August 12th 2018: Ian Jones

Ian Jones-August 18Luke 15:11-24

The beginning of this chapter sets the scene; people gathered to listen to the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the groups who loved to gather were the publicans and sinners. The Lord Jesus spoke to them in a very special way in which they were drawn to listen to Him. Amongst them were the Pharisees and Scribes, who complained because Jesus received sinners and met with them. In response, Jesus spoke three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. In each, all have the same meaning – to rejoice when something lost is found. This is something which the Pharisees knew nothing of.

This Prodigal Son is probably the best known of all Jesus’ parables. The younger brother represents ourselves, the Father is Himself and the eldest brother the Pharisees. The younger son comes to the Father and says, ‘Give me my inheritance’ (verse 12). He has little respect for his father. He doesn’t say, ‘Please,’ or ‘May I have?’ No, he says, ‘Give me.’ Right fromstart the relationship is revealed between the young man and his father. He wants his money now. In other words, he wants he demands his independence, he wants to live his own life and not be tied down. If ever there was a boy who broke his father’s heart, it would have been this prodigal son. He is saying, ‘I don’t love you, I don’t want to be in your presence anymore.’ He wants his father dead so he can have his inheritance, an inheritance which wouldn’t usually be given until his father had died. It’s an unlikely event. The father is loving, kind and generous but the son days he doesn’t want any more to do with him.

With God, our Father, this is how everyone has reacted. We want to live our lives our own way, the way we want, not to go His way and be in His presence. It speaks volumes about ourselves. We may not be completely like him – he’s extreme – but in some way or other we’re like the prodigal son. It speaks of a time before our conversion, some of us may still have God outside our lives.

The Father responds by dividing the inheritance; one portion to the younger son and two portions to the older son. The younger son received a lot as his father was rich.  Why did the father give him what he wanted? We don’t give everything our children ask for. Why should God allow us to live our lives as we choose today, knowing the lives we would choose would not be good for us? Our lives are not ours. We’ve been created by God. The prodigal son went off and lived as he chose. But there’s a day coming when we have to appear before God.

It didn’t take long for him to pack up and leave (verse 13). He went as far away as possible. That’s what lots of people do today, they don’t want anything to do with God. Most people are in that far off country, enjoying themselves, doing as they please.

It doesn’t take long for the prodigal son to waste all, he has expensive tastes. He just thought about living it up, enjoying himself. His lifestyle was one of excess. During that time friends came and joined him. They were living away from God. Not surprisingly, he lost all. Then there was a severe famine. He began to be in want. His plans hadn’t worked out as he thought, he was now in debt. With the famine, work was hard to find. It was a bad experience. This can happen to us. Something happens, goes wrong in our lives. What are we to do?

The best thing for the prodigal son was to go home. Now all his money was gone he was on his own and had nothing. We see people today who go through all kinds of difficulties, yet they will not turn to God.

The prodigal son stuck to a person of that country (verse 15). He was a foreigner, yet he attached himself to a person who didn’t know him or care for him. Because he didn’t care for him he sent him into the fields to feed the pigs. Jesus, in telling this story to a crowd who didn’t like pigs, who didn’t eat pork, was showing them how terrible it was for this man. He was now found amongst the lowest of the low, in a job a Jew would have found to be the worst of all. The situation became far worse. The famine was so hard there was not enough for the young man to feed himself, he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pigs’ food. He wanted to get amongst the pigs and eat their food. This man had fallen so low, it couldn’t have got any worse.

The heart of this parable is verse 17, ‘He came to himself.’ It came from being in a state of need. It implies he had not been in his right mind, living in a way that wasn’t real, wasn’t reality. He awakes to his situation. He sees himself. This is the work of the Holy Spirit convincing him of his need to return home, to come back to God. He recognises how futile it is to live as he was. Friends, have you come to yourself?

God is merciful. The son rehearses what he will say when he returns to his father (verse 18). He is truly repentant. He arose the next day and went home. He put into practice what he thought.

