April 10th 2022: Gareth Edwards

 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

Have you ever been astonished by someone? May be a remarkable person you have met that, at first, you didn’t recognise their talent, then you see their talent and are amazed. Throughout the New Testament, Christians bewildered and challenged those around them. Unfortunately, today Christians are easily ignored. We do not incite anything, perhaps other than apathy. What is the difference between then and now? What was it that made the New Testament Christians so distinctive that people sat up and noticed them?

The Sanhedrin, the Jewish council, observed Peter and John and arrested them after they healed a lame man. Peter takes the opportunity to preach that Jesus is the Saviour, the Messiah, and it is in His name that the man has been healed. The Sanhedrin marvel and are amazed. Peter and John were a great surprise to them. Why?

First of all, for their courage. In the face of being cross-examined by those who had crucified their Master, these two men steadfastly witnessed for Jesus. There is not the slightest sign of Peter backing down. They couldn’t be intimidated or diverted in their testimony for Jesus, even in the face of possible persecution, even in the face of potential death. What amazed the Sanhedrin was Peter and John’s total dedication for the cause of Christ. Jesus had warned of this (Matthew 10:13-36). They are not afraid. Jesus has prepared them for what they now face (John 16:2-4). They have seen the boldness and courage of their Lord as He was persecuted and now it is their turn. Although the Sanhedrin did not like it, they were impressed by Peter and John’s bold courage.

We need to be forever faithful if we are to have an impact in our day, as Peter and John and the other disciples had in their day. They turned the world upside down. The Church in our day is weak. It seeks to accommodate the world around it and not confront the evils of our age. But we are called to stand up and stand out against all that opposes the gospel. We may not be liked for what we say, but there is more likely to be respect if we are uncompromisable in our faith to the Lord Jesus Christ. People must know what we stand for and what we stand against. To stand for the Saviour and truth can be a costly exercise. We can be fearful. We need to ask the Lord for courage and boldness to stand for Christ and not to compromise the gospel message; Jesus Christ died upon the cross of Calvary that sinners might be forgiven.

Peter and John were uneducated, untrained men. The Sanhedrin were surprised at their courage because these were not trained, just simple men from Galilee. They could argue their cause. Peter’s sermon persuaded many to believe in Jesus as their Saviour. The Sanhedrin were amazed at the ability of these uneducated men to present their cause.  

People were also surprised at Jesus’ preaching and mighty works (Mark 6:2). The Lord had told His disciples they should not worry when called to speak the gospel (Matthew 10:19-20). They would have the Holy Spirit and the example of Jesus to follow. Consequently, these fishermen were able to confound the Sanhedrin. This is great encouragement. If God could use Peter and John, He can use me and you. We don’t have to be educated for us to turn the world upside down. The Lord, buy the enabling of the Holy Spirit, can use our qualifications or lack of them. Just trust in Him, follow the Saviour. We don’t have to do a course, have a theological degree, or be trained on other ways, we just have to be His followers.

Too often we rely on celebrity Christians to speak at evangelistic missions because we think someone of that nature is bound to make more of an impression. We thank God for them, but God more often than not, does not choose rich and famous. He chooses you and me. It is the one who is being spoken of, not the one who is speaking, who must be at the centre of the matter. We don’t need experts to defend the gospel. The Lord uses ordinary people with ordinary lives to accomplish His work. (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).

God does use people of standing, but not many. But He uses you and me. The way that churches often think their influence will be better is if their ministers have higher degrees. But that doesn’t impress people. What counts is a man’s spiritual stature. Doctorates are good but not the important thing. The important thing is what the Sanhedrin recognised – they recognised that Peter and John had been with Jesus. Jesus’ influence was on them. Jesus had given His disciples a wonderful example to follow and assured them of the presence of the Holy Spirit. As a consequence, Peter and John give a striking resemblance to Jesus in the way they speak and act. Now, after His ascension, they remained in fellowship with Him through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The power and presence of Jesus was visible in the lives of these two men. This tells us that the cutting edge of our Christian witness is unbelievers experiencing who we are as followers of Jesus. We are Christ-like in all we do. If we are to have an impact, people need to recognise we have been with Jesus. We need to be more Christ-like. When people see Christ in us, influencing all that we are and in all that we do, then they sit up and take notice. Christ-likeness comes by experiencing faithful fellowship with Him in the Word and in prayer. The Holy Spirit brings us into a deeper fellowship with the Lord. We become more and more like the Lord in character. We become more effective in His service in sharing the gospel. Spurgeon said, “There is a something in the very tone of the man who has been with Jesus which has more power to touch the heart than the most perfect oratory.” Jesus rubbing off onto people.

What did Peter and John have that so amazed the Sanhedrin? The boldness and courage of a Christ-like character. What do we need as Christians today, for people around us for their good and Christ’s glory? The same boldness and courage. So, let’s seek the fellowship of the Lord, and ask by the Holy Spirit’s enabling, to become more like Him, so people know we have been with Jesus.

April 3rd 2022: John Scanlon

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel:    https://youtu.be/7mRnvNumJD4

Luke 19:1-10

I’ve never been to Jericho, but it must have been an interesting city. It is mentioned quite a lot in scripture: in Joshua 6 we read of the walls of Jericho falling down, of David saying, “Wait at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return.” (2 Samuel 10:5), in the New Testament Parable of the Good Samaritan. We cannot say how many times the Lord Jesus went to Jericho. We know this was His last visit to Jericho. The people might have listened more if they knew it was His last visit. We are very much in the same position. Opportunities pass us by. We do not know our day of visitation.

Here is the Lord Jesus walking into the city of Jericho. He has been hailed with a peal of praise as He has just healed Bartimaeus, whose sight was restored by the grace of God. As He entered the city the place was full of people full of anticipation at the great day of Pentecost, all hoping to glance a glimpse of the man who had healed Bartimaeus.

We are all familiar with the story of Zacchaeus. Luke has faithfully recorded highlights of what was being carried out, for there was so much going on. As John tells us And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20: 30-31).

Luke tells us of a blind man who cried out for mercy and Jesus restored his sight. This is itself a great miracle. If Jesus had any intention of entering Jericho unannounced, this man and his gratitude had changed all that. As Jesus now enters Jericho, he would touch only one man – a tax collector. So, the crowd gather. Then someone comes along who wanted to see what was taking place. He sticks out from the crowd. He tries to push though to find a place but nobody gives way to him. This man is Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus. We all know him. All that we know is recorded in these ten verses. He is a tax collector. He is a Hebrew. His name, Zacchaeus, means pure. Maybe, when his parents gave him this name, they hoped he would grow up pure. But he was crooked, the biggest rogue in the city! He had made loads of money and was chief among the tax collectors.

We all want to have more, but there is no satisfaction in this. Zacchaeus didn’t just want to be first, he was first. He was wealthy. Many people want to be rich, but it can be very lonely at the top. Zacchaeus had power, he had influence, he had wealth. It reminds us of one of the churches in Revelation. The word of God goes on to say in spite of all he had, Zacchaeus wanted more, He wanted to see Jesus.

Zacchaeus was arrogant, but underneath all that veneer there was a heart that sought reality. He was a soul needing to be redeemed. He couldn’t remain happy. He realised late that the true things of life are not material. Perhaps, he thought he would find a new life if he found Jesus.

But Zacchaeus had two problems: he was too small, and the crowd was too big. He couldn’t see Jesus. He was a little man in a big crowd. He couldn’t see over the crowd, he couldn’t see through the crowd, so he couldn’t see Jesus. I have heard of unbelievers who have been given a Bible and upon reading it ask, ‘Why does this book tell us different stories to what people preach?’ In other words, people don’t practice what they preach. Their own lives do not reflect the love of Jesus as much as they should.

How many Zacchaeus’ are out there and want to see Jesus, but can’t see because we get in the way? We are told to walk in the light, but not in someone else’s light, casting a shadow, when they themselves are looking for Jesus.

Zacchaeus must have been made of stern stuff. If there wasn’t a way through or a way over, then there’s a way round. He couldn’t see Jesus, so he ran further and found a sycamore tree. He waited for Jesus to come. When Jesus came, He looked up and saw him. That wasn’t part of Zacchaeus’ plan. It wasn’t what he was hoping for. We need to be careful when we are looking for God, for before you know it, He finds you. You can find yourself alone with God.

In no time at all, Jesus looks up and sees him. It is as if the whole of Jericho was waiting to see what Jesus, the son of a carpenter, the Son of God, would say to the biggest rogue in the city. Everybody was waiting. You could almost hear what they were thinking, ‘Go on Jesus, let him have it! Tell him what a terrible man he is. Condemn him for his wickedness and greed.’ What kind of people were these inhabitants of Jericho? They had just heard of a blind man being healed. They stood waiting, expecting to see more. They were anticipating entertainment. What they were about to witness was a miracle – a man who had been obsessed by world wealth about to be transformed. The love of money would be replaced by the love of Jesus Christ.

Jesus does not confront Zacchaeus. He lets him off the hook and simply says, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” (Luke 19:5b). What about sin? What about repentance? What about conviction? What about restitution? There is no mention. Jesus calls him by name and invites Himself to dinner. There is a chief sinner in Jericho who needs to be saved. Jesus did not come to condemn. He seeks him in love and a miracle takes place. We need more of the Spirit of God. When Jesus preached the gospel, He administered grace to the hearer and He moves in the love of God. Most times, when Jesus went fishing, He came home with a catch.

