October 23rd 2022: Chris Rees 200th Anniversary Service of the Founding of Penuel

To watch this service please click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/vdK4xgwnePM

Ephesians 4

The 200th Anniversary service of the founding of Penuel, Roch. On occasions like this, it’s a moment when we mark the day – what’s gone before, how far we have come. For life of the church here in Penuel it is 200 years, that only by the grace of God, a miracle of miracles, we thank God for it.

As we go through life ourselves, every one of us has moments that we mark – our ages. If you’re young, you may be looking to eleven years of age and mark when you become eleven. Then you may mark when you become 16, then 18, then 21. Then you try and forget! Then what happens is you’re 40, 50, 60, 65, 70, 80, all markers. On each marker you say you are growing – growing old, growing in maturity. The hope is that the older you get, the more mature you become. Yet, that may not always be the case. But we look to growth. If you were born Welsh, you’re always looking to grow that little bit taller!

In our lives there are those days which we mark, ages which we mature. In Ephesians 4 we can see what God wants for His church and for His people. The educationalist Margaret Fuller once stated that the object of everything in life is to grow. God has made this world, in nature and spiritually, to grow. We talk about growth: economical growth, our children’s growth, the growth of a nation and of community and society.

In one’s Christian life there has to be that desire for growth. Even if you’re the worst possible Christian, in your heart there is that desire to grow more in the knowledge of Him, more in your Christian life, more in the things of God. it’s deep within each one of us. The Lord Jesus Christ came and said, ‘Listen, I will build my church.’ That’s His purpose. Therefore, it will come to maturity. He has given to His church everything that is needed. There are a number of things which will stop us from growing in our Christian life: sins, worldliness, sloth and laziness in our Christian lives, bad teaching which will stunt your growth. We can go down wrong avenues.

There are two things you desperately need for growth in the life of a church. No church can grow without a pastor. Always remember that. We see it here in Ephesians chapter 4. He gives these gifts to His church that His church may grow. Secondly, no Christian can grow without a church. We see that plain as day in Ephesians 4. In our Christian life and development, growth takes place in the context of the church.

There are three things I want to bring to you this morning:

  • The need of growth in our lives as Christians
  • The ingredients for growth that we must have in the life of the church
  • The result for growth which will be evident amongst us as a people at Penuel, Roch.
  1. The need for growth this day.

The Church is blood-bought. You can be saved in Jesus and know the love of God. He gives gifts to the church, “11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the [e]edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:12-13). We need it for this reason That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” (Ephesians 4:14). We need it, every single one of us. Every one of us needs to grow in our lives. It’s not an optional extra. No matter who we are in our Christian life, we no longer need to be as children, we need to grow.

When you think of 200 years of life of Penuel, there’s a time when we are no longer to be children. We have had much teaching and pastoring which God has done, that we would know what it is to grow. When you become a Christian, you become like little children. Yet, with the children of God, there needs to be that maturity. Why? There are dangers in church itself. As a child we can go from one craze to the next. As a church, so often that’s what we can be like – carried by every wind of doctrine. You have to be careful.

Jesus Christ has given everything to you that you should grow. As a church you can be blown by such winds of doctrine, where you can be blown down this course and that course. Before you know it, you can lose a decade of your life in a wilderness in your Christian experience. False teaching exists, new practices exist. At Narberth we were exposed to them all. One craze was the Jabez Prayer. I don’t want to offend anyone, but always around this time of year, the rapture teaching comes, the end of the world teaching comes. But we see in verse 14 we must be careful, That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” (Ephesians 4:14).

The apostle Paul has already warned, Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28). There are people who will draw you away and drag you away. They’re cunning. They come with some hair-brained idea. Always note: these people are never normally part of a church. They’ve normally got their own ministries. Always be careful because they will cunningly come and take you away. You need to grow in your Christian lives because you are there for the taking.

  • The ingredients which are needed for growth.