On his way home, when he was still a great way off, his father saw him. He knew the son couldn’t make it on his own, that his lifestyle had made him weak. He needed his father. It’s a picture of Jesus seeing us when we were a long way off. Jesus died for our sins on that cross. Here is true repentance, seeing yourself as nothing, looking upon the Lord Jesus Christ as your lord and Saviour, the one who died on the cross for us.

The father saw his son and rushed out to meet him. Oh what love! Why would God want us when we’ve turned our backs on him and rebelled? God waits, looks and observes us. The moment we repent He comes to us with His open arms, ready to receive us. The son starts talking but the father spares his humiliation (verse 22). The son was raised up to be the son of the father. He was given the robe of righteousness. When we repent, He delights in us. There is great rejoicing in the child of God who returns to His Father. What joy there is in church when we see people returning to God. Do you know that joy? Have you lived that prodigal life and returned?

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August 5th 2018: Ian Middlemist

Ian Middlemist-July18-Hebrews 3:7-19

In Pilgrims Progress John Bunyan names people appropriate to their character. Christian tries to persuade Obstinate that their city is about to experience the wrath of God. The answer to this is the Bible. Obstinate thinks Christian is mentally unbalanced and returns home. Obstinate is hard-hearted, a grumbler. He has a lack of faith and will refuse to turn from his ways. In the Old Testament we read of a whole generation marked by their obstinacy (Hebrews 3:16).

God’s patience with man will one day come to an end. Often, in this life God gives to man what he wants. Today we have the greatest opportunity – to turn, if we will not harden our hearts.

This letter to the Hebrews addresses the problem of apostasy. Believers are reminded of Israel’s failure in the wilderness. We must go on believing day by day, serving, living in the gospel. We must come to the cross,  rely on the cross, day by day. Are we still believing in the gospel?

What is the gospel? To believe in the gospel you believe in Jehovah alone who sent His own Son into this world. He lived a perfect life. We have not lived a perfect life. We have fallen far short of the glory of God. But Jesus died once for all our sins – sins past, present and future – sins are forgiven. We are joined to Him by the powerful working of the Holy Spirit. We would be lost without Him, but Jesus has personally joined Himself to us therefore we must look to Him.

We’ve gone wrong – messed up. But now, because we’re in Christ, we’re where we ought to be – living in Christ. When you’re in Christ, you’re the person you’re meant to be. We must live in Him, joined to Him in faith. That’s how we experience dynamic growth.

In Hebrews 3 we see the reflective working of Psalm 95. This psalm was regularly preached each Sabbath day in the early church. The Sabbath is the day of rest, a day of resting in the Lord, trusting in Him to do it all for you. This Psalm is a reference to those unhappy events of Exodus 17 and Numbers 20. The people forgot their previous deliverance and complained about present difficulties. God was deeply grieved by His people’s doubts and loyalties, so they did not experience the Promised Land. It is a warning. Do not harden your hearts and fail to look to Jesus Christ so that you can enter into rest. Don’t let troubles of this world divert you away from the gospel. Turn afresh to Him now before it’s too late.

There’s a great opportunity. There is a contrast with Moses and Jesus (Hebrews 3:1-6), followed by another contrast, this time between Moses and the Israelites (Hebrews 3:7). The Israelites were not faithful, they wanted things their own way. They had been set free from the bond of the Egyptians, yet this was not their greatest opportunity. They entered the Promised Land – still this was not their greatest opportunity. There is a rest that is coming that is better – rest in Jesus Christ. You can enter God’s rest today. Now!

Opportunities in this life are here just for the moment. Too often we miss out because we are waiting for them to fall into our life whilst they are tapping on our shoulder. Respond to the call to turn and trust in Jesus Christ. The Israelites thought life would have been better in Egypt, but they were living in a fantasy world, not reality. There is nothing better than Jesus Christ. Respond today. Turn to Him today. True rest will be yours.

How do we turn? Hear, believe, obey and share the Word of God.

Hear. Psalm 95 is quoted three times; ‘hear’ the Word. Don’t listen to this world, to sin. Tune into the sounds of heaven. Daily we need to hear the Bible. We need to be people of the Word. We need to spend time daily hearing heaven. Pay less attention to the sounds of this world.

Believe. The person who listens to this world will certainly fall away from the living God (Hebrews 3:12). Believe in what Christ has done.

