January 6th 2019: Gareth Edwards

gareth edwards-jan19Exodus 20:1-2

The Ten Commandments

In Psalm 19:7-11, David underlines the importance and splendour of God’s law; it is a thing of rare perfection and beauty as it reflects the majesty and beauty of God. The law brings many benefits to those who follow them. At the very heart of the law of God stands the Ten Commandments.

The opening two verses of Exodus 20 set the context for the giving of those Ten Commandments. At the very beginning of the chapter the authority and power of the law is revealed; the Ten Commandments are given directly by God. God spoke. God Himself inscribes the Ten Commandments on two tablets of stone given to Moses. God did not speak through an intermediary. Deuteronomy 5:22. God spoke and then wrote them on two stone tablets. God directly gave the law, thus giving them the authority of God’s sovereignty. They carry the full weight of divine power. Each and every Command bears the mark of divine power. The Commands of God have been given and need full obedience.

Some suggest the commands were only meant for Moses’ day and are not applicable in our modern Western world, but they are permanent, for all mankind. God literally set them in stone. They are fundamental, even today. God did not give us ten suggestions but Ten Commandments. We must not to treat them as optional. Our Creator has enforced them. We ignore them at our peril! They demand full compliance, total obedience. Any failure is a rejection of not just the Law but of God Himself. We cannot have a relationship with God and refuse to obey His commands. We cannot pick and choose between the Commandments, accepting some and rejecting others. The Ten Commandments are a single unit, each as binding as the others. We are bound by them all.

God spoke these Commandments. Why? Did God really expect people to keep these Commandments without transgressing them? God knows, by nature, we are sinful, disobedient; it’s our natural inclination of our hearts. Exodus 20:20 causes men to think and restrain themselves from doing evil in His sight. His purpose is to reveal the holy standard of perfection which God demands from man, which he cannot reach. In Galatians 3 Paul tells us how the law was given to highlight man’s sinfulness; there is no hope of earning Salvation. Paul adds that since the promised Saviour has now come, the law continues to act as a teacher (Galatians 3:24).

God’s purpose in speaking the Ten Commandments is both to encourage men to do right, but more importantly, that they are incapable of meeting the standards and need Jesus Christ. Whenever we come before the Ten Commandments we must be convicted that we have broken every single one in thought, if not in action. For example, the seed of animosity and hatred that leads to murder is in my heart and yours. The Law looms over us as a great obstacle in reaching God. The Law convicts us of our sin. It reveals to us that in God’s sight we are rebellious and we are, therefore, cut off from God – under God’s curse of judgement. But then, at this low point, the gospel comes and points us to Christ and His death on the cross.

Christ offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sin, bearing in His body the wrath of God against us. (Galatians 3:13). His precious blood poured out as the sacrifice for our sin. For my sin He suffered so. Here is the hope of salvation. The Law exposes all of our pretentious belief that we might be good enough. The Law reveals that we are without hope, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The gospel comes. Through His perfect life and sacrificial death, the purity of His life is credited to us. He accepts the responsibility of your sin and mine. We are clothed in His righteousness. He pays the penalty of our breaking the Law. He demolishes the obstacle of the Law, separating us from God. The curtain that separated the Holy of Holies split into two, the very way into the presence of God is now open to all who trust in Christ for forgiveness of sins.

We’ve been saved, freed from the curse of the law. But we’ve not been freed from the law in our daily lives. ‘Do not think that I came to destroy the Law of the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil’ (Matthew 5:17). Christ did not come to make the Law unnecessary but to change people’s relationship to God.

Before being a Christian, the Law is a great barrier to approaching God. But when someone becomes a Christian, by God’s grace, the same law becomes an internal standard of holiness. The believer delights in endeavouring to keep the Law. The Law becomes a thing of delight to our souls because now our desire is to please God, God who created us but God who is also our Saviour (Jeremiah 31:33). There is a change of relationship; the Law is no longer a threatening force that condemns but an external delight that we might know Him. The keeping of the Law is to our benefit.

The Jewish order of the commandments includes Exodus 20:1-2 as the first commandment, seeing it as integral. Here is the God who, in His loving mercy, brought the Jews out of slavery. He is now instructing them how they should live so that it might go well with them (Deuteronomy 6:1-3). When a person becomes a Christian, the Law becomes a delight and a source of blessing. God has changed us and so it remains important to us to obey the Ten Commandments – not as a means of gaining or strengthening salvation – rather as the duty of love that we delight to do, as the expression of our thanksgiving for His grace.

It’s to our spiritual and physical good that we endeavour to keep the Law. We are greatly blessed in knowing that the Lord is pleased when we keep His Law. He is the God who is faithful. We can no longer be condemned by the Law, it can no longer put us in that place where we are objects of God’s wrath. But the breaking of the Law brings consequences. To be disobedient to God always has consequences. There are always sorrows and sadness when people break God’s Laws. Christians are not immune to that. Our walk with the Lord will be disturbed if we break the Commands. We will not lose our salvation but we can lose the joy of our salvation. If we show a disregard for God, the sacrifice of Christ, as if it has no great value, if we persist in sinful disobedience, we will still break the commands because there is no perfection in our lives. That’s why we continue to rely on God’s atoning sacrifice. But now that we are citizens of God, it’s become our delight to keep it as we are no longer under its terrifying condemnation. The Law is given to us to keep as we desire to please Him and as we delight in knowing His good pleasure in us. The Law will also destroy all hope in men earning their own salvation. We need to rely on the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary.

