Saturday 31st July 2021: John Funnell

Genesis 11:1-9 The Tower of Babel

I’m often asked if I can explain the Holy Trinity. God is three: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three totally separate and defined persons, yet also, at the same time, they are perfectly one. How can three be one? How does this work? Can you explain it? No, the truth of the Trinity is too deep, too profound, beyond our understanding. It proves to us that God is beyond our invention. We can’t make something up we don’t understand. We may not be able to understand the complexities, but we can see the Trinity throughout scripture. We can see the application of the Trinity in our prayer life. We come to the Father, by the Son, through the Holy Spirit. Our worship and salvation is Trinitarian. We know from scripture there is God the Father, God the Son and God, the Holy Spirit, united perfectly in their diversity. We are all wonderfully unique, yet we gather as one. We come with our differences, yet one voice. We are honouring Him as we celebrate 199 years of worship at Penuel.

Our God is three in one and this is expressed in the wonderful diversity of His Church. Together, in love, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit created everything. They are Triune. God made us in His image and His image is Triune. As image bearers of a Triune God, we, as human beings, can do amazing things when we unite. We can invent vaccines in record time in a pandemic, we can send people into space. When we unite in God, we can do amazing things.

Genesis 11 is a very famous Bible story, although it is a story that is often taught negatively. But it is a story filled with positive lessons regarding our human potential. We can do amazing things when we come together and unite in one voice. For 199 years Penuel has stood firm for the gospel – one common purpose – to reach the heavens. Nothing is impossible. “And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” (Genesis 11:6). These are God’s words. Amazing! What an accolade from God’s mouth.

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

But as we know, we see here the great Tower of Babel ends up failing. God divides the people through their language and scatters them. God can humble us at any moment. He will humble us if we get carried away. The big question for us is why did God humble the people building the Tower of Babel if they were doing such a good job? Their motive was wrong.

In verse 1 we see the people were moving eastward. Going East is very significant in Biblical narrative. It represents moving away from the presence of God. In chapter 10 we have a table of the nations, the offspring of Noah. This runs chronologically with chapter 11. The people listed in chapter 10 lived during the building of the Tower of Babel. Nimrod, a great builder of cities, was likely to have been involved in the building of the Tower; he lived at the same time and place. Nimrod’s name in Hebrew is ‘rebel.’ It is possible to assume the people were not following God and were following a rebel.

But there are other clues regarding the wrong reasons for building the tower, “Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4). This reason to build the tower goes totally against God’s reason for humanity. In Genesis 1:28 we read that God told Adam and Eve to multiply and scatter, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” This command was also given to Noah and his sons, “And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” (Genesis 9:7).

God tells the people to scatter, but what do they do? The consolidate and build a tower. They were ignoring God’s command to scatter, therefore, they were going against God’s wishes. So, God rightly and justly undid their work.

Why were they not listening to God and spreading out across the globe? I argue that is was because of fear. If they had scattered, they thought they would be weak and vulnerable, totally reliable on God. They were scared of possibly another flood. God had judged the Earth and flooded it. Catastrophic judgement. A flood happening again was a genuine concern for the people of the Bible. They built the tower with bitumen (v3). God told Noah to use bitumen to waterproof the boat. In their fear and rebellion, the people didn’t want to scatter and so they attempted to protect themselves against God’s judgement, so they waterproofed the tower. They were not trusting God’s covenant promise, they were not trusting in God’s grace.

Friends, the tower of Babel showed what humanity could achieve as image bearers of our Triune God. They build a huge tower to the heavens but God destroyed it and scattered them. Why? Well because, one, arguably, they were following a rebel, Nimrod. Two, definitely, because they were disobedient to God’s command to scatter. Three, they didn’t trust in God’s covenant grace. They were waterproofing. They trusted in themselves instead of going to a God of grace. They were scared and feared another judgement, another flood because they were going against God. They centralised their operations. They tried to get to heaven on their own terms. They should have submitted to His grace, trusting in His provision, looking to the rainbow and live free, abiding His love.

