October 14th 2018: Alan Davison

Alan Davison Oct 18Joshua 7

The Bible is often described as a picture book which contains many accounts of historical narrative. But we also see these pictures as illustrations of Christian life which we can apply to our own lives today. There is a spiritual element to everything.

Here in Joshua 7 we see that sometimes the Israelites did not fully see and understand what was happening but they knew God was sovereign. The fall of Jericho came about as a result of the Israelites simply following God’s instructions. The occupation of the Promised Land now starts to be fulfilled.

Joshua dealt with difficulty. What was it? In verse 2 we read that Joshua sent out scouts to do a recce on the next target – Ai. Joshua is taking on some of Moses’ responsibilities, following what God declares he should do (Numbers 27:21). Sending out scouts was normal for an attack, so Joshua followed the normal procedure. The spies report back that 2,000 – 3,000 men would be sufficient to take the city. Joshua chose 3,000 men, but they were defeated. ‘The hearts of the people melted and became like water.’ (Joshua 7:5). This was the same phrase used by Rahab. I wonder what Rahab would have thought of this attack? Why didn’t this attack succeed? We find the answer in verse 11, ‘Israel has sinned.’ It had stolen and lied. Even if Joshua had sent the entire fighting force against Ai, they would still have been defeated (v.13).

Defeat was certain because there is sin in the camp. God had given the people strict instructions not to take anything from the fall of Jericho (Joshua 6:18) because it would be ‘accursed’. It is a corporate responsibility that runs through scripture. However, accursed items had been taken.

How does Joshua respond to it? Initially, in verse 6, he is shocked and grieved. He and the elders came before the Lord. They recognised the attack should have worked and realise failure has come from God (v.7). Joshua knows God has brought about defeat. Joshua’s concern is for the glory of God’s name (v9).

Sometimes, in our fallen world, life just hurts. We need to turn to God to heal our pain.

God tells Joshua the consequences of sin in the camp (v12). They are ‘doomed to destruction.’ His chosen people, after the glory of the victory of Jericho, are now doomed. The sin of one man now accursed Israel. It is Eden all over again. In order to be sanctified it needs the removal of the accursed thing.

What did Joshua do? He simply obeyed the Lord. God tells Joshua exactly what needs to happen. Achan had coveted what rightly belonged to the Lord, therefore, he and everything that belonged to him had to be destroyed (v25). Achan and his family were stoned and their remains burned.

Achan confessed his sin yet he was still killed. Why? It was not God’s will that Achan died. God had given a warning not to take anything from Jericho yet Achan coveted. When Achan took items, he didn’t confess until the last moment. He continued to seek to deceive, putting himself before the nation. 36 men died as a direct result of his sin. The items he stole were set aside for the Lord’s service. Even if Achan had not confessed at the last moment, his tent would have been searched and the items found. However harsh we consider this punishment (similar to Acts 5), Achan maintained his deception.

In this case Israel was in its initial stage. This sin had the potential to derail Israel. Achan had to be destroyed. Achan’s heart was selfish; he wanted riches for himself, he didn’t care for others. Where are our hearts? Achan’s heart was set on physical treasure but it should have been set on God. Our hearts should be set on heavenly treasure.

Even as Achan’s sin had severe damaging consequences for Israel, his death had consequences for Israel – the sin was removed. The Israelites are told not to be afraid – God is with them. God tells them He has given Ai into their hands (Joshua 8:1). Everyone went to war. God wanted everyone to witness it. The riches were there for all.

Difficulties will afflict us all. We need to come to God and come to Him in prayer. Often we can help the situation ourselves. Everything we do should be based on God’s Word. Prayerfully consider God’s Word. We need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to apply it to our lives.

June 17th 2018: Ian Middlemist

Ian Middlemist-June18Matthew 26: 36-46

We are invited to come and behold, to see the agonies of the Saviour. As Jesus walked through the city for the last time, people were busy at this festival time. Jesus came to the foot of the Mount of Olives and to Gethsemane, a large walled retreat of trees. Jesus would often come here. Judas knew it well. It was a favoured place the Son of Man came to pray, teach and sleep. As Christians we might have favourite places to visit and be refreshed, where we have spiritual memories and maybe heard the gospel in a powerful way. Here, in the Garden of Gethsemane, it may be a place we could enter into and behold the Saviour’s face at that particular time.

