoring and rejecting the evidence of the ancient flood, which changed the face of the planet. I see them bombarding the media and making a culture out of believing that man evolved from ancestral creatures, so much so that people like myself who think critically and for themselves are bullied and labelled as uneducated, ignorant and deluded, just because I do not accept the word and authority of evolutionary scientists.

I hear of wars, rumours of wars, I see Israel in turmoil, I see Egypt in turmoil, I see extremist terrorist threats deep within the minds of people who are inwardly afraid. I see threat after threat and authorities seeking to silence the mouths of those who speak out openly and people cry. Tears fall down the faces of human beings throughout the world.

It is not a nice world to live in today. There is no peace. It is a wicked world. A world where a man is afraid to bring children into it.

Religion has not made this world a better place and neither has science. But for all its faults, religion has far less blood on its hands than the scientific world.

Some atheist scientists and thinkers who often attack religion, make out that science is some kind of angel or authority. Yet science is no angel.

Is science not cruel to animals?
Has science not created nuclear weapons of mass destruction?
Has science not created a new wave of warfare?
Does it not now attempt to reduce man to a mere animal creature?
Has the products of science not blown unsuspecting men, women and little children to pieces?

Do I trust you science? Not me.

O indeed, the horrors of science make religion appear an amateur by comparison.

But still, the Biblical text rings clear and remains. It speaks of a pure gospel, a beauty which is not limited by the limitations of the human mind and not governed or ruled by a scientific mad age. It is a spiritual reality, a gospel of peace for those who love the Truth. A perfect saviour who in a wicked world, came down to set things right and gave His own life doing so.

A child born to die. A child, a historical human being who grew to be a man, He healed the sick, fed the poor, clothed the naked, raised the dead and took upon Himself the infirmities of us all. He did no wrong to any man, He never lied, He never sinned, He was never selfish, nor rude, He spoke only of Truth and was a doer of good works, His message was love. Yet still, the wicked hated Him, they mocked Him, they tried to trick Him, they tried to kill Him and all His people, yet still, they were unable to do so until He gave His life.

He spoke the truth to every man and woman, and those who were not of the truth, they hated Him and wanted Him dead and when that time came, they took out their hatred of God upon Him and they spat upon Him, the beat Him, the whipped Him and the set up false witnesses against Him. Not unlike the modern scholars, atheist evolutionists and critics of today. They wanted Him dead and they did it, but God had other plans.

O indeed, it is a wicked world, and when the creator is nailed to a cross by the created, we see just how wicked this world truly is. Yet God sees. God knows. God hurts.

In days of old, Genesis 6: 6 tells us that God even repented for making man. Yet He did not destroy them in the flood, but gave forth new life and He did this because man could no more cure himself of his wretched sick condition than he could cure himself of a common cold.

It is a wicked world, but if we look to the world we will not see the true meaning of Luke 2: 14, for Jesus is not of this world and He is the true meaning of the passage, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men”. For if we read the text in the original Greek, we see the translation should be, “on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests”.

True peace cannot be known by anyone who remains in a state of total depravity. It is those who seek the truth who find it, and it is those who love the truth and are of the truth from the beginning on whom His favour rests.

This is why there is no peace in the world, it is because those whom Christ came to save have rejected Him yet again and only those who truly know Jesus truly know peace.

As the saying goes, “no Christ, no peace” and for those who love Jesus, no evil can overcome them. As it is written in Psalm 91: 1-16

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.”

