Sermon Outlines

Sunday 22nd Joshua 6:1-2, Now Jericho s  was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in    2 Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered t  Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 20-23 20 When the trumpets sounded, m  the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, n  the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city. o   21 They devoted p  the city to the LORD and destroyed q  with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. 22 Joshua said to the two men r  who had spied out s  the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her. t  ”  23 So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. u  They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.

 "Michelangelo great genius of art, made ​​a statue of marble and marvelled at his own work. The artist eyes fixed on the statue,he thought that it was it moving, the lights in the room made the statues eyes look like flames sparkling blazing its forehead; its cheeks glowed, its lips appeared to tremble, and Michelangelo, in delight , gave a blow with the hammer on the knee statue, saying Parla! Parla! " which means speak!

There was only silence it remained mute as it was marble it was not possible to speak since it was stone, only stone, it lacked  life, and the soul that generates life. The artist stood before the statue, recognizing man who thought he was god, and understood that only God gives life. It was just a statue made by human hands. 

And just as it was impossible for that marble statue to talk after the command of Michelangelo, it was also impossible for the walls of Jericho to fall with only the cry of the people. Jericho was in the way of God's people who told to enter and to conquer the promised land. This town was about 16 miles from the Jordan River and 27 km from Jerusalem and was very important and known for its huge walls, its size and wealth. 

It is presented in the Bible as a city of palm trees, Deut. 34:3. As the city was a fortress, a local Oasis. Jericho was a appealing. To enter Canaan, the people needed to go through Jericho. This city was a major obstacle and Joshua had a responsibility to conquer the land, it was impossible to continue the journey with such a great obstacle ahead. 

Joshua turned to God to know the plans for the conquest of Jericho. And God determined that the city was to be surrounded for six days and on the seventh day the priests playing their trumpets of rams' horns were to walk around it 7 times, then when the people screaming and the priests playing their instruments the walls would collapse from the inside out, soon huge blocks began to fall and fire broke out everywhere. All were killed except Rahab and her family.

When we meditate on this text, perhaps perplexed, as the impossible becomes possible we seek an answer, we do not find any reasonable explanation in science. The only explanation is that God acted miraculously there. We also come across many situations where the solution to our problems seems impossible, but like the walls of Jericho fell, also in our struggles the impossible becomes possible when God acts. The best example is our salvation. We never, by our own merits can be saved, but it was possible when God acted in and through us.

I. The impossible becomes possible when God acts in us.

The greatest miracle of our life is conversion. We were dead in trespasses and sins. We had a heart of stone, not even a hammered knee or a cry of command, as did Michelangelo ordering life to the statue could give us life. It is difficult if not impossible to have a life where there is a smell of death and a heart of stone.

Impossible - is an unpleasant word, it hurts to hear it. If you have a loved-loved and your doctor says impossible to save his life. What a pain! How disappointing this word. How sad to see an old lady looking at her portrayal when she was young and say: It's impossible to turn back the years!

In some circumstances the word impossible becomes dramatic, for example, it is impossible to reach! You can not win! It is impossible to be approved! It is impossible to make peace where there is hatred in the heart, it is impossible to love where there is sorrow and ill-treatment, it is impossible to recover the lost time. 

But the impossible becomes possible when God works in us. Maria found it impossible to give birth to a child without the involvement of her husband, but the angel said to him: For God nothing is impossible. Luke 1:37. "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God" How many things become possible for us when God acts.

Disabled, sick people were restored by Jesus. Lazarus was resurrected from the dead after four days in the tomb.So many other things happened because God acted. And faith is the secret to divine action.When we have the presence of Jesus, we have the possibility in our impossibilities. When all else fails he will avail us. When all seems lost he will save us. He will give us what man can not give, not money, or science, or by brute force, can help only God. He can put in harmony all the desires of our heart. 

However, we must do our part, for the Lord, will do what is impossible for man to do. He works in us and transforms our lives, but this does not exempt us from our responsibilities. He works in our inability, when all else fails and we're left with nothing we can do, then God does the impossable, what we can not do.

II. The impossible becomes possible when God works for us

Remember when Babylon was in danger of being invaded by the Persians, the people thought they must first save their gods and BEL NEBO. The Persians could overtake the city and break their gods and who would they turn to next? 

Then their gods were placed on animals that were placed  in front of the crowd. They were huge statues, and the animals walked slowly and escape became slow. And so, instead of saving the people, their gods had become stumbling  blocks to the crowd and people were beaten and taken captive. Our God is very different! He is the true and living God whom we love and whom we trust. We need not save Him or protect Him from enemies.

He saves us and carries in his arms when we fall and when we are weak. He delivers us from the hour of trial. He delivers us when the impossible surround us. Jericho was taken with the direct help of God, to inspire confidence among the Israelis. Our God is the God of the great battles, wars our wars like King Hezekiah said to be threatened by the king of Assyria "With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our wars."

