Friday, April 30, 2010

The Election and Why we should Vote!

Ok so everyone has been talking, blogging, tweeting and generally being opinionated over the last few weeks about the UK General Election. So why care what I think? In short, it matters not a jot what I think.

Unlike in the US where party allegiance seems to be very split down religious and ideological lines this is less so in the UK. I think broadly there are three categories of potential voters:

  1. Those so disillusioned with MP’s and politics who just don’t care or think it matters enough and likely won’t vote.
  2. Those so entrenched in their historic political allegiance that it would not matter what the party said or did they would still vote for them.
  3. Those that have been affected in one way or another directly or indirectly over the past few years in ways that the Government have some measure of input into. eg: the Economy, Education, immigration and overseas policy. These are people that are willing to change their party according to the one that may most help them in the future in the area closest to them.

I have to admit over the past few election I have been in category 1. Yes I know that is not a good place to be, especially for a Christian. But I really couldn’t decided who I could vote for so chose to not vote at all. I have fairly recently seen that this, for me is not acceptable for two reasons. Firstly that I have no right to moan and complain about the current Government if I did nothing to say who that Government is. Secondly I realised that as a Christian that I should vote because it is too important to ignore. Christians have a right and responsibility to influence the world around them and that includes in the political realm.

Now I have moved to category 3. Many who know me will probably think I am really just category 2 because my Parents are staunch Conservatives and to nail my colours to the mast, yes they will be Blue! However that is not why I am voting that way. I guess due to moving into middle age over the past 5-6 years I have grown up a bit and see the impact more on society of the decisions made my local and national government. They seem to have more of an impact on me directly.

So why category three for me? For some losing your job due to the recession will impact what message you listen to. For others being a teacher or having children in education will influence the message you are looking for. For me it is the issue of Civil Liberty and Moral Values. Adrian Warnock, an influential UK Christian leader summed it up well in this article.

Labours record on law making in the name of creating a ‘Tolerant’ Britain is frankly horrendous. A book by D.A Carson sums this up in its title The Intolerance of Tolerance. The laws designed to create a society of Tolerance and diversity have done the opposite. Britain has become a most intolerant society especially towards those of faith and even more specifically those of the Christian faith. You see the idea of Tolerance only works when it is applied evenly to everyone. Unfortunately that is simply not the case in the UK. One persons rights now trump another's with religious belief at the bottom of the pile. We have become a society that is scared to offend or at the least disagree with another persons viewpoint in case they accuse us of being a bigot or of being a whateverphobe and hurting their feelings. This effectively stifles real open honest debate and makes one group wary and suspicious of the motives of another group. You are not a bigot just because you disagree with someone!

Now I certainly don’t agree with all the policies or moral convictions of the Conservatives but they do tend to be less intrusive into the day to day lives of their citizens unlike Labour who want to control every facet of our existence and will fine or imprison you if you dare to speak out on moral issues (Ok that is a bit of an exaggeration but seems to be broadly the direction we are heading). If you want to come down to real personal convictions as to why I could not in all conscience vote for Labour I could sum it up in one person, Harriet Harmon! She has systematically pursued a humanistic amoral liberal agenda within the labour party and would be the first to condemn you for being intolerant for disagreeing with her! Click HERE to see how she has voted on all the moral issues over the last few years to get my point!

Whatever the result of next Thursday I know that God is sovereign and I trust Him fully. I may personally be disappointed with anything other than a Conservative majority but God is in ultimate control and will achieve His good purposes whatever happens in my small timeframe of existence.

Happy and thoughtful Voting to you all!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Humility from the Heart and The search for Pride!

I have been pondering the meaning of humility in the Christian life recently. Partly due to an increasing awareness of the gaping distance between what I see in my own heart and where I think God would want me to be. Also because of the recent announcement by John Piper that he is stepping away from all and every ministry for 8 months to work on his soul and his marriage. (If you listen to THIS sermon 21:10 minutes in, John Explains his reasoning for this!)

Piper_ResourceLibrary_8One of his reasons for this is because he sees in his heart what he calls ‘several species of pride in my soul that, even though they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me.’ (The Full text is here, scroll to the bottom)

When I heard about this and the reasons for it I was frankly stunned. For someone of such a high profile, who is so passionate about the ministry of preaching and teaching, to walk away from it all demonstrates a level of self awareness and humility that is so rare among leaders. To step away on the grounds of, in his words ‘What will happen in my soul and in my marriage when, to use the phrase of one precious brother on staff, there will be no “prideful sipping from the poisonous cup of international fame and notoriety”?’

Wow! To go to that length on order to search his heart to weed out any hint of pride, idolatry etc… I pray many leaders, even in the tiniest of churches take note and examine their hearts likewise. Now everyone can’t just step away from their jobs for 8 months to do this. John Piper is in a privileged position to be able to do so. However the principle is still there. Whatever area of ministry you are involved with what is your motivation for doing so?

So what does the Bible say about Humility?

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

1 Peter 5:5 Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Ephesians 4:1-2 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

and its Opposite, Pride?

Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

and one of the most misquoted scriptures of all:

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Isaiah 2:17 And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.