The shadow falls (verses 36-37). We’re all affected by suffering in different ways; not all show their pain, some wince at the smallest things. God gives strength to those in times of need. In Gethsemane Jesus left eight of the disciples waiting whilst He went further into the Garden to pray with Peter, James and John. He shares with them how He is feeling. It is important to listen to each other and hear what we are saying. Jesus is in torment. A man, who until now, is not given to such feelings. It is truly harrowing. Jesus shares His own words, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” (Matthew 26:38). The dreadful sorrow and anxiety is not an expression of fear or shrinking away, rather the alienation from God in the judgement of sin. As He contemplates horror, He is sinking under the horrors of it. It brings to us almost a déjà vous of the cry of dereliction spoken on the cross, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46).

D o you take the Saviour and His sufferings seriously? Are you listening to Him even now, as He cries out? Can you hear Him praying to the Father? He has revealed His deepest emotions. He tells the disciples to wait and see. I’m inviting you to contemplate the Saviour’s deep agony. The Saviour wants to draw the disciples to the cross – that’s where we must be drawn. The shadow falls.

View the look on His face, the wonder of His love. In the Garden the Lord Jesus was beginning, in His suffering, the full extent of guilt for sin, to face the pain of sin and its consequences. We see something more of how serious sin is. At first, sin seems so attractive, so thrilling to get your own way. It promises so much. We fall for it, all that it offers. Sin leads to emptiness, loneliness. Look at the face of Jesus, see His agony. For whose sin? For our sin, our guilt. He had no guilt, He had no sin.

In the Garden of Gethsemane we see the face of Jesus and we see something has gone terribly wrong with humanity. That is sin, rebellion against God. Jesus is experiencing the pain of sin on our behalf so that He could lead us through it in His death and resurrection.

As we survey the wondrous cross we see the heart of God. How greatly He must love us that He willingly entered the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing that the cross would come. The Father sees His Son in great torment. We see the Father’s love. His Son weeps in agony in the Garden, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39). Why doesn’t God stop everything and pull Him out? The Son knew that the Father loved the Son, but He loved you and me so much He sent His Son to suffer in this way. Jesus died for us because God loves us.

As we come to communion, view, listen to the Saviour’s agonies. It is beyond comprehension, none of us can truly contemplate the sorrows the Son took on for us in the Garden of Gethsemane. It shows us the seriousness of sin. Run away from it, don’t treat it like a light thing. In the Garden we see the love of the Father and the obedience of the Son. How much He loves us!

March 30th 2018: Good Friday: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards - March 18“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46

During the Crucifixion Jesus gave seven sayings, which were not merely random words to what was happening. It was a commentary about the meaning and purpose of His death. This saying, the middle of the seven sayings, is perhaps the most revealing. It’s a cry that is awesome. It should fill our souls with a sense of dread. It is power, it is poignant – the cry of dereliction as the Lord suffers the punishment of our sin. It’s a cry that deifies all definition, a moment between God the Father and God the Son, a cry of the Son of God in His human nature as He experiences the wrath of God against our sin.

Sin and Judgement:
The cry tells us the Saviour really suffered at the hand of His fate as he bore the judgement for our sins. Three hours prior to this cry darkness covered the land from noon to 3 p.m. (Matthew 27:45). The sun is normally at its height, yet darkness engulfed Jerusalem. This was prophesied in Amos 8:9 many centuries before, ‘”And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.”’  Darkness is a symbol of judgement (Isaiah 5:30, 60:2, 2 Peter 2:17). The darkness of that day tells us that the wrath of God is being poured out on His Son for our sin. This is the only time ever that God the Father turned His back on His Son for our sins.  The torment of Jesus wasn’t just physical. What no-one else ever endured was the agony of eternal judgement griping the soul and drawing it into the deepest darkness of hellish pain.

The reality of judgement is God loved no-one more than He loved His only begotten Son. Divine love continued when the Son added to His divine nature and became man. God does not hold back on pouring His judgement on His Son. That terror engulfs all who die without faith in Christ. This judgement will be visited upon our sins one way or another. If we have not yet come to know Jesus Christ as our Saviour, then the terror expressed by Jesus is a terror we will know. Sin is a terrible offence. Such is its evil in the sight of God that our sin could not be forgiven until God the Father unleashed all the horror of hell against His Son.

