January 19th 2020: Thomas Kitchen

Thomas Kitchen-Jan2020Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh,
    vindicated by the Spirit,
        seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
    believed on in the world,
        taken up in glory.

1 Timothy 3:16

There are lots of mysteries in the world, for example the Bermuda Triangle; lots of aircraft have flown into this space only to disappear. The Antikythera was an analogue computer of 100 BC used to determine the position of the stars and planets, yet it is a mystery why it would be about another 1000 years before this technology was found and used again. Turning to this passage to day (1 Timothy 3:14-16) we are going to focus on verse 16. What is the mystery of godliness?

This is a verse short verse yet it is packed with such a lot of truth. The gospel, the good news, is explained here, and the importance of the church is explained.

“He was manifested in the flesh.” This is evidence that Jesus really is God. He didn’t start life as a man, He has always been around, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). It is wonderful to hear this gospel. This wonderful news doesn’t begin with one of us. This is someone who became flesh, this is Jesus, who created everything we see, know, hear, taste and feel.  Jesus comes into this world He created and lives among humans, the ones He created. So many have no idea He is the creator of their own soul and body. He is the one who is above all, God incarnate. We see glimpses of this across the Old Testament – with Adam and Eve. Moses, the prophets. Then Jesus comes, God in the flesh. He showed Himself to us completely. In Isaiah 40:12-15 we see humanity’s worthlessness against the King of Kings.

It is utterly astounding what Christ did for us in coming into the world. There is lots of build-up in the Old Testament, glimpses and clues, but now Jesus has come salvation is put into action, the plan worked out before time itself. Jesus – fully God, fully human.

“He was vindicated by the Spirit.” He was justified by the Spirit. The Spirit is the Holy Spirit – the third person of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. This speaks of Jesus being blessed. God is pleased it is His Son carrying out this work of salvation for us. He is pleased with His Son, who is without sin, who is justified and perfect to carry out this task. It had to be Jesus, the Son of God. He was willing to do His Father’s will even though it was hard for Him. But He knew what it would accomplish – the saving of His people.

“Seen by angels.” This is an odd sentence at first glance. You would have thought it would have been seen by men and women next. But this phrase is important. It is talking about God the Father’s hand in guiding Jesus. Angels were there at His birth, ministered to Him in the wilderness, at the Garden of Gethsemane, when He rose from the dead and went back into heaven. Angels were with Him every step of the way.

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world,  taken up in glory (1 Timothy 3:16).

God is there in the entire process, working in us, through us and for us.

“Proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world.” The nations refer to Gentiles and Jews. The Gentiles are everyone other than Jews. Jews considered themselves to be very different and holier than others. Jesus Himself was Jewish and was brought up with Jewish customs. This matters because Jews considered themselves to be a chosen people which brought them above and beyond other nations. But Jesus wasn’t like that, He knew that no person in the nations was holy. We are all sinful, we are all a drop in the bucket (Isaiah 40:15). But one of the best things about the gospel is it is for all. There are certain blessings in the Old Testament for Jews, but the New Testament is opened up for all. The gospel is proclaimed to all, not just the Jews. It is an invite for all to come to Jesus Christ – and only Jesus Christ. The gospel is for all languages, all peoples, all nations and all tribes. That is how heaven is described.

God had made Jesus Christ salvation for all. This message for us is ‘Come to Jesus Christ.’ He is not just an example for us, He not only bore our sins and we start with a clean slate, He took all our sins and gave us His robe of righteousness. He takes our filthy rags and He gives us our royal robes. One day, if we are trusting in Him, we will be with Him, worshipping Him face to face. We will be perfect, with a new body, eternally with our God. What a day that will be!

“Taken up in glory.” This, of course, refers to Jesus going up into heaven. He rose from the dead, showed Himself to many people, to many witnesses, and ascended into heaven. Jesus was taken up into glory to be at the right hand of His Father where He prays for those who trust in Him. Jesus also had His trials, His difficulties. He can empathise with us. He is now praying to the Father for you. This is the glorious message which can never be destroyed. He gives you the faith you need. God does it all, He is the one who raises us from our deadness in sin, He is the one who opens our blind eyes. It is God who brings us back to life (Ephesians 2:1).

What is the mystery of godliness? Looking back to the original language, the Greek word for mystery is mystírio. This is something that is unknown unless God reveals it. What has been revealed to us? The person of the Lord Jesus Christ – who He is, what He has done on the cross. He has been revealed to us. It is unknowable unless it is revealed by God. We can know Jesus for ourselves because God has revealed this to us through His word, the Bible. Of course, there are mysteries we can’t fully understand – for example our Creator God being nailed to a cross, bleeding and dying. This is fact we can’t understand completely. We know this happened but we have to decide if we are going to submit to Him and worship Him forever.

He was raised to glory. One day He is coming again. Every knee will bow. The mystery of His glory will be revealed. Then it’s heaven or hell. Knowing about the gospel is all well and good but it has to go to our hearts. Knowledge without repentance is just a torch to light you to hell, “Knowledge without repentance will be but a torch to light men to hell” (Thomas Watson). If we know the gospel but do nothing about it, then all that knowledge is lighting our way to hell. There are many reasons why sinners go to hell, but there is only one reason sinners go to heaven – they have been washed by the blood of Jesus.

There are Christians who say they know everything they need to know, but we need to be reminded of the gospel every day. We need to hear God’s word, to pray and to preach to ourselves out loud, on our own, reminding ourselves what the He has done for us, what the gospel has done. Say to yourself, “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world,  taken up in glory,” (1 Timothy 3:16). No matter what happens, that is our hope. Our identity is in Christ. If our identity is in marriage and our marriage breaks down, we lose our identity. If our identity is in our job and we lose our job, we have lost our identity. Preach to yourself and you will be encouraged and helped by the Spirit.