God has used the Law in your life and mine to point us to the cross. In Christ alone my hope is found. He alone is my Saviour and in Him I have eternal life.

October 28th 2018: Paul David

Paul David - April 18For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 
John 3:16

The whole gospel is encapsulated in this one sentence. Our Lord here is speaking to Nicodemus, teaching him about being born again. He has demonstrated His qualification to speak on this topic. His death will allow people to be save.

God: We believe in one God who is a Trinity of three persons; something which is way beyond our comprehension. God is all powerful, infinitely holy and just. The word God can be used to refer to one of the Trinity or the Trinity. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1). The Word is our Lord Jesus Christ. The verse tells us He was with God and was God. God in John 3:16 refers to God the Father. More than that, it is God the Father who sends the Son, the Saviour of the world. God is high and lifted up, His ways are not our ways. He is set apart. He has no sin. Evil is abhorrent to God the Father. Yet, He loved the world.

Love: When we read this verse we can stand in awe and amazement. Love always seeks the good. ‘God so loved the world For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.’ The tense of the word shows God’s love stretched from eternity. It is love set upon those who did not deserve it, a sacrificial love. Here our thoughts are directed to the Father who sent His only begotten Son. ‘Believe me that I am the Father and the Father is in Me.’ (John 14:11). There is no closer relationship, yet the Father sent His Son into the world to suffer, to have His wrath poured out on Him. When our Lord was on the cross, He diverted God’s anger against us. We can’t imagine the grief of the Father.

Who or what did God love? The world. The world can have a number of different meanings in scripture. Here it refers to humans, the race who denied His existence, who rebelled (Romans 3:10-19).

Perish: The world is in danger of perishing, of suffering everlasting punishment. God demonstrated His utmost mercy to us when He sent His Son into the world. The light has come into the world yet men love darkness not light. If we reject that offer of salvation we can expect nothing but condemnation (1 Thessalonians, Matthew 13, Mark 9). Hell is to be avoided at all cost.

Eternal life: Sharing fellowship with God, knowing peace which can be received now. It’s the possession of the believer here and now, and for eternity. Heaven (John 14, Luke 23, Revelation 21, 1 Peter 1, 1 Corinthians 2, Matthew 13, Psalm 73). Heaven is paradise, better than we are capable of imagining. There is no pain, no sorrow, no insecurity. What a contrast between perishing and having eternal life. Eternal life is for those who believe in the Son of God (John 14, Acts 4). There is no other way.

World: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ This demonstrates God’s love towards humanity. God offers you eternal life if you believe in the Son. (2 Peter 3). God’s special love in salvation is reserved for those who will accept the Son as their Lord. The only real division in this world is the ‘who-evers’ and the ‘not-evers.’ When the Lord Jesus Christ was sent by His Father He came willingly. He became human and was perfectly obedient to God’s law. He was and is perfect in everything. He knew joy, sadness and disappointment. He took that perfect, obedient life and gave it as a sacrifice on the cross. Those who are deserving of hell can be lifted up to heaven.

To believe I the Lord Jesus Christ is to completely put your trust in Jesus and turn away from sin, to repent. It is to turn from darkness towards the light. It is not to be undertaken lightly. It will change your life – what you do with your leisure, your relationship with family. Now is the day of salvation. Today, if you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

May 8th 2018: Mike Viccary

Mike Viccary-May18We just don’t want to know Jesus, but for others to know Him too. In Isaiah 58 we read that Jesus came and gave His life for a ransom for many. The Church as a whole represent Christ and preaches the message of salvation.

Jonah 2:9 “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”

At the end of Jonah’s prayer there are three essential components:
            1.         What do we mean by salvation?
            2.         To consider what ‘of the Lord’ means
            3.         Salvation comes from the Lord.

  1. The Nature of Salvation
    1. Jonah 1:7 The mariners only call out to God when things get terrible; there was such a devastating storm. Often, we do not call out to salvation until difficult things happen.
  2. The mariners had no way of delivering themselves. They tried to save Jonah from his fate but they couldn’t. There’s no way you can save yourself.
  3. Jonah 2:5 In order to come to the Lord you really need you really need to jettison the world, discount any rescue that comes from the world.
  4. Salvation would only come to them through Jonah the prophet. They could not do anything except what Jonah asked them to do. The mariners’ lives were dramatically changed, they suddenly became the Lord’s people.
  5. The mariners needed a sacrifice. The storm became calm when Jonah was thrown into the sea.
  6. Salvation came to the mariners when death came. They had to throw Jonah aboard (Jonah 1:14). Jonah wasn’t innocent, he was guilty of not following God.
  7. God makes good things come out of evil. God is remarkable in that He even uses our sin. He is not distracted by our sin.

