May 23rd 2021: Gareth Edwards

Esther chapter one

The first chapter of Esther is so relevant to our situation today. Hebrew Ahasuerus.  His Hebrew Persian title is Xerxes. For the purpose of this sermon he will be referred to as Xerxes.

This scripture is so relevant to our situation today. Esther is one of two books in the Old Testament that actually never mentions God. The other is the Song of Songs. But it would be wrong to think that this book of Esther is just a book of history. The fact that God’s name is not mentioned is deliberate because the message of the book of Esther is this: behind the scenes of life lies the unseen God whose hand controls the movement of individuals and empires. God is not directly mentioned. Why? Because the message is although God is not acknowledged and is unnamed, He’s clearly there. His will is sovereign, and His will and sovereign purpose is being worked out.

Here we are in an age of pandemic. How many people have thought about God? People believe He’s a God who is not relevant; our trust is in science, in SAGE, the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. The government says we’re following the science, it doesn’t say we’re following God. We live in an age when the church of Christ is struggling in some lands. Perhaps, even as Christians, we are tempted to say, ‘Where is the God of the revivals of Welsh history? Where is the God of times past of salvation of large numbers of people? Perhaps, as individuals, there may be circumstances in our lives when we ask ‘Where are you God, have you abandoned me? I see no evidence of your presence.’ The message of the book of Esther is that God is at work, constantly accomplishing His will and purpose. He’s at work in and through the pandemic, He’s at work in and through the church and He’s at work in and through the life of His people.

The opening two chapters introduce us to the main characters. In chapter two we see Esther, her cousin Mordecai and the ‘baddie’ in the story, Haman. Esther is going to placed on the throne alongside King Xerxes (Ahasuerus) to be the instrument by which God saves His people, the Jews, from annihilation, and therefore assures that the line of the Messiah continues and Jesus is born to be Saviour of the world.

But before chapter two we have a look at chapter one, where the other main character is introduced to us, King Xerxes. Xerxes the First, son of Darius the First, who ruled over the Persian Empire from 486 – 485 B.C. He is presented to us in this chapter as the master of all of the civilised world, as his kingdom stretches from India in the East to modern day Ethiopia in the West, a kingdom that was organised into 127 provinces. He is now in the third year of his reign.

From history, we know that he has just successfully put down a rebellion in Egypt and is now turning his attention to Greece. His ambition is to conquer and subjugate the Greek world. He gathers together his commanders and all of the chief of officials of the various provinces to come to his palace in Susa, the capital, to plan the attack on Greece. The Persians believed in mixing business and pleasure and so the occasion of the planning of the campaign is elongated by many feasts. After about six months the preparations have been made, a plan has been drawn up and so the time is being drawn to a close by a great feast. Herodotus, a Greek historian of the period, says that Xerxes was going to raise the largest naval and land force the world had ever seen, numbering 2.6 million men. A huge, huge military operation. Having planned it all out, there was now this great climatic feast.

It was held in the opulent luxury of Xerxes’ palace, which was tastefully decorated for the occasion. It was a fitting backdrop to this display of his royal liberality. Xerxes provides abundantly for his guests, no expense spared. He is magnanimous; there are people from different cultures, different backgrounds with different attitudes. Protocol would be that if the king drinks everyone else drinks. But Xerxes is not going to force people to drink, he allows them to follow their own customs. Here he is, this great king, commanding a vast army, ruling over the greatest empire, fabulously wealthy, but he’s not going to force people to follow what he does.

The man sits upon the throne with total dominion over many nations, with absolute authority. But we know from history all of this went to his head. One of his royal palaces had this inscription written on its foundation stone, “I am Xerxes, the great King, the only King. The King of all countries that speaks all kinds of languages. The king of this big and far-reaching earth.’ But what Xerxes failed to see is that there is a greater King. There is a greater King who dictates the course of Xerxes’ life and the course of his empire. The great, unseen, almighty God who, for His own purposes, raises up Xerxes. The rulers and leaders of the nations feel themselves important. They have their trappings and power and authority. But it is God who appoints governments of all descriptions (Romans 13:1-2). We are to give due regard to those whom God appoints. But we must also expect them to realise that they are answerable to God. They will have to stand one day before their Creator and give an account of themselves, as all men will.

