March 10th 2019: Gaius Douglas

Gaius-March19Hebrews 12:1-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 3rd 2019: Gareth Edwards

20991230_1910562232550470_632853575_oExodus 20:4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 24th 2019: Thomas Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 17th 2019: Gerald Tait

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

Isaiah 40:12-14, 18-26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 10th 2019: Ian Jones

Ian Jones-Feb 19

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

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

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

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

Luke gives us several examples of how the Word grew:

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

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

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

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

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

 

February 3rd 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwrds-Feb 19

‘You shall have no other gods before me.’ Exodus 20:3

The first four commandments are about our relationship with God and lay the foundation for the remaining six, which refer to our relationship with others. To be right with God is our first priority, it gives the basis on which we can be right with others. Even within the first four commandments there is a logical progression. The first commandment acts as a cornerstone on which the rest are constructed. ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3) is the prime directive for life.

Each of the commandments is expressed as a negative, ‘You shall not.’ The purpose of the commandments being presented in negative language is to underline a positive. The first commandment tells us that we are to worship God alone. God is demanding an exclusive commitment to Him alone. All must be put aside (verse 5). The Lord speaks about Himself as being a jealous God. He will not share us with anyone or anything else. God is jealous for His people. They are His, they belong to no other. He is jealous for all His creation. Therefore, the devotion of our lives in worship belongs uniquely to God (Isaiah 42:8).

Why is this so? There are no other gods. He is the only supreme God (Isaiah 44:6). There are no other gods, but men invent them. When men refuse to worship the true God they make false ones. They have a natural desire to worship. If they refuse to worship the one true God, they will worship a lie (Romans 1). There are no gods – just the foolish rebellion of men (1 Corinthians 8:4). God expects the exclusive worship of our lives. He alone is deserving of worship.

He alone has done all. The Ten Commandments are set against the context of God saving Israel against tyranny (verse 2). They were to worship God not only because of who He is, but also because of what He has done for them. For them and for us there is nothing better than to spend our lives in the worship of the one who gave us life in the first place, and whose grace has brought us spiritual life through the death of His Son at Calvary.

It’s unjust and ungrateful that we should give away our worship to anyone but God. It is He who gives us life, He who gives us our daily blessings, He who gives us new birth and eternal life.

What are the implications of the fist commandment?

  1. The Almighty is God alone, therefore we should render to Him alone the adoration and worship of our lives. This is the very purpose of our existence – to fulfil a calling to worship God and to give to Him the unadulterated commitment of all we have. The Westminster Confession begins ‘The chief end of man is the glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.’

Psalm 144:15. There’s nothing more worthwhile then the worship of the triune God in every part of our lives. It is a particular grace and blessing of God that we come together to enjoy worshipping Him. That’s the purpose of this day, a day set apart in which we come together to glorify His name and to enjoy Him. Did you come this Sunday morning to have the privilege of worshipping God and to enjoy Him, to meet with Him? The songs and sermon are the means to the end, to enjoying God.

We were made to know God. When we sacrifice our lives for His glory we experience what it means to be truly human. This commandment is for our blessing.

  1. What fools men are. They will worship everything and anything rather than the one true God. There are those who will worship idols – the gods of man’s imagination. Romans 1:21-23. God declares men either worship Him or waste their lives in the pursuit of imaginary gods. Those who reject Him come under His curse. Malachi 2:2.

Men, in their sin, reject God and are rejected by Him. Our nation is under the curse of God. The lives of our friends and family members are under the curse of God because in their sinful rebellion they do not worship Him. They have gods of their own imagination and creation. There are those who will think they are so intellectually complete that they think they are wise and can look disdainfully down on us. Were we once not with them – devoted to other gods? Did not God, in His grace and mercy, have compassion on us and open our eyes to see, open our ears to hear and open our hearts to know Christ? How gracious God has dealt with us. He has called us to Himself. Will we not pray for our friends, our family, the people of Roch, of Wales, Europe and the world, that God will have mercy upon them as He has mercy on us? Their greatest need is to know Him, to know that there is but one God and that He is to be worshipped for who He is and what He has done. Will we not tell them, preach to them, by the lives we live, declaring here is the Lord Almighty, and you must know and worship Him, have your sins forgiven? Man is a fool until God’s grace comes.

