September 1st 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards Sept 2019Luke 7:36-50, Exodus 20:14

An addition to the Authorised Version of the Bible in 1631 earned the printer a significant fine of £350 imposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Its problem – it omitted one word out of that particular print, the word ‘not’ from the seventh Commandment. It read, ‘You shall commit adultery.’ For that, the version of the Bible became known as the ‘wicked Bible.’ In our study of the seventh Commandment we are certainly not going to leave out ‘not!’ Today, of course, such an oversight might be rewarded. A university lecturer asked a class if they could downsize the Ten Commandments, which would they leave out. The majority said the seventh commandment.

We live in an age there where marriage is under constant attack; people are living together, having affairs, making it seem justifiable. People regard the seventh Commandment as outdated. A positive assertion of marriage is needed all the more today because it is so widely disregarded. God’s way is the right way, God’s way is the best way.

  1. The attack upon marriage and the promotion of promiscuous behaviour.

We are told that adultery and other forms of sexual immorality are natural, normal and necessary. The Bible states from the beginning God intended all sexual activity to be between one man and one woman within the context of marriage (Genesis 2:24).

Man was not created to be like the animals but to enjoy a single, committed relationship for life. The very word adultery means a violation of marriage by breaking commitment (Leviticus 20:10). Although God often showed mercy to such sinners, the severity of punishment reveals the severity of the crime.

Following on from the lie that adultery is natural, there is the additional lie that adultery is normal. Television, newspapers and magazines are constantly filled with adultery. But adultery is abnormal to God’s purpose. He reserves His strongest words for it (Jeremiah 5:7-9). The consequences of adultery and promiscuity are far reaching: the devastation of partners, the great emotional cost for children, the cost to state in terms of the price of divorce in our land. The Lord reserves the most serious warnings for any who believe such behaviour is normal.

The ultimate excuse for adultery is the spouse no longer loves his or her spouse and finds greater happiness in the arms of another. This is based on the mistaken belief that love is just an emotion that comes and goes. It goes against Biblical teaching in which one gives oneself exclusively to one other, irrespective of the ebb and flow of feelings. Real love is not self-seeking, it is self-sacrificing (Ephesians 5:25). Many times those who have seen adulterers’ promiscuity as the road to happiness have found it as the road to ruin.

The sanctity of marriage and rejection of sexual acts outside marriage is normal, natural and necessary. Satan seeks to destroy and damage the God-ordained order for family and individuals. The Lord Jesus Christ cites adultery as the grounds for gaining divorce (Mark 10). It is sad that Christians fall for the lie. It is best seen in ministers who have committed adultery but are allowed back into the pulpit. Sin, of course, is forgiven and the minister should be received back into the fellowship of the church. But by his infidelity to his wife, they have barred themselves from preaching. 

  1. The deceitfulness of adultery.

For many this Commandment has no fear because we can honestly say we have never committed adultery, we have been faithful to our husband or wife. However, that is to ignore the seed of adultery that is found in our hearts. All of us, in some way, have been guilty of weakening our marriages. The scriptures point us to the way sexual activity prior to marriage breaches the seventh Commandment. The abuse of the gift of our sexuality before marriage deprives a future wife or husband (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 18). Today many people believe that having many partners is not wrong, provided they are one at a time. There are many problems that conflict marriages because of sexual activity outside, prior to marriage.

People can engage in marital unfaithfulness. They may enjoy sexual fantasy in viewing inappropriate material, flirting with the opposite sex. This weakens marriage too, even if there is no acting on the thought. The scriptures call us to be pure in thought and action. We are to guard our minds from all immorality (Philippians 4:8). God knows what we feed our minds on.

There is the problem of inappropriate thoughts. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” (Matthew 5:28). Accordingly, there is no-one here this morning who is not guilty of breaking the seventh Commandment. When we condemn the actions of others which we find obscene and sickens us, remember we too have been guilty of obscenity which sickens Him. We too need forgiveness. There is help at hand in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The grace of God for adulterers is best seen in three women who broke the seventh Commandment:

           The woman of Samaria (John 4:1-26)
         The woman, believed to be Mary Magdalene, who scandalised the Pharisees                      (Luke 7),
          The woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11).

            What do we see in each case?

  • Whereas others were keen to condemn these women, Jesus did not. On the contrary, He deals with them as if they were respectable.
  • He forgives their sin, bringing them freedom from the penalty of sin.
  • He changed their lives, transforming them into disciples who loved righteousness. He establishes a new relationship in their lives with God and God’s law.
  • The Saviour remained faithful to them, even going to die on the cross to pay the price of their sin.

There is no doubt they continued to fail Him, even as we do, but He never forsook them, even as He never forsakes us.

The good news, the gospel news, then is there is forgiveness for adulterers and those with promiscuous behaviour, to those who repent. Forgiveness is available to all who turn to Christ. But it also involves sinning no more. In God’s power they must flee from the sin of the past and not repeat it. You can’t continue in the old ways. People who do are not truly born again.

  1. Marriage is used in the Bible as a picture of the relationship between God and His people. That’s a sobering challenge to those of us who are married. Are our marriages a picture of the relationship between God and His people? Do we reflect the union of Christ and the Church? We may not commit physical adultery but there may be nastiness, attitudes that don’t speak of a commitment of love.

Even amongst Christians there are those who defile their marriage with pornography, who seek to use their partner in the porn of their own sordid experience of sinful immorality. Praise be to God, not only in their forgiveness, not only in their restoration, there is also the complete, never-ending commitment of the Lord Jesus Christ to each and every one of us that can never be broken. He will never forsake us, He will never abuse us. He will never cease to love us. He will also be to us our heavenly spouse who has sacrificed Himself for our eternal good.

The seventh Commandment does have a ‘not’ in it, it’s not left out. It is there for the glory of God, the good of His people and the good of all mankind.

