Coronavirus Lockdown Messages

 

Edington Chapel 24th Oct ‘21   Matthew 11:28-30

Speaker: Crawford Telfer

MY BIRTHDAY TREAT!                                                                                         My special birthday treat – a new camera. All was well until I looked at the instructions, pages and pages. So complicated, I felt like sending it back . . . What I really wanted was something simple – that I could understand. But then as I looked at the camera, I noticed the life saver. A setting that said automatic. So I have left it on that, and it hasn’t half made it a lot simpler to operate.

FINDING THE SETTING                                                                                  Have you ever felt the Christian life is like that instruction book?  So many things you have to do – things that are expected of you – rules you have to follow and there’s no joy, no ‘delight’ in following the Lord – it’s all a bit too much. Well our text this morning is  all about ‘finding the setting’ which lifts that heaviness  from us and restores the blessing in following Jesus.     

FAMOUS BUT NEGLECTED TEXT                                                    Our text is one of the most famous invitations Jesus ever made – maybe because of that we tend to neglect it – like a favourite friend or relative we rarely visit, but we know is there ready to help us when we need them. So let’s take a closer look at it this morning. And I hope we will see how these glorious few verses can put a new spring in our step, a sparkle in our eyes and a lightness in our spirit.

A PEOPLE WORN AND WEARY                                                              The people Jesus invited to come to him certainly needed lifting up and here’s why:  For centuries, since the time of Moses the Jews had lived by the law. They believed that was how you got right with God.

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS                                                          We know the first of them as the 10 Commandments which God gave to  Moses. But these eventually grew to over 600 laws which the Jews call the ‘Torah’. Those laws covered every aspect of daily life – personal hygiene, family and relationships, what you could eat and not eat, and so on. From Moses to Jesus, being ‘right with God’ was all about obeying those laws.  

THE LAW WAS GOOD                                                                               In Psalm 19:7 David declares: The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes

HERE COME THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES                              But then along came the Scribes and Pharisees. They interpreted those laws, telling the people what they meant.  And this is where they made Jesus angry, because they often twisted them, made them say what God had not at all intended. In fact they added to them, so that they ended up with thousands of ‘sub-laws’. For example the law about the Sabbath – one short command:    Exodus 20:8 ‘remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy’.          They added about 1500 extra laws to that.  

EXAMPLE OF EXTRA LAWS                                                         Disabled man Jesus healed by the pool at Bethesda and how they accused him of breaking the Sabbath law on two counts:                                              1. Jesus healed – according to the Pharisees  you could only heal to save                                                       2. Carrying a bed on the Sabbath - they said was work.

WHY THEY WERE DESPISED                                                          You can understand why the people despised them. They were hypocrites – they didn’t practice what they preached. They never lifted a finger to help the weak and the struggling. They had no compassion, they were merciless.

It’s no wonder the people were weary and heavy laden by this continual pressure to be always doing the right thing as interpreted by those scribes and Pharisees.

They knew nothing of David’s experience which he declared in Psalm 16:11 ‘in your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures  evermore.’ These Scribes and Pharisees had robbed them of it.  No joy, no pleasure. It was religion of the worst kind.

HERE COMES JESUS                                                                      So when Jesus saw what was going on it made his blood boil and he exposed them for what they were, and his language was definitely not what you’d hear at a vicar’s tea party. For instance listen to this from Matthew 23: . . . . . .       

Jesus is talking about how they:   “. . preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”

 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.  Strong stuff, because they were making the people suffer.

CHRISTIANS TODAY WEARY ANND WORN                                                   There are Christians today, suffering in exactly the same way!    Yes, they believe in Jesus, that He died to take away their sin and bring them back to the Father. Yes, they believe that their salvation is by faith.

BUT, for them being a Christian is still all about what you can do and what you can’t do.

They’re living by rules. Rules that are unspoken,  rules not even in the Bible – rules about                                     * how you should dress to go to Church,         * how you should behave in church.                                                * * Rules  about the places you mustn’t go to,   * Rules about drink. What - you like wine?                                  * Rules about the kind of people you can be friends with.

DUTY - OUGHT – THE RIGHT THING                                                     But they’re not only concerned with obeying rules. The Christian life for them is all about ‘performance’ -  doing their ‘duty’,  doing the ‘right’ thing. What I call the religion of ‘ought’ -  

The Bible reading , the praying, the giving, the acts of kindness – they’re all done out of a sense of ‘duty’, not out of a thankful heart filled with the love of God. 

What is meant to be a blessing has become a chore  because they’re weary and burdened and discouraged with all those ‘rules’  they are trying to obey and the Christian life has become a marathon to be endured rather than a loving relationship to be enjoyed.

PHARISEES TODAY                                                                               Yes, the Pharisee spirit is still among us, like Covid and we are all prone to catching it. You can recognise the symptoms – a nagging voice:  ‘you have to do this, you have to do that’. ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘why weren’t you at the prayer meeting last week?’ You should be reading your Bible’           It’s a voice which accuses, drags you down, makes you feel useless,  discouraged, inadequate, a failure, guilty.      It’s a voice that destroys your joy in the Lord and makes serving him a drudge instead of a delight. It’s a voice which has closed many a church.

And there’s only one vaccine which is able to set us free and it’s the love and grace of our beautiful Lord Jesus.

FREEDOM = ACCEPT HIS INVITATION                                                    And we receive it when we accept the same invitation Jesus gave to all the people in Israel 2,000 years ago: ‘Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden. And I will give you rest.’

* Rest from living by rules,       Rest from trying to earn God’s love - who already loves you with    an everlasting love.         * Rest from ‘performing’ - trying to earn more brownie points.   

HOW THE REST COMES                                                                              So how does He give us this rest? He tells us – ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’,           

Did you hear that?  ‘EASY and LIGHT’.  How can that be? Surely you’re mistaken?

LET’S LOOK MORE CLOSELY                                                           In Jesus’ time ‘Take my yoke upon you . . .’ was a figure of speech for ‘going to the school of a Rabbi’. Rabbi’s were highly respected teachers of the law – the Torah, which was at the heart of Jewish life. Each Rabbi had his own disciples – and they’d not only learn from their Rabbi, but adopt his way of life – in a sense you could say the disciples became ‘yoked’ to the Rabbi by their commitment to him.          So the people would have understood that Jesus was inviting them to become his followers, his disciples as he taught them how to understand the scriptures.

JESUS’ TEACHING ‘EASY’

And the teaching of Jesus would have been in sharp contrast to the heavy, complicated teaching of the Pharisees. When Jesus said ‘my yoke is easy’, he’s saying ‘my teaching is easy’ – and in the original language the word ‘easy’ also means pleasant and gracious. For instance He condensed all those 613 laws down to 2 as we read in Matthew 22:37: – 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.

These two commands, embody the full law

MEANING OF ‘BURDEN IS LIGHT’

Then the burden Jesus gives us – this is to do with how we serve Him, the work He calls us to do for the Kingdom. He describes it as being ‘light’. The meaning of ‘light’ in the original means ‘easy to bear’. It’s not heavy, onerous, grinding you down, keeping you up all night.

BURDENS NOT FROM GOD                                                                           I wonder how many of the Lord’s people are weary and worn out with the heaviness of ‘the Lord’s work’ – work which has been put upon them or persuaded to take on – not by the Lord but by others, maybe leaders in the church and they’ve agreed only to find it’s wearing them out - like our missionary turned lorry driver.

The Lord does NOT overload his children

THE CUP OF WATER                                                                  Listen to how Jesus describes Himself: ‘I am gentle and humble in heart’.  He notices even the smallest act of kindness – giving someone a cup of water – very welcome in the heat of the day. And He says such a person will not lose their reward.

THERE’S REST IN SERVING HIM                                                              When we serve him, and do what He calls us to do, and not what others tell us we ought to do - a lovely thing happens: we find rest, real rest for our soul – not the kind of rest that sends us to sleep, but the kind that refreshes and energizes us.

Paul described how the Lord gave him the energy to travel some 10,000 miles on foot to proclaim him to the world. Here’s what he wrote from Col. 1:28: . . ‘To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.’  

That’s how Paul was able to keep going, against all the opposition and hardship of his missionary journeys.

Jesus himself in John 4:34 described doing the will of God as his food: it gave him strength and energy.

THE SPIRIT GIVES US THE ENERGY

There’s an important lesson here for all of us. When we’re doing what the Lord calls us to do, he gives us the strength and energy to do it. It comes by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.                  It’s a good way to find out if you are following the Lord’s calling for your life – because when you are – there is this energizing yet strangely refreshing rest of the soul.

PLEASURE TOO

There is also pleasure in it.

Think of the heart cry of David in Psalm 40:8 ‘I delight to do your will’.

How many Christians think of the will of God as something that will make them miserable, something they’d hate.   

Paul writes in Romans 2:12 of God’s ‘good and pleasant and perfect will’.

WONDERFUL VERSE:

When I was a very new Christian I came across a wonderful verse which has blessed me all through my life. It’s in Phil 2:13     for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.’

ACCEPTING THE INVITATION

When we accept Jesus’ invitation to take His yoke upon us and learn of him, we discover that he really is gentle and humble in heart. And we find that rest for our souls.

Augustine’s prayer

Lord, you are the light of the minds who know you, the
life of the souls who love you, and the strength of the
souls who serve you. Help us to know you that we may
truly love you, so to love you that we may fully serve
You, whose service is perfect freedom.

Through Christ our Lord.    Amen.

 

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    Edington Chapel – Sunday 17th October 2021  Speaker: James McKee from WEC

John 20:19-31 & Acts 1:1-8

V:21 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

 

I.Introduction

A.The last 20 months has been very unsettling

1.Families separated

2.Lives put on hold

3.Jobs changed completely

4.Missionaries stranded

 

B.What about the disciples

1.Hopes had been dashed

2.Emotions turned upside down

3.Thy had let their best friend down, and themselves

4.They were going back to their old lives

a)Back to Emmaus

b)Back Fishing

c)But what about those who had nothing to go back to

Matthew 19: 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

5.They were emotionally distraught

6.They were extremely terrified

7.They were locked inside

a)Physically in the room

b)Emotionally in their hearts

c)Spiritually full of doubt

Luke 24:38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?

 

C.But there were rumours going around

1.The grave was empty

2.The women said they saw Him

3.What’s happening?

 

D.Then they see a ghost !!!

Luke 24: 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 

 

II.The Peace

John 20: 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 

 

A.Was this a simple Arabic Greeting

1.Peace be unto you

2.Was it something deeper

B.While we allow turmoil to reign in our lives – it will paralyse us from action

1.But God Blesses us with Peace

2.From the beginning of the OT, God blesses his people with Peace

Numbers 6:24-26 The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;  the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

3.The message to the shepherds

Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.

4.The message to give encouragement and assurance

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

 

C.When we allow the Father’s Peace to reign – it will empower us to action

John 20: 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 

 

III.The Proof

John 20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Acts 1:After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

 

A.They saw Him

John 20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

 

B.Thomas touched Him

John 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

 

C.He did miracles

John 20: 30-31 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 21: 25

D.He was with them for forty days

Acts 1:3 He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 

1.Not just a vision

2.Jesus appeared time and time again to them

3.In all sorts of different environments

E.He ate with them

Luke 24:41b-43 “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

Acts 1:On one occasion, while he was eating with them

IV.The Preparation

A.They had been with Jesus

Acts 4:13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

1.They had lived with Him for 3 ½ years

a)Talked with Him

b)Listened

c)Learnt

d)Questioned

e)Worked

f)Wept with Him

g)Laughed with Him

2.They Knew Him

 

B.They had a personal relationship with Jesus

1.How much time do you spend with Jesus?

2.Do you talk to Him about everything?

3.Do you keep some things to yourself? There is no point, He knows it all!

 

C.They had been witnesses of Jesus

Acts 1:21-22 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 

beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.

1.Have you witnessed Jesus working in your life?

2.Have you witnessed the power of prayer?

3.You must be faithful in small things before God will ask you to do bigger things!

 

V.The Promise

Acts 1: On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

A.The Holy Spirit

John Stott - Before Christ sent the church into the world, he sent the Spirit into the church. 

a)The Holy Spirit came on Jesus at His baptism

b)It gave Him the power to overcome temptation

c)To be obedient to the Father

d)To complete the task the Father had given Him

Robert Morgan - The baton is passed from the Son to the Spirit regarding the divine mission on earth.

 

B.The Power

Acts 1: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you

1.English words dynamic, dynamo, and dynamite

2.The power is for employment and not simply enjoyment!

3.The same power that brought Christ back from the dead is there for us!

 

VI.The Purpose

A.To Go John 20:21

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.

1.When we have God’s peace – We can go and give it to others

2.2000 years on we are still commanded to Go

3.Jesus is still sending us

B.Be witnesses Acts 1:8

1.Definition - a person who sees or experiences something and is able to describe it to other people

Luke 24:47-48 forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. 

Acts 5:32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit

2.When we live for Jesus – we will draw others to Him

 

C.Preach the gospel Mark 16:15

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

1.Not Tourists

Acts 8:Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.

οι μεν ουν διασπαρεντες διηλθον ευαγγελιζομενοι τον λογον

2.A Missionary is – Going with a God given Purpose

3.Bringing the GOOD NEWS to those who have never heard

 

D.Make Disciples Matthew 18:19

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

1.There are many parts of the world where the Church barely exists

2.There are so many migrants & refugees in our own area

VII.The Practice

A.The apostles in Action

1.Acts 2 All the apostles

2.Acts 3&4         Peter & John

3.Acts 5 All the apostles

Acts 5:12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people.

Acts 5:29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!

B.The Deacons in Action

1.Stephen Acts 6:8

Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 

2.Philip Acts 7:5 

Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there

 

C.The Church in Action

Acts 7:On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 

 

D.What next?

John Piper

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't.”

 

Hudson Taylor

"The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed."

 

CT Studd

"True religion is like the smallpox. If you get it, you give it to others, and it spreads."

 

Norman Grubb

“Good morning God, what are you up to today? I want to be part of it. May I? Thank you, Amen”

 

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EDINGTON CHAPEL, SOMERSET

Sunday 26th September 2021. Speaker: James Paterson

Intro

We’ve just had a very strange 18 months. The coronavirus pandemic has turned our world upside-down, giving us months of worry, panic, stress and isolation.  For many of those months, all of our regular activities were cancelled, we were cut off from seeing friends and family, and confined to our homes.  For most of us it’s been an awful time in most practical senses.  But I wonder what sort of impact this strange time has had on you spiritually?

For me I think there were some big spiritual lows which were ultimately helpful.  For several months I worked from home on my own.  And I found my productivity slipping – I’d get stuck writing a report, and then I’d find every excuse to avoid working on it, or even thinking about it.  I became increasingly concerned that my colleagues would ask how I was getting on with the report, and aware that I wasn’t really honouring God with my work.

Around this sort of time my world was closing in on myself.  I no longer really saw people regularly and all my time and energy seemed to be focussed on ME. 

All this made me feel rubbish.  I felt guilty for the work I hadn’t done, and I felt ashamed that I was the sort of person who slacked on work, and I felt afraid of facing the work I still had to do.  And I was afraid that if people or if God found out what I was like, they would hate me in some way, they would be shocked at how lazy I was.

Who could rescue me from this miserable state of shame? Jesus! Of course! I was gradually reminded through much work of the spirit that Jesus really did love me even though I was a messy sinner.  Not only that, but he could save me from it.  So in the end, my lockdown misery has grown my appreciation for Jesus’ kindness, his compassion, his great salvation.

And in our passage today, Jesus meets another person who feels really ashamed and dirty, and shows just how compassionate he is. 

We’re going to start at verse 40, where we’ll read the incredible story of Jesus cleansing the leper.  Let’s read.

Point 1 – Jesus’ gospel ministry: cleansing the leper

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’

Picture the scene.  Jesus is walking through a village on the way to preach at the synagogue.  And a man covered in festering sores, dressed in stinking torn robes, with his flesh rotting away pushes his way towards Jesus.  You can imagine all the other people fighting to get away from him.  The looks of horror and disgust. 

The physical situation for this man is awful.  But we need to think a bit more about what leprosy so we can understand the truly awful nature of his plight.

Generally, leprosy is a name for a collection of skin conditions that make the skin fester & rot.  There’s a technical definition nowadays as to what exactly the disease is – in fact I believe my grandfather worked with a Dr Paul Brand in India to work out what caused it and help to treat those suffering with the technical disease of leprosy.  Andrew has got lots of interesting stories about his time there, worth asking him about it later.  But whatever the technical disease was, it was thought to be infectious and people would stay away. 

And there was another huge dimension to this skin disease: ceremonial uncleanness.  To understand this we’ll need to rewind through the Bible, and through the history of Israel to the book of Leviticus.

Leviticus is a rather meaty book describing how the sinful Israelites could meet a holy God.  In many ways it’s an amazing book, showing that God really was committed to meeting his people.  But it also shows what a great barrier there is between humans and our holy, set-apart God.  The book speaks about all the sacrifices that have to be made for different sins.

And relevant to us, it speaks about how people with infectious skin diseases are ‘unclean’. 

Let’s read from Leviticus chapter 13.

Starting at verse 1.

“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a bright spot on his skin that may become an infectious skin disease, he must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons who is a priest.  The priest is to examine the sore on his skin, and if the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears to be more than skin deep, it is an infectious skin disease.  When the priest examines him, he shall pronounce him ceremonially unclean.”

Then skipping to verse 45:

“The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out ‘Unclean! Unclean!’  As long as he has the infection he remains unclean.  He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.”

If it wasn’t bad enough to have a horrible disease, God determines that the disease makes them ceremonially unclean.  They have to physically identify themselves as unclean by looking even more repulsive than their skin condition already makes them – with torn clothes and messy hair.  And they have to live outside the camp. 

Living outside the camp would be lonely.  But it also has spriritual significance.  At the centre of Israel’s camp was the tabernacle, the meeting place of God with the people.  And being outside the camp, they’re excluded from that meeting.  The lepers are excluded from relationship with people, and they’re excluded from relationship with God.  Constantly reminded by their own cries ‘unclean! Unclean!’ of their shame, of their vile condition.

What an awful state the leper in Mark chapter 1 is in! Excluded, ashamed, hated… unclean.

 And this man “came to Jesus and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean’”.

This was a big move for the man.  He’s desperate of course.  He’s totally aware of his uncleanness.  Of how according to the Jewish law he should stay away from people.  But he’s heard about Jesus, he’s heard about the how Jesus has been healing people in Capernaum and all around.  He’s heard that Jesus is powerful – that he has the power to heal even the worst diseases.  The man has faith, he believes that Jesus can do it. 

