May 12th 2022: Chris Rees

To watch this service click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/fnQl2eSxmCo

“By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.” Hebrews 11:4

I wonder if you’ve ever met someone who just can’t stop speaking? Maybe there have been a number of preachers, over the years, who have come into the pulpit and I know what you’re thinking, ‘Please come to an end! It’s time to wind up, it’s time to finish.’ Some people just don’t know when to stop. I will take you this morning, to one who wasn’t a preacher, who was a Christian and not even death could stop him speaking. Even as we’ve come here today, he has something to say to us.

In our lives, the one thing we soon realise is our life will soon be gone. Our memories will be gone even faster. Some of us can be forgotten even in life. We will certainly be forgotten in death. But what we have here in Hebrews 11 verse 4, is a man who, even when he was dead, the memory of him and what he has taught is for us, even this day.By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.” (Hebrews 11:4)

 What we have here is something that perhaps we need to learn – a great lesson:
 
1 – How Abel worshipped God – that is what he still speaks and teaches us this day. He teaches us what we need to know this day.

2 – We are accepted with God and how to be accepted with God.

3 – You can have a life that can be lived which can actually, in some sense, be remembered. What we do by faith is utterly and vitally important.

What happens here in Hebrews is very simple. The letter is written to those who would become Christians. They were Jewish Christians who had learnt about the Lord Jesus. They must have come to a point where they believed that He was the Son of God. We know from the letter they have almost certainly believed and trusted in Him in that moment for their sins to be forgiven.

We know from Hebrews chapter 10, as the writer tells us, that now is a new and living way by which we can come to God –through the veil of His body which was broken on that tree. These people who believed in the Messiah came to know Jesus Christ, believed in a new way of worship – by that blood which was once shed. Remember what Jesus said? ‘I will destroy the temple. In three days, I will build it again.’ They came to know that, and as they came to know that their worship had changed.

But they were beginning to go back to their old worship: the ritual, the religion, the temple, the sacrifice, the priesthood. Now, you know what people say – it doesn’t really matter how we worship – a big thing this day. Well, I have news for you – you can either do it right or you can do it wrong. That’s what you’ve got in this verse. There are those of you this day who will say, ‘Well, it doesn’t really matter because we all worship the same God. In this lesson, first of all, you find it in verse 4, it’s simply this: that “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice.”

Chapter 11 of Hebrews is the great chapter of the Bible that concerns faith and the need of it. There are 39 examples given, of not great men or of great acts, but of what people did in their life by faith. There’s a verse, you know it off by heart, and there’s never a sermon I preach without quoting it!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47)

Faith is utterly vital for your Christian life. Abel had it. Cain did not. There’s not much we know about them. We know that Cain was the elder brother and Abel the younger. What happened on this occasion it that they went to worship. I believe that they went to the same place of worship. Can you imagine that? Two people coming to the same place to worship God, two people coming to worship the same God. Yet, one gets it right and the other gets it wrong.

What happens simply is this; Cain offers his first fruits of the ground. I must admit, at one time I felt sorry for Cain. What else was he supposed to bring? He was a tiller of the ground. That was is job. Abel was a keeper of sheep. Perhaps you think that Abel was in a better position than Cain. But listen very carefully. It is not the offering that makes the worshipper accepted, but the worshipper which makes the offering accepted. Here, the difference between them is this – by faith Abel offered his gift.

In the world in which we live, people think they can worship God as they can, in whatever way they can. Yet, I want to show you from Cain’s life that what he did was not adequate because it was lacking this vital ingredient. Faith. People have said, ‘Well, if I was born in the Middle East, I would be a Muslim. It’s only because now I am living in this country that I am now a Christian.’ You can worship God in this world in many different religions, as many people do. But it’s not going to help you one bit, even if you worship God in a Christian country, and you come knowing the good news of the gospel, knowing the good news, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). People have come being brought up in a place of worship, they’ve heard the gospel, they’ve sung the hymns. Yet unless you do it by faith, you won’t be accepted.

Abel comes in his worship by bringing the first fruit of the first offering of his flock. He was coming in a trusting, obedient way. In Genesis 3, on the day that Adam and Eve fell, God came to them and ministered to them in the garden. God made coverings for them of skins for tunics. At that moment, death enters into the world. A sacrifice had taken place. So it was, when Abel came bringing a lamb from his flock, he did it in the realisation, in the greater need that he had, in the belief, in trusting.

It’s like in the New Testament when the Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘Two men went up to pray. One was a Pharisee who says to God, ‘I thank you that I’m not like other men, I’m not like this man here.’ The other man, a Publican, simply won’t raise his head, and said, ‘Lord, have mercy upon me.’ You see, when Abel was coming with his sacrifice, he came with a heart of trusting and believing. It is the lamb, which from the very beginning, was to point to the sacrifice to come, knowing atonement had to be made, mercy from God. That’s what Abel did.

There are two mistakes people make in how they come to worship. Firstly, they make the mistake of Cain – giving his work to God, worshipping God as Creator, but not as Redeemer. It is all about the things of this earth and creation – the sun and the sea and all the rest of it. Very good. We have to do that. But the reality is, it’s a mistake to think that you could offer to God anything that could be pleasing to Him – your works, your charity, your goodness, your religion, your ritual, offering yourself as if that’s acceptable. A big mistake. You’re trusting in yourself and what you have done.

There is another mistake that people make – there will be those who have known the gospel, actually sung hymns about the cross and about the Lamb of God, spent their life singing about ‘the old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame, and I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain.’

Then you ask them are they going to heaven, and they don’t know, they hope so. You ask, ‘What’s that about? They take the things of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and some today in various places of worship will be doing a ritual. They have not come to worship trusting and believing that at one time, in one place, at Calvary, that there was a Lamb that was slain so that sins could be forgiven.

To have faith is how you worship. Jesus said, ‘You come to me, you come to My Father.’ What you do this morning has great significance and how you do it. What you do, do it in His Name. You’ve offered prayers in Jesus’ name. They’re not great prayers, they’re not good prayers, but you’ve bowed your head and in Jesus’ name you believe that He’s heard you. You’ve confessed your sins before the Lord Jesus Christ, believing that he can forgive you. You’ve opened God’s Word, you’ve heard it, you’ve listened to it. What you’ve done, you’ve done simply by faith. That’s powerful.

What Abel did, even though he’s dead, still speaks. Because he’s shown us this day that there is a way by which you can come and worship God. There’s a right way and a wrong way to worship. You’ve got to have faith. You’ve got to have faith in that blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Then there is something else which we have to learn: “Through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts.” (Hebrews 11:4b) That’s the second great lesson. If you want to know what the Bible is all about, and you want to know the message that God has for you, it couldn’t be clearer or plainer. This book is telling you the wonderful news about someone like you and me, who is wrong before God but can be right before God. Aren’t you happy that you didn’t have to look very far in God’s word to find it? You’ve only come to the fourth chapter and it’s as clear as crystal on the page. It starts here. What Abel does is the theme which is throughout Scripture itself – how human beings are made right with God. By faith, Abel offered a sacrifice of one of his lambs from the flock. He does it in such a way, as one version puts it, ‘he received approval.’ He obtained witness that he was righteous. That is the great theme of the book.

