THE COMPREHENSIVE CLAIMS OF CHRIST

Writing at the end of the nineteenth century, Friedrich Nietzsche put words into the mouth of a madman, who ran everywhere crying: “Where is God gone? I mean to tell you, we have killed him, you and I. We are all his murderers.” Going from church to church, he announces the death of God. Asked the reason for this outburst, the madman replies, “What are these churches now, if they are not the tombs of God?” The significance of this story was to some extent lost on Nietzsche’s own generation; it would take another hundred years for its meaning to fully unfold. Buildings that then resounded in the praise and worship of God are gone and many remaining now stand derelict, or have been turned into homes, theatres, antique shops, museums, Sikh temples. But the death of God has taken place only in the human mind as He has faded from the consciousness of our fellow men and nowhere else. Christ has been driven out of Christendom, yet He lives still; it is just that men live without Him as though He were dead. Nietzsche gives his prophetic words to a madman to announce, reflecting the words of Scripture: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). Today, the rejection of God by so many has left a vacuum waiting to be filled by opportunistic forces of unbelief, godlessness: a vicious, destructive, bigoted, intolerant, and militant atheism with a not so smiling face.

Godlessness expresses itself in every area of British life. Understandable cynicism has developed towards corrupt and deceitful governments as they introduce legislation that often seems only to featherbed themselves, secure their own positions, and benefit their friends. Those who dare to challenge publicly the prevailing new morality being imposed on our people, introduced often against the better judgement of a majority, are more than likely to receive a knock on the door from the local police. They “call evil good, and good evil; … put darkness for light, and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20). Personal sin has been raised to the level of a new righteousness. Oblique persecution meets any Christian seeking to follow the dictates of conscience. Teachers who look to their own their own conscience on how and what they teach their charges, hotel and guesthouse owners refusing to accommodate homosexuals, doctors who reject abortion and refuse contraception to underage unmarried teenage girls, along with many other professionals in public service, particularly those professing Christian convictions are with increasing frequency being forced to quit. Truly: “The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted” (Psalm 12:8).Freedom of conscience is only permitted where there is no contradiction of the perverse mores of godless parliamentarians. It was Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms (1521) who warned that it is dangerous to go against a conscience informed by the Word of God. The freedom of conscience to hold and express distinctively Christian beliefs won over centuries is being deliberately and systematically eroded.

In most churches it is little different. Despite the fact that around seventy percent of the British people still consider themselves Christian, fewer than a million regularly attend any place of Christian worship and congregations are diminishing rapidly by the week. There is an understandable widespread indifference among the general population towards institutional churches, who have largely thrown off traditional beliefs and practices exchanging them for ‘progressive’ substitutes that rob them of the authoritative voice they once enjoyed in our nation. Spineless bishops and archbishops instead of giving a clear and unmistakeable message in the face of rampant godlessness prevaricate, dither, run for cover in the face of opposition, back down when faced with politically-correct militancy amongst the ranks of its clergy. Little wonder then, that a highly politicized and hypocritical institutional church is silent when it ought to speak out; and when it does speak, it is only to mouth prevailing political fashions and irrelevances. Like the prophets of ancient Israel, their spokesmen speak lies in God’s name, proclaiming the very opposite of what is taught in the Christian Scriptures. “Yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart … cause my people to forget my name.” (Jeremiah 23:26-27). The genuine spiritual life and experience that marked the evangelical wing of the mainstream churches in previous centuries has virtually disappeared, exchanged for a vapid, lightweight ‘happy-clappy’ theology-free religion that exceeds what is appropriate in the worship of God, often drifting into the profane and blasphemous. They fill an emotional void and bring understandable scorn and contempt upon the whole idea of what it means to be a genuine Christian believer. The life-giving Gospel preached by Christ, the apostles and faithful men down the centuries is today all but obscured. Established or free, aligned or independent, all the professing church seems to be very much the same with only a very few maintaining anything remotely approaching true Christian and biblical testimony ― precious people if you can find them. There is a crying need to restate with some clarity and boldness the biblical teaching on what it really means to be a Christian.

The consequence of all this has been significant and it will yet show itself to have been even more devastating as the overall situation worsens. Profound wickedness lies at the heart of our nation. The lack of personal morality and integrity is causing the disintegration of the very fabric of our national institutions, impeding the proper functioning of public offices, industry and much else. Within the communal life of our nation, marriage and family life is diminished, mocked by those in public gaze who live out their amorality in arrogant boastfulness. That which was given to be practised in sanctity is dragged into the dirt in an increasingly sex-saturated society. There should be no surprise, although there is, at an increase in vile crimes. Scepticism and uncertainty abounds as to the very nature and destiny of humanity itself. Drugs, alcohol and endless hedonism, all symptoms of the disillusionment felt particularly by the young as they look at the depersonalized, inhuman world into which their parents brought them without their consent. They need a chemical fix; alternatively they are swept along in a constant search for material wealth to fill the meaninglessness and futility that is their daily existence.

