Christmas Day 2016: Rev. Dr. Gareth Edwards

isaiah-9-6Our Christmas morning service was led by Reverend Dr. Gareth Edwards of Hill Park Church, who preached from Isaiah 9. Gareth began by telling us that God has given us the main present – the Lord Himself. We are also told in Romans that God also gives every good gift.

The year of Isaiah 9 is around 735 B.C. Uzziah, King of Judah, had just died. There was a time of stability during his 12 year reign. We read in chapter 7 that Isaiah says a child will be born who will be Imannuel, ‘Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.’ (Isaiah 7:14). The two kings who the people dreaded would be wiped from the face of the earth. However, it was not all good news; an even greater enemy would come and destroy them – the Assyrians – the great super-power of the day. God’s message to Judah is that, because of sin, judgement will come at the hands of Sennacherib of Assyria. But Isaiah also speaks about a future day, the coming of another, Immanuel, who will bring salvation. This suffering servant will die for the salvation of His people. Here is chapter 9 Isaiah looks to the future, it’s the day when God will raise up the one who will be the Saviour, and all of the blessings that will come through Him. In Matthew 4 we read that the majority of His three year ministry is spent in Capernaum – a fulfilment of these very words from Isaiah, spoken many centuries before. This will be an invasion not of terror but now of grace and goodness, of the gospel.

Isaiah speaks of 5 blessings:

  • Light takes the place of darkness.

It is the light of hope. We know the light has come, the Saviour has come. We have the hope of eternal life in Him. Our future is better than our past. Everyday our future gets better, every day we experience more of the grace of Jesus Christ. It’s a step nearer. The best is yet to come.

  • Joy:

There will be no more gloom, it will give way to joy; the joy of being restored from the hands of the Assyrians. But Isaiah looks further to the future – the joy of Salvation of the Lord, that eternal life that comes with the Saviour’s birth.

  • The release from the burden of sin.

The message of forgiveness of sin, the message Jesus preached personally, brings release from bondage. The Saviour has come, the joy of salvation is our release from sin, is all because a ‘child is born, a son is given.’

  • Peace with God.

His name, Isaiah tells us, shall be, ‘Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end.’ (Isaiah 9:6). It’s a peace that passes all understanding. There is little peace in Syria today, or in Iraq, or in Pembrokeshire. People in Pembrokeshire don’t face the bloodbath of Syria, but they are oppressed by the cars of this world, but the materialism of this world. There is so little peace. They do not know the peace of God, they are in sin and have rebelled against Him. But a Saviour has come who has taken upon Himself the responsibility of the rebellion and offered Himself for the sacrifice of this sin, for those who take Him to be their Lord. All hostility has ended. They now receive the peace of God and know what it is to face an uncertain world, the anguish and difficulties, but on their own. They know that, ‘All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.’ (Romans 8:28). Through it all, God’s purpose is to bring glory to Him.

  • The kingdom:

Isaiah speaks about a kingdom. The government will be upon the shoulders of the child. There is one empire that is eternal, the empire of God’s grace, in the person of Jesus Christ. This empire is an empire of justice and righteousness. The rule of the Lord Jesus Christ is a rule that is marked with infinite kindness, it is omnibenevolent – all good. He has come and He has conquered our lives and subdued us to His will. In righteousness He leads us and guides us. His loving kindness that fills us day after day in a harsh world, where there is little kindness; we experience His abounding benevolence, day after day.

‘For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given.’ Praise God!

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December 11th 2016: Norman Rees

norman-rees-dec-2016Morning worship was led by Norman Rees, of Bethany Free Church, Clarbeston Road, who preached on 1 Timothy 1. Norman began by reminding us that Paul was a great servant of God who was mightily converted and greatly used. Paul met up with Timothy (Acts 16), a young man, and took him to be his servant and aide. He then had a responsibility as he was a ‘son in the faith.’ He left him in Ephesus to pastor the church. Paul encourages Timothy to cling on to the truth and not to listen to false teaching, but to stand up to those men. The law was given to the unrighteous, the living law is Jesus Christ. Only when we have an encounter with Jesus Christ and accept Him will the gift of God come to us. The law of God is to know that we cannot get to heaven by keeping anything. We are born in sin and we need something far greater than works. Paul says God changed him and Paul encourages Timothy to preach the Word of God to sinners, the lawless, who need the gospel. It is not just for people who attend chapel. The gospel is for sinners. Paul tells Timothy to preach the gospel which has revolutionised his life.