When you read Romans chapter 1 it says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17) In this great message is the news that you and me really need. God had actually given witness to this. What Abel did, God gave him witness. People have said, ‘What is that witness?’ What happened when Abel gave his offering and Cain gave his offering? There’s a tradition that says that when Abel did it that fire came from heaven. We don’t know. We do know of two occasions when fire came down from heaven (when Elijah was on the mountain, and in the temple with Solomon).

But I will tell you this – there is a witness, there really is. Turn to Romans 3:21, “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”  There is a God who gives witness. You can be right with God. You need to believe God’s Word. God has given witness: by law, by the prophets. It tells us in Isaiah 53.

It’s the teaching of the book. Abel’s offering testifies to that – how one is approved and accepted by God. He was no longer in the bad books with God.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) You could be in this place, where everyone is friendly here at Penuel; you have a cup of tea after and a sandwich, but the reality is maybe you’re not one of them, you feel different, on the outside. You don’t feel accepted. One of the reasons is simply this; it’s not that these people here don’t accept you. It is because you’re not accepted by God. The reason is very simple. You’re lacking a vital ingredient, where, by faith you know that your sins are forgiven. This is utterly vital for one’s life.

Cain was not accepted. In Genesis, Cain was first. Abel was second. Here, in Hebrews chapter 11, verse 4, Abel is first and Cain is second. Cain’s offering was not accepted. God did not respect Cain and his offering. If you don’t know what it is to be right with God, and accepted by God, then listen very carefully because there is a Cain in everyone of us.

You’ve got to come to a place where you accept God’s, ‘No’ on your life. That what you’ve brought, what you’ve done, what you’ve achieved, what you are – there’s a negative to it. Real trouble. Such is our human nature in that everything changes. Have you ever noticed when things begin to change around in your life? Now Abel is first and Cain is not. All that took place – the hatred, the killing – why did that happen? It’s simply because one was accepted, and one was not.

If you don’t accept God’s ‘No’ in your life, there’s big trouble. That is the world we live in, a world of division. If you’re not accepted, that puts a whole load of emotion in your life, that somehow things are not right. In our relationships at work, someone gets a promotion and all of a sudden, they are first. At that particular moment, you’re threatened. You don’t feel as adequate as you once were. You haven’t got an assurance. Instead of seeing them as a friend, you seem them as a threat. You can see it any farm around here. You’ve got one farmer here, next door there is a farmer with a bigger combine harvester, bigger fields. Next thing, he’s not just your neighbour, he’s a threat. Have you ever met someone in life who’s not assured about their position? It’s hard work, isn’t it. They’re not firmly convinced that they’re loved in a family, and they’re not loved at home, they’re not appreciated in their work and their work is not acknowledged. You know what happens! All the undercurrents which take place, all the uncertainties which happen, the troubles and arguments.

There is nothing better than being accepted by God. When you’re accepted by Him, whatever else is taking place is of no significance to you. But beware! Sin lies at the door. What sin was that? An offering. Sin desires to rule over you. Although he is dead, Abel still speaks. It was a great gift that was given to him. He obtained it. He didn’t do it, he just received it as he came asking for the mercy, as he came with a sacrifice for his sins.

Thirdly, there’s something else. It’s very encouraging. “God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.” (Hebrews 11:4c). So, Abel is still speaking today. And what he’s speaking to us this day is something I find encouraging – because there’s not anything more depressing than realising that your life will soon be forgotten and you’ll be forgotten in a moment. Don’t think for a second whatever you’ve lived for will carry on. Don’t believe any will you’ve written will be followed. All your desired and plans, that moment is gone. It’s depressing. In ten, twenty years, no-one will be thinking about you and me. But this man, even though he’s dead, he still speaks. People ask, ‘How come?’ Well, firstly, his name is written in God’s book and because it’s in God’s book, from the dawn of creation till now, we are hearing of what Abel did. What he did by believing in God is still being spoken about and we’re learning from it.

 Someone else has said it’s because ‘your brother’s blood cries from the ground.’ (Revelation 6). But could it not also be this – because of faith there is something that has taken place that lasts longer than any life which is lived without faith?

It’s really interesting to hear someone speak about someone who has passed away who is a believer. They didn’t just go to church, they didn’t just say their prayers, they were believers! You’ll be surprised of grandparents and great grandparents – there’ll be something recorded of where they went and what they did. It may be very small, but it is remembered.

You have a 200th anniversary. 200 years ago, there were those who came to this spot, and they believed that there was a way to worship God -only one way – by coming and praying, living their lives before Jesus. And you know something? They built this place. And for 200 years there’s people in this community who haven’t got a clue about various things, but they say, ‘There’s a place of worship there.’ There were people who believed God. Their testimony still speaks. Even when you see churches which are closed and derelict in our nation, you can’t help but think of that time when people who worshipped God in Spirit and in truth.

I can see on that wall the giving for the preaching of God’s word. Amazing, isn’t it? People’s names are still there. You can read them. One has given £5. And it says they gave £5 for the preaching of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. What they did then still speaks this morning, 8th May 2022, in this place of the same truth.

I want to encourage you. There’s something that you desperately need to do by faith. Let’s worship God. It was Luther who said, ‘When Abel was alive, he couldn’t teach one person how to worship God by faith. But since he’s dead, he’s been teaching the whole world.’

May 1st 2022: Norman Gilbert

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/8rpcdjCusVg

Philippians 4: 1-13: Being Content

We live in an age which promotes discontent; adverts show we shouldn’t be content with what we’ve got, we should want more. Scripture commands us to be content, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). Often, the more we have, the more we want. The media shows us what it’s like to be in a war situation. We look at the tragedy of people’s lives in the Ukraine. You would think we would be thankful for what we have got.

The apostle Paul established a church in Philippi. A cross-section of people were converted – the Philippian jailor, the lady who was possessed. But there was also Lydia, a lady of means. She had a business and a property which was big enough to house a church to get thing going in the area.

Now, Paul is writing this epistle back to the church. He knows the majority are poor; they are less able to give than others but give more than most. He doesn’t give the impression he is sucking up to them and needs support. He thanks for sending Epaphroditus to help and support practically. He has learnt and he wants them to learn to be content. He doesn’t want them to be envious. Envy is discontent with what we have in our own situation. We are bombarded to become envious. We should be those that realise we have the most important thing in life – newness of life in Christ Jesus.

Despite them being very supportive, Paul wants the Philippians to be very careful to be content with what God has done for them. If anyone is in a situation that isn’t conducive to contentment it is Paul. He is in prison. Most of the time he is chained to a guard. Paul sees this situation as an opportunity to witness to that man. He sees the situations that God has put him in as opportunities to witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. The situation in Ukraine has touched our hearts. Here is a real need. The people in Philippi gave to Paul, providing for him. He is thankful for this. But he wants them to understand that whatever his situation, he is content.

In verse 9, Paul speaks of the need of following his example, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

In verse 10, Paul is not writing for more gifts. He is stressing that in his situation, as bad as it sounds, he is content. Paul had to learn the lesson of being content. It is easy to be content when everything is rosy in the garden. We learn when the hardships come. Paul has learnt to be content, that he has enough. In our materialistic, Western society it is important to learn this lesson of contentment.

