June 19th 2022: Andy Christofides

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/nDbTMR8g1B8

“And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ (Luke 13:23-25)

The book ‘Practical Religion,’ by J.C. Ryle won my heart and challenged me, as it looks at the practical side of being a Christian. One of the first chapters brings us to Luke chapter 13. Jesus was heading towards Jerusalem. There was a lovely turning point in Luke’s gospel where, at last, the disciples have understood who Jesus is. That great declaration has been made, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus told them that His Father in heaven had revealed that to them. If you understand who Jesus is, it’s a miracle. You might say, ‘He’s a great man, a great teacher,’ but it is only the Spirit of God can convince you He’s the Creator of the universe. It was a shock to me, it came suddenly to me at the age of 19.

His disciples had got the point that He is the Son of God. Jesus Christ is the second person of the one Triune God, one being but mysteriously three persons, distinct in their persons, yet one in their essential essence. It’s the Father who sent the Son and the Son who came in the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s the Son who died on the cross, not the Father. It’s the Spirit who oversees it all. It’s the Son who rose from the dead. It’s the Lord Jesus Christ who is reigning and will return one day. Are we ready for that day?

Why did Jesus ever come to this planet? From the point where the disciples understand who He is, He starts to teach them why He has come; He is going to die. Jesus set His face like a flint towards Jerusalem.

As He is on His way to Jerusalem with the disciples, there is a crowd around them. Someone asks a theological question of interest then melts back into the crowd. We don’t know who he was or what he was about. ‘Lord,’ he says, ‘are there few who will be saved?’ We hear nothing more about this man.

Many people want to speak about points of theology. On many occasions they are a smokescreen, a distraction from the one thing that’s necessary. There are different points of view, for example on dress codes, of what the preacher should wear to church. Is it a key issue? The question here is a good one, ‘Are there few who will be saved?’ But Jesus takes the opportunity to address the whole crowd, not just the one man. The punch line is this, whether there are few or many who will be saved, you make sure you are saved.

Strive to enter through the narrow door.Strive! There is a time coming when many will try but will not be able to.

In these three verses there is a door, a command and a prophecy.

A door. Jesus says, “Strive to enter.” There is a door. Here is the door which we can go through and enter eternal life. Is there a time when you went through the door of life eternal? Once I’ve gone through that door it guarantees I’m going to enter a glorious place called heaven. I’ll have eternal life, I have peace with God, my sins that are many have been forgiven. Why have I done the things I’ve done? We’ve all got a problem. We sin because we are sinners. Some say babies are born neutral. But they are born with a bias, wanting their way. This leads to sin. We have to teach children to do the right thing. It’s a wonderful thing for fathers and mothers to train children in the way of the Lord. When we go through this particular door, sin, which is such a burden, is rolled away.

It’s a narrow gate that leads to heaven. Sin is a problem. It’s a deep chasm, a vast gulf. But the good news from Jesus isthere is a door! What an amazing thing in such a world as this, with war, economic chaos and where anything goes, there is a way back to God. Sin is the barrier. God is holy beyond our imagination, heaven is pure. There is no way we can get there ourselves, but thank God there is a door and Jesus is the door:

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5).

This morning, you’ve come into the chapel. How did you come in? I came in through the front door. Straight forward. What’s the way to heaven? There’s a door. Jesus says there’s a difficulty with the door. It’s narrow and you couldn’t take a bag through it. You have to go one by one. To get to heaven you have to renounce sin. When you trust in Jesus and go through Him, He counts you as righteous because He sees His Son covering you. In actual fact you are still a sinner – a saved sinner. Because you have new life, you desire new things, to please God. Little by little, He transforms us. You leave your desires to sin at the gate. You can’t go through that gate with your sin, your own agenda, what you want – what university you want to go to, what kind of job you want, what husband or wife you want, what house you would like to have. You leave that at the gate. You go through alone and Jesus meets you. You put everything in His hands and ask, ‘Lord, who do you want me to marry? What university do you want me to go to? What job do you want me to have? Where do you want me to live? You put everything into His hands. You walk with Him.

It’s a narrow door. You go through one by one, leaving self and sin, the worldliness of my agenda. Through that door is Jesus. We should commend Jesus to people. The early church was a beacon. See how they loved one another. After all Paul says about the gospel to the Corinthians and the gifts of the Spirit, he says he will now show the most excellent way – love. ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ Notice this, it’s only attached to this – ‘by this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you love one another.’ The world needs to see that Christianity actually works. Love is the outwards expression of the reality of truth. Despite our differences, it’s a command of the Lord Jesus to love one another.

Jesus is the only door. There is no other way. He is the only way to heaven. It’s Jesus or not at all. It’s not religion that gets you there. It’s not church-going that gets you there. It’s not morality. It’s not doing good – life by human standards. Why? Because God’s standards are perfection, purity. His righteousness is beyond our imagination. Human morality is like stinking rags. What gets us to heaven? Is it my repentance? Is it my turning from sin to God? No. Is it my faith that gets me there? No. It’s not my faith. It’s not my works that gets me to heaven. It’s Jesus. Jesus. Jesus only. He died that we might be forgiven. There was no other good enough to pay the price of my sin. Have you gone through the door, trusting His redeeming blood? Don’t think your works get you through.

Zechariah 13:1 is a lovely prophecy, On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” Zechariah is looking forwards to Calvary. We’re looking back on Calvary. That fountain was opened up. Same Old Testament. It certainly saved us who go back to it. The door is wide open now. At some point it will be closed. We are all encouraged to come.

Many of the most unlikely candidates have gone through that gate. A man called Manasseh, in the Old Testament, was a wicked, wicked man. Totally amoral. He even offered his own children as living sacrifices to the false god Molech. What a dastardly, evil, wicked man. But late in life he saw the door and he went through it. Saul of Tarsus, a wicked man who persecuted the church, approving of people being stoned to death, went through the door. It’s amazing.