Christmas 2012

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The Acts by Alec Sutherland

 English Bible  © 2013 Simon Peter Sutherland

English Bible © 2013 Simon Peter Sutherland

Before we commence I think we should go back to the gospel of Matthew, because there is a passage of scripture there which is so relevant to the Acts. The passage is Matthew 16: 13-29. This was a private conversation that Christ had with His disciples and we are privileged to share it for it concerned Himself and it took place in Caesarea in Philippi on the far north border of the land of Canaan. So there would be less people flocking after Him, it would be quieter. He enquires what the opinion of others were concerning Him? Whom do men say that I, the son of man am? It is worth looking at to note why He called Himself the son of man, others called Him the son of God (Luke 1: 35). But He called Himself the son of man, for He was truly man born of a women. He is made known in Daniel’s vision concerning Christ as the son of man (Daniel 7: 13). In verse 14 of Matthew 16, the disciples answers were not their own, for they said what they heard other people say up and down the country. Jesus wanted to know their thoughts, but whom do you say that I am? It was vital that they knew the truth themselves. It is also a question we should always ask ourselves. Who do we say what kind of Christ the Lord Jesus is? Is He the fairest of 10,000 to our souls? Is it well or wrong with us how are thoughts are concerning Christ? In verse 16 Peter answers this question, but whom do you say that I am? Peters answer is short, but it is full and true and to the point. What was his answer, more than this is a confession of a true Christian answer. Faith addressed to Christ, the living son of the living God. The answer becomes an act of worship, an act of devotion. To other people He was a prophet, the disciples owned Him to be the Messiah, the anointed one. In verse 17 Christ shows He is well pleased with Peters reply or conclusion, he has the happiness of the blessed. Blessed art thou Simon Bar Jonas, Bar meant “Son of Jonas, his father, which meant “Dove”. So He reminds him of his origin. His obscurity Bar Jonas now he is elevated, you could say Bar Christ, the child of a King. Then He gives the glory for Peters reply to God, “For flesh and blood hath not revealed it to you, but my father which is in heaven”. Note the Christian faith is revealed faith. The revelation comes from heaven, through the Holy Spirit. Saving grace is the gift of our God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And blessed are we when our father, Christ’s father reveals truth to us. We have verse 19 which is a vital one concerning the Church. How do you see this verse? I say unto you authority from God, it is His Church, all judgement is given to Him. All the churches power comes from Him, the builder and maker of the Church. He will build it up with living stones. Peter himself says this in 1 Peter 2: 5-6, Christ is the foundation. Peter Did in fact lay the 1st stone of the Church but the foundation is everlasting, so it can only be Christ. When Christ first called Peter, He gave Him the name Cephas, which means stone or rock. This rock, pointed to Himself, placed His hand upon His breast, as He did in John 2: 19, destroy this temple, the temple of the body and I will rebuild it in three days. We are the body 1 Corinthians 3: 2. The apostles had the authority and the keys to bind and loose, the keys to shut and open. The keys are the gospel itself and the authority which Christ gave them as ministers of His gospel. They had authority to allow certain things and forbid and it was all revealed to them by our father in heaven.

Alec Sutherland

1938 – 1999

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The importance of Theology and the problem of religion

The problem of religion © 2018 Simon Peter SutherlandThe importance of Theology is and has always been needed within the walls of the Christian life. If we sit outside the walls or on the walls we do very little but watch the sun go down and the sunrise. In other words it’s like sitting on the fence, or guiding sheep into a field where there is no grass. They don’t eat and the work does not get done. We and they, are wasting time and energy. Now suppose we do not sit on the fence or outside the walls but rather stand within the walls and not only take in the scenic views, but internalise them and embrace them, as one would do when he or she returns or marries the love of his or her life. We kiss, we hold each other, we embrace. We become one.

