Saturday 6th August 2022: Jonathan Thomas 200th Anniversary Service

To listen to this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/rzdy5GNhX1E

Song of Songs 1:1-4

I remember coming to Pembrokeshire as a boy with my father, who loved to walk sections of the coastal path. I remember being excited, wondering what treasure I would find, having heard stories of smugglers and pirates around the coves of the Pembrokeshire coast. Can you imagine if, one day, you were going out and you saw a glimpse of a treasure chest in a cove? You realised you couldn’t get into it. You needed a key.

Within life there are a lot of treasures, things that we would love to have, but we’re never sure of the key, how to get into it. How do we make relationships work? What is the key? How do we find the meaning of life? What is the key? How do I know I am loved? What’s the key? How can I be truly happy? What is the key? Often, we can see that there’s a treasure of delights, but we don’t have the key. A ‘treasure of delights’ is actually how one rabbi in the 9th century described the Song of Songs.

This weekend we are going to spend our time in the opening chapters of the Song of Songs and try to find a key to unlock it, to a treasure of delights that is available to all of us. When was the last time you sat through a sermon on the Song of Songs? If you have, when was the last time you sat through a series of sermons on the Song of Songs? It’s one of those books that is neglected in the Bible. At points, it’s rather embarrassing. It’s also one of the most debated books in the Bible. Maybe you’re here and you’ve never read it, or maybe you started to read it and stopped. My hope is that by Monday morning, you’ll want to read the Song of Songs, and you’ll have a key to understand it.

I believe that within this book there’s teaching that can revolutionise our relationships with each other, but more so with God.

Firstly, this is a song. That’s the genre, the style of writing. It is a poem set to music. If you like music, it creates emotion. You feel music. Sometimes, even before the words start, or even if there are no words, you feel something. When a classical piece comes on, you may feel longing. When a country piece comes on you may feel a broken heart. When the blues start, you might get to feel depressed. Music creates emotions.

This is a song, which means it conveys feelings. It’s a poem set to music. Poetry can work on multiple meanings and levels. Something that’s quite simple, can be making deeper points. When it comes to poetry, you must always remember that what we are looking for is the author’s intent and meaning. When they wrote, what did they intend us to feel? What do they want us to understand? If you read the Song of Songs, on first read it comes about like a song about romance, about relationships. In many senses, it’s about marriage and its consummation. That’s why the book can be a little bit embarrassing.

The second thing to know about Song of Songs is that it is not smutty. It is an ethical book all about a poem about Solomon and the Shulamite. They are about to get married. They want two to become one (v4). She wants to go into the chamber, the King’s chamber. It is talking about marriage. This is not just poetry. The style of writing comes within wisdom. This is about more than just romance. This is a song of Solomon. It comes within Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Psalms and Job.

If you know your Bible, you’re already saying, ‘You said this book was about one man and one woman. Now you’ve said it’s Solomon. How many wives did he have? One, two, five, twenty, two hundred, 400?’ It was 700. Not just 700 wives but also 300 concubines. What’s going on? That doesn’t seem very ethical. Solomon was the Hugh Hefner of his day. But interestingly, when he writes this book it’s all about one man and one woman. The man who had experienced everything, tried everything, ultimately, when he wrote the manual on relationships, writes it about one man and one woman. What’s going on?

I think that when Solomon was writing this, he was an old man who had learnt a thing or two. He has now realised that God’s design is monogamy – one man and one woman. Everybody in the Bible, outside of Jesus, is flawed. Everybody in the Bible, outside of Jesus, makes mistakes. Solomon has realised that. If you read Ecclesiastes, you know Solomon had experienced everything. He was like a rock star, a YouTuber, an Instagram influencer. But in the end, he comes down to the Song of Songs.

