February 18th 2018: Owen Jones

Owen Jones-Feb18Ephesians 5:32 ‘A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’

There is a mystery in the mystical union we have with Christ. There are metaphors that make the mystery a little clearer. In days gone by, when romance was in the air a couple could be referred to as ‘courting.’ Today, ‘being an item’ is often used. We are more than an item. The relationship between the church and the Lord Jesus Christ is an unbreakable union, it is already in being. Every believer becomes part of the bride, the wife. God speaks about us as the bride, the wife. Psalm 45. Every truly born-again believer is ultimately joined in unity with Christ. This presents the loveliest picture of two being one.

How should we look right now and on that future day? We see the bride united as: a faithful wife, a fruitful wife and as a beautiful, breathing-taking wife.

United as a faithful wife:
Paul uses beautiful illustrations – the wife is like the church that gives in, ‘Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.’ (Ephesians 5:22). Marriage teaches us at least one thing – giving. Wives submit to husbands, but the bigger picture is lives in submission to Christ. It is part of the creation ordinance and now part of the new creation. When the local church gives in to community and no longer has the Bible at its centre it ceases to be what it once was. Submit to one another in reverence to Christ. Give in to every word because Jesus tells you. As the church submits to Christ, wives submit to husbands. ‘A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ (Ephesians 5:32). Husbands, measure the giving. Who is giving more – her or him? Christ gave Himself up for the church. Giving up – true love – is demonstrated at Calvary. Like Hosea, the prophet. God told Hosea to love his wife as the Lord loves the Israelites. The husband gives his name to his wife, she happily accepts it. They are legally one. How faithful are we to Him, to each other?

United as a fruitful wife:
The spiritual illustration. Remember the higher principal – your union is with Christ. The church is mysteriously joined to Him as a faithful and fruitful wife. The fruit? Holiness. If you are in Christ that’s the fruit you’re going to bear, ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.’ (Galatians 5:22-23). It’s all on the one tree, always in blossom, always in season. Jesus said, ‘By their fruits you will know them.’ (Matthew 7:20). The fruit of intimacy, close fellowship, produces its own fruit. As we read His word, He comes to us.

Some marriages fail because couples no longer have anything to say to each other. How long has it been since you talked to the Lord? Couples can live separate lives under one roof. Start talking to one another again. When was the last time you heard the Lord Jesus Christ speak to you?

What about the fruit of increase, the great commission, the bride increasing from the nations? The preaching of the gospel works in people’s hearts and lives, something is being conceived. There’s a birth, an increase.

We also need to know and produce the fruit of Christ’s likeness. Do you think in the same way as Christ thinks? When you speak do others hear the voice of their Saviour? You and I begin to look like the ones we love. When God breathed life into us He breathed knowledge, love and righteousness. In regeneration, He renews that which had been erased at the Fall.

United as a beautiful wife:
This is a profound mystery. There’s no need for make-overs. Why? The marriage day is fully realised in the future (Revelation 19:7), but something is happening now. All the wrinkles and the lines are gone. Jesus must be the centre stage – the wedding day of the Lamb. But look at His Bride, ‘It was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure – for the fair linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.’ (Revelation 19:8). All the tears, all the sorrows cease to be. Let us rejoice and give Him the glory. The Bride has prepared for this day. How? She is dressed in fine linen. Everything we do now prepares us for that holy day (Ephesians 5:26). Then we get married, there’s a new home (Revelation 21:1-3). There’s an RSVP, ‘And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”’ (Revelation 19:9). You are the Bride but you’re invited to be there as a guest. It’s a dual picture.

You will never look as good as you will on that day.

The sands of time are sinking;
the dawn of heaven breaks;
the summer morn I’ve sighed for,
the fair sweet morn awakes;
dark, dark, hath been the midnight,
but dayspring is at hand,
and glory, glory dwelleth
in Emmanuel’s land.

The King there in His beauty
without a veil is seen;
it were a well-spent journey,
though trails lay between:
the Lamb with His fair army
on Zion’s mountain stands,
and glory, glory dwelleth
in Emmanuel’s land.

O Christ, He is the Fountain,
the deep sweet Well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted;
more deep I’ll drink above:
there to an ocean fullness
His mercy doth expand,
and glory, glory dwelleth
in Emmanuel’s land.

