In Luke 4 v 18, Jesus applies Isaiah 61 v 1 to His own ministry :
‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me,
to preach good news
to the poor.’
For over 2000 years the Christian Church has often neglected this aspect of its own calling. Let’s move forward in obedience so that :
God may bestow on the poor of all nations :
‘crowns of beauty’ and ‘the oil of gladness’ Isaiah 61 v 3
1. Jesus taught us to give priority to the poor. Matthew 25 v 40,45; Luke 4 v 18, 7 v 22; 1 John 4 v 20. We need to make sure that church leaders and Bible Society members ‘hear’ this message. ‘Oral’ ministries are useful and should be supported BUT they are no substitute for very easy to read gospel portions at different levels for poor readers.
2. Jesus’s last prayer in Gethsemane before he died was that believers would be united. John 17 v 20. Let us seek to encourage faithful men and women in all Christian denominations. Let us love one another. 1 John 2 v 10, 3 v14, 4 v 7-12; 1 Peter 3 v 8, 4 v 8. Even if fellow believers, in their ignorance, will not share the bread and wine with us – we should love them as brothers and sisters and not ignore them.
3. We should be inclusive with regard to ‘gay’ people. Please read :
PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS by the Bishop of Liverpool, Rt Revd Dr James Jones to the Diocesan Synod on March 6th 2010
and chapter 8 of ‘Undergoing God’ by Catholic priest Fr James Allison. ISBN 0-232-52676-1
We should NOT exclude people just because they are different and we do not understand them! In excluding others we may be excluding ourselves.
Please also read the very moving testimony of evangelical singer Vicky Beeching – http://vicky-beeching-gay-american-evangelical
4. We should examine anew the traditional teaching on ‘Heaven and Hell’. Please consider thoughtfully Revd John Wenham’s plea concerning disastrous teaching on Hell.
On page 256 of ‘Facing Hell’ ISBN 0-85364-871-9 he writes :
‘I believe that endless torment is a hideous and unscriptural doctrine which has been a terrible burden on the mind of the church for many centuries and a terrible blot on her presentation of the gospel. I should indeed be happy if, before I die, I could help in sweeping it away.’
John Wenham died in 1996. His words are important today.
This message means that Christ’s final judgement will be between Heaven and destruction. Only He will judge. Immortality will be conditional on loving and responding to Him. He wants us to love Him and to love people.
1 John 4 v 20 ‘How can we say that we love God whom we do not see if we don’t love our brother who we can see.’
Challenging words! We are not saved by believing creeds – important as they are; but by loving God and serving others through His grace.
1 Corinthians 13 v 2 – ‘If i we have faith to move mountains but have not have love, we are nothing’.
Eternal life is for those who know Jesus; for those who love the least of these our brothers and sisters (please read again Mt 25 v 40 and 45). We must be sincere and humble in our love. Who are the people who Jesus ‘knows’. Well only He does know. Some will have great love for God and for people – but they have yet to hear the name Jesus. I believe there will be many surprises in Heaven. But such thoughts are too high for us. Let us love and obey Jesus and read again Mt 25 v 40.
5. TRUE religion?
For a while i’ve been noticing that truly loving the poor does not always go hand-in-hand with church-going.
James ch1 v 27 and 1 John ch4 v 20b are at the centre of this discussion for me. Indeed, after the 4 gospels, i now regard the Pastoral Epistles as of next priority. All scripture is inspired by God but some parts are much more relevant today than others. But 1 Corinthians ch13 v 2 is in the same theme. Without love, “We are nothing”!!
I’ve also recently been reading again ‘The Orthodox Church’ by Timothy Ware ISBN-13: 978-0-140-14656-1 – a standard introduction to such churches. It is full of refreshing new ideas, such as these words from a Good Friday hymn (p 227):
‘Today is hanged upon the tree
He who hanged the earth in the midst of the waters.
A crown of thorns crowns Him
Who is the king of angels.
He is wrapped about with the purple of mockery
Who wraps the heaven in clouds.’
Moving back to p 207 :
‘All true Orthodox theology is mystical’ ..or it ‘degenerates into an arid scholasticism, ‘academic’ in the bad sense of the word.’….’Doctrine cannot be understood unless it is prayed’….’theology without action as St Maximus put it, is the theology of demons’…The creed belongs only to those who live it. Faith and love, theology and life, are inseparable.’….’If we do not love one another, we cannot love God’…’there is no other way of knowing God than to love Him.’
So, loving and helping the poor and disadvantaged is part of our calling!
Which people REALLY have a relationship with Jesus Christ? Who will He really KNOW when He judges?
Sadly He told many religious people to, “Depart from me for I NEVER KNEW YOU!”