June 2nd 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards-June19Exodus 20: 8-11

Our great grandfathers called it ‘Holy Sabbath,’ our grandfathers called it ‘The Sabbath,’ our fathers called it ‘Sunday.’ Today, it’s referred to as the weekend. The fourth Commandment has increasingly become ignored as Sunday becomes just another day of the week. Previously we learnt that Sunday is a holy day devoted to specially to Him, a day of rest, a day free from the rest of the week, a day in which we can enjoy fellowship with God. It is a day of blessing; God grants us the benefits of His presence.How can we make the best of this special day, maximum its benefits?

  1. Sunday is a day for reflection.
    2. Sunday is a day for renewal.

    Sunday is a day for reflection:

The first word of this Commandment is ‘Remember.’ Most commandments begin with a negative, ‘You shall not’ but this one begins with a positive call, a call to reflect on the past. It points back to the rest of God after six days of creation.

In Exodus 16 we remember that the Israelites were not to collect more manna than they needed for that day. They were to depend upon the Lord each day for their daily needs. The exception was the Sabbath, when they were to collect no manna at all but collect two days rations the day before.

We are to remember that God rested on the seventh day, to remember that God declared that manna was not to be collected. Later, when Moses reiterated the Commandments, they remembered how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. So another purpose of the Old Testament Sabbath was to reflect on God’s dealings with them as their Saviour. He is Creator, Provider and Saviour who brought them out of captivity in Egypt.

The New Testament Sundays have the same purpose, ‘On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight’ (Acts 20:7). A central part of the Sabbath was to remember the Lord’s death in partaking of the bread and wine. When they gathered, they listened to the Apostles’ teaching, reflecting on who God is and what He has done. The Sabbath remains of great importance as a day of rest from the business of life, set apart to praise God’s name as we reflect on who He is, what He has done in providing all our needs.

We are to set aside Sunday as we remember God and His goodness to us. It is a day to praise and thank Him. If we don’t guard our Sundays we will soon forget about God. There will be a rapid decline in zeal for the work of the gospel. Keeping the Sabbath is essential to our spiritual health.

Attendance at church services is so important. It is the best means of fulfilling the purpose of the day. Of course, we can reflect on our own, but it is best done in the company of the Lord’s people. We hear the Word of God preached and we reflect deeply upon Him. We are to be as devoted to the teachings of the Apostles as the early believers were. It is the heart of the worship of God. It is in the Word was encounter our risen, glorious Saviour. It is in the preaching of the Word that we remember the Lord Himself and grow in our love for Him. As we come together around God’s Word we encourage one another. We come to remember the Lord’s death until He comes, by sharing in the bread and wine, to remember His sacrifice at Calvary. It is important we are present when church gathers around His table to remember His death until He comes. The best way to keep the Sabbath holy is to come together to honour God and give maximum benefit for our souls. It is a priority for our spiritual health.

 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:8-11).

Sunday is a day for renewal:

Exodus 31: 12-18. There are two things about the Sabbath:
(i) it is a day of renewing commitment. God says people’s obedience to keeping the Sabbath holy was a sign of their Covenant commitment. God will be their God, they will be His people. A sign of their commitment was to be the sharing of His day. If they broke the Sabbath, they broke the terms of the Covenant, they no longer regarded themselves as His people. That is why the penalty for breaking the Sabbath was to be death. We might think this over-the-top, but what was involved was a clear renunciation of God, a bold act of treason and rebellion. It was an incredibly serious thing. However, when the people kept the Sabbath, it showed renewing of this commitment to the Covenant.

The Sabbath is a day in which we renew our commitment to God in keeping it holy. Being bold enough to say or show commitment to the Lord’s Day is a reflection of our commitment to the Lord. If we renew our commitment to God Himself only as far as it suits us, we are not committed at all. Of course, there are occasions when something crops up that keeps us from church – demands that need our urgent attention. Jesus understands this. Our commitment to the Lord’s Day is a testimony to the world that we put God first. There is no doubt, people can tell what our priorities are by the way we behave. It applies to the Lord’s Day as it applies to anything else (Eric Lidell).

(ii) Sundays are a day for renewing the soul. Exodus 31:12 links observance to the Lord’s Day to holiness, sanctification, ‘And the Lord said to Moses,  “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you’ (Exodus 31:12-13). Sunday has a role in increasing the holiness of God’s people. Sundays spent in the presence of God, in fellowship of other Christians, is the best preparation for the week ahead. God equips us to serve Him in the days ahead. Sundays are important to our spiritual growth and serving the Lord. Sundays are most spiritually profitable. Ensure maximum spiritual benefit.