Here’s a question, not ‘Lord, Lord, are there few who will be saved’? but ‘Lord, what must I do to be saved?’ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Open the door and you shall be saved. Not ‘Are there few or many?’ but ‘What about me?’

What a privilege it is to have a door at all. For the angels who fell and were cast down to Earth, including the prince of demons, the arch angel, glorious in beauty, there is no door. But for us there is a door.

Are you saved? Have you been trough the door? If you are saved and have been through the door, be thankful. Thankful has ‘full’ on the end. Be full of thanks. Does my life express that I’ve been through the door? Am I full of thanks to Him? Does my love overflow to my fellow believer and to the world around about me? Focus on the door. Go forward in confidence in Him. Be thankful.

If you’re not a Christian, don’t hang around. Jesus says, ‘Strive to enter.’ Don’t say, ‘I tried’ and it didn’t work. If you knew there was a million pound behind a certain door, you wouldn’t try and give up, you’d try again. Jesus says, ‘Strive.’

Jesus expands on this. The time is coming and many will try and won’t be able to because that door will be shut. It’s not shut now. It’s open. Strive to enter through the narrow gate.

June 5th 2022: Alun Johnson

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

Psalm 23

I wonder if you’ve ever found life hard? Some people have been dealt a really difficult hand of cards. Life doesn’t seem to work; everything seems a struggle. Russell Brand, who I do not agree with most of what he says, made an insightful tweet when he said, “Society is collapsing and people are starting to recognise that the reason they feel like they’re mentally ill is that they’re living in a system that’s not designed to suit the human spirit.” In other words, human beings aren’t designed for modern life. It’s not just on an individual level; as a nation, Covid 19 Pandemic raised the level of difficulty in our lives. In recent days, in Ukraine, millions are caught up in a senseless war.


The 21st century Christian life is becoming difficult for us. Places of work can be difficult for faithful Christians. We are being increasingly marginalised for being a Christian. Afghanistan is number one on the Open Doors watch list of persecuted churched. It says, ‘With the Taliban in power, it has never been more dangerous to be a secret Afghan believer.’ For persecuted Christians in places such as North Korea, South Sudan, Somalia, life often hangs by a thread.

If you don’t believe in the God of the Bible, know Him personally through Jesus Christ, then your source of help will be different to Christians. You may look at self-help or book a holiday. These might help in some way. However, in many ways, these might only be good for a short-term solution. The Christian, in contrast, has Psalm 23. What a refuge this is in a time of trouble. The Christian has the person Psalm 23 talks about. Not anything, in all the world, not even death itself, can shake the shelter that this person provides.

Psalm 23 is very well known. The words are familiar, but are the truths equally known? Psalm 23 is a psalm of confidence. There’s lots of imagery, lots of comforting pictures being painted: green pastures, quiet waters, a cheering banqueting table, but our greatest focus should be on the great person mentioned here. He is pictured firstly as a shepherd, then a host.

The Shepherd
Apparently, the ten million sheep in this country account for ½ of the entire UK flock. A quad-biking, whistle-blowing shepherd today is very different from the shepherds of the Ancient Middle East. However, whether ancient or modern, the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep is the same. They are totally dependent on the shepherd for food, water and protection. Without the shepherd, the sheep would not last long. It was in this sense that ancient near-eastern societies saw their own kings. It was not uncommon for them to be referred to as shepherds of their people. The kings would shepherd their people by ruling justly and wisely. It is very interesting that David, the shepherd turned king, saw God as his own king and shepherd.

The picture we get of God here is fantastic. He is a protecting God, He is a caring God, He is a sacrificial God, He is a providing God. He is not distant. Here, David is speaking of the Lord in such a personal way. Here is a God, even though He transcends the universe, has dealings with David on an individual level.

At the start of the Psalm, God is called the Lord, or Yahweh. This is the name He gives when He passes in front of Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:6). Here is a God who is a covenant-making God who maintains love to thousands and forgives wickedness, rebellion and sin. Here is a God who is not leaving the nation of Israel to their own devices, to die out in the desert. He is shepherding them to the Promised Land.

The Lord is my shepherd. Here, I think, is another level of relationship – God is not just the God of Israel, but here is a God who deals with individuals. David goes on to say, ‘I shall not be in want.’ The result of God’s care for him is he has everything he needs.

Verses 3 and 4 expand on God’s care for His sheep.

“He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:3-4

God acts. He proves it by what He does. Do you see how complete God’s provision is? In these pastures the sheep would have food, water and rest. In the pastures and watering holes sheep would not need to move to have what they need to be sustained.

‘He restores my soul.’ This is not only physical rest but spiritual rest too. In his life, God is leading David along straight paths. The idea of ‘Paths of righteousness’ continue that picture of ease. In his life, God is leading David along right paths, straight paths, not crooked ones. The language of covenant – that agreement, that relationship between God and Man – comes again through that phrase, ‘For His Name’s sake.’ God has bound Himself to His people and to the individuals who are part of God’s people (Exodus 3:12). What is fabulous is that God’s care for David is not limited to the green pastures but also to dark valleys too. The shadowy ravines – even there – there is a close relationship between David and His Lord.

‘Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.’ The shepherd would have had that rod to fight off predators. It was also divine protection and sustenance, and also divine disciple. What amazing trust in the Lord. It begs the question, ‘What about us?’ Think how much light we have with New Testament scriptures. John 10 – the shepherd being spoken of here is Jesus Christ. Jesus says, I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (John 10:11). Do you believe that He lay down His life for you? Do you know Him? If so, then Psalm 23 is for you!

Have you noticed in John 10, before that great statement, Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b). The life of the Christian is the best life. Jesus really is all that you and I will ever need. Paul writes, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” (Philippians 4:11) Wow! What a statement! When we know Jesus, nothing in the world can get close to Him. There really is no-one like Jesus.

Other scriptures speak of Jesus the Shepherd, such as Isaiah 40:11,

“He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.”

