Young people trashed by sex


Young People Trashed By Sex

You may well find this article unpleasant to read.

The following scenario is created from observing kids over the years, and illustrates the kinds of challenges which need to be addressed in the church.

Mid-teen Tessa tells her parents that her friend Clare is going off the rails. From an intact family and active in a lively evangelical youth programme, Clare starts to become sexually active. Neither Tessa nor her parents know what to say. They share their concern with me. I approach Clare’s youth leaders, not mentioning her by name but highlighting the fact that at least some youngsters in their care are being ‘got at’. They deny it — they know better! Clare slowly drifts away, yet one more evangelical casualty.

This illustrates at least three crucial points which keep getting overlooked.

What is missing?

Teenagers in our church youth groups are capitulating to the lure of sex and abandoning their faith. ‘The world, the flesh and the devil’, plus inadequate input or traumatic personal or family problems, leave them vulnerable. Of course, it is never too late, but kids like Clare have been hardened and now react against the teaching they received in the past. The situation has been aggravated by the fact that she believes she ‘tried God’ but that ‘it didn’t work’.

Tessa, her parents and the church youth leaders may have used the wrong methods to engage most effectively with Clare. They may have played the ‘God’, the ‘Morality’ and the ‘You May Regret It’ cards, but to no avail. These arguments on their own do not penetrate her defences. It’s all very well to say ‘no sex before marriage’, but young people need help in understanding how and why. And where are Clare’s parents? Did they have any inkling that she was being defeated on the moral/sexual battleground? Probably not.

Most seriously, many churches are simply not addressing the sex issue at all — often because of naivetŽ, ignorance, embarrassment and denial, demonstrated by Clare’s youth leaders. Some youth leaders’ understanding of youth culture was formed years ago, so their mentality and awareness levels (both of what was going on and how best to respond) is a good decade out of date. Of course, there is no magic bullet, but certain approaches are far more effective than others and address the pressing issues (for some) of youth sex culture in 2013.

In my view, too many good evangelical youngsters are being damaged, body, mind and soul, by either being given unhelpful guidance or no guidance. There are excellent non-religious as well as faith-based reasons for kids to steer clear of all kinds of sexual activity, which takes their virginity but more importantly sabotages their moral compass and destroys their faith. But because they stop coming and, because youth leaders tend not to follow-up ‘the dropouts’, they remain clueless as to what went wrong.

Because the culture has changed so perniciously, because adults often see their youngsters’ present through their own past (and kids do not disabuse them), they fail to realise the current state of play. A little bit of ‘naughty fun’ or ‘Oh well, kids will be kids…’ can prove to be a serious, or even life-shattering, business. While the church continues to think that ‘prayer and preaching the gospel’ will sort things while ducking these issues, the truth is that they won’t. It is time to engage with 2013’s challenges.

Subtle routes into bad sex

There are various routes into sex being sold to youngsters these days. One of them is the sexual ‘health’ sites which the NHS and other mainstream organisations endorse; some groups are present in schools now.1 Do you even know what kind of ‘advice’ your youngsters or those in your church’s youth group are being given by the so-called sexual ‘health’ authorities or in school SRE lessons? If kids attend to the tacit encouragement to ‘when you’re ready, explore your sexuality!’ such advice drives a coach and horses through a traditional Christian sexual ethic. Has anyone even noticed? And, if so, why is there no outcry?

I appreciate that some aspects of this ‘advice’ are accurate, wise and thoroughly commendable; however, in my view, this actually compounds the problem. It gives a false impression of reliability and soundness across the board, for youngsters think: ‘Any group which nags me about Eating 5 A Day and not smoking would surely warn me against behaviours which are potentially even more risky’. But such is not the case.

The pornography gateway

Here again we find that many of us have an outdated understanding of pornography, conjuring up a Page Three image with the word. Sadly, Page Three is benign by comparison.

A recent Daily Mail article2 is a must-read for those who think: ‘But our kids would never do such things!’ Three aspects to note:

First, youngsters from solid stable families, and both sexes, are involved, and at a young age (13-14 years old). Secondly, their parents were oblivious of their involvement. Thirdly, interest in more ‘alternative’ kinds of sex was on the rise through this modelling, tutoring and permission-giving; so, anal sex, violence, Sado Masochism, horror and even bestiality, are now on the increase.