So we are to look forward to Sundays and delight in praise and fellowship with God’s people. Know the delight of the Lord’s Day with the Lord’s people and the Lord’s Word. If we want to grow as Christians, to be sanctified, to be better servants, we will keep the Lord’s Day and make the best use of it and be present in services and encourage one another. The Lord’s Day is a day of reflection, a day set aside, given to considering the greatness of God as our Creator and Provider and Saviour. It is a day to renew our commitment to the Lord, who committed His all to us in dying on the cross for our sins. It is a day for spiritual renewal, in fellowship with one another as we praise the Lord and encourage one another. It is a day to cherish and look forward to. May the Lord so encourage us. Have joy in knowing the Lord’s presence, worship His majesty and splendour in the company of His people.

May 26th 2019: Gerald Tait

Gerald Tait-May 19Titus 2:11-15

Looking for Jesus without anxiety

The Song of Solomon speaks of the first and second coming of the Lord Jesus. It is written in poetic language. Jewish boys under 13 were not allowed to read it. But it tells a story. King Solomon had a vineyard in Baal-hamon (Song of Solomon 8:11). In those days, a landlord went to collect rent once a year. Solomon and his courtiers went to collect rent and he spotted the most beautiful Shulamite lady. He wanted her to love him because of who he was. He went away. He laid aside his royal splendour and took on clothes of a shepherd. He and the Shulamite woman met regularly. He courted her. Several times he went dressed as a shepherd to woe this young lady. They fell in love. There came a day when a special carriage of gold, lined with cloth, was prepared for the king’s wedding day. Imagine that feeling when the king came for his bride. So this love story was developed.

We know about the first Advent of the Lord Jesus. This story fits in with that. The king went looking for his bride. Now, we live in courtship times. Jesus came as the good shepherd looking for you and I. He came in disguise, just as King Solomon came in disguise (Philippians 2). He came to get a bride. You are part of that story when you come for the Lord Jesus.

We get our weddings all wrong. The bridegroom comes first and waits for the bride. Biblically, the bride should be there first. The Lord Jesus went through the heart of Calvary so you and I could become part of His bride.

How does the bridegroom come? Jesus comes as a bridegroom, not as a judge. He has forgotten our sins. He is coming as a bridegroom. That’s a relief! Christians won’t stand before the great judgement seat of God, but we will be tested. The test is only a test. God will look for the best in us, He wants to reward us. Salvation is a gift, rewards are earned, a future attainment.

What do we do in this courtship time? The Shulamite girl was questioned what her love was like. She testified how wonderful he was. We need to testify about Him. Just tell people what God means to you, how precious He is and how going to Christ is so important.

How will Jesus come? The same way as He went (Acts 2). He will so come in like manner in the clouds. Matthew states, ‘Something greater than Solomon is here’ (Matthew 12:42). We look for His glorious appearance. We have an amazing blessed hope. ‘We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek’ (Hebrews 6:19-20). Jesus had gone into heaven itself. He has gone first. We are secured. Look forward!

May 18th 2019: Thomas Kitchen

Thomas Kitchen-May19Haggai 2:20-23

Sometimes we read unintentional funny mistakes; a church noticeboard read ‘Our God resigns’ instead of ‘Our God reigns!’ Do we think our God reigns? Does He reign over everything? It may seem like a silly question, but many Christians who say God reigns supreme, when it comes to day to day living, it appears that God doesn’t reign at all – it doesn’t make a difference to their lives. Things are getting worse and worse in our land. Doctrine is becoming washed out until it is not the Word of God. Christians are faced with danger and powerful enemies. This is what Zerubbabel faced. It was a bleak situation. We read in Haggai 1 the Persians were still ruling. People were side-tracked from God. They were called to build a temple with clean and holy hearts (Haggai 2:10-14).

Zerubbabel was given a message (Haggai 2:20-23), a clear message, to trust in God, the sovereign God.

God has a definite plan for history (verses 21-23). We see the use of a personal pronoun for God (NKJV). There is no uncertainty about what God is going to do. He has a plan which will be fulfilled because He is sovereign. His sovereignty doesn’t depend on His people, but rather His command and rule. So why do we retreat into a corner with enemies around us? We know He is sovereign, but we are live another week thinking things are going terribly. But God has a perfect plan which will come to pass. He is in control. There is no need to be afraid because God is with us and is in control.

