April 14th 2019: Dave Evans

Dave Evans - April 2019Psalm 75

The rise and fall of nations and civilisations is documented in a whole host of books, explaining why such civilisations as the Romans have risen and fallen. Yet, the truth is, as we turn to the Bible, there is one fundamental cause. The Psalmist in Psalm 75 points us to the great truth that God riles and judges. It is God who rises up and casts down. It is a sombre theme, yet the Psalm begins and ends with praise. The one who rules and is above all things is the one who draws near to His people.

The Psalm has a collective voice as the congregation are gathered (verse 1). In verses 2-5 God Himself speaks. In verses 6-8 Asaph, the preacher, takes up the theme. The Psalm ends with an individual voice, a testimony.

The Psalm is to strengthen and comfort God’s people. Yet it contains a solemn warning to those who are far from God. You either respond with joy and thanksgiving or fear and dread if you are far from God.

The collective response (verse 1). If you’re a believer you know the Lord Jesus Christ is your Lord, so we can lift our voices in thanksgiving. The Psalmist tells us our God is near to us. God gives us cause to thank Him because He is near, at hand. He is omnipresent – in all places in all times. To His people He is there to guard them, to protect them.

In the congregation of Asaph’s nation, the people could delight in Him. They give thanks because they can recount His great deliverances. Of course, for the people of the Old Testament the one great act of redemption was their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. We, as believers today, can join in this thanksgiving as we recount the wondrous deeds of God. We can rejoice in full realisation of redemption in Jesus, not just the Passover of the Israelites. Christ came to redeem us, to ransom us, so we are all able to lift our voices in thanksgiving. God is near us and has delivered us.

Suddenly the voice changes. While the people give thanks, God is now heard to speak (verses 2-7). As believers, we have to confess our thanksgiving is not as it ought to be. Sometimes, doubt, anxiety and fear creeps in. We face our own trials; society is increasingly antagonistic to faith. We may ask where God is in all of this? We need to turn to passages like this, where God speaks words of assurance to our souls. He is on the throne, working for us. We rejoice in the knowledge that God is ruling and reigning. His plans are never overthrown, never delayed. It is God alone who determines the timing of world events. It is God who holds not only the stars in His hands, but the very heart of people. Psalm 102.

 “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end.” (Daniel 8:19).

‘But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons’ (Galatians 4:4-5)

In this Psalm, God says ‘At the set time that I appoint, I will judge with equity’ (Psalm 75:2). His set time refers to His judgement. God is ever in control. He will act at His appointed time, whether judgement on a particular nation or individual or at the end of time.

It seems the church of Christ suffers when the world does not. But there is a day coming when God will judge. Questions will arise, why does it seems God will delay His judgement? There are two reasons. Firstly, God’s delay is a measure of His kindness; enemies are given time to repent, to seek forgiveness and be saved (Romans 2). Secondly, as men and women refuse to turn to God, God is waiting until that day when their sin is full to the brim.

Words of assurance are given to God’s people in verses 2-3. Though things seem to be falling apart, God is in control. When everything else seems to fail, He remains a sure foundation.

We read in verses 4-5 of those still in sin. God says, through the Psalmist, ‘Don’t boast, don’t shake your fist to God, don’t tell Him what you want. Don’t flex your muscles in the face of God.’ Here’s a challenge for us; where are we? Is there pride in our heart to submit to God’s rule and reign? Do our desires and ambitions come before God? The Lord Jesus Christ told a solemn parable of a rich young farmer. Don’t seek the riches of this world.

In verses 6-8 the voice changes again. Asaph, the preacher speaks. Here’s a model of what the preacher’s role is. Asaph doesn’t come with soothing words, like false prophets of Jeremiah’s day. What Asaph does is  take God’s words and applies them further. The message is don’t boast in your own strength, it is not from the East, West or wilderness. Your success comes from God alone, who lifts up and casts down. Those who walk in pride, God is able to abase (Psalm 2:1-4).

As we hear God’s word there is a far greater concern. Today, our government is in total confusion. There is a message for each and every one of us; there are days coming when there will be an eternal lifting up or casting down of our bodies, ‘For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs’ (Psalm 75:8). As in so many parts of the Bible, this picture of a cup brimming over is a picture of God’s final judgement.

In all the solemnity we come to this final, individual testimony. ‘But I will declare it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up, (Psalm 75:9-10).

Here, the believer rejoices to take up God’s word. Who are the righteous? Our thoughts surely are taken forward to the life of our Lord Jesus Christ and that night before He was crucified, in Gethsemane, experiencing the beginning of His suffering (Mark 14:32). There, the Lord Jesus Christ looks into this cup and knows He must drink it. In His holy soul He trembles. Yet He does God’s will. At Calvary He drank that cup to the very last drop. It is He who rode into Jerusalem on that donkey, as an altogether different king to the one people imagined. He is the one who will come to judge in equity and righteousness on that great day. We, as believers, can rejoice in the Psalm. That’s the glory of the gospel. None of us deserve anything yet there is a lifting up to glory itself, to look on our Saviour, face to face. Are you able to rejoice? If not, you face God’s judgement alone.

April 7th 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwrds-Feb 19Exodus 20:7

The third Commandment. It is often said a man’s most precious asset is his good name. People are very quick to clear their name from slander, liable or injustice. Even those who are guilty of crimes will protest vigorously in order to protect their name. If it’s important for a man to maintain his name, how much more is it important for God to maintain His name?

The third Commandment is not to misuse His name.