The crowd called Zacchaeus a sinner. We are all sinners. If were are not lost, we will never be found. Zacchaeus says, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” (Luke 19:8). I shouldn’t think he would have had much of his wealth left after that.

Salvation is more than an external transaction. When people are truly saved they are a new creation, new creature in Christ Jesus. They have a new set of values. Their priorities change. Their very reason for living changes. Zacchaeus revealed by his testimony that a transformation had taken place. He began with an act of benevolence in giving half his goods to the poor. Then he showed his willingness to make restitution to those he had wronged. He has learnt that to have your sins forgiven is more valuable than gold. Zacchaeus found forgiveness of sins. A free gift. There is a price to be paid for it; it is Jesus doing the paying. The Lord said, “Today salvation has come to this house, becausehe also isa son of Abraham;for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:9-10).

For as much as Zacchaeus was a son of Abraham, this wasn’t what the crowd had told him. They called him was a sinner. The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. We are told that it was Zacchaeus doing the seeking, who sought Jesus. But we know it is God who is seeking the lost. The Son of God has come. He seeks diligently and when He finds, He saves. Who did He come to save? The word of God tells us He came to save the lost. There is something final about the word ‘lost.’ There is hope for the sinner, for Jesus has come to seek and to save. It doesn’t matter how lost a person is, or how immoral or deceitful he might be, because God in Christ, has come to seek the lost and to save them. That has got to be good news!

March 28th 2022: Ian Middlemist

To watch a recording of this service, please click on the link to our YouTube channel:
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John 18:1-11

Jesus is in control. God is sovereign over everything that happens. He is not responsible for our evil. People are responsible for their sins, and they will face the judgements of God if they do not repent. At the same time, their evil deeds do not frustrate God’s plans. As the Early Church prayed in Acts 4:27-28, For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” 

God predestined the death of Jesus, but those who did it were also responsible for their terrible sin. We will not understand in our lifetime why God allows our sufferings. We know He will work all things together for good because He is sovereign, and He does love us. God’s sovereignty over this tragedy of the cross of Jesus is throughout John’s account of the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. The sovereignty of God is pre-eminent in John’s consciousness as he omits Jesus’ agonising prayer at Gethsemane. But John includes Jesus’ resolve to obey the Father’s will when He rebukes Peter (John 18:11). John also omits Jesus’ betrayal kiss. But he includes something other gospel writers omit; when the armed group came to Jesus, Jesus took the initiative in greeting His persecutors (v4). He was in control. Only John tells us when Jesus answers them, they all drew back and fell to the ground. The power and authority of Jesus! The overall impression that John brings to this narrative was that Jesus was in complete control of the arrest, the trial and His own crucifixion. Jesus was calmly in complete control in events leading up to His death. He was not a tragic victim, but rather the Good Shepherd who willingly laid down His life for His sheep.

We are going to see a number of characters.

Firstly, we see the self-condemnation of the opponents. Sometimes, when we look on the evil of the world you may wonder where is God in all of this? Here, in verse 3, you have the Jewish leaders, who should have welcomed their Messiah. Secondly, you have the betrayer under the influence of Satan himself, and the Roman military in all its might, representing the world-dominating Roman Empire. All are aligned against Jesus. All the evil powers of the darkness of this world coming against the humble, innocent, pure Messiah. From outward appearances they seem to triumph. But from God’s perspective, it is absolutely laughable to thwart God’s plans (Psalm 2).

Firstly, under this heading of opponents, are the religious authorities. They are filled with pride that demonstrates the sovereignty of Jesus in this account. During His three-year ministry the Pharisees and Scribes were Jesus’ main opponents. They knew the Old Testament, they heard Jesus’ teaching, they saw Jesus’ miracles. Of all people, they should have been worshipping Jesus and seen that He uniquely fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. But they not only rejected Him but stirred people against Him. They created a crowd to instigate an arrest, even to the point where they desired His cruel death.

Why? Jesus threatens their comfortable grip on power, they made a nice profit selling animals for sacrifices, they loved high places of honour (Matthew 23). All of that would be gone if their religiosity proved false. Also, Jesus confronted their root problem – their pride of their religious practices. They were fastidious about their cleanliness, keeping ceremoniously clean. They also thought their racial identity and practices secured a place in heaven. But Jesus showed them God looks at the heart. He is not interested in outward religious performances. God always looks at the heart. Religiosity – trusting in religion rather than trusting in Jesus, is always built on a system of work. It never deals the death-blow to pride. It is always trying to build up pride. They over-estimate their own goodness – their good works will out-weigh their shortcomings. But the Bible declares, “There is none righteous, no not one.” The second error of the Scribes and Pharisees and today’s religious is that they underestimate the absolute holiness of God.

Secondly, we see Judas, who is harbouring sin. This is the final appearance of Judas in John’s gospel. John describes Judas as privileged. He was numbered among the twelve disciples of Jesus (verse 2). A beautiful picture is painted of a special meeting place which the disciples, including Judas and Jesus, would often meet. What a privilege to have sat in the garden and listened to Him. Judas had seen and been a part of so much. He saw miracles, Lazarus raised from the dead. Here, in the garden, he saw that sudden flash of glory that threw them to the ground, including probably him. He has changed allegiance. He professed to know Christ but his deeds denied that he did.

Secondly, he is a thief! (John 12). He often pilfered money meant for the whole group. He kept much for himself. That greed led him to betray the Lord Jesus for 30 measly pieces of silver, which were utterly useless to him after he got them.

Thirdly, he stands with the opponents (verse 5), the enemies of Jesus, not with the elven others, his friends. They were at risk of arrest now. They were at risk of being killed because they were standing with Jesus. Whose side would you be on this that circumstance? Where would you stand?

Judas is now at greatest risk. He is at greatest risk of his soul. To stand with the world is to put your own soul at risk, to stand under the judgement of God. To stand with Jesus against the world is to face eternal security. It is so easy to fake being a Christian. When Jesus told His disciples at the Last Sipper that one of them would betray them, they didn’t have a clue who it was.

Thirdly, under the opponents who are at risk of judgement, is the Roman authorities, the Roman cohort who had joined the Jewish temple police. They all fall backwards, don’t they! When Jesus answered, ‘I am He,’ at that moment they all fall, like a mighty earthquake. They just cannot stand. Hundreds of fully-armed soldiers, strong men, fall flat kin the presence of the unarmed, humbled man, Jesus.

Jesus could have destroyed them all in that moment, taken their breath away. But He doesn’t. It is a reminder He is not just Jesus the Nazarene, He is God. It also reminds us His purpose is to save. How many times has God struck us down, only for us to stand up and just carry on? These three groups we have seen, just condemn themselves.

Secondly, another way the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrates His control over all that is happening here is the disciples who remain under Jesus’ care. Wonderful care. Back in John 17:12 Jesus says He has guarded them. Although preservation in 21:9 refers to keeping them from arrest, it also refers to keeping them spiritually.

Peter impetuously draws his sword and wildly swings it and chops Malachus’ ear off. Why is Malchus’ name mentioned? John is quite specific in naming the servant’s name as Malchus. I think it’s an indication that everyone knew this name. Malachus was on the Roman side? Peter, whilst he goes for Malchus’ head, would have split this guy’s head in two if Malchus hadn’t ducked.

Peter was a loyal and committed enough to try to defend Jesus. Hopeless odds. There was a Tsunami in front of him. His action stems from a mis-understanding for God’s purpose for Jesus going to the cross. Peter is trying to stop Jesus going to the cross, but he was wrong. Jesus has repeatedly told the disciples of His impending death. The Lord’s intervention to let the disciples go, shows Jesus keeps all of those of whom the Father has given Him (John 6). He intervenes for us. Jesus bore the penalty of our sin on our behalf. Having saved us, He keeps us. Despite our foolishness, our doubts, our lack of understanding, He so evidently has a strong grip on us. Even when we fail, His promise still holds. “I give them eternal life and they will never perish and np-one will be a le to snatch them from my hand.”

We have seen:
firstly, the rebels who oppose Jesus do not thwart His Lordship;
secondly, the disciples who fail Him are still under His protective care. Jesus is in control.

Thirdly, Jesus’ suffering achieves salvation for us, which shows us Jesus is in control. In the Garden, the first Adam succumbed to the tempters there. Here, in another garden, the second Adam triumphed over Satan’s desires and actions. Satan is now influencing and possessing Judas. On the surface, it looks as if Jesus is defeated but it is Satan who is being crushed. Jesus was being obedient to the divine plan (John 3:16).

Even though Jesus could have escaped, He deliberately went to the place where Judas and approximately 600 soldiers would find Him. Jesus was in complete control. ‘I am’ is a declaration of His divinity. Jesus is Lord God. He rebukes Peter for his attempted rescue because Jesus was resolved to drink the cup which the Father had given Him. Nothing took Him by surprise. He was in total control.

The cup (verse 11) was the cup of the Father’s wrath of His righteous anger against all ungodliness. It is the cup of wrath for our sins. The cup of wrath spoken of in Psalm 75:8. Because God is just and holy, the penalty for all sin must be paid for. It must be paid for either by us or by the God-appointed substitute. Because Jesus drank this cup for us, we don’t have to drink that cup of the wrath of God. Rather, we can drink another cup – the cup of His salvation spoken of in Psalm 116:30. The cup of love, the cup of atonement.