August 25th 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards - July 2019‘You shall not murder.’ Exodus 20:13

A Sunday school teacher, in the process of teaching the Ten Commandments to her class, reminded them that they had learned the commandment to honour their fathers and mothers. She then asked if there was a commandment that refers to brothers and sisters. One girl replied, ‘You shall not murder!’ We smile and enjoy the humour of the story, but if we stop for a moment, there is a disturbing truth. All of us have harboured murderous thoughts towards others. They may be hateful glances, ‘If looks could kill …’ All of us have been angry enough to throttle someone for what they have done to us. It is extremely unlikely someone here has murdered someone. However, we’ve broken this Commandment in thought, word and deed and we are in need of forgiveness.

What is murder? The modern versions of the Bible has replaced the word ‘kill’ with ‘murder.’ In certain conditions the taking of life is permitted, for example, animal life. Some argue we should not kill animals, but Genesis 9:3 gives permission to kill to eat. Equally, God ordained capital punishment, allowing the state to kill one who deliberately kills another (Leviticus 24:17, Exodus 21:12-14). The Bible allows for the pursuing of a just war, which inevitably leads to death (Deuteronomy 20). Outside of these exceptions the destruction of life is murder. Therefore the murder of another, whether a baby still in a mother’s womb, or an elderly person coming to the end of their days, is an evil act.

There are three reasons why we should not murder another person:

  1. The sanctification of human life. God made us to enjoy fellowship with Him and gave us the capacity to have fellowship with Him. That’s what distinguishes us from the animal kingdom. We proclaim all people, irrespective of lifestyle, are to be respected. This does not mean we have to agree with them or endorse their sin, but they share in the same dignity by being created in His image (Psalm 8:5-6). Each and every human being has a God-given life that is sacred and He alone brings it to a close. For man to destroy another man’s life is to usurp the authority of God. It shows utter contempt for a God-given life (Genesis 9:6). Murder is an act of evil.

  1. Committing murder is following in Satan’s footsteps. It is the way of the devil to murder (John 8:44). From the very beginning it has been Satan’s purpose is to destroy human life through sin and death. In the Garden of Eden he pretends to Adam and Eve he is on their side. His desire is to bring death into the world and upon Adam and Eve. From the very beginning Satan has been a murderer.

  1. Murder is the elevation of self. Murder is a great evil. It’s the ultimate experience of selfishness. It’s the taking over the right of someone else to life. It is out of sin-ridden selfishness (Mark 7:21-23). Murder is one of the clearest experiences of the fallen-ness of the human heart as it is gripped in its own selfish concerns.

We are living where the respect of the sanctity of human life is in decline. We have become immune to scenes of murder in television programmes. People are enthralled by blood thirstiness. We are confronted by images of people being shot, maimed or killed. When we hear of teenagers being stabbed to death we think or feel nothing. We may say it’s sad, but then just carry on. Computer games encourage people to act out violence. Every week scores of unborn children are murdered simply because it’s an inconvenience for them to be born. People are increasingly concerned for animal rights. Dear friends, life is becoming increasingly cheap as we, as a society, turn away from God and indulge our self-centredness. Oh how we need to pray that God would have mercy on us.

Whilst we have not physically murdered anyone, the characteristics of murder are to be found in our hearts. Haven’t we refused to acknowledge the dignity of another, refused them common courtesy? It is seen in the racism of our age, where one group views another with disdain and contempt. We may despise an individual. Haven’t we taken devilish delight in bringing someone down a peg or two or been cruel in thought or action?

The Lord rightly points out the keeping of the sixth commandment includes dealing with the murderous attitudes of our hearts (Matthew 6). Inside each one of us lurks a murderer. We are all guilty of breaking the sixth commandment and all need to admit it.

But there is forgiveness. Amongst those who God forgives their sins are murderes. Even Moses, who the Commandments were given to, was a murderer (Exodus 2:11-12). Then there was King David, who arranged for Uriah to be murdered so his sin could be covered up (II Samuel 11). David was a murderer. Throughout the centuries there have been those involved in the most evil murders, including one of the closest associates of Paul Pott, yet who was saved through faith.

How can God forgive murderers? Because Jesus died in the place of a murderer (John 18). Here, this morning, no-one has picked up a knife or gun, but we are all guilty of that sin in our hearts. May be someone here has had an abortion. But there is forgiveness because the Lord Jesus Christ died, even for murderers. The good news is God forgives the sin of murder because Jesus identified Himself as responsible for the murder that lurks in your heart and mine. As we stand condemned by murderous thoughts we can rejoice the Lord Jesus Christ died for us. If we come to Him today all we have to do is repent, acknowledge our sin and no longer indulge in excuses. As your word examines me, I stand convicted. I throw myself on the mercy that is yours and can be mine. What a great God!

Finally, if you come to Jesus Christ and repent of your sin and are restored to a right relationship with God, everything changes. Instead of murder comes self-sacrifice. It leads us to make positive contributions to the life of others. Love does no harm to its neighbour. You have no difficulty in loving yourself. We are to desire to work towards our neighbours good, even more, to fellow believers (1 John 3:15-16). Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. Dear friends, in so many churches it seems we’re more intent on murdering one another than laying down our lives for one another. The Christian should be willing to lay down his life for another. We need the mind-set of Christ (Philippians 2). We are to enter into the Saviour’s mind-set. We are to become increasingly like Him in our union. We must love one another, we must lay down our lives for each other. We must put the interests of everyone else above our own interests. When we do that we fulfil the sixth commandment.

Replace murderous thoughts and actions with true love. You cannot walk with the Lord whilst wishing harm to someone else. We are to be willing to suffer loss to secure that well-being for others, to give up everything as He gave up the glory of heaven and even His life for our salvation. Surrender all rights and privileges, then the love of God is with us.

August 11th 2019: Peter Gleave

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‘And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.’
(Mark 6:31)

Jesus is speaking to the Disciples, who were so tired. Everyone here, including those on holiday, put everything aside and rest awhile and let the Lord Jesus speak to you.

 
1 Kings 19:1-8

We have mountaintop experiences in life, a moment when the world doesn’t interfere with experiences with God. Elijah had a mountaintop experience, literally on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). Elijah was representing God against 450 prophets of Baal. Things had gone on long enough, the people had to decide they were either worshipping God or Baal. So a contest took place. People thought it was a great idea. The people cried out to their god, a pagan, dead god, to help but it didn’t help one little bit. Elijah turned to the people and said, ‘Let’s make it more interesting,’ and he soaked his sacrificial bull and wood in water. He then calls on the living God, who answers. The people fell on their faces and shouted, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God” (1 Kings 18:39). The 450 prophets of Baal were executed.

