However, if you profess to be a Christian but still haven’t come back to church now is the time to seriously consider coming back because the disadvantages far outweigh the perceived advantages.
Men's Breakfast Talk
Markdale Baptist Church
Saturday March 19
Lessons from English Christianity for the Church in Ontario
In Talk Video: https://fiec.org.uk/resources/get-to-know-17
If you ever pay attention to church names as you drive around you’ll find some interesting ones for sure! A church name tells us a lot about what they believe. One such name is “Full Gospel Church.” The implication in their name is that there are other churches that do not preach the “Full Gospel” but only half (or not at all). Another similar is that of a whole denomination, the Four Square Gospel Church. Like Full Gospel this is another reference to completeness. The FSGC was founded by Grey Co. native Amy Semple-McPherson in the 1920s. The four squares? Christ as Saviour, Healer, Baptized of the Holy Spirit and Coming King. Any evangelical would agree with the first and the last along with the second if it was defined but not the third.
This is the key difference between Evangelicals and Pentecostals: baptism in the Holy Spirit as an event subsequent to salvation. Concisely worded, the Elam Ministries (UK) Statement of Faith may be a fair representative of the Pentecostal World:
“We believe in the deity of the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son and the necessity of His work in conviction of sin, repentance, regeneration and sanctification, and that the believer is also promised an enduement of power as the gift of Christ through the baptism in the Holy Spirit with signs following. Through this enduement, the believer is empowered for fuller participation in the ministry of the Church, its worship, evangelism and service.”
The words italics speak of this secondary experience that is to be sought and the underlined words that this is experience is necessary for effective ministry.
Is this what the Gospel (or New Covenant) is, a two staged offer of good news? Absolutely not for the Holy Spirit is given to everyone who trusts in Jesus from the outset. A subsequent baptism in the Holy Spirit is to confuse certain Biblical passages with the clear teaching. In Scripture we see the pattern of believing and receiving (c.f. Acts 2:38 and 40):
Rather that promising a second experience the Gospel offers new life, new creation, a helper to be empowered for sanctification, spiritual growth and maturity, holiness and ministry.
Though guised Pentecostalism really does border upon, or fully enter into, the danger of presenting another Gospel for they add to the Good News/New Covenant as laid down in the New Testament (Gal 1:8; 2 Cor 11:4).
Let’s not only critique those who go beyond but those who stop short.
Many evangelicals preached Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins with a heavy emphasis on the atoning death of Christ (and the atonement is vital). They then offer a Gospel for the forgiveness of sins—full stop. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved [from the penalty of sin]. Because this is part of the Gospel it can evade our radar but we must stand alarmed at this too!
1 Cor 15:1–4 says:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
Jesus died so sinners might be forgiven (the penalty of sin) yet He rose so that they might be given the gift of new life by the Spirit (the power over sin).
When Peter issued the Gospel in Acts 2:38 the Good News not only included forgiveness of sin but the gift of the Holy Spirit. Not only that, in baptism is also included obedience; not an obedience that saves but one the Holy Spirit promises to help us live out. Faith without works is a dead (Ja 2:26); and how many evangelicals neglect to bear the fruit of faith! The Gospel not only offers forgiveness for our failure to keep God’s commands, it offers us the promise of new life and the power to live it out! As Jesus said, I came that they may have life and life to the full (Jn 10:10).
Both halves of 1 Cor 15 1–4 are needed for a full Gospel, Crucifixion and Resurrection, forgiveness and new life.
Let us not go beyond or stop short of the true Gospel in all its fullness.
I have recently observed a growing distrust, of the news, of government amongst Christians. What shall we make of this? Here are some meandering thoughts.
Jesus said, “…the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:32b)
Hold onto those works, we’ll return to them in their context.
First, in our world today there is growing distrust of truth and impairment of freedom. This in turn produces a form of bondage. In the old days news was supposed to be unbiased, a presentation of the facts more or less, leaving the readers or viewers to decide. The pursuit of truth requires a freedom to inquire and follow where you believe the facts take you. It seeks to be objective. The moment freedom is removed or facts are viewed in a biased way then truth itself is compromised. The prevailing philosophy of our time, postmodernism, has no doubt underpinned this as it views all truth as subjective, your truth, my truth, not the truth. The problem is that over time growing subjectivity in the media (on the left and the right) meant that biased news began to be labelled “fake news.” Both left and right used this to advance their agenda and exploit the other side. “Fact checking” became the hallmark of left and right. Echo chambers have paralyzed any meaningful conversation. The recent pandemic has only exacerbated this. What is true? What is real? A want of truth paralyses society because relationships are rooted in trust and so mistrust becomes a form of bondage.