He tends His sheep. He gathers them. Notice the verbs. This isn’t sentimental rubbish. This person is also the sovereign Lord, who comes in power. He knows exactly how to deal with His sheep, which is why life with Jesus has soul restoring green pastures and quiet waters. Therefore, for the Christian, they are not floundering around in the darkness. Even when death is close by, they fear no evil because Jesus is with them. Do you love Jesus more than anything else in this world? Life is hard, it really is. But hold onto Him, knowing that He is holding onto you.

The Host

This Psalm just gets better and better as you go through it. If you thought that the metaphor for the Lord as the shepherd was a rich image, then how about the picture painted in verses 5 and 6 of the host?

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.”

Psalm 23:5

I wonder if, as evangelical Christians, we’ve forgotten that David’s experience of His Lord was like being at a banqueting table? For David, with his God, he was having the time of his life. What is our experience of our Lord? Is life with our Lord like being at a feast or a lavish celebration, or is it rather dull and  dour, a kind of spiritual drudgery? David is a guest at the Lord’s table. He is an honoured guest, having his head anointed with oil.

The table is prepared in the presence of David’s enemies. It suggests that the Lord has brought before David his own enemies, his vanquished enemies, to watch in envy as he sits down to his meal. What a lavish banquet this is. His cup overflows, blessings are piled on David’s life. He is receiving more than enough on his life. David has God Himself. For David it is only the Lord who truly satisfies. It fills him to bursting. Is it possible for it to get better for David? Yes! It does. It’s not a temporary measure,

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.”

Psalm 23:6

Quite a statement! God’s overflowing blessings to David will follow him all the days of his life. It will never leave him alone. It gets better again. It’s one thing to go for a meal, but another to stay for ever, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” David’s confidence swells up to eternal life. The blessings never end.

Compared to the Christian, David, along with all Old Testament believers of Hebrews 11, only saw from a distance, what we have. David’s experience of his Lord is multiplied to us this side of Calvary. We also are invited to a table. We are also given a cup that overflows. We also are going to an eternal hope.

At the table of the Lord’s Supper, we are continuing that Last Supper that Jesus had with His closest friends. As the disciples reclined with Jesus at the table in such an intimate setting, we too, as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, do something similar. We are celebrating the fact that Jesus’ substitutional death on the cross was so effective, so powerful, so complete, that the dividing wall between a sinful man and a holy God was completely knocked down. In faith we can step into the Holy of Holies and enjoy an intimate relationship with the one true and living God.

We can know God as our friend. In a way, it’s almost as if we are feasting with Him in the presence of our vanquished enemies. You know, Christians, we have vanquished enemies? We have three of them: sin, death and hell. Our sins, not in part, but the whole, are nailed to His cross, and we bear them no more. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, o my soul! Death, the grave, have no victory, no sting because Jesus lives in the power of an endless life. He has broken the power of death once and for all. For the Christian, there is no fear of hell. Jesus has already told us in John 14, ‘Don’t let your hearts be troubled, trust in God, trust also in Him.’ In His Father’s house there are many rooms and right now, He is preparing a place for us. That is where we’re heading.

Does the Christians cup overflow? Yes! Why should it surprise us at what the Lord has done? Perhaps because we’ve normalised the blessings that we have received. Perhaps we’ve become used to the fact that we’re saved? It’s a terrible thing but it’s easy to do.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, do you ever sit down and think about what you are and what you have? Does it not make us absolutely in awe? We’re saved! We’ve been washed, we’ve been sanctified, we’ve been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God, and now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. It is all of Him. It’s all Jesus’ work, which means whatever accusation Satan throws at me, nothing will ever change my standing before God. Which is why the Christian can sing with David,

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.”

Psalm 23:6

In Christ, God’s treatment of His own is constant: goodness and love, goodness and love, goodness and love to the end. Remember, the Christian has been adopted into God’s family. If you’re in the family, you never have to leave. When this passing world is done, we will continue to live in the house of the Lord forever. Hallelujah!

I absolutely love 1 Corinthians 13:12, For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” This is just spectacular. Of course, our cup overflows. This Psalm is the experience of those who can truly say that the Lord is my shepherd.

If you’re not a Christian here, do you want the Lord to be your shepherd? Do you want Him to be with you through the valley of the shadow of death? Do you want your cup to overflow? Do you want God’s goodness and love to pursue you all the days of your life? Do you want to dwell in the house of the Lord forever? You can have it all! Amen.

May 30th 2022: Ian Middlemist

Ephesians 2:11-22

The purpose of the Church.

You can look at taller buildings using an electric drone. Gou can see on screen what the drone is looking at, see how it is looking up there. How is the church looking from up there today? How is it looking from God’s perspective? How is our heavenly Father looking at us today? What do you think of when you think of the church? You can go on a computer and zoom in on Google Earth, zoom into London, into Canary Wharf, into the Bishops Gate area and see enormous, magnificent office blocks made out of glass. Bishops Gate was largely obliterated in the Blitz. There’s a large church – St. Helens. When you see it from the office blocks it looks tiny. Some of those office workers, on their breaks, high up, can look at the little church down there and wonder why it’s there. Worshippers can look up today and ask how they fit in. I encourage you today to raise your vision to God’s perspective. Hi is the one who has created the church for His own glory.

The church is a heavenly assembly.
The church is an earthly assembly.
The church is for the glory of God.

The church is a heavenly assembly.
The New Testament translation of church is ‘ecclesia.’ It actually means an assembly. We’re assembling today. Assemblies in schools haven’t happened for the past two years because of Covid. Schools can now come together, one school, one message. The New Testament has two kinds of assemblies, one is in heaven and one is on earth.

The universal church gathers in heaven, the local church gathers on earth. The Church is fundamentally a gathering. This must be first in our thinking. The local Church is equally important, but the invisible, universal church must come first.

