February 20th 2022: Graham John

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel:   https://youtu.be/qqzMD9Sfoks

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.

January 23rd 2022: Dave Evans

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

John 20:30-31

Church attendance is in decline. We hear a lot about faith, yet it can often be faith without no outward focus, faith in some unknown force or faith in ourselves. Sometimes it can be faith in a philosophy or in a set of beliefs. Sadly, many who take the name of Christian only have some vague things, with no focus or reality about it. Many seem to think that as long as they have faith, everything will be well. John gives us the answer to where true faith needs to find its focus.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31).

John begins his gospel with a great declaration, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1). John then unfolds for us all that it means. Although John has 21 chapters, and chapter 21 is full of Resurrection appearances, he almost seems to come to a climax in the final verses of chapter 20. Thomas wasn’t present when the disciples saw the risen Jesus in the upper room, so refused to believe it and because of that he is known as ‘doubting Thomas.’ Yet that is not where John ends the passage. Thomas is no different from the other disciples when they heard the Resurrection news. Yet John points us to one of the greatest confessions of faith in the New Testament, from Thomas, an assertive statement of Thomas’ faith, ‘My Lord and My God.’

After this, John writes, Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31).

John tells us here what is to be the great foundation of our faith; faith is to be that which is based on this foundation alone – that Jesus is the Christ, and He is the Son of God. The One whose life John has set out in his gospel is no other than the Messiah – the One who would fulfil all His Father’s purposes. He is the One who has been appointed to fill the plan of salvation. This anointed One was the perfect man, the Son of God, equal with the Father. This is John’s great conclusion he wants us to come to. He declares the claims are true. The evidence is overwhelming, even though it’s impossible to write everything Jesus said and did. In spite of that, John is saying, ‘All I have written gives clear evidence that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God.’

What signs have been written? John uses the word ‘sign’ more than any other gospel writer. A sign is a miracle of divine majesty, a declaration of who Jesus is, a signpost to look beyond the miracle to the One who stood before them.

Peter wrote, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know,” (Acts 2:22).

As Jesus performs these miracles, He pointed the crowds to the truth beyond the miracle. When Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, the people simply wanted their bellies full. But Jesus pointed out it was Him they needed to feed upon.

John 9:35-41, “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

Jesus here is pointing out to the man and the Jewish leaders that there was a spiritual sight that was needed. The man worships Him. Here is a silent declaration that He is the Son of God.

As Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, he declared, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26).

There are many prophecies that John and other gospel writers record to point us to this great truth – that Jesus is the anointed One. John, more than any other writer, points to Jesus as the Messiah. In John 4 we read of Jesus’ meeting with the woman of Samaria, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:23-26).

The Lord Jesus Christ, again and again, as He interacted with the Jewish authorities, they saw the realities of His claims, even though they opposed Him and refused to accept Him. In John 5 we have the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda, after he is healed the Jews challenged the Lord Jesus Christ. They were persecuting Jesus because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17) John writes, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:18)

The Jews saw what Jesus was claiming, yet they rejected Him. In these two verses John seems to sum up, the facts speak for themselves, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31). There is no greater fact than the fact of the Resurrection. What mere man would make this claim – put me to death and in three days I will rise again. Here is a claim that would make Him or break Him. As we read the gospels, we find the truth shines out from the page, ‘He is not here, He is risen.’

The gospel writers and the apostle Paul made this great claim. A man like Paul was writing when multitudes were still alive who had witnessed these things. Remember what Paul could write, For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

John says the evidence is clear. So why does John write in this way? “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31). John is writing first of all to believers. How often we feel the pressures that come upon us as believers, which challenge our faith. We have to wrestle with our own doubting and unbelieving hearts. We have to confront Satan’s lies and insinuations. We live in a day and age where there is rampant unbelief around us. The pressure is to conform, to fit in with the world’s views, and our faith can be shaken at times. Satan, just as he did in the garden, he whispers in our ear, ‘Did God really say that? Is the gospel really true? Do you really need to make such a stand?’

When we face such problems, when we face such challenges, John’s exhortation to us is to come back to the gospel, come back and read of the life of your Lord and Saviour, consider again the evidence, read the gospel, gaze into the Saviour’s face, and go on believing. See Him again in all His glory and all His majesty. Follow the signs once more which will take you back to the foundation of your faith. It will remind you of the great truth that Paul declared that there is no other foundation than that which has been laid, Jesus Christ. Here is the foundation which will support you through all the different trials and challenges of life. Here is a foundation to rest upon.