God’s plan is carried out according to His choosing (verse 23). God chooses Zerubbabel, not Zerubbabel chooses God. God elects His people; there is nothing in us at all that makes God choose us, we are all sinful wretches. He chooses us because He is God, because of His goodness and mercy. God even chose Zerubbabel to cop-operate. He willingly followed God as a servant because God chose Him. We are dead in sin. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts us. A dead person cannot wake himself. God first gives life. Regenerations comes before faith. It is He who tells us He is sovereign: ‘But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9).

Was Zerubbabel ignored? For after all, Joshua was the one who would be crowned (Zechariah 6:9-13). No, great things were promised to Zerubbabel; he was chosen as a leader of God’s people. He isn’t called governor but ‘my servant’ (like Moses, David, Daniel and Jesus Christ). This is a title of honour in terms of Christian living. And, of course, we are all servants. God has chosen us to obey and work for Him.

What is the signet ring all about? (verse 23). It’s exciting! A signet ring was a ring a king used to stamp his authority. It was put in hot wax to seal letters. No-one could steal it or use it under a false claim. Zerubbabel was as precious as a signet ring for a king. He was given this exalted position because God had chosen him. He was in God’s own hands, the King’s hands. God has promised us He will never leave us or forsake us. He still has the authority.

God’s plan centres on Jesus Christ. Everything in the Old Testament points ahead to Jesus’ incarnation and death (Luke 24:27). Zerubbabel, in his own way, points to Christ because he is a type of Christ. Why? He led the remnant, the small group of 50,000 people, out of Babylonian exile. God has chosen a small number of His own people for Himself. As Zerubbabel led the remnant out of exile, a terrible place full of sin, so Christ has led us from the tight grasp of sin. He has chosen and led us, everyone who trusts in Him. Secondly, Zerubbabel built the temple, so Christ is building the greatest temple, the church. Thirdly, Zerubbabel was chosen to be God’s signet ring, so Christ is a signet ring that seals every promise and purpose.

Zerubbabel was a sinful man but Christ is a sinless man who came under the authority of God, His Father, who came in authority Himself as God’s Son. The cross is stamped in His authority, as is His Resurrection and coming again. Christ is the greatest signet ring.

We read in Haggai 2 this will happen ‘in a little while.’ To us, a little while may be a few hours, weeks or years. However, to God it is different (Psalm 110, Revelation 19). The promise is not fulfilled in Zerubbabel’s time or in Revelation. But it will be fulfilled!

What is the application of this passage of scripture? God’s servant should be encouraged to trust Him and do His sovereign will, no matter how much sin we see in the world. God reigns and we have to trust His promises, what He will do in the future. He gives us the strength to build His Church, whatever He calls us to do. God’s promises last. He is the Lord of hosts. It is a greatly encouraging book. Are you going to accept the call? Is He reigning in you? ‘And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee’ (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

May 12th 2019: Lawrence Mitchell

Lawrence Mitchell-May 2019Luke 20

Whose child are you? Who is your father, in a spiritual sense? Who do we belong to? Do we know we have a Father? The Hebrew people were known as the children of Israel – they believed and testified they were the children of Abraham. Believers are children of the Resurrection, ‘Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection,’ (Luke 20:36). What a verse! What a statement! It gives us great power in our living and testifying, as we speak of a wonderful Saviour. We are not just children of the Cross, but children of the Resurrection.  Paul said, ‘That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death,’ (Philippians 3:10).

Jesus met with people who said they were children of Abraham. Jesus disagreed because they didn’t live as the children of Abraham. The Lord Jesus had been speaking to them about His Father. They didn’t understand Him. Sometimes, some of our friends are not worshipping in chapel today. Loved ones will be out in the world. You know the devil will cast you down. He is the accuser of the brethren, asking why do you witness? Loved ones may not be following in the Saviour, but we look to God’s promise that they may one day. It is a wonderful promise.

The people sought to kill Jesus, there was hatred in their hearts, yet there was no hatred in the heart of Abraham, so they could not be children of Abraham. The people heard the Saviour but did not want to follow Him. Many today look to a great preacher, like Billy Graham, leaning on a man instead of leaning on the Lord. Abraham is our father but Jesus had very strong words to say to the people. There are many people today deep in sin, the devil is at work. He is the father of lies.