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day

January 12th 2020: Chris Benbow

Chris Benbow - Jan 2020Acts 2:38-47

Imagine we are all going to be involved in a group project to build a car. We all get together and different jobs are assigned to acquire a piece of a car and bring it back to the group to assemble together. Simple enough? The roles are delegated. Soon, one person comes back saying, “I have good news. I’ve secured my piece for the car. A wonderful set of magnificent wings.” All agree the wings are wonderful – but not quite what they had in mind! Time passes, another person comes back and says, “I’ve secured a piece for the car. It’s going to be the best bit – a top of the range sail.” Again, it is wonderful but not what was wanted. As we all know, cars don’t have wings or sails. Before getting started on the project, the people should have got together to ask, ‘What is a car? How are we going to build it? Unless we establish that we won’t get very far. We need unity and clarity. It’s a simple example. The question this morning is a little bit different, more important. What is a church?

Over the years both Christians and non-Christians have needed a lot more unity and clarity when it comes to answering ‘What is a church?’ Do we have unity and clarity on this point? It is helpful to consider what a church is not. For some, church is a building, used for an hour on Sunday then left for the rest of the week. That is not the whole picture. It is a traditional picture given by some older people but it does not give the complete story. There is a younger mistake, the complete opposite of the traditional view. It is that the church is believers, no more, no less. Is that it? You get together with other believers in a coffee shop and that is church? Surfing believers gather together, then you get church on the waves? Matthew records, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them,” (Matthew 18:20). But that’s not all a church is. Let’s move from the negative to the positive and look at church characteristics.

The over-arching principles of what church is and what activities it is about:

Calvin speaks of the invisible and visible church. The invisible church is all generations, of all times, come together. We see a snapshot of this in Revelation. The visible church is visible in local collections of believers that practice certain things. What does the church do? Repent. Healthy churches hate sin, their own personal sin. That’s the life-cycle of a Christian – repentance, repentance, repentance! Is there a sin we are hating in our lives? The church is to be repentant. But is also to be baptised – full submission baptism, completely taken under water and raised. This is a visible sign, died to sin and raised to Christ. If you’re a Christian, have you been baptised? Are you a Jesus loving, born-again Christian? You need to be baptised in the name of the Lord It’s all about Him. You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. That is our security. The Holy Spirit seals us. Every Christian has the Holy Spirit; they are signed and sealed. And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,“ (Acts 2:38).

Who is this promise for? Everyone! “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself,” (Acts 2:39). Church groups can do very effective programmes – children’s work, work for senior citizens, but this is not the church. The church is multi-generational. Church programmes are not the church. Church is family and families are diverse. Are you building a church or church programmes? There is a difference.

“And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2: 40-41). I once went to a church where there was a gifted, intelligent, well-liked guy who was heavily involved in church. He was a holiday club leader, visited people in a pastoral role, involved in lots of activities – a deacon in everything but name. But he wasn’t a member of the church. Was he part of the church or not? For all intents and purposes yes, but actually no. Because when people get saved they join the church. Church membership tends to be unpopular these days.

What is a church? It is local, multi-generational, baptising and has members. It is all about Jesus Christ. The church is characterised by certain things. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers,” (Acts 2:42). They devoted themselves. Devoted is habitual. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, the teaching of the scripture. Everything we do should be peppered with the Bible. We should be devoted to the Holy Bible, it is God’s word. The people of the early church devoted themselves to church fellowship. The local church knows each other and spends time with each other.

The church also devotes itself to the breaking of bread, the Lord’s Supper. Communion is central to everything we do. Why not have it every week, every Sunday? The Bible does not give us a template but ‘devoted’ implies constantly.

The teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers. Prayers make us a listening and speaking community to our heavenly Father. Your heavenly Father does indeed hear you.

“And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles,“ (Acts 2:43) This is another controversial point. I don’t know where you stand on Spiritual gifts but are we are expecting God to move? Are we prepared to see what He is doing? What is God going to do next? Is there expectancy?

“And all who believed were together and had all things in common,” (Acts 2:43). How is that worked out in practice? Do you have a statement of faith on your website? Do we declare what we believe so there is unity as a purpose within this? Our statement of faith provides clarity in a generation of confusion.

“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need,“ (Acts 2:45). In the early church they gave as they could, sacrificially, for the church of God. Another mark of the church is giving.

Let’s encourage one another. Let’s all evaluate where we are in the light of scripture. By His strength and grace we can move forward.

January 5th 2020: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards-Jan 2020Isaiah 42:1-4

Isaiah lived in difficult times. King Uzziah had reigned in Judah and there had been prosperity; the Assyrian Empire was relatively weak on the northern border, so the nations in the south had been left on their own. The land had flourished with trade. But a new king came to the throne, Tiglath-pileser III. He had defeated his enemies to the north and now his attention turned to the south. Israel and Syria had come together against the Assyrians. There was pressure on Judah to join them but they wouldn’t. Judah faces an existential crisis. Their very existence is in danger. Throughout this period Isaiah brings the word of the Lord to the people; Jerusalem will fall to the Babylonians and the people will be taken into captivity. Then he speaks of a future beyond the Babylonian exile.

Here, we are on the threshold of a new year. We have had celebrations. Some will say the world faces the greatest existential threat – global warming, political uncertainties. What is going to happen? Many young people are so overwhelmed with anxiety that their mental health is affected. What is going to happen? Well, let’s go back to Isaiah. Isaiah speaks about God maintaining a faithful remnant. He speaks of Cyrus, who will come to prominence 150 years in the future. He is actually named. Cyrus will be the great Persian Emperor who will descend on Babylon and bring destruction. God will raise up this heathen king, 150 years in the future, to restore Jerusalem.