When you become a Christian you become part of the universal church. You didn’t join the church. Scripture invites us to see things from His perspective. Jesus Christ has joined not just individuals to Himself, but a people, all invited to Him. When Adam and Eve sinned, the immediate effect was division occurred. Their relationship and communion with God was broken. They became afraid of Him, uncomfortable before Him. They hid, hoping to disappear from the face of the planet. The relationship suffered. God seeks out that unity between human beings. Because of this rebellion there was no harmony. But God came through His Son, to have a people He will cleanse and purify. Today, He is calling a people out of this world, out of dominion of Satan and death, to be His people in oneness.

He has raised us up with Him, “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:6). Upon saving us, He has given us a place in God’s heavenly throne room.

“12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:12-16).

What are the two groups? The Jewish and the Gentile groups. God is uniting these two groups through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. United together, one in the glory of heaven. If you’re sitting with Christ in heavenly places, you are also seated with the heavenly assembly.

The earthly assembly.
This is the local church. God’s purpose is that His heavenly church, one in the Spirit of God, show up on earth through the existence of local churches. God has declared us righteous in heaven, seated with the saints. It’s real, in the here and now. He has declared us righteous for the here and now. Earth, this globe, this time – May 2022, matters to God. We are not merely to be thinkers of how we live out our lives, we’re doers and need to get on with it. Our God acts in this world. Look at Jesus Christ Himself – how God demonstrated His love, not merely by making declarations of His love. But Jesus became a man, entered into this world, came in flesh.

As soon as a Christian becomes a member of the heavenly assembly, they want to become part of the earthly assembly. They want to become part of the local church. They want to be with other Christians, wanting to be in a local church. We put on the heavenly, we get involved. We’re putting on the new self, working it out with other Christians. The glory that is done to the Lord will be revealed to the world through His church. Membership in the universal church must become visible in the local church. Committed Christians, committed to one another. The ideas of a Christian who doesn’t want to become part of the church is impossible.

The purpose of the Church.
Some will emphasise that the church is heavenly; what matters is we’re walking with Jesus, trying to do our best. Others will say that the church needs to be active. The Protestant Reformation say it was possible for someone to be part of the visible, local church without being part of the church of Jesus Christ. These days, we seem to emphasise the local church.

We’re united with all churches, one with other churches. The church is universal. The Almighty God has created the church. He has brought it into existence. What is the purpose of the church? We’re here today for the glory of God. So easily we can be caught up with the concerns of the day – evangelism, bank accounts, so much so we forget we’re here for the glory of God. We’re here today to glorify Him and Him only.

The church is not ultimately for seekers. It doesn’t exist for those enquiring about the gospel. Jesus did pay attention to the needs of crowds and unbelievers. He teaches them (John 6). There’s a danger we become more and more like the world if we exist to be attractive to the world.

The church doesn’t exist to be more attractive for the disciple either. It doesn’t exist for the Christians. The church doesn’t exist for you. We’re not to go around taking surveys for our needs. We’re not to ignore people’s needs but our goal and purpose is for the glory of God.

Our God has come down to us and reached us, lifted us up to the heavenly places. All of our needs are found in Him. We’re here for Him. The church exists in the people of God. Lour primary occupation is the glory of God.

What a wonderful thing it is to be part of the church. It’s our joy to discover that. It’s wonderful to be built on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ. We have a church that is firm and secure. None can destroy His church. Praise His Name.

April 24th 2022: Jonny Raine

To watch this service, please click on the link to our YouTube channel:
https://youtu.be/4WqM-uSaju0

Acts 14:1-20

The harder the job, the bigger the power that is needed to accomplish it. We have no power to sort ourselves out, we need a great power from outside. Humanity needs the supernatural power that comes from outside ourselves, from a powerful God.

Why is the gospel the power of God? Because our salvation is absolutely impossible for us. It is impossible for us to put ourselves right with the God who made us and own this universe.

It is important for us to do what is right in our lives and to make amends for wrongdoing. As human beings, we need the infinite power of God to step in. The conflict in the Ukraine – how on earth can anyone sort out that mess? We can’t sort our problems out on our own. We need the infinite power of God to fix us. In Jesus coming into the world, He took it upon Himself all that we deserve. All the wrongdoings that we have committed, He took upon Himself, the hell that humanity ought to pay for. He took that upon Himself for all of us who will believe in Him. That’s the kind of power that is required to fix humanity. Not only that, but as we are remembering last Sunday, the infinite power that raised Jesus from the dead, that’s the kind of power that kick starts the Christian life. If you believe that Jesus died and rose again, that he did so, so that you can be made new in Him, then that’s the power that will begin to work in you. The power that will give you life, the power that will give you a new relationship with God, so you can call Him Father. If you want that power, accept that Jesus died for you so that you could be forgiven and that He can give you a new life.

Once we have come to experience that power in His love, the Christian should be so overwhelmed by what they’ve experienced in the power of God through Jesus making them new, that they want to tell everyone. We all have different ways to share the gospel. We can look at people in the bible like Paul and Barnabas and we can think, ‘Well, I’m not like that.’ It’s probably a good thing. God has made us all different. We are all going to have different ways that we’re able to share the gospel with other people, ways of sharing this good news of God’s power that saves people.

Many of us don’t have the gifting to stand up in from of hundreds and thousands, like Pauls and Barnabas did, to travel round from city to city, to undertake great risks, to live off almost nothing, except handouts whenever they could get them, trying to make ends meet in whatever way they could. But every true Christian will, in their own way, try and share the good news of Jesus with as many people as they can, and doing that by God’s power. That is what we are going to be exploring today as we look particularly at verse 8 onwards, as Paul and Barnabas venture on.

Paul and Barnabas are now in Lystra. It is their fist journey of travelling around and sharing the gospel. Whilst they are there, they are obviously talking about Jesus, in a public square. A man is sat there, someone who has never been able to walk in his life. He is listening to Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:8). Paul must have been given insight by the Holy Spirit into the man’s spiritual condition. He has faith that is beginning to work in him. He has faith to be healed. So, Paul tells the man to stand up and walk. And he does. He is instantly healed. The man jumped up with vigour.