But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15). For growth in your life and church there are two ingredient which are special, which cause growth in the body. The two ingredients have to be mixed in a special way, ”speaking the truth in love.” Truth and love must go together. They must be present. That’s what this place is to be. There is truth that is to be spoken. We’re to know the One who is truth, Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ When you come to this place, there is a voice that we are to hear. There are words we are to listen to, true words. If there’s anything so lovely about the Lord Jesus, it is this – He is the only one who speaks to you without any guile and without any deceit.

When the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world, wisdom came in. He spoke in the most candid, truthful ways. He spoke clearly and simply the truth. He told men and women what they needed to hear. There is truth to be heard – with love. Every one of us needs to repent before God, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Your doctor’s not going to tell you, your teachers won’t tell you, your politicians won’t tell you. You know why? There’s a heaven and a hell! People need to speak the truth to one another. There’s are ways that you’re living and things that you are doing that are wrong. There are only a certain amount of people who can tell you the truth. There are some people who come to me and say things I don’t like to hear. I tell you, there are only two people who can talk to me like that, my mother and my wife! There are those who will tell you those home-truths and it needs to be done.

The tragedy, in the life of the church, is that we have taken out the word of truth, the gospel of truth. The church has no longer become that place where the word is being preached. It has become a melting pot of ideas, marching to the drum beat of the world. I was talking to someone who has gone to another church. I asked them why and they said, ‘It’s because they love me. They give me big hugs when I go in, and I get gluten-free biscuits.’ But you’ll never grow with that.

Neither will a church grow if it doesn’t have love. You can have truth. There are many churches which have it. We have truth every Sunday and we make sure it pure and the right doctrine. We need that. But let me assure you, it has to be truth in love. Of all the failings one has had in the ministry, that failing of love has been great. In the morning before one comes to preach, you ask God, ‘Clothe me with the Spirit of God that grace would be on my lips, that the feet would be shod with the preparation of peace, and a baptism of love will be felt.’

There are many messages I could have given you this day, but the one that comes to mind is that you be built up, not taken down. Built up so that you would grow. It’s easy to take down, but these two ingredients have been given to us and we are to speak it. The problem we have is that we’re not doing these things. The first thing we are not doing is that we are not speaking. You have to speak to one another, and you have to communicate. I’ve been to some churches where I give the Benediction, then they’re all gone. They’re out faster than you could say the Amen! No-one communicates and talks to one another. It’s the mistake we make. You have a gift. God has given you something. You have to communicate. Then, you have to speak truth. We need to be candid. We have to speak truth in love. Love never fails.

  • The result of this will be we grow up into the Head, Christ.

“From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:16). The result is this; the Lord Jesus Christ wants you to grow. But you must realise your growth can never take place on its own, in isolation. That was the challenge of Covid. God’s plan is this; when you come to Jesus Christ your heart is made humbled. You realise that you’re not the all-important and the answer to everything.

When you come to Jesus Christ you receive forgiveness of your sins, and it makes you more forgiving. When you come to Jesus Christ there is a love that is poured into your heart for people, that you never had before. You begin to realise your dependence on others, on his church and on His people. You grow together. The more you know of Jesus Christ, the more you’re being compacted together, “Compacted by that which every joint supplieth,” (Ephesians 4:16a KJV).

If you ever come to a place in your life when you think you are growing in Jesus Christ, but you’re not being compacted together, there’s a mistake in that teaching and the practice which you have, because you’ll find yourself fragmented. If you are growing as a church the result will be, “The whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies.”

Growth is impossible without being together as a Church, in Jesus Christ. All life comes from Him. Life flows from Him. You are part of that body. Limb upon limb, bone upon bone, tissue upon tissue, there is life.

The great secret of growth in the Christian life: read your Bible, pray every day, and go to church. It is as simple as that. Use the means of grace. Remember Him. Listen to the Word. Pray together. Carry one another’s burdens. Share with them. Be with one another. Witness for one another. In your life as a Christian, there is not anything else that is going to impact you and shape you to be the person that you are meant to be, and to grow up.

