December 10th 2017: Norman Rees

norman rees-dec17Luke 2:7 “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn.”

Caesar Augustus declared all to be registered, to go to the place of their birth. Picture the scene of Jesus’ birth. His mum and step-dad Joseph were brought up in Nazareth. The Holy Ghost came upon Mary in a miraculous way, according to God’s great plan, planned in eternity. God knew we’d be cursed and Jesus would come and save millions. Jesus Himself would leave heaven, leave communion with the Father. Jesus, at the right hand of the Father, would come into this world as a baby. Miraculous! He would be born and conceived in the womb of a virgin. The Holy Spirit came upon this young girl, who asks, ‘How can this be?’ Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit. Mary was a godly young woman, blessed to be the mother of the Son of God – but not worshipped. He was her Saviour, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.” (Luke 1:46-47).

So Mary and Joseph took the long, arduous journey of some 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, travelling on a rough, dangerous road. They were registered in Bethlehem as Caesar Augustus had decreed. They had to go according to the law of the land, but more importantly, ordained by God and prophesied by Micah.

Mary and Joseph wouldn’t have been on their own. Quite a few were also travelling from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Finally, towards evening time, as they came towards Bethlehem they saw an inn. Surely this would be somewhere to stop, to have a warm meal and a room? The innkeeper may have heard of Mary’s pregnancy and thought she may have been an adulteress. Mary may have been shamed and shunned simply because God worked in her life. However, the innkeeper pointed them to a little shelter, less than a stone’s throw. Mary and Joseph made a place there, where Jesus was born and laid in a manger. Here Joseph would have held the very Son of God. Staggering! God the Son being taken out of the womb of a virgin. How they must have praised God!

Jesus could have come down from heaven in all His glory and splendour, bringing sinners unto Himself. He could have come down with angels and a great cry of triumph. But He humbled Himself, He took on flesh. He came as a baby, totally dependent on His mother. The Son of God.  It blows your mind! That was His first Advent. He will return.

Everyone born of a woman is a sinner. We have inherited Adam’s genes. Christ lived a life without sin. He came to live a perfect life. At the end of His 33 years He was rejected. He came to bring the gospel, heal the sick, bring life abundantly, raise dead sinners to life. He was mocked and put to death. He was beautiful, perfect, spotless – He was killed in the most cruel way – the death of thieves and robbers, nailed to a cross after being beaten. Nails were driven into Hs hands. The nails were probably about 4 to 5 inches long, with the top of the nail about 1 ½ inches across. The nails were driven into His hands and feet as they lay Him down on the ground on a cross, before lifting Him up. Psalm 22. He dragged the cross, a spectacle for all to look at as they mocked Him. They put a reed in His hand. God turned His face away from His Son. His wrath was poured upon His Son so we might live forever, our sins washed away.

After the taxation was over people would have made their way back to their home. Joseph was warned to escape to Egypt, eventually returning to Nazareth. We can be so caught up with the things of Christmas we forget why we’re here, why Christ came. There was no room in the inn but room in a cattle shed. There is no room in the hearts of many people yet they celebrate Christmas. What has the birth of Christ have to do with Santa, reindeer, crackers and snow? Nothing at all. Let’s get our minds focused on why Jesus came. Let’s go again to Bethlehem and see the Lord who was born to save our souls. Oh that we might not stop talking about Jesus, like the shepherds. One day He’s coming again. Praise God. We’ll see Him glorious and holy. Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners. Do we love Him because He first loved us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 22nd 2017: Andy Christofides

Andy Christofides-Oct 2017One life, what’s it all about?

For our Mission Sunday morning service Andy spoke on three points about heaven:

Where is heaven?
What’s it like?
What’s the key to the door? How can I be sure of going there?

Where is heaven?
In 2010 55% of people in the UK believed in heaven. 95% of people in South Africa believed in heaven. Belinda Carlisle once sang that ‘heaven is a place on earth.’ It’s not! People tend to believe it’s ‘up there somewhere.’ It’s not so much ‘up there,’ it’s a real location. The Bible explains heaven is the unreached presence of God. Sometimes, a little bit of heaven impinges on earth. The shepherds on the hillside saw and heard an angelic choir as God burst in. Heaven appeared briefly when the disciples witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration, then disappeared again. There will come a time when the trumpet will sound and His glory will appear. Heaven is the immediate presence of God.