The rain then comes, ending the drought. Elijah runs supernaturally in front of King Ahab. Ahab speaks to his wife, Jezebel, who declares that she will have Elijah killed. You would think the first thing Elijah would do would be to call on His God. But he runs and he runs. His faith turns to fear. He takes his servant with him, heading for Beersheba, where he left his servant.

This is like you and I. Sudden, unexpected changes come in life. We often have a mountaintop experience followed by a valley. Things take an unexpected turn in our lives – a visit to the doctor leaves us with life now going on a different path. Faith turns to fear. We may question where is God? Instinctively, we can run away to our own place.

Elijah ran to the desert and sat down under a broom tree. He asks God to take his own life. He is crying out to God because someone has said that they were going to kill him, yet he is asking God to take his life! Sometimes, in a right mess, we can’t see the way out. But God had a plan for Elijah. In the same way, God has got a plan for us.

In our confusion, sometimes we try to sort things out ourselves. Sometimes, God wants to help us and we tell Him we can do it on our own. We reach rock bottom. We get weaker and weaker. Then we hand it over to God, to safety. We need faith, to trust in God.

Elijah falls asleep under the broom tree. An angel comes along, a messenger of God. Right then, in these circumstances, the angel tells Elijah to get up and eat. Elijah smells fresh bread and water. He ate and drank and felt better. God knew where Elijah was and what He needed and He provided it. He did so supernaturally. Friends, wherever you are, on a mountaintop or in a valley, may be you feel all alone and no-one understands your position. God knows exactly what you need and will provide (Romans 8:28). We are destined, as Christians, for heaven, for eternal life. That’s the goal of where we are heading.

The angel wakes Elijah again. He tells Elijah to eat and drink again. The food sustains Elijah supernaturally, allowing him to travel for forty days and forty nights. He was equipped to go on the journey. God provides the means for the journey you go on. Rest is important. When God created the world in six days He then rested. Why? Because He wanted to enjoy that which He created. It sets a pattern for us, a day set aside to rest. Rest is so important God made it the fourth commandment. You and I, in the busyness of our lives, need to rest, relax and enjoy the world God has given us to enjoy.

Elijah’s disillusionment turned to discovery. He rested in a cave in Horeb. God asks Elijah why he’s there, not in service. Verse 10 tells us how disillusioned Elijah was, he spilled it all out to God. The Lord listened to Elijah. God already knew how he felt, but He is interested. He let Elijah finish, then He spoke. He told Elijah to go outside because the presence of the Lord was about to pass by. Elijah stood outside. The wind came. The Lord didn’t speak to him in the wind. Then an earthquake came. The Lord didn’t speak to him in the earthquake. Fire came. The Lord didn’t speak to him in the fire. Then, there was a quietness, a whisper, God’s heart speaking to Elijah’s heart. Too often we look for the grand gesture. We forget the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).

That inner voice of assurance, that voice that assures us God has power. In our weakness God’s strength is made perfect. Having witnessed this, Elijah has a second opportunity to answer ‘What are you doing here?’ Elijah pours out his heart again, He hadn’t grasped the truth. So what does God do? He tells Elijah, ‘“Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place,’ (1 kings 19:15-16). Elijah’s mantle was now to be passed on. Let’s not lose our opportunities of service.

At the end of this portion of scripture we see Elijah’s work was not in vain. He thought he was alone yet there were 7,000 of God’s people in Israel. Sometimes we think we’re alone. Yet on judgement day, when we stand before God, God will reveal what we’ve done for Him. We may not realise what a difference we can make to the people around us. By our example we can show we are different. Remember, God can take your from disillusionment to discovery. Go back and witness to where God has placed you and serve Him. When faith turns to fear, remember our mountaintop experiences. Let God equip you so you can do He wants you.

Elijah started on Mount Carmel, went to the valley and finished on Mount Horeb. He went from one mountaintop experience to another mountaintop experience. One day we will spend eternity in the presence of Almighty God. Press on, go on in the strength of God.

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We were blessed in this family service with Peter’s story for the younsters as well as a duet by two of our Children’s Club.

August 8th 2019: Dave Evans

Dave Evans - April 2019Psalm 22

The vast majority of psalms have a personal and historical application to the author and time. They may look forward to beyond the time of King David, to the coming of the king of Kings. Psalm 22 is somewhat different. It is entirely prophetic. The Psalm unfolds the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is clearly like the passage of Isaiah 53. It is a description of the crucifixion. It gives a clear view of the sufferer’s humility. This makes the Psalm all the more striking as crucifixion was not established until centuries later.

The gospels record the outward details of the crucifixion but they only give a glimpse into the Saviour’s experiences. Psalm 22 opens up the Saviour’s soul and mind the penalty which our souls deserved. He did not endure Calvary unconsciously. As He suffered on the cross He was conscious He was fulfilling Old Testament prophecies (John 19:28). He w aware the scriptures were pointing forward to His death. In Matthew 27 Jesus quotes the opening verse of this Psalm, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Even as the Lord suffers He reviews in His mind those prophecies which concerned Himself. He came to fulfil His Father’s will (John 5). As the Saviour takes the Psalm to His own lips we are given an insight into His sufferings.

What can we learn from this?

1. The repudiation of the suggestion that at the cross the Saviour’s faith failed. As we look at the psalm as a whole we see it is full of the Saviour’s confidence and faith. It’s ‘My’ He has lost sight of His Father’s face but not His faith. In the midst of His suffering and anguish He utters great confidence in God (verses 3-5). In His abandonment He knows God is faithful. Christ is able to realise God’s faithfulness to Himself (verses 9-11). The Saviour, from the time of His birth, knows this relationship of trust and confidence with His Father. This enduring faith does not in any way diminish the depths of His suffering.