Second, the rise of authoritarianism threatens truth and freedom. Putin’s authoritarian coverage of Ukraine is a prime example of this. Today I listened to a Russian living in Ukraine trying to convince his Russian father that what he was being told on state media wasn’t the same as reality on the ground. But this is where truth and freedom come closer to home. Here in Canada Covid states of emergency shut down reasonable discussion over the virus and our response, Bill C-4 has restricted expression and investigation into areas of morality and identity, the recent use of the Emergency Act allowed political dissent to be deemed as treason, and the controversial Bill C-10 would grant further powers of censorship. But this should not surprise us because neo-liberalism—a prevailing ideology—places the group ahead of the individual and uses tactics of demonization and power to advance its agenda rather than logic and truth. Thankfully we’re not so far along in this process as other countries in the world but the development is disconcerting. Even journalists of our own state funded media outlet, CBC, have quit the company over this sort of culture. We should be rightfully concerned over the normalization of cultural and state promoted authoritarianism and what this will mean for tangible freedom.
Truth leads to freedom because unhindered by lies we can better our lives in light of the truth.
However, given the news and politics we shouldn’t stop believing everything or to believe the opposite as some are inclined to do or embrace conspiracy theories. We must remember that thinking is part of God’s common grace (c.f. Mt 5:45), a non-saving gift to all (or most!) of mankind. For example, even though we may disagree with someone’s worldview in country X,Y, or Z we may still trust that the product they produce can be worn, eaten, driven or used.
I encourage people to do a number of things: diversify the sources that you read for your news and think about what is presented (I read many of the major global news networks). Also ask good questions like what are the facts? are the sources trustworthy? am I approaching this subject in an unbiased way? am I thinking about it logically? Am I really interested in the truth?
We’ll find a measure of freedom in these two things.
More importantly, let’s return to that quote from Jesus and see what true truth is and how to find real freedom. Here is John 8:31–32:
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
When we come to believe the ultimate truth, our Creator Jesus, and accept Him as Lord and Saviour then we are freed spiritually from the bondage to sin and the lies of the enemy. Not only is our soul freed but our mind; we gain a new worldview to see things rightly through the lens of Scripture. This is all very liberating.
The irony is that those who may be physically free in this world (free media, free countries) may indeed be spiritually enslaved, and those who are physically oppressed and enslaved (c.f. a Christian in a North Korean work camp) are actually spiritually free.
Freedom is important. The freedoms we enjoy in the West are a result of Christian influences. However, the greatest freedom we can possess is the freedom of our soul, a freedom that no one can take away.
Throughout history God’s kingdom, that is the restoration of His rule on earth—particularly under the New Covenant—has sometimes surged forward, grown in revival, persevered in faithful labouring, plodded, seemingly retreated, but over-all has been advancing like that mustard seed growing into a tree (Mk 4:30–34).
But like a soldier caught in the thick of the life and missional battle to which we’ve been called, it can be difficult sensing the greater plan and knowing our place in it. What are we to do!
This week was St. David’s Day, the patron saint of Wales. Wales is a beautiful country dear to my family’s heart from our many explorations there (we enjoyed some Welsh cakes to celebrate). David was some sort of protégé of the great evangelist Patrick who ministered in Ireland leading to that islands conversion from Paganism. David sought to do the same in Wales.
A Welsh maxim says, “do the little things in life” (i.e. when you don’t know exactly what to do, begin by doing what needs to be done). This is from David who said, ‘Be joyful, keep the faith, and do the little things that you have heard and seen me do.’ (an echo of Paul in Phil 4:8–9). As a result of his little things much of Wales became Christian. The Lord uses us to do much when we are faithful in the little things He has commanded His Church to be about (e.g. worship, prayer, Bible study, holy living, evangelism, charity).
This sentiment was also shared by James Culross over a century ago. In writing a biography of John Ryland Jr., he said:
“unlike those most useless persons in Christian circles who are always waiting for great things to do, and who neglect the opportunities which lie to their hand, young Ryland always did the little which lay to his hand, and found that by doing the ‘next thing’ life became rich in opportunities of usefulness.”
This was certainly true of the early Church for while it enjoyed seasons of rapid advance (think the day of Pentecost) its first centuries have been characterized by the phrase, “a long obedience in the same direction.”
Regardless of what season we find ourselves in as Ontarian Christians today, the call to readiness (Titus) and to be faithful in little to be made faithful in much apply today (Lk 16:10).
What Ontario needs today are not super-Christian who are trying to do great things but ordinary Christians who will faithfully serve Christ in a steady advance—doing the little things today, tomorrow and the day after that in service to their Lord. That is how Christ’s kingdom will come, through a steady advance. Even so we pray, come Lord Jesus come.
*For more see listen to the Extraordinary Ordinary that is being encouraged as we approach our post-Covid world.
 James Culross, The Three Rylands (1897), 73.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.