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

At times we may feel weak, but the apostle says when we feel weak, we cast ourselves upon the grace of God. It is then we actually feel stronger. The circumstances in Paul’s life, which were not conducive to contentment, actually were the means of strengthening him in his faith. They were teaching him that God is supreme and sovereign and Lord of our life. Paul has known what it is to go through hardships, and he’s learnt to be content. This is about true faith that works out in action.

Paul gets though difficulties in life because he has peace from God, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7). God is in control of all things.

 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6). In our situation, if we believe in the sovereignty of God, why should we be anxious? He works out all things in this world for the good of His people. The more we learn of the sovereignty of God, the more we should be content.

We have people who have tremendous knowledge of scriptures. We have got everything at our fingertips. Yet people can react to situations in a confused way, in a panic. Paul believed he had God to order and provide for all his needs. It’s not easy to trust God when everything is going wrong. People in Ukraine have found their homes suddenly gone. Careers gone. All they have is a suitcase. How would we react if this happened to us? As Christians, what God has blessed us with, we can bless others with. If we have the means, it is more blessed to give than to receive. The Church at Philippi was not wealthy, but they supported the apostle Paul in the best way they could. They were seeking to bless by giving, thanking God for all that He had done. Jesus says it is not impossible, but it is hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of heaven. It is hard because there is so much that draws us away from God.

Sometimes, God puts us through difficult times to teach us to be content, to show us that our joy, our contentment and fulfilment is not governed by circumstances. Our circumstances do not govern how we feel.

True contentment is found in Jesus Christ. We are surrounded by pain and loss, but our contentment is to be found in Christ alone. Paul says circumstances no longer contribute to his contentment. He has come to faith, he has had difficulties, I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (Philippians 4:12).

Some of us, perhaps more than others, have know a difficult upbringing. But God has a purpose. Some may have had a good upbringing in life but may have a hard time now. But if we know Jesus Christ, it doesn’t matter if it’s hard times or easier times. If we know Jesus Christ, we can know peace in our hearts. He has come to remove hostilities. God sent His Son to take the punishment I deserve. We are adopted into the family of God, taken from a dire situation, and brought into the family of God.

By God’s grace, He changes people’s lives. We are justified by faith alone. We are legally put right, the debt is paid. We have broken God’s law, we deserve judgement, yet the price has been paid through Jesus Christ. By faith in Him we are justified and accepted. Once sin has been removed, we believe He rules our lives, therefore, we are content with our lot. We are able to submit to His will. Christians are to rest in Him, whether we are wealthy or not. We learn to rest in the providences of God. Believe God provides.

Normally, God works through normal people in normal situations. God in heaven oversees everything, even in the war in Ukraine. Internationally, He has control. Yet, He has control of the minute details in our lives too. (Story of Ruth – everything was in God’s control). “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Philippians 4:11). Paul was content and satisfied with a little food, a little clothing and somewhere to sleep. Paul was a man who was confident God would supply all his needs. Be thankful for what God has given us. We find Christians complaining ‘We haven’t got what we want.’ Yet, we have what we need. Paul believed there was a purpose for hard times. Paul was close to death, in poverty, yet all the time he was happy. He believed that there was a purpose behind his affliction. If God was sending hard times, there was a purpose.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). Paul is telling us God gives us the strength to cope where we are, in every situation we find ourselves in. God won’t call you to do what you can do on your own. He calls us to do what we cannot do without His aid.

The Christian joy of contentment is independent to happenings of life. Contentment is learnt in the school of God’s providences. Whatever is happening in your life, in my life, we are where we are by God’s appointment. We are given the abilities to cope with what God has given us to go through.

“It has always been my aim, and it is my prayer, to have no plans with regard to myself, well assured as I am, that the place where the Saviour sees meet to place me must ever be the best place for me.” Robert Murry McCheyne

The Bible teaches us to be content with what we have, where we are. God puts people across our path to develop us and to cause us to rest on Him.

Pray to God to help us to be content in all things, that we learn that our content is based on what Christ has done for us. Christ has died for us and adopted us into His family. By faith in Him, by confessing our sins, by turning away from that way of life, as we seek and follow Him, that brings contentment in life.

April 17th 2022: Dave Norbury

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/92mzjg7xi_w

“And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”
(Luke 24:38).

Our faith is rooted in history. Jesus really did die and really did rise again from the dead. This is a most amazing truth that can thrill our hearts. When some of the disciples were told that Jesus had risen from the dead, they didn’t believe it. They had doubts. They knew Jesus, ate with Him, saw miracles, even saw Lazarus raised from the dead. They saw His compassion. Witnesses had told them all that had happened. Now, having heard, they see the Lord Jesus Christ in their presence, face to face. But some doubted. Is that you? Sometimes, we don’t face the issues of doubt. All of us have had doubts at times. For example, when facing tough times we doubt whether God is in this. When we face illness we can ask why, and doubt God’s presence. We can doubt whether Jesus is really with us. Doubts can sometimes point to past failures and cause us to question whether God had really forgiven us.

The disciples see Jesus risen from the dead. The greatest day in history! Yet they doubted. It is wonderful to know God understands our doubts.

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6). Doubt is not being settled or confident. They are significant. James himself refers to himself as being double-minded. 

Doubts can mess around with your heart as well. Jesus says, “Truly,  I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.” (Mark 11:23). Where do you doubt? In your heart. It is not just a head thing. Doubts can mess up your head, doubts can mess up your heart, and God understands.

Jesus says here in Luke 24, ‘Why do doubts arise in your heart?’ The word for doubt used there is not the same in the Greek language as it is being used in other references we have had. The doubts that Jesus refers to there are arguments and disputes. So doubting isn’t just with your head or your heart, but it is disputing – ‘Is this really true? We know He’s dead, now He’s alive. This can’t be true?’

Another example is found in Matthew 14:31. Peter is seeking to walk on water. The waves are up and down and he can’t see Jesus and he doubted. Wonderfully, Jesus rescued him. If you have doubts, they are not terminal. Not only does the Lord Jesus understand your doubts, He is also gentle with those who have doubts.

Remember the story of the desperate father whose son had been ill since being a child? He brings is son to the disciples and they couldn’t heal him. Then Jesus meets with the desperate father and the son. The father says, “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out[d] and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22b-24). This father wasn’t unbelieving, he was doubting. The father wasn’t unbelieving because Jesus heals his son.

Thomas is known as ‘Thomas the Doubter.’ This is unfair. Really, he should be called ‘Thomas the Honest.’ At least he is admitting his problem. Jesus allows Thomas to see His wounds. He gives the evidence he needs. Thomas says these amazing words, ‘My Lord, my God.’ The Lord Jesus deals gently with those who doubt.

John the Baptist, when in prison, hears about the Lord Jesus and everything He is doing. John knew Jesus, he knew him face to face. He had baptised him. So, here is a person who had all the evidence. In theory you would say to yourself, ‘Well, surely he would never doubt.’ Listen to what happens, “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:2-6) John is facing a huge gale. Jesus does not berate or judge him. He quotes scripture and deals gently with him.

