September 12th 2021: Pete Hilder

Matthew 6:19-24

Everyone has opinions, whether it’s morals, politics, films, tv or books. We look for reviews, for holidays, purchases online. As Christians we are to review things, for example, at the end of the day in prayer, at the end of the year. Covid pauses us to review and reconsider our time and money, our commitment. There are all sorts of things we review and assess. Maybe we go to church and review the service over lunch or review the minister! But God has a different plan when we come to worship Him. He wants to review us, to assess us, to look at us and tell us about what He thinks. Maybe you’ve come this morning to have a look and see what you think. God has come and He is going to have a look at you and tell you what He thinks.

In this passage of scripture there are three pictures, three reviews or assessments, which God brings before you and which Jesus brought to the hearers of this sermon on the very first occasion, and He desires to do so again this morning.

There are three questions for each picture. He wants to know where you are, how you are and who you are living for.

The first review: Jesus, the doctor
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Jesus is ready and waiting for us. He is the greatest doctor who wishes to review us and our health. He has a question for us. If you went to a doctor and he asked, ‘Where is your heart?’ you’d be worried! But our heart can be in many different places. Is your heart in a good place or a bad place? You can know because your heart is where your treasure us.

What is your treasure, your most prized possession? Is it your bank balance, job, status, family? Where do we spend our time and energy? Jesus is telling us there is a danger – our heart could be in the wrong place. There is a danger to us of hell, judgement, being destroyed. Dr. Jesus is concerned for physical and spiritual health. He identifies a couple of dangers for us. Your heart could be in a place of danger and destruction if it is placed in the wrong place. The other danger is our heart could be stolen. Jesus is offering us something different – placing our treasure in heaven.

Jesus has not lost one of those who have entrusted themselves to Him. He wants us to place our hearts in a safe place, in heaven, to entrust ourselves to Him. He is already preparing our inheritance. Jesus is 100% reliable and true. His concern is full and true. His way is a way of life to the full.

The second review: Jesus, the optician

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23).

This time we have the review of the optician. The greatest one who we need to see is Jesus, who is available at all times. How healthy are your eyes? Your heart is important but so are your eyes. That first time you need glasses, you put them on and you’re amazed. Suddenly the world opens back up again. The eye is the lamp of the body. It has great purpose – to shine light. Jesus says it is possible that your lamp is a lamp of darkness. We have many different ways that things enter us. We can be very careful about what we put into our mouth to eat.

How careful are you with what you let into your eyes? Are you filling your eyes with things which are darkness? God’s Word is a testimony of Him. The light of God’s Word is granted to you. God’s concern is so many of us are filling our lives with not seeing Him. So many are in darkness, they choose the darkness. You have a choice when you see an optician – whether to listen and act on what they say or not. Jesus, the optician, is perfect. He has seen the impact of those who reject Him (Genesis 3:6). Sin came into the world through the eye. The same happened with Lot’s wife; she looked back and longed for the world. Job made a covenant with his eyes.

God wants us to have life to the full. But without receiving Jesus Christ as Lord, we face the outcome of death. Solomon wrote, “The eye is not satisfied with seeing (Ecclesiastes 1:8). But Jesus contrasts those very words saying, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6). Jesus wants us to enjoy the blessings which are there for those whose lives will be filled with light. What are you filling your life with? We should be filling our lives with Jesus. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8). Fill ourselves with these things, the gifts that are there for those who follow Him.

The third review: Visiting the Master
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24).

The thought of this puts a shudder down my spine. This is a picture of more than just your master in work. It is a 24/7 commitment. Who is your master? There are two but you can only have one – God or money and possessions. Materialism is one of the great ‘gods’ of our age. We find ourselves not living for God, the Master, but living for someone else.

A squirrel will be busy storing up treasure – nuts for what is to come. Winter. Imagine that a squirrel comes to your garden, bored with collecting nuts and instead collects pebbles to store. What happens when winter comes? He dies. He hasn’t followed his maker’s design. We have a winter – a time of judgement. Maybe the squirrel decides to collect nuts and pebbles. What happens when winter comes? He still dies! The first commandment states we are to have no other gods, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3). These are testing words. Are our hearts wholly devoted to the Lord our God or are we storing up other treasures, serving other masters, filling our lives with darkness? God is not that cruel boss who is looking to pick all your faults. His concern is to bless us, to draw us back. We thank Him that He calls us back again. Jesus promises, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7). He calls us to build our life on the rock, to have life for eternity.

It is very interesting that the rest of Matthew 6 is about anxiety and worry. So often, when we are taken up the things of this world, we become anxious and worried. God has presented to us everything, the way to live, to have peace, to store up treasure in heaven. Jesus states it very clearly at the end of this chapter, “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:32). Amen.

August 22nd 2021: Peter Gleave

Luke 9:10-17 ‘You Give them something to eat.’

This miracle is so important, so important that it is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels. Therefore, you and I really need to take note what Jesus wants us to learn from it. The disciples arrived back from their mission trip and come to Jesus to tell Him all about what they have been doing. It seems to have gone well. They preached the gospel, they healed the sick and they cast out demons. They’ve done the very thing that Jesus wanted them to do. Even Herod, the King, was stirred into wondering who this Jesus was.

When you and I go on mission, there’s a mission taking place this week here in this church, we are used by the Lord. Very often we’re on the mountaintop. We are really excited about what God has been doing and allowing us to be a part of. The disciples came back and reported to Jesus, very excited.

 Such times are often followed by tiredness. Many pastors taken Monday off because, having preached on Sunday, they get excited in the pulpit. After, they get tired physically, emotionally and spiritually and take Mondays off to rest. Jesus knew this and says, ‘We’re going to rest and recuperate. We’re going to get into a boat and we’re going to go to across the lake, to the north-eastern corner and we’re going to have a time of rest at Bethsaida. There’s a nice, quiet spot and we’ll have some time together.’

It is part of our mission, as we go out and do what Jesus wants us to do – sharing the gospel and meeting the needs of the people – there are times when you and I need to rest, relax and recuperate. As part of that resting, it is absolutely vital that we spend time with Jesus alone, that we spend time talking to Him in prayer, that we spend time reading His Word and allowing Him to speak to us. The psalmist reminds us, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ There are times when we need to be off mission and we need to be resting, relaxing and recuperating in God’s presence, prayer and studying His Word. To give out, it is necessary to take in.

Sadly, we can get stuck in either one of two extremes: some don’t rest from mission and they risk burning out, some do nothing but rest from mission and risk missing out. Neither extreme is right, neither extreme is good for us. We need to get the balance right and ask ourselves, ‘Have I got the balance right between mission, and resting and recuperating, spending time with Jesus?’

Jesus and His disciples landed. They got to the shore and pulled up. The disciples were getting out of the boat and already there was a crowd of people there. The crowd had heard about Jesus. They were running from village to village around the northern part of the Sea of Galilee. By the time Jesus and the disciples got there, there was a huge crowd waiting for Jesus, wanting to know more about what He was talking about. They got people who were ill and wanted Him to heal them. They had heard all about what he had been doing, they wanted to know more about Him. The disciples too had been out, and no doubt the word had spread even further. People were, no doubt, excited about what the disciples had said and so they wanted to know more about this Jesus.