In the western world we have so much of this world’s goods that boredom sets in before the range of unending choices and a search begins for that which satisfies or alternatively for that which will outrage the most and destroy the status quo. Food and dress, once seen as among life’s necessities, have become an obsessive religion. All this is inevitable when men live as though God were dead. It is a sterile, unproductive society, where God and man are both dead. Human life seems senseless and individuals have become little more than a cog in the relentless turning of a machine where everyone recognizes they can have no real grip on the handles of its power. Life is determined for them and against their own perceived interests and choices. Escape is sought in a non-rational world of unbridled hedonism, endless materialism, or the succour of modern pseudo-religions promising life-changing experiences. It all leads to irrationality, absurdity where the only freedom left, at least according to Michael Foucault, is the freedom to become mad ― madness again! Yet, there is another way.            

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
(John 14:6)

“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”
(1 Corinthians 1:23-24)

                 

ALL OR NOTHING

 

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

It was the Christian minister and Bible teacher, Leith Samuel, who used to say, “Christ is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.” A false view of what it means to be a Christian is given when the Christian Gospel is presented simply as something whereby we add the wisdom and work of Christ to what we are already in and of ourselves. Such a gospel only deepens the dense fog of modern life and adds to the futility of any effort to find any real meaning. The power of the Gospel is all-embracing or it is nothing. Nor can the Gospel be presented, as it often is, in a way that limits it simply to the salvation of individual souls. It most certainly includes this, but it takes in much more. Christ changes the whole temporal as well as the spiritual direction of a person’s life in the Gospel. The Christian Gospel speaks to every part of human existence as Christ claims it all as His own.

The Lord Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem for the last time (see Luke 14:25-33). He was well aware that death by crucifixion faced Him. As He went, He was thronged by the multitudes. Looking at these crowds of people, our Lord was conscious that they entertained a gross misunder-standing that needed setting right.
“But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25)

The Gospel, properly understood, will have little attraction for most people. The crowds went with Him as though to a feast rather than to an execution. They had little notion of what it meant to be His followers. To identify with Christ is to abandon what is dearest, what is vital, and accept the most painful —the cross. Coming to me, being my disciple, maintaining a durable relationship with me, says Jesus, involves a breach with that which is naturally most dear: father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sister, even one’s own life. In as much as all these things stand between us and total commitment to Him, we are to hate them. Paradoxically, only then can we recover a legitimate and genuine love for all these others.

Painful experiences, sufferings, persecutions are to be expected in following Christ. In this: The servant is not greater than his lord” (John 15:20). These sufferings are summed up in the word ‘cross’, emblem of one of the most painful, humiliating, and cruel means of execution ever devised. The Lord Jesus used two parables to illustrate what He was saying. The first parable concerns a builder who began to erect a tower without considering in advance what the project would cost him. A tower is not something that easily blends in with the landscape as would something smaller such as a house; a tower can be seen a good way off. Those who make a profession of following Christ cannot do so without attracting some attention. Those who would follow the Lord Jesus cannot view with complacency that which will set them apart from the rest of the world around them. Those who begin to build something so conspicuous, if it is left incomplete because of disregard of the cost, then the builder will rightly be open to public ridicule. The capital we commit, as followers of Christ, is our own life. Sitting down and seriously weighing up what is involved, rather than making a hasty decision later regretted, should precede any true profession of faith in Christ. Many have made a ‘decision’ to follow the Lord Jesus in the emotional excitement of some gathering with lots of others around only later to retrench step by step once the full realization of the consequences dawns upon them. After having committed themselves with great ostentation, such people are revealed to unbelievers around them as still being one their own number. Such inconsistency invites personal embarrassment and provokes the well-deserved ridicule of the world.

The second parable portrays the Christian as a king, a king involved in a war with an enemy much stronger than himself. Defying such an enemy by openly siding with the Gospel, anyone with sense will first make sure he or she is prepared for the consequences even to the point of giving up life itself if this is what is demanded. Would David have taken up a stone against Goliath, or Martin Luther nailed his theses onto the door of the Castle Church or burned the Papal bull, had they not first in their own hearts already given up even on life itself? It has been well said that martyrs are revealed not made. A martyr dies inwardly to himself or herself long before ever being taken and killed. To engage in a worthy struggle may appear heroic, but unless we accept that our death may be the only outcome, such a declaration of war is nothing more than foolish and empty bravado. Those who are not prepared to follow through on their challenge to the authority of the prince of this world should give up as quickly as possible and make peace with him with whom they have opened hostilities (see v.32). Remain with friends in the world outside rather than be an inconsistent Christian. Jesus walking this road to Jerusalem had already seriously prepared Himself for what lay ahead, so should all those who openly declare they want to follow Him or they should quit whilst they still can.