On this wonderful Easter morning we too can have doubts. Whatr do we do? Be honest and tell Him our doubts and our fears. We need to lsilten to Him. God wants you to be sure, not to doubt in any ways. So, when you go to scripture, there is no doubt.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1). He doesn’t want you to have the slightest doubts.

God abundantly pardon, so there is nothing between heaven and ourselves,

“Let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
Isaiah 55:7

Jesus wants you to be sure and says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).

You need to read the Bible for yourselves. I encourage you to read the Bible, to listen to God. He wants to help you gently with every doubt you might have. He also wants us to remember how good God has been to us (Psalm 103). It may be helpful to keep a journal, to keep a record of God’s goodness and answered prayers.

Listen, read and remember, then look to the wonderful things He has done. He gave us His precious Son, who walked this Earth. He spoke like no-one else spoke. His wisdom, His purity, His total integrity was hammered by religious leaders. He spoke with the down-trodden, the rejects of society. He lived without any of our failures, without any of our selfishness – no nasty comments, no unforgiveness – simply kindness and love to the poor, needy, forgotten and down-trodden. He lived the perfect life. Then, He lived and died the perfect death. He rose from the dead, as we are celebrating today. He shows us His wonderful, wonderful love, He tells us; you can read it and listen to Him.

Be confident He can help us. Whatever doubts you have, He is always there, risen from the dead, alive today. Martin Luther, the great reformer, had a prayer for anyone who has doubts,
“Dear Lord,  
Although I am sure of my position, I am unable to sustain it without thee. Help me or I am lost.”

Jesus Christ is risen. He is alive! We can thank Him. We can worship Him. We can know Him helping and dealing with our doubts. We need to take those doubts to God and ask Him to help us to deal with them – and He will because He is alive, He is risen from the dead. He loves you with an everlasting love. He calls you to Himself, to trust Him, to lean upon Him, to know His forgiveness.

March 13th 2022: Paul Daniel

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/X9d2b0EO1wI

Acts 26: How Christians ought to respond when asked about their faith

What are we here for? Penuel Chapel has been around for 200 years. Here in Acts chapter 26, as Luke writes his account and the explosion of the gospel, he writes different accounts of how people speak about Jesus. Paul, in presenting the gospel 2,000 years ago, is no different to presenting the gospel today. We are called today to present the gospel, to tell people. As we look at Acts chapter 26 we see Paul behaves very godly in the way he speaks.

Godly evangelism is patient. Are you a patient person? We live in this culture of everything being fast-paced. We order something today, it arrives tomorrow. Paul had been in prison for two years for preaching the gospel. Felix didn’t know what to do with him, so he left him in prison. Here, two years later, in chapter 26, we have an account of what Paul said when he was given the opportunity to speak to King Agrippa, “So Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defence,” (Acts 26:1).

King Agrippa, a Jew has been called because Felix didn’t know what to do with Paul. When Paul is given the opportunity to speak he says, “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defence today against all the accusations of the Jews,” (Acts 26:2).

How would you feel if you had been put in prison for two years for something you hadn’t done, and when you are finally given an opportunity to speak and give a defence for yourself, what would you do? What does Paul do? He starts talking about the gospel. He tells King Agrippa he wants him to listen to him really patiently, that he is fortunate he can present his defence to him. Pauls asks King Agrippa to listen to him patiently. The fruit of the Spirit is patience. God Himself is patient. The New Testament reminds us that God is patient, and with the Lord, “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8). So, this is two days ago. When the first church started, that’s two hours ago!

Paul is patient. He’s been in prison for two years. How patient was God with us? Think of the many times you’ve heard the gospel, of the many times you would come to chapel, to youth club or the times a friend would come and talk to you. How patient is God with us. As Christians, we are to be renewed in the image of God, to reach people with the good news of Jesus. Here Paul takes the opportunity to say to King Agrippa what Jesus had done for him. King Agrippa was a Jew so Paul talks to him in a way he would understand. King Agrippa knows the history. What kind of nation do we live in now? Penuel is celebrating its 200th anniversary year. What kind of nation was Penuel 200 years ago? Nations change. We might have to approach people in a completely different to even 30 years ago, therefore we need to be even more patient.

What does Paul want? His freedom or King Agrippa’s freedom? Even though Agrippa is religious, he needs the forgiveness of sins. Even when Festus says, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind,” (Acts 26:24b), Paul politely responds saying, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.” (Acts 26:5). You see the work of God and the Holy Spirit in Paul’s life. He is patient and understands.

Be ready to go, to be on standby all the time, wherever God has placed you. Be ready to give a reason for the hope we have. As we come week in, week out, being shaped by the Holy Spirit, in the image of our Creator, we are called to be patient, to be gentle, to know what to say in different circumstances. So, when you have an opportunity to speak about your faith, be on standby, be ready to be godly, ready with a reason for the hope we have. My friends, as we come week in and week out, we learn more about God’s Word. We’ve been shaped by the Spirit, we’ve been shaped by God’s Word. We’re being remade in the image of our Creator to be more like Him. Be patient. Be gentle. Know what to say in different circumstances, so that when you’re getting your haircut and you’re having a conversation which may become deep and meaningful, you’re ready and you’re alert. When someone pops round for a cup of coffee, and they are worried about something, they want to talk to you because they trust you because you know you’re going to listen because you’re alert. They know you want an opportunity to speak into their lives and say something of what it means to not be anxious and put your trust in Jesus.

I wonder what Paul was doing for the two years whilst he waited in prison? Godly evangelism is patient.

Godly evangelism is God’s message to all of us. Paul starts telling Agrippa about his conversion on the road to Damascus, when he was ready to persecute Christians, he meets God. This is his story. Godly evangelism starts with us. God came to Paul. God came to save him. Paul was elite, but even he needed to meet Jesus. He followed the law to the letter, but even he needed Jesus. Paul himself was a sinner who needed saving, “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” (Acts 26:9).

Saul was convinced, obsessed as a Pharisee, that he was right and everyone else was wrong. He realised he himself was opposing God. Sometimes, we can give off the wrong impression of what it is to be a Christian. We can sometimes forget what we are living for and saved from. It is God’s message to all of us. As Saul meets Jesus He says, “But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” (Acts 26:16-18).

God’s message is for all of us. Jesus Christ says, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 26:14b). Christ says He wants Paul to take the good news of the gospel to the ends of the Earth. He says, ‘I am going to send you so you can go and share this message so that blind eyes can be opened, so people can receive forgiveness of sins. So, Paul was there to tell them God’s message. This was Jesus’ message. This was Paul being an ambassador. This was Paul taking the only message he could have.

There is no other variation, no other gospel under which men and women, boys and girls can be saved. There is no other name under heaven in which there is salvation, “For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.” (Acts 26:26). This is transparent. Jesus Christ was put on a cross. It was witnessed. Jesus Christ died. It was witnessed. He really did die. They really did put His body in a tomb. And many saw the risen Jesus – the same Jesus with holes in His hands and feet, His scars. This is truth, an historical account. Paul says to King Agrippa, ‘You can see for yourself.’