I wonder, what would you do with such a great opportunity? You’ve gone off to rest and relax and suddenly there’s a great crowd there. What would you do? Would you perhaps send them away? Would you, maybe, wait for another day?

In verse 11 we find that Jesus welcomed them. He spoke the gospel to them. He told them how He could make a difference in their life. He also healed those who needed healing. Jesus did exactly what he had sent His disciples out to do: twofold ministry – to share the gospel and to meet people’s needs.

We are called to do exactly the same. Imagine, if you sat in your garden, resting and relaxing, and 890 people came to you needing to hear about Jesus. They bring with them all their physical problems, their cancers, their difficulties, their debt, their incurable diseases, their depression, their anxieties, their addictions, their guilt of past sins.

If you live in Roch, that’s pretty much the reality of the situation you’re in. Because, on your doorstep there are 890 people in Roch in need of hearing about Jesus. I’m pretty sure that every one of those 890 people will, at some time, have a physical need that they need help with. Do you send them away or do what Jesus did and meet their needs?

Over the last eighteen months, Covid has caused a lot of people to ask questions about what life is all about. Many are affected by it physically and spiritually. People don’t want the isolation anymore. Young people are depressed because they can’t go out and live life as they want to. Families are suffering economically because the loss of work and furlough and all sorts of different things. Of course, 2,000 years ago there was no NHS on the shores of Galilee. There were great physical needs in that crowd, alongside the spiritual needs that they come to Jesus with. I want to suggest to you that very often, if we can meet the physical need of somebody, we get the opportunity to share the gospel and meet their spiritual needs as well.

So, do you continue to sit chilling in the garden, or do you prepare to do something about the 890 people on your doorstep? How do we get the balance right between not resting from mission and risking burnout, and doing nothing but rest from mission and risking missing out? Ask yourselves, when was the last time you met the physical needs of someone in Roch? When was the last time you shared the gospel with someone in Roch? If it’s been a while, maybe you’re at one extreme, spending too much time resting and relaxing. When was the last time you went along and spent time with Jesus alone? When was the last time you purposely spent time with Him reading the scriptures and talking with Him? If it’s such a while since that happened, then maybe you’re doing too much of mission and not spending enough time with Jesus.

I know we have all got family responsibilities, we’ve got work, we’ve got leisure time to include, but Jesus sent out these disciples with a great urgency. There is an important imperative for you and I to include these things in our daily lives. Jesus has commissioned us to go out urgently with the gospel, to meet people’s needs and to share the truth about Him. It has got to take priority in our daily lives.

I’m going to suggest to you the answer to the balance problem is that every day we should be spending time with Jesus alone, and every day we should be spending time meeting the needs of people in our villages and in our homes and around us, sharing the gospel with them and meeting their physical needs. If we do that, we’re probably going to get the balance right.

Jesus ministered for a while out there. The people came with all their diseases, and it was there He met their needs. In the late afternoon the disciples wanted to send the crowd away; they were in a remote place with no food. At first, it might seem reasonable. But did they really think Jesus didn’t already know they were in a remote place, or not know the people’s needs? Did they not realise that Jesus knew the vast crowd was likely to get hungry? Had they forgotten that it was Jesus who had given them authority and the power to go out in the first place, to share the gospel and to heal people? If they thought this through, they must have realised that Jesus, the Son of God, who they had witnessed do other miracles, would in fact, be able to meet the needs of this great crowd.

Maybe you think in a similar way of the 890 people on your doorstep? Maybe your response is similar to the disciples? Maybe it’s a practical, thoughtful response – we can’t meet the needs of 890 people when we have only got a few members? We’ll pray that the Lord sends along some more workers and then we’ll go and do it? Or maybe you’re tired and weary and think, ‘Well, they’ll still be there next week, or next year.’

Whatever the disciple thought, they probably weren’t expecting the reply that Jesus gave them. This is what He said, “You give them something to eat.” In the Bible, the Greek emphasis is on the word ‘You.’ Having this practical mindset, the disciples started to respond to Jesus’ command. They found a boy with five loaves and two fish and told Jesus. They said, ‘We could go and buy some food.’ Philip calculated that if they were going to go and buy food, it would have taken eight months wages, and all they would have got was a bite, which was hardly worth having.

They had completely forgotten the mission they had been on and reported back to Jesus earlier that day. Let’s not be too hard on them. The disciples had had seen Jesus heal individual people but never witnessed a miracle they were about to see. Let’s not forget how like them we are. Sometimes we forget the blessings we’ve experienced and where they come from. We forget that God has blessed us in the past in our churches. We forget that 199 years ago this church was planted in a village where there was no church. After nearly two hundred years, the work has been ongoing.

We forget God has been meeting our needs week in, week out, throughout our lives, both as individuals and as a church. Consequently, we turn to ourselves for answers. Friends, Jesus knows the scale of the problems. He knows the issues that you’re facing. He knows all the issues for you personally and you as a church. Jesus has the power and authority to give you what you need to feed 890 people in Roch. You, yes you, give them something to eat. When we don’t look to Jesus and start to look inwardly, we become inadequate and ineffective. We need to remind ourselves that when we work in Jesus’ authority, miracles can happen. God’s kingdom can be built here in Roch.

This miracle has its roots in the Old Testament – when God rescued His people from Egypt, out of captivity, and took them to the wilderness. There, where there was no food and no water, He fed them daily for a long time. Never once did He let them down.

God’s chosen people had their needs met every day. Now Jesus was going to do exactly the same for this for 5000+. He was also going to meet the two-fold need of the disciples: spiritually, He was going to remind the disciples of who He was and physically He was going to feed the twelve of them too, as well as all the thousands of people who were there. God is a God of provision. On this day, at a remote place, Jesus was going to identify Himself as God. He was going to remind those of a Jewish ancestry to look back and see how God had provided for His people in the desert and how He, too, today, was going to do the same thing. Jesus was going to remind them that He is one with God. He was going to provide their daily food, right there, right then.

What God has done before, God can do again. What God has done before in Roch, He can do again. What God has done before in your life, in your church, God can do again. It doesn’t rely on you, it relies on your willingness to give what you have. You may feel as if you’ve only five loaves and two fish, and nothing else to give. But what Jesus wants is for you to give your all. He wants you to give yourself. He wants you to commit your time, your talent and your treasure to Him. He wants you to give all to Him.

The Lord wants you to give what you have, to yield what you have. We may feel that we don’t have the resources to meet 890 people’s needs. The truth is, we don’t. But God does. He simply wants you to surrender all you have to Him, which, of course, He gave you in the first place. Your time, your talent, your treasure is only what God gave you in the first place, and He wants to take it and to use it.