As we look at this man Xerxes I am reminded of another King who has all power and authority, the one before whom every knee must ultimately bow, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Xerxes felt he was the ultimate power. But ultimate authority is given by God to only one, His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He always uses His power for the good of His people. Xerxes could be generous to a point but King Jesus, who has the wealth of all creation, His generosity is boundless. He pours out grace upon grace upon those He loves.

Here is a king who provides a regular banquet, a great and glorious feast. No banquet on earth is like it. Xerxes threw a great banquet, but nothing compares to the great banquet our King regularly provides for us – the Lord’s Supper. Here we feast upon Him. It’s a love feast for pardoned sinners, whatever their status in human society. The bread and the wine are the symbols of His broken body and His outpoured blood, all for the sake of our salvation. This banquet is the foretaste of the great eternal, never-ending banquet in glory to come.

King Jesus eclipses Xerxes. What a blessing it is to be Jesus’s subjects. Nothing compares. We see Xerxes as a powerful king but then we see Xerxes sees as a drunken king, as frail as all men. On the last day of this feast we find him in high spirits from wine. It impairs his judgement. He commands Queen Vashti to appear before him and his men. He wants them to be impressed by her beauty, he wants them to acknowledge that he is the one with the most beautiful wife in the world. He wants his officials to admire her regal beauty.

But such a request was degrading for Vashti. It was an affront. Vashti was also giving a great feast for women because that was the norm. The women and the men did not mix on these occasions. It was regarded as being wrong for women, particularly women of importance, to be involved in these male-only booze-ups. So, when Vashti is commanded to come, she refuses. She is not going to be belittled in this way. She is not going to be subjected to this demeaning behaviour. Whether she was wise to refuse is a matter for debate, but it is wrong that she was commanded.  Here is, perhaps, one of the most telling examples in scripture of drinking to excess. It is said that Joseph Stalin seldom drank himself, but always plied his visitors liberally with alcohol! He knew that when they were drunk they would let slip secrets.

All men are sinful and subject to the same temptations, therefore, all are equally under God’s judgement. All are equally in need of salvation through Jesus Christ, the rich and the poor, the famous and the unknown There is no greater place of equality than before the law of God and the cross of Christ. We are living in an age that speaks of inclusivity and equality. Well, there is inclusivity, there is equality. Not found in the ways the people of our day think, but found before the law of God. We are all included. Everyone. On exactly the same basis, exactly the same level – as sinners. There is no-one righteous, no, not one. That is equality before the Lord of God, for all are condemned. There is wonderful inclusivity in the Lord Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter what gender, social class or race we are, no one is more saved than anyone else, no one has a greater place in the Kingdom of God than anybody else. Here is true inclusivity. That’s the true meaning of conversion.

The Bible, and the New Testament especially, warns of the dangers of alcohol (Ephesians 5:18). We must never put ourselves in a position where something or someone else has control over us, where we succumb to another influence. We are to be Jesus’ alone.

Finally, we see a furious King. Vashti’s refusal sends Xerxes into a rage. He’s no longer proud of his Queen’s beauty, instead he’s irate. He calls together his seven closest advisors, men who aren’t concerned to see justice done. They think if Vashti gets away with it, what about their wives?  And so they counsel that Vashti be disposed and Xerxes finds another queen. This Xerxes readily does.

Interestingly, at the start of chapter 2, Xerxes begins to regret this, but at this point he’s going to teach her a lesson. He doesn’t acknowledge his own guilt. He would have been better apologising. He sees Vashti’s refusal as an affront, but of course this lays the groundwork for Esther to become queen – Esther the Jewess, the one who at the telling moment is going to announce to Xerxes that it her people that Haman wants to destroy, that she is a Jewess. In that moment God is going to use Esther to overturn Haman’s plan and ensure the safety of the Jews, and therefore of the line of the Messiah, that the Saviour of the world might be born. That doesn’t mean that what Xerxes did was all right. But God worked though Xerxes’ bad temper and drunkenness. God is at work God bringing about the circumstances whereby Esther will be placed in that most significant position.

We’re all like Xerxes; we find it easier to be angry with someone else than acknowledge our own sinful faults. So, we asked that the Lord gives us grace to see our faults first. How thankful we are that our King will never lose His temper, despite our disobedience. He deals patiently with us.

