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!

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.