Apr 302013
 

Conscience cleansedGrace not only frees us from sin and guilt but also frees us from the bondage of religious formality

“…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14)

We can assume dead works are ‘high church’ religious observances – what we sometimes refer to as ‘smells and bells’. We may become rather smug, thinking how free we are. But ‘dead works’ actually means a lot more than this.

As the term suggests, ‘dead works’ are deeds we do which have no life in them, done simply by going through the motions without exercising any faith. We can do all manner of church activities out of habit, or maybe out of a sense of duty because we feel we ought to.

Another example of dead works is ‘presumption’; we simply assume that God is with us. An example of this is in the Old Testament: shortly after the Israelites won a famous battle where the walls of Jericho fell, they assumed they could go to battle against the city of Ai with just a few thousand men in order to give everyone else a rest. However, they failed to consult God first and discovered He was angry with them because of sin in the camp. This story can be found in Joshua 7.

The obvious question to ask is “did God tell you to do it?”. It may seem to be a noble task you are about to undertake, but has God asked you to do it? He has a specific plan for each one of us. This does not mean that we wait for a definite ‘go ahead’ for everything that we set out to do, but it does mean we should pray about our plans. God will clearly guide us if He doesn’t want us to proceed.

In 1 Corinthians 13 the apostle Paul talks about being able to speak in tongues, having great prophetic gifts, and giving everything we have to the poor. But if we don’t have love then these are all dead works too.

If we are at all unsure of our acceptance in Christ, we can quite easily fall into a works righteousness pattern, attempting to impress God or other people. But as we have seen over the past few weeks, grace makes us completely free from having to earn any credit at all. A lovely little verse to hold onto (amongst many others) is this:

Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5)

How amazing is that? We don’t work, we trust God, and it is credited to us as righteousness. As I have mentioned before, the more we read God’s word, the more this truth will become a part of us and set us free.

These thoughts have been taken from Terry Virgo’s fantastic book ‘God’s lavish grace’ which I heartily recommend. You can order the book by clicking on the links on the left.

 April 30, 2013  Posted by at 10:08 pm Grace, Righteousness, Salvation 5 Responses »
Apr 252013
 

confused-woman-420x0Over the last few weeks we have been looking at the wonderful gift of God’s grace; Jesus has done everything for our salvation, we could do nothing.

In Romans 5 the apostle Paul talks about sin increasing and grace increasing all the more.

One conclusion could be that we keep on sinning so that God’s grace looks even better. If preached properly, grace should appear scandalous and utterly irresponsible. We are telling people that they can do what they like, it doesn’t affect their salvation at all. This is what Paul is leading towards throughout his letter to the Romans.

However, Paul’s next statement in Romans 6 is absolutely key:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2)

Knowing this truth is crucial to our freedom. We have died to sin.

We are now faced with another question which so many Christians struggle with. It goes something like this: “I know I’m saved but how do I get free from the power of sin”. Reality feels so different doesn’t it? We can know by reading the bible that we have died to sin and yet feel utterly crushed because we continue to sin.

As Christians we can know we are forgiven, yet still feel in slavery to sin.

In his book ‘God’s lavish grace’ Terry Virgo highlights 3 very important steps:

(1) We need to know

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3)

We need to know that the bible is true. If it is not, simply put, God is a liar and we are to be pitied amongst all people. We need to see that the fact that we are freed from the power of sin is for all of us, not just some elite Christians who have really got their act together. We need to also realise that it is not some future experience that happens when we go to heaven. No, it’s true NOW. If you are still struggling, make a note of some of the following verses. Take them like medicine 3 times a day if you have to, until the truth gets right inside.

(2) Count yourself dead to sin

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)

This is an accounting term, reckoning, making sure it’s in the ‘right column’.

It is not mind over matter. We consider it true because it is true.

When I go to Spain I set my watch forward an hour. I have transitioned from one country to another, therefore this is now the correct time in my new location. We need to ‘set our watches’. If your ‘watch’ says you are dead to sin, then you are dead to sin. Reckon it so.

(3) Take responsibility

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (Romans 6:12)

Why does it say ‘mortal’ bodies? Because until we get resurrection bodies, we still have to put up with these old things; “…treasure in jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Before salvation, our spirits and bodies were happy to sin but now they are at war with each other. We need to take authority over our bodies and make wise choices; where we spend our time, what we allow ourselves to look at etc.

We now belong to a new master and are slaves of righteousness.

So should we carry on sinning? Why would we want to?!