While Christ’s suffering was unique, an atoning sacrifice, we can learn about our suffering. Our suffering is only a cup, not an ocean. It is momentary. It is given by the Father who does us no wrong. Just as Jesus was in control, even around the events surrounding His own death, so he is Lord over every difficult circumstance that you may face. Even though you, like His disciples, love Him, we fail Him often, grievously. He still keeps us, and He is still protecting us. After our failures He restores us and uses us.

Inspite of rebels who oppose Him and disciples who fail Him, Jesus is still Lord over every situation, including His own death. He is Lord over the situation of our lives, so at all times we can really lout our trust in Him.

March 20th 2022: Gwydion Emlyn

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel:  https://youtu.be/ydeCb0hjLnw

Luke 21: 5-38

Jesus has made it to Jerusalem after a fruitful three-year ministry. He’s gone there to be handed over to the Gentiles and to be crucified. He’s in the temple. He’s preaching there day by day. The Pharisees are trying to catch Him out, the Sadducees are trying to catch Him out about the resurrection. Nobody can do it; He is cleverer. Why? Because He is God. He is asking them questions, catching them out. They are looking for an opportunity to kill Him, then He says these wonderful truths found in Luke 21 and He prophesises a number of things.

We live in uncertain times. I’m not sure that at any point in the history of the world, since the Fall, anyone couldn’t say they were uncertain times. We have always lived in uncertain times. Nothing is certain, nothing is secure, unless God allows it to be. We are living in uncertain times, but we’ve always been living in uncertain times.

We are, hopefully, coming out of two years of Covid. Putin has lost his mind. He has invaded Ukraine. The threat of that war may well extend beyond those nations. People are panic buying, filling cars with petrol and diesel, taking their jerry cans to the store. Do you remember the panic buying of toilet rolls! There is fear that Russian might use chemical bombs, nuclear bombs and all the rest of the bombs. Is World War Three about to happen? The news causes panic and fear. Some Christians are afraid and fearful. Some are terrified about what might take place. Other Christians are saying that the world is coming to an end, that these are signs of the end times. Our text this morning is very applicable for us today. It always has been, but especially today, with all these weird things that are going on in the world.

We can draw three things out of this text:

  1. Expect persecution and suffering, but fear not.
  2. In light of suffering and persecution we are the bear witness and spread the gospel.
  3. Be prepared for the Second Coming of Christ.

We should expect persecution and suffering, but fear not, And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” (Luke 21:5-7).

There are a number of times throughout the gospels when Jesus speaks of the temple being destroyed and three days later it will be rebuilt. When He does that, the temple is a metaphor of Jesus Himself, as the temple was God’s presence on Earth. Jesus fulfils the function of the temple, that His body will be destroyed and three days later be built up at the Resurrection. In this instance, that is not what is going on. What is happening here is that Jesus is prophesying the literal destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which happened in 70 AD., when the Romans ransacked the temple and all of Jerusalem.

If you were to go to Jerusalem today, where the temple is you will see ruins, pieces of stone. There is a famous wall, a destroyed wall of the temple, which is called the wailing wall. It’s a very sad place to go because what you see is Jews writing prayers on pieces of paper and putting them into the wall. They are awaiting a Messiah to come back. They think that this is the closest that they can get to God; this is where God should dwell on Earth. They’ve missed the boat! It’s Jesus! We come to God through Jesus, not the temple. Not even this building. You are the church. This building is a place to gather.

The importance of this prophecy is that for the world to know that God no longer dwells on Earth, in the temple. But rather, having come to the world in Jesus Christ, and through sending the Holy Spirit, God now dwells in our hearts, in the hearts of believers. Effectively, He dwells in the church, in the gathered people, not the stones.

 When Jesus spoke this the people were terrified. They asked when this would happen. Jesus, instead of calming them, brings more fear, And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” 10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.” (Luke 21:8-11).

When someone comes to you with a worry, you try to calm them. But Jesus here was the opposite. He says there will be wars. Nations will rise against nations. There will be pestilences, mass diseases – Covid! Kingdom will rise against kingdom. Earthquakes. These are things that we see. The Tsunami. These are things that we see, these are the things that we have always seen. Because we live in a fallen and sinful world, we should not be surprised. Jesus is effectively saying, ‘Things go wrong, both naturally (earthquakes, famines, pestilences) and purposefully.

More than that, Jesus goes further. We think, ‘Give it a rest!’ But no, He goes further:

12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers[c] and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.” (Luke 21:12-19).

This section was specifically targeted towards the Early church. It was tied in with the destruction of Jerusalem. The Church began after Jerusalem. Verses 12 and 15, for example, are especially true for the likes of Stephen – who was stoned to death, Peter – who was constantly put in front of the Counsel, the same thing for Paul and the apostles, John and the others. However, even though it was specifically for them, and we know it was specifically for them because Jesus’ advice is, ‘Don’t meditate beforehand about what you will say.’ Our advice today is that we should do that, we should read the scriptures and gain an understanding as to how we would answer questions that people will throw at us when we are persecuted. But this was a time when they didn’t have the New Testament. So, Jesus is effectively saying, ‘Don’t freak out. I will give you the words to say when this comes upon you.’ So, even though it is specifically directed at the Early Church, it is still also true of the Church today.

Paul tells Timothy, everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12). If you want to live a Godly life, and if you do live a Godly life, you will be persecuted. This is because of what Jesus says in verse 17, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.

Suffering is a call for us and others to turn from treasuring anything in this world above Christ. Entering in to suffering puts things into perspective for us. If we suffer well, we demonstrate the gospel to the world. More than that, we demonstrate to God that we are willing servants. So, don’t be surprised, brothers and sisters in Christ, when nations go to war. Are you surprised that Russia has invaded Ukraine? Don’t be. Are you surprised when natural disasters occur? Don’t be. Are you surprised that Covid came? Don’t be.

Here’s what Jesus says, “When you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” (Luke 21:9). But why, Jesus? How do I not fear when these things happen? I could die! My family could suffer. Well, the main reason can be found in verses 16-19, “You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.” (Luke 21:12-19).

Is this confusing you as much as it did me? How can Jesus say, on one hand, ‘You will die. You’ll be delivered up even by those who are supposed to love you. Some of you will be put to death,’ then say, ‘But not a hair of your head will perish.’ What is He talking about? Well, when He says, ‘Not a hair on your head will perish,’ it is a spiritual metaphor. The point He is making is that even if we are to die here on Earth, we shall live abundantly in the next. Not a hair of you head will perish. When, at last, you come to cast your accounts, you shall find you have lost nothing. And your enemies shall find that they have gained nothing. When all is said and done, if you are in Christ, if you die, you have lost nothing, not a hair on your head shall perish. The believer has what the unbeliever does not – life in abundance in Christ.

More than that, we will only suffer what the Lord allows us to suffer. So, the war in Ukraine can only happen if God allows it to happen. Russia is not in control of this war. God is in control. It is not to say that God is pleased with Russia, that’s not it at all. But He’s allowed it to happen. He has allowed this evil to take place. The plans of terrorists and hostile nations don’t succeed apart from our gracious God. Why He allows it is a question many struggle with. King David faced the threat of war on a daily basis. He was constantly facing the threat of war. When you read the psalms you see his pain, you feel his pain. Have you ever prayed the psalms back to God? It forces you to feel what David felt. He often questioned where the Lord was at these times. However, what he learnt was that God allowed his trials and tribulations in order to shape him into God’s willingness. The result of David’s constant suffering was worship and praise. So, we learn to expect persecution and suffering, but to fear not. Whatever may come upon us, we are safe in our Saviour.

Secondly, in the face of persecution and suffering, not only are we not to do something, meaning not to fear – we are to do something – to bear witness and spread the gospel. Not being fearful is a negative; God is telling us ‘Don’t fear.’ But this is a positive. It is telling us what to do – to spread the gospel, “This will be your opportunity to bear witness. (Luke 21:13). We have so many opportunities to bear witness.

Whenever the Church has been persecuted in history, it has resulted in growth. The Church thrives when she is persecuted. The Church began with twelve men. Eleven of them were killed. 2,000 years later, more people claim to be Christian than any other group of people in the world. How genuine that is, is of debate. But whenever persecution has happened, the Church has thrived.

The Church shines brighter when the world gets darker. This should cause us to think how we should pray for persecuted Christians in other nations. In my own church, when we pray for the church in Ukraine, we don’t actually pray for them to be delivered from persecution (not that we want it to happen). What we pray is, ‘Father, as a church in Ukraine is being persecuted and is facing this war, make them shine all the brighter in the face of it.’ We don’t ask for removal, we ask them to shine brighter, to witness and to spread the gospel there. Should we ask God to remove persecution, or should we ask God to use the Church when she is persecuted? The best way to pray for the Church is not to ask for removal of hardship but to ask God to cause the church to bear witness in the midst of hardship.

When everything around us gets darker, the Church shines brighter. This is what Jesus predicts, “20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20-24).