But the good news of the Bible is that believers are children of God, equal with the angels. What a blessing to be a child of God. By the very presence of God and knowledge of God we know angels rejoice in heaven when just one person gets saved. We are equal with angels because we are children of God, children of the Resurrection.

Who are the children of the Resurrection in the Word of God? Peter denied the Lord and was far from the cross. Sometimes we fail to testify. But the Resurrection made a difference in the life of Peter. Not only did he believe in the Resurrection, he preached not only Christ and the cross, but the Resurrection itself (Acts 2:31-32). Peter was a child of the Resurrection. This did not go down well with the people who rejected him. But 3,000 were saved and another 5,000 later on because of the power of Christ.

Paul preaches with authority, power and love. Now he doesn’t deny Jesus, he knows Him. Another child of the Resurrection was Stephen. Stephen began talking about the children of Israel. Peter began by talking about the man, the Lord Jesus, but finished with the Lord, the Resurrected Lord. Stephen, in a similar way, speaks of Abraham and others but then comes to Christ. The people became angry, as the Jews were towards the Lord Jesus Christ. Stephen was martyred. He saw the Saviour standing at the right hand of God. When Stephen entered heaven, Jesus stands to welcome him home because he was a child of the Resurrection.

The kingdom of God welcomes you because you are a child of the Resurrection.

May 5th 201: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards-Jan18Exodus 20:8-11

The American actor of the early twentieth century, W.C. Fields, was not a nice man. He was an alcoholic, an ardent atheist who was very anti-Christian. So it was a great surprise when a friend walked into his dressing room and saw him reading the Bible. Fields, embarrassed, claimed he was ‘just looking for loopholes.’ Of all the verses examined for loopholes, those we are looking at here are probably high on the list. This Commandment, ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8) is most contentious: what day shall be observed? What should and shouldn’t be allowed? Today we shall hear part 1 of a 2-part study.

  • The Sabbath is a holy day
  • The Sabbath is a day of rest
  • The Sabbath is a day of blessing.

The Sabbath is a holy day. God set apart one day in seven to be a holy day. It is God who established a pattern of a seven day cycle with one particular day set apart, consecrated, holy, for Him. God requires we set apart one day in seven in which we seek Him and worship Him. During their time in Egypt the children of Israel had been used to a ten day week and not one of those ten days was set aside for the Lord. Even before the giving of this Commandment, God re-establishes the creation cycle of one in seven. This is then enshrined in this Commandment. In the Old Testament the people observed this day on the last day of the week but in the New Testament it began to be observed on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), in commemoration of the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 16:2). Nevertheless, whichever day it was , it was a day set aside by God in which man was particularly to worship Him, to acknowledge in a special way one day in seven (Exodus 31:12-13).

In the New Testament the title of the Lord’s Day was introduced (Revelation 1:10). The Sabbath is a holy day. God has given us six days to do all the necessary things in life. Only one is set aside to worship Him. We are to worship Him in all that we do, on all days – in our job, home-life, church life, worship Him every day. But He is to be particularly honoured and worshipped on the Lord’s Day.

However, there is a problem. People are increasingly reluctant to give Him one day. Perhaps I can be a little provocative and say it is the Lord’s Day, not just in the morning, but also in the afternoon. It is particularly appropriated to attend church gatherings and to remember the Sabbath day and to keep it holy. If you can’t attend services for the Lord’s people, the day is still the Lord’s. It is not the Lord’s half day, it is the Lord’s Day.

We should be prepared for the Lord’s Day. Good practice is to go to bed early Saturday night so you are refreshed, alert and ready in body, mind and soul, having prayerfully sought the Lord, even before coming to a church service.

The Sabbath is a day of rest. It is very important we understand what the term ‘rest’ means here. We are to imitate God, who after six days of creation, paused to rest on the Sabbath. This doesn’t mean God was tired, for He never tires. Neither does it mean God entered into an inactive state, for He was still sustaining all He had created by His power. God rested. Having seen everything He made was very good, He ceased from His labour to enjoy what He had made. Likewise, we should cease one day in seven from all labours so we should enjoy God. Don’t make a mistake in thinking ‘work’ means paid employment. No. What is referred to is all those activities which stop us from worshipping.