 April 25, 2013  Posted by at 8:15 pm Grace, Righteousness, Salvation No Responses »
Apr 172013
 

Free gift of righteousnessAs we saw last week in Romans 5:17 we reign in life, not only through God’s abundant grace but also through His free gift of righteousness.

We can enjoy God’s grace fully when we become absolutely assured that He has made us righteous. We are not ‘being made righteous’; we are fully, completely and utterly righteous right now. Again, not through our own works but because through His sovereign grace, God has made it so.

As people prior to conversion become aware of their sin, they may try to improve themselves through ‘good works’. Until one day they hear the glorious gospel; that all they have to do is repent, turn and come to God just as they are. However, even before they have finished giving their lives to Christ, the person leading them through the ‘sinners’ prayer’ can start adding a list of things they really should be doing (bible reading, prayer, witnessing etc). Many churches can be found doing this and it is often due to a misunderstanding between “justification” and “sanctification”.

Justification and Sanctification

It is vital we know the difference between justification and sanctification.

Justification is our standing before God. When we become Christians He declares us righteous. We cannot add to it or take anything away from it. It is summed up in one of my favourite verses: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Sanctification is the ongoing process which makes us holy. It is the gradual change that happens through our Christian walk which changes us “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This happens as we spend time with God and other Christians, but it never affects our justification. Some of us are sanctified quicker or slower than others but we are all justified the same, hallelujah!!

In Adam or In Christ?

The apostle Paul’s favourite title for a Christian is someone who is ‘In Christ’.

Before we became Christians we were all ‘In Adam’.

The bible talks about various people in the bible being ‘types’ of Christ. For example, Jonah was in the belly of a fish for 3 days; Jesus was in the tomb for 3 days. Adam is a type of Christ in that what he did had an affect on the whole human race. Because he sinned, we are all considered sinners because we are considered to be ‘in Adam’.

We are saved now because we are ‘in Christ’. He died and rose again so that whoever believes in Him will be saved. We have died to the old life and have now been raised with Christ. We have now been ‘born again’. (John 3:3)

When you were ‘in Adam’, whatever good works you did were never enough to ‘get you out’ of Adam. You can’t ‘get out’ that way. Now you are ‘in Christ’ you can’t ‘get out’ of Christ by sinning.

That’s right – nothing you can do can take you out of Christ because it wasn’t your efforts that ‘got you in’ in the first place. It was all by God’s grace.

Bu that’s scandalous! Yes it is and it begs the question “shouldn’t we keep on sinning then so that God’s grace looks even better?”. This is the question we will look at next week. But this week let us simply enjoy the magnificent freedom of God’s grace!

This blog is a summary from a chapter in Terry Virgo’s wonderful book “God’s lavish grace” you can order a copy by clicking on the links on the left hand side

 April 17, 2013  Posted by at 10:01 pm Grace, Justification, Righteousness, Salvation, Sanctification 2 Responses »
Apr 102013
 

Reigning in lifeI have been greatly influenced by the teaching of Terry Virgo on the whole subject of Grace. I remember first hearing Terry speak about it at a John Wimber conference in the 1980’s, then reading Terry Virgo’s subsequent best selling book ‘God’s lavish grace’.

Rather than re-inventing the wheel, I thought I would summarise a few chapters from that book over the next few weeks to help us as we continue through the wonderful subject of Grace. If you have read the book, I’m sure it will not do you any harm to revisit it again, but if you haven’t I highly recommend it and have provided a link on the left sidebar so you can order it from Amazon. (If you do click on the link and buy it I will receive a small commission!).

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Romans 5:17)

The promise to ‘reign in life’ is a wonderful promise for the Christian. This and other such verses which tell us that we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37) and that Christ leads us in triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14) should leave us wonderfully exhilarated. However in reality these can actually leave us feeling deflated and condemned.

Our mindset can easily be that everything we have is earned. We know from the above verses that we should ‘reign in life’ and so after hearing a particularly stirring sermon or while making new year resolutions, we determine that we will do better. We will set the alarm clock an hour earlier, pray more, study more and witness to more people. Then after a few days we find we are already a chapter or two behind on our reading plan, we start falling asleep through our prayer times and to be honest it’s all a bit dry. We get dejected and feel thoroughly rotten until the next time we hear a challenging sermon and go through the whole cycle again.

Is this your experience?

Go back and read Romans 5:17 again. We reign in life by receiving God’s grace, not through earning it. If we try to earn it we have got it all wrong. It’s because of your standing in Jesus that you reign in life. It’s about your position, not your performance.

Romans chapter 7 gives the example of being married to the law. The law is a horrible husband to be married to. He is a dominating husband, not lifting a finger to help, pointing out your failings and inadequacies and is annoyingly always right. He is also impotent and so cannot breathe life into these dead laws. And on top of everything else, he will never die!