What do we learn from the story of Jonah?
1.   He confesses his condition (Jonah 2:2-4). This is historical fact. Jesus refers to it. Jonah realised he was guilty, effectively dead. He didn’t actually die although he nearly met his death. He realised he was spiritually dead. Without Christ we are dead. We sin, do what we want, cut off from God.
2.   He calls out to the Lord in prayer. That’s what we need to do (Genesis 4).
3.   All of us are idolaters who pursue ungodly things. We must throw those things away. The mariners threw everything overboard, we must forsake everything.
4.   God is sovereign. It wasn’t actually the mariners who threw Jonah into the sea, it was God. Jonah realised God was sovereign over all the things in his life. He is in charge.
5.   Jonah expresses great confidence in God because He is the only one who can save (Jonah 2:1). Salvation comes to those who recognise they are dead, and seek to trust only what God can do.
6. Salvation includes resurrection (Jonah 2:6).
7. Deliverance can only come from the word of God (Jonah 2:7). God spoke to the fish. Salvation comes at a word – at a word you can be forgiven.

What do we know about the Ninevites?
1.   Jonah 1:2 God knows our deepest thoughts, our sins. Judgement was about to fall on the Ninevites.

2.   Salvation must come from the word of the Lord preached. Salvation came because Jesus came into the world.
3.   You need to believe in the one the Father sent, you will have life.
4.   There’s a deep reliance on God alone.
5.   The removal of God’s anger (Jonah 3:6). God is holy, He must judge sin. When He sees people repenting, judgement must fall, it fell on Jesus.
6.   Jonah confesses.
7.   God shows Jonah He is a compassionate God.

Salvation is a sovereign act of God. It requires deep repentance and turning, an earnest heart that says, ‘I must attend to this.’ Believe God is true. Turn to Him, change. Salvation requires death, to die to self, to take up your cross and disown what this world has offered you.

  1. Salvation is of God.

He is not only duty bound to save anyone (Romans 9). It is God’s gift to give or not to give salvation. God is holy, God is good, God is righteous. Salvation is ‘of the Lord.’ It’s His.

  1. Salvation comes from the Lord.

Salvation comes through the precious blood of Christ. There is nothing more important. Salvation, Paul says, is Christ Himself (1 Peter 2:4). We come to Him, chosen by God, and precious. God will give or not give salvation as He determines.

Salvation is of the Lord. Before even the world was made, the Lord Jesus Christ was ready and willing to be the Lamb slain. The Lord promises the gospel in Genesis 3.

If you’ve been saved, you’ve been saved that others might be blessed. Christ came into the world to save sinners. He is right here this moment. If you’ve never turned to Him, come. God’s heart and mind is to come to you and say. ‘Take hold of me.’ God is close.

God is extravagant (Psalm 18). How many times have you been rescued from tricky situations, even situations you don’t know of? That’s grace. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of God. Right from the dawn of creation He offered salvation.

Salvation of God is everlasting. Hunger after God. Psalm 119:41. It’s through hearing the scriptures that Salvation comes.

February 11th 2018: Dave Evans

Dave Evans -Feb 18Philippians 1:27 – 2:15

There is something special about the Christian life, the way we’re called to behave. This passage is broken into various exaltations:

1:27   ‘Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel.’                  2:4      ‘Let each of you look not only to his own interests.’
2:12    ‘Work out your own salvation.’
2:14    ‘Do all things without grumbling or disputing.’

In the very centre of the whole section the Apostle sets before us the very foundation of why we should behave in this way, ‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 2:5). Paul is pointing us to the Lord, our Saviour, and His behaviour. Paul reminds us that our Christian life isn’t something that’s simply outward. Our thoughts and actions work themselves out in our outward behaviour.

In verses 5-8 we read of our great example. We must always be clear that the gospel in not just simply Jesus as our example, it is clear the gospel begins with the Lord Jesus Christ as the Saviour of sinners, ‘She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ (Matthew 1:21). Until we have committed ourselves to Him for forgiveness He can never be an example to us. But having become Christians, knowing the forgiveness of sinners, Jesus then becomes the supreme example of behaviour. His mindset is to be our mindset, our foundational attitude, our whole approach to the Christian life.

Verses 6-11. What do we see of the mind of Christ in these verses? Our Lord’s humility, His amazing self-denial, is exhibited in these verses. Firstly, in verse 6, ‘He was in the form of God.’ We see the great, permanent, unchanging nature of Jesus. Paul is saying the Lord Jesus Christ has always been in the form of God, that He is divine in every way, the co-equality of our Saviour.

It’s only when we realise how high He is we realise the depth of His humility. Equality with God was His by right but He did not cling to it, He made Himself of no reputation. When the plan of salvation was made in eternity, He took the form of a servant and came in the likeness of man. It’s staggering! The Lord of glory should become a man, a God-Man, who walked among the people of this earth. He came to be born as a bond servant – born in a stable into a humble life. This is no other than the Lord of glory! The Lord Jesus Christ, though He became a man, did not cease to become God (verse 8). He set aside so much of what was His by right yet He was ever God.