2. His humiliation and the pain and mockery of the crowds to the Saviour.
The One who had walked among the people, who was full of compassion, is now alone. Betrayed. Denied. The disciples had fled. The Saviour hangs in full view of all those gathered around the cross, crowds full of venom. We see in this Psalm how deeply it penetrated His heart “But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people” (Psalm 22:6). He is humiliated by those He came to save. The Lord God, the author of all creation, now feels Himself to be a worm, the least of all creation. The nails and the spear caused no greater pain than this mockery. Verse 8 takes us so vividly to the foot of the cross (Matthew 27:41). The religious leaders, experts in the Old Testament scriptures, are blind to the promised Redeemer “Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. They gape at Me with their mouths, Like a raging and roaring lion,” (Psalm 22:12-13).  These rulers are described as strong bulls, an enraged herd ready to trample down their victim.

3.The horror of the Saviour’s physical sufferings (verses 14-15). This is nothing less than a description of crucifixion. As Jesus is laid on the cross and the nails driven into His hands and feet, we see the description of His suffering. In verse 16 we see the description of the crowds, as they follow the lead of the religious leaders, cry out like a pack of hounds wanting blood (Luke 23:20).

Crucifixion is a death which caused constant perspiration, “I am poured out like water,” (Psalm 22:14). The bones are dislocated, bringing the sufferer to the point of exhaustion, producing extreme thirst, “My tongue clings to My jaws,” (Psalm 22:15). It is an awful description of crucifixion. But these words, as horrible as they are, can’t depict the horror of the suffering. We only scratch the surface.

4.The dark hours and the Saviour’s cry of dereliction. The land was covered in darkness, The Saviour cries, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” When the Saviour was born the darkness of the night was broken by the glorious light of heaven as the angels proclaimed His birth. Now, at the ninth hour, when day should have been at its brightest, the darkness of hell shuts out the brightness. As darkness covers the land, so our Saviour enters the darkness which He alone could endure. He had to plunge into that darkness, into the physical wrath and anger of God who is holy and cannot look on sin. The Lord Jesus Christ knew what it was to be alone in His earthly ministry. He could always say e who sent Me is with me. But now, His Father turns His face from His Son as the God-Man suffers. He endures the total forsaking, total abandonment. Why? Paul declares, “Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4). It is hard to imagine, we cannot imagine, a pure, perfect, spotless life, to be utterly sinless. But here, on the cross, the sinless one becomes our substitute. He comes to die for those He will save. He suffers all the consequences of a broken law. During those three hours of darkness He bore the holy wrath. Here is the essence of our Saviour’s work. This cry of dereliction is the great climax to the Saviour’s work.

5.The turning point (verses 19-21). The Lord is now saying God has answered Him. God accepts the Saviour’s sufferings are complete. The Saviour can now cry out, “It is finished!” The Saviour has accomplished the work the Father sent Him to do. The public declaration of the Saviour’s work comes on the third day – the Lord’s Day.

We can draw three great conclusions:

  • How dreadful, extremely horrid and evil sin must be.
  • It brings us to a new appreciation of the greatness of the Father’s love. The Saviour was His delight, yet He gave Him to suffer in our place (John 3:16).
  • We proclaim, as believers, because of this, Salvation is utterly free and offered to all.

July 28th 2019: Philip Meiring

Philip Meiring - Juy 19 -1And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” II Kings 5:16

Have you ever had a strange prescription from the doctor? Here, Naaman, a very important gentleman, is told to wash seven times in the Jordan, then his flesh would be completely healed. This story is an illustration of the good news we have of Jesus. God has given us a prescription which is signed off by God Himself, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.’ This prescription is for us as rebellious people full of sin. The gospel prescription is wonderful!

Naaman’s reaction is a good illustration of how people react to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is an interesting twist to this story. Naaman is not only healed but he is a man changed in his heart too. He came to know the living God that the servant girl knew.

Naaman was commander of the army of the King of Syria. His CV was long and impressive. He was a man who led from the front, a ‘valiant soldier.’ He was a brave, strong man, one of the most important people in Syria. He was even used by God in battle. He was a deeply religious guy but he had leprosy. That’s how it is with us. Naaman began to lose sensation in his fingertips. Pale white marks spread on his skin. It was about to ruin him. That’s why Mrs. Naaman was so upset, wondering where to turn. This man didn’t realise he had a deeper problem than leprosy.

We have put men on the moon, can listen to wonderful musical compositions, think about black holes on the edge of the cosmos. God has given us a wonderful world. But the Bible tells us we have a deep problem within our hearts because we are sinners. We have this disease which spoils everything. For all that we are as human beings, this disease spoils us. It’s in our hearts. It spoils the world we live in. Naaman was going to have to have his skin healed, but wonderfully, he was going to have his heart changed too.

How did God sort out Naaman? How does God sort us out? Look at verses 9-16. Naaman was used to being in control of his life. He sort of controlled the gods around him. He was deeply religious but he didn’t know the God who made the world. Everything revolved around Naaman. When he arrived at Elisha’s home, the neighbours must have been surprised to see the chariots roll up. The neighbours would have expected Elisha to come to the door but instead Elisha’s servant came out and gave instructions. It doesn’t sound like Elisha had a lot of respect for Naaman. But this was the man of God. He was giving Naaman a prescription that would change Naaman’s life and cause the pride of this man’s heart to be broken before God. The prescription was designed to humble Naaman. He would have to know his place.

Naaman’s reaction is what happens when a lot of people hear the good news about Jesus. The good news is Jesus died in your place. He took the penalty for that rebellion in your heart, that sinfulness. From the time you and I were born we were cut off from God. But Jesus died on the cross in your place and my place as a punishment from sin which has separated us from God. And if you come to Jesus and thank Him for taking the flack for your sin, if you truly believe in Him, you will be saved and have a relationship with God. It’s wonderful to know Him! Jesus lived a perfect life on my behalf. I’m so thankful. He took the penalty for my sin and I can go free. Believe and you will be saved.

The gospel is designed to make God big and us small, to give all the glory and praise to Him. You cannot pay for this good news, to be washed clean. It’s free. Jesus is the one who paid the price. You and I just have to accept the grace of God. That’s what Naaman experienced that day.