The Sabbath is not a day of inactivity but a day full of worship and activity for God. The Sabbath was provided as a gracious means for everyone to draw near to God. To take advantage of the day instead of pursuing everyday pleasures brings great blessings (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Sundays are not meant to be a day of laziness, leisure and lie-ins. Sunday is meant as a day of enjoying God. It is not for catching up on the backlog of work, DIY jobs, being on the golf course. If it is, then you are too busy and need to look how you are use Monday to Saturday. If we can’t give Sundays to enjoyment of God then we are in real trouble spiritually. Tell me what you are doing on a Sunday and I will tell you what your future will be. Sunday is a family day but it is not to be spent on the beach but with the Lord and His people – the whole family praising the Lord together in church services, in the company of the Christian family we belong to.

The Sabbath is a day of blessing. It follows on that the Sabbath is meant to be a day of blessing (Exodus 20:11). God’s intention always was that this day, consecrated to Him, would bring great joy and blessing (Psalm 92). Unfortunately, later generations forgot the joy of the Sabbath and turned it into a legalistic nightmare. By Jesus’ day the Pharisees had 1,500 rules. This is why Jesus attacked them. The Sabbath should be observed in the right way for the right reasons. It is meant to be a day of rejoicing (Mark 2:27). The blessings and joys of the one day in seven also points to the Sabbath rest, fellowship with the people of God. It speaks of heaven.

Have you ever contemplated that a Sunday is intended to be a foretaste of heaven? The thrill of His Resurrection power that we know is at work in our own lives?  We should know such blessing of our souls as we gather around His Word, seek Him in prayer and praise. The blessings that we experience on the Lord’s Day are a little bit of what awaits us in heaven. If you don’t like Sundays, you won’t like heaven.

Sundays are to be enjoyed, not in the pleasures of this world, but by experiencing and anticipating the blessings of God that will one day fill our lives. Those who believe Sundays are boring are radically wrong. Perhaps we have forgotten how to enjoy God, failing to appreciate His blessings. Keeping the Lord’s Day is about separating ourselves from normal daily activities to be in fellowship. Blessings of a Sunday can be only known by those who know the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and whose place in heaven is secure. They have great joy in their souls not only because they’re forgiven but because they know Him who died for them at Calvary. These are the blessings because Christ has secured them for us. If we value these things then the Sabbath will be special to us. Christ is our Lord and Saviour. The Sabbath – a holy day, a day of rest and a day of blessings.

April 28th 2019: Mike Viccary

Mike Viccary April 19As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving
(Colossians 2:6-7)

How do you become a Christian?
Once you are a Christian, how do you continue to live as a Christian?

Our text nestles in the midst of problems (Colossians 2:4). Paul is concerned some might be deceived. The antidote? Believers can’t miss the wonders of what the Lord has done and the perfect teaching of Christ (verses 9-15). You need no other mediator or philosopher – you need Him. If you put your trust in Him He has wiped all away, all the sin debts you have accrued.

There are three parts to the focus verses (6-7):
1. Being receptive to Christ
2. Being rooted in Christ
3. Being rich in Christ.

  1. Being receptive to Christ:
    Paul’s main emphasis is to knit them together in love. Our main subject is Christ Jesus. If you are a person who is seeking what life is all about, Jesus is the substance. You can only be complete if you’re in Him. Decide in your mind you’re a sinner, turn from sin and trust in Him. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Colossians 1:13). The work of faith is amazing! Someone who has turned from sin is now under God’s rule. If you’re a person who doesn’t know Christ, this world is darkness. But if you’re a believer you’ve been given such privileges (John 3). You are regenerated, born-again.

In Colossians 2:6-7 what does it mean to receive? To accept, acquire, apprehend, appropriate and assimilate. Christ has taken your sin, paid the price. What you not cling to Him, say, ‘I want you Lord’?

To receive is to associate with someone. We see this in Jesus’ life. People wanted to flock to Him, like Zacchaeus. Would you not be a Zacchaeus today? Being in Jesus leads to immense privileges; if you receive Jesus you become part of the family of God (John 1:12-13). We can receive Christ when we receive God’s words. It’s an awesome thing when Christ says, ‘Come.’ So walk in Him. Continually receive in Christ. Are we receiving Christ day by day? Run to Christ. Receiving Christ is now walking with Him: agreeing with Him, having union with Him, being clothed with Him (Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27, Isaiah 61:3). Put on love, mercy, all the righteous gifts God has given to you.