“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)

 

The hypocrite

An inconsistent Christian will be a hypocrite, professing one thing but living another. The author A. A. Milne is remembered most for the stories of Winnie the Pooh and his children’s poems rather than his novels. In Two People, there appears the character of Mr Pump, publisher and businessman.
“For business purposes Mr Pump wore a long beard, an old fashioned frock-coat and a black silk hat with a curly brim. It established confidence in young authors. … Since Mr Pump took his beard and frock-coat round with the plate on the one day of the week when he was not publishing, he may be said to have lived in an atmosphere of respectability; and since he was publishing on the six days of the week when he was not taking round the plate, he may also said to have lived with an air of sidelong calculation in his eye.

But Mr Pump was not a hypocrite. He was a religious man, whose religion was too sacred a thing to be carried into his business. The top-hat which he hung up in his office was not the top-hat which he prayed into before placing it, thus hallowed, between his feet, even if the frock-coat and the aspect of benevolence were the same. He had two top-hats, and one hat box for them. On the Monday morning he put God reverently away for the week and took out Mammon. On Sunday morning he came back—gratefully or hopefully, according to business done—to God. No man can serve two masters simultaneously.”

Clothes maketh the man, or so the saying goes. We see what people are by correctly reading the image they portray. A smart suit, shirt and tie, highly polished shoes tell us something different than a T-shirt, jeans, and trainers. As Mark Twain pithily remarked, naked people have little or no influence on society. A hypocrite is of course precisely what Mr Pump was.  The irony is evident. For the hypocrite appearance is everything ― ‘image’ and ‘spin’ in current parlance. It was important for business purposes to give an air of respectability, of honesty, of straight-dealing; all the things his reputation was to say he was, but in truth he was not. His piety and prayers were reserved for just one day in the week. God and Mammon could certainly never meet. God is reserved for Sundays, but on every other day of the week, at home, at work, at play, different rules apply. God is then, to all intents and purposes—dead. Worshipping God once a week is fine, as long as I get the rest of the week for myself. In the minds of many, if not most who profess the Christian faith, there seems to be little connection between what they confess on Sunday, should they be church-attendees at all, and what they do during the rest of the week. God goes into the clothes cupboard on Sunday night, after all, that is where He belongs, and He remains there along with the Sunday suit until required again. However, it must be said, a Christian is a Christian 24/7 or he or she is not a Christian at all. There is, however, always a common line running through everything we do. What a man is in the week, he will always be, including on Sunday. A man who is a money-grubber six days in the week will be no different on the Sabbath. Pump lived “with an air of sidelong calculation in his eye” as he went about his business, and it was also he who passed around the collection plate in Church. The religion of a hypocrite will always be practised in subjection to that which he truly worships.

 

A false dualism

Strange as it may seem, this schizoid mentality towards the Christian faith has its roots within religion itself. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was and remains an immensely influential philosopher and theologian within the Roman Catholic Church and beyond. He has also had considerable influence on Western thought as a whole. He was a proponent of ‘natural theology’ working within the scholastic tradition and founding what became the Thomistic school of philosophy and theology. Thomas undermined every notion of a unified field of knowing under God and opened the gate to humanism. Drawing on Greek philosophy, particularly that of Aristotle, he divided reality into ‘grace’ and ‘nature’. There was the supernatural world of the spiritual and unseen that could be reached only through the sacraments of the Church. Alongside this there was the world of creation, or nature, the realm of the body, of social institutions, but also shared natural moral values, all accessible to unaided human reason. Moral values are seen as the common property of all men without any need for reference to God. This is the understanding of Roman Catholic and many protestant theologians and it provides a platform for much that today parades as ‘Christian’ social action.

Today, we talk of this divide as the difference between ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’. Thomas taught that whilst the human will was weakened as a result of the fall into sin recorded in the book of Genesis, human reason remained largely intact. It is therefore quite possible to study and reason about the created world of nature (all things secular) without recourse to God or the Scriptures (all things spiritual). This means that we can do good deeds without any need for repentance and faith. We ask, what need then to preach the Gospel? It is rendered superfluous. It is needed on for ‘spiritual’ matters, but not for social change.

This pretended autonomy of nature prepared the way for the secularization of art, philosophy, politics, the law, business, science, education, morality, and much else besides. Creation now secularized as ‘nature’ worked rather like a machine subject to natural laws that were sufficient to themselves. The nature/grace motive later became that of nature/freedom. Nature working to inflexible fixed laws began to eat up, as it were, human freedom, and man himself being a part of nature became a prisoner of nature. Man fought desperately to regain his freedom, yet what he obtained was but a pretended illusory autonomy. He began by attempting to throw off the cords, break the bands that bound him to God anywhere, including in the natural world (Psalm 2:3). Seeking freedom he lost it. The result left him struggling against nature to regain his freedom against a deterministic, mechanistic natural world that ran itself.

