April 15th 2018: Paul David

Paul David - April 18Mark 10:13-16

The Lord Jesus Christ uses examples of little children in order to give the disciples important teaching. This passage of scripture was so important it is also recorded in Matthew 19 and Luke 18. There is also a separate incident in Matthew 18, where the disciples asked Jesus. “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1) to which Jesus replied, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” (Matthew 18:3-5).

While we have examples of our Lord teaching us the importance of being childlike, we also have examples of not to be childish – without self-control, without understanding, ‘Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature’ (1 Corinthians 14:20). Believers are encouraged to be mature, to behave with self-control and put our knowledge and understanding into practice. ‘We should no longer be children, tossed about with every wind of doctrine.’ (Ephesians 4:14).

Little children are mentioned more than once, so clearly something important is being taught which we need to take notice of. The disciples were displeased that children were being brought to Jesus and tried to stop them coming to Him. During the time of His ministry on earth our Lord healed men and women in body and mind. There were times when people flocked to Him to be healed and to hear His teaching. Here, He taught large crowds then was tested by the Pharisees on His teaching, He then had to teach His disciples at home, after this small children were brought to Him. The disciples went into action, thinking it was probably a waste of time of a precious resource; the children were too young and could not benefit from Jesus’ wisdom, so they rebuked the parents. However, the Lord rebuked the disciples and blessed the children.

The text gives explicit teaching, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15). There is something for everyone here. For Christians, “For of such is the kingdom of God,” for those who are not Christians, they need to “receive the kingdom of God.”

The kingdom of God is not made up of little children but of those who are childlike. What does it mean to be childlike? Jesus says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mark 2:17). There are a number of characteristics children have:

Humility. In Matthew 18 our Lord used a little child to teach His disciples about humility, “Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” A child’s position in society was humble. He was brought up under the rule of his parents and teachers, not deciding on any family issues. He was brought up being instructed on what was right and wrong. He occupied a humble position in families and society. The Lord Jesus says we need to be like this little child. For an adult to take a low position is an act of humility – not only on the outside but also on the inside. Don’t be blown up with our own importance. We learn in Mark 10 and Matthew 18 that being brought into the kingdom of God requires humility. Nothing we have ever done is good enough to please God, nothing can qualify us to become members of the kingdom of heaven. We have to be completely reliant on God’s mercy, entirely dependent on Him. Anything we do in our own strength is worthless. We need to learn and obey.

Little children receive freely. They are not troubled that they cannot pay back. They receive freely the good that is given to them. We should be happy to work for God, not confusing this with working for our salvation. Pride is always a temptation. We’re encouraged by God to consider everyone else who is in the kingdom of God to be more important than ourselves, ‘Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself’ (Philippians 2:3). Christ is the great example of humility.

Another lesson, closely related to being humble, is trust. The children here in this passage were probably babies – Jesus took them in His arms to bless them. Small children and babies completely trust in those who care for them. Our Lord was impressing on His disciples to have complete dependence and trust in Him. We too need to completely trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Babies don’t know where their next meal comes from, but they are content, knowing they will be fed. Our heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are caring for us. We increasingly gain confidence in Christ and as we do so we become more mature, we become more child-like. When we are born-again we become new children, trusting our Father completely. He is our refuge and underneath are His everlasting arms. Be humble and trusting.

Children are learners, they are inquisitive. We shouldn’t stay at children’s level of understanding, ‘As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.’ (1 Peter 2:2). Always want to know more. Learn from preaching and the Scriptures.

Be humble, show humility in church. Do not be proud. We haven’t contributed to anything to our salvation. Be humbled but not humiliated. Rely completely on our Lord Jesus Christ. We should increase in Christ and decrease in ourselves. Have trust and confidence – our Father knows all our needs. This is summed up in 1 Peter 5:6-7, ‘Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.’

Trust is natural for a child. Before becoming a new Christian we may have been self-reliant, but now we have to trust completely in the Lord Jesus Christ. This will improve with time and repetition and should become the most natural thing in the world.