 ‘The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.’ (1 Timothy 1:15). This is a faithful saying, it is not something that is unreliable. It is true and can be trusted because it comes from a true, reliable, faithful God. It is an indescribable gift – it can changes a murder to someone who loves Christ. Here are 9 words that form the basis of all scripture, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ Christ came into the world as a helpless baby. Without Him this world does not make sense, existence is nothing without knowing God. You can have a happy life, but it’s a passing happiness, a vapour. Without God it makes no sense at all.

Saul of Tarsus was an enemy of God but God can change people. Christ is the promised seed of the very beginning, the anointed one of God, appointed to come into this world to save sinners. Jesus, the Saviour of sinners, who came from glory, a place where there is no sin, came into this world to a place which was despised by people – Nazareth. He was born in a stable, laid in a manger, the Son of God. It is mind blowing! He grew up with no sin in a wicked world. He came into a world ruled by Romans who knew how to bring the wrath of Rome down on those who would not toe the line. They had probably the worst form of execution – crucifixion. He came into a world where men writhed on crosses. He stayed in Palestine all His life yet the whole world knows about this man. He is God the Son, the one who created heaven and hell, the one who came into the world to save sinners. He knew what it was to be human, to be falsely accused, yet He is God. He came not just as a baby but as the Saviour of sinners. He just didn’t come as a pattern of good works but as someone who can change lives. Has He changed you? He bled to death for the punishment of my sin (Isaiah 53). He is the Messiah.

This Christmas, remember the coming of Christ. Repent and follow Him to be born again and have a new life.

‘The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.’ (1 Timothy 1:15). The chief of sinners. We are all the chief of sinners. Christ died for us. As Christians, when we fail God and succumb to the evil ways of the devil, tell the devil, ‘Satan, I resist you in the name of the one who came into this world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. He saved me, He has opened the way to heaven for me!’

December 4th 2016: Ian Middlemist

Our morning worship was led by Ian Middlemist who preached from Matthew 11, verses 25-30, focusing on verse 28, ‘Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’

We live in a society ruled by hurry and worry. This verse is a message of rest, it shows how to know the peace of Christ. ‘Come to me’ because nothing can hold the place reserved in our lives for Jesus Christ. The Lord extends an invitation to each of us. Why do we chase after so many things that can never satisfy, when Jesus Christ has urged us to come to Him? We come to Jesus with our exhaustion and restlessness. The exhaustion removes Christ from the picture. The supreme need in every life is not for pleasure or power but for meaning. The Lord Jesus invites us to Him. We discover our need in Jesus Christ. He promises rest for the restless, rest for our soul when life implodes upon us, when disappointments strike us. Turn to Christ afresh.

We see a great promise. There is one of the most profound examples of Jesus’ calling people to believe in Him. He says ‘Believe in me and put all your trust in me.’ What can we do to get people to turn to Christ? Men and women who have chosen to reject Christ will always do so, unless the power of Christ changes them. In verses 20-24 Jesus denounces them, He brings a stern tone and judgement. Then He turns His tone from one of judgement and urges them to turn to Him and trust Him. This message goes out to all mankind. He promises to give them rest. ‘Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11:28). All men and women today are being offered this promise. This revelation wasn’t given to the wise and learned but to the weak and weary, to the burdened, to those who have a spiritual need. The rest is for the soul. Burdens become light in Jesus Christ, they are lifted at Calvary. The Lord will refresh the people (Jeremiah 31). There is a promise of future redemption. Jesus is saying He will give us rest. Listen to His promise and take it to heart.

