July 21st 2019: Thomas Kitchen

Thomas Kitchen -July 2019Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.’
Hebrews 12:1-2

The race in Hebrews is a spiritual race, a very important race. It doesn’t matter how old or young, how rich or poor you are, there is to be one word we say to ourselves when running this race for Christ, “Run!” With this race we should all want to run. Here are three point to get our running gear on:

  1. Run with humility.

We are surrounded by ‘a great cloud of witnesses.’ Who are they? Why should we care? Have a look at Hebrews 11 – it’s all about the great men and women of faith who loved God and had exceptional amounts of faith. If we’re to run with humility, there are great men and women of faith we can look up to, be inspired by. This cloud of witnesses has already run this race before us and done so successfully. It’s not to say these people did no wrong. We’re all perfectly capable of falling into sin. We can’t run without God’s help. May be you know people who run the race who have suffered affliction because they’ve loved God more than the world. We must be humbled by these people but we need to remember they did it in God’s strength. Strive for faith. When we’ve been given the faith that we need, we need to use it. Hebrews 11:1 tells us, ‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’ So why would physical beings care for unseen things? Because God planted it there is the first place. We know we have a righteous God who knows all things and is completely sovereign. Faith is obeying God despite the outcomes, the consequences. God uses things which we may not have expected for growth in our faith. When living in the now it’s easy to say, ‘I’ll trust you Lord no matter what I face.’ But we must be prepared for suffering. Faith is about trusting God, and when we realise just how powerless we are, we realise how powerful humility is.

The world doesn’t value humility but it’s a great thing. We’re to be humble running ‘our’ race – not anyone else’s. We should serve God with all our heart, no matter what hurdles are ahead. We have worldly thinking. Sometimes, that thinking penetrates our thinking. We can long for gifts others have. But God glorifies Himself by living within us – Psalm 34. Do you boast in the Lord? We’ve got our own race to run, not someone else’s – we can’t change lanes. If we keep looking at other people and what they’ve got, we’ll trip up. That’s not to say we’re not to encourage one another. We can doubt God. We need to build each other up, support each other with scripture, with God’s words, not our own.

  1. Run with endurance.

This is a lifelong race. Sometimes, we can get ahead of ourselves. We can be so busy, for example, reaching out in the community, that we can neglect to pray or read the Bible. Sprinting is not a good thing if there are hills and valleys. The Christian life is full of joys and sufferings, full of ups and downs. Some people are regularly tested and others don’t suffer so much. It’s unwise to charge ahead; you won’t be prepared for a trial and will panic and lose control. How can we show this endurance? How do we acquire it? We can pray, read God’s Word, discuss God’s Word with other Christians, discuss joys and difficulties with other Christians. There should always be time set aside to worship and adore Him. We can’t worship Him if we’re running around. Proverbs 4. Always keep God’s Word and promises in our heart, in front of our eyes.

Lay aside every weight. Sin is a big factor in this endurance run. Sin keeps holding on to us to the very end. The following poem resonates with us:

The Yipiyuk
In the swamplands long ago,

Where the weeds and mudglumps grow,
A Yipiyuk bit on my toe …
Exactly why I do not know.
I kicked and cried
And hollered “Oh”—
The Yipiyuk would not let go.
I whispered to him soft and low—
The Yipiyuk would not let go.
I shouted “Stop,” “Desist” and “Whoa”—
The Yipiyuk would not let go.
Yes, it was sixteen years ago,
The Yipiyuk still won’t let go.
The snow may fall,
The winds may blow—
The Yipiyuk will not let go.
The snow may melt,
The grass may grow—
The Yipiyuk will not let go.
I drag him ‘round each place I go.
This Yipiyuk that won’t let go.
And now my child at last you know
Exactly why I walk so slow.

Shel Silverstein

The Yipiyuk is sin and it will not let go. We thank God sin is only on our toe. Our sinful flesh is still struggling to come out. Sin will never leave us till we reach heaven.

  1. Run towards Jesus:

So how can we run with endurance? ‘Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated’ (Hebrews 12:2). I love this verse. When you begin to read the chapter and see all you have to do, you can despair. But verse 2 tells us we look to Jesus. Everything we have, our growth and faith, is because of Him. The reason we are saved is because of Him. He is everything – which is why we must run towards Him. Jesus had to run this race too. He finished the race perfectly. He humbled Himself and became obedient even unto death. Jesus saw the reward of regaining His people and was able to overcome suffering. ‘Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed’ (Hebrews 12:12-13).

We are to be strengthened if we’re to run this race. From where do we receive this strength? Philippians 4:13, Ephesians 6:10, Psalm 46:1, Isaiah 40:29. It’s all about God, it’s all about Jesus Christ. The world may say we need to look inward, to see inward strength. We don’t have strength, it’s all about Christ. And this is why we want to run the race. Not just will we be saved from sin and death, but we will be rewarded, we will see our Saviour at the finish line. It will make all our suffering worthwhile. Everything that has led up to it will be for our God. Ask God to strengthen you, ask Him to heal our frail, dislocated limbs.

Run with humility, run with endurance and run towards Christ. Remember also to grow, to seek to become like Him who has saved us. Revival must begin inside the church. Be signposts to Christ.

‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing’ (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Paul has fought, he knew very well he was in a race. We too need to keep the faith. Great people have gone before us. Will you be great for God? It’s not an easy calling. Are you going to be great men and women of God?

 

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.