What did He give up? In heaven Jesus had no guilt, no burden of sin, but in becoming the God-Man He took upon Himself the burden of guilt. He gave up the riches which were His. His outward earthly life reflected the depths to which He humbled Himself. He was dependent on friends and disciples to give Him a place to sleep. He remained truly divine, became a servant so that our salvation might be possible. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death on the cross.

It’s a staggering thought that the gospel takes the Lord of glory to the cross to die an agonising death in our place. The cross was horrific, a death reserved for slaves, rebels, the most  vile of criminals. It was the cruellest of deaths at that time. No Roman would talk about it, such was the horror. Our Saviour’s sufferings go deeper; He not only suffered physically but also He suffered God’s judgement. In those three hours of darkness God poured out His wrath on His Son. He bore all that, humbled Himself so that we might be forgiven. Have we come to realise for ourselves what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for lost sinners? Do you see He died for you sin so we could escape the awfulness of Hell and judgement?

The promise of Scripture is all who come to Him will be saved. This humility is our example, our standard. That’s a staggering thought for us. If Christ could humble Himself in such a way, how willing must we be as believers to humble ourselves in our Christian walk, that we exhibit the humility of Christ in our life? Loot to the Lord Jesus Christ, the great standard. May we be those that follow His example and glorify Him.

January 14th 2018: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards-Jan18

Exodus 12:14-28: ‘Remember, Remember.’

It’s because we are so forgetful that God reminds us: Nehemiah 4:14, 2 Timothy 2:8, Ecclesiastes 12:1, Isaiah 46;9 are all calls to remember. One of the things God wanted Israel to remember was the exodus from Egypt, how God delivered them from captivity in Egypt. Even before it actually happened, God commanded the Israelites to annually observe the feast. Later, entire Psalms would be written to remind them of their bondage e.g. Psalms 78 and 106.

Most of all, the remembrance was to be a twin feast: Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Three times in this passage God tells Moses this was to be an annual feast. They were never to forget the salvation God had given them. Jesus gave us a remembrance feast when he celebrated the Passover feast. Every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we do so in response to the Lord’s command, “Do this in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:24). The Israelites sacrificed with the death of a lamb. Jesus inaugurated a new feast in remembrance of His death – as the Lamb of God. Sinners are saved by the broken body and shed blood of Christ. We must never forget the salvation God has given us.

What were the Israelites to remember? Salvation from sin. God had delivered them from the land of Egypt out of bondage where they had been slaves for 400 years. As they celebrated the Passover Feast they were to eat bitter herbs – a reminder of the bitter experience in Egypt. The unleavened bread was used to show they were leaving in a hurry, to remind them they fled from Egypt. Most importantly was the slaughter of the lamb, the blood sprinkled on door posts and lintels (Exodus 12:22). The final plague of 10 causes Pharaoh, at long last, to release the Israelites. When they celebrated Passover they commemorated their deliverance. The lamb was a sacrifice – deliverance from sin.

Passover was not just deliverance but also propitiation – God’s just anger turned away because of the penalty of that sin, death, had been paid by another. Passover was a double blessing: deliverance and propitiation. We are reminded that we are all sinners and all face the wrath of God. The destroyer who came to Egypt that night lays claim to us – there is no one righteousness, no, not one. All are under the sentence of death. We are in bondage to sin and we face the wrath of God because of that sin. But a sacrifice has been made through the shedding of the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are delivered from bondage to sin and saved from the condemnation it brings. We are saved from the power and guilt of sin. As we partake of the bread and wine we remember that God, in His love and mercy, sent His only begotten Son to break sin’s bondage, to turn away the holy, just wrath of God against us, that we may know forgiveness and blessings of eternal life.

We are saved for sanctification in order to be holy. Passover was followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread which lasts for a full week. There were strict instructions. The Israelites were not to eat anything with yeast. Yeast was a symbol of the corrupting power of sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). When the Israelites ate the unleavened bread they were reminded of the need to keep themselves pure, clean. God wanted more than to just get His people out of Egypt, He wanted Egypt out of them. He was saving them to holiness. During the Feast of Unleavened Bread every trace of leavened dough was to be removed. People would sweep their houses to make sure there was no leavened dough at all in the house. In spiritual terms the Israelites were not to bring with them any corrupting influences of Egypt.

What are we to remember as we come to the bread and wine? We are sinners saved by grace. We have been saved for a purpose. We are not meant to carry on sinning. Romans 6. God’s purpose in bringing salvation is to save. The power of sin has been broken. You have been freed from the power and penalty of sin. God wants us to remember we are sanctified. He calls us to be holy. Even a small sin is dangerous. Like yeast, it wants to spread. God has a zero tolerance when it comes to sin. God delivered us from bondage to rid ourselves of sin, not to indulge it.

