May 13th 2018: Ian Jones

Ian Jones-May18John 9

This chapter is a continuation of chapter 8. In the last verses of chapter 8 Jesus was about to be stoned. Here, in chapter 9, at the temple gates sat a blind man begging. As Jesus made His way out of the temple He saw this man. If we were escaping for our lives, would we have stopped to help this man?

Jesus ‘saw.’ It wasn’t just a casual glance but an intent look at this individual. However, the disciples saw him merely as an object of their curiosity. Back then, blindness was looked upon as a penalty of sin. They asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1). It was a mystery to them. Was it this man’s fault or the fault of his parents?

Friends, how do we see people’s lives around us? Do we notice them or are we in such a hurry, we don’t notice? How easy is it to pass them by or judge them, lifting ourselves above them? Jesus noticed all those around Him who were suffering – so should we notice those who suffer and be concerned for others who suffer. We need to spend time with them.

Jesus answers the disciples’ question saying, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the work of God should be revealed in him.” (John 9:3). It was God’s will that this man be born blind and that when Jesus came by He would heal Him and God’s work would be revealed. We have all been created by God in a particular way for His glory and honour.

This is a very important passage. It takes up a whole chapter in John’s gospel. Now is the time for us to work for Christ, to serve Him. Now is the appointed time. Jesus is the light of the world. He saw the world in darkness; only He could bring light into people’s lives. The blind beggar had a miserable life – he could only do very little. But Jesus changed all that, He changed his life. Jesus came to give sight to the blind and heal the broken-hearted.

Why did the Lord heal the blind man in this way? It is very unusual. Very often Jesus just spoke the word or touched the person to heal them. But this time He spat on the ground and made mud out of His saliva and put it on the blind man’s eyelids. He then told the man to wash in the pool of Siloam (John (9:7). Christ did this for a reason. He did this to reveal spiritual truth. Why the mud? It could be to reveal that the healing came from Christ Himself. Mud – sin has blinded us from spiritual truth. The mud / mess had to be removed from the blind man’s face for him to see. It required obedience from the man to wash in the pool of Siloam.

Here we have a wonderful picture of salvation. Those who are spiritually blind do not see themselves as blind. We see this in the Pharisees’ reaction (John 9:40). That’s the problem with spiritual blindness, it is deceptive. The man is the ideal example of one born blind, not knowing Jesus. Having had mud applied to his eyes, he was told to wash. When he heard the word of God he could have argued and asked why he had to go to the pool and wash his face. He could have objected and gone home to wash. Yet he went in obedience.

If we’re to be cleansed from our sin, we must go to the Lord Jesus Christ, to the cross. The blood that was shed for us cleanses our sin.

John translates the pool of Siloam as meaning ‘sent.’ (John 9:7). He takes us back to the days of Jerusalem, to the days of Hezekiah when a tunnel was dug to bring fresh water into the city. This pool received water sent from the outside. Jesus is the one ‘sent’ from God, who is able to wash away our sin.

As the passage goes on, the man becomes closes to the Lord Jesus Christ until he enters full salvation, whereas the Pharisees become increasingly hardened to the Lord Jesus Christ. This happens today – people either draw nearer to the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ as it is spoken or become more hardened.

When the man returned home after washing in the pool of Siloam his neighbours questioned whether or not this was the same person. Some said no, it just looked like him. He made it clear it was him and tells them how he received his sight. He makes it very clear what has taken place. There’s a difference in his life. Jesus made a difference. Yet they find it difficult to understand, it is so unusual, something like this just didn’t happen.

The man was extremely joyful, yet the others cannot enter into it, it is beyond their understanding. When someone is converted there is a complete change of lifestyle – others cannot understand it. The neighbours take him to the Pharisees, the religious leaders. Then we have a kind of trial taking place. We would hope they would have an open mind, find and acknowledge the truth that has taken place. However, they don’t want to give glory to God.

The Pharisees are biased because of their unbelief. They forget the man and what’s been done because it was done on the Sabbath, claiming, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” (John 9:16). Others argued He must be from God because the blind man could now see. There was division among them. So they ask the man himself, who explains what Jesus has done. But they don’t want to listen to his testimony so they then ask his parents. They are afraid of the Pharisees, of being cast out of the synagogue, so they respond by saying ask their son because he is of age and can be questioned. As this discussion moves on it moves back to the man. The Pharisees try to put words in his mouth (v.24).

The man’s answer to the questioning is amazing. Right at the start, when his neighbours asked him how he received his sight, he said Jesus had done this. When the Pharisees asked him, he spoke of Jesus as – ‘a prophet.’ (v.17). His understanding of Jesus is increasing. When they say to him again, his answer is, “One thing I do know: that I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25). They then get into an argument.