In the pursuit of freedom, the second half of the eighteenth century saw the beginnings of the Romantic Movement. A revolt against the scientific rationalization of nature, it was in essence a secular pseudo-religion. However, by the turn of the century, autonomous freedom and autonomous science once more stood opposite each other until eventually, the much longed for freedom was again gobbled up by science and technology. A highly mechanistic view of reality, the uniformity of natural causes working within a closed system, now embraced everything, physics, but also man himself. Everything and everyone was part of this great machine of nature. Personality was an illusion, a series of electrical impulses, finely-tuned chemical processes, a bunch of atoms. God was dead, as was man.

 

Source of all goodness

According to the Christian Scriptures, what is right and wrong, good or evil, is determined not by natural laws but by the attributes and perfections of God’s own being and by nothing else. We are to reflect that glory, if only faintly. In no other way can morals be defined in terms of personality. Goodness and evil cannot and do not exist as impersonal abstract ideals detached from God to which He too must defer. ‘Things’ are not evil or good, only people with personalities are. What God is, that is good. Jesus said: “There is none good but one, that is, God” (Mark 10:18). God defines goodness by what He is, apart from Him it does not exist. Consequently, all He does can only be good. When God has gone so too has the basis for all right and wrong. What is, wrote Alexander Pope, is right. Right and wrong, if needed, must be found from among men. Secularists; atheists; and all God-deniers, who are implicitly also man-deniers; have no real foundation for any of the moral values they say they hold —the way things are, that is right. Nature is right and nature is amoral.

No one can be quite sure any more what is right and wrong. In a world where things continually change, then moral values change with them. Indeed the relative values of a godless world will inevitably open the door to social and moral anarchy, tyranny, and ensuing disaster. Unless what is good and right is determined from outside the created world, morality, right and wrong, become a test of will; the strongest against the weakest, rather than of any divine sanctions or commandments. Then all thoughts of morality or right and wrong become utterly subjective. Whoever is strong enough will impose his or her ideals on everyone else.

The most extreme example of this historically must surely be that of the Marquis de Sade. His reasoning was that nature has made man stronger than woman so every man can and will do with the weaker sex whatever he wishes: beat her, rape her, or even strangle her. The morality of sadism prevails today in art and films; in righting wrongs by violence, guns and knives on the streets — you will do what I deem to be right because I shall force you! The modern godless state imposes its own concept of right and wrong upon us through laws that take no account of God but simply because it is in a position of relative strength and can enforce its will upon the rest of us. No account is taken of God and His revealed Word. This all has little to do with right and wrong. Once more, freedom has gone and moral and political tyranny rides in its wake.

The biblical Christian refuses to separate out human experience, to set the spiritual apart from nature, divorce freedom and nature, faith and reason. The Christian Scriptures provide us with a unified view of the whole of life and all in subjection to God in Christ. Where man pretends to sit on God’s throne, where humanity becomes the religion, the natural devours the spiritual and all metaphysical reality is denied. The result we see around us: the moral and spiritual nihilism of the modern world. The distinction to be made, the antithesis to be drawn, is not between secular and sacred or nature and grace, but between light and darkness. As long as the secular or natural world is separated from God’s grace, there can be no call for submission to God and to His Word.

Where life and nature is cut loose from God, it brings down upon us the judgement of God and we are condemned to a life devoid of meaning and purpose, and all real goodness. Love and hope become words with all the meaning squeezed out of them. We are left to exist in a deterministic, sterile strait-jacket, where we are each reduced to a number for big business, a government statistic, thoroughly depersonalized in a technological mass society. If you escape murder in the womb, you will leave a life of little significance at the end and perhaps even be chemically dissolved and flushed into the sewer as is currently being proposed by environmentalists. To lose God is to live as though the image of God in which man was created is also lost. This will inevitably work itself through in the way we treat each other. Should we be surprised at the loss of dignity afforded patients in our National Health Service? Should we expect anything else that that our old folk are shuffled off to a care home so that uncaring children can be left to get on with their lives unhindered? Shame on us all!

Without a full-orbed view of reality, there can be no framework, no proper direction in preaching the Christian Gospel. The Christian message cannot be shrunk down to address only a tiny group of people waiting to be whisked away from this present evil world. It is a glorious proclamation to all men. The Gospel is not detached from everything else. It is not an added extra, but is central to the cure. The bifurcation of reality into two realms must be rejected.