But Isaiah speaks of another one who is known as the servant of the Lord, a perfect servant, who will get to the roots of the issues the people of Isaiah’s day faced. The roots don’t lie in economic or military weakness, the root is sin. This servant will come to deal with that issue. How? By suffering.

There are four songs in Isaiah, the songs of the suffering servant of the Lord. This perfect servant, who will redeem God’s people, bring forgiveness of sin through His suffering. Here is God’s answer to the problem of Isaiah’s day. Here is the answer to the problems of today. As we begin a New Year, begin it with Christ, the suffering servant. God has sent His Son into this world to save us from our sin and to bring hope to all those who trust in Him.

Today we will look at the first song in Isaiah. It is found in Isaiah 42:1-4. It begins with the word ‘Behold.’ We also see that word in Isaiah 41 where it is used to call the people to see the uselessness of idols. But now, here God says ‘Behold, my servant.’ See the one who can truly meet your needs.

He is God’s servant, chosen by God the Father for the task in hand. He has the Father’s seal of approval. He is identified with the Father in the strongest possible terms – the Father upholds Him. Here is the one who is so identified with the Father that He is seen in the Father’s embrace. The Father delights in His chosen one. Here is the servant of God, the one appointed, the one acknowledged, the one guaranteed to accomplish everything set before Him.

Here is the one who has the fullness of the Spirit which enables Him to do all that is asked of Him. His assignment is to bring justice to the nations, the peace and goodwill wherever God is acknowledged as Lord. The servant’s role is to bring God’s kingdom to men. The Kingdom of Heaven, John the Baptist declared, is at hand, as he refers to Jesus. He has come to accomplish the Father’s will, enabled by the Spirit, to men that they might be blessed beyond all measure. We should look upon Him in awe and wonder. He is God’s approved, empowered servant who brings to us the benefits of God’s Kingdom if we receive Him. Here is the answer to the world’s problems. God sends His only begotten Son with the power to deal with the root of the problem – sin.

God has not withdrawn from this rebellious world, He has come into it in the person of Jesus Christ. Through the forgiveness that He brings we know the richest blessings. He is to be loved, praised and adored. He is the most important person this world has ever known. He is to be the most important person in our lives today, every day. Fill our days with the knowledge of Him. He is the altogether glorious Lord.

The Servant’s character. Cyrus was a typical, aggressive, arrogant man. But this servant of the Lord is totally different. God’s answer to the oppression of this world is gentleness and humility. There is nothing strident about Him (v2). Here is no Trump or Boris. He will not dominate or shout others down, neither will He advertise Himself. We remember how He repeatedly shunned the glare of publicity (John 6:15).

We are told, in verse 3, He will not trample on the weak. On the contrary, He will greatly strengthen them. The servant’s character is marked by meekness and gentleness. These characteristics are not the usual characteristics of leaders, but God’s ways are not our ways. Praise God, the Lord Jesus Christ knows how to look after feeble creatures like you and me.

There are times when we are very conscious of how vulnerable we are but the Lord Jesus Christ sees our eternal well-being. We can confidently commit to His Lordship. He will enfold us in His loving arms, His tender hands. He will never disappoint us. As a church we are to follow the example of the Saviour by quietly preaching the gospel, having concern for others, being considerate not aggressive or arrogant. Yes, confront people’s sin but with all humility, because we are sinners too.

The servant’s success (verse 4). Although the servant is meek and mild, nevertheless He will succeed. This servant will not grow faint. He will not be discouraged (bruise easily). He will experience all of those things that crush and quench the life out of men but He will be strong in the face of adversity. Nothing will prevent Him from God’s rule on earth. He will bring the benefits and the blessings to the bruised of this world. Not only Israel, but all nations of the world will hear of Him.

The Lord Jesus Christ knew what is was to be rejected and scorned but He did not grow faint neither was He discouraged. His meek and mild character is matched by determination and strength that came from God, which ensure success of His mission. What has laid you low, knocked the stuffing out of you? What has overwhelmed you? Remember the cross. Look to the Lord. Find in Him the strength to carry on. The work of the Lord Jesus Christ always succeeds. If he is at work in our lives, even as He takes us through deep trials, share in His success and His victory. He is the hope of the whole world. My Hope, your hope. Trust in Him, look to Him. He is the suffering servant of God. He is God’s provision for the broken world. He is the Saviour. He is my Saviour, He is your Saviour. Trust in Him. He loves you, He cares for you. He will see you through. He is the most wonderful person, the most glorious in success. Praise God for His suffering servant. Amen.

December 29th 2019: Ian Middlemist

Ian-December 29th 2019“Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me,” (John 8:42)

Some gifts can be received in a way we did not expect. The giving of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, did not go the way we expected. Not everyone loves Jesus. There are those who militantly oppose Him and His name. His name has been used blasphemously. We see acts of great kindness but then His name is dishonoured. His name is also used blasphemously in anger. Also, there are those who claim to know and worship Jesus yet they do not know Him at all.

The Saviour often offended people by His words. In today’s reading, John 8:31-59, Jesus spoke to people who professed to believe in God. They argued their corner and said they were free men. Jesus’ response goes further in explaining they were slaves to sin. Only the Son could set them free. He goes further still; they desired to kill Him because they were children of the Devil. They responded by calling Christ a demon-possessed Samaritan! We need to critically hear that message at Christmas, New Year, Easter, Summer, Autumn and Winter to come – the message of our plight before God, of our sinfulness and God’s provision for salvation. It is a message many will find hard to hear. Light has come into the world. We live in the darkness. However, Christ did say that true children of God will love Him (John 8:42, Ephesians 6:24).

