Monthly Message Feb 2024

“Faith expressing itself through love”   (Galatians 5:6)

 Dear friends,

Writing to the Galatians, Paul makes an astonishingly bold statement (5:6): “…in Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value”.  Wow!  The outward marks of your religion amount to nothing. Moreover, the lack of such outward marks is no disadvantage.  It is like saying, “Simply being an Anglican, or being a member of a Baptist church, etc. does not guarantee salvation”.  Paul does not mince his words.  “The only thing that counts”, he says, “is faith expressing itself through love”.

We mustn’t miss the context here.  Paul is not referring to faith in anyone or anything, but faith in Christ (whose death alone provides forgiveness and eternal life). So how do we express that faith?  He has a rather surprising answer to that question.  He would not, of course, discount baptism, or a verbal testimony, nor an eagerness to grasp sound doctrine.  All these things are important.  But of paramount importance (‘the only thing that counts’) is “faith expressing itself through love”.

It is a sad fact that Christians do not always express their faith through love.  Often sound doctrine has been held in a spirit of self-righteousness.  Patrick Mitchel (The Message of Love”, BST, p225) helpfully says: “It is faith that leads to a dynamic relationship with God, empowered by his Spirit, and evidenced in a life of practical action for the good of others”.  That last phrase is what the Bible means by ‘love’.

If love means ‘practical action for the good of others’, how far is my faith expressed through love?  The Greek word translated “expressing” here means ‘to be at work, or in action’.  Our word ‘energy’ derives from it.  So, the saving faith I have in Jesus Christ should be seen in the effort I put in to being loving towards others.

A mark of a good church is not just its teaching, but its faith expressed through love.

In your church, and in your life, what is “the only thing that counts”?

In Christ,

Tony Mason

Monthly Message Jan 2024

Dear friends,

It was a little before 9.00am on the morning after Boxing Day.  We were getting ready to visit our son for a couple of days, when the phone rang.  The GP practice wanted me in to see the doctor at 9.40.  “It is rather important”, said the receptionist in response to my reluctance to change my plans.  So the visit had to be put on hold.  The doctor was concerned about a blood-test result and arranged for me to have another one immediately, together with an ECG.  A long wait for the equipment to be available ensued, and I got home just before lunch; but I had to wait until 6.00pm for the blood-test result.  Plans disrupted.  Results OK but I was to have another blood-test and ECG in a week’s time.  The earliest appointment would be in about two weeks.  The day came, the tests were done but needed to be repeated – to be quite sure.  That meant about two hours in the surgery with plans for the weekly shop afterwards also put on hold.  The outcome of that is another GP appointment with another blood-test and ECG after the weekend!

Am I complaining?  No, not at all!  Yes, altered plans are disappointing, long waits are frustrating, uncertainties can be stressful.  But that is a very small price to pay for having a potentially serious condition thoroughly investigated and knowing that one is being cared for.

We put a lot of store by our physical health; but what of our spiritual health?  In Psalm 139 the psalmist acknowledges that God knows all about him and that he is never away from God’s presence.  He recognizes that he is “fearfully and wonderfully made” and that God knows exactly how long his life is going to be.  Worshipping such a God raises in his heart an intense hatred of evil: “If only you would slay the wicked, O God!”

But he is mindful also of his own need of the ‘Divine GP’ and of a thorough investigation:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting”.                    (Ps 139:23,24)

Let us put everything and anything on hold in order to let the Lord search us and test us, in order to lead us in the way everlasting.

Your brother in Christ,

Tony Mason

PS The doctor has given me the “all clear” (Praise the Lord!) and so has the Lord.  See Romans 5:1 but consider also Romans 6:1,2.

Monthly Message Nov-Dec 2023

“…he always lives to intercede….”  (Hebrews 7:25)

Dear friends,

“Immanuel – God with us” will be on our lips and in our minds a great deal during this Advent and Christmas season.  What an awe-inspiring statement!  The one and only, eternal and almighty Creator God is, in the person of Jesus Christ with US!  For sure, he came among us at his incarnation some two millennia ago but in what practical ways is he with us still today, every day?  Let us reflect on just one aspect of that:  “…because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.  Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Heb 7:24,25).

Are you experiencing opposition on account of your faith, or facing enmity in some other way?  Fear not, for Christ is, right now, interceding for you. As the Puritan, Isaac Ambrose, wrote: “It may be he allows people to be merciless on earth, that you may look up, and see how merciful is the one who sits above”.

Are you facing temptation and even finding it hard to pray?  And when you do pray do you find your prayers lack vitality and zeal?  Do not despair.  “…the Spirit (i.e. of Jesus) helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express”.  (Romans 8:26)

 And what about sin within – that constant battle with bad habits or unrighteous anger, pride, envy, greed and so on?  Our Saviour Jesus is with us but he has also sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:12), the position of power, authority, victory. Verse 13 goes on to declare: “Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool”; “and”, says Isaac Ambrose again, “are not your sins his enemies?”.

“Emmanuel – God is with us” in grace and mercy and in power and victory.

Your brother in Christ,

Tony Mason