We are saved to obedient working. Israel bowed its head in humble adoration (Exodus 12:27). They worshipped God and praised Him for the deliverance they were about to experience (Exodus 12:28). The theme of the whole book of Exodus is obedient worship. God saved His people for His glory so they would obediently serve Him. This worship and obedience proceeded their deliverance – it’s before the deliverance takes place. Prior to the exodus they give obedient worship as they trust in God.

We trust and obey God, the God of covenant faith who keeps His promises. The experience of the fullness of our salvation we will only now in heaven. Bring saved to be sanctified, we should do whatever God tells us to do with willing hearts. Submit to the lordship of the Saviour.

The Christian life consists of many things but essentially two things: getting down on our knees to worship God and getting up on our feet to worship Him.

Remember, remember. As we partake of the bread and wine we remember we are sinners, but praise God, a Lamb has been sacrificed and the blood shed at Calvary. We are delivered from the power of sin and saved from the wrath of God against sin. We are blessed beyond all imagination. We are saved to live lives to the glory of God, turning away from sin. We do that because our lives are now taken up with the obedient worship of God. Give Him all the glory, all the honour and all the praise!

 

 

The Light of the World has Come

 

christmas-clipart-religious-2

When I think about Christmas, I realise that I came into the world having nothing to do with my birth. I showed up without planning it. When Jesus came into the world it was the most dangerous mission ever undertaken by a Baby. He came knowing the battles He would face and knowing the ultimate end of His life on earth would be a week like no other in human history. He came to live, die and be raised to life again in the greatest drama mankind has ever seen.

Rome was a corrupt government morally and spiritually; its sins were shamelessly committed for all to see. The death of innocents in the Coliseum was a major form of entertainment. Its emperors wanted to be worshipped and their gods were evil creations. Rome spread the darkness of paganism in every place that they had influence.

Herod, was an infamous madman and was made king by the Roman Senate, which proclaimed him “King of Judea.” Once in power, he immediately killed forty-five of the wealthiest citizens and confiscated their property for his own use. He was incurably ill, nearly 70-years-old, and insane in Matthew chapter 2 when the Magi came looking for Jesus. While the killing of all the male babies in Bethlehem under two years of age shocks us, it was typical of Herod. He had slaughtered his sons and executed his favourite wife, Mariamne. Even the good guys, the religious Pharisees, would be enemies of Jesus. His message would unsettle and irritate them until they would finally conspire and bring about His execution in the most agonising way possible – crucifixion.

The world was dark when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, amongst the immoral Romans, heinous Herod and self-important religious leaders, it wasn’t a place we would have chosen to enter. Yet, Jesus came into that world voluntarily.

Luke2.11.jpg

It was a wicked world that received the Baby in Bethlehem; but because of His willingness to enter our darkness, the angels were able to announce: “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Christmas means that God was willing to come into a dark place and bring the light of salvation and because of Him, salvation is available to all of us.

            Robert Robinson was an English clergyman who lived in the 18th century. Not only was he a gifted pastor and preacher, he was also a highly gifted poet and hymn writer. However, after many years in the pastorate his faith began to diminish. He left the ministry and moved to Paris where he indulged in an ungodly lifestyle.

            One night he was riding in a carriage with a Parisian socialite who had recently been converted to Christ. She was interested in his opinion on some poetry she was reading:

“Come thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace,
Streams of mercy never failing,
Call for hymns of loudest praise.”

When she looked up from her reading, the socialite noticed Robinson was crying. “What do I think of it?” he asked in a broken voice. “I wrote it. But now I’ve drifted away from him and can’t find my way back.”

            “But don’t you see?” the woman said gently, “The way back is written right here in the third line of your poem: ‘Streams of mercy never failing.’ Those streams are flowing even here in Paris tonight.” That night Robinson recommitted his life to Christ.

            For the wanderers like Robinson, for the religious like Nicodemus the Pharisee, for the Roman collaborators like Matthew the tax collector, and for all of us, salvation has come. Jesus has entered our unlit world to bring the light of salvation to everyone who will believe. This can be the most wonderful Christmas ever for those who realise that “streams of mercy” are still flowing because of that first Christmas.

September 3rd 2017: Norman Rees

Norman Rees-Sept 17II Kings 6:1-7

Elisha was a great man of God. Jesus refers to him in the New Testament. Elisha was used by God, he had a mighty portion of God’s Spirit resting on him. He was a teacher of students. They lived in Gilga, an important place in the Bible. This was where Joshua camped, it was where men were circumcised, where Samuel preached. There was a college in Gilga where Elisha taught the students. They sat at his feet and learnt from Elisha. Elisha loved the Lord. God used him greatly. The students were greatly blessed and grew in number. As they increased, they asked Elisha if they could move and build a bigger place.


They suggested to Elisha that they moved to the Jordan and live there. They would have water (there was a drought in Gilga), and they could expand the work and live for God, then go out themselves as prophets. The young men wanted the counsel of Elisha and asked him if they could go. He said yes, but they wanted him to go with them, ‘Then one said, “Please consent to go with your servants.”’ (II Kings 6:3). They were keen for Elisha to go with them so they could learn more from him. So Elisha moved with them from Gilga, walking 35 miles to the Jordan across rough terrain to serve the Lord.

