December 19th 2021: Alan Davison

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Luke 2:1-14

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”
Luke 2:14

Christmas in our culture has become quite controversial. Nativities sometimes change the words of Christmas carols so as not to offend people. Advertising in the media does not portray the Nativity of the Bible. How do you present the Christmas story to someone who doesn’t believe in it? Is a fresh approach needed? No, not really. We need to simply tell it as it is, in the way Scripture portrays it.

Luke sets the scene, in verses 1-7, telling us about the birth of Christ. Given that this was the birth of the long-awaited Messiah, we might expect, humanly speaking, that there would be a huge fanfare for this – royal announcements, town criers going out in every street. But  God chooses to tell a bunch of shepherds first. Shepherds weren’t exactly respected in Israel at this time. Shepherding was something families would consider the younger sons to do after the older sons had respectable occupations. But God, I think, is making a very important point here – The Messiah is for everyone.

Jesus came for anyone who would accept Him as their Lord and Saviour. When Samuel arrives to anoint one of Jesse’s sons, God rejects the eldest sons. The youngest, keeping the sheep, was chosen. In human culture people become marginalised for different reasons. Shepherds were expected to protect the sheep, spending nights out in the open. Certainly, this group went from humdrum boredom to terror – the glory of the Lord shone around them. The brightness of the glory of God reveals sinfulness. This is why the angel says, “Do not be afraid.” The angel has good news, for all people. This Messiah, the Saviour of the world, can be found in an animals’ feeding trough. The angel was joined by more angels. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”(Luke 2:13-14). The Scripture says they specifically said. The Greek word for this means ‘to lay forth, to relate in words.’ Having said that they simply spoke this declaration, I’m sure that so many angelic voices sounding forth the glory of God would have sounded melodic and lyrical to human ears.

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).

I think this verse really splits in two, based upon two locations. First of all, the angels declare ‘Glory to God’ but they make the point that God is ‘in the highest.’ The initial focus is in heaven. Christmas is something that would not have happened without God. We need to remember that Christmas is a celebration of what God has done for us. For many people, Christmas is simply food. Perhaps to others it’s family or may be simply the capacity to have a party. But the Bible makes clear that we are celebrating a person – Jesus.

The angels are declaring glory to God for what has just been given. We read of the gift in verse 11, For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”

There are three titles for Jesus in one verse: Saviour, Christ and Lord. Jesus’ name is the Greek version of Joshua. It means ‘Saviour.’ The Jews were very much a religious people and knew a Saviour was prophesied to them throughout all the scriptures that they had. But they were not so clear what they needed to be saved from. In this time, many thought they needed to be saved from the Romans because there was an occupation of their land. But they were simply the latest in the line of foreign occupiers. If Jesus had come to save the Jews from the current occupiers, the Romans, this would have been a temporary solution. Sooner or later, another oppressor would turn up and they would need another saviour.

But this gift of God was also Christ, another Greek word for a Hebrew term, in this case, ‘Messiah.’ This tells us that this saviour has come to do God’s will because He is the anointed One. He is the one set aside for the purpose of salvation. In Old Testament times those set aside for God’s work – kings, priests and prophets – would very often be anointed with oil to publicly demonstrate that they had been set aside to fulfil God’s will for the people.

There is also another term Jesus is referred to, as Lord, declaring His divinity. This Savour was also from God as much as He was God Himself. As human beings, we cannot save ourselves from our own sins, so God had to come to be the ultimate Saviour, to be the One who will save everyone from their sins. Not from the Romans, nor from any other invading empire. God was coming to deal with something much more dangerous. Interestingly, it is Joseph who is told, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). God spells it out to Joseph.

Ever since Adam and Eve, sin has been Man’s greatest enemy. It broke our relationship with God and ultimately let death into creation. Very often, people blame God. But sin creates a debt which needs to be paid for by someone. Even in our culture, people can have their debts cleared, but someone, somewhere must bear the cost for that to happen.

In the case of sin, it is God who bears the cost of our sins. But don’t miss how this will happen, ‘For there is born to you.’ God will live a human life. He won’t just appear fully formed as Adam was. He will actually be born, staying for nine months in Mary’s womb. Jesus would experience every aspect of what it means to be a human being – fully man, yet fully God. Divinity veiled in flesh. Jesus would be the ultimate definition of meekness; strength under control. He was and is God but chose to accept the limitations of a human body. When He was hanging on the cross of Calvary He could have called on legions of angels to save Him, but He didn’t. He stayed on that cross until He died because that was how He was going to save His people from their sins. He was the only One who could save us.

Jesus is also important because He links the two location we are talking about. Jesus was born. He did not come into existence at the Incarnation. When Jesus talks about coming into the word, it is only once He refers to being born, “Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37). To have come into the world, Jesus must have been somewhere else beforehand. Jesus has always existed. He chose to be born so He could work out the salvation plan for man.

From a spiritual perspective, His birth and death were planned. Jesus acted because He chose to do so because He loved us.  

The second location is on earth, “And on earth peace.” Israel, at this time when Jesus came, had a kind of peace. Nowadays, we refer to it as the ‘Pax Romana,’ which was imposed by the Roman legions. It was a peace in the sense of an absence of open conflict. But the fact is, strife remained. There were people who were rebelling against Rome. It continues today to be a land of conflict. The peace spoken of here is God’s peace, the promise of One who has been born, who will bring peace to the world from God. The angels are described as a multitude of the heavenly host. God sends His army to announce peace. This is not imposed upon humanity but a promise of what is to come. It fulfils Isaiah 9:6,

“For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Men, for the most part, will initially reject this peace. Even in Christ’s infancy, Satan would try to eradicate God’s peace, through his agent, Herod. God’s peace is different. Goodwill towards men! Note, not ‘amongst men.’ Goodwill should be a permanent state of our character, not just at Christmas.

“Goodwill towards men.” Goodwill to is have favour upon someone. It speaks of an on-going relationship, a truly warm feeling upon someone. This is goodwill from God towards men. Because the Saviour has come the relationship can be restored.

At Christmas time we are celebrating the fact that God looks upon us sinful people with favour because of what Jesus has done for us. This peace of God is directed to us who are believers, just like the shepherds, who came away glorify and praising God. Others heard them and thereby became aware of the news. The scriptures tell us the shepherds simply marvelled at what they heard. Later, in the gospels we hear of other people who marvelled at what Jesus said and did. In so doing, they were drawn to Him, they wanted more of what He offered. But many of these people didn’t act on what they heard. God was interested in the shepherds so much so, they become the first human heralds of the birth of the Messiah.

God remains interested today, kin those on whom His favour rests. This is something we should be celebrating. Christmas is a day for us to remember God became man, fully man, and lived a human life full of human experiences, good and bad. Jesus did all of this without sin so He could offer Himself as a sacrifice to pay the debt of our sins on that cross at Calvary.

Celebrate and remember what and whom you are celebrating. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).