As a church today, right across Wales, we are guilty of doing the same thing. The Church in Wales is in massive decline because of it. We have ageing congregations, we are weak, we are low on numbers and low on resources. As a result, we fear closure, so we have stopped taking risks. We don’t want to scatter, we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin. In our desperation, we have forgotten God’s covenant promise. We really should be trusting in God in our weakness. In our fear we create holy huddles, trying in vain to protect ourselves. We are content to stay in our little chapels, worshipping how we want to. We stay and waterproof. What should we do instead? We should trust in His voice, trust in our weakness that God is gracious. The tower of Babel reminds us of what we can achieve when we work together. “And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” (Genesis 11:6).

God did not save your soul to build a tower to heaven, to come to God your way. He saved you to go out and take risks, to scatter the gospel, in one voice, in unity, to the community He has called you to serve. Friends, the good news of the gospel, the good news we cherish, is we don’t have to build towers to reach heaven to meet with God. We come to a God who comes down to us, “And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.” (Genesis 11:5). As Christians, we have Immanuel, God with us. Jesus Christ came down, so we don’t have to build up. It is by His grace, not by our works, that we are saved, so that no man might boast.

 Jesus came down and showed us, in utter weakness on the cross, that all sin and death can be obliterated. He rose again, and promises to be with us until the end of the age. He gave us that promise so that we can do church as God intended – which is to spread ourselves thin, to take risks for the gospel. God prefers that way, doesn’t He? His power is made perfect in our weakness.

Penuel Church, I love you. You are a small congregation in the middle of nowhere, yet you are utterly untied in your faith to keep going. When I come here, I meet with Jesus. He is here. Your faith to keep going, your faith to reach out into the community in your weakness, is a lesson for the church right across Wales. I pray that you will continue to spread yourself thin for the gospel, trusting in God’s ways.

February 9th 2020: Alan Davison

Alan Davison-Feb2020Titus 3:4-8

The doctrine of regeneration.

We glory in the fact we are redeemed, justified before God because of what Christ has done. When Christ rose, He rose to a new quality of life. He was transformed. He earned this for us too (Ephesians 2:5-6). This is what we will experience. By coming to faith we’re made spiritually dead to the world. Our spirit has been renewed (Colossians 3:1-2). We still have to deal with the same bodies, the same weaknesses and sicknesses, but we’re to seek heavenly things. The power used to raise Christ from the dead is the same power He uses to sustain us. If we try to do something in our own strength it is like going in second gear. We need to surrender to God, to truly trust in God, not our limitations (Ephesians 1:19-20).

When we fully trust in God He infuses every aspect of our lives. This starts with regeneration – it is only of God. Its impact upon our lives should be ongoing and obvious.

  • Regeneration is a work of God alone.

The life of faith is initiated by God (John 1:13). When we are born again all three persons of the Trinity are involved. It is the Father who initiated our faith (James 1:17-18, 1 Peter 1:3). The Resurrection of our Saviour is the means used to obtain our regeneration. Our rebirth is of the Spirit (John 3:8).

He has raised us spiritually from death to life, to the realities of the spiritual realm. It is mysterious to us. We don’t understand it but we still give thanks. Scripture tells us God’s ways are not our ways.

Whilst regeneration is of the Spirit, it should affect every aspect of our life (2 Corinthians 5:17). I still have the same physical body but it now serves God. God’s salvation is holistic, it saves the whole person. Our bodies are a creation of God, originally described as ‘very good.’ Regeneration – God has done it all

  • Regeneration comes before saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Once regenerated we come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. God has to work that in our hearts. We know that the faith we have can ebb and flow, but regeneration is from God (John 6:44, John 6:65).

Acts 16:14 is an example of this working out. God acted on Lydia’s heart so she would respond positively to Paul’s call. But the reverse can also be true (1 Corinthians 2:13-14).

