January 30th 2022: Ian Middlemist

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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.

March 8th 2020: Owen Jones

Owen Jones - March 2020“I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:14-17

We reach the heart of the Epistle of Romans in chapter 1, in verses 14-17. All we see here is worked out; the Lord Jesus made statements concerning coming Himself in John’s gospel, the ‘I am’ statements, His claim to deity.

When we come to the Lord Jesus Christ we see He claims to be none other than God Himself. And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” (Exodus 3:14).

We are going to look at 3 ‘I ams’ of Paul:

I am bound (verse 14)
I am so eager (verse 15)
I am not ashamed (verse 16)

I am bound:Paul is under obligation. He saw his Greek culture and philosophies. He was bound to bring the gospel to them, to tell them. He has something more to give to them then they have now. He owes it to them because God has saved him, justified him by grace. In light of this vast blessing he owes it to the Greeks and barbarians to tell them. There is a sense in which we are bound to tell others. Do we feel under any obligation as Christians to tell others, to share your testimony? Let’s be like Paul. An obligation has been laid upon us by God.

I am eager: Paul is saying there is a readiness – go anywhere, do anything. There was a yearning, a burden for Paul. He was ready but God prevented him going at that time. Paul prepared to preach the gospel to people in Rome. We see that the people he wanted to go to were God’s people in Rome (Romans 1:7). Paul wanted to go to the difficult areas.  There is no greater privilege than telling the Lord’s people, in encouraging them. Paul was eager to come to them. Christians need to be preached to evangelically; we are not past the delight to be preached to.

I am not ashamed: This is  the very heart of being, it is based in the gospel. Paul is immeasurably and unspeakably proud of the gospel. There is an ironical statement here, a litotes (an ironic understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary). The gospel is the only news that can bring the hopeless any hope at all. We see the power of God, dunamis. We get the English words dynamic and dynamite from this word. Dynamite has a dual role; it has a destructive power and a constructive power, to knock down and to build up. What needs to be destroyed in the lives of men? Every barrier raised against the gospel in your heart. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can do that, there is no other philosophy. Then, when everything is being blown down, something begins to grow. The foundation that is laid – the gospel. The Word of God, the gospel, is the power of salvation to whoever believes.

Paul saw the gospel for everyone who believes, wherever you come from, whatever age. This gospel alone will bring you to God. As for our works, achievements, trying to work for salvation, God says ‘You’re bankrupt!’ Look to Him. When Christ died upon the cross He died for the unjust. He is our righteousness. Trust Him and He will clothe you with His righteousness. Where do you stand? Do you stand in righteousness before God right now? It is a righteousness from first to last. My righteousness is God made. It is from heaven. Nothing you and I can do can make us righteousness. “Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be in the right before God?” (Job 9:2) Be unspeakably proud of this gospel, bring it to men!

March 31st 2019: Chris Benbow

Chris Bembo-March19The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Luke 18:9-14

This is mind-bending! It’s confusing. It’s scandalous. The good guy, the model citizen does good things, goes to the good place, the temple, to pray. He does a good thing by praying. But, in fact, it’s not good. To God, it’s disgusting. It’s wrong. Then, the bad guy, not the guy you’d invite around to dinner, comes to God and it’s good. You see how this would have messed with the heads of the people who first heard this parable?

The issue here is righteousness. Who is righteous? Who is justified? At the end of our lives we will stand before God, the books will be opened, it will be time to find out who’s in and who’s out. Jesus teaches this parable to answer that.

The Pharisee – yeah! The tax collector – boo! Jesus sets up the extreme contrast. We ‘get’ this as we view from a New Testament perspective. However, in Jesus’ time the people didn’t see Pharisees as bad guys. They had unparalleled knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures. They were the pillar of society. They ‘fast twice a week and give a tenth of all’ they have (Luke 18:12). Fasting is going all day without food and devoting the day singularly to prayer, to God. The Pharisees also tithed, giving a tenth of all they had, giving God the first-fruits, the best of their income. From a religious standpoint, this Pharisee is a pretty good deal.

Then there’s the other guy – the tax collector. He would have been the scum of society. The Romans were a pagan empire who had slaughtered many and took taxes. Some of God’s people had joined the opposing team and bullied and intimidated the rest of God’s people, joining the foreign Romans. They would bankrupt people. They were socially and morally disgusting.

So, here they are, two people – the hero and the heathen, the Pharisee and the tax collector. They both came to the temple. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector (Luke 18:12). The tax collector wouldn’t even look up to heaven, ‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13). Jesus continues, ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’(Luke 18:14).

Why is the good guy not right with God and the supposed bad guy is?

Here we see displayed righteousness and received righteousness. There is a world of difference! Which one are we most like? Are we like the Pharisee, righteousness displayed? We are right and others are wrong. This could be shown in secular ways – being self-righteous., thinking we are better than others because we recycle, because we care for the environment. It could be we get in a car and think we’re a better driver than others. Maybe it’s a cause we support – we’re an activist, supporting an environmental cause or charity, thinking of ourselves as being better than others. This is self- righteousness displayed.

May be it is even worse, religious self-righteousness. The Lord asks, why should you be in glory? If your answer begins with ‘I’ you’re in big trouble, thinking it’s all to do with you. The Pharisee’s prayer has only one mention of God and four mentions of himself. It is all about him and what he’s done. Now he thinks he is righteous. And God says, ‘No, it’s not good enough.’ God is perfect, just perfect. So compared to Him, our best isn’t good enough, to God it is offensive. The Bible says no-one is righteous, no not one. No matter how good we think we are, our displayed righteousness is no good at all.

Received righteousness is beautiful. This is righteousness received as a gift from God. The tax collector knows what’s he is like, ‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13). He is essentially in mourning, grieving his sin. We’re in that boat too, we are all in that situation. The tax collector sees his sin as obvious. He can only utter, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13). He knew he was morally bankrupt. All that was left for him was to throw himself on the mercy of God. Mercy, God’s free gift, given through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

As Jesus tells this parable He knew what was going to happen. His naked, bloody body would be beaten, broken, hanging off a cross. It is only when you realise, this is it, this is the only way, that you realise your best is never good enough. The only thing we can do is hold our empty hands, say we have nothing to give and ask for His mercy. You will have His mercy. The price is paid. It’s done. Finished. This is the gift of righteousness. The only righteousness that is acceptable to God. If you haven’t put your trust in Jesus’ righteousness, come to Jesus and receive His grace. There is no other way. Throw yourself on God’s mercy and you will be saved.

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?