August 8th 2019: Dave Evans

Dave Evans - April 2019Psalm 22

The vast majority of psalms have a personal and historical application to the author and time. They may look forward to beyond the time of King David, to the coming of the king of Kings. Psalm 22 is somewhat different. It is entirely prophetic. The Psalm unfolds the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is clearly like the passage of Isaiah 53. It is a description of the crucifixion. It gives a clear view of the sufferer’s humility. This makes the Psalm all the more striking as crucifixion was not established until centuries later.

The gospels record the outward details of the crucifixion but they only give a glimpse into the Saviour’s experiences. Psalm 22 opens up the Saviour’s soul and mind the penalty which our souls deserved. He did not endure Calvary unconsciously. As He suffered on the cross He was conscious He was fulfilling Old Testament prophecies (John 19:28). He w aware the scriptures were pointing forward to His death. In Matthew 27 Jesus quotes the opening verse of this Psalm, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Even as the Lord suffers He reviews in His mind those prophecies which concerned Himself. He came to fulfil His Father’s will (John 5). As the Saviour takes the Psalm to His own lips we are given an insight into His sufferings.

What can we learn from this?

1. The repudiation of the suggestion that at the cross the Saviour’s faith failed. As we look at the psalm as a whole we see it is full of the Saviour’s confidence and faith. It’s ‘My’ He has lost sight of His Father’s face but not His faith. In the midst of His suffering and anguish He utters great confidence in God (verses 3-5). In His abandonment He knows God is faithful. Christ is able to realise God’s faithfulness to Himself (verses 9-11). The Saviour, from the time of His birth, knows this relationship of trust and confidence with His Father. This enduring faith does not in any way diminish the depths of His suffering.

2. His humiliation and the pain and mockery of the crowds to the Saviour.
The One who had walked among the people, who was full of compassion, is now alone. Betrayed. Denied. The disciples had fled. The Saviour hangs in full view of all those gathered around the cross, crowds full of venom. We see in this Psalm how deeply it penetrated His heart “But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people” (Psalm 22:6). He is humiliated by those He came to save. The Lord God, the author of all creation, now feels Himself to be a worm, the least of all creation. The nails and the spear caused no greater pain than this mockery. Verse 8 takes us so vividly to the foot of the cross (Matthew 27:41). The religious leaders, experts in the Old Testament scriptures, are blind to the promised Redeemer “Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. They gape at Me with their mouths, Like a raging and roaring lion,” (Psalm 22:12-13).  These rulers are described as strong bulls, an enraged herd ready to trample down their victim.

3.The horror of the Saviour’s physical sufferings (verses 14-15). This is nothing less than a description of crucifixion. As Jesus is laid on the cross and the nails driven into His hands and feet, we see the description of His suffering. In verse 16 we see the description of the crowds, as they follow the lead of the religious leaders, cry out like a pack of hounds wanting blood (Luke 23:20).

Crucifixion is a death which caused constant perspiration, “I am poured out like water,” (Psalm 22:14). The bones are dislocated, bringing the sufferer to the point of exhaustion, producing extreme thirst, “My tongue clings to My jaws,” (Psalm 22:15). It is an awful description of crucifixion. But these words, as horrible as they are, can’t depict the horror of the suffering. We only scratch the surface.

4.The dark hours and the Saviour’s cry of dereliction. The land was covered in darkness, The Saviour cries, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” When the Saviour was born the darkness of the night was broken by the glorious light of heaven as the angels proclaimed His birth. Now, at the ninth hour, when day should have been at its brightest, the darkness of hell shuts out the brightness. As darkness covers the land, so our Saviour enters the darkness which He alone could endure. He had to plunge into that darkness, into the physical wrath and anger of God who is holy and cannot look on sin. The Lord Jesus Christ knew what it was to be alone in His earthly ministry. He could always say e who sent Me is with me. But now, His Father turns His face from His Son as the God-Man suffers. He endures the total forsaking, total abandonment. Why? Paul declares, “Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4). It is hard to imagine, we cannot imagine, a pure, perfect, spotless life, to be utterly sinless. But here, on the cross, the sinless one becomes our substitute. He comes to die for those He will save. He suffers all the consequences of a broken law. During those three hours of darkness He bore the holy wrath. Here is the essence of our Saviour’s work. This cry of dereliction is the great climax to the Saviour’s work.

