Discipline

“I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.”
Revelation 3:19 NLT

Anyone reading the previous verses in Revelation 3, might initially feel that the Laodicean Christians were beyond hope, unable to find a way into God’s presence. Jesus pointed out to them that their self appraisal was at odds with their spiritual reality. But in today’s verse perhaps a little chink of light provided hope for them. Jesus told them that He loved them so much that He was going to make His correction and discipline available to them, something that He does for all His followers. If they accepted it, of course. 

Jesus encouraged the Laodiceans to be “diligent and turn“. An interesting statement. It implied that, first and foremost, they had to realise that they were spiritually poor. That they were, in fact, not the self-sufficient, “I don’t need anything” people after all. They had to decouple their thoughts of material blessings from their spiritual status in God’s Kingdom. And that would need a very diligent and prophetic pastor and leader to get that message across, with willing congregants desiring to change.

Presumably at some time the Laodiceans had heard the gospel message. They would have heard that God had sent His Son, Jesus, to die as a sacrifice for their sins, and as a consequence they would be made right with God. But after a while their hearts had grown cold and they had become indifferent to the things of God. But God never gave up on them, offering a solution to their apostasy. His grace and love would always be there for them, offering them His righteousness, if they repented and turned again to Him.

So, pilgrims. What is the state of our hearts? Are they hard and calloused, indifferent to the things of God? Or are they still soft and pliable, in the Master’s hands? We can all wander off the road to Heaven at some time. But like the Father in the Prodigal Son story, God is always waiting for us. Always scanning the horizons for a sight of us turning back from our waywardness. Yes, the returning might be painful. But worth it in the end. Because we look forward to an eternity to be spent with Him. There’s an old song I used to listen to. A favourite of my wife. The first verse goes like this:-

He didn’t bring us this far to leave us,
He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown.
He didn’t build His home in us to move away,
He didn’t lift us up to let us down.

Dear Lord God. We thank You that You care so much for us. We thank You that You never give up on us. Please pick us up when we fall, to be in Your presence once again. Amen.

The Lukewarm

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”
Revelation‬ ‭3:15-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This is a verse that sometimes makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. An internal “Oh dear!” and a heavy sigh starts a few minutes of self reflection that usually ends up with me mentally on my knees before Jesus. Asking once again for forgiveness. And His love and grace floods over me once again.

Jesus used the analogy of water and its temperature and it would have been a significant metaphor in that culture. Lukewarm water in 1st Century Laodicea would have been a bit suspect. It brings to mind the picture of glass of water that has been sitting out in the sun, and consequently didn’t taste very nice. And, as well, it may have become polluted by whatever was flying around near it. One mouthful, and perhaps a response would be to spit it out. On the other hand, cold water was refreshing and wholesome, probably sourced from an underground spring. Hot water would have been used for cooking or for washing, with the benefit of knowing that it felt good through cooked food or through the refreshment washing brings.

So to translate that into spiritual terms, what do we get? What is the optimum temperature for a follower of Jesus? Obviously, being lukewarm is not an option – Jesus made very clear that His palate rejects it. Perhaps, a lukewarm “Christian” is someone who goes through the motions of church life, failing to engage with the spiritual aspects, but putting up with them so that they can enjoy the benefits of the fellowship and any secular activities that take place on their church premises. A lukewarm person is someone who knows all about the liturgy and even Bible passages, but tends to ignore them, being more interested in the display of flowers, how the chairs are laid out, the length of the sermon, or what they should wear to church. They see no reason to engage with our wonderful and amazing Heavenly Father in an abundance of praise and worship, in thankfulness and reverence. These people may also be resistant to responding to the Gospel, having hearts that are hardened against Biblical truth, or prayer and worship. Jesus doesn’t want them in His church – He will eject them forcibly.