The students cut down trees to make booths. They used axes. They were poor. One of the students did not have an axe but he wanted to join in, so he borrowed an axe. However, as he hammered away at a tree the iron axe-head flew off into the water and sank. Panic set in. The River Jordan is a fast flowing river, there was no chance of rescuing the axe-head. Yet the young man was conscious that he was responsible and needed to make good, he knew he had to pay back what he had lost. He was distressed he had lost something belonging to someone else. He was poor. God chooses poor people. We should be ready to serve Him.

The young man was part of a team – he didn’t want to let the team down. We need to be careful of the way we act. The man cried out to his Elisha, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” (II Kings 6:5). He went to Elisha, to the right place, to the man of God. We believe God is sovereign. We may pray in the morning, ‘I’m in your hands Lord, whatever happens today is in your control.’ God is involved in all situations, even when things don’t go our way. God sends these things that can affect our reaction. We have a conscience to admit when we’re wrong. The Lord allows these things to test us. What is important is how we react. The student went to his master, Elisha. We go to a greater Master, Christ. People view our reactions, they should see Christ in us.

Elisha was concerned for the young man. He asked, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float.’ (II Kings 6:6). Elisha did not tell the young man off. When things in our life go wrong, Jesus asks us to tell Him about it. He knows our situation, He knows our thoughts.

Elisha lived close to God and knew the Lord. The student showed him where the axe-head fell. Elisha then threw a stick into the water and the iron axe-head floated to the surface of the water. A miracle was worked by God through Elisha. God made gravity, God can overcome gravity – as He did when Jesus ascended into heaven. God can make the impossible possible. The situation was hopeless to humans but not to God.

We pray for the axe-heads, sinners sunk in sin. Every one of us is born in sin. We pray for people, maybe for many years, who have sunken iron hearts, sunken in sin. What is your axe-head this morning? God is the God of the impossible, the God of grace, the God of Salvation. God will bring an end to the Devil, an end to sin. Christ can save you, He saved me, He can save anyone. Elisha is no longer on the earth, he’s in heaven, but his God is still here on earth.

Whatever give us anxieties, take it to God. God is a God of the impossible. He will deliver. Be sure to glorify Him and praise Him. Praise Him more.

August 27th 2017: Ian Middlemist

Ian-Aug 27th 2017Romans 5:12-21

Israel has two main bodies of water – in the North is the Sea of Galilee, 13 miles long, 7 ½ miles wide, a well-known fishing area with 22 sorts of fish, as well as lush vegetation on the side and a beautiful, fruitful shore. It is a beautiful body of water. In contrast, 60 miles south lies the Dead Sea, 47 miles long, 9 ½ miles wide, full of salt and mineral but with no life, no vegetation, even the shore is barren. This stark contrast is a portrait of spiritual humanity. One sea is full of life and fruitfulness, the other is death and uselessness. There are two classes of people – those in the person of Adam and those in the person of Christ. Adam represents death and uselessness, Christ leads to life. The two men represent the whole of humanity. It is essential we grasp the central message of the Bible. Believers used to be in Adam but now we’re in Christ.

We are all born in Adam:
Paul examines the consequences of Adam’s sin. Adam serves as our representative. He sinned and this sin was applied to every person who has lived or ever will live. Adam perfectly represents humanity. God chose Adam to be our representative. We are sinful. We should be glad God chose Adam, God always knows what He is doing. Some may say that they don’t want to be represented by Adam, they want to represent themselves. The truth is, if you and I had been in the Garden of Eden, we would have committed exactly the same sin.

Christ is our representative as well, He has acted on our behalf too. Adam sank our spiritual boat but God has thrown our life-preserver to us. Adam served as our representative; we are every bit as guilty as he was. But we’re also guilty sinners because we’ve sinned.

The results of sin:
Even before the 10 commandments, sin had exercised power over humanity. But sin is not imputed when there is no law. Imputed means to charge to one’s account. Sin is there but is not accounted as a legal matter. It cannot be punished if there is no acknowledgement. After Adam, God gave no more explicit commands until the time of Moses. Although people sinned from Adam to Moses, people died because they had sinned in Adam. They shared Adam’s punishment because he was their representative.

In Adam we can see a number of principles in Jesus:
       – Adam and Jesus were both real persons;
      – Adam and Jesus both served as representatives for the whole of humanity;
     –  They both drew the world for themselves, one for evil, one for good;
     – Both effected the course of humanity through one single act (Adam taking the                fruit, Jesus dying on the cross).

Humanity is either in Adam or in Christ, it can’t be in both. Death reigns for all mankind in Adam.

All believers are in Christ:
God’s grace is readily available to those who out their faith in Jesus Christ. The promise of eternal life is a free gift. 7 times grace is mentioned in verses 15-21. Salvation is a free gift, no strings attached.