We see a great invitation; the call is for people to come to Jesus. One must believe in Jesus and seek forgiveness and salvation from Him. Repentance is tied in with belief. Turn to Jesus, turn to His direction as you are a new creation. Genuine faith will find expression in learning from Jesus and taking His yoke. In Israel, trying to stick to the letter of the law was often called ‘the Yoke of the Law’. They were said to be taken upon themselves the yoke of the Kingdom. The call of Jesus is a more involved call, it’s a call for people to exchange yokes. The yoke of Jesus is light. A man trains a young ox by yoking it to an older ox, who will do all the work. When we accept Christ, He does all the work for us, He lifts and carries burdens for us. ‘Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.’ (Jeremiah 6:16)   

Christ’s invitation calls for a radical change. To come under the authority of Christ is to know peace for the soul. Jesus Christ alone brings true rest.

He offers a great incentive. Learn of Jesus Christ, let Him teach you, trust in Him. His teaching is described as gentle and humble. The people have to decide whether to remain as disciples of the Pharisees, rejecting Christ. But if they accept Christ, they come to know the Father and enter into everlasting rest. Sanctification is growing in Christ, to cease trying to find peace in the things of the world. The gospel says ‘stop’, there is nothing left to do, it has been done already. Stop self-help, trying to earn salvation. Stop. Rest brings freedom. The gospel declares we are free. The chains that once surrounded us have been broken by the Resurrection power. We are free indeed from the cares and burdens that rob us of peace and joy. Come to Jesus Christ and know peace and joy. It is finished! Freedom is yours.

Rest is fixed and settled. God’s rest is for eternity. The rest can never be taken away. You are free from uncertainties.

Rest is confident and trustful. God will perfect us. We know He will complete the good work He has begun in us.

Rest is leaning and depending on our heavenly Father, who supplies all our needs.

November 27th 2016:Aaron Davies-Whitfield

aaron-nov-2016Our first Advent service of the year was taken by Aaron Davies-Whitfield who preached from Romans 8 in which he focused on two themes: God as Law Giver and God as Son Giver.

God as Law Giver: 

God is a God who has given law. From Genesis chapter 1 we read God gave laws, After creating the world He commanded Adam and Eve not to partake of the tree of knowledge, of good and evil. God has given laws and it is important for us to understand this. He is a God of righteousness. As creator, He can command, He can ask requirements and give consequences for breaking His commandments. The Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Apart from Genesis, they are filled with law. We first read of the Mosaic Law in Exodus 20. Immediately we think of the 10 commandments of law but there are 613 laws God gave to Moses and the children of Israel. It is important to realise, to have a vivid picture of the law then we will have a more vivid picture of Christ.

The law was given to Moses at Mount Sinai. The first problem we have, Exodus 19, is the people thought they could keep the law, the perfect righteous law. The people were told not to touch Mount Sinai or they would die. When God came down upon the mountain there was darkness and terror. Darkness conceals, it concealed God. We cannot approach God in all His splendour. The law does not reveal the glory of God, it conceals it. God began to give a covenant – an unchangeable, divinely imposed agreement. God was sharing His righteousness in this law. He also gave the law to show His righteousness and man’s unrighteousness. God set up the law of sacrifice so man could come nearer to God by the shedding of blood. The way to God is through blood. God established a priesthood but even the priests had to cleanse themselves. The sacrifice had to be continually kept.

In Isaiah we read even the sacrifices themselves were insufficient, ‘To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? Saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of goats.’ (Isaiah 1:11)

In Hebrews we also read that the blood of bulls and goats is not sufficient to cleanse us from our sin. The law shows us our unrighteousness. The law is weak because it can only teach men and women their transgressions, ‘Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.’ (Galations 3:19)

 ‘Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.’ (Romans 3:20). The law came to give the knowledge of sin.

By the law death came, for the wage of the law is death, ‘But the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away.’ (2 Corinthains 3:7).

By the law came cursing. “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the books of the law to do them.’” (Galations 3:10)

‘Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.’ (Romans 3:19)

‘What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. (Romans 7:7)

‘Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.’ (Romans 7:12). God is perfectly righteous, His law is perfectly good. The problem is us. The law leaves us totally unrighteous, without hope. You can’t get to heaven by good works, church attendance, how much you pray or keeping the laws.