You may think you can grow by reading Christian books. Calvin said whoever thinks that is insane. Those are his words on this portion. There are those who think they are always growing because they are having the best preachers and that the greatest ministry comes to you from the internet. What has made me grow more than anything else in my Christian life is – you, people like you in a place of worship; someone who came alongside me when I first became a Christian, someone who spoke to me and was kind to me, someone who put their arm around me, a church which prayed for me when I was going down, people who came to carry a burden with me, people who shared with me when I had nothing.

In one’s Christian life there has been no substitute for the ordinary, the simple, the everyday Christian that I meet every Sunday. With them and through them God has supplied His grace into one’s life.

“From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:16) Every one of you who is a Christian here today has the most vital part to play in the growth of the kingdom of God and in this place. But it’s got to be joined together. You can’t do it on your own, it’s impossible. You have a part to play. One of the reasons people don’t grow is if you’re not fully part of a fellowship, just hanging on loosely. A fellowship suffers when you’re not there. A church can grow so much faster and stronger when you are found in that place where God is. It’s a challenge to us in the individualism that we find in the society in which we live. But there’s a call that you must realise, of your place.

Secondly, you have a gift which is vital. Other people have gifts in the church which are vital to you. You can’t do without one another.

Thirdly, for growth to happen it needs a thinking change to take place. You don’t think of your growth, but you think of the edification and the building up of others around you. That must be the shift that happens. When a person becomes a Christian, these things take place. He takes away the selfishness. It is not all about one’s own ministry, it’s not all about oneself. We live in strange days. We have ministers and it’s all about their ministry. It’s not about that. The ministry is about other people. It’s not about developing my ministry, my gifts and the freedom I need. Forget all the nonsense. All you have to do is serve one another.

Growth comes when you’re focused on others around you. When this happens, you’re the one who will end up being built up. You’re the one who will also become stronger and more mature in your Christian life.

Every one of us has been hurt by church at some moment and some time in our lives. I have been through one of the most upsetting experiences. I understand. But there’s another side to it – the church has blessed you, has strengthen you, has prayed for you and has supported you. If it wasn’t for the church, I wouldn’t be here this day because they wouldn’t have sent the evangelist to the town and they wouldn’t have come and prayed for me as they did, teach me in God’s way and then correct me. Many corrections were on that road but with it all, I thank God. And I thank God for you! That’s the message – we need to grow.

October 22nd 2022: Chris Rees

200th Anniversary Service of the founding of Penuel Baptist Chapel. Saturday night service.

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/tfl84n4xObU

Colossians 1: 1-20

What a joy it is to be with you, a real privilege. I trust we gather as churches in Pembrokeshire to be with you and thank God for all that He has done, and to trust that the Lord will be with us in a very special way, and to be with each one of us in our fellowships tomorrow (Sunday) as we would meet together. He has been so faithful. It’s a testimony that we are here tonight – 200 years since people first met on 23rd October 1822. That is a testimony of His goodness and faithfulness. We have been blessed with fellowship and we’ve been blessed with coming together on many occasions.

What we have tonight is a reading taken from God’s Word, from Colossians chapter 1. The thoughts I’ve got are this: of a body without a Head. Then tomorrow morning, a member without a body.

When I was asked to preach on the occasion of your 200th anniversary, I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to have to say something good about Penuel, Roch.’ I thought very hard, it took a long time (laughter from congregation). Then it came to me – you are good singers in Penuel, Roch (more laughter). Then I thought that over the years we’ve had good fellowship, warm fellowship. We thank God for that. We can thank God for the witness that’s been here all those years. I wondered what else I could say that’s really good. I thought what’s really good about Penuel, Roch is that it’s in the county of Pembrokeshire, and how we need such a gospel witness. We’re thankful for every church which is within Pembrokeshire. But then I began to think about what is really good about the church, the best about the church, is the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ.

For all the influence and for all the witness, for all that this church has meant within this community for over 200 years, the best of all is the Head of the Church. Glorious things are spoken, Zion, city of our God. Glorious things are spoken about God’s Church. As we come today, we want to mark the best of this church here at Penuel. And it is this – the Head of the church.

