Preached at Cookstown FPC by Rev. Ivan Foster.
Scripture: O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help, Hosea 13:9.
The word 'destroyed' in our text appears first in our Bible in Genesis 6:11. "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence." The ailment that has ever wrought destruction amongst the people of God is that which was at work in Noah's day - SIN! We must bear in mind that the Lord Jesus said that the circumstances which brought about the judgment of the world by the flood will return to dominate mankind just before His return! "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be," Matthew 24:36-37. While no man knows the exact day of the Saviour's return, we are given to understand the atmosphere which will develop just before that day - REBELLION AGAINST THE WORD OF GOD AND VIOLENCE!
I think we see just such an atmosphere developing WORLDWIDE today.
Sadly, it must be noted that within the professing Church of Christ this atmosphere is having its effect! Many Christians are persuaded to compromise with the trends of today in order to avoid confrontation and conflict with society.
I say that this trend may be seen even in our own denomination. In saying that, I say nothing new for I have been crying out against a growing spirit of accommodation with worldliness evident in the FPC!
Free Presbyterians have been involved in the DUP's:-
* Funding of sodomites in power-sharing government.
* Wishing Corrymeela Ecumenical Centre well.
* Sabbath desecration, attendance at GAA football match on the Lord's Day.
* Sodomite candidate in local elections in May past.
Nowhere is that trend evident than in the present situation in which leading ordained men within our Presbytery seem content to maintain membership of the DUP, even since that party has endorsed sodomy by selecting and recommending a sodomite candidate in the local elections of a few months ago.
As listed above, there here have been other examples of the departure by FP members within the DUP from the paths of Bible Christianity as was embraced by our founding fathers and I am on record as protesting against such.
It would appear that a majority within our denomination is content with that situation for there has not been a rising up to obey God's Word and deal with this issue of non-separation from sinful associations forbidden us of God. Perhaps if the general membership of the FPC had a voice then I might be proved wrong but as it is, there seems to be an acquiescing with this sin, except for a sizeable remnant of ministers and elders.
Tonight I wish to comment on the state of affairs within our denomination in the light of our text.
I. WE MUST IDENTIFY THE DESTROYER.
As we heard in our conference last weekend when Dr Douglas related the story of that wonderful prayer meeting 70 years ago which resulted in Dr Paisley being filled with the Holy Spirit, he was awakened to see things as never before. He broke links with the Orange Order, the Unionist Party and other associations because he saw in them that which was contrary to God's mind and will. That perception is needed again!!
The defeat of Samson lay, not in the Philistines becoming stronger but in him losing his strength, so therein lies the reason for the situation in the FPC. We are destroying ourselves!
Samuel's words to David may be applied to ourselves, "Thou art the man". We stand condemned for the decline of God's work in the land. This does not mean that God absolves the modernists and ecumenists and lying politicians for their wicked contribution to the misery of our province.
No! It means that our sins brought the afflictions and defeats inflicted upon us by our enemies upon our own heads.
1. There has been a determination walk in the path that led to destruction. Ulster and our own denomination have refused to heed the warnings of God's word. We have followed falsehood and turned from the Bible until there is hardly even the memory of God's truth in some places in our land. Protestants hardly know what Protestantism means. Thus we have become guilty of our own destruction.
The earth in Noah's day was devoted or consecrated to violence for that is what the word 'filled' means. Here is what has happened in Ulster. We are a land 'devoted to corruption'. Its pursuit has become more important than obeying God's Word. This corruption is what has brought destruction. Indeed so closely linked is 'corruption' and 'destruction', that God uses just one Hebrew word for both, Genesis 6:12-13.
2. There has been a refusal of the means God has prescribed for escape. As the folly of our way became clear, Christians have not heeded directions for escape.
Having drunk the poison, now they will not drink the antidote!
3.That refusal has become increasingly stout! The shame and defeats that followed the endorsement of 'power-sharing with the IRA' has not brought about a realisation of wrong-doing and a spirit of repentance but rather, there has been a shameful defending of that wrong!
II. WE MUST SEE THE EXTENT OF THE DESTRUCTION.
Let us take a look at God's use of this word 'destroyed' and we shall see the exact extent of what our sins have done to our land.
1. Corrupted, Exodus 8:24. Our sins have become as a swarm of flies that have filled the land, bringing disease and death. A fly is a tiny insect, insignificant yet combined with others it presents a major disaster. The sins of Ulster Christians have been multiplying until they are a swarm, separating us from God, Isaiah 59:1. Nothing spreads disease like the fly. Every law of God, every standard of decency is trampled underfoot in Ulster.
2. Blinded, Exodus 21:26. Here the word is 'perish'. There is a great blindness to God's truth. Here is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to instil some knowledge of what is happening in our Province. "His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant," Isaiah 56:10. How tragic for a land when the watchmen, those with the duty of watching out for the people's spiritual wellbeing, are blind and silent because they are blind. Some have not yet seen the danger or the threat in Ulster.
3. Wasting, Proverbs 18:9. Gone are the days of the Protestant work ethic. Grants, allowances, subsistences and hand-outs are to be sought by every means, fair or foul. Brexit is rejected by many because of the greed for grants etc! "I have a right to it" is the slogan, the watch cry, of one and all. Such a spirit is evidence of the destructive force of sin at work in our midst.
4. Spoiled, II Kings 17:20, 'spoilers'. Spoilers have been at work in Ulster. Lives, homes, marriages, businesses, towns, villages, districts--we have watched our land corrupt and rot away before our eyes and it is because of our sins.
III. WE MUST RECOGNISE THE ONLY HOPE WE HAVE OF DELIVERANCE.
"But in me is thine help." There is help in none other, verse 4. Certain destruction lays in every other direction. This indication that there is help in the Lord is also an invitation to apply for that help. How is that done? you ask? The very next verse says, "I will be thy king". Help is found in making Christ our King.
1. It calls for a ceasing of rebellion. No more 'self rule'. Rather an utter surrender to Christ. "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Acts 9:6.
2. There must be an obeying of His law. The Bible is the Christian's chart and compass. It is our sole rule of faith and duty. That must once again be reinstated as our law!
3. There must be a public honouring of Christ. Mal 1:6-8. The distinctiveness of a God-honouring life is absent from the church of Christ today.
Where there is such a turning to Christ then there shall be a knowing His help. Such help our fathers testified of. "Ebenezer", I Samuel 7:12.
He stands ready to help all who call upon Him in sincerity. 2 Chronicles 14:11, 15:2-4. (Verses referred to by Dr Douglas in our Conference last weekend!)
Each one needs help in the face of eternity. The constitutional crisis that has overtaken us is but symptomatic of the greater crisis that is fast overtaking all who are out of Christ. As in the affairs of an nation, so in the affairs of men. There is an hour when the consequences of living in defiance of Christ will catch up with men. Who will help you, sinner, in the hour of your departure from this world to face the eternal consequences of your sins? Having defied Him you must now face Him as He comes to judge the rebel. As Ulster could have avoided the crisis that now stares her in the face had she lived in obedience, rather than in defiance of God's word, so you may be saved from the certain doom which follows sin. Who can save you? None can but the Lord Jesus Christ. Flee to Him now. Under the covering of His blood there is that perfect and lasting help that sinners need.
There is pardon for all crimes. There is redemption from sin's power and dominion. Seek the shelter of that blood without further delay.