December 12th 2021: Ian Middlemist

To view a recording of this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/qGVI5Y_FSP4

Hebrews 2:5-18

At this time of year a lot of discussion is taken up with the ‘what’ of Christmas – what happened? There are a lot of descriptions of the manger, animals, wise men, location and historical events surrounding our Saviour’s birth. We, as Christians, must focus our thoughts on the ‘why’. Why was the Saviour born? It is not always easy to stop and consider why. Sometimes, in the middle of a crisis, e.g., a business crisis, we think, ‘Is it really worth it?’ In the busyness of things we need to stop and consider the purpose of Christmas, the purpose of the Incarnation. Jesus never stopped and panicked whether it was worth it or questioned the purpose of His ministry on earth. He was, and always will be, united with the Father. Jesus came to save sinners and to be made like us.

Jesus came to save sinners. In the Saviour’s first coming, Jesus, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, implemented this rescue plan. This rescue plan had been conceived in the mind of the Triune God before human beings ever stepped onto the face of this planet. Jesus didn’t come to promote holiday Christmas cheer after a tough year. He didn’t come to boost end of year sales. He didn’t come to serve as the central figure on a nativity scene. He came to save sinners. To save sinners He had to deal with the heart of the matter – sin. The dawn of man’s history, like this unwanted virus, affected single person. Sin has infected every single one of us. God was revealing His plan for salvation, bit by bit, through the Old Testament sacrificial systems – a sacrifice, a separation, a holy one, a Lamb.

One of the main themes of Hebrews is the Old Testament sacrificial laws and an emphasis on the labours of the priests. Hebrews 7 – the former priests were many in number because they were prevented by death from continuing in office. Already the writer is emphasising the priests were many because their offices were limited. Morning and evening priests placed these burnt various offerings for sin, burnt offerings in particular, on the altar. The fire there was never to go out, it was perpetual thing that needed to be preserved. “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4).

The Old Testament sacrifices were just a shadow of what was yet to come. They would never wholly fulfil God’ plan. Something better was needed. When a truly perfect sacrifice was offered, on the tabernacle of heaven, sin was finally dealt with. Christ suffered and died the eternal death on the cross, once, for all, to put away sin, by the sacrifice of God. Our sins have been buried finally and completely in Jesus’ death. So fully has Christ purged the sins, “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.“ (Hebrews 9:28). There are no further sacrifices, Christ has done it all.

As we approach the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus, what are your thoughts? Are you dreading His coming? We, in our sin, have fallen short of God’s requirements (Romans 3). But believers, because of Christ’s incarnation, are not dreading the Saviour’s return because Christ has done all to redeem us. There shouldn’t be any fear; we are looking forward to the Saviour’s return. Jesus Christ has saved us. He is my friend. Christ came to earth for sinners. He is the one who is able to save to the uttermost. Christ can save you. No matter how hell-worthy you are, Christ came to save you. Christ came to save sinners.

Christ came to be like His people. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14). It is the message of the Incarnation, so He could be the appropriate Saviour for you, the appropriate friend in heaven. The baby in the manger had the same human nature as you and I, yet without sin! Jesus was born perfect. He is the conceived message of hope for imperfect people.

Wrapped in swaddling cloths, God teaches us we cannot solve our problems ourselves. We cannot attain perfection and peace by our own strength. We need a brother. In Christ, God has done this. He’s done that which we are incapable of achieving. We are incapable of being righteous, as God requires. We are incapable of entering heaven on our own rights. In the words of the church father, Irenaeus, “When He became incarnate, and was made man, He commenced afresh the long line of human beings, and furnished us, in a brief, comprehensive manner, with salvation; so that what we had lost in Adam – namely, to be according to the image and likeness of God – that we might recover in Christ Jesus.”

Sin is not how we are meant to be. His death would accomplish true healing in every way for us. Because He is like us, Christ also sympathises with us in our weakness, with all the pain and miseries that comes from living in this world. Our bodies groan. When His bodily strength was spent, He slept. Christ slept. The body that God prepared for the Son meant He experienced all that it means to be human, with heart-broken grief, with tears, He wept. Our Saviour was tempted to sin, as we are, with the full force of hell. We draw great encouragement from Christ, His steadfastness in the face of temptation, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession,” (Hebrews 4:14).

As Christians, we look back over this year, we look back on the struggles. It can cause us to despair at times. But at such times we really can look to Christ. Our salvation doesn’t depend on our performance, but wholly and solely on the Lord Jesus Christ, on His obedience. He came to be made like us so that He could raise us up to be with Him in glory. We are born in Adam, but in God’s redemption we have been placed in Christ. As we glimpse at the manger, the birth of Christ, we can say, ‘This is my brother, this is He who is my flesh, my blood.’ As He grows and matures and continues to do the will of God, He grows in obedience.

When we see Christ seated at the right hand of the majesty on high, we can also say, ‘This is my brother, this is my flesh, this is my blood.’

Because of the incarnation, believers can say of Christ, what Adam said to Eve, “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” Such is the unity we have, all because of Christmas, all because of Christ entering into this world, not as an angel, but as a human being just like us. He is not ashamed to call us brothers. Why would we be ashamed of Him?

It is wonderful that the Son of God became man. It is mysterious. It is mind-blowing! We must not forget the reason Christ came – He came to save sinners and He came to be made like us. The question for us is not, ‘Are you good enough for heaven?’ It is rather, ‘Are you sinful enough to go to heaven?’

(Illustration story of Samuel Colgate, founder of the Colgate business empire, who spoke out at an evangelistic meeting regarding the congregation’s response to receiving a sinner into membership).

Today, we praise God that Jesus Christ was born into this world to save all sinners, sinners of all types, like you and me, and to be lour faithful High Priest.

December 5th 2021: Gareth Edwards

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Isaiah 9:1-7
Matthew 1:18-25

Are you getting excited about Christmas? Perhaps, as you get older, you don’t have the same level of excitement and engagement as youngsters do? Perhaps you can’t wait for January, to get back to normal? As Christians, we should be those most excited – not for presents, tees, carol services etc., but because we are conscious of the significance of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, conceived in Mary’s womb by a sovereign act of the Holy Spirit, according to the holy will of the Father.

The second person of the Trinity came into this world and dwelt amongst us. This is a great mystery, one we will never be able to get our mind around. It is not something mystical that we cannot get an understanding of. It is so unique it can never be fully comprehended. Here is an event which continually fills us with awe and wonder.

We should never be tired of considering these things. We should never think of just going through the motions of another Christmas. Here we encounter a glorious miracle; Jesus was not just a mere baby, He was supernaturally begotten of the Holy Spirit – the miracle of the virgin conception, the birth of a sinless person, one promised by God 4,000 years prior to the event. In Genesis 3:15 God promises the woman’s seed – a singular word – one who would come from the woman, in due time, who would be there conqueror of Satan, and who would be the one who would release them from their captivity to sin.

In the person of Jesus Christ, the woman’s seed, the Saviour comes – miraculously conceived in in the womb of a virgin – a great and glorious miracle of God. Marvel afresh at the mystery and the miracle of our Saviour’s birth. Matthew, like Luke, wants to emphasise the wonder of this event by pointing to the reality of the virgin conception.

“Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ,” (Matthew 1:16). ‘Of whom’ is feminine, not masculine. The original language is unambiguous; Jesus is the son of Mary, not the son of Joseph. That great lineage that we read at the start of Matthew 1 is emphasised in the original language, that He is born of Mary.