All who reject God’s Son will be rejected by Him. “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!” (1 Corinthians 16:22). Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you able to say, ‘I do!’ Does He mean everything to you? Yes He does. Jesus is mine and I love Him! You may rejoice in who He is, yet you do not see Him. You know what He has done in your soul, that heaven’s beloved one, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, came into this world to die on a cross, to give of Himself for me. I love Him! True children of God love Him as their greatest desire. We love Jesus more than we love any other. We love His commandments (John 14). This is the kind of love we have for Jesus Christ.

Psalm 110, we bow before Him, we submit to Him because we love Him. Our very lives are not as dear to us as the love we have for Jesus Christ. We put Him first. Jesus Christ came into this world to be loved by His people who He had redeemed.

Why should we love Him? The purpose of Christmas is to respond to the love of Jesus Christ. If we have failed to do this then we are wasting our time and have missed the point of Christmas. If today you do not love Him it has all been a waste of time. My plea is to look back again at the incarnation afresh – the Son coming into the world. Why? What is all the fuss about? Pray God will help you be a lover of Him. We love Jesus Christ. He came from the Father, from God. The man who walked on the shores of Galilee is the incarnate Son of God. The Son was always in the bosom of the Father, such was the intimacy of love and affection. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Tri-unity of God. He is not saying He is the Father, but He is in the Father. Even as the eternal Son came into the world, He could say ‘I am in the Father.’ So any child of God loves Jesus Christ because we love the Father.

We love Jesus Christ because He does the Father’s will. Such was His willingness, he was ready to do the Father’s will. There was never any doubt He would obey His Father. His purpose was to go to the cross, to feel and experience the Father’s wrath, His righteous anger poured out on Him. And we love Him for that.

We know how easy it is to argue, even in the most committed marriages, but Jesus is pure and holy, 100% of the time, always committed to doing the Father’s will. This teaches us also to be submissive, in our prayers to do the Father’s will.

It is important to notice we struggle with the will of God in our lives. Our daily attitude is to admit it – we struggle with the will of God. Ask God to help to see the wonder and beauty of His purposes.

We love Jesus Christ because the Father sent Him to save sinners. The Father has called you to joys that will last forever. The Father wants you to be happy. How greatly the Father loves us. We did not love Him yet the Father sent the Son to rescue us. He first loved us, “We love because He first loved us,” (1 John 4:19). Do you know that? Do you know your security and safety is not dependant on loving Him right now? He doesn’t love you because of that, not because you love Him – He first loved you.

When people receive a great gift, when the great reveal takes place, people say ‘Oh, I love it!’ There is great enthusiasm and passion for a gift. May our enthusiasm expand, may it grow and increase for the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s pray for us to become more dedicated in serving our wonderful Saviour.

 

 

 

December 25th 2019: Ian Middlemist

Ian Middlemist -Oct18“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16).

We see briefly the overall glorious theme of God’s love displayed – Jesus Christ came to reveal God’s love for sinners. Consider the purpose of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; He came into the world to show God’s love for sinners. John 3:16 is very famous. Maybe we no longer find this verse astonishing. It is a remarkable verse, revealing an amazing truth – the greatest present we could ever receive! As we eat our Christmas dinners today, take delight in this. All the sensory pleasures we receive today can be overwhelming but whilst we have all of this, remember to take delight and joy in the truth of God’s love and how shocking and glorious it is!

John 3:16 makes a surprising claim; God loves the world. This is shocking. The Maker of heaven and earth loves the world. He is self-sufficient, He needs no-one. He is holy, the holy one who cannot look upon sin. “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors  and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” (Habakkuk 1:13) His desires are always right. His affections are never mis-placed. How then can this holy God love this broken, sinful world that gives to Him nothing?

Our God clearly loves the creation in a general way because it exists because of God’s providence and sovereign power, He preserves the world. He provides for it, upholds it by His power. By His word it was brought into being, corrupted by us. But it will not be left to decay. His plan is not for it to crumble and fade by global warming or nuclear disaster. It will end when He decides to create a new heaven and a new earth, when the Lord Jesus comes. His plan is to make it new and fresh, filled with life. Bodies that have been decayed in the ground will be raised on that day when Jesus returns.

Heaven will receive Jesus Christ on that day (Acts 3:21). To John, the word ‘world’ represents human inhabitants of the earth, the human race. We are all one, one in that we are rebels and idolaters to the Creator who made us. We take what He has given and reject Him. We are the ungrateful child. Outrageous! That’s the world – hardly an object of God’s desire, of God’s love. It makes little sense. Surely God would not love us – that would make sense – to get rid of us, a terrible mistake. But God does not make mistakes. God has chosen to love this broken, sinful world. The word ‘world’ is used to show God’s mystery. It is not limited to a race or time. God’s love is not speaking of universal salvation. The Father has chosen a people for Himself – of all background (John 6:37). God loves sinners. The holy God loves sinners.

God has provided a way of salvation for the people of this world, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. Some of you may be disappointed today with your Christmas gifts. You will all say thank you, even if your heart is sinking at the frying pan you may receive! The wrong gift can be very disappointing. The one gift you will not be disappointed with is God’s love – the perfect gift. Jesus came into the world. There is God’s love! Jesus’ coming into the world is irrefutable evidence of God’s love for us. Our Western world’s definition of love is bankrupt – just listen to Radio 1 and find out how empty the word ‘love’ is today.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers,” (1 John 3:16). Christ’s coming to die is the proof of God’s love. His birth and death are utterly linked. His sacrificial love is a love that will do anything, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” (1 John 4:10). The only begotten Son is the object of God’s eternal affection. Two times during Christ’s public ministry everybody heard the Father speak, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, Matthew 17:5). Who can fathom the love the Father has for the Son? Not even His brothers believed in Him. God’s love is, perfect, deep, unchanging.

God sent His Son for us, for you and me. Christ came to earth to show us the riches of God’s love. It really is good news! It is eternal love. The Father sent the Son to earth, the earth where He would be condemned to death. Christmas confirms to us that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.