Like the disciples, we can be slow to believe at times. But just as the Lord dealt gently with Thomas and the disciples, so He promises to deal gently with us and raise us up again. Why is it so important that we should consider John’s gospel? “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31).

When we meet with unbelievers, they want to know, ‘Why do you make so much of the Lord Jesus Christ? Why is He so important? Why do you go on about Him?’ Well, it is for this reason: that it is only in Jesus Christ, it is only in this foundation, it is only in His Name – which means all that He is and all that he has done – that you can find peace with God and life everlasting. Here is the source of true love, life everlasting, life with God, life which brings peace with God, life which brings forgiveness of sin and the prospect of heaven rather than hell. So, that’s why we preach the gospel, that’s why we beseech men and women and boys and girls, to come back to this gospel, to this foundation, to consider the evidence.

We pray that God will open blind eyes, as the Saviour opened blind eyes, that we may see the truth of His words, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” For those of us who are believers, those of us who are in local churches, this is an exhortation to the whole church. Do you want to go on knowing God’s blessing? Do you want to know what it is to continue with a living witness to the Saviour? Then, we must listen to these words written in one of the commentaries I was reading. “When the church continues to accept Jesus as the divinely appointed and qualified one, that is, as the Christ, the fulfilment of all the Old Testament hopes and promises, when it continues to recognise Him as the Son of God, in the most exalted sense of the term, it will then continue to have life, everlasting life in His name.”

History tells us when churches gave up this truth, they died. Here is the reason for so many empty chapels – people cease to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in His Name. God grant that we may be a people who go on believing, who go on proclaiming the greatness of our Saviour and of His word. Amen.

January 16th 2022: John Funnell

This service can be viewed on our YouTube channel: https:/youtu.be/pIr7B7wMLmU

Psalm 24: The Aseity of God

Not many have heard of the term, ‘the aseity of God’ but it is so important for Christians to know. All the other attributes of God link together in His character that is described as aseity. Aseity is where all of God’s attributes are one.

Aseity comes from the Latin ‘a’ which means ‘from’ and ‘se’ which means ‘self.’ So ‘aseity’ means ‘from self.’ Aseity is the property of a being that can only exist in and of itself – a being that has no dependence, just is and always has been.

Who hear has heard the term ‘science has disproved God?’ That is actually rubbish. The natural sciences actually prove the aseity of God. The natural sciences prove that the aseity of God cannot exist within creation.

In this natural material system that we live in, every cause must have an effect. Everything is inter-related, reliant, and dependent on everything else. We live today because of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. We are dependent on these other things. All the scientific evidence suggests there is something that exists outside, or independent of this closed, natural material system we live in – something that is and always has been. This is because we know that the material universe, that works from cause and effect, cause and effect, could not have caused itself to be. Nowhere in science has it ever been proven that nothing can create something. To be able to exist, the universe itself must have had a first cause, an ultimate first cause that exists in and of itself, outside of this closed material system.

In 1925 Edwin Hubble discovered that the material universe has expanded. That proves that everything came from a singular point, known as the singularity. So, what was outside of the singularity that caused the singularity to be? It has to be something that exists in and of itself. It has to be something that has no cause, just is and always was. So, Hubble proved it.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that the universe is winding down, that energy is dissipating. So there had to be something that existed before the universe that wound it up. What could have wound it up? Well, it had to be something that can exist outside of this system that can exist in and of itself, that has no cause – just is and always has been. It’s a thermodynamics boost.

Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity proves that time, space and matter are co-related; one cannot exist without the other. If you have matter and no time, when would you put the matter? And if you had no space, where would you put it? You need all three. They must all coexist and must come to a single external point of dependence, which again has to be something which exists outside of this system, that can exist in and of itself, that has no cause, just is and always has been.

So, a first cause that is outside of time has to be eternal. A first cause outside of space has to be omnipresent. A first cause that is powerful enough to create everything has to be omnipotent. A first cause that can exist in and of itself, outside of the universe, outside of the time, space and matter that it created, who is not reliant on anyone or anything else, just simply is. Let me introduce you to the God of the Bible.

The Bible is the only worldview that stands for the scientific rigour of creation. Isn’t it wonderful, as Christians, we can refer to this first cause not as a something, not as an it, but as someone, a real person, who in Christ Jesus, we can call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ Isn’t that amazing!