When the disciples had surrendered to Jesus all that they have, in the Master’s hands it became something much more. Picture the scene: He organised the people into groups of 50, sitting on fertile land. In front of all, He takes what was there, five loaves and two fish, and looks up to heaven, give thanks and breaks the bread. In looking up and giving thanks to God, Jesus acknowledges the source of power, God Himself. When we look up, when we give thanks, when we acknowledge the source of power and authority by which we do the work of God, we don’t look inwardly. Look up.

Jesus kept breaking the bread and the fish, and He kept on giving it out. He distributed it to the disciples. They gathered round and they went on to give them something to eat. You give them something to eat. He kept on giving and He kept on giving. From these five loaves and two fish He just kept on multiplying.

Jesus could have done this entirely on His own, but He chose to involve the disciples in this miracle. In exactly the same way, in His kindness, He chooses to involve us in mission. Why? Simply so that we can experience the joy of service for the King of Kings, so that we can learn the lesson that the disciples did about trusting in the Almighty, and about the power of Jesus in meeting the needs of the people.

There is enough in the gospel for every one of the 890 people who live in Roch village. Jesus died for every single one of them. His blood is sufficient to cleanse and to save them all. God has already shown that He is prepared to give His power and His authority to you, for you to be able to give them something to eat. What He wants is for you to surrender all.

Whatever this church needs to reach 890 people, God will provide – workers, a pastor, finance, skills, talents, abilities, youth work, even an extension to the building. God already knows what the needs are, He knows what the issues are. He has the means to more than meet them. What He wants is for you, yes you, to give them something to eat. He doesn’t want our excuses, He doesn’t want what we don’t have, He doesn’t want us to be burned out, He doesn’t want us to be missing out. He wants what you do have. No matter how small in your eyes, He wants it willingly, completely, unreservedly given to Him.

There’s an opportunity this week. There’s a mission taking place in your church, doing the very thing we’ve talked about. Support it. Pray for it. Get involved. Do whatever you have to do to reach those children in this community, starting tomorrow. Apart from that, you’ve your own mission, spending time everyday looking for opportunities to meet someone’s physical need and their spiritual need, but equally spending time with God alone in order that you can do that.

This is your 200th year of service of your church in this village. I want to set you a challenge. Just think about this for a moment. Think of your 200th anniversary next year. Just imagine if every one of you brought one other person to Christ as their Saviour. The church would be doubled in size by this time next year. There’s a challenge for you – to go and evangelise and try and point people to Jesus; every man, woman and child in this community.

Imagine 890 people on your doorstep, grouped together in the street. Imagine going to them with the bread of life, knocking on their door to show them and to tell them about your love for them and about the love of the Saviour for them, how you want to meet their physical needs, and then getting the opportunity to meet their spiritual needs and tell them why you are doing it – because you love them because the Saviour loves them. He wants them to have life in all its fullness and that He is more than able to meet all their needs in this life and the next. Imagine, it happens so often that you’re bringing people to know Jesus into this church on a regular basis, to the extent that you have to start a building programme to make the church even bigger. It’s entirely possible.

Make sure you balance your time right, spending time with Him. Make sure you spend your time right by speaking to people about the gospel, meeting their physical needs. Don’t send them away. Keep going. Give all that you have. You, yes you, give them something to eat.

August 15th 2021: James Gleave

Luke 9:1-9 ‘Take Nothing for the Journey.’

As we have read Luke chapter 9, there is a lot to think about as we consider our own personal mission. John Wooden’s famous quote reminds us that ‘failure to prepare is preparing to fail.’ It is a quote that athletes plaster all over social media, alongside photos and videos of intense training. Preparation for a task is undeniably really important. Alexander Graham Bell knew this really well when he said, ‘Preparation is the key to success.’

When I think about what it means to be prepared, I think about making sure all the right things are packed, that I have got everything with me that I need to be well-prepared for a wide range of potential situations. For example, prior to driving down here on this holiday, I spent time counting out my T shirts and my socks. I made sure I was appropriately stocked for the duration of my stay. A few weeks ago, when I was camping in the Lake District, preparation involved making sure that me and my friend had means of storing clean water and cooking the food that we were going to buy. It meant making sure that we had a good mix of clothes, so we were prepared whatever the weather was going to do during our time there.

So, when I read these first few verses of Luke chapter 9, and this command to ‘Take nothing with you for the journey,’ it doesn’t sit well with the way that I’ve come to prepare things. In fact, one thing I do every time I go anywhere, whether it’s for a weekend or a week, is pack at least one extra shirt. So how are we to understand and interpret this morning’s command ‘to take nothing with us for the journey’ and what does it mean practically for us today?

The command, ‘Take nothing for the journey,’ as you might expect, is not quite as black and white as it might seem. Because whilst not taking the physical items that you and I might consider essential with them, the disciples do take some really important things with them as they start out on this mission for Jesus. We are going to look at each of them in turn this morning. We’re going to think about how they had companionship, command and calling with them, all of them provided by God Himself.

Firstly then, companionship. Jesus calls the 12 together. This band of brothers who follow Jesus and support His ministry, know each other just about as well as anyone else on the planet. They are, in essence, a little church family of believers all gathered together around the love of God.

Companionship is incredibly important, isn’t it? It is something that lots of us have found very difficult in the last 18 months with the isolation and separation from other people. We are social creatures, and for the most part we enjoy being around people and having relationships with other people. This is true across all aspects of our lives and is certainly true when it comes to our faith. We enjoy being around like-minded people. It makes exercising our faith more comfortable. It’s one of the reasons that things like Christian Unions are so important because it gives opportunity for like-minded people to come together to support each other.

In Mark we also read the same story that we read in Luke chapter 9. But Mark records it in chapter 6 in a bit more detail. He tells us that after Jesus brought the disciples together, He actually sent them out two by two. Jesus, the master teacher, is also a pioneer of that never-failing ‘buddy system. Jesus knows the value of companionship. The value of this companionship is to be a sense of support for the disciples as they set off on this mission. Not many people would understand the disciples mission that Jesus is sending them on. I think we could all agree that it’s a unique one, especially in the context of the time that the disciples lived in, or perhaps more so today. Most people, in the culture of the disciples, got up every morning, put on their sandals and their cloak and they go out to fish or to work on a farm, or perhaps to craft something. I dare say very few get up of a morning to go and witness the raising of the dead, for example, which the disciples had just done earlier in Luke.

This principle still rings true today. Not many people in 2021 in the UK, get up of a morning with a calling to share the message of a guy who walked around 2000 years ago as the Son of God. Not many people in the UK in 2021 believe in life after death, resurrection, miracles, the power of prayer or the significance of prophecy. The list goes on and on. But as we gather here today, there are people who have experienced these things and who share these beliefs.

As a result, it is imperative that we have a sense of companionship and a spirit of togetherness with our brothers and sisters in Christ, because when our ministry is difficult, or when it attracts the wrong sort of attention – as it did for the disciples towards the end of the passage that we read this morning – it’s our Christian family who will be there to relate to us, to understand us, and to empathise with us in a way that other people simple can’t. As a result, this can be a great source of strength, blessing and encouragement to us.