Because of the immaturity of the teen brain, youngsters are even more disadvantaged than adults. As the Daily Mail article notes: ‘The brain’s reward centre is fully developed by the time we’re teenagers, but the part of the brain that regulates our urges — the pre-frontal cortex — isn’t fully developed until our mid-20s. The brains of teenagers are not wired to say “stop”, they are wired to want more’. This helps to explain how porn can become so addictive.

Porn’s virtual reality is being acted out in real life and in real relationships, and girls especially are paying for it. ‘When you interview young women about their experiences of sex, you see an increased level of rough, violent sex. That is directly because of porn, as young boys are getting their sexual cues from men in porn films who are acting as if they’re sexual psychopaths.’ It is touching the youngsters in your life and mine. And even if they are able to remain immune, can they explain to their mates why they do not do ‘that kind of stuff’?

What can we do?

* Update yourself on what is happening in your kids’ lives. A useful way of getting them to open up is to ask them what ‘their friends’ are up to; and when they tell you, keep calm. If you blow up, they will shut down.

* Update yourself on reasons why youngsters and sex of all types is toxic. Some good websites are:
http://www.miriamgrossmanmd.com
http://www.cblpi.org/senseandsexuality/activism/SNSbooklet.pdf (download)http://www.medinstitute.org

* Update yourself on why porn is pernicious. See, for example:http://www.yourbrainonporn.com
http://www.fightthenewdrug.org /Resources/

* Bring groups in to speak to your youth group, such as Lovewise, Evaluate or Challenge Team. I also do a ‘Sex-Proofing your Kids’ seminar, which covers mainstream sexual matters.

Something I once read stuck with me and points to where I believe the church has got things wrongs: ‘Everything interesting in life is illegal, immoral or fattening’. Though we know this is not true, there are strands within our culture, and especially youth culture, which affirm and live by it. Indeed, who wants to be seen as boringly good? Not many, and not our youngsters! So we must show them a better way.

You can contact Dr. Lisa Nolland on Ls.n@talktalk.net

1. http://www.rainbowbournemouth.co.uk/pdf/sexy_stuff_guys.pdf andhttp://www.respectyourself.info & http://www.4ypbristol.co.uk/
2. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2432591/ Experiment-convinced-online-porn-pernicious-threat-facing-children-today-By-ex-lads-mag-editor-MARTIN-DAUBNEY.html

This article was first published in the November 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

Crossing the culture from Rachel Thorpe: Gluttons for the Bake Off


Crossing the CultureThe UK is in the grip of ‘food psychosis’.

Chefs are the new class of celebrity; food fairs and ‘feastivals’ are springing up across the country; cookery TV shows and culinary films abound; recipe books and food memoirs are experiencing an unrivalled sales boom.

We’ve all become foodies: obsessed with cupcakes, in love with Jamie Oliver and addicted to The Great British Bake Off, where home-bakers are asked to bring their creations ‘to the sacrificial altar of gingham’. This is religious rhetoric: Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess is not the only book to invoke a deity and sumptuous mouthfuls often elicit the exclamations ‘heavenly’ or ‘divine’.

Too much of a good thing

In times gone by, food was an issue that the church took very seriously. Instead of gorging on bodily delights, Christians were to look to Jesus, the ‘bread of life’ (John 6.35). Historic Christian writings, including those of St. Gregory the Great, define gluttony as a sin. Thomas Aquinas even categorised the ways in which eating could become sinful: if you ate too much, too quickly, too lavishly, and so on. Gluttony was the opposite of the self-controlled life to which the Christian should aspire.

These writers took their directive from non-compromising Bible verses like Proverbs 23.3, which advises anyone who is dining in fine company to take a good look at the food and ‘put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony’. This extreme approach to overeating has been somewhat diluted in the contemporary church. As Francine Prose writes in her book on Gluttony (OUP, 2003): ‘These days, few people seriously consider that eating too much or enjoying one’s food is a crime against God… It’s doubtful that even the most devoutly religious are likely to confess and seek absolution for looking forward to breakfast, or having taken pleasure in the delights of last night’s dinner’.