Obey. Act upon the Word immediately, not tomorrow. We’re under grace, we must obey.

Share the Word. Daily, we need to follow the Lord, exhort one another. It’s a daily exercise. In the New Testament there is nothing of Sunday, only Christianity. Here is a picture of daily exhorting – through visits, meeting up, phone calls, texts, letters, offering practical help. This is to be done daily, urging one another not to be distracted by sin. We think people are OK because they are sitting in the pew. The world is powerful, be aware of the seriousness of sin. Daily encourage and exhort one another. Let’s learn from the Hebrews of old and not harden our hearts. We must turn to Jesus Christ. Let’s encourage one another to turn away from this world and focus on Jesus Christ.

Anniversary Service: 4th August 2018: Adrian Brake

Adrian Brake-August 181 Peter 2:4-12

This passage of scripture enables us to stand back and take stock, to ask two important questions:
Who are we?
What are we here for?

What is our identity as a congregation? What is our purpose? The apostle Peter tells us, if we’re the Lord’s people, who we are and what we are here for.

Who are we?
We are the people of God. Peter’s emphasis, in verse 10, is that this hasn’t always been the case. We were fallen, unredeemed men and women, a hotch-potch of individuals. By nature, we are almost completely individualistic in our thinking. We made ourselves the centre of everything, promoting our own causes. Few of us will help others unless there is something in it for us.

Through the gospel, God replaces individualistic identity with a corporate one. He unites people to one another, making a people, making a nation, making a church. The grace of God builds relationships. We are part of a community, part of a church. This community the Spirit creates through the gospel. We all have the same experience. We all live to glorify the God who has rescued us.

We are children, citizens, stones, sheep in the same flock. We are a people united in Christ, looking to serve, to minister one another, displaying the Spirit of Christ. Through the express will and purpose of God, we at Penuel are a local expression of Christ, bound together, serving one another. Do you see yourselves bound as a people in love? Do we have fellowship together, sharing in common the Christian faith? We are planted here with an opportunity to show people something different. In the church there is love, there is care. The relationship we have with one another can act as a powerful evangelistic tool – grace, forgiveness, love. May we serve one another. We are a people, a community placed together by God. We have a corporate identity, a corporate life.

Peter says we are the people of God. We belong to one another because we belong to God. We are God’s own special people. We are His and His alone. He owns us exclusively. We once belonged to Satan, but now to Jesus Christ. He will never abandon us. We are delivered from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of love. His forever!

Unbelievers long to know they belong. We are all made for relationships. Our fellowship is with the Father and His Son, the creator and sustainer of everything. By belonging to Him, we belong to one another.

God rejoices over us, His face is towards us, He holds us in His hands. We are the apple of His eye. His ear is always open to our cry. We are unspeakably precious, His jewels. He stores our tears in a bottle. Our suffering moves Him. He dries our eyes and stores our tears. How much are we worth? The blood of His precious Son. How valuable, how precious we are to our Father. The apostle John says, “God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:9-11).

When Satan comes to you, you suffer. Go to the cross. God loves you enough to send His Son to take your guilt. The Bible tells us Jesus went to the cross out of love for us. Do you know we are part of Jesus’ reward for enduring the cross? We have been given to Him, we are His people. We are the Father’s love gift to His Son. Paul speaks of the glorious riches – we are Jesus’ inheritance. Jesus regards us as a gloriously rich inheritance.

We are a people drawn together, united to Jesus, bought by Him, belonging to Him. Because we belong to Him, He has a responsibility to care, to provide and to protect us. When He bought us He committed Himself to look after us and provide for us in every way. We are His people, nobody else’s. We are to be loyal, obey Him and walk in His ways.

We are a ‘holy’ nation (verse 9), set apart, consecrated. To love the world, to obey the world, is to commit adultery to our God. It’s a challenge. Are we a holy people, dedicated to God, devoted to Him? Can people see who’s we are? Is it clear in our community that we are God’s people? The church in our land is often losing its distinctiveness. May we be a people totally devoted to Him.