A person who is cold is someone who has no desire to get involved with anything to do with God. They probably won’t darken any church with their presence, unless the service is a wedding, funeral, or christening/baptism. They may confess atheism or be an agnostic. I was one myself until God, through His Spirit, connected with me. He brought me into a situation where I had to decide and one night, in response to an anguished prayer, He graciously allowed me to know His reality and love. So a cold person can be reached by the Gospel, and warmed by the power of God. God’s grace extends to them – they only need to reach out and accept Him. Salvation is all by His grace and it’s a free gift, costing us nothing, though it cost Jesus His life.

A person who is hot, is someone who has fully and totally embraced the Gospel. And through faith he or she fervently pursues God, reading the Bible, praying, evangelising and serving God in the way He wants them to. When times are troubled their faith carries them through. And their pilgrimage through life bears fruit, both in their own lives and the lives of others. 

Jesus said He knew everything the Laodiceans do. Of course He did. And unlike the other 6 churches He had no praise or encouragement for them. At least the church at Sardis had a few dying embers that were possible to revive, but the Laodiceans had absolutely nothing – they had reached a spiritual entropy.

A sensible pilgrim will occasionally do a spiritual check up, just to make sure they’re still “hot” and not heading for being lukewarm. As water cools to room temperature and becomes lukewarm, they too will do the same unless they put in place the spiritual safeguards necessary to maintain temperature. But we must never forget our relationship with God. He is our loving Heavenly Father. Through Jesus He has welcomed us into His family. He has made it possible for us to live with Him for eternity. So how can we ever grow cold in our faith? And neither must we forget that he has given us the special task of sharing His grace and love with the lukewarm and cold people around us. While there is still time.

Dear Lord God. How can we ever forget You, the One who has graciously done so much for us. For our salvation and our adoption into Your family we are so grateful. We pray that You will never allow our hearts to grow cold. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Suffering

“I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus.”
Revelation‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It must seem a bit harsh, being punished for preaching the Gospel. Why would the recipients of such wonderful “Good News” want to not only reject the message but exile and imprison the messenger? I have this humorous picture of an alien being (think ET) looking on and scratching its head, finding such behaviour so strange and incomprehensible, that it might feel that such an apparently intelligent race of humans was perhaps not quite so intelligent as it first thought. The alien might have been correct with its superficial assessment, but it would have to dissect cultural mindsets to find out what was really going on. It would have to start at the beginning, with the fall of man. Someone would have to tell it about the ejection of satan and a third of the angels from Heaven. The story of the dark and negative influences that have shaped humanity over the years would have to be told. It would have to understand that mankind prefers to live in a dark, sinful place, (well most of them anyway). And after all that, I can imagine that our alien friend might start to realise why Good News would, to many, not be good news at all. 

We enlightened pilgrims have grasped the Gospel message with all our beings. And we hang on to it because “we who are being saved know it is the very power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Through the Gospel we are energised. Empowered. Resourced. We therefore cannot stop sharing what we have found. And neither could John. In both cases we face into a world that has largely rejected God. A sceptical world. A world where sinful people, under the influence of the devil, try their utmost to undermine and rubbish God and His children, us pilgrims. The hostility to the Gospel in our age is just as prevalent as it was in John’s day with one exception. We, at least for a time, cannot be imprisoned for sharing the Gospel. But the current direction society is taking may change that. I heard today of a primary school teacher who suggested that her young pupil asked her Sunday School teacher the following question – “If God exists, when is He going to apologise for all the bad things He has done?” So sad that a new generation is being corrupted by the very people who should be introducing them to God. Instead, their young minds are being polluted with wrong ideas and concepts. And doubly sad that the primary school teacher will one day stand before God, called to account for his or her words. Thankfully we have good people able to lovingly right the wrongs being committed to those so young. We need to look out for opportunities to push back the lies of the enemy.

John was exiled to Patmos, and there he was suffering. And he was aware that there were others of his generation who were also suffering. Such distress is still with us today, and we think of our brothers and sisters imprisoned and exiled, abused and suffering, all for the sake of the Gospel. In places like North Korea, China, Afghanistan, Iran, Palestine, India, Pakistan, and so on. John was aware that he was called to endure the suffering he was experiencing, and I’m sure he did so with patience. He was aware of the reward coming his way, in his not-too-distant future. 