 1. What does it mean?
2. In what ways do we break this commandment?
3.  What are the consequences?

  1. What is this Commandment telling us?
    It is clear how much importance God places upon His name. He has given us His names to represent His character to us. In the Bible, names are not just means of identifying someone; names in the Bible express something of the character and personality of the person concerned. For example, Genesis 25:25-26 we read of Esau, who was given his name because he is reddish in colour and hairy. And that is what the name Esau means. The second twin, Jacob, means ‘heel catcher’ and denotes how he came out of the womb holding Esau’s foot. Names are a statement of the person, their character.

 

And so it is that God’s names reveal His character, much more than titles, more than what He has told us to call Him. El Shaddai means the strong one, Elohim refers to the most high, Eloham is the everlasting God and Jehovah Jireh the God who provides. In all His majesty, splendour, holiness and authority of His works, God’s name is inseparable from His very being. God’s name is holy as He is holy. Psalm 145:21

To misuse God’s name is to denigrate His character, to treat Him without the respect rightly due to Him. To dishonour God is such a terrible sin. We are called to praise Him. In abusing His name we dishonour Him. Psalm 103:1

When we use the name of God we must always do so with reverence and with humble respect. We must always speak of God and to God with the utmost reverence and deepest respect, as we realise who He is. If we pay honour and respect to earthly kings and queens who we call ‘your majesty’ how much more we should honour and pay homage to God? We do homage to the Almighty, to the glorious exalted Lord, the one who is altogether holy. We must address Him as such.

  1. In what ways do we break this Commandment?
    There are three general ways:
    (a) profanity and flippancy. For many today, the name of the Lord is nothing more than a swear word. The Lord’s name is shouted in drunken revelry. Many do it thoughtlessly, following the model of others. Instead of God’s name being praised, it is blasphemed. Men scoff and ridicule God’s name in jokes. Today, even Christians use the Lord’s name flippantly, even telling jokes about the Lord Almighty from the pulpit, or addressing God in a casual flippancy. It is not acceptable to refer to Him as ‘Daddy.’ It is wrong for Christians to speak of God in an overly familiar way, as if He was our best friend. Praise God He has drawn us graciously into close communion with Him, blessed us beyond all measure with a great privilege. But that should not lead us to speak of Him as we would speak of a friend. We must never, ever treat God lightly.

If you are guilty of profaning the name of the Lord, may I plead with you to stop? If you use the name of the Lord, let it be only to praise Him, and not as some profanity. Endeavour never to get used to hearing the Lord’s name used in vain, blasphemed. Don’t become accustomed to it so you tune it out. Rather, wince whenever you hear the Lord’s name taken in vain. May it be like a dagger to your heart, something that pains you.

(b). Broken through oaths and lies. Leviticus 19:12. The Bible does not so much deny swearing an oath in God’s name, but it does call for the death of anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord (Leviticus 24:16). Perjury is still recognised as a serious crime in our age of dishonesty. If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, anything that does not come to pass, they are guilty of using God’s name in a blasphemous way (Deuteronomy 18:14-22). Anyone who says’ Thus says the Lord,’ but gives his own words, has linked the name of the righteous God of heaven to a lie and God says he must die. The best way to avoid misusing God’s name is only to tell the truth. Unfortunately, today some make claims in the name of prophecy, blatantly false prophecy. The individuals probably don’t realise they are breaking the third Commandment.

(c) With a fearful hesitancy, I even mention hypocrisy. We are not to misuse God’s name in our speech but also in our lives. In many ways, the professing Christian is guilty of breaking this Commandment than the non-believer. There is no greater misuse of God’s name than praying His name with our lips but living our lives without Him. Titus 1:16. Some claim they are Christian when they are not truly born-again. When we sing together great hymns and songs, we are taken the glorious name of God on our lips, but our thoughts may be far from Him. Therefore, we do not show the reverence God deserves. In our daily lives we claim His name but then do we live our everyday lives as everyone else does, and break this Commandment? We bear the name of Christ.

  1. What are the consequences?
    ‘For the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain’ (Exodus 20:7b). God will never let anyone escape punishment for misusing His name (Leviticus 10). Everyone here this morning deserves to be consumed by the same fire as consumed Nadab and Abihu. But God, in His mercy, has saved us. For the fire that should have consumed me fell upon another, who in every thought, word and deed honoured His Father. In His perfect life He brought only praise and honour to God. He kept the third Commandment but died for me. He paid the price to every blasphemy of my life. In my place, condemned He stood. Hallelujah! What a Saviour! And we cry out to people today, friends and family, turn to the Saviour. We want them to come to the Saviour, that’s the only safe place to be. He died for me and offered Himself up to the fire of God’s wrath in my place. May the Lord help us to go and sin no more. We will never be sinless in this life, but our desire is to honour His name and His sacrifice.

March 31st 2019: Chris Benbow

Chris Bembo-March19The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Luke 18:9-14

This is mind-bending! It’s confusing. It’s scandalous. The good guy, the model citizen does good things, goes to the good place, the temple, to pray. He does a good thing by praying. But, in fact, it’s not good. To God, it’s disgusting. It’s wrong. Then, the bad guy, not the guy you’d invite around to dinner, comes to God and it’s good. You see how this would have messed with the heads of the people who first heard this parable?

The issue here is righteousness. Who is righteous? Who is justified? At the end of our lives we will stand before God, the books will be opened, it will be time to find out who’s in and who’s out. Jesus teaches this parable to answer that.

The Pharisee – yeah! The tax collector – boo! Jesus sets up the extreme contrast. We ‘get’ this as we view from a New Testament perspective. However, in Jesus’ time the people didn’t see Pharisees as bad guys. They had unparalleled knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures. They were the pillar of society. They ‘fast twice a week and give a tenth of all’ they have (Luke 18:12). Fasting is going all day without food and devoting the day singularly to prayer, to God. The Pharisees also tithed, giving a tenth of all they had, giving God the first-fruits, the best of their income. From a religious standpoint, this Pharisee is a pretty good deal.