She continues: ‘Yet, as gluttony has (at least in the popular imagination) ceased to be a spiritual transgression, food, the regulating of eating, and the related subjects of dieting, obesity, nutrition, etc., have become major cultural preoccupations’. The two ideas seem to be inversely correlated: the more obsessed with food we become, the less we consider gluttony to be a problem. We allow ourselves to become more indulgent, more immoderate, more hungry. Oh, go on then, just one more biscuit.

New religion?

In fact, food is our new religion. According to Brian Myers of The Atlantic, referring to food with sacred slogans like ‘heavenly’ ‘used to be meant as [a] joke… even if the compulsive recourse to religious language always betrayed a certain guilt about the stomach-driven life. Now the equation of eating with worship is often made with a straight face’.

Other writers are also equating our love of food with spirituality. Steven Poole, writing forThe Guardian, notes that the only categories of books to experience a recent rise in sales are ‘food and drink’ and ‘religion’, claiming: ‘That food and religion alone should buck the negative trend is no coincidence, for modern food books are there to answer metaphysical or “lifestyle” rather than culinary aspirations, and celebrity chefs themselves are the gurus of the age… Everywhere in the ideology of foodism we see a yearning for food to be able to fill a spiritual void’.

This is perhaps why we insist on continually gorging ourselves: we have become a nation of comfort eaters. We look to food for both gratification and reassurance, for pleasure and for distraction.

Spiritual food

I’m torn: I love food. According to the chef Julia Child, all the best people do. But sometimes I need to be reminded that while a slice of cake or a dose of Mary Berry can cheer me up, it cannot fill any spiritual voids. And I should not expect it to.

After all, man does not live by cupcakes alone.

This article first appeared on the Evangelical Alliance blog Threads

Rachel Thorpe writes the ‘Crossing the culture’ column for EN and works as an events planner and freelance writer in Cambridge. More of her articles can be found at www.rachelthorpe.com

This article was first published in the November 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

The missing generation (book review)


THE MISSING GENERATION The Missing Generation
A practical guide to 20s-30s ministry
By Kay Mumford
10 Publishing. 150 pages. £5.99
ISBN 978 1 906 173 920

Have you been wondering why there seem to be fewer 20s-30s in your church? Have you spotted the gap of young adults, or are you too busy catering for all the children in Sunday school and parents in the congregation? Where has this generation disappeared to? If they’re not in your church any more, where are they? Kay Mumford offers us some answers.

Kay’s book is a very practical and thought provoking insight into the generation of 20-30-something young professionals who seem to be dwindling in numbers in our churches. The book is probably aimed more at church leaders in terms of its practical suggestions, and I do believe it is a must read for anyone involved in church ministry wondering where all the young people have gone. However, anyone who has a heart to care and minister to the whole church family must also read it, and hopefully that’s all of us.

What Kay does brilliantly is help us to understand what it feels like to be in the category of graduate/young adult — or, in other words, not yet married with children; and how little our churches actually cater for this age bracket. Not all of her suggestions are going to be possible in smaller congregations (she is from a large well-staffed church), yet there is something there for all of us to take away and think through about how we can be better at reaching out to young professionals.

She uses all sorts of real life examples, which I think make the book come alive a little bit, helping you to see that this isn’t just a to-do list or a recipe for change, but actually has had a real and lasting impact. Kay also offers us warnings of what a struggle life can be for this age group, and also how the church will be missing out if we don’t look after them well.

Read it and be challenged; I was!

 

Naomi Skull, 
involved with the London Women’s Convention and in students-30s ministry at Chertsey Street Baptist Church, Guildford

 

This article was first published in the November 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

Scotland: 20 Schemes


Scotland 20 Schemes_2November 2012 saw the launch of a new church revitalisation and planting initiative aimed at bringing gospel hope to housing schemes and other needy areas of Scotland.