“And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Daniel 4:35)

 Modern rulers take over the role of God at great risk to themselves and to those who follow them. Yet this is precisely what they do in so many words because of what they take upon themselves. The truth remains: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Nebuchadnezzar, the ancient king of Babylon, did exactly this. There was no higher ruler than he. Effectively, he was as god, to be honoured as such. God humiliated him as He does all who make such pretensions. In so doing, God gave him an opportunity to repent and turn, not a mercy He extends to everyone behaving in this way (see Acts 12:21-23).
“The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchad-nezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws.” (Daniel 4:33)
What Nebuchadnezzar would not acknowledge willingly God forced upon him in a degrading humiliation. Let no ruler shake a fist in God’s face for “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Only when at the end of the allotted period and in God’s grace and mercy did his understanding return to Him; only when Nebuchadnezzar “blessed the most High, and … praised and honoured him that liveth for ever”; only when he acknowledge that God’s “dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:34); only then was his kingdom restored to him. Far better is it that all men bow now to the true ruler of all things than that they bow only when it is forced upon them, as one day it surely will be.

These verses in Matthew’s Gospel are commonly known as the ‘Great Commission’, issued by the Lord Jesus to the Apostles with the purpose of winning back mankind.
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.   Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Christ’s commission is founded on the fact that He is Lord of lords and King of kings and that He is ruler of all things in heaven and earth. One day this kingship will be seen and acknowledged by all in a full and complete manifestation of its glories.
“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
To Christ alone belongs absolute sovereign authority. Alone under the Kingship of Christ can true freedom be enjoyed, all else will degenerate into godless tyranny.

All earthly power originates with Christ. Human authority is not comprehensive but is delegated by Him to men. Despotism in its purest and most obvious forms may well have long disappeared from western civilization. The democracy that has replaced it amounts to very little more, theoretically at least, than a tyranny of the majority, a fault line recognized and accepted by democracy’s great advocate, Jean Jacques Rousseau. Democracy as we understand it is essentially a heathen idea, and is traceable back to ancient Athens. It re-emerged in the 17th century to become the prevailing political religion of our modern age. Yet, it has no foothold in reality. The mythical ‘will of the people’ is not sovereign, Christ is. The ‘power of the people’ does not exist; it is a complete illusion and a deception. Power does not come from below but from above. All rulers, even rabid dictators, serve God’s purposes and not their own for He is above all and over all.

Who rules is determined not by men but by God, who installs and deposes all rulers. Standing before Pilate and facing crucifixion…
“Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.”
(John 19:11)
This statement has a narrow meaning with respect to Christ Himself and what was about to happen to Him. It also has a much wider meaning in the context of what the Bible says about those in authority in general. Put in place by God our rulers must be seen as God’s servants and so are to be respected and their God-given authority recognized. This alone is the basis of the Christian’s honour for the law of the land and not because of something intrinsic within the rulers themselves or a power derived from the people ruled. Respect for the law in general does not legitimize any evil laws our parliament may introduce, nor does it require an unqualified obedience that would cause us to sin against God. The power of rulers is strictly limited. No ruler rises before his time, none goes prematurely. We may choose those who rule us in an election, but ultimately it is God who overrules all and makes the final choice. Nebuchadnezzar, was forced to recognize: “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Daniel 4:32). The authority of kings and rulers derives from God, not from themselves, they are not free to do as they please; nor is it given them by ‘the people’, this is an utter delusion bearing no resemblance to the reality (Romans 13:1-5). The State through its law officers bears a delegated authority and is in no position to make up laws on the hoof, or permit them to be framed after a judge’s own subjective passions, opinions, or misguided prejudice.

As Christian believers, we are not be intimidated by civil authorities. To be otherwise would amount to quiet acquiescence on our part to the fraudulent claims they may make as to the source of their own authority. We are to fear them in that they bear God’s delegated authority, particularly in the punishment of evildoers to whom they are to be ‘a terror’ (Romans 13:3). The same God who put them to rule has given to us the Gospel of God’s grace to be preached to all nations. We have no reason to hang our heads. We have the same authority to preach the Word as they have to rule. Our authority comes from the same source. We do not encroach on the task given to them, be they still rebels against God and His Anointed; in turn, they should not interfere with what God has given us to do. To Christ alone belongs supreme authority in heaven and on earth and that exercised by men is strictly limited, whether this be in affairs of State and lawmaking, or as parents, or at our place of business. No earthly institution possesses a legitimate all-inclusive totalitarian authority.
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:16-17)

There numerous other spheres of authority, some close to home. Parents, all parents, have authority over their children not by permission of the state, but directly from Christ to whom they must answer for what they do. Those exercising any authority whatever have received it through the authority of Christ even though they may deny Christ as its source. It makes no difference, all are answerable, whether as parents, whether as those running businesses, maybe we have been entrusted with great riches, perhaps with poverty, whatever and wherever, great or small, it follows that having received all things from Christ, we are each and everyone answerable to Him for how we use this authority.