Substitute of Atonement:
Jesus here is our substitute, taking our place, becoming us and taking liability for us. He suffered for us, He died in our place. He became us as He bore our sins. He does not address His Father in His usual way as He now stands in our place, fully identifying with us, as He cries, “My God.” He atones for our sins. He pays the penalty for our wrong doing. We are the perpetrators deserving of God’s judgement. Jesus steps in and bares that judgement. For those dreadful hours God saw Jesus not as His Son, but saw Him as being you and me. He poured out upon Him the punishment for us. Justice is satisfied and mercy is made available to us. He dies specifically taking my punishment in His love for me. It is an illogical love. Why should He love me so? In my sin I am a hideous, deformed creature, deserving nothing but the implementation of God’s wrath against me. Yet, Jesus loved me so and substituted Himself, takes my judgement, atones for my sin. What a price it was! What a payment was made! An infinite payment! We simply cannot begin to understand what it cost the Lord Jesus Christ to hang upon that cross. No words in all the languages can express what it meant. What a Saviour He is. He willingly took our place. That’s why it’s Good Friday.

A cry of hope and joy:
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Although this is a cry of dereliction, it is also a cry of hope and joy. These words were written many centuries before the crucifixion, in Psalm 22, a prophetic psalm which speaks of the sufferings of the coming Messiah. It gives a detailed, graphic description of crucifixion – before crucifixion was perfected by the Romans. It is a psalm that looks forward to the events of Calvary. Jesus uses this psalm as a commentary on His own death. He is now experiencing what Psalm 22 prophesied. But Psalm 22 ends in hope and joy. It is a psalm that speaks of the Messiah not only in suffering but also in triumph. The Saviour confidently knows that He would not be abandoned forever and will triumph and know the joy of resurrection. He knew this as He said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). He knew He would arise again. He told His disciples this three times. He knows that as He endures the suffering of agony of body and soul, it is the way to triumph, to hope, to joy.

It is a cry of dereliction but it is not a cry of defeat. Here lies hope and joy for each one of us. What hope have you got in the face of death? What joy can there possibly be when confronted with the reality of judgement, what hope is there in death? That Jesus Christ died and paid in full the price for our sin, thereby affording to each one of us forgiveness, allowing us to experience the mercy of God’s love and triumph over death. A sure and certain hope that in Jesus Christ our sins have been forgiven. God the Father, having judged Him, can no longer judge us for that sin. The joy – being reconciled with God if we come and trust in Jesus Christ. There is no other way for us to return to God, to enjoy fellowship with God. The only thing that can bring true joy is knowing God. So it is Good Friday.

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This saying is central to what forgiveness means. It teaches us the reality of our sin and God’s judgement, but it assures us that atonement is made. Jesus, as our substitute, takes our place, bore our guilt so hope and joy is ours. May it be our personal understanding of what it all means and may this fill us with love for Christ and joy in our salvation.

 

December 24th 2017: Ian Middlemist

Ian - March 17Isaiah 9:1-7

The Saviour came into the world in obedience to the Father’s will. He sent His Son to save sinners. Praise the Saviour for His obedience.

We must consider other aspects of reasons for Christ’s coming. Sometimes we have a crisis in the business of it all, it can become all too much. The Saviour never once had such a crisis. His will was always united to the Father’s. The Saviour set His face towards the cross to save sinners and bring light to a dark world.

Why Christmas? Whys this glorious birth?

  • To redeem sinners
  • To bring light into a dark world.

‘The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.’ (1 Timothy 1:15).

In Christ’s first coming He is implementing a rescue plan conceived even before the world begun. Jesus was to come to save sinners. To do this He had to remove sin which came in, like an unwelcome virus, infecting mankind.

How can sin be eradicated? We need to begin with Old Testament. We see in Isaiah 9 the Lord was already addressing this through the Old Testament sacrificial system. One of the main themes in the epistle to the Hebrews is the numerous priests who, from generation to generation, placed burnt offerings as a sacrifice for sin, ‘The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.’ (Hebrews 7:23-24).

All of the Old Testament sacrifices would not put away a single sin, yet this was a God-given requirement for people of Israel, showing the enormity of the disease. A better sacrifice offered in a better tabernacle was necessary – a truly perfect sacrifice offered in the tabernacle of heaven. ‘For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.’ (Hebrews 9:24). Sins are crucified and buried in Christ.

Christmas is a time to remember past events but it is right to remember the second coming of Jesus Christ. It is wonderful that we can anticipate the return of the Saviour who was wounded for our transgressions. ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.’ (Romans 3:23). We can thank God, as redeemed sinners, we can look forward to meeting Him who is to change all things. There is hope.

The apostle Paul says he is the worst sinner, guilty of blasphemy, guilty of persecuting the church. He sees his own sin in the light of God’s holy law and realises even if he were the only sinner in the world, Christ would still have had to shed His blood for his sin. If Christ can save Paul, He can also save you and me – hell-deserving as we are. We need to ask Jesus for the gift of redemption and grace.