Then there’s the other guy – the tax collector. He would have been the scum of society. The Romans were a pagan empire who had slaughtered many and took taxes. Some of God’s people had joined the opposing team and bullied and intimidated the rest of God’s people, joining the foreign Romans. They would bankrupt people. They were socially and morally disgusting.

So, here they are, two people – the hero and the heathen, the Pharisee and the tax collector. They both came to the temple. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector (Luke 18:12). The tax collector wouldn’t even look up to heaven, ‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13). Jesus continues, ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’(Luke 18:14).

Why is the good guy not right with God and the supposed bad guy is?

Here we see displayed righteousness and received righteousness. There is a world of difference! Which one are we most like? Are we like the Pharisee, righteousness displayed? We are right and others are wrong. This could be shown in secular ways – being self-righteous., thinking we are better than others because we recycle, because we care for the environment. It could be we get in a car and think we’re a better driver than others. Maybe it’s a cause we support – we’re an activist, supporting an environmental cause or charity, thinking of ourselves as being better than others. This is self- righteousness displayed.

May be it is even worse, religious self-righteousness. The Lord asks, why should you be in glory? If your answer begins with ‘I’ you’re in big trouble, thinking it’s all to do with you. The Pharisee’s prayer has only one mention of God and four mentions of himself. It is all about him and what he’s done. Now he thinks he is righteous. And God says, ‘No, it’s not good enough.’ God is perfect, just perfect. So compared to Him, our best isn’t good enough, to God it is offensive. The Bible says no-one is righteous, no not one. No matter how good we think we are, our displayed righteousness is no good at all.

Received righteousness is beautiful. This is righteousness received as a gift from God. The tax collector knows what’s he is like, ‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13). He is essentially in mourning, grieving his sin. We’re in that boat too, we are all in that situation. The tax collector sees his sin as obvious. He can only utter, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13). He knew he was morally bankrupt. All that was left for him was to throw himself on the mercy of God. Mercy, God’s free gift, given through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

As Jesus tells this parable He knew what was going to happen. His naked, bloody body would be beaten, broken, hanging off a cross. It is only when you realise, this is it, this is the only way, that you realise your best is never good enough. The only thing we can do is hold our empty hands, say we have nothing to give and ask for His mercy. You will have His mercy. The price is paid. It’s done. Finished. This is the gift of righteousness. The only righteousness that is acceptable to God. If you haven’t put your trust in Jesus’ righteousness, come to Jesus and receive His grace. There is no other way. Throw yourself on God’s mercy and you will be saved.

March 24th 2019: Graham John

Graham John-March19II Samuel 21:1-14

When you see a poster in a window saying ‘Under new management’ there is an appeal for people to forget the failures which might have been acquainted with this business in the past. It’s the start of a new day. In this scripture, the Kingdom of Israel was under new management – the kingship of David. Saul was now dead and his Jonathan had also died. Here we see how David seeks to bring the kingdom to reformation. The Gibeonites, a surviving tribe of the Amorites, who were living in the Promised Land, realised that their city was on the list to be overthrown by the Israelites. So they deceived Joshua, presenting themselves as a people who had come from a distant land, entering a treaty with the Israelites. When the Israelites realised they had been misled they felt obliged to keep the treaty, allowing the Gibeonites to live peacefully in Israel.

But Saul had decided to rid the land of these people. We are not told the details of this atrocity. But by his murderous acts, Saul broke the treaty, the covenant of peace. Now, years later, rain had not fallen, famine threatened the land and the nation was suffering from a three year drought. David began to question if Israel was suffering because of some crime. He prayed.

The Lord confirmed the guilt of Saul was on the nation. The land began to bear the cost of Saul’s crime. Punishment was upon the people.

So David summoned the remaining Gibeonites to the palace. He asked them how he could compensate them. They asked for seven of Saul’s descendants to be put to death. David agreed to their request. Children are never to be put to death because of the sins of parents. But in this case, a treaty had been broken, a covenant before the Lord had been broken. This exposed the people to the punishment and wrath of God. It exposed the entire nation to wrath. So David handed over seven of Saul’s children and grandchildren. The death of these seven sons made atonement for the guilt that was between the nation and God. The lives of hundreds and thousands of others are spared because of these seven.

Rain began to fall over the dead bodies. We read of a moving sight as Rizpah, mother of two of the dead, protects their corpses. David was so affected by her constant vigil that he laid a royal funeral for them.

There are many difficulties in this passage, but it raises two important themes:
            The importance of a covenant;  
            The importance of atonement.

The broken covenant teaches us the dreadful nature of sin. God deals with His people in terms of a contract, a covenant. The human race has broken the covenant with God. All of sin bears the character of a broken covenant. Sin is the breaking of the covenant, the source of our alienation from God. But we’re led to one who kept the covenant – the only one. Jesus is the obedient servant of the Lord in every detail. In Him is no sin. He poured out His life unto death for the forgiveness of sins. Scripture warns us of sins we try to ignore, sins we try to sweep under the carpet. ‘Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy’ (Proverbs 28:13). We try to cover some sins up; we need to realise our memories may grow dim, but time does not eradicate sin. Sin is either forgiven or punished. Sin bears a price tag. If we’ve not confessed our sins, our sins may re-visit us, just as these sins sprang up in Israel. Wonderfully, God does not count our transgressions, but He knows them all.