How do we become the people of God? We are a chosen generation (verse 9). God chose to set His love upon us. He chose to make us one of His jewels. There was nothing in us that would recommend us. We had nothing to offer Him, we were in no ways deserving. We haven’t earned it. It has been freely given in an act of grace. God has gifted you a place amongst His people. He has chosen the unloved to be the lovely. Free, unlimited, undeserved love. It is so humbling. It magnifies God’s grace that He chose me, before the beginning of time. We are a people bought with the life blood of His own Son at Calvary.

God called us to Himself out of the darkness into His marvellous light. In darkness, eyes are closed to truth about ourselves and God. By nature we are oblivious that we are sinners under the righteous wrath of God. We can’t grasp it. In the dark we are blind to eternal reality. But by the grace of God, the Spirit shone the light of truth into our darkened eyes. Suddenly, the light of truth shone and all makes sense. The Spirit called us into the light of saving knowledge, to repentance, to the need to turn to God for forgiveness. We are called to the light of the gospel.

Just as God sent light to dispel the darkness of creation, so He sent light to dispel the darkness of our lives. At our conversion there was light. Praise God He shines ever increasing light as the Word is preached week by week. In verse 10 Peter tells us we are a people who have obtained mercy. He delights to show mercy. We deserve to be punished, condemned to Hell for all eternity. But God has chosen to pardon us, judgement fell on His Son.

We have been formed into a people, united in Christ. We are not here by accident; God has forged this congregation, you are blessed to be part of Penuel, Roch. God bought you, called you, pardoned you and rescued you.

Peter’s readers were battered and bruised, undergoing a fiery trial (1 Peter 4:12). Peter wants to comfort them, to strengthen them. He points them to who they are. The world writes them off as worthless, but God loves them and God loves you. He has given us things that can never be taken away. He loves us, He has taken us on freely. He has shown us mercy. We are to serve the Lord in difficult times too. We have been chosen, bought, called, loved, the recipients of mercy. Let us keep this at the forefront of our minds.

Privileges have been bestowed upon those who have turned from sin. They are channelled to us in Jesus. Have you looked to Him for grace and pardon? Perhaps you haven’t come to Christ. What you enjoy now can be taken from you in a moment. We are here to declare the praises of Him who did all this. He wants you to be declaring His excellencies, His attributes, His unmerited love, to Him in song and in prayer. Tell one another of the great attributes of God. He is all powerful, all wise, faithful. Encourage one another. Stir one another. Declare the gospel to those in darkness. Bring the greatness of God before them. We have a purpose, we are called for special work.

July 22nd 2018: Ian Middlemist

Ian Middlemist-June18Hebrews 3: 1-6

Moses was great, a significant man. But when the author of Hebrews compares Moses with Jesus, Jesus is infinitely greater. There is a vast difference between Moses and Jesus. Moses is merely the ‘tribute act.’

From the first part of this chapter we can draw three things to consider:

  • Remember who we are;
  • Focus on who He is;
  • Give praise for what we’ve got.

Remember who we are:
In Hebrews 3:1 the author compares Moses and Jesus for our benefit. If you are a Christian – not all who turn up in church are – here we have warnings of the reality that some may have fallen away and be far from Jesus. If you are a believer these verse are to remind us of who we are in Jesus Christ. We are a new creation, joined to Him. This is our identity.

We are holy, ‘holy brothers.’ When was the last time someone addressed you as being holy? It’s for all of the saints, all those who trust in Christ have been clothed in righteous robes.

We are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Jesus is our elder brother. We have a new family. The Father in heaven looks upon you and me as a son.

You are a partaker in the heavenly calling. You are going to glory! There is a place that is fixed for you in heaven that will never be taken away. Doesn’t that put everything into perspective? Our vocation is a heavenly one. These three things cannot define you if you are not a Christian. They are only true for those who are truly in Christ.

Focus on Jesus Christ:

We are commanded to do this. Fix your thoughts on Him. Dwell on Him. That’s the Christian life. It’s not read more books, listen to more sermons, it’s to look to Jesus. The message of the Bible is believe in Him, look to Jesus (Acts 16:31, Romans 4:24). Look to Him. The Father sent His Son Jesus into the world to die on the cross so we could have our sins laid upon Him, forgiven so we can be righteous and welcomed into His presence. The Holy Spirit’s ministry to us today is one of drawing us to Jesus.

