The death of the " King of Pop", Michael Jackson has dominated the news, and quite likely private discussions over the past few weeks. Certainly one of the many lessons, we who believe in the complete sufficiency of the Atoning sacrifice for the sins of all mankind that was wrought on the Cross of Calvary by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is the urgency that we should apply to sharing the good news " The Gospel", with the rich and the poor; the famous and the ordinary, those near to us and those far away. As all are in desperate need of Salvation, whether they know it or not. As the news filters through and we get some further insight into the complex and tragic story of this talented entertainer, the take home lesson is that, many many people, some of whom we least suspect and appreciate, in various situations in life, are going through " a literal hell" here on earth. And the only answer for their plight is an intimate and surrendered relationship with the God of all Creation, which is only available in and through Christ Jesus, and which relationship begins with repentance - a turning around - and continues with baptism, discipleship and a promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit to effect righteousness and justice, compassion and mercy, in and around that individual.
To that end the Lord led me to reflect deeply on a well known hymn in my tradition, and which a local priest reminded us during a funeral on Saturday, epitomises the " love of God" which pursues us relentlessly, and has been doing so long before we loved God. So, ever since Calvary, everyone, can return to the God of Creation regardless of their circumstances, as the hymn writes notes:
O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee:
I give you back the life I owe,
That in they ocean depth its flow
May richer, fuller, be.
O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee:
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine's blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee:
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise that is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee:
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
We are not privileged, nor are we required, to know, how many opportunities so many people are given , through various means and circumstances to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus.
But what we know is that Scripture tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of which is in Christ Jesus - no demons, no angels, no tribulation, not even death. As the Lord takes no delight in the death of a sinner but rather :
" Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? Declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their wicked ways and live?" Ezekiel 18:23 NIV
So this applies to both the non-believer and the believer, as all of us need to be consistent in seeking holiness, as without holiness, we will not see God's face. But we who believe have an even greater responsibility according to the Prophet Ezekiel.
" At the end of seven days the word of the Lord came to me. Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning for me. When I say to a wicked man, " you will surely die," and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.
Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.
Ezekiel 3:16-21. NIV
Small wonder then that one of the most beautiful passages of Scriptures connects with this theme of preaching the good news.
" As the scripture says, " anyone who trusts in him ( Jesus Christ) will never be put to shame." For there in no difference between Jew and gentile - the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses those all those who call on him, for " Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved".
How, then, can they call on the one who they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, " How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!
Romans 10:11-15 NIV
One of the many problems that we who bring the good news face, both from within and without the faith is the authenticity of the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures. Hence the reflections from Oswald Chambers on this issue are extremely pertinent.
WHAT MUST I BELIEVE?
THE FACT OF THE BIBLE AND THE THEORY OF INSPIRATION
The Bible is a world of revelation facts, and when you explain the Bible, take into account all the record of it. the Bible nowhere says that we have to believe it is the Word of God before we can be Christians. The Bible is not the Word of God to me unless I come at it through what Jesus says, it it of no use to me unless I know Him.. The key to the understanding of the Bible is not intelligence but personal relationship with to Jesus Christ. I begin my theories after I have got to on he inside. You may believe the Bible is the Word of God from Genesis to Revelations and not be a Christian at all.
THE MYSTERY OF THE BIBLE
Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. ( 2 Peter 1: 21)
What does the Bible say about itself? That it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, but through men, not through mechanisms. it is not that the Holy Spirit took up men in a miraculous way and used them as channels; the chief item is the man, and each Book bears the stamp of the man. The mystery of the Bible is that its inspiration was direct from God, not verbally inspired, but the inspired Word of God - the Final Word of God; not that God is not saying anything now, but He is not saying anything different from the Final Word Jesus Christ. All God says is expounding that Word. The Final Word and the only Word are very different. Be reverent with the Bible explanation of itself.
Finally as we contemplate the many temptations that we all face as sinful human beings, though thank God, ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven in Jesus, the Lord led me through another hymn which assures us of God's abiding presence at all times and in all situations ( caused by the devil, the flesh and the world) - we just have to call upon the name of Jesus.
O Jesus, I have promised
To serve the to the end;
Be thou for ever near me,
My master and my Friend:
I shall not fear the battle
If thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway
If thou wilt be my guide.
O let me feel thee near me:
The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle,
The tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me,
Around me and within;
But, Jesus, draw thou nearer,
And shield my soul from sin.
O let me hear thee speaking
In accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion,
The murmurs of self-will;
O speak to reassure me,
To hasten and control;
O speak and make me listen
Thou guardian of my soul.
O Jesus, thou hast promised
To all who follow thee,
That where thou art in glory
There shall thy servant be;
And, Jesus, I have promised
To serve thee to the end:
O give me grace to follow,
My Master and my Friend.
O let me see thy footmarks,
And in them plant my own;
My hope to follow duly
Is in thy strength alone:
Uphold me to the end;
And then in heaven receive me,
My Master and my Friend.
Thank God for Jesus indeed. Amen