Aseity is an attribute of God that encompasses all of His actions. That means God exists in and of Himself. He is eternal life. He is eternal goodness. He is eternal love. He is totally content, totally fulfilled, totally happy in every way, in and of Himself. He is the great ‘I am.’

To understand how this is possible, we need to consider for a moment God’s being. God is a very different type of being than anything we know or comprehend. Firstly, He is totally holy, which essentially means separate. He is separate from creation, and He is totally self-sustaining.

He is one in being, but three persons: Father, Son and Holy Ghost – the Trinity. How is this? A being is what you are, a person is who you are. What I am is a human being. Who I am is John Funnell. I have an earthly hero, a gentleman called Dietrich Bonhoeffer – the first Christian, an evangelical Christian, to stand up to Hitler. I look up to him, what he suffered for the truth, how he made a stand against the evil of fascism. Hitler hated him and personally signed his death warrant two weeks before the end of the war. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a much better person than me in every way; he was far more intelligent, he was far stronger, far more steadfast, far more influential than I would ever be. As a person I look up to Him. He was better than me in every way imaginable. No matter how much better a person he is than me, he could never be more human than me; we are both equally human beings.

In the same way, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost are equal in being but different in person. They have different roles. The Father is greater in roles than the Son, but no greater than being. Both are equal. And as a being, the three persons, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, are totally self-sufficient between the three of them. That’s aseity.

Out of this co-existing oneness, out of this eternal love and life that they share, creation was birthed. Time, space and matter, you and me, Penuel, Roch, Pembrokeshire, Wales, this world, came to be out of this life. Isn’t that amazing!

God’s aseity is everywhere in scripture. We see it right in the beginning. Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God.” We see Creator, owner, ruler, sovereign over all things.

“The earth is the Lord‘s and the fullness thereof,
    the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
    and established it upon the rivers.”
Psalm 24:1-2

Abraham entered a covenant with an independent God who was outside our natural material system, yet had the power to remove Abraham’s enemies, and guarantee a Saviour from his seed.

In 1 Kings 8:27, King Solomon said at the dedication of the temple, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!

Acts 17, Paul is in Athens and he states to the philosophers that God cannot live in temples made by man, neither can He be served by human hands.

When God came into His creation, Emmanuel, Jesus, He was incarnate. To be incarnate means that he would have had to come in from the outside.

The aseity of God is an all-important attribute for Christians to know, as it ties together all other attributes we know of God. God is utterly independent of us. He is utterly self-sustaining. He is sovereign. He is Lord of all. He is all-powerful and eternally loving, holy, holy, holy, absolute truth, unchanging God.

He does not possess the truth or know the truth or speak the truth – He is the truth.

“Whom did he consult,
    and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
    and taught him knowledge,
    and showed him the way of understanding?”

Isaiah 40:14

Who can teach God anything? He is utterly self-sufficient. He is life. He is the source and sustainer. He is the Creator, not the creature. He is the ultimate standard. He is the measure to judge all things because only He is totally independent of all things because of His aseity.

The key message of God’s aseity is that because of His aseity, His utter independence, God doesn’t need you. God doesn’t need your prayers, your worship, your gifts, your service. He doesn’t need anything. “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9). We can be replaced right now. He doesn’t need me. He is totally and utterly independent of everything. This is truly amazing! This means that everything we have from God, every breathe we take, every small revelation we have of who He is through His word, His word itself, every drawing of our heart to call on Him and worship Him, every prayer we make, is all a gift from Him, because He doesn’t need us. It is all grace. Isn’t that fantastic?

Friends, God does not need us. God does not need me. It makes the fact that He has chosen us in all our brokenness to serve Him for His glory, so much better. A god who needs my skills is no god at all. A god who needs my love and favour is not a god I want to worship. A god who gives to me, to receive from me, is no god at all.

But an all-powerful, all-knowing, totally self-sufficient God who needs nothing, absolutely nothing from any of us, yet invites us all in, and gives us the opportunity to serve Him is magnificent. Shouldn’t that motivate us to serve Him every day? A God who could destroy us all in a second for our failure, yet a God who sends His only begotten Son to die for our sin and redeem us whilst we were still His enemies, is a God worthy of worship. Surely a God worthy of our service – not because He needs it but simply because of His grace. By His grace He has allowed me to come here today and I thank Him for that. Amen.