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April 8th 2018: Mike Viccary

Mike Viccary-April182 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, Perfecting holiness in the fear of God

What is wrong with the world? We hear tragic stories, terrible happenings, news that more murders have happened in London so far this year than in New York. The world is the way it is because of you and me. When Adam sinned it shattered everything; every one of us is a sinner. Sin is the matter in the world. The world lacks holiness, the presence of God, ‘Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14).  We need to be a people of peace, a people of holiness.

  • We need to be yoked.
    2 Corinthians 6:14 states, ‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?’ (There is also a reference to this in Deuteronomy 22:10). Jesus promises, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Who are you yoked to? When you wake up in the morning you may be yoked to an idea or you might be yoked to an ambition. You need to be yoked to Christ. Don’t be yoked with the world. You are either yoked to Christ or something else. Is your life spent serving Christ? Whatever you do, do it all in the name of Jesus, as though you are doing it as Jesus (Colossians 3, 1 Corinthians 10). Do all to the glory of God. Ultimately, if you have an unbelieving boss or spouse, if you love Christ, you will love your unbelieving boss or unbelieving spouse.
  • Meditate on who you are.
    2 Corinthians 6:14-16 gives an incredible description of the kingdom of God. We are in the world but this list of things shows us the kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. If you are yoked to Christ the kingdom is within you – in fellowship, communion, accord, portion and agreement. The Lord has delivered us from the power of darkness and put us with the Son, His love. Everything you think about and do changes when you are in Christ, your whole life is completely changed.

Collectively, we are the temple of God (2 Corinthians 6:16). We are a precisely constructed building with a definite way of doing things. The temple of God is perfect. Peter says we are living stones. Even when you are amongst your friends, at work or with unbelievers, you are a temple of God. Meditate and think often on who you are.

  • We need to cleanse ourselves (2 Corinthians 6:17)

Cleansing ourselves is rooted in scripture (Isaiah 52). We are to forsake the world. We have been adopted into God’s family. Come out from the world’s system. We get so influenced by the world but we still need to be amongst the world to share the gospel (Ephesians 4:17-5:1). Thank God we have so many promises.

It is our responsibility to cleanse ourselves (Isaiah 1:16-17). Holiness is 100% We need to cleanse ourselves of all filthiness. The Old Testament illustrates this in detail in Leviticus 14. The whole of us must be sanctified. This task is impossible for us. Who can cleanse themselves in this way? Cleansing can only come from the blood of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit. Christ loves the church and washed the church with His speech. Psalm 51 shows us the heart that is so given to Christ, the heart we want to know.

We are to operate in the fear of God. It is not just a question of reading God’s word – to hear is to obey. If you fear God, if you respect Him, you will hate all evil because He is holy. The fear of God spurs us on. 2 Corinthians 5 spurs us on to witness. It is also a key to mission (Acts 2).

How should we receive it? Proverbs 2:1-5. Receive the word of God, treasure it and apply it. Draw back to God. Choose it, seek it. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. Pray, ‘Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.’ (Psalm 86:11).

Remember, we are yoked with Christ. Take great care and diligence with the word of God. To who are you yoked? What is the principle of your life? Do you review and check the principle of your life? Are you taking the opportunity to daily cleanse yourself in the word of Christ? Have you chosen to fear God – to be holy, to be like God, to be so in love with Christ that nothing else matters?

 

March 30th 2018: Good Friday: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards - March 18“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46

During the Crucifixion Jesus gave seven sayings, which were not merely random words to what was happening. It was a commentary about the meaning and purpose of His death. This saying, the middle of the seven sayings, is perhaps the most revealing. It’s a cry that is awesome. It should fill our souls with a sense of dread. It is power, it is poignant – the cry of dereliction as the Lord suffers the punishment of our sin. It’s a cry that deifies all definition, a moment between God the Father and God the Son, a cry of the Son of God in His human nature as He experiences the wrath of God against our sin.

