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Saturday, 25 July 2015

A Mystery So Puzzling.

As this is the weekend when the America's Cup Boat Race starts at Portsmouth, nothing more could be so characteristically British. The oh-so-familiar reminder that all the schools across the nation had broken up for the long Summer break:- when the skies turn steely grey, the wind picks up, the daytime temperature drops, and the heavens open. Not just an occasional blustery shower, but a continuous downpour lasting the entire duration of the day and even well into the night. With the streets glistening with rainwater, umbrellas up, mackintoshes flapping in the wind, and the waterproof fabric clattering with the impact sound of the raindrops, the public carries on with its business undeterred by the weather, as so demonstrated by one female who arrived in Portsmouth to watch the celebrations for the start of the race. When asked to comment about the dismal Summer, her face broke into a wide smile and answered, It's all about being British.

Maybe so, which could explain why in a single day at the start of the school holidays, up to 130,000 people passed through security at Heathrow Airport alone, up on the average daily 100,500, along with another 120,000 passing through London Gatwick. No doubt about it, we Brits crave for a spot of sunshine so much that the stresses of air tickets, passport control, security, waiting in queues - as well as the potential for flight delays and industrial disputes are all accepted stoically as mere risks. Added to these is a risk to health - particularly the attack of the runs due to unfamiliar food, poor hygiene, dirt, or whatever, coupled with the risk of sunburn, tenderising the skin into an intensely painful cherry-red area. Not to mention in addition: pickpockets, petty theft, being ripped off, needing to call in at a clinic, or even ending up in a police cell when a drinking bout gets out of hand. Yes indeed, it is the start of the season when the pursuit of the annual dose of the Four S's becomes the norm of British necessities - Sun, Sea, Sand, and Sex.

Not that any of these are merely textbook propaganda. In my travelling days, I have experienced just about all of these, including ending up sitting at the interview room of a local police station - no, not for drunken behaviour, but to report a theft of all my funds - in the form of a book of traveller's cheques - a big one for the sly fingers of a pickpocket's hand. So leaving me marooned literally penniless for the weekend at the Italian city of Florence back in 1981. And how can I forget 1995 with the dreadful symptoms of hyponatremia which bid me to visit a clinic in Arizona. I was fortunate enough that a cup of electrolyte provided free by a nurse was all I needed for recovery. A visit by a Doctor, even if only for a moment, would have set me back hundreds of dollars.

Eventually, the presence of British stoicism is put to the test as the reality hits home. He enters the front door of his house, bathed in an almost eerie silence after night after night of clubbing, dining out, strolling through streets thronging with thrill-seekers in the warmth of the night, or even engaging in conversation and making friends at hostel socials. As his family begin to unpack, he creeps upstairs, and opens the wardrobe to see his suit, clean shirt and tie, all hanging neatly from a rail. Such attire reminding him of the daily office grind resuming on the very next day. So much of, as I like to call it, Touchdown Sunday, back to work Monday.

Such as I have tried to avoid when returning to my front door from a backpacking trip. I recall 1997, after flying overnight home from Los Angeles, which concluded the Round-the-World trip, including touchdown at Singapore, and then at Cairns, at the Australian state of North Queensland. I have carefully arranged to land back at London Heathrow on a Wednesday, exactly ten weeks to the day after taking off. Like this, I had more than four days to re-adjust to normal life. On the day of arrival back in the UK, I felt so run down by post-holiday blues, that a visit to a friend's house to chat about the experience was a necessity much needed even before considering returning to work on the following Monday.

And so in my final years of bachelorhood, while attending a service at my church in Ascot, I recall one of the Elders looking directly at me while delivering his sermon, classifying some people as living from holiday to holiday. I knew he was right. If there was a time when travel had such a hold on me, it was in the 1990's. This was most likely due to the fact that I was already in my forties, and living alone without a family to support. Of course, as a Christian believer, I was familiar with the New Testament of the Bible, and particularly with Paul's letter to the Ephesians, but I still felt that I have missed out on something in life. Travel was an attempt to fill in this void, which was caused, I believe, by not having a lifelong companion to love and to love me, to support each other, and to share everything in life together.

Yet Paul was different. Unlike the vast majority of Jews in his day, he never married. It was after the Damascus Road experience (Acts 9) that he saw the real reason for living. Enjoying a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. The realisation of God's eternal love through his Son fulfilled Paul's every need - physical, mental, and emotional, without any worldly excitement added to stimulate his well being.

I can see, even feel the excitement in the Apostle's heart when he wrote to the church in Ephesus, including statements like being predestined to be adopted into his family, becoming recipients of his grace, wisdom and understanding, lavished upon us unreservedly, to the glory, thanksgiving, and praise, and in line of the inheritance promised to us, which God through Christ is willing to bestow upon us. So he goes on, we are saved by grace, without works, according to the riches of his glory.