But what he doesn’t know is if Jesus is willing.  Jesus might have healed other diseases.  But this is a particularly dirty one.  An offensive disease.  An ugly disease.  It’s unclean.  Jesus, as a jew, should stay away.  Leviticus chapter 5 says “if a person touches anything ceremonially unclean – even though he is unaware of it, he has become unclean and is guilty”

The leper thinks – perhaps I’m too dirty, too unclean for Jesus to help.  All he can do is cast himself at Jesus’ feet, begging Jesus for help.

How does Jesus react to this desperate plea from the vile leper?

Let’s carry on from verse 41.  “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.  “I am willing,” he said.  “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

Compassion.  That’s Jesus’ reaction.  Before him is an ugly, contagious, mess of a man.  And Jesus is FILLED with COMPASSION.  How wonderful our saviour Jesus is, that when he sees someone dirty, ashamed, in need, desperate, he has compassion!

And then he reaches out and touches the man.

This man probably hadn’t been touched by anyone for years.  Not his wife, not his children, not his friends – if he even had any of them.  Anyone who touched him would become unclean so no one would dare.  But Jesus reaches out and touches him.

So according to the law in Leviticus, Jesus should become unclean at this point.  But no! Instead, Jesus says ‘I am willing.  Be clean!”.  Immediately the leprosy leaves the man and he is cured. 

Jesus has authority over the leprosy, over the uncleanness.  Instead of Jesus becoming unclean, the leper becomes clean! 

What a relief for the man.  He’s been cleaned! The physical affliction has left him.  He’s had his first touch in years.  He’s been cleaned!

Let’s carry on with the story from verse 43.

“Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone.  But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

This second instruction is another act of kindness from Jesus.  One of the things we skipped over in Leviticus chapter 13 was how people could go to a preist when they’ve recovered from their condition and offer sacrifices, and be declared clean.  Then they could be formally welcomed back into the camp, into community, into Israel.  So Jesus is sending the man off to be welcomed back into community officially.  And Jesus is showing that he cares about the law.

What an incredible story.  A man in a desperate, unclean state casts himself at the feet of Jesus and receives mercy, compassion and cleanliness.   Isn’t our Jesus wonderful? His kindness, compassion, sensitivity.

Point 2 – Jesus’ gospel ministry, Jesus trading places with the unclean

There’s a final curious detail to Mark’s account of Jesus cleansing the leper.  And it gives us a clue to an amazing application of this story – we’ll discover in our second point that Jesus trades places with the unclean. Jesus trades places with the unclean.

Let me read again from verse 43

“Jesus sent him away with a strong warning: See that you don’t tell this to anyone… then moving to verse 45… Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news.  As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places.  Yet the people still came to him from everywhere”

Jesus asks the leper to keep his healing on the down-low.  Jesus asks for this sort of secrecy a few times in Mark and the other gospels, particularly early on in his ministry.  Perhaps Jesus is trying to protect himself from false expectations of who he is and what he’s come to do.  Jesus does ultimately want everyone to know about him, but at this particular time he wanted people to hear about the good news of God – as he says in cverse 15 – The time has come, the kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!  Jesus’ priority was for people to repent and believe the good news about his kingdom – and only a part of his ministry was healing. 

But whatever the reason for Jesus’ request, the man disobeys.  I don’t think we need to make any judgements on the man – Imagine how hard it would be to contain your joy at being healed by such a compassionate, wonderful person as Jesus.  But there was a consequence for Jesus.  “As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places.”  Jesus has become too famous, too well known for his healing, so he’s absolutely set upon by crowds as soon as he enters a town.  So Jesus has to stay outside the town, in lonely places. 

Does this ring a bell? Remember what we read in Leviticus earlier on – “The leper must live alone, he must live outside the camp”.  In a strange way, Jesus has switched places with the leper.  Jesus has ended up outside the camp, in lonely places.

And at this point we must start thinking about the bigger, spiritual picture of what Jesus came to do on the earth.  Mark paints a wonderful picture here of Jesus cleaning someone who was physically and ceremonially unclean. 

But Jesus talks later in Mark about a greater uncleanness.  In Mark chapter 7 verse 20, Jesus says “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean’.  For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’.”

That’s a really ugly list of sin.  It’s a list of things that we do, that we think, that make us unclean before God.  Unclean on a much greater, more dire level than the skin disease the leper had.

The leper’s disease is really a helpful picture of what our hearts are like, or what they were like.  Unclean.  Polluted by our evil. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt the shame, the dirt of the sins Jesus mentioned.  The way evil thoughts, sexual immoraility, envy, greed make us feel ashamed, dirty, unclean. Unclean – aware that if people really saw our hearts, if God really saw our hearts, they would run away, they would exclude us from the camp, they wouldn’t want anything to do with us.  Unclean – your own conscience crying ‘guilty! Unclean!’, constantly reminding, accusing you of your sin.  Have you ever felt the uncleanness like that? I know I have! It’s a horrible feeling.

And as we come to Jesus, with the spiritual equivalent of rotting flesh, all we can do is fall at his feet and beg ‘if you are willing, you can make me clean’.  And what will his reaction be?

“Sort yourself out, clean yourself up, stop doing that sin and then come back later?”

NO!

“Go away and think about how unclean you are.  You deserve to be alone and miserable?”

NO!

Jesus’ reaction is so far from either of those reactions.  He’s filled with compassion for sinners, for the unclean, for the suffering.  He reaches out to us in our uncleanness, he touches us.  He’s not concerned about meeting us in our mess.  And he is willing and powerful to clean us.And we can have great confidence in his reaction.  He always has compassion.  He always forgives.  He always cleans. 

In case you’re not convinced, let me read from Hebrews chapter 9 verse 13:

“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean so they are outwardly clean.  How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.”

It’s ultimately Jesus’ blood that cleans us from our inward uncleanness.  When Jesus cleansed the leper, he ended up outside the camp in lonely places, he took the place of the leper.  When Jesus cleans us from our inward spiritual uncleanness, Jesus had to take our place in death! Jesus became dirty with our sins, and died to bear the consequence of them.  And we were washed by his blood, cleansed from all unrighteousness so that we can stand before God and serve him with confidence.

Point 3 – Jesus’ gospel ministry: prayer

Before we leave this wonderful passage, we should go back over the beginning of the section which we’ve skipped over so far to find our third point.  We missed out a vital part of Jesus’ ministry – Jesus values prayer and so should we.  Jesus values prayer and so should we.  Let’s read from verse 35

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

This is a really insightful little paragraph.  Jesus, the Son of God, the one who has authority to heal the sick, cast out demons, raise people from the dead, calm storms, forgive sins… Jesus, the Son of God felt the need to pray.  To spend some real, dedicated time in prayer.

To put this paragraph in context – the chapter before, Jesus has had a very successful mission in the town of Capernaum.  People had been bringing all their sick and demon possessed friends and family, and Jesus had been healing them!

And then  immediately after he prays, Jesus heads out for more mission.

Given that Jesus as the son of God has had all eternity to talk with his Father, and there’s some urgent mission work to get on with at the time, you might expect Jesus to skip his prayer time.  But no.  Jesus takes some precious time out.

The prayer being sandwiched right in the middle of Jesus’ healing and preaching work suggests just how important it is to Jesus.  How his time with his Father is what fuels his ministry.  Jesus had to go and talk to his Father so he could then go out and keep helping, blessing and preaching.

How much more do we need to pray! We who are not the eternal son of God.  We who are so weak! We who have so many needs, so many things that need God’s attention.

And as we’ve seen today, we have things to pray to God which Jesus didn’t.  We have uncleanness, sins which we can confess to God, and he will certainly forgive us and cleanse us.  If you’re feeling guilty, unclean, far from God, ashamed – take it to God! Jesus has shown us today how compassionate God is.  If we humble ourselves and go and talk to God, we can find total cleansing, even of our consciences.  We can find forgiveness, freedom and joy.

And then there’s all the things we need to pray for – our friends, our family, our work, our ministry…

And then there’s the opportunity to just bask in God’s goodness.  To ponder his glory, his kindness, his compassion, his eternal infinite power, his creation, his sensitivity, his generosity – and to thank him for it in prayer.

As the great hymn ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ says “O what peace we often forfeit, o what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer”.

So today we’ve read that wonderful story of Jesus cleansing the leper and discovered Jesus’ compassion to the unclean, and his authority and power to cleanse him.  And we’ve remembered how Jesus directs that same compassion to us when we come to him with our spiritual uncleanness, and he has an even greater power of cleansing which he gained by taking our place on the cross.

Maybe you’ve never come to Jesus before.  Maybe you’re here today conscious of your uncleanness, of your shame and guilt.  Let me encourage you to come to Jesus.  He is compassionate.  He will not be put off by your uncleanness, no matter how awful your sin is.  If you throw yourself at his feet in prayer and ask for his cleansing, he will! He promises to forgive and to cleanse and to give new life to all who approach him humbly.

Maybe you’ve been a Christian for years but are feeling far from him today.  Maybe you haven’t prayed for a while.  Maybe there’s sin in your life you’re conscious of that’s making you feel dirty.  Let me encourage you to come to Jesus.  No matter how you’re feeling, he is compassionate.  He is loving.  He can help! He longs to help us. He longs to cleanse us.

 

              Message for Sunday Morning 4 July 2021   Speaker: John Woollam

                 Jonah’s Restoration

Reading:   Jonah 2 v10 – 3 v 10

Introduction.

The prophesy of Jonah is a little book in size, but large in content. The themes cover:

The Sovereignty of God, the waywardness of man’s heart, God’s persevering grace and His evangelistic heart to the nations.

Aim:

This morning we will take up these themes as presented to us in chapter 3 under the title:

Jonah’s restoration and recommissioning with a message of hope for the Ninevites –

with remarkable results!

1 Jonah’s restoration  “..the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time ..” 3 v 1.

The original commission came to Jonah in 1 v 2 – “..Go to Nineveh..” But Jonah refused! As a privileged member of God’s chosen race, the Jews, he balked at the idea of Gentiles receiving God’s mercy.

He paid the fare at Joppa to sail in the opposite direction 1 v 3 but he was to pay a much more serious spiritual cost by coming under God’s sovereign correcting hand. God sent a storm 1 v 4 which resulted in Jonah’s ejection into the sea 1 v 15. This was followed by his being swallowed up by a large fish 1 v 17.

It was while he was in the stomach of the great fish (see chapter 2), that Jonah discovered the waywardness of his heart. He realised, through the trauma of his experience, that the real departure did not take place at the ticket office at Joppa’s harbour, but in his own heart even before he fled from the privileges of the company and fellowship with the Lord as His covenant-child. (Note the dual reference to his departure from “the presence of the Lord” in 1 v 3.

  • Note Jonah’s contriteness throughout this prayer of chapter 2.
  • Note his acknowledgement of his Father’s meticulous superintendence of all that happened to him on the ship and afterwards: eg. 2 v 3 “all Your billows and Your waves passed over me.”
  • Note his confident appeal for mercy, based on the sacrifices made in the Temple at Jerusalem. 2 v 4, 7.

Compare: Hebrews 10 vs 11 – 12 and 19 – 22.

  • Note his determination to retrace his spiritual steps and to be in fellowship with his Lord as a pardoned servant 2 v 9.

Application: Is Jonah’s story our story? Is Jonah’s heart our heart?

Through the various providences of life does our God (Jonah’s God) know how ‘to bring us back, our fallen spirits to restore’? Yes, He does!

2 Jonah’s restoration – to bring a message of hope.

“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 3 v 4

This does not sound like a message of hope; it sounds like a message of judgement.

Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria and the Assyrians were noted for their brutality: they were a constant thorn in the side of Israel and Judah. They were pagan idolaters and were clearly without any fear of the true and living God. Judgement was therefore entirely appropriate for them, as it had been for Sodom and Gomorrah; as it would be for Babylon  

The message was very simple, clear and direct. God’s wrath was about to break out upon them within a very short time.

Our message today must be equally precise, telling and urgent. It must include God’s concern and indignation because of man’s rebellion: See Romans 1 v 18 and Jesus’ parables in Matthew 25, especially the one concerning the sheep and the goats (vs 31 – 46). We need to speak of ‘salvation’, not simply in terms of what it is for but what it is from!

But this message is also a message of hope. Compare the wording of Jonah’s commission in 1 v 2 “.. cry out against it (Nineveh)” with the wording of 3 v 2 “.. preach to it (Nineveh)”.

When Jonah was first asked to go to the Assyrian Capital it was to emphasise God’s controversy against them. On the second occasion, he was asked to preach a fuller message, not just of God’s anger against the City, but of the prospect of pardon and restoration, if its inhabitants would repent and return to Him 3 v 9. This possibility of mercy is implied by God’s reaction in verse 10.

Application: In the belly of the big fish Jonah was being prepared to take a fully-orbed message of judgement and of hope to the Ninevites; a message that would be deeply felt by the prophet, having personally experienced both chastisement and mercy from God through the fish. It matters to God not only that His gospel is proclaimed, but that we who are called to pass it on should be spiritually trained to do so!

3 Jonah’s restoration – to bring a message of hope with remarkable results.

“God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.” 3 v 10.

All the Ninevites from the oldest to the youngest repented of their defiance and unbelief and obtained favour from the Lord rather than the threatened destruction. They latched on to the words of hope in Jonah’s message and they ‘believed God’, ie. They entrusted themselves and their souls into the hands of Jonah’s God.

Compare:  Abraham’s response to the Lord Genesis 15 v 6.

What was it about this ‘evangelistic campaign’ in Nineveh which produced such amazing results?

  • Was it to do with the preacher who had now been restored to service?
  • Was it the fact that he was preaching God’s message in a plain, simple and direct manner?

Both of these factors can be taken into consideration as important elements in the process, BUT –

  • What made all the difference was the clear evidence of God’s presence in the communication of the message. When the Ninevites heard Jonah speak, it wasn’t Jonah that they heard, but a voice from heaven – God’s voice through His prophet, pointing to the promised Messiah, the One who also went through the depths, like Jonah, to rescue people from their sins, to bring them the hope of salvation. See Matthew 12 vs 38 – 41.

Application:

How much we need the powerful authentication of the gospel today in the minds and hearts of our friends and neighbours and people at large by the power of the Holy Spirit!

Do we not need to pray earnestly for ourselves and our preachers in the words of the Psalmist: Psalm 85 vs 4 – 7; and Habakkuk 3 v 2.

Conclusion:

We have considered the great themes of Jonah as they relate to chapter 3. They also relate equally to all the chapters of our life. Praise God that Jonah’s God is our God in Jesus Christ and He does not change Hebrews 13 v 8; and what He has begun in us, He will go on to complete, no matter how reluctant we are, and will make us more and more into His profitable servants! Philippians 1 v 6.

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Sunday morning 27th June 2021.  Speaker:  Derek Cleave     Jude 1-4 & 17-25

The two verses which conclude this little epistle contain words familiar to all of us. They form what is one of the best known benedictions used in the Christian church today.

It is a doxology in which we offer praise to God. The word doza means ‘praise’ and logos means ‘word’– therefore this is a word of praise and in particular a word of grateful praise to God for saving sinners. Doxologies are outbursts of praise as we contemplate the greatness of our salvation.

The emphasis on our salvation in this particular benediction is the great doctrine of Christian perseverance.

Our regeneration is important – our justification is important - our sanctification is important – our glorification is important. And what of the wonderful doctrines of conversion, or adoption, or reconciliation, or redemption or many other aspects of our salvation. But these all lose something of their value if in the end I have no guarantees.

Which of us would consider spending a large amount of money on something if we were being told by the seller that the item we are purchasing could break down tomorrow? A remark like that would make us think very seriously whether we wanted to make that kind of commitment. And Christianity is a commitment – life and soul to Jesus Christ.

Having given up all to be forgiven, having given up all to be rescued from hell, having given up all to receive the promise of heaven - then to be told that this deal comes without a guarantee?  To give myself up totally to Christ to be my Lord and Master knowing that he might not keep me?  There isn’t any guarantee?  That really makes it even more difficult - if not almost impossible to make this level of commitment. In effect there is no guarantee of heaven. Doesn’t that depreciate the value of the other aspects of salvation?

Can you therefore think of a more important element to our salvation than the fact that it comes with a guarantee – that we cannot lose it. This is what Jude is emphasising here.

I want to set out the reasons why I am convinced that we should believe this - and the repercussions of not believing it.

Let me ask a very basic question. Are you saved by grace or works? The answer of course is obvious. It’s by grace we have been saved, ‘through faith – and this not from ourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast’ Eph 2:8-9.  Notice ‘it is the gift of God.’ If any part of my salvation depends on me then it is ‘works’ – which directly contradicts what Paul is telling the Ephesians. Frankly if any part of my salvation depended on me then I wouldn’t be saved at all.

If the Lord can’t hold on to me, what hope is there?  If salvation isn’t God’s work, then I’m not going to get there.  If God doesn’t save me, I can’t save myself.  If he doesn’t sanctify me, I can’t sanctify myself.  And if he doesn’t glorify me, I can’t glorify myself.  I’m not good enough to save myself and I’m certainly not good enough to keep myself.  I will never be worthy of salvation. 

John MacArthur puts it powerfully in this way – ‘If you could lose your salvation, you would.  You understand that?  If you could, you would.  If it’s possible, it will happen.  It has to be.  If any part of my eternal salvation depends upon my power and ability and commitment and righteousness, I won’t get there.’ 

MacArthur is right. For the Christian there is a strange conundrum. The more mature you are as a Christian, the more spiritually minded you are, the more righteous you are, the more sanctified you are - the more wretched you know you are. The Apostle Paul knew that. Romans 7:24 - “What a wretched man I am” - that’s the statement of a very mature believer.

He says ‘I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature’ v18. He knows why that condition persists. ‘If I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it but it is sin living in me that does it’ v20.

‘In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members’ v22.

Thank God there is a continuing provision in Christ for wretched sinners.

None of this is to suggest that we have not been changed. There has been a remarkable turnaround. As John Newton said-

‘I am not what I ought to be

I am not what I want to be

I am not what I hope to be

But still I am not what I used to be

And by the grace of God I am what I am’

So as we mature we will sin less and feel worse, because with the decrease of sin comes an increase of holiness and with an increase of holiness comes a greater hatred of sin and so we sin less and hate it more. 

I still have unredeemed human flesh.  Sin is still in me.  I’m prone to sin, I’m prone to doubt.  I’m prone to unbelief.  I’m prone to rebellion.  And the longer I live the longer grows the list. How could I possibly keep my salvation?