We pilgrims may not be suffering for “preaching the Word of God”  but we face ostracism and exclusion in other ways. And we endure it with “patient endurance“, as John did. Because we love God and His ways. Because we cannot hold within us the wonderful Good News entrusted to us by our crucified Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Dear Lord. We thank You that You have entrusted so much to us. We pray that as we continue our journey through the corridors of life, Your Spirit goes with us, and You keep us safe from the evil one. Grant us more opportunities, we pray, to share Your message of hope, Your Gospel, with our fallen world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Shoes

“For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.” Ephesians 6:15 NLT

and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
Ephesians 6:15 NIVUK

Paul glances at the feet of his fellow occupants in the prison cell. They were wearing shoes, and he proceeded to muse about their potential spiritual equivalent. What do Christians wear on their feet, he wondered? What was it that pilgrims everywhere need to be prepared for in their journeys onward and upward? And then he had a light bulb moment (well, he would have had, had light bulbs been invented in those days!). He had a new revelation of the Gospel. Now, that’s something we can stand firm on. It’s something that will always confuse the devil’s attacks because he knows that the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus and all that He did for us, is truth. The devil may ask us a difficult question about our faith, or tell us a lie as he did with Eve in the garden. He may bring doubts into our minds, but us pilgrims can just respond with the truth we know, that regardless of anything he says, the devil can never deny the truth of the Gospel. He thought that he had defeated the Son of God, by getting Him crucified on a cross, not realising that it was all God’s plan, and that Jesus would rise again on the Sunday morning, the third day after.

So we are ready. Shod with the Good News. And we bring it right up to date with our messages of hope, our testimonies of what God has done for us, all founded on His amazing plan. We have Good News to tell a world absorbed by bad news. We can share our hope for the future with a society that has no hope even for the present. A counter-cultural message that will pierce the enemy’s darkness with a shaft of pure light, penetrating and exposing his lies. I can just imagine Paul getting quite excited in his cell, as he realised that regardless of his situation, or the fragility of the early churches he founded, the power of the Gospel was insurmountable. And, folks, it still is today. 

In another letter, this time to the Roman church, Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life”“. The Gospel. The Good News. And it’s not a wishy-washy statement, just a few boring words. Paul said that, “It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes”. And he was exactly right. He spoke the truth. And the devil keeps well away when we stand on the truth of the Gospel. He knows he can’t touch us.

Rewards

“Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.
Ephesians‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In this verse, Paul told his friends in Ephesus that, in the end, only two things matter – that one day they will be rewarded for the good they have done, and, by implication, it doesn’t really matter how they were spending their lives, in slavery or freedom, because it was their attitudes that mattered.

Taking the second point first, this is very applicable to pilgrims today. We won’t all have degrees, or be academic wizards. We won’t all be blessed with entrepreneurial prowess or political abilities. Or any other human attribute considered a great to have. All God is asking us is that we use what gifts we have, and set our hands to our work, no matter how lowly a job might be considered, with the right attitudes. We saw in a previous verse that we must do what we do “as to the Lord”, and when we live and work in that way, we are putting our lives into God’s reward zone.

Was Paul implying that there was some connection between our salvation and doing good? This is an error adopted by some Christians, who think they have to earn their salvation. But the reality is that no matter how hard we try, we will never have the abilities or resources to reimburse God for what He has done for us through Jesus. On a scale of one to a thousand, we won’t even move the pointer off zero. In Ephesians 2 we read, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it”. Seems quite clear to me – we are saved by grace alone. We are saved because of God’s unmerited favour towards us. All we have to do is put our faith in Jesus, that He came to this world to save us. We read in Romans 10, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved”. No mention here of working for God, or doing good to others, to get into Heaven.