Jesus is prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Romans, and that God’s people will flee, but in doing so, the gospel will spread. He uses destruction in a positive sense. This is extremely negative; there will be hardship and it will continue, He says, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. In other words, the gospel must go to the Gentiles, extend to the nations. This meant that the hardships will continue until God has finished what He wants to do in the world, among the Gentiles, until all is fulfilled, when God’s work is done among us, when Jesus will return.

When foolish Christians like to predict the end of times, the first thing to say is, “Stop it! You don’t have a clue when the end of the world will take place because you are not God.” Jesus says, And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” (Luke 21:9). On other words, these things are signs of the last days, but the last day will not come at once.

The Bible teaches us that we are in the last days and that we have been for the past 2,000 years. John tells us, “Children, it is the last hour (1 John 2:18a). If that were literal, it would have lasted an hour. It is not the last hour literally, it is metaphorically speaking, a figure of speech.

Jesus continues, “and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.“ (1 John 2:18b). Antichrists have been, antichrists are here and antichrists will come.

Paul says, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. (2 Timothy 3:1). He then writes to the church in Thessalonica,“ For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3)

If Jesus comes like a thief in the night, He will come unannounced. If you have ever been robbed, the thief didn’t phone you in the morning to let you know what time they would be coming round to rob you. They come unannounced. Jesus will come unannounced. Anyone who predicts will be wrong. You can’t predict when a thief will come, you can’t predict when Jesus will return.

The author of the Hebrews identifies the time of his writing as the last days. He says, But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:2)

Paul, likewise, identifies that Jesus’ ministry was in the last days, “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you,” (1 Peter 1:20)

So, for those Christians who like to predict, stop pointing to the war and to Covid and to say that this is a sign of the beast, this is the last days,But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9).

So, instead of being concerned about the last days, about when Jesus going to come, this war, Covid, all these things happening, Jesus tells us to be concerned about bearing witness to Christ in the midst of it all. The best way to do this is to be prepared.

Jesus talks about the time when He will return to the world. He says, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28). Let me tell you that now – your redemption is drawing near, whether it’s your death or Christ’s return. That is a wonderful thing.

To illustrate this Jesus has a parable, 29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Luke 21:29-33).

Remember, what is near to God is not near to us, we do not know. The point is, be prepared now. Don’t let the phrase, “When you see these things take place you know that the Kingdom of God is near,” confuse you because they have been taking place for 2,000 years. The point He makes is that you will not know the time of the Son’s return, so be prepared today, tomorrow, every day.

The question is, ‘How do we prepare ourselves?’ By watching ourselves, 34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36).

Don’t be concerned about the cares of this life. In other words, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. When it says, ‘Stay awake at all times,’ it doesn’t mean you need to go to the GP and ask for caffeine tablets. Again, it’s not literal, it’s a figure of speech. Be spiritually awake and prepared, alert at all times, to escape all things, to be counted righteous before God in Christ, so that we might be delivered from persecution when Jesus returns. In other words, don’t be like the people who were listening to Jesus here because these very people who were in the temple, in just a few days from here, would abandon Him. They would see persecution coming upon Jesus and they would run because they would not want it for themselves.

37 And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. 38 And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.” (Luke 21:37-38). They were fascinated by His teaching. Fascinated. But when it came to it, when He was persecuted, they ran. Don’t be fascinated by Jesus, commit to Jesus. Let that fascination become love, commitment and salvation.

What are you like? Are you a Christian? If you are, who do you say Jesus is? What is your answer to these troubles in the world?

If you’re not a Christian, where do you go when trouble arrives? Who do you trust in? Are you fearful? Do you trust in the law or something else?

We already know that Jesus reigns over all things in heaven and on Earth, but the real question is, ‘Does He reign in your heart?’ You see, the thing to be most fearful of is not wars, persecution or diseases. What we have to fear most of the wrath of God. That is far more terrifying than any war, any bomb, any threat of violence. The wrath of God is eternal. Fear Him. But allow that fear to be converted to joy, the kind of fear that draws you to Him, not cause you to run away from Him.

As much as you should fear the wrath of God, because that is the thing that we should fear above anything else, He poured it onto His Son. Is there anything better in the world? That’s the best news. He is to be feared above anything else, but at the same time He isn’t – because Jesus paid the price. So, does Jesus reign in your heart?

March 13th 2022: Paul Daniel

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/X9d2b0EO1wI

Acts 26: How Christians ought to respond when asked about their faith

What are we here for? Penuel Chapel has been around for 200 years. Here in Acts chapter 26, as Luke writes his account and the explosion of the gospel, he writes different accounts of how people speak about Jesus. Paul, in presenting the gospel 2,000 years ago, is no different to presenting the gospel today. We are called today to present the gospel, to tell people. As we look at Acts chapter 26 we see Paul behaves very godly in the way he speaks.

Godly evangelism is patient. Are you a patient person? We live in this culture of everything being fast-paced. We order something today, it arrives tomorrow. Paul had been in prison for two years for preaching the gospel. Felix didn’t know what to do with him, so he left him in prison. Here, two years later, in chapter 26, we have an account of what Paul said when he was given the opportunity to speak to King Agrippa, “So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defence,” (Acts 26:1).

King Agrippa, a Jew has been called because Felix didn’t know what to do with Paul. When Paul is given the opportunity to speak he says, “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defence today against all the accusations of the Jews,” (Acts 26:2).

How would you feel if you had been put in prison for two years for something you hadn’t done, and when you are finally given an opportunity to speak and give a defence for yourself, what would you do? What does Paul do? He starts talking about the gospel. He tells King Agrippa he wants him to listen to him really patiently, that he is fortunate he can present his defence to him. Pauls asks King Agrippa to listen to him patiently. The fruit of the Spirit is patience. God Himself is patient. The New Testament reminds us that God is patient, and with the Lord, “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8). So, this is two days ago. When the first church started, that’s two hours ago!

Paul is patient. He’s been in prison for two years. How patient was God with us? Think of the many times you’ve heard the gospel, of the many times you would come to chapel, to youth club or the times a friend would come and talk to you. How patient is God with us. As Christians, we are to be renewed in the image of God, to reach people with the good news of Jesus. Here Paul takes the opportunity to say to King Agrippa what Jesus had done for him. King Agrippa was a Jew so Paul talks to him in a way he would understand. King Agrippa knows the history. What kind of nation do we live in now? Penuel is celebrating its 200th anniversary year. What kind of nation was Penuel 200 years ago? Nations change. We might have to approach people in a completely different to even 30 years ago, therefore we need to be even more patient.

What does Paul want? His freedom or King Agrippa’s freedom? Even though Agrippa is religious, he needs the forgiveness of sins. Even when Festus says, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind,” (Acts 26:24b), Paul politely responds saying, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.” (Acts 26:5). You see the work of God and the Holy Spirit in Paul’s life. He is patient and understands.

Be ready to go, to be on standby all the time, wherever God has placed you. Be ready to give a reason for the hope we have. As we come week in, week out, being shaped by the Holy Spirit, in the image of our Creator, we are called to be patient, to be gentle, to know what to say in different circumstances. So, when you have an opportunity to speak about your faith, be on standby, be ready to be godly, ready with a reason for the hope we have. My friends, as we come week in and week out, we learn more about God’s Word. We’ve been shaped by the Spirit, we’ve been shaped by God’s Word. We’re being remade in the image of our Creator to be more like Him. Be patient. Be gentle. Know what to say in different circumstances, so that when you’re getting your haircut and you’re having a conversation which may become deep and meaningful, you’re ready and you’re alert. When someone pops round for a cup of coffee, and they are worried about something, they want to talk to you because they trust you because you know you’re going to listen because you’re alert. They know you want an opportunity to speak into their lives and say something of what it means to not be anxious and put your trust in Jesus.

I wonder what Paul was doing for the two years whilst he waited in prison? Godly evangelism is patient.

Godly evangelism is God’s message to all of us. Paul starts telling Agrippa about his conversion on the road to Damascus, when he was ready to persecute Christians, he meets God. This is his story. Godly evangelism starts with us. God came to Paul. God came to save him. Paul was elite, but even he needed to meet Jesus. He followed the law to the letter, but even he needed Jesus. Paul himself was a sinner who needed saving, “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” (Acts 26:9).

Saul was convinced, obsessed as a Pharisee, that he was right and everyone else was wrong. He realised he himself was opposing God. Sometimes, we can give off the wrong impression of what it is to be a Christian. We can sometimes forget what we are living for and saved from. It is God’s message to all of us. As Saul meets Jesus He says, “But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” (Acts 26:16-18).

God’s message is for all of us. Jesus Christ says, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 26:14b). Christ says He wants Paul to take the good news of the gospel to the ends of the Earth. He says, ‘I am going to send you so you can go and share this message so that blind eyes can be opened, so people can receive forgiveness of sins. So, Paul was there to tell them God’s message. This was Jesus’ message. This was Paul being an ambassador. This was Paul taking the only message he could have.

There is no other variation, no other gospel under which men and women, boys and girls can be saved. There is no other name under heaven in which there is salvation, “For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.” (Acts 26:26). This is transparent. Jesus Christ was put on a cross. It was witnessed. Jesus Christ died. It was witnessed. He really did die. They really did put His body in a tomb. And many saw the risen Jesus – the same Jesus with holes in His hands and feet, His scars. This is truth, an historical account. Paul says to King Agrippa, ‘You can see for yourself.’