We see this man growing in boldness, arguing his case – Jesus is from God. It ends with him being thrown out of the temple, on his own. But he is not on his own for the Lord Jesus came and found him. Jesus asks, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” (John 9:35). He asks who He is. He now wants to believe in Him. Jesus replies, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking to you.” (John 9:37). His response, “Lord, I believe! And he worshipped Him.” (John 9:38). The man who was once blind now has full recognition of Jesus, his Lord. We see the process of him drawing closer and closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are all seeking to come closer and closer to the Lord Jesus Christ, to tell others about Him, to argue against others who want to put Him down. The Pharisees were on a road further and further away from the Lord.

What path are we on? If it is on the path of the man who received his sight, we will eventually spend all eternity with Christ. Might this passage challenge us and may we rejoice, saying, “One thing I do know: that I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25).

 

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May 8th 2018: Mike Viccary

Mike Viccary-May18We just don’t want to know Jesus, but for others to know Him too. In Isaiah 58 we read that Jesus came and gave His life for a ransom for many. The Church as a whole represent Christ and preaches the message of salvation.

Jonah 2:9 “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”

At the end of Jonah’s prayer there are three essential components:
            1.         What do we mean by salvation?
            2.         To consider what ‘of the Lord’ means
            3.         Salvation comes from the Lord.

  1. The Nature of Salvation
    1. Jonah 1:7 The mariners only call out to God when things get terrible; there was such a devastating storm. Often, we do not call out to salvation until difficult things happen.
  2. The mariners had no way of delivering themselves. They tried to save Jonah from his fate but they couldn’t. There’s no way you can save yourself.
  3. Jonah 2:5 In order to come to the Lord you really need you really need to jettison the world, discount any rescue that comes from the world.
  4. Salvation would only come to them through Jonah the prophet. They could not do anything except what Jonah asked them to do. The mariners’ lives were dramatically changed, they suddenly became the Lord’s people.
  5. The mariners needed a sacrifice. The storm became calm when Jonah was thrown into the sea.
  6. Salvation came to the mariners when death came. They had to throw Jonah aboard (Jonah 1:14). Jonah wasn’t innocent, he was guilty of not following God.
  7. God makes good things come out of evil. God is remarkable in that He even uses our sin. He is not distracted by our sin.

What do we learn from the story of Jonah?
1.   He confesses his condition (Jonah 2:2-4). This is historical fact. Jesus refers to it. Jonah realised he was guilty, effectively dead. He didn’t actually die although he nearly met his death. He realised he was spiritually dead. Without Christ we are dead. We sin, do what we want, cut off from God.
2.   He calls out to the Lord in prayer. That’s what we need to do (Genesis 4).
3.   All of us are idolaters who pursue ungodly things. We must throw those things away. The mariners threw everything overboard, we must forsake everything.
4.   God is sovereign. It wasn’t actually the mariners who threw Jonah into the sea, it was God. Jonah realised God was sovereign over all the things in his life. He is in charge.
5.   Jonah expresses great confidence in God because He is the only one who can save (Jonah 2:1). Salvation comes to those who recognise they are dead, and seek to trust only what God can do.
6. Salvation includes resurrection (Jonah 2:6).
7. Deliverance can only come from the word of God (Jonah 2:7). God spoke to the fish. Salvation comes at a word – at a word you can be forgiven.

What do we know about the Ninevites?
1.   Jonah 1:2 God knows our deepest thoughts, our sins. Judgement was about to fall on the Ninevites.

2.   Salvation must come from the word of the Lord preached. Salvation came because Jesus came into the world.
3.   You need to believe in the one the Father sent, you will have life.
4.   There’s a deep reliance on God alone.
5.   The removal of God’s anger (Jonah 3:6). God is holy, He must judge sin. When He sees people repenting, judgement must fall, it fell on Jesus.
6.   Jonah confesses.
7.   God shows Jonah He is a compassionate God.

Salvation is a sovereign act of God. It requires deep repentance and turning, an earnest heart that says, ‘I must attend to this.’ Believe God is true. Turn to Him, change. Salvation requires death, to die to self, to take up your cross and disown what this world has offered you.

  1. Salvation is of God.

He is not only duty bound to save anyone (Romans 9). It is God’s gift to give or not to give salvation. God is holy, God is good, God is righteous. Salvation is ‘of the Lord.’ It’s His.

