Category Archives: Salvation

Thunderbirds are go?

Yes, I admit it, I watched the Thunderbirds movie recently on television. I know it’s been out for several years, but that was my first opportunity to see it. Good clean fun — something of a rarity in today’s smut-ridden, foul-mouthed cinema. And, for a change, a good modern adaptation of a classic. (I am old enough to have watched the first run of the original television series.) The technological update was convincing, at least superficially — I’ll leave the Physics of Star Trek boys to pronounce definitively.

There was plenty of subtle humour which poked a little fun at the original series. But then if you can’t laugh at yourself, you aren’t really a complete human being. (I should know, I’m Irish.) And, of course, it is complete fantasy, so the characters are larger than life — and that’s as it should be.

But, fantasy or no, like all stories it has its own theology, philosophy, or worldview. It was refreshing to see evil in the midst of the Garden. Not that I find evil refreshing or ultimately attractive, but it’s not often Hollywood tells us we are bad at heart. But, then, again, that wasn’t really the message. Alan had his flaws. He was susceptible to the lure of the Hood. But ultimately good triumphed over evil and Alan redeemed himself by sheer force of will. And flawed Alan saved the evil Hood, though it definitely was a struggle. And in saving the Hood he ultimately saved all of the world.

Stirring stuff. A real ripping yarn. But flawed theology.

True, there is evil in Paradise. There is a tempter. And we can succumb to temptation and evil. But it’s not just the odd person who is susceptible. We all are susceptible, and all have succumbed. All we like sheep have gone astray and turned every one to his own way. (Isaiah 53:6)

As for saving ourselves? Forget it. It’s not mission impossible, it is impossible. None of us is good enough to pay the price of sin, he only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in (as Mrs Alexander put it). Our situation is not so precarious we need International Rescue — it is beyond even them. We need divine rescue. But when that divine rescue was being accomplished there were no awestruck crowds at the scene, or enthusiastic school boys crowded round the television. There was no applause when the rescue was finished.

Sure, there were crowds — it was a spectacle. But there were no cheers, just jeers. And as they echo down through the centuries, instead of dying echoes they are swelled by millions more. We just don’t want to be rescued. We can do it ourselves, if we feel we need it at all. But, frankly we’re not that bad. We have our weaknesses — that’s just being human. But rescue? We’re well short of needing that,

The truth, however, is we are well short — well short of God’s glory, his absolute standard of holiness. And help is available through trusting in Jesus Christ, God’s divine rescuer. Would that we would all come to repentance. It’s only then that life begins, the life that is life indeed.

It is finished!

At the Lord’s Supper this morning, it struck me that when the atoning work of Christ on the cross was completed, it was Christ himself who declared it finished, not the Father. Why was that? Would it not have been fitting for God the Father to have made the declaration?

This morning’s sermon was from Psalm 138, where David says of God, “you have exalted your word above all your name” (v 2, ESV mg, which translates the Hebrew more accurately). This is why Christ made the declaration. The Word has the priority and the preeminence in everything (Colossians 1:18). And it has always been so, right from creation (Genesis 1), where the word came first, then the action. As human beings we may declare, but not deliver, because we are unable to complete our plans. But God’s Word always delivers — he cannot lie (Titus 1:2), and it cannot fail (Isaiah 55:11). For God to say is to do, for his Word is living and active and powerful (Heb 4:12).

But why did Christ make the declaration? So that we might hear it. Were God the Father to have declared it in heaven, we would not hear it. And we needed to hear it so that we might be able to respond.

By making the declaration himself, Christ was also declaring his deity. He did not “jump the gun”, or speak out of turn. This was an “authorised” declaration, made with the full authority of the godhead. It was not leaked, but made at the proper time. All that remained for God the Father to do was raise his Son on the third day that we should be in no doubt that he died for sin, but not his own.

And the fitting response to such a declaration is surely that of  Phillip P. Bliss — “Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

The greatest crisis facing the world?