Whilst Song of Songs is not shy about relationships, this weekend I am not going to give you any relationship advice. I think you can read the book on two levels: you can read it spiritually about Christ and you can read it about relationships. I think there’s lots to learn there, but in the weighting, there’s more towards Christ. What we need to realise here is the answer to life is not human relationships but something far greater. Solomon hasn’t come to the point where he has realised monogamy is the ultimate key to life, He has come to realise that monogamy is the right way for relationships.

I was at a wedding earlier today and I gave a talk. I was at pains to say to the couple, ‘You are not the answer to your marriage. Your marriage is not the answer.’ You see, what happens when people get together and they think the relationship is the answer, that the other person is the answer, this is what happens: we put the person up on a pedestal and say, ‘You will save me, you will be everything I need, you will always be there for me.’ What happens when we put someone up on a pedestal? We quickly pull them off. That is so cruel to the person; they can’t be everything. No-one can be everything.

We have to make sure, as we come to the Song of Songs, that we don’t say human relationships are the answer. Otherwise, what about single people? What about widows? What about people caring for a partner, but due to ill health can’t love them or help them in return? What about Jesus? He was never married, yet He was the perfect man. So, there is something more going on in this Song. It is a song, it is not smutty, it is a song of Solomon.

Here is the last thing to note: it is the Song of Songs. It reminds me of ‘the Holy of Holies.’ This is Solomon’s greatest song and I believe it is the Bible’s greatest song. The greatest song in the Bible cannot be about human relationships because that would make human relationships an idol. It is about far more than that. I believe this is ultimately about Jesus. For the first 1600 years of church history, that is pretty much how everybody taught it. Everybody was happy to read this and see Jesus. Even though, if you read some of the old books, it does get rather fanciful and does go a bit too far. But you can read this book looking at Jesus, square on. Some of you might still be not sure. Let me give you a reason why you can. Firstly, allegory, seeing these things out of representation, happens throughout the Bible. The New Testament does it to the Old Testament. In Galatians chapter 4, we read these things are taken figuratively – the woman represents two covenants; one covenant from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be saved, this is Hagar. Hagar stands for Mount Sinai and the Arabia corresponds to the presence of Jerusalem.  Basically, the New Testament author is looking at the Old Testament saying, ‘There’s a history but actually there’s something symbolic happening there.

The main character in the Song of Songs isn’t a random but he is the King of Israel, a son of David, in the line of the Messiah – Jesus. The New Testament picks up on marriage and says, ‘When you see marriage, it is a picture of something greater.’

So, the New Testament teaches that when you see a marriage, you are meant to think of something else. This comes out in a number of different places. One place is Ephesians chapter 5. Here, Paul is teaching about marriage, where husbands and wives should submit and sacrifice for one another and should love one another. When he is going through that he then says, ‘Just as Christ does for the Church, for we are members of His body.’ Then he quotes Genesis saying, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” He goes further and says, “This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

So, the New Testament teaches us when you think of marriage, remember to think of a better, greater, ultimate marriage. It’s always important not to get that confused. Sometimes we get this the wrong way round. We say, ‘I want to know what the relationship between the church and God is like, so I look at human marriage.’ That’s not the best way to do it because sometimes marriages are weak and there are problems. Rather, Ephesians switches this on its head and says, ‘If you want to know what marriage is like, look at the relationship between Christ and the Church.’ When you get the way Christ loves the Church, you will understand how you should love one another.

What is the big story of the Bible? Have you ever thought that in the opening chapters of Genesis we have a marriage. Imagine Adam seeing Eve and just singing, overwhelmed by the beauty. There they are, two as one. They are married together. How does the Bible end? The big climax of Revelation is a wedding in heaven. The big theme of the Bible is marriage, the ultimate wedding. So, when we read Song of Songs we can look at it as a way of understanding our relationship with God.