Look for evidence to see if someone is regenerated. From the moment we realise we have been saved, we have a desire to read the Scriptures, a need to pray. We seek a meaningful ongoing relationship with God. God has done this and will not revoke it. God wants us to build upon the regenerated heart He has given us.

  • Regeneration is confirmed by a changed life.

It is an ongoing process fed by sanctification. The power of sin that used to be in our lives is no longer present. While sin continues to hamper us, God’s seed is in us. We penitently confess our sins, asking God to change us – we must have God’s help to do so.

We are a daily witness as we seek to put others first, not ourselves. Not to do this is to take on the world’s attitudes. (1 John 5:3-4). God has won the victory for us. Since we are regenerated we have overcome the world in God’s strength. Regeneration will protect us from Satan (1 John 5:18). Satan will bicker at us but God won’t let him succeed, He won’t let Satan pull us out of His grasp. Satan whispers doubts in our ears, but the fact you are grieving shows God at work in your life.

Regeneration is something we can depend upon as we live our lives (Galatians 5). The fruit of the Spirit should be nurtured. It is not a check list but character traits we will see as an ongoing basis in our lives.

Jesus tells us what He expects from our lives – fruit in the people we become. He looks at what we will become, not what we’ve done.

September 9th 2018: Mike Viccary

Mike Viccary -9thSept18Revelation 1:1-8: Who is this Jesus?

What does the future hold? What will happen to the world in the next decade? What new technologies will change and challenge us? Such questions are being asked continually. What does the future hold?

The Lamb that was slain is on the throne. There’s an appeal to all of us to come to Christ. We need to know Him more today than yesterday. Revelation is also a book of warning to those who choose not to love Christ.

This is the revelation of Jesus Christ. It came from the Father, about the Son. This is different to the book of Genesis. Genesis is a book of history, Revelation is a book of prophecy. It bears a close relationship with the book of Daniel. John was brought into heaven and witnessed these things. This books is a blessing to all those who read it, to those who heed this prophecy.

After the general introduction in verses 1-3 we are then given John’s greeting in verse 4. The greeting is not just from John but comes from the Trinity. How wonderful! The Trinity say to you this morning, ‘Grace, Peace.’

In verses 5-6 we hear a doxology. Every time we read the Word of God we should praise His name. Then, in verse 7 we are given a declarative warning. We look forward to the coming of Jesus Christ, but there’s a warning of judgement.

The opening is about the statement and revelation of God.

Christ Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. The Father is represented first. The seven spirits refers to perfection, completion, the action of the Spirit of God in all He does. The seven churches are representative of the churches in all the world. The order of the Trinity here is not the usual Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but Father, Holy Spirit and Son. The focus is on Jesus Christ.

In verse 5 we see three title given to Jesus Christ:
the faithful witness;
the firstborn of the dead;
the ruler over the kings of the earth.

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness. This is so comforting. We also read this in Revelation 3:14, 19:1, so it is not just a passing reference. He is the Amen. Why? He has given us this revelation. He is before all things. He alone has come from outside creation into creation and He spoke. He is the objective. He is also Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. He encompasses the entire span of history. He stood amongst the seven lampstands. He is here, at the lampstand of Penuel Baptist Chapel. He is walking amongst us. He knows our situation. He can see deep into the heart. He speaks truth. He instructed John to write down what he said so that we might benefit. When God speaks it is written down and preserved.

Christ is the only person to die voluntarily, to rise again and come back to new life in a new spiritual body. No-one has seen God at any time. When we see Jesus we see the Father – that’s how we see God. Only Jesus has seen God in all eternity.

Christ is the firstborn of the dead. He died in our place to pay for all our sins, to provide to us with the righteousness that comes by faith. He is the Lamb slain. He is the firstborn, the one who has the Father’s inheritance. He was prophesied in Psalm 89. In Colossians 1:15 we read He is the heir to all things. Will you share in His inheritance? The meek will (Matthew 19) inherit the earth, life forever (Matthew 25). We read of our inheritance in Ephesians 1:18. In 1 Peter 1:4 Peter writes we come ‘to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.’ Earthly inheritance doesn’t last but the inheritance we have will never be spoiled – and it’s eternal! We, as joint heirs, will inherit too.