Sin affects more than those who commit them. Rizpah was distressed, keeping vigil on a rock. Her sons had done no wrong yet their bodies hung, decaying, executed for another’s sin – the sin of the father / grandfather. It was a national sin, a national covenant had been broken. So a drought was imposed on the entire nation. David’s kingdom bore the consequences of his predecessor. The nation couldn’t go forward until the past was dealt with. Many people were affected by one person’s sins. Every sin has ripples. We have no control over the consequence. We can confess our sin and we do have control over what we do next.

Atonement, Salvation. Here is a forecast of Christ, our atoning sacrifice. In some way the seven sons made atonement. Their blood was shed. Seven is the perfect number. It’s as if the Gibeonites are asking for a perfect atonement, a perfect act of restitution. There was only one perfect atonement because our sins are against an eternal being, a righteous being. But in the Lord Jesus Christ this perfect atonement is made. He bore the infinite price of our sin by His crucifixion, His execution. Just as the annual Passover sacrifice was to be a lam without blemish, so Christ, the Lamb of God, is without defect. He is infinitely pleasing to the Father, even as He cries out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). But at the same time, He is being embraced, perfectly fulfilling God’s plan of salvation, organised before the foundation of the world.

Certain events in the Old Testament prefigure the death and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone can bear our sins. God requires satisfaction because He is a holy God. Here is a forecast of our covenant-keeper. David’s covenant provided a circle of security within a covenant. If we are in the covenant of God’s grace we are safe, spared, because He is the covenant-keeping God. He will build His church. He has committed Himself to our eternal security and safety.

This chapter is a gory chapter, you can’t ignore it. Wherever atonement is made, blood is spilt. We go from this horrifying scene of execution to Golgotha. We see the darkness come over the land at midday, the women crying at the foot of the cross. Here is the judgement, the wrath of God. The covenant-keeper is dealt with as if He was the worst covenant-breaker. Atonement is sufficient for a whole world – made by the one who is innocent. What a wonderful Saviour is forecast here – a great covenant-keeping Saviour stands in for the covenant-breakers like you and me.

March 17th 2019: Alan Davison

Alan Davison-March19Luke 21:28

The Aramaic word ‘maranatha’ occurs only once in the Bible. The Greek version, ‘parousia’ means ‘coming’ or ‘presence,’ In Biblical times it refers to the coming of Jesus, His Advent. ‘If anyone has no love for the lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come’ (1 Corinthians 16:22) Maranatha should mean the same for us as the original citizens in the first century A.D. Revelation 22:20 and the two letters of Thessalonians both refer to the second coming of the Lord. There are 260 chapters in the New Testament which refer to the Second Coming, and 380 references to the Lord coming again.

We can be certain Jesus will come again. 

This morning, we will look at what Jesus says about His return.

Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near’ (Luke 21:28).

‘When these things begin to happen.’
Note the emphasis in the previous verse, ‘Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory’ (Luke 21:27). There is a contrast to verse 8, ‘And He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them’ (Luke 21:8). It is clear that when someone has to tell us he is the Messiah, clearly he is not! Everyone will see the Messiah return. ‘Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen (Revelation 1:7).

Every day we are alive on earth brings us a day closer to Jesus’ return. As believers, we can look forward to this.

‘Look up.’
It seems simple enough but it is something we struggle with. Something happens to us and our initial reaction is to look around for solutions when we should look up! We should pray without ceasing, live our lives in a prayerful fashion. It should impact how we live our lives. Jesus is encouraging us to keep our eyes on God. It we retain focus on Him, He will do great things in our lives. Our Lord’s return needs to sustain us in our present circumstances. We need to be faithful to the Lord to the very end.

There have been many in the past and today, who have considered the coming of Jesus to be imminent. Rather, what we should do is live with the thought that the coming of Jesus may be imminent. Jesus tells us these things because they are to have a bearing on our present activity. Look up and be prepared.

‘Lift up your heads.’
This is not quite the same as just looking up. Christ does not want us to be inactive as we wait for His second coming. We often face spiritual battles. Ephesians speaks of the armour of God with good reason. God provides us with spiritual armour. He is not only in the front-line with us. To take up the armour of God is to identify with Jesus. To be called a Christian is to accept we will be identified with Christ. Many will seek to persecute us.

Our human nature wants to obtain our own salvation, but salvation only happens when we yield to Christ. It is nothing of ourselves. We should be unashamed of the gospel. We are to stand on the truth and for the truth. Jesus declares persecution will turn out as an occasion for testimony (Luke 21:13).

Another aspect to lifting our heads is our need to be aware of what is happening around us, lest we be taken by the wiles of Satan. We need to search the scriptures daily. Look up to God and His Word, lift up our heads, God has work for us to do.

‘Because your redemption draws near.’
Jesus clearly speaks to believers. While Jesus has already paid the price of our sins and redeemed us, in order to be fit for heaven we need to be more like Jesus. ‘For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself’ (Philippians 20-21). Be expectant for the Lord’s return. We are free of the power of sin. On that day, when we are finally transformed, we will know we are beyond all sin.

Watch and pray (Luke 21:36). Look forward to that great day. We have a general concern for those who don’t yet believe, and also a specific concern for close family and friends who are not Christians. If they remain in that state they will truly know what fear is when Jesus returns (Luke 21:26). This is the end for those who do not believe in God. Yet contrast this with believers who are to watch and pray always, looking up to God.

We are also to look forward to His coming. In this way we will be counted worthy because Jesus has clothes us with righteousness (Luke 21:36). It will be a great day, redemption completed!