  1. Being rooted in Christ:
    Where are your roots? Sometimes our roots are firmly in this world – career, finances etc. Does your root seek out the water of life or something else? Are you built up in Him? Where do you go when you have difficulties? What does it mean to be rooted in Christ? We are grounded in Him, rooted in the faith. The Scriptures talk about faith. What does this mean? A body of connective truths – ultimately it’s about Him. It belongs as a gift to God’s elect. The faith is something we must be obedient to. We ought to test ourselves to see whether we are in the faith. To experience the presence of God is something we can’t teach but something we can ask for. The apostle Paul wants us to be grounded in Him, therefore, being grounded in the faith. That’s why it’s so important to study. If you love a person you want to hang on their every word. The Word is the love letter from Jesus Christ. If you love Jesus you’ll hang on every word.
  2. Being rich in Christ:
    You should be abounding in Him – overflowing in wanting to know about receiving Christ, wanting to know more about Jesus, what faith is about. Knowing about God does not necessarily mean you have faith. Knowing His name, being able to prophesy and do miracles in not having faith. If your life is not changed, your character is not altered, you do not have faith. God is more interested in your walk of faith. It’s essential to know the doctrines, the teaching of Christ. It’s impossible to be a true believer without wanting to know more and more. Our life is a question of receiving continually from Christ.

If we developed a life of thanksgiving, what a change that would be. If the Christian is thinking about Christ, wanting to know more, thanks will come. What have you got to be thankful for? Forgiveness of sins, the peace of God, my sin problem has been dealt with, a mansion in heaven has been reserved for me, fellowship with God, when you’re praying, knowing you are praying to the creator of the universe, knowledge and understanding, abundant life, new life.

Have you received Christ Jesus as Lord? If so, keep on. Is your source of delight God and Jesus Christ? Do you pay attention to your teachers, the family of God? Do you value what they bring to you? What treasures do you have?

April 21st 2019: Easter Sunday: Gareth Edwards

gareth-e-sept-2016John 20: 1-10

John, in chapter 19, goes to great lengths to establish Jesus really died. He wants people to know Jesus was dead and buried because there as a theory, a doctrine, which taught that Jesus didn’t really die. So John wants to establish once and for all that Jesus most certainly died and was buried. John does this because he also wants us to know Jesus was raised and alive (chapter 20).

In the opening ten verses of chapter 20 we see John’s insistence that He who was dead is alive. This truth became a cornerstone of the apostles’ teaching. This truth is so important that Paul later says, ‘And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:17-20). If the Resurrection is not true, Christianity is untrue. So John takes great care to present conclusive evidence that Jesus rose and is alive. John is like an expert barrister presenting his argument before the jury. His argument is so powerful any counter-argument is simply washed away by the mountain of evidence. The first ten verses describe the initial discovery Jesus was alive. Three points will be made:

  1. This event was unexpected and misunderstood.
    2. John provides us with significant detail that verifies this event.
    3. Belief began to dawn in John’s own heart.

 

  1. One of the things that lends credence to all 4 gospels is the disciples’ utter surprise. We would have expected the disciples to say Jesus rose from death just as they thought He had taught them He would. It would have been quite expected for them to say, ‘Yes, we were in the know. We were expecting it.’ But that’s not what happened. They admit candidly their unbelief. They were shocked at such an unexpected turn of events and misunderstood what had happened. They misunderstood Old Testament prophecies that predicted the Resurrection. Even arriving at the tomb and seeing it empty, they still didn’t understand. Others in the Upper Room were in grief and disarray, utterly demoralised. For Peter, seeing the grave clothes left behind, the penny didn’t drop. He went home wondering (Luke 24:11). It’s the second disciple, in verse 8, who saw and believed.

We have Mary’s words to Peter and John (verse 2). They reveal she and the others believed Jesus’ body was moved by the authorities. The immediate response to the empty tomb was not to rejoice that Jesus was alive, but that it was a conspiracy by the authorities. There was complete misunderstanding. The evidence is misunderstood. You’d have thought they’d have been rightly able to assess, given what they’d been taught. This reluctance to accept the Resurrection is not due to a lack of evidence but stubborn unbelief. Those who don’t believe do so because they don’t want to believe. It is a natural distrust of the human heart to simply refuse to humble yourself because you will not bow in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It is God’s grace which opened our eyes to see that Jesus rose from the dead. We believe in the Resurrection because of the glory not because we are clever and have higher spiritual ability. It is not because we are more religious, brought up in a Christian family, having an insight others lack. It’s simply God in His grace has opened our eyes to see, our ears to hear and our hearts to believe.