This morning, whatever you think is holding you back from a relationship with God, be assured, God can forgive. Humbly accept it, freely accept it. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. There is no other way, it’s just Jesus. He is the only way.

How was Naaman healed? He went storming off in anger. Like all of us, he rebelled. But he had some wise men around him who told him to be humble and accept the prescription. Eventually, Naaman sees sense. He repents. What is repentance? It’s a change of mind and a change of direction. He turned to God. He washed himself seven times in the Jordan – seven is the perfect number.  He was healed. That’s how it is with Jesus. All you have to do is believe in Jesus. Naaman believed the promise that had been given to him. You need to repent and change your mind about God and what He is offering you. Believe. Trust Him to be your Saviour.

July 21st 2019: Thomas Kitchen

Thomas Kitchen -July 2019Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.’
Hebrews 12:1-2

The race in Hebrews is a spiritual race, a very important race. It doesn’t matter how old or young, how rich or poor you are, there is to be one word we say to ourselves when running this race for Christ, “Run!” With this race we should all want to run. Here are three point to get our running gear on:

  1. Run with humility.

We are surrounded by ‘a great cloud of witnesses.’ Who are they? Why should we care? Have a look at Hebrews 11 – it’s all about the great men and women of faith who loved God and had exceptional amounts of faith. If we’re to run with humility, there are great men and women of faith we can look up to, be inspired by. This cloud of witnesses has already run this race before us and done so successfully. It’s not to say these people did no wrong. We’re all perfectly capable of falling into sin. We can’t run without God’s help. May be you know people who run the race who have suffered affliction because they’ve loved God more than the world. We must be humbled by these people but we need to remember they did it in God’s strength. Strive for faith. When we’ve been given the faith that we need, we need to use it. Hebrews 11:1 tells us, ‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’ So why would physical beings care for unseen things? Because God planted it there is the first place. We know we have a righteous God who knows all things and is completely sovereign. Faith is obeying God despite the outcomes, the consequences. God uses things which we may not have expected for growth in our faith. When living in the now it’s easy to say, ‘I’ll trust you Lord no matter what I face.’ But we must be prepared for suffering. Faith is about trusting God, and when we realise just how powerless we are, we realise how powerful humility is.

The world doesn’t value humility but it’s a great thing. We’re to be humble running ‘our’ race – not anyone else’s. We should serve God with all our heart, no matter what hurdles are ahead. We have worldly thinking. Sometimes, that thinking penetrates our thinking. We can long for gifts others have. But God glorifies Himself by living within us – Psalm 34. Do you boast in the Lord? We’ve got our own race to run, not someone else’s – we can’t change lanes. If we keep looking at other people and what they’ve got, we’ll trip up. That’s not to say we’re not to encourage one another. We can doubt God. We need to build each other up, support each other with scripture, with God’s words, not our own.

  1. Run with endurance.

This is a lifelong race. Sometimes, we can get ahead of ourselves. We can be so busy, for example, reaching out in the community, that we can neglect to pray or read the Bible. Sprinting is not a good thing if there are hills and valleys. The Christian life is full of joys and sufferings, full of ups and downs. Some people are regularly tested and others don’t suffer so much. It’s unwise to charge ahead; you won’t be prepared for a trial and will panic and lose control. How can we show this endurance? How do we acquire it? We can pray, read God’s Word, discuss God’s Word with other Christians, discuss joys and difficulties with other Christians. There should always be time set aside to worship and adore Him. We can’t worship Him if we’re running around. Proverbs 4. Always keep God’s Word and promises in our heart, in front of our eyes.

Lay aside every weight. Sin is a big factor in this endurance run. Sin keeps holding on to us to the very end. The following poem resonates with us:

The Yipiyuk
In the swamplands long ago,

Where the weeds and mudglumps grow,
A Yipiyuk bit on my toe …
Exactly why I do not know.
I kicked and cried
And hollered “Oh”—
The Yipiyuk would not let go.
I whispered to him soft and low—
The Yipiyuk would not let go.
I shouted “Stop,” “Desist” and “Whoa”—
The Yipiyuk would not let go.
Yes, it was sixteen years ago,
The Yipiyuk still won’t let go.
The snow may fall,
The winds may blow—
The Yipiyuk will not let go.
The snow may melt,
The grass may grow—
The Yipiyuk will not let go.
I drag him ‘round each place I go.
This Yipiyuk that won’t let go.
And now my child at last you know
Exactly why I walk so slow.

Shel Silverstein

The Yipiyuk is sin and it will not let go. We thank God sin is only on our toe. Our sinful flesh is still struggling to come out. Sin will never leave us till we reach heaven.

  1. Run towards Jesus:

So how can we run with endurance? ‘Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated’ (Hebrews 12:2). I love this verse. When you begin to read the chapter and see all you have to do, you can despair. But verse 2 tells us we look to Jesus. Everything we have, our growth and faith, is because of Him. The reason we are saved is because of Him. He is everything – which is why we must run towards Him. Jesus had to run this race too. He finished the race perfectly. He humbled Himself and became obedient even unto death. Jesus saw the reward of regaining His people and was able to overcome suffering. ‘Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed’ (Hebrews 12:12-13).

We are to be strengthened if we’re to run this race. From where do we receive this strength? Philippians 4:13, Ephesians 6:10, Psalm 46:1, Isaiah 40:29. It’s all about God, it’s all about Jesus Christ. The world may say we need to look inward, to see inward strength. We don’t have strength, it’s all about Christ. And this is why we want to run the race. Not just will we be saved from sin and death, but we will be rewarded, we will see our Saviour at the finish line. It will make all our suffering worthwhile. Everything that has led up to it will be for our God. Ask God to strengthen you, ask Him to heal our frail, dislocated limbs.

Run with humility, run with endurance and run towards Christ. Remember also to grow, to seek to become like Him who has saved us. Revival must begin inside the church. Be signposts to Christ.

‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing’ (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Paul has fought, he knew very well he was in a race. We too need to keep the faith. Great people have gone before us. Will you be great for God? It’s not an easy calling. Are you going to be great men and women of God?