March 10th 2019: Gaius Douglas

Gaius-March19Hebrews 12:1-3

A recent BBC news article written by a researcher was entitled ‘The Era of declining faith.’ One of the greatest problems is the name over the door of a place of worship. So often that name prevents people from associating with you. We must remember we are members of the body of Christ, of the household of faith. We are not Baptist, not Pentecostal, we belong to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the head and we are part of the body. We are members of the body of Christ.

During my last sermon we looked at those who bore the testimony of faith and the others. The others were not mentioned by name but were those who walked that path of faith and who continued in the faith. We also looked at what we should be doing and the hindrances that hold us back. We are not to get entangled in the yoke of bondage but to lay aside entanglements that hinder our testimony, the sin that so easily ensnares us, the pollution of the world. We often, as Christians, like to sit on the fence. We don’t like others to know we are Christians and hide Christ. Some Christians speak to other Christians lovingly, but then speak to others in a totally different way. The language we use with each other is the language we should use with others.

We should run with patience the race that is set. So often we’re so impatient we’re not prepared to listen. We need to run with endurance. What is the race that is set before us? It’s primarily run by Christians. Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Do you know what a Christian should look like?

The people who know the Lord Jesus Christ are called the Elect, the saints of God. The first people to be called Christians were at Antioch. The word Christian is only used three times in the Bible. A Christian is a person who has confessed Jesus as Saviour, who is born again of God, born of the Spirit, washed in His blood. Christ has redeemed us, bought us to Himself by His precious blood. Zechariah 4:6.

Saying you are a Christian does not make you a Christian. Have you been born of God, redeemed by His precious blood? Jonah made this wonderful testimony when vomiting out of the big fish, ‘Salvation is of the LORD,’ (Jonah 2:9).

So we’ve been redeemed. In this race that we’re in there are visitors and those who will try to prevent us from running it. The race has been determined already, set out by God Himself. The length of the race has been appointed already. There is an opposition to us running that race. But the Bible tells us we will be victorious because God is in that race. He will be with us. We’re running here in Roch. Every part of us is in that race. You cannot be a Christian today and not tomorrow, a Christian in the chapel today and not tomorrow outside. You belong to Jesus and Jesus belongs to you. You cannot be a part-time Christians. We’re in His race. It involves every part of us; physically, emotionally and spiritually. Jesus saved every part of us and brought us to newness of life. We are a new creation. He has changed a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. The race is run in the world.

There’s a prize – eternal glory. Are you excited about the glory to come? Jesus has gone back into heaven, He is crowned with glory and honour. He’s promised that glory to every believer in Christ – the eternal glory, born of His Spirit, born of His blood. John 17:24. In the race we are running we are being changed day by day, being more like Him.

It’s a race of endurance, looking to Jesus. How wonderful! The Lord Jesus Christ is the example, He is the one who has gone before us, He is the forerunner in this race. There is nothing that we will experience in this race that He can’t help us with and guide us with. There isn’t a situation that you will ever come across that He can’t help with. In Galatians 2:20 we read Paul was crucified with Christ, yet alive. Christ lives in me. He is the one who has died for us.

Sometimes, in our Christian life, we don’t want to face situations we don’t want – suffering, those who will hate us. John 17:14. The Lord Jesus Christ said we will suffer if we stand for Him.

There are also other runners in this race. Matthew 13, the Parable of the tares and wheat illustrates this. Wheat has a very identifiable head but the tares, a type of rye grass, are very similar. In the parable the servant recognised in the field something else was growing besides the wheat. He pointed it out to the owner, who said it must not be pulled up but grow together with the wheat. It would be rooted out at harvest time and burned. This speaks of judgement. In churches there are those who are true believers and those who are not. Some never trust Christ as their Saviour but attack Christians. Being a member of a church doesn’t say you know Christ as your Saviour.

To know Christ is to confess Him as Saviour, being washed by His previous blood. You need to know where you stand. We need to know the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 11:28. We need to share Christ with others. We are to live Christ, to live for the glory of Christ. As we run this race He wants us to share Him, to bring satisfaction to His Name. As we share Christ in our Christian path, others will want to know Christ.

The same one who has run that race, a perfect race, is the same one who is helping us to run that race, who wants us to share Christ, live for His glory and be a testimony. Let us not be afraid of the Word of God. Live it! Run it! Come unto Him, Isaiah 40, For His glory and His Praise.

March 3rd 2019: Gareth Edwards

20991230_1910562232550470_632853575_oExodus 20:4

It is not enough we should worship God alone, we should also worship in the right way. The Bible is full of instructions how God is to be worshipped in our lives, especially corporately. Worship of God is far too important to be treated to man’s imagination, which is fallen and inclined to false worship. It is God Himself who declares the way He is to be worshipped. This declaration is found in the second Commandment.

The Roman Catholic Church includes the second commandment as part of the first commandment and splits the Ten Commandments in to two to make up the ten. The use of pictures and symbols is then permitted if they are said to be of the true God. To Roman Catholics, this is a continuations of the first Commandment.

Along with all Protestant churches, there should be no idols that represent God because any representation of God will be a misrepresentation. It will distort the truth concerning God. Why?

God is unique in His nature. There is nothing in the whole universe like God. Isaiah 40:18. People have tried to explain the Trinity as being like three states of water or a shamrock. However, all fall short of Biblical truth and is therefore blasphemous. You cannot make a true representation of God because He is unlike anything you have ever known or imagined.

Secondly, God is Spirit. John 4:24. He is not a spirit like angels, He is Spirit. God has no form or shape and is invisible to human sight. So it is that in Deuteronomy 4:12 Moses only heard God’s voice. When we read man was created in God’s image we’re often tempted to reverse this and create God in our image. We shouldn’t think that God is like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It might be a glorious piece of art but it is rotten theology. God is altogether different from us in nature and character. We are in His image in that He created us for a relationship in the spiritual realm. God is Spirit, He is not physical.