5.The turning point (verses 19-21). The Lord is now saying God has answered Him. God accepts the Saviour’s sufferings are complete. The Saviour can now cry out, “It is finished!” The Saviour has accomplished the work the Father sent Him to do. The public declaration of the Saviour’s work comes on the third day – the Lord’s Day.

We can draw three great conclusions:

  • How dreadful, extremely horrid and evil sin must be.
  • It brings us to a new appreciation of the greatness of the Father’s love. The Saviour was His delight, yet He gave Him to suffer in our place (John 3:16).
  • We proclaim, as believers, because of this, Salvation is utterly free and offered to all.

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!

June 3rd 2018: Norman Rees

Norman Rees-May18II Corinthians 12: 1-10

Paul is one of the greatest, dearest men of God, yet he probably suffered more than any other Christian. He suffered for the Lord as He lived for Christ. He was very modest, not even referring to himself by name in this passage, but calling himself ‘a man in Christ.’

The Lord has ways of keeping us humble. Paul had a ‘thorn in the flesh’ (verse 7). He prayed to God three times to have it removed. His prayer is very earnest. We are not told what the thorn in the flesh was, but the Lord did not remove it. Instead, Paul was told, “My grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9). The emphasis is on ‘My.’ We have no grace of ourselves. Without the grace of God we wouldn’t be sitting here today, we wouldn’t have the strength to worship Him.

It’s a lovely day. The grace of God brings the weather, the water of the Spirit, the water of the gospel. It is easy to worship when all is well. However, when we go through trials God is in control. When we are not in trouble and trials, when the sun shines, we are not persecuted, our health is well, our bank balance is good, it is easy to be a Christian.

Sometimes Christians can slip into an easier road and can start to doubt what God has done. They may slip back into wordly things. We are in the world but not of the world. We need to glorify God. Jesus prayed, in John 17, we could be of use in the world.

Spurgeon urged us not to pray to be out of our troubles. Our citizenship is in heaven but Christ wants to keep us in the world that, even in times of trials, we can be a witness. His grace is sufficient. Jesus will not lose one of His sheep, bought with His precious blood. He has paid too high a price. He gives us eternal life.

When sickness and difficulties comes we ask, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ Paul asks the same questions. Sometimes, trials are sent to test our faith. We don’t know where to turn, everything seems to be against us. Don’t despair. It is easy to despair when we can’t see an answer to a problem. Jesus knows all our ways (Psalm 139). He knows everything. He understands us.

If we stand before God without Jesus standing with us as our Lord and Saviour, our Lord and advocate, we have no hope. God has brought us to this situation. When the devil brings doubt, look to Christ.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
a great High Priest, whose name is Love
who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
my name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heav’n He stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look, and see Him there
who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died,
my sinful soul is counted free,
for God the just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me.

Charitie Lees Bancroft

Problems may come. Paul boasts that he could suffer for Christ. He suffered because he simply preached the gospel of God, being beaten 195 times, imprisoned and much more. Yet he could still rely on God’s grace and strength. When you reach the end of your tether, remember God is at the other end, He will never leave or forsake you.

Jesus wants us to be closer to Him. Nothing that makes you pray more earnestly than if you’re suffering. Pray that you may seek His face and know His grace upon you. You’ll pass through your trials (Isaiah 43). He will give you grace to go through. The devil schemes, he will attack, but God’s strength redeems. The Lord allows Satan to go so far, but Jesus defeated the devil. “My grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9).

