Contentment in Christ – whatever our situation

Do you ever think ‘What if’, ‘if only’ or ‘why me?’ I know I ask these questions and all too often! It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking we ourselves can alter and shape the future. We evaluate our situation and if we are not completely satisfied the questions begin. As someone who is far too familiar with the ‘valleys’ in life, the doubts and questions can become burdensome. We’ve been taught that contentment is linked to our accomplishments or accumulation of satisfaction from the world. These questions can never be fully answered and since there is no end to our desires to acquire or do more, the horizon is always moving. We will never experience contentment following this line of thinking.

The true meaning of contentment is being satisfied with what you have and with who you are – right now, always being content that the Lord provides everything you need. Despite the many trials Paul went through he understood how to be content. In Philippians 4:11-13 he wrote,

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Contentment doesn’t have anything to do with external influences; rather it has everything to do with God and how He is moulding us and refining us all for His glory. The good news is that we all can learn how to become fully content with who we are, what we are, and what we’re doing.  Through our relationship with Jesus Christ, we can learn how to be content by thanking God for what we do have instead of focusing on what we don’t have.

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Give thanks no matter what happens. God wants you to thank him because you believe in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

The key is to be confident in the knowledge you can do all things through Him who gives you strength. This only occurs by faith, moment by moment.

The apostle Paul highlighted the importance of living life as we are called to do. 1 Corinthians 7 verse 17 states ‘Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.’  Paul emphatically states that God has sovereignty over all things and He has assigned each believer with a place in life, and it is from where we are situated now that the Lord will use us. Every day, God places us where we need to be in order to serve Him. Our ‘place’ in this world is not determined by chance, but has been carefully crafted and weaved into a grand design.

So what happens when we reach the valley and all looks bleak? In our own strength we crumble and cannot cope with the burdens of life, but with God everything is possible. We may feel unable to carry on, but the God of the mountaintop is still the same God in the valley.  He is able to remove us from the difficult situation, but that isn’t always helpful. There is always a reason for our circumstances – whether to learn something new or to remold us in Christ. But the most important thing, above all else, our circumstances are given to us to glorify the Lord and become trophies of His grace. God is Sovereign over all things – good and the not so good. The difficulties we experience don’t happen to us by chance, but we know that there is good in every situation. We may not see it immediately and we may ask. ‘Why is this happening?’ but during these times we need to thank God and trust in Him.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  – Jeremiah 29:11

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

September 18th 2016: Gareth Edwards

Reverend Doctor Gareth Edwards, of Hill Park Baptist Church, preached on John 1:26, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:26

You may have had a hectic week and look back and feel exhausted by all you were required to do. All that takes place in here in John 1:19- 34 took place in a week. It begins with John the Baptist being quizzed by a deputation of Pharisees and ends with Jesus’ first miracle – turning water into wine. It was a week full of testimony to who Jesus Christ is. The question at the beginning is ‘Who is John the Baptist?’ but the question that is answered is ‘Who is Jesus Christ?’ John the Baptist plays a central role in that testimony, which can clearly be seen in verses 32-34. He has already baptised Jesus and come to realise that Jesus is the Messiah. John humbly points the deputation from Jerusalem away from himself and to the Messiah – the one who was in the midst but of whom they were ignorant. The next day John immediately identifies him as the Messiah.

In order to grasp John’s message we need to examine the key words and unpack the statement, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  This will be done in reverse order: Sin, Lamb of God, Behold.

Sin:
It has been said that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Jesus came into the world to address this problem – sin. Jesus came in order to take sin away. Today, sin is considered to be irrelevant. We may believe they are accountable to no-one but ourselves. If we believe God exists at all, then we may believe that He doesn’t have a right to condemn us because His role is to love and care for us. If we do acknowledge we have done wrong, we blame others for leading us astray or we blame our circumstances; we’re not guilty but victims.