And if I have to keep myself saved by anything that I do, I will live my whole life under a cloud of fear, real fear because I can’t do it. 

Spurgeon said, “No man can keep himself, he’ll surely fail. If left to ourselves, we’ll go to hell.  Only Jesus can save us from our sins.”

So you see that if you and I could lose our salvation we would!

Do you acknowledge how vital this doctrine of permanence or security is? Thank God that ‘he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ Phil 1:6.

So we turn to this doxology which closes out Jude’s letter.

Let me remind you of the contents of the epistle so far. The Lord’s half-brother writes to privileged believers ‘who have been called who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ’ (verse 1) to warn of ‘certain men...who have secretly slipped in among you’ (verse 4). He is identifying apostates in the church and urging the believers to engage in fighting these spiritual terrorists. ‘Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints’ (verse 3).

And as he continues his letter Jude gives us the history of apostates – even back to the angels who ‘did not keep their positions of authority.’ He characterizes all apostates and confirms that their judgement is sure. 

And after this long list running all the way down to verse 17, he says, “But dear friends.”  How are you going to defend yourself in a time of apostasy?  How are you going to protect yourself?  How you going to fight for the truth?  How you going to engage in the long war against the truth?

Firstly they are to ‘remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.’  You must not be surprised. Though you may be distressed to see and hear of false teaching in the church and for these first century believers so early in the history of the church - they must remember as we should, that this was prophesied.

Secondly they must remain faithful. ‘Build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit’ (verse 20). They must keep themselves ‘in God’s love’ as they anticipate the Lord’s return ‘to bring you to eternal life’ (verse 21).

Then they must reach out to those who doubt and even to those who are entrenched in their false beliefs – though there are dangers of corruption.

‘Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh’ (verses 22-23.

So this poses the question ‘How do we keep ourselves pure and out of danger whilst being in contact with those who could affect us?’ How do we make sure that we don’t lose OUR salvation?

The answer is found in this doxology. We offer the doxology ‘to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault...’

This whole book is about those who fell. The angels fell from their exalted position; the Israelites fell – the false teachers fell. Now I am called to reach out to those who have fallen. Is there not a danger that I might fall as well? Is my eternal salvation in some doubt if I put myself in that position?

So Jude ends with this wonderful assurance. Christ our Saviour is able to keep us from falling and to present us in glory.

Two points of application - he keeps us here and he takes us there!

1. HE KEEPS US HERE. He is ‘able to keep you from falling.’

Is he really able? Can he deliver? Listen to what Jesus told his disciples. John 6: 37-39 ‘All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive him away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me but raise them up at the last day’.

The Father gives to the Son and the Son keeps and then raises on the last day.

Verse 40 confirms this ‘My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.’ Again verse 44 ‘No one can come to me unless the Father draws him and I will raise him up on the last day.’

The question then is not about God’s willingness. It’s not about God’s purpose.  We know he is willing and we know he has purposed to save those he has chosen and given to the Son.  The only question is, is he able?  Jude answers the question, “To him who is able...” He is able. He is the only God our Saviour and if he doesn’t save us, we aren’t going to save ourselves.  Jesus promises ‘I shall lose none of all he has given me!’ v39.

He is able. The word ‘able’ comes from the Greek word for dynamite which is often used in relation to the power of God.

Three men were faced by an angry, powerful king who demanded that they worship an image of gold he had set up – or else be consigned to a burning furnace. Their response?  – ‘If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it and rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not we want you to know O king that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up’ Daniel 3: 17-18. He is able.

The writer to the Hebrews encourages us that ‘because Jesus lives forever...’he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them’ 7:25.

There’s no question about his ability, He is able.  It is dangerous to live in the apostate environment today. Apostasy is on the increase.  We’re exposed to more lies and more deception than any generation in history because of the media.  If you’re going to do any evangelism, you’re going to get close to somebody who is in an evil system.  And the question is...should we draw back in fear and not evangelize for fear that somehow we might get burned reaching to snatch somebody out of the fire?  Or we might get polluted by grabbing someone deep in filth?  If you’re a true believer, you are in no danger of fatal corruption - you are in no danger of damnation – because God is able.  Humanly speaking, the path to heaven is dangerous.  It’s filled with stumbling blocks.  It’s filled with temptations.  It’s filled with sins and iniquities and transgressions.  It’s filled with the enticements of Satan.  But in another sense, the path to heaven is absolutely safe - not because I’m able but because he’s able.  I’m weak, ignorant, disobedient, selfish, sinful, and rebellious, and every enemy there is waits to ambush me and you too. But we need have no fear.  We rest not in our own ability, we rest in his power. 

‘To him who is able to keep you’ keep”...phulasso in Greek. Phulasso is a military word, to guard or watch over.  He is able to guard us, he watches over us, he’s at his post, we are in safe custody while under assault, that’s what that word means. 

And he is able to “keep us from (apostates) falling’ - apostasy.  It’s the only place in the Bible where that word is used.  He keeps us from apostasy.  You can’t fall away because he keeps you from becoming an apostate.

How does he do it?  By the gift of a permanent faith and the indwelling Holy Spirit.  He hangs on to us.  We know this because of so many testimonies in Scripture.  Listen again to Jesus in the tenth chapter of John’s gospel and verse 28.  “I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.’ Then he adds ‘My Father who has given them to me is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand” v29. Jesus says – ‘I won’t let go. The Father won’t let go. And no one is sufficiently powerful to force us to release anyone.’ 

That’s why Philippians 1:6 says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  He who started it will finish it.  Apostate angels fell.  Apostates in Israel fell.  Apostates in Sodom and Gomorrah fell.  Apostates in the church fell.  But true believers are kept.  Our Lord has the will and he has the power to keep us. He keeps us here.

2. HE TAKES US THERE.

‘He is able... to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.’

One day we will stand in glory. ‘Standing’ is the contrast to ‘falling.’ Being kept has to do with earth – standing has to do with heaven.

What remarkable grace. To stand ‘before his glorious presence.’ Whenever we read of those who were brought into the presence of God they were either terrified or traumatised.

Isaiah pronounces a curse on himself.  Ezekiel falls over like a dead person.  Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration fall over in a semi-coma. John in the book of Revelation sees the vision of Christ and he’s like a dead person.  Whenever anybody is in the presence of God in Scripture, it is a frightening experience because they know they’re sinful.

No sinner stands in the presence of God. The Revelation makes it clear that ‘nothing impure will ever enter (the holy city) nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful’ 21:27.

What is the believer going to say? I have kept myself saved and I deserve to stand in the presence of God! Not at all!

He is ‘able to ...present (us) before his glorious presence’ and notice that it is ‘without fault’ and instead of fear it’s ‘with great joy.’

We are presented as without fault i.e. blameless. Right now we are not blameless, though we are treated as if we were blameless because Christ bore our sins and we’ve been given his righteousness.  God treats Christ on the cross as if he lived our lives so he can treat us as if we lived his.  But we are not now worthy to enter into heaven.  That’s why we have to be transformed; we have to lose this body of flesh and receive a new body to go into God’s presence.  But that will happen.  We will not be there merely as survivors.  We will not just be free from guilt and sin, we will be holy...we will be blameless...we will be faultless. We will not only not be capable of doing evil; we will be only capable of doing right. 

And instead of fear and trauma and panic and fainting, we’ll be overwhelmed with joy...joy forever.

Listen to what Spurgeon wrote.

 “And when I heard it said that the Lord would keep His people right to the end, when I heard it said that Christ said, ‘My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand.’  When I heard that said, I must confess...says Spurgeon...that the doctrine of the final preservation of the saints was the bait that my soul could not resist.  It was a sort of life insurance, an insurance of my character, an insurance of my soul, an insurance of my eternal destiny.  I knew I couldn’t keep myself but if Christ promised to keep me, then I would be safe forever and I longed and I prayed to find Christ because I knew that if I found Him, He would not give me a temporary salvation as some preach.  But eternal life which could never be lost, the living and incorruptible seed which lives and abides forever, for no one and nothing could ever separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

‘The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose

He will not, he will not desert it its foes

That soul though all hell should endeavour to shake

He’ll never, no never, no never forsake.’

‘To the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.’

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 Morning Service. 13th June 2021    Speaker: Wayne O’Leary

Proverbs 5v1-23   How to Stay out of Trouble 

Introduction – Building a Context for this passage:

Introduction & Background Material to Proverbs & Torah/Law -

Relationship of the text to the text – Torah – Proverbs - NT

Relationship of Gods people to the Biblical text – “Sit with me…”

Torah is a relationship word – Law through Grace – imagery behind it… Father/Son

The Importance and explanation of the Phylactery:

Post Egypt  Ex 13v9,16  Deut 6v4-9   Ex 20: Thou shalt not have any gods before me, Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness – whether word of lifestyle, thou shalt not covet your neighbours wife……

My whole life is guided by Torah – Both in Thought and Action…

If I am left handed I wrap the phylactery on my right hand – so my action hand is guided and still active NOT theoretical…

The Importance and Explanation of the Man’s Kippah

The relationship of God’s people with Him and the text

Introduction & Context for our Generation:

1962 – 1963 USA Bans Prayer & Lords Prayer

No public schools shall have prayer – It violates the first amendment

Before 1962 the majority of Public schools had prayer times

1963 Lords prayer and name of Jesus banned from Public schools

Rejection of both God and the Biblical text.

The teens in the class rooms in 1962-3 are now the law makers and policy makers in USA…

There is a clear relationship between Torah and Lords prayer and Proverbs!

Lords prayer = 10 Commandments

Lords Prayer = Word/Torah become flesh

Proverbs = wise council on the 10 commandments

Rejection of Lords Prayer – Proverbs – Law/Torah = Rejection of God

Rejection of God brings 5 areas of Disorder to a Nation:

Sexual Disorder

Economic Disorder

Social Disorder

Spiritual Disorder

Family Disorder.

This chapter in the book of Proverbs actually covers all five areas of collapse in a Person and nation!

5v1 – My son.. Person/Individual

5v7 Now then My sons… Nation/Society

Never say “I am ok, this passage does not apply to me..”

It would be nicer to avoid this passage!

The Bible is very realistic about issues

Books in the world V Books in the Bible

The Bible demands a response from you – its written that way..

Its not the passages I don’t understand that I have a problem with….!

Proverbs 5 deals with THREE issues that protect the individual (son) and the Nation (sons)

  1. WISDOM – WISE OR DISTORTED
  2. WORDS – ACTIVE OR PASSIVE
  3. WELLS – PROTECTED OR POISEND

 

  1. WISDOM – Wise or Distorted - v1-6

Compare Exodus 20 – You shalt not commit Adultery nor covet your neighbours wife, or bare false witness..

Now see what happens when you do!!!!

Wise words – Incline ear – attentive – Animals lives depend on the inclining of an ear to hear!

Immorality – anything that is an offence to God

Description: Lips – Honey = sweet

                     Smoother than oil = Attractive    = DANGER SIGN

Samson – overwhelmed with Delilah = Her Hips, Her Lips, Her finger tips….

BUT (v4) In the end… Bitter as wormwood – a strong sign of bitterness in life

Two graphic opposing contrasts

Other images:

SWORD - Sharp – two edge sword – fatal – hurts the person and can hurt the attacker –

Two edge sword – no one gets away without harm

FEET - Go down – to death – she will take you the opposite direction to God!!

When Jonah ran from God it was down to Joppa, down to the sea, down into the boat…

Lit - Her feet will kill you

STEPS – Place of the dead – Sheol – Place of Darkness….

Jews understand this to be the place of dead people – where they go..

She will take you to the grave AND beyond

2 Peter 2 uses strong language and speaks of it as a reality

Give attention to my wisdom –

  1. WORDS – Active OR Passive (v7-14)

Now then my SONS – Do not depart from the WORDS of my mouth

Keep your way from her

Don’t go near to her door

= If you see her coming – walk away

= Don’t visit her house (door)

List of what will happen:

Loose possessions

Loose Strength

Loose Health

Loose Dignity, respect

Loose friends

Sickness caused for many:

Sexual diseases are both difficult and shameful for those who get them:

Gonorrhea,  Syphilis, Chlamydia, Herpes, Aids etc…. all cause serious issues and damage others too.

Unwanted pregnancies – i.e. David & Bathsheba

*Emotional bonding

You groan in the end when your flesh and your body are consumed

COSTS TO UK – 2012 £100 BILLION Annually

“Sexual freedom and relationship breakdown” cost Britain £100 billion annually

January 29, 2012 Written by Dr Peter Saunders Uncategorized

Dr Peter Saunders was, until December 2018, the Chief Executive of CMF. Prior to that he was a general surgeon in New Zealand, Kenya and the UK. He is now the CEO of the International Christian Medical and Dental Association (ICMDA), a global movement uniting national Christian medical and dental organisations in over 60 countries,

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The costs of sexual freedom and relationship breakdown to the taxpayer and wider economy total some £100 billion annually; about twice as much as alcohol abuse, smoking and obesity combined.

The Bible does not hide the fact that sex is pleasurable but also makes it clear that out of Gods way its destructive..

Son/Sons listen to me…..

  1. WATER – Healthy OR Poisoned  (v 15-23)

Drink form your own Cistern, And Fresh water from your own well” (v15)

 

Song of Song – 4.15 – You are a garden spring – A well of Fresh water…”

Keeping Purity in behaviour and Relationships.

This is an issue that is not limited to time past!

A Good well in Eastern times was protected with your life. It was the most valuable possession. Many tribal conflicts arose in the OT over wells. Even today wells are a source of both blessing and contention. 

See Genesis 26v18ff about Isaacs wells.

A well was protected by Tribal people – to protect the source

They knew it was good

They new it was trustworthy

They new you had to go deep, dig deep to get the best, cleanest water

It was hard work to dig a well, and keep it, and protect it.

You did not allow just anyone to come and take of it

Jesus and the women at the well..

Remember Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski

Monika Lewinski was unknown! Before their immoral behaviour

Was it good for you Bill?

His wife? His daughter?

“They wont know” – the whole world knows!

Remember what Jesus said – about adultery in the heart – Matthew 5.28

Just looking…

David and Bathsheba

Samson and Delilah

Solomon and his pagan wives

Billy Graham – NO!!!!

The wife is seen as a blessed fountain

To satisfy and refresh - She is a well – protect her and yourself

Be satisfied with what God gives you – every area of your life !

Some young people – we have all been young – ask the question  ”how far should I go..?”

Wrong question!!!  Would you say that about a cliff edge? How far shall I go???

Proverbs emphasise is on Joy and danger..

The would focuses only on pleasure – not personal responsibility and danger.

Remember the Golfer Tiger Woods..

Pollute a well and the whole community will get sick!

There is hope for all of us..

No one is innocent from offending God or others..

Thoughts and Actions are emphasised by Jesus

Jimmy Carter – Ex President USA:

“I have looked at a lot of women with lust, I have committed adultery in my heart many times. God knows about this. And will forgive me…”

Psalm 51v1012

Create in me a clean heart, O God

And renew a right Spirit in me/Steadfast Spirit

Do not cast me away from your presence, And do not take your Holy Spirit form me

Restore to me, the Joy of your salvation, And sustain me with a willing Spirit

We need the Breath of God – like Adam in the Garden of Eden!

How do I stay out of trouble?

Wisdom

Words

Wells

Remember this:

Rejection of God brings 5 areas of Disorder to a Nation:

Sexual Disorder

Economic Disorder

Social Disorder

Spiritual Disorder

Family Disorder.

The work of Christ and the Gospel brings hope to a person/Nation

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SUNDAY 6 JUNE 2021 Speaker: Clarence Spracklen

LESSONS FROM A LOVING AND WISE FATHER

Reading:          Proverbs 4

INTRODUCTION

The influence of a father is one that is irreplaceable.  The greatest tragedy in the history of our nation is the ever-growing number of absentee fathers.  Sadly, there are those in our nation that are trying to destroy the very fabric of our society, the home as God has designed. Take the home away, and you destroy the nation.  Take the father away, and you destroy the home.

Dads, we need to take seriously are calling to be Godly leaders in our home.  The future of our children depends upon us.

  1. Get Wisdom (Verses 1-9)

Here the father encourages his children to get wisdom.  Some children don’t like to hear Dad say, “Now back when I was a boy…” They will say Dad “You are out of date; it is different today” but they might learn a lot if they paid attention and listened.  Wisdom comes from listening. (Jesus at the temple as a child – Luke 2:46-47 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and questions.”

The father learned wisdom from his father and now he’s passing it on to the next generation.  It is God’s primary way for His truth to be preserved and invested from generation to generation Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

The key to having wisdom needed to live in this world is found in listening. Dads, teach your children to listen. Teach them to think through things and ponder and meditate.  Teach them to listen to God. You may say that your children won’t listen to you. They are rebellious and will not do anything you say. Dad, are you listening? Remember we teach by example.  Our actions speak louder than words.  Are you listening to your children? Do you take time to listen to what they have to say? Do you seriously and honestly listen to their concerns and their fears?

Are we to busy?

scoffing at that heritage and abandoning it for the way of the world.

Verses 10-13

But wisdom will also save you.  Wisdom gives life. The beginning of such wisdom is the fear of the Lord.  Apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ, there is no wisdom.  It is impossible to know how to live without knowing the giver of life in a real and personal way.

Dads, teach your children by example. Fear God. Make your relationship with Jesus the top priority of your life. A father who does not know Jesus can teach his children how to do lots of things, but he will never be able to teach them how to truly live.

  1.  Avoid what is evil (Verses 14-19)

Once again, we are given two options for how to live – the way of the foolish or the way of the wise.

The Teacher is contrasting the two paths, wisdom and folly. He calls his son to listen and hold on to instruction (10-11,13).This isn’t any instruction but instruction based on God’s Word. We are to study it, all of God’s Word the Bible today. As parents and grandparents, we to need to ensure that we study bible daily if we are going to be an example to our children.

We should be their role model by how we live and treat others.

Show your children the kind of friends they should have by being a true friend to others. Teach them to be careful who their friends are and teach them by example the kind of friends they should have.

  1. Obeying God’s Will (v 20-27)

V 20-23 Guard your heart

How do we guard our hearts? -

  1. Be careful to what you hear. (ear)
  2. Be careful to what you see (eyesight)

What we see and hear affects how we think and how we live.  We are to teach the things that are pure and holy and right.  It is only God’s Word that we can keep our hearts pure.

V 24 Guard you mouth.

