June 25th 2017: Ian Middlemist

Ian-June 2017 John 17: The Highly Priestly Prayer

We are included in this great high priestly prayer of Jesus. We are just like Jesus because of His calling on our lives.

‘And I am no longer on the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.’ (John 17:4). Jesus was going, but we are staying. Jesus came, the God-man came into the world. The second person of the Trinity entered into this world. He came, but is at home today in heaven. It’s amazing God’s people are still here on earth. The reason for this is that we should be a witness for Jesus Christ in this world. How are Christians to cope in this life? Jesus prayers for them. It is Jesus’ obligation to look after us in this world. This prayer spans all of time. Jesus’ prayers for us today are sufficient to make us stand in this world.

‘They are mot of the world, just as I am not of the world.’ (John 17:16). Just as Jesus is not of this world, so we are not of this world. If you are a Christian, saved by Jesus Christ, you are not of this world. We are different. The Bible defines how we are different. The world has different meanings. The world, also known as the cosmos can mean the universe created by God. It can mean the planet earth itself. If can mean the totality of human existence. Here, in John 17, it means the order of this world, how it thinks in unity against God, alienated from God, opposed to that which is to come – the Kingdom of God. The ruler of this world is the devil, ‘Now is the judgement of this world, now will the ruler of this world be cast out.’ (John 12:31). We should have concern for our neighbours who are living under this dictator’s rule, the devil’s rule. The world is alienated from God, ever since the Fall. The systems of this world are against God.

The world does not want God. But Jesus says we are not of this world. We have been hand-picked out of this world to receive a position in His glorious kingdom. Our whole life is now a compass set towards God. Our direction is set towards God. We will be hated because we have embraced Jesus Christ and the Word of God, ‘I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.’ (John 17:14). If you have any doubt the world hates God, look at the cross, how Jesus was killed. If you’re a Christian you are not of this world, you make Jesus your delight. He is precious. ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.’ (1 Peter 2:6).

We will be hated, just as Jesus was despised. You may not want to consider this, but Christians are rejected because we have Christ as our leader. There will be uncomfortable silences when we mention we’re a Christian, or mention the name of Jesus. It is difficult because people don’t want to hear His name. Every time this happens, be encouraged, don’t stop saying His name. Be reassured you are a follower of Jesus Christ.

‘As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.’ (John 17:18). Just as Christ was sent into the world by His Father, so we are now sent into the world. Jesus did not just appear as an accident, He was sent from heaven. The whole of the Old Testament points to Jesus. He was sent into the world. We know from the words said at His birth He was set apart.

Jesus was sent on a great rescue mission – to achieve our salvation, ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16). Jesus picked us out of the world, He chose us. What a great honour! He washed us. He hung on the cross, He had our names written on His hands. He picked you out to triumph over death and hell. He will work in us that we will defeat sin in His power. In the end He will present us faultless before God. We have been picked out of this world but we are in the world. Some see this as being separated. They see the sinfulness of this world and want to be separated from it. But this denies the truth that there is an inward nature of sin. And what about all the people who need to hear about Jesus? Don’t forget about those around you. Jesus sends us into the world in His power.

Some are happy to compromise with the world. But the church is very different to the world. How can a Christian sing along with songs that are clearly against the church? Or laugh at jokes that are against Christ? They can’t. Psalm 1 reminds us ‘Blessed is the man whom walks not in the counsel of the wicked.’ (Psalm 1:1). We should not compromise. Don’t be ashamed.

‘And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.’ (John 17:19). We are set apart. Just as Jesus was consecrated, so are we. We are consecrated and sanctified. To consecrate is to be set apart. Jesus was set apart by God the Father, so He set Himself apart – for death – so He might save us. To be sanctified is to be made holy, joined with Jesus in His consecration. We are set apart for the work of redemption. Jesus is determined to save those He will save. We are involved in the salvation of others too. He delights to use His church to save others by the preaching of the gospel. We can’t save anyone, only Jesus saves. We can’t open blind eyes. That work belongs to Jesus and Jesus alone. But we are called to bring His redemption message. We are:

Hand-picked out of this world;
Citizens of heaven;
Different – we have a heart for God;
Sent into the world.

‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:19-20).

We have a great commission. It is for all who believe. All of us are sent in to the world to share the gospel. It is the truth that sets us apart. We are to live holy lives, devoted to Jesus Christ, in the place He has set us. Our holiness is vital to this mission. We are not to be defiled by sin. Not all of us are called to be evangelists or pastors but let us have confidence in Jesus Christ and work where we have been called. We are to serve Christ. Do you realise your calling – the great privilege you have been given? We are ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Christ prayed His followers would have an attitude of mission. Let’s pray He would give us the heart too.

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June 11th 2017: Chris Rees

chris rees - june 17Nehemiah 7:1-5

We read in Revelation that nothing will defy the city of God, the new Jerusalem; there will be no lies, no false pretences. ‘But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.’ (Revelation 21:27).

Immigration is a hot topic in our news today. Immigrants come into the country – someone from a Libyan family bombed Manchester. People ask how terrorists of Italian-Morrocan descent were allowed into the country. Questions are asked – who should be and belong in this nation? Emotions arise. There is an undercurrent.

Try and imagine what it must have been like for Nehemiah. The people had come back from Babylon, married and inter-married. As Jerusalem was being rebuilt, who should belong to the city? In chapters 1-6 Nehemiah describes the work of building the walls of Jerusalem. Next he deals with ones who have a rightful place in the city.

If there is one thing we desire, we want God’s house to be filled. However, before this happens, positions need to be filled before God will fill His house.

In Nehemiah 7:1-3 we read that Nehemiah appointed the gatekeepers, singers and the Levites, ‘Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.”’ (Nehemiah 7:1-3). The book tells us of what God has done. God put into the heart of the Nehemiah to make a register of the people. Nehemiah appoints gatekeepers, singers and faithful leaders. It’s a truth of scripture – before you see God fill a place, things needs to be done in order, put in place. Positions need to be filled. God will never fill a place unless He knows the place will be a place of safety and security. God wants you to have safety and security in your life.

God took faithful people, people who can be relied upon. When Nehemiah comes he appoints faithful men who had the fear of God – not fear as in being scared, but a reverence. The gates needed to be shut, things needed to be guarded. When God calls His lost sheep home, when attacks come, the door needs to be shut. God will not save people into a fellowship where there will be falseness of practice. God will not add to a church until things are in place.

Who are the people who are to be in this city?

‘The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt. Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first’ (Nehemiah 7:4-5). The city is large and spacious. There is room. So few enter there. Perhaps we feel that in our country, as Christians, we are few? Places of worship are not bursting at the seams. There is room for people to come and know. There is room with God for all people, no matter what you’ve done. It’s a fantastic, wonderful truth. ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms.’ (John 14:2). With God, there’s room! You may have no room for God; you may be taken up by the concerns of this world, but there’s plenty of room with God.

Who is in this city?

Those who enter this city need to be registered. God put it into the heart of Nehemiah to register people. If your name wasn’t in this book you would be in trouble. You have to be registered in God’s book. You have to be registered as part of the family of God, born in that heavenly city. Psalm 87 speaks of the glorious city of Zion. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said to His disciples, ‘Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ (Luke 10:20). One day the great book will be opened and your name needs to be there. In the book of life is each and every one who has been born of the Spirit, born in heaven.

People filled the city. Lots were cast. ‘Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns.’ (Nehemiah 11:1) Casting lots. It’s a way to fill a church! When they had to have a new apostle, they cast lots. ‘And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven disciples.’ (Acts 1:26).

‘For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ (2 Peter 1:11). God has chosen, out of His loving heart, a chosen people. It’s His house, His home. You have been born from above to enter.

When we look at the culture of the city Nehemiah speaks of, there is a wonderful picture of people giving to the work, ‘Now some of the heads of fathers’ houses gave to the work.’ (Nehemiah 7:70). The city was filled with activity. The people who came knew the love of God and were filled with great ingenuity and work. It was buzzing. We need to work. We are a people of God. ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.’ (Matthew 6:10). Come to this wonderful city, full of giving, full of safety. The chapter begins and ends with the Levites, the gatekeepers and singers. The priests and the Levites – if it doesn’t go right here, it won’t go right in the community. We have a great responsibility. If you’re a follower of Christ, the enemy can’t come in. It’s a place full of song, full of singing, a city of service and security. There is plenty of room! Make your way to the heavenly city, to the glorious Jerusalem.

