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?

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?

 

April 21st 2019: Easter Sunday: Gareth Edwards

gareth-e-sept-2016John 20: 1-10

John, in chapter 19, goes to great lengths to establish Jesus really died. He wants people to know Jesus was dead and buried because there as a theory, a doctrine, which taught that Jesus didn’t really die. So John wants to establish once and for all that Jesus most certainly died and was buried. John does this because he also wants us to know Jesus was raised and alive (chapter 20).

In the opening ten verses of chapter 20 we see John’s insistence that He who was dead is alive. This truth became a cornerstone of the apostles’ teaching. This truth is so important that Paul later says, ‘And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:17-20). If the Resurrection is not true, Christianity is untrue. So John takes great care to present conclusive evidence that Jesus rose and is alive. John is like an expert barrister presenting his argument before the jury. His argument is so powerful any counter-argument is simply washed away by the mountain of evidence. The first ten verses describe the initial discovery Jesus was alive. Three points will be made:

  1. This event was unexpected and misunderstood.
    2. John provides us with significant detail that verifies this event.
    3. Belief began to dawn in John’s own heart.

 

  1. One of the things that lends credence to all 4 gospels is the disciples’ utter surprise. We would have expected the disciples to say Jesus rose from death just as they thought He had taught them He would. It would have been quite expected for them to say, ‘Yes, we were in the know. We were expecting it.’ But that’s not what happened. They admit candidly their unbelief. They were shocked at such an unexpected turn of events and misunderstood what had happened. They misunderstood Old Testament prophecies that predicted the Resurrection. Even arriving at the tomb and seeing it empty, they still didn’t understand. Others in the Upper Room were in grief and disarray, utterly demoralised. For Peter, seeing the grave clothes left behind, the penny didn’t drop. He went home wondering (Luke 24:11). It’s the second disciple, in verse 8, who saw and believed.

We have Mary’s words to Peter and John (verse 2). They reveal she and the others believed Jesus’ body was moved by the authorities. The immediate response to the empty tomb was not to rejoice that Jesus was alive, but that it was a conspiracy by the authorities. There was complete misunderstanding. The evidence is misunderstood. You’d have thought they’d have been rightly able to assess, given what they’d been taught. This reluctance to accept the Resurrection is not due to a lack of evidence but stubborn unbelief. Those who don’t believe do so because they don’t want to believe. It is a natural distrust of the human heart to simply refuse to humble yourself because you will not bow in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. It is God’s grace which opened our eyes to see that Jesus rose from the dead. We believe in the Resurrection because of the glory not because we are clever and have higher spiritual ability. It is not because we are more religious, brought up in a Christian family, having an insight others lack. It’s simply God in His grace has opened our eyes to see, our ears to hear and our hearts to believe.

We need to pray God would open the hearts of those around us that they would believe as we do. Nothing that we do will produce results, it’s only God who saves.

  1. The significant details John gives us. He does so to authenticate his account. He, the second disciple, the one who Jesus loved, includes an incidental note – he’s faster that Peter, he outran Peter. Other details are more significant. The stone was removed from the tomb, the linen cloths were left lying in their place and the face cloth was folded up. All hint at the nature of the Lord’s Resurrection. When Lazarus emerged from the tomb he was wrapped in clothes (John 11:44-55). In contrast, Jesus’ linen cloths were left in the tomb. Lazarus returned with the same physical limitations, but Jesus’ resurrected body could pass through the clothes, leaving them behind.

Why was the stone moved? It’s evident that the stone wasn’t moved to let Jesus out, but to let the disciples in, so they could see for themselves the evidence. Similarly, the face cloth, being placed in such a way, shows a real presence of a real physical being who could take hold of and fold a cloth. What we see is Jesus rose to life with a real physical body but without the old limitations. He was resurrected to a higher place of physical existence. Lazarus was returned to his former life, Jesus was resurrected to a life of glory. Jesus rose physically, retaining His human nature fully, but He was raised as a glorified man. It marks not only a victory over death but a total elimination. The glorious truth is Jesus has smashed death and rendered it powerless. He rose, never to die again (Revelation 1:18). His resurrection life if glorious. He sets a precedence for those who will trust Him as their Saviour. In His Resurrection, they see the pattern of their resurrection, for all those who trust in Him. This event causes us to rejoice in the hope to eternal life. We have the most exciting prospect – as Jesus was after His Resurrection, so will we be after ours.

As Mary, Peter and John gazed in amazement at the empty tomb we should bow in wonder, love and praise. There is total victory over sin, hell and death. The symbol of His glory is not a cross on jewellery, it is the symbol of the empty tomb. The details John gives us shows the nature of Jesus’ glorious resurrection.

 

  1. One of the main themes of John’s gospel is the theme of light and darkness. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night (John 3), showing a reference that he was in the dark. Judas betrayed Jesus in darkness. In John 12:35-36 we see the repetition of darkness. John symbolically tells us Mary made her way to the tomb while it was still dark. Other writers say she arrived whilst it was dawn. Dark reflects Mary’s despair and unbelief. But in verse 8 John, speaking of himself, says he saw and believed. The light of faith dawns to dispel the darkness of unbelief. With Jesus’ resurrection a new day of faith dawns in John’s heart. Has the light of faith dawned in your soul as you see the empty tomb? Have you come out of the darkness of your unbelief? If not, why not? You are called to walk in the light.