We need to pray God would open the hearts of those around us that they would believe as we do. Nothing that we do will produce results, it’s only God who saves.

  1. The significant details John gives us. He does so to authenticate his account. He, the second disciple, the one who Jesus loved, includes an incidental note – he’s faster that Peter, he outran Peter. Other details are more significant. The stone was removed from the tomb, the linen cloths were left lying in their place and the face cloth was folded up. All hint at the nature of the Lord’s Resurrection. When Lazarus emerged from the tomb he was wrapped in clothes (John 11:44-55). In contrast, Jesus’ linen cloths were left in the tomb. Lazarus returned with the same physical limitations, but Jesus’ resurrected body could pass through the clothes, leaving them behind.

Why was the stone moved? It’s evident that the stone wasn’t moved to let Jesus out, but to let the disciples in, so they could see for themselves the evidence. Similarly, the face cloth, being placed in such a way, shows a real presence of a real physical being who could take hold of and fold a cloth. What we see is Jesus rose to life with a real physical body but without the old limitations. He was resurrected to a higher place of physical existence. Lazarus was returned to his former life, Jesus was resurrected to a life of glory. Jesus rose physically, retaining His human nature fully, but He was raised as a glorified man. It marks not only a victory over death but a total elimination. The glorious truth is Jesus has smashed death and rendered it powerless. He rose, never to die again (Revelation 1:18). His resurrection life if glorious. He sets a precedence for those who will trust Him as their Saviour. In His Resurrection, they see the pattern of their resurrection, for all those who trust in Him. This event causes us to rejoice in the hope to eternal life. We have the most exciting prospect – as Jesus was after His Resurrection, so will we be after ours.

As Mary, Peter and John gazed in amazement at the empty tomb we should bow in wonder, love and praise. There is total victory over sin, hell and death. The symbol of His glory is not a cross on jewellery, it is the symbol of the empty tomb. The details John gives us shows the nature of Jesus’ glorious resurrection.

 

  1. One of the main themes of John’s gospel is the theme of light and darkness. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night (John 3), showing a reference that he was in the dark. Judas betrayed Jesus in darkness. In John 12:35-36 we see the repetition of darkness. John symbolically tells us Mary made her way to the tomb while it was still dark. Other writers say she arrived whilst it was dawn. Dark reflects Mary’s despair and unbelief. But in verse 8 John, speaking of himself, says he saw and believed. The light of faith dawns to dispel the darkness of unbelief. With Jesus’ resurrection a new day of faith dawns in John’s heart. Has the light of faith dawned in your soul as you see the empty tomb? Have you come out of the darkness of your unbelief? If not, why not? You are called to walk in the light.

Dear Christian friend, you have come to the light, then walk in it. Become more and more like the Saviour. Rejoice that He has not left you in the darkness of sin and unbelief. Look forward to the joy of heaven above, the Lamb. In glory we won’t be taken up with the splendour of our surroundings but the glory of our risen Lord. Walk in the fullness of His bright light and never in darkness again (Revelation 21:22). The light of faith dawned in John’s heart. Has it dawned in yours? If it has, know you will never walk in darkness again. Be a light in this world. Know there is a day coming when you will see the inexpressible glory of the Lord Himself. The Resurrection is but the beginning of the journey into light. Praise be to His name, our Resurrected Lord.

April 19th 2019: Good Friday: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards-Jan18John 19:16b-30

To approach Calvary is to approach the central truth of Christianity; the Lord Jesus Christ died for an ordained purpose. If there was no Cross, no Christ, if no death, no deliverance. If there was no sacrifice, there would be no salvation.

John, in his account of the Crucifixion, strips away many of the details found in the other gospels and adds some they left out. His overriding purpose is Jesus died as God the Father intended, in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies. He is the victor of God’s sovereign grace and purpose.

In Leviticus 6:11 and Leviticus 16:27 we are told that the remains of a sin offering sacrifice in the temple was to be taken outside of camp, so it is Jesus, as a sin offering, is taken outside the city (Hebrews 13:11-12).

So these verses focus on three things in fulfilment of prophecy, showing Jesus died in obedience to the Father’s will, God’s perfect means of bringing glory to His name in the salvation of His saints.