God’s gift brought life to all who are in Him (v.15). Grace is always more powerful than sin. It is a free gift but it was purchased at infinite cost – it cost God the death of His only Son. To think we can earn grace is an insult. Salvation is freely given to you. What a great cost has been paid for you so you can be rescued from Adam’s domain.

‘For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.’ (Romans 5:17). ‘Reign’ comes from the word ‘king.’ We also think of authority, of influence. All of these words are to be applied to you – for you are in Christ and you are to reign in Christ. We have no idea of the sphere of influence we have. Justification is the beginning of salvation. Sanctification is to bring heaven down to earth, to live as God has called you to live in Christ. God is equipping us to rule the world to come.

Instead of us being condemned eternally for our sins, Jesus was condemned. We don’t realise just how much we have received. It’s been given to us at a great cost. Christ brought freedom to the human race, He signed our liberty with His own blood on the cross. Having trusted the Saviour we have the power to turn from sin and live in Him, to live in righteousness. He is our great emancipator.

August 20th 2017: Gareth Edwards – Baptism Service

Reading: Colossians 2:6-15, Preaching: Acts 2

Today is not about Meg, it’s about the Lord Jesus Christ. It is all about what He has done, not what Meg has done. What Megan is doing is a response to what Jesus has done, ‘Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.”’ (Act 2:38-39).

When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost there was: conviction, conversion and consolation.

Conviction:
Everybody who comes to be baptised has experienced conviction of sin. Peter is preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ and how the people had wrongfully, spitefully put Him to death. They listeners were cut to the heart, crushed under the enormity of their sin. They knew they were guilty and had no excuse. They had killed the anointed one of God, the one the nation had wanted to see for so long. Yet they rejected Him, He wasn’t the Messiah they wanted. Ultimately, they had Him killed. Now they are told by Peter that He had been raised from the dead. Perhaps they thought He wanted revenge? Crushed under the sense of their sin, perhaps they wanted to know was there forgiveness? In helplessness they cried out to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

There is nothing harder to penetrate than the heart of a sinful man. When we are confronted by the wrong that we do, we suggest if there’s anything wrong in what we’ve done, surely it’s outweighed by the good we’ve done. Some refuse to acknowledge they’re sinners. It is a natural human reaction when confronted by wrong. But these people were convicted – as those of us are who have come to know Jesus. We too are convicted as we saw ourselves as we really are – sinful and broken. We were brought to grief. Have you been convicted of your sin? Has your conscience been grief-stricken at your actions and words in the sight of God?

Isaiah proclaimed, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). There is no hope for the self-righteous. Meg is not here because she thinks she is a good person, she is here because she knows she is a sinner, like me. There is hope only for those who are convicted of sin.

Conversion:
Peter shows the people the way of Salvation. First they repented. Repent means to make a U-turn. All of us have to complete a U-turn if we are to have the hope of forgiveness of sin. In repentance we acknowledge we have done wrong in the sight of God and nothing we can do can save us. Repentance is knowing that there is nothing we can do to impress Him. Everything about me in the sight of a holy, righteous God is an abomination. However, God Himself has come in the person of Jesus Christ into our world. He identifies Himself fully with us, He died on the cross for my sin and gives to me the perfect righteousness, so I am acceptable as He is before God. It’s nothing of me – it’s all about Jesus. Jesus, by His saving grace and power, changes me and makes me acceptable to God. Therefore, it’s important to be baptised. Being baptised doesn’t make me right with God. Praise the Lord, Meg is already right with God. Jesus has taken her to be His own. Now she’s being baptised as a witness to what Jesus had done. A sinner can only be saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. Your old sinful nature dies with Him on His death on the cross. It brings newness of life in Christ, through His resurrection. Baptism shows this. Every one of us here needs to be converted, without exception, from the youngest to the oldest. Meg wants you to know it’s not because of anything she’s done, it is all because of what Jesus has done.

Consolation:
‘So those who received his word were baptised, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.’ (Acts 2:41). The people gladly received the word, the message of salvation which convicted them of their sin. It also thrilled them.

Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ (Matthew 5:4). Receiving Jesus, they are assured their sins are forgiven, they are right with God. Their hearts are gladdened. They gladly gave themselves 100% to serving the Lord and Saviour in the life of the church. They have such great consolation, great comfort. Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, no matter what their troubles, have the peace of God which can never be taken away or destroyed because Jesus is the Saviour and Lord. The gospel never leaves people in the pit of despair but leads to the joy of salvation in Jesus Christ for all who repent and believe in Him. It’s available to all, free of charge, you don’t have to do anything, you don’t have to improve yourself; all you have to do is trust Jesus as your saviour. The gladness, the peace that passes all understanding, is freely available – just acknowledge your sin and trust Jesus Christ as your saviour. Then, being born-again, you can be baptised, as Meg is being baptised. Our salvation was purchased for us at such a great cost. As we witness Meg’s testimony to Jesus Christ, we should also acknowledge our debt to Him.