The brainchild of Niddrie Community, Edinburgh, in partnership with Bardstown Christian Fellowship, Kentucky, and supported by 9Marks, this exciting new ministry aims to reach out to some of the least evangelised areas of our country.

Mez McConnell, the director, explains: ‘During a detailed survey of the 50 most deprived schemes in Scotland we discovered that at least half have no gospel church present and, of the rest, even though there was the presence of some form of church, we were uncertain as to their theological and gospel convictions. One thing was clear, though, not only were Scotland’s 50 most deprived schemes in trouble economically and socially, but they were desperately deprived spiritually too. Therefore, if we were really going to see a turn around in the lives of residents in council estates and housing schemes, we were going to have to embrace a radical and long-term gospel strategy which will bring gospel hope to untold thousands’.

The mission is simple. It is building healthy gospel-centered churches for Scotland’s poorest communities. EN put some questions to Mez.

EN: Why do you want to do this?
MM: For a number of reasons. Firstly, we believe that the gospel changes everything. We believe that we need to raise up a generation of Bible teachers and preachers who will go into the forgotten schemes of our country.

Second, we recognise that the presence of the church is mercy ministry. In other words, we want to see local churches built up, evangelising, discipling and equipping a new generation of men and women from within these housing schemes who, likewise, will go and make disciples.

Thirdly, we are heavily burdened for Scotland’s housing schemes as we see these communities with no, or very little, gospel witness. Planting new churches is a key strategy in reaching the lost in these areas.

Fourthly, we desire to assist and resource existing churches — across denominations — and/or gospel ministries in these areas to bless them and further Kingdom work. We will plant if we have to, but we would rather support and encourage existing work by offering people, resources and training.

EN: How will you do it?
MM: We intend to identify 20 schemes as priority areas over the next decade. Then, where possible, identify church revitalisation partners in those schemes.

We want to recruit church planters, female outreach workers and ministry apprentices to send into those schemes as the ‘first wave’ of a long-term strategy. We aim to recruit local leaders if possible, but we will recruit outside the UK if necessary.

Then we will need to develop church partners worldwide to support and resource our work in the schemes and invest long-term in indigenous leaders by providing training, resources and support.

EN: Describe for us what the housing schemes you are trying to reach are like.
MM: These are some of the poorest and most underdeveloped areas of Scotland, very similar to many housing estates in England, Wales and Ireland.

Many were purpose-built during (and after) the Industrial Revolution in Britain as a way to move the poor out of slums and into affordable housing. Although there is much revitalisation going on in these areas today, there is a history of urban blight, unemployment, high mental health issues, addictions and crime.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. We still have a core of working-class families who love their communities and want to make them better places to live in. But, there is a desperate lack of healthy churches in these areas and we long to see this transformed by a new missionary church-planting movement across the country.

EN: How have you linked up with 9Marks and what backing do you have?
MM: We have formed a working partnership with 9Marks in the USA, alongside relationships with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Practical Shepherding. We have recently had the pleasure of being offered help, training and resources from Ligonier Ministries. In the UK we have links to Acts 29 Europe, Porterbrook Training and the FIEC.

Niddrie Community Church is on the board of the East of Edinburgh Gospel Partnership — a group of evangelical church leaders across various denominations seeking to strengthen gospel ministry in our city and beyond.

We hope to achieve our aims by building a broad evangelical consensus across denominations in Scotland. So far, we have friendships with Baptist, FIEC and FC churches, ministers and youth workers.

EN: What about churches which are already in these areas?
MM: Our aim is revitalisation, primarily, and planting where necessary. Therefore, the aim has to be to strengthen already existing evangelical churches in these areas.

Because there are so few, it makes the task all the more urgent. What we have found is that there may be para-church organisations, individuals or small groups doing ministry in poor areas, but there is very little in the way of planting and/or revitalising existing local church ministry. Our aim is to provide teams and/or gospel workers necessary to either establish or revitalise local church ministry.

EN: What are your greatest needs at present?
MM: To build a solid, prayer and financial base in order for us to be able to build a sustainable long-term infrastructure. We need interns, female outreach workers and those prepared to spend their lives on behalf of the poor in our inner cities.