What can we learn from Song of Songs, chapter 1:2-4? These are lovely verses. I have to be honest, when I was sixteen, I laughed at these verses. It was the joke in our youth group. If we wanted to embarrass our youth leader, we used to say, ‘My favourite text is, “Let him kiss me with kisses of his mouth.”’ But I’ve learnt over the years, to love this. Even if it does feel awkward and embarrassing, if you pause to read it and read the next line each time, you start to realise, ‘This isn’t talking about what I think it’s talking about. It is about something far more profound.’ Here we have intimacy and invitation, love and longing.

Intimacy and invitation.

The woman is talking. She is passionate. In verse 2 she is inviting him to intimacy; she wants to be kissed. Solomon wants to make sure we don’t misunderstand here, so he repeats himself. She says, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.” She said it twice, there’s no ambiguity here. He doesn’t have to wonder, ‘Shall I make a move or not?’ She is very clear, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.” She says, “of his mouth.” This is not kissing on the cheek, this is intimate. But it is more than that. Look at verse 4. She wants to go away with him, “Take me away with you – let us hurry!” She wants them to go away together. This is an invitation to intimacy. That is what we see first.

Love and longing.

Whilst I joke about the kissing, it’s not really about the kissing. Look closely. Why does she want to be kissed? Why does she want to be close to him? You see in verse 2 the linking word, ‘for.’ “For your love is more delightful than wine.” She is not really interested in the kiss, she is interested in the love. It is not the kissing that is intoxicating, it is the love. The love is “more delightful than wine.” That’s amazing. You see, his love is like fine wine. That’s why she wants to draw close. She then says it’s like a fragrance, “Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes.” Whatever this perfume is, it’s not Linx Africa! There is something better going on here.

Smells bring associations. Sometimes, you can smell certain perfumes and remember your mother. Certain smells bring something to mind. The smells of the seasons, for example when rain is coming, or when the hedges and flowers are in bloom, can bring to your mind remembrances. The smell here is amazing. But it’s not just a smell. Just like it wasn’t about the kisses, it was about love, so it’s not about the smell. “Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out.” The perfume is his name. That is what gets her excited.

In the Bible names represent things. It doesn’t happen so much now. Often people get names, for example, from a Disney film. But people still get given names with a meaning. Our youngest boy is called Seth Joshua. He is called Seth Joshua because there is an amazing man in Welsh history called Seth Joshua. When someone comes up to him and says, ‘What’s your name?’ He can say proudly, ‘Seth Joshua.’ I love his name because every time I hear it, I think of him but I also think of Seth Joshua. There’s a reason in the name.

In the Bible, names are often linked to character and will describe the character of the person. There is a name here that is like perfume. There is name here that is love. There is a name here that when you hear it, you want to draw closer. When people come and visit in the house, or when people come into the workplace, you hear a name and you either want to go and hide in the kitchen or you can’t wait to meet them, to sit, to listen, to see them. Certain names get us excited.

There is a name here that gets her excited. Who is he? He is the king. “Take me away with you – let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers.” (Song of Songs 1:4). This is why she is so excited. She wants to draw near because she is loved, loved by the king. What we have in the Song of Songs is the ultimate fairy tale – being loved by the king. From Sleeping Beauty to the frog, from one of the Bridgeton girls to Meghan Merkle, there is a story that is deep in all of us, in all of culture, that we desire – to be loved. The Bible says it is an ache in all of us for something more, someone more – the king. So, she wants him to come and ultimately go into the chamber. She wants them to become an ‘us,’ to be married, to be together forever.

We have said the Bible starts with a wedding and it ends with a wedding. Have you ever thought about the centre of the Bible? The centre of the Bible, when we go from the Old Testament to the New Testament, is the arrival of the Bridegroom. In Matthew 9 and John 3, for example, Jesus refers to Himself as the Bridegroom. When you look at Matthew 22 and 25, Jesus says that the great day is going to be the wedding banquet in heaven. It’s all about this great romance and this great wedding. The King wants to be married to the church. We see in Revelation 19 wonderful words, “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Revelation 19:6-8).