All through Scripture we are given warnings to be careful with the words we say (mouth). Our words can bring both life and death.  They can encourage and strengthen life or they can destroy a life.

We can speak gossip or lies and destroy or we can speak grace, truth, and encouragement.

Who can you speak and encouraging word to today?  Who can you tell “You know I really appreciate this about you?

  1. Stay focused (v 25-27)

Finally let us stay focused. 

We are encouraged to keep our eyes fixed straight ahead. To not look left or to the right, but to stay focused.

There are many distractions along the way in our world today.  Many things that can pull us away from what is right and good. We must keep our eyes focused on Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith.

As parents we need to strive to be just like Jesus, so that our children will have a good example to follow. 

In concluding, there are many lessons that as parents we can teach our children.  We have looked at just a few.  My encouragement to all of us is, to begin with a personal relationship with Jesus.  The most important thing of all is to believe on the Lord Jesus as one’s personal Saviour and to live like Him.

Such a person can be the greatest dad or mum of all.

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 30 May 2021  Speaker: Crawford Telfer     The Holy Spirit – Sent at Pentecost

Rivers of Living Water  John 7:37-39

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them."

By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

WE’VE BEEN LET OUT!                                                                                                                                              I wonder how many of us, these past two weeks, feel as though we’ve have been let out of prison – even if we still have to wear these masks and keep our distance – but hopefully not for much longer.  Last week we had our first home group actually in a house, just 5 of us – but it was great.

SEPARATION                                                                                                                                         One of the toughest aspects of this pandemic over the past year has got to be the enforced separation from friends and family. To be deprived of the caring touch, the brotherly hug, the friendly handshake, the helping hand, the loving kiss, and playing with the grandchildren, is really hard to bear. Zoom and Skype and WhatsApp have been a great blessing and are definitely better than the alternative – but they’re not a patch on the real thing.

JESUS FORECAST SEPARATION

Jesus spoke many times to his disciples about his death and resurrection and then his departure from the planet – and separation of the most painful kind.                                           

I guess at first they thought – ‘oh that’s not going to happen just yet – he’s only been us with a short time’ – and I guess they put it to the back of their minds – no need to worry just yet – plenty of time.

But then as he kept reminding them, they’d realise – ‘oh dear this is going to happen much sooner than we thought!’       And you can imagine what went through their mind – ‘He’s going to leave us – this man we’ve walked and talked and eaten with, who has shown us what God is like, who has done amazing, miraculous things. This man we’ve come to depend on so much and who has loved us as no other, and whom we have come to love and know for sure is the Messiah. He’s going away – how will we cope?‘   What desolation they must have felt, what forsakenness, what isolation.

THE HELPER IS COMING      

  But then Jesus tells them this – recorded in John 14:16-18  "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

Now I don’t suppose the disciples at that time really understood what He was talking about.  

So what was he talking about?

A SIGNIFICANT EVENT

He was taking about an event which had been forecast centuries earlier, an event which after the death and resurrection of Jesus is the most significant event in the history of the church - and sadly today is often forgotten or neglected.  

Jesus was talking about a seismic event which was soon to be fulfilled – as prophesied by Joel in 2:28-29  "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”  

WHY SO SIGNIFICANT?          

Now you may ask, why was this so significant? Hasn’t the Holy Spirit always been present on the earth?      Yes of course He has - going right back to the very act of creation itself!  Genesis 1:2 tells us: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

Since the beginning of time the Spirit of God has been at work in many ways:

  1. He reveals the Messiah to the world,
  2. He brings people to the new birth.  
  3. He empowered those in the OT, whom God had called people to carry out his purposes. 

THE SPIRIT ‘CAME UPON’ PEOPLE

There are many accounts of the Spirit ‘coming upon’, ‘resting upon, even ‘rushing upon’ those God had chosen for specific tasks.      Here’s a few examples: Isaiah: The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, he said, because the LORD has anointed me (by His Spirit) to proclaim good news to the poor.  And you’ll remember Jesus quoted this about himself in the synagogue in Nazareth.    

Then there’s King David, when he was anointed as a young shepherd lad by Samuel, we are told ‘the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him’.   Then there are the Judges – most famous was Gideon, and we read how the ‘Spirit came on Gideon’.

The thing to note is the Holy Spirit didn’t come upon everyone – only a chosen few and mainly prophets, priests, judges and kings. 

ALL CHANGE!

But all that was to change on the day of Pentecost, a day which heralded the beginning of a new era and the birth of the church. 

No longer would it be a chosen few who’d experience the power of the Spirit, but men and women of all classes, all ages, all races and all nations.                                                   

THE MOST SIGNIFICANT THING

And here’s the really significant thing: No longer would the Spirit just be ‘with’ or ‘upon’ them.    Now he would also be ‘IN’ them.

Jesus described it brilliantly in our text -  John 7:38-39 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

DO YOU SEE THE DIFFERENCE?    

  Do you notice the difference? This was no longer the Spirit resting upon, or being ‘with’, but something much more wonderful: the Spirit being ‘within’.                                                                    John described it more fully in John 4:14 where Jesus is talking to the woman at the well about how the water from the well would leave her thirsty, but the water He gave would satisfy that thirst for ever, so that she need never be thirsty again. He tells her: “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

  THE CORE OF CHRISTIANITY

This is at the very core of Christianity – Christ, our Lord and Saviour coming to live, NOT with or beside us as some invisible external presence, but within us IN our hearts by his Spirit.                        As Paul says in Galatians 2:20   “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me”.

A MOMENTOUS EVENT                                                                                                                                       So we come to this momentous event, forecast by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:11  ‘ . . .after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’

This event would give birth to a new family, a new movement which would increase and spread throughout the whole world – it would come in as many shapes and sizes as there are varieties of people! And they would also meet in a huge variety of buildings, from a home on a council estate to a mud hut in the middle of the rain forest, from ancient churches in pretty villages to huge auditoriums that seat thousands. 

The one thing they’d all have in common and which would bind them together with bonds far stronger than flesh and blood, would be the Spirit of God within them. We know it as ‘Church’.

THE GREAT DAY ARRIVES                                                                                                                   Let’s remind ourselves of what happened on that momentous morning, from Acts 2:1-4  When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

. . .and we know what happened next!

Now filled with the Holy Spirit and now with great boldness and Peter and the disciples came out of hiding and preached the gospel and 3,000 were saved in one day. And from that point on they began to really understand all the things Jesus taught them. 

CONTROVERSIAL SUBJECT

Now this filling, this ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’ has been a controversial subject in past years – even causing division within churches . . . and it may be you’ve heard about this and been put off.

So I want to clarify one or two misunderstandings which have lead to confusion and hurt and has even damaged the faith of many genuine Christians who love the Lord.

The first one: You may have heard it said that:

‘you’re not a real Christian unless you’ve

been baptized, or filled, with the Holy Spirit’.

If that is so then the OT saints such as  Abraham, Jeremiah, Moses, King David and all the prophets and all the judges, in fact all of God’s people, could not have been true believers because none of them had that experience.  

Neither could the disciples in the NT, at least not until Pentecost.  But we know that’s not true – just look at Peter  and the great confession of faith he made about Jesus:

‘you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’

At that time he and the other disciples had not yet been filled with the Spirit, BUT the Spirit had been clearly at work, bringing them to the new birth – which is quite a separate experience from being FILLED with the Spirit.

‘No-one can become a Christian without the

Holy Spirit being at work in their lives.’

ANOTHER ERROR

Another error, is the awful idea that those who have had this experience of the ‘filling of the Spirit’ are somehow superior to Christians who haven’t. They don’t understand that the Spirit is not given as a reward for being especially holy or for having reached a certain level of maturity or commitment. 

EXPERIENCE IN CORINTH

Many in the church in Corinth HAD been baptized in the Holy Spirit, yet there were problems related to that which Paul had to sort out. So he taught them how to handle the gifts, the importance of having order in their services and so on. They certainly were NOT superior to other fellowships.

There was a lack of love and concern for their poorer brethren, there was gross immorality, divisiveness, factions and Paul had to be stern with them, and then he reminds them of what was most important – and we have that beautiful Chapter 13 on love.

YET ANOTHER ERROR

One more misunderstanding is that every Christian is filled with the Spirit automatically at conversion. The truth is sometimes you are filled and sometimes you aren’t but whenever it does happen you ARE conscious of it.

This is really important so let’s take a look at a passage which clarifies this: Acts 19:1-6  While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"

 They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied. Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

SOMETHING LACKING

So here’s Paul, meeting some followers of Jesus, but there’s something about them that makes him ask a question – does he sense there’s something lacking that should have been there? He already has a fair idea of what it probably is – so he asks ‘did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’  And the answer they give reveals the problem. They’d had inadequate teaching – to the extent that they don’t even know there is a Holy Spirit and so their experience of Christ in their lives is virtually zilch.

PAUL EXPlAINS FULLY

So we can reasonably assume Paul then explains the way of salvation more clearly, so that they now understand, and fully believe and are ready for water baptism in the name of Jesus,  identifying with his death and resurrection.

And we think – good they’re now fully fledged, baptized believers in Jesus, all done and dusted, God bless you dear brethren, keep the faith and good-bye.

IS THAT IT?

And for many Christians today, that’s where they’re at. They’ve been converted, believing in Jesus, utterly dedicated to following Him, faithful in serving him, BUT there’s that sneeking sense that their experience of being a Christian isn’t perhaps what they had expected or hoped.

If they’re honest, that spring of living water doesn’t seem to be springing up very much. ‘The Christian life, is more endured than enjoyed’.  And the things of God, it seems as though they’re from another world. 

And inside they’re asking ‘IS THAT IT?’   And of course the answer is NO that’s not it – there is more. Paul hasn’t finished with these disciples – there’s one more thing that needs to happen. So he lays hands on them, and the Holy Spirit fills them, and the evidence that he has, comes out of their mouths as they begin speaking in tongues and prophesying.

IT’S NOT AUTOMATIC

These disciples weren’t filled with the Spirit automatically when they believed. It was something God did when Paul laid his hands on them.   

Also it was clear to everyone that something had happened – there was evidence which everyone heard.

The same thing happened in Acts 8 – Philip and Peter and John were preaching in Samaria, and among the new converts was a magician called Simon. Now when Peter and John laid hands on the converts so that they were filled with the Holy Spirit, something clearly happened – and Simon saw it, and wanted to buy whatever power it was that very evidently affected them.

A DISTINCT EVENT

This ‘receiving the Spirit’ was a distinct event, there was tangible evidence.

Remember we’re NOT talking about salvation here, but we are talking about something which God wants to give every believer, and what for many today is missing - largely because it isn’t preached, and the church has suffered as a result.

The power is not there, the fire is burning low, the joy has evaporated and in its place has come dependence upon technique, on professionalism and talent, on man’s efforts to do what only God can do. Please don’t take my word for it – check it out for yourselves in your own Bibles.    

MY TESTIMONY

I became a Christian when I was 17, and learned about the Holy Spirit from others in the fellowship. They had received their ‘baptism’ and as they talked about it I knew I really wanted that too.  I felt I needed it. And so I prayed and read all the books and had friends pray and lay hands on me, not just once but a number of times - but it never happened. And then about 2 years after my conversion, one Sunday night I was with some friends in the village where I grew up, and they decided to pray and lay their hands on me and this time something did happen.

I became very conscious of God’s love for me – more than I ever had before, and as they prayed I cried and began to softly repeat a foreign sounding word. I never really thought anything of it, I was sure I’d just made it up.

But some time later I came across that word in my Bible – it was maran-atha – and beside it was the translation - it was actually two Syriac words which mean, ‘The Lord is coming’.  I was shocked and excited. There was the evidence – two words spoken in tongues.

TONGUES NOT ONLY EVIDENCE

I just need to interject here to say the Bible does NOT teach that speaking in tongues is the only evidence of being filled with the  Spirit as some have taught. 

BUT, it does teach in 1 Cor. 12:7

‘to each one the manifestation of the Spirit

is given for the common good’.

And then it goes on to list the many gifts and activities of the Spirit which are distributed throughout the body of Christ for building it up and for mission.

WHAT’S DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

So what difference does it make when Jesus baptizes, or fills us with the Holy Spirit? Well the transformation in the lives of the disciples on the day of Pentecost gives us a terrific clue!

Here were those followers of Jesus who’d been hiding away in an upper room for fear of the Jews, now, newly filled with the Spirit their fear has gone and they’re filled with boldness and power to proclaim Jesus.  Peter preached fearlessly because the Spirit within had given him this tremendous assurance of God’s presence, of the fact of Christ’s resurrection, and of his love and forgiveness and of his eternal destination. 

ASSURANCE - GREATEST BLESSING

I think, from my own experience assurance is one of the biggest blessings. Jesus is no longer someone you know ABOUT, but someone who is IN your heart.

You have an assurance in your heart of his love for you.  

And that consciousness of his love casts out the fear, it gives you a boldness to witness, to share your faith. It also gives you a sense of security, that you’re in God’s hands,  that nothing can separate you from His love. 

There’s a lot more could be said but we don’t have the time.

INVITATION TO GOD’S PEOPLE

Our text for today began with the invitation –

‘let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink’.

I think we assume this is primarily an invitation for the unconverted. But Jesus was speaking to the people of God who worshipped every sabbath in their synagogues, and who had cime from far and wide to Jerusalem for 8 days of religious festivities. 

His invitation was then, and is today to ‘anyone’.  No-one is excluded – those of faith and those of no faith or other faiths. 

THERE IS ONLY ONE CONDITION . . .

. . . that they are THIRSTY.  Thirsty for God, thirsty for more of Jesus, to know him better, to love him more. They are the ones who will be filled with rivers of living water – the Spirit.

They will be filled to overflowing  bringing refreshment, life, the very presence of God into their families, communities and fellowships.    

THE BIG QUESTION

And here is the question: Are you thirsty? Are you thirsty enough that you will seek God and keep on seeking him for this filling, this baptism in the Holy Spirit, that is clearly promised in the scriptures to everyone who believes.

And if you don’t have this thirst – this thirst which paradoxically is the most satisfying thirst we can experience - are you willing to ask the Lord who alone gives us this thirst ?

How often I have to do this – when I’m dry, distracted by the lure of other things, when my love has grown cold,  and He has always answered – the thirst has returned and the rivers of living water start flowing freely again.

Prayer

Lord Jesus when you went back home to heaven you gave the disciples something far better than your physical presence – you came and lived in them through your Spirit. Thank you Lord that their experience can be ours too. Not just once, but every day. May you fill us and empower us to bring glory to your name, knowing that it’s not by might or by power but by your Spirit.   AMEN

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Proverbs 3     Speaker:  Peter Atwill.                            - Sunday 16th May 2021  

This chapter contains wise counsel from a Father to his Son. Twentyone times throughout Proverbs we find "My Son".  Follow Gods counsel.

When we have a particular portion of scripture it's always wise to look at what's gone before and what follows:- chap 2v8 - God protects our path.  Chap 3v6 - God directs our path.  Chap 4v18 - God perfects our path.

Having just re-read Pilgrims Progress I would emphasise the need to keep on the path through which God will lead us. How are we to do this?  It's all here in the first eighteen verses of Proverbs 3

Vs 1-4  Learn Gods word. Keep focus.                                                                                                                                                                                             Vs 5-8 Obey Gods will. Give all attention.                                                                                                                                                                                 Vs9-10.  Use Gods wealth, First fruits. All you have.  Leviticus 23. 1 Corinthians 15 vs20  Beware of the " Bigger Barn syndrome”.

Vs11-12.  Heed Gods warning. Law v Love.   Chastening is not punishment.

Vs13-18 Seek Gods wisdom.    Be active as you search for knowledge and wisdom.  Prov 9 v10  gives us the origin of wisdom and knowledge. What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge.  Anyone through study and education can gain knowledge but wisdom comes from Gdod.  Knowledge deals with facts. Wisdom reveals the truth. Knowledge tells us why things happen. Wisdom tells us why it happened.  Knowledge pulls things apart. Wisdom brings things together. Knowledge can make a living. Wisdom can make a life.  Knowledge looks at prices. Wisdom shows us values. Knowledge shows part of life. Wisdom reveals all of life eternal. Knowledge studies the world. Wisdom reveals the next world.

How then can we gain Gods wisdom?  

Learn Gods word.  Obey Gods will.   Use Gods wealth.  Heed Gods warnings.  Seek Gods wisdom.   God opened heaven to say:- " This is my beloved Son, listen to him!"  

Jesus said " I am the way the truth and the life no-one comes to the Father except through me.

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9th May 2021   Speaker: Peter Cresswell

Proverbs Ch 1  Wisdom     

Practical skills for living well and long in God’s good world

 God’s Wish for you. vs 1-6

How?      Exodus 35 v 31 – 35 the master craftsman completes a masterpiece, the picture with a lesson. So what is wisdom?

Wisdom for discernment – skilful mastery of life –Mental Health!  Discipline (instruction) –self-control for successful living –temper, passions, appetite, tongue etc.  

 Understanding – insight, ability to make right choices, sound decisions. 

  Instruction –produces righteousness, justice, equity –living well in the community.                                                                                 Prudence – discretion, foresight, open to correction and right persuasion

  Competence – how to apply these ‘tools of the trade’ to daily life

What God wants to give you the tools and for you to make a masterpiece–   a happy,  a successful  life!

God’s way for you v 7

You are God’s creation in His ordered created world, a New Creation to make a difference in the now disorderly world – chosen for the task!    The fear of God is the key to a close walk with the Lord.   Reverence and awe; loyalty and loving dependence                      “can two walk together unless they are agreed” Amos 3:3  

  Agreeing with God , that is how the new life begins and flourishes.

  The essence of sin, of the fool, is disagreeing with God . Teachability –“hear,listen,receive,increase,value,don’t neglect,don’t forsake” cultivate a sense of His presence, it is His world.   What comfort to know and realise you are on His side and He yours.

The world may call us “losers”. Truth is, it’s the winning side, already won!

God’s warning for you v 10-19

In God’s eyes, we are living where foolishness and fools abound, ‘tho they often profess to be wise. Be wise to their enticements

Because God’s enemy is ours too, beware of the enticing business. Its determined work is to separate you from Jesus, sow seeds of disagreement. v11 “why don’t you” – come with us there are pleasures & treasures v13 “why can’t you…”have the fun we’re having – easy ways too”    v14 “why aren’t you one of us –why be different an odd one out”   v15 – 19 don’t go down that road, what the world values is fake. Its  “pleasures” don’t last, its treasures don’t produce what God can give freely. What did the Lord call the rich man who lived for “eat drink and be merry”.