January 2nd 2022: Ian Jones

This service can be watch on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/C2lNhsZY8qE

Matthew 22:1-14

We all get excited about a wedding. Today, a lot of time and money is spent on weddings. It is an important day of celebration with the bride and groom. In this passage of the wedding feast, Jesus was in the Jerusalem temple area speaking to the Jewish leaders. There were only a few days to go to His crucifixion. He tells them this parable to make them think very carefully about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, by comparing it to a wedding feast – an ordinary event they would have been very familiar with, as well as us here today.

It is one of only three parables Jesus told, known as the judgement parables, concerning their rejection to Jesus and their misunderstanding of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. The King sends out servants with wedding invitations.  We need to know this is a first century wedding. This is a royal wedding. This makes a difference. Messengers were sent out initially to say to expect a wedding to be soon. Then, when everything is ready, messengers were sent out again to say, ‘Come. Everything is ready.’ You would be expected to attend. You would have been forewarned, so would be expected to clear your calendar.

Because Jesus has told us this is a royal wedding, it is even more important for the guests to attend. The King’s only son was getting married. To be invited would be a great privilege. It would be unheard of not to attend a wedding of that status. You would want to tell everyone you have been invited. We can understand the king’s frustration that the guests were not willing to come (verse 3). He thinks there must be some misunderstanding, so he sends the servants out again (verse 4). He will try to entice them to the wedding. The shocking thing here is found in verse 5, “But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business,” (Matthew 22:5). It was shocking that the people have no respect for the king and the prince. Worse still, some seized his servants and killed them (verse 6). How awful! The king was seeking to invite them to the wedding and laid on wonderful things for them.

What will be the king’s response? “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (Matthew 22:7). What does all this mean? When the chief priests and Pharisees heard this, they knew Jesus was talking to them. The king in the parable is God, the son is the Lord Jesus Christ, and the servants were prophets who were sent out with God’s word and treated so badly. Jesus acknowledged their sinfulness will not go unpunished and the city would be burned. We see this happen in AD 70.

We are told everything was ready. The wedding feast was to continue. How would this happen when there were no guests? The servants were told to go and invite anyone they could find. The banquet will go ahead. What honour will be if all are invited? Great honour. Everyone there will be looking for the king and prince. They will want to be there celebrating. There will be great honour.

Here we see the gospel call that goes out everywhere, inviting everyone to come to Christ, to come and rejoice. This is what the kingdom of Heaven is like. We see the goodness of the king, those who rejoice in the son, in the wedding. Those who will be there don’t come because of the position they have achieved in the world. They come because they have been invited. What a wonderful picture of the Kingdom of Heaven, likened to a wedding feast, a joyous occasion. It will be full of people, full of guests, looking to the king, rejoicing. It is not surprising some have linked this to the marriage feast of the Lamb.

The main purpose of this parable is found in verse 14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” The gospel is still our main means of filling the church. We are reminded of the importance of calling, going out, even if few are to be chosen. We preach without discrimination. Everyone is invited to come to Christ, to come as they are, to come in response to the gospel. We also need reminding, even if we can build the church, there is still the refining process that goes on in church. There will still be believers and unbelievers.

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.” (Matthew 22:11). What does it mean by the king coming in to see his guests? He wants to see them. Wonderful! The guests, at the same time when He comes in, they see him. Everyone wants to see Him. Everyone is looking forward to that moment. The church may have many things that attract our attention today – being with other Christians, singing hymns, loving to hear scripture being read, the preacher, having fellowship with other Christians, the tea, coffee and cake – but most of all, our hearts cry out for God’s presence among us. We want the King to come in, we want to feel His presence among us. We call Him to come amongst us. We want the King to come in amongst us and bless us. We look back to times in our history, to revival, we want to be blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. We desire the gospel to be preached and the Lord’s blessing among us.

It is very sad to be in a church where God’s presence has gone out, a dead church. We desire to see the King, to see His favour. When the King comes in and the light grows stronger, hidden things are revealed. One individual hasn’t got a wedding garment, “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.” (Matthew 22:11). Did it really matter? After all, he’s in the wedding feast. We see the King’s response. He notices him. He goes and speaks directly to that one individual, “And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.” (Matthew 22:12). ‘Friend.’ This is the way the guest may appear, as a friend to the king. But he was no friend at all.

What is this wedding garment? A particular item of clothing that makes a person suitable for a marriage feast. If you attend a wedding, you have a certain code of dress. If you went to a wedding venue, you would instantly recognise who was part of the wedding party because you would see by the clothes that they were wearing, that they were wearing those that were suitable for a wedding. It would set them apart. This is what we can see here.