December 22nd 2019: Gaius Douglas

Gaius-Dec 2019My prayer for you is that your prayer is ‘Be near me Lord Jesus.’

“For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up,” Psalm 69:9

Zeal is passion, enthusiasm, a great desire. We see this great and wonderful desire in Christ to do His Father’s will. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” John 1:14

God became flesh. He lived among us. He was sent as a babe, not as an adult. “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up,” Psalm 69:9. The zeal of thine house was in Israel, the temple. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit if we know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour. He had a great desire, even at birth. The Father sent the Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit. The Word became flesh. Mary, about 15 or 16 years old, went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She was barren yet God put in her John the Baptist. When Mary came visited Elizabeth the babe in Elizabeth’s womb leapt. That is the Spirit of God. Even in the womb of Mary, His mother, He was desirous to do the will of His Father.

When Jesus was twelve and in the temple, the zeal of the Lord had eaten Him up and He was teaching. As a young man He was passionate to please His Father. From a baby, God manifest in flesh, placed in the womb of Mary, my Saviour, the one who made you and me. As He grew “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not,” (Isaiah 53:3). He was desirous to do God’s will (John 4:34). He asked us to follow Him. The zeal of the Lord had eaten Him up even in His mother’s womb. You are not too young or too old to live for Him.

He hath put a new song in my mouth. If you know that, He has put that song in your heart to praise God. Is it yours? Is He yours? The Lord Jesus Christ is not for Christmas but for life. If we are really honest, how much have we thought of the Lord Jesus Christ in the past week, leading up to Christmas?

I love singing carols; they are all of Christ. Quite often when we think of Christmas we think of commercialism, not of Christ. Christmas begins with Christ. Mass is a celebration. We celebrate Christ. Stop. Think. Are we doing that? Will we celebrate Christ on 25th December? The Lord Jesus Christ is not only for Christmas but for life. Do you celebrate Christ 365 days a year? So often, we split the Bible up and only speak of His birth at Christmas time and speak of His death at Easter. How sad! This same Jesus, sent to be Saviour, to save us, from our sins. If we knew this we should be celebrating this 365 days a year.

When we get to glory we will sing His glory and praise, not differentiating His birth and death. We cannot speak of His birth without speaking of His death, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour,” (John 12:27).

Anyone who receives Him are His people. Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Our sins, which were many, the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He has saved us to live, not to die.

The Lord may come at any time, none of us know where we will be next Christmas. But Jesus came to save us, for us to live, not to die. Are you living for Him? The alternative is death. Moses, at the end of his life, spoke to the leaders of Israel, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live,” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

How often do we talk to our friends about the Lord Jesus Christ? We have gone so far away from Christ many don’t want to recognise Him. God sent His only Son, His indescribable gift. Let us give thanks for Him. The gift of eternal life is through Jesus Christ our Lord. If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, celebrate Him. Will you put Christ back into your Christmas?

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the earth,
Every creature was stirring, awaiting a birth.
The time for Messiah was certainly near,
The prophets foretold it; the Bible was clear.
From the book of beginnings, the very first sin,
God’s word made it clear how His grace entered in.
Born of a virgin, He’d come as a man.
The Creator among us, the time was at hand.
The stars were arranged to show marvellous things,
Setting Wise Men to journey and find the true King.
Shepherds in Bethlehem gazed on the sky,
Longing to see him, their Lord the Most High.
How could they know that the very next night
An angel of God would speak words of delight?
How the Saviour was born, it was news of great joy.
In a cloth and a manger they’d find the dear boy.
And a heavenly host would soon join to sing
Of the glory of God and of wonderful things.
He entered creation, set position aside
To show us how deeply his love did abide.
Sin sent us away from our almighty Lord.
He became one of us that we might be restored.
He’s the Prince of our Peace; He’s the one who makes whole.
He is Wisdom Incarnate, a Shepherd of Souls.
He’s the Author of Life; He’s the Ruler of All.
He can offer salvation, on His name we call.
The shepherds and Wise Men would bow to adore
Holy God among men, our greatest reward.
All glory and honour is due to this King.
Let all join in worship; let every tongue sing.
Jesus is Lord, all creation proclaims.
He’s the first and last, He is always the same.
History turned on the first Christmas day,
When God became man in a humble display.
As we think of the manger in which He was laid,
Let our hearts welcome Him to the world He made!

Poet unknown

December 15th 2019: Norman Rees

Norman Rees-Sept 17We have all had days when we have been downcast and troubled. But one man in the Bible who had probably a few days of concern, anxiety and sleepless nights was Joseph. Joseph was a godly man who was engaged to Mary. They both lived in Nazareth. He was a carpenter. He loved Mary deeply. In those days engagement was something akin to marriage. It was a promise that could not be broken. But then Joseph had news; his fiancée was pregnant.

Mary was spoken to by an angel of God. Mary, a virgin, one who feared and loved God, was terrified when she first heard the news. The angel told her not to be afraid, he brought a blessing from God. He told her she would have a child. She was confused. Here was purity; two godly people who loved each other would now be the talk of the town. It knocked her sideways. She asked how it could be, “And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

She was overwhelmed. It is not recorded in Scripture if she went and told Joseph but she did go to visit her aged cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant. Elizabeth hid herself for five months. She was old and barren but now pregnant. It was a wonderful miracle of grace. Mary spent three months with her. Then Mary went back home to Nazareth, to Joseph. He could see she was pregnant. The first thing that came into his mind must have been ‘What has happened?’ Had she been unfaithful? He couldn’t marry her. He thought of ‘divorcing’ her but did not want to embarrass her, so planned to do it privately, before a couple of witnesses.