Isn’t it wonderful that here, in the year 2022, we are able to pray for people and want to do Godly evangelism? We can invite people to examine the message for themselves. 2,000 years ago, there was no printing press. We have Bibles, the gospel, literature, tracts, all forms of opportunities. There is the internet: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TicTok. There are different opportunities, different means that God has given the Church so that His message can go to the ends of the Earth, not in a corner.

Paul is communicating God’s message that He wants to go out. In Acts 17:1 the Bereans were pouring over Scripture. We need to be more like the Bereans; they were asking questions, looking intently into scripture. We need to be like the Bereans. We need to show that there is absolute trustworthiness in this gospel message, by making sure it is God’s message, not ours. Look at the small details. Go back to basics. When we package the gospel message we can distort it, give a distorted view. We need to be careful that what we present is Jesus Christ and Christ crucified. When we present Him to the world so they can turn from darkness to light, you can never be disappointed with that. For all of us, all of us, have fallen short. All of us have sinned. Godly evangelism is patient. Godly evangelism is for everyone.

Godly evangelism persuades people to follow Jesus. Paul here is trying to persuade King Agrippa, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” (Acts 26:26-28).

Anyone can come to church. Anyone can wear the right clothes. Anyone can say the right things. This is not just information; it is the gospel that transforms. We commit to following Jesus and being obedient and, just like Paul, we want people not just to come to church but to follow Jesus. Imagine you package up the gospel message and the impression that someone gets is that being a Christian, being in heaven is about one really long church service. It isn’t though, is it! It’s about being with God, it’s about being with Jesus.

Paul is trying to persuade Agrippa. When King Agrippa says, ‘If you think you’re going to persuade me in such a short time,’ Paul responds, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” (Acts 26:9). Paul says, ‘However long it takes, that you would be persuaded by God to follow Him.’

If you’re not somebody who is a Christian, I can’t convert you. I can give you all this information and I can say that God wants you to follow Him, but I can’t do it. You need God to persuade you. The Bible says if you seek God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, you’ll find Him. He will not turn you away.

For those of you who have got friends or family who are still in the dark, still outside the Kingdom, He wants you to try and persuade them. He wants to work in you and through you. When it is a struggle, you need to pray for them – short or long.

You may say, ‘I’d love to reach people with the gospel. I’d love to be patient. I’d love to share the message of the gospel as God intended. I’d love to persuade people, but I haven’t got any friends. Well, we need to get some friends, to be more friendly.

We could say, ‘Well, I’m not as patient as I’d like to be and sometimes, I can be sharp with my words, and it comes out all wrong. The Bible says we have to be careful about our tongue and pray for self-control.

You may say, ‘I know I should share the gospel but I actually I’m cold in my faith. When I come to church, and I come to weekly meetings I don’t feel that close to the Lord. Pray that God would make our calling and election sure and that we would grow to love him more.

Some of us will say, ‘I’d love to share the gospel but I’m just too busy. Remind yourself that God says, ‘Don’t store for yourself treasure on earth where moth and rust are going to destroy.’ (Matthew 19:21a). Store for yourselves treasure in heaven.

Some might say,’ I struggle to share the gospel because I’ve lost my confidence, you need to remember that Jesus Christ died for you, and He died for us whilst you were still a sinner.

Some will say, ‘Sometimes I feel as if I’m looking around at my friends and the world and I’m convince that actually they’ve got greater problems, that they need friends, or food, or money.’ Praying for common grace is really important, that our friends do have everything they need. We need to pray for common grace that they would be looked after, that they would have shelter, clothes and help. We need to pray for common grace.

But common grace and saving grace are two different things. My friends, we must try and persuade people to follow Jesus. God has promised an eternity for those who follow Him and those for those who don’t. Paul had met with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. He was convinced he needed to be patient with people and to take every opportunity as he ought.

When God says in His Word, one day He will make everything new, God’s people will live with Him and be with Him forever. He calls us now, as Christians, to go into all the world. You don’t have to go far, go into Roch. God calls people to be patient with them and to share God’s message with them, to try and persuade them. Keep praying, whether it’s short or long, that they would come and put their trust and faith in Jesus. Pray that, as verse 18 says, that they would come and find a place amongst those who are sanctified. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your neighbour, your work colleague, your granddaughter, your grandson, your children, parents, might come and put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Despite whatever may happen to them in this life, that they had a place set apart for them and God will make everything new.

January 30th 2022: Ian Middlemist

To watch this service, please click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/icUJH3P8aXY

Psalm 25: Petitions and Provisions

This is an acrostic psalm, although you wouldn’t notice it. The Hebrew alphabet is used (not all letters) to start each stanza.

The Christian lives in that tension of petition and provision. We yearn for that which has not yet been fully given, yet we rejoice in the complete and satisfactory revelation of the love of God that has been given to us, deep in our hearts. We are absolutely satisfied with the sufficiency of God’s grace towards us. He has given to us that which will eternally satisfy, and we are glad.

Petitions.

Petition is prayer making, a plea to God for specific needs. There are different aspects to the Christian prayer life. There are thanksgiving, there are petitions, there are mediatory roles that we play. Christians are aware that they need the Lord. When there is a specific need they turn to the Lord. Efforts are made in our lives to answer our needs; we may turn to Google to answer life’s complexities. The Christian ultimately realises the Lord Jehovah is the answer. He is the author of all wisdom and strength. He provides, so we petition Him.

If you see an injustice take place you have the right to petition Parliament. You have the right to get people to get people to sign your petition of concern, then it can go to Parliament. You then have hope it is listened to and responded to.

Isn’t it wonderful we can make our petitions to the Lor. We can make them directly to Him, one to one. He will answer according to His own will. We come to a God, not to an unfeeling system. We come not needing the ability of grandeur, of teamwork. When our words fall out of our mouths and lack fluidity in prayer, He accepts us in the Lord Jesus Christ. We can come confidently to Him. We come to a God whose faithfulness is great, whose compassions fail not. Bring your petitions to the Lord.

A Petition for Deliverance.

There is a need for deliverance.  David is in anxiety of soul. He comes with this petition for deliverance, out of a position of confidence, To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul,” (verse 1). He is surrounded by an assurance that the Lord is ready to receive him. The Lord is calling you to come to Him now. This God is ready to receive. He is the God who is trustworthy, “O my God, in you I trust” (verse 2a). David has the assurance that the Lord is worthy of the trust of his soul. The Lord is preserving David’s dignity, “Let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me” (verse 2b). Our God is not about the business of shaming His beloved children. He cares. David’s petition is that he doesn’t want to be put to shame. There is petition and provision.

A Petition for Instruction.

David has a petition for instruction, for wisdom, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.” (verse 4). We also see this in verses 8, 9 and 12. David speaks of ‘the way.’ What is this way? David is not speaking primarily about the obedience to God’s commands. He is in need of being led to know God’s faithfulness, “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies,” (verse 10).

Christians are to ask to follow and appreciate His faithfulness as we walk through this life, which often lead us through barren lands. At this time, we can look ahead and feel totally overwhelmed. But when we look back, we can see disappointments led to deliverances and that closed door prevented them from absolute disaster. We know that this path will lead to ultimate faithfulness, to glory.