Isn’t it wonderful that here, in the year 2022, we are able to pray for people and want to do Godly evangelism? We can invite people to examine the message for themselves. 2,000 years ago, there was no printing press. We have Bibles, the gospel, literature, tracts, all forms of opportunities. There is the internet: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TicTok. There are different opportunities, different means that God has given the Church so that His message can go to the ends of the Earth, not in a corner.

Paul is communicating God’s message that He wants to go out. In Acts 17:1 the Bereans were pouring over Scripture. We need to be more like the Bereans; they were asking questions, looking intently into scripture. We need to be like the Bereans. We need to show that there is absolute trustworthiness in this gospel message, by making sure it is God’s message, not ours. Look at the small details. Go back to basics. When we package the gospel message we can distort it, give a distorted view. We need to be careful that what we present is Jesus Christ and Christ crucified. When we present Him to the world so they can turn from darkness to light, you can never be disappointed with that. For all of us, all of us, have fallen short. All of us have sinned. Godly evangelism is patient. Godly evangelism is for everyone.

Godly evangelism persuades people to follow Jesus. Paul here is trying to persuade King Agrippa, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” (Acts 26:26-28).

Anyone can come to church. Anyone can wear the right clothes. Anyone can say the right things. This is not just information; it is the gospel that transforms. We commit to following Jesus and being obedient and, just like Paul, we want people not just to come to church but to follow Jesus. Imagine you package up the gospel message and the impression that someone gets is that being a Christian, being in heaven is about one really long church service. It isn’t though, is it! It’s about being with God, it’s about being with Jesus.

Paul is trying to persuade Agrippa. When King Agrippa says, ‘If you think you’re going to persuade me in such a short time,’ Paul responds, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” (Acts 26:9). Paul says, ‘However long it takes, that you would be persuaded by God to follow Him.’

If you’re not somebody who is a Christian, I can’t convert you. I can give you all this information and I can say that God wants you to follow Him, but I can’t do it. You need God to persuade you. The Bible says if you seek God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, you’ll find Him. He will not turn you away.

For those of you who have got friends or family who are still in the dark, still outside the Kingdom, He wants you to try and persuade them. He wants to work in you and through you. When it is a struggle, you need to pray for them – short or long.

You may say, ‘I’d love to reach people with the gospel. I’d love to be patient. I’d love to share the message of the gospel as God intended. I’d love to persuade people, but I haven’t got any friends. Well, we need to get some friends, to be more friendly.

We could say, ‘Well, I’m not as patient as I’d like to be and sometimes, I can be sharp with my words, and it comes out all wrong. The Bible says we have to be careful about our tongue and pray for self-control.

You may say, ‘I know I should share the gospel but I actually I’m cold in my faith. When I come to church, and I come to weekly meetings I don’t feel that close to the Lord. Pray that God would make our calling and election sure and that we would grow to love him more.

Some of us will say, ‘I’d love to share the gospel but I’m just too busy. Remind yourself that God says, ‘Don’t store for yourself treasure on earth where moth and rust are going to destroy.’ (Matthew 19:21a). Store for yourselves treasure in heaven.

Some might say,’ I struggle to share the gospel because I’ve lost my confidence, you need to remember that Jesus Christ died for you, and He died for us whilst you were still a sinner.

Some will say, ‘Sometimes I feel as if I’m looking around at my friends and the world and I’m convince that actually they’ve got greater problems, that they need friends, or food, or money.’ Praying for common grace is really important, that our friends do have everything they need. We need to pray for common grace that they would be looked after, that they would have shelter, clothes and help. We need to pray for common grace.

But common grace and saving grace are two different things. My friends, we must try and persuade people to follow Jesus. God has promised an eternity for those who follow Him and those for those who don’t. Paul had met with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. He was convinced he needed to be patient with people and to take every opportunity as he ought.

When God says in His Word, one day He will make everything new, God’s people will live with Him and be with Him forever. He calls us now, as Christians, to go into all the world. You don’t have to go far, go into Roch. God calls people to be patient with them and to share God’s message with them, to try and persuade them. Keep praying, whether it’s short or long, that they would come and put their trust and faith in Jesus. Pray that, as verse 18 says, that they would come and find a place amongst those who are sanctified. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your neighbour, your work colleague, your granddaughter, your grandson, your children, parents, might come and put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Despite whatever may happen to them in this life, that they had a place set apart for them and God will make everything new.

March 6th 2022: Norman Rees

Matthew 16: 13-17

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16: 13-17)

Jesus had just performed a mighty miracle, the feeding of 4,000. Then, confronted later on, in chapter 22, He asks the Pharisees, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” (Matthew 22:14).

But here, in this portion of Scripture, the question, “But who do you say that I am?” is addressed to the disciples, to believers. If asked this question yourself, you would probably give the same answer as Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” He is! We know these answers. He is the anointed one. Right back in Genesis chapter 3 He is spoken of.

So, Peter here gives the right answer. Jesus says, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” We too can give the right answer. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one. Paul, writing later to the church in Corinth says, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit,” (1 Corinthians 12:3). This, says Jesus, has been revealed by God the Father.

Later on, Jesus said “to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day,” (Matthew 16:21). Peter, who had just made this confession of who Jesus was, says, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (Matthew 16:21b). Peter doesn’t want Jesus to do this, He wants Him to stay with him. Jesus responds, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23).

Peter, when Jesus asks this question of who He is, needs to have self-examination. You and I do too. We too can give the right answers, but we can still do things that don’t add up to having Christ as our Saviour. We need self-examination. What is the first thing that fills our mind when we get up? What is the last thing we do at night when we snuggle under the duvet? Do we thank God for the blessings we have received? So many won’t snuggle under a duvet because they have no bed. Do we take things for granted?

Jesus says to us today, ‘What do you think of Christ? He has saved you. Are you glad? Yes! But there’s so much more! You may know all the doctrines, but what do you think of Christ? We can be so pre-occupied we can push Christ aside. Things can creep in upon us and we almost forget we are living in the sight of God. If we are taken up with things but push Christ aside, Jesus says to you and me, ‘What do you think of me?’

We use our minds to think about mundane things but use your minds to think about Jesus. Do I walk with Him? Do I talk with Him? He is our guide, our strength in temptation. He supplies all our needs. If you are like me, you often send cards and emails with this quote, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19). Our God is conscious of all our needs. He says, ‘Don’t neglect me.’ Paul says to Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12). Think about Christ. A Spurgeon says, “Think of His wounds.”

Christ lived a perfect life yet He was whipped and persecuted. He had no rest as He carried the cross to Calvary. They laid Him down upon it, yet He said not a word (Psalm 22). He died and suffered and bled for me. How often do think of that? It is good to meditate in what God has done.

When tragedies, trials and tribulations come, you can forget God. Do things to the glory of God. Don’t let your life take over from the Lord Himself. Eternity waits. After death is judgement – heaven or hell. Everyone of those lashes, the three hours of darkness, He bore it all and then triumphed. “It is finished!” Faith alone in Christ is all that gets us to heaven. The older I get, I get one day nearer to home. Look what is waiting for us – glory.

To unbelievers, we have to ask the same question, “What do you think of Christ?” Maybe you’ve never thought of these things – who He is, why He came, why was He born in a cattle shed? He came to live a perfect life. He died because we failed to live that perfect life. We are all sinners. Jesus died for you and me. Some believers think very much; they are very clever. But they may never think of Christ. They may say ‘I think Jesus is a good man.’ But here is one who stands head and shoulders above all. He is the One who can say, “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father,” (John 14:9).

When we come to believe in Jesus our thoughts change. Everything is different. Jesus calls it being born again – a new start, a new life.

Unbelievers can care for family and friends, but they think horizontally. They don’t think of God. They don’t think of the life ahead. Our God knows us. Science has done wonderful things but one day, we will search where life came from. Science does not have the answer to life. God is the answer. Christ is the answer.

We read in Acts 16:17 highly intelligent men listened to Paul. He started to preach the gospel. Some thought he was mad and laughed at the thought of the Resurrection. Paul tells them who they should worship – the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe in Christ. Give your lives to Him. Some mocked. Paul preached the gospel and left. Some believed. It has that effect.

“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
Isaiah 55:11

He promises! Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. Don’t put it off. Young people, in the Word of God, we are told, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them,” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). When you die, if you don’t believe you will face Him as judge. Face Him now as a Saviour.

February 20th 2022: Graham John

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Matthew 7:1-14

Life is full of choices. This morning, you have already decided what time to get up for church, what to wear, what time to eat, what time to leave the house. There are other decisions we make, more inward decisions. In what spirit will I come? Will I come expectantly or out of tradition? Some decisions have very little impact, others are huge decisions; will I get married, have children, what career will I choose? The ultimate choice is whether to accept Jesus Christ and His Kingdom because that determines our eternal life.

In this passage of Scripture, Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14). These words come towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount. There, Jesus describes the Christian lifestyle, our relationships with other people. Then, He says to us, like a jury, have you reached a verdict at which you’re agreed. This choice will not only affect the last of days but eternity. The Lord says to us, ’Will you be my disciple or will you follow other gods and reject me?’

Jesus speaks of two ways: one broad, full of people, but it leads to destruction. The other, the gate of heaven found on earth, is narrow, sparsely populated, but it leads to life. In just a few words here, Jesus tells us the characteristics of a life that’s going to hell and a life that’s going to heaven. Jesus urges us to make the correct decision, to enter in at the narrow gate.