  1. You cannot worship God half-heartedly. He demands our all (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30. He’s unwilling to share this with anyone else. This doesn’t mean we can’t serve our community and others. What it means is it’s shaped by our desire to glorify God in all that we do. In our love for our family, to do a good job of work, primarily our deepest desire in doing all of these things is that He will be glorified. In all we do we are to have a single-minded dedication to the Lord which puts Him first, above all else. We must guard against doing anything in the name of the Lord which, in fact, we are doing for ourselves, for our own praise. That is a denial of the first Commandment. We cannot play games with God. This is the most serious business, the worship of the Lord Almighty. Because it is so serious we need the help of God, God the Holy Spirit, when we fail in this duty, which we so often do. We need to know the saving grace that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh gracious God, grant to me the strength, the faith, the desire to honour you in all things. You are worthy to be praised.

January 13th 2019: Roger Thomas

roger thomas-jan19Mark 5:1-20

The Gadarene man possessed by demons.

This incident happened quite early on in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Prior to this event, Jesus was teaching on the shore of Galilee. He taught thousands through parables. There were so many people there, pressing upon Him, so He had to go on to a boat, facing the shore, to continue teaching the people. In the evening, Jesus and His disciples crossed from the western shore to the eastern shore. They arrived in the country of the Gadarenes. Gadara and nine other cities in the area formed a region known as the Decapolis (In Greek, Deka means ‘ten’ and ‘polis’ means ‘cities’). Most of this region was to the east side of the Jordan River and was a Greco-Roman region.

The Gentiles here kept pigs. To the Jews a pig was an unclean animal; Jews would never keep pigs. To the Gentiles, keeping pigs was no problem.

Jesus and His disciples came to the country of Gadarene. As soon as they arrived a man possessed by demons came out to meet them. He was in a pitiful condition. Reading of this story in Matthew and Luke, as well as Mark, we learn he was a man possessed by demons. A demon is a fallen angel. After the angels were created perfect by God some rebelled against God and were thrown out of heaven. Their chief is the devil. Ephesians 2 tells us they dwell in the air. But in this passage we can also see they live in men, animals or a region. This man was possessed by many demons, a legion. A legion was a name for a division of the Roman army made up of 6000 soldiers, therefore this man had many demons living in him. What was the effect of this possession on the man? Luke says he didn’t live in a house but in the tombs, naked. He was ferocious, a dangerous man. Matthew says that people would avoid going near where he lived because he was so dangerous. He was so strong that he was able to break his shackles and chains into pieces. He’d been like that for a long time. Imagine what he must have looked like. Satan is full of malice, full of hatred. He wants to destroy people. That’s what Revelation 11 tells us. The devil had destroyed the life of this man.

The man knew exactly who Jesus was, calling Him ‘Jesus, Son of the Most High God’ (Mark 5:7). The demons know who Jesus is, they didn’t have any doubt.

Notice the authority Jesus has over these demons. As we go through the passage, we see that when the demon-possessed man saw Jesus he ran and worshipped Him. This man, who no-one could control, bowed down and worshipped Jesus. He cried out, ‘Have you come here to torment us before the time?’ (Matthew 8:29). He is referring to the end of time, when demons will be cast into hell. The demons were worried Jesus would do this now. They begged Him not to do this now, saying, ‘Send us to the pigs; let us enter them’ (Mark 5:12). They did not want to be sent out of the country. They begged Jesus that they enter the pigs, knowing that they needed His permission for this to happen. They could not do it without Jesus’ authority. They had to leave the possessed man but did not wanted to stay in the area. The devil can only do what God allows him to do. Jesus is Lord of kings, rulers, people, angels, over demons and the devil.

Notice the change in this man. After the demons left the man and went into the pigs – 2,000 pigs, they ran violently. Again, see the character of the devil, the stamp of Satan in the pigs as they ran violently into the sea. The people, told by those looking after the pigs what had happened, ‘saw the demon-possessed man … sitting there, clothed and in his right mind’ (Mark 5:15). What a transformation! Jesus had released him from the grip of the evil one. More than that, Jesus had given him new life, He had put spiritual life into his heart. He was born-again. The Holy Spirit had come to live in his heart. He had come to know God. This is why Jesus Christ had crossed the lake – in order to save this man. He was in a Greco-Roman region. The gospel wasn’t only for Jews, the gospel would be for the whole world. The man sat at the feet of Jesus in his right mind. It shows what Jesus can do with a man, what Jesus can do with our society. Do we believe, like this man, that Jesus is the Son of God? Do we believe the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ? To be right with God, to be forgiven of our sins, we need to believe the message of the gospel. The power of Christ gives hope. Look at the change in this man. If we’re not a Christian, we can become a Christian. If we’re a Christian struggling with life, Jesus gives hope.

