March 11th 2018: Andy Millership

Andy Millership-March18Acts 16:16

In AD 49 Paul and Silas once again headed for Asia Minor. Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia calling him so they made their way to the regional capital, Philippi. Philippi was an important city – financially and strategically. Rome’s gold, for the most part, came from around Philippi. It was situated on one of the main trading routes; people flocked there. It was such an important place that after Julius Caesar had been assassinated, the legionaries from that region and the Praetorian guards were rewarded for their loyalty; each was given a parcel of land to make sure the place remained secure.

So, we find Paul and Silas here in this very busy, rich, stable city. They are there for a reason – to spread the gospel. There was no synagogue in Philippi so Paul and Silas went to the river, a place of prayer (Acts 13:16). This was where Lydia heard the gospel and was saved. On their way back, Paul and Silas came across a slave girl who had been cruelly treated by her masters. She was possessed of a spirit. People paid to hear her tell their fortune. Paul dealt with the spirit and so her masters couldn’t make money out of her. They complained to the authorities and Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in prison.

‘At about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.’ (Acts 16: 25-27). This was a dramatic picture. The earthquake shook the foundations of the prison and the prisoners’ chains fell off. The reaction of the jailor was extreme, ‘He drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”’ The jailor wanted to kill himself. Why? This was a military posting. This man was a soldier, a legionary, a man who was quite senior. He was a man who had seen battle on numerous occasions. He would have been a strong, disciplined, controlled man. His high position allowed him to bring Paul and Silas out of prison to his own home for a meal (Acts 16:34). He had full responsibility for the prisoners who had been given to him; he didn’t need to ask others’ permission. He wasn’t just any old jailor, he was important. In modern terms, he was a prison governor. So why did he have this extreme reaction when he found the prison doors were off.

The jailor had family, slaves and servants. He was certainly comfortably off. He had social responsibilities. He was an important man. So why did he want to commit suicide? He’d faced fear before, so it wasn’t that. Insight comes from the question he asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). That was his priority.

Paul and Silas had nothing – no money. All they had were the clothes they stood in, yet even these were torn off them. But having been beaten they were worshipping God. They appeared to have nothing, but they had more than all around them – they had hope in a Saviour. What do we have? An important job that carries with it an enviable reputation? Do you have responsibility? Are you a good person with responsibilities? Are you doing well for yourself financially? These are not bad things but if that is all you have, then you have no hope. When the doors fall off and the earthquake comes, if that is all you have, you have no hope.

Paul and Silas had something more than the jailor ever had. His position, money and responsibility meant nothing – he recognised he needed a Saviour. He understood that. That’s what you need as well – one who can stand before God in your place, a God who sits enthroned above the circle of the earth. You need someone who is  pure, who is faultless. Your best is filthy rags. If we have any hope at all, it must be in a Saviour because we cannot do it ourselves. We need one who lived, died and rose again for us, one who stood in our place. Don’t rely and hold onto your best because your best is not good enough. Without a Saviour you have nothing, ‘For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?’ (Mark 8:36). You haven’t got the whole world to offer. The jailor needs a Saviour and you need a Saviour. It must be a hope in Him, not in you.

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February 25th 2018: Paul Daniel

Paul Daniel-feb 18Philippians 3: 1-15

It is crucial to repeat messages. Even Paul said, right at the beginning of this chapter, “To write the same things to you is no trouble to me.” Have you ever been conned? We live in a society where we shop online. People put reviews online, sometimes complaining because they don’t want anyone else to get conned. When you look at this chapter, it’s all about Paul writing to the Philippians to safeguard them from being conned. It’s a joy to him to remind them.

C.S. Lewis said Jesus is either a liar, a  lunatic or Lord. If He really is who He says He is, you can’t afford to ignore Him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). When you consider what Jesus says, is He trying to con people into following Him? Paul is trying to safeguard the people into following Jesus, not being conned by others. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness. He died on a cross, not because He was guilty, but so others could be forgiven of their sin. He rose three days later and later appeared to others before ascending into heaven. Today, there is a God-Man in heaven who intercedes on our behalf. Paul wants to make sure people don’t get confused. The moment you think you can’t get conned is the moment the devil begins his work. It is necessary to repeat the gospel message.

Paul warns us to watch out for legalism. Listen to Paul. He was circumcised on the eighth day as God’s law required. He was chosen by God, part of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews, full of tradition, wanting to do everything in every area of his life. He was a Pharisee, one of those who would take God’s word so seriously, they started making their own laws. He was righteous under the law. Paul wanted the people to listen to him. All his qualities and heritage (verse 7), he counted as loss, as rubbish. Here is the one person you think ought to listen to, yet he says all his achievements are worthless because he knows that those things can’t make you righteous before God. He knows if you try and work so hard to keep the law, you are under a curse. No-one is justified by works. Achieving all these things, as impressive as they are, doesn’t deal with sin – separation from God. The wonder of the gospel – none of us deserves anything but God’s judgement and curse – but Christ comes to redeem us, to buy us back by becoming a curse for us. When He hangs on the cross He deals with all that stands against us.

How do you measure yourself? We measure ourselves often by what people say. The real measure is what people can’t see or can’t hear – when no-one’s eyes are on us, what we think inside our minds. It’s all the hidden sins. God sees and hears everything. Do we measure ourselves by what we portray ourselves to be? God sees us as sinners who have broken His law and are under a curse. Yet He still loves us, sent His Son for us, and is still willing to keep us. All that we are and all that we’re not, and all that we’d like to hide, God still loves us. Let’s not con ourselves and be conned.

