October 22nd 2022: Chris Rees

200th Anniversary Service of the founding of Penuel Baptist Chapel. Saturday night service.

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/tfl84n4xObU

Colossians 1: 1-20

What a joy it is to be with you, a real privilege. I trust we gather as churches in Pembrokeshire to be with you and thank God for all that He has done, and to trust that the Lord will be with us in a very special way, and to be with each one of us in our fellowships tomorrow (Sunday) as we would meet together. He has been so faithful. It’s a testimony that we are here tonight – 200 years since people first met on 23rd October 1822. That is a testimony of His goodness and faithfulness. We have been blessed with fellowship and we’ve been blessed with coming together on many occasions.

What we have tonight is a reading taken from God’s Word, from Colossians chapter 1. The thoughts I’ve got are this: of a body without a Head. Then tomorrow morning, a member without a body.

When I was asked to preach on the occasion of your 200th anniversary, I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to have to say something good about Penuel, Roch.’ I thought very hard, it took a long time (laughter from congregation). Then it came to me – you are good singers in Penuel, Roch (more laughter). Then I thought that over the years we’ve had good fellowship, warm fellowship. We thank God for that. We can thank God for the witness that’s been here all those years. I wondered what else I could say that’s really good. I thought what’s really good about Penuel, Roch is that it’s in the county of Pembrokeshire, and how we need such a gospel witness. We’re thankful for every church which is within Pembrokeshire. But then I began to think about what is really good about the church, the best about the church, is the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ.

For all the influence and for all the witness, for all that this church has meant within this community for over 200 years, the best of all is the Head of the Church. Glorious things are spoken, Zion, city of our God. Glorious things are spoken about God’s Church. As we come today, we want to mark the best of this church here at Penuel. And it is this – the Head of the church.

We are living in strange days. In the church we talk not about the Head, but we talk about the hand. We talk about what we’re doing, what we’ve achieved, what we’ve done. We talk and we advertise in many different ways, of all that we can be and can do for a community.

Magazines have photos of people’s faces, not hands, because the glory of your body is your face. As a church, as a people, we have something to show to this community and tell. It’s not the elbow power, it’s not the works of our hands, but it’s the glorious face of our wonderful Saviour.

If there’s anyone here tonight who has got something they can say, who can pick a fault, point a finger, be disappointed in the life of church, there’s many faults and many failings, I would ask you simply tonight to look to the Head. Look to the Head and I assure you there is no failure or blemish in Him, And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence.” (Colossians 1:18).

I want to speak to you tonight of the importance of the Head. If we lose our head, we lose our glory, “18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.” (Colossians 2:18-19).

When Paul writes this letter to Colossae, he knows the problems of people having false teachings and false humility. He starts with this great hymn of praise that begins in verse 15, “15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 1:15) He begins to spell out who He is, Jesus Christ, who walked on this earth. He tells us of his relationship with God – He is the image of the invisible God.

Then he begins to tell us of His relationship to this world, that all things were made through Him and by Him. Then he begins to tell us of His relationship with His Church. If you want to know what Christianity is all about, it’s about Him.

Do you know what used to happen many years ago when we went to little places like this? A preacher would get up into the pulpit and would speak to you and would talk to you about Him. They would explain to you that Jesus Christ, who walked on this earth, is the invisible God. They would preach to you and tell you of the glories of His person, that He is the One who made everything – your life, your body. They would tell you of what He has done, what he has achieved. You find it in verse 14, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” They would preach to you of His perfections and of His glory.

When a person becomes a Christian, isn’t it one of the great truths that begins to sink into your mind, Jesus Christ is God. God who came in the flesh but all God. True God. He is the maker and creator of all things. He is the Head of the body. If you lose your head, you lose your glory. The glory of the Church is the Head of the church.

We are not here to preach what the church can do for you, we’re here to tell you what Christ has already done in our lives and in this place. What you need to know is that everything that Jesus Christ is, His relationship to God, His relationship to this world, is His relationship to the church. The blessings of the church here at Penuel is its Head.

When a church loses it head, it doesn’t just lose its glory. These people were getting lost in their mind and in their thinking, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Colossians 2:8-10) 

When we talk about the headless chicken, some people look at the church and you can get the feeling that it’s like a headless chicken. It’s going this way and that way. It has no idea of where to go and what to do. Why is that? It’s very simple; we’re more concerned with the hands than the Head. We’re marching to the drumbeat of this world. We’re marching on the agendas of the day. We’re marching to the voices all around us. You need to know, He is the invisible God. He is the Head of the Church. That’s the great statement – we know someone who is in that position. His person is glorious. You need to know of Jesus Christ and the position which has been given to Him. He became a servant. He is our prophet, our priest, our King. He also became Head of the Church. He is the One who is going to come and judge the world. He is the boss!