Sin and Judgement:
The cry tells us the Saviour really suffered at the hand of His fate as he bore the judgement for our sins. Three hours prior to this cry darkness covered the land from noon to 3 p.m. (Matthew 27:45). The sun is normally at its height, yet darkness engulfed Jerusalem. This was prophesied in Amos 8:9 many centuries before, ‘”And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.”’  Darkness is a symbol of judgement (Isaiah 5:30, 60:2, 2 Peter 2:17). The darkness of that day tells us that the wrath of God is being poured out on His Son for our sin. This is the only time ever that God the Father turned His back on His Son for our sins.  The torment of Jesus wasn’t just physical. What no-one else ever endured was the agony of eternal judgement griping the soul and drawing it into the deepest darkness of hellish pain.

The reality of judgement is God loved no-one more than He loved His only begotten Son. Divine love continued when the Son added to His divine nature and became man. God does not hold back on pouring His judgement on His Son. That terror engulfs all who die without faith in Christ. This judgement will be visited upon our sins one way or another. If we have not yet come to know Jesus Christ as our Saviour, then the terror expressed by Jesus is a terror we will know. Sin is a terrible offence. Such is its evil in the sight of God that our sin could not be forgiven until God the Father unleashed all the horror of hell against His Son.

Substitute of Atonement:
Jesus here is our substitute, taking our place, becoming us and taking liability for us. He suffered for us, He died in our place. He became us as He bore our sins. He does not address His Father in His usual way as He now stands in our place, fully identifying with us, as He cries, “My God.” He atones for our sins. He pays the penalty for our wrong doing. We are the perpetrators deserving of God’s judgement. Jesus steps in and bares that judgement. For those dreadful hours God saw Jesus not as His Son, but saw Him as being you and me. He poured out upon Him the punishment for us. Justice is satisfied and mercy is made available to us. He dies specifically taking my punishment in His love for me. It is an illogical love. Why should He love me so? In my sin I am a hideous, deformed creature, deserving nothing but the implementation of God’s wrath against me. Yet, Jesus loved me so and substituted Himself, takes my judgement, atones for my sin. What a price it was! What a payment was made! An infinite payment! We simply cannot begin to understand what it cost the Lord Jesus Christ to hang upon that cross. No words in all the languages can express what it meant. What a Saviour He is. He willingly took our place. That’s why it’s Good Friday.

A cry of hope and joy:
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Although this is a cry of dereliction, it is also a cry of hope and joy. These words were written many centuries before the crucifixion, in Psalm 22, a prophetic psalm which speaks of the sufferings of the coming Messiah. It gives a detailed, graphic description of crucifixion – before crucifixion was perfected by the Romans. It is a psalm that looks forward to the events of Calvary. Jesus uses this psalm as a commentary on His own death. He is now experiencing what Psalm 22 prophesied. But Psalm 22 ends in hope and joy. It is a psalm that speaks of the Messiah not only in suffering but also in triumph. The Saviour confidently knows that He would not be abandoned forever and will triumph and know the joy of resurrection. He knew this as He said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). He knew He would arise again. He told His disciples this three times. He knows that as He endures the suffering of agony of body and soul, it is the way to triumph, to hope, to joy.

It is a cry of dereliction but it is not a cry of defeat. Here lies hope and joy for each one of us. What hope have you got in the face of death? What joy can there possibly be when confronted with the reality of judgement, what hope is there in death? That Jesus Christ died and paid in full the price for our sin, thereby affording to each one of us forgiveness, allowing us to experience the mercy of God’s love and triumph over death. A sure and certain hope that in Jesus Christ our sins have been forgiven. God the Father, having judged Him, can no longer judge us for that sin. The joy – being reconciled with God if we come and trust in Jesus Christ. There is no other way for us to return to God, to enjoy fellowship with God. The only thing that can bring true joy is knowing God. So it is Good Friday.

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This saying is central to what forgiveness means. It teaches us the reality of our sin and God’s judgement, but it assures us that atonement is made. Jesus, as our substitute, takes our place, bore our guilt so hope and joy is ours. May it be our personal understanding of what it all means and may this fill us with love for Christ and joy in our salvation.