September 6th 2021: Bernard Lewis

Daniel 6:1-24

This is a message that is relevant for us all and a help to us in our Christian lives. This passage of scripture, Daniel in the Lion’s den, suffers from familiarity. We are going to see Daniel as an historic man, seeing the experience of his life. We will also see him as a fellow man, a fellow believer, like us, whom we can learn lessons from and help us to approach our life. Thirdly, we see Daniel as what theologians call a type of Christ. There is only one Christ but in the Old Testament we see pictures of Christ in well-known people, such as Joseph. We see Daniel as a type of Christ, as lone who did his people good and remained faithful in difficult situations.

1 Corinthians 11 tells us to, Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Be imitators of Daniel, as he was of Christ, as he was in preparation for Christ. David lived and prepared for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11). We see a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament and see Him there in the life of Daniel as he faced the trials and pressures of his life.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18). Both Peter and Paul are saying, ‘Look, I want you people to change and become more like the Lord Jesus Christ.’ I want to show you Daniel as a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, as an example of how we can live our lives in a hostile world.

We are shocked when trials come but we should not be surprised. Daniel was a man who knew real trials. The first thing I want to show you is Daniel and the Lord Jesus Christ were unique men (Daniel 6:3). Daniel had been in exile since his teenage years. Even as a teenager he stood out. Friends, our Lord Jesus Christ is a unique man. Daniel was different but he was tempted in all points, like we are, yet he stood against the crowd. The Lord Jesus Christ, even in his first sermon, taught with authority, and not as one of the Scribes or Pharisees. As Christians, we are to be different, we are to be unique, we are to stand out from the crowd.

Daniel, in verses 4 and 5, is described as faultless. “He was faithful and no error or fault was found in him.” We see what made Daniel unique. Although, now in his seventies, he has remained faithful to his God. He has remained a prayerful man, a faithful servant of Babylon, the Medes and Persians. Some Christians give the impression we should stand out against the government of our land. Daniel is a refugee, yet he remains faithful to his God and to his earthly rulers. (Hebrew 4). The same thing is true of our Lord Jesus Christ. He Himself said, as people accused Him, “What is it you accuse me of? Who can actually charge me with sin?

For us, this may seem a very high bar. How can we, who are born in sin and shameful iniquity, holy people, be faultless? We can’t. Sin dwells within us. But God says to each of us as Christians, “Be holy, even as I am holy.” I don’t believe that we, as evangelicals, preach this enough. We preach the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are saved entirely by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, not works, lest any man should boast. It is the gift of God. Friends, I want to do nothing to undermine the fact that we are saved completely, utterly, and entirely by the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the same Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” We are to be holy people.

Daniel was an opposed man. He was unique, he was faultless, but people didn’t like it. Daniel and the Lord Jesus Christ both had an effect on people that may seem strange. In the world we have different parties which are opposed to each other. In verses 6-7 we read, “O these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den.” (Daniel 6:6-7).

The people, because of the reality of human nature, were opposed to each other. When someone gains promotion, others want to cut them down (known as ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome in Australia). We find the same thing in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Jewish leaders came together, with the authority of Rome, to cut down the Lord Jesus Christ. Daniel knew exactly the same thing. Have you ever known that experience in life? You are doing all you can to help people and even though you’re giving yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ, people want to cut you down.

David was an orderly man, “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” (Daniel 6:10). The law of the country had changed. It didn’t ruffle him one iota. Our Lord Jesus Christ was exactly the same. In Luke 4 we see He went to the synagogue, as was his custom. He had a pattern to His life because it would give Him time in God’s presence. David had a pattern to his life. Three times a day he turned to Jerusalem to pray. He was an exile. He was looking not simply to Jerusalem but to the God of Jerusalem. He had not forgotten the covenant promise of God.

Notice how David prayed. He got down on his knees. I’ve never placed a lot of emphasis on my position in prayer. But it is interesting to look at David, and also the apostles in Acts 9, the Lord Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane on His knees, humbled in the presence of God. I’m not going to tell you how to pray, but do you see the order, the discipline?