One night Joseph went to sleep and there God spoke to him through an angel in a dream, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). Well, what a revelation! What a shock! His expectant wife was expecting the Son of God. Being a man of God, he would have known the prophecy from Isaiah. She must be the one spoken of by Isaiah. He woke and immediately, without doubting God’s word, he went to Mary, took her in his arms and they rejoiced together. They married but did not have a relationship until after Jesus was born. Joseph cared for her, looked after her and her most precious gift growing in her womb. People around would have tutted and mocked. They did not know what God had revealed to Mary and Joseph. But Mary and Joseph did not care what the world had to say.

The glory of heaven, the Father sent Jesus to earth for 33 years. God the Son was in the eternal plan to save mankind, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,”  (John 3:16). Here is the gift of God before us, looked after and cared for by Mary and Joseph. He, who could control all the elements, was subject to His mother Mary and step-father Joseph. Such humility! This is the Christ we worship. He was in Mary, then with Mary and Joseph, with His disciples and all those who were called. He helped them, encouraged them and loved them deeply. Immanuel, God with us! They had God walking by their side, God in the flesh – Jesus Christ. Some people hated Him for this. They thought He was blaspheming.

All that happened 2,000 years ago. When Jesus went back to heaven He sent His Holy Spirit. So within us, as believers, is Jesus Christ, the Spirit. They are not to be divided. Here is one who is with them, with us. Immanuel! 2,000 years ago people could see Him, hear Him. When He went back to heaven His disciples were fearful. But when the Holy Spirit came they were bold and could rejoice. And that same Holy Spirit is with us now in Penuel.

We go through situations, problems, difficulties, sadness and deaths. Sometimes we feel God is not with us but He is always with us. He will never change. It is no good relying on feelings. God is with us in every situation. He is with us all the time. Whatever the future hold, Immanuel is with us. Never forget this, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10). This verse is a great comfort in times of trial. When there is nowhere else to go, God’s presence will comfort us. If we have confessed our sins and repented, then this promise is for us. God says He will never leave us or forsake us. Immanuel, God with us. This is easy to say in good time! Believe it! As health changes, our situation changes, government changes, here is one who never changes.

December 8th 2019: Ian Jones

Ian Jones-Dec2019“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15

What is Christmas all about? If you could describe what Christmas is all about, what is the one word you would use? Some may say ‘happiness’, that it is all about being as happy as we could be, having all we want, the most wonderful meal and so on. Others might describe it as ‘kindness’, showing kindness to others, giving to others. Some may say it is all about hope – hoping that things will be different in the future, time spent with family and friends will help us to go forward. But this isn’t what Christmas is all about. The one word which describes what Christmas is all about is ‘sin.’ The true meaning of Christmas, the true reason why Jesus was born, was to save the people from their sins.  Go back to the reason why Jesus came into the world and was born in a manger and went to the cross. It is all about sin. This morning, we will look at the important message of why Jesus came into the world, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17).

“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46).

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15. Paul wrote this letter to Timothy whilst Timothy was at Ephesus. He was there as Paul’s representative. At that time, many false teachers were speaking against the gospel. Paul opens up this chapter by contrasting himself from false teachers. This is one of five verses labelled ‘faithful sayings.’ (Other examples can be found in 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus). All start with ‘This is a faithful saying …” They were passed on from person to person in the Christian community during a time when false teaching was being proclaimed.

The importance of Christmas, why Jesus came into the world, is a reliable message. “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance,” (1 Timothy 1:15). Jesus came into the world is a reliable message. It was wholeheartedly accepted by everyone, not just Jesus’ followers, but by everyone as a true message. There is absolute confidence in what the verse says. It is to make sure the reader recognises this is something true. Why did Paul remind Timothy of something very basic? Surely Timothy, a leader himself, knew this and did not need reminding? The answer is people always dispute our salvation. The doubt will always arise in our minds. People will always dispute what the Bible says. The words come to us like a granite rock – solid. They are something that would stand the test of time. They are reliable and trustworthy. So important. This is not to be rejected or ignored by others. It is worthy of all acceptance. It is something we can stand upon without hesitation. It is what we need to hear today. We need to hear the truth, not fake news. In our busy lives we need to be reminded of these things (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

The importance of Christmas, why Jesus came into the world, is a powerful message. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). It is easy to think Jesus came to show peace on earth, kindness to others. It is easy to think Jesus coming into the world and going to the cross is a failure. Paul says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). It is the gospel reduced to 8 words. Jesus Christ came into this world. Paul is impressing on us that Jesus was not just a man – He is both God and Man. His coming into the world was not just His beginning; He came from heaven’s glory into the world. The Lord entered the world as an angel of God, speaking to men of faith such as Abraham. But here He takes on flesh and comes as a real man. It was always planned and purpose by the Trinity, sent by the Father to do the Father’s will. His death on Calvary’s cross saved sinners. This was why He came. The purpose of the gospel message, to accomplish salvation by dying on the cross. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, God Himself, became flesh, came into the world to save us from our sin.

The importance of Christmas, why Jesus came into the world, is a personal message. “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15. Paul says, “Of whom I am the chief.” Many commentators query this. What right has Paul to say this? Can we see Paul as the greatest sinner that has ever lived? He said in the previous chapter what he was like. Was he really the worst of all sinners? This is the way Paul often saw himself – as the least of all the apostles. But why should he see himself in this way? As he grew in knowledge of the Lord and saw his sinful nature, this is how he saw himself. What does it say to us? It invites us to be like Paul and see ourselves as sinners who need saving from our sin. We being the Christian life recognising our sin and need for repentance. As we read God’s Word and what Christ has done and how He suffered for us, the more we learn of our own hearts, we see ourselves as sinners. Paul says, ‘I am the chief of sinners.’ He uses the present tense. It is a reminder, when we come to this verse, we can add our name to it. It reminds us of the only reason why Jesus came into the world. He came into the world to save sinners.