There are many things we could say theologically about the wedding garments, but for simplicity’s sake, here this morning, I want us just to focus on that thing which separates us from any other person outside. That garment which separates us. To be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, to be seen to have a holy life.

Why was this individual in then? He didn’t need to come in. To get in you would have had to put on a wedding garment. That would have been the rule of the day. You didn’t come in with your own clothes that would not have been suitable for a wedding. You wouldn’t have been able to afford special clothes as people would today, so you would rely upon the king providing suitable clothing for you to join in and celebrate this important occasion. Here, it is important to recognise that for this man to come in, he would have had to push by those people who were offering the garments. He would have known he was the only one not to have a garment on.

Going in to a shop today, you have to out on a face mask. Yet, perhaps you will se some that haven’t got a face mask. You might ask the question, ‘How is it that you haven’t got a face mask?’ There will be some who will say because of medical reasons, which we have no problem with. There will be many in a church that may not have a wedding garment on because they have come in and the Lord may be working on their hearts, they are yet to be saved. We haven’t got a problem with that. But this individual could be likened today to those who we may ask, ‘Why are you not wearing a mask?’ and they might say, ‘We don’t want to, I don’t think I have a need to. I reject that system. I reject it all.’ Here is a man of a similar kind. This man has come in, but he has no regard for the king’s son. He decides not to honour the king’s son. He comes in defiance. He wants to come as he is and not change. It’s the spirit of today’s age – I don’t need to obey the rules. I don’t need to look towards God’s word. I don’t need to accept God’s word.

This man doesn’t want to obey the king. He is a rebel who goes against the king and everyone else. So, it is not surprising that the king will come straight to this one individual and deal with him. The king calls him a friend because that is how he may appear, because he is there. But he is no friend of the king. He is asked how he has come in. There are many today who think they will be saved by looking to their own way, their own thoughts. They may say that they don’t need to come to Christ the way you say. They think that when they get to heaven, they will say their reason and God will accept them. Well, here we see an example of what it will be like for a person of that kind.

As he stood before the king, this man was speechless. He had no words to say. That’s what it will be like for everyone who comes in an unappointed way to the king in whom they think they may get away with it. There will be no getting away with it. If we do not come through the Lord Jesus Christ, in faith to Him and repentance towards God, and clothed in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be treated no differently to this man. He was speechless. He had nothing to say. He knew he was in the wrong at this moment. Worse still, he does not repent. There are no tears, no cry to the king to ask for forgiveness or mercy. This is a man who is resentful of the king and the son of the king. He has come to rebel. Sadly, these are many today in that position, going to a lost eternity. I have seen some who have rejected Christ all their life, yet even on their deathbed will not cry out to God, so hard has become their heart. They will not even repent in a moment of this kind.

The king responds by saying, “‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.” If we were to look at the Greek language here, the encouragement to us would be the servants were sent out to bring them in, with different servants to those called to bind him hand and foot and cast him out. These were different servants. The servants of the king were called to do what was required because the king would not have anyone spoil that occasion. That’s how it will be in heaven; there will be no sin. No-one will come into heaven but the appointed ones. Outside there will be darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Friends, the place described here is not a place you would want to go. There is a warning then for us. In this New Year, let us desire the gospel to go out, God’s blessing to be found in the church, for us to be defined and to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ, and others to be saved.

December 25th 2021: Ian Middlemist

This service can be viewed on our YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/C1_cEzNVNW0

Luke 2
The answer to that longing has come.

“For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
      Isaiah 9:6

May the peace of Christmas be with you. Certainly, with the children there is anxiety and excitement that leads up to Christmas. It can be exhausting. Then comes the thrill of opening presents. After all of the excitement and noise of unwrapping presents, there’s a lull as children play with their gifts. It’s like the peace of mother and child after labour pains, the agony and expectation and the doubts, ‘Am I going to make it?’ Certainly, as an onlooker, you can think, ‘Is this all it’s meant to be?’ Then, for the majority, there’s that moment of peace as mother and child are skin to skin. Wonderful.

Well, our Saviour has come! Could He really fulfil the promise? Could such a wonderful child be born to this world? There is this longing of scriptures of the Old Testament times. Yes, indeed. All throughout Luke’s infancy narrative, we find many references to peace. The Prince of Peace has come, that is what Luke is telling us. Zachariah was told that this special boy would restore relationships horizontally and vertically between men and between God. Mary was told her greater, special boy, the Lord Jesus, would sit on the throne of His Father David, reigning forever as King. This is the Kingdom reign described in Isaiah 9. Zechariah sang of the coming of God’s of tender mercy, that He would guide our feet into the path of peace.