EN: What encouragements have you had?
MM: We have seen many come to faith and we are now seeing our first intake of indigenous interns being trained and prepared to be the next generation of local church leaders and team embers.

Scotland 20 Schemes_1Mez says: ‘If we can serve you or your church community please contact me. If you are interested in finding out more about how you could serve as a planter, a women’s worker, a ministry apprentice or an intern, please also contact me at mez@niddrie.org or use the form on the website. We will be happy to help. We are currently seeking financial help and are looking for opportunities to share about the work in churches. Thanks to you all in advance and praise God for his great mercy. Let’s pray for a gospel revival in Scotland’s housing schemes’.

Like our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/20schemes
Our Twitter: @20schemes
Our website: http://www.20schemes.com

This article was first published in the November 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

Unapologetic Christianity from Chris Sinkinson: Defending Daniel


Unapologetic ChristianitySome Bible books have a harder time being accepted as historically reliable than others.

Among the Old Testament books, Daniel often takes a beating. The critical reaction frequently reflects a skeptical attitude to miracles (did Daniel really spend a night in a den of lions?) or to predictive prophecy (was Daniel really able to predict the rise and fall of later empires?). As a consequence, many critics date these books late and suggest they are Jewish legends with prophecies of events that had already taken place included to make them sound authentic.

We may be tempted to sidestep these criticisms. But that evasion is short-sighted. If we reject something as spurious because it contains miracles or accurate predictive prophecy then eventually that attitude will undermine the gospel. What is left of the ministry of Jesus if we reject miracles? What is left of the gospel if we reject prophecy of future events?

It is ironic that all the accumulating archaeological and material evidence supports the reliability of Daniel, while nothing has been found to undermine it. S.R. Driver (1846-1914), professor of Hebrew at Oxford, wrote one of the most influential commentaries on Daniel and dated its final form to what is called the Maccabean period (c. 165 BC). This was long after the Babylonian exile (c. 609-536 BC), in which the book claims to be set.

One reason Driver gave is the book’s use of Aramaic which we know would come into fashion closer to the time of the New Testament. However, another reason must surely be the presence of predictive prophecy. Daniel predicts a succession of kingdoms following the Babylonians. If he wrote these around 580 BC then his vision of the future proved remarkably accurate. If they were written in 165 BC then there is no miraculous element!

As a matter of fact, Driver’s redating of Daniel still fails to deny its predictive content. Daniel predicts four empires of which the fourth is clearly a description of Rome. Even placing Daniel in the time of the Maccabees still puts it a century prior to the rise of Rome in the region. To get around this, critics had to include an extra empire between Persia and Greece. The bizarre result is that they denied Daniel the ability to accurately predict the future but attributed to him a very clumsy recording of the past.

However, what do we know since the work of Driver that has helped us to date Daniel? Quite a lot — and nothing that would support Driver’s theory.

Dead Sea Scrolls

Most importantly, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls from 1947 onwards, has provided a vast number of ancient biblical texts that enable us to have much greater confidence in the reliability of the copying of the Bible. The Dead Sea Scrolls include eight copies of Daniel, along with several related writings that use material from the book. Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls the earliest complete text of Daniel in Hebrew dated to the tenth century AD. The earliest Dead Sea texts of Daniel are dated to 125 BC. As these are copies of copies they point to a much earlier date for the original.

Furthermore, the Dead Sea Scrolls have turned the presence of Aramaic in the book from the supposed late dating into additional evidence for the early date of the book.

Aramaic scripts and vocabulary of the Dead Sea copies demonstrate a much earlier form than those of other second century BC examples. In other words, far from indicating a late date, the Aramaic used in Daniel now suggests a much earlier date than critics like Driver could have known. In fact, scholars now suggest that the Aramaic used in Daniel is of a form originating in Babylon rather than Judea. The origins of the book lie in a period much earlier than Driver guessed and a location far from Jerusalem.

Recommendations

The evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls bolsters our continuing confidence in Daniel and consigns more recent commentaries to the dustbins of history! Of course, this brief article only scratches the surface of the value of the Dead Sea Scrolls for apologetics. For much more detail I would recommend Randall Price’s Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls(Harvest House, 1996) or, at a more scholarly level, Christian Beginnings and the Dead Sea Scrolls, edited by John J. Collins and Craig A. Evans (Baker Books, 2006).