The third petition – forgiveness:

“Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
    according to your steadfast love remember me,
    for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
(verse 7)

“For your name’s sake, O Lord,
    pardon my guilt, for it is great.”
(verse 11)

This encourages people to pray for forgiveness of sins. What is the basis for this petition? As far as David is concerned, there are two bases for this. Let’s start with the second because this shows us how David sees himself. The first one is how David sees the Lord. David’s basis for asking the Lord for forgiveness is, as he sees himself, is that his guilt is very great. He has sinned against God. The burden of the guilt is incredible, so he asks for forgiveness, without making excuses. He confesses his sins. That’s all we can do, be honest about it.

The first basis that David brings, the reason for pleading for forgiveness is this – it’s the Lord’s character, “O Lord, you are a God of steadfast love.” This is how the Lord has revealed Himself to be. That is why we need to give ourselves to the knowledge of God, come to know who He is as He has revealed Himself to be. We must give ourselves to know God. As we do this, we will have revealed to us His steadfastness, His love to save us. We need to start listening, searching every little bit of what He has said about Himself in the Bible. Then we can come to Him in greater confidence. Then we can gain an assurance that He reveals by His grace and His faithfulness toward us. Let’s petition the Lord for deliverance, instruction and forgiveness.

Provisions.

Let’s see the provisions that He has granted to us. He grants us assurance He is always giving and pouring out His assurance toward us.

“His soul shall abide in well-being,
    and his offspring shall inherit the land.”
(verse 13)

“My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
    for he will pluck my feet out of the net.”
(verse 15)

He will – it is future. We don’t know what is going to happen this week, in the months ahead. We are hoping for a better future. There’s all sorts of ways we try to assure us of a better future. David knew the Lord would not abandon His people. God has destined for His own beloved Son to come out of this people. Under the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ believers are assured that they shall inherit the Earth. Our God has designed that His children should not only make it through life but inherit the Earth. That’s the assurance of those who are under the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 With that end in mind, the Lord sent His Beloved Son to die for our sin. We know how to rescue and to show compassion to little ones. We know how to give our children good gifts. We want to protect them. How much more does our heavenly Father feed, guide and love His children? We see in verse 15 that David is assured in the troubles of life it is not he who needs to protect his own way, pick himself up. No. It’s the Lord who is going to pick him up. He gives him that assurance. What an assurance we receive.

Leading.

David has pleaded and petitioned for instruction and he has received the provision of the Lord’s leading.

“He leads the humble in what is right,
    and teaches the humble his way.”
(verse 9)

“Who is the man who fears the Lord?
    Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.”
(verse 12)

The righteous receive the Lord’s leading in His ways and also the instruction of God’s goodness.

He will lead on the basis of His forgiveness. He has led us. He has provided direction. Christians often struggle to know the will of the Lord. This leads to fear, to stunted growth and progress in the Christian life, fear of making mistakes. God has clearly set out the parameters of righteousness for us in making decision in the Word. From there we must trust the Lord and prayerfully use the intellect we have already been given to make those decisions. We follow His paths, going in the way He has already revealed. As we learn of His faithfulness increasingly, He leads us safely on. He makes His sovereign goodness known. He instructs, He guides and teaches those who are humble, those who are sinners who have already submitted themselves to His covenantal Lordship in their lives (Psalm 32:8).

Third provision in response to forgiveness – He gives us so much more than we bargained for.


“The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
    and he makes known to them his covenant.”

(verse 14)

He gives to us His friendship! Not only does He forgive, He gives us His friendship, His companionship (v.13). Absolutely staggering! Remember, the Lord has already rescued you and given you His friendship, His companionship. The Lord has deemed it fit to let you into His secret (verse 14). The Lord is to confide in those who fear Him. Those who revere His holy Name will walk carefully before Him, humbling themselves, will know the Lord sharing His very heart with them, as His chosen special friends. They will share His deepest desires of love towards sinners, His plan of redemption, this great, matchless, extravagant love. He also reveals those plans for those who hate Him. In the Lord Jesus Christ you are His special friend

In conclusion, when you walk with the Lord and make your petitions to Him, you will get so much more than you bargained for – heavenly peace, divinest comfort.

January 2nd 2022: Ian Jones

This service can be watch on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/C2lNhsZY8qE

Matthew 22:1-14

We all get excited about a wedding. Today, a lot of time and money is spent on weddings. It is an important day of celebration with the bride and groom. In this passage of the wedding feast, Jesus was in the Jerusalem temple area speaking to the Jewish leaders. There were only a few days to go to His crucifixion. He tells them this parable to make them think very carefully about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, by comparing it to a wedding feast – an ordinary event they would have been very familiar with, as well as us here today.

It is one of only three parables Jesus told, known as the judgement parables, concerning their rejection to Jesus and their misunderstanding of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. The King sends out servants with wedding invitations.  We need to know this is a first century wedding. This is a royal wedding. This makes a difference. Messengers were sent out initially to say to expect a wedding to be soon. Then, when everything is ready, messengers were sent out again to say, ‘Come. Everything is ready.’ You would be expected to attend. You would have been forewarned, so would be expected to clear your calendar.

Because Jesus has told us this is a royal wedding, it is even more important for the guests to attend. The King’s only son was getting married. To be invited would be a great privilege. It would be unheard of not to attend a wedding of that status. You would want to tell everyone you have been invited. We can understand the king’s frustration that the guests were not willing to come (verse 3). He thinks there must be some misunderstanding, so he sends the servants out again (verse 4). He will try to entice them to the wedding. The shocking thing here is found in verse 5, “But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business,” (Matthew 22:5). It was shocking that the people have no respect for the king and the prince. Worse still, some seized his servants and killed them (verse 6). How awful! The king was seeking to invite them to the wedding and laid on wonderful things for them.

What will be the king’s response? “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (Matthew 22:7). What does all this mean? When the chief priests and Pharisees heard this, they knew Jesus was talking to them. The king in the parable is God, the son is the Lord Jesus Christ, and the servants were prophets who were sent out with God’s word and treated so badly. Jesus acknowledged their sinfulness will not go unpunished and the city would be burned. We see this happen in AD 70.

We are told everything was ready. The wedding feast was to continue. How would this happen when there were no guests? The servants were told to go and invite anyone they could find. The banquet will go ahead. What honour will be if all are invited? Great honour. Everyone there will be looking for the king and prince. They will want to be there celebrating. There will be great honour.

Here we see the gospel call that goes out everywhere, inviting everyone to come to Christ, to come and rejoice. This is what the kingdom of Heaven is like. We see the goodness of the king, those who rejoice in the son, in the wedding. Those who will be there don’t come because of the position they have achieved in the world. They come because they have been invited. What a wonderful picture of the Kingdom of Heaven, likened to a wedding feast, a joyous occasion. It will be full of people, full of guests, looking to the king, rejoicing. It is not surprising some have linked this to the marriage feast of the Lamb.

The main purpose of this parable is found in verse 14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” The gospel is still our main means of filling the church. We are reminded of the importance of calling, going out, even if few are to be chosen. We preach without discrimination. Everyone is invited to come to Christ, to come as they are, to come in response to the gospel. We also need reminding, even if we can build the church, there is still the refining process that goes on in church. There will still be believers and unbelievers.