Meg has poignantly spoken about not so happy days, but she would never exchange the happy days, when God’s saving grace changed her life, to be free of all the unhappy days. For the happy day, when Jesus washed our sins away, is an eternal day. It’s a day that outlives beyond the grave as it will never end. It’s a day to rejoice in. So as Peter preached this sermon on the day of Pentecost, there was a mighty work of conviction, conversion and consolation. The joy of salvation happens to everyone who is truly a Christian.

July 16th 2017: Ian Jones

Ian Jones-July 17Luke 7:36-50 A Sinful Woman Forgiven

Puzzling questions:

Why did the Pharisee ask Jesus to eat with him?
Normally, there is always a good reason to invite someone to dinner or others to invite us. But here, there seems no reason why Simon, the Pharisee, should invite Jesus, ‘One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.’ (Luke 7:36). This was not like the occasion when Jesus was invited by Mary and Martha to their home, where Jesus was welcomed. It was not like the occasion when Jesus invited himself to Zaccheus’ home and was warmly welcomed by Zaccheus. In Simon’s home there was no welcome. Jesus says, ‘I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oi, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.’ (Luke 7:44-46). Jesus received none of the customary greetings of the day. So why did Simon ask Jesus to come to his house? Because he was one of those who wanted to discredit Jesus, to prove that Jesus was not a prophet, not the Son of God. Therefore he did not give the normal hospitality to Jesus.

Simon was quick to judge the woman and Jesus. There are many like Simon today; when we meet them they want to discredit Jesus. We even have an example in the apostle Paul, who persecuted Christians until he met with the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). People want to resist Jesus, to resist the grace of God. Many have come to a meeting to cause havoc but have been struck by the word and come to Jesus. None are too far from the Kingdom of God – Christ’s message is for all, that all might receive Him gladly.

  • Why did this woman enter Simon’s home?
    It would have been easy for the woman to have stayed away, she knew she would not have been welcomed. She came because the Lord was there. The custom of the day was that anyone could come into another one’s home. We would find this difficult today! There, they would have been onlookers – not participating in the meal but standing by the walls, looking at the table and chatting with those around it. Luke tells us, ‘And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment.’ (Luke 7:37). Luke draws out attention to the woman, ‘behold, a woman of the city.’ The men would have recognised her. They classifies her as a sinner. She brought an alabaster flask of oil. It would have been a shock when she entered the house. Possibly she was a prostitute – which would have been even more shocking. She stood behind the Lord Jesus with a costly flask of fragrant oil and began to pour it over his dusty feet. His feet wouldn’t have been washed. Her tears fell onto those feet. She undid her hair, which would have been another shocking thing. She used her crowning glory to wash his hair, and kissed His feet in a loving, respectful way. Ointment was poured. All eyes were on her. Everyone was silent. Watching.

Why did she come to Simon’s house? She wanted to show her love and devotion to the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus had obviously changed her life. She was no longer a practising sinner as she had been before. Jesus changed that when He came into her life. Has He has changed our lives? Do we have the same love as she had? Have we come today in that same manner, wanting to express our love?

  • Why did Jesus come into this house, knowing what Simon was like?

Simon was not a seeker, like Mary, Martha and Zaccheus. Why did Jesus go into his home when His time on earth was short? He would have known all about Simon, ‘Now when the Pharisee who had invited him say this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”’ (Luke 7:39). Jesus answered him. He knew what Simon was thinking as well as his guests. So why did Jesus come? It was for a very important reason – to teach an important truth. He distinguishes a contrast between Simon and the woman.

Jesus has a parable, a very simple parable: a creditor had two debtors. One owned a lot, one very little. Both couldn’t pay. The creditor freely forgave both. Then Jesus asked a question of His own – which debtor would love the creditor the most? There is any easy answer, but Simon struggled, saying, ‘The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.’ (Luke 7: 43). We see, as Simon answers, ‘I suppose,’ that he didn’t want to give an answer. Jesus tells him that he has judged rightly (before he had wrongly judges the woman). Then Jesus turns to the woman and says to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.’ (Luke 7:44-46). He wanted Simon to focus on the woman. He directed his attention to her. The important truth was, ‘Her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.’ (Luke 7:47). The reason Jesus came to that house was to declare to Simon and us, the more we recognise our sin, the more we realise we are indebted to our God, the more we love Him. The more we see why Jesus went to the cross and bore our sins, the more we will love Him.

  • Why should we want to come into that house?

If we could go back in time, why would we want to go there? ‘And He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”’ (Luke 7:48). Those who sat at the table asked, ‘Who is this, who even forgives sins?’ Do you and I need to do something amazing to have our sins forgiven? The Lord Jesus gives us the answer, ‘And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’ (Luke 7:50). We won’t be saved by our good works or our family connections, but by faith. Salvation is by faith. How do we come by faith? By the word of God. Turn from sin, express your thanks to God. Jesus told the woman, ‘Go in peace.’

Luke 7-50.jpg

No matter how many times we hear the gospel message, we need to be reminded of the truth, that by faith we are saved. When we leave this world and face death, we know we have been saved by faith if we have repented. Faith saved the woman, she can now go in peace. Might we have the peace of God as we know the Lord Jesus.