February 6th 2022: Steffan Jones

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Romans 5: 1-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 1st 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards Sept 2019Luke 7:36-50, Exodus 20:14

An addition to the Authorised Version of the Bible in 1631 earned the printer a significant fine of £350 imposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Its problem – it omitted one word out of that particular print, the word ‘not’ from the seventh Commandment. It read, ‘You shall commit adultery.’ For that, the version of the Bible became known as the ‘wicked Bible.’ In our study of the seventh Commandment we are certainly not going to leave out ‘not!’ Today, of course, such an oversight might be rewarded. A university lecturer asked a class if they could downsize the Ten Commandments, which would they leave out. The majority said the seventh commandment.

We live in an age there where marriage is under constant attack; people are living together, having affairs, making it seem justifiable. People regard the seventh Commandment as outdated. A positive assertion of marriage is needed all the more today because it is so widely disregarded. God’s way is the right way, God’s way is the best way.

  1. The attack upon marriage and the promotion of promiscuous behaviour.

We are told that adultery and other forms of sexual immorality are natural, normal and necessary. The Bible states from the beginning God intended all sexual activity to be between one man and one woman within the context of marriage (Genesis 2:24).

Man was not created to be like the animals but to enjoy a single, committed relationship for life. The very word adultery means a violation of marriage by breaking commitment (Leviticus 20:10). Although God often showed mercy to such sinners, the severity of punishment reveals the severity of the crime.

Following on from the lie that adultery is natural, there is the additional lie that adultery is normal. Television, newspapers and magazines are constantly filled with adultery. But adultery is abnormal to God’s purpose. He reserves His strongest words for it (Jeremiah 5:7-9). The consequences of adultery and promiscuity are far reaching: the devastation of partners, the great emotional cost for children, the cost to state in terms of the price of divorce in our land. The Lord reserves the most serious warnings for any who believe such behaviour is normal.

The ultimate excuse for adultery is the spouse no longer loves his or her spouse and finds greater happiness in the arms of another. This is based on the mistaken belief that love is just an emotion that comes and goes. It goes against Biblical teaching in which one gives oneself exclusively to one other, irrespective of the ebb and flow of feelings. Real love is not self-seeking, it is self-sacrificing (Ephesians 5:25). Many times those who have seen adulterers’ promiscuity as the road to happiness have found it as the road to ruin.

The sanctity of marriage and rejection of sexual acts outside marriage is normal, natural and necessary. Satan seeks to destroy and damage the God-ordained order for family and individuals. The Lord Jesus Christ cites adultery as the grounds for gaining divorce (Mark 10). It is sad that Christians fall for the lie. It is best seen in ministers who have committed adultery but are allowed back into the pulpit. Sin, of course, is forgiven and the minister should be received back into the fellowship of the church. But by his infidelity to his wife, they have barred themselves from preaching. 

  1. The deceitfulness of adultery.

For many this Commandment has no fear because we can honestly say we have never committed adultery, we have been faithful to our husband or wife. However, that is to ignore the seed of adultery that is found in our hearts. All of us, in some way, have been guilty of weakening our marriages. The scriptures point us to the way sexual activity prior to marriage breaches the seventh Commandment. The abuse of the gift of our sexuality before marriage deprives a future wife or husband (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 18). Today many people believe that having many partners is not wrong, provided they are one at a time. There are many problems that conflict marriages because of sexual activity outside, prior to marriage.

People can engage in marital unfaithfulness. They may enjoy sexual fantasy in viewing inappropriate material, flirting with the opposite sex. This weakens marriage too, even if there is no acting on the thought. The scriptures call us to be pure in thought and action. We are to guard our minds from all immorality (Philippians 4:8). God knows what we feed our minds on.

There is the problem of inappropriate thoughts. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” (Matthew 5:28). Accordingly, there is no-one here this morning who is not guilty of breaking the seventh Commandment. When we condemn the actions of others which we find obscene and sickens us, remember we too have been guilty of obscenity which sickens Him. We too need forgiveness. There is help at hand in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The grace of God for adulterers is best seen in three women who broke the seventh Commandment:

           The woman of Samaria (John 4:1-26)
         The woman, believed to be Mary Magdalene, who scandalised the Pharisees                      (Luke 7),
          The woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11).

            What do we see in each case?

  • Whereas others were keen to condemn these women, Jesus did not. On the contrary, He deals with them as if they were respectable.
  • He forgives their sin, bringing them freedom from the penalty of sin.
  • He changed their lives, transforming them into disciples who loved righteousness. He establishes a new relationship in their lives with God and God’s law.
  • The Saviour remained faithful to them, even going to die on the cross to pay the price of their sin.

There is no doubt they continued to fail Him, even as we do, but He never forsook them, even as He never forsakes us.

