Unless otherwise stated the articles are by David W. Norris
Extracts from David's book of the same name
As I remember, by the 1950s a new more progressive message had emerged. Preachers were now ashamed of the ‘old’ Gospel, afraid to speak of the wrath of God and of a Saviour from sin. The authentic biblical Gospel preached once by the Apostles, the Reformers, the preachers at the time of the Great Awakening in Britain, and many thousands more in between and since has now largely been abandoned and is greatly despised. The message has been changed, Christ was turned from a Saviour of sinners into a super-psychiatrist who could solve every problem and make people ‘happy’, a ‘healer’ of sorts but making a mockery of the truth. It opened the door to conmen and fraudsters who have used their ‘gospel’ to fill their bank accounts. This saviour is not the Lord Jesus of the Scriptures; this gospel is another gospel, not the Gospel found in the Word of God. Most now preach a watered-down message, or even a misleading and erroneous one.
The peculiarity of the Christian religion as has been shown so often, and acknowledged even by opponents, lies in the person of Christ. All other religions are independent, to a certain degree, of their founders, because those founders were nothing more than their first confessors. But Jesus was not the first Christian; he was and is the Christ. He is not the subject, but the object, of religion. Christianity is not the religion of Jesus, still less of Jesus-worship, but Christ religion. Christianity is now as dependent on him, from moment to moment, as when he trod this earth. For he is not a person who lived and worked only in the past, but he lives and works still, is still Prophet, Priest, and King, and himself upholds the Church, which he established, from age to age, and assures her victory.
Although the love of God, failing in its purpose, always causes hardening of the heart, yet at times it has a still more terrible effect. For it may lead to the sin against the Holy Ghost.
The results of this sin are especially crushing and terrible. Christ’s words concerning it are startling and penetrating, casting the guilty soul into everlasting despair:
“He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” (Matthew 12:30-32)
The mercies of God are new every morning. We do not carry yesterday’s sins with us, but neither are the mercies of yesterday sufficient for today. Many try to live from what God did in their lives many years ago and wonder why they come no further forward, why it is God does nothing new in their lives.
All ministrations instituted by Christ are centred and grounded in the Word of God. The Word is the only clear mark by which the Church of Christ can be known in its truth and purity. By that Word genuine believers are reborn and brought to faith and repentance, are purified, sanctified, gathered and established. In return, it is their task to preserve and guard that Word (John 8:31; 14:23); to study it (John 5:39); to prove the spirits (1 John 4:1); and to shun all those who do not teach it and live by it. The Word of God is the soul of the Church (Galatians 1:8; Titus 3:10; 2 John 9).
The Word of God is given to every individual believer (John 5:39 & Acts 17:11) that with patience and the comfort of the Scriptures we should have hope (Romans 15:4); that we should also teach and admonish one another (Romans 12:7-8; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 10:24) Rome has done violence to this, but the Reformation put the Bible back into everyone’s hands. God has given pastors and teachers (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 5:17 & 2 Timothy 2:2) to minister the Word (Acts 20:20). The Word is milk to the immature and meat to the mature (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12 & 1 Peter 2:2).
Service to the Word of God includes its preservation, translation, interpretation, dissemination, defence and proclamation to all men. The Church thus remains built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20) and so is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15).
When the Emperor Constantine (272-337) ostensibly converted to Christianity, the Church effectively became a state religion taking over the place of the heathen religion of ancient Rome. Ministers of the Church assumed the role in society previously occupied by the former pagan priests. Bishops in the Church were eventually called Pontifex; the bishop of Rome who gradually took on a leading position among his fellow bishops became Pontifex Maximus. The latter term had initially been used of the highest position in the ancient Roman religion. Many pagans now flocked to the new Church of Rome, not forsaking their old ways but bringing much of the old paganism with them. Doubtless, they hoped to gain advantages they had previously enjoyed under the old religion. Needless to say, not all true believers or congregations of believers identified themselves in any way with the new state religion.
