July 1st 2018: Pete Hilder

Pete Hilder-July18Psalm 133

This is a Song of Ascents – a song sung by people as they journeyed to Jerusalem to feast. The people enjoyed singing as they met together to worship God, just as those who go to the EMW Aber Conference or similar conferences, enjoy the fellowship. This psalm is a picture of people as they journeyed for days before they converged in Jerusalem. The church family came together; it was a time of great blessing.

This is what our daily journey is to be like. We are pilgrims heading towards the New Jerusalem, heaven. Lots of people are searching for this type of thing – they join a club with the desire to be united together. As Christians we are truly united as church family. David knew the importance of having a special relationship with his spiritual brothers. David and Jonathan had this special relationship and were united. But David made great mistakes. In David we see how good and pleasant it is when things work, but also we see trouble. This is what church life is like.

The first thing we are told in Psalm 133 is ‘Behold.’ It is an important word. We are to step back, look, take time to consider. ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!’ (Psalm 133:1). ‘Good’ is a fact and ‘pleasant’ a feeling. It stirs something in your heart. It’s a fact that the church is good, but we should also feel the wonder of fellowship, the wonder of new creation, a bond in the Holy Spirit.

Sadly, it is not always the case. We lose sight of the beauty that there is to be. In the early chapters of Acts (Acts 2:42) we see a wonderful church, where they shared things and enjoyed the teaching. Again we see this in Acts 4:32. Wonderful! This is what a church is to be. Sadly, it is not always like that. In Acts 5 we read of lying over money, and in Acts 6 of favouritism. So often in the life of the church there can be division – because of money or favouritism. How well do you actually get on together?

In John 17 Jesus talks to His disciples about what is important. They were just like us – wanting the most important positions. Jesus, at the end of His ministry, highlights the importance of unity. We are to have identifying marks – our love, our unity – we are one. This expresses God’s nature, love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We’ve been drawn into the Trinity. This is God’s design. ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!’ (Psalm 133:1). It is essential we are a happy family. When people see a loving church, a sacrificial church, it is noticed. This is God’s way. But it is also noticed when churches act in a hypocritical way.

In this passage we’re given two illustrations to demonstrate unity. They may seem obscure today, but they are God-given. Firstly, ‘It is like a precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments (Psalm 133:2). This illustration comes from the world of theology, referring to the anointing of the high priest. Precious oil is used, it is valuable and set apart. When did you last have an induction or a baptism? We have special times in the life of the church. This is a picture of something special in church. We focus on Jesus Christ. We see Him at work. We are encouraged. Jesus is working today, extending His kingdom. God would have what we experience on those special days to be our everyday. We need to keep focused on what we’re about – getting the gospel out in our community.

The anointing of the Holy Spirit. We want to stimulate and maintain unity. He is the one who blesses us. Jesus Christ is now our High Priest. He has our names on His heart – it overflows down His garments onto us and we are blessed when we trust in Him and He is the centre of our lives. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus if we are to enjoy the blessing of the unity of God’s people, to be His family. Ultimately, it’s only those in His family who are blessed.

The second picture we get of unity is from the physical world, ‘It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing – life for evermore.’ (Psalm 133:3). This blessing is like dew. Here we see the physical landscape of Israel. If we get up early we see there is dew, even in hot weather. There is daily dew on the ground. In this verse there are two mountains mentioned: Hermon and Zion. Hermon, in the north, has an abundance of life, it is green and flows with a river and sends out blessings.  Zion is in the south and is arid. IN the Old Testament it is where God had chosen for His name to dwell. The dew of Hermon descends on Zion. Jesus is the place of God’s blessing. He is like Mount Hermon, a place of dew, a place of blessing. God has given us life, In our arid lives, He sends the blessing down to fall on us so we are transformed from naturally being arid, lifeless and barren. We’ve been separated from God but Jesus brings the dew, the blessing.

Dew is quiet and unseen. Come to Jesus to receive life. It is wonderful. Then we can become those who disperse life to others, to dispel the oil on others. As we serve, we dispense the oil on new Christians. Be a gentle, quiet influence in the daily lives of one another. Let there be spiritual dew on people’s lives. Stir a desire in others to know more about Jesus.

Some people in church can be devisive, they don’t show love. Churches can be infiltrated by people who think they’re Christians but are not (Parable of the Sower). We need a loving influence in church.  

‘For there the Lord commanded the blessing – life for evermore.’ (Psalm 133:3). Do you believe this? Do you believe John 17? God ‘commanded.’ It is in the past tense. We are a blessed family. This comes in many ways, one us the blessing of new life. Children are born, in the church new Christians are born-again. Church should be a maternity ward – new life being born the church. It should be on-going. Is our church a place where people are converted and growing?