Now if we do not make the first move we will never know what lay before us or what we could have had or known if only we would make the move and ask the question, just as a nervous teenager asks a girl for a date. If he never asked, he would never know and that plaque would haunt him for the rest of his life. Now suppose he asked the girl, ‘would you like to come out with me for a date sometime?’ and she replied, ‘Sure, I’d love to’. Would he not be the better for it than if he had never taken the step to ask the question? Of course he would and the same can be said of understanding ‘Biblical Theology’. Asking questions is vital, but more than that, we need to listen to the answer or answers and take them on board. Remember the movie, ‘It’s a wonderful life’ where James Stewart and Donna Reed are challenged by an elderly guy sat on his porch, and he says, ‘Why don’t you just kiss her instead of talking her to death’. James Stewart could talk the ears of a wooden Indian and yet despite his true feelings, he hesitated to act upon them. But little did he know that in time he would marry the girl and raise a family. Thus we do not always know where we are going when we follow impulses but destiny and providence is working its hand in all our lives. There was a time when I was compelled to purchase books, yet all the time a war was going on within me to reject the books and buy something else rather than a book that inspires thought towards the truth of God. The human will would have you follow the world and feel the impulse of the human will, ‘go sin some more’, whereas Christ would say, “Go and sin no more”. Thus the war is underway in the search to find a Theology that can find us and place us where God would have us be. This Theology is the means appointed to us for eternal life. We need it, we should love it, and we should always apply it to every moment of life. But there are times when we don’t. We are men and women and we fail. But that does not mean that we cannot and should not continue to try. We should look at our human nature and say, ‘Wait a minute…if I don’t drink coffee for two weeks, I won’t have the desire to drink anywhere near what I did before’. Thus the nature of the will can be lessened by the practice of a Theology that is both vital and important for everyday living. Not a Theology that can often lead nowhere, but a Theology that can hold us, sustain us, keep us, watch over us, comfort us, bind us and keep us so near to Christ that we can hardly stand a brief minute being away from it. Its something that is practised and enjoyed. Like a Theology of the attributes of God. Who is He? What is He like? What does He talk like or what does He like? What offends Him and do I offend Him knowingly or unknowingly? And if so what can I do about it? This is what I would love to hear belted out from the heart and the mouth of every preacher in every nation. Truth, a Theology of Truth. A Theology that sustains and sticks to every word of the Bible like glue and does not ignore a single text that either contradicts or compliments a single Theology or a single creed. I’m talking about holding on to the word of God in every corner and every last syllable and every last text that our eyes and hearts embrace. Not ignoring a text or pulling out the old context or Greek interpretation ploy whenever its convenient. But asking God and ourselves, ‘What does this truly mean? Have I erred?’ If only humans would truly say to themselves, ‘I don’t care if I contradict a creed or a leader by not swaying from a single text of the Bible’. Or as Luther said, ‘My conscience is captive to the Word of God, and to go against conscience is neither right nor safe’. Thus, a Theology that is put into practice before God, ourselves and man, is far greater than a theology put down on paper or belched out from the pulpit but not lived. There’s only one thing to do with such theoretic blasts of wind and that is to strike a match and burn the stench.

God gives warnings to His people, ‘get it right’ and we only have this life to do it in and then comes the judgement. Not judgement for indwelling sin, but being neither cold or hot. God would have us be one or the other. Same to can be said of our Theologies, are they cold or are they hot. I don’t know about you but I prefer the hot days rather than the freezing cold ones. I’d rather be in the blazing heat than in the dusty old cold cellar where there is little light or beauty. The beauty is in the light of the sun and the light magnifies the beauty of all things good. Thus when we open the pages of the Bible, what good would it be to open them in the dark and attempt to read it? Why not call out for a light as the jailer in Acts 16: 25-31 and fall to our knees and believe? That’s what Salvation is all about, believing and asking “What must I do?” (Acts 16: 30) It’s not a salvation that requires a man or women to sit and simply read or do nothing, it’s a salvation that at first requires belief and second beliefs to good works. Just as the Phipippian jailer believed and then washed the stripes of Paul and Silas and after the event of his baptism continued in good works and made Paul and Silas a meal (Acts 16: 33-34). In other words the Theology I am speaking of is a Theology that is put into practice and one that says, ‘Let’s talk about it over dinner’ and more than that, ‘I will cook the food for you’.

In other words Paul never spoke of a faith that is idle or so stable that it can hardly move. No it’s a faith that is so strong and active that there is little room for inactivity. Paul’s Theology was like a lion, it works best when you turn it loose. It’s not something that can be caged or contained within the limitation of words, books and preaching. It’s something that requires a person to get up off their backsides and do something about. It’s not a Theology that once learned stays behind closed doors or stained glass windows. It something life changing, threatening to authorities and governments, leaders and control freaks. It’s something that once turned loose, can cause a whole City to turn into uproar. This is what we have read about in the journals of Wesley, and the Foxes book of Martyrs. It’s a total uproar, a Theology that once learned must be practised and lived to the point of death. It is something so strong, so powerful, so addictive, so un-measurable that once tasted can never be erased from the taste-buds of our hearts and minds. It captivates people, arrests them and throws them into the prison and binds them in the chains and stocks of Christ. We must hear the word of God, believe all that is written and be astonished at the doctrine of The Lord.