We may deserve to lose our salvation, but we never will because God is faithful. Our king has given us a counsellor who always advises us – the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). He will never flatterer us but will always tell us what we need to know – the truth that sets us free. In Xerxes we see an all-powerful king who seccumbs to drink and a furious rage. But it is God who is at work. God, through all of this, will ensure the great King will come, King Jesus, the one whose rule is righteous and true, the one who rules for the good of His people. His love always ensures they are safe in eternal salvation. He loves them and guides them by the Holy Spirit and ensures they will always be co-heirs in the Kingdom. What a joy to be subjects of King Jesus. What a comfort to know God has ordained all things. May God be praised!

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!

December 25th 2019: Ian Middlemist

Ian Middlemist -Oct18“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).

We see briefly the overall glorious theme of God’s love displayed – Jesus Christ came to reveal God’s love for sinners. Consider the purpose of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; He came into the world to show God’s love for sinners. John 3:16 is very famous. Maybe we no longer find this verse astonishing. It is a remarkable verse, revealing an amazing truth – the greatest present we could ever receive! As we eat our Christmas dinners today, take delight in this. All the sensory pleasures we receive today can be overwhelming but whilst we have all of this, remember to take delight and joy in the truth of God’s love and how shocking and glorious it is!

John 3:16 makes a surprising claim; God loves the world. This is shocking. The Maker of heaven and earth loves the world. He is self-sufficient, He needs no-one. He is holy, the holy one who cannot look upon sin. “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors  and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” (Habakkuk 1:13) His desires are always right. His affections are never mis-placed. How then can this holy God love this broken, sinful world that gives to Him nothing?

Our God clearly loves the creation in a general way because it exists because of God’s providence and sovereign power, He preserves the world. He provides for it, upholds it by His power. By His word it was brought into being, corrupted by us. But it will not be left to decay. His plan is not for it to crumble and fade by global warming or nuclear disaster. It will end when He decides to create a new heaven and a new earth, when the Lord Jesus comes. His plan is to make it new and fresh, filled with life. Bodies that have been decayed in the ground will be raised on that day when Jesus returns.

Heaven will receive Jesus Christ on that day (Acts 3:21). To John, the word ‘world’ represents human inhabitants of the earth, the human race. We are all one, one in that we are rebels and idolaters to the Creator who made us. We take what He has given and reject Him. We are the ungrateful child. Outrageous! That’s the world – hardly an object of God’s desire, of God’s love. It makes little sense. Surely God would not love us – that would make sense – to get rid of us, a terrible mistake. But God does not make mistakes. God has chosen to love this broken, sinful world. The word ‘world’ is used to show God’s mystery. It is not limited to a race or time. God’s love is not speaking of universal salvation. The Father has chosen a people for Himself – of all background (John 6:37). God loves sinners. The holy God loves sinners.

God has provided a way of salvation for the people of this world, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. Some of you may be disappointed today with your Christmas gifts. You will all say thank you, even if your heart is sinking at the frying pan you may receive! The wrong gift can be very disappointing. The one gift you will not be disappointed with is God’s love – the perfect gift. Jesus came into the world. There is God’s love! Jesus’ coming into the world is irrefutable evidence of God’s love for us. Our Western world’s definition of love is bankrupt – just listen to Radio 1 and find out how empty the word ‘love’ is today.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers,” (1 John 3:16). Christ’s coming to die is the proof of God’s love. His birth and death are utterly linked. His sacrificial love is a love that will do anything, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” (1 John 4:10). The only begotten Son is the object of God’s eternal affection. Two times during Christ’s public ministry everybody heard the Father speak, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, Matthew 17:5). Who can fathom the love the Father has for the Son? Not even His brothers believed in Him. God’s love is, perfect, deep, unchanging.

God sent His Son for us, for you and me. Christ came to earth to show us the riches of God’s love. It really is good news! It is eternal love. The Father sent the Son to earth, the earth where He would be condemned to death. Christmas confirms to us that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.