What is heaven like?
In John 14 Jesus Christ speaks a little about heaven, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubles. You believe in God; believe also in me.’ (John 14:1). Trust in God, give Jesus the same amount of trust. When the Apostle Paul thinks of his troubles, he thinks of them as being light and momentary, not worth comparing to eternal glory. Troubles are very real to us but there’s something coming far better for the believer that wipes it all away. Keep your eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus calls heaven ‘My Father’s House.’ It’s a lovely phrase. It’s a place where families get together – one dwelling place. We are all together, there are no divisions, we all get along. “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2). The King James Version states, “In my Father’s house are many mansion.” It is spacious. All have a place to dwell. It’s a great truth. There are some pretty great mansions on earth with spectacular views, but these are nothing compared to what we will have in heaven.

When Paul writes to the Corinthians he quotes Isaiah, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived – the things God has prepared for those who love Him,” (I Corinthians 2:9). Those who love Him  – that’s the key to entering heaven.

Paul also writes (in the third person, although he is speaking of himself), ‘I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows. And I know that this man … was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.’ (2 Corinthians 12:2 &4). Paul had a glimpse of the third heaven – the dwelling place of God. He saw and heard inexpressible things. What will heaven sound like? The sounds of heaven will be far superior to anything we’ve ever heard.

Heaven is a place prepared for us, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2). Everything is prepared, nothing will be out of place.

Our body is just a shell. I’m an eternal soul. I’m spirit. My body can move. I’m the bit that thinks, communicates ideas, thoughts and soundwaves. When I die my body goes into the ground but my spirit lives on. When Christ returns I get a new body.

Jesus Christ had a physical resurrected body. He could eat and drink. He could appear and suddenly disappear; at the Ascension He was talking to the disciples then disappeared. So our resurrected bodies will be physical, spiritual bodies, able to move around freely, travelling great distances.

Revelation 21 is highly symbolic of something wonderful. It’s a parallel to Revelation 7:16-17, ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘He will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” We will never again hunger or thirst. Eating and drinking will have no side effects. There will be feasting. There will be no sorrows, no painful memories of things that happened on earth. The judge of all the earth will have done right. There will be no sin in heaven.

Isaac Watts writes,

Sin, my worst enemy before,
Shall vex my eyes and ears no more;
MY inward foes shall all be slain,
Nor Satan break my peace again.

Heaven will have mansions of glory and endless delight. Heaven’s gates are always open and light always shines. Heaven is home. It’s there we will be satisfied.

How do we get there?
Thomas asked Jesus “How can we know the way?” To which He replied, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

‘I am’ is ego-centric. Too many people make the fundamental mistake of wanting to reform their own lives. It won’t get you to heaven. Going to church is very good, something you should do – but it won’t get you to heaven. Even going twice to church, attending mid-week meetings, reading the Bible and praying is all great – but it won’t get you to heaven. In every other religion it’s what you have to do. Even in some churches! There are some parents who believe that because they are Christened they will go to heaven. Or they may think that because they have family who believe they are Christians so this gives them access to heaven. Some say they believe in God – even demons believe in God – and tremble!

Jesus is the one who gets you to heaven. He is the door, the gate to the sheepfold. It’s not what you do that gets you to heaven. If you want to get to heaven, it happens through Jesus Christ, He is the only way. He is the only one who has dealt with the problem – sin. Our concern ought primarily to be God. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27). Love God. He is your creator.

When things go wrong people shake their fists at God and blame Him. Yet when things go right it’s all ‘me’. God sent His Son Jesus, the second person of the Triune God, to deal with sin. Why? So we can go to heaven. Why? Because He loves us. God sent Jesus to earth. He lived a perfect life. He met God’s demands. He’s our representative. He went to Calvary, laid down His life. Isaiah foresaw this 700 years earlier, ‘But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.’ (Isaiah 53:5). When Jesus went to Calvary He took on Hell. It’s love. ‘But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8). He died the death for us. Because He did nothing wrong, death is conquered.