He is from the dead, born into this world of dead (valley of dry bones – Ezekiel).Christ came into that and He lived amongst them. Nothing could harm Him. He had to submit to death but is risen (Revelation 1:18). He alone is the source of life, the author of creation and the new creation. Do we live to God or do we get caught up in the world?

He is the ruler over the kings of the earth. There are two kingdoms – the kingdom of this world (1 John 5:19) and then there are those of the kingdom of the ‘Son of His love.’ (Colossians 1:13) Nothing happens in this world unless God allows it. He always brings good out of things. For our comfort we need to remember He is the ruler of the kingdoms. The responsibility of believers is to demonstrate what it means to ‘Kiss the Son.’ Christ loved us, He actually washes us. As you read the Word of God, know His cleansing experience. He makes us kings and priests in the new kingdom.

In verse 8 we are given a self-revelation of Christ. There is a problem here if you are reading the NIV as there is an omission. The text is pointing us to Christ, Christ is the Alpha and Omega. Jesus is the beginning and end. Don’t worry! Before time began, after time has finished, Jesus is God. The Lord Christ is our faithful witness to salvation, to who God is, to who we are. He is the one who has told us how it is. Are we faithful? When we hear His word, do we say ‘yes?’

May 27th 2018: Gerald Tait

Gerald Tait January 18The Trinity

Although the word ‘trinity’ is not mentioned in scripture, the Bible is full of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God is in total control of the three.  An illustration of the trinity could be an orange divided equally into three. Each part will have orange slices, pips and juice. God is equal with the Son and is equal with the Spirit. God is in overall control. When the disciples said to Jesus ‘When will you return?’ He replied, ‘Only the Father knows.’

There are three ways into an earthly family: being born into it naturally, marrying into it or being adopted into it. This happens when you become a believer (John 3:16). We come into a family. The New Testament describes coming into church. In John 1 we are born into the family. When we believe we receive the nature of a son. When we are adopted, we receive the position of a son. Paul says we are adopted by God into the church. God said the church is like a bride – one day, we the church will be the bride.

What is God doing now? All around the world thousands are coming to faith in Jesus today. They are being born into the family. God is actively adopting them and bringing them security. When Jesus finished work on earth He returned to heaven. What is He doing now? In John 17 we read the priestly prayer. Jesus is God’s love gift to the world. Christians are the Father’s love gift to Jesus.

What security we have does not depend on us, it depends on God. God will not allow any of those He has given to Jesus to be lost. What is Jesus’ activity in heaven? He has gone there as a high priest, He is actively being our High Priest right now. Jesus reminds God of the sacrifice He made. Jesus is there not only as a priest, as our solicitor, He is our top advocate. When I mess up, Jesus forgives. Part of our nature is still sinful but Jesus pleads for our security. God is in overall control.

God the Holy Spirit. In the Greek the word ‘spirit’ is ‘pneuma.’ We read of the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:2. Throughout the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came upon people. They travelled and were good at using stones. Abraham took some rubble and built an altar to worship God and offer sacrifice to God. Jacob set up a stone altar when he wrestled with God. John 1 is a replica of Genesis 1. Jesus gave work to the Holy Spirit to carry on what He had started. The Holy Spirit is our paracelete, the one who comes alongside to help you and keep you safe.

We see the trinity in the grace. Grace in Welsh is ‘cymdeithas’ – the society of the Holy Spirit. Interesting – it’s a building society. The Holy Spirit assists us in the building of God’s church. The Holy Spirit came upon the patriarchs as they built stone altars to worship God. The church is living stones. He takes the rubble of my life and your life and He is dressing the stone and making it fit. How wonderful is that! We are a society of believers, made to fit in that temple. The Holy Spirit is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. Jesus is coming back. We’ve been marked with a seal, a deposit (Ephesians 1). We have confidence, assurance, knowing we have security in the trinity.