How do you identify the road to heaven and the way to hell?

The road to hell is broad. It is spacious and roomy. It does not have many boundaries. It is popular and permissive, under no obligation to Jesus. You can believe in a way completely contrary to the Sermon on the Mount. You needn’t forgive or pray. Here, people are utterly worldly, consumed by their own little kingdom. That is life on the broad road. Most follow the herd, like cattle. Even people of reputation and learning are on this broad road. There are many companions because it is agreeable to everyone’s sinful inclination. It is attractive. However, people bump into one another and hurt one another. Little children need boundaries unless they grow into spoiled adults. When we live without boundaries in our own personal world, our freedom means that others are hurt. Your freedom to hate means there are always disputes, there are always family quarrels. Others get trampled upon. That’s life on the broad road.

In contrast to that, the road to eternal life is narrow. The gate is narrow, and the way is hard that leads to life. The way of true life is narrow, says the Lord. Not narrow-minded, but narrow. Those who find it are few. It is narrow, confined. There are boundaries to this road. It is a road where honesty, integrity, integrity, compassion, pity, self-control, self-restraint, mercy and forgiveness are the order of the day. It’s a road where unrestrained lust is forbidden, as are swearing, cursing, retaliation and hatred. You are called on to pray, to give, to fast, to seek God’s kingdom first, not your own. In faith you are to look to Him for all physical needs. It’s a road where you’ll be misunderstood, spoken evil of. People will falsely say all kinds of evil against you.

Because it’s a narrow road there are more laws to keep on this road; not only laws that affect your outward life, but laws that are addressed to your inner life. The world of thoughts are addressed here, of motives and attitudes. Often, we break those standards, certainly if we try to keep them in our own strength. But there is mercy and forgiveness for us from the Lord who died for us at the cross. There is encouragement to press on, not in our own strength but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We can be encouraged by companions on the road, by others who have gone before us. The Lord Himself exemplifies what life on this road means. He was obedient to His Father on this road. We find it’s a road of denying yourself, being pure in heart, being a peacemaker, being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Because we have an expert with us, we can do far more. Jesus is an expert in living this life of obedience. If we keep close to Him, we will still fail but we’ll end up living a life which people on the broad road will be jealous of. Some may say, ‘I wish I had your faith.’

The Christian life depends on whether you’re on the inside or the outside. On the outside it looks confined, like a Tardis. From inside, the Christian life is fellowship with the infinite eternal God. It’s about learning about His plans, the unity of His work down and across the ages. From inside you can know forgiveness and offer forgiveness to those on the outside and those on the inside with you.

A narrow gate implies believing definitive truths, not vague ideas about God and life. People on the narrow road believe the gospel. It is universally applicable across the world. It is everlasting. It applies across the world to all sinners, always. There is no liberty to change it to our own ideas. It never changes to fit people. Christ changes people so they love this gospel out.

The narrow road means few people find this road. Unless a person is changed by the Spirit of God, they won’t be attracted to these things. They won’t love the Lord Jesus Christ. They won’t love His word, His people, His gospel. They will never find this road attractive. The few across the world, down the ages, who find this road, will eventually add to a great host. After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, (Revelation 7:9).

There are many temptations to forsake the narrow road. Sometimes, the two roads seem to run parallel and close to each other. “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.” (Psalm 73:2). You may be the only Christian in your family, your group, at work, but that’s not a reason to join the broad road – rather it’s a reason to encourage others to get off the broad road and join those who are on the narrow road. A disciple of Christ should never pin their hopes on large numbers.

Where will these two ways take you?

The broad road leads to the worst place of all – certain destruction. The worst way to die is to die Christless. Jesus warns us to beware of going to destruction. Before getting there, you look like your sins. Sin changes us, our attitudes and appearance. Notice, there is no third destination, which means you have to make a choice. To enter the narrow gate, you need to repent, to trust Christ

How do you get through the gate that leads to life?

On the broad road there is easy access; you don’t have to make any effort to find it. People are on the broad road by nature. They may be unaware they’re on the broad road. The gate to life, however, is small, narrow. Because it is small you have to make an effort to find it. You need to seek it. We must exert ourselves. Christ call us through it. He said to Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). No-one can enter unless they repent.

Jesus speaks of Himself as the gate, “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:2-3). “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:7-9). Shepherds were gates. At night-time they would gather the sheep into a pen and lie down across the entrance so that wild animals couldn’t enter in, and the sheep couldn’t wander out. They were the gates. Jesus says, ‘I am the gate.’ We have to come to Christ and accept Him as our Saviour and Lord. And that is harder the longer you spend on the road. It is narrow because there is only one way to be saved. No-one who sincerely seeks Christ will fail to find it. The narrow road leads to life, to Christ. Jesus says, All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37). So let us trust Him this morning. Seek Him, to enter the narrow gate so that we may know everlasting life ourselves

February 13th 2022: Gaius Douglas

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11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:11-13

Hebrews was written to the Hebrew Christians who had, not long ago been saved. When Pentecost happened, when the Spirit of God came down, 3000 souls were saved. The word of God spread from place to place. God was doing a mighty work – taking His Word, by His Spirit, to men and women all over the region. The first Christians, in the main, were Jews, they were Hebrews. They had to leave behind their own religion. They were being taught something new.

In Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 we see something that was happening to them. Something had occurred in their lives which, for many of them, was a new experience. At the same time, they were being dragged back into their old religion, into Judaism. One of the things that we must remember at all times, is that scripture is given by the inspiration of God, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16). It is given to us that we may be complete. I love that word, ‘complete.’ In Colossians we read that as believers in Christ we are complete in Him.

This was the Hebrews dilemma – should they go to go back to Judaism, go back to the synagogue, to the temple, to something that was quite safe. One of the things they were experiencing when they came to know Christ as their Saviour was persecution. They were being thrown out of their families, they were being asked to leave. This still happening today. Many who turn to Christ will be turned out of their families, will not be spoken to. The writer of the Hebrews is encouraging them to pursue the new Christian doctrine, follow Christ, but in following it, you will suffer persecution. When we stand up for Him we will suffer; we will be called names. But we take those names and we take those who call us and we give thanks to God that we are able to stand up for Him and to suffer for Him.

Paul confirms and encourages the Hebrew Christians and Christians today, ourselves. He writes in Galatians 6:17, “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.If you go back to the Book of Acts chapter 9 you will read about the conversion of Paul. From day one of his conversion until the day he died, Paul suffered persecution. Being a Christian is not an easy life. The Hebrew Christians had to make a choice – safety and miss out on the joy of Christ and the blessings of eternal salvation or go back. My friends, from time to time, are you encouraged to go back? There is a lot to drag us back because it’s safe. But the writer of Hebrews is saying, ‘Go forward.’

Being in Christ is far higher, far more exalted than anything we can experience in this life. There is no greater than Christ Himself, the hope of glory. The Hebrew Christian in chapters 3 and 4 were reminded by the writer that their forefathers, when they left Egypt, went on a wilderness journey. In that journey many died because of unbelief and disobedience. They do not enter the rest God promised them. What was that rest? That rest was the Promised Land, Canaan. But that was an earthly rest. The writer in chapters 3 and 4 is gently drawing them to a rest which is far greater, far more precious. The writer of Hebrews wants them to focus on the rest of Christ, eternal rest in Christ, a heavenly rest which is something far better. He refers to what David says,

“Today, if you will hear His voice:
“Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
When your fathers tested Me;
They tried Me, though they saw My work.”

Psalm 95: 7b-9

David was speaking of that eternal glorious rest, “And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23). My final resting place is in Christ, in glory. Are you resting in Christ? I am resting in the finished and completed work of Christ. I am resting in all that He has promised. I belong to Him. Today may be my last day, your last day. Are you resting in Him to such an extent that nothing else matters? Eternal rest. Eternal love. To be in His presence. What greater joy, what greater blessing.

Secondly, I want to share some thoughts on the application to you and me. “God is love,” (1 John 4:8). If anyone asks you what God is like, He is love. We see in God the Son, whom He sent to become our Saviour, we see God manifest in flesh, God revealed in flesh, the love of God being shown and demonstrated. We hear His word,

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Rejoice! Jump up and celebrate! Christ in us, the hope of glory. We can enjoy the rest of being in the presence of God. The writer of Hebrews was encouraging them to hold on to the truth of the word of God. My dear friends, I am encouraging you to hold on and pursue this life.

There’s a word in Scripture I love. It’s repeated time and time again. It’s the word ‘forever.’ Being in the presence of the Lord, something I’m enjoying now, something I will go on enjoying forever. “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19). I will never die because Christ lives. I’m alive, alive forever more. We have a home, we have a hope that is steadfast and certain because of the One who has gone through the curtain, who died on Calvary’s cross, who has given life – a ransom for many. What a wonderful experience, what a wonderful sight it was to believers on Christ when they heard the words, “He is not here, He is risen!”

One day He is going to stand and come for His own and bring them to glory. What a glorious prospect is yours and mine. We can rest in that certain hope. How blessed. This glorious word of God, “God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12).