The shepherds were told of this King, listening to the song from heaven of the angels, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, Peace to men on whom God’s favour rests.’

We rejoice this Christmas Day; God sent His Son, the Prince of Peace, who rules over His land in peace. He is a peace-giving and a peaceable Saviour. He speaks peaceable words that bring restoration and joy.

In His coming, our Saviour achieves peace. God didn’t send into this world a good politician, a diplomat. He stands in the gulf between men and God. Through the cross He bridges the gap, that chasm between men and God. The chasm is too deep for us, we need Jesus, that bridge. Because of His incarnation, we have this mediator between Man and God. The Son came to take on human nature. The Father will never renege on His holiness.

We all think of Christmas Day in different ways. Will you keep peace? The demands of the perfect Christmas are very high – the peaceable Christmas where no one falls out. The Father demands upon mankind are very high – unattainable for us on our own, yet not unreasonable. We mess everything, but praise God, Jesus did not mess up this day. He came and He lived for us. He achieves peace. Dear friends, as you think about the achievement of Jesus’ incarnation, of His coming to reign over you as the Prince of Peace, are you realising that? Are you going to maintain that peacefulness today?

God has led us, He has been with us, yet we often lack that sense of peace within us. We complain about being lonely, but He has been there. Maybe we complain about the lack of gifts. But God has given us the greatest gift. We should be all about peace. We should pray for peace, that we will be those who are living under the peace of Christ. God is near to us. He achieves things by His coming, by His living the perfect life, by His going to the cross, by His ascension, He achieves peace. It is settled, it is done. Peace has been made you and your Creator. Praise His name.

Secondly, He brings peace. When you know Jesus Christ, you know peace. He has driven that definitive blow to enmity itself. God has created us and given us life and this gift. Let’s celebrate that. Let’s be thoughtful of others and express our love. Think of family, the homeless. Man wants to remove God from the picture, to be thankless., to forget about the real meaning of Christmas Selfishness leads to anger and anger leads to violence. When you are right with God, peace ensues between God and Man. Peace must radiate from within towards others. Jesus came not to ponder peace in some ethereal idea, but to bring peace. The baby Jesus lying in that feeding trough was destined to die on a cross. As He died on the cross He carried the hatred of people towards God. He died so that we might be forgiven and experience peace and would also be peacemakers as well.

He achieves peace, He brings peace and He sustains peace. It’s a lasting peace. We know that unofficial story of that ceasefire in the First World War where those soldiers met and sang Silent Night and they played a game of football. It’s a wonderful, uplifting story. We all know that just a moment later the gun fire returned. It was short-lived. We know that any peace made on this horizontal level is short-lived.

The peace that the shepherds heard of must be more than a brief moment. There are manufactured peace treaties made, that look like peace, but really underneath the animosity is still there. May be some families are saying today, ‘I’ll keep my mouth shut for mum. I want to keep mum happy today, it’s a special day for her. I’m not going to say the things that I want to say.’ Brother and sister are going to get on today for mum. That’s fine, but it’s just going to last a day, isn’t it?

This perfect peace that Christ achieved in His coming is utterly secured by the Father. That’s why we speak of this justice being higher than any other. This justice has brought forth this plan of the Incarnation, of the cross, of Jesus’ work of salvation, of what He achieved. Justice itself came up with this. Therefore, it is a permanent solution. You know where you stand with God. I know where I stand with Him. I know that Jesus is my Saviour and I know that my salvation is secure. The Father will never take that away from me. He will never change His laws, His mind. He will never grow tired and weary of me. He will stay with me forever and ever because of Jesus. I know because Jesus came I will always be fundamentally at peace. I don’t always work it out in this lifetime because sin still remains, yet I am at peace.

Let’s make sure we spend some time realising God is for me, God isn’t against me. He will be with me forever. We have a wonderful song to sing, the Christmas message. Praise God with songs all year round. We really will be at peace, peace will reign where ere Jesus is King and Prince of our lives. “Peace I leave with you.”

December 19th 2021: Alan Davison

To watch this service, please click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/NGvW4gv4rcg

Luke 2:1-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 12th 2021: Ian Middlemist

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

Hebrews 2:5-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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