God’s amazing condescension –v 20-33

Wisdom – comes down to earth and takes on flesh and calls out, wisdom personified (see ch 8). Who can this be? He is soon to be revealed!

It is a matter of life and death that is why the Lord comes

Where does she call? v20,21 wherever the people are “ho everyone”   

  Who does she call – “the simple” – careless, gullible, ignorant,  The “ scorners” – arrogant, self-opiniated,                                                 The “fools” –“there is no God” those who live life  as if there were no God.

  How does she call, urgently, vociferously, passionately, reasoning etc “Turn” v 23 be sure that help is at hand to change your life

 So “Choose Life why choose death?”  “How long do you have?” Is the plea, what kind of fool chooses death?

The Rejection, v 24-33 solemn words. Sudden,   Overwhelming,   Too late,   brought it on yourself, only got yourself to blame. Hear and heed the voice of Jesus.

 

Luke 1:46-55. Mary’s prayer       Sunday 2nd  May 2021  Speaker:    Mike Adams

Introduction

Did you think Christmas had come already when you heard the reading? These verses contain Mary’s well-known response to God following the confirmation that she would be the mother of the coming Saviour/Messiah. Her initial response to the angel Gabriel who visited her was one of submission/acceptance. She has now taken the hint from Gabriel to visit her older relative Elizabeth who was now pregnant with John the Baptist. Elizabeth’s pregnancy a surprise gift from God as she was elderly and barren but Mary’s is in a different category and Elizabeth is inspired (verse 41) to recognise and confirm it. Mary’s baby is Elizabeth’s ‘Lord’ (verse 43) and she shares in the humble joy of the meeting. The following verses are Mary’s response in the form of a poem or song. Known to the Christian church as ‘The Magnificat’ from the first word of the Latin setting. A frequent component of liturgical worship (e.g. the Anglican prayer book evening service). Often sung – one of a small number of New Testament ‘songs’. Borrows heavily from various Old Testament passages including various Psalms and Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.

1. Praise (verses 46-49)

‘Magnifying’ – a good translation. ‘Glorifies’ in some versions but could you explain what that means? We magnify something to make it appear bigger. So Mary has/wants a bigger view of God and wants Elizabeth to see it too. A supremely wonderful thing that God has done for her. Realises that generations to come will see that she has received a great blessing. It’s all about God. He is her Saviour; she is a humble servant; he has done great things. Amazed and thankful that God should be working through her. In one sense, a difficult thing; likely that Joseph doubted her faithfulness/morality to begin with and others may well have sneered in disbelief and disgust. But she knew this was immense – a turning point in history (see verses 32-33). All about God and the coming King. She would have been horrified that anyone would think to magnify her – God is the source of all blessings for her and for us all.

2. Pattern (verses 50-53)

Mary sees a pattern here in what God is doing. What He is doing through here is typical of how He has acted through history. He shows mercy to those who fear Him (v.50) – note from generation to generation; raises up the humble (v.52) and fills the hungry (v.53). By contrast, He scatters the proud (v.51), brings down the mighty (v.52) and bankrupts the rich (v.53). A great bible theme and perhaps the dominant idea in her song. A major theme of Proverbs in its description of real wisdom: Prov 8:13; 11:2; 15:25; 16:5, 18-19; 21:4; 29:23. As James and Peter would later write: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Jas 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).

(a) Many biblical examples of how God deals with the proud. Examples include: Nabal (1 Sam. 25:11); Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:28-37); Pharisees (e.g. Luke 18:9-14)

(b) Why does God oppose the proud in this way? Essentially a violation of the first commandment. An attempt to dethrone God and put self at the centre. We are not made for this – bad for us, a distortion of truth, beyond our capacity. An affront to God who made us and gave us the abilities we have. Yet often viewed as a ‘respectable’ sin by us.

(c) How God helps the humble and needy. Many biblical examples. Psa 40:17; Ruth and Naomi; Moses, Jeremiah (‘who am I’; woe is me), David the overlooked shepherd. The pattern of Jesus with the tax collectors and sinners. The Samaritan woman at the well. 1 Cor 1:26-29.

(d) Why does God help the poor and needy? It is not simply that God is on the side of the underdog – His help is for those in a relationship with Him: (1) fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; (2) he dwells with the humble and lowly; (3) those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the poor in spirit are the subjects of His provision. We have to feel/understand that we are poor and needy in order to enter such a relationship.

3. Promise (verses 54-55)

So how is Mary connecting this to her own circumstances? She understands that God is acting to fulfil His covenant promises. To rescue and build a people. This is not just about personal blessing for Mary or even personal salvation for those who trust the coming Saviour. Israel and Abraham. NT tells us that Abraham’s children are all those who share his faith. But these are a humble and despised people. Strangers and pilgrims in a hostile, proud world. One story linking the Old and New Testaments that is being achieved through this coming baby, Jesus. And he is doing this not by coming to the rich and famous but by being born into a working family in a rural backwater. The almighty God, eternally rich and glorious, becoming a poor dependant man with nowhere to lay his head. Seen by so many as a nobody. A life consistent with the message.

4. Some applications for us

(a) As individuals: God is working to demolish human pride. We need to face up to the damage we do through our own pride. The gospel calls us to be humble/submit/realise our weakness and dependence. Pride is a very subtle sin – a matter of the heart, not just the conduct. One of our greatest battles.

(b) In the church: how we evaluate people. The standards we set. The sort of people most often saved. The care we are to show to the needy. Don’t adopt the world’s values and heap praise on the outwardly prominent and ‘successful’.

(c) As we face the world in its opposition and hostility. As the people of God, we are small and increasingly despised. Easy to become disheartened. But God has His plans and there is coming a day when He will judge the world in righteousness and the first will be last and the last first.

 

The Road to Emmaus  Luke 24:13-32    Sunday 11th April 2021   Speaker: Dave Bracey

Opening Slide  A true fact about Charlie Chaplin is that he once entered a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest and came third.

Slide   Sometimes we can all fail to recognise somebody we should know.

Well, we’re going to read today about an incident in the Bible that tells us something about God’s heart for his people and gives us some pointers for dealing with hard times, and the story starts with people failing to recognise Jesus for who He is.

Slide   Let’s look first of all as to who these people were and what they were doing there.

Who were they?

Well from the passage we see that clearly both travellers were disciples from the early Christian community. We know that one of the two travellers was called Cleopas, the other is not named and various theories have been raised at who the second person might be. Some commentators suggest that it could have been Luke himself due to the clarity of his description of the evening, but most commentators think this unlikely. My favourite theory is that the other disciple is Cleopas’ wife.

Slide  John 19 v 25

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 

The spelling is slightly different but many commentators believe that Clopas and Cleopas could be the same person. In which case the second person could be Mary his wife. That’s the view held by both the Catholic church and the Orthodox church. Another piece of evidence that may support this theory is that when they get to Emmaus they urge Jesus to stay with them in what sounds like a private house, so this may hint at them being a married couple.

So, What Were They Doing?

I think that they were throwing the towel in, admitting defeat, washing their hands of this discipleship business and returning to their old home to pick up the threads of their old life.

They had just been through the worst days of their life. Jesus was gone and worse than gone they probably thought that he had proved to be false. For surely the Messiah wouldn’t die? Didn’t the scriptures say that the Messiah would abide for ever? They felt utterly sick at heart - all their hopes and dreams were dashed. They felt foolish as they had wasted months, perhaps up to three years of their life following a dream that had indeed turned out to be nothing more than a dream.

Slide  Luke 24 v 15 – 16

As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

The Shepherd has found his scattering sheep. This tells us something of God’s heart for us. Imagine what the risen king of the universe could have been doing that first day after He rose from the dead. What choices he had. Well, He chooses to go find his fleeing and grieving disciples and comfort them and put them back on the right road.

Remember, how earlier we saw that this was probably the worst day of those disciples’ lives? If they had just known it, it was actually going to be the best day of their life. They would see this shortly, but not yet. We live life looking forwards, we understand it looking back. If they had not known the great sadness with which they started the day, they would not have received the great blessing they received later in the day.

Now Jesus chooses to prevent them recognising him. Suppose that he had allowed it, can you imagine how excited they would have been to see him? They wouldn’t have been able to focus on what he was saying or retain it and so they would have missed out. Jesus wasn’t being cruel is allowing them to walk in sadness, he wanted the best for them and that best was to understand and to grow, before they experienced the closeness of his presence, because in the long run they would be more blest that way.

It’s interesting isn’t it? If Jesus were to give us the choice of a wonderful worship service where we could be so close to him and feel his presence, or of a deep Bible study where we would find out more about him, which would we chose? The praise party or the Bible study? Well for these two disciples Jesus made the choice for them and he chose the Bible study. That they should understand more about him before they had the joy of experiencing his presence. Perhaps that is the choice that Jesus makes for most Christians. Perhaps this is one reason why we don’t go to Heaven the moment we come to Christ. We are given the opportunity to walk the road of this life with our Saviour learning and growing even if we don’t see that that is happening, When the time is right, we will be translated from this life to the next. We will find ourselves in the presence of our Saviour and realise that he was with us all the time, but that we should never have gained all that he had taught us without that walk in which we were prevented from recognising his immediate presence but were nevertheless learning.

Slide  Luke 24 v 19 – 24

 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

Slide What the two disciples say is revealing. They are honest, they don’t try to sugar-coat anything. But you can feel the weariness and the defeat in what they say. Perhaps even more revealingly is what they don’t say. Because their grief and exhaustion has made them forget

  • Firstly, they have forgotten that Jesus is the Messiah. They call Jesus a prophet. They no longer say Jesus is the “Messiah” or “Christ.” They’ve lost faith. They’re finding it too hard to believe. It’s too dark. Jesus is dead he must have just been a prophet like the prophets of old who died. He can’t possibly be the Messiah chosen by God. The Messiah is supposed to come and liberate his people, and Jesus is dead.
  • Secondly, they have forgotten what Jesus said. More than once he had told the disciples that he was going to Jerusalem that he would be put to death but that on the third day he would rise again. Yet in their sorrow the two disciples had forgotten these promises,
  • Thirdly they had forgotten what their friends had told them, the testimony of other disciples. True they had remembered the women’s account of what they found at the empty tomb but their memories are selective because in just a few verses (v34) they’re going to remember that Jesus had already appeared to Simon Peter.
  • Fourthly they have forgotten the Bible (or the Old Testament part of it which they had) as there are verses in the Old Testament (such as Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53) written hundreds of years before, that described with amazing accuracy what would happen to Jesus and what they knew had happened over the previous few days.

We may feel that these disciples have forgotten an awful lot, but they didn’t have the advantages that we have of knowing what would come next. But let me confess that even with those advantages I so often find myself in the same position as these two disciples. I sympathise with them; I see so much of myself in them and their struggles.

So often when events don’t turn out as I expect I have a tendency to forget all of God’s faithfulness in the past, all of his promises to me, even what he said about how things would be in the Christian life. He tells me that if I want to live a Godly life that I will be persecuted, but when I face persecution I’m asking ‘God where are you? Why is this happening to me?’.

Slide Luke 24 v 25-27

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Now the term Jesus uses here for foolish is not unkind. It’s the Greek word anoetos, which means without reflection. He’s saying something like ‘You’re not thinking this through’ He doesn’t use a harsher term such as moros, meaning dull, stupid or foolish. which He warned against calling anyone in Matthew 5:22.

So, “What is the Bible about?”  The Bible is about Jesus. 

It’s not a reference book, it’s not a book of examples to live up to, it’s not a to-do list.  It’s not a list of rules and regulations. It’s about Jesus.  Because it’s about Jesus that means that it’s about grace. It’s about how God loves his people and how God saves and rescues His people. It’s a true, historical story with a plotline.  That plotline is creation, fall, redemption, consummation.   J.R.R Tolkien calls it the eucatastrophe – the story behind the Gospel, he said.  How the King has come back is the one story behind all the stories that we’ve ever loved. 

Slide

Have any of you read any of the works of Dorothy L Sayers? she lived around the same time as C.S. Lewis and was a friend of his.  She was very, very smart.  Like most of us, she learned Latin when she was six.  She was also one of the first women to receive a degree from Somerville College, part of Oxford University.  She wrote a lot of books but she was most known for detective fiction. In her fiction the main detective she wrote about was Lord Peter Wimsey, many scholars that have studied her writing say that as she wrote about Peter Wimsey, she fell in love with him.  And so later on in these detective fictions there was a new character introduced by the name of Harriet Vane.  And Harriet Vane is one of the first women to be awarded a degree from Oxford University and she also writes detective fiction.  And so, you see what Dorothy Sayers did, she created someone, a character, that she came to love so much that she wrote herself into the story and ultimately these two fictional characters get married.  In the same way, God our creator loves us so much that he wrote himself into the story.  He became part of his creation, he became a man, that he could rescue us, redeem us and make us his own.

That’s what the Bible is all about and that should make our hearts burn within us, just like it did for the two disciples here.

And their hearts did burn within them. Once they understand how all of Scriptures points to the Messiah needing to suffer and die and rise again it changed everything. They believe! They understand! Of course, the descendent of Eve would be struck by the serpent, of course, it was the Father’s will to crush him for our iniquities, of course, Jesus is the one and final sacrificial lamb that takes away the sins of the world. Of course, he was the suffering servant by whose wounds we would be healed, Of course, the resurrection happened because that was the plan all along. 

Slide  Now the story could have ended there.  Luke 24 v 28 - 29

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

These two disciples asked Jesus to abide with them, they importuned, they urged him strongly - What if they had not asked Jesus to stay with them? The opportunity may have been lost for ever. The Greek word prospoieomai used here indicates that He really was going farther, and would have gone on had these two disciples not constrained Him.

I think that there is a spiritual lesson for us here.  Isaiah 55 v 6. Tells us to ‘Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near’ and Jeremiah 29 v 13 tell us ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’.

So many people who really met with Jesus, who received his help, who saw his power, so many of those people were characterised by being desperate to meet Jesus. They were willing to pay a price to meet with him. They sought him, and importuned him. They were not luke-warm or apathetic in their seeking. They went all out to encounter Jesus and to receive his help. Think of Jairus, the lepers, the woman who had been ill for many years, the Centurion and so many others. Just like them, these two disciples really wanted to have more of Jesus.

Slide Luke 24 v 30-31

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 

So, once they sat down to eat, their guest did something very strange, something that at first sight would have seemed rude or presumptuous.  He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. It was not the job of a guest in the home to do this, these were the tasks of the host, but in that familiar act they recognized Him. And, of course he was the host, even in their home. Perhaps there is another lesson here, it’s when Jesus is the host, the head of our home that we get to see him more clearly.

The moment they recognize Him, He vanishes. The Greek word aphantos, which occurs only here in the Bible, indicates that He became invisible, not that He actually left the room. Perhaps when these disciples had left to go back to Jerusalem and report what they had seen, He continued, on His journey down the road, or perhaps invisibly He walked back to Jerusalem with them, at the moment we don’t know. Perhaps one day we will.

SlideSo, What Does This Mean For Us?

Slide Remember

When we feel battered by events and by this world. It is helpful to take a breath and think back on all that God has done for us and all that he has done for others. Do you remember the old hymn ‘Count your blessings, name them one by one’? Well, there’s wisdom there, because seeing God’s faithfulness over many years puts today’s troubles into perspective.

Slide Devour the Scriptures

When God seems far away. Read his word. Everything we need is in the scriptures. We just have to see it. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.

So, if today you’re lacking hope, if you’re lacking joy, if you’re discouraged, if you’re in hard circumstances - what Jesus wants us to do is to go back to the Word.  To have confidence in the Word, to understand the Word and believe what the Word says about himself. And the Holy Spirit will be at work in you. Even if you can’t feel Him at work immediately, He will be at work in you. His intention is to do with you just what Jesus did with the two disciples on the Emmaus road. He’s taking people that are sad and discouraged and finding it hard to believe and He’s taking them from brokenness and discouragement to joy and hope and renewed faith and a closer walk with Jesus than they would have had if they had never been through those hard times.

Slide Seek Christ with all your heart.

God has said you will find me when you seek me with your whole heart. So, we must ask for a thirst and a hunger for God. For God will reward those who diligently seek him. Now as fallen human beings our emotions run hot and cold and by nature, we have a tendency to lukewarmness and apathy. So, ask God that you will have a hunger for Jesus, a thirst for Jesus and God will be pleased with that prayer and he will answer it.

To Sum Up

  • We’ve looked today at two disciples who were discouraged, sad, depressed and in the act of throwing the towel in.
  • Jesus showed his heart for them by seeking them out, although he had many other things he could have chosen to do that day.
  • His answer to their sorrow was to take them back to the scriptures so that they might know him. We can do that too.
  • But they played their part by wanting his presence, by choosing to have him in their home and because they did, they were allowed to know Him even more. We can do that too.

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  4th April 2021 Easter Sunday  Luke 24:1-12  Speaker: Crawford Telfer

 “Parting is such sweet sorrow’! A famous line - from a famous play – by a famous writer. Yes, it was Shakespeare, spoken by Juliet as she bid her lover  Romeo  ‘good night till it be tomorrow’.   Well I suppose since their separation was so brief, their sorrow could be considered ‘sweet’.   For many of us this past year, the enforced lockdowns and separation from friends and family has been anything but sweet, and tragically for so many, it has not been for just a night but for ever – or has it?

For the women who came to the tomb on that resurrection morning, they believed their parting from Jesus was permanent. This Jesus who had turned their lives upside down and whom they’d come to love and worship as the Messiah - he was dead. They’d seen him die with their own eyes, and now they’d come with their shattered dreams and broken hearts to embalm his body. He couldn’t after all have been the messiah they’d been so sure he was.

But then, quite literally in a flash of brilliance – their sorrow turns to indescribable joy as two angels tell them ‘he’s not here – he has risen!’  And then it all comes back to them – how Jesus had told them  at least three times that he would be put to death, but would rise again.

So you can imagine they’re in a complete tizzy as they rush back to the disciples and blurt out the news – but to the disciples, they’re talking a load of crazy nonsense. Actually the word Luke used implies they thought they were ‘delirious’.

But one of them doesn’t – Peter.  Suddenly he’s on his feet, running as fast as he can – he’s remembering some of the things Jesus had said – things that sounded weird at the time and he desperately needs to find out – could it be – could it all be - true? Hoping against hope he races on, possessed by the need to find out.  And then the memory comes flooding back - the painful, agonizing, gut wrenching memory of what he did that cold evening only a few days ago as he stood warming himself by the fire in the courtyard of the high priest’s house.  It wasn’t as though he’d done it just the once,  not even twice, but three times. Three times he’d openly denied knowing his Lord – the very last thing he would ever have dreamt of doing. But by far the worst of it wasn’t that he’d done it, but that the one He had loved and now disowned had heard him do it, and when Jesus turned and looked straight at him – that look, that steady, unblinking look as his eyes seemed to see right in to the very depths of his soul - he would take that look to his grave.      