The other benefit of this companionship that the disciples took with them on this mission is that it gives them an opportunity to demonstrate the love that they have for each other as evidence of their discipleship. As they walk around through these villages, ministering and talking, they also have the chance through this companionship to love each other as Jesus of taught them. In doing so, they provide a practical, visual example of the transformative power of the gospel.

I really love thinking about Christian companionship in this way because I can often be quite quick to see church family and Christian companionship as good for being a means to support and encouragement, but I’m less quick to see it as an opportunity to show the difference that Jesus has made in my life. I think it’s something that would certainly serve me well to begin making a conscious effort to demonstrate the love that God has for me in the way that I interact with my Christian brothers and sisters, so that my way of life, as well as my message, are more attractive to those who don’t yet know Jesus for themselves.

You can imagine that the disciples go out on this mission, there will be times when the right physical preparation and the right practical arrangements won’t be nearly as important to them as knowing that they have someone with them to help maximise each unique opportunity, and make sure that their ministry is most effective and supported.

 So, having been brought together by Jesus so that they can take companionship with them, they are then bestowed with command, all power and authority, as it is described in the NIV. It says that they are given power and authority to drive out demons and to cure diseases. Having seen Jesus heal people who simply touched His cloak, having witnessed the raising of a young girl from the dead, the disciples will have known full well significance of this power that they have been given.

 I think there’s something in that for us to take hold if this morning. You see in our experience as Christians, as we have walked with God through various aspects of our lives, we will know, just as the disciples did, the power and authority that Jesus has. We have seen it in a variety of ways, at different times. When these moments come in our lives, where God sends us out in his power to do something for Him, we need to know to look back on our lived experience of the power of God, in order to have full confidence it, and full understanding of the sovereignty of God. The disciples know what is possible because they have spent time Jesus, learning from Him and seeing what He can do.

Now, as they are sent off into the world, this knowledge and experience which is the combination of their faith and the basis of their confidence, the disciples knew that they were being asked in their own strength was impossible. Perhaps this morning God is asking something of you which seems impossible? But when we go out in God’s strength and God’s power, as the disciples did, we know that all things are possible.

There’s something else significant about the example we see here of God’s power being bestowed upon the disciples. That is, it was specific. What I mean by this can be explained by briefly looking forward to verse 40 of Luke chapter 9. When a man asked the disciples to heal a demon possessed boy, they could not drive it out. What we see from this is that the provision of power and authority given to the disciples in verse 1 of chapter 9 is for a specific purpose. God equips them with all they need for this particular mission. The same may well be true in our experience; when God is asking you to do something for Him you can count on whatever power and authority you need, when you need it. You can count on God to be with you just enough time to carry out specific tasks that He is asking you to do. I think the significance of this is that the disciples can be left in no doubt that what they are doing is through God, and that they have to keep returning to God, to keep relying on Him for anything and everything they need to serve in each new avenue of service that they come across.

Charles Spurgeon once said that without the Spirit of God we can do nothing, we are ships without the wind, branches without sap and like coals without fire, we are useless. This is something that the disciple will surely have realised as they have this power and authority for this specific mission.

So, having been equipped with companionship and command, the disciples then received their calling in verse 2. This calling comes with some conditions. We’ve already referenced the fact they’re commanded to take nothing with them, not even an extra shirt. They are instead to rely on God and His provision through the good nature of the people whose towns they are going to visit.

They are told in verse 4 that whatever house they enter, they should stay there until they leave that town. I wonder how many villagers cottoned on to what was going on with the disciples, and pretended not to be in when they came knocking so as not to be the ones in the village left with these unexpected house guests, with no definitive departure date? Perhaps that’s just the cynic in me. In reality, we can assume that God was at work preparing the hearts of the necessary people and placing them in the disciples’ path at the right time, so that they were unhindered in their mission.

The command to stay in whatever house they entered was also significant; it prevented the disciples from going around looking for better accommodation. They weren’t to go around looking for five-star, all-inclusive hotels. This, combined with the instruction to live simply, i.e., to take no extra shirt, no bread, no money, no bag, meant the disciples would not be with the travelling people who were out to make money unscrupulously. In fact, they were to go out of their way on this mission to avoid any criticism for making money out of their work. As we witness for God, it’s important that we too are easily distinguishable from others around us, and conduct ourselves in such a way as to minimise the risk of any criticism which may distract from the message of hope that we take with us.

Peter writes in the New Testament, ‘Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.’ Perhaps it’s in these moments in Luke Chapter 9 when Peter begins to understand the significance of this as he and his fellow disciples make every effort to be exemplary in their conduct, so as to bring glory to God and win people round to God in the message that they are sharing.

Another more detailed instruction for this mission arrives in verse five. The disciples are told that if people do not welcome them, they should leave the town, shaking the dust off their feet as they go. Whilst they might not have definitive departure date, they certainly weren’t hanging around. There’s a real sense of urgency in this instruction that the disciples receive. I don’t know about you, but it makes me sit up and take notice. You see, urgency is something that I often really struggle with. I get complacent thinking that I’m relatively young and perhaps not in the greatest hurry to share the gospel with everyone that I meet as soon as I meet them. But perhaps I would do well to take something in the spirit of this mission and apply it to my own.

 I think in our culture, as Christians, we are relatively good at being polite, sometimes too polite. We hate the thought of offending somebody. Perhaps, sometimes that makes us a little bit over cautious so as to avoid any risk of doing so. The disciples were not afforded such a luxury. They are told that if they are not welcome, to shake the dust off their feet and leave. It’s a symbolic way washing their hands and responsibility, saying that they’ve done all they can and, basically they should waste any more time on people who don’t want to hear the message, when there are other people who haven’t the chance to hear for themselves.

I’m not suggesting we have quite the same cut-throat approach to our evangelism here and now. I think it’s clear that there were specific time constraints on the disciples which necessitated a more blunt style of mission. I think we’re very fortunate today to have opportunity to build relationships with people and adopt a more long-term approach as we seek to share the gospel.

But just because we don’t have the same time constraints at the disciples had, doesn’t mean that we don’t have any at all. On the contrary, we must be aware that our time on this earth and with the people around us is limited. Our opportunities to share the good news with those around us are numbered. We must seek to strike a healthy balance between urgency and gentleness in our mission, so as to ensure that we can shake the dust off our feet, confident that we’ve taken our message of hope and good news to everyone that God needed us too. As Robert Moffat once said, ‘We’ll have all eternity to celebrate our victories but only one short hour before sunset to win them.’

So then, the disciples set off with very little in the way of physical comforts or belongings but with everything that they needed for the mission. They are joined together and sent out with command, representing God and loving and supporting one another as they do so. They are relatively unhindered by the burdens and the stresses of having to be practically and physically prepared. They are not slowed down by the discouragement of those who reject the message, but rather, in obedience they continued to press on as Jesus had commanded them to.

Bear Grylls once said, ‘Pack the right skills and the right attitude and you won’t need much else.’ The disciples took with them an attitude of faith and trust, packing the knowledge and the skills for this mission that they’ve learned from Jesus Himself. They went on without need for much else besides.

