August 12th 2018: Ian Jones

Ian Jones-August 18Luke 15:11-24

The beginning of this chapter sets the scene; people gathered to listen to the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the groups who loved to gather were the publicans and sinners. The Lord Jesus spoke to them in a very special way in which they were drawn to listen to Him. Amongst them were the Pharisees and Scribes, who complained because Jesus received sinners and met with them. In response, Jesus spoke three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. In each, all have the same meaning – to rejoice when something lost is found. This is something which the Pharisees knew nothing of.

This Prodigal Son is probably the best known of all Jesus’ parables. The younger brother represents ourselves, the Father is Himself and the eldest brother the Pharisees. The younger son comes to the Father and says, ‘Give me my inheritance’ (verse 12). He has little respect for his father. He doesn’t say, ‘Please,’ or ‘May I have?’ No, he says, ‘Give me.’ Right fromstart the relationship is revealed between the young man and his father. He wants his money now. In other words, he wants he demands his independence, he wants to live his own life and not be tied down. If ever there was a boy who broke his father’s heart, it would have been this prodigal son. He is saying, ‘I don’t love you, I don’t want to be in your presence anymore.’ He wants his father dead so he can have his inheritance, an inheritance which wouldn’t usually be given until his father had died. It’s an unlikely event. The father is loving, kind and generous but the son days he doesn’t want any more to do with him.

With God, our Father, this is how everyone has reacted. We want to live our lives our own way, the way we want, not to go His way and be in His presence. It speaks volumes about ourselves. We may not be completely like him – he’s extreme – but in some way or other we’re like the prodigal son. It speaks of a time before our conversion, some of us may still have God outside our lives.

The Father responds by dividing the inheritance; one portion to the younger son and two portions to the older son. The younger son received a lot as his father was rich.  Why did the father give him what he wanted? We don’t give everything our children ask for. Why should God allow us to live our lives as we choose today, knowing the lives we would choose would not be good for us? Our lives are not ours. We’ve been created by God. The prodigal son went off and lived as he chose. But there’s a day coming when we have to appear before God.

It didn’t take long for him to pack up and leave (verse 13). He went as far away as possible. That’s what lots of people do today, they don’t want anything to do with God. Most people are in that far off country, enjoying themselves, doing as they please.

It doesn’t take long for the prodigal son to waste all, he has expensive tastes. He just thought about living it up, enjoying himself. His lifestyle was one of excess. During that time friends came and joined him. They were living away from God. Not surprisingly, he lost all. Then there was a severe famine. He began to be in want. His plans hadn’t worked out as he thought, he was now in debt. With the famine, work was hard to find. It was a bad experience. This can happen to us. Something happens, goes wrong in our lives. What are we to do?

The best thing for the prodigal son was to go home. Now all his money was gone he was on his own and had nothing. We see people today who go through all kinds of difficulties, yet they will not turn to God.

The prodigal son stuck to a person of that country (verse 15). He was a foreigner, yet he attached himself to a person who didn’t know him or care for him. Because he didn’t care for him he sent him into the fields to feed the pigs. Jesus, in telling this story to a crowd who didn’t like pigs, who didn’t eat pork, was showing them how terrible it was for this man. He was now found amongst the lowest of the low, in a job a Jew would have found to be the worst of all. The situation became far worse. The famine was so hard there was not enough for the young man to feed himself, he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pigs’ food. He wanted to get amongst the pigs and eat their food. This man had fallen so low, it couldn’t have got any worse.

The heart of this parable is verse 17, ‘He came to himself.’ It came from being in a state of need. It implies he had not been in his right mind, living in a way that wasn’t real, wasn’t reality. He awakes to his situation. He sees himself. This is the work of the Holy Spirit convincing him of his need to return home, to come back to God. He recognises how futile it is to live as he was. Friends, have you come to yourself?

God is merciful. The son rehearses what he will say when he returns to his father (verse 18). He is truly repentant. He arose the next day and went home. He put into practice what he thought.