A PROBLEM OF RELIGION, NO JOY

Many people dislike “religion” and view “religious people” as often miserable and tense, extreme and strange. Of course this is not always the case for many people admire others who have faith in something because they often fail to have any true faith themselves. Many find in their own characters and conduct a sustaining faith that influences their own selves, many say to me, “I believe in myself” and “I cannot believe in a God that I cannot see”. And although I can understand and identify with such people, it must be pointed out that such is not the case with “true religion”. One common view is that many people blame the many world religions as the one of the many problems that often provokes world wars? And although there is some if not a very lot of truth in that fact, I must state that true religion is not the cause of world wars. It is the power trips of certain evil dictators that cause war, it is not true religion. There would have been no wars in the Bible times if evil did not wage war upon goodness, therefore we cannot be blinded to true religion because of war. True religion is not a mystical faith that is nothing more than a leap in the dark, and a voyage to nowhere. “True religion” is true faith and true faith is an eye opener and a joy to behold. True faith is not a leap in the dark but is a leap from the dark into the light. It opens our eyes to who we are and who God really is. The problem we face with “religion” today is the many self appointed religious leaders who attempt to lead men to themselves or to God as though they are a necessary channel or mediator to the heavens. We see this with men like the Pope who are presented to the public as messianic type figures who claim to have the authority to anathematise people or bless them. False religions promote a threat that unless you join the certain church you are going to end up in hell. But true religion does not attempt to ensnare the individual into becoming a member of “the denomination church” but invites them to be reconciled unto God and to be at peace with Him through Christ. Religions such as Islam and Roman Catholicism all teach that unless you join the certain denominational church you cannot enter heaven. While on the other extreme some Religions claim that everyone will go to heaven with or without Christ or God. Yet Jesus did not teach this. On the contrary He said, “accept a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” John 3: 3. And no where does the Bible state that a man can only be born again when he or she is part of the denominational Christian Church. Christ said, “come to me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11: 28. “The truth shall make you free” John 8: 32. You see that Christ pointed people to Himself and not the denominational Church, and offered peace and rest for the individual in Him and not dismal church sacraments and dull services. While on the other hand Christ stated that without Him, there can be no hope of salvation for anyone. Christ did not say, “Come to the church” or “Come and receive the sacraments at your local church and inherit heaven through the church”. On the contrary, if one is truly saved and born of God, he or she will want to join other people of like mind and be blessed and built up by their company. That is what the Bible says is the true church. Thus, the distracting claims that religion promotes often clouds the eyes of many people and the actions of the church distract people from the personal conduct and salvation freely offered to the individual.

All such religions as Roman Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, and many branches of so-called Christianity including the Church of England, Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses all have one thing in common. They all promote the individual religious and sacramental workings of a man as a necessity of inheriting eternal life with God. But the problem is that true religion should promote the fact that God Himself came down to earth in order to reach man and reason with him concerning righteousness and heaven. God Himself came down onto earth and reasoned with Abraham, (Genesis 18: 16-33) God Himself came down onto mount Sinai and gave Moses the tablets containing Ten Commandments (Exodus 19-20: 17). God came down to earth and said “Come now, and let us reason together” Isaiah 1: 18. God Himself came down to earth in the form of Christ and offered mankind the opportunity to reason with Himself and receive the free and unconditional gift of salvation. All man had to do was receive the gift and believe that God has made a way for him to inherit a gift that he was unable to achieve by human efforts. All those who believe in Jesus are saved to good works not by good works. This for me demonstrates that real God given Christianity is the true religion and the most powerful. For all other religions teach a certain way for man to find the truth and not the truth finding him. Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the life” (John 14: 6). But Mohamed came along over 500 years after Jesus and based all his ideas upon what was already written by Moses centuries earlier. He could not say that he was the truth and neither could Buddha’s The sayings of Buddha for such writings only attempt to point people to human wisdom being nothing more than a form of the truth taught by Solomon in the book of Proverbs and Moses many years previous.

It has to be said that the problem we face today with our current religious and none religious generation is that there is no healthy fear of God and no healthy fear of authority, for religion has blinded many peoples eyes to the truth. In my opinion much responsibility for this is to be blamed upon the theory of evolution as a presentation and enticement that creation account recorded in Genesis is just a myth and evolution is factual religion. But such evolutionists fail to inform their hearers that the scientific world is 50-50 regarding the creation account and the Darwinian theory.