Christ also came to bring light into a dark world, ‘I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.’ (John 12:46).

‘If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.’ (John 15:22).

Bright light is a mixed blessing. Switch a light on and it frees us from the impression of darkness which brings fear. But it also reveals ugly flaws and imperfections. Since the fall of Adam God sent prophets who exposed, with precisions, the darkness of sin. As powerful as these prophecies were, the prophets were still sinners. However eloquently they spoke, it was still on a hazy canvass. Christ exposes sin but He delivers us from sin. 700 years before Christ’s birth Isaiah says, ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.’ (Isaiah 9:2).

It is so fitting the birth of Jesus Christ was heralded by bright light. The shepherds saw the glory of the Lord, the star directed the magi. There is still more glorious light, ‘Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”’ (John 8:12).

Just before His death Jesus said the light is among you for just a little longer. We are to walk in the light. When this light was lifted up to Golgotha, the light of God’s love shone brightly in the darkness. We take light for granted until we are without it. Praise God that the light has come and shone into our hearts.

 

December 3rd 2017: Paul Daniel

Paul Daniel-Dec17Matthew 1:17-25

What’s appropriate at Christmas time? What is Christmas all about? It is a time of year of watching cute Christmas films, trees and Christmas decorations. There are Christmas films being released. Perhaps a surprising one is a new war film of the 9/11 events. Christmas is more like the war film than the cute Christmas films.

This is a story of when God Himself comes to this earth in flesh. Mary conceives, the conception is from the Holy Spirit (v.18). This reminds us Jesus was born without sin, therefore, He will war against sin. He took on flesh – God came down out of heaven to take on flesh. This is the nitty gritty of the Christmas story, the real nativity.

We love opening gifts, it’s wonderful. There are things we want, things we desire in this world. Sometimes we may receive things we don’t need. But what we really need is a Saviour to save us from death, destruction and sin. That is what all of us will have to face. Adam and Eve brought death into this world. Adam lived and died. You and I live and die – which is why this message of a Saviour is wonderful. It brings us hope. Jesus was born into this world to be a Saviour.

We are to remember what the significance of the story is – at Christmas we focus on the birth, the little baby. But do you see in verse 21 Jesus will save His people from their sin? “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). This is not just about a baby but what that baby will do. He will fulfil all righteousness and save His people from their sins. This is about a Saviour. It’s a humbling reminder that Jesus came to save sinners.

Look back at your life and all the things you’ve done – your achievements but also your failures, the times you’ve not done what is right – when you’ve hurt the people you love most. Then look at this verse. You’re reminded, if you’re a Christian, at one point in time you were not saved. But Christ came and made you aware your sin deserved hell. By His grace you turned and now follow Him. Jesus went to war for you. Because of your own sin there was nothing you could do, ‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.’ (Ephesians 1:1). But Jesus came to save you, not people, but His people. Not everyone will be saved – only those who come to Him and ask for forgiveness.

Once upon a time, when you lived your life your own way, God in His goodness and justice could have left you like that – doing exactly what you wanted – and you wouldn’t have been saved. But in His mercy and love He came to you and made you aware of His love for you, ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us.)’ (Matthew 1:23).

What is more important, the gift or the giver? Children get excited about the gift. But the giver is more important, the relationship is more important. What is the purpose of having your sin forgiven? Christmas is all about God being with us and us being with God. There is a time coming when, if you’re one of God’s people, you will be with God. Jesus was with us, died on the cross, then was absent for 3 days before He rose again and appeared with His followers, then left. There is a time coming when we will be with God. Revelation 21 speaks of God dwelling with man, ‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death.” (Revelation 21:3-4).

That is where the Christian story started and is heading to. As Christians we are looking forward to a time when we will see Jesus and live with Him in perfection and glory forever. Are you looking forward to seeing your Saviour, talking to Him, being with Him forever? The gates of heaven are open. If you know your sin brings death and destruction and know Jesus died for you, if you confess your sin and repent, then nothing condemns you, you are welcomed into heaven.

There’s a certainty about Salvation. You’ll be with Jesus. The doors are open if you’re a Christian. But on that final day when Jesus Christ comes and His people will live with Him forever, the doors are also going to be shut. When He comes to judge the living and the dead, and make everything right, the doors will be closed. No-one else will ever be able to go in there again. There is only a certain amount of time for people to come to the Saviour, to put their trust in Jesus. For one day the door will be closed.