But the great news in Romans 7:4 is not that the law has died but that WE have died to the law. In his book, Terry gives a great illustration of a soldier who has just been discharged from the army, walking across the parade ground in his civilian clothes he completely ignores the sergeant major barking commands for him to get in line. That is now our attitude to the works of the law. They are still perfect, but we are released from them.

Rather than impotence we can now bear fruit for God. Jesus said:

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. “(John 15:4-5)

We need to get this inside of us; the realisation of this truth will revolutionise our lives. I will finish with Galatians 5:1

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

 April 10, 2013  Posted by at 9:10 pm Grace, Salvation No Responses »
Apr 032013
 

graceOver the last few weeks I started looking at the whole subject of Law (legalism) and Grace. So far we have concentrated on legalism. The first week we looked at the wrong application of the law i.e. trusting in keeping the law for our salvation etc. Two weeks ago we looked at 3 things the law does;it reveals sin, it provokes sin and it leads us to Christ. We discovered that we were never supposed to keep the law in the first place; God’s salvation plan has always been for Him to provide everything for us because He knows we can never be good enough to earn it ourselves.

This week I am going to look at Grace, not the whole subject you understand, just some basics, then over the coming weeks we will look at various aspects of this amazing subject in more depth.

What is ‘grace’ as the bible understands it?

It can be described simply as ‘unmerited favour’, something we receive that we don’t deserve and haven’t earned. A simple description but something that our brains find hard to work out. The idea of grace does not come naturally to our human minds. I think the pride within us reacts to accepting something for nothing. We generally don’t like receiving charity. If someone gives us a gift we endeavour to return the compliment. To just accept the gift and do nothing in return actually feels a bit rude!

An amazing free gift which we just accept? Where’s the catch?

A common adage we often hear is “you don’t get anything for nothing” and “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. We are naturally wary of anything that is free.

The desire to pay back a free gift is so ingrained in us that even after we have accepted it, we still try to add to it by ‘performing’ for God, doing good works here and there, trying to gain His favour which He has already completely bestowed upon us

The message of grace permeates throughout the bible. It’s the story of a loving and very patient God, loving a very disobedient and rebellious people who let Him down constantly. Grace is a wonderful gift but so too is the realisation of just how far away we are, how wretched we are and how far we have fallen. The first two lines of the great old hymn by John Newton are;

Amazing grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

Grace becomes so sweet once you realise that your sin has caused a huge chasm between you and a Holy and awesome God. What amazing grace that He should stoop down into history and actually suffer and die to bring us back to Him.

 April 3, 2013  Posted by at 10:55 pm Grace No Responses »
Mar 212013
 

Law and grace 2Last week we began looking at the subject of Law and Grace. We discussed “legalism”, this being a symptom of trying to obtain God’s favour by doing things in order to gain salvation; an attempt to maintain and keep salvation; or a platform for us to look down on others who do not match our supposedly high standards.

Christianity Unique

Christianity is unique in that it is a religion of ‘Grace’. The gospel of Jesus Christ does not emphasise what we have to do for God but rather focuses on what He has already done for us.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2: 8-9)

Grace is: “Something for nothing, for those who don’t deserve anything”.

So what is the purpose of the law then? This is covered in great detail in the book of Romans. Let’s take a look at what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 7:7-14:

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

Personally I find I have to read through passages like these quite a number of times and quite slowly, in order to understand what the passage is saying. To help explain further lets look at 3 things that the law does:

(1) The law reveals sin

Each of us live to our own standards of right and wrong. I might do something that you consider sinful but I am OK about, it depends what your own particular conscience allows. By contrast, God’s law provides us with absolute standards about what is acceptable and what is not. The law is like a straight plumb line which we measure our lives against. It reveals just how crooked our lives have become.

(2) The law provokes sin

We generally don’t like being told what to do. We are disobedient and think we know best. We are generally happy with the idea of a loving God who just wants to be nice to everybody, but when we encounter a Holy God telling us there are things we should and shouldn’t do, we tend to rebel. This simply proves how sinful our hearts really are. The law actually provokes us to rebel.

(3) The law leads us to Christ

The law frustrates and condemns us because we are just not good enough to keep it in our own strength. The law should cause us to cry out for mercy when we try but fail to keep it. It leads us to the grace of God in Christ Jesus. We realise that if we are going to be saved at all it can only be by grace.

Christ’s death not only loosed us from our sin but also loosed us from the law. When we became Christians we died to sin (as demonstrated in baptism) and we also died to the law, therefore releasing us from its hold.