Around the time of the emergence of the bishop of Rome as Pontifex Maximus, the Lord Jesus began to be called Ιχθύς (Ichthys), ‘the fish’. The word was interpreted according to the Kabbalistic method of Notarikon, something still in use among Talmudic Jews to this day. It is claimed that this sign of the fish was used by early Christians to recognise one another. We ask, what ‘Christians’ were they?
The sign of the fish, however, goes even further back than the days of Rome. It can be traced through Babylon and to the Philistines. Using this sign by implication blasphemously identifies our Saviour directly with Dagon, the Assyro-Babylonian fish-god. This cannot be something acceptable to us.1 Samuel 5:2–7 tells how the ark of God was captured by the Philistines and taken to Dagon's temple in Ashdod where this ancient fertility god was smashed into pieces in the presence of God. The fish-god was also worshipped in Egypt as Latus.
What we need to be very clear about that the attributes ascribed to this ‘Jesus’, the fish, are not those of our precious Saviour. This is ‘another Jesus’ and ‘another Gospel’. Let not the idolatries found and punished in Israel be found amongst us lest we suffer the same punishment from on high.
“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12)
The eighteenth century French libertarian and libertine, Jean-Jaques Rousseau, wrote, “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains”. This perfectly describes the persistent dilemma for godless men, although not in the sense intended by Rousseau. What Rousseau did not see is that man is born fettered in sin and can be freed only by Him “who bled for Adam’s helpless race”.
We are often led to believe that Great Britain is in a post-Christian era and that the country is now largely secular. Some recent research shows that as much as seventy-one percent of the British still regard themselves as Christian, despite the fact that fewer than a million attend any place of worship, with these figures dropping fast. In view of this, the Churches ought to be asking themselves why this anomaly. Despite all their efforts at offering 'contemporary worship' and discarding much that is traditional in order to be more appealing, the ebbing away of congregations continues apace. There are, however, some even more pressing questions to be posed. What do those calling themselves Christian think that it means to be a Christian? Also, how does their understanding compare with what it really means to be a Christian and how can anyone know for sure what a Christian is?
People today are largely ignorant of the Christian Gospel and only have a very vague sense of any kind of spiritual need. In the Gospel there is an outward offer of salvation but there is also an accompanying inward work of the Holy Spirit bringing with it regenerating power. When men see the need to escape from eternal death through the preaching of the Gospel, they will also at the same time see that Christ has supplied their need. Christ finds them, but they first need to become new creatures before they will see this as a fact.
Many of those professing Christian belief think they have a sound understanding of what they need, but in fact not one of us by nature is fully aware of his or her need. On the contrary, unless God opens the inward eyes, all sit in complete ignorance of their own true state: dead in trespasses and sins and therefore subject to the wrath of God.
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)
“And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
Many of us have grave misgivings concerning the nature of ‛contemporary Christian music’, believing it will have no place in any genuinely Christian congregation. Some years ago, the controversial musician and songwriter Jerry Lee Lewis (1935- ) made an interesting observation. He was an early pioneer of rock and roll and so his comments are worth hearing. Lewis made his first recordings in 1956 and is remembered by most people for his song Great Balls of Fire along with his outrageous behaviour on stage.
What is less well-known is his professedly Christian background. He is first cousin to the TV evangelist, Jimmy Swaggart. Lewis ’s parents mortgaged their farm to buy him a piano. He attended Southwest Bible Institute in Waxahachie, Texas where he was enrolled by his mother with the intention that her musically gifted son should play exclusively evangelical songs. He and his friend, Pearry Green, boogie woogied their way through My God is Real at a Church service. Whereupon they we both shown the door. Next day, Lewis was expelled from the school by the dean. Green was allowed to stay on because Lewis maintained, “he didn't know what I was going to do.” Years later, Green asked Lewis, “Are you still playing the devil's music?” To this Lewis made this reply, “Yes, I am. But you know it's strange, the same music that they kicked me out of school for is the same kind of music they play in their churches today. The difference is, I know I am playing for the devil and they don't.”
Those who know Gerry Lee Lewis, including Johnny Cash who professed to being devoutly Christian, said Lewis was troubled by the sinful nature of his own material, which he firmly believed was leading him and his audience to hell.