How can I now I am saved, that I will go to glory? If I put myself in that verse, I know I am a sinner, that Jesus came to save me, then that gives you and me the assurance that we are saved, that we are part of Jesus’ elect.

Friends, have you put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Many won’t have anything to do with Jesus and cannot have that assurance. The wonderful thing of this message is Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. He came to die for all. If we can recognise ourselves as sinners, the gospel message is for you. He accepts us if we come to Him.

“But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16). This describes God’s mercy. It saved Paul from his awful background. God was longsuffering towards him. God is longsuffering towards us. He wants us to come to Him today, to receive salvation. He is Lord and Saviour of all.

1st December 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards - Dec 2091-2The final one of the Ten Commandments can be found in Exodus 20:17, “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s.” To a large extent our society today is built on covetousness. We are encouraged in this sin, it is an economic necessity. Our whole lives are increasingly defined not by who we are or what we do but by what we consume. We desire cars, holidays … our days are filled with the never-ending pursuit of more and more, therefore we are constantly breaking this Commandment. This is a very subtle sin, nevertheless, a very dangerous one. It often lies behind many other sins (1 Timothy 6:10). The action of adultery, murdering and stealing break the commandments, but all these begin when we break the 10th Commandment (James 1:14-15). It begins with a desire. It conceives sin. Sin brings death.

What is the sin of coveting? To covet is to strongly desire or delight in something. It is not necessarily a bad thing; a husband and wife should have a strong delight and desire in one another. However, the problem is we do not have the right to enjoy that which belongs to others. Covetousness is the big sister of the twins envy and jealousy. We are often determined in every way to match other people’s lifestyles. This is a destruction for the human heart (Proverbs 14:30, James 4:1-2). Jealousy clings to what we own with a grasping, selfish spirit. Howard Hughes, who died leaving a 2.3 billion estate, was a prisoner of his own fear of losing his own wealth.

Coveting holds firmly to what it has and will not open its hand to give (Psalm 62:10). The classic example in scripture of covetousness is found in 1 Kings 21 in the account of Ahab coveting Naboth’s vineyard. Ahab starts with making a fair offer for the vineyard and is not trying to rip off Naboth. But Naboth has a sense of this is a portion of God’s inheritance, part of his family’s identity. So Ahab sulks and won’t eat. Jezebel, his wife, says, ‘Aren’t you the king? I’ll get it for you.’ And Naboth is murdered. Such blatant wrong doing.

But we covet too. We go into debt to buy things we can’t afford. People covet when they play the national lottery, wanting to get money for what they have not worked. People covet when we spend our time, money and energy on acquiring more possessions and neglect to share with those in need.

Our nation has fallen far short of God’s standards. Advertising fills us with an insatiable appetite for more. The national lottery provides instant riches, yet robs those often least able to afford it. The message is clear – get what you can, however you can. Then we complain (James 3:16) and there is rising crime. We all, myself included, seccumb to the temptation and join in with the covetousness nature of our society. We may object to fat cats but very few of us would turn those salaries down if they were offered to us. We all have a covetousness spirit. And so we stand once again condemned before the Lord.

The problem with covetousness is it destroys contentment (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11). Our contentment is disturbed as our appetite for more of the world increases. We are guilty of being ungrateful to God, thinking that which He has provided for us is insufficient. Instead of thanking God for all we have, we complain we don’t have more – even though we have so much. God has blessed us so much. We have no contentment. There is a second sin, that of pride. We think we deserve more. The very first sin was based on pride. Satan insinuates God has forbidden Eve to eat of the fruit, stopping her being as all-knowing as God is. In Eve’s heart she thinks she deserves to be equal in knowledge with God. When we are envious, we think ‘Why should he have more than me?’ When jealousy grasps, we are saying we deserve it, we have worked hard for it. This is totally unfounded. The truth is, you and I deserve nothing but the wrath of God (I Corinthians 4:6-7). Is it true that because we have a bigger house, a bigger car that we are better than anyone else? We have not earned but received from God’s goodness. When we are not grateful for what God has provided we are guilty of the same sin as Eve. We are coveting. We accuse God of not giving us our just rewards we feel we deserve. What an arrogance! All sin leads to hell but none propels us faster than that of covetousness.

In the New Testament we are told a hallmark of a Christian is contentment. It is the hallmark of Christian maturity (Philippians 4:11, Hebrews 13:5). We are to be content. Covetousness is seen as a force that can shipwreck a Christian’s life (1 Timothy 6:6-10). It is also a sign that a person was not saved in the first place. The Parable of the Sower illustrates this; the seed that falls among thorns portrays an outward expression of faith which doesn’t have a true knowledge of salvation. There is something radically wrong when a believer thinks he deserves better.

The right sort of coveting. The word covet can be used in a positive way. The best way to avoid the wrong kind is to fix your mind on the right kind – coveting Christ, God’s Word and the life to come.

Coveting Christ. In the Song of Solomon we read of a girl who describes her beloved as one who is altogether lovely. She has an overwhelming desire for him. It is a picture of how we should covet the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is the source of lasting contentment. The real desire that brings contentment is to desire Christ. It doesn’t matter then what else we have or don’t have. He is worth more than the whole world (Philippians 4:8). Have a heart full of desire to know Christ. Make Him the fairest of ten thousand to your soul. Dwell with Him. Think upon Him. Delight your soul in Him. Stir the depth of love in your heart for Him. He will satisfy your soul.

Covet the Word of God. Because you love the Lord Jesus Christ you desire to find Him, to see Him, to fellowship with Him in His Word, the Bible (Psalm 19:10). William Tyndale was publically executed in 1536. Why? Because he translated the Bible into English. He wanted the plough boy to read of Christ. The world desires to fill our mind with covetousness thoughts. The Bible fills our minds with praise to our lips and praise to our soul.