Isn’t it fantastic? Next time we will discover more about God’s wonderful grace. Until then have a great week.

 March 21, 2013  Posted by at 11:18 pm Grace No Responses »
Mar 142013
 

Law and graceEver since writing my recent review of the film ‘Les Miserables’ here, I have wanted to explore the themes of law and grace which were so evident throughout the film. I will be covering this subject in some detail over the coming weeks and I hope you will find it interesting.

According to the dictionary, one of the definitions of religion is: “The practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.”

The general idea is that by following a certain way, doing and believing certain things, you can get right with God. Religion is about living a good life and observing certain do’s and don’ts, try your hardest and you might be alright.

This way of living is very uncertain but to a greater or lesser degree this is the way of 99% of the world’s religions. You never have an assurance of salvation but can only hope that everything will be ok. This uncertainty can drive people to extreme religious observance, as did the Pharisees Jesus encountered. They were so religious that they memorised the whole of the first 5 books of the bible (Pentateuch) and went to extremes of tithing so that even their kitchen condiments were tithed (Matthew 23:23). The Pharisees loved the law, the problem was that they added to it.

Legalism

Next week we are going to look at the purpose of the law (the Pharisees missed the point altogether!). But for now we shall look at “legalism”, the way people try to keep the law.

In Christianity, legalism is the excessive and improper use of the law. This can often take 3 forms: Keeping the law to obtain salvation; keeping the law to maintain salvation; judging others by looking down on them.

(1) Keeping the law to obtain salvation

We will see later that it is simply not possible to keep the law to a high enough standard in order to be saved. We may find ourselves doing really really well at keeping the law, but the bible says that if we fail at just one point we are guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). The bible also says that if we were able to keep the whole law then Christ would have died needlessly (Galatians 2:21).

(2) Keeping the law to maintain salvation

This is very common and one which is easy for all of us to fall into. We fully appreciate all that Jesus has done for us but feel we must add to it in order to keep our salvation. When we think about this we start to realise how arrogant this way of thinking is.

We are justified by faith alone, not by faith and works. The bible is very strong on this. In Galatians 3:10 it says “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” And Jesus further hammers it home in Matthew 7:22-23 where he says ““Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’

(3) Looking down on others

The third kind of legalism, where a Christian keeps certain laws and regards with contempt other Christians who do not keep his standard of holiness, is a frequent problem in the church.  It is of course clear that certain situations need to be judged carefully and lovingly where obvious sins are committed (murder, fornication, lying, stealing etc) but this is not the same as judging others in debatable areas which are not clear from the bible. We need to be very careful and this is where legalism is more difficult to define.

Romans 14:1-12 says that we are not to judge our brothers on debatable issues.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. (Romans 14:5).  As long as our freedom does not violate the Scriptures, then everything should be okay.

 March 14, 2013  Posted by at 8:34 pm Grace, Salvation No Responses »
Feb 282013
 

gods familyOver the last three weeks we have been looking into our Identity in Jesus. We have seen that we are now new creations, no longer sinners but saints. Last week we looked into the victory that Jesus won for us on the cross and the implications of that.

This week and next we are going to look at the fact that we are in Gods family and what that means.

Adoption

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)

When we become Christians we are adopted into His family and called God’s children. We now relate to one another as family members, like brothers and sisters.

We are now able to call God ‘Abba Father’. Abba translates into English as ‘dad’, being even more informal than ‘father’.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:4-7)

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:15-16)

I have listed a few of the blessings of adoption below and will add to this list next week:

(1) We are able to speak to God

The Lords prayer starts “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). Two important points to take out of this are;

(a) we can come to Him anytime

(b) we can come to Him boldly.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19–20, 22)

(2) He takes care of our needs

As His children God will provide everything that we need. He tells us not to be anxious and to trust Him.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? …….. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:25-33)

(3) He gives many good gifts

 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)

He gifts us good gifts, not just to bless us personally, but so that we can be a blessing to the rest of our family (the church) and then be a blessing to the rest of the world. Everything we have is a blessing and a gift from God, but there are other gifts that we can use to bless others. I explored these gifts in much more detail in a previous post here, they include such things as pastors and teachers, prophets, gifts of healing, service etc.

Most of all He gives us the gift of His wonderful Holy Spirit who draws alongside us, to help us and to fill us with His power.

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

(I have gone into great detail about being filled with The Holy Spirit in a previous post here.)

Next week I will look at another 3 blessings of being adopted into Gods family. Until then brothers and sisters, enjoy the wonderful truth that God has brought you into His family and if you are not in it yet, why not join the family?