When you’re blessed of God you can seem so full of your own pride. Be full of Christ. We’re sometimes like vessels – full of ourselves. We need to be filled with grace. When we recognise we have nothing of ourselves, it brings us closer to Christ and we walk more closely with the Lord. Seek the Lord and ask Him to show you what He will do. The grace of the God, who made the world, can supply all our needs. If you are struggling, He wants us to recognise we are nothing of ourselves, that His grace is fully sufficient. Don’t worry about the problem, the future. Trust the Lord and you’ll find Him all sufficient. He has ways of sending storms in our life to get rid of what we don’t need. All we will ever need will be given to us by God.

October 8th 2017: Dave Evans

Dave Evans-Oct 17Mark 14:32-42

When going through a difficult time, some people may say they are experiencing their own ‘personal Gethsemane.’ The truth is, we are treading on holy ground – a unique experience. Only the Saviour ever experienced Gethsemane. Thousands shared the experience of crucifixion, the intense physical suffering. But what no film, no description can truly convey is the suffering our Saviour endured in those hours of darkness. There is nothing like it recorded in human history. We can learn something of the mystery of our Saviour’s experience through the Holy Spirit.

If we look at the setting, our Saviour is coming to the end of three years of ministry. Judas has left the upper room.The Saviour and the remaining disciples go across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus then left most of the disciples at the gate whilst He, Peter, James and John entered the garden. We then have a sudden change, ‘He began to be troubled and distressed.’ (Mark 14:33). We are given a glimpse into our Saviour’s soul – the human Jesus expresses His deep concern to His disciples, ‘Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”’ (Mark 14:34). On every side our Saviour is shut in by distress of soul. He has anguish of soul. The three disciples must have been amazed at what was happening after seeing His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. Here, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Incarnate Son of God is now bowed down in deep distress. You almost feel things can’t be any more heart-rendering than they are. But then ‘He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.’ (Mark 14:35). After only a few steps it seems He is crushed to the ground, pressed into the dust. This anguish lays hold of the whole being of Christ.

What is happening? Why is this experience laying hold of the Saviour? Turn to the Saviour’s prayer in verses 35-36, ‘And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”’ (Mark 14:36). Jesus prayed if it were possible the hour might pass from Him. It’s surely at this point we try to enter into the mystery of the hour. It’s clearly a reference to His death. Jesus always knew He was coming to die for His people. Now He prays to the Father asking for release. What is going on here? His depth of agony doesn’t leave any space for pretence. Does it show an element of weakness? Is He weakening when others have stood firm and given their lives for the gospel? No! He did not fail. As Judas and the authorities came He left willingly. The intense agony of Gethsemane can be explained as we consider verse 36. Jesus prays this prayer which had so much meaning for every Jew. ‘Take this cup away from Me.’ The picture of the cup can refer to joy, ‘I will take up the cup of salvation,’ (Psalm 116:13). But more often, it’s a symbol of judgement and of God’s wrath against sin (Isaiah 51:7, Jeremiah 25). Also in the New Testament, Revelation 14 speaks of the ‘cup of His indignation.’ Here lies, surely, the explanation for the Incarnate God lying crushed in the Garden. He begins to experience the sufferings He alone could endure on the cross. The two thieve endured the physical suffering. What we could not see on the cross we see here – how awful sin is. Our Saviour here looked at the sin which He was to bear on the cross for others, He saw it in its deformity. He sees the wrath of God. His holy soul recoils. That’s what the Saviour experienced here in Gethsemane. He began to experience the cup of wrath, the separation of fellowship with His Father. He begins to experience Hell that He will experience on the cross. He begins to see Hell as His companion as others desert Him. He begins to experience the full horror. So He prays, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”’ (Mark 14:36). But He receives no answer. Heaven is silent. If He didn’t go to Calvary then the cup of wrath would have been drunk by all of mankind. The debt was so great only God could pay it. The life of this one man was so precious it was able to pay the debt. The cup must be drunk to its last drop. Jesus began to experience the eternal sufferings of His people if no-one had died in their place.