Are you aware, am I aware of and appreciate the power and majesty of God? If we believe that God owns everything, the breath I breathe this morning, my children He has lent to me, they belong to Him? Where are you resting? In your home? But that’s only a temporary residence. Where is your home? Heaven! We must be diligent in the rest which is ours now. We need to work at it. “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12). What does it mean to ’work out your own salvation with fear and trembling’? It doesn’t mean to attempt to deserve salvation on the grounds of what you do. There are many who try and work their way into heaven, trying to be a good person. Who saved you? Jesus. We’ve been saved by the grace of God, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (Ephesians 2:8).

It is only by the grace of God. We can’t make atonement for our past sins. the Bible says, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17)

“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
    your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
    for I have redeemed you.”

23 Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this;
    shout aloud, you earth beneath.
Burst into song, you mountains,
    you forests and all your trees,
for the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
    he displays his glory in Israel.”

Isaiah 44:22-23

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.”

Isaiah 43:1b

When the writer of Hebrews says to ’work out your own salvation with fear and trembling’? he means to break off from your sins. For the Hebrew Christians, it meant don’t turn back to Judaism, don’t look back. To us it means don’t turn back to the things that were holding you from Christ. Many of the things that you and I do so often take us away from Christ. We belong to Him,

Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). We belong to Christ. The writer of Hebrews was saying to the Hebrew Christians, ‘I want you to enjoy the rest of Christ, the glory and the wonder, the power and the majesty of God. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12). Trust in it.

This Word changes and transforms. It renews. It rejuvenates. It takes us out of ourselves and brings us into the very presence of God. Let us come boldly to the throne of God. This is the power, this is the wisdom, this is the majesty, this is the glory of God.

It is a life-giving word, the source of all things. It has the keys of life and death. Satan, with all his powers, cannot do anything to you without God’s permission. Death has been defeated. How blessed we are! His word gives light to the repentant sinner. This word causes the devil to tremble, it causes demons to flee. It heals the sick. It gives sight to the blind.

God alone upholds this universe. He is the one to whom you and I have to give an account to. To the believers in Christ, God will honour us for the works we have done in His Name, for His glory and praise, not the works we decide to do for a pat on our back. There are many, many, many things that men and women of God do that we never hear of, but God does. To the unrepentant sinner, to those who have turned away, we read,

“To the unrepentant sinner, “Because I have called and you refused,
I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,
25 Because you disdained all my counsel,
And would have none of my rebuke,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your terror comes,
27 When your terror comes like a storm,
And your destruction comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.”

Proverbs 1:24-27

We read in Revelation 20 of the white throne judgement, where those who have refused God, who have rejected Him, who have refused His word, will be cast into the lake of fire.

My dear friends, heaven is my home.  Where do you stand? Do you know Him as your Saviour? Do you trust Him? Are you resting in Him? Are you rejoicing in Him? Praise the Lord!  

February 6th 2022: Steffan Jones

To watch this service, please click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/Ci1HvDOnOkM

Romans 5: 1-11

When I was in Bible college, I was taught that every good preacher does three things: they state their point, then they illustrate it, then they apply it – why is this important to us, how does it apply to lives. So, you state the point, illustrate it and apply it. It seems that the apostle Paul followed this plan.  When you read Romans, Paul issues the main theological point of his letter in chapter 3:24, “we are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” The main point of this letter is we are justified by His grace. Justified means to be declared not guilty. So, whereas before you stand condemned in the dock, facing condemnation and judgement because of your thoughts, your speech, your behaviour, and attitude to God, now you are declared not guilty. There is no condemnation, you are free. Justified means to stand in a court of law and for the judge to say, ‘Not guilty.’ We are justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. It’s a gift of God’s grace.

In chapter 4 Paul illustrates this, giving an example of someone who was justified by faith – someone who was not justified on the basis of keeping the law, that they had lived a good enough life, or that they were circumcised. His example is Abraham. Abraham was someone who was justified, who was declared not guilty, who was considered righteous, perfect in the eyes of God, before the Jewish law had been given, before the ceremonial law had been given. He was justified because God, in His grace, put His hands on him, chose him, called him and considered him righteous. The only thing Abraham had to do was accept that and to believe and trust Him in the word of this gracious and loving God.

I think Paul goes to Abraham because he’s the father of faith. He is the great example of someone who could not be saved through his own efforts or through keeping the law. It would have been impossible for him to keep the Jewish law because it hadn’t been presented or delivered to them. So, it is illustrated. Here is a real-life example of someone justified, someone declared not guilty, someone who is freed and forgiven – not because he is a great person, or that he was immensely religious. No. it is because of the grace of God. God, in His amazing love, calling and choosing. All he had to do was respond in faith.

In chapter 5 we see the application. How does it affect our lives? The headline is in chapter 5. The main line, the most important point is found in verse 1, Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Everyone wants peace – peace within warring families, peace when there is division between a husband and wife, peace between nations. We pray for peace in broken communities, when there is division between various groups. People want peace in their hearts. They can’t find peace within them for many reasons: Covid, fear, loneliness.

The peace in this passage of scripture speaks of a deeper peace. I believe if you have this peace, then you have the key to unlocking other types of peace. If you have peace with God, then you can be at peace with yourself. You can know peace in your heart and soul. If you have peace with God, then you can learn how to forgive others and that can lead to peace within our own relationships. I believe if there is revival, then an entire nation is affected. If thousands of people within a community are saved, then that leads to change communities as well and to greater peace. This is the underlying need for every person because it changes our lives today. Even more than that, for all eternity. To have peace with God is our deepest and greatest need.

What are the results of having peace with God? That’s what Paul looks at in the next few verses. So, we have got justification – we are declared not guilty, free ion the eyes of God. Perfect and righteous. You have peace with God. What does that mean? What are the consequences? The first thing is mentioned in verse 2 – we now have grace.

Grace. “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.” (Romans 5:2) We now have grace in which we stand. Because we have peace with God, we have this grace in which we stand. We think of grace at the beginning of the Christian life, that you become a Christian because of the grace of God. Someone becomes a Christian not because they are especially clever or especially religious. You become a Christian because God, in His grace, places His hands on you and calls you.

But grace is a state, a spiritual condition, in which we continue, so we continue to receive the grace of God not just on the day we become a Christian, but throughout our whole lives. There are two spiritual states: one state is to be under judgement, still in our sin. Without Jesus this is where we are. Without Jesus, God sees our sin and there is no forgiveness because we haven’t repented, we haven’t trusted in the Saviour. That is a dangerous place to be. If we were to die in our sins, without the Lord Jesus, we would face judgement.

But the other condition is to stand in grace, where we are recipients of God’s grace. If you have trusted in Jesus as your Saviour, if you have asked for forgiveness of your sins, if you have received by faith this salvation, by faith you have trusted in Jesus, you have peace with God, you can now receive the grace of God. This means to know that God wants to bless you, to know that God wants to protect you, that God loves you.

Think of all the promises God, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26)

That is what it means to stand in grace. That this heavenly Father, who feeds the creatures and the natural world around us, values you. You receive the grace of God and so you are aware of your sinfulness. God reminds you of His grace. You feel helpless and God, in His love, reminds you of the hope you have. You are aware of your sinfulness but reminded that Jesus died for me. All of the truths come back again and again, in His grace. God, in His grace, protects us and restores us again and again. Even when we do fall and when we find ourselves in foolish situations, He forgives – because He is a God of grace. So, you are a recipient of God’s love continually.

Don’t ever think you’re outside of God’s love, or beyond God’s love. Don’t ever think that God cannot show you grace. His grace is beyond anything we can ask for or imagine. His love overflows for us. For all eternity you will stand, and your faith will not fail because God in His grace will keep you. You will stand in grace, and you will continue to stand.

Hope. We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. There are no obstacles now. Because we are justified, because we have peace with God, because our sin has been taken away, there are no obstacles between us and God, between us and heaven. On that day of judgement, where the sheep and goats will be divided and separated, because we have peace with God, we can know that on that day we will be received into the presence of the Lord Jesus, into His everlasting, eternal kingdom. We will be with His forever in paradise. We have this eternal hope that we are safe. We will stand in a place where there will be no diseases, no death, no decay. There will be no sorrow, no sadness, no sin. All of those things will have passed away.

We will rejoice in this. Because there is no sin, there is no judgement, we will be immediately ushered into this new heaven. A paradise. But notice what Paul says here; he doesn’t just say we rejoice in the hope of glory, at the thought of going to heaven, to paradise. There is more. We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. He knows heaven is the home of God. In heaven we will have glorified bodies. We will have glorified eyes to see Jesus as He really is. Can you imagine that? The fullness of the glory of God, seen in the person of Jesus. We will see the glory of Jesus. Because we have been justified, because we have peace with God, this is a real hope. We rejoice in hope.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,” (Romans 5:3-4). Paul acknowledges there will be suffering, but we can still rejoice because God has greater purposes for us, and we can fix our eyes on heaven. We can know that whatever we face in this world, all suffering will come to an end. One day we will see Jesus, the person you pray to, the person to delight in when reading the Scriptures.

The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, pours out God’s love into our hearts.  “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5). We’ve thought about the doctrine of justification (being set free, not guilty), we’ve thought about heaven, we’ve thought about God’s grace. God wants us to understand these things in our minds. He wants us to know these things are true. He also wants us to feel it, to know this in our hearts as well. The Christian faith is meant to affect not just our minds, not just our wills, but it’s to affect our emotions. He wants us to feel His love and He does this through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our teacher, the Holy Spirit is our instructor and guide, the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts us of our sinfulness. He moulds our consciences. The Holy Spirit pours out His love so that we know we are children of God, so that we know we are forgiven.