On his way home, when he was still a great way off, his father saw him. He knew the son couldn’t make it on his own, that his lifestyle had made him weak. He needed his father. It’s a picture of Jesus seeing us when we were a long way off. Jesus died for our sins on that cross. Here is true repentance, seeing yourself as nothing, looking upon the Lord Jesus Christ as your lord and Saviour, the one who died on the cross for us.

The father saw his son and rushed out to meet him. Oh what love! Why would God want us when we’ve turned our backs on him and rebelled? God waits, looks and observes us. The moment we repent He comes to us with His open arms, ready to receive us. The son starts talking but the father spares his humiliation (verse 22). The son was raised up to be the son of the father. He was given the robe of righteousness. When we repent, He delights in us. There is great rejoicing in the child of God who returns to His Father. What joy there is in church when we see people returning to God. Do you know that joy? Have you lived that prodigal life and returned?

September 10th 2017: Ian Middlemist

Ian-September 17Hebrews 10: 23-2, Holding Fast Together

There’s a battle waging for the souls of God’s people today. Whilst our God leads His people, He calls them together to encourage each other to look to Him. It’s a team effort. A top priority of the Christian life is learning to battle against unbelief. Now we are Christians it’s a wrong notion to think the battle is over. Have we allowed our unbelief to creep in through the back door? Paul’s closing remarks to Timothy are, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul had fought the good fight all his Christian life. One way he did this was to surround himself with faithful believers.

  • Holding fast together:

Hebrew 10-23
The biggest battle we face is unbelief. When we make a public confession of faith through baptism it should serve as a strong motivation to hold fast when we’re tempted to disbelief, to compromise. Holding fast implies there is some serious danger, serious difficulty. What persecutions are you facing? We are persecuted in different ways. We may yet face our greatest persecutions. We should be ready. We all face the pressure of conformity of the world; it is easier to blend in than to stand. The writer of Hebrews wants us to hold fast, not to let go. Christians have a firm grip on Jesus Christ. We are being kept, not ultimately because of our grip on Christ, but because of His grip on us. Keep on holding on to the one who will never leave or forsake you. Hold fast without wavering.

  • Keep your hope:

Hope points to the absolute certainty, but not yet realised promises of God. He who promised is faithful. We put our trust in Him. Are you trusting the faithful God, trusting Him to complete what He has already done? Hope is essential for the Christian life. It’s like a long rope that keeps us attached to the sovereign God. Hope is grounded on the historical life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. ‘So that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.’ (Hebrews 6:18-20).

Throughout the storms of life, the pressures to conform to this world, the anchor that holds us is Jesus, our rock. Let us pray for one another that we will continue to hold fast in faith. An incredible future awaits us. Life is tough, pray that we will be granted a clearer vision of heaven to come, see the beautiful shores that await us.

  • Encourage each other to love.

‘And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.’ (Hebrew 10: 24-25).

Continually minister to one another. ‘Shared joy is double joy, shared sorrow is half the sorrow.’ (Swedish motto). Be involved, like co-workers, team-workers, rejoicing with those who rejoice, mourning with those who mourn. ‘But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.’ (Ecclesiastes 4:10). When a person struggles spiritually that person needs those who will help him out of the ditch. Find help from others. We also need others because of their skills and their gifts. We’re a team, we do not excel each other; we depend on each other. The command here is ‘to consider’ how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds – to encourage others around you to love and good deeds. To consider is to give thought about how it is going to happen. Ask ‘What does the person need to grow to encourage them to look to Christ and to encourage them?’ How do we do this? It’s very important not to neglect to meet together. It’s so discouraging when people allow the world’s priorities to crowd in and neglect meeting together. We should encourage one another. The devil is trying hard to attack God’s people, to remove their confidence in Christ. 

Hebrew 10-23-24
We should be filled with joy because of Jesus’ return. We should meet together to have encouragement, to see a glimpse of heaven. We have three meetings here a week in Penuel which we can attend. We can see the power of Christ. He is keeping His people. Our gatherings are to be encouraging, pointing us to heaven. Are you aware Jesus is coming? These are difficult days but we need to gather together, to press on, looking in hope to Jesus’ return.