Dear Christian friend, you have come to the light, then walk in it. Become more and more like the Saviour. Rejoice that He has not left you in the darkness of sin and unbelief. Look forward to the joy of heaven above, the Lamb. In glory we won’t be taken up with the splendour of our surroundings but the glory of our risen Lord. Walk in the fullness of His bright light and never in darkness again (Revelation 21:22). The light of faith dawned in John’s heart. Has it dawned in yours? If it has, know you will never walk in darkness again. Be a light in this world. Know there is a day coming when you will see the inexpressible glory of the Lord Himself. The Resurrection is but the beginning of the journey into light. Praise be to His name, our Resurrected Lord.

January 21st 2018: Alan Davison

Alan Davison - sept 17

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.
John 6:27

So many activities in church revolve around food, when we look at the Scriptures a lot of what Jesus did revolved around food. It was an intimate occasion when people would speak with one another, when they would have fellowship. Jesus accepted various invitations to eat at people’s homes. Food is also used metaphorically in our language e.g. we ‘chew’ over ideas, we ‘ruminate’ over ideas. Perhaps it is not a surprise Jesus uses food as a metaphor to get across a spiritual meaning. There are repeated references by Jesus that He is the bread of life. People misunderstood what Jesus is saying. In today’s focus verse Jesus talks about 3 types of food: perishing food, preserving food and provided food.

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.

Perishing food

Jesus is speaking metaphorically. It’s a rebuke to the people who are listening to Him (verse 26). The vast majority had a fixation on food and its physical pleasure. Many must have been fed on the hillside the previous day and wanted more. Possibly they fed on the highest quality food they had ever experienced. They wanted physical food. This is not what Jesus meant. We do labour for food that perishes, it’s a necessity for life (Genesis 3:19). However, Jesus wants the people to stop thinking about their stomachs and focus on eternal destiny (v.28-29). The crowd still think they can do something, that their own labour will get them into heaven. Jesus was fulfilling Old Testament scripture: Isaiah 64:1-6.

Prevailing food: ‘Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.’

The first food Jesus mentioned was perishing food, it goes off, it won’t last. Prevailing food just doesn’t last, it endures for everlasting life. It does something wonderful for the people who receive it. It prevails because it achieves something. This food that prevails is different food for different people at different times in their lives. Today, a balanced diet means different things to different people. Different people have to have different diets, depending on what they need. Professional sports people have tailored diets which meet their needs; rugby forwards have different diets to rugby backs.

This also parallels our own spiritual lives. Paul said as you grow in faith you need solid food as you develop and seek godly lives. What is spiritual food? Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” (John 6:51). The people were shocked. They did not understand. They hadn’t seen the spiritual implications (verse 52).

Jesus wants us to rely on Him. His care will continue throughout our lives, supplying everything we need as we grow in faith. Jesus is directing people away from themselves, not to rely on their own work. Jesus, on the cross, paid the penalty of death on our behalf. God’s wrath is dealt with. We also see God’s love, the glorious transaction, we receive His perfect righteousness in return.

Provided food: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

His life, His righteousness. Jesus is going to give us the food we need. Jesus wants us to desire this food. We don’t work for it, this is grace, undeserved favour. Salvation is by grace. It’s all of Christ and nothing of me. Reject the food that perishes, reject our own works. Jesus Himself is the food that prevails, provided at such a great expense to Himself. He is the only way we can be good enough to stand in the presence of the Father. Give thanks to our Saviour.

 

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?

October 15th 2017: Ian Middlemist

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

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

I john 3-1

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

An important question to ask: Am I a Christian?

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

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

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

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

People can be:

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

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

I John 3-18

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

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

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

 

How do we respond when people ask us about Jesus?

Matt5.16

What would be the first thing you would say to a friend if they came to you asking about Jesus? Would you say that Jesus is your best friend? A historical figure? A religious leader? As we become more mission-minded, it is an important question to know how to answer.

In Matthew 5:16 we see that followers of Jesus are called to shine their light before others. At the core, sharing our faith isn’t about giving someone a lesson of spiritual laws or a heavy theological explanation. It’s about introducing people to someone they can know personally, someone who loves them, someone who will change their lives forever.

The challenge for Christians is to communicate the gospel in a way people can understand. We undertake the awesome task of explaining eternal truths in different ways that will connect to our community today. Our impact in sharing Jesus in our schools, home, community or workplace is directly linked to our knowledge of those around us and our ability to engage with them. 

As we make an effort to understand the people God has placed around us, we will find better ways to engage with and respond to the difficulties and negative perceptions that many have against religion and Christianity.

When God wanted to connect with humanity once and for all, He didn’t write a sermon, He came to visit us in person. Our job is to be His witness, pointing our community to know God, to relate to Him, and to have lives changed by the power of His love and forgiveness. God is a person to know, not a theory to understand.

It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is at work in us, He will always supply the right words to use in season.  When we are willing to pause and ask God to guide and prompt us, you never know what opportunities will appear.

When we allow the love of God to grow within us, dying to our old self and receiving new life, it flows out to everyone around us too.  Consider the incredible calling of sharing Jesus with those around us, begin to ask yourself – “What are the reasons I should share?” and you will find the love of Jesus will stir with you and completely overcome our fears and obstacle to sharing.

1Peter3.15.jpg

 

 

Contact The Elderly – 10th September 2017

We have had a blessed afternoon sharing fellowship at our monthly Contact the Elderly UK afternoon tea. It was a wonderful time to sit down and chat with senior citizens in our community, who were also delighted to receive cards made by our Women’s Fellowship. Gareth Edwards spoke of the importance of friendship, reminding us that Jesus sticks closer than a brother. Once again a huge thank you to drivers, hosts and bakers of truly delicious quiches, cakes and sandwiches. Looking forward to next month