I wonder what you think was in that look. Your answer is an indication of how well you know Jesus. Do you imagine it was a look of sad disappointment – ‘ah Peter, you’ve really let me down?’ Or was it a reproving, stern, angry look? Or maybe a cold stare of rejection – ‘forget about being my disciple Peter you had your chance and you messed up – you failed’. For many believers, sadly, that’s how they see Jesus, and it poisons their relationship with God, it poisons their relationships with others, and it poisons the fellowship of God’s people.

But that wasn’t what Peter saw that chilly evening. It was a look which spoke volumes to Peter, a look of understanding – ‘yes Peter, I see your heart, I know that you mean well, that you really do love me, don’t despair, one day when my Spirit fills you, you will boldly preach  about me to thousands, and one day you will die, for me’. There was no condemnation, no anger, no rejection, but pure love, love that melted Peter’s once proud but now humbled heart, that drove him outside where he wept his bitter tears in private.  It’s never the anger or  sternness, or even the holiness of God that changes us, it’s his love, only His love can melt the hardest of hearts.

I’m sure that’s why Peter was in such a mad rush to find out if the women’s report was true:  that this man he now knew he couldn’t live without was not dead but alive. And when he saw the empty tomb and the grave cloths lying neatly folded – the assurance exploded in his heart, ‘yes it’s true, it’s all true  – my Jesus has risen from the grave’.  And he stood there marveling at what had happened, and at what it all meant. 

That’s what we all need to do - take a fresh look at what this Easter Sunday means, especially with what has been happening around the world this past year. The message of the resurrection is the one message the world needs to hear and God’s people need to be reminded of. So let’s  spend a few moments looking at why we need to be reminded . . . .

First of all if there is no resurrection then everything we have believed is a lie and we have been deceived. As Paul tells us in 1 Cor 15:19 ‘If only for this life we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied’.  I’ve heard people say that even if Christianity is not true – they would still choose to live as though it is. It sounds very commendable, very noble, very righteous, but what’s the point? If Jesus did not rise from the grave then it means we have prayed and sacrificed and given our lives to serve a lie. It means we’ve been tried and tested, struggled against temptation, shunned by friends and family and for many, suffered persecution and death – all for nothing.  No wonder Paul, who knew more than most about these things said we are of ALL people most to be pitied.

 But then he adds -  ‘But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.’

The resurrection means that Jesus is indeed who he said he is and that everything he said and did and promised is true and not a lie. We could spend months looking at this – but the bottom line is that – Jesus Christ is to be trusted, trusted to have taken away our sin, trusted to hold us in His grip and to bring us safely home when we breathe our last. The great shame is that we trust him so little.

Let’s look briefly at some other ‘glorious consequences’ of the resurrection:    

Not since the second world war have we been reminded every day that we are mortal beings destined to die. This time though it’s not bombs and bullets, bayonets and torpedoes, that are killing us, it’s something so small we can’t even see it. Covid 19. It’s not surprising that fear of death, what Psychologists call ‘death anxiety’ is surging right around the world and is having an impact on people’s mental health at levels not seen for a very long time.      

he message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ means we don’t need to be afraid of death.  Hebrew 2:14 tells us that Jesus: ‘by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.’

I remember one summer driving along a country road with my dad, and all of a sudden he swerved and nearly ended up in a ditch. ‘I saw it, I saw it’, he cried. ‘What did you see?’ I asked him – I was well and truly shaken.  ‘I saw a magpie – a single magpie!’ Well you may know the superstition about magpies – one for sorrow two for joy and so on – well he explained that the last time he’d seen a single magpie, his father had died that year!  He thought this magpie was a sign that this year his number was up. Well, he survived many more years, despite the magpie and  triple bypass surgery. The fear of death – it affects us in many ways we may not even be conscious of.

Many of you will know of Joni Eareckson Tada, Malcolm and I have had the privilege of meeting her several times. When she was 17 she broke her neck in a diving accident and was left paralysed from the neck down – she’s now 72 and she said this: ‘For me, the death and resurrection of Christ have removed every ounce of fear from death. The Grim Reaper is no longer the heinous, sharp-fanged, menacing monster it used to be.’

Psychologists tell us that the fear of death is at the root of most of our phobias! Jesus came to die and rise again so that we need no longer be bound by the fear of dying.    

The resurrection means that death is not the end of the story, but the crossing over to life in a new dimension – life which will never end because there will be no time as we know it, no yesterday, no tomorrow - but an eternal NOW in the presence of God.  Life is not some pointless, purposeless accident. We are not the random product of the collision of cosmic particles.  As Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 ‘we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’  The word ‘handiwork’ in the Greek is ‘poiema’ which gives us our English ‘poem’. If that doesn’t give us you sense of purpose, a reason for living  – nothing will!

The death and resurrection of Jesus is God’s response to all our questions that begin with the word ‘why’.  It’s a response that God planned before the cosmos even existed. 

One of the things we have to come to terms with is that God doesn’t always explain himself.  And so we refuse to trust God unless he does explain himself and we can understand everything he does:  Why did God let my child die at the hands of a drunk driver? Why was a Godly young pastor struck down with cancer and the church robbed of someone who’d have been a great blessing?  Why does God let 2 thirds of the world endure hunger and deprivation while the rest is overfed and drowning in stuff they don’t need?   Why did God let this Pandemic happen?

Up and down the land preachers preach and theologians write their books, offering up their answers: ‘it’s because we’ve done this, its because we haven’t done that, it’s a judgement, it’s a warning, it’s punishment, it’s God’s will’ and on and on it goes – and somehow the answers they give seem trite. They don’t scratch where we are itching.  Going back to Joni Eareckson, she was often asked ‘why do you think God let you have that diving accident and become paralysed?’ And for a while she thought she had the answer as she discovered a world of opportunities opening up for her as a quadraplegic artist, writer and speaker, increasingly in demand. People loved to hear her positive, God affirming messages – ‘we know that in everything God works for good to then that love him.’  But in one of her books called ‘A Step Further’,  she described how she began to meet Christians who were also paralysed from the neck down, but they didn’t have a loving family to look after them. Some of them lived alone in the most appalling circumstances – and as she visited them and saw their circumstances her pet answers began to fall apart. Then she described how she came to understand the true meaning of faith, and it’s something we should all write in the front of our Bibles: ‘faith means trusting God when you don’t know the reason why’.  Isaiah had already said the same thing thousands of years earlier when he wrote in Ch 50:10 ‘Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.’

And there’s only one way we can do that - by going back to the focal point of history, when God demonstrated his love for the world when He came to earth to die, and three days later rise up from the grave.  The Apostle Paul - persecuted, imprisoned, lashed with the whip, beaten, shipwrecked, before he was martyred wrote this, referring to his experiences: ‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles!!  that’s how he regarded all his sufferings for the Gospel as ‘light and momentary troubles’ and then he says why he regarded them as such: because  - they are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 

And that’s from 2 Cor.4:16-18   How much we need to visit and revisit the foot of the cross and the empty tomb – because there is THE answer to our deepest need which is to know that behind whatever happens, is God who LOVES this hurting, crying world, and not only that but WITH us in it all. Which brings us to the last of these ‘consequences’ of the resurrection.

At the end of Matthew’s gospel the resurrected Jesus and the by now 11 disciples are together on a mountain by Galilee. It’s there that Jesus authorises them to go and make disciples from every nation, baptizing and teaching them about himself. They’ve no idea what’s about to happen. They’ve no idea that Jesus is about to leave them and return to his Father in heaven.  And then as though to prepare them for it he tells them something that – well it’s almost too good to be true – recorded in Matthew 28:20 ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."   ‘I am with you always’ – literally in the Greek, ‘I am with you every day’.  I am with you every day by my Spirit  whom I will send to you when I return to the father. And the full meaning of that would become crystal clear on the day of Pentecost which was only days away. From that point on, every believer would be able to experience the presence of Christ in their hearts by His Spirit right down through the centuries to this present moment: Easter day in the year 2021 in Edington in Somerset.

The reality of the presence of  Christ in our hearts is the most powerful and convincing evidence that he rose from the grave and is alive today, and we shall never be parted from Him.

The words of the great gospel song written by Alan Jackson are gloriously true:                         I serve a risen Saviour, He's in the world today
I know that He is living, whatever men may say
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer
And just the time I need Him He's always near

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life's narrow way
He lives, He lives, Salvation to impart
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.

Let’s pray.

Lord Jesus you said "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

Lord, whatever we are going through, whether it’s joy or whether it’s sorrow, whether it’s a time of hardship or a time of plenty, or whether it’s neither but just a steady keeping on going, may your presence in our hearts so fill us with your peace in these tumultuous days that people will look and ask us – ‘what is the reason for this hope, this peace that is in you?’  And for those who don’t yet know you, or only know you a little, may you draw them after yourself and reveal yourself to them so that they too may have that life changing assurance that you are alive.

Lord Jesus you told us that: “In this world you will have tribulation. But be of good courage! I have overcome the world”

Amen    

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Sunday 28th March 2021                                                 Speaker: Shane Goodyear

Genesis 49:8-12

FCF: We do not expect leaders who are powerful, to protect and want to enrich us. 

Intro: ask questions

Empathy:

Bible: Jacob’s death bed scene

Judah’s testimony:

V8: Judah’s descendants are going to receive praise and subdue His brother’s enemies.

E:  Judah’s  descendants are going to be the rulers of their brothers descendants and subdue their enemies  (Bow down)- rulers, praise (for Judah’s leadership)
P: Joshua invades the promised land- however Joshua fails to get rid of all the Canaanite tribes who were God’s enemies because they did despicable things- things I cant say here because children are in the room- after Joshua’s  The Israelites seek God to see who should go up first to push back the Canaanites and take their land- God chooses the tribe of Judah to do this- and they do it to a certain degree and liberate parts of the promised land- Judah’s tribe leading other tribes to subdue God’s enemies or as Jacob puts it ‘Judah’s hand will be on the neck of your enemies’ and because of this the rest of the Israelites will see Judah’s descendants as a ruler over them- Judah’s tribe will be a ruler who will protect God’s people from their enemies and drive their enemies back. 

L: we don’t expect our leaders to protect us

P:  YouGov app: back in October 63% of people in this country believed the government was not do enough to protect people from catching covid 19 and it is roughly the same number believed the same if Sir Keir Stamer was PM- there will be some in this room from countries where you have actively seen your leaders take public money and force you into situations that where dangerous for you and your family.

So at best many of us don’t see our leaders as being able to protect us and at worse they are there to abuse us- but not so With Judah’s tribe he is there to rule over God’s people and to drive their enemies away from them to protect them.

V9: Judah is going to be a powerful ruler, like a lion

E: Jacob is now describing what kind of leader the tribe of Judah will be by using the picture of a lion

P: you have a lion waiting in the long grass seeking and searching out its pray- stalking every move of its pray crouching down just before he pounces to totally tear to pieces its pray—no one will dare to rouse a lion in this state, unless you had a death wish, why because this lion is powerful, wise and methodical it catching and devouring its prey. This is the sort of leader Judah will be a powerful ferocious leader in protecting his brothers against their enemies in battle.

L: we don’t expect powerful leaders to protect us and at worst we see them as devouring us.

P: my mother protecting me  

This is what this protective leadership looks like

V10: Judah’s future descendant is going to be God’s future king  

E:  the Sceptre ( denotes rule and upholding justice) picture of old English kings and queens holding this on documentaries- and the nations of the world will obey Judah’s descendant as he will be the righteous ruler who deals justly with the nations   

L; we don’t expect our leaders to bring us justice

P: many prophets in the OT talk about this king coming, especially in depressing awful times in Israelites history: Is 2: he fortells God’s king coming on a mountain where the nations will come to and this king will settle disputes between them and they will smash their weapons into the ground- when Isiah said this Iseral itself was in a desperate situation with bad evil and power hungry rulers and their enemies surrounding their borders and seeing their brothers being wiped out by those same enemies- but still the promise of this king from Judah’s line stood and it still stands today- the only difference is we are looking at it from the other end waiting for jesus to return

P: Jesus is this promised ruler- who is powerful and good who will protect his people and crush their enemies and the nations have and will flock to him and justice will eb done- we will see this more later how he does this- but there is also another startling thing this says about Judah’s descendant Jesus and what he will do for his people

V11-12:  Judah’s future descendant Jesus will bring in a time of prosperity

E: this king will bring in a time of future prosperity and enrichment for his people

L: we don’t expect our rulers to prosper us and to treat us extravagantly

P: tether donkey to the vine/his colt to the choicest branch ( a donkey will be tied to a vine and a branch- this is a sign of prosperity because vines where there to make wine and wine made you money and if you tied your donkey to it  will eat the grapes and you would lose money- but in this age when Judah’s descendants rules it wont matter because there will be loads of vines so you can afford to allow  your donkey to eat of it ) He will wash his garments in wine his robe in the blood of grapes ( washing his clothes in wine- bathing in it- this is an age of such prosperity that wine is used to laundry detergent)

P:what we are seeing here is God’s king from Judea- Jesus bringing in such a time of prosperity for us that it is extravagant- it is a time of wealth and prosperity all under the protective good rule of a just king

Adam:- called to rule, ended up neglecting that big time- sinning against God and then blaming his wife- and we see people in Adam’s era getting steadily worse killing each other and enriching themselves

Judah: does not start that well: selling his brother into slavery- getting his daughter in law pregnant but we see aft that incident he grows in character and pledges his life for his younger brothers Benjamin’s both to his father and to Joseph- and this leads Jacob to pronounce this blessing on him about his descendants.

Judah’s tribe: God calls them in judges to lead the mop up operation of the rst of the cannites and they are also called to bring Judgment on the Benjimites another tribe of Iseral because of the evil acts they did in judges- seeing Judea partially fulfil this role of leadership amongst his brothers

Judah’s king David:  started off really well- a man after God’s own heart- gave God people rest from their enemies- brough in a time of wealth and prosperity for the Iseralites- conquered Jerusalem and expelled some of the last of the cannites tribes and brough back the symbol of God living with his people the arch- however- human frailties got to him and he became a murderer and a adulterey even though he was forgiven

Solomon  so there was high hope for his Son Solomon  God gave him wisdom and iseral got wealtherier and wealthier- he was seen as just ruler who will protect his people however again he was lured away by idols and the pleasures of the world and in the end it looks like he feel away from trusting in God and this lead to the Iseralite kingdom going into civil war with the 10 tribes of Iseral in the north and Judea in the south- oh no what is going to happen to God’s king

Judea’s kings: most of them where bad- persecuting the prophets stealing private property of their subjects and generally supressing the people and leading into worship of false God’s which even required some of them to sacrafeice their children and after 100 years of this God’s people where thrown into Exile, but they would return to the land

Jesus: And it was a few hundred years after they returned to the land the king came

Powerful:

  • drive out demons
  • heal the sick
  • commanded nature
  • defeated our greatest enemy death by his resurrection

Protection and justice

  • he will not leave the guilty unpunished
  • he called out abusive leaders who used their power for their own advantage
  • he warns us against false taechers
  • he protects us from the eternal consequences of our sin

Prosperity

  • we will rule with him one day
  • we will inherit the earth
  • there will be a time when all different nations will come to him to worship him and we will have a world without disease hatred and pain

 

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21st March 2021 - Speaker :  David Willis  Luke23:23- 43  The Crucifiction of Christ

Introduction  

The thing I love about Luke’s writings, as he gives us an ‘orderly’ account of Jesus’ life in this gospel and then outlines the beginnings of the Christian Church in the Acts of the Apostles, is the amount of detail he includes.

In the passage before us today we look at the number of people who are mentioned and how he paints with words an amazing picture of the scene as Jesus is led out to be crucified at Golgotha, which is aramaic (John 19:17) for the place of the skull (Matthew 27:33, Mark 15), Calvaria in Latin, hence our word Calvary. A friend of ours, Julie, who came to the Lord when we were at Wellsprings Chapel said when she first started coming to church, she couldn’t understand our obsession with carveries! Of course, she later came to understand we were speaking of the place where our precious Saviour gave up his life for each one of us.

At the beginning of our passage we find Jesus travelling along what has become known as the Via dolorosa – literally ‘sorrowful road’, or ‘way of grief’, indicating Jesus’ route from Pilate’s judgement hall to the place of his crucifixion. It was common for the criminal who was being led out to be crucified to have a placard hung around their neck outlining their crimes. Jesus could possibly have had the sign saying ‘this is the King of the Jews’ hung around his neck as he took his journey, before it was nailed to the cross on which he himself was nailed.

The Scene

With the words of Isaiah 53 ringing in our ears we view what was surely one of the saddest scenes in history. As a modern Christian song puts it:

‘I cast my mind to Calvary

Where Jesus bled and died for me

I see his wounds, his hands and feet

My Saviour on that cursed tree’

Mel Gibson’s 2004 film ‘The Passion of Christ’ focused very much on the physical suffering of Christ, ‘the most punishing depiction of the crucifixion ever mounted…the much talked about brutality is unflinching’ said the Radio Times in one review. However, Leon Morris reminds us in his commentary on Luke that ‘the New Testament concentrates on the significance of Jesus’ death, not on harrowing our feelings’.

So, while it is right that we understand the physical suffering that this scene portrays, we ought to be concentrating more on the spiritual suffering that Jesus endured as he cried out, ‘My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?’ and what lay behind this scene as Jesus gives his life as a ransom for many.

This scene was what the whole of Jesus’ life had been leading up to, in fact this scene is what the whole of history had been leading up to.

Imagine the comments, the emotions, the disappointments that were probably being shared among those involved in that scene. Many probably would have thought along the same lines as the two walking on the road to Emmaus did when they later said, ‘but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel’ 24:21. Others were probably saying to themselves ‘I always thought he was a fraud’, as the shouts go up, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One’ 35. Dreams were shattered! Hopes were dashed! Doubts were confirmed!

The Characters

But what about the characters and the part they played in the scene before us?

The Roman Soldiers. Just another day’s work for them as ‘They (the soldiers John 19:16) led him away’ from Pilates Judgement Hall. Later we read ‘the soldiers also came up and mocked him, saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself”, before offering him wine vinegar to drink’. Yet if we read on to 47, we find Luke records the Roman centurion praising God as he says ‘Surely this was a righteous man’. We aren’t told anything more about this Roman soldier, but one wonders how his life could ever be the same as, in the death of Jesus, he recognised God at work.