What does Paul want to do when he sees all his achievements as rubbish? He wants to count everything else as loss, he wants to know Christ, to know his Saviour. Nothing else compares, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” (Philippians 3:7). It’s a really hard thing to say that you count everything as loss. Knowing Jesus is worth more than my health, my house, bank balance, friends, my reputation, anything else. In the context of eternity, all that we strive for lasts a short time. Knowing Christ, being with Him for ever and ever, is our desire. Stop investing in yourself, don’t rest in earthly achievements. Pursue Christ and His kingdom. Seek Him. Be satisfied in Jesus and in Jesus alone. Don’t think you can find life and eternity and resurrection apart from in Jesus, in Christ. Don’t be conned, don’t miss out. Paul doesn’t want anyone to miss out (verses 11-15). He’s pressing on to what lies ahead. We want to see Jesus. We need to hear the gospel and share the gospel. We want people to come to Jesus and put their faith in Him.

February 18th 2018: Owen Jones

Owen Jones-Feb18Ephesians 5:32 ‘A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’

There is a mystery in the mystical union we have with Christ. There are metaphors that make the mystery a little clearer. In days gone by, when romance was in the air a couple could be referred to as ‘courting.’ Today, ‘being an item’ is often used. We are more than an item. The relationship between the church and the Lord Jesus Christ is an unbreakable union, it is already in being. Every believer becomes part of the bride, the wife. God speaks about us as the bride, the wife. Psalm 45. Every truly born-again believer is ultimately joined in unity with Christ. This presents the loveliest picture of two being one.

How should we look right now and on that future day? We see the bride united as: a faithful wife, a fruitful wife and as a beautiful, breathing-taking wife.

United as a faithful wife:
Paul uses beautiful illustrations – the wife is like the church that gives in, ‘Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.’ (Ephesians 5:22). Marriage teaches us at least one thing – giving. Wives submit to husbands, but the bigger picture is lives in submission to Christ. It is part of the creation ordinance and now part of the new creation. When the local church gives in to community and no longer has the Bible at its centre it ceases to be what it once was. Submit to one another in reverence to Christ. Give in to every word because Jesus tells you. As the church submits to Christ, wives submit to husbands. ‘A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ (Ephesians 5:32). Husbands, measure the giving. Who is giving more – her or him? Christ gave Himself up for the church. Giving up – true love – is demonstrated at Calvary. Like Hosea, the prophet. God told Hosea to love his wife as the Lord loves the Israelites. The husband gives his name to his wife, she happily accepts it. They are legally one. How faithful are we to Him, to each other?

United as a fruitful wife:
The spiritual illustration. Remember the higher principal – your union is with Christ. The church is mysteriously joined to Him as a faithful and fruitful wife. The fruit? Holiness. If you are in Christ that’s the fruit you’re going to bear, ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.’ (Galatians 5:22-23). It’s all on the one tree, always in blossom, always in season. Jesus said, ‘By their fruits you will know them.’ (Matthew 7:20). The fruit of intimacy, close fellowship, produces its own fruit. As we read His word, He comes to us.

Some marriages fail because couples no longer have anything to say to each other. How long has it been since you talked to the Lord? Couples can live separate lives under one roof. Start talking to one another again. When was the last time you heard the Lord Jesus Christ speak to you?

What about the fruit of increase, the great commission, the bride increasing from the nations? The preaching of the gospel works in people’s hearts and lives, something is being conceived. There’s a birth, an increase.

We also need to know and produce the fruit of Christ’s likeness. Do you think in the same way as Christ thinks? When you speak do others hear the voice of their Saviour? You and I begin to look like the ones we love. When God breathed life into us He breathed knowledge, love and righteousness. In regeneration, He renews that which had been erased at the Fall.

United as a beautiful wife:
This is a profound mystery. There’s no need for make-overs. Why? The marriage day is fully realised in the future (Revelation 19:7), but something is happening now. All the wrinkles and the lines are gone. Jesus must be the centre stage – the wedding day of the Lamb. But look at His Bride, ‘It was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure – for the fair linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.’ (Revelation 19:8). All the tears, all the sorrows cease to be. Let us rejoice and give Him the glory. The Bride has prepared for this day. How? She is dressed in fine linen. Everything we do now prepares us for that holy day (Ephesians 5:26). Then we get married, there’s a new home (Revelation 21:1-3). There’s an RSVP, ‘And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”’ (Revelation 19:9). You are the Bride but you’re invited to be there as a guest. It’s a dual picture.

You will never look as good as you will on that day.

The sands of time are sinking;
the dawn of heaven breaks;
the summer morn I’ve sighed for,
the fair sweet morn awakes;
dark, dark, hath been the midnight,
but dayspring is at hand,
and glory, glory dwelleth
in Emmanuel’s land.

The King there in His beauty
without a veil is seen;
it were a well-spent journey,
though trails lay between:
the Lamb with His fair army
on Zion’s mountain stands,
and glory, glory dwelleth
in Emmanuel’s land.

O Christ, He is the Fountain,
the deep sweet Well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted;
more deep I’ll drink above:
there to an ocean fullness
His mercy doth expand,
and glory, glory dwelleth
in Emmanuel’s land.

The bride eyes not her garment,
but her dear bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory,
but on my King of grace;
not at the crown He giveth,
but on His piercèd hand;
the Lamb is all the glory
of Emmanuel’s land.

Ann Ross Cousin (1857)

There will come a day when every eye will be upon Him, when you will behold Him. Are you preparing yourself in acts of righteousness?