 

Practical consequences of following Christ

Running away from responsibilities is one of the hallmarks of our present-day world and evidence of its godlessness. Many live as though they have no duty to anyone but themselves, and certainly they do not see themselves as having to give answer to God for anything they do. Few look at life in this way and seek as often as not to escape the responsibilities God has laid upon us, whether as parents towards children, children towards elderly parents, employers towards employees, employees towards employers (see Ephesians 6:1-9). All too often, there is an illegitimate displacement of responsibility where it is given over to the state or to others. This does not remove our answerability, it does not remove the authority given, and all will still one day be required to give an answer to God as to what they did with the ‘talent’ He gave them to use (cf. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27).

Following Christ, then, has some very practical consequences, for example, in raising our children. As Christian believers the way we bring up our children cannot be a matter of indifference; how and where we educate them does not belong to an area of ‘natural’ neutrality we share with unbelievers. This too is a matter of faith. We do not have the same goals as unbelievers. Many if not most institutions of State education in our western world, apart from generally offering a somewhat poor standard of education, assume a position of unbelief under an assumed neutrality and can be aggressively anti-Christian in ethos. If we surrender our children to be educated in such surroundings, places designed to prejudice them against the Gospel, we ought then not to be surprised if they turn from all that we have sought to instil in them of the truth of God. This situation may call for radical action and material sacrifice on the part of parents in order to send their offspring to an overtly biblical and Christian school or as a last resort to revert to homeschooling. This is part of the cost we need to consider would we follow Christ in obedience.

 

The authority of Christ’s rule extends to all men

Let us be quite clear in our own minds, Christ’s authority extends over all men without exception, not simply over those who own Him as Lord. It is not the case that Christian believers, who recognize His rule, are the only ones answerable to Him. Were this so, the Lord Jesus would be in no position to press His claims or call all men to account, still less to punish them for their wrongdoings. He rules over all men, He claims them as belonging to Him (Psalm 24:1) along with all they do, that they rebel in no way exempts them. They think to escape God by denying Him. That is utter foolishness. Putting a bucket over our heads to block out the sun does not stop it shining.

The claim of the Lord Jesus over all things is rooted in the fact that first of all He is God; and second, that He created everything existing outside Himself; nothing exists that He did not create. The denial of biblical creation is an attempt to deny Christ what is rightfully His and push Him out of His own world. In essence, opposition to creation by God out of nothing has very little or nothing to do with the evidence of science so-called. The earth, all who live in it, man or beast, all that is produce from it, everything is His because He made it.
“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3)
“The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1)
“For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.” (Psalm 50:10-12)

Christ came into this world to redeem back what is rightfully His own, and nothing is excluded. He claims everything as His own. There is not an inch of space, not a second of time, where Christ does not say: that belongs to me and it comes under my rule and jurisdiction. Again, this way of thinking is to be taken on board not just by Christian believers but applies to all men because Christ is Lord of lords and King of kings. Parents say, my children are mine to bring up as I please; others may say, my possessions are mine to do with what I will. Christ says they are all mine, given to you in trust and from which I expect a return.

To the disciples of Christ is committed the task of bringing the Christian Gospel to all nations. The Gospel of free and sovereign grace does not stop at the salvation of individual souls, although this is central and constitutes an essential beginning. Salvation has ramifications for the whole of human existence because God’s sovereignty extends over all and His claims are upon all.

 

No Gospel, no change

It needs to be understood that Christ changes a person’s heart and life and it is from here first that all other changes must follow. There can be no real outward change, no positive social change, apart from the inward change wrought by the Gospel of Christ. Nothing will have changed in our nation unless that change is brought about directly as a result of the preaching of the Gospel as given in the Christian Scriptures. Cosmetic change is a deadly and deceptive device. The Christian Gospel works from the inside out and not the other way round. It is true that the only legitimate laws a nation can have are Christian ones, but imposed from without this alone will not make us a Christian nation or even a nation of Christians, a nation with a Christian ethos perhaps, but little more. In fact, unless within us as individuals, there is an inward change, we are reduced to being little more than actors simply playing out a role. We have then become pharisaic hypocrites presenting an outward appearance that is not supported by any inward reality. Where there is no Gospel there is no change. The woes of Jesus upon the Pharisees of His day:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.  Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
(Matthew 23:25-28)

One unmistakeable sign of a genuine Christian believer is that he or she will submit to Christ in all things and that submission will stem from a new and inward orientation that has been utterly transformed. One unmistakeable sign of unbelievers is they say, in deed if not in word, in part if not in whole, “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). It is a false, apostate Christianity that restricts God to ‘grace’ and ‘salvation’ to eternity and ‘spiritual matters’. It is rank and damnable hypocrisy such as that of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) that keeps some things back for itself, that fences of areas for its own exclusive use and where Christ is not allowed, yet at the same time makes a claim of being a follower of Christ. Sadly, this is all too often the mark of Christian profession. “And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's” (1 Corinthians 3:23).