So what did Paul mean that we will be rewarded for doing good? I suppose, logically, doing good to others is part of our commission in sharing the Gospel. Doing good may be as little as sharing a kind word or putting away a neighbours trash bin. Or it may mean visiting a sick friend or neighbour in hospital. The possibilities for doing good are endless. Jesus said in Luke 6, “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you”. Pilgrims spend their lives focused on their life-journey and its Heavenly goal, and in the process, we do good to and for others, whether we like them or not. In some inexplicable way, it’s part of the journey.

Spreading the Good News – 2

God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets. 
Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.”
Ephesians 3:5, 8-9 NLT

So imagine the scenario. We have an amazing secret that we now want to go public on, revealing a bombshell of life-changing information to a fractious and divided population. How would we go about it? Obviously, we would need to choose men and women of good standing in the community, with a reputation of being experts in their particular field of science, medicine or theology that the information was related to. People who would be well respected. It would be hoped that they would be listened to and their information and advice therefore followed. We see such an activity today – someone, for example, stands up and announces a new diet that, if followed, would prevent our risk of this illness or condition, or other benefit, usually for the bottom line of some corporation or other. 

But not so with God. Firstly, his “bombshell of life-changing information” was infinitely greater than any man-made quackery. God’s secret plan was so life-changing that human plans paled into insignificance in comparison. Secondly, God did not choose to announce His plan with the help of the religious experts of His day. Those mighty theologians who dominated Jewish thought and teaching. No. He used ordinary men and women to announce His plan. Fishermen, a tax collector, a doctor, a tent maker. The human response would be that it would be bound to fail. But. There’s always a “but” when God is involved. We read in Acts 4:13, “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” In 1 Corinthians 1:27, we read, “Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” God didn’t need the experts and educated people of the first century to disseminate His plan. Just Spirit-filled men and women who were bold enough to turn to God and say “Yes, Lord”. Like a young peasant girl did when an angel asked her to bear God’s only Son, Jesus. God doesn’t need educated people. He doesn’t need university degrees, or long years spent in a seminary. Just people who have “been with Jesus“. God has turned our world values upside down. So on our pilgrimage through life we may be considered fools for believing what we believe. But God thinks we are wonderful and He has entrusted to us the privilege of sharing His message of hope with the dying world around us. What an amazing God we serve.

Spreading the Good News – 1

“As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed His mysterious plan to me. 
And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving Him by spreading this Good News.
Ephesians 3:3, 6-7 NLT

Paul was much taken up with this thought of God’s “mysterious plan”. Looking back, as we do, there doesn’t seem much about it that is “mysterious”, but to the peoples of Paul’s day, the Middle East in the first century, it must have been an amazing revelation. This is the second time Paul has mentioned the subject in this Epistle, previously revealing it in chapter 1 and verse 10. Can you imagine the impact it would have had on the religious people of Paul’s day? The Jews would have immediately been offended and upset, that someone, particularly someone who they knew at one time was a Pharisee, would suddenly turn their belief system upside down, by preaching what to them was a heresy, committing the sin of blasphemy in the process. To the non-Jews, referred to as the Gentiles, the Good News would have had a similar impact, in that it too would come up against the worship of accepted religions such as the Greek pantheon of gods. The Ephesians had their own special god, Artemis, aka Diana. And we see the mayhem that Paul stirred up in Acts 19 when a riot developed because the local silversmiths, who made a living making images of the goddess, could see their livelihood disappearing. 

So God’s plan was so counter-cultural, that, humanly speaking, it was bound to fail. But as Paul pointed out, “God’s grace and mighty power” was involved. Perhaps the nearest scenario we could imagine today would be if someone was going round preaching the good news that Christians and Muslims were part of God’s plan, which was to unite them into one faith. Can you imagine the mayhem that would result? Even though God’s grace extends to everyone, regardless of who or what they are? 