 February 28, 2013  Posted by at 10:42 pm Community, God's family, Grace, Holy Spirit, The Church 2 Responses »
Feb 142013
 

saintsLast week I asked the question “Do you know who you are?” Amongst other things, we looked at the fact that if you are a Christian the bible describes you as a new creation, according to 2 Corinthians 5:17.

This week I am going to look at the fact that you are now also a saint.

It was interesting to hear this week of the pope’s announcement to stand down due to his old age. This got me thinking about some of the problems I have with Roman Catholicism, one of them being how they ‘decide’ on who a saint is. It is quite a complicated process: the candidate in question first has to be considered exceptionally holy, he/she is then put forward to be canonised (a lengthy process sometimes taking centuries!). And they obviously have to be dead. Their remains are declared holy; they can then be prayed to and even worshipped.

The reason that you and I are saints (if you are a believer) is because Jesus has passed the test for us and fulfilled every requirement that we are unable to fulfil. We are ‘In Him’. His righteousness is our righteousness. I might live an exceptionally holy life, but that is only as a consequence of His grace upon my life. All the glory and honour goes to him. He is the only one who should be worshipped.

You too became a saint the moment He saved you. You ceased to be a sinner (even though you may still occasionally sin). From that moment you were declared righteous, nothing you now do can make you any more (or less) holy. You have been changed on the inside – even if this hasn’t yet been fully seen on the outside.

Neil Anderson sums it up nicely in his book ‘God’s power at work in you’:

“Paul does not say that we are saints by hard work. He clearly declares that we are saints by calling. Because of the unholy conduct of many believers, the word ‘saint’ has often been reserved for those who exhibit superior character and behaviour. The bible, on the other hand, identifies all believers as saints (see Romans 1:7,  2 Corinthians 1:1 and Philippians 1:1). In the King James version, believers are called saints, holy ones or righteous ones more than 200 times. In contrast, unbelievers are called sinners more than 300 times. Clearly the term ‘saint’ is used in Scripture to refer to the believer and the term ‘sinner’ is used in reference to the unbeliever. Although the New Testament gives us plenty of evidence that the believer sins, it never clearly identifies the believer as a sinner.”

How we see ourselves is so important – it changes our whole outlook on life. We need to believe the truth and get it inside ourselves. I listened to a sermon the other day by the author and pastor Phil Moore; he said that his whole outlook was changed when he resolved to spend more time reading the bible than watching television or reading newspapers and magazines. If you want your outlook to change, that’s not a bad idea.

 February 14, 2013  Posted by at 10:24 pm Grace, Salvation 3 Responses »
Jan 172013
 

Les miserablesLiz and I had the opportunity to go to the cinema together last week (quite a rare occurrence) as she was keen to see Les Miserables. As a Christian I thought it had a really interesting story which I would like to share with you, but don’t worry-I’m not going to give away the plot! I was quite intrigued by it; I knew the stage show was a musical but I hadn’t realised that the film was too. It came as quite a shock for me to see Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Maximus Decimus (Russell Crowe) having a sing-off in the opening scene. I half expected the claws to come out!

I’m really not a fan of musicals. To me it seems so unnatural for people to suddenly burst into song in every situation they find themselves in. I was determined however to embrace the film come what may and I’m glad I did. You soon get used to the singing and actually appreciate how cleverly it is all put together, with people singing different parts simultaneously yet all in harmony with each other.

What struck me most about this film was the very obvious investigation into the conflict between legalism and grace and how different people react and respond in different ways. The story briefly is about a criminal who experiences extraordinary grace (probably the part of the film I found most emotional). He experiences this grace on a personal level and he then takes every opportunity to extend that grace to others. Legalism is shown in the person of a policeman who cannot accept that a person can change and is determined that the law be fulfilled to the letter.

The film is also an exploration into injustice; one of the main characters had been condemned to 19 years hard labour for stealing a loaf of bread to feed a starving relative, whilst another character is victimised by work colleagues to such an extent that she loses her job and is forced into prostitution. Injustice is a constant theme in many Hollywood films; it psychologically causes a stirring of a sort of righteous indignation which in turn creates an emotional attachment to the characters, (hence the shares in Kleenex rocketing over the last few weeks-I suspect the reason the film was so loud was to the muffle the sound of sobbing!)

This would be an excellent film to take your non Christian friends to see as it creates a fantastic opportunity to discuss with them the grace that God extends to us through Jesus Christ.

I would love to know what you thought of the film; please drop a comment in the box below.

 January 17, 2013  Posted by at 10:26 pm Grace, The gospel 4 Responses »