The good news, the gospel news, then is there is forgiveness for adulterers and those with promiscuous behaviour, to those who repent. Forgiveness is available to all who turn to Christ. But it also involves sinning no more. In God’s power they must flee from the sin of the past and not repeat it. You can’t continue in the old ways. People who do are not truly born again.

  1. Marriage is used in the Bible as a picture of the relationship between God and His people. That’s a sobering challenge to those of us who are married. Are our marriages a picture of the relationship between God and His people? Do we reflect the union of Christ and the Church? We may not commit physical adultery but there may be nastiness, attitudes that don’t speak of a commitment of love.

Even amongst Christians there are those who defile their marriage with pornography, who seek to use their partner in the porn of their own sordid experience of sinful immorality. Praise be to God, not only in their forgiveness, not only in their restoration, there is also the complete, never-ending commitment of the Lord Jesus Christ to each and every one of us that can never be broken. He will never forsake us, He will never abuse us. He will never cease to love us. He will also be to us our heavenly spouse who has sacrificed Himself for our eternal good.

The seventh Commandment does have a ‘not’ in it, it’s not left out. It is there for the glory of God, the good of His people and the good of all mankind.

October 15th 2017: Ian Middlemist

Ian March 26th 2017I John 3 ‘Blessed Assurance.’

Assurance of love is essential. Our Heavenly Father needs to discipline us for our good that we might share in His holiness and be assured of His great love for us. ‘See what kind of love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is it did not know him.’ (I John 3:1). God wants His children to feel His arms of love around them.

I john 3-1

– An important question to ask: Am I a Christian?
– Vital love
– A central perspective.

An important question to ask: Am I a Christian?

The enemy of our souls tries to drive a wedge between us and God. The devil’s work and our conscience can condemn us as we compare ourselves with to others and to the Word. It is right we compare ourselves to God’s standards. It is right we love others but this can be hard. We may have difficulty praying for others.

For many the question ‘Am I a Christian?’ may seem ridiculous. They may answer, ‘Of course!’ It’s a vital question to ask. Be careful how we ask and answer it. We also need to meet it head on.

The creator God is here, we proclaim, as a church. There is one true God, all powerful, who created everything and is intimately involved. Why is it then that there is so much suffering? Why do so many people feel disconnected from God – not basking in the wonder of who He is? Why do we not always feel Christian? Perhaps we should ask ourselves what is a Christian? A Christian is a child of God. It is not someone who is generally good or goes to church. A Christian is a child of God, therefore it is someone who can call upon Him as ‘My Father.’

From the New Testament we know that a Christian is someone who is in Christ, someone who has entered into a wonderful, mysterious union into Jesus, clothed with Christ. We are intimately united with Christ. Faith has brought us into Christ.

People can be:

  • Unsaved and know they are not in Christ and are not bothered about this. They will be in Hell.
  • Be saved but not know they are saved. May be they don’t experience it all the time.
  • Be saved and know they are children of God. This is blessed assurance.
  • Not be saved but they seem to believe they are. This is false assurance. We do not want people to think they are going to heaven when they are trusting in themselves rather than Jesus.

In response to the question, ‘Am I a Christian?’ if I am I know I have the love of God in me, I am a child of God. To help you and encourage you there is to be a love in the heart of the believer. ‘By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him.’ I John 3: 19). 

I John 3-18

‘By this’ refers to the previous verse, ‘Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.’ (I John 3:18). There is to be this love in a Christian. It is defined in terms of direction:

  • It is not love towards cars, jobs, wives, husbands or me. Here is the grace of God displayed – it is love directed towards Jesus Christ, a love towards the person of Jesus. God sent His Son to live a righteous life on our behalf. When Christ willingly hung on the cross and suffered in agony He was thinking of you. Therefore, it’s Jesus we love because of what He did for us. Now we can put our trust in Him and now we can love Him. My love is not what it ought to be. The key thing Peter was assured of was that even when he failed, he could still say he loved Jesus. No matter how great our failings, we can still say we love Him.
  • There is a love for righteousness.
  • There is a love towards other Christians – not just certain Christians, a love for all of them. It’s testimony to God’s saving grace we can say we love the church.

Central Perspective: We must be convinced of God’s great goodness. ‘For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.’ (I John 3:20). We are assured of God’s great love towards us. It is not based on my love, my understanding or my feelings. Whenever our conscience condemns us, when the devil condemns, we turn to the greatness of God. Our hearts condemn us but God is greater. He knows all things. Don’t put your trust in yourself, trust in Him. Listen to what He says about you. He is always aware of us, where we are, what we feel, our thoughts. But He also knows we are His. He sent His only Son to die for you, to clothe you in righteousness. Be assured, God is greater than our hearts. Are you able to say, ‘Yes, I love Jesus?’ Be confident in Him.