So why was the law given? To always and forever point people to their need of a Saviour, to see their sin and hopelessness and their need for a Saviour.

God the Son Giver:

‘For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.’ (John 1:17). The law was given ultimately for us to see Christ. The law cannot change a person’s heart, but God giving His Son. Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.’ (Matthew 5:17).

At Mount Sinai there was trembling, fear and separation, if anyone touched Mount Sinai there was death. Yet Jesus’ very first sermon was given on a mountain and His first words were, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for there is the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5:3). Christ gives blessings to all who look to Him in faith. Man, in sin, could now come to the Son of God because of grace. He reconciled people to Christ. Under Christ there is a new law written on the heart by the Holy Spirit. Christ is the perfect sacrifice. His death has covered all our sins – past, present and future. He is perfect, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

There is a disagreement of believes today of the relationship of the law to born again believers. I am convinced that through Christ we are totally free from the law. Some scholars divide the law into three parts: moral, ceremonial and judicial. But the Bible only refers to the law as a whole: 2 Corinthains 3:6, Romans 7:6.

The Spirit will teach us something the law could never do, it teaches us to look to Jesus. We are no longer to look within and condemn ourselves, we are to look to Christ. ‘For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.’ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Grace is free to us but it cost the death of Christ. In Christ we are no longer under condemnation: 1 Timothy 1:9-19, Romans 3:21, Romans 7:6, Romans 10:4, 2 Corinthians 3:7, 2 Corinthians 3:13, Hebrews 8, Colossians 2:14.

The law was good but grace in Christ is better. We do not have a licence to sin. ‘What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.’ (Romans 6). The law is written within our hearts, the Spirit of God teaches us to be more like Christ. Under Christ there is a new relationship. When we sin, we sin against the knowledge of this love. We are grieving the one who gave His life for us. When the adulterous woman was brought before Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus did not condemn (John 8). We are no longer under condemnation.

God was us not to look back to Mount Sinai anymore, we are to look to Calvary. He doesn’t want to us look back to Mount Sinai, to the fear and trembling, but to look to the cross. In Galations chapter 5 we read of the fruits of the Spirit. These are manifested perfectly in Jesus Christ. We strive to be like Jesus. We still need to confess our sins and repent but we are no longer under law, we are under grace. God gave His Son and His Son saved man. The Old Testament shows us Jesus; when you read of the sacrifices you see Jesus. When you read the laws you see His perfect righteousness. Christ wants us to look to Him. It is not easy but you will find liberty. The commandments have gone, Salvation has come. God wants you looking at the perfect life and sacrifice of the Saviour. Paul says, ‘Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ (Hebrews 12:2). Feel the liberty in your hearts. There is grace, truth and victory when we look unto Jesus. We follow the commands of the New Testament. There is a new law for us, the law of Christ. The law of the Spirit of life in Jesus has set us free from the law of death.

 

November 20th 2016: Ian Jones

ian-jones-nov2016

This morning’s worship was led by Ian Jones from Carmarthen Evangelical Church, who preached from Genesis chapter 24, finding a wife for Isaac. This is the longest chapter in Genesis, longer than the chapter on creation, on the fall, on the judgement upon the earth of the flood. Why? Because it is never easy to find a wife! This is especially true for someone like Isaac. She could not be a Canaanite who would lead him astray, she had to be a woman of faith, a woman who believed in the one true God. Where would such a woman be found, when Abraham is the father of the faithful? Abraham speaks to one of his servants, to a man he trusts, to send him back to his family home. We may not know the servant’s name yet let us consider him an example of how we ought to be. He was:

a man of prayer,
a man of high expectations,
a man on a mission and
a man who was successful.