We are living in strange days. In the church we talk not about the Head, but we talk about the hand. We talk about what we’re doing, what we’ve achieved, what we’ve done. We talk and we advertise in many different ways, of all that we can be and can do for a community.

Magazines have photos of people’s faces, not hands, because the glory of your body is your face. As a church, as a people, we have something to show to this community and tell. It’s not the elbow power, it’s not the works of our hands, but it’s the glorious face of our wonderful Saviour.

If there’s anyone here tonight who has got something they can say, who can pick a fault, point a finger, be disappointed in the life of church, there’s many faults and many failings, I would ask you simply tonight to look to the Head. Look to the Head and I assure you there is no failure or blemish in Him, And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence.” (Colossians 1:18).

I want to speak to you tonight of the importance of the Head. If we lose our head, we lose our glory, “18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.” (Colossians 2:18-19).

When Paul writes this letter to Colossae, he knows the problems of people having false teachings and false humility. He starts with this great hymn of praise that begins in verse 15, “15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 1:15) He begins to spell out who He is, Jesus Christ, who walked on this earth. He tells us of his relationship with God – He is the image of the invisible God.

Then he begins to tell us of His relationship to this world, that all things were made through Him and by Him. Then he begins to tell us of His relationship with His Church. If you want to know what Christianity is all about, it’s about Him.

Do you know what used to happen many years ago when we went to little places like this? A preacher would get up into the pulpit and would speak to you and would talk to you about Him. They would explain to you that Jesus Christ, who walked on this earth, is the invisible God. They would preach to you and tell you of the glories of His person, that He is the One who made everything – your life, your body. They would tell you of what He has done, what he has achieved. You find it in verse 14, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” They would preach to you of His perfections and of His glory.

When a person becomes a Christian, isn’t it one of the great truths that begins to sink into your mind, Jesus Christ is God. God who came in the flesh but all God. True God. He is the maker and creator of all things. He is the Head of the body. If you lose your head, you lose your glory. The glory of the Church is the Head of the church.

We are not here to preach what the church can do for you, we’re here to tell you what Christ has already done in our lives and in this place. What you need to know is that everything that Jesus Christ is, His relationship to God, His relationship to this world, is His relationship to the church. The blessings of the church here at Penuel is its Head.

When a church loses it head, it doesn’t just lose its glory. These people were getting lost in their mind and in their thinking, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Colossians 2:8-10) 

When we talk about the headless chicken, some people look at the church and you can get the feeling that it’s like a headless chicken. It’s going this way and that way. It has no idea of where to go and what to do. Why is that? It’s very simple; we’re more concerned with the hands than the Head. We’re marching to the drumbeat of this world. We’re marching on the agendas of the day. We’re marching to the voices all around us. You need to know, He is the invisible God. He is the Head of the Church. That’s the great statement – we know someone who is in that position. His person is glorious. You need to know of Jesus Christ and the position which has been given to Him. He became a servant. He is our prophet, our priest, our King. He also became Head of the Church. He is the One who is going to come and judge the world. He is the boss!

What can happen in the life of any church, any people, is that so often, as we listen to the voices of others and not the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ, mad things take place. We believe, sometimes, that the church is a democracy. Whatever Jesus Christ has said in this book (the Bible), we’re not taking a vote on it! It is not open for discussion. When Jesus says, ‘Go,’ it’s not an option. He is the Head of the Church. We are living in those days, like in Israel, not knowing what direction it is going in. The position of the Head of the Church was not given to the third person of the Trinity, but to the One who laid down His life for you, who bled for you. As much as we need of the leading of the Spirit in our lives, we will never be against the direction of our Lord and of our Saviour.

When you lose your Head, you lose your glory. When you lose your Head, you lose your sense of direction and perspective. We are in days when the foot is telling the Head what to do, where hands are telling the Head what to believe, when sheep are leading shepherds. We have no direction. Our Head is the One who came to this earth, who died, rose, ascended into heaven, appointed on the right hand of the Father, that He would govern His church.