The bride eyes not her garment,
but her dear bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory,
but on my King of grace;
not at the crown He giveth,
but on His piercèd hand;
the Lamb is all the glory
of Emmanuel’s land.

Ann Ross Cousin (1857)

There will come a day when every eye will be upon Him, when you will behold Him. Are you preparing yourself in acts of righteousness?

 

 

June 11th 2017: Chris Rees

chris rees - june 17Nehemiah 7:1-5

We read in Revelation that nothing will defy the city of God, the new Jerusalem; there will be no lies, no false pretences. ‘But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.’ (Revelation 21:27).

Immigration is a hot topic in our news today. Immigrants come into the country – someone from a Libyan family bombed Manchester. People ask how terrorists of Italian-Morrocan descent were allowed into the country. Questions are asked – who should be and belong in this nation? Emotions arise. There is an undercurrent.

Try and imagine what it must have been like for Nehemiah. The people had come back from Babylon, married and inter-married. As Jerusalem was being rebuilt, who should belong to the city? In chapters 1-6 Nehemiah describes the work of building the walls of Jerusalem. Next he deals with ones who have a rightful place in the city.

If there is one thing we desire, we want God’s house to be filled. However, before this happens, positions need to be filled before God will fill His house.

In Nehemiah 7:1-3 we read that Nehemiah appointed the gatekeepers, singers and the Levites, ‘Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.”’ (Nehemiah 7:1-3). The book tells us of what God has done. God put into the heart of the Nehemiah to make a register of the people. Nehemiah appoints gatekeepers, singers and faithful leaders. It’s a truth of scripture – before you see God fill a place, things needs to be done in order, put in place. Positions need to be filled. God will never fill a place unless He knows the place will be a place of safety and security. God wants you to have safety and security in your life.

God took faithful people, people who can be relied upon. When Nehemiah comes he appoints faithful men who had the fear of God – not fear as in being scared, but a reverence. The gates needed to be shut, things needed to be guarded. When God calls His lost sheep home, when attacks come, the door needs to be shut. God will not save people into a fellowship where there will be falseness of practice. God will not add to a church until things are in place.

Who are the people who are to be in this city?

‘The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt. Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first’ (Nehemiah 7:4-5). The city is large and spacious. There is room. So few enter there. Perhaps we feel that in our country, as Christians, we are few? Places of worship are not bursting at the seams. There is room for people to come and know. There is room with God for all people, no matter what you’ve done. It’s a fantastic, wonderful truth. ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms.’ (John 14:2). With God, there’s room! You may have no room for God; you may be taken up by the concerns of this world, but there’s plenty of room with God.

Who is in this city?

Those who enter this city need to be registered. God put it into the heart of Nehemiah to register people. If your name wasn’t in this book you would be in trouble. You have to be registered in God’s book. You have to be registered as part of the family of God, born in that heavenly city. Psalm 87 speaks of the glorious city of Zion. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said to His disciples, ‘Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ (Luke 10:20). One day the great book will be opened and your name needs to be there. In the book of life is each and every one who has been born of the Spirit, born in heaven.

People filled the city. Lots were cast. ‘Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns.’ (Nehemiah 11:1) Casting lots. It’s a way to fill a church! When they had to have a new apostle, they cast lots. ‘And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven disciples.’ (Acts 1:26).

‘For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ (2 Peter 1:11). God has chosen, out of His loving heart, a chosen people. It’s His house, His home. You have been born from above to enter.

When we look at the culture of the city Nehemiah speaks of, there is a wonderful picture of people giving to the work, ‘Now some of the heads of fathers’ houses gave to the work.’ (Nehemiah 7:70). The city was filled with activity. The people who came knew the love of God and were filled with great ingenuity and work. It was buzzing. We need to work. We are a people of God. ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.’ (Matthew 6:10). Come to this wonderful city, full of giving, full of safety. The chapter begins and ends with the Levites, the gatekeepers and singers. The priests and the Levites – if it doesn’t go right here, it won’t go right in the community. We have a great responsibility. If you’re a follower of Christ, the enemy can’t come in. It’s a place full of song, full of singing, a city of service and security. There is plenty of room! Make your way to the heavenly city, to the glorious Jerusalem.