David was a humiliated man. Notice how Daniel is described, “Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” (Daniel 6:13). What a disgrace. This man, like Joseph in Egypt, who had done so much for the Babylonians and the Medes, is described as ‘an exile,’ a refugee, an asylum seeker. This man was used of God

Jesus Himself was humiliated. There were times when Jesus could do no miracles in His own land. But friends, let me take you to Calvary, through the prophet Isaiah, He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” (Isaiah 53:3) The Lord Jesus Christ, the King of glory, the man who, on two occasions, had heaven opened up and the glory of heaven revealed as God spoke and said, ‘This is My Son.’ He was despised and rejected. Friends, it hurts when people turn round and say, ‘Holy Joe,’ ‘Do-Gooder.’ We will be humiliated if we follow the Lord Jesus Christ. People will look down their noses at us.

David was a buried man, in the hope that he would never rise again. A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.” (Daniel 6:17). In reality, the lion’s den was the grave of the victims; no-one came out alive (Daniel 6:24). The Lord Jesus Christ, when He was buried, His opponents wanted an assignment of soldiers to guard the tomb. The authority of Rome was given to Jewish leaders and they sealed the tomb. David, like the Lord Jesus Christ, was buried in the hope they would never rise.

The king goes back to the tomb the following morning and he asks, ‘Are you ok?’ “Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.” (Daniel 6:21-22). God sent an angel to close the mouth of the lion. He didn’t take Daniel out of the den. Remember, in the Garden of Gethsemane an angel came and comforted Jesus. On Resurrection morning an angel came and tolled away the stone. Sadly, as Christians, we have no real sense of the spiritual world around us. Friends, we live in two worlds – the physical and the spiritual world. There are angels that God uses according to His purpose.

The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” (Daniel 6:23). Nothing had happened to Daniel. But I want to take you to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. I want to take you to the Upper Room a week later. That week later, after Jesus had risen from the dead, He held out His hands and He said, ‘Behold My Hands. Behold My side.’ Daniel was buried but he rose unharmed. Jesus was buried and the only scars that will be seen in heaven are the scars that bore your sin and my sin.

David was an ascended man. The Lord Jesus ascended, “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” (Acts 1:9). Revelation tells us, “At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.” (Revelation 4:2-3).

Friends, today we worship a crucified, risen, ascended, glorified Saviour. Why? Because He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Friends, do you know Him? Do you love Him? Is He your Saviour? Has He gone to the cross, the grave, in your place? Many of you have nodded, saying ‘Yes, you do know Him.’ Are you walking in His ways? Are you prepared to be different? Are you prepared to be holy? Are you prepared to let God give a new order to your life? Can you cope with the humiliation? Are you prepared to be buried in order that one day you will be raised and enjoy eternity with Him? We used to sing, ‘Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone.’ Will you stand alone with your God?

August 20th 2017: Dave Norbury

John 20: 19-32

Dave-Norbury-Aug 20th 2017The Guardian states that 20,000 messages a day hit us – via email, television, radio etc. They have one single message in terms of spiritual life, ‘We live in a one floored bungalow, there is no heaven and no hell. God keep out.’ Therefore, it is not unusual that there are times when we begin to doubt. Here, in John chapter 20, we have Thomas, always associated as ‘The Doubter.’ We are labelled by the things we can’t do. This is very sad. Doubt is something we all get. Thomas had serious doubts, ‘So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hands into His side, I will never believe.”’ (John 20:25). The truth be known, the disciples had doubts. There are at least three times in the book of Luke when Jesus said He would rise on the third day, yet none of them were reminded of this or understood it. Sometimes we doubt God can get us through difficult situations. Doubt can riddle us, it is real.

Doubt is a leap of faith into something else. Many doubt God’s existence when so many people say there is no God. If you don’t believe there is a God, you believe in something else. If there is no God there is no purpose in life – ultimately you become dust and that’s the end of it. We ought to help people explore what they do believe in.  

What happened to Thomas? ‘On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.’ (John 20:19-20). The disciples were in fear of the Jews. The Bible is honest about it. God understands. However, they were glad when they saw Jesus. If Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, then the truth of Christianity is real. Christ died for our sins and rose again. We have a risen Saviour!