The third thing we learn is that the Head is where our nourishment and life comes from, “And not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.” (Colossians 2:19).

The Head gives us nourishment and life. If you lose your Head, as a church, you have got no life. You can lose various limbs of your body and live, but you can’t lose your head and live. He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence.” (Colossians 1:18).

All life comes from Jesus Christ, all life flows from Jesus Christ. Everything that Jesus Christ was for creation is also true for His Church, His new creation. This Lord Jesus Christ is the one in whom we live. When that is severed there are dead churches. The Church in Sardis had a reputation for being alive but was dead. How is this? Well, when you are no longer united and growing in the things of Him, where you have taken away, where other things have come in and you are no longer looking to Him, there can only be death.

He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.” (Colossians 1:18a). He has always been in the beginning. He is the firstborn from the dead. He is the one who is first. He is the one who has life.

The reason there is a church here in Penuel is because He is the one who has life. There remains a church here because Christ rose from the dead. I’m told one of the great realities of the gospel is the existence of the Church, that there’s a people who worship Him, who know Him, come to Him and praise Him. It is because of the one who died and rose again and lives now. There is power! The power that worked in that grave conquered death.

He is the One who has conquered death. He is the one who made the way through the grave. He is the One who has ascended back to the Father. The everlasting doors were opened up to Him. The Lord Jesus Christ has made a way, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Now Christ is risen from the dead and has become the first fruit. He is not the last born, or the second or third. He is the firstborn, so He is the one who has given life to everyone who comes to believe in Him.

One day, when we die, that is not the end. We will be like Him. This decaying body will be like His glorious body. He is the one who has life, He is resurrection life. He is the One who began that life in you when you first became a Christian. It’s a bad thing if you lose your Head – you lose your glory, you lose any sense of direction, you lose all life.

We see something else here, “that in all things He may have the pre-eminence.” (Colossians 1:18b). It’s very practical. The reason the Lord Jesus Christ is the one who He is, the position He has got, all that He has done in conquering death and taken our sin, is that He is the life of this church in all things.

There are many things in the life of the Church, but He should be the supreme One in everything – in all that we do, in the decisions that we make, the worship that we have, the direction of it all. The One who was despised, forsaken, rejected by men, the crucified Christ, is the One now who has been risen by the Father. He should simply be the first, the circumference of everything, at the centre of it all. That’s the best of Penuel, Roch. That’s what it’s all about.

In your life, Jesus Christ is to have the first place. He should be first in all decisions we make. Jesus Christ has never been second. He never came to be second in anyone’s life. He never came to be third or fourth on anyone’s agenda. When you get up in the morning, who is going to be first, who is going to have the pre-eminence? When you think of all your plans you’ve got, just for tomorrow, who is going to have the pre-eminence?

We live in mad days. When we come to church, we still only think of ourselves. – what things mean for ‘me.’ I understand that. But shouldn’t He be first? The first thought in our worship, the first thought in our praise. In one’s life, always put God first. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

A body without a head has no identity. It is not even a body, it’s a torso. The Head should be the One we are thinking about, the One we are praising, the One that we are looking to for our direction and our leading. In your life, if you don’t know Jesus Christ there is no glory in your life, your head can be hanging in shame. I assure you that my head can hang in shame – but my Head is in heaven! It’s full of glory! And although I may look to myself, I can look to Him. Do you know something else? In your life, if you don’t know Jesus Christ, you are walking this way and that way. You don’t know if you’re coming or going. You have no direction.

This night, if you don’t know Jesus Christ in your life you are spiritually dead in the world. There is only One who has made a way from this dead, decaying, dying world. The firstborn has made it – from the dead, out from the grave, victorious into heaven.

The best thing about this church in Penuel is its Head. The best thing about our churches in Pembrokeshire is we are small, we are weak, we are little, and we haven’t got much. But we have a great Head who is seated on the throne. For Him, may it be all the praise and all the glory. Amen.