30th of January 2017

‘I can do all things through him who gives me strength’

Philippians 4:13

One of the things I think it is right to do when you are on holidays is to go to church.  You will note that I said ‘right’ and not ‘good’ or ‘fun’ but right.  I think it is right because it is right to worship the Lord, it is right to encourage other Christians and it is right to hear a sermon.  We had the opportunity over our recent leave to join with sometimes 8, sometimes 80 and possibly even 800 in singing God’s praises, hearing his word and worshipping the Lord.  It was not easy of course, the songs were different, the words were not our style and the fellowship was not as friendly as home.  But be that as it may, we persevere.

I look forward to the sermon.  I look forward to hearing about God’s grace and being reminded of his goodness.  But sadly so often when I get to holiday church this frequently is what I don’t hear. 

Let me give you an example.  We went to one church, the preacher explained a passage from the gospels (I forget which one, I know you forget mine too) in which Jesus healed or helped people.  I remember now it was the man with the withered hand in the synagogue from Mark 3.  The preacher said that we should do likewise – help the poor, go out of our way for the needy, look out for others.  Absolutely, I am sure that this is what God wants.  The problem with the sermon was not the application, the problem was that it was not accompanied with the gospel.  Too frequently what I hear in sermons is just try harder. The preacher says Jesus did this, you can too, just try harder.  This can be such a burden.

The problem with this sermon is that while I should, I can’t. The Old Testament proves that.  People working as hard as they can, do not destroy the effects of disobedience to God.  You and I working with all our might still fail frequently to do what God tells us we should do.  This is where the gospel comes in. The good news of the gospel is that the penalty for my disobedience is born by the obedience of Christ.  His death substitutes with my Creator for mine.  We now have forgiveness, the gift of the Spirit and access to the Father.  It is in Christ, and through Christ and for Christ that we can do all things.  Today as you come to church I hope you hear the gospel, I will try hard to make sure you do.