What can happen in the life of any church, any people, is that so often, as we listen to the voices of others and not the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ, mad things take place. We believe, sometimes, that the church is a democracy. Whatever Jesus Christ has said in this book (the Bible), we’re not taking a vote on it! It is not open for discussion. When Jesus says, ‘Go,’ it’s not an option. He is the Head of the Church. We are living in those days, like in Israel, not knowing what direction it is going in. The position of the Head of the Church was not given to the third person of the Trinity, but to the One who laid down His life for you, who bled for you. As much as we need of the leading of the Spirit in our lives, we will never be against the direction of our Lord and of our Saviour.

When you lose your Head, you lose your glory. When you lose your Head, you lose your sense of direction and perspective. We are in days when the foot is telling the Head what to do, where hands are telling the Head what to believe, when sheep are leading shepherds. We have no direction. Our Head is the One who came to this earth, who died, rose, ascended into heaven, appointed on the right hand of the Father, that He would govern His church.

The third thing we learn is that the Head is where our nourishment and life comes from, “And not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.” (Colossians 2:19).

The Head gives us nourishment and life. If you lose your Head, as a church, you have got no life. You can lose various limbs of your body and live, but you can’t lose your head and live. He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence.” (Colossians 1:18).

All life comes from Jesus Christ, all life flows from Jesus Christ. Everything that Jesus Christ was for creation is also true for His Church, His new creation. This Lord Jesus Christ is the one in whom we live. When that is severed there are dead churches. The Church in Sardis had a reputation for being alive but was dead. How is this? Well, when you are no longer united and growing in the things of Him, where you have taken away, where other things have come in and you are no longer looking to Him, there can only be death.

He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.” (Colossians 1:18a). He has always been in the beginning. He is the firstborn from the dead. He is the one who is first. He is the one who has life.

The reason there is a church here in Penuel is because He is the one who has life. There remains a church here because Christ rose from the dead. I’m told one of the great realities of the gospel is the existence of the Church, that there’s a people who worship Him, who know Him, come to Him and praise Him. It is because of the one who died and rose again and lives now. There is power! The power that worked in that grave conquered death.

He is the One who has conquered death. He is the one who made the way through the grave. He is the One who has ascended back to the Father. The everlasting doors were opened up to Him. The Lord Jesus Christ has made a way, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Now Christ is risen from the dead and has become the first fruit. He is not the last born, or the second or third. He is the firstborn, so He is the one who has given life to everyone who comes to believe in Him.

One day, when we die, that is not the end. We will be like Him. This decaying body will be like His glorious body. He is the one who has life, He is resurrection life. He is the One who began that life in you when you first became a Christian. It’s a bad thing if you lose your Head – you lose your glory, you lose any sense of direction, you lose all life.

We see something else here, “that in all things He may have the pre-eminence.” (Colossians 1:18b). It’s very practical. The reason the Lord Jesus Christ is the one who He is, the position He has got, all that He has done in conquering death and taken our sin, is that He is the life of this church in all things.

There are many things in the life of the Church, but He should be the supreme One in everything – in all that we do, in the decisions that we make, the worship that we have, the direction of it all. The One who was despised, forsaken, rejected by men, the crucified Christ, is the One now who has been risen by the Father. He should simply be the first, the circumference of everything, at the centre of it all. That’s the best of Penuel, Roch. That’s what it’s all about.

In your life, Jesus Christ is to have the first place. He should be first in all decisions we make. Jesus Christ has never been second. He never came to be second in anyone’s life. He never came to be third or fourth on anyone’s agenda. When you get up in the morning, who is going to be first, who is going to have the pre-eminence? When you think of all your plans you’ve got, just for tomorrow, who is going to have the pre-eminence?

We live in mad days. When we come to church, we still only think of ourselves. – what things mean for ‘me.’ I understand that. But shouldn’t He be first? The first thought in our worship, the first thought in our praise. In one’s life, always put God first. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

A body without a head has no identity. It is not even a body, it’s a torso. The Head should be the One we are thinking about, the One we are praising, the One that we are looking to for our direction and our leading. In your life, if you don’t know Jesus Christ there is no glory in your life, your head can be hanging in shame. I assure you that my head can hang in shame – but my Head is in heaven! It’s full of glory! And although I may look to myself, I can look to Him. Do you know something else? In your life, if you don’t know Jesus Christ, you are walking this way and that way. You don’t know if you’re coming or going. You have no direction.

This night, if you don’t know Jesus Christ in your life you are spiritually dead in the world. There is only One who has made a way from this dead, decaying, dying world. The firstborn has made it – from the dead, out from the grave, victorious into heaven.

The best thing about this church in Penuel is its Head. The best thing about our churches in Pembrokeshire is we are small, we are weak, we are little, and we haven’t got much. But we have a great Head who is seated on the throne. For Him, may it be all the praise and all the glory. Amen.

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