The impact of their mission was far reaching. Not only were people physically healed and able to hear the good news, but as we read, the impact of the mission reached Herod the tetrarch himself, the man responsible for killing John the Baptist. He’s understandably confused by the claims that John has been raised from the dead. His attempts to stop the spread of this message have certainly not worked. In fact, there are now more people spreading the good news, reaching more people, performing more miracles. The disciples’ attitude of faith and the way that they have been preparing with Jesus, has allowed God to achieve some truly incredible things. And as we know, this is only the beginning.

August 8th 2021: John Mann

Mark 7:31-37: A Saving Appointment with the Lord Jesus Christ

The gospels are filled with the miracles of the Lord Jesus Christ, as he confirmed the truth of who He claimed to be and who He is. We thank God for the accounts of the many miracles of Jesus that we read about and learn from.

As Jesus travelled through the area where He was, we read of many miracles. In chapter 5 we read of Jesus travelling through the region of the Gerasenes and we read of the healing of the demoniac who lived among the graves. Jesus healed that man. There is no other mention of anything else done in that particular account, no other incidents there.

 Immediately Jesus gets back in the boat and travels across the lake and there he meets with another two individuals who are in need: Jairus and his daughter who had died, and the woman who had suffered a bleed for twelve years. Jesus deals with them both. The woman is healed and Jairus’ daughter is brought back from the dead. There are no other mentions of other incidents in that particular area.

In chapter 7 Jesus travels another 30 miles, may be on foot, to Syro-Phoenicia and heals a Syro-Phoenician woman. There is no other mention of any other healing here. It seems that Jesus is keeping appointments with people to heal. He seeks out those who need His healing touch. At the same time, we realise these people have to be where Jesus is coming to find Him. They are desperate for answers, they want to find Jesus, only to find that He was ready to meet their need.

Salvation begins with people feeling the need for forgiveness and reconciliation. In loving kindness Jesus responds. He brings forgiveness and healing. The Lord Jesus Christ has called us to Himself. We find in salvation, He has come for us, granted us healing and deliverance from our sin. Have you had a personal appointment with the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you sought Him out?

Jesus is on His way back to the Decapolis. We have to ask ourselves why he would go back. His first visit hardly felt like a needy return. The people pleaded with Him to leave. He wasn’t welcome. Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t leave you when you first rejected Him? Aren’t you so grateful He never gave up on you? Jesus returned because He had an appointment. This should fill us with hope for loved ones who reject Him. He is able to save and to heal. Jesus is still saying, ‘I have an appointment with that person.’

This return visit will be different (v37). It is only the amazing loving kindness and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ can turn ‘Get out of our region’ to ‘He has done well.’ In verse 32 we see another person in desperate need, a man who is deaf and has lost the ability to speak. He lives in an isolated, silent world of his own, relying on others for his daily needs. In their care they take him to where Jesus is. The deaf and mute man must have been confused, wondering where they were taking him. He can see others are excited but doesn’t know why. His problem has cut him off from society.

Here is a picture of our spiritual condition before we know the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you remember a time when you were deaf to the gospel? When your physical ears heard but your spiritual ears were deaf? A time when the gospel went in through one ear and out through the other in spiritual deafness? This results in spiritual muteness, having nothing to say about the Lord Jesus Christ, no time to praise Him, being cut off from God. Our spiritual condition meant we could understand what it was all about. Sadly, in many of our churches this morning, the gospel goes in one ear and out of another. There is a world of difference between hearing and understanding.

The beauty of this miracle is Jesus came to open the lines of communication of our spiritual ears. The gospel is the truth. But in our natural condition we are deaf to its meaning unless we come to Christ. Then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, our ears are opened. We become hearers and experiencers of the gospel.

People took the time to take this deaf man to Jesus. Do you give thanks to people who lead you to the man who could heal you, when Jesus said to you personally, “Ephphatha! Be opened.”

These are pictures of the need of our day. The people had a heart to bring someone to Christ. Are we among the ‘some people’ bringing others to Jesus, or bringing Jesus to others through our testimony, our lives, our witness? We are called to reach our loved ones and neighbours by our testimony. How determined are we to take others to Jesus?

Do we notice how serious these people are? They begged Jesus to heal him (v.32). They believed Him. Are we begging Jesus to save others in our community? They were determined for him to know the healing power of Jesus. Can you imagine the man’s joy when Jesus heals him? Suddenly he hears for the first time. Are you filled with joy when you hear someone has been saved? There is joy for the deaf man and joy for the men who took him to Jesus. Do you thank God for the people who went out of their way to bring you to Jesus?

Jesus took the man aside (v33). Here we see this personal aspect of salvation. We are not forgiven as a group. Jesus wants a personal relationship. He takes us out of the crowd to have a personal appointment with Him. Jesus draws us aside from the company of others, from the distractions all around us. He says, ‘Will you accept me as your own Lord and Saviour?’

Then Jesus does this unusual thing. “Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears. Then He spat and touched the man’s tongue.” (Mark 7:33). Why does Jesus do these strange actions? Jesus deals with each of us according to our own need. We come with our individual fears and doubts. What is the best way to connect with a deaf man? Sign language. Jesus touches the man’s ears and lips. He knows what the problem is, and He knows what the answer is. This would have caused many to resist, but not this man. He accepts the Lord Jesus Christ without turning away.

There are many people who know something is missing from their lives and may come looking to Jesus for an answer, but who are not willing to come without reserve. They want to be healed but not have an intimate relationship with a Saviour. They have missed the opportunity to be saved. But not this man. Whatever Jesus decided to do, this man puts his faith in Him. In this miracle, it is almost as if Jesus is kissing away the problem. We need to place ourselves into the hands of the only one who can heal our spiritual need.

Jesus looked up to heaven and sighed deeply when he said, “Ephphatha.” He has a deep love and concern in his heart for this man as He looks to heaven for his healing. He sighs with the same compassion He has for every one of us. Our healing is His passion. Salvation is the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why He came, that is why He was willing to suffer the scorn, the mocking, the rejection, the beating, the crucifixion and having God’s wrath poured out upon Him – because His passion is to save souls and to make us well. This is what Peter says, ‘He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.’

If you are a believer this morning, it is not through anything you have been able to offer, nothing that you have done, no righteousness of your own. This deaf man had no possibility, not a hope of healing himself. There was nothing that he could bring to Jesus, that Jesus could say, ‘Well, I’ll help you, you’ve gone so far I’ll bring you the rest of the way.’ The man was helpless, powerless and hopeless, just as we are, outside of Christ. There is nothing we can bring whereby we can say, ‘I’ve made a contribution.’

We are totally dependent on the mercy and grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. We can just imagine what the man was saying when he began to speak (v.35). He would be speaking His praise. Jesus came and suffered and died so people like you and me could have our ears unblocked, to have our dead hearts brought to life.

Have you known a saving, personal appointment with Jesus? What words are on your lips?