The Bible doesn’t excuse our sin, it doesn’t allow us to escape the fact that we are accountable to God for our actions and our words. Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In Romans 6:23 we read, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This rebellion against God brings upon us the just sentence of death. This is the root of the whole problem of our world. All are sinners. As sinners we are justly condemned by God, subject to His holy wrath. John the Baptist tells us Jesus came to deal with the problem, to take away our sin. Do you recognise that you are a sinner? You may be someone of integrity, yet our sin is desperately wicked. The reality is that in what we do and what we say there is rebellion against God. It is no use burying our heads in the sand; we are sinners! Consequently, the Word of God tells us that the greatest priority is that our sin be taken away. Family problems, health problems, financial problems – they all pale into insignificance. We need our sin to be taken away, to know His forgiveness. We need to cry out for a Saviour to come, to rescue us. You desperately need a Saviour.

Lamb of God:
The people of Jesus’ day were steeped in the Old Testament and knew very well how lambs were used as sacrifices for sin. After sin came into the world we were alienated from God. It was God’s will that a lamb was as a sacrifice. In Genesis 4:4 and Hebrews 11:4 we read how Abel was considered righteous after offering a sacrificial lamb – the shedding of blood for life. Cain offered fruits of the soil, labours of his own hand, which God rejects. No amount of human effort had effect. Later, under the Law of Moses, a lamb was offered. We read in Leviticus 4:32 that a sinner brings a lamb and places his hands on the animal’s head to symbolise the transference for guilt.

In Hebrews 10 we learn that no amount of shedding of blood could take away sin. Only the Lamb of God truly cleanses us, the Messiah. Those who offered sacrifices in the temple looked forward to the one Lamb of God, whose death would take away their sins.

The people would have remembered how Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his much loved son Isaac. Abraham obeyed and took Isaac, who was probably in his late teens or early twenties. Isaac submits. They reach Moriah where they leave their servant behind. When Isaac asks where is the lamb Abraham replies that God will provide. Abraham was about to plunge the knife when God intervened. Abraham proved his faithfulness to God, or rather proved to himself his faithfulness to God. There, nearby, God provided a lamb caught in brambles – a substitute for Isaac. Now John describes Jesus as the Lamb of God – a substitute for you and me, for Isaac, for Abraham. ‘God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8).

In Exodus 12 God is going to send an angel of death to pass through Egypt. But the Israelites sacrificed a lamb and smeared its blood on doorposts as a sign to spare the Israelites and protect them. The lamb had to be perfect. So it is that Jesus Christ came, the real Passover, the perfect Lamb, who sacrificed His blood for us. Through the blood of the Lamb we are spared.

‘You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot’ (1 Peter 1:18-19).

In Isaiah 53:5-7 the prophet foresaw the coming of the Lamb, a suffering servant, a sacrificial Lamb who will take away the sins of the people, ‘like a lamb led to the slaughter.’ Jesus was both innocent of the charges laid against Him, completely innocent of any wrong doing. Yet He goes to the cross like a man who endures what He deserves. Why? Because He has accepted the responsibility for your sin and mine. He stands in my place and yours. So in describing Jesus as the Lamb of God, John is saying Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament passages of scripture.

In Egypt on Passover night there was death in every house. Can you think of what that would be like – if in every house in Roch someone had died? On Passover night there was either the death of a lamb or death of a first born babe. In payment for our sins there has to be death. Either our death or Jesus’ shed blood so we might be forgiven and have eternal life, an eternal relationship with God. It is amazing to think God provided His only Son to suffer in our place when we are so unworthy. It is amazing!

Look / Behold!
John the Baptist issues an invitation to all around him not simply to gaze on Jesus but to trust Him. John is saying,’ Here is the Saviour who can provide all your needs. Don’t look to me or yourselves for salvation, look to Him and Him alone. ’ It is only those who look to Jesus with believing eyes who will be saved.