  1. Salvation comes from the Lord.

Salvation comes through the precious blood of Christ. There is nothing more important. Salvation, Paul says, is Christ Himself (1 Peter 2:4). We come to Him, chosen by God, and precious. God will give or not give salvation as He determines.

Salvation is of the Lord. Before even the world was made, the Lord Jesus Christ was ready and willing to be the Lamb slain. The Lord promises the gospel in Genesis 3.

If you’ve been saved, you’ve been saved that others might be blessed. Christ came into the world to save sinners. He is right here this moment. If you’ve never turned to Him, come. God’s heart and mind is to come to you and say. ‘Take hold of me.’ God is close.

God is extravagant (Psalm 18). How many times have you been rescued from tricky situations, even situations you don’t know of? That’s grace. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of God. Right from the dawn of creation He offered salvation.

Salvation of God is everlasting. Hunger after God. Psalm 119:41. It’s through hearing the scriptures that Salvation comes.

alan davison - april18April 29th 2018: Alan Davison

Background reading: Ezra 4:1 – 5:3
Sermon: Haggai 2:21-23

The Bible is often seen as a collection of different books which each having a separate entity. However, there is a connection between the books, for example Haggai and Zechariah were contemporaries of Ezra.

In Ezra chapter 4 we are told the temple was being rebuilt and of the opposition to this. At the end of the chapter the building stopped. But in the first two verses of chapter 5 we see a complete reversal of the situation.

The last two verses of the book of Haggai tells us this oracle recorded in Ezra is specifically for Zerubbabel, governor of Judah. Zerubbabel was of royal blood. Zerubbabel is also referred to a ‘My servant’ (Haggai 2:23). This is a Messianic prophecy (see also Isaiah 42:1 and Isaiah 41:8). Zerubbabel was chosen to be God’s means of restoring the temple. He is also seen in a Messianic role, appearing in the genealogy of Christ (Luke 3:27).

The whole of this oracle comes to a climax in Haggai 2:23, ‘“In that day,” declares the Lord Almighty, “I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,”declares the Lord, “and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,” declares the Lord Almighty.”’ God will make Zerubbabel His signet ring. This shows God is restoring His favour (see also Jeremiah 22:4).

A signet ring is a mark of authority and authenticity used to seal proclamations. The value of the ring depended on the status and role of its wearer. There are three aspects of Zerubbabel’s status of becoming God’s signet ring, which also apply to us:

  • We are in God’s hands.

This can be a negative thing, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31). This applies to those who woefully sin against God.

To be God’s signet ring is to be under God’s protection. Eternal security is guaranteed by God. “Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9). Can we undo what God has done? Can someone fall away? No! Jesus Himself declared, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” (John 6:38-39). You cannot be lost again.

Jesus knows who His sheep are, He gives them eternal life, “My sheep know my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29). No-one can snatch believers out of God’s hands, not even ourselves. See also 1 Peter 1:3-5. We are “being guarded through faith for a salvation” (1 Peter 1:5). God works through our faith – even that has been gifted to us. We are kept, guarded and protected from our own failures. This shows the grace of God. In John chapter 5 Jesus twice states that He does the Father’s will (John 5:19, John 5:30). They are in total unity.

  • To be God’s signet ring is to be highly valued.

We are precious to Him, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:15). Why are our deaths so precious to God? The death of His saints is the promotion of them to glory. The Lord Jesus Christ was precious to His heavenly Father, ‘And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17). Jesus is not only precious to Him but precious to us as well. God has set His seal on His Son, He has the Father’s seal of approval, “For on Him God the Father has set His seal.” (John 6:27).

Jesus’ tomb was sealed, “So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.” (Matthew 27:66). Such a seal did not physically close the opening but in order to open it, someone needed authority to do so. “And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.” (Daniel 6:17).

  • To be God’s signet ring is to represent God’s authority.

In our lives we will be represented in lots of different ways, for example, by MPs, sporting teams representing our nation. Spiritually, we share in the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. If a king trusts someone completely he gives them his ring. In Genesis 41:41-43 Joseph was given the Pharaoh’s signet ring so he could act on Pharaoh’s behalf.

In a sense, any Christian who has received Jesus in their lives is Jesus’ signet ring. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). Jesus’ final words on earth show we are to act in His name in proclaiming His name to the world. How do we do this has an impact. Every true Christian is in Christ, we are heirs. We too can be used by God as His signet ring, held firmly and safely in His hands. He does this because we are all precious before Him. We are considered legally righteous before God. Jesus Himself said we are His witnesses. We are appointed by Him. The last verse in Haggai states, “For I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.” (Haggai 2:23). God sets His seal of approval on all He has saved, we are all as a signet ring to God.