The Bible is all about consummation, all about this wedding feast. It’s amazing. It should affect us. Julian Hardyman, a minister, has written a wonderful book on Song of Songs (Jesus lover of my soul) and he says, “Christ is so infinitely sweet and beautiful and satisfying as to evoke a deep longing and a wild, mad desire. He wants us to love him with all the madness our souls are capable of.” If you ever met Julian Hardyman, he is not an over-the-top guy. He is very refrained. But yet, having read Song of Songs, reflecting on Christ’s love, he is able to write about a madness our souls are capable of. In Psalm 2 we are commanded to kiss the son. Hebrews invites us to draw near. Repeatedly in Scriptures we are encouraged to come under the shadow of His wings, to find rest in Christ, to let God sing over you and quiet you with His love.

Sometimes, we sing a hymn, ‘Jesus Lover of my soul.’ Is this your view of Jesus? That Jesus is the lover of our soul, who calls us to draw near, to know His name, and to desire to know him more. It’s wonderful.

We are all different. I know the singing was superb this evening. After two years of Covid, of singing out of tune on Zoom, to be amongst God’s people again and to sing and to hear singing is wonderful. Whilst we were singing, I was looking at the projected words on the wall. I didn’t turn around and seeing you singing, but I am sure some of you would have looked miserable. However, if I was able to see inside your heart, you would be jumping for joy. Some people get really excited, but they haven’t told their face. That’s fine. Other people might seem as if they need to calm down as they raise their hands exuberantly in worship. That’s fine. We are all different. We don’t have to show things in the same way. Very often, you find the true heart of someone in a prayer meeting.

The Lord has created you the way He has created you. You express yourself in the way you express yourself. Praise God. Don’t feel pressure to give a show or look like someone else. You are who God has made you to be. You can see that in marriages. Sometimes, you look at couples and think, ‘He’s not very happy.’ But he’s delighted. He just wouldn’t know how to show it. There’s a story about an old couple who went on holiday who heard a young couple talking on the table next to them. The young wife was telling her husband how much she loved him. The older wife turned to her husband and said, ‘You never tell me how much you love me. Why not?’ He replied, ‘Well, my dear, I told you that I loved you on the day that I married you. If it changes, I’ll let you know.’ It shows we’re all different.

The wonderful news for us is the King has come to us. The King is the one who initiates. She can only go to the King because the King has come to her. She can only ask the King to come to her because He has gone to her. This is so important to understand. We can love God because He first loved us. It’s always the best news of the gospel. It starts with this wedding, enjoying the Lord in the garden. It’s wonderful. But soon, we go our own way. The fall is horrendous.

Everything in the garden is perfect. God has given Adam everything he needed. Adam and Eve were there with the Lord, forever to enjoy. But yet, they wanted to put something else up on the pedestal. They didn’t want to get something by the Lord’s name, they wanted to get something of their own names, about each other, other things. Very quickly, the world goes from beauty to death. You get this beat of death: wars, killings, hatred, brothers falling out. All these terrible things. The world goes from bad to worse.

If you read the Bible for the first time, not knowing the whole story of the Bible, when you get to Noah and the flood, you kind of want to go, ‘That’s the end.’ But all through the Bible God keeps going, ‘Hold on.’ One of my favourite verses in the Bible is in Genesis, when you read, ‘And the Lord walked in the garden in the cool of the day.’ It’s a lovely verse. For years I thought, ‘Wasn’t life amazing before the Fall.’ Then you read the verse and you realise it’s after the Fall. Even after Adam and Eve had rebelled, the Lord walks and He comes to them. He talks with them, and He gives them clothes. He covers their shame. He makes them a promise. He talks about the serpent being crushed one day. Even after the flood there’s a rainbow, reminding us of His promise. All the way through the Bible, every time you go away from God He always comes up with ‘But.’ Even in the darkest passages of the Old Testament there is always hope.