The New Testament uses the term ‘all’ for inviting people to come. This means all types – male, female, rich, poor – Jesus offers salvation to all types of people. But it only has effect for those who repent of their sins and know that there is nothing they can do to help themselves. Have mercy upon me as a sinner. I take Jesus to be my Saviour. I hide in His death because He died for me and I trust in Him. Your wrath, Oh God, fell on Him at Calvary and as I trust in this I am hidden from that wrath. I will follow Him and serve Him.

‘Look!’ John says. He pleads for you to take Him as your Saviour. John has baptised Jesus in the Jordan. Jesus didn’t have any sin so why was He baptised? Just as He didn’t have to die for His sins, He died for ours. He was saying, ‘I am one of them, I am them.’ He carries those sins of ours throughout His perfect life. We watched as His sins were sealed behind the rock of death. He rose on the third day, minus sins, which are never to be seen again.

Have you looked to Him? Not just a passing glance. Have you looked and seen in Him the only hope of Salvation?

September 11th 2016: Aaron Davies-Whitfield

Worship was led by Aaron Davies-Whitfield who preached from Philippians 2: 19-24, which he entitled “Not my will, but Thy will be done.’ We find Paul is in a place of uncertainty. His letter is written from Rome when he was under house arrest, which can be likened to the bonds and chains of the gospel. Paul is facing possible execution. He truly was an incredible man of God, a giant in the faith. It is staggering how God changed this man, who was out to destroy the church but now he is willing to lay down his life for the church and Christ.

In verse 19 we read, ‘But I trust the Lord Jesus.’ Paul was so captivated by Christ, his every thought and deed were always attached to Christ. He was under house arrest by the wicked Emperor Nero, who prosecuted and martyred Christians in the most horrific ways. Paul does not say, ‘I trust – if the Emperor allows.’ No, he states, ‘I trust in the Lord Jesus.’ Our future must fall into that place, like Paul. When you come to acknowledge Him as Saviour, He is not only your Saviour, He is your Lord. You give your life to Him. Paul faces possible execution, yet Jesus is the one who holds Paul’s future. Notice, in verse 24, Paul write, ‘But I trust the Lord.’ His future was not bleak but wonderfully glorious because of Christ. Whatever comes our way, our future is glorious in Jesus.

Paul was a spiritual giant but he also had feelings. This mighty man of God needed to be encouraged. He says he hoped to ‘send Timothy shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort’ (verse 19). Paul was anxious for the Philippian Church. Notice his feelings were all encompassed in Christ. He was concerned but that didn’t waiver him, his trust was in Christ. We are reminded, ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.’ (Proverbs 3:5-6). Paul was trusting in the Lord. Trust in Him, lean on Him when you don’t understand and He will direct your path.

I wonder how many people visited Paul when he was under house arrest? It’s a challenge to us. How do we feel about those who minister the gospel to us? Do we love and care for them? It’s not always easy to sit under preaching – sometimes it will rebuke and chasten. We don’t pick and choose, it’s His Word. There can be that in us that doesn’t receive the Word. Let the Spirit of God work in us. We need to humble ourselves. Love those, even in their faults.

Paul found no-one like-minded but Timothy, his son in the gospel. In verse 21 we read, ‘For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.’ Where is your heart today? What is your greatest ambition? What are your motives and desires? Where is Jesus in all these things? How sad Paul was surrounded by Christians but none of them sought Christ’s Will. When Christ came to this earth He thought nothing of His own will, He sacrificed everything for the gospel. He laid aside everything.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan the priest and the Pharisee walked passed the man who was beaten and left for dead. It was the Samaritan who stopped and helped. It’s a challenge but one to take on board.

As Christians we can be more mindful of seeking salary not a Saviour. If Paul came to the church this morning, what would he say of us? Everything in this world will fade away – our job, salary, even our families – but all done for Christ will last. Make His name great in our life and your name full of insignificance. ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.’