To what extent does God heal today? There is a spectrum of opinion. God’s power should be shown by His people. God can, and does, heal people today. Certainly, if the Holy Spirit prompts us to see someone who needs healing, we should respond to that. However, it is not something that happens all too frequently. But that doesn’t mean we don’t show God’s power in other ways. We all ought to be showing God’s power in other ways.

Isn’t God’s power shown in someone who has a chronic condition but doesn’t get bitter and grumpy about it but oozes grace, even as they have to endure the condition they live with for the rest of their lives? Isn’t that God’s power that enables a person to be like that?

We see God’s power at work when someone first becomes a Christian, no matter what their background. This is evident when someone comes from a rough background, perhaps someone from a background of addiction and abuse, yet they are enabled to leave that behind as they come to Christ. Isn’t that the power of God?

God’s power is shown through a couple who have been married for forty years and have remained faithful to each other, enduring the various ups and downs of married life, sharing God’s love with one another.

God’s power is shown in a teenager who resists the various temptations of peer pressure that are on offer – peer pressure to do this and to do that in the way that the world does. God’s power is shown in the integrity of the employee who doesn’t give in to the temptation to fiddle the taxes or to do this and that wrong, perhaps as even their boss is encouraging them to do. Instead, they act with integrity throughout their employment.

In all of these, and in so many other ways, God’s power is shown through the Christian. It is not just through the miraculous that God’s power is shown. It is shown every day in our lives in very simple and ordinary ways as we live for Him.

Some of these ways that we show God’s power are going to be seen by the world around us. Miracles provoke amazement in people. This might be rare. But when we live by God’s power it will be seen by the world. When they know that we are Christians, operating out of God’s power, it will be seen by the world. At the very least, surely that will provoke curiosity. It may even cause them to ask you, ‘What’s different about the way you live? What is it that drives you?’ That may then lead on to further conversations about the gospel, as it does here with Paul and Barnabas.

As we move on, what we see is that we need to explain God’s power. It’s not just about showing God’s power, we need to use words and explain God’s power.

(Story of Guy Gomer – mistaken identity). Paul and Barnabas get mistaken for Greek gods. It’s understandable. The people have just witnessed this great miracle – a guy that they know who has never been able to walk is suddenly able to walk by Paul just speaking to very quickly to him. They’ve witnessed this incredible display of power. What’s more, there is a local legend, which comes from a nearby city, which was visited by two gods, but the people didn’t recognise the gods, they didn’t honour them and so they endured their wrath. So, the people of Lystra, having this story in the back of their minds, thinking that Paul and Barnabas are perhaps these two gods, go all out to pay homage to these two supposed gods. They think of them as Zeus and Hermes. The temple for Zeus is just outside the city of Lystra. They call for the priests to come in. They bring garlands, and oxen to offer sacrifices

In that chaos, Paul and Barnabas jump in and tear their clothes, a sign of sorrow and anguish. Then, they speak a mini sermon, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.” (Acts 14:15).

Paul and Barnabas are very quick to explain why they are there – to share the good news. They are speaking to a non-Jewish audience, so they start with the basic concept of God – God has made everything. The one true, living God has made everything and to worship anything else is useless, missing out on worshipping the one true, living God.

Idol worship is still here, although our idols are much more subtle. Human beings are made to worship. If we’re not worshipping the one, true God, we will worship other things: money, children, job, success, hobbies, lifestyles. These are not wrong but it’s when we begin to treat these things as the greatest things in our lives that they become an idol. When we look at it that way, then idol worship is just as prevalent here, in Pembrokeshire, as it was 2,000 years ago in Lystra. People today need to be alerted to the fact that we are worshipping useless things. If we are not worshipping the true living God, then our worship is useless. If they are all we hope for and value, they are idols. God ought to be our true source of hope.

People’s lives are busy and there is no room for God. If we realise we are putting our value on useless things, then we push them out of first place and we make room for God. Very often this needs to be the first point we bring people; we might explain it in different ways, we might be so direct and abrupt with them, but it is something we need to explain to them.

The second point of the mini sermon is in verse 16, “In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. God has been patient with people. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. He deals with us lovingly and cares for us. He patiently waits for people to come to Him.

The third point is that God has shown Himself through being loving with people, “Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17). He gives rain, allows crops to grow, provides food for His people. We may have heard of Zeus, the god of thunder and the sky. He was also the god who gave rain. Paul is saying it is not Zeus who gives rain but God. Hermes was the god who delivered messages from the gods to human beings. But Paul and Barnabas say it is not Hermes who brings God’s message, God gives you His message Himself through the way that He provides for the world.

God is the one true, supreme God. He alone should be worshipped. To worship anything else is useless. He is patient and loving, waiting for people to come to Him. He reveals Himself through the way He loves and cares for the world and provides for human beings. He has immense power to care for this world.

As Paul says, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20). No-one can say they never had a chance to know the one true God. He has shown Himself through the world that He has made. He has shown Himself through the way He provides food on this planet for us to enjoy. As Christians, if we try and connect with people and share the good news of Jesus, this may be our starting point. There is a God who is worthy of worship and He loves us. He has shown Himself in the world He has made.

Thirdly, we need to persist by God’s power. It’s not just about showing God’s power in our lives and explaining God’s power in our words, it’s about keeping on going by God’s power.

At the end of this story, people stir things up – Jews from other towns, who turn the crowd against Paul and Barnabas, “But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.” (Acts 14:19).

The Christians, presumably, are praying for them. Paul gets up and goes back to the city where they have just tried to kill him, But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.” (Acts 14:20). He stops for a day then goes back to Derbe. It would have been so easy for Paul to give up. He gave them the gospel then goes back into the city. He goes on by God’s power. God is empowering him with the task he is to do.