Two things help us to look to Jesus. He is our ‘apostle and high priest.’ An apostle is sent to someone else in order to be their representative (John 17). Jesus is God’s apostle to us. Jesus is also our high priest, He is our mediator. We need Him to be our High Priest. In that one person He’s our apostle and High Priest. Think upon Him, turn to Him. Read of Him. Look to Him by faith.

Give praise for what He has done:

Worship Him. He is the builder of the household of God. He builds the people of God. Moses was good (Numbers 12). Moses was ‘faithful in all God’s house as a servant’ (Hebrews 3:5). Don’t focus attention on Moses; he is associated with the tabernacle in the Old Testament. Instead, focus on the builder of the house. The builder is more worthy of the house he builds. The concept of the design originates with the architect. Look at creation. See the wonder of it. As believers look at creation and glory in a great creator. He is the one who is worthy of all the glory and honour – the creator. These verses point us in the direction of the church. It’s Jesus we honour.

Moses is a servant, Jesus is the Son, the builder of the house. Moses was good, he served well, but Jesus is better. He has created people for Himself (John 14;2). Jesus is building a people for Himself. Everything is in place. Jesus is making a home. The call of the gospel is to say, “Come, be a part of this home that Jesus is making.” Jesus calls you to Himself.

The house is a metaphor for God’s people, God’s church. As mediator for the Old Testament, Moses represented the church. He is only a servant, as any of us are. Look to Jesus, the builder of the house.

July 15th 2018: Gerald Tait

Gerald Tait July 18‘I believe in miracles.’

The first miracle Jesus performed was at the wedding in Cana, turning water into wine (John 2:1-11). This took place about the third day of Jesus’ ministry. He had walked from Jordan to Galilee. Joseph, his earthly father, had passed away (there is no mention of him after Jesus was 12 years old). Mary might have taken on his official role.

Jesus, his mother and disciples were attending a friendly family wedding in the little village of Cana. We don’t know whose it was. Mary had some authority, but realised Jesus was special. When the wine ran out she told Jesus. He replied, “Woman.” This gives her the highest possible dignity, showing her maturity.

We see the honesty and obedience of the servants as they obeyed Jesus’ instructions, filling the six stone jars with water and drawing some out for the master of the feast. When did the miracle happen of turning water into wine? When Jesus spoke? As the servants drew out the water? There’s an economy with God’s power; when the Israelites were given manna in the dessert they collected it daily, just enough was provided for each day.

When miracles happen, three things always happen:

  • There is an elevation of suffering. Here, we see the elevation of disgrace of not being able to provide common curtesy of providing for the guests at the wedding.
  • There is a prophetic emblem. Here, the wine is the emblem of our communion.
  • There is prophecy. Who better to produce the miracle than Jesus, who grew as a tender plant, a vine?

In this miracle we see the end of Jesus’ servitude to his mother. Until then, the divine God had been subservient to His mother. Now, being baptised by John and honoured by His God, His ministry has started.

Of course, we have the miracle of Calvary. In Ephesians 1 we read of the power that God exerted in bringing Jesus to life, God breaking into a sweat to raise His Son from the dead. An even greater miracle is of you and I. We are a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. You and I can look back over 2,000 years of this happening. Millions have been converted. It’s an ongoing miracle. One day you and I will drink the communion wine with Jesus in heaven, standing in a brand new robe of righteousness.

July 8th 2018: Dave Norbury

Dave Norbuy-July18Philippians 1:1-11

This is a significant book written to a significant church in Philippi. Paul knew this was the place God wanted him to be. He was about to plant the first church in Europe. God directed him here. This church has to grow and succeed. We are reading about our family history. This church in Philippi was set up against all the odds. Two people were converted here. Firstly, the Lord opened Lydia’s heart. It so happens that she was a business lady who had a big house which people could meet in (Acts 16). Paul is imprisoned. There again, God meets with the jailor who asks how he might be saved. He was converted.