 

July 14th 2019: Mike Viccary

Mike Viccary - July 19Jeremiah 13: 1-11

The prophet Jeremiah is often overlooked, which is a terrible mistake. Remember, when Jesus asked, ‘Who do people say I am?’ some thought He was Jeremiah. Perhaps because the message of Jeremiah is so intertwined with the message of Jesus, a message full of compassion. Maybe that is why Jesus is compared to Jeremiah because of his compassion. When we are to present the truth we can’t escape sin. David, in Psalm 8, asks the question ‘What is man?’ We have to recognise our condition, our state. Even as Christians we wrestle with sin.

Jeremiah prophesied in some of the most turbulent times in Israel. The Assyrians, Babylonians and Egyptians were all vying for attention. Jeremiah’s mission is told in chapter 1:9. In essence, he is to build. He can’t build unless he takes the rubble of our lives and restructures. The opening chapters of Jeremiah are about repentance. We mustn’t skate over warnings – we’re here because Jesus died on the cross. He came to give us beauty for ashes. If you sin you face judgement. But Jesus is alive.

There are many images in this chapter. Every bottle is filled with wine. It was a place of plenty. Yet we must not focus on wrong things. The Lord instructs Jeremiah to get a sash, like a kilt that fitted around the waist and went down to the knee. It was a very useful garment and covered the main areas. It is described as linen. Linen is especially used for covering tables and precious garments (Revelation 18:16). It is used for angels’ clothes. Our Lord and Saviour was wrapped in fine linen. In Revelation 19:18 we read the Church is arrayed in fine linen, it is splendorous.

‘For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen’ (Jeremiah 13:11)

Jeremiah was not really a priest but a prophet. Prophets weren’t finely dressed, so it would have been a shock to people to see Jeremiah dressed in linen. The sash was not to be put in water, showing it was a brand new, fresh garment. The reference to clinging reminds us of Genesis 2:24 and the relationship between Adam and his wife. It is an indication that the people of God are to be intimately connected with their God. God is invisible, so how can He be made known? He dressed Himself with His chosen people.

Why was the sash discarded? Jeremiah wore the garment but he was then told to hide it. He travelled 700 miles north to the Euphrates. This is significant; it was where Judah was to be taken into captivity. Jeremiah was then told to recover it. Unsurprisingly, it was ruined. Why did the Lord do this? What were the chief sins of this time? ‘This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing’ (Jeremiah 13:10). The people were guilty of two main things: they refused to hear God and followed their own ideas. Do we sometimes refuse to hear Jesus’ words?

The people were puzzled by Jeremiah. They thought they were still doing things God wanted them to do (Jeremiah 7). They loved the temple. We can say we love fellowship, the scriptures, but do we love the words of Jesus? We are influenced by science, by our culture. Are we being transformed? (Romans 12:12). What are we doing to remove ourselves from worldly thinking? It is very easy to be influenced by thinking of the old flesh. We are told to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of might, to deny ungodly and worldly lusts. The call for us is to get the Word into our minds and hearts so it is life. Putting God first can be a struggle. Get on your knees and eat the words (John 6).  Do we hear God so much that we want to change things?

The people followed the dictates of their own hearts.  God wants you to hear what He wants to say, to walk with Him. How do you stop following the dictates of your own heart? Read and devour the scripture (Hebrews 4:12). Judah was to face exile. The ones who were the clothing of God were now going into exile. They had the law, the tabernacle, priests. They were supposed to be the light of the world. But now they were ruined. They had not heeded Solomon’s wise words. Man, born of Adam, could never do what God intended us to do (Deuteronomy 26:16-19, Jeremiah 13:11). Judah had blown it. Is there no hope? Praise God, the second Adam came down and took the form of a human person, Christ is the true image of God.

Lesson to be learned:

Adam couldn’t do anything about his sin. There is hope because Christ came in my place. We have the hope of Christ. Those who put their trust in Him, He gave the right to become the Children of God. We now adorn God. We are to listen, hear and give ear. Look at the compassion of the Lord. It is so important we spend time humbling ourselves before the Lord, listening. Do not be proud. Pride stops you from listening. Humble yourself. The Lord Jesus Christ came as a humble servant.

When things go wrong, a lot is down to our sinful actions. To be clothed with Christ is to look to Him. In our lifestyle we are to seek to call upon the Lord to be more like Him (Romans 6:4). We are called to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh, a walk worthy of the Lord. Let’s listen to Him and walk in His ways.

July 7th 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards - July 2019“Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12).

Duties neglected, even little ones, often bring great downfalls. This can certainly apply to our consideration of the fifth Commandment. This Commandment is central to the well-being of society. God’s command to honour parents is the foundation for society to live in harmony. One of the characteristics of a declining culture is disrespect – for one another and those in authority. At the root of this decline lies the rejection of the fifth Commandment. Learning of respect lies within family with children honouring their parents.

The position of this Commandment is it’s the first of the second tablet. The first four Commandments show man’s relationship to God. The second tablet shows man’s relationship amongst ourselves. This Commandment brings forth all the others that follow, it leads on to those that follow. It is the priority for the second tablet.

There’s a promise that comes with the commandment. Paul notes it is the first Commandment with a promise, a promise not to the individual but to people as a whole, a nation (Ephesians 6). It is talking to society. Here is the cornerstone for a stable society in the Promised Land. The people are instructed how to live in the Promised Land; if you want to prosper then honour your father and mother.

In the Bible the term ‘father’ is used to denote the elderly in general, those in authority and those who are fathers. It is used as an expression of respect. It denotes giving someone the honour they deserve (1 Peter 2:13, Leviticus 19:32, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). Most catechisms teach that we honour, be loyal, to our father and mother and all those in authority over us. It is the basis not only for respect within the family but, having learnt respect for a mother and father, then having respect in church and for those who are older. So Christians are to honour all those who are above them, in church, work and the wider world. You may feel that they do not deserve our respect but we are to honour them as God has ordained them. Acts 24-26 Felix was an adulterous, greedy man. Festus was of a more noble character but had little time for true justice. Agrippa had an incestuous affair with his sister. These characters do not win respect yet Paul respectfully addresses all three of them. We are to respect the rule of the law, including those who carry out the law. The only time a Christian can go against this is when a believer is called to do something contrary to God’s law.