Thomas was not with the disciples. We do not know why he wasn’t there. The disciples tell him they have seen the risen Jesus. Then Thomas makes the remarkable statement, “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hands into His side, I will never believe.”’ (John 20:25). Thomas expresses his doubt in a very clear way. How would you react to that? The Lord Jesus did not condemn Mary, Peter and John for their doubts. If we have doubts, Jesus doesn’t condemn us, He wants to help us. That’s exactly what He did with Thomas. The disciples were with Thomas for eight day, yet he did not believe them. They may have been frustrated with Thomas. Isn’t God wonderful to give us the example of Thomas? When Jesus came, He didn’t say ‘Thomas, I’ve been waiting for you for eight days!” No, He said, ‘Peace be with you.’ The Lord Jesus is full of grace – kindness we don’t deserve. Then He went straight into the problem, giving Thomas the evidence he wanted, ‘Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”’ (John 20: 27).

The greatest blessings are in the valleys, the storms of life. Jesus gives Thomas all the evidence he needs. ‘Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). This is the greatest statement anyone can ever make. Thomas is a wonderful example of what the Bible is written for – whatever difficulties you are facing, go to His Word, meet Him personally in His Word. Absorb God’s Word day and night. ‘Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delights is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”’ (Psalm 1:1-2).

Listen to the voice of God, not the messages around you. He will meet you in your doubts, He will strengthen you. Trust Him, He will make you safe. (Psalm 3).  

Anniversary Service: August 7th 2017: Dave Norbury

Dave Norbury - Aug 2017John 20

We have a gospel and a faith, which to some extent is under attack. There are groups of people in the U.K. who would say our faith is a blind faith with no evidence. I beg to differ.

Our faith is rooted in history. There is objective evidence to what we believe. Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again. We have solid, reliable evidence on which our faith is built.

‘Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.’ (John 20:1). Here we have the reality. Mary Magdalene was a wonderful lady who loved the Lord deeply. Mary had watched the unjust trial and was with Jesus every moment of His awful suffering. She had suffered the trauma of seeing Jesus crucified, losing the one she loved most. She turned up at the tomb and found His body had gone. The stone was taken away to reveal an empty tomb. ‘While it was still dark’ tells us Mary Magdalene had not had much sleep.

Jesus had told his disciples repeatedly that He would die and rise on the third day:

‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’ (Luke 9:22).

‘And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.’” (Luke 13:32).

‘For He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging Him, they will kill Him, and on the third day He will rise.” (Luke 18:32-33).

This is pretty clear. It was the third day yet nobody thought, they didn’t believe Jesus would rise from the dead . . . Yet they came to believe. Why? The Bible tells us the disciples saw Him a number of times. They ate with Him, they touched Him. 500 people saw Him at one time.

Some people say they made it up. Let’s examine this. If you were to make it up, the last person you would say Jesus would meet would be a woman. Women in those days were not seen as reliable witnesses and were not even allowed to give evidence in court. Mary Magdalene was the first person to see Jesus, even though she was of low status.

‘Then the other disciples, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead.’ (John 20:8-9). Did Jesus show Himself first to Peter and John as a risen Saviour? No, He showed Himself to Mary Magdalene. What an amazing, wonderful Saviour we have. He broke the cultural norms.

This is powerful, clear evidence, therefore the resurrection happened, then everything is OK. Jesus is really who He says He is. It is really true.

We have a faith that rests in the risen Jesus Christ. ‘But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.’ (John 20:11). Notice the wonderful way John opens this truth to us. Mary Magdalene had been through a terrible trauma. Jesus had gone. She saw two angels in front of her, ‘And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain,’ (John 20:12). She saw Jesus but did not know it was Him, ‘She turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.’ She had two angels in front of her and Jesus behind her. When we’re overwhelmed, remember there are two angels before you and the Lord behind you. You are not alone. Mary Magdalene finally understood when she heard her name being spoken by Jesus. If you could hear Him today, He would be saying your name tenderly. Mary Magdalene then clung to Him as she put her arms around Him, but , ‘Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ (John 20:17).

Our faith experiences God Himself. This is not just objective, it is subjective. You and I, with all our sin, can be forgiven and experience God Himself. Mary held onto Jesus, but Jesus said not to hold on to Him. There are different interpretations of this. In my view you don’t need to hold on to Jesus now because He has ascended. We now have the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is a greater experience than holding onto Jesus personally. The Holy Spirit is with us.

Have you known the touch of God on your life? Have you received a glimpse of His glory? There’s a personal, close experience you can know. You and I do not have blind faith. Our faith is rooted in history, it’s a faith that rests in the risen Jesus Christ. He comes to us in His Holy Spirit. He is known to us in a personal, subjective way. Our faith experiences God Himself.