“Now the birth of Jesus Christtook place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothedto Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18) There is an emphasis on the absence of sexual relationship between Mary and Joseph. A betrothal has taken place, something more than an engagement. We are told specifically, as the Holy Spirit guides Matthew, there was no sexual relationship between Joseph and Mary that could have led to her conceiving. Indeed, we are told in verse 18 and re-emphasised in verse 20, as the angel speaks to Joseph, Mary was not involved with any man, “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “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). Joseph need not worry that Mary had been unfaithful to Him.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23 Matthew quotes Isaiah. He uses a word in Greek that only means virgin. The Holy Spirit guides Matthew, confirming it is a virgin who gives birth. Mary remains a virgin up to His birth. Subsequently, we know Mary has a further four boys and at least two girls that Joseph fathered. But in this instance, Joseph has no involvement in this conception. A virgin conception leads to a virgin birth.

If Jesus was the natural child of sinful parents, then there would be no reason for us to celebrate Christmas, to be excited, to be full of awe and wonder at His birth. If Jesus were not the Son of God who entered into this world via the virgin’s womb, He could not be the Saviour of His people. The name Jesus that was given to Him, by direction of God through the angel, means Saviour. It’s a name that was a fairly commonly used in Bible times. It has an Old Testament version, Joshua. Of all the boys that were born down the centuries that bore His name, there was only one who was truly the Saviour, bringing salvation to those born in sin. This Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. Here is the one mysteriously, miraculously conceived, the one who brings hope to a hopeless, lost world.

This Jesus is Immanuel. We are told this is God, God with us. Here is the one who is mysteriously, miraculously conceived, the one who brings hope to the hopeless. Here is one who is fully God, never anything less than that. It is important for fallen human beings to ascend to God, to approach the holy one, to draw near to this holy God. It there was ever to be a renewed fellowship between sinful men and the holy God, God must come down, for man cannot go up.

Sharing in this remarkable event, in this mysterious, miraculous occurrence, God comes – one who is fully God, but one who is also the fullness of God. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” (Colossians 1:19), “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,” (Colossians 2:9). In this one person the fullness of God was found in bodily form. An incredible mystery! It is phenomenal – not just a bit of God but the whole of God. It’s only God the Son who is conceived of the Holy Spirit, who is born. But such is the unity of the Trinity that when one person of the Trinity comes, then the whole of God comes, in Jesus of Nazareth, the one who is Immanuel.

How amazing it is that the God we have sinned against and rejected, condescends to come. He doesn’t sit in glory and say, ‘Do your best to get to me,’ for that is impossible. He comes! Who is it that can pay the infinite price for sin other than the infinite God. It is God the Son who will offer Himself up, as a sacrifice, taking the punishment from our sin, in our place, upon the cross. The Father will pour out upon Him the wrath the should rightly consume each one of us.

It is the one who is fully God, the one who is the fullness of God, who pays the penalty that God requires, so that we can be forgiven and receive salvation, eternal life, that renewed fellowship with God which is the essence of what life is – an eternal union with Christ through faith, that draws us into the very communion of the godhead itself. We don’t become divine, but through Christ we are drawn into the divine, and we know salvation. Immanuel. It’s God. It is God with us.

He is God but He is also fully man. He identifies full with us in our humanity. He is therefore able to represent us and take upon Himself the responsibility for our sin. It is not an angel who comes in order to die, it is a man, for it is a man who fell into sin and brought into captivity all his descendants. We are all sinners by our nature and by our deed. We share in the responsibility for Adam’s sin. We cannot say, ‘It’s unfair because it was Adam who fell not me.’ The reality is Adam fell, and I fell in him, but I have continued to fall in sin and I must bear the responsibility.

But a Saviour comes! One who is fully God but who is also fully man, one who identifies completely with me in order that He can take the responsibility of my sin upon myself.

He is sinless, protected by the Holy Spirit from the contamination of sin, by this virgin conception. This perfect man was perfectly God. He knew no sin. But God made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin, by taking the responsibility of our sin. He is not condemned, as He dies upon the cross, because of His own sin, but because He has identified so fully with me that He becomes me, in the eyes of the Father. As He hangs upon that tree, He bears the full weight of the punishment of my sin. He is God with us.

He is our great High Priest. He identifies with us so fully. He has experienced all the trials of our lives. He is moved with compassion towards us. He has loved us so much that He has given Himself as the sacrifice for our sin. His great desire is for our eternal good and well-being. He intercedes on our behalf before the Father. His purpose is to keep all those who, repenting of their sin, trust in Him for forgiveness. He is going to keep every single one of these people safe in the salvation that He has accomplished for all eternity. There is not one that will not be kept or preserved, to stand before the God of glory in eternity. There is not one who will be separated from Him. There is not one who will not be kept and preserved by His grace, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to stand before the throne of God in glory and to worship for eternity.

The great triune God. Here is Jesus, the Saviour, who is Immanuel, God with us. Two natures in one person. Here is the mystery and miracle of Christmas that brings true joy, that provides sure and certain hope of salvation. Here is the reason why we should be full of praise and thanksgiving. Here is the Saviour. Here is my Saviour, my God, come down for me, that I might ascend to His glorious presence and enjoy eternity, in fellowship with Him. Are you excited, full of awe, full of wonder?

November 21st 2021: Rhodri Brady

To view a recording of this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/tz3P1tRF_Us

“Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend,
    and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity.
Better is a neighbour who is near
    than a brother who is far away.”

Proverbs 27:10

This proverb shows us where we should go when things go wrong. It is found in the second collection of Solomon’s proverbs, gathered together by Hezekiah. We can learn three points from this:

  1. Disaster will strike
  2. Our instinct when disaster strikes will be to go to a relative who may live far away.
  3. The correction Solomon gives is for the Christian’s emphasis to instead be to be placed on friends – best summed up as the local church.

Disaster will strike. Not if, but when. This may seem a bit of a bleak outlook at first glance. For some, disaster striking is familiar. However, for others, you may have been relatively sheltered so far and may think it will continue like this. But Solomon says, ‘When disaster strikes.’ We need to be prepared for disaster. It is a reality in outlook because we are living in a fallen world. We are all going to die. Solomon asks, ‘What do we do in the light of the fact that we are all going to die?’ We also face the death of those around us. What will you do if their death comes? Where will you turn? There are other disaster, such as accidents, divorce, storms, suicide. Solomon says, it is not if disaster strikes, but ‘when.’

What perspective do you have when disaster comes? The Lord protects and cares for us but He has never promised to make us immune from disaster. You need a plan of action for when disaster strikes. Do you think about what happens right at the start of the Bible? We sinned, the curse of the fall, death. They are painful but shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Solomon’s second assumption: we may be keener to seek out relatives far away. How far will a disaster tempt you to travel for help? Solomon detected within himself and people he observed for people to neglect the church family in favour of others. It is better to prioritise the local church. Our instinct is to neglect the local church and go to neighbours, no matter how far off.

The way we act on a crisis is much more difficult to control than we think. We need to be prepared. In Solomon’s context we would be more willing to seek help from family members who live miles and miles away, rather than the local church. Or we may prefer to go to a self-help book or a YouTube video for advice, as opposed to a church family. We need to admit our bias. We are living in a very individualistic culture, where people often feel, ‘I don’t need church.’