As God came to be with us and us with Him, share the gospel message – not in our own strength but asking in His Spirit – to change the hearts of children, parents and loved ones. The time is coming when Jesus Christ is coming again, when He will open and close the doors. Let’s get people ready. Let’s remind them of this wonderful, miraculous birth.

 

 

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.

8th January 2017: Matthew Maxwell-Carr

The Christian Teaching of Original Sin

matthew-maxwell-carr-january-17This is a fundamental Christian teaching, anyone who denies it is a heretic. If you don’t believe it, you empty the gospel of all of its power.

What is original sin?
Often Christians will say because Adam sinned we have a corrupt nature. It’s true – we have inherited a fallen nature. It’s why we find it easy to lose our temper, to be jealous. However, you need to go further back. Ultimately, because of what Adam did, we are all counted guilty for his sin before God. God sees the whole human race through Adam – worthy of eternal death. This is why we are still subject to death the moment we come into this world. The human race is counted worthy of death. But in Jesus Christ, God has chosen to view those who believe in Him as righteous, as Jesus Christ is, and not worthy of death but the riches of glory.

God only sees two men in the human race; all humanity hangs from the girdles of these two men – the first Adam or the second Adam. Forget about good works, works of righteousness which you have done. It is all of faith. The big question is whether you are of Adam or Christ.

Is this a teaching of Scripture?
‘But now, Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.’ (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). Some Corinthians were denying resurrection is possible. Paul says in verse 20, ‘One man brought death into the world, but Christ brought resurrection into the world.’ Are you in Adam or are you in Christ?

‘Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned – For until the law sin was in the world, but sin in not imputed when there is no law.’ (Romans 5:12-13). There was a law given to Adam in the Garden of Eden – don’t eat of the fruit or you shall surely die. From the time of Adam until Moses there were no other laws. Adam transgressed that law. Death reigned during that time. (Romans 5:14). Humanity was in big trouble. Humanity is still in trouble. But in Romans 5:15 we read of the free gift God offers the human race – the free gift of righteousness. When we stand before God all our sins are gone. Paul compares this to the trespass of Adam, he compares and contrasts what Adam and Christ have done. Many died through one man’s offence but God has now flooded people’s lives with grace. The free gift of the gospel came after many, many sins had happened. God sent His Son into this world to bring grace and justification. If you’re justified you are guilty of no crime, you are innocent. That’s how God wants to treat us in Jesus Christ, He wants to see us righteous because of what His Son has done. Enter into this by faith alone.

In verse 17 Paul says because of one man’s sin, through his one offence, death reigns. But in Jesus Christ we have salvation. If you receive that abundance of grace, you receive the gift of righteousness. We are all sinners by nature. Ultimately, we are all guilty of Adam’s sin. Jesus was sent into this world so we might have the gift of righteousness.

‘Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgement came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.’ (Romans 5:18). Judgement will come to all through one man’s offence. We were born into this world worthy of death. But how gracious God is. He chooses to see us fully righteous. If we enter into Jesus Christ, God won’t see all our sin because of the one righteous act of Jesus.  What was this? The giving of His life on the cross. Adam sinned because of a tree. Christ died on a tree, on the cross, in obedience to His Father. Jesus came into this world as the most astounding teacher, but ultimately He came to die, to undo what Adam did. All our sins are blotted out and we are justified. We are righteous because Christ is righteous. God takes it all out of our hands. The righteous act of Jesus Christ takes us into heaven if we believe in the Lord Jesus. Trust in Him, receive Him.

‘For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.’ (Romans 5:19). By one man’s disobedience many were breakers of God’s law. We came into this world, we didn’t choose to be guilt of Adam’s sin, but by God’s grace He sent Christ. It doesn’t depend on our works, what we do. Christ has done it all for us. Be saved! What a gracious set up! Believe in Jesus Christ and you will be reckoned to be fully righteous before God. By His mercy He saved us.

 ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.’ (Ephesians 2:9). You have to believe. Just get into Christ, look to Him, see Christ crucified for your sins.

 

Christmas Day 2016: Rev. Dr. Gareth Edwards

isaiah-9-6Our Christmas morning service was led by Reverend Dr. Gareth Edwards of Hill Park Church, who preached from Isaiah 9. Gareth began by telling us that God has given us the main present – the Lord Himself. We are also told in Romans that God also gives every good gift.

