This World is God's World (1) August 2022
This World is God's World
News & comment from a Christian perspective
By Peter Ratcliff
Edition 001, August 2022
RUSHDIE ATTACK A REALITY CHECK
The attempted murder of Salmon Rushdie is what we expect from Islamists. Rushdie is an atheist and writes novels which are apparently very popular. However Rushdie in 1988 wrote about Mohammed, the originator of Islam. The book was called Satanic Verses and included reference to traditions about Mohammed. These verses are not in the Koran but the supplement to the Koran called the Hadith which is collected stories about Mohammed. These writings are not all agreed and some are rather unpleasant such as Mohammed following demons or regarding his sexual promiscuity. Therefore the Ayatollah of Iran issued a fatwa or a bounty on Rushdie's life. Rushdie went into hiding and was given the protection of the British security forces. But Islam doesn't change or forget so when the time came it was quite understandable that someone would attempt to kill Rushdie.
What has this killing got to do with Christians? A minority of us have been warning about Islam for decades. While this murderous criminal cannot be said to represent all Muslims, Rushdie is an atheist. In the eyes of Islam, Rushdie is an "infidel" which simply means an unbeliever, an atheist. With this we agree.
Furthermore Jesus himself had been mocked, beaten and crucified, even by religious leaders. I understand that initially Mohammed had also been rejected.
But here the similarity ends.
Jesus didn't seek revenge. Mohammed did. I understand that Mohammed sent out armies to destroy infidels.
And Mohammed also sought to destroy Christians.
All leading schools of Islam still teach that if a male Muslim becomes a Christian then he can be put to death. He doesn't even need to write a book like Rushdie's.
Infact even for a Christian to compare Mohammed to Jesus can amount to a blasphemy charge and death by mob rule.
Yet Christianity has been living with the blasphemous mocking from atheists for centuries.
And Christianity has lived with persecution from other religions.
What has caused confusion has been the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of Rome has both claimed to be Christian and has persecuted Protestant Christians as well as people of other religions such as Jews and Muslims.
Rushdie as an atheist, Mohammed as the founder of a false religion and the Pope as Antichrist are all on the wrong side!
Meanwhile true Christians suffer persecution worldwide and virtually nobody raises an eyebrow.
What can be done? We expect there to be more atheism upsetting the religious sensitivities of extremists and that there will be more atrocities. The only thing that is able to completely help people is to get straight with God. The only way to do that is through full saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
THE RESURGENCE OF ROME
While the Roman Catholic Church may come across to us as being something that is falling apart, you should not forget that the papacy has always been understood by Protestants as being the Antichrist, something that will only be destroyed when Christ returns.
It should be remembered that the alternatives to Roman Catholicism are all fading. The large religions of the world such as Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism do not meet the needs of people and are being understood as been quite useless.
Even atheism, which seems to be advancing in the West, is already showing that it cannot produce a coherent society. Within the Church of England and the vast swathes of charismatic influenced Evangelical churches, the Pope is generally regarded as a genuine leader. This came out recently in a comment made by Archbishop Justin Welby to the Roman Catholic magazine called the Tablet. Of course the Alpha Course which is part of Welby's background from Holy Trinity Brompton is in full collaboration with leading Roman Catholic priests, monks and cardinals.
Therefore it is not at all strange that we hold firm our belief that the Roman Catholic church is Antichrist. On a positive note, understanding and rejecting Roman Catholicism will be very helpful in holding to a robust spiritual Christian faith. The Bible is Reformed Theology throughout: that man is absolutely powerless but God's grace is fully able to save all his people. "By grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" Ephesians 2. This is the message that not only Antichrist but the whole world hates, as set out in John 15 & 16, so they all work together against the true Church of Christ.
The more we resist Roman Catholicism, the more we are falsely accused, but the more we are sure that the sovereign Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ alone saves the repentant believing sinner.
KNOWING WHAT IS UNSAFE
An American comedian has cancelled his show at the Edinburgh Festival after an unprecedented number of complaints. Apparently the comedian specialises in extreme racist and misogynistic jokes. What was interesting was that the people who walked out of the show said that they felt unsafe. What they really mean is that they hated what they heard as it made them feel unhappy and angry. However the use of the world unsafe is notable. It indicates here that the offended persons were aware that " evil communications corrupt good manners". 1 Corinthians 15:33. They felt as if sin would have a degrading effect on themselves. This is commendable. Why they went to the show in the first place astonishes us. Nevertheless they got a taste of something poisonous and they realised that the only thing to do was to run.
This is a good example. May the world see the terrible effect of sin and flee from it. But where shall they go? Where can safely be found? Only in Jesus Christ.
And there is a message for the Christian here too. He should "keep himself unspotted from the world". James 1:27. It is of concern when Christians too often feel safe taking poison that even the world knows is unsafe.
EGYPT FIRE AND HOPE
The Prime Minister of Egypt has promised to pay compensation to Coptic people whose family members were killed in a church fire. He has also promised that the Government will rebuild the church.
While we don't recognise the Coptic Church as a Gospel church because it is a type of Eastern Orthodoxy, more similar to Roman Catholicism than biblical Christianity, we do recognise that the Muslim majority in Egypt are not always very kind towards the Coptic minority who number around 10% of the 102 million Egyptian population.