The correction Solomon gives: instead of forsaking the local church and travelling away, a Christian’s emphasis should be placed on ‘friends, friends of your father and neighbours.’ In other words, the local church. Church members are friends, family and neighbours. There are three terms used here by Solomon, which, when placed in the context of the Bible’s teaching on church, should be seen as descriptions of church members.

Church members are friends. One way the Bible describes church family is as a group of friends. Our culture has kidnapped the word ‘friends’ to describe people who are all the same age, tastes, people who you choose. But the Bible has a much richer definition of friends. The Bible says that in the church there should be good friendship among believers. They have a unique unity because they all love and fear the Lord, they worship together. David speaks of one of his friends as,


 “A man, my equal,
    my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
    within God’s house we walked in the throng.
(Psalm 55:13-14)

Church members are our friends because we worship together. Church members are also friends because they are meant to share possessions, food, money (Acts). Church members are friends because they are meant to serve together, to work for the Lord, which is why Paul can talk of the Philippian believers as his friends. They had a partnership in the gospel.

Church members are friends because they pray for one another. In the book of Acts we see the church family meeting together for prayer, praying out loud for each other. Think how often Paul said to church members, ‘I prayed for you.’ Church members are friends because they shouldn’t keep a record of wrongs that have been done against them. Church members are friends because of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus is the friend of sinners. We can have this relationship as friends because He first loved us.

The next description of church family which Solomon uses is ‘friend of your father.’ Solomon is saying church members are family. When you become a Christian you are adopted into the family of God. Jesus told us to pray ‘Our Father.’ We’ve heard the Lord’s Prayer so many times, we skip over these words. Jesus says we can call ‘My Father, your Father.’ He says, ‘Let’s go together, to my Father, Our Father.’ God the Father is the Father of every single member of the church. The world says ‘blood is thicker than water,’ but baptismal water is thicker than blood.

Church members are neighbours, a word especially used in the books of Moses, especially when Moses gives the law to the people, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18).

Church members are our neighbours. Our culture describes our neighbour as a person who lives next door to you or in close proximity. The Bible sometimes uses the word in that way, but it has a much broader teaching on neighbours. The core concept in the Bible is church family are neighbours. Paul writes, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25) We are all members of one body. Neighbours – begin with church members and expand from there.

Solomon is stating not to neglect the church members we have been given. We must not neglect the church in any way. There is a practical element here. Do not forsake your church family, do not take away the privilege of helping you in a disaster. If you have people near you, from your local church, don’t pursue people on the internet you have never met, don’t rely on family who live miles and miles away. Prioritise church family.

We need to be able to discriminate between those who we should contact in a disaster. Church members should be our first port of call. As a church we must be ready to do that for our church family. Don’t neglect your church family, make the most of them.

We need to cultivate and work on our church relationships, support and encourage, share joy and sorrow, lovingly rebuke, share unity and fear of the Lord, show sacrificial service to one another.

Start with the small things – asking church family to help us, to call on them. When the big disaster comes, they will help you. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to cultivate the small things now? Whatever it might be, ask your church family for help. Pray for one another. What is the spirit of your prayer meetings? Do you have a close-knit fellowship going together to the throne of grace?

Do you live peaceful lives together as church members? Do we cover our each other’s sins in a good sense? As a family, we don’t keep a record of each other’s wrongs (1 Corinthians 13). When there are sins that need to be exposed, we have a choice to cover it with love or confront it. The only way love can cover wrongs is by the blood of Jesus. Instead, we often choose to harbour it, but that is detrimental (Proverbs 10:12).

The purpose of church discipline is to lead to repentance. Ultimately, the Lord Jesus Christ came to us when we weren’t His friends. When we were still His enemies, He called us His family, He called us His friends. He died for us. He left His Father’s house, heaven, to come to us, to save us. How amazing it was the Lord Jesus didn’t forsake us. When disaster struck us, He came to save us, even when it meant leaving the Father. The Father could never have been further from His Son then when He was on the cross, when His Son became sin in order to save us. That was the extent to what He was willing to go for us. We must accept and rejoice in this gift, repent of our sins and respond accordingly. We need to take the Lord Jesus as our example and live as He lived.

So, when disaster strikes, don’t forsake our friends, family or neighbours. Prioritise Penuel Baptist Chapel family. Call on them when disaster strikes. May the Lord Jesus enable us to look to Him, as the one who ultimately left everything in order to make us friends, family and neighbours.

November 14th 2021: John Mann

1 Samuel 3:11 – 4:11

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/hwXDavv0rik

1 Samuel 3:11 – 4:11

I love the Old Testament accounts and exploits of God’s people. Here, the nation of Israel is in a state of apostasy. We read at the end of the book of Judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6).

Today, people do what is right in their own eyes. God remained faithful to the Israelites, despite their foolishness. “Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.” (1 Samuel 3:11). Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the day, were wicked men. God pronounced a curse on the house of Eli because of his disobedience and his failure to control his sons (v.14).

Eli’s two sons are about to suffer the judgement of God. Poor Samuel was tasked with bearing bad news, telling Eli of God’s judgement. Even in this situation, the sovereign goodness of God works in His people. Eli came to acknowledge, even through his discipline, even through this difficult situation, that the sovereign goodness of God works ultimately for the good of His people. “So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.” (v.18).

There is an application for us already, at the start of this passage; God is always working out His overall plan to do us good, to work out His set purposes according to His constant grace and mercy. God is faithful. There are no accidental incidents on our lives. Our lives are ordained according to the set purpose of our sovereign God. Very often we may not fully recognise it. God is faithful and He is working our His purposes.

Fear of Eli’s response made Samuel initially shy away from giving Eli this message. But he realised it had to be declared openly and fully as it had been given to him, no matter what Eli’s response would be. The gospel of salvation is very often an offence to sinners. It exposes the condition of their hearts. It lays bare the corruption that lies within everyone of us. The doctrine of hell is an offence to sinners. The idea of eternal punishment goes against what they feel to be true of themselves. Preaching the full gospel in our day can often be a hard undertaking. It is not always easy to proclaim the full truth that God has entrusted to us. The gospel very often is watered down, even in the established church.

Eli indicates how seriously we must take God’s instructions, “And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” (1 Samuel 3:17). God will deal severely with those who do not preach truthfully, honestly and boldly. I believe that Samuel learned an important early lesson – it is not our place to edit the word of God or choose those things we feel are more acceptable, but to tell it as it is and leave God to deal with the reactions that come from it.

God blesses Samuel’s response, “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” (1 Samuel 3:19). God helps us to see that in our day, the words that are preached do not fall to the ground. We are promised God’s word will not return to Him void. That is the assurance we should have. Jesus said, “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-12). Warning people of coming judgement and hell takes great wisdom and tact. Jesus said, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16). We have to be truthful and speak of judgement and hell. Our witness must be urgent and not compromised. But it also has to be with love and tears.

God continued to use Samuel, “And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 3:20). Strangely, after being called by God, Samuel takes a back seat and is not mentioned in chapters 4-6, which switch to God’s sovereignty and His gracious dealings with His rebellious people. God’s grace was seen on countless occasions. Samuel did not go on holiday or take a sabbatical; he would still have been preaching. Sadly, the people weren’t listening or responding to God’s word. But God was still at work, working out His purposes.