Simon from Cyrene. Here we have a man from Cyrene, modern day Tripoli, in Libya. He had most likely travelled to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, and as he made his way into the city from the country, he finds himself unexpectedly caught up in the drama of Jesus’ journey to Golgotha. John records that Jesus went out carrying his own cross, but when the burden became too much for him Simon was picked at random by the soldiers and forced to carry the cross. As an occupied country any citizen could be immediately pressed into service by the Roman authorities – it wasn’t a good idea to argue with them! This is what happened to Simon, but while the soldiers may have picked him at random, surely God had a hand in this, as undoubtedly his life was changed that day, as he came into contact with Jesus. Mark 15:21 tells us he was the father of Alexander and Rufus, who were clearly known in Christian circles at a later date, so it is highly likely that he became a follower of Jesus.

A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him 27-31. Any event like this would draw a crowd, especially in Jerusalem at Passover time. No doubt you will have seen on TV a funeral from the middle east which is very different to the sober way in which we conduct ourselves in this country. Their funerals processions are very noisy affairs with their grief being shared with anyone in listening range. We might have a few quiet sobs, holding ourselves in check, whereas there is no holding back within that culture. In some instances, professional mourners were hired, but that wouldn’t have been the case here, these were probably people who were genuinely grief stricken by Jesus’ treatment.

Surprisingly Jesus, who has been generally very quiet during his arrest and trial, stops and speaks to the women who followed, addressing them as ‘Daughters of Jerusalem’. This is the first of three times he speaks in the passage we’re considering today. As Jesus speaks to these women, he turns the attention away from himself and to them as he says ‘do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and your children’. He isn’t saying he doesn’t want their sympathy, but he is saying they need to think about themselves, their futures, and their relationship with God. Jesus knew what the future held for this great city of Jerusalem as within forty years of his death it was besieged by the Romans and the temple was destroyed. He paints a picture of how dreadful it will be at that time, so much so that people will wish that they were already dead, using words from the prophet Hosea 10:8.

Several suggestions have been made about what Jesus means in 31, but it seems most likely that he’s saying if they (the Romans) treat me, the Messiah, like this when I’m innocent, what will their treatment of the Jews who are guilty and deserve it be.

Two other men, both criminals. How do you react when you’re in a tight spot, when you’re cornered, when you know you’ve been caught out? It’s easy to become defensive, or to lash out, which is what one of these criminals crucified alongside Jesus does. He had nothing to lose, his life was done, so he decided to join in with the mockery of this man who claimed to be the Messiah but was doing nothing about it, who was going meekly to his death without putting up a fight. He said to Jesus if you’re the Messiah save yourself and us! This belligerent man strikes me as being very selfish, even here as he faced death, he is thinking of himself, and not thinking like his colleague on the other cross that they were there because they deserved to be!

The other thief seems to have used the time of his impending death to focus on things that mattered. He recognised his guilt and that he deserved to be where he was, but also that Jesus was innocent and didn’t deserve to be where he was. It was as he faced death that he speaks about fearing God. He says to his compatriot, ‘don’t you fear God’, presumably meaning that he did.

We don’t know what his understanding of theology was as he hung upon the cross, or even his understanding of Jesus’ person and work, and his ability to save. However, there is enough to indicate that he realised that Jesus’ death wouldn’t be the end of everything for him, and that beyond death Jesus would have a kingdom. There is certainly a sense of repentance, a recognition of God, who should be held in awe, and of Jesus who could take him into a better place following his death.

Jesus speaks again as he issues those wonderful words, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise’ 43. We haven’t got time to look more deeply at the meaning behind Jesus’ words, but let Leon Morris sum it up as he says, ‘Jesus assures this man of bliss in the immediate future, a bliss closely associated with himself’.

The rulers. There were others involved in the scene before us that we haven’t had time to consider in detail. There were his accusers, (the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders Matthew 27:41, Mark 15) who sneered at him, and the people who stood watching and joined in with the insults. But there is one character who we haven’t really considered, Jesus himself – the central character.

Jesus – the Central Character.

After Jesus was crucified, hung up on the cross to die as a common criminal he uttered one of his seven cries from the cross 34. It was a cry, a prayer, that some early manuscripts didn’t include and some have wondered if it was because the early copyists decided to omit the words on reflection that perhaps God had not forgiven the guilty nation! However, there are enough manuscripts with it included to acknowledge it as genuine. Yes, Jesus really did pray, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’.

So, we have seen Jesus give a warning to the Daughters of Jerusalem to prepare for coming doom; an invitation to a penitent thief to join him in the bliss of paradise; and now a prayer to his Heavenly Father to forgive the perpetrators of his cruel death for they were doing it in ignorance. Although he was most likely thinking of his Jewish accusers and the Roman authorities who had put him on the cross, we recognise now that it was also our sin and the sin of the whole world that had put him there. How wonderful to know that his forgiveness stretches to us all.

Not only did Jesus show his love and compassion for sinners as he died as a sacrifice upon the cross; he also left us an example of how to react when we suffer on his behalf.

1 Peter 2:21-25 shows us how Jesus responded to his abusers as they hurled their insults at him. What restraint, what humility, what trust in his Father (‘him who judges justly’). We can learn so much from him as we meditate on this passage we have thought about together today.

Conclusion

But in conclusion what have we learnt today that can make a difference in our lives? What is God saying to us, by His Spirit, through this passage?

The old spiritual asks the question, ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’. No, of course we weren’t, but what happened on that cross is as significant to us today as it was to those who witnessed those events all those centuries ago.

It is significant to us because in the central character of the scene shared by Luke we see:

  • The supreme sacrifice for the salvation of sinners, as Jesus shed his precious blood, in bearing our sins in his body on the tree.
  • The forgiveness and compassion of Jesus for all who will turn to him in faith and repentance.
  • The warning of what awaits those who don’t prepare for the coming judgement.
  • The example of how to respond to insults and abuse as followers of Jesus who take up his cross daily.

May God give us grace to live in the power of the cross as we daily seek to draw nearer to him. Amen!

 

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 14th March 2021 – Luke 22:63-23:25    Speaker:  Bert Weenink

INTRO: I guess that most if not all of us will be familiar with the details of the events leading up to Easter. It is possible to be so used to the story that we fail to be moved or even shocked by what we read.

Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

John 1:1-3   1:9   1:14    The Word became flesh – Jesus, God in the flesh! The night God was arrested! Suddenly the events sound incredibly shocking. God became man and this man was betrayed by one of his followers, he was arrested by a mob, he was disowned by Peter and forsaken by all. That leads us to the passage we are considering this morning.

 

Jesus, the Son of God, was humiliated by His guards

These were servants of the high priest, who gave our Saviour no respite after his sleepless night and before his upcoming trial. They mocked the Son of God and beat him. They blindfolded him and demanded that their creator would prophesy and tell them who hit him. According to Jewish law, not even serious criminals were to be treated like that, but this is how Jesus, the Son of God was treated. Isaiah 50:6 “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.”

Jesus, the Son of God, was falsely accused by the religious leaders

Here we see our Saviour standing before this kangaroo court of chief priests and teachers of the law. They asked a simple question: 22:67a ‘…’ It was an important question. Jesus could simply have said ‘yes’ I am, but He was blatantly open with the full significance of who He was: 22:67b-69 ‘…’ Although Jesus describes Himself as the Son of Man, the position at God’s right hand made it very clear how He saw Himself. 23:70 ‘…’ Oh, how blind the Jewish leaders were, they knew the Scriptures, but did not recognise the Messiah. Listen to what Jesus said to them as recorded in John 5: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Herod uses Jesus, the Son of God, for his own entertainment

We will not waste too much time on Herod as Jesus ignored him completely. The Jewish leaders made more accusations against Jesus, but Herod just used Jesus for his own entertainment. Herod was aware of Jesus’ reputation and was hoping for a miracle or at least some clever answer, but Jesus did not say a word. We read how Herod and his soldiers then ridiculed and mocked the Son of God and then sent Him back to Pilate.

Pilate condemns Jesus, the Son of God to be crucified

Pilate saw Jesus briefly before he sent Jesus to Herod. One of the questions Pilate asked Jesus was “are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so”, Jesus replied, which simply meant, ‘yes I am!’ When Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate, we really get to know what sort of man Pilate was. He wasn’t nasty, but he was weak. He did not dislike Jesus, but was afraid of an uproar among the crowd. He was convinced of Jesus’ innocence, yet handed him over to be crucified. He was the Roman governor, supposedly in charge, yet he was a people pleaser. Even his wife pleaded with Pilate to let Jesus go. It is only Matthew who recorded that she sent Pilate a message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him,” but Pilate ignore her.

Even Pilate’s master stroke did not work. We read in Matthew about the governor’s custom to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. Barabbas probably stood against the Romans, as he possibly was a member of the Zealots, a Jewish revolutionary group, but in the process, Barabbas had committed murder. Who do you want me to release: Jesus or Barabbas. 23:18

Mark records: What shall I do then with the one you call the King of the Jews? “Crucify him!”

“Why? What crime has he committed”? But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Isn’t it shocking that a crowd of religious people would like to see a common criminal released, while they demand the death of their Creator, their God, their King?

How do we respond to this true story that we all know so well?

  1. Humility

On the one hand I emphasised the need to be shocked at what happened to Jesus so many years ago. At the same time, we need to be humble and admit our own part in His death. It may shock us to me reminded of the fact that Barabbas was released while Jesus was crucified, yet the essence of the gospel is that Jesus was condemned, so that we could be forgiven. Jesus suffered, so that we could be blessed, Jesus died, so that we could live. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

  1. Thankfulness and joy

1

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That you, my God, should die for me?
 

2

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
humbled Himself in all his love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
What mercy this, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.

3

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own

 

The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

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Sunday 28th February Morning Service.  Speaker: Don Morrison

Luke 22:47-62 - Jesus arrested

47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’

49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour – when darkness reigns.’

Peter disowns Jesus

54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant-girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, ‘This man was with him.’

57 But he denied it. ‘Woman, I don’t know him,’ he said.

58 A little later someone else saw him and said, ‘You also are one of them.’

‘Man, I am not!’ Peter replied.

59 About an hour later another asserted, ‘Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.’

60 Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Just as he was speaking, the cock crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the cock crows today, you will disown me three times.’ 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Introduction

This passage gives us Luke’s narrative of the arrest of Jesus

We read about the betrayal of Jesus by Judas - one of his closest friends

We read about the failure of the beloved disciple Peter to live up to the rash commitments he had earlier made – ‘even though all the other disciples may desert Jesus – he never would’

And we read of how Jesus responded as he approached his hour of greatest trial

Now there are many ways we could approach this story to see what we might learn from it

I would like to spend a few moments reflecting on it in terms of the main characters in the story – specifically Judas, Peter and Jesus himself.

What does the passage teach us about their motivations?

What lessons can we learn?

How do we apply what we discover in our own lives as we seek to live in a way that pleases our Lord & Saviour?

So my first heading is

  1. Judas - The calculating betrayer

If we read all the biblical evidence about Judas – we are forced to the conclusion – to put it in the modern vernacular ‘a nasty piece of work’ – we struggle to find in Judas any redeeming qualities

I suppose the best that we can say is that he was good with money – the only problem is that he was a thief - he was trusted with the money – somebody had to be the keeper of the money bag - so at some point the disciples must have decided that he was the man for the job.

but what do we read in

John 12:3-6  3 Then Mary took about half a litre of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.[a] He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

Here was a man motivated by money – a man who valued money above all else – above integrity, above friendship, above the Lord Jesus himself.

I wonder if the apostle Paul had Judas in mind when he wrote these words to Timothy

1 Tim 6:10

10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Judas didn’t betray Jesus because of some high-flown albeit misguided principle – no - what did he say to the Chief Priests?

 ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you? Matt 26:15

So here is a man who is consistently evil – for 3 whole years.

Sometimes people of previously good character have a sudden fall, with a dramatic and sudden loss of reputation - Not Judas, here is someone who has engaged in a long-term calculated lifestyle of deception – culminating in the ultimate blasphemy – betraying the Lord of Glory with a kiss.

And the other disciples had no idea! No one suspected him – but Jesus knew.

You remember when Jesus told the disciples that one of them would betray him – there was consternation – ‘surely you don’t mean me, Lord’

Apparently, there were no knowing looks amongst the disciples – no one said that’s got to be Judas

And if we know the story we know that Judas life came to a desperate end – almost Shakespearean in its tragedy - with no true repentance for his sins, only remorse for their consequences.

Now how do we apply this to our own lives?

We might feel that Judas was so irredeemably evil - so unlike us in so many ways that there is little we can learn from his life

Let me very briefly mention 2 applications

  1. 3 years in Jesus Company had no effect – Judas witnessed the miracles – Judas heard the sermons, the parables, he spent 3 years in the company of the disciples.

He had the privilege of seeing Jesus at close quarters – indeed he was his friend.

And yet, he was unchanged by it all.

What about you? Christian home – church family. What difference has it made?

  1. Are we what we appear to be? Would people be surprised – possibly even shocked to see how we behave when we’re not in a church context? Judas was leading a double life. Disciples were fooled, but Jesus wasn’t.

Now we move on to another disciple – Simon Peter - unquestionably he was a flawed character – but he repented of denying his Lord

So Judas is the calculating betrayer

but Peter gets 2 headings – here’s the first

  1. Peter - The misguided defender

Peter was outspoken – larger than life character

You might say he was always putting his foot in it

But in the modern vernacular ‘heart in the right place’ – he loved Jesus, but he was always getting things wrong

There is a most spectacular example of this – and ironically it happened just after one of his greatest insights

Jesus and his disciples are in a place called Caesarea Philippi

Jesus asks ‘who do people say that I am?

Then, ‘who do you say that I am?

Peter declares ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’

Jesus commends him, affirms that this is an insight given Peter not by flesh and blood but by his Father in heaven and goes on to explain the he must suffer and die – and poor Peter goes and spoils it all – he rebukes Jesus

Prompting the pointed rejoinder from Jesus – ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’

And in our passage here he goes again – his enthusiasm for Jesus far outweighs his wisdom and insight

They wanted to arrest Jesus – but he was going to take control- and he thought He thought force of arms would do the trick

Listen to what we read in John 18

10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

11 Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’

Application – spiritual battles can only be fought with spiritual weapons – we can so easily forget that we have no power in ourselves to win spiritual battles

Ephesians 6 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms

We want to organise ourselves – to resolve to do better – to plan, to strategize – these are all good things in themselves – but in a spiritual battle it is spiritual weapons that prevail – Feeding on God’s word, prayer, discipleship, fellowship – Ephesians 6  - putting on the full armour of God

But we must press on to our 3rd Heading

  1. Peter - The overconfident denier

Peter had a Mistaken view of his own abilities

Self-sufficient – he thought his own qualities would see him through

He was proud – he disparaged his colleagues

In Mark 14 we read his boast:

Even as we read it we have a sense of foreboding that it will not work out well

I wonder if Peter had ever read in Proverbs 16 18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Peters failure was abject – challenged 3 times – including bya servant girl – and his bravado was shown up for what it was – an empty boast and cowardice

3 times he denies his Lord

Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: ‘Before the cock crows twice  you will disown me three times.’ And he broke down and wept

By way of application – 2 things we can draw from this

  1. The first is a warning against complacency 1 Cor 10:12 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

Have you been a Christian for a long time – you didn’t keep yourself – because you couldn’t keep yourself?

God kept you – we need to continually remember that what we are is purely by the grace of God

  1. The second application is by way of encouragement – Peter found forgiveness - He found grace – he had messed up big time – but Jesus did not write him off

We read later how Peter was beautifully restored

And as we read on in the New Testament we see how he was wonderfully used at Pentecost and subsequently – he had a lot of lessons to learn, but Jesus worked in his heart and life

And this brings us the final character in our story – Jesus himself

4. Jesus – the self-possessed Saviour

In the story of Jesus arrest and crucifixion we have many authority figures

There were the Chief Priests

There was King Herod

There were the Pharisees

There was Pontius Pilate

There were the Roman soldiers – the occupying army

But there was only one person in charge – the carpenter from Galilee – but the one who claimed to have authority over legions of angels on whom he could call

Notice the pointed questions

  • To Judas ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’
  • To the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 
  • Notice his statement to Peter when he cut of the ear of the High Priests servant with a sword – no more of this
  • Notice his power  - in healing the mans ear with just a touch
  • Notice the effect on Peter of just a look from Jesus – in our Passage Luke 22:61

61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the cock crows today, you will disown me three times.’ 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

What a look that must have been – no words were needed

So there we have it – 3 characters

Judas – a thief, a hypocrite, a betrayer who never truly repented and never found grace

Peter – bold brash misguided – but in spite of his failure – his denial of his Saviour  - he repented with tears – was graciously restored and went on to be greatly used in the foundation and development of the New Testament church

And finally Jesus – the one who was in control of it all – in all of the chaos – the confusion – the evil - the injustice

He is utterly self-possessed

He is our Lord and saviour

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Victory through Christ           21st Feb 2021 Neil Todman

Romans 8:31-39

Intro

I don’t know under lockdown if you’ve watched more TV.  I definitely have.  One series I watched with my wife, Susan, was the Great British Bake Off.   Since I got remarried I’ve watched every series of the Bake Off but here’s the thing: I have never baked a cake in my life.  I’ve seen a lot of great cakes on TV but I’ve never tasted one of them or made one myself.

Why am I telling you this?  I think a lot of us have a similar experience to watching a cookery show when we read Romans chapter 8.  As we read Romans chapter 8 we can see that it is good- arguably the greatest chapter in the whole of the Scriptures.  But that is as far as it goes.  The truths seem so great that they are somewhere out there, and don’t really touch the way that I live at all.

So today I am pleading with the Holy Spirit to help us deal with three blockages in our hearts this morning. 

The first is disappointment.  That is disappointment with ourselves, our lives, and maybe those around us, but ultimately with God himself.  If he is so great then why is my life like this? 

The second blockage is guilt.  Many Christians are guilt ridden.  If we are not careful it gets worse the longer we are Christians.  That guilt can turn what should be a joyful, daily, walk with Jesus into a drudge, where days become weeks, weeks become months, where we rarely draw near to him because we feel so bad.  Why would I want to draw near to God when every time I do I feel so bad? 