Sunday Afternoon August 1st 2021: 199th Anniversary Service: John Funnell

Mark 8:22-26 Jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida

Jesus came to Bethsaida, a small fishing village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, an area where Jesus worked a number of miracles and was well-known. It was no surprise that people came to see Jesus and see this blind man. Notice what Jesus does in verse 23. He gets shown this blind man to heal and takes him out of the village. Jesus is God, author of all creation. He can heal this man there and then, but He didn’t want to cause a spectacle. This man is blind, vulnerable and not for entertainment. Jesus deals with him quietly, lovingly.

How does He heal him? He does it with touch. The word ‘hands’ is used three times. Jesus nurtures and guides him through this ordeal. Jesus uses His saliva (v23) to assist the man. Why spit? To show His love. If you burn your finger in the kitchen or hit it with a hammer, what is the first thing you do? Stick it in your mouth. If your son or daughter is dressed in new school uniform and has chocolate on their cheeks, what do you wipe it off with? Spit? You only use your spit on yourself and your children you love. If I saw toothpaste on your cheek this morning and went to wipe it off, you would think it a bit odd, but you wouldn’t think twice if I did it to one of my children. What we have here is a clear sign of Jesus’ deep-seated love for sinners like you and me –  a love that brought Him down from heaven to this fallen and broken earth, so he could so wonderfully and intimately clean us up. He touched this blind stranger as if he was His own son. Beautiful, isn’t it.

This afternoon, has called you away from your busy lives. He has called you out of the village, away from consumers, away from your worldly distractions and desires. He’s pulled you from your sofa and television to come here, by His grace, to His church. By His Spirit He enters into your heart. He comes to you as if you are the only person in the universe and says, “My child, I love you, and on the cross I gave my all to wash away your sins, so you can see me.”

Jesus takes this man away from the crowd and gives him His undivided attention. He heals him. What does he see? People like trees walking around. Is there any symbolism of walking trees? No. The blind man simply answers Jesus’ question as honestly as possible. Possibly, he saw his friends in the distance. Jesus then restored his sight fully.

The same, unchanging God is asking us to do the same; in the chaos of our busy lives, He is asking us, ‘What do you see when you come to Penuel Church?’ Be honest when you come to answer this question. I’ll tell you what I see. I don’t see trees here at Penuel. I see real people who love Jesus. United, rational, sensible people. People once blind to God but who now see clearly. When I come here, I meet with sincerity and honesty. You are all tangible proof of godly worship.

If you are struggling with your faith, your vision is blurred, look around. You might be small, but you are alive.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” CS Lewis quote.

Friends, you are so blessed to be in this church. Look to Jesus. Be honest with Him. Be clear and real with Jesus and He will guide you.

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).

December 29th 2019: Ian Middlemist

Ian-December 29th 2019“Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me,” (John 8:42)

Some gifts can be received in a way we did not expect. The giving of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, did not go the way we expected. Not everyone loves Jesus. There are those who militantly oppose Him and His name. His name has been used blasphemously. We see acts of great kindness but then His name is dishonoured. His name is also used blasphemously in anger. Also, there are those who claim to know and worship Jesus yet they do not know Him at all.

The Saviour often offended people by His words. In today’s reading, John 8:31-59, Jesus spoke to people who professed to believe in God. They argued their corner and said they were free men. Jesus’ response goes further in explaining they were slaves to sin. Only the Son could set them free. He goes further still; they desired to kill Him because they were children of the Devil. They responded by calling Christ a demon-possessed Samaritan! We need to critically hear that message at Christmas, New Year, Easter, Summer, Autumn and Winter to come – the message of our plight before God, of our sinfulness and God’s provision for salvation. It is a message many will find hard to hear. Light has come into the world. We live in the darkness. However, Christ did say that true children of God will love Him (John 8:42, Ephesians 6:24).

All who reject God’s Son will be rejected by Him. “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!” (1 Corinthians 16:22). Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you able to say, ‘I do!’ Does He mean everything to you? Yes He does. Jesus is mine and I love Him! You may rejoice in who He is, yet you do not see Him. You know what He has done in your soul, that heaven’s beloved one, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, came into this world to die on a cross, to give of Himself for me. I love Him! True children of God love Him as their greatest desire. We love Jesus more than we love any other. We love His commandments (John 14). This is the kind of love we have for Jesus Christ.

Psalm 110, we bow before Him, we submit to Him because we love Him. Our very lives are not as dear to us as the love we have for Jesus Christ. We put Him first. Jesus Christ came into this world to be loved by His people who He had redeemed.

Why should we love Him? The purpose of Christmas is to respond to the love of Jesus Christ. If we have failed to do this then we are wasting our time and have missed the point of Christmas. If today you do not love Him it has all been a waste of time. My plea is to look back again at the incarnation afresh – the Son coming into the world. Why? What is all the fuss about? Pray God will help you be a lover of Him. We love Jesus Christ. He came from the Father, from God. The man who walked on the shores of Galilee is the incarnate Son of God. The Son was always in the bosom of the Father, such was the intimacy of love and affection. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Tri-unity of God. He is not saying He is the Father, but He is in the Father. Even as the eternal Son came into the world, He could say ‘I am in the Father.’ So any child of God loves Jesus Christ because we love the Father.

We love Jesus Christ because He does the Father’s will. Such was His willingness, he was ready to do the Father’s will. There was never any doubt He would obey His Father. His purpose was to go to the cross, to feel and experience the Father’s wrath, His righteous anger poured out on Him. And we love Him for that.

We know how easy it is to argue, even in the most committed marriages, but Jesus is pure and holy, 100% of the time, always committed to doing the Father’s will. This teaches us also to be submissive, in our prayers to do the Father’s will.

It is important to notice we struggle with the will of God in our lives. Our daily attitude is to admit it – we struggle with the will of God. Ask God to help to see the wonder and beauty of His purposes.

We love Jesus Christ because the Father sent Him to save sinners. The Father has called you to joys that will last forever. The Father wants you to be happy. How greatly the Father loves us. We did not love Him yet the Father sent the Son to rescue us. He first loved us, “We love because He first loved us,” (1 John 4:19). Do you know that? Do you know your security and safety is not dependant on loving Him right now? He doesn’t love you because of that, not because you love Him – He first loved you.

When people receive a great gift, when the great reveal takes place, people say ‘Oh, I love it!’ There is great enthusiasm and passion for a gift. May our enthusiasm expand, may it grow and increase for the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s pray for us to become more dedicated in serving our wonderful Saviour.

 

 

 

November 11th 2019: Thomas Kitchen

Thomas Kitchen 1-Nov 2019Matthew 26: 57-68, 27: 27-31

The philosopher Plato once asked what would happen if an absolutely perfect man would be born and lived in an imperfect world. He also had an answer to his question; our just man will be “thrown in prison, scoured and racked, has his eyes burned out and is finally impaled, presumably on a spear,” (Book II, Plato’s Rebublic). Plato wasn’t a Christian but he realised what a perfect man might encounter. 400 years after Plato was born, this perfect man would be born – Jesus Christ. Plato knew a perfect, holy person would not be welcome amongst us, he would be tortured and brutally killed.