The wonder of the experience is having prayed that the cup might be taken away, He goes on to say, ‘Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.’ (Mark 14:36). Jesus came in to the full eternal agreement with the Father. Hebrews declares He learned obedience by the things He suffered. He proved His absolute obedience. Our Lord’s prayers were heard, even though heaven was silent. The Father heard in heaven His Son’s prayers. In three days’ time He answered Him gloriously and raised Him from the dead, triumphant. Now we can sing,

Up from the grave He arose;
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

The glory of the gospel is that faith in Christ brings us to a God of peace, a God of grace in this life and the glory to come. Christ delivers the way, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6). We have a great encouragement here, we have a Saviour who knows what it is to go through life’s darkest experiences. Death is conquered and is but a step to glory. Come in repentance, seek Him. You have a Saviour who has died for you.

Sunday 22nd November – Morning Serivce

Gareth Nov 2015Last Sunday Reverend Doctor Gareth Edwards preached from 1 Peter chapter 3 verse 18. The Christians of the time knew great suffering and Peter encouraged them to think of Christ’s suffering. The Christians suffered unjustly, following in the steps of their Lord. He also suffered unjustly. Peter encouraged them to look to Jesus for hope, comfort, joy and strength. He died for the forgiveness of our sins and we will share in His Glory. The suffering of Christians can never compare to the depth of the suffering of Christ. Christ’s suffering was sufficient suffering, it was substitutionary suffering and it was successful suffering.

Sufficient Suffering:
Christ suffered once for sin. This draws a contrast with the Old Testament sacrificial system which offered daily sacrifices – for centuries blood flowed. In Passover alone a quarter of a million sheep would have been sacrificed. But Christ suffered once, one sacrifice. Once does not require any repetition; it is valid for ever. Jesus gave out His triumphant cry, “It is finished!” Hebrews 10: 11-16. Christ offered a single sacrifice for sin and sat down at the right hand of God. In His death Christ satisfied the righteousness of God. He paid in full, completely cleansing the sin of those who believe in Him. There is full atonement. His suffering was more than enough for our salvation. He purchased forgiveness for us. He alone draws us into a living relationship with our maker. Acts 4:12 It doesn’t matter how great your sin has been – Jesus’ death is sufficient enough to wash away your guilt. Don’t beat yourself up, you need to trust in Him.

Substitutionary Suffering:
1 Peter 2:24 Christ Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree. He is the righteous one, He takes our place. 2 Corinthians 5:21 Our salvation depends on two things: Jesus’ ability to pay for our sins and His willingness to pay. He demonstrated this with His voluntarily giving on the cross on our behalf. He died at the hands of men who falsely accused Him, He died for sinful men who deserved to be condemned by Him. He unjustly suffered for us who deserve eternal condemnation. Christians suffer unjustly but it is nothing compared to the suffering of Christ. His suffering was in our place. He substituted Himself for me. The penalty for our sin, which is death, has been paid by the Saviour because of His infinite love for us. We died 2000 years ago in the person of Jesus Christ. His finished work is the basis of our salvation. In His suffering Jesus took my place, my place personally. He has a personal interest in the salvation of each one of us because He has a personal love for each one of us. Do you know Him? No matter what you suffer it is nothing compared to Christ’s death. We can’t share the glory and blessings unless we take Him to be our Saviour.

Successful Suffering:
Jesus is the one who introduces us to God. Hebrews 6:19-20. He makes the way open to us to God the Father. At His death the thick veil that guarded the Holy of Holies, that symbolised that men could not have access to God, was torn from top to bottom. Christ had gone to God the Father, He made the way possible to God. He clothes us in righteousness and presents us. Hebrews 10:19-22.The Saviour’s sufferings were not in vain. Through His blood we have atonement. Jesus’ mission was an unqualified success. We have been inducted into the same fellowship with God the Father that Jesus, as the perfect God-Man, enjoys. Let us not be slow to approach Him in prayer. We are to make the most of our access to God, there is no limitation. It is open access every minute of every day because Jesus was completely successful in His sufferings. Those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Saviour will be in heaven for eternity. We are fully forgiven and have eternal fellowship with our God. Nothing can change that.