According to Terence Stamp at Live Earth, Wembley, tonight, climate change is the greatest crisis facing our world.

Sorry, Terence, it’s not. The greatest crisis facing our world right now is the prospect of the certain judgment of Almighty God. We must all give an account to him for all we have done (2 Cor 5:10), and particularly what we have done with Christ.

The jury may be out as the the reality of catastrophic climate change. It may or may not be happening. But the judgment of God is absolutely certain because God has appointed human beings to die, and after that will come judgment (Heb 9:27; Acts 17:31).

In the face of that certain and terrible reality we must do what God commands — that we repent of our sin (Acts 17:30) — all of us individually. And we must trust in Jesus Christ for our only certain salvation (John 14:6; John 3:16-21). Only then may we face the greatest crisis facing our world with confidence that it will not overwhelm us.

New Year … New Day

In this New Year we do well to remember that God only gives new days, not new years. Moses’ prayer is a good one for this season:

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom
(Psalm 90:12)

For many of us, numbering our days is simply that—notching them up, counting our days, often without thought of the God who gave them to us. Let us be wise in this new year to acknowledge the God who gives us each new day.

Let us also realise that our days are numbered. Each new day from God brings us all one day closer to Judgment Day. We would be wise to remember we are accountable for all we do and say and think to the God who gives us each new day.

But above all we should strive to make our days count instead of just counting our days. The only really wise people are those who realise they live in God’s Day of Salvation, and avail of that salvation today. Only then will our days count with the only one who ultimately matters—Almighty God.

Then and only then will you know the joy and gladness of the day the Lord has made, the joy and gladness of sins forgiven, and the certain prospect of condemnation on Judgment Day removed forever.

At this New Year, may we be taught to number our days to be wise enough to avail of God’s salvation.

Turnip carver or pumpkin scooper?

The other morning (31 October to be precise) a radio news item informed me that in Northern Ireland that the pumpkin had replaced the turnip (or swede) as the vegetable of choice for Hallowe’en lanterns. Was it an (unwelcome) American import? Or was it, as one interviewee stated, that we valued our time more today. So the ease with which the pumpkin could be hollowed out was a welcome time saver?

I have no desire to investigate the pumpkin:turnip controversy. But the remark about time stuck me as interesting. Do we value our time more today? Have the pressures and stresses of ‘modern life’ made us come to appreciate its value more? We certainly have a great awareness of time, as language is replete with descriptions of it: free time, quality time, downtime, uptime, leisure time, work time, core time, playtime, good time, bad time, my valuable time, time is money….

Or could it be that we are more clueless than our forebears of the true value of time? for many of not just the activities in which we engage are a waste of time, but we get a distinct and uneasy feeling that our very life is a complete waste of time. It has about as much meaning as a Hallowe’en lantern on All Saints’ Day (1 November).

Does my use of my time indicate how I value my time? Is the ease with which I can do something necessarily an indicator of the value of time? If so, then I might be tempted only to eat from the burger bar. After all, it is only a waste of time preparing food, or sitting round the table with the family wasting time on social intercourse? (But then, as recent statistics about UK teenager indicate, they do eat away from families a significant amount of the time, presumably in fast food outlets.)

Are there standards by which I can evaluate the value of my time? Or is it just how I want to spend it? We want to live for the present—The Now. That need not necessarily be a bad idea, so long as we recognize that “Now is the Day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2; cf Isa 55:6). if we truly value our time we will not put off what must be done now. For it will not be possible in the future. “The year of the Lord’s favour” will be followed by “the day of vengeance of our God” (Isa 61:2).

When that Now moment arrives it will be too late to seek salvation. And then for all eternity we will ruefully reflect on just how valuable our time on earth really was. What better way to show how we value our time than by responding to God’s once in a lifetime, never to be repeated, offer of salvation, by confessing our sin, repenting of it, and turning to Christ for salvation.

Tomorrow is another day—the Day of Vengeance. But today is altogether different—“Now is the Day of Salvation.”