There is fine print in the Old Testament. When you get a contract when you take out a mortgage, there is always the fine print. In the big words they tell you everything they are going to give you. But in the fine print they say, ‘But this is how we’re going to take your house.’ When I read the Old Testament, I find it completely the other way round. The big text is ‘You’ve gone away. You’re wayward.’ Look at Hosea, a classic passage where marriage is used as an illustration of Yahweh and Israel. You get all of this judgement. Then comes the fine print, ‘But yet I will take you out of the wilderness. But yet, I will come to you.’ The fine print of the gospel is grace.

The wonderful news, the story of the Bible is even though we reject God, in the New Testament the Bridegroom comes. The Lord Jesus comes into our mess, into all of our rebellion, to show us His love. Christ gave Himself for us because He loves us. It is the ultimate romance.

Friends, as you celebrate 200 years of faithful witness here, remember Jesus. Remember that He is the great lover of our souls, that He has given all for us. If we trust in Him, we can draw near to Him. If we trust in Him, we will know His name. John Newton wrote, ‘How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear.’ Why? Because when we hear His name we should want to draw near. We should, in the words of Psalm 2, want to kiss the son. We should want to know His love, hear His name, come close to Him.

For what is 200 years here? It’s 200 years of God’s faithfulness, the One who has given everything for you.

September 1st 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards Sept 2019Luke 7:36-50, Exodus 20:14

An addition to the Authorised Version of the Bible in 1631 earned the printer a significant fine of £350 imposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Its problem – it omitted one word out of that particular print, the word ‘not’ from the seventh Commandment. It read, ‘You shall commit adultery.’ For that, the version of the Bible became known as the ‘wicked Bible.’ In our study of the seventh Commandment we are certainly not going to leave out ‘not!’ Today, of course, such an oversight might be rewarded. A university lecturer asked a class if they could downsize the Ten Commandments, which would they leave out. The majority said the seventh commandment.

We live in an age there where marriage is under constant attack; people are living together, having affairs, making it seem justifiable. People regard the seventh Commandment as outdated. A positive assertion of marriage is needed all the more today because it is so widely disregarded. God’s way is the right way, God’s way is the best way.

  1. The attack upon marriage and the promotion of promiscuous behaviour.

We are told that adultery and other forms of sexual immorality are natural, normal and necessary. The Bible states from the beginning God intended all sexual activity to be between one man and one woman within the context of marriage (Genesis 2:24).

Man was not created to be like the animals but to enjoy a single, committed relationship for life. The very word adultery means a violation of marriage by breaking commitment (Leviticus 20:10). Although God often showed mercy to such sinners, the severity of punishment reveals the severity of the crime.

Following on from the lie that adultery is natural, there is the additional lie that adultery is normal. Television, newspapers and magazines are constantly filled with adultery. But adultery is abnormal to God’s purpose. He reserves His strongest words for it (Jeremiah 5:7-9). The consequences of adultery and promiscuity are far reaching: the devastation of partners, the great emotional cost for children, the cost to state in terms of the price of divorce in our land. The Lord reserves the most serious warnings for any who believe such behaviour is normal.

The ultimate excuse for adultery is the spouse no longer loves his or her spouse and finds greater happiness in the arms of another. This is based on the mistaken belief that love is just an emotion that comes and goes. It goes against Biblical teaching in which one gives oneself exclusively to one other, irrespective of the ebb and flow of feelings. Real love is not self-seeking, it is self-sacrificing (Ephesians 5:25). Many times those who have seen adulterers’ promiscuity as the road to happiness have found it as the road to ruin.

The sanctity of marriage and rejection of sexual acts outside marriage is normal, natural and necessary. Satan seeks to destroy and damage the God-ordained order for family and individuals. The Lord Jesus Christ cites adultery as the grounds for gaining divorce (Mark 10). It is sad that Christians fall for the lie. It is best seen in ministers who have committed adultery but are allowed back into the pulpit. Sin, of course, is forgiven and the minister should be received back into the fellowship of the church. But by his infidelity to his wife, they have barred themselves from preaching. 