Look at the response of the people of Gadara, ‘they were afraid’ (Mark 5:15). When the people saw the man they were afraid. Why? There was an awareness in their hearts that something supernatural had happened. You would have thought the people would have been thankful and asked Jesus to stay. However, ‘They began to beg Jesus to depart from the region’ (Mark 5:17). What a blessing they lost! (Jesus did later return to the region, Mark 7:21).

Contrast this with the response of the healed man, who ‘begged Him that he might be with Him’ (Mark 5:18). He believes in God, he is thankful and wants to be with Jesus and serve Him. But Jesus wasn’t willing. Jesus had other plans for him. God has a plan for our lives. It wasn’t God’s plan for him to be a disciple with Jesus, He wants him to go home to his friends, who he would not have seen for a long time, and tell that what Jesus had done. And this is what he does, sharing what Jesus had done for him. What a wonderful testimony. And the people marvelled.

God expects us to share with people what He has done for us. How are we to be witnesses for Christ? ‘In your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:15). Put Christ first in your heart. Always be ready to give the reason for the hope that is within you. Do this with meekness and humility. We are only who we are by God’s grace. We need to live the life of a Christian, doing good works, treating people with love (John 13:35), so that others see the light of Christ.

January 6th 2019: Gareth Edwards

gareth edwards-jan19Exodus 20:1-2

The Ten Commandments

In Psalm 19:7-11, David underlines the importance and splendour of God’s law; it is a thing of rare perfection and beauty as it reflects the majesty and beauty of God. The law brings many benefits to those who follow them. At the very heart of the law of God stands the Ten Commandments.

The opening two verses of Exodus 20 set the context for the giving of those Ten Commandments. At the very beginning of the chapter the authority and power of the law is revealed; the Ten Commandments are given directly by God. God spoke. God Himself inscribes the Ten Commandments on two tablets of stone given to Moses. God did not speak through an intermediary. Deuteronomy 5:22. God spoke and then wrote them on two stone tablets. God directly gave the law, thus giving them the authority of God’s sovereignty. They carry the full weight of divine power. Each and every Command bears the mark of divine power. The Commands of God have been given and need full obedience.

Some suggest the commands were only meant for Moses’ day and are not applicable in our modern Western world, but they are permanent, for all mankind. God literally set them in stone. They are fundamental, even today. God did not give us ten suggestions but Ten Commandments. We must not to treat them as optional. Our Creator has enforced them. We ignore them at our peril! They demand full compliance, total obedience. Any failure is a rejection of not just the Law but of God Himself. We cannot have a relationship with God and refuse to obey His commands. We cannot pick and choose between the Commandments, accepting some and rejecting others. The Ten Commandments are a single unit, each as binding as the others. We are bound by them all.

God spoke these Commandments. Why? Did God really expect people to keep these Commandments without transgressing them? God knows, by nature, we are sinful, disobedient; it’s our natural inclination of our hearts. Exodus 20:20 causes men to think and restrain themselves from doing evil in His sight. His purpose is to reveal the holy standard of perfection which God demands from man, which he cannot reach. In Galatians 3 Paul tells us how the law was given to highlight man’s sinfulness; there is no hope of earning Salvation. Paul adds that since the promised Saviour has now come, the law continues to act as a teacher (Galatians 3:24).

God’s purpose in speaking the Ten Commandments is both to encourage men to do right, but more importantly, that they are incapable of meeting the standards and need Jesus Christ. Whenever we come before the Ten Commandments we must be convicted that we have broken every single one in thought, if not in action. For example, the seed of animosity and hatred that leads to murder is in my heart and yours. The Law looms over us as a great obstacle in reaching God. The Law convicts us of our sin. It reveals to us that in God’s sight we are rebellious and we are, therefore, cut off from God – under God’s curse of judgement. But then, at this low point, the gospel comes and points us to Christ and His death on the cross.

Christ offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sin, bearing in His body the wrath of God against us. (Galatians 3:13). His precious blood poured out as the sacrifice for our sin. For my sin He suffered so. Here is the hope of salvation. The Law exposes all of our pretentious belief that we might be good enough. The Law reveals that we are without hope, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The gospel comes. Through His perfect life and sacrificial death, the purity of His life is credited to us. He accepts the responsibility of your sin and mine. We are clothed in His righteousness. He pays the penalty of our breaking the Law. He demolishes the obstacle of the Law, separating us from God. The curtain that separated the Holy of Holies split into two, the very way into the presence of God is now open to all who trust in Christ for forgiveness of sins.

We’ve been saved, freed from the curse of the law. But we’ve not been freed from the law in our daily lives. ‘Do not think that I came to destroy the Law of the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil’ (Matthew 5:17). Christ did not come to make the Law unnecessary but to change people’s relationship to God.