Thirdly, God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. He cannot be restricted and restrained and subject to human control. In the Old Testament we see time and time again God is not a tribal God. Psalm 22:27-28. The nations create idols and rituals around these idols. That’s the way in which human mind work. But Jehovah, the one true God, is a God above influence and control. He cannot be contained in time and space. He is omnipotent and omnipresent.

So this commandment tells us it’s blasphemy to create an image of God. No image can be used as an aid to worship God. They are misrepresentations and distractions and will lead to false worship of God.

There are those who would encourage us to imagine and visualise what God is like. Now of course we must think upon God. But to imagine and create an image internally of God is just as bad as creating an external image. No man has seen God. He cannot be dreamed about. You cannot have an image of His shape or form. These are equally idolatrous.

By nature, man exalts himself and brings God down. Many today seek to bring God within reach, within control. God does heal. Praise Him. But He’s not at our beck and call and under our influence. Others make Him human in His character and attributes and more like us. This is called the domestication of God – to bring Him under our control – all a direct breaking of the second Commandment.

At least twice in the Old Testament the children of Israel turned symbols into idols of worship: 1 Samuel 4 – they turned the Ark of the Covenant into some sort of talisman. They used a symbol of God’s mercy and grace and turned it into something to be worshipped in itself. In Numbers 21 we read of the bronze serpent. In II Kings 18 Hezekiah smashed the serpent because it had become an idol.

Man’s great weakness is he wants something to see or touch to aid his faith. Symbols of salvation are abused and become a snare, a cause of idolatry. It’s for this reason that the cross is absent from our buildings. It’s not the focus of our devotion. The Lord of Calvary is the focus of our devotion, not the cross on which He died.

Man wants something tangible to worship. It’s not only ornate Catholic cathedrals, but some today who turn worship into a show of lights and music, intoxication that whips up an atmosphere. God is mentioned but it is the experience of atmosphere that is worshipped, not God. Our desire must always be to go past symbols to substance of worship itself.

If we’re not to worship God by symbols or images, how can we worship God in keeping with the second Commandment? Worship Himself in our lives – in His Word and in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s revelation of Himself; everything we need to know about Him is given to us there, the glory of His character is displayed before us. It is possible to know Him personally in repentance of sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In plain black and white, it’s all there.

How are we to worship God? By immersing ourselves in His Word, by being a living testimony to His glory. That’s what the Saviour meant when He spoke to the woman of Samaria. Worship in Spirit and truth. The only way to worship God that is not idolatrous is to be Biblical, not to speculate, but know what He says in His Word. We need to know what is pleasing to God and acceptable to God. We worship God when we encounter Him in His real and living Word. Open the scriptures and prayerfully seek to know Him in His Word. God reveals Himself to us in the scriptures. It’s not we only learn about Him, but the Holy Spirit allows us to meet with God in His Word. The Bible is central to everything we do.

Here, the Lord’s Table is situated under the Word of God, so the pulpit is central. This is where God is known. There is one and only one authorised image of God. Colossians 1:15, Colossians 2:9. Jesus Christ is God’s revelation of Himself in human form. John 14:9.

If we want to know anything of God, we see it in the person of the Saviour. We serve Him, declare His glory and desire, by the Holy Spirit’s work, that we would be more like Jesus. The only way to be Christ-like is surrender. Worship God as we encounter Him in His self-revelation found in the scriptures, in the Lord Jesus Christ. Emmanuel, God in our midst. We worship God as we not only learn about Him in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ but as we come to know Him in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. As that happens we become more transformed by the Holy Spirit.

The second Commandment is so very important. It is the fundamental basis on which other commandments rest. We are not to worship false gods but worship the one true God, in the right way, in spirit and truth. There are to be no images, no imaginations or ritual aids to worship. These are only distractions. True worship is found in the living Word of God. May God truly reveal Himself to us in Scripture, may we truly worship Him in Spirit and truth.

February 24th 2019: Thomas Kitchen

Thomas Kitchen Feb 2019Genesis 1:26 – 2:4

What does the word ‘holy’ mean to you? Some may think of the Bible, holy book. Others may think of how God calls us to be holy. For a lot of people today, ‘holy’ is an unnecessary word and the negative phrase, ‘holier than thou’ springs to mind. But the Bible talks about holiness in a wonderful, hugely positive way. We see in this passage the holiness of God.

We see before this passage of Scripture how the world came to be. There was nothing, then God speaks, then the universe comes into being. God starts with creating light, water, land, the moon and stars. He starts filling the earth with birds, fish, animals and humans. All of them, including us, are spoken into existence. At the end of each of the first five days God describes what He has made as ‘good.’ At the end of the sixth day, which includes the creation of mankind, He describes this as ‘very good.’

In chapter 2 we read that the seventh day was not a creation day but something is set up by God – a day of rest. From the word ‘rested’ comes the Hebrew word ‘Shabbat’ meaning ‘Sabbath.’

We enjoy naming our own children and the names given to other children. The vast majority are based on names they like. In Biblical times names were chosen for meaning. Adam means red; he was born from the dust; his name comes from the Hebrew word ‘ground.’ Noah means ‘rest’ and speaks of how he and his family found refuge during the flood.  Names give us background, facts about a person.

In Genesis 2:4 we read of two names for God – Elohim, one God, and the first translated name LORD, YHWH in Hebrew. Jews never speak the name YHWH (Yahweh), it is far too holy to utter, ‘In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens (Genesis 2:4).

What does Yahweh mean? Moses saw God in the burning bush, ‘God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.”’ (Exodus 3:14). Yahweh is crucially linked to the phrase of Exodus 3.