The bible has huge amounts to say about Humility and Pride. Now in our culture the value of the two seems to have become reversed. Pride in oneself, ones job, ones possessions, abilities etc is seen as good and humility is seen as weak and undesirable. Yet God requires humility and is squarely against pride that places anything else in Gods own rightful place. Requiring that we submit to God as sovereign and ruler over every aspect of our life and lay down our own desires and pursue His Agenda not our own. That is the call on the Christian that God makes. This is what it means when Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 and Luke 9:23

However pride is not just seen in external actions. Mostly it is buried in the heart. Jesus said in Matthew 15:18 “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart”. What he is saying is that it is the heart that determines what you say, think and do. I have recently become aware of a staggering Pharisaical pride in my own heart that I find hideous and abhorrent. Anyone who really knows me will tell you that I do not like to be wrong and even less admit it when I am. I am opinionated and there is nothing wrong with that per se. However when pride dictates that you have to win the argument at any cost, that you are right and everyone else is wrong, that your way is the best if not only way, then you are a Pharisee plain and simple. As I said I see this in my own heart and I hate it. I think if I met me there are occasions when I would punch me for being an arrogant idiotic know it all. Taken to its ultimate conclusion you can even start to think that God saved you because of some value in you, that Gods Kingdom would somehow not be quite as good without you in it. That you are so special that you can get away with some things and God lets it go ‘cause you are a special case’. Lies, evil lies, and more lies!!!!

But Pride shows itself in so many subtle ways it is staggering. This is not surprising since the root of sin is pride. Sin is basically putting something or someone in the place of God. Pride says God cannot be trusted! Pride says I know better than God how to run my life. Pride says I am better than that person because I don’t …… (fill in your judgemental attitude here). Or how dare that person judge me. Pride says there is no God. I won’t apologise to my spouse. I wish those parents would shut their children up, I would never let my kids do that. Pride says you cannot come anywhere near my heart. I will not surrender my heart and soul to God. Pride is the loud extrovert who controls the conversation and the self deprecating quiet ‘meek’ person who won’t speak up and give an opinion.

The worst kind of pride is the kind of religious pride I see in myself and in the church (in general not mine in particular) so often. The judgemental attitude towards non Christians, the way the service is run, that we are free and dance about or that we are respectful and quiet. My theology is correct theirs is not. It can be seen in leadership that won’t admit mistakes and hurts the flock as a consequence. I could go on but I hope you get the idea. Pride is everywhere in the human heart.

James 4:6 “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

God opposes the proud. Now that is a scary place to be!!! You really do not want the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe to oppose you.

So how do we combat this cancer of prideful sin?

Humility and Good News

Humility is pretty much the opposite of pride, but how do we become less full of pride and more humble? The answer lies in the cross and what it achieved and why it was necessary.

Basically we have committed treason against a Holy and righteous God. We have contradicted every moral directive He has laid out and first and foremost we have put created things in the place of the creator. We have taken God away from His rightful position as Sovereign Ruler and put ourselves in His place. Now because of this God has every right to wipe us from the face of the earth. There is not one innocent person on this planet who has any claim against God’s just right to send any one of us to an eternity in hell. There is no case to plead, no appeal, no witness we can bring that will stand before a Holy and Just God and not wither into nothing. If you think that is unfair then would you consider justice to have been done if a High Court judge simply let off a murderer, rapist, thief, any law breaker? No you wouldn’t! If a Judge said to a rapist, you were caught and are undeniably guilty of this crime, but I’ll just let you go, that would be the most wrong and unjust action. But the crimes each of us has committed against God are simply on a scale many times greater than any crime that can be done on earth. If you sin against an infinitely Holy God then the judgement and punishment must match that infinite crime.

So what hope is there?

If Justice cannot be served without the punishment fitting the crime then how can we ever be saved? God is not just an Infinitely Holy and Just God. He is also an infinitely loving, merciful and gracious God. God had a plan from before the universe came into existence. A glorious plan that wonderfully highlights and points to His amazing, loving Grace. Jesus, fully God, humbled himself and entered our fallen world as fully man. A perfect sinless man. He never once broke God’s moral directives/law. He died on the cross, an unimaginably tortured and gruesome death. But that wasn’t the worst part. On that cross for those few hours God turned away from Jesus, and poured out the eternal punishment due to us, onto His son. The marvel of the cross is not just in the physical nature of the act but in the spiritual nature. Jesus became sin, who knew no sin, for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). He took our due punishment and not only that imputed, clothed us in, wrapped us in, his righteousness. The great exchange as it is known. When God looks upon one of his Children He sees a clean, holy, pure, righteous child, without stain or blemish. But the rub is that it applies only if you believe, trust in and surrender your life to Him. God desires every one to be saved and his arms are outstretched to you with the invitation. The invitation of new life. Jesus also rose from the dead and through that resurrection gives us spiritually dead people new life for eternity.

So what has this to do with Humility. Well on the grounds that there is absolutely nothing in me that deserves anything other than an eternity in hell and that I am only saved by what Christ did on the cross I have nothing to boast in except Christ crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2 and Galatians 2:20) My pride has no say in my being saved. I did nothing, God did it all. When you grasp the magnitude of this truth and let it sink into your soul then Pride is revealed and diminished and Humility takes its place. The wonderful, glorious, freeing truth that the Sovereign, infinitely Holy, infinitely Righteous, infinitely Loving and Gracious God reached down and saved me for no reason except by His sovereign Grace extended towards me. Justice is still served and I go free. How awesome and amazing is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am free and adopted into the family of God. I get to worship Him forever. Not out of Duty but out of love and thankfulness.

That is the antidote to Pride in the heart. It takes a lifelong journey to let this truth sink in and transform you. But there is no greater Joy in the Universe that knowing your heart being satisfied in worshipping the beautiful creator of the Universe and my heavenly Father.

(Edited to Correct the dodgy spelling. Teacher told me off!!!)