We seem to be mesmerised by court cases. 100, 000,000 people watched the OJ Simson trial. We are obsessed with verdicts and sentences, yet the greatest trial of all time is barely given a murmur amongst people today. Why don’t we consider this trial today, non-Christians and Christians? Matthew 26 is a well-read passage but is over-looked in the build-up to the Crucifixion. Yet it is of immense significance.

The trial of Jesus was an illegal trial. According to Jewish law, the trial should not have taken place at night, which it did. Jesus was not given a formal charge. The high priest was not supposed to intervene. There was no defence or attorney. But there is one point Jewish leaders wanted to adhere to – witnesses to speak out against Jesus. The religious leaders were so desperate to have people to testify against Jesus they panicked. They tried their best to find who they could, as quickly as possible. The problem was the trial took place in the middle of the night. Eventually two witnesses were found (Matthew 26:60-61). As far as the judges and priests were concerned, the witnesses were good enough. Both witnesses said Jesus claimed He could destroy and rebuild the temple in three days, “But they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” (Matthew 26:60-61).

Jesus’ phrase, ‘in three days,’ was used on a few occasion. The priests knew Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. In Jewish tradition someone’s soul left the body three days after they died. So Jesus was saying that He would rise again after three day, stating that He had power over death. The high priest saw this as blasphemy.

We are looking ultimately at different ways in which Jesus Christ stood in place of sinners.

  1. Jesus was silent for us. This is an incredible sentence. Why is Jesus staying silent at such a crucial time? (And again in Matthew 27:13-14). What does it accomplish?
  • To fulfil scripture (Isaiah 53:7). He fulfilled every Old Testament prophecy. He is the true Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
  • If someone is guilty and has no defence, what can they say? Nothing. They have to be silent. The Jewish leaders were expecting Jesus to retaliate. There was no other one able to pay the price of sin. If Jesus had argued for His right, what good would it have done?
  • Most astonishingly, Jesus was silent for us. He lived the life we were supposed to live – a sinless life. He stood in our place because we haven’t lived that perfect life. Jesus had to die for us, for every bad thing we’ve ever said and done. He stood in our place for sins we’ve committed. Jesus stood silent for us because He took our sin upon himself. He is not guilty in Himself but He is made guilty for our sins. A man who is deserving of death cannot speak for Himself. He died our death. How astounding!
  1. Jesus was sentenced for us. The priests and judges seemed to have Jesus backed into a corner. If they took Jesus’ statement literally, that He was to tear down the temple, or if they took it as He would rise after three days and do this, they thought they had Him in a corner.

    Mark tells us after finding witnesses, in the end their testimonies were not consistent with each other (Mark 14:58-59). They were thrown out of court because they were no good. The high priest must have been frustrated. He had to find another way. The high priest uses a clever statement, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” (Matthew 26:63). Jesus had to answer this question and replies, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64). This is all the high priest needed to hear to get Jesus formally charged under Jewish law. He perceived Jesus was falsely claiming to be the Messiah. This was going to get Jesus killed. Have you ever told a lie? We are lairs. We have stolen. We have looked in lust. All this deserves death. But Jesus stands in our place and takes it Himself.

Death is just more than closing our eyes on this earth. Sin causes separation between us and God. If we are not trusting in God we die physically and spiritually, experiencing God’s anger and just punishment. It is what Jesus experienced on the cross. Jesus and God were together from eternity, always equal. Then tearing separation happened. It was nothing of what Jesus did but all we have done. He takes the punishment. Sin crucified Jesus. Sin tortured Jesus. JC Ryle writes, “We drink the same cup that was drunk by our beloved Lord. But there is one great difference: at the worst, we only drink a few bitter drops; He drank the cup to the very dregs.”

If you trust in Christ, you will never have to endure separation from God. He loves you with an infinite and everlasting love.

  1. Jesus suffered for us. This brings all the points together for us – being silent and suffering for us is suffering for us. They spat on His face, beat Him with fists, told Him to prophesise who had hit Him. It is horrible for anyone, but to my Saviour it was abhorrent, despicable and repulsive. And it was for me and for you and for all who will believe.

The gospel of Mark says Jesus was blindfolded for this part. They slapped and spit on this man. Little did they know He was their Creator, Lord of heaven and Earth. He was pierced for our transgressions. We are healed but He was scourged. He was whipped. Horrendous! Severe! Every sin we have ever committed was whipped into His back. Millions blaspheme His name saying, ‘Jesus,’ ‘Christ’ in the middle of a conversation. Here He is bearing every one of our sins. Our sin tears His body apart. The torture was so bad Jesus seemed hardly human (Isaiah 52). It was terrifying. So great was His bearing of humanity’s sin, so we could wear a robe of righteousness. Every whip mark, every drop of blood, every grimace and cry was for your sin and mine. He stood in our place.

This shouldn’t just cause you to shrug your shoulders. All your fallen-ness and shame should cause you to weep. You need to repent. You must repent or you will be certainly lost in Hell.

 Jesus’ trial is over. Jesus is coming back. Although He was sentenced to death He rose and He must be worshipped and glorified. When He comes again a new trial will begin. Your trial! Jesus will return as a Saviour and Lord – but only for some of us. For those who do not care that he died, He will be a righteous judge. Like He was silent, those who have rejected Him will be silent, standing in their own place, having nothing to say because of their sin and guilt. Now, there is no better time to repent. Jesus may return before we finish this sermon. What do you think of Jesus now? Is He fantastic news?

Jesus welcomes you. He stood in the place of sinners for a reason. What is your verdict of Jesus?  Are you going to sentence Him to death in the sense that you ignore Him? Or is your verdict He is the Saviour of the world, if you if you trust and believe?

Spurgeon said, “My entire theology can be condensed into four words: ‘Jesus died for me.’” Is that your theology? Can you say, “Jesus died for me?”

October 17th 2019 – Harvest: Alan Davison

Alan Davison-Harvest Oct 19Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.

Harvest is a time of year that means less to us as a society now than it used to. The easy access to food through supermarkets has removed us from the link with farmers. During the time the Bible was written most people depended heavily on farming. Jesus, in His ministry, used many illustrations that came from farming. There are 60 instances of the word ‘harvest’ listed in one concordance. Around half the references are concentrated in the gospels and spoken by the lord Jesus Christ Himself. The Bible speaks of harvest in four main ways; it can be:

  1. A physical harvest
  2. A moral harvest
  3. A spiritual harvest
  4. A final harvest

 

  1. God, as our Creator, knows what we need. Because of His love for us God blesses us with what we need to eat. Mark 4:26-29. We are to labour too. There are things the farmer needs to do – sow, wait and harvest. There are things also out of his control – the seeds growing, weather etc. The labour of men gathers the provision of God. The Bible is clear everything we do comes out of everything God provides.
  2. The Moral Harvest (Hosea 8:7)

Israel once again turned its back against God. The people abandoned the faith it once held. Psalm 73. People in positions of authority have gained illegally at others expense. Frustratingly, while evil may succeed here on earth, there will be a reckoning after death. Our actions will have consequences. We will be called to account before God’s judgement throne, then we will have a moral harvest.