The Israelites are about to engage in battle with the Philistines. The battle commences, the Philistines are victorious. In the wake of this stinging defeat the Israelites come up with the bright idea of getting the Ark of the Covenant, “And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it[ may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” (1 Samuel 4:3).

When the Ark of the Covenant arrived, the Israelites gave a great shout, “As soon as the Ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.” (1 Samuel 4:5). The Philistines shake in their shoes. The wonders of what God had done in Egypt have reached their ears, now this God had come to the Israelites. However, the Philistines’ morale is restored (v.9). The battle continues, but this time the Israelites are not just beaten but thrashed (v.10). Hophni and Phinehas died. It’s a bloodbath, gruesome, awful.

The Israelites were on the receiving end. Why? Because they had taken the Ark of the Covenant into battle. They didn’t so much want God as the box that He was in. They have rejected God and gone their own way. They are facing an enemy and are going in their own strength, led by Hophni and Phinehas, who dishonoured the name of Yahweh. The called for the ‘magic box’, a talisman. Their faith is no more than superstition. God will not be manipulated or manoeuvred.

Sadly, even within churches of our day, people want to use the name of Jesus as a means to an end. With so-called faith they expect to get what they want from God – their health and their wealth. Their hearts have little consideration for the glory of the name of Jesus. Their lives do little to honour His name, but they still expect an answer when the battle heats up, when opposition comes or when they face difficulties.

Remember what Jesus said, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:22-23).

Our God is not a God who operates at our beck and call. We can’t manipulate or mould God into our way of thinking. This is our sovereign God who is awesome in His majesty. He cannot, and will not, be trifled with. This is the reality of many today, who think God is there for their convenience, when it suits them.

What a god of grace He is. When His people oppose Him, when they blaspheme the name of Jesus, when they scorn and criticise, God, in His grace and mercy, withholds His hand of judgement, causes the sun to shine on the righteous and the unrighteous. He sends rain on the just and the unjust. Our God is a God of remarkable grace and patience. I believe it is only when people of our day seek God as He really is, in all the wonder of His being, in all the purity and perfection and the awesomeness and power of our God, that our nation will ever change and be lifted out of the pit that it has put itself in.

34,000 soldiers lay dead on a gruesome, blood-filled battlefield. The enemies rejoice. Often, the church seems so weak against the enemy. It appears it is all over for the Israelites. But that is to forget God is working through all circumstances. He foretold the deaths of Hophni and Phinehas (chapter 2). Now God is bringing His judgement to pass. But even in this disaster, God was working out His purpose for His chosen people. God always keeps His word and His intentions are always carried out. Jesus said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).

There are battles in the life of the church, in our own personal lives. We may feel the battle is lost, we may feel discouraged, until God reminds us not to lose sight of His sovereignty and purposes. God uses our circumstances, even the enemy against us, to remove the dross and refine us. Eli is feeling the discipline and judgement. But God’s promises are true and will always come to pass. There has been a great battle and a great defeat, but this is not the end.

Two thousand years ago, on a hill outside of Jerusalem, another battle was fought, a greater battle. It appeared there that the enemy had the upper hand, it seemed that Satan had achieved his ultimate purpose – to destroy God’s Messiah, along with His plan of salvation.

The enemies of God were rejoicing as they stood at the cross and saw what was happening, as they mocked and scorned, convinced that their victory was complete. The hero of the church was captured, humiliated, hanging on a Roman cross. It appeared this gruesome, blood-soaked battlefield was the end, not only of the Lord Jesus Christ but also His church. But God’s plan was being fulfilled and His purpose was being carried out. Out of this apparent defeat came a glorious and final victory – the enemy of our souls destroyed forever. Sin destroyed forever. Death destroyed forever. Pain, suffering, illness, conflict, sadness, loneliness, crying, weeping, all ultimately destroyed forever.

This was no defeat. At Calvary it was a glorious victory. We are told to never judge by appearances. It appeared it was all over for the Israelites. But God had not deserted them. He was ordering events, guiding circumstances, controlling the outcome, in order that their future might be more certain, that they might know a stronger future, that they might be drawn ever closer to Him, that their future might be more faithful, that their walk with Him might be deeper and closer.

There may be times when we appear to be losing the battle. There may be times when our enemy seems to be winning. There are times when we lose some battles, when we foolishly rely upon our own strengths, thinking we can make it by our own resources. We find, to our own cost, that our strength is completely insufficient. There are times when we lose these battles. But God is always in control. We lose some battles, but the war is already won. The Lord Jesus Christ has triumphed on Calvary and those who are in Him, who are in Christ Jesus, looking alone to Him for their salvation, are safe and secure, because we are lon the victory side.

God hadn’t finished with the Israelites, this wasn’t the end. God hasn’t finished with us. If you are believing and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing the difficulties, knowing the battles, feeling the weakness, God hasn’t finished with you yet. His perfect, gracious, unstoppable intention was to lead His people, the Israelites, to a greater knowledge of Himself. His unstoppable intention in your life and mine is to lead us on to a greater Christ-likeness in this life, but then, ultimately, to perfect Christ-likeness in eternity.

So, when you are feeling the heat of the battle, look to Christ because He hasn’t finished with us. We are still on the victory side and the best is yet to come.

November 7th 2021: Gaius Douglas

2 Timothy 1:8-12

You can view this service on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/QAcJNtmLy1w

“Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me,” (2 Timothy 1:8).

The last time I spoke about being a living example of our great Lord and Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ. This morning, the one main question I would like to ask is, ‘What may cause us to be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ?’ We will explore:

The uncertainty which may cause us to feel ashamed or embarrassed;
the food that will enable us to thrive or fail;
how can I be bold for Christ?

The uncertainty which may cause us to feel ashamed or embarrassed:

The word ashamed means to be embarrassed, to feel guilty about something. Have you ever been embarrassed about the Lord Jesus Christ? There are times in our lives when we’ve experienced it. When I was younger, at about 15, I was already taking Sunday School classes and preaching at youth camps. I began preaching just before I was 21. I remember being invited to preach at a day event in London. In the afternoon I was invited to an open-air outreach at Kew Gardens. I felt nervous at the thought of speaking out in the open, to non-believers, being judged. I was not ashamed but embarrassed to share in public. Giving out tracts was challenging. Then, I was called upon to speak to everyone. I spoke on John 3:16. Over the years I continued to speak at open-air missions, but it was never easy.

Paul is saying to Timothy, ‘Do not be ashamed of the testimony of Jesus Christ, wherever you are, in whatever circumstances. Paul says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Paul, as soon as he was taken out of prison, began preaching again. If we were told not to preach, what would you do? Continue to preach God’s word because it is the power of God! Because we are in Christ, we have to stand up for God’s word. Paul says, “Do not be ashamed.”

One of the reasons we may be ashamed is our uncertain foundation. We are reminded in Isaiah 28:16, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.” We are built on the foundation of Christ, the solid rock, an unshakeable foundation. What an awesome foundation we have – built on Jesus Christ, the rock! Christ is the only one who has changed you and brought you to His salvation. We are saved by grace. We are living stones. How precious! He is the source of your life and my life. He is the strength of your life and mine.

“Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

How can we be ashamed! What a gospel, what a hope!

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:2

How blessed we are! We exercise our faith in Him. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16). It is important to stand up for Jesus whenever we can.