If only man would embrace the God given gift of eternal salvation and eternal freedom and wash away the clouds that religion blows in front of their eyes he would hear and know that what the Bible states is the truth of all hope and pleasure in the glory and beauty of almighty God. Therefore the problem of religion is that it blinds peoples eyes and blocks the ears to the actual text of the Bible beyond disputes concerning, the creation account or the Lords prayer or the virgin birth. Religion never finds the treasure because it never looks up from the map. If only the public of today would know that true religion is a joy to hold, it is an honour and a delight to embrace. It is filled with the spiritual truths, joy, pleasure and insights and unimaginable truths. But religion without joy is like a spare tyre with no jack and a spare tyre without a jack is like a Church without Jesus.

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The Experience of Visiting Biblical Sites

Simon Peter Sutherland at Philippi, Macedonia

Simon Peter Sutherland at Philippi © 2003/2011

In 2003 I visited the ancient remains of Philippi in Macedonia with my wife. Travelling over from Thassos to Macedonia by ferry we landed at Neapolis (Acts 16: 11) now modern day Kavala and from there to ancient Philippi, to the Biblical sites such as the market place, as mentioned in Acts 16: 19 and the so-called prison, as mentioned in Acts 16: 24-31 and then onto the river which was just outside Philippi, where Paul baptized Lydia, as mentioned in Acts 16: 13-15.

The whole exprience astounded me and I could not but be amazed that I was actually standing in the places where the events I had read about for so many years actually took place. Places where our Sovereign Lord ordained these events to occur.

The fascination which had birthed within me when I first saw the great Arena in Ephesus on a documentary when I was a child, but I had a slight fear of flying which my wife overcame and so my ambition grew from desire to reality. The ambition within me grew and moved me so strongly that I followed our first journey to Macedonia with many more visits to sites connected with Acts of the Apostles. My wife and I would follow this journey in an adventure over the Mediterranean around Greece, and travels not only to Macedonia, Kavala and Philippi but to Ephesus and the events of Acts 19, and the ancient city to whom Paul wrote the letter of Ephesians and one of the seven Churches of Revelation. Then onto Malta to the sites where the events of Acts 27: 39 may have happened, and travels on foot to the sites where the events of Acts 28: 1-10 most likely took place. From then we journed also to Cyprus, and Kition in Larnaka, and then to Paphos and the events of Acts 13: 4-13.

Simon Peter Sutherland at the Tomb of St Lazarus, Cyprus

The Tomb of Lazarus, Larnaca © 2003/2011

After this glorious time my wife and I had with the Lord and His word, I became passionately drawn to the ancient reality of the original New Testament and its 1st century setting. I began to see how far Christianity had moved away from the authentic gospel and into tradition and doubted very much that Paul would be happy with modern Christianity. In 2005 my wife Jenny gave birth to our first son, Peter and in 2007 our second son Luke was born and as you can imagine, travelling became more difficult. Now that our children are growing and we can travel once more to the Biblical sites, soon we hope to begin our journeys again. This time, we hope to head to Jerusalem and more of Greece and Rome.

If you have never visited such ancient Biblical sites, then I would highly recomend it. Being amongst the ancient locations gives the believer such a more dynamic understanding of the scriptures and when you are there and reading the text, its like being within the pages.

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The Reasonable Christian

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Isaiah 1: 18 by Simon Peter Sutherland

In many theological circles today, particularly amongst many Christians on the internet, blogs, networks and in personal contact, there appears to be a distinct lack of reasonable theological debate. So often uneducated debates conclude with attacks and slanging matches and one goes away offended and the debate is over. One cuts the friendship of another Christian and deems him or her an inconsistent heretic and considers himself as being obedient to the text to cut off the heretic after the first or second warning (Titus 3: 10). Yet, few ever considered the possibility that that person who is ‘cut off’ might not be a heretic in reality, but only a heretic in the eyes of the one who cuts the person off?

Many Christians today are fighting with each other and need to stop doing this if the church today is ever going to move forwards into maturity. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13: 11, a passage that is in the context of Christian Love “when I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man I gave up childish ways”. Paul here takes an earthly and human matter of fact and applies it to the spiritual, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then (when we see Christ) face to face” (Verse 12)

It is possible that some Christians are more mature than others and yet should those mature Christians whip other Christians who may or may not be as mature as they? No. If they do that they are not mature. Any parent knows that you have to wait for a child to grow up and mature, and you have to teach them in the way they should go, not beat them up and condemn them for not understanding something they are not yet capable of grasping.

It can be seen as a frequent problem amongst Christian people when many so-called debaters conclude the debate, before the debate has begun. One person goes in from one theological persuasion and another goes in from another theological persuasion and each one only wants to hear his persuasion met and visa versa, Truth is rarely on the actual agenda, but more what people believe to be the truth.