It is also worth noting that there is a wealth of nonsense written on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Much of this was a result of the air of conspiracy that surrounded the slow publication of scroll translations. Since all the manuscripts are now publically accessible in translation, books making outlandish claims about the Dead Sea Scrolls are gradually disappearing. However, the desert region around the Dead Sea remains a favourable location to preserve ancient manuscripts and so there is a good chance that more will be discovered in the years to come!

 

Chris Sinkinson is pastor of Alderholt Chapel and lectures at Moorlands College

This article was first published in the September 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.

http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

Secular shelf life from Sarah Allen: The testament of Mary (book review)


THE TESTAMENT OF MARY Testament of Mary
By Colm Toibin
Penguin. 104 pages. £7.99
ISBN 978 0 241 962 978

£8.00 for 104 pages seems a high price to pay.

That’s about 7.6p per page, and even if no one really pays the cover price these days, you might still feel it is a bit steep for so slight a book. The critics, however, seem to think this is not a slight book. It is the shortest book ever to have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and has been receiving plenty of heavy-weight accolades.

But though The Testament of Mary has been called ‘beautiful and daring’ by the New York Times, I fear it treads a well-worn path. The ageing virgin Mary gives her account of a few Gospel events, confiding in the reader the strangeness of events which won’t be heard by the ‘impatient… hungry and rough’ apostles who come to her for details to fill their Gospels.

Christ taken over

She tells of a Christ who is taken over by his followers and their desire to think him divine and who is transformed from being ‘awash with needs’ to having a dangerous and careless radiance. Clearly this Christ has power, but little compassion or courage. Mary, instead, is the only one who seems to show empathy and wisdom through it all, and ends up in exile taking comfort in Artemis.

Mary veneration

You can tell Colm Toibin is a lapsed Catholic, though on Radio Four recently he claimed not to have been influenced by his (lack of) religion, yet veneration of Mary seeps through the book. Jesus seems very distant, but she is near at hand, full of sense and sensitivity. And then there are the layers of pop biblical criticism which appear every few years in books or on TV: the Bible as inaccurate, the apostles as misogynist bullies, Jesus as a poor misunderstood figure and the resurrection as myth. What lifts it up and what will make readers engage is the simple, dignified tone and almost poetic rhythm of the writing.

‘Don’t despair’

Reader, don’t despair. It saddened me to read this book, but I’ve already had a brief chat at the school gates about its content. As our neighbours soak up the skewed reality of this new (or, rather, old) gospel, let’s take them back to the first texts and encourage them to delve into God’s word, maybe for the first time.

 

 

Sarah Allen writes the ‘Secular shelf life’ column for EN, is a secondary school English teacher, and is currently involved in evangelism and women’s work at Hope Church, Huddersfield.

This article was first published in the November 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

Notes to growing Christians from David Jackman: Your holiness matters


Notes to Growing ChristiansPut like that, it may sound rather stark. Our hackles may be raised by the word ‘holiness’, with its unfortunate undertones of sanctimonious piety and being ‘holier than thou’. But try it this way. ‘Being like Jesus is the greatest contribution you can make in your life on planet earth.’ And we could well add that it’s the only investment you can make which has eternal currency.

Grateful Christ-likeness

It matters because it is the deepest and most honest expression of our gratitude to Christ for all the love and grace which he has showered upon us in his atoning death and his life-giving resurrection. If we have any real glimmering of what we have been rescued from and what his glorious purposes for us in eternity truly are, then the supreme way in which we demonstrate our faith is by our obedience, and the greatest way in which to show our gratitude is by a desire to be changed into his likeness. But it also matters because changed lives are the currency of heaven here on earth.
The progress of the gospel, in any culture or community, is usually proportional to the Christ-likeness, or otherwise, of the people who profess to believe it, which helps to explain why the church is so often on the back foot today.