  1. A Spiritual Harvest.

Jesus feeds spiritually. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” (John 4:34-35). We want to follow our Lord’s command, yet we’re doing so in a culture that has largely rejected God. There is pressure not to evangelise.

  1. A Final Harvest

The Parable of the Tares and Weeds. Jesus tells this parable because He wants to make it clear to people that there will be a harvest at the end of time. The age He refers to is now. It will be the death of all we know now, but also a renewal, new heavens and a new earth. Hebrews 2:14-15. As human beings we should fear death unless we come to Jesus. The author Terry Pratchett was an atheist and advocate of euthanasia. He died in 2015. In 2007 he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He includes death as a major character in his writing, portrayed as a rather serious character, the grim reaper. He was quite naïve. Coupled with death he has a portrayal of the afterlife, where everyone goes to the same place, a place of nothingless, where all go, regardless of beliefs. It is a place where there will be no moral harvest. Pratchett was knighted, therefore he needed a family motto. It was ‘Don’t fear the reaper.’ It shows us what the atheist hopes for – nothing. Yet he benefitted from all God provided. He tried to avoid the moral harvest and rejected the spiritual harvest.

Jesus makes it clear there is a final harvest coming. It is vitally important to be a child of God. In this parable the field is the world. What are the implications for the entire world? Jesus sows seeds of righteousness – those who believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. The devil comes along and sows tares – a weed called darnel. Darnel produces a poisonous fruit. If you eat enough darnel it will be fatal. As it grows it looks just like wheat until the fruit comes. At that point it becomes distinguishable. While a weed, darnel needs to be cultivated alongside crops for it to grow.

Matthew 5:45. God sustains His creation so that even those who don’t believe, continue to live. There are those in our world today who mock God. Jesus continues the parable with telling us the angels (reapers) are to gather the crop. This is Jesus’ focus. At the end of time there will be a separation – only into two groups: one group, children of the wicked one, the other, children of God. The group you are separated to depends solely on your view of Christ. Too many people are convinced there is a third group – agnostics. Look again at scripture. There are only two groups. If you are not God’s, by default you are Satan’s. The children of the wicked one will be cast into fire, into hell. It is Satan who owns them (verse 39-41). They practice lawlessness. This simply means that they rebel against God and His Word. They choose to go their own way, or so they think. Our culture tells us of heaven but not hell. Jesus often spoke of hell, in fact He spoke more of hell than heaven. He tells us there will be a wailing in hell – suffering, and gnashing of teeth – eternal regret. If you have accepted Christ, you are one of the children of God – to be chosen by God, nurtured, kept, and protected by Him. You are adopted into His family, thus having a share in God’s inheritance. You are called righteous. On that final day we will be God’s harvest at the end of the age. Will you be gathered into God’s eternal barn?

September 29th 2019: John Funnell

John Funnell-sept19Luke 19:1-10

Winter is coming. Christmas is near. Some people love Christmas. We all know the story of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I haven’t read the book, but have seen the film. To me, Ebenezer Scrooge is Michael Caine! He was a wealthy, yet tight-fisted man. He treated Bob Cratchit and his family very badly. Through various ghostly and spiritual influences, Scrooge miraculously turns into a wonderful philanthropist. Everyone is happy. It’s a classic tale.

Many people see this story as quite similar to the story of Zacchaeus. Jesus turns a wealthy tax collector into a nice, generous person who gives half of what he earns to the poor. However, such a simplistic interpretation doesn’t do it justice. It limits us to read it as part of the crowd, who see Zacchaeus as a known sinner (verse 7). Once Jesus gets involved he becomes a generous Christian.

Viewing this story from the perspective of the crowd is limiting. Step back from the crowd and stop being simply a spectator. What truly matters is the viewpoint of Jesus, looking at this through Jesus’ eyes.

Jesus ignores the crowd. They swarm around Him yet He goes straight for the man in the tree. Why Zacchaeus? Dr. Luke provides us with many clues why. The crowds ‘pressed onto Jesus’. Why? Because they had heard God in flesh was there. To them, Jesus was an A-Lister celebrity. Zacchaeus was one of the people who wanted to see Jesus. Yet he had a problem; he was too short and couldn’t see over the heads of the crowd. His view is blocked. The detail of him being short didn’t need to be added. There must be a reason Dr. Luke added it to the narrative.

The Greek word for ‘short’ is interesting. It is not just used to describe height but also age. In John 19 we read of the blind man who was healed by Jesus. The Pharisees were not happy. His parents were called into court to be quizzed. Yet his parents say he is of age and can answer for himself. The same Greek word for age is used as to describe short. We see this again in Hebrews 11:11 when Sarah is described as beyond child-bearing age. It’s the same Greek word again. Dr. Luke adds the adjective ‘short’ because Zacchaeus was short but also because the word describes his status, especially in a society where age and status matter in a community. Dr. Luke added it not just to explain why he couldn’t see, but also to show Zacchaeus has a lowly status in his community. Zacchaeus’ ultimate problem was not his height but his family and friends had flocked to see Jesus and had left him behind. That’s the tragedy that sits behind the narrative. Zacchaeus was left behind by his community, abandoned by friends and family. He had no status. He was lost. Zacchaeus was all alone and without a loving community to guide him. Perhaps this is why he went down the wrong path and became a tax collector to Rome?

He climbed a fig tree – a symbol of prosperity. Fig leaves are a symbol of covering sin. Zacchaeus is trying to rise above. Jesus finds him in his sin, lonely, hiding up a fig tree. ‘And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”’ (Luke 19:5). Jesus calls out to Zacchaeus by name. He calls him down and reconciles him with his community. Jesus makes a public statement that he is a son of Abraham. He tells the crowd he is one of them. Zacchaeus is restored. Hallelujah!

‘And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.”’ (Luke 19:9).

 Jesus can come into the life of any person who has been outcast and left out by his community. He can bring them back into his community. This is a story about Christ, come into the world, coming to seek the lost. Hallelujah! “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

As Jesus was walking down the street He didn’t see what the crowd saw, He saw a broken man, trying to lift himself above his community, yet hiding. So Jesus came and He personally called him by name. And what did He do? He loved him. For the first time in a long time Zacchaeus knew he was loved. We see repentance. He gave half of his possessions to the poor. Zacchaeus gave freely and joyfully because He knew the overwhelming and overflowing love of Christ. Friends, the good news, the best news, is that Jesus’ love can do the same for us today.

If you have times when you feel low, exhausted, ashamed, overwhelmed, convicted by the weight of your sin, please know that Jesus is here for you. He will never ignore you for the crowd. He will call you by name. He’ll say, ‘My dear brother, my dear sister, ‘I love you.’ The creator of all time, space and matter says, ‘I love you.’ He says, ‘Come down from the tree of tiredness and shame, come down to your community, your church. I don’t care about your past, what anyone else thinks of you, I just want you. All that shame I buried at the cross.’

The call today to Christians and both non-Christians alike is ‘will you come down from your hiding place and take Jesus home with you, just like Zacchaeus? Will you let Jesus transform your life with His love? Today, salvation has come to the home. Will you take it?