 

Sunday 26th June – Morning Service

Aaron

Character & Conduct

This morning’s worship was led by Aaron Davies-Whitfield who continued his study of Philippians, preaching from chapter 2 verses 14-16 – such a relevant scripture after what has happened in our nation.  The Word of God challenges us and changes us. Often the Word of God, which is ‘sharper than a two-edged sword’ (Hebrews 4:12), challenges us. It shows us things about us which do not line up with the Word of God. We must humble ourselves and acknowledges our shortcomings and confess. We need to repent and turn to someone we are in great need of, turning away from sin to Christ, asking for forgiveness and grace. The process of taking out sin in our lives is painful but necessary. This Word is a challenge to us all, it’s a good challenge.  Character is our reputation, conduct is our behaviour, and how we conduct ourselves. Paul is talking about a Christian character and conduct. He covers three areas:

  • Our relationship with God – This always comes first. Before we do wrong to anyone, we have first done wrong to God.
  • Our relationship with others
  • Ourselves

When Paul says, ‘Do all things’, this shows us that nothing is left out. God asks that our Christian life is one of affecting every area. We are born again, we are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Our life is to be different in every single aspect.

‘Because it is written, be ye holy; for I am Holy’ (1 Peter 1:15-17). Paul here is talking to believers. Our holiness first comes with Salvation, it is not just about morals, it is about being the people of God. We are set apart. Because we are His people, we are to be different. We belong to Christ, so we have to live as the people of God.

Verse 15 – we are the sons and daughter of God. The pulpit is not a place of politics. It’s the place of God. Whatever our views of the Referendum we must not fight. The body of Christ goes far deeper than our political views. Whatever we voted, we must love one another. We are one body, inextricably bought with the blood of Christ, we all belong to the same Father. We must come together as a Church.  If the people of God cannot come together, how can we be an example to others?

There is a greater ‘in or out’. Are people in the Kingdom? There is a greater cross to put by your name – the cross of Jesus Christ. The gospel still carries on, it is the greatest need, the greatest light and the greatest message. It travels throughout divisions. It has travelled throughout history. This gospel must carry on. It should be the most important thing in a Christian life. Glorifying Christ is the greatest work, the gospel is the greatest campaign.

‘Do all things, without murmurings and disputings’. Our delight is to please God.  The children of Israel were on a journey and murmured. Don’t murmur to God, He loves us, He is the sovereign. Remember the character of God and let it change you.

Our conduct should be ‘Blameless and harmless’ to others. We need to be different and love one another, serve and help one another. This is the beauty of the church. Manifest His love, care and compassion.

‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you’ (Matt 5:44). We can be one thing in church and something different behind closed doors.  In your whole life, in your very thought life and deeds, in private places, strive towards the Saviour. Don’t settle for remaining to be the same people, strive to be more like Jesus, wanting to be more and more a holy people. Strive for a closer walk with God, this is the path to glory. We are to be ever more increasing in our life to Christ. There is always a need to confess our sins, to grow in grace. What is on the outside should be the same all the way through, displaying Jesus on the inside and outside.

‘Crooked and perverse generation’ – we live in a fallen corrupt world. It is dark, it is evil. As the Church, as the people of God, in a nation that is split down the middle, we need to be an example. We need our light to shine before men, to show the light in a very dark time. God knows we live in a dark, evil world and this is why He asks us to shine. We are the light, we are different, we are changed, and we are the people of God. Our love is for God not the world. Our desire is not for ourselves but for God. We need to shine. The church must set the example, we must hold first to the Bible – the light. It is the truth in the midst of corruption and lies, it is the testimony we are to hold. We need to practice what we preach otherwise we are empty. Let people see unity and love in us, see something different in us.

‘I may rejoice in the day of Christ.’ Live this life for Jesus, whatever the cost, whatever the price, whatever the mockery and scorn. Be a light shining continually in the storm, in calm, but always shinning for the Lord. Let this message change us.