Before being a Christian, the Law is a great barrier to approaching God. But when someone becomes a Christian, by God’s grace, the same law becomes an internal standard of holiness. The believer delights in endeavouring to keep the Law. The Law becomes a thing of delight to our souls because now our desire is to please God, God who created us but God who is also our Saviour (Jeremiah 31:33). There is a change of relationship; the Law is no longer a threatening force that condemns but an external delight that we might know Him. The keeping of the Law is to our benefit.

The Jewish order of the commandments includes Exodus 20:1-2 as the first commandment, seeing it as integral. Here is the God who, in His loving mercy, brought the Jews out of slavery. He is now instructing them how they should live so that it might go well with them (Deuteronomy 6:1-3). When a person becomes a Christian, the Law becomes a delight and a source of blessing. God has changed us and so it remains important to us to obey the Ten Commandments – not as a means of gaining or strengthening salvation – rather as the duty of love that we delight to do, as the expression of our thanksgiving for His grace.

It’s to our spiritual and physical good that we endeavour to keep the Law. We are greatly blessed in knowing that the Lord is pleased when we keep His Law. He is the God who is faithful. We can no longer be condemned by the Law, it can no longer put us in that place where we are objects of God’s wrath. But the breaking of the Law brings consequences. To be disobedient to God always has consequences. There are always sorrows and sadness when people break God’s Laws. Christians are not immune to that. Our walk with the Lord will be disturbed if we break the Commands. We will not lose our salvation but we can lose the joy of our salvation. If we show a disregard for God, the sacrifice of Christ, as if it has no great value, if we persist in sinful disobedience, we will still break the commands because there is no perfection in our lives. That’s why we continue to rely on God’s atoning sacrifice. But now that we are citizens of God, it’s become our delight to keep it as we are no longer under its terrifying condemnation. The Law is given to us to keep as we desire to please Him and as we delight in knowing His good pleasure in us. The Law will also destroy all hope in men earning their own salvation. We need to rely on the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary.

God has used the Law in your life and mine to point us to the cross. In Christ alone my hope is found. He alone is my Saviour and in Him I have eternal life.

December 23rd 2018: Gaius Douglas

Gaius-December2018‘Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.’

Philippians 2:9-10

God has highly exalted Jesus and given Him a name, a name above every name. Jehovah has always been there but now He is Jehovah Saviour.

Peter says, in Acts 2, that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, Jehovah Saviour. We celebrate His birthday, but it should not just be 25th December, but all year.

We have traded the Christ of Christmas and brought Him down to nothing. Yet God has highly exalted Him. If God thinks so much of His Son, why shouldn’t we?

In the Bible names characterize a person; parents give names as a desire to be part of their character and what they should do. God has changed names. Many parents decide what they want their children to be like but God may have a different purpose.

Olivia comes from the root word ‘olive’. An olive is a very important plant used for sacrificial oil. Olivia means peace. I wonder, when we give our children names, do they live up to their name? There are lots of Johns at Penuel. John means ‘God is gracious.’ This name gives a massive responsibility. We have the name ‘Chris.’ There are no Christopher’s in the Bible but Chris is a shortened version of Christ and means a follower of Christ, a carrier of Christ. There is a desire of parents or God to display characteristics of a name. Are we displaying the responsibility of who we are as Christians in this world?

In Genesis 17 we read how God called Abram out of the land he was in. Abram was already exalted, already displaying the characteristics God saw in him. God calls us and transforms us like unto Himself. God called Abram, He told him He would make him ‘the father of many nations’ (Genesis 17:6), a father of multitudes. So God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. Abram was already an exalted father caring for his whole family but God wanted something bigger, more wonderful, to make him highly exalted. God planned for him to be ‘the father of many nations’ (Genesis 17:4). Through Abraham’s offspring, his seed Isaac, God would establish His plans. Abraham later married again after his wife died, having six sons. Today, in the Middle East, Abraham is still referred to as their father. He is the father of every child of faith. We too can look to Abraham as our father.

Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, was also known as Israel. At the end of his life (Genesis 49), he called his family together to bless them. He called his firstborn, Reuben, whose name means excellence, power and dignity. But unfortunately Reuben did not live up to his name and Jacob called him ‘unstable as water’ (Genesis 49:4). He called his next two sons, Simeon and Levi, ‘instruments of cruelty’ (Genesis 49:5). Here was a disappointed father. Then he called Judah; he was so pleased Judah had lived up to the qualities and characteristics of his name. Judah was the premier tribe who led Israel into battle. From the line of Judah came Jesus. John, in his vision, saw it was the ‘Lion of the tribe of Judah’ who can open the seven seals (Revelation 5:5).