Children’s actions should never be excused when they show rebellion. Adults, parents in particular, are to lead from example, for children learn best from imitation. This Commandment lays the foundation for the Bible’s teaching on respect throughout society. But the main teaching is that children are to honour their parents, treat parents as those who carry weight in their lives.

In what ways do we honour our parents? “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:3). We are to have a deep reverence for parents that comes from a right fear and true love of them. We should never belittle our parents either in word or action. Don’t make jokes about them or speak in a derogatory way. Place weight on their advice and wisdom. In addition, children are not to answer back to their parents. In Biblical terms it is a shameful thing to do. Teenagers can be disrespectful. They ‘know what’s best’! This may be true in the realm of technology but not in the realm of life. Young adults, as they gain independence, are supposed to remember that their parents carry weight. Older adults care for elderly parents, esteem them for all they gave and did for them.

Children are to be obedient to the parents (Ephesians 6:1). Children are to obey their parents teaching, especially as they are based on the Bible (Proverbs 1:8). Children are to obey their parents’ commands with a willing heart. Did not the Lord Jesus Christ obey His heavenly father in saying, “Not my will but your will be done.” In perfect obedience He went to the cross. He offered Himself up as the atoning sacrifice, He took on our sins, including the sins of disobedience, to our heavenly Father.

It is important children are taught that they should be only told once and that is that. Rules are set and to be obeyed. Parents, of course, must not be unreasonable in their demands (Ephesians 6:4). Parents are not to be tyrants but to be loving.

We must care for our parents. This Commandment is spoken mainly to adults. The nations that surrounded Israel practised euthanasia, the elderly were left to die. But the Israelites were to honour their fathers and mothers, to care and provide for the elderly. Even in Jesus’ day people were trying to make deals so they could not pay for their mother and father’s care (Mark 7:9-13). But think again. Our blessed Lord, as He hangs upon that cross, in agony of body and soul, what does He say? He looks at Mary and commends her to the care of John, and says John is to take responsibility for Mary. Even in His dying breath the Saviour does not forget to provide care for His mother (John 19: 26-27).

Today we see the fragmentation of the extended family that has led to the increase of pressure on social services. But as Christians we are to care for our elderly families, the church and community. It is a sign of Christ’s Lordship over us that we value, respect and care for our elderly family, neighbours and friends. The only one greater duty to parents is our duty to the Lord. There is no doubt we show our love for the Lord in the way we care for parents.

Some may have suffered, to various degrees, at the hands of their parents. They may have had very difficult relationships with parents. And that’s not easily forgotten or easily forgiven. And so I say, if that’s you, we understand. Ask the Lord to help you to forgive. Ask the Lord to give you the strength to honour your parents, even though they have hurt you. Ask the Lord to help you keep this Commandment for His glory and your good and for the good of your parents. Remember how disobedient you have been to you heavenly Father, remember, in so many ways how you’ve offended Him. Yet He has only done you good. Ask your Saviour, who suffered on the cross, to help you honour your father and mother.

June 30th 2019: Ian Middlemist

Ian Middlemist-November 2018John 8:1-11

The first time you picked up a Bible, as you opened the pages you thought you were studying it. You were encouraged to get into the Bible. But notice, as you grow older as a Christian the Bible is studying you, revealing truths about yourself. The Bible examines you. The book speaks about you. It was written over 2,000 years ago but is scans us inside and out. God knows breathing out this Word, every sin, every thought, every word, everything I have done. There is nothing we can hide from Him. God deals with guilt on the basis of grace and truth.

This scripture passage speaks powerfully to our situations. The Scribes and Pharisees judged the woman according to the law, which clearly condemned her. All of us, like this woman, have been caught in an act of sin and stand condemned in front of God’s holy law. To be caught in the act of adultery meant that the act had to be witnessed, to be actually seen going through the physical movement that could be capable of no other explanation. A compromising situation, such as leaving a hotel room together, would not have been good enough in a Jewish court. It was very likely the Scribes and Pharisees had set a trap to catch this woman so that they could catch Jesus in the horns of a dilemma and get rid of Him. There was a clear motive. Either Jesus would have agreed the woman should be stoned or Jesus would have shown her mercy and would be soft on sin, not upholding the Law of Moses. It was a deliberate trap. They only brought one sinner to Jesus. Why was the man not brought to Him? You can’t commit adultery alone. Maybe he was on the side of the Scribes and Pharisees? We don’t know.

All of us, like this woman, have been caught in the act of sin. We have all had the humiliating experience of getting caught doing something we know was wrong. No matter what the sin, it is always embarrassing. This woman was not only caught in the act of adultery but then dragged into the temple, of all places! All the people would have examined her like a piece of meat. Worse, they accused her in front of Jesus. They were pushing for the ultimate punishment – the act of execution. Even if we manage to keep our sin hidden from others, before God all of our lives are laid bare, ‘And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account,’ (Hebrews 4:13). He knows every simple thought we secretly entertain, every swear word, every hatred – not letting go of those who have wronged us, sin we commit when we’re alone, when we’re away in another city, He knows it all. The reality is every single one of us is caught in the act by God.

Religious people are just as guilty of sin as openly immoral people. We tend to look on the woman in the story as a great sinner and overlook the fact that the Scribes and Pharisees are just as evil, even more so. Clearly, they didn’t care about this woman at all. They could have held her in private custody but they didn’t. She was just a pawn. Their concern is not for holiness in society but to get rid of Jesus. Even more serious, these religious leaders were sinning against the sinless Jesus. They weren’t concerned about God’s honour, but in all they did they sought to kill and get rid of the Son of God. What could be worse? They weren’t using scripture to judge themselves, just pointing the finger against the woman and Jesus. Religious people are just as guilty of sin as openly criminal people are. Paul builds such a case in Romans, ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,’ (Romans 3:23). Who do we identify most with in this passage – the adulterous woman or the self-righteous Scribes and Pharisees?