Food that will either cause our testimony to thrive or hinder

This is really dependent on how we are feeling and with whom we are mixing. The Corinthians were tainted by men’s philosophies and mixing it with the Word of God. They denied the Resurrection. We have to be very careful what we say. We must never deny the power and authority of God, that we do not nod in agreement to things which go against God’s Word. When we start mixing with people who want nothing to do with Christ, don’t be deceived.

What should we do to thrive? Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5).

If you want to live for Christ, to glorify Him, to be a living example, you have to abide in Christ, to live for Him, to stay close to Him, to feed upon His word. Abide in Him. “Taste of Him, Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (Psalm 34:8).

“Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods,
So is my beloved among the sons.
I sat down in his shade with great delight,
And his fruit was sweet to my taste.”

Song of Songs 2:3

This is where we feed, that we might not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

Matt Redmond: Abide in Me https://youtu.be/D1nuDXZrp9k

How can I be bold in Christ?

Because I am abiding in the One who will never let me go, who will never leave me or forsake me, who will never turn away from me, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. That love, that abiding, is based on the finished work of Calvary’s cross, when He took my sin, when He bore my sorrows, when He bore my shame, so that I will not be ashamed of His word.

He now says, ‘Stand firm in the liberty of the Word I have given you, of the gospel of Jesus Christ.’ Paul unashamedly says, I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (2 Timothy 1:12). Very shortly, he was going to be beheaded. You can imagine him saying, unashamedly before Nero, ‘I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep the salvation that He has given to me, to keep the faith that He has given to me, and I will not let Him down.’ And unashamedly he would walk out before Nero, before all those, and he would say to Timothy, ‘Do not be ashamed of the testimony, do not be ashamed of me, do not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.’

Let me tell you something, we have got to stand up for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The world hates the Lord, and it is going to hate us. But the Word is the very power unto salvation to any who believe. If you believe and trust Him, it is the power that upholds you, it is the power that keeps you, it is the power that drives you, it is the power that is going to take you right up to glory.

His love will never let you go. Be assured, if you know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, He is encouraging you to abide in Him, to trust in Him, to feed upon Him, to live in Him.

October 31st 2021: Ian Middlemist

You can view this service on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/t6N6c5-jETw

Romans 3:21-31

A man kneels before a woman, a little box in his hand. A secret is to be revealed. An announcement is to be made. Our God reveals to us, like a secret, that He loves us beyond measure. We treat it like a secret, but it never is. He loves His people so much that He is willing to send His only Son for them. In due course He would be revealed – the Lord Jesus Christ. I wonder if you ever doubt that God loves you? That you are loved beyond all measure? Is it time for that secret to be revealed to you?

I see, in our reading this morning in Romans chapter 3, ‘previously, presently and meanwhile.’

Previously.
We read that God had passed over sins. I am praying that you will receive an assurance of the love of God that your sins are forgiven. The cross alone is where we receive that forgiveness. We need to understand a few things about how justice works. We need to be forgiven of our sins. It is God’s justice that must be satisfied. The payment is to be made to God. Christ gives us the sacrifice that satisfies the justice of God. He has never ignored sin. The opening chapters of this book proves that beyond measure. Our great concern this morning should not be how happy we can be, but the righteousness of God. It is supremely seen in the cross of Jesus.

How is it that sinners before Jesus Christ could be dealt with in any gracious way with God? Justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” (Romans 3:24-25). You and I need to know that the God who has justified us, is just, that He is perfectly righteous – always has been and always will be.

Is the cross the only way that anyone can be right in God’s sight? Yes! So how did God deal with sin before the cross? What did believing people in the Old Testament have to look to? We can see the wondrous cross of Jesus today. They didn’t have that. They did have a system of sacrifices though. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter into a secret place – one person on behalf of others. They would represent those who believed in the Lord. It was concerned with making atonement between holy and unholy.

We need atonement. The High Priest enters into the Holy of Holies. He was appointed by God. There, he would take the blood of an animal, symbolically, so that humans would not be killed. The animal’s blood would be sprinkled on the mercy seat. At that moment, sins were atoned, wiped away. We need our sins to be wiped away in God’s justice system.

This sacrificial system was to satisfy the consciences of the believers in Old Testament times. No animal is sufficient to pay the price of a human being. No animal could possibly match-up in God’s sight. The perfect human sacrifice offering still had to come. So, God, in the Old Testament, is seen as waiting, anticipating a better sacrifice. Therefore, He was satisfied to deal with sinners in the Old Testament times in grace and mercy. God knew a better sacrifice was coming, a human being who was perfect. I don’t know how much the Old Testament believers knew of this. It was still quite secretive to them. But God knew, and that’s what mattered. That’s all that matters to us today. God is just.

That was previously. Let’s come to ‘meanwhile.’ Now. God shows us His righteousness. We come to the present day. The cross is essential, and always has been essential, to deal sufficiently with our present-day problem, with our concern. What is the problem, our concern? We could say that the problem we have is that we are sinners. In one sense, that is the problem; we have broken God’s law. As soon as you were conceived you started to add to the record of wrongs, because you have not been righteous. We are all utterly and completely lost. We cannot cover over our sins ourselves. We can’t redefine what sin is.

Propitiation is about the appeasement and satisfaction of God and His righteousness. Our great problem is not only sin. The great issue in this letter is that God is rightly angry with our sin. Propitiation, as the means of atonement, is all about the removal of God’s wrath. God Himself provided for His wrath. He offered up His own beloved Son on the cross. He provided from within Himself. The cross, the sacrifice, covers our sins. God has done that which He was always willing to do. John 3:16.

God makes atonement for you and I. His justice is now satisfied. His wrath is utterly removed forever because of the cross of Jesus. It is a perfect sacrifice and complete. Why? Because it came from God. It wasn’t human intervention. We need to repent of our sins. We first and foremost need to bring them to the cross of propitiation. We need to focus on God, not our sins. When we come to the communion table don’t focus on sins but the cross of Jesus.

We know we are justified. Do you know you are saved by the love of God? Saved from the wrath of God? It is impossible not to be a sinner. Paul says throughout this letter, up to this point, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). You can’t ignore it. It is the glory of God we need to be concerned with. Are you saved? Do you have that assurance? Where do you receive that assurance? Look at Him. Place your faith afresh in Him. See the crucifixion of Jesus.

God the Father provided Him for you, a public demonstration of the love of God. The believers of olden time waited. The sacrifice was hidden away. We are about making public that which has been revealed to us. He was “put forward” (v25). It is a public presentation. Have you ever wondered why God chose the means of crucifixion to pay the blood price for our sins, why it didn’t take place in the Holy of Holies? Why, on a Roman cross, Christ dies, naked and utterly humiliated? Why was He placed so high? For all to see. He had nails through His hand and feet, with His feet just out of reach so no-one could touch or feel the victim.

God publicly displayed the crucified Son for all to see. It was a public declaration that your sins are atoned for. We can walk with Him in purpose and grace. God’s Son was crucified for you. It is a decisive demonstration. He did it! What was required, occurred. It was His initiative, so you can trust it. He decided the plan of salvation for you. He did it!