‘In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens (Genesis 2:4). On the surface this verse looks uninteresting but when we begin to peel back the layers it is truly fascinating. It is like an underground mine, where you don’t find great jewels straight away, you have to work for it. Let’s dig!

People ask ‘who made God?’ Was He created by someone even more powerful? God is not made of matter, ‘God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ (John 4:24). Everything we see has been created (Psalm 90:2). The bible is the way of Word of God. He has no beginning and no end. He will to cease to exist. He is outside of time. We will be forever worshipping Him when we get to heaven. It will be glorious, outstanding, worshipping and praising Him in sinless bodies. Jesus Himself says He is God, He is eternal. Our Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is omniscient. He knows all. He doesn’t develop because He’s always been sovereign. He doesn’t need to grow or develop. When our situation changes here on earth, may be the news of cancer, we don’t know what a day brings. But God does. We bring our changing situations to a constant Father.

In Yahweh we see His absolute independence. To be independent on earth you have to learn, to be taught, given advice, learn from mistakes. But God has never been counselled, been given advice or made a mistake. He’s never needed anyone. Isaiah 55. Without God we are useless, worthless. God created us for His glory, His pleasure. We can enjoy Him too. First God, then Man. That’s always been the order Scripture lays before us. But we try to change it – first Man, then God. Some pretend He doesn’t exist. Christians don’t want to get rid of God but, in changing situations, we try to do things ourselves. But we should first get down on our knees and pray to God.

God has given us work to do. We mustn’t think we can do it on our own. We need help and guidance from Him, not the other way round. Yahweh has absolute independence.

We see His absolute beauty. God is holy, pure, perfect and sinless. It’s us who brought sin into this world. We are inherently sinful. Scripture reminds us that God speaks through creation. Before we even knew of the Bible, God spoke to us through creation. How strong must God be if we see the strength of the mountains? How powerful, how awesome is our Creator! Jupiter’s great red spot is a storm. It’s three times bigger than the earth! On a clear night we can see part of the Milky Way. Of all the stars we see, these are only 0.0000002% of the galaxy stars! There are 2 trillion galaxies – that’s 285 for every person! If we travelled at the speed of light to the next major galaxy, it would take 2.5 million years! This gives us some idea of the scale of our God, of the universe’s beauty. It shows the beauty of Yahweh. He is so far above us. The rolling hills, the proud mountains, rushing rivers, all point to Him.

‘So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation,’ (Genesis 2:3). Day seven is a consecrated as a day of rest. It is sanctified – to be holy. This holy day has been established by one person, the only person, our God.

In the name Yahweh we see His absolute commitment. It is not until Exodus 3:14 that God reveals His name properly, ‘God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.”’ (Exodus 3:14). This is His name forever, to all generations. In all of Genesis chapter 1 we see Elohim, God. Now we see LORD. The relationship between God and man. The relationship was completely tarnished when Adam and Eve sinned. The closeness became an infinite gap. The only bridge to get us across is the bridge of the Cross. God never wanted to turn us away but He had to. But then He sent His Son to redeem us. He had a plan. We can pray, sing, spend time, love Him, worship Him.

Do we have at least some idea of who God is? He is so vast, so wonderful. Yahweh, the LORD, I am. We also have to thank God for His plan. He will keep His relationship covenant with us. We have to come to Him as we are; we can’t make ourselves holy on our own. Let’s thank and praise our great God, who doesn’t let us down. Glory be to Him!

February 17th 2019: Gerald Tait

Gerald Tait Feb 2019The extravagance of God’s grace.

Isaiah 40:12-14, 18-26

Ephesians 1:3-7, 2:2-10.

The young prophet who wrote Isaiah 6 finds himself in the temple, a bit downcast and concerned. He went to the right place! Here, he had an amazing vision. God met him there, an archangel touched his lips and therefore, he had a special insight into the divine plan of God. It’s the gospel of Isaiah. Isaiah means ‘the Lord saves.’

In Isaiah 40 a question is asked of God. We see, in verse 22, ‘He sits above the circle of the earth.’ This was written 700 years before it was discovered the earth was round!

In Ephesians the apostle Paul had a personal encounter with God, as did Isaiah. His life was changed and he became an amazing missionary. His zeal for persecuting the church now changed to a zeal for the church. There are no theories here. In Ephesians Paul, now late in life, has grasped the grandeur of grace. It includes you in this. Ephesians 1:3-7, 2:2-10.

Isaiah straight away starts to tell us things that will happen in the future. In Isaiah chapter 6 we learn of the time frame of this writing. It was the year of King Uzziah’s death. He reigned from 792-740, 740 years before Jesus was born. Isaiah chapter 7 tells us about Immanuel. In chapter 9 we read of the Christmas story, telling us of the story of the coming Lord Jesus. In chapter 53 we read the amazing description of the Crucifixion – 700 years before crucifixion was invented! It tells us there’s going to be a Saviour, who will save both Jews and Gentiles.

In Isaiah 55 we read, ‘Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.’ (Isaiah 55:1-2). What extravagance! Here we read of the extravagance, the conclusion of God’s grace, the wine and bread of life. Come without money, come without price. You could never bring enough money! This is where grace starts – it’s free. Yet this wine and bread are given at such cost. The extravagance of God, given to us.

Paul talks about the glorious grace which has been given to us freely. God’s only Son paid the price. We don’t need to bring anything. The hymn writer, Toplady, writes, ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the Cross I cling.’ You can earn mercy but you can never earn grace.