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.” (Matthew 22:11). What does it mean by the king coming in to see his guests? He wants to see them. Wonderful! The guests, at the same time when He comes in, they see him. Everyone wants to see Him. Everyone is looking forward to that moment. The church may have many things that attract our attention today – being with other Christians, singing hymns, loving to hear scripture being read, the preacher, having fellowship with other Christians, the tea, coffee and cake – but most of all, our hearts cry out for God’s presence among us. We want the King to come in, we want to feel His presence among us. We call Him to come amongst us. We want the King to come in amongst us and bless us. We look back to times in our history, to revival, we want to be blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit. We desire the gospel to be preached and the Lord’s blessing among us.

It is very sad to be in a church where God’s presence has gone out, a dead church. We desire to see the King, to see His favour. When the King comes in and the light grows stronger, hidden things are revealed. One individual hasn’t got a wedding garment, “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.” (Matthew 22:11). Did it really matter? After all, he’s in the wedding feast. We see the King’s response. He notices him. He goes and speaks directly to that one individual, “And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.” (Matthew 22:12). ‘Friend.’ This is the way the guest may appear, as a friend to the king. But he was no friend at all.

What is this wedding garment? A particular item of clothing that makes a person suitable for a marriage feast. If you attend a wedding, you have a certain code of dress. If you went to a wedding venue, you would instantly recognise who was part of the wedding party because you would see by the clothes that they were wearing, that they were wearing those that were suitable for a wedding. It would set them apart. This is what we can see here.

There are many things we could say theologically about the wedding garments, but for simplicity’s sake, here this morning, I want us just to focus on that thing which separates us from any other person outside. That garment which separates us. To be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, to be seen to have a holy life.

Why was this individual in then? He didn’t need to come in. To get in you would have had to put on a wedding garment. That would have been the rule of the day. You didn’t come in with your own clothes that would not have been suitable for a wedding. You wouldn’t have been able to afford special clothes as people would today, so you would rely upon the king providing suitable clothing for you to join in and celebrate this important occasion. Here, it is important to recognise that for this man to come in, he would have had to push by those people who were offering the garments. He would have known he was the only one not to have a garment on.

Going in to a shop today, you have to out on a face mask. Yet, perhaps you will se some that haven’t got a face mask. You might ask the question, ‘How is it that you haven’t got a face mask?’ There will be some who will say because of medical reasons, which we have no problem with. There will be many in a church that may not have a wedding garment on because they have come in and the Lord may be working on their hearts, they are yet to be saved. We haven’t got a problem with that. But this individual could be likened today to those who we may ask, ‘Why are you not wearing a mask?’ and they might say, ‘We don’t want to, I don’t think I have a need to. I reject that system. I reject it all.’ Here is a man of a similar kind. This man has come in, but he has no regard for the king’s son. He decides not to honour the king’s son. He comes in defiance. He wants to come as he is and not change. It’s the spirit of today’s age – I don’t need to obey the rules. I don’t need to look towards God’s word. I don’t need to accept God’s word.

This man doesn’t want to obey the king. He is a rebel who goes against the king and everyone else. So, it is not surprising that the king will come straight to this one individual and deal with him. The king calls him a friend because that is how he may appear, because he is there. But he is no friend of the king. He is asked how he has come in. There are many today who think they will be saved by looking to their own way, their own thoughts. They may say that they don’t need to come to Christ the way you say. They think that when they get to heaven, they will say their reason and God will accept them. Well, here we see an example of what it will be like for a person of that kind.

As he stood before the king, this man was speechless. He had no words to say. That’s what it will be like for everyone who comes in an unappointed way to the king in whom they think they may get away with it. There will be no getting away with it. If we do not come through the Lord Jesus Christ, in faith to Him and repentance towards God, and clothed in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be treated no differently to this man. He was speechless. He had nothing to say. He knew he was in the wrong at this moment. Worse still, he does not repent. There are no tears, no cry to the king to ask for forgiveness or mercy. This is a man who is resentful of the king and the son of the king. He has come to rebel. Sadly, these are many today in that position, going to a lost eternity. I have seen some who have rejected Christ all their life, yet even on their deathbed will not cry out to God, so hard has become their heart. They will not even repent in a moment of this kind.

The king responds by saying, “‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.” If we were to look at the Greek language here, the encouragement to us would be the servants were sent out to bring them in, with different servants to those called to bind him hand and foot and cast him out. These were different servants. The servants of the king were called to do what was required because the king would not have anyone spoil that occasion. That’s how it will be in heaven; there will be no sin. No-one will come into heaven but the appointed ones. Outside there will be darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Friends, the place described here is not a place you would want to go. There is a warning then for us. In this New Year, let us desire the gospel to go out, God’s blessing to be found in the church, for us to be defined and to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ, and others to be saved.

October 17th 2021: Gaius Douglas

You may view this service on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/XYEJ-zKgmow

1 Timothy 4:12-16.

This is a wonderful book. I am truly blessed reading the Word, ready to minister at any time. This passage of scripture is about being a living example. We have just heard about the statement of Faith (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nxq0BG5K5p8&t=229s ). Do we believe in the basic principle the Lord Jesus has died and is coming back? Do we believe this is the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation? Yes! Whether we accept it is another matter. Whether we walk in the ways of it is a different matter.

God has revealed His truth to us. We don’t always want to believe what it says. Isaiah says we have turned ourselves to our own ways. Paul is writing to Timothy, his son in the faith. He says, ‘I want you to be a living example to the church.’ Paul was writing from a place called Macedonia and he had placed Timothy, a young pastor, in the church there in Ephesus. Paul wrote a letter to the Ephesians. I believe it is the second to last letter he wrote.

Paul has very little negativity, if any at all, to the church at Ephesus. He commends their faith. He blesses them for what they stand for. He rejoices in what they stand for. We also know, in Revelation 2, it is the first letter from the Spirit of God. The Spirit of the Lord speaks to the church of the Ephesians and commends them for their conduct and their walk. But one thing He had against them; they have lost their first love.

Paul instructed Timothy to go to this church because it had doctrinal issues. They had issues where their conduct within the church was not according to scripture. Timothy, this young pastor, was half Greek and half Jew. His grandmother and mother were Jews. We read in second Timothy that his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice brought him up in the truth of scripture. They taught him the truth of scripture. I rejoice in the fact that I had a mother who loved the Lord so much that she spent day and night teaching me scripture, being an example in keeping with God’s Word. We should relish being an example to our children and grandchildren, to be an example to others, to live a life which is in keeping with God’s Word. It is such a blessing when this happens.

Paul wants Timothy to be an example to the believers. We can’t be an example to others if we can’t show love to one another. How can I share the gospel if I hate my brother? How can I share the gospel if I shake someone’s hand, but my heart is far from them? Paul wants Timothy to be a living example. But Timothy is young and there were elders who looked down on him, thinking of him as a young whippersnapper telling them what to do. Paul says look to the one who is the example. Paul writes, “Be imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). In Ephesians he says be an example of God.