The church apparently had 5000 people in attendance. Now, whatever we make of the state of the religion of Coptic Orthodoxy, some say there is a desire for biblical Gospel truth there. The question that I have is, what connection is there in Egypt with the Protestant Reformation. By that I mean, while there are thousands of people in these churches in Cairo, what is being done to help the people get to a biblical faith? Surely there is a great work crying out to be done. It is very easy to visit Egypt. Who will go and teach the Evangelical Reformed Protestant Biblical faith?
The top book of the month from Church House Publishing, the C of E's publishing arm, is a book entitled, "How Village Churches Thrive"
To our mind comes the thought of a village church which shares a vicar with six others and only has a service once a month but raising enough money from the village to keep the building in order.
The ten points emphasised in the blurb are:
1) Extending a warm welcome
2) Making the most of Life Events
3) Using buildings creatively
4) Caring for God's Acre
5) Being the heartbeat of the community
6) Celebrating our heritage
7) Cultivating fruitful festivals
8) Welcoming more children
9) Reaching the isolated and lonely
10) Communicating effectively
All these things may be helpful but it is all so practical. Where is the need for the Gospel to challenge the community? Is it all taken for granted? Does it matter if the church is liberal, ritualist or Evangelical, as long as it offers a warm welcome? What about prayer? What about Jesus saying that without him we can do nothing? What about the Holy Spirit?
It is a sorry state when only festivals and life events will fill a church but the Lord's Day is left.
It is something to keep a few religious festivals going but the only church growth we really need is that work of the Spirit. We would desire a great revival but in the meantime we rejoice in the ones and twos who know the Lord and the few who gather together in real churches.
THE POLLUTION OF BEAUTY AND ITS RESTORATION
I was particularly shocked by a recent pollution incident at Splash Point, Seaford Head, as this is exactly my "secret" swim spot for the odd occasion when we get to the sea. It was wonderful to swim past this very point and under the chalk cliffs last week with only the many great birds high above on their perching and nesting places. They have their clefts in the rock like we hide for refuge in Christ. It takes weeks for the chalky water to clear after a long period of calm weather so it is a real treat to get there when there is good visibility underwater, even if there aren't many fish to see. Swimming around the rock stack and to the hidden beaches is a joy to revive and refresh the heart. It is good exercise too, and needing to allow for unexpected currents which can make the adventure longer than expected, this area is not for the weak swimmer.
Yet now the crystal clear water it is murky again but in a far more sinister way than from mere chalk, full of something that should be recycled inland to fertilize the land.
Here is a report and video: https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/20668305.southern-water-update-sewage-release-seaford/
Yet, horrible as this is, it will wash away. The tides will move it about and natural processes will disperse and biodegrade it all. Next year, maybe sooner, God willing, the sea will be lovely again. In a few years time, if the Lord tarries, hopefully the nation will redesign the way we recycle our bodily wastes without so much water and we will avoid such pollution incidents happening.
Not everything is so easy to put right. Nuclear disasters last for decades. Worst of all is the pollution of sin. Sin is the world's biggest killer. In fact it is the only killer. Whatever secondary causes, death is the wages of sin. Romans 6:23.
How wonderful that the verse continues, "but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord"
Jesus's blood shed on the cross doesn't just wash away for a while but it cleanses once and for all.
Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
When we see not only the sorrowful pollution of beauty but also so much wickedness in the world and in ourselves, what a wonder it is that in Christ we can experience such great salvation. Such thoughts should lift up our hearts, especially as we have a sure hope of the full restoration of beauty, a new heavens and earth.
Evangelicals have generally avoided the Roman Catholic tradition of thinking in terms of seven deadly sins. This is no doubt because we wisely understand sin as being chiefly "against thee" Psalm 51.
Nevertheless it is worth noting major trends which engulf whole populations. Fifty years ago fornication was much more generally considered shameful but now, except in the most religious circles, it is normal. The biggest errors of youth are fornication and taking cues from pop music. This is so widespread. It may well be that pop musicians are able to pick up on young people's fears about the world but their visions of a healthy world are mixed with atheism and vain expectations regarding what it is to be a human being.
But why hasn't the church been able to make any impact on the vast swathes of young people walking into big mistakes from which few will recover? If a childhood was focused on learning the Psalms and with the expectation of meeting a person to marry and have children, then a happy life would follow. Rather the majority are brought up to become "vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened" (Romans 1:21). This is a scathing exposé of the wreckage brought on to the majority of people, not only in first century Rome, but exactly in our modern world.
Yesterday we were preaching in Wimbledon on this very text, Romans 1:18-21. We have been preaching consecutively through Romans for a few weeks now, not that we expect a congregation returning each week. Each sermon is applied to who is listening and there is much introduction and explanation and of course the sermon is not continuous but rather more like a roundabout regularly returning to the main point of the necessity of faith in Jesus Christ. It is wonderful how the Bible says the things which people need to hear which we would otherwise never be able to suggest. But the Bible says it here, people didn't worship God and they became vain in their imagination and their heart was darkened. Thus it is not surprising that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven, verse 18. And we can then easily understand that this is the situation of the whole world without Jesus Christ. And then we freely preach Christ, that all should look unto him because he died for sinners and is absolutely able to save us and restore us to him. All we need is to confess that we come humbly on our knees, not pretending we have any ability to climb up the great mountain to heaven. Salvation is all by grace through faith so that it may be both sure and all to the glory of God. See Romans 4:16.
Rev Peter Ratcliff