We are unlikely to face that kind of opposition, but we will face opposition, people giving us the cold shoulder. It is hard to keep going sometimes. It is hard sharing the gospel with people who have rejected it. Even when it is tough, by God’s empowering, we can keep going. The good news is, there was a church formed in Lystra. When we’re reading it now, it doesn’t look like there would be a church. It looks like they left and no-one was saved. But actually, there were people who became Christians. There are return visits to Lystra where there is a church, where there are people who have come to follow Jesus. And gather together as a church. Maybe that day after Paul got stoned and went back into the city, some people became Christians? Maybe just one or two believers who then shared the gospel with others? One way or another, God worked to bring people to know Himself. By His power, as He worked through what Paul and Barnabas had done, people became Christians.

May God help us. May God give us His power to enable us to show His power at work in our lives, as we simply live the Christian life. May God, by His power, help us to explain what He’s done in our lives, to explain the good news that there is a God who is worthy of worship, who has shown us His love and kindness through providing for us. May we keep on going, even when it’s hard, when we rely on His power, may be digging deep to the power that is available to us by the Holy Spirit who lives in every believer. May He empower us to do His work and to keep on going, even through tough times.

April 10th 2022: Gareth Edwards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 10th 2021: Norman Gilbert

You may view this service on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/F14W2BQOy1w

Philippians 1:3-8 Characteristics of a Christian

In this passage of scripture we see something of the characteristics of what should be seen in a Christian’s life: thankfulness, joy, perseverance in our Christian walk of faith with Christ.

Joy should be evident in the life of a Christian, as well as thankfulness. Paul is saying we are a people who are thankful. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is filled with thanks and joy. Paul is in prison, in terrible conditions. He has people who have been undermining his teaching, yet he wants people to be thankful and full of joy. He is a man of prayer. If people don’t talk to the Father, there is a breakdown in communication. Paul is thankful for the church at Philippi – it displays something of the goodness of God (v3).

Paul was the instrument God used to establish the church at Philippi. He preached and sowed the seed, God gave the increase. He opened the heart of Lydia, the young lady who was possessed by a demon and the prison officer. When Paul ponders and reflects on the church at Philippi he rejoices and gives thanks to God, who works on the heart. God, by His Holy Spirit, begins to work in a person’s heart. God is merciful and gracious.

Paul gives thanks to God for mercies (v3-4). Paul remembers the goodness this church has done for him. He remembers the love they have expressed towards him. They were only displaying the love the Lord Jesus Christ had shown them. James reminds us that, ‘Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17). Everything which takes places, which shows the mercy of God, is because of the love He bestows on upon people.

Our thanks should always start God-wards. Paul, even in the hardships he has known, he was able to give joyful thanks. He remembers that God has moved these people in Philippi. It does his heart good. When he prays, he prays with thankfulness and joy (verse 4). Here is a man who is joyful, who speaks about a personal God, ‘My God,’ (v.3).

Martin Luther stated, ‘Christianity is a matter of personal pronouns.’ We personally know Jesus Christ died for my sins. Paul, in prison, in horrendous conditions, gives praise and thanks to God. As insignificant as he may seem in prison, he knows the Creator of this world is concerned with him and the church at Philippi. He is in a privileged position. He has a personal God. Right at the start of scripture, in Genesis, God says, “I will be your God and you will be My people.”

We enter into the family of God by personal experience and personal faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul, in this letter, says it is about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There should be joy and rejoicing in all our circumstances. Circumstances do not blur our view of Jesus Christ because the joy that God gives us is not a natural joy. It is a fruit of the Spirit, because of what He has done within our hearts.

Paul, when he thinks of the Philippian church, is full of joy and thankfulness. From the first days till now, Paul thanks God for the fellowship – real sharing and partnership, real interaction. Although not a rich church, they supported him and prayed for him. Paul now sees there is perseverance with this church. His confidence is that God, who began a good work, will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Paul’s fellowship was in the gospel (v5). God’s work began even before the foundation of this world. This church in Philippi began before the world began.

To encourage us, when we are feeling we are treading on water, remember the work He began, He will complete (v6). Only the grace of God gets us through difficult times. We are going to be kept to the end if we have got faith in Jesus Christ. The work which God began will be complete. We are kept by the power of God. The sheep He calls are the sheep He keeps, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27). We trust Him for today and leave tomorrow in His hands. He keeps us to the day of Jesus Christ. There is a day coming when Jesus Christ will return.

He holds them in His heart (v7). There is a solidarity. They are one in the gospel. Paul says there is one church. He wants to rejoice in the goodness of God to them. Paul longs for them and has a deep affection for them (v8). He says there may be dark days ahead, but God is in control (Philippians 4:6). God knows the future (4:11). Whatever state we are in, God is the preserver and the protector. He is in control. We are not to be anxious about tomorrow.

Paul is writing a personal letter to the church at Roch. This year has been so hard. It has been the hardest time for many of us in our lifetime. Pray we will be those who trust in God, who are able to manifest the joy that can only be found in Jesus Christ – a joy and peace to those who put their faith in Him.

August 29th 2021: Phil Swann

Psalm 121

This is a ‘Song of Ascents,’ one of a group of psalms (psalms 120-134), clustered together. They are short and often extremely heart-warming. Some people say that these are an ascending series of ideas about God, which is an interesting theory. Others have suggested that the songs were written for pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem. Another idea is these psalms were part of temple worship in Jerusalem; a verse would be sung on one step, then they would go up a few more steps and sing another verse and stop, and so on. The truth is, we don’t know. What we do know is there’s truth to enable us to understand who God is, who we are and, most importantly, how we may know Him, and as a result of knowing Him, how we may live.