It is one thing to know this, it is something completely different to understand. I’m becoming more convinced that what we need to remember as people is that God loves us. We have peace with God. There are no obstacles. The Holy Spirit can live and dwell in our hearts and soul and pour out this love. Do you know today that you are loved? Do you know today that God is your Father? Are you aware that the Holy Spirit is in your soul?

When you feel that sense of darkness, or that isolation, pray for the love of God to be poured out like streams of living water into your souls.

Deliverance. “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:9). There is a time coming when we will all have to face the wrath of God – but because of the death of the Lord Jesus we will be safe and delivered. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8).

Because of Jesus’ grace, because of His willingness to go to the cross, because of His obedience to God and His love for Him, He went to the cross. And so, on that day of wrath there will be nothing that we have to face; God will say ‘You are forgiven. You are considered a great and faithful servant.’ And we’ll be about to enter the presence of God.

Some Christians are still worried about that day, thinking ‘Will I be accepted?’ If you trust in the Lord Jesus, you don’t have to say, ‘I hope for the best.’ No. You can say, ‘I know I will be safe. I know that I will go to heaven. I know that I will see the glorious face of Jesus. I know that I won’t face wrath because of Jesus, because He died for me.’

All of these are blessing of being a Christian. To summarize it all – we have been reconciled with God. We are one with God. These are tremendous blessings! At the beginning of 2022, a return to normality would have been good news, to see this Omicron wave pass quickly, that we can return to spending time with loved ones and friends, to go on holidays.

But the greatest news of all is to know that if you trust in Jesus, if you have believed in Him, then you have peace with Him. God is your Father. God is on your side. You are one with Him. You belong to the family of God. That’s how you stand in grace. You are in a safe position, this secure position of someone who can receive the grace of God continually. He will restore you. He will keep you. You have a hope that one day you will be in heaven and see the glory of God in the face of Jesus forever and ever.

You can know the Holy Spirit who pours out the love of God into your heart, so that in the deepest and darkest of times you can know that God loves you. You are delivered from wrath and given life eternal. There is no greater news. There is nothing greater this morning that I could share with you, than to remind you of His profound truths. So, my prayer for you, myself and all of God’s people, and those who don’t know Him yet, that you would find this news and would rejoice in it today and forever.

January 30th 2022: Ian Middlemist

To watch this service, please click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/icUJH3P8aXY

Psalm 25: Petitions and Provisions

This is an acrostic psalm, although you wouldn’t notice it. The Hebrew alphabet is used (not all letters) to start each stanza.

The Christian lives in that tension of petition and provision. We yearn for that which has not yet been fully given, yet we rejoice in the complete and satisfactory revelation of the love of God that has been given to us, deep in our hearts. We are absolutely satisfied with the sufficiency of God’s grace towards us. He has given to us that which will eternally satisfy, and we are glad.

Petitions.

Petition is prayer making, a plea to God for specific needs. There are different aspects to the Christian prayer life. There are thanksgiving, there are petitions, there are mediatory roles that we play. Christians are aware that they need the Lord. When there is a specific need they turn to the Lord. Efforts are made in our lives to answer our needs; we may turn to Google to answer life’s complexities. The Christian ultimately realises the Lord Jehovah is the answer. He is the author of all wisdom and strength. He provides, so we petition Him.

If you see an injustice take place you have the right to petition Parliament. You have the right to get people to get people to sign your petition of concern, then it can go to Parliament. You then have hope it is listened to and responded to.

Isn’t it wonderful we can make our petitions to the Lor. We can make them directly to Him, one to one. He will answer according to His own will. We come to a God, not to an unfeeling system. We come not needing the ability of grandeur, of teamwork. When our words fall out of our mouths and lack fluidity in prayer, He accepts us in the Lord Jesus Christ. We can come confidently to Him. We come to a God whose faithfulness is great, whose compassions fail not. Bring your petitions to the Lord.

A Petition for Deliverance.

There is a need for deliverance.  David is in anxiety of soul. He comes with this petition for deliverance, out of a position of confidence, To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul,” (verse 1). He is surrounded by an assurance that the Lord is ready to receive him. The Lord is calling you to come to Him now. This God is ready to receive. He is the God who is trustworthy, “O my God, in you I trust” (verse 2a). David has the assurance that the Lord is worthy of the trust of his soul. The Lord is preserving David’s dignity, “Let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me” (verse 2b). Our God is not about the business of shaming His beloved children. He cares. David’s petition is that he doesn’t want to be put to shame. There is petition and provision.

A Petition for Instruction.

David has a petition for instruction, for wisdom, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.” (verse 4). We also see this in verses 8, 9 and 12. David speaks of ‘the way.’ What is this way? David is not speaking primarily about the obedience to God’s commands. He is in need of being led to know God’s faithfulness, “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies,” (verse 10).

Christians are to ask to follow and appreciate His faithfulness as we walk through this life, which often lead us through barren lands. At this time, we can look ahead and feel totally overwhelmed. But when we look back, we can see disappointments led to deliverances and that closed door prevented them from absolute disaster. We know that this path will lead to ultimate faithfulness, to glory.

The third petition – forgiveness:

“Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
    according to your steadfast love remember me,
    for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
(verse 7)

“For your name’s sake, O Lord,
    pardon my guilt, for it is great.”
(verse 11)

This encourages people to pray for forgiveness of sins. What is the basis for this petition? As far as David is concerned, there are two bases for this. Let’s start with the second because this shows us how David sees himself. The first one is how David sees the Lord. David’s basis for asking the Lord for forgiveness is, as he sees himself, is that his guilt is very great. He has sinned against God. The burden of the guilt is incredible, so he asks for forgiveness, without making excuses. He confesses his sins. That’s all we can do, be honest about it.

The first basis that David brings, the reason for pleading for forgiveness is this – it’s the Lord’s character, “O Lord, you are a God of steadfast love.” This is how the Lord has revealed Himself to be. That is why we need to give ourselves to the knowledge of God, come to know who He is as He has revealed Himself to be. We must give ourselves to know God. As we do this, we will have revealed to us His steadfastness, His love to save us. We need to start listening, searching every little bit of what He has said about Himself in the Bible. Then we can come to Him in greater confidence. Then we can gain an assurance that He reveals by His grace and His faithfulness toward us. Let’s petition the Lord for deliverance, instruction and forgiveness.

Provisions.

Let’s see the provisions that He has granted to us. He grants us assurance He is always giving and pouring out His assurance toward us.

“His soul shall abide in well-being,
    and his offspring shall inherit the land.”
(verse 13)

“My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
    for he will pluck my feet out of the net.”
(verse 15)

He will – it is future. We don’t know what is going to happen this week, in the months ahead. We are hoping for a better future. There’s all sorts of ways we try to assure us of a better future. David knew the Lord would not abandon His people. God has destined for His own beloved Son to come out of this people. Under the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ believers are assured that they shall inherit the Earth. Our God has designed that His children should not only make it through life but inherit the Earth. That’s the assurance of those who are under the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 With that end in mind, the Lord sent His Beloved Son to die for our sin. We know how to rescue and to show compassion to little ones. We know how to give our children good gifts. We want to protect them. How much more does our heavenly Father feed, guide and love His children? We see in verse 15 that David is assured in the troubles of life it is not he who needs to protect his own way, pick himself up. No. It’s the Lord who is going to pick him up. He gives him that assurance. What an assurance we receive.

Leading.

David has pleaded and petitioned for instruction and he has received the provision of the Lord’s leading.

“He leads the humble in what is right,
    and teaches the humble his way.”
(verse 9)

“Who is the man who fears the Lord?
    Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.”
(verse 12)

The righteous receive the Lord’s leading in His ways and also the instruction of God’s goodness.

He will lead on the basis of His forgiveness. He has led us. He has provided direction. Christians often struggle to know the will of the Lord. This leads to fear, to stunted growth and progress in the Christian life, fear of making mistakes. God has clearly set out the parameters of righteousness for us in making decision in the Word. From there we must trust the Lord and prayerfully use the intellect we have already been given to make those decisions. We follow His paths, going in the way He has already revealed. As we learn of His faithfulness increasingly, He leads us safely on. He makes His sovereign goodness known. He instructs, He guides and teaches those who are humble, those who are sinners who have already submitted themselves to His covenantal Lordship in their lives (Psalm 32:8).

Third provision in response to forgiveness – He gives us so much more than we bargained for.


“The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
    and he makes known to them his covenant.”

(verse 14)

He gives to us His friendship! Not only does He forgive, He gives us His friendship, His companionship (v.13). Absolutely staggering! Remember, the Lord has already rescued you and given you His friendship, His companionship. The Lord has deemed it fit to let you into His secret (verse 14). The Lord is to confide in those who fear Him. Those who revere His holy Name will walk carefully before Him, humbling themselves, will know the Lord sharing His very heart with them, as His chosen special friends. They will share His deepest desires of love towards sinners, His plan of redemption, this great, matchless, extravagant love. He also reveals those plans for those who hate Him. In the Lord Jesus Christ you are His special friend

In conclusion, when you walk with the Lord and make your petitions to Him, you will get so much more than you bargained for – heavenly peace, divinest comfort.