September 29th 2019: John Funnell

John Funnell-sept19Luke 19:1-10

Winter is coming. Christmas is near. Some people love Christmas. We all know the story of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I haven’t read the book, but have seen the film. To me, Ebenezer Scrooge is Michael Caine! He was a wealthy, yet tight-fisted man. He treated Bob Cratchit and his family very badly. Through various ghostly and spiritual influences, Scrooge miraculously turns into a wonderful philanthropist. Everyone is happy. It’s a classic tale.

Many people see this story as quite similar to the story of Zacchaeus. Jesus turns a wealthy tax collector into a nice, generous person who gives half of what he earns to the poor. However, such a simplistic interpretation doesn’t do it justice. It limits us to read it as part of the crowd, who see Zacchaeus as a known sinner (verse 7). Once Jesus gets involved he becomes a generous Christian.

Viewing this story from the perspective of the crowd is limiting. Step back from the crowd and stop being simply a spectator. What truly matters is the viewpoint of Jesus, looking at this through Jesus’ eyes.

Jesus ignores the crowd. They swarm around Him yet He goes straight for the man in the tree. Why Zacchaeus? Dr. Luke provides us with many clues why. The crowds ‘pressed onto Jesus’. Why? Because they had heard God in flesh was there. To them, Jesus was an A-Lister celebrity. Zacchaeus was one of the people who wanted to see Jesus. Yet he had a problem; he was too short and couldn’t see over the heads of the crowd. His view is blocked. The detail of him being short didn’t need to be added. There must be a reason Dr. Luke added it to the narrative.

The Greek word for ‘short’ is interesting. It is not just used to describe height but also age. In John 19 we read of the blind man who was healed by Jesus. The Pharisees were not happy. His parents were called into court to be quizzed. Yet his parents say he is of age and can answer for himself. The same Greek word for age is used as to describe short. We see this again in Hebrews 11:11 when Sarah is described as beyond child-bearing age. It’s the same Greek word again. Dr. Luke adds the adjective ‘short’ because Zacchaeus was short but also because the word describes his status, especially in a society where age and status matter in a community. Dr. Luke added it not just to explain why he couldn’t see, but also to show Zacchaeus has a lowly status in his community. Zacchaeus’ ultimate problem was not his height but his family and friends had flocked to see Jesus and had left him behind. That’s the tragedy that sits behind the narrative. Zacchaeus was left behind by his community, abandoned by friends and family. He had no status. He was lost. Zacchaeus was all alone and without a loving community to guide him. Perhaps this is why he went down the wrong path and became a tax collector to Rome?

He climbed a fig tree – a symbol of prosperity. Fig leaves are a symbol of covering sin. Zacchaeus is trying to rise above. Jesus finds him in his sin, lonely, hiding up a fig tree. ‘And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”’ (Luke 19:5). Jesus calls out to Zacchaeus by name. He calls him down and reconciles him with his community. Jesus makes a public statement that he is a son of Abraham. He tells the crowd he is one of them. Zacchaeus is restored. Hallelujah!

‘And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.”’ (Luke 19:9).

 Jesus can come into the life of any person who has been outcast and left out by his community. He can bring them back into his community. This is a story about Christ, come into the world, coming to seek the lost. Hallelujah! “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

As Jesus was walking down the street He didn’t see what the crowd saw, He saw a broken man, trying to lift himself above his community, yet hiding. So Jesus came and He personally called him by name. And what did He do? He loved him. For the first time in a long time Zacchaeus knew he was loved. We see repentance. He gave half of his possessions to the poor. Zacchaeus gave freely and joyfully because He knew the overwhelming and overflowing love of Christ. Friends, the good news, the best news, is that Jesus’ love can do the same for us today.

If you have times when you feel low, exhausted, ashamed, overwhelmed, convicted by the weight of your sin, please know that Jesus is here for you. He will never ignore you for the crowd. He will call you by name. He’ll say, ‘My dear brother, my dear sister, ‘I love you.’ The creator of all time, space and matter says, ‘I love you.’ He says, ‘Come down from the tree of tiredness and shame, come down to your community, your church. I don’t care about your past, what anyone else thinks of you, I just want you. All that shame I buried at the cross.’

The call today to Christians and both non-Christians alike is ‘will you come down from your hiding place and take Jesus home with you, just like Zacchaeus? Will you let Jesus transform your life with His love? Today, salvation has come to the home. Will you take it?

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.