  • A Man of Prayer:

The servant had learned from Abraham how important it is to come to God in prayer. He knew Proverbs 3:6 before it had been written, ‘In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.’ We can imagine him setting up camels to go on a journey, but before he did so he came to God in prayer. He didn’t just pray, he used his own initiative. He went to the city of Nahor, stopping at a well outside the city. There, the servant prayed, ‘O lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham.’ (Genesis 24:12). He came to a place where he would expect to find a suitable woman for Isaac, someone who would be obedient to her family and show kindness and hospitality. He sought God in prayer for guidance. We need to pray and to put things into practice and use our initiative to go ahead. We can be reminded of Paul’s words, ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.’ (Philippians 4:6). The servant prayed to be led to the woman God had chosen for Isaac, the one who would be right in God’s eyes. It is a reminder of the importance of prayer and seeking God’s guidance to lead us, to direct us so His will, will prevail in our lives. Look to God first, always, then He will get the glory.

  • A man of high expectation:

Do we put a cap on our requests when we come to God in prayer? In Charles Dicken’s ‘Oliver Twist’ Oliver was the one who asked for more at a time when it was unheard of to ask for more. How do we view God? Is He able to do the impossible, to do far and beyond what we expect? This servant was a man who wanted clear guidance. He was like Elijah who looked for a woman who would feed him at the house of a woman who had no food in her home. Yet she was the woman God had chosen. Here, the servant wants to ask the woman not only to give him water but he also wants her to offer water for his camels. Camels drink a lot, up to 20 gallons of water per camel. No girl would offer to do this as it would require a few hours of labour. How could it happen? Yet this man had high expectations. Rebekah came. He ran over to her, asked her for a drink and after dinking the water she ran back to the well to feed his camels. This shows great kindness. The servant then asked if he could stay the night at her father’s house. Her response was yes. He knew right then that she was the one and immediately he praised God, ‘The man bowed his head and worshipped the LORD and said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.’’ (Genesis 32:26). How high are our expectations towards God? Do we know He can do the impossible?

  • A man on a mission:

The servant was devoted to service. Before eating with Rebekah’s father he revealed why he was there. Rebekah’s brother and father agreed that Rebekah should return with the servant to be Isaac’s wife. Gifts are exchanged. It seems as if all is settled. Then, the next morning, the servant reveals he is returning to Abraham. This would have surprised Rebekah’s family. Having travelled about 300 miles, they would have expected the servant to stay a few days, especially as they would probably never see Rebekah again, so they would have wanted some time with her before she left. But the servant knew he had to return; a choice has been made whether Rebekah would go or not.

We are here for a purpose. We are only here for a short time to serve Him. We can easily be distracted and forget our purpose – to live for God and proclaim Him. We are to serve God and not get caught up in other things. The servant knew his purpose. Be engaged in the Lord’s service. Use the gifts you have been given.

  • A man who is successful:

The man who puts God first is successful. By the end of the chapter God blessed him in that when Rebekah was asked whether to go or not, she replied favourably. This is amazing! She had never seen the servant before, she had never seen Isaac, yet she is leaving everything to go with a complete stranger. She made her decision quickly. This speaks volumes about our salvation; we see here Isaac is likened to Christ and Rebekah is the bride of Isaac, the bride of Christ.

We can put ourselves in the position of Rebekah. Someone brings good news which needs to be accepted there and then. The offer of salvation comes and we have to make a choice there and then, leaving behind everything we had and knew. This requires the work of the Holy Spirit. When God is at work and people have been praying, things work out for God’s purpose. It’s miraculous! Our own salvation is utterly amazing! Christ is waiting for us, as Isaac waited for Rebekah. We are on that journey now and we will soon see Him in glory. Rebekah is the chosen one, as we are the chosen ones of God. Rebekah was not disappointed, everything was given to her. That’s how it will be with us, when we go home to be with the Lord Jesus Christ, we will never be disappointed.

November 13th 2016: Paul Daniel

Our service was taken by Paul Daniel of Bethal Evangelical Church, Clydach, who preached from Genesis chapter 11.

Paul began by saying we can be thankful for what God has done for us throughout history – for what He has done and where we are going. Paul told us about the Stanford University Prison experiment, in which volunteers took on the role of either prisoner or guard. At the start of the experiment all volunteers took on their expected roles but as the experiment continued it was observed that the ‘guards’ took on shocking roles. History repeats itself; US soldiers were caught carrying out similar torture. These illustrations show that through the generations people are just as bad as they were before.