God’s plan was one of equality and unity. Through Jesus we all share in His unlimited blessings. We all share in an inheritance unlike any other. And Paul again pointed out that he was privileged to be able to share God’s plan, through “God’s grace and mighty power“. A privilege to be in prison for sharing the Gospel? But a privilege it is. God had done so much for Paul, and does so much for us, that it is surely a privilege to be able to serve God through our service to Him. Regardless of the consequences. So we pilgrims continue our journey, conscious of, and grateful for, the sacrifice made by Paul, a sacrifice that laid the foundations for many a church congregation and left us a legacy of his grace and love filled letters. Letters that contain so much of our theology today. We too look out for opportunities to do our bit in sharing the Good News, just as necessary today as it was in Paul’s day. 

The Prisoner

“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles –”
Ephesians 3:1 NIVUK

Paul is in prison. Not a pleasant experience in those days. A dirty, rat-infested and cold cell of misery. No sanitary arrangements worthy of the name. So why is he there when he needn’t be? Paul was probably arrested and imprisoned several times and we have accounts, brief glimpses of his penitentiary experiences, in Acts 16 and again in Acts 21. And all because Paul was an active and effective preacher of God’s Word, the Gospel of Good News. He refused to keep a low profile and ended up arrested, imprisoned and beaten. His life story is recorded in the Bible and through scraps of history from other sources. 

So Paul was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel. The problem is because the Gospel, the message of Good News about the Kingdom of God, confronts the status quo. It encourages people to face the fact that “all have sinned” and points out the consequences continuing to live in sin, in the darkness of the devil’s ways. This counter-cultural view upset the Jews of Paul’s day – they thought that the only way to God was through them and their religious culture and customs – and because the Gospel also reached and included the non-Jews, the Gentiles, who the Jews despised. But Paul wasn’t fazed by any of this and continued to preach the Gospel regardless, to the detriment of his freedom. But we should be clear – Jesus Himself, the Son of God, lost His life for the same cause. And He warned His followers that they would be treated in a similar way. In Matthew 10 we read His words, “Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you….

What about preaching the Gospel in a public place in 21st Century Western societies? “Free speech” is a hot topic in the UK in these days, with people and lobby groups constantly wanting to “cancel” any messages they disagree with. And Christians are increasingly being attacked for their faith. There is even legislation before the UK parliaments that would seek to make preaching the Christian message illegal. 

Would we be prepared to go to prison, to be persecuted, for our faith? Many Christians throughout the world are facing into the consequences of openly being a Christian, especially in places like North Korea and Afghanistan. Pushing back the frontiers of the enemy, the devil, will invoke a violent reaction. At the present time in our Western societies, we are free to hold church meetings and bring our message of hope to our streets. But it may not always be that way. We must pray for our communities, our nations, our families, that God will have mercy on us and graciously and lovingly support us in His mission of reaching the lost. While we still have time. But one day we might just have to choose between freedom and imprisonment, between keeping quiet or denying the Gospel, or preaching it regardless, to whoever will listen. Hmmm…

The Church

“The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to Him. All the families of the nations will bow down before Him.”
Our children will also serve Him. Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord. His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything He has done.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭22:27,30-31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This is a remarkable Psalm, in its prophetic vision of the crucified Messiah. The graphic details leap out of the page as they accurately, but sadly, portray the physical impact crucifixion has on a human being’s body, and Jesus quoted the first verse of the Psalm from the cross in His final moments that “Good Friday”. Who can ever deny, dismiss or disbelieve the many Old Testament prophecies, most of which point to Jesus, the Messiah? But today’s verses point to another prophetic occasion, yet to be realised. It will come, because David, writing this Psalm through the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, said so. Simply, there will come a time when our children, including those not yet born, will not only hear about the Lord, God Himself, but will see Him and, with their families, bow down before Him. And it will be a universal occasion – all the peoples, regardless of which nation they belong to, will appear before the Lord – other prophecies point to this being the risen Jesus – and will declare His Lordship. It won’t just be the nation of Israel. The inclusive words used will include those pariah states who try and prevent their people from having anything to do with Christianity. Those states and countries with other religions or ideologies that are imposed top down on a frightened and suppressed population. And will include those states who nibble at the edges of Christianity, trying to replace God’s presence and principles with a secularist agenda and unnecessary anti-God laws.