Covet the life to come. Set your desires on the lasting blessings of the world to come (Matthew 6:19-21). The attractions of this world are empty baubles compared to Christ and the riches of glory to come. Let us not covet material things of this world and war against spiritual well-being. Let’s covet Christ, His death on the cross which secured life for us.

November 24th 2019: James Sibley

James Sibley 4 -Nov 2019Philippians 2:1-11

As we think about Christmas, what is the central characteristic trait you associate with Christmas? Is it generosity? Central to Christmas is humility. If you went and searched the word ‘humility’ on a computer, one of the first things you would find is a quote, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” This is attributed to CS Lewis, however, it is not! The quote doesn’t quite get it right. Romans 12 tells us not to think too highly of ourselves, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think,” (Romans 12:3).

This morning, as we explore Philippians 2:1-11, we are going to start at the end and work our way backwards.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11).

Most commentators seem to agree these verses are some form of first century hymn which praise God and Jesus for what they have done. Paul is painting it as the ultimate picture of humility. These words are really beautiful, powerful and moving. True humility is something truly beautiful but rare. Think of the godliest person you know. Their humility is something that possibly stood out. Some people can be funny, intelligent and sporty – they seem to have everything. We are drawn to such people. Humility is not something we see often; sports celebrities when being interviewed rarely thank those who have helped them along the way. Politicians, more than any, are supposed to represent the people, yet are often referred to as being self-serving.

We see true humility in Philippians chapter 2 – probably where we would least expect it. God, who is worshipped by angels from eternity, is surely the last person you would expect to put people first. In Psalm 113 we see that God is to be praised,

“Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord,

    praise the name of the Lord!
Blessed be the name of the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore!
 From the rising of the sun to its setting,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised!
The Lord is high above all nations,
    and his glory above the heavens!
 Who is like the Lord our God,
    who is seated on high,
who looks far down
    on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes,
    with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home,
    making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!

We see this God of all the nations lifting the needy out of the ash heaps. The God of all glory sees and reaches down. Jesus does exactly the same. Though He is God, He emptied Himself to be born a servant. The divine Son of God humbled Himself! He took on flesh, set aside His power and glory – although He this still belonged to Him.

“Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail, the incarnate Deity,
Pleased, as man, with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!”.
(Hark the Herald)

He did not relinquish His divine attributes but added humanity. Imagine there is a king ruling over a vast empire. Imagine, one day this king decides he will clean the toilets in the palace. He gets down on his knees. The king is still the king, but he is not using his powers but using his servitude.

Jesus became the suffering servant (Isaiah 53). The divine Son of God entered our messy world and experienced our pain. He mourned, He suffered,

“He walked my road and He felt my pain,
Joys and sorrows that I know so well;
Yet His righteous steps give me hope again –
 I will follow my Immanuel.”
 (‘Immanuel’, Stuart Townend).

Jesus, being a man and walking among us and ultimately dying in our place – Christ’s humilitation.

The 1689 Westminster Confessions states, “He was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered, being made sin and a curse for us; enduring most grievous sorrows in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption: on the third day he arose from the dead with the same body in which he suffered, with which he also ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father making intercession, and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.” (The Baptist Confession of faith, 1689, 8:4).

But why? Why did He have to be humiliated? Why did He become a servant? He had eternal love, majesty and glory. He did not need anything! So why?

(i) It was the only way sinners like us could be saved. Only one could stand in our place. From the moment we entered this world we are sinners. God became man in Christ to save us.

(ii) It was out of obedience to His Father (Philippians 2:8).

(iii) It was out of love both for His Father and His people – those ones He set His love on in eternity past.

(iv) To bring glory to His Father and Himself, as He saves sinners, defeats sin and kills death. Jesus is the divine Son of God, who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives in love from eternity past.

Jesus is undoing what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden, as they grasped to be like God. His obedience was His exaltation (Philippians 2:9-11). One day every knee will bow before Jesus. Are you bowing the knee, standing before Him in faith or in judgement? One day He will return. He offers new life and a new future – being loved by God and by Him.

Why does Paul quote this hymn? He is trying to encourage humility, sharing Christ’s example. Paul has joy, gratitude and affection for the church in Philippi but he sees persecution, false teaching and disunity. He is worried that disunity will weaken them under persecution. Paul realises humility is the key to unity. Humility puts others first.

How does Paul show them this unity is achieved?
We are to look to Christ’s example. When we want to know how to do something we may often watch a Youtube video and follow the instructions. Paul urges us to follow Christ’s example, to follow in Christ’s footsteps. But there’s a problem for us; we can’t just copy Christ’s example. We need to be made alive before we follow His example. We are all dead in sin, proud by nature, putting ourselves first. Humility is really hard; our sinful hearts are always prideful. Humility does not come naturally to us.

Kane West says he is a born-again Christian, yet a few years back he claimed to be God. If he is truly saved then we will see a radical change in his heart. It doesn’t just come through following Christ’s example but also what Jesus does in us. Paul says to us in verses 1-2 it comes from being in Christ, participating in His Spirit, “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

This humility, love and affection comes only as Jesus saves and gives us a new heart and a new life. We have to get to a place where only Jesus can take us. We go where Jesus has gone as we are united to Him in faith. Through Christ’s humility and His exaltation, He fulfils the law. He gives us a new heart which has His law written on it. We are united to Him by His Spirit. He starts to sanctify us.

There is a bit of a dichotomy. Paul says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). Paul tells us to work out our salvation, to work as hard as we can to follow Christ’s example. But he is quick to say Christ works in us. We are to humble ourselves, to put others first.

For us, we are called to follow in Christ’s example, to put others first in humility. Following Christ is following the path to self-sacrifice but also the path to glory. The secret to true humility is to look in faith to Christ and His humiliation and exaltation, and to live by faith in Christ and His exaltation and humiliation.