In Genesis we have the account of the flood, when God looked at the world and all He could see was evil. He was so grieved He wanted to start again by flooding the world to get rid of the evil. He is a just God. Noah and his family were saved. After the flood he and his family were the only ones on the earth. The family grew. We read in chapter 10 that people were living in different places and had different languages (10:4-5, 10:20, 10:31). Yet in chapter 11 they are living together as one. What is going on? Chapter 10 and 11 are not in chronological order.

The bombshell is the people have been spread out into the world in clans, speaking different languages. The reason why this has happened is because God has judges them. The people sinned and God judged. The people have been given a fresh start but even when people have a fresh start they fall again. Sin has always been there since the beginning and will be there until the end.

Let’s have a look at what God sees, ‘And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.’  (Genesis 11:5). He sees the sons of Adam – the same kind of people He saw in Genesis chapter 1.

  • God’s humour looking at the tiny efforts of humankind.

The people wanted to settle in a place called Shinar. They had bricks and tar rather than stone and mortar – sub-standard materials. They wanted to build a tower so high so they could make a name for themselves. It is the same today – people want to build high towers in cities to show their importance. God says,’ Let us go down to have a look,’ as He sees them attempting to build a tower to heaven. The audacity of the people! God, of course, can see what is going on, but the people’s attempts are so feeble. God does not condemn creativity, He has given us gifts to work and to be creative. But we are to give the glory to Him, not ourselves. Here, the people wanted to make a name for themselves. God looks at the tiny effects of humankind and He laughs. What are we building our lives on? They used second rate materials that would not last. What is the number one thing you want to live for? If it isn’t God, it won’t work.

  • God’s judgement – to limit what sin can do.

The people loved praise, they wanted people to see how great they were. They also wanted security. Together, as one people with one language they can accomplish something great, so they won’t be scattered over the face of the earth. ‘Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’ (Genesis 11:4). In Genesis 1 God told Adam and Eve to have children and fill the earth – not to make a name for themselves. Here, the people were disobedient to God so He scatters them and gives them different languages. They were altogether, of one mind, in unity. However. They were judged by God because they loved to praise themselves, to praise their own names and have their own security. They would do anything to protect their own security. History tells us this brings destruction. They were utterly selfish. God sends judgement. However, He sends mercy. He disperses them so they can’t carry out the destruction they might otherwise do.

The purpose of our churches is to go into all the earth and make disciples of every tongue and nation. ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ (Matthew 28:19). This church is for everyone – for all people.

  • God’s Salvation, despite our sin.

People are the same whatever generation. Sin is there when we are born. In chapter 12 we read of the Lord appearing to Abram. God gave Abram a promise to make him great, to bless him and all the nations. ‘And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you name make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. (Genesis 12:2).

 Despite sin, God will do something wonderful – He will bless all the nations. That seed will one day become Jesus Christ who blesses all people. If you confess your sin, God will bless you.

God judges the love of praise and the love of security. You and I all go back to this one point in history. Jesus, who was the one who ought to have been praised and ought to have been secure, was the one who gave it all up, carried the cross and hung humiliated. He has made us secure. The very sins that you and I do are the sins He has paid the penalty for. In the words of the hymn of Charles Wesley,

“The veil is rent in Christ alone;
The living way to heaven is seen;
The middle wall is broken down,
And all mankind may enter in.”

The people were trying to climb to heaven but the only way to get to heaven is through Jesus. The wall, the barrier, is broken down. He is the one who welcomes us in to heaven.

October 30th 2016: Aaron Davies-Whitfield

aaron-oct-2016Our morning worship was led by Aaron Davies-Whitfield who preached from Philippians 2: 25-30. He reminded us of the importance of being faithful to the text.