There are two kingdoms and only two and we are each found in one or the other. There is Satan’s kingdom and that of Christ and true faith in Him. There is the kingdom of darkness, which embraces the sum total of rebellious humanity, and includes within its walls all forms of apostate Christianity that have deliberately turned their back on the truth. We are presented with an antithesis.
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
There is the seed of the woman, the promised Saviour, all incorporated into His body of believers. There is the seed of the serpent, those who still live in enmity with God and persist in apostasy. This is the whole history of mankind. War continues to this day to be waged between these two kingdoms, between the children of light and the children of darkness. Apostasy and rebellion is rooted in human hearts. There is no area of life lying outside this antithesis, it permeates the whole of human existence and is observable in the whole of human history throughout the whole world in all times. Rebellion and apostasy proceed from human hearts. Through regeneration a man becomes a new creature in Christ, his consciousness is changed, his mind enlightened by the Spirit of God.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.“ (Corinthian 5:17)
There are two kingdoms; consequently there are two kinds of people in the world: believers in Christ who are obedient to Him, and unbelievers who are apostate rebels. The line to be drawn is not between nature and grace or between the temporal and the eternal, but between darkness and light, between apostasy and faith.

Christ claims all things everywhere in every sphere of life as His own and in the Gospel we must call all men to submit to Him in all things. However, no one will submit to Christ unless first there is an inner change of heart; all must begin here, with regeneration, conversion, repentance and faith. There can be no side-stepping this by social action. A call for ‘Christian values’ without being confronted with the claims of Christ is palpable nonsense and worse than useless. Organizations proposing Christian social action have multiplied in recent years. Understandable in some ways as the reign of godlessness increases. Most make one fundamental error that appears to mirror the teaching of Aquinas, suggesting that all men somehow naturally share the same innate morality and that given sufficient encouragement they will surely espouse the good and reject evil. Certainly all men have the Law of God inscribed within (Romans 2:14-15); this is what Scripture tells us. But they hate it; it stirs their conscience, they suppress it. They are each and everyone natural rebels.

The cure for this is the preaching of the Gospel. Wherever Thomas Aquinas casts his shadow there can be no call for submission to Christ and any call for repentance is made into a void. Without the Gospel at the heart of what they do, the arguments of these Christian moralists are reduced to pragmatic rather than biblical ones. For example, where the authority of Scripture is in doubt, where its historicity is doubted, there can be no proper defence of marriage and the family. Instead of a robust explanation of marriage as a divine ordinance for all men that reaches back to the Garden of Eden, we are treated all too often to vain waffle about families being the ‘building blocks’ of our society – whatever that is supposed to mean!

You will look in vain in the materials of these groups, printed or online, for any real and uncompromising presentation of the Gospel. They may say this is not their purpose. One significant reason for this is likely to be dictated by the need to cast the net widely for financial and other support. This will range from the charismatic and Pentecostal end of evangelicalism to those firmly in entrenched in the staid traditionalism of the incense-swinging high Anglican or Roman Catholic. At neither end of this spectrum will you find the biblical Gospel, instead only a profound opposition to it. Clearly, there is unlikely to be any firm consensus about the nature of the Gospel among such a motley crowd.

It is regrettable to find the names of Wesley, the various reformers and many others sullied by being drawn in to support the cause. This is disingenuous to say the least. At worst it is deceitful and confusing. At the heart of Luther’s reformation in Germany that wrought so much good and brought unparalleled social change was a struggle not about public morals, but about the nature of the Gospel, and the doctrine of justification by faith alone, later anathematized by the Catholic Church. Much the same can be said of Calvin’s administration in Geneva, Knox in Scotland.  Changes that took place in Britain at the time of the Evangelical Awakening under Whitfield, Wesley and others came about because these men travelled the length and breadth of this country risking life and limb at a time when travel was difficult preaching the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ alone. Changed lives were brought about by an inward change wrought by the Spirit of God. The drinker left his bottle, the thief his dishonesty, the adulterer his sin – they repented only when taken in hand by the Spirit of God who inclined their hearts towards Christ. Any social changes stemmed alone from a response to the preaching of the Gospel of God’s grace.

We do not act ‘in love’ towards our fellowmen if we offer social change, even when based upon the Bible, but fail to challenge them with the Gospel. We all need to move from the rule of darkness to the rule of light.
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.”
(Colossians 1:12-13)
There is a need in this country to put unadulterated and plain Gospel preaching at the heart of Christian testimony. This may draw upon us the abusive misuse of the word ‘pietism’. It is preposterous nonsense and also offensive to imply that because we place Christ and His salvation at the heart of our message, we do not love our fellowmen or not in any way concerned about the godlessness into which our nation has sunk. What we do say is that failing to preach Christ as the only cure is deceitful and useless. To work alongside those who deny the Gospel to any perceived common end is treachery against our Saviour.