Who are you imitating? Who are you following? Who am I following? Do I go out and out to tell others I belong to Christ? Who are you? Do you belong to Christ? Are you following Him? The Lord Jesus Christ says, “Follow me and I will make you.” He was and will always be the living example (John 6:38, John 12, John 4:34). It was always about God the Father, never about Him. He went to a wedding feast. He should have been the guest of honour but He was not. He sat there because He was doing the will of the Father. He never sought fame for Himself. How many Christians like a pat on the back? We are the body of Jesus Christ. We are members of the body of Jesus Christ, that wonderful body, paid for at such a great price.

Paul wants Timothy to go and be a living example in word, in deed, in manner of life, in conversation. In all of these things follow Him, not me. Jesus Christ delighted to do the will of the Lord God. (John 17, Psalm 40). This is what he wants us to do.

Titles associated with Jesus.

When we look at the gospel of John, chapter 6, He says, ‘I am the living bread, eat of me.’ What have we been feeding on this morning? Are we waiting to come to chapel to delight the Lord, to meet with other Christians? We have the capacity to delight the Lord in whatever we are doing, living for Him. Jesus delighted the Lord wherever He went. What are you feeding on? In the wilderness the Lord provided bread from heaven for the Israelites. After a while they got fed up with it. Are you fed up because you think the way of God isn’t relevant today?

He is not only bread to feed on, He is also the living water. Jeremiah was told to eat the bread and it sufficed him. Ezekiel was told to be a living example, doing many things for God, to show the people what God was telling them. The Lord says, ‘Eat of me, you will never hunger. Drink of me, you will never thirst.’

He is the living Word. He says ‘I will provide you with a Word which will sustain you, which will keep you. In Hebrews 4:12 we read, “For the Word of God is living powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” I believe this with all my heart and with all my soul. It has sustained me throughout my life, forever and ever because it is the Word of God. And it is able to do the same for you. The way of God sustains us forever. You can live in the power, the strength that is here, in the Bible.

Christ gives us a new name. We have a new name, a new title, a new calling. We belong to Christ. The salvation we have Christ has given us. He has breathed into us eternal life. Man became a living soul (Genesis 1:7). We read in Ephesians 2:1, God has breathed into us and we are living souls. Are you alive this morning? Why? Because you have confessed Christ as your Saviour.

Because He lives, we are to be a living testimony in our home, on the phone, in our community. He continues to transform us every day. We are temples of the Holy Spirit of God. We are redeemed by His precious blood. We are no longer our own, we are alive to God.

Paul wants Timothy to be a living example to the church, “In word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.’ (1 Timothy 4:12). This is your life. How am I meant to live when I leave this church? When we go out, there will be challenges. We are fighting a battle against the world, flesh and the Devil. But God has given us the power, the ability, the wisdom and His Word. He has given us the armour. He says, ‘Put on the armour of God that you will be able to stand, that you will be able to fight all the things that will come against you which will take you away and prevent you from being a living example for me, for my glory, for my praise.’ Amen.

December 22nd 2019: Gaius Douglas

Gaius-Dec 2019My prayer for you is that your prayer is ‘Be near me Lord Jesus.’

“For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up,” Psalm 69:9

Zeal is passion, enthusiasm, a great desire. We see this great and wonderful desire in Christ to do His Father’s will. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” John 1:14

God became flesh. He lived among us. He was sent as a babe, not as an adult. “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up,” Psalm 69:9. The zeal of thine house was in Israel, the temple. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit if we know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour. He had a great desire, even at birth. The Father sent the Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit. The Word became flesh. Mary, about 15 or 16 years old, went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She was barren yet God put in her John the Baptist. When Mary came visited Elizabeth the babe in Elizabeth’s womb leapt. That is the Spirit of God. Even in the womb of Mary, His mother, He was desirous to do the will of His Father.

When Jesus was twelve and in the temple, the zeal of the Lord had eaten Him up and He was teaching. As a young man He was passionate to please His Father. From a baby, God manifest in flesh, placed in the womb of Mary, my Saviour, the one who made you and me. As He grew “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not,” (Isaiah 53:3). He was desirous to do God’s will (John 4:34). He asked us to follow Him. The zeal of the Lord had eaten Him up even in His mother’s womb. You are not too young or too old to live for Him.

He hath put a new song in my mouth. If you know that, He has put that song in your heart to praise God. Is it yours? Is He yours? The Lord Jesus Christ is not for Christmas but for life. If we are really honest, how much have we thought of the Lord Jesus Christ in the past week, leading up to Christmas?

I love singing carols; they are all of Christ. Quite often when we think of Christmas we think of commercialism, not of Christ. Christmas begins with Christ. Mass is a celebration. We celebrate Christ. Stop. Think. Are we doing that? Will we celebrate Christ on 25th December? The Lord Jesus Christ is not only for Christmas but for life. Do you celebrate Christ 365 days a year? So often, we split the Bible up and only speak of His birth at Christmas time and speak of His death at Easter. How sad! This same Jesus, sent to be Saviour, to save us, from our sins. If we knew this we should be celebrating this 365 days a year.

When we get to glory we will sing His glory and praise, not differentiating His birth and death. We cannot speak of His birth without speaking of His death, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour,” (John 12:27).

Anyone who receives Him are His people. Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Our sins, which were many, the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He has saved us to live, not to die.

The Lord may come at any time, none of us know where we will be next Christmas. But Jesus came to save us, for us to live, not to die. Are you living for Him? The alternative is death. Moses, at the end of his life, spoke to the leaders of Israel, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live,” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

How often do we talk to our friends about the Lord Jesus Christ? We have gone so far away from Christ many don’t want to recognise Him. God sent His only Son, His indescribable gift. Let us give thanks for Him. The gift of eternal life is through Jesus Christ our Lord. If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, celebrate Him. Will you put Christ back into your Christmas?

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the earth,
Every creature was stirring, awaiting a birth.
The time for Messiah was certainly near,
The prophets foretold it; the Bible was clear.
From the book of beginnings, the very first sin,
God’s word made it clear how His grace entered in.
Born of a virgin, He’d come as a man.
The Creator among us, the time was at hand.
The stars were arranged to show marvellous things,
Setting Wise Men to journey and find the true King.
Shepherds in Bethlehem gazed on the sky,
Longing to see him, their Lord the Most High.
How could they know that the very next night
An angel of God would speak words of delight?
How the Saviour was born, it was news of great joy.
In a cloth and a manger they’d find the dear boy.
And a heavenly host would soon join to sing
Of the glory of God and of wonderful things.
He entered creation, set position aside
To show us how deeply his love did abide.
Sin sent us away from our almighty Lord.
He became one of us that we might be restored.
He’s the Prince of our Peace; He’s the one who makes whole.
He is Wisdom Incarnate, a Shepherd of Souls.
He’s the Author of Life; He’s the Ruler of All.
He can offer salvation, on His name we call.
The shepherds and Wise Men would bow to adore
Holy God among men, our greatest reward.
All glory and honour is due to this King.
Let all join in worship; let every tongue sing.
Jesus is Lord, all creation proclaims.
He’s the first and last, He is always the same.
History turned on the first Christmas day,
When God became man in a humble display.
As we think of the manger in which He was laid,
Let our hearts welcome Him to the world He made!

Poet unknown