Jesus Christ is the only one who has dealt with the problem. All I need to do is rest in His finished work.

Will you be there? If you are not sure, why not? The door is wide open. Faith implies repentance, repentance implies faith. The good news is God wants us in heaven. What do you want for eternity?

8th January 2017: Matthew Maxwell-Carr

The Christian Teaching of Original Sin

matthew-maxwell-carr-january-17This is a fundamental Christian teaching, anyone who denies it is a heretic. If you don’t believe it, you empty the gospel of all of its power.

What is original sin?
Often Christians will say because Adam sinned we have a corrupt nature. It’s true – we have inherited a fallen nature. It’s why we find it easy to lose our temper, to be jealous. However, you need to go further back. Ultimately, because of what Adam did, we are all counted guilty for his sin before God. God sees the whole human race through Adam – worthy of eternal death. This is why we are still subject to death the moment we come into this world. The human race is counted worthy of death. But in Jesus Christ, God has chosen to view those who believe in Him as righteous, as Jesus Christ is, and not worthy of death but the riches of glory.

God only sees two men in the human race; all humanity hangs from the girdles of these two men – the first Adam or the second Adam. Forget about good works, works of righteousness which you have done. It is all of faith. The big question is whether you are of Adam or Christ.

Is this a teaching of Scripture?
‘But now, Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.’ (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). Some Corinthians were denying resurrection is possible. Paul says in verse 20, ‘One man brought death into the world, but Christ brought resurrection into the world.’ Are you in Adam or are you in Christ?

‘Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned – For until the law sin was in the world, but sin in not imputed when there is no law.’ (Romans 5:12-13). There was a law given to Adam in the Garden of Eden – don’t eat of the fruit or you shall surely die. From the time of Adam until Moses there were no other laws. Adam transgressed that law. Death reigned during that time. (Romans 5:14). Humanity was in big trouble. Humanity is still in trouble. But in Romans 5:15 we read of the free gift God offers the human race – the free gift of righteousness. When we stand before God all our sins are gone. Paul compares this to the trespass of Adam, he compares and contrasts what Adam and Christ have done. Many died through one man’s offence but God has now flooded people’s lives with grace. The free gift of the gospel came after many, many sins had happened. God sent His Son into this world to bring grace and justification. If you’re justified you are guilty of no crime, you are innocent. That’s how God wants to treat us in Jesus Christ, He wants to see us righteous because of what His Son has done. Enter into this by faith alone.

In verse 17 Paul says because of one man’s sin, through his one offence, death reigns. But in Jesus Christ we have salvation. If you receive that abundance of grace, you receive the gift of righteousness. We are all sinners by nature. Ultimately, we are all guilty of Adam’s sin. Jesus was sent into this world so we might have the gift of righteousness.

‘Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgement came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.’ (Romans 5:18). Judgement will come to all through one man’s offence. We were born into this world worthy of death. But how gracious God is. He chooses to see us fully righteous. If we enter into Jesus Christ, God won’t see all our sin because of the one righteous act of Jesus.  What was this? The giving of His life on the cross. Adam sinned because of a tree. Christ died on a tree, on the cross, in obedience to His Father. Jesus came into this world as the most astounding teacher, but ultimately He came to die, to undo what Adam did. All our sins are blotted out and we are justified. We are righteous because Christ is righteous. God takes it all out of our hands. The righteous act of Jesus Christ takes us into heaven if we believe in the Lord Jesus. Trust in Him, receive Him.

‘For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.’ (Romans 5:19). By one man’s disobedience many were breakers of God’s law. We came into this world, we didn’t choose to be guilt of Adam’s sin, but by God’s grace He sent Christ. It doesn’t depend on our works, what we do. Christ has done it all for us. Be saved! What a gracious set up! Believe in Jesus Christ and you will be reckoned to be fully righteous before God. By His mercy He saved us.

 ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.’ (Ephesians 2:9). You have to believe. Just get into Christ, look to Him, see Christ crucified for your sins.