Freedom at Easter!

Good news! The rules have been relaxed. Shielding has been lifted. People are less afraid and have more freedom. This has happened part-way through the Jewish festival of Passover, and in time for Easter weekend.

Two thousand years ago just after the Jewish Passover, Jesus’ disciples were cowering behind locked doors for fear of the Jews’ (John 20:19). Jesus had been crucified: their world was shattered; their hopes reduced to tears of despair.

But they soon changed. Jesus was alive again! Raised from the dead never to die again.

I am he who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore

Revelation 1:18

The disciples were utterly convinced of this. They risked their lives, disobeying the authorities by continuing to preach about the risen Jesus.

This is the bedrock of the Christian faith. It is the best news ever. It is the most important event in the world’s history.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 15 the apostle Paul argued, very strongly, that without this belief:

  • our faith is futile;
    • we are still beset by sins and their consequences;
    • faith in the Word of God is worthless;
    • faith in God’s forgiveness is futile;
    • hope of an after-life is invalid.

These are strong words. In contrast, he tells baptised believers that they are ‘free from sin’, and can hope for eternal life.

But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

Romans 6:22

Echoing the words of Jesus himself:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed

John 8:34-36

And freedom from fear:

So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:6

This is true, eternal, freedom. It is still the best news ever.

Actions Not Words

Recently there have been several protests in this country. People have asked for meaningful actions, not just platitudes and reassuring words.

It is an old saying that: ‘actions speak louder than words’. And we all get frustrated by empty responses.

But we need to remember that God asks for actions too.

Jesus said:

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.

Matthew 7:21

God asks for faith:

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Hebrews 11:6

But the apostle James says that true faith affects the way we live:

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

There is no way that we can earn salvation by good works, however virtuous and kind we may be. We can only be saved by faith in God and in the sacrifice of the Lords Jesus Christ. But this faith is a faith of action: a life of dedication to trying to please God.

So we must read the Bible to find out what he asks of us, and then try to the best of our ability to do it. Actions not just words.

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Freedom of Speech

There has recently been controversy in the press about our legal right in the UK to ‘freedom of speech’.

Not all countries allow people to express opinions in public. This is not new. In New Testament times the authorities instructed the apostles not to preach about the risen Christ.

Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood on us!

Acts 5:28

But the apostles, convinced of the truth of their message, refused to comply, saying “We ought to obey God rather than men”

Acts 5:29

We do have rights, even when our speech might upset people.

Nonetheless, there are legal limits on our freedom of speech. UK law prohibits hate speech, and words which would incite terrorism or offensive behaviour. Moreover, words which seem offensive to one person may be innocuous to another. And some people, while insisting on their own right to free speech, resent other people expressing their opinions when they disagree with them.

We should, of course, be sensitive to the effects of our words on other people. But above all, we should avoid offending God by what we say or, indeed, what we do not say. We all have opinions. But God sets the standards of what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’: ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

The apostle Paul told believers to be careful what they said, urging them always to encourage and to support spiritually:

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers

Ephesians 4:29

So let us all be circumspect in our use of free speech.