Paul remained single throughout his life, contrary to Jewish custom of the day, but by reading his letters, it is easy enough to see the wonderful relationship Paul had with his God. And this despite the many sufferings he went through, including imprisonment. In Acts 16:25-34 we read about Paul and his new companion Silas, thrown into prison without a proper cause. Their backs were welted from the lashes they both received earlier, therefore they must have been very uncomfortable and suffering pain while held in confinement. But did they whinge and moan? Did they wish they could have headed for the airport for a transatlantic flight to Disneyland? Or for that matter, to hike the Grand Canyon? Far from it! Instead they were singing praises and thanksgiving to God. It was infectious. The jailer, instead of bullying them, became convicted of his own shortcomings, and he too asked how he can enjoy the same relationship with God as these two enjoyed.

Did Paul and Silas believe in Eternal Security? Or Once Saved Always Saved? According to his letter to the Ephesians, as well as Romans chapter eight, this seems to be quite a point! The only snag is that neither the statements "Eternal Security" or "Once Saved Always Saved" appear anywhere in the New Testament, let alone the entire Bible. But does this make these statements untrue? After all, the word "Trinity" does not appear in Scripture, neither does the phrase "Prodigal Son" appear either, but no true believer would deny the truthfulness of these statements. But according to my own experience, believing in Eternal Security does have a big impact on my spiritual life. This was felt just a few weeks ago while visiting Westminster Chapel in London. The preach was about Paul's letter to the Ephesians, and there was an emphasis on the truth of Eternal Security. I wanted to stand up and shout my praises to God there and then. Fortunately, the service ended with singing, and through this I was allowed to release my thanksgiving and praise. It was electrifying. What better tonic is there to the spirit than knowing that you are adopted into God's family forever. No wonder Paul and Silas felt exuberant while in prison!

Is God any different today? If so, then how can we trust a God who is not eternally consistent? But if he is the same God yesterday, today, and forever, then what went horribly, horribly wrong? One does not need to be a rocket scientist to give an answer to that question. It is false teaching beginning to percolate into the churches after the death of all the apostles. In fact, the churches in Galatia were already becoming infected while Paul was still alive, and John wrote of "many antichrists that are already in the world" (1 John 2:18-27, 4:3). Antichrist simply means Instead of Christ, and nothing more appropriate could be applied to false teachings. These are the teachings that any form of works are added to faith to either earn, merit, or even to keep our salvation. Such teachings deny the Father and the Son, because the Son did not atone for sin to the extent that the believer is once saved always saved. So the believer becomes his own saviour, or at least a partial saviour, instead of Jesus Christ being the only and true Saviour.

I personally believe that this is the greatest mystery ever recorded in history. How could it possibly happen? Paul's letter to the Ephesians (and to other churches as well) were meant to be the greatest message of good news to be revealed to the world. God having reconciled the world to himself not imputing their trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5:19) - somehow God has always been seen as metamorphosed into a fickle monster who is constantly examining our faithfulness to see if we are worthy for heaven. That how it looks to me. Little wonder, that when the great Protestant-based British Empire expanded, India for example, remained stubbornly Hindu, while the Middle East and parts of Africa remained Islamic. It seems that trading one set of rules for worshiping a god for another set of very similar rules for some other deity was never seen as worthy enough to strike a deal.

Many churches here in the UK rely on Oxford and Cambridge Universities for the gene pool of future leaders and ministers. I think it is a crying shame that many of these future leaders do not believe in Eternal Security, and therefore discouraging their congregations from believing the greatest message the Gospel has to offer. Little wonder that not only our churches had failed to convert Muslims, but many Christians have also embraced the theory of Evolution, which denies the truth of the Gospel, and internal strife between leaders and their members has been ongoing for many centuries.

How could it all happen? God through Christ and the apostles have given us the greatest message of salvation in all history, and it's well preserved in Scripture. So how could such distortions occur, and so soon too, while the apostles were still living?

It's a mystery so puzzling.


  1. Dear Frank,
    Puzzling indeed, that believers would trade salvation by grace for the legalism of thinking their good works can maintain their salvation. What cause for rejoicing is there in that? And puzzling that Christians would change the marvelous truth of God's creation into a foolish fable that we are descended from apes and even from ameobae. But the Bible warns of false teachings and teachers in the end times, and they are now proliferating. Thanks as always for the excellent post and God bless,

  2. Amen, Frank. How could one enjoy being a christian if one must spend all their time worrying about losing their salvation? You and Laurie both have made some very important points.

  3. I believe the main thing Frank is to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit, whom we receive when we believe on the Lord Jesus, enables us to have our minds renewed in Christ Jesus by teaching us God's ways through the Word, which is our judge and which brings us to be doers of the Word and not just hearers. We must not forget what Jesus said in John 12 vs 47 and 48 '
    "If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. "He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day'
    Jesus said in Matthew ch. 7 vs. 21 - 23
    “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
    He is talking here about those who have received the Holy Spirit but still practice lawlessness.
    Hebrews ch. 10 vs.26 - 29 reads:-
    'For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
    He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

    God is very long suffering as He teaches us through His Holy Spirit, and very forgiving as we learn, but we have to mature in Him as we are taught and gradually become doers of that Word spoken and not just hearers.
    We are all on a journey to perfection. The more we learn from Him the more we love Him. Jesus said 'If you love me, keep my commands.' That is not the ten commandments, that is the Word spoken to us as we are taught by the Holy Spirit.
    God bless