The year of Isaiah 9 is around 735 B.C. Uzziah, King of Judah, had just died. There was a time of stability during his 12 year reign. We read in chapter 7 that Isaiah says a child will be born who will be Imannuel, ‘Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.’ (Isaiah 7:14). The two kings who the people dreaded would be wiped from the face of the earth. However, it was not all good news; an even greater enemy would come and destroy them – the Assyrians – the great super-power of the day. God’s message to Judah is that, because of sin, judgement will come at the hands of Sennacherib of Assyria. But Isaiah also speaks about a future day, the coming of another, Immanuel, who will bring salvation. This suffering servant will die for the salvation of His people. Here is chapter 9 Isaiah looks to the future, it’s the day when God will raise up the one who will be the Saviour, and all of the blessings that will come through Him. In Matthew 4 we read that the majority of His three year ministry is spent in Capernaum – a fulfilment of these very words from Isaiah, spoken many centuries before. This will be an invasion not of terror but now of grace and goodness, of the gospel.

Isaiah speaks of 5 blessings:

  • Light takes the place of darkness.

It is the light of hope. We know the light has come, the Saviour has come. We have the hope of eternal life in Him. Our future is better than our past. Everyday our future gets better, every day we experience more of the grace of Jesus Christ. It’s a step nearer. The best is yet to come.

  • Joy:

There will be no more gloom, it will give way to joy; the joy of being restored from the hands of the Assyrians. But Isaiah looks further to the future – the joy of Salvation of the Lord, that eternal life that comes with the Saviour’s birth.

  • The release from the burden of sin.

The message of forgiveness of sin, the message Jesus preached personally, brings release from bondage. The Saviour has come, the joy of salvation is our release from sin, is all because a ‘child is born, a son is given.’

  • Peace with God.

His name, Isaiah tells us, shall be, ‘Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end.’ (Isaiah 9:6). It’s a peace that passes all understanding. There is little peace in Syria today, or in Iraq, or in Pembrokeshire. People in Pembrokeshire don’t face the bloodbath of Syria, but they are oppressed by the cars of this world, but the materialism of this world. There is so little peace. They do not know the peace of God, they are in sin and have rebelled against Him. But a Saviour has come who has taken upon Himself the responsibility of the rebellion and offered Himself for the sacrifice of this sin, for those who take Him to be their Lord. All hostility has ended. They now receive the peace of God and know what it is to face an uncertain world, the anguish and difficulties, but on their own. They know that, ‘All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.’ (Romans 8:28). Through it all, God’s purpose is to bring glory to Him.

  • The kingdom:

Isaiah speaks about a kingdom. The government will be upon the shoulders of the child. There is one empire that is eternal, the empire of God’s grace, in the person of Jesus Christ. This empire is an empire of justice and righteousness. The rule of the Lord Jesus Christ is a rule that is marked with infinite kindness, it is omnibenevolent – all good. He has come and He has conquered our lives and subdued us to His will. In righteousness He leads us and guides us. His loving kindness that fills us day after day in a harsh world, where there is little kindness; we experience His abounding benevolence, day after day.

‘For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given.’ Praise God!

September 18th 2016: Gareth Edwards

Reverend Doctor Gareth Edwards, of Hill Park Baptist Church, preached on John 1:26, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:26

You may have had a hectic week and look back and feel exhausted by all you were required to do. All that takes place in here in John 1:19- 34 took place in a week. It begins with John the Baptist being quizzed by a deputation of Pharisees and ends with Jesus’ first miracle – turning water into wine. It was a week full of testimony to who Jesus Christ is. The question at the beginning is ‘Who is John the Baptist?’ but the question that is answered is ‘Who is Jesus Christ?’ John the Baptist plays a central role in that testimony, which can clearly be seen in verses 32-34. He has already baptised Jesus and come to realise that Jesus is the Messiah. John humbly points the deputation from Jerusalem away from himself and to the Messiah – the one who was in the midst but of whom they were ignorant. The next day John immediately identifies him as the Messiah.

In order to grasp John’s message we need to examine the key words and unpack the statement, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  This will be done in reverse order: Sin, Lamb of God, Behold.

Sin:
It has been said that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Jesus came into the world to address this problem – sin. Jesus came in order to take sin away. Today, sin is considered to be irrelevant. We may believe they are accountable to no-one but ourselves. If we believe God exists at all, then we may believe that He doesn’t have a right to condemn us because His role is to love and care for us. If we do acknowledge we have done wrong, we blame others for leading us astray or we blame our circumstances; we’re not guilty but victims.