In this portion of Scripture we read about Epaphroditus, a small yet mighty man, who is also mentioned in Philippians 4:18. That is all we read of him in the Bible. He was the pastor of the church at Philippi. In Acts 16 we read Paul received the Macedonian call in a vision, Paul felt that God wanted him to go to Macedonia, to the chief city, Philippi. It was here where Lydia was greatly saved, the Philippian jailor and his household were saved, the possessed woman was saved. Now we have this wonderful church of which Epaphroditus is pastor. This morning we are going to explore the character, condition and conduct of Epaphroditus.

Epaphroditus’ character:
Although he was mentioned so briefly in the Bible, Epaphroditus was a great man. This should be an encouragement for us; though our name may not be out there, we can still be a great blessing. God always sees. What Paul had to say about Epaphroditus was great. He called him, ‘My brother and companion in labour, and fellow soldier.’ (Philippians 2:25). Anyone who seeks to serve is a soldier. We are called to take up arms, not as extremist religious groups, but through the Word of God. We march with a different banner – the banner of Christ. We don’t march in aggression, we seek to win battles for the Lord, to make the name of Jesus Christ known, ‘Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.’ (Ephesians 6:11). We are in a battle. Up there is our eternal rest, when the final victory of the Lamb will resound from every believers’ mouth. But from down here we must never give up the fight. Hold fast, be resilient. We have an adversary; Peter says we must not be ignorant of his devices, we must not bury our heads in the sand. We march for the gospel – that is the great weapon that will win every fight. There is power in the name of Jesus to conquer every foe and every enemy. Are you on the Lord’s side – a soldier of Christ?

Epaphroditus was Philippi’s messenger. The people of Philippi were the only ones who ministered to Paul, the only ones who provided finances. Give to those who He calls to bless you and in return you’ll be blessed. You must give to the house of faith, to ministers. The people also ministered to Paul in that they sent their love and fellowship to Paul. No church or minister is an island. We need to agree on the gospel, on evangelistic truth. There must be unity, even though we have differences. As churches we must come together, putting aside our disagreements and come together for the greater cause of the gospel. Epaphroditus had a wonderful character – caring and loving. We need to be loving towards pastors, even if we disagree and have fallouts we must love one another. Being a minister of God is not a career, it’s a calling, a gracious gift.  It’s a choice God makes for you. It’s important that those who God calls are faithful and love the church.

Epaphroditus’ Condition:
Epaphroditus was in a poor condition, ‘For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him, and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.’ (Phillipians 2: 26-27). This is a delicate issue. Here, Epaphroditus was healed by God. It’s important to notice Epaphroditus was sick, yet he was faithful and following the Lord.

We are in fallen bodies, in a fallen world where sickness abounds. One day we will have glorious bodies. Sickness is a result of sin, but not personal sin. There is a strong teaching that healing and miracles have passed away. But, as we see here, healing is not just a sign for unbelievers. God has mercy on Epaphroditus. ‘Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven.’ (James 5: 13-15).

Do we pray for people to be healed? We must not let our experiences dictate our theology. Just because we are not seeing miracles or healings does not mean that God is not able to heal. God is sovereign. He can heal – the Bible says so. Does He always heal? No. There are times when God won’t heal but we still pray. Never limit God to your understanding. We need to raise our spiritual temperature and see more of the power of the Holy Ghost, we need to believe and call upon the Lord. God is all powerful and can do all things as we are reminded in Acts 4:29 and again in Acts 6:8, ‘And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.’

Ultimately, God had mercy on Epaphroditus. He was healing not just to establish the gospel but because God was merciful, He cares. Even if He does not heal you, He will uphold you. God wants to see His church rise and see a wonderful moving of His Spirit and impart power to His people. Never limit God, He is able to do all things. Epaphroditus was sick, but God had mercy on him. Sometimes, God allows these things. Paul had a thorn in the flesh. God can use these things because it makes us homesick; we are to long for a better place, a better city, where there’s no sickness, no sorrow, no heartache, where all tears will be wiped away and we will be like Jesus. Everything here is temporary.

Epaphroditus’ Conduct:

Epaphroditus was sold out for the Lord. Strive for the Lord. He will rewards the labours of His people. ‘And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.’ (Galations 6:9)