Psalm 121 is the most well-known psalm of ascent, often used in times of crisis. The word ‘help’ is used throughout. ‘Help’ is a word that needs no explanation; we all know what it means to ask for help. The Psalmist lifts his eyes to the hills as he thinks about the need for help in his life. There is interesting discussion as to what this means. Is it just a poetical phrase that I’m in a situation which is so overwhelming, my human resources have been so exhausted, and I’m looking to bigger things and higher places? Others have suggested that David’s thoughts are turning to Jerusalem. Mountains and Jerusalem often go together. What we certainly know is that David is not in a good place.

Where does my help come from? Maybe you have experienced times when you have asked a similar question. How am I going to get through this? Maybe there are times when you have felt overwhelmed and devastated by what is going on around us in life? This is no lightweight psalm. It is going to the heart of human experience. It is for those times when we are in need and genuinely out of our depth, during deeply unsettling times, having a devastating, horrible experience.

Even asking for help is a humbling experience. To ask for help is to acknowledge our need. There are experiences in life when God, in His providence, allows us to feel completely and totally out of our depth. They are painful experiences. David speaks words of deep testing and pain. Where does my help come from? They are words of desperation. God, in His providence and in His goodness, may allow us to experience such devastation so that we may see who He is more clearly, and experience His help and grace more deeply.

During the Pandemic, where, in the middle of it all, do you turn for help? Incidents of alcohol, smoking and Netflix subscriptions have increased during this time. It seems that these are often the ways of coping as we try to find ways of coping. Let me be bold this morning and ask you personally, ‘Where do you go to for help when you are overwhelmed?’

Wonderfully, this psalm invites us to turn to God for help. In verse 2 David’s testimony in the midst of his distress is that, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2). This is a wonderful statement. It is always the experience of the Christian, in that whatever difficulty they face, they are always able to turn and seek the help of their heavenly Father. Help is promised here to the Christian, and crucially it is help from the Lord. We care for one another, but here David speaks of specific help coming from the Lord.

This Psalm encourages us to explore who the Lord is. Many of the psalms do this. The very first psalm, which in a way is a template of how we should read the psalms, tells us “But whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2) For David, the phrase ‘The Lord,’ acts as a trigger to think and remember who the Lord is. Here, (Psalm 121:2) the Lord is described as the maker of heaven and earth. This is a recurring theme in many of these psalms of ascendance e.g., Psalm 124 and Psalm 134.

Interestingly, David could have written many things about the Lord, but why home in on this? He wants us to remember our helper is not weak, neither is His help something that we should doubt. We should have confidence in Him that He can help us. He is never threatened by the things that threaten us. He is the maker of heaven and earth. This speaks of His authority and power. The one whom we are invited to trust in is almighty.

If you are not a Christian, how do you discover who God is? When you look at scripture you are pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is both man and God. We see so much in Jesus. He is the one who has all wisdom – what a comfort that is when we are in need. We see in Jesus Christ one who has all compassion and mercy towards us as sinners. It is in Christ we see the reality of the love of God enduring forever as He is patient with us, even in our rebellion. His truth, love and power are seen ultimately in the greatest thing He did for us as sinners, in His death upon the cross and by His resurrection from the dead. We must stress His resurrection. For it is in that wonderful news that he was raised on the morning of the third day, that our confidence to seek help from God is made most clear.

This psalm points us to specific help. What is the help the Lord offers David and which David rejoices in and sings about in this psalm? There’s a word which dominated this psalm, ‘Watch.’ It is found in verses 3,4,5,7 and 8. The Lord continually watches over His people. This may seem a little intimidating; He knows everything about us. But the direction in which this psalm is going is one who is our carer and protector. Here, the news in this psalm is that God sees our lives, our distresses, and concerns, and He is watching over us, committing to us. He is Immanuel, God with us. He has come to us as one of us. He understands. Your life, with your troubles and distresses, as a child of God, matters to God.

If we try to limit God’s interest in us to the times when we mess up, we fail to do justice and we fail to be honest to the wonderful picture that scripture presents us of our Father in heaven (Luke 12, Psalm 17). God loves us and cares for us. This is not because we are special or better than others, it is because the Lord is good. He delights in us. He cares for us. He will not allow your life, as a Christian, to fall into absolute chaos. He is totally committed to you. He is the God who sees us, who will never neglect His care towards us. His commitment to you is total and enthusiastic. We may seek to support one another, but there are times when we fail and get tired. God never slumbers or sleeps. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, where you are, the Lord is always with you. He will keep you. The things in life we think can harm us most, illustrated here by the sun and the moon, cannot. The Lord sets a limit to which disaster touches our lives. Central to that limit is the news that we will not be overwhelmed.

This psalm, which brings rich encouragement and comfort to Christians over many generations, over many centuries, is offered to us today for our comfort and encouragement. It is a wonderful thing to be a Christian, to know that the maker of heaven and earth is the one from whom our help ultimately comes. It is wonderful to know that He is always with us, He will never forget us and He will watch over our coming and our going, both now and evermore.

A Christian always has somewhere to turn. There is always an ear that is open. There is always a heart that is inclined towards them. There is always help. It’s a wonderful thing to be a Christian, to be found today in Jesus Christ, with access to the help of the maker of heaven and earth.

Are you a Christian? Is this help really your help? This is the help of the Christian. It is the comfort of the Christian. But are you a Christian today? You may be very little, very young, a lot older and a lot bigger, but it makes no difference. The invitation goes out repeatedly from scripture to us all. It is for us to come and put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, to become a disciple of Christ, a follower of Christ, and in coming to Him, to receive grace and mercy and love from God. Understand, that the one who sees your life, in all of its chaos, in all of its hypocrisy, in all of its needs and its fears and confusion, is the same one who invites you today to forgiveness, to life, to joy and to freedom in Jesus.

Where does your help come from in this uncertain and dangerous world? Do you feel yourself to be overwhelmed by life? Well, there is a God in heaven who is, indeed, the maker of heaven and earth, who cares profoundly and deeply for each one of us. In His Son, Jesus Christ, by His death and resurrection, offers us new life. He invites you and He invites me to come to Him today and to receive His help.