The unbelieving world and apostate Christendom operate outside the Gospel; they have rejected the real cure. We cannot work with them. Everything has been disrupted and distorted by sin and men need to be brought into a right relationship with God before anything can change. In order to see change in the world around us, there is little point to infiltrating existing structures trying to exert some influence. Many try it and will always fail. They will invariably find themselves sidelined because of an inherent hatred of Christ and a rejection, conscious or otherwise, of His claims. These structures and institutions are part of the kingdom of darkness as those of us who have experienced them on the inside can testify. Being outside the Gospel, they operate on an anti-Christian, apostate basis. There can be no neutral ground where Christ claims everything as His own. There can be no truce with unbelief. It amounts to spiritual adultery.
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

There is but one true King, the Lord Jesus Christ. All others cry, “We have no king but Caesar” and crucify Him in their hearts.
“But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. (John 19:15-16)
There can be no evasion of the Gospel, no substitute for pressing home to our fellow men the claims of Christ.

The Gospel works not renovation but replacement of that which is beyond repair. Yet we are not lifted out of this world as soon as we become Christians, but have instead a task to complete. We are not hermetically sealed off from unbelievers whom we must confront daily, but our message cannot be tainted or corrupted by paganism and we must operate outside an apostate world.
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” (Ephesians 5:11)
We cannot reprove anything of which we ourselves are a part, or with which we ourselves are co-operating.

 

No grace apart from Christ

God will demonstrate no goodness towards sinful men, directly or indirectly, apart from His Son, the Lord Jesus, the Saviour of the world. God’s grace operates throughout the whole of human existence. Here again, there is no separation to be made between nature and grace. We ought not to confine God’s grace simply to His work in salvation. God’s grace is one and not divided. God’s grace works in a general way making no distinction between men, saint or sinner, the godly or the godless. God maintains the world He created with all its temporal structures and order so that the effects and further rampage of human sin are checked. Grace also works in a particular way by renewing or regenerating that which is lost and ruined by sin. This second targeted working of God’s grace embraces only reborn believing mankind. However, these are but two aspects of one grace made possible only in Christ and must never be separated into a false dualism. The purpose of the working of God’s grace is to restore the whole of His creation to its original glory and splendour. God’s ultimate plan and purpose can never be frustrated by human sin. The Lord Jesus is the true Sovereign of the nations. His sceptre shall hold sway over all, His Kingdom crush all others in establishing itself.
“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” (Daniel 2:44)
“… and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)

Were God not at work in a general way there would have remained no humanity to save; it would doubtless have long ago utterly destroyed itself. God actively still prevents human disobedience running its natural course. There is a division within reality, but it is not between nature and grace but between sin, rebellion and apostasy, and the goodness of God. It is because God’s grace remains at work in the world that this antithesis exists. There are times when God, in judgement, gives men over to a reprobate mind so that their sin may work itself out in godlessness and corruption (see Romans 1:24-28). This in itself indicates that God had hitherto prevented sin and wickedness from having free course. God preserves His creation that His kingdom may come. This kingdom even now grows quietly until the day of its manifestation. Jesus explained this in His teaching about the kingdom of God.
“Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” (Luke 13:18-21)
Genuine Christian believers form a closely knit community within the kingdom of Christ having a distinct style of living and culture. They are a union of men and women who profess, using words taken from the Heidelberg Catechism of 1563, that with body and soul, both in life and death, they are not their own, but belong unto their faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, has fully satisfied for all their sins…and makes them sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him. They are a body called together by the written and living Word of God. All who thus respond submit willingly in their whole lives to Christ. This is emphatically not an ecclesiastical institution. We are a private brotherhood, a new race.
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
The Christian community is a distinct community of faith. Humanistic multiculturalism is an artificial construct that can never unite that which is inherently diverse and contradictory. The greater the attempts to compel such unity in diversity without the Gospel, the more tensions will intensify and the differences be accentuated. Christian believers, whatever their race, nationality, age, knowledge, sex, class, and profession, are bound together in a common faith in Christ and are an organic unity in Him.

Faith by its very nature is oriented to revelation and more specifically to the Scriptures and cannot exist without them. Faith is not a leap in the dark, not mere opinion, not uncertainty of knowing, nor is it as Roman Catholic theology teaches a supernatural gift of God’s grace that enables human reason to grasp the supernatural values of salvation. Faith would be then simply a supernatural extension to the natural working of reason. Faith is also something more than a mere intellectual apprehension of Christian truth. It is complete certainty concerning not only matters eternal but includes all aspects of our temporal existence ―”faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen(Hebrews 11:1). Faith points beyond time to the eternal origin of all things with God through Christ. This means there can be no neutrality for any single aspect of our life.

If you are a Christian believer and broadly sympathize with what you have read, I would like very much to hear from you.

David W. Norris

Taken from David's book WHAT IT REALLY MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN. See publications page.