Reasoning has lost its place amongst debate, yet is a huge part of theology and is very consistent with Biblical narratives.

We see in Acts 17: 2 that Paul “as his custom was” he “reasoned with them (the Jews) from the scriptures” Note that he reasoned with them from the actual text of scripture and not from argument alone but from argument fixed upon what the Biblical text says.

Today we see that there is plenty of evidence to suggest a distinctive lack of ability to reason through doctrines and topics can be found amongst many Christians and church leaders because people almost instantly appear to get their backs up and rebuke or attack a doctrine that makes them feel a certain way. What often follows a debate is that people assume a doctrine to be a heresy when in actual fact it may not be a heresy but an actual Biblical truth? Thus, a debate forms, people get aggressive and condemn or cut a fellow Christian off and more division has occurred when it need not have happened in the first place. Debating can be very frustrating and it is vital that a person learns not to put another person in their framework which they have created and then judge another person by it.

Theology is much larger than many suppose. God works through much wider circles than many suppose. But He always brings that which He has started to a conclusion it is rarely left worse off than when it started. But a debate which ends in rage is no debate at all, but a mere gun fight or contest to prove who can win the argument. That is not good scholarship or good debate. A good debate should be aimed at learning from each other and reviewing contrasting debates and examining them and concluding when each person has had time to think it over. If we are ever going to see things change within Christianity today, we must train ourselves to reason again and to reason properly without getting all angry and fired up. Likewise, we cannot conclude a debate with one person saying, “Well, I don’t believe that” as though your stance on something is going to stand fast and strong. It will do little, certainly not to anyone who has understanding. All such an action will do is present you as a person who is stubborn and unwilling to learn.

For example a debate may occur between two Christians; one person may present the narrative according to his theology and will judge the Biblical text according to that framework. While the other person may present the Biblical narrative according to his theology and will judge the Biblical text according to that framework. Another person may claim to be somewhere in the middle of both theologies and he will thus being judged “inconsistent”. Both parties having a number of proof texts for their theologies and arguing them throughout. Somehow, a debate like that can seem more like a game than an actual reasonable discussion with Truth as the ultimate aim. This type of debate seems more to me like a battle of wits than it does an honest truth seeking talk, and I say this because truth is not divided.

Neither can truth be discerned according to how it makes you feel. Truth can make any one of us uncomfortable and our attitudes towards truth cannot be taken as a basis of truth. Neither can the way we read truth be deemed as absolute truth. For example; A person can read something spoken by a person, be it in a book or otherwise, yet he or she really reads that text in their own voice, thus, if they are English, they read in an English accent, if they are American, they read in an American accent and so on. Thus, each of us reads in our own voice, yet that voice may not be accurate in itself. If a person reads a text in an inner angry voice, the narrative will be aggressive. If one is slow and relaxed, the text will be read in a slow and relaxed way. Thus, I suggest that debates are far better to be restricted to actual debate in the flesh and not by the letter only. This way a debate can be taken properly and understood as the person desired the argument to be understood.

Obviously this cannot happen at all times, but we live in an age of modern technology and people can talk voice to voice even if it is by computer or phone. I prefer to debate or talk in person, this is much better and one can handle things more properly than if one is dealing with a computer screen and a bunch of words which can be taken this way or that way.

Thus, to conclude in this matter of a few words which I offer to all people, permit me to suggest a few points worth considering for any future debates you may have with fellow Christians.

7 SUGGESTIONS FOR DEBATING

  1. If you have a debate, then train your mind and heart to be reasonable and not over judgemental.
  2. Always ask the person you are debating with to clarify what they are saying.
  3. Knowing the theological position of a person is helpful, be they Liberal, Wesleyan, Lutheran, Reformed, Calvinist, Moderate Calvinist, 5 point Calvinist, hyper Calvinist, Arminian and so forth.
  4. Never judge the person you are debating with by your own framework. A person may be part of a certain theological persuasion, but may not agree with all of that theology.
  5. Never say or even think that you have a perfect theology. Learn to reason with an open and willing heart and mind.
  6. Always be willing to admit when you are wrong.
  7. Pray before every debate. Ask the Lord to open all our hearts and minds to His truth.

 

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