The Bible doesn’t excuse our sin, it doesn’t allow us to escape the fact that we are accountable to God for our actions and our words. Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In Romans 6:23 we read, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This rebellion against God brings upon us the just sentence of death. This is the root of the whole problem of our world. All are sinners. As sinners we are justly condemned by God, subject to His holy wrath. John the Baptist tells us Jesus came to deal with the problem, to take away our sin. Do you recognise that you are a sinner? You may be someone of integrity, yet our sin is desperately wicked. The reality is that in what we do and what we say there is rebellion against God. It is no use burying our heads in the sand; we are sinners! Consequently, the Word of God tells us that the greatest priority is that our sin be taken away. Family problems, health problems, financial problems – they all pale into insignificance. We need our sin to be taken away, to know His forgiveness. We need to cry out for a Saviour to come, to rescue us. You desperately need a Saviour.

Lamb of God:
The people of Jesus’ day were steeped in the Old Testament and knew very well how lambs were used as sacrifices for sin. After sin came into the world we were alienated from God. It was God’s will that a lamb was as a sacrifice. In Genesis 4:4 and Hebrews 11:4 we read how Abel was considered righteous after offering a sacrificial lamb – the shedding of blood for life. Cain offered fruits of the soil, labours of his own hand, which God rejects. No amount of human effort had effect. Later, under the Law of Moses, a lamb was offered. We read in Leviticus 4:32 that a sinner brings a lamb and places his hands on the animal’s head to symbolise the transference for guilt.

In Hebrews 10 we learn that no amount of shedding of blood could take away sin. Only the Lamb of God truly cleanses us, the Messiah. Those who offered sacrifices in the temple looked forward to the one Lamb of God, whose death would take away their sins.

The people would have remembered how Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his much loved son Isaac. Abraham obeyed and took Isaac, who was probably in his late teens or early twenties. Isaac submits. They reach Moriah where they leave their servant behind. When Isaac asks where is the lamb Abraham replies that God will provide. Abraham was about to plunge the knife when God intervened. Abraham proved his faithfulness to God, or rather proved to himself his faithfulness to God. There, nearby, God provided a lamb caught in brambles – a substitute for Isaac. Now John describes Jesus as the Lamb of God – a substitute for you and me, for Isaac, for Abraham. ‘God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8).

In Exodus 12 God is going to send an angel of death to pass through Egypt. But the Israelites sacrificed a lamb and smeared its blood on doorposts as a sign to spare the Israelites and protect them. The lamb had to be perfect. So it is that Jesus Christ came, the real Passover, the perfect Lamb, who sacrificed His blood for us. Through the blood of the Lamb we are spared.

‘You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot’ (1 Peter 1:18-19).

In Isaiah 53:5-7 the prophet foresaw the coming of the Lamb, a suffering servant, a sacrificial Lamb who will take away the sins of the people, ‘like a lamb led to the slaughter.’ Jesus was both innocent of the charges laid against Him, completely innocent of any wrong doing. Yet He goes to the cross like a man who endures what He deserves. Why? Because He has accepted the responsibility for your sin and mine. He stands in my place and yours. So in describing Jesus as the Lamb of God, John is saying Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament passages of scripture.

In Egypt on Passover night there was death in every house. Can you think of what that would be like – if in every house in Roch someone had died? On Passover night there was either the death of a lamb or death of a first born babe. In payment for our sins there has to be death. Either our death or Jesus’ shed blood so we might be forgiven and have eternal life, an eternal relationship with God. It is amazing to think God provided His only Son to suffer in our place when we are so unworthy. It is amazing!

Look / Behold!
John the Baptist issues an invitation to all around him not simply to gaze on Jesus but to trust Him. John is saying,’ Here is the Saviour who can provide all your needs. Don’t look to me or yourselves for salvation, look to Him and Him alone. ’ It is only those who look to Jesus with believing eyes who will be saved.

The New Testament uses the term ‘all’ for inviting people to come. This means all types – male, female, rich, poor – Jesus offers salvation to all types of people. But it only has effect for those who repent of their sins and know that there is nothing they can do to help themselves. Have mercy upon me as a sinner. I take Jesus to be my Saviour. I hide in His death because He died for me and I trust in Him. Your wrath, Oh God, fell on Him at Calvary and as I trust in this I am hidden from that wrath. I will follow Him and serve Him.

‘Look!’ John says. He pleads for you to take Him as your Saviour. John has baptised Jesus in the Jordan. Jesus didn’t have any sin so why was He baptised? Just as He didn’t have to die for His sins, He died for ours. He was saying, ‘I am one of them, I am them.’ He carries those sins of ours throughout His perfect life. We watched as His sins were sealed behind the rock of death. He rose on the third day, minus sins, which are never to be seen again.