Many of our churches today in Western 21st Century society are populated by a dwindling congregation of old people, with no sign of a child or young person anywhere. A Church of Scotland building near me has had to close because the elderly congregation is too small to support the maintenance of the building. Roof repairs are beyond their reach. Thankfully, other church groups and fellowships elsewhere are full of young people and families and a couple of years ago my wife and I had the privilege of worshiping with one while holidaying near Keswick in the English Lake District. In our prophetic verses today, though, David could see a time when children will continue to hear “the wonders of the Lord”. Elijah, in the account in 1 Kings 19, was depressed because he thought he was the last of God’s people. But God reassured him that there were 7000 faithful people in Israel at that time. Sometimes we too get depressed as we look on our dwindling congregations, but we can rest assured that His church will live on from one generation to the next. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” That seems pretty decisive to me!

Who will tell the “future generations” of “the wonders of the Lord“? God’s people everywhere have a responsibility to reach out to those around us regardless of how old they are, telling them about God and all He has done for us. Let us pray daily for an opportunity to share about our amazing God to those who are around us. After all, we have a message of hope badly needed in these negative, pandemic-ridden times. And who knows? The next person we meet might be waiting for us to introduce them to Jesus. 

The God-Deniers

The wicked are windbags,
    the swindlers have foul breath.
The wicked snub God,
    their noses stuck high in the air.
Their graffiti are scrawled on the walls:
    “Catch us if you can!” “God is dead.”

Psalm 10:3-4 The Message

The Psalmist, presumed to be David, was having another rant about the “wicked”. We don’t know what wound him up, but, as the Message translation shows, he wrote very graphically about these unsavoury members of society. He was perplexed that, in spite of their behaviour, they seem to succeed in all that they got involved in. But in this Psalm he called upon God to punish them. No messing about in those days! 

To say that God is dead is first and foremost a challenge to God’s authority, and was very much behind the rationale presented to Eve by the serpent in Genesis 3. Not too many people would have the nerve to speak these three words out loud in a meaningful way – this would normally be the domain of liberal or radical theologians, or trendy philosophers and so called intellectuals. But at least the God-deniers have presumably assessed the implications of the thought that “God is not dead”. They will know that if God is alive, then they have some serious, life-changing, decisions to make, that is, if they don’t want to spend eternity in hell. And because a decision for God would seriously impact their whole lives they adopt an arrogant posture and choose instead to reject Him and deny that He exists, ignoring the evidence to the contrary. Those adopting a God-denying life style are very much behind the Psalmist’s rant in Psalm 10. It is a lifestyle that can be distilled down to selfishness, oppression, particularly of the less fortunate members of society, illegal acts and general wickedness. Sadly, most people choose not to consider what happens after we die, not realising that no choice is the same as the “God is dead” choice. They comfort themselves, if challenged, with the erroneous thought that “I’m a good person – God won’t reject me”, not understanding that God has a totally different expectation of what “Good” means. The Bible calls the God-deniers “foolish” (Psalm 14:1). One day they will find out how foolish they really have been.

But what about us, God’s people? We can’t just stand on the periphery, looking on as the “wicked” perpetrate their mayhem, choosing, as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day did, to keep our hands clean by not getting involved. At the very least we must pray, supporting organisations that stand up for those less fortunate than us. Organisations such as “Open Doors”, for example. And where we can we must volunteer to help in our communities – after all we are the “salt and light” that Jesus taught about in Matthew 5. And we can face down the “wicked” with God standing right there with us. Personally and individually, though, we must guard our hearts from complacency, from erosion of our spiritual lives and from the activities of the enemy who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking who he can devour (1 Peter 5:8-9). Jesus presented a radical, counter-cultural Gospel which still resonates around the world today, through His radical, counter-cultural followers. Like you and me?