  1. The deceitfulness of adultery.

For many this Commandment has no fear because we can honestly say we have never committed adultery, we have been faithful to our husband or wife. However, that is to ignore the seed of adultery that is found in our hearts. All of us, in some way, have been guilty of weakening our marriages. The scriptures point us to the way sexual activity prior to marriage breaches the seventh Commandment. The abuse of the gift of our sexuality before marriage deprives a future wife or husband (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 18). Today many people believe that having many partners is not wrong, provided they are one at a time. There are many problems that conflict marriages because of sexual activity outside, prior to marriage.

People can engage in marital unfaithfulness. They may enjoy sexual fantasy in viewing inappropriate material, flirting with the opposite sex. This weakens marriage too, even if there is no acting on the thought. The scriptures call us to be pure in thought and action. We are to guard our minds from all immorality (Philippians 4:8). God knows what we feed our minds on.

There is the problem of inappropriate thoughts. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” (Matthew 5:28). Accordingly, there is no-one here this morning who is not guilty of breaking the seventh Commandment. When we condemn the actions of others which we find obscene and sickens us, remember we too have been guilty of obscenity which sickens Him. We too need forgiveness. There is help at hand in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The grace of God for adulterers is best seen in three women who broke the seventh Commandment:

           The woman of Samaria (John 4:1-26)
         The woman, believed to be Mary Magdalene, who scandalised the Pharisees                      (Luke 7),
          The woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11).

            What do we see in each case?

  • Whereas others were keen to condemn these women, Jesus did not. On the contrary, He deals with them as if they were respectable.
  • He forgives their sin, bringing them freedom from the penalty of sin.
  • He changed their lives, transforming them into disciples who loved righteousness. He establishes a new relationship in their lives with God and God’s law.
  • The Saviour remained faithful to them, even going to die on the cross to pay the price of their sin.

There is no doubt they continued to fail Him, even as we do, but He never forsook them, even as He never forsakes us.

The good news, the gospel news, then is there is forgiveness for adulterers and those with promiscuous behaviour, to those who repent. Forgiveness is available to all who turn to Christ. But it also involves sinning no more. In God’s power they must flee from the sin of the past and not repeat it. You can’t continue in the old ways. People who do are not truly born again.

  1. Marriage is used in the Bible as a picture of the relationship between God and His people. That’s a sobering challenge to those of us who are married. Are our marriages a picture of the relationship between God and His people? Do we reflect the union of Christ and the Church? We may not commit physical adultery but there may be nastiness, attitudes that don’t speak of a commitment of love.

Even amongst Christians there are those who defile their marriage with pornography, who seek to use their partner in the porn of their own sordid experience of sinful immorality. Praise be to God, not only in their forgiveness, not only in their restoration, there is also the complete, never-ending commitment of the Lord Jesus Christ to each and every one of us that can never be broken. He will never forsake us, He will never abuse us. He will never cease to love us. He will also be to us our heavenly spouse who has sacrificed Himself for our eternal good.

The seventh Commandment does have a ‘not’ in it, it’s not left out. It is there for the glory of God, the good of His people and the good of all mankind.

February 18th 2018: Owen Jones

Owen Jones-Feb18Ephesians 5:32 ‘A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’

There is a mystery in the mystical union we have with Christ. There are metaphors that make the mystery a little clearer. In days gone by, when romance was in the air a couple could be referred to as ‘courting.’ Today, ‘being an item’ is often used. We are more than an item. The relationship between the church and the Lord Jesus Christ is an unbreakable union, it is already in being. Every believer becomes part of the bride, the wife. God speaks about us as the bride, the wife. Psalm 45. Every truly born-again believer is ultimately joined in unity with Christ. This presents the loveliest picture of two being one.

How should we look right now and on that future day? We see the bride united as: a faithful wife, a fruitful wife and as a beautiful, breathing-taking wife.