Have you looked to Him? Not just a passing glance. Have you looked and seen in Him the only hope of Salvation?

August 21st 2016: Matthew Maxwell-Carr (Morning)

 ‘I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake;
and I will not remember your sins.’
Isaiah 43:25

We were blessed to sit under the ministry of Matthew Maxwell-Carr from Hill Park Church, who preached on the theme of forgiveness.

God offers forgiveness to the world through Jesus Christ. It is the message of salvation, the message of the righteousness of God.

  • Who forgives sins?
  • What is the forgiveness of sin?
  • Why does God forgive sin?

Evidently sin can be forgiven. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how much sin we’ve accumulated or what the world thinks of us, there is forgiveness, there is hope.

The judgement of God is upon us, sin needs to be forgiven. God promises He will never remember our sins. This is the message of the gospel, of forgiveness.

Who forgives sin?

The Lord God, ‘I, even I’. Have you put your trust in other ways? Some people can’t forgive themselves – they may go to a psychiatrist or psychologist who says, ‘Don’t feel guilty!’ But they have no power or authority to forgive sin. People march themselves down to the River Ganges to cleanse themselves, but that doesn’t work. A guilty conscience will hunt you down but thanks be to God, He can forgive you, heal you.

The only one with authority to forgive sin is God. ‘I am the first, I am the last; and beside me there is no God.’  (Isaiah 44:6) He alone has the power. This is why, when Jesus came into this world, they called Him a blasphemer. Even the whole Old Testament sacrificial system didn’t do away with sin. The author of Hebrews tells us those animal sacrifices had to be repeated again and again, year in, year out. Sin was never dealt with properly. Then Christ came. Once. For all. He has offered the final sacrifice. This alone can deal with sin, deal with a guilty conscience.

Some people just come before God and forget the cross. They forget God is a righteous judge; sin has to be dealt with and paid for otherwise God would be unjust. The only way is the way of the cross, He is the propitiation of our sins. Jesus is the propitiation; upon the cross God poured out His wrath on His only begotten Son, sin has been paid for. Justice has been paid for. So now, when you come to God through the cross, there is forgiveness. Apart from this, apart from the cross, there is no forgiveness. This is why the Apostle Paul can say, ‘Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.’ (Romans 8:33)

Heaven holds nothing against you, you have every right as a forgiven person to go in peace. He will watch over you and protect you. You are forgiven by the only one who has the authority to do the impossible thing, by way of the cross.

What is the forgiveness of sin?

According to God, forgiveness is a blotting out, a wiping away.

‘As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.’ Psalm 103:12

‘Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not His anger forever, because He delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, He will have compassions upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.’ Micah 7:18-19
‘And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth, unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God His Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.’ Revelation 1:5-6

Christ blots out our iniquities and washes them away. People must realise they’ve broken God’s law and hang over the gates of Hell. Every moment of our life has never been anything but sin. When have you ever loved your neighbour as yourself? Every single one of us has dishonoured God’s authority. The shed blood of Christ completely blots out all your sin. ‘I will not remember your sins.’ He extinguishes your sins from His memory.

What happens when your conscience is cleared? The guilt is gone and taken away forever. If God has wiped away your sins, no matter how bad they were, then you ought to forget them too. You ought to believe the Word of God. The biggest sin is the sin of unbelief, it remains in our hearts and minds. You must not allow the Devil to set you on a guilt trip. Refuse to condemn yourselves. 

‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.’ Romans 8:1

God holds nothing against you, so you have no right to condemn yourself. You are not the judge! Strive, by the spirit of God, to forget our past and move on. Get on with life and live for God’s glory. He has called us to peace and we ought to live in peace. The Lord completely justifies and vindicates you. You have received the righteousness of God by faith. You are absolutely blameless in the sight of God, that’s the forgiveness of sin.

Why does God forgive sin?

He doesn’t do it primarily for our sake. That will help unburden your soul!  ‘I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake;
and I will not remember your sins.’ He does it for His own sake, for His glory, the revealing of His kindness. Our forgiveness is a means to an end. We are forgiven to glorify God and reveal how tremendous He is. A forgiven sinner knows how wonderful God is. Because God forgives primarily for His sake, in as much as you live in the light of His forgiveness, that is how much you glorify Him. We’re a washed people, you’ve been set apart as Holy. Don’t hold things against others, or yourself, this dishonours God. When you condemn yourself or others you make it all about you. It’s not about you, it’s all about Him. He forgives you, be at peace. Instead of spending your life in bitterness and worry, spend it in praise and glory to His name.