Enjoy ‘life for evermore,’ looking to eternal things. It’s a picture of a wonderful family. All families, apart from this family, have deaths. But to die for a Christian is different. We live for evermore – fully perfected in our spirit and body. God desires that this blessing will come down to us. We must focus on the gospel, be gentle – just like dew. Do you believe in God’s design and the importance it can have? May He help us, may He stir us.  

May 20th 2018: Owen Jones

Owen Jones-May18.jpg‘He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.’ Ephesians 1:22-23

Here we have an aspect or our union with Christ – organic union – Christ is the head, you and I are the limbs. We read of the mystery of our union with Christ in Ephesians 5. As the Bridegroom, Christ is incomplete without the Bride. John Calvin comments, “This is the highest honour of the church that, unless He is united to us, the Son of God reckons Himself in some measure imperfect. What an encouragement it is for us to hear, that not until He has us as one with Himself is He complete in all His parts, or does He wish to be regarded as whole.” Calvin’s statement is gloriously audacious – but it is right. Jesus is incomplete without us. He is the head in heaven, we’re the limbs on earth. We are joined to Christ now, but it will be seen more evidently on the great, glorious matrimonial day when we meet.

How can we see this organic unison?
1. Christ is head of all things in heaven and on earth
2. Christ is the head and we are the members.
3.  We are joined together in unity and diversity.

1. Christ is head of all things in heaven and on earth.
How is Christ’s headship described? We read in Ephesians 1:15-23 Paul’s prayer that we may bask in confidence in Christ. Are you confident God has called you from darkness to light? Do you know what it us to be born again? I’m not talking about coming to chapel, but coming to Jesus. Are you confident He has called you? Do you know the enlightenment of the eyes of your heart? (Ephesians 1:18). Paul also says in this verse that our inheritance is guaranteed, it can’t be stolen. In verse 19 we read of ‘the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.’ It is like the same power that raised Christ from the dead. Do you know the power of new life in Christ? We should be the most confident people on earth.

In Ephesians 1:20-12 we read that Jesus is seated in glory, power and authority, might and majesty. He has gained the victory. He is far above all, no-one can surpass Him. The holy power of angels, the authority of kings, will never get to where He is and will never rob Him of His divine dignity. God appointed Him. Christ is head, seated in the heavenly realms.

In Ecclesiastes 3 and 4 our Head is described as a means of encouragement. He is your Saviour, your head. Here is Paul’s encouragement to the Church at Ephesus and you and me.

2.Christ is the head and we are the members.
This is the One we are joined to, we are united to. The Church is like a human body. Generally, every human being has one head, two arms, two legs etc. Of course, due to the Fall, there are certain deformities. We need everything we’ve been given. The Psalmist says in Psalm 139, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” We started out as dust of the ground being breathed into a body, created in His image.

 In the head is the brain that controls the movement of the members, which respond and react. When the head is severed from the body, life ceases. Sometimes, the church appears as if it has had a stroke and it sometimes can look ugly and dead. The message from the head is not getting to the members and being obeyed. The local church, in disobedience, can appear as if it’s had a stroke and is immobilised. We are to be obedient people.

The body grows in love. Pauls add to his theme; in chapter 4:15-16 we see how we’ve to grow and what makes us grow in love. The love of God. We can hide behind sentimentality. There are times when we show the love of God when firm words and actions are called for. Generally, a local fellowship thrives on agape.

The body feeds and nourishes on everything the head sends it. All things are held together in one head, to bring all things together (Colossians 2:19). How many individuals are running around like headless chickens, having lost connection with the head? Sin cuts us off from the head. Some churches try to do their own thing but we are here to do it God’s way, Christ’s way. Be listeners, obedient, growing with the love of God.

3.We are joined to Jesus in unity and diversity.
The church is one body in conflict – it’s a contradiction. Men give the church different names as if there are different churches. That’s the visible church as the world sees it. There is only one true ecclesia. Satan seeks to segment, fragment and conquer. The more names there are, the better for Satan.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that the body is one made up of many parts – an innumerable multitude (1 Corinthians 12:12-14). Sometimes the body of Christ can give the impression it consists of only one member – being dominated by one member. Paul says the body is not made up of one part. Sometimes, we are not listening to God. In the local church we need all our members and faculties. God arranges the different parts for different uses (1 Corinthians 12:18). God has arranged the parts of the body. Every true believer needs each other. Some may say, ‘I have no need of you’ (1 Corinthians 12:21), but Paul calls the members of the body to its senses. You cannot do without the different Christians, the body won’t be the same without them (1 Corinthians 12:22). The body of Christ consists of members who wouldn’t be accepted anywhere else in the world. Unity and diversity, equality, one in unity. No division (1 Corinthians 12:25-27).

We can thanks God we’re not lookalikes. Instead, look like Him. There is diversity. How boring if we are all the same type, out of the same mould. Sometimes we feel others are not as important or careful as we are, but here in the body we are equal.

The members suffer and have difficulties but there is unity, equality and mutuality. Christ is the head, we are the members. We are one in unity, joined to Christ.