If God is full of love and grace how can He show mercy to sinners and uphold His justice? Nowhere in the story does Jesus condone this woman’s sin, but He shows grace. He applies God’s law and truth to them. The Scribes and Pharisees came armed with the law to test Jesus. Jesus responds by stooping down and writing in the ground with His finger. This is the only place in the Bible where Jesus actually writes anything. What did He write? No-one knows. When He says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” (John 8:7) He wasn’t saying judges need to be sinless. Rather, Jesus was applying what He taught in Matthew 7. The Scribes and Pharisees were hypocritical and were sinfully using this woman and Jesus to condemn her.

The starting place for receiving mercy is to be convicted by God’s holy law so that you are able to say, with the apostle Paul, that you are the chief of sinners. Jesus gives the law to the self-righteous but offers grace to broken sinners who repent. The law reveals your sin but the law cannot offer grace and forgiveness. We can infer by Jesus’ gracious words to the woman that He offered her grace. Are we gracious and show compassion? God’s justice is upheld. He can be both gracious to sinners and uphold justice at the same time. Jesus was a sacrifice for sin so that God’s justice could be satisfied, ‘It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus,’ (Romans 3:26). His death satisfies God’s wrath on our behalf.

The only sinless person in the temple that day who would have legitimately thrown a stone at the adulterous showed mercy. Trust in Jesus.

God’s grace then is the basis of a holy life. Jesus said to the guilty woman, “Go, and from now on sin no more,” (John 8:11). He doesn’t say, ‘Go your way, sin no more and I will not condemn you.’ There’s nothing you can do to make yourself righteous. Her pardon was the motivation to change. There’s nothing you can do to obtain justification. God grants forgiveness as a free gift, free grace becomes the motive for living in holiness. ‘What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?’ (Romans 6:1-2). God’s amazing grace is the greatest motive for living a holy life.

I was guilty. I was condemned before Him. But rather than condemning me, the Son loved me enough to die in my place and offer a full pardon. Since it cost Him so much, I want to please the One who love me and sacrificed Himself for me. There are no conditions. Just grace available to every sinner whose been caught in the act.

June 23rd 2019: Paul David

Paul David - April 18God is unchangeable. One of the names of God in the Old Testament is Yahweh. It speaks of the unchangeability of God. We vary from day to day, year to year. God is always the same. The temptation for us is to think of God in our terms. This is wrong. God is not a created being; He has always been. God cannot change. God is perfect (Psalm 50).

Because God doesn’t change, His purpose and His will don’t change either. His plans are the plans He has always had. He is all powerful. There is a certainty about God’s plans. We change our plans when we have new information. Sometimes we change our plans when we don’t have the resources. Sometimes plans change because we don’t have the strength to carry them out. Sometimes we change plans when we lose interest. Other times the world may change around us and change our plans for us. None of these things apply to God, He never changes His plans, ‘Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand’ (Proverbs 19:21).

‘The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations’ (Psalm 33:11).

The following verses may seem to contradict what has just been stated:

‘And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.  So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”’ (Genesis 6:6-7).

‘The word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the Lord all night.’ (1 Samuel 15:10-11).

‘When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it’ (Jonah 3:10)

These verses, and some others, imply that God has changed His mind about something. Are we to believe God made mistakes and changed His plans? No. These verses speak of God figuratively.

The Lord tells Samuel He regretted making Saul king, but we later read, ‘And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret’ (1 Samuel 15:29). God is described as ‘regretting’ to make things clear to us, showing His displeasure in a ways we would understand.

God’s actions towards the Ninevites changes but His plans did not. If you’re a Christian there has been a change of action, but not a change of plan. God is unchangeable. His plans are unchangeable. ‘God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19).

God’s emotions are unchanging. Yet we read that our Lord Jesus Christ was moved to tears (Matthew 9), felt ‘righteous anger’ (John 2, Mark 3), and rejoiced (Luke 10). He was a ‘man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53). Our Lord is God but He also became man. It is beyond our understanding. The passions He experienced refer to His humanity. As God, our Lord Jesus Christ was unchangeable. He became man for our sake and experienced joy and anger. His passions were pure. It is fundamental to our faith that God is unchanging. His character is one of complete stability. He is unmutable.

What does it mean to us? The Lord Jesus Christ is our great example as a man. There are things of God we are able to emulate, to copy, ‘For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy’ (Leviticus 11:44).

There are things we cannot copy, for example, being unchanging. We need to stand firm in faith, but no-where in the Bible does it say we are not to change. We are to become more holy because God is holy. We are to grow in grace. If you’re a Christian you’ve been through a major change and continue to change. We are not what we were but are on the move, to be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.

When you read the Old Testament you read of prophets, sacrifices, circumcision. These seem very remote to us. We may also have trouble relating to characters. But the connection is not with characters but with God. We should relate to the entire Bible. It’s about God and His dealings with humanity. We have the same God and relationship as Abraham did. We are all saved by the same faith and stand on the same promises and have the same eternal life. Because God is unchanging we can absolutely rely on Him. Society changes, people change. People are inconsistent but God has perfect consistency.

Because God doesn’t change His standards don’t change. He gave the Ten Commandments 3,000 years ago. They still represent God’s standard and character. When God tells us what is good and bad it is true. Actions which offended God in the Old Testament are still the same actions which offend Him today. Actions which pleased Him then, still please Him today. He doesn’t need a sacrifice of two pigeons but a repentant heart (Psalm 51).

God will be our judge. You want consistency and fairness in a judge. His standard has always been perfection. We are guilty. However, we can rely on Him because He has a rescue plan. Salvation is always found in the Lord Jesus Christ, in His sacrifice at Calvary. If you’ve put your trust in Jesus Christ, that is guaranteed. God’s love is eternal, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you’ (Jeremiah 31:3). This was spoken to Jeremiah 2,500 years ago, yet it still the same today.

‘For I the Lord do not change’ (Malachi 3). He is a covenant-keeping God, ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness’ (Lamentations 3:22-23).

God wants us to live in His presence – that’s always been His plan. Nothing can prevent it, it’s His plan, ‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God’ (Revelation 21:1-3).