This brings a value on us; because God has lavished His grace on us, we have a new value. How can we still keep our value in a world of unclean lips, a murky world? We can’t help be contaminated, crushed. But our value hasn’t changed. The Prodigal son is a story of a loving father, not a wayward son. That son did the most awful things, yet he went home to his father to be a hired servant. His father ran to meet him and grasp him. The son asked to be a hired servant. If the father had done that, it would have been mercy. Yet the father gave him extravagant grace.

Our value calls us into Christian service, to use our value for the Lord (Romans 12). We have to give our service to the Lord freely. Jesus was sold by Judas for thirty pieces of silver. The Jews just couldn’t ‘get’ Jesus as Messiah. Jesus valued women. To the Jews, women were valueless. The price paid for Jesus was the value of a woman.

In the New Testament we live in times of God’s extravagant grace. In Romans 12 we become the body of the church.

There is a story of a young boy who kicked his football, which broke a pane of glass in a greenhouse. Justice was given when the boy was ground in his room for two hours. It was a sunny afternoon, so after one hour the boy’s father let him back out to play in the sunshine. That was mercy. Then an ice-cream van came along on this warm afternoon. The father bought the boy an ice-cream. He didn’t deserve it. That was grace.

Paul says bring your lives as a living sacrifice – your life as a mother, your work life, your tractor driving life. Romans 5:1-2 shows the almost incomprehensible grace of God, ‘Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God’.

February 10th 2019: Ian Jones

Ian Jones-Feb 19

‘So the Word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.’ (Acts 19:20)

There are certain things we look forward to in life, such as going on holiday. But there are other things we don’t look forward to, such as a visit to the dentist. Coming to this chapter, Paul is on his third missionary journey. He has visited many places, seen many people, including many who rejected his message and sought to kill him. How did Paul approach Ephesus? Did he look forward to this visit or fear it?

In the previous chapter, very little is written of Paul completing his second missionary journey (Acts 18:23). Luke also writes very little about places Paul revisited, very little of his time spent in Antioch. It seems Paul’s aim was to get to Ephesus. Luke would have us meet Paul as quickly as possible in Ephesus on his third missionary journey. This is where Paul wants to be. Why? In Paul’s day Ephesus was the fourth largest city; many people lived there, worked there or passed through. It had a port. Much trade went on. This city had one very important building that attracted many people to Ephesus – the temple of the goddess Diana. This was not Paul’s reason to be there, to trade or visit the temple. No, after leaving Corinth, Paul made his way back to Antioch, but made a brief stop at Ephesus. Why?

Paul wanted to continue where he left off on his second missionary journey. Luke tells us much that went on that should encourage us here this morning. It’s about how the Way of God was taken up by the people of Ephesus. ‘So the Word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.’ (Acts 19:20), sums up the whole chapter.

Luke gives us several examples of how the Word grew:

In verses 1-7 we see Paul meets a group of twelve men who had repented of their sin, received the teaching of John the Baptist, following in his ways, looking for a Messiah. However, the group did not realise the Messiah had already come; they didn’t know the Lord Jesus Christ. So Paul questions them (verse 2). Christ was preached to them. The men put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. We also need to know we’ve sinned against God, to repent of our sins, to know the Lord Jesus Christ.

In verses 8-10 we read that after Paul had spoken to these men he visited the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months about the kingdom of God. He spoke to them that Jesus was the Messiah. Amazing! In many other places Paul did not have the opportunity to speak to the Jews. Eventually, some began to harden their hearts and spoke out at Paul in an evil way. His response? He could no longer remain in the synagogue and needed to separate from these people. The Lord honoured Paul’s decision (verse 9). God opened up another place by which Paul could speak, where he spoke daily for two years, probably from 11-4 p.m. in the afternoon. The Lord blessed this work (verse 10) so all who dwelt in Asia heard the Word. This is how the Word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.

In verses 11-20 God worked unusual miracles by the hand of Paul. Remember, the city of Ephesus was not only given over to superstitions but also to black magic. This involved witchcraft and spells of all kinds. These people had wicked lifestyles. Paul performed amazing miracles. The name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. Many came to believe (verse 18). The Word of the Lord grew and prevailed.  The Lord Jesus Christ’s name was magnified.  People burned their witchcraft books. Their lives had changed, they were now seeking to live for Christ. They had turned away from their former lifestyle. They burnt their witchcraft books even though they were of great monetary value, but of no value to their living now. Here we see repentance – turning from the former lifestyle to Christ.

In verses 24-34 we read that opposition arose, led by Demetrius, a silversmith who made his money making shrines and selling them to those who visited Diana’s temple. However, with Paul preaching, his trade started to decline. He called a meeting (verse 25) of those of a similar occupation and straight away spoke to them about money. He appealed to their desire to make money. In verse 27 Demetrius also appealed to them that the great temple of Diana was also liable to fall too, because of Paul’s preaching. In verse 28 we read of their response; the whole city was brought into uproar and confusion by this meeting of silversmiths. They sought to find Paul but couldn’t. Instead, they found two of his friends. We are then told of Paul’s boldness; he wanted to go into the crowd and speak to the people who were shouting how great Diana was, a crowd which wanted to kill him. More interesting, Luke writes that the officials of Asia sent messages to Paul not to go into the theatre (verse 31). The Word affected not only those who believed but also those who did not believe. Eventually the crowd was quietened by the city clerk.

Lastly, we have the comparison between the way God works and the way Satan works. God worked mightily and changed many lives, whereas this crowd was all in confusion. Friends, we may live in a day and age where we don’t see the work of God in such a way. Let us pray that God’s Word would go forth powerfully, mightily and prevail against all things. Let it change people’s lives so that they come under the reasoning of God’s Word and turn to Him.