Looking at the churches around I see an absence of men in the gospel work. God is calling men to the work. The harvest is ripe but the labourers are so few. One of the reasons is we have too glamourous minds – certain things have to be in place before we consider God’s work. The ultimate questions is, ‘Has God called you?’ If God has called you, then He will provide. Men and women look to salaries and locations. In the New Testament, being a gospel church meant being in prison. Where is Christ in your life? We may not be called to preach the gospel but we are all called to live for the glory of God and make disciples, to follow Him whatever that means. Salary, reputation and comfort will all fall aside. We need to go wherever and to whoever if the Lord is calling. Jesus called the disciples – they did not know where they were going and they would lose their lives but they went willingly. ‘All seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.’ We live in a world of ‘My, my, my, me, me, me’ but what about Jesus? In light of all He has done for you, He asks you to be willing to serve Him, He will do everything else. All Jesus is asking is for you to say, ‘I’ll go Lord.’ God is calling.

‘And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) God is calling you to something. He wants you to be a faithful witness to family and friends or even to the other side of the world. Seek Christ. Seek His will in your life. Surrender your will into His hands.

In verse 22 we read of Timothy, who we know was not a well man; he was a weak and fragile young man but he was willing to go, whatever the cost. When it came to conscription in the Great War men had to leave everything and go to war. We need to serve Christ, to take up the banner of the cross.

The church must go on, the gospel must carry on. But it needs labourers, people willing to forsake their wants for God’s wants.

‘So I will go wherever He is calling me
I lose my life to find life in Him
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies
I bow my heart, take up my cross, and follow Him.’

(From the hymn, ‘What Grace is Mine.’)

You may also like to listen to the hymn, “Here I am Lord’
which is based on Isaiah 6:8
https://youtu.be/EcxOkht8w7c

September 4th 2016: Paul David

Our service this morning was led by Paul David of Cosheston Mission Church who preached from Psalm 90. As this is a prayer of Moses, it is probably the oldest psalm. You can find a summary of the life of Moses in Acts chapter 7. He lived to what we would call today a great age – 120 years old. His life was conveniently split into 3 forty year periods. The first forty years he spent in Egypt, but his life changed dramatically in the next forty years when he fled from the palace to the desert of Midian to look after his father’s flock. At the age of eighty God sent a reluctant shepherd to deliver the Hebrews from slavery. Moses saw and did miracles. He struggled with people who rebelled against God. Moses was a man of God, a meek man who knew God face to face. He was a sinner, along with his generation, who were condemned never to enter Canaan.

We live in a culture which values positive attitudes, which likes to portray positive images. In bookshops you can find many self-help books which tell us that the solution to all our problems is inside us; if we think positive things it will turn out all right. It’s always great to meet people with a sunny disposition. However, in verses 3-11 Moses gives us a serious dose of realism. Our life is short, we live under God’s anger because we are sinners. When we are here on earth life is hard. We may begin with hope and optimism but this turns to disappointment. God is fully aware of our sin, it is no secret from God.

Life may be more comfortable for some than others. There will be trouble. Christians will suffer for their faith: John 15 “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”

In this psalm we see a series of requests:

  • “So teach us to number our days,” (Verse 12). Moses considers the brevity of life. We all think we will lead a long life, we put off serious thoughts about the end of our lives, yet we are told, “But Beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8).

Moses asks for wisdom to see life as God sees it. Wisdom is seeing ourselves as we really are – sinners heading for a meeting with God. We need to see our sinfulness set against God’s purity.

  • “Make me glad” (verse 15). Why? Because there is more to life than can be seen. Moses knew there is spiritual life where spiritual prosperity can live alongside certain hope. This short journey on earth will end in paradise.
  • “Let your work appear to Your servants, And you glory to their children, And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands” (verses 16-17). Moses wants us to work, just as we are encouraged to do so in Philippians 2. God working is us involves us working. He begins the work by saving us and continues the work by sanctifying us. A Christian’s nature is changed. As we grow in grace our lives should reflect Jesus Christ.

Moses never really had a true home, yet he learned an important lesson, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.” (verse 1). Our permanent home is where the Lord is.

Paul David - sept 2016.jpg         psalm 90-12