We all long to see God’s kingdom advance, especially in terms of our families and friends coming to know Christ personally and to trust him as their Saviour and Lord. But the message we proclaim is so often contradicted, or even denied, by the lives of those who say they believe it. The staggering reality is that we are witnesses about Christ every day we live, just by virtue of all our human relationships and interaction with others.

Help or hindrance

Do we witness for him, or against him? Every time a Christian flies off the handle at work, or our family life disintegrates into bitterness, accusations and acrimony, or a local church breaks up into hostile factions and disintegrates under the pressure, the watching world is simply confirmed in its cosy dogmatism that ‘religion’ is hypocritical nonsense, or smug self-congratulation. If there is no demonstrable power to deal with the evil of our human hearts in a transforming way, then, as the atheistic philosopher Nietzsche once put it: ‘The Christians will have to look a lot more like Jesus Christ before I become one of them’. Or, in the famous words of William Temple, a former Archbishop of Canterbury: ‘The biggest hindrance to the spread of the Christian church is the Christian church’.

Our holiness matters! Just think of the potential of all the negatives of the last few sentences being reversed by a workforce of Jesus ‘look-alikes’ being deployed across our country and its cultures, on a daily basis. And then think about the potential of it starting with me. There is no reason why it should not happen. The moment you came in repentance and faith to the foot of the cross, to receive the forgiveness and new birth which he secured, the Holy Spirit (the other Jesus) came within your human spirit, or psyche, to change you from the inside out. It is the experience of every believer that we have ‘passed from death to life’ (John 5.24). And the life — sphere in which we now live is that of God’s eternal life, the very life of Christ himself, brought to us in all its fullness by the indwelling Spirit. ‘For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death’ (Romans 8.2, ESV). It has already happened. The dynamic is already within us, ready to be experienced in practice, in increasing measure.

In a book written 50 years ago, entitled The Mystery of Godliness, Ian Thomas, the founder of Capernwray Ministries, expressed it like this: ‘The life that the Lord Jesus Christ lived for you 1,900 years ago — condemns you, but the life that he now lives in you — saves you!’ He goes on to sketch an outline of what that might mean. ‘Your mind placed at his disposal through the indwelling Holy Spirit; your emotions, your will, all that you are and have, make available to the Lord Jesus Christ as a living member of his new corporate body on earth, which is called the church’ (p.109). Over the next few columns we will look at what that means, as we consider the nature and production of this fruit of the Spirit in the reality of our everyday lives.

David Jackman is the past President of the Proclamation Trust and writes the ‘Notes to growing Christians’ column for EN.

This article was first published in the March 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

The Fifth Estate (film review)


THE FIFTH ESTATE The fifth estate
Director Bill Condon
Cert. 15 (strong language)
Running time: 128 minutes

Whatever your opinion on Julian Assange, whatever your thoughts on the rights and wrongs of leaking information, whatever you feel about the truth behind this particular take on WikiLeaks, this was a thought-provoking film, despite being panned by most reviewers.

Julian Assange is well documented as not liking the source material upon which this film is based, and one can see why. His character, played spectacularly by man of the moment Benedict Cumberbatch, is shown as flawed, egotistical and frankly a little disturbing and unpredictable. He is portrayed as holding so much back, emotionally, which leaves one expecting him to explode at any moment. Putting opinions about Assange aside, the leaks are the most uncomfortable watch of this film.

Can governments be trusted now?

Violent attacks on the innocent, corrupt governments, a web of secrets so wide and deep: these were part of the Cold War, and certainly the actions of the ‘enemy’, weren’t they? What this film does, flawed though it may be — and certainly having one, maybe two, rather ‘cheesy’ endings, is question the level of trust one should have in a supposedly benevolent government. Assange may not like the film, but it will provoke discussion on truth, the revelation of lies, the responsibility of revealing the truth and feeble attempts to ‘cover up’ wrongdoing.

So, on the walk back to the car, discussion turned to the ultimate revelation of truth, and the individual’s feeble attempt to cover up actions of which we are not proud. And how on that Final Day: every lie will be revealed; every sin counted; every government called to account; every bad and good action, and the motivation for it, exposed. Who’s ready for that?

Ruth Woodcraft

 

This article was first published in the December 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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