The church at Philippi is established. From this seed, others are planted. Like every church it is fragile. Philippi was a strategically important church, light in a very dark place. Churches are strategically important. We are a vital, strategic church to our area, as Philippi was to its area. 95% of people in the UK know nothing about the gospel. Just as Philippi was fragile, so can we be too. The world, the flesh and the devil are out to destroy God’s work.

Paul is writing from Rome to Philippi. As he writes, he writes to you too. Timothy is probably doing the writing, Paul is dictating. It’s a servant leadership – just as Jesus was a servant. They are writing to all the saint in Jesus Christ, it’s a letter to the leadership and to every single person in the church. Paul wants us to see the hallmarks of Christianity – grace and peace (Philippians 1:1). Grace is kindness which we don’t deserve. We should ooze with this. We are trusted with inestimable kindness by God. We should have peace, even though we have rough edges, peace in our own hearts knowing we can trust the God we love. These are the hallmarks of God’s church. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). This is the outworking of grace and peace – the interest of others.

Paul looks back. He pours out his heart to the people he genuinely loves. He’s remembering them with great love and appreciation. He has joy when he thinks of them. He thinks of them and a smile comes to his face. Isn’t that what we, as a church, want to be? The Philippians have sent gifts to Paul and his fellows regularly. Epaphroditus risked all to reach Paul, to support and encourage him. We should be partners with others in the gospel, that’s what the Philippians were, sending support.

Paul also rejoices because God is at work in them. There is a real fellowship. Paul is speaking of a deep knowledge of God, he knows their faith is real, their lives have been turned inside out. He knew they had been born again, so he rejoices.

It’s when you go through personal challenges you grow. Be encouraged – this is when you will grow most! God will take you to a place you never wanted to go – and achieve things you could never achieve.

Paul looks up (Philippians 1:6). There’s an absolute certainty that the work God began will come to completion. He looks up and he rejoices. You and I were lost sheep, in darkness, dead in trespasses and sins. He, in His kindness, began a work in us and will bring it to completion. God works in us. He continues the work. Believe Him, trust Him. We are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). This should give great encouragement. God is at work in you. Paul is delighted, we should be delighted too because of His glorious work.

Paul looks forward. What does he want for the church to succeed and grow? Love abounding more and more, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9). Biblical love is not sentimentalism – it’s anchored deeply in the love of scripture and Christ. It’s a wonderful thought that our churches should abound in love. Pray God will help you. Love abounding – with knowledge and all discernment. It’s a love that knows what’s right. Discernment – it is not blind love, it knows what is right and what is wrong. We are encouraged to know what is right and wrong and to prove the things that are excellent. There’s a testing going on. Growing in love is about maturity. We need to be blameless, our characters need to grow.
Don’t get distracted, have your integrity intact. When we make mistakes we should be the first person to say sorry. We should be humble, the first to admit we’re wrong.

We should mature and grow in Christian character, knowledge and discernment. Ask God to help you. Articulate this in your prayers. Be filled with the fruit righteousness produces. They’ll be many and varied. What joy it gives to God’s heart when fruit is produced in your life and mine. Praise God. Be a joy to others, have confidence He will complete the work He has begun, be mature, blameless, growing in maturity, full of integrity, growing in the work of the Holy Spirit.

July 1st 2018: Pete Hilder

Pete Hilder-July18Psalm 133

This is a Song of Ascents – a song sung by people as they journeyed to Jerusalem to feast. The people enjoyed singing as they met together to worship God, just as those who go to the EMW Aber Conference or similar conferences, enjoy the fellowship. This psalm is a picture of people as they journeyed for days before they converged in Jerusalem. The church family came together; it was a time of great blessing.

This is what our daily journey is to be like. We are pilgrims heading towards the New Jerusalem, heaven. Lots of people are searching for this type of thing – they join a club with the desire to be united together. As Christians we are truly united as church family. David knew the importance of having a special relationship with his spiritual brothers. David and Jonathan had this special relationship and were united. But David made great mistakes. In David we see how good and pleasant it is when things work, but also we see trouble. This is what church life is like.