Today we celebrate the name above all names, the one who will lead forth the armies of God. He is the one we read of in Genesis 49:10, ‘The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.’

Jacob looked forward to the day when Shiloh would come. Shiloh means peace, Jesus is the King of peace. Are we looking forward to the day when Christ will come? On December 25th how much of our thoughts will be on the Christ of Christmas? Christ is the one who is worthy.

Abram means exalted father. Abraham means highly exalted father. God has transformed him. This is what God has done with us, He has taken the Johns and the Chris’ and given us a new name, ‘But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name’ (John 1:12). We are ‘sons of God.’ It’s a position, we are no longer known by name but by our position.

God gave His Son a new name; He has given us a new name and He wants us to live up to that name. Jesus, who was so highly exalted, became so low. He came, not touched by human hand, but placed into the womb by the Holy Spirit. He was born, lived and died in my place on Calvary. What great condescension! He came down that He might raise us up. As He is exalted, so we are too. This is an everlasting covenant, this is glory. We are joint heirs with Christ. We will reign with Him forever.

Lots of people try to take Christ out of Christmas, changing it to Xmas. But we can’t take Christ out of Christmas or Xmas. Even ‘x’ the 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet (pronounced ‘chi’), means ‘Christ.’ Even though we try to take Christ out of Christmas, we can’t.

Don’t forget Christ this Christmas, don’t set Him aside. He is the greatest gift of all.

November 18th 2018: Alan Davison

Alan Davison Nov18Joshua 18: 1-10

Humans have a desire for a peaceful life. Yet as a race, humanity is fascinated with war. But there are times when we just need to get on with life. Joshua here has to manage the mundane. But there’s more going on here then first glance. We may feel our lives are mundane but we serve a great God.

Here, in this chapter, deciding on the allotment of the land seems mundane. But to the Jews this was exciting as they saw the fulfilment of the promise of God to Abraham in Genesis, generations beforehand. In the beginning of the section in 13:1 Joshua was told he’s old but there was an awful lot to do. This was followed by a list of lands to be divided as an inheritance. God will drive the people out so the Israelites can occupy it. In chapter 18 we might think this is slightly confusing, ‘The land lay subdued before them’ (Joshua 18:1). There was peace, yet 7 tribes had not received their inheritance. This parallels with Christian life. The Israelites did occupy the land but pockets of resistance existed. We have been liberated yet still have sin in our lives.

‘So Joshua said to the people of Israel, “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given to you?”’ (Joshua 18:3). The Israelites had been slack; God had given land but 7 tribes had not occupied it. Joshua galvanises the people into action. He knew exactly what to do.

‘And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD. And there Joshua apportioned the land to the people of Israel, to each his portion.’ (Joshua 18:10). ‘Before the Lord’ is a significant phrase. The Israelites were to worship God alone. They were in Shiloh. This was important. Why? Because until now Israel had been a nomadic people but now Shiloh is set aside for the tabernacle. It was their spiritual home (Deuteronomy 12:8-11). The prophecy was now fulfilled, the tabernacle was settled in Shiloh. It was here that God would meet with His people through His chosen mediator – now Joshua. Shiloh was geographically central and now spiritually central.

God’s will is to be obeyed. When Joshua commissioned a survey, it was simply a necessary act for him to do the will of God. Joshua is doing what God required of it. Joshua is also motivating the people to do the task, to live holy lives before God – just as pastors today lead their team. The people complained. They were looking to their own strength not looking to God. Joshua stands firm. When we obey God’s will then He will supply us with the strength to do His Will.

Surrendering to God’s Will. Joshua was not the one who as deciding who had to do what. The primary person involved in choosing the land was God. The casting of lots was revealing God’s Will. The Israelites were accepting God’s choice of land they would be given as their inheritance (Proverbs 16:33). God is sovereign. The Israelites are relying on God’s sovereignty to make the decision. This is a parallel to our inheritance in heaven. We don’t choose. ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?’ (John 14:2). Where we go in heaven is Christ’s choice alone. We will have a place given to us, selected for us by the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to strive for holiness here on earth. What lies before us should sustain us in our lives in the here and now.

God alone is to be worshipped. God’s Will is to be obeyed. We are to surrender to His Will. Do we trust God enough to do His Will? If we do, we will surrender to His Will. We continue to live on this earth but our ultimate inheritance is in heaven. Look to the inheritance to encourage us in our life now.