  1. The Saviour numbered with transgressors.

‘There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them’ (John 19:18). Jesus was crucified in the company of two others, one either side. John doesn’t mention their crime. We know, from the other gospel accounts, they were being crucified for being criminals. Here were men who had robbed and murdered and Jesus is numbered among them. This is clearly a fulfilment of Isaiah 53:12. The emphasis is on the unimaginable shame that crucifixion brought. Jesus is identified with the scum of the earth (Deuteronomy 21:23).

Jesus died not only the most painful death imaginable, but also the most shameful death in the most shameful company. He bore the curse for sin. All of this was designed by God the Father and willingly ordained by Jesus. Here is the great condescension of the Lord; He bore the shame and the curse of our sins, in our place. The Lord Jesus Christ suffered the penalty of death as He was my substitute. He was numbered among the transgressors. What a relief it is to the Lord Jesus Christ has paid in full on our behalf. We plead with others ‘repent and be saved.’ As believers we praise the Lord that we will never have to face the shame and punishment of our sin.

  1. The second prophetic voice that is being fulfilled in these verses is ‘Behold your King.’ (Zechariah 9:9).

‘There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”  Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” (John 19:18-22).

We see in Zechariah, the coming king is proclaimed, riding on a donkey,

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9

This prophecy was fulfilled the week before Jesus’ death, in His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Since then, the Hosanna crowds had rejected Him and turned into a mob. What has changed in the course of a week? They had welcomed Him as a great king and expected Him to overthrow Roman rule, yet He overturned the tables in the temple. He was a disappointment. They thought deliverance was their Roman oppressors being thrown out, yet He had done nothing. And with stirring up by the chief priests, they are brought to shout ‘Crucify!’ At least Barabbas challenged the Romans. They are rejecting Jesus as king. But what John is reminding us is that despite their rejection, He is still the king. Pilot didn’t realise it, but he proclaimed the truth. Unwittingly, he declared, ‘This indeed is the king.’ In pilot’s refusal to change the inscription on the cross (verses 21-22), just as the Jews were powerless to change what was written, so they were powerless to change Jesus was king.

The sign on the cross was multilingual: the Aramaic inscription was the local language, Latin was the language of the Roman army and the Greek inscription was the language of the common world. It stated for all the world to read that ‘here is the King.’ Jesus was not just the king of the Jews, but King of the Gentiles too (Psalm 22:27-28).

One of the main themes of John’s gospel is the kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death does not deny His claim that Jesus is King. It is the vindication that He is King. What is it that declares Jesus Christ to be the genuine King of Kings, evidence that authenticates Him in this God-appointed role as the King of Kings, Lord of Lords? The holes in His feet and the holes in His hands. We should never doubt that it is the appointed will of God the Father, even His death, to exult Him to be the name above all names. It is a great privilege for those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord to reign with Him one day (Revelation 22:5).

Christ, by His death upon the cross, secures the salvation of many that they may reign with Him. That’s why it’s Good Friday. Behold the King!

  1. The divided garments
    ‘When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom,so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things (John 19:23-23). The soldiers’ actions fulfil prophecy of Psalm 22:18, ‘they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.’ The victor of the crucifixion is stripped naked. One of the few perks Roman soldiers enjoyed was taking the clothes of the crucified. Here, it symbolises man’s nakedness in sin. Adam and Eve became conscious of their nakedness (Genesis 3:7). It was not just a physical nakedness but also a moral nakedness. Jesus being stripped symbolises our moral nakedness so we could be clothed in His righteousness.

The Son of God plumbs the greatest depths of humiliation as He takes on the responsibility of our sin. Through the Resurrection He will take with Him all who believe in Him as Lord and Saviour. But this is only achieved through His utter humiliation. Our Lord and Saviour was stripped and made naked, utterly humiliated, because He bears your sin and mine. He willingly does so in His love for us. His purpose – that we should never be humiliated as He was, but be presented to the Father spotless, righteous, in His sight. We can never grasp the depth of the Lord’s humiliation.

Oh that we could grasp the greatness of His love for us, that He was willing to experience the humiliation that we might be saved. There is only one response – humbly submit to Him in repentance. If we refuse to bow before Him we declare His death of no significance. Let us remember to be humble. There is no place for pride in your heart. If the King of glory hung Himself so that we might be exalted with Him, we know it’s nothing of us but all of Him. There is nothing for us to boast in, save in the Lord Himself, our Lord and Saviour, who, in fulfilment of prophecy, hung upon the cross. Bearing shame in my place, condemned He stood. Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

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.