The final blockage is fear.  We fear that something in this life will happen that is so bad that we will lose our faith in Jesus, or we fear that in the next life we will be exposed as sinful frauds and sent packing by him away from his love forever.  Fear keeps us from enjoying his perfect love and resting in the assurance that gives us.  When this life is so tough, how can I be sure it ends happily ever after for me?

Today’s passage deals with all three of these blockages-disappointment, guilt and fear- and shouts to our hearts that we can have total victory over them in Jesus Christ.  We can “taste and see that the Lord is good”.  

  1. Over disappointment- verses 31 and 32

These verses are the conclusion of the first half of Romans.That is why verse 31 says, “What, then, shall we say to these things?”Which things?All this good news about Jesus Christ!Paul writes eight glorious chapters that build to these verses.They show in the opening three chapters that we are powerless to save ourselves: our sin runs too deep and our religion can get down far enough to dealing with it.But chapter 3 verses 21 through 24 are a game changer:

 

  • But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Paul then spells out in the following five chapters how by faith this Good News makes people new, how the Spirit comes to live within all those who trust in Jesus, and is getting them ready for the return of the King when everything- all creation- will be made new.

But, as we wait for that day, how do we deal with the realities of life?Why at times is life so hard?Why at times does God seem so very far away?Why doesn’t he answer my prayers, even when they are for good and unselfish things?Why is life with Jesus so often very disappointing?

We need to learn from Paul here.Verse 31b.Paul knew what it was to have people against him.But Paul knew there was a greater truth still.“If God is for us...” then in the end the opposition we face will not stand.Since, not if, God is for us.(Four times different emphasis on each word)

More than that, if something that we have prayed for was really for the best, then God definitely would have done it.That is the argument of v. 32.God has already given us the best thing that he could.He has given us eternal life through the death of his Son.There is nothing more precious in the Universe to the Father than his Son.But because he loved us so much he gave him up for us.Paul’s argument is that anything else he gives in response to our prayers is far less in comparison.God isn’t holding out on us.For reasons we don’t fully understand, he isn’t doing what we want.But he is doing what is best- for your good and his glory.This is a truth you can live your life on, come what may.

Clover- On the fridge: My heart is filled with thankfulness.

That victory in Christ over disappointment.

  1. Over guilt- verses 33 and 34

Paul here is thinking of the court room in these verses- verse 33- charges are brought.Verse 34- punishment is demanded for crimes committed.

Lots of us love crime dramas.When I was a kid my parents loved watching Perry Mason.He was a fictional defence attorney, and over 135 million copies of novels about him were sold. But what was remarkable was that the ending of Perry Mason stories was always the same.In the final courtroom scene, Perry always produced a new piece of evidence which freed his client and usually implicated someone else sat in the room.Every time, at the eleventh hour, justice was done- the innocent went free and the guilty were punished.

In real life, before God, things are different.There are charges that could be brought against all of us.There are no innocent ones. Paul has already spelt that out in Romans chapter 3: “”

Satan, the accuser, would have plenty to say.But he will not be given the chance.It is God’s court and he has justified me.It is God’s right to punish, and he has taken my punishment upon himself in the person of his Son.More wonderfully still, my defence attorney isn’t Perry Mason, it is Jesus Christ raised from the dead, who is in the position of power at God’s right hand and he is my defence.

Guilt is a crushing thing.I don’t know if you have ever heard the story about the little boy who killed his grandmother’s duck.Do you know that one?He’d gone out with his sling, shot nothing but on the way back into his gran’s house took a pot-shot at her duck and killed it.In panic he hid the duck behind the woodpile, then to his horror turned and saw his little sister, Sally, had seen everything.

After dinner, when his grandmother asked Sally to do the dishes, she said, “Johnny told me he would like to do them”.Then whispered to him, “Remember the duck.”For weeks this pattern carried on, until the boy decided to tell his gran what had really happened.His grandmother said this, “I know, Johnny.I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing.Because I love you, I forgave you. I wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave out of you.”

Some Christians have a lot of dead ducks piled up in the wood pile.Some of them are big sins we are ashamed of.Others are repeated patterns of behaviour that we feel we can’t go back to God with again.We decide we are best off carrying the guilt for them ourselves and somehow trying to make it up to God.We need to hear the voice of God, saying to us, “I know what you did.I saw the whole thing.Because I love you in Jesus, I forgave you. I wondered how long you’d let that sin and that guilt enslave you before you remembered there is no charge and no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus my Son.”

That is where victory over guilt is found.

  1. Over fear- verses 35 to 39

I love the questions Paul raises in this section because the answers are: no one, no one, no one, and no one- verse 31, 33, 34, and 35.There is no person and no circumstance which can separate us from his love.Verse 35b means a lot coming from the Apostle Paul.He had experienced all those things.

Tribulations: all kinds of troubles of this life; Distress: the emotional effects of those troubles; Persecution: the abuse that comes if we faithfully follow Christ; Famine: recession

Nakedness: humiliation; Danger: often as he travelled.But the unexpected accidents and disasters that spring out of nowhere; Sword: war or terrorism, violence

He had been to the depths described in verse 36, as he quotes Psalm 44:22.He had faced death day after day after day at points in his ministry.Had that broken him?No way- verse 37.Then he lists everything he can think of which might snatch us away from Jesus- verses 38-39a- and concludes verse 39b.

We fear at times that there will be something that will take us away from Jesus.It might be something in this life that we imagine we couldn’t live without.It might be someone.But Paul says to those who are in Christ, there is no power in all creation that can separate us from his love.Even the worst things that happen can be used by God for our good and his glory.

Verse 37 is a game changer.Even if following Jesus costs us our lives we are still conquerors.In fact more than conquerors.Literally, super-conquerors.Many of us love superhero films.Some love Marvel, Spiderman, the Avengers and the like.Some love DC, Batman especially.Some love both.The amazing thing is in Jesus Christ you are a superhero.He’s given you your superhero name: Super Conqueror.Pretty cool.That means we can live our lives without fear.Even death is defeated.

But are we convinced?

Steve Levy story- George Jenkins, Tabernacle street

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Chris Menzfeld (SGA)– The fear of the Lord         Sunday  14th February 2021                                Prov.2v1-5

 

Solomon, after stating his purpose 1v1-6 lays the ‘grounds’ of wisdom 1v7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

It’s important to point out in that verse, the close association between wisdom & the Fear Lord…

Let’s pursue God’s wisdom a while – in order that we make the right decisions in life as set out in Proverbs…

By doing so we will understand Fear Lord 2v5 which is the beginning wisdom 1v7

 

1.To find wisdom we must receive & treasure God’s word v1 “receive & treasure my commands” Is this your loving desire?

Solomon begins this lesson with the words “My son”… in other places he addresses his children 4v1, 7v24

It’s as if Solomon was most concerned for godliness in the family home… MY SON

& when you consider some words of Jesus Mt.12v42 “a greater than Solomon is here” …. & the fact that Jesus “became for us wisdom from God” 1Cor.1v30 & spoke as heaven’s mediator His Father’s words to us…

Then the words MY SON take on a fresh meaning!

i.e. it is the expectation that the child of God has a loving desire to bend himself to his Heavenly Father’s Law!

Is this your loving desire…to receive His word into your heart & to treasure his commands? Lk.10v39, Acts 17v11?

& having received his word, hide it “within” our hearts where no man or demon can snatch it!

In what ways can we receive His word? Is there also a lesson about paying attention in v2?-

2. To find wisdom we must pray! v3 “yes if you cry out… lift your voice” Is this your loving desire?-

Jms.1v5 “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask God”

Prayer – the Christians vital breath! We must lift our voice to heaven…

Do you understand all of God’s word? Then ask God’s help because these are spiritual matters…

Think of Jesus, how He prayed! Look at His prayer – what a prayer warrior! Are we?

He was the Master in the art of prayer & has taught all the greatest intercessors amongst the sons of men – Mayer 1847-1929

Our time would easily go by just looking at the prayer life of Jesus! The gospels are full of His prayers! (LUKE…)

Please read in Luke & look at the occasions when things happened while he prayer Lk.3v21, 5v16, 6v12 , 9v18, 29

IF JESUS FELT THE NEED TO PRAY, SHOULD NOT WE?           HOW MUCH MORE?-

3.To find wisdom we must search as for treasure! v4“if you seek her…search for her” Is this your loving desire?

We are to search the Scriptures… SEEK & SEARCH… & you will surely find “treasures” … ‘S’, not just treasure!

This Holy majestic book is full of treasure God & God wants to share it with you! Ps.119v161-62, Is.33v6

Like a miner, we must search hard, dig deep - rarely do we find treasure without gigging deep!

MADNESS not to search         – “The blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and addeth no sorrow with it” Prov.10v22 (AV)

LAZINESS  not to search          – no one having a Bible is so busy he has no time for God’s word

FOOLISH   not to search – why close the door to God speaking personally to you!

What a wise theologian Solomon was… he had a clear & logical mind… here are two life changing words…

IF v1, & THEN v5…

THEN follows IF & so if we get the IF part right THEN we will understand Fear Lord & be on course to wisdom…

Therefore, let us give ourselves to this spiritual matter!

Fear Lord brings us into the SP realm – FEAR of a special kind – Heavenly dimension – Vertical not horizontal…

We are talking of REVERENCE & AWE

A sense of Majesty when we talk of God or to God or read the Bible or worship…

Fear Lord is not REPELLENT but ATTRACTING – you dare not run away from Him, but only run to Him – Piper

This fear is not an enemy but a friend … because it holds God in the highest esteem – in AWE

We don’t need to be frightened of Him (like children scared of a bully) … perfect love casts out fear

Fear Lord is the mark of Godly men Ex.3v6 “Moses was afraid

Fear Lord was the mark of the perfect Man! Song 5v16, Mt.3v17, 1Cor.1v30

This is Jesus - totally HOLY – Altogether lovely – full of the Spirit and “fear of the Lord” Is.11v2

Are we better than LJ? If He had the Fear Lord, dare we say we don’t need to fear the Lord?

So, what kind of person fears the Lord? Solomon describes Him…  It is the child of God, who, with a loving desire receives & treasures His word, prays much & seeks & searches for wisdom as one looking for the best of treasure Mt.7v24-27…

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SUNDAY AM, 7 FEBRUARY 2021 Reading: Jonah 4 •

Speaker: Neil Summerton

 I am aware that this is the fourth in your series of expositions of the book of Jonah, and I have very helpfully been provided with the notes on the previous three teaching. So I am aware that you have probably heard already more or less everything that could be said about the book – or at least that you feel that you have – ‘Oh, no! Not Jonah again!’, you may be saying wearily.

• So I propose to focus quite narrowly on the text of Jonah 4

Context

• But first, let us remind ourselves of the context, in two ways:

The wider context

This has been touched on in all your studies so far. Like very many of the OT prophecies, the context is not narrowly ‘religious’ or personal/individual. The OT comprises three main genres of literature.

(1) History: much is historical account, though not the dispassionate history of today – it is history against the background of cosmic truth about the universe and beyond; events are explained in a wa-y that a modern historian would never attempt.

(2) Wisdom: experience of God in the heart and soul, but very often in the context of real life, like the suffering of Job or the all-too-human and terrible sin of David in Ps. 51.

(3) Prophecy: the message/word of God by his Spirit, but always into particular circumstances, and frequently into concrete political and inter-kingdom circumstances – as is clear, for example, of the first 39 chapters of Isaiah, which simply can’t be understood without taking account of the concrete historical background. As has been pointed out to you, there is very little direct prophecy in Jonah – the end of 3: 4, and the prophetic prayer in 2: 2 – 9. It is much more personal history. But it is personal history in a geopolitical context. Within a century, Assyria (Nineveh) was going to become a major threat to Israel – in fact, about a century later Assyria was going to overthrow Israel and end the existence of the 10 northern tribes for ever (as a result of the latters’ persistent sin and idolatry). o But the times of Jonah were the times of Jereboam II of Israel, a king ‘who did what was evil in the sight of the LORD; [who] did not depart from the sins [of Jereboam I, a founder of the northern kingdom]’, yet a man by whom the sovereign LORD saved the northern kingdom (2 Kings 14: 27). Indeed, Jereboam II widened it to something like the borders of David and Solomon, while Assyria was going through a bad patch – within 30 years to be reversed by Tiglath-Pileser III. Still, the destruction of Nineveh which Jonah hoped to see as a result of his prophecy would be worth seeing in geopolitical terms. It’s not too fanciful to see Jonah as moved by the national success that Jereboam II achieved.

The immediate context

The immediate context of Jonah 4. Jonah cried out his prophetic word: ‘Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.’ (3: 4). And the last thing Jonah wanted happened. They repented in a remarkable way. You could say that there was a dramatic revival. They fasted, repented in sackcloth and ashes, and ‘turned from their wicked way’ (3: 5 – 10a). And as a result, ‘God relented’ (3: 10b). God demonstrated that as so often in his word, he pronouncements of temporal judgment are conditional: if there is true repentance and turning from sin, there is forgiveness and mercy in God – because mercy is his beloved work and judgment is his strange work, that which he does not want to do if he can possibly avoid it.

Sequel

• Chapter 4 is a sequel or coda to the book, and the great event of God’s compassion and mercy shewn to Nineveh. It completes the personal story of Jonah, and stands as a warning.

(a) Jonah’s anger

• You would have thought that, as a preacher of Yahweh, Job would have been delighted to see this great city repent as a consequence of his preaching. Gospel preachers don’t preach to see people reject the gospel and suffer the judgment of God; they preach to see people repent and be saved!

 4: 1 – 3 are to my mind among the most appalling verses of Scripture. Jonah reveals astonishing aspects of his attitude and character: He reveals (in prayer!) his motivation all along: ‘... was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? ... in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish’ (v. 2a) In other words, he took the ship to Tarshish, the exact opposite of the direction God wanted him to go in, because he was afraid that if he preached in Nineveh, the Ninevehvites might repent and God might spare them. In other words, he refused to preach, precisely in order to guarantee their destruction by God: he was only interested in preaching judgment and seeing it happen, not mercy resulting in salvation. Jonah did this not in ignorance or self-deception. He did it, knowing that he was flying in the face of God and in rank opposition to what he knew clearly was the character of God: ‘for I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.’ (v. 2b) Jonah’s thinking, inspired by the belief that only the Hebrews deserved mercy and not anyone else, was frankly depraved, consciously depraved.

He so angry, so disconbobulated, by what God had done that he wished to commit suicide, to die rather than live: ‘please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life’ (v. 3). And consistently so: Jonah ‘begged with all his soul to die, saying, “Death is better to me than life.” (v. 8 – and also v. 9).

And all this was against the backdrop that God had intervened when he was on his way to Tarshish, caused him to be thrown off the ship, possibly drowned to death, saved by a great fish, spewed out on the beach, and possibly brought back to life, and in spite of the promises which he had made to God in those circumstances: ‘I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD.’ (2: 9)

• Have you ever read a book, watched a film, or watched the news, and wanted to shout out in rage and frustration? I think that these verses want to make me rage, ‘Jonah, are you mad? Have you gone nuts?! How can you possibly think and speak like this, after all you have gone through, after God’s mercy, grace, and kindness shown to you? Can’t you see that you need to show the same grace and kindness to others.’ One is reminded of Jesus’ parable of the unjust steward. Yet God responds patiently, ‘Do you have good reason to be angry?’ (and one rather suspects that Jonah’s answer was an angry ‘Yes’!) (v. 4)

• Except, ‘let him that standeth take heed lest he fall’! I ask of you to think within the quietness of your heart of hearts, have you never been angry with God?, whether about the way he seems to be treating you or yours, or about the principles on which he seems to be acting. Have you never consciously resisted, or disputed with, God? Have you never quarrelled with God (even Job did!)?

(b) The lesson of the plant, gourd, or vine

• This bad-tempered conversation with God took place while Jonah was still in the city (v. 5). But he then went out into the wilderness to the east of the city, put up a booth, and settled down to ‘see what would happen to the city’. Perhaps he still hoped that God would change his mind and judge the city.

• God then mercifully provides a plant of some kind to provide more shade for Jonah ‘to deliver him from his discomfort’ (v. 6). ‘And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant’. But then God tests Jonah by causing the plant to wither, perhaps to find out if Jonah is still angry – as he certainly is. Jonah has an anger problem in spades, with plants (God’s creation) as well as with God!

• God’s purpose in this seems to be to try to expose to Jonah his extreme selfishness, that his focus is on himself, his comfort, and more widely his determination to get what he wants. One wonders whether Jonah repented and saw himself as God saw him. We are not told.

(c) The compassion of God

• It is God, not Jonah, who has the final word in this prophecy. And that final word is about the compassion, lovingkindness and mercy of God, not judgment. • This is the central message about God in this 8th century BC prophecy, the same as God revealed to Moses on Sinai: ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger [unlike Jonah], and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving inquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty ... to the third and fourth generation.’ (Ex. 34: 6, 7) – a Scripture that Jonah was perfectly familiar with as Jonah 4: 2 records.

• And later God abrogated even the last assertion, so that people die for their own sin, not for that of others: ‘What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.’ (Ezek. 18: 4). And Ezekiel spends the entire chapter amplifying the point, and concludes, ‘... get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live.’ (Ezek. 18: 31b, 32).

 

• As Peter wrote to the Christians of Asia Minor, ‘The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.’ (1 Peter 3: 9).

• This is the God that we see more than 800 years before, confronted with the sin of Nineveh. ‘When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which he had declared [through Jonah] that he would bring upon them. And he did not do it.’ (3: 10). And he did not do it because he understood their circumstances and their ignorance: ‘there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and life hand ...’ (4: 11) - and they had repented in sackcloth and fasting, turned from their wicked way and from the violence which was in [their] hands.’ (3: 7, 8).

• This is a God who will respond to true repentance, by whomsoever. ‘pierced to the heart’ the men in the crowd at Pentecost asked Peter ‘what shall we do?’ He replied, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off [in other words anyone], as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.’ (Acts 2: 37 – 39) • Those who will turn in repentance and faith to God today will receive forgiveness and his Holy Spirit, whatever their credentials or lack of them so far as God is concerned. He is the God who delights to have mercy. He can and will change your heart, life, spirit. You will become a new creature, a new being. (d) ‘... as well as many animals’

• And one last challenging point for believers. God said to Jonah that his delight was to have compassion not only on the men and women and children of Nineveh, but on ‘many animals’. (4: 11). Not only does the gospel offer us the wonder of salvation, sins forgiven, and being given a new heart so as to become new creatures. Part of it is that we are called to show the same compassion as God has for the rest of his creation. We were created to care for the animals and the garden. How much more should be do so as new creatures in Christ Jesus.