United as a faithful wife:
Paul uses beautiful illustrations – the wife is like the church that gives in, ‘Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.’ (Ephesians 5:22). Marriage teaches us at least one thing – giving. Wives submit to husbands, but the bigger picture is lives in submission to Christ. It is part of the creation ordinance and now part of the new creation. When the local church gives in to community and no longer has the Bible at its centre it ceases to be what it once was. Submit to one another in reverence to Christ. Give in to every word because Jesus tells you. As the church submits to Christ, wives submit to husbands. ‘A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ (Ephesians 5:32). Husbands, measure the giving. Who is giving more – her or him? Christ gave Himself up for the church. Giving up – true love – is demonstrated at Calvary. Like Hosea, the prophet. God told Hosea to love his wife as the Lord loves the Israelites. The husband gives his name to his wife, she happily accepts it. They are legally one. How faithful are we to Him, to each other?

United as a fruitful wife:
The spiritual illustration. Remember the higher principal – your union is with Christ. The church is mysteriously joined to Him as a faithful and fruitful wife. The fruit? Holiness. If you are in Christ that’s the fruit you’re going to bear, ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.’ (Galatians 5:22-23). It’s all on the one tree, always in blossom, always in season. Jesus said, ‘By their fruits you will know them.’ (Matthew 7:20). The fruit of intimacy, close fellowship, produces its own fruit. As we read His word, He comes to us.

Some marriages fail because couples no longer have anything to say to each other. How long has it been since you talked to the Lord? Couples can live separate lives under one roof. Start talking to one another again. When was the last time you heard the Lord Jesus Christ speak to you?

What about the fruit of increase, the great commission, the bride increasing from the nations? The preaching of the gospel works in people’s hearts and lives, something is being conceived. There’s a birth, an increase.

We also need to know and produce the fruit of Christ’s likeness. Do you think in the same way as Christ thinks? When you speak do others hear the voice of their Saviour? You and I begin to look like the ones we love. When God breathed life into us He breathed knowledge, love and righteousness. In regeneration, He renews that which had been erased at the Fall.

United as a beautiful wife:
This is a profound mystery. There’s no need for make-overs. Why? The marriage day is fully realised in the future (Revelation 19:7), but something is happening now. All the wrinkles and the lines are gone. Jesus must be the centre stage – the wedding day of the Lamb. But look at His Bride, ‘It was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure – for the fair linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.’ (Revelation 19:8). All the tears, all the sorrows cease to be. Let us rejoice and give Him the glory. The Bride has prepared for this day. How? She is dressed in fine linen. Everything we do now prepares us for that holy day (Ephesians 5:26). Then we get married, there’s a new home (Revelation 21:1-3). There’s an RSVP, ‘And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”’ (Revelation 19:9). You are the Bride but you’re invited to be there as a guest. It’s a dual picture.

You will never look as good as you will on that day.

The sands of time are sinking;
the dawn of heaven breaks;
the summer morn I’ve sighed for,
the fair sweet morn awakes;
dark, dark, hath been the midnight,
but dayspring is at hand,
and glory, glory dwelleth
in Emmanuel’s land.

The King there in His beauty
without a veil is seen;
it were a well-spent journey,
though trails lay between:
the Lamb with His fair army
on Zion’s mountain stands,
and glory, glory dwelleth
in Emmanuel’s land.

O Christ, He is the Fountain,
the deep sweet Well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted;
more deep I’ll drink above:
there to an ocean fullness
His mercy doth expand,
and glory, glory dwelleth
in Emmanuel’s land.

The bride eyes not her garment,
but her dear bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory,
but on my King of grace;
not at the crown He giveth,
but on His piercèd hand;
the Lamb is all the glory
of Emmanuel’s land.

Ann Ross Cousin (1857)

There will come a day when every eye will be upon Him, when you will behold Him. Are you preparing yourself in acts of righteousness?