“And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch,” Acts 11:26.
(A message preached by Rev Ivan Foster in Kilskeery Free Presbyterian Church on Lord’s Day evening, April 30th, 2006)
I suppose there is no more abused term in the English language than that of “Christian”!
So abused is the term that the true Christian must takes steps not to be associated with those who would describe themselves as “Christians”.
The term is commonly applied to that which is, in truth, anti-Christianity. The blessed name of Christ is thus used to veil that which is born of the devil.
Of course we recall the words of Israel in the day of their departure from God. “And he (Aaron, the High Priest) received them (ornaments of gold) at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt,” Exodus 32:4. The very thing forbidden of God just a short time earlier, is now called God! “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,” Exodus 20:4-5.
Little wonder then that we have this abuse of the term Christian.
But let us see from God’s Word just what a Christian is.
There is nothing new under the sun. Here is the record of a discussion very similar to the many that have taken place in Ulster over the last thirty years. Some are speaking to the Saviour about a politically-motivated massacre of Galilæans by Pilate. Notice what He has to say in response the words of those who were speaking to Him and learn some lessons relevant to Omagh’s tragedy.
I. THE WRONG PRESUMPTION MANY MAKE.
These people were not slain by God in judgment or because the especially deserved to die. This is a common mistake.
1. Man makes many mistakes when contemplating eternal matters. Man is blind and in the dark.
He is wrong about himself, his sin, the way of salvation and so much more.
2. He is never more wrong when trying to fathom the workings of God’s providence. Job 9:1-10; Rom 11:33. Omagh calls for a humble bowing before the wisdom and greatness of God and say: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Gen 18:25.
II. TROUBLE CAN COME TO ANY ONE OF US AT ANY TIME.
1. It came to the Galilæans while they worshipped. Verse 1. They were sacrificing when killed by Pilate.
2. It came to those of Siloam while they worked. Verse 4.
3. This being so we should live with eternity ever in mind. James 4:13-15, Ps 2:11.
III. THE MOST IMPORTANT MATTER IS TO REPENT.
That is what the Saviour underlined out of the two tragedies He referred to.
1. Repent is the gospel in one word. What an endorsing of this definition of the gospel we have from the Saviour. How false is a “gospel without repentance”.
2. It is not the manner of our death that matters it is where we go after it. Heb 9:27
3. The “perishing” of the body and soul in hell is far worse than the most horrible of deaths. Matt 10:28.
Statement from the Free Presbyterian ministers in Co. Tyrone following the bombing of Omagh, issued on Saturday, 15th August at 10.30 p.m.
As ministers of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, we offer our heart-felt sympathy to all those who sorrow and grieve over the loss of loved ones and all those who are suffering from injuries, inflicted by the cruel and wicked act of republican murderers in our county town of Omagh today.
May the God of all mercy draw near to the broken-hearted and touch the broken bodies of those injured in hospital.
We condemn the murderous action of those who planted the bomb and who planned the maximising of the slaughter by deliberately misleading the security forces as to the location of the bomb and thus ensuring that many had gathered in the area of the explosion. Such cunning displays a satanic cruelty, unmatched in the long period of Ulster’s terrorist troubles.
We accuse our Government and in particular the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Mo Mowlam, of pursuing a policy in Northern Ireland that has encouraged this atrocity and the many others that have gone before, by seeking to placate terrorism through immoral concessions such as the present early release of convicted terrorists. Yesterday’s murderous monsters have become today’s ministers-inwaiting! We have already heard words of condemnation from the lips of those politicians, who favour the release of convicted murderers and bombers, that are but an echo of the words employed to condemn the actions of those terrorists they are now determined to release.
Let the people of Ulster remember that, had this bombing taken place two or three years ago, the perpetrators of today’s atrocity in Omagh (if indeed they had been convicted and jailed) would now be on the list of republicans due for release under the terms of the “Peace Agreement.” The politicians who have supported the present policy of appeasement that underwrites the “Peace Agreement” cannot escape having blood on their hands after today’s evil. We would earnestly seek to warn the Protestant people not to be swept further from the teaching of the Bible by the wave of ecumenical propaganda that has already begun in the wake of the bombing.
Surely by now we must see that more of the same evil medicine that has brought such depravity on to our streets cannot possibly cure it! For over thirty years, we have been told that the abandonment of the Biblical creeds of the Protestant Reformation is the way forward to harmony and peace. Rather it has been the way that has led our Province into judgment. A return to God’s Word, rather than greater abandonment of it, is the way to peace and safety.
We call on all who love Christ in truth to humble themselves before God and pray for a spiritual awakening to be granted to this land. Perhaps, as the afflictions wrought upon the Israelites by the Midianites promoted repentance and a seeking of God and ultimately a return to obedience by Israel with its consequent blessings for the nation, the evil of this day’s tragedy will bring home to us all the need for a seeking of God with the whole heart. If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land, 2 Chronicles 7:14.