The first thing we are told in Psalm 133 is ‘Behold.’ It is an important word. We are to step back, look, take time to consider. ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!’ (Psalm 133:1). ‘Good’ is a fact and ‘pleasant’ a feeling. It stirs something in your heart. It’s a fact that the church is good, but we should also feel the wonder of fellowship, the wonder of new creation, a bond in the Holy Spirit.

Sadly, it is not always the case. We lose sight of the beauty that there is to be. In the early chapters of Acts (Acts 2:42) we see a wonderful church, where they shared things and enjoyed the teaching. Again we see this in Acts 4:32. Wonderful! This is what a church is to be. Sadly, it is not always like that. In Acts 5 we read of lying over money, and in Acts 6 of favouritism. So often in the life of the church there can be division – because of money or favouritism. How well do you actually get on together?

In John 17 Jesus talks to His disciples about what is important. They were just like us – wanting the most important positions. Jesus, at the end of His ministry, highlights the importance of unity. We are to have identifying marks – our love, our unity – we are one. This expresses God’s nature, love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We’ve been drawn into the Trinity. This is God’s design. ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!’ (Psalm 133:1). It is essential we are a happy family. When people see a loving church, a sacrificial church, it is noticed. This is God’s way. But it is also noticed when churches act in a hypocritical way.

In this passage we’re given two illustrations to demonstrate unity. They may seem obscure today, but they are God-given. Firstly, ‘It is like a precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments (Psalm 133:2). This illustration comes from the world of theology, referring to the anointing of the high priest. Precious oil is used, it is valuable and set apart. When did you last have an induction or a baptism? We have special times in the life of the church. This is a picture of something special in church. We focus on Jesus Christ. We see Him at work. We are encouraged. Jesus is working today, extending His kingdom. God would have what we experience on those special days to be our everyday. We need to keep focused on what we’re about – getting the gospel out in our community.

The anointing of the Holy Spirit. We want to stimulate and maintain unity. He is the one who blesses us. Jesus Christ is now our High Priest. He has our names on His heart – it overflows down His garments onto us and we are blessed when we trust in Him and He is the centre of our lives. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus if we are to enjoy the blessing of the unity of God’s people, to be His family. Ultimately, it’s only those in His family who are blessed.

The second picture we get of unity is from the physical world, ‘It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing – life for evermore.’ (Psalm 133:3). This blessing is like dew. Here we see the physical landscape of Israel. If we get up early we see there is dew, even in hot weather. There is daily dew on the ground. In this verse there are two mountains mentioned: Hermon and Zion. Hermon, in the north, has an abundance of life, it is green and flows with a river and sends out blessings.  Zion is in the south and is arid. IN the Old Testament it is where God had chosen for His name to dwell. The dew of Hermon descends on Zion. Jesus is the place of God’s blessing. He is like Mount Hermon, a place of dew, a place of blessing. God has given us life, In our arid lives, He sends the blessing down to fall on us so we are transformed from naturally being arid, lifeless and barren. We’ve been separated from God but Jesus brings the dew, the blessing.

Dew is quiet and unseen. Come to Jesus to receive life. It is wonderful. Then we can become those who disperse life to others, to dispel the oil on others. As we serve, we dispense the oil on new Christians. Be a gentle, quiet influence in the daily lives of one another. Let there be spiritual dew on people’s lives. Stir a desire in others to know more about Jesus.

Some people in church can be devisive, they don’t show love. Churches can be infiltrated by people who think they’re Christians but are not (Parable of the Sower). We need a loving influence in church.  

‘For there the Lord commanded the blessing – life for evermore.’ (Psalm 133:3). Do you believe this? Do you believe John 17? God ‘commanded.’ It is in the past tense. We are a blessed family. This comes in many ways, one us the blessing of new life. Children are born, in the church new Christians are born-again. Church should be a maternity ward – new life being born the church. It should be on-going. Is our church a place where people are converted and growing?

Enjoy ‘life for evermore,’ looking to eternal things. It’s a picture of a wonderful family. All families, apart from this family, have deaths. But to die for a Christian is different. We live for evermore – fully perfected in our spirit and body. God desires that this blessing will come down to us. We must focus on the gospel, be gentle – just like dew. Do you believe in God’s design and the importance it can have? May He help us, may He stir us.