Convinced of This (by John Hosier)
It’s over 47 years since Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the Moon and said: “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” As that happened, I was beginning my ministry in a small Baptist Church in Southampton. At the time that was one small step for me, though hardly a giant leap for mankind! And now, having just stepped down from eldership, this is a brief summary of a message I preached about my convictions 47 years on, based on Paul’s statement that he is “convinced of this” (Phil 1:25; admittedly I have played somewhat fast and loose with the context!) Here are ten things that, for all that I have learned and changed, I remain convinced of.
1. I’m convinced of this: Jesus is Lord. US Presidents come and go; British Prime Ministers are sometimes here for a time and then, like David Cameron, suddenly gone. Even the Queen, having reigned for so many years, will one day be succeeded. But Jesus said: “Before Abraham was, I am.” Before time began he was there, and when time as we know it is over, he will be there. Our own lives are like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. But Jesus always is. As the song says: “Forever he will be.” Jesus is Lord.
2. I’m convinced of this: God loves me. I’ve always been proud of my good health. In forty years of “full time ministry” (forgive the phrase) I only ever had two Sundays off because of illness. Moving to Bournemouth six years ago, and joining the Leadership team of Citygate Church as a volunteer elder, I found myself a few months later facing a Hospital Consultant who told me I had serious cancer. Surgery followed and over five years later I have been fully discharged. But following that diagnosis I walked and prayed a lot while facing the possibility that I might be dying. As I did so I found it was the personal note of salvation that came home strongly to me. In Paul’s words, “the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). Certainly God so loved the world, and that truth launches our worldwide mission, but the world is full of individuals—and so however much God loves the world, God loves me.
3. I’m convinced of this: The Bible is true. Common, but frankly ignorant opinion often claims that the Bible we have today must be vastly altered from the original texts. But over five thousand ancient manuscripts give us the opportunity to make such detailed comparisons that we can be entirely confident of the accuracy of our Bibles today. This is further supported by archaeological research, and only a bodily resurrection fits all the evidence for what happened to Jesus three days after his death. Having said that, we also need revelation as well as historical proof. That revelation means the Bible speaks to me and tells me it’s true by the way it speaks. In 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul says, “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.” That expresses a passion in my own ministry, and it is the reason I didn’t “retire” when I moved to Bournemouth. For me, to explain the word of God to others is to help supply what may be lacking in their faith. I do it because the Bible is true.
4. I’m convinced of this: The Church is the hope for the world. Surely, some object, Jesus is the hope for the world. But it is the Church that conveys the message of Jesus and establishes community that in some way should look like Jesus to the world as the Body of Christ. I’ve suffered plenty of disappointments. People leave and that’s painful. Leaders have fallen and that’s an agony. I’ve never belonged to a church that fulfilled all its hopes and desires, though that’s probably helpful in keeping us stretched and reaching for more. I’ve not seen revival and wish I had. I’m disappointed in myself for not being a better pastor, preacher and evangelist. But I can set all that aside and say there is no community like the church. She has the destiny of being the Bride, she is what Jesus is building, using and coming back for. She is a community of love and care, a place of refuge and safety with vision and purpose to advance God’s kingdom and reach out to the ends of the earth. It’s a scary world we live in today, but it’s the church that is the hope for that world.
5. I’m convinced of this: We must keep the main thing the main thing. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of different fashions and trends sweep across the church. At the risk of being misunderstood, I believe that certain good things can mean that we neglect the central thing. So, as one who fought for spiritual gifts and believes that they are good gifts that come from God today, I see also that people can become introspective and obsessive about what their gift might be, or what their destiny is in God, or how their dreams are going to come to pass. These may be good things, but they can mean we are diverted from the central thing. Jesus said: “Now this is eternal life; that they know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Paul puts it like this in Philippians 3:10: “I want to know Christ.” Yes. A passion for Christ. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing.
6. I’m convinced of this: We should be up to date. In 1 Chronicles 12:32 we read that men from Issachar were joining David and these were men who understood the times, and knew what Israel should do. So we, too, need to understand the times we are in and what we should do. This affects our use of language, our illustrations, our songs, our music, our use of social media, our evangelism and so much else. We are not depending on guitars, or PowerPoint or good coffee or shorter meetings to save the lost and build the church and we know that. But we do need to look and sound as though we belong to the 21st century and know what we should do. Let’s not put people off before we even begin! There’s a huge amount of application possible here, but we should be up to date.
7. But I’m also convinced of this: We don’t compromise to our culture. During the last forty-seven years, two of the bigger legal and moral challenges we’ve had to face have been those of abortion and gay marriage. There are other challenges on their way, like end of life choices. Maybe we haven’t always helped ourselves by being more forthright about what we are against rather than what we are for. We are for life, for children, for adoption. We are for marriage and for faithfulness within marriage. But inevitably some things don’t stand up to what we are for. Our churches submit to biblical authority, and if we are convinced of this then we can’t simply surrender to the prevailing culture. The argument that most people believe this now does not mean we are persuaded to change our convictions. In his day, Daniel and friends stood against their culture and ended up in lion’s dens and fiery furnaces. They never compromised—and nor should we.
8. I’m convinced of this: The Christian life is a battle. My most quoted Terry Virgo statement is that the Christian life is not like a battle; it is a battle. This eventually led Terry to quote it as originating with me! But the Bible tells us there is a battle. There are evil days; we have to take our stand against the devil’s schemes. We need to resist the devil, and Revelation tells us that the devil has come down to us and is filled with fury. Even our need to pray at one level points to the fact that we are engaged in a fight. We have to fight all sorts of things. Some fight depression, for others it’s a tragic loss, or illness or difficult circumstances, or persecution or misunderstanding or even false accusation and so on. So we need the Bible to encourage us, to understand who we are in Christ to reassure us, to belong to a church so others can care for us. We need the prayers of others to help us and to pray for breakthroughs ourselves. We need to strengthen ourselves in God or, as Jude says, “Keep yourself in the love of God.” In battles there are victories as well as losses, and Jesus reminds us that it is our faith that will overcome the world and all its challenges. The Christian life is a battle but faith will win the day.
9. I’m convinced of this: We have victory over death. Death is the final enemy and the last battle. Having in the last couple of months lost a younger sister and two younger friends to cancer, it throws you back on Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Note well that to die is gain; but it doesn’t seem like that if you have a dull view of heaven, something I’ve often tried to address in my preaching. If death is gain then it follows that Paul says that it is better by far to be with Christ. This doesn’t remove our grief and tears, but when a loss occurs, we know that for the believer who has gone it is better by far. Our loss may be severe but it’s not without hope. We have victory over death.
10. I’m convinced of this: There’s an end to this story. The Bible opens with the book of Genesis and the declaration, “In the beginning, God …” But the Bible ends with the book of Revelation and the promise that God will one day declare: “It is done.” I’ve never fought shy of teaching on the End Times, but I’ve never believed that I or any other bible teacher has got every detail correct, and the programme of events perfectly worked out. However, it is clear that one day Jesus will return in majesty and glory, and that he will bring about the regeneration of all creation, which will be heaven for the saints who will reign with him in resurrected bodies. And from the throne will come the voice of the one who is there at the beginning and the end: “I am making everything new.” There will be a glorious end to this story that will precede everlasting glory.
After forty-seven years, I can still say: I am “convinced of this.”