October 24th 2021: Roger Thomas

You may view this service on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/88omF4CHocA

2 Kings 5:1-19: The Healing of Naaman

This account happened about 850 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, during the times of the kings of Israel, with Israel in the North and Judah in the South. Naaman was commander of the army of the King of Syria (v1). Syria was to the north-east of Israel. Naaman was highly respected by the king. Why? He had defeated the enemies of Syria. But behind this military success was God. God rules over the nations.

Naaman was a mighty man of valour, strong and brave. However, at some point he caught leprosy, a serious illness, incurable at the time. With time, the body deteriorates, the flesh is eaten away.

During this time, the Syrians had gone out on raids and took captive a young girl who became a servant of Naaman’s wife. Here we see God at work, drawing Naaman into a relationship with Himself. Through these things that had happened, in God’s over-arching providence, He was drawing Naaman to Himself. In verse 3 the young girl says, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” Samaria was the northern capital of Israel. This young girl, a prisoner, shows no bitterness. There is love towards her captors. Her faith is very strong. She believes, through Elisha, Naaman could be healed from this disease. She is so gracious and confident.

Naaman’s wife shares this with Naaman, and he, in turn, shares it with the king. The king tells Naaman to go and gives him a letter to give to the king of Israel, saying, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” Naaman goes to Samaria, taking the letter. He goes with his chariots and servants. He also takes 340 kg of silver, 68kg of gold – a huge amount, and 10 changes of clothing. This was a substantial gift, telling us how rich Naaman was.

In Samaria, Naaman sees the king, who read the contents of the letter (v6). The response of the king was that Naaman was asking him to do the impossible. Panic set in; he is dealing with a powerful king. Notice, he doesn’t think about Elisha or about God. The prophet Elisha hears the king’s response and sends a message to him, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” (v8).

Naaman comes to Elisha in Samaria, the same city. Naaman, a mighty man of valour, stood at the door of Elisha’s house, a very humble house. He stood outside with chariots, servants and gifts. Instead of going out, Elisha sends a messenger (v10), telling Naaman to go and wash in the River Jordan 7 times, and he would be healed. Naaman was a very proud man; success had made him proud. He had expected to see Elisha. Instead of doing what Elisha told him to do, he travelled back to Syria, hundreds of miles away. He despises Israel and wants to wash in the rivers at home. God uses the servant (v13) who knows that because Naaman has been asked to do something so simplistic, he finds it insulting. He encourages him to do as the prophet says.

Naaman then travels to the River Jordan and dips himself 7 times. After the 7th occasion his flesh was restored, like that of a little child (v14). Not only did Naaman have physical cleansing, but he also had spiritual cleansing of his sins. The outward cleansing was pointing to a spiritual cleansing of the heart; his soul had been cleansed of its sins. How do we know? By the spiritual fruit we can see in his life (verses 15-18). He went back to Elisha and notice four things:

  1. He now has faith, “Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel,” (v.15). He believes the God of Israel is the true and only God. That’s faith!
  2. He wants to give a gift he has brought with him to Elisha. He feels great gratitude to Elisha, “So accept now a present from your servant.” (v.15). But Elisha refuses. He presses upon Elisha to receive the gift, but Elisha continues to refuse.
  3. Naaman wants to worship God and asks Elisha for two mule loads of earth so he can build an altar in Syria to offer burnt offerings, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord.” (v17).
  4. Notice there is conviction of sin, “In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” (v18).

There was a great friendship between Naaman and the king. When the king went to worship Rimmon, the king would lean on him and Naaman would worship Rimmon too. Naaman says when he returns, he will bow down to Rimmon, not to worship, but in respect for the king. He asks Elisha for forgiveness for that, for God’s forgiveness. Elisha says, “Go in peace.”

We see the fruit. Naaman hasn’t just been cleansed physically, but also spiritually. Naaman has come to know God personally. Let’s apply this to ourselves. Have we each come to know God personally, the God of the Bible, the only God? Have we had a spiritual cleansing from God? Each of us needs forgiveness. Before God we are sinful. We need spiritual cleansing.

How do we have our sins washed away? There is a Jordan we need to wash in. We need to immerse ourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to believe the gospel, the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2,000 years ago, in order that you and I could have spiritual cleansing, God came down to Earth as a man. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, He never sinned. He kept the commandments of God. On the cross He took all our sins upon Himself. He suffered the punishment of our sin, He suffered our hell, on the cross of Calvary. He shed His blood. He died paying that penalty. He was buried and on the third day God rose Him from the dead. That’s the Good News. That is what God did for me and you in order that we might have our sins cleansed.

But we have a responsibility – we have to believe that message. We have to believe each fact of the gospel – that Jesus is God’s Son, that He was sinless, that He kept the law, that He took our sin upon Himself, that he suffered our penalty, that He died, that he was risen from the dead. We have to believe that message.

We have to ask God to forgive us, to cleanse us, based on the work Jesus Christ did on the cross. When we believe that message, when we believe the gospel, and only then, God will forgive us our sins. God will wash our sins away through the blood of Jesus Christ. When we believe that message we become joined to Christ. We become a child of God and God comes to live in us by the Holy Spirit.  

When we believe this message God cleanses us from our sins. He comes to live in us by the Holy Spirit. We come to know God, become a child of God. The Holy Spirit changes us and makes us more Christ-like, creating fruit in us – worship, praise of God, thanksgiving, conviction of sin and repentance. We don’t want to live the ways we used to live, we want to live the way God wants us to live.

When we leave this world God, through death or when Christ returns, He will take us to be with Him in heaven and with all the saints, for eternity. Have we gone to the Jordan? Have we believed the gospel? Have we believed in Jesus Christ?

October 17th 2021: Gaius Douglas

You may view this service on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/XYEJ-zKgmow

1 Timothy 4:12-16.

This is a wonderful book. I am truly blessed reading the Word, ready to minister at any time. This passage of scripture is about being a living example. We have just heard about the statement of Faith (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nxq0BG5K5p8&t=229s ). Do we believe in the basic principle the Lord Jesus has died and is coming back? Do we believe this is the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation? Yes! Whether we accept it is another matter. Whether we walk in the ways of it is a different matter.

God has revealed His truth to us. We don’t always want to believe what it says. Isaiah says we have turned ourselves to our own ways. Paul is writing to Timothy, his son in the faith. He says, ‘I want you to be a living example to the church.’ Paul was writing from a place called Macedonia and he had placed Timothy, a young pastor, in the church there in Ephesus. Paul wrote a letter to the Ephesians. I believe it is the second to last letter he wrote.

Paul has very little negativity, if any at all, to the church at Ephesus. He commends their faith. He blesses them for what they stand for. He rejoices in what they stand for. We also know, in Revelation 2, it is the first letter from the Spirit of God. The Spirit of the Lord speaks to the church of the Ephesians and commends them for their conduct and their walk. But one thing He had against them; they have lost their first love.

Paul instructed Timothy to go to this church because it had doctrinal issues. They had issues where their conduct within the church was not according to scripture. Timothy, this young pastor, was half Greek and half Jew. His grandmother and mother were Jews. We read in second Timothy that his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice brought him up in the truth of scripture. They taught him the truth of scripture. I rejoice in the fact that I had a mother who loved the Lord so much that she spent day and night teaching me scripture, being an example in keeping with God’s Word. We should relish being an example to our children and grandchildren, to be an example to others, to live a life which is in keeping with God’s Word. It is such a blessing when this happens.