June 4th 2017: Norman Gilbert

Luke 18:1-8

We are living in a day in which there is much to be despondent about. In this parable of the persistent widow, the Lord shows us two encouragements we really need: we need to pray, we need never to lose heart.

In the previous chapter the Lord has been speaking about the day of judgement and talks of the last days. Believers are living in the last days – we may be in the last of the last days. Jesus is reminding followers we’re living in last days. Now, after 2,000 years, we are closer to that day. When Jesus first came, He came to bring Salvation. His return will bring judgement. He will introduce a new heaven and a new earth. In this particular section Jesus is people to have hope. In Luke 17 everyone was carrying on with life as normal, not preparing for judgement. In the light of the days in which you live, do not lose heart. We need to continue in prayer and not to lose heart.

IN this parable there are two main characters – a judge and a widow. The judge oversees the affairs of a particular city. We are told two things about this man; he had no regard for God and no regard for man. He had no reverence for God, no reverence or concern for fellow man, he was self-centred. The widow lived under the jurisdiction of the judge. She was in a vulnerable position. It was the culture of the day for widows to be taken care of by their family, but she may have had no-one to be concerned for her welfare.

Looking at the context of the parable, the widow needs to address her problems. Her only solution is to go to the judge to seek justice. We are not told what her problem was. Initially, when she sees the judge he had no concern for her problem whatsoever. He was not interested. We then see the true character of the widow. Her complaint was so urgent she kept on coming. She shows great determination. She was tenacious, she wouldn’t be fobbed off. In the modern world, she would probably be continually emailing her complaint, the one resorting to Twitter or holding a placard as she sought justice. The judge then decides he will grant her justice. Why? Not because he had a change of heart because he had pangs of sympathy for her; he wanted to get rid of this nagging woman. She got her result in the end by nagging. Her perseverance won the day, it had nothing to do with the heart of the man.

Looking at the application of the parable we see the purpose of it in verse 1, ‘Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.’ (Luke 18:1). We must always pray and not lose heart. This is the reason for the parable. Jesus’ disciples needed to hear those words; they would go through horrendous times. Throughout history there are times Christians need to be reminded to pray and not to lose heart. We may go through those times when we ask ‘Is there any point in asking God to stem the tide of evil of our days? Is there any point praying for youngsters who are fuelled by credit? We live in a generation of people fuelled by alcohol and drugs, a generation who have been provided for by the previous generation and have become self-centred – people who only know Jesus as a swear word. We have every encouragement to pray for people to find a real purpose and meaning in life, to turn from their old ways and follow Christ, who is all we need.

The parable is a challenge to us to continue to pray, not to lose heart. We don’t need to equate the judge to God. It is a contrast. If a wicked judge can help a widow, how much more will a God who loves His people be concerned for them? God doesn’t always give us what we want. The widow kept on praying. God sometimes has to give us time, give us trials to go through. We need to pray day and night. That’s the requirement. If we don’t pray we have to question where we stand. Prayer is an evidence we are a true believer. It is a time when the Christian communes with their heavenly Father. We have a great advocate who presents our prayers faultless before the Father. Pray at all times, in all situations, in any place. We need to pray at prayer meetings. Some don’t like to pray openly, but God knows our hearts. Prayer is vital for the church of Jesus Christ. The church has to gather together to pray continually, encouraging one another.

But don’t use prayer to twist God’s arm. Pray and then qualify it with ‘Thy will be done.’ Be bold in prayer, but praying that God’s way will be done. Have confidence.

At the end of Luke 17 there is a warning; no-one knows when the end of the world will take place but we need to be ready. At the end of this parable Jesus asks ‘will the Son of Man really find faith on earth?’ The widow did not give up, she continued in faith. True faith endures to the end. We have hard days and easy days. When Jesus returns will He find faith? We must not give in, believing He knows best and leaving everything in His hands. Our God graciously wants to provide for our needs.