June 27th 2021: Paul Daniel

2 Timothy 1:1-14

We live in an age of influence. There are more and more celebrities who have an impact on what people do. We are bombarded with advertisements and Youtube channels. Influencers can drive us; they can change the way we look and how we talk. Influencers can change the way we shop. If influencers haven’t got Jesus as king of their lives, it’s going to distract you. This past year we have seen a change in the way we have been influenced. It’s been complicated. We want things to be better than before.

As Christians we need to be thankful of those who have influenced us. Paul is writing to Timothy and reminded him of the influence of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. This morning we should be utterly thankful to those who have influenced us. Paul, in prison, is writing to Timothy in Ephesus. Paul is reminding Timothy as he goes forward, of what he needs to be influenced by, of what is going to shape his ministry in the church and the future. Today we hear so many voices, like the voice of the government. If you listen to too many voices, it becomes confusing. This letter to Timothy is really helpful for us; it has key doctrines of what must always be at the heart of our Christianity.

This letter reminds us of the impact of the Spirit of God. In verse seven we read, “For God gave us a spirit not to fear but of power and love and self-control.” As we have seen this week, the media can break a family, a relationship, in one single image on the front cover. But God sees and hears everything. He can reduce everyone’s lives in a moment, but he doesn’t. He offers his grace. The Holy Spirit brings new life. Our life begins to change. He moulds us to be more Christ-like. His spirit helps as to apply and understand God’s words. We’ve been bought by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and called to live for him.

The beginning of verse 8 reads, Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord.” We are called not to be ashamed, not to be worried about what others think of us. All of us are sinners. We need to be saved by grace. We are reminded in verse nine that it is God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”  There are somethings none of us can do or be able to do, that only God can do. God alone is the one who can rescue us from the Kingdom of darkness and bring us into the Kingdom of light. We can explore the universe and go to the ends of it, but we will never be able to save ourselves from the sting of death. The gift of God is eternal life in our Lord Jesus Christ. The power of God makes it possible to be made right with God.

As we start to rebuild churches and ministries, what are we then to do? To declare that God alone can do what we can never do. In verse 10 we read it is ourSaviour, Christ Jesus who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Jesus Christ has destroyed death. He says in John 14 :6, “I am the way and the truth and the life no one comes to the father except through me.” Friends, are you reminded of that soul single truth this morning? Jesus Christ alone can destroy death.

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

We have to remember what Jesus Christ has destroyed. If you have put your trust in Jesus Christ, when He calls you home or returns, you are free. Why are we here this morning? To gather and worship God. But we are also here for a purpose, we are here to serve. What is God calling you to do? In what ways is God calling you to serve? Paul is writing to Timothy from prison, he is serving his life out in prison. Timothy is living life in Ephesus where people were trying to distract the church. We live in a fallen world, and we are called to serve in a fallen world. There are challenging times ahead. It is the Spirit who empowers us.

Verses 11 and 12 say, “I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I’m convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” Paul makes it clear that contentment requires effort. We have been called by God to live lives that are holy. We are also to be ready to give a defence for the hope that is within us. To have Christian contentment, remember God is with us in all things and in all times.

“Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith aunt love that are in Christ Jesus. by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:13-14).

May 9th 2021: Alan Davison

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:10-14

This is one coherent paragraph. However, verse 13 is often mis-quoted and used in isolation. It needs to be understood in its right context. This epistle is very much a letter of joy. The Church in Philippi was established by Paul himself. Paul knows them very well. The Philippians are seeking to do things in truth and correct spirit. Why would Paul therefore need to encourage this if they were committed to gospel work? Paul is also thanking them for sending him a gift but also saying his need wasn’t so great he couldn’t cope.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Paul says, ‘all things,’ not everything. To say someone can do anything is to say this is unlimited, there is nothing I can’t do. This is to ignore the gifting of God. What did Paul really mean by ‘all things?’ This is the final sentence of a paragraph, a summary. So, Paul has already told us about these things, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (verse 12). Paul uses a pictorial way of saying this is all of life’s experience. Do we approach our lives in the right way?

In Romans 12:1 Paul writes, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” The word ‘service’ can also be rendered as worship. The ESV Bible reads, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Every aspect of our life is of interest to God.

“Through Christ who strengthens me.” Do we still consider the things of Christ when we face a crisis? Do we take it to the Lord in prayer? The world’s alternative is, ‘I can do all things myself because I don’t need anyone else.’ A key point of being a Christian is, ‘I am weak, I need Christ.’

Jesus says, I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing,” (John 15:5). The whole point of being a Christian is to bear fruit. A vine branch only produces fruit if it is attached to the vine itself. The vine dresser is God. We need to keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to be focused on Christ and remember what is really important in our lives. Don’t strive after what the world says is important.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). This is a key point, made not only by Matthew, but also Mark and Luke, who make the point even more strongly. Everything comes down to our relationship with Christ – what we do through Him. He uses us to accomplish His purposes.

“Who strengthens me.” God strengthens us. The Christian’s life is a battle. Satan will attack wherever he can. But God knows everything and provides us with everything we need. He supplies our every need. Sometimes life can seem as if we are wading through treacle, gritting our teeth, waiting for the fun ahead. When Paul says, I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13), he is not speaking about some sudden empowerment. In 1 Timothy 6 Paul warns Timothy of the days of seeking worldly gain. The temptations of the world will rob us of contentment. Contentment is really to be found in trusting God. As we trust in God it should inform and calm our minds. Contentment does not come overnight. Paul tells us in verse 11 he had to learn to be contented, Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

In verse 12 we are being shown something that was secret, I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Paul makes it clear that contentment requires effort.

We have been called by God to live lives that are holy. We are also to be ready to give a defence for the hope that is within us. Christian contentment is remembering God is with us in all things and in all times.

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:10-14

March 10th 2019: Gaius Douglas

Gaius-March19Hebrews 12:1-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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