Paul wants Timothy to be an example to the believers. We can’t be an example to others if we can’t show love to one another. How can I share the gospel if I hate my brother? How can I share the gospel if I shake someone’s hand, but my heart is far from them? Paul wants Timothy to be a living example. But Timothy is young and there were elders who looked down on him, thinking of him as a young whippersnapper telling them what to do. Paul says look to the one who is the example. Paul writes, “Be imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). In Ephesians he says be an example of God.

Who are you imitating? Who are you following? Who am I following? Do I go out and out to tell others I belong to Christ? Who are you? Do you belong to Christ? Are you following Him? The Lord Jesus Christ says, “Follow me and I will make you.” He was and will always be the living example (John 6:38, John 12, John 4:34). It was always about God the Father, never about Him. He went to a wedding feast. He should have been the guest of honour but He was not. He sat there because He was doing the will of the Father. He never sought fame for Himself. How many Christians like a pat on the back? We are the body of Jesus Christ. We are members of the body of Jesus Christ, that wonderful body, paid for at such a great price.

Paul wants Timothy to go and be a living example in word, in deed, in manner of life, in conversation. In all of these things follow Him, not me. Jesus Christ delighted to do the will of the Lord God. (John 17, Psalm 40). This is what he wants us to do.

Titles associated with Jesus.

When we look at the gospel of John, chapter 6, He says, ‘I am the living bread, eat of me.’ What have we been feeding on this morning? Are we waiting to come to chapel to delight the Lord, to meet with other Christians? We have the capacity to delight the Lord in whatever we are doing, living for Him. Jesus delighted the Lord wherever He went. What are you feeding on? In the wilderness the Lord provided bread from heaven for the Israelites. After a while they got fed up with it. Are you fed up because you think the way of God isn’t relevant today?

He is not only bread to feed on, He is also the living water. Jeremiah was told to eat the bread and it sufficed him. Ezekiel was told to be a living example, doing many things for God, to show the people what God was telling them. The Lord says, ‘Eat of me, you will never hunger. Drink of me, you will never thirst.’

He is the living Word. He says ‘I will provide you with a Word which will sustain you, which will keep you. In Hebrews 4:12 we read, “For the Word of God is living powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” I believe this with all my heart and with all my soul. It has sustained me throughout my life, forever and ever because it is the Word of God. And it is able to do the same for you. The way of God sustains us forever. You can live in the power, the strength that is here, in the Bible.

Christ gives us a new name. We have a new name, a new title, a new calling. We belong to Christ. The salvation we have Christ has given us. He has breathed into us eternal life. Man became a living soul (Genesis 1:7). We read in Ephesians 2:1, God has breathed into us and we are living souls. Are you alive this morning? Why? Because you have confessed Christ as your Saviour.

Because He lives, we are to be a living testimony in our home, on the phone, in our community. He continues to transform us every day. We are temples of the Holy Spirit of God. We are redeemed by His precious blood. We are no longer our own, we are alive to God.

Paul wants Timothy to be a living example to the church, “In word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.’ (1 Timothy 4:12). This is your life. How am I meant to live when I leave this church? When we go out, there will be challenges. We are fighting a battle against the world, flesh and the Devil. But God has given us the power, the ability, the wisdom and His Word. He has given us the armour. He says, ‘Put on the armour of God that you will be able to stand, that you will be able to fight all the things that will come against you which will take you away and prevent you from being a living example for me, for my glory, for my praise.’ Amen.

October 10th 2021: Norman Gilbert

You may view this service on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/F14W2BQOy1w

Philippians 1:3-8 Characteristics of a Christian

In this passage of scripture we see something of the characteristics of what should be seen in a Christian’s life: thankfulness, joy, perseverance in our Christian walk of faith with Christ.

Joy should be evident in the life of a Christian, as well as thankfulness. Paul is saying we are a people who are thankful. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is filled with thanks and joy. Paul is in prison, in terrible conditions. He has people who have been undermining his teaching, yet he wants people to be thankful and full of joy. He is a man of prayer. If people don’t talk to the Father, there is a breakdown in communication. Paul is thankful for the church at Philippi – it displays something of the goodness of God (v3).

Paul was the instrument God used to establish the church at Philippi. He preached and sowed the seed, God gave the increase. He opened the heart of Lydia, the young lady who was possessed by a demon and the prison officer. When Paul ponders and reflects on the church at Philippi he rejoices and gives thanks to God, who works on the heart. God, by His Holy Spirit, begins to work in a person’s heart. God is merciful and gracious.

Paul gives thanks to God for mercies (v3-4). Paul remembers the goodness this church has done for him. He remembers the love they have expressed towards him. They were only displaying the love the Lord Jesus Christ had shown them. James reminds us that, ‘Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17). Everything which takes places, which shows the mercy of God, is because of the love He bestows on upon people.

Our thanks should always start God-wards. Paul, even in the hardships he has known, he was able to give joyful thanks. He remembers that God has moved these people in Philippi. It does his heart good. When he prays, he prays with thankfulness and joy (verse 4). Here is a man who is joyful, who speaks about a personal God, ‘My God,’ (v.3).

Martin Luther stated, ‘Christianity is a matter of personal pronouns.’ We personally know Jesus Christ died for my sins. Paul, in prison, in horrendous conditions, gives praise and thanks to God. As insignificant as he may seem in prison, he knows the Creator of this world is concerned with him and the church at Philippi. He is in a privileged position. He has a personal God. Right at the start of scripture, in Genesis, God says, “I will be your God and you will be My people.”

We enter into the family of God by personal experience and personal faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul, in this letter, says it is about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There should be joy and rejoicing in all our circumstances. Circumstances do not blur our view of Jesus Christ because the joy that God gives us is not a natural joy. It is a fruit of the Spirit, because of what He has done within our hearts.

Paul, when he thinks of the Philippian church, is full of joy and thankfulness. From the first days till now, Paul thanks God for the fellowship – real sharing and partnership, real interaction. Although not a rich church, they supported him and prayed for him. Paul now sees there is perseverance with this church. His confidence is that God, who began a good work, will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Paul’s fellowship was in the gospel (v5). God’s work began even before the foundation of this world. This church in Philippi began before the world began.

To encourage us, when we are feeling we are treading on water, remember the work He began, He will complete (v6). Only the grace of God gets us through difficult times. We are going to be kept to the end if we have got faith in Jesus Christ. The work which God began will be complete. We are kept by the power of God. The sheep He calls are the sheep He keeps, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27). We trust Him for today and leave tomorrow in His hands. He keeps us to the day of Jesus Christ. There is a day coming when Jesus Christ will return.

He holds them in His heart (v7). There is a solidarity. They are one in the gospel. Paul says there is one church. He wants to rejoice in the goodness of God to them. Paul longs for them and has a deep affection for them (v8). He says there may be dark days ahead, but God is in control (Philippians 4:6). God knows the future (4:11). Whatever state we are in, God is the preserver and the protector. He is in control. We are not to be anxious about tomorrow.

Paul is writing a personal letter to the church at Roch. This year has been so hard. It has been the hardest time for many of us in our lifetime. Pray we will be those who trust in God, who are able to manifest the joy that can only be found in Jesus Christ – a joy and peace to those who put their faith in Him.