II Kings chapter 6 is another episode.  The king of Syria wanted to arrest Elisha and sent his army to Dothan, where the Prophet was staying overnight. The servant of Elisha  saw the Syrian army surrounding the city and panicked and said: "Oh my Lord, what shall we do? Then Elisha said, Fear not: for more are those who are with us than those who are with them. Elisha prayed and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes so he may see. The Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he saw that the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. "God works in us and makes the impossible become possible.

God works in us when there is an Egypt enslaving us, God works in us when there is a red sea ahead; God works in us when the waters are bitter. God works in us when hunger presses. He works for us and guides us through the deserts of impossibilities.God works in us and brings down the walls of Jericho that prevent us of taking possession of the promises. 

We may not always have everything we want, but we have everything we need. Deut. 2:7.We must trust God because He works in us. We should still trust Him when we walk in the valley of the shadow of death, even though the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; we need to trust in the Lord, because He acts for us.

III. The impossible becomes possible when God acts through us.

God worked through Moses to free the people from slavery in Egypt. God acted through Joshua to lead your people to conquer the land the land of Canaan. God later acted through the Judges to deliver his people from the oppression of their enemies. God acted through some kings, as well as through the prophets. But God also acts through men who  had little value also, as in the case of the 4 lepers mentioned in II Kings 7. who went to the camp of the Syrians and the people brought news that the enemy had fled leaving behind tons of food.

Apparently they were outcasts, and in fact were despised by society, however, God worked through them and Samaria was saved from starvation .. This reminds us of the prayer of David shortly before his death, I Chronicles 29:11,12.. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power v  and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. w  Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. x  12 Wealth and honour y  come from you; you are the ruler z  of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.

 When weak men stood in faith for the Lord, God acted. God brings life where there is death, and where the heart was stone before, becomes a sensitive heart, which beats the excitement, love, mercy. 

It is God's grace that fills our lives. God works through us lowly and weak beings.  God fights for those who trust in Him.

The impossible becomes possible when God acts through us. It makes the enemy hear noises of a great army. Panic enters the heart of the proud. Remember God creates everything from nothing.

Conclusion: The impossible becomes possible when God works in us, and when God works through us God acts through us. There are many problems before us are perhaps even our Jericho. The salary that does not meet all our needs! The loss of loved ones. These are challenges that we face in our daily walk, but we must trust God.

The most important factor is obedience to God's will. The impossible becomes possible when God acts. Let God work in your life! Trust him and something extraordinary will happen ..

Sunday 15th The other Sunday I asked you and left you with the thought have you said to Jesus “I LOVE YOU”.  Many of you will have grown up with the story of the Apostle Peter. Peter, the strong brave fisherman who was the first to confess Jesus as the Christ, the Saviour of the world, yet who also lost his courage on the day that Jesus was arrested and ended up by denying his Lord. Today I want us to look at this man, and his involvement with Jesus, I want us to look at the story of Peter and his denial.

His denial, as I have said, came at a time when there was a lot of pressure. Jesus had been betrayed by Judas and had been arrested. He had been taken to Caiaphas, the Jewish Chief Priest, then onto Pilate the Roman Governor, and then like a cruel human pass the parcel game onto Herod, the Jewish Regent King. All of these people had made their decisions about Jesus, they had rejected him or washed their hands of him.

In the midst of all this drama stood Peter still deciding where he fitted in, which part he should play. Perhaps that is where you stand today in your thinking about Jesus, you're wondering whether or not you should follow him, whether or not it is worth following Jesus all the way. All around you there is the drama of others who have made their decisions one way or another about Jesus, but you as yet are undecided.

Peter's dilemma however was not so much whether he should follow Jesus, but whether or not he should stand up for Jesus and be counted for Christ in hostile company. Feelings were running high, tempers were hot, the pressure was on. Jesus had been interrogated by the Jewish leaders in the Sanhedrin and the whole thing had finished with Jesus being spat upon, blindfolded and beaten with fists. Peter had been hovering below in the courtyards and was aware what was going on. The bible then tells us of his denial in Mark 14:66f:

"WHILE PETER WAS BELOW IN THE COURTYARD, ONE OF THE SERVANT GIRLS OF THE HIGH PRIEST CAME BY. WHEN SHE SAW PETER WARMING HIMSELF, SHE LOOKED CLOSELY AT HIM. "YOU ALSO WERE WITH THAT NAZERENE JESUS," SHE SAID. BUT HE DENIED IT, "I DON'T KNOW OR UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT," HE SAID, AND WENT OUT INTO THE ENTRANCE AND THE COCK CROWED. WHEN THE SERVANT GIRL SAW HIM THERE, SHE SAID AGAIN TO THOSE STANDING AROUND, "THIS FELLOW IS ONE OF THEM." AGAIN HE DENIED IT. AFTER A LITTLE WHILE, THOSE STANDING NEAR SAID TO PETER, "SURELY YOU ARE ONE OF THEM, FOR YOU ARE A GALILEAN." HE BEGAN TO CALL DOWN CURSES UPON HIMSELF, AND HE SWORE TO THEM, "I DON'T KNOW THIS MAN YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT." IMMEDIATELY A COCK CROWED THE SECOND TIME. THEN PETER REMEMBERED THE WORD JESUS HAD SPOKEN TO HIM: "BEFORE THE COCK CROWS TWICE YOU WILL DISOWN ME THREE TIMES." AND HE BROKE DOWN AND WEPT BITTERLY."

But let us not be too hard on Peter, let's be aware of the fact that if we changed the time or the place, it so easily could be anyone of us. How many of us called to give our hearts to the Lord have denied or suppressed that call? How many of us called to testify to our faith through baptism, or some other way have denied that call, and in so doing have also denied our Lord? Yet, Jesus had a place for Peter despite the fact that he knew that Peter would deny him, that means that Jesus can also have a place for us. Today I hope you will find your place with Jesus.

What then caused him to deny Jesus? Let me give a few suggestions:

\1. HIS OWN UNREALISTIC SELF ESTIMATE.\ Earlier in Mark 14:27f Jesus had predicted Peter's denial. The scripture tells us ""YOU WILL ALL FALL AWAY," JESUS TOLD THEM, "FOR IT IS WRITTEN 'I WILL STRIKE THE SHEPHERD AND THE SHEEP WILL BE SCATTERED.' BUT AFTER I HAVE RISEN, I WILL GO AHEAD OF YOU INTO GALILEE." PETER DECLARED, "EVEN IF ALL FALL AWAY I WILL NOT." "I TELL YOU THE TRUTH," JESUS ANSWERED, "BEFORE THE COCK CROWS TWICE YOU YOURSELF WILL DISOWN ME THEE TIMES." BUT PETER INSISTED EMPHATICALLY, "EVEN IF I HAVE TO DIE WITH YOU, I WILL NEVER DISOWN YOU.""

There are two assessments of Peter in these verses. The first is his own, it was self confident and as events proved, it was a false confidence. The second was Jesus', it was realistic and as events proved it was true.

Have you failed like Peter? You have tried or wanted to be some kind of a person, but you haven't been able to do it.

Perhaps you're worried about becoming a Christian in case you can't keep it up. If we live our lives basing all we do on our own self-estimates then we will either live in a cloud of false pride, or under a burden of self-induced guilt.

Jesus knew that Peter would deny him, Jesus knew how weak the human being is. Yet knowing that, there was still a place for Peter. Peter thought that his place was dependent on his boldness and self-confidence, he would later learn that his place was only dependent on the Lord's love for him, and his love for Jesus.

\2. HE WAS SCARED.\Jesus was among hostile chief priests and Roman soldiers. The crowds were hostile too. Later they would prefer to call for a murderer or what we would now call a political terrorist like Barabbas rather than for the Saviour, Jesus. He was frightened at what would happen to him if he were arrested too. The thought must have dawned on him that what they were doing with Jesus they probably would also do with him. He wasn't the first, and he won't be the last to refuse to be counted for Jesus because he was scared what would happen to him.

Perhaps you are scared of Jesus. Scared of what will happen to your life if he comes into it. Scared of what it means to be totally committed to Jesus. If you're scared then you have to ask yourself who Jesus is. If he is evil, then you should be scared of giving your life to him. If instead he is the Son of God, the expression of all that is holy and good, the one who wishes to transform our lives and prepare us for heaven, what logical reason have you to be scared?

\3. HE DIDN'T WANT TO STAND ALONE.\ The scene of Peter's denial took place at the Jewish Sanhedrin where there were 70 or 71 of the most rich, powerful, influential and supposedly the most godly men in Jewish society.

They had all rejected Jesus as the Saviour and were ready to punish him, in fact they wanted him dead.

Outside the Sanhedrin was a large Jewish crowd also ready to reject Jesus. Peter had once thought that Jesus was the Saviour, and when he was with the other disciples, and with the sympathetic crowds he was happy to hold on to that belief. Things were different now. The disciples were scattered and the crowds were no longer sympathetic. The majority were fixed in their opinions, and Peter like most of us didn't want to stand alone against them. After all could so many people be wrong?

This is a real problem even today. Who is right about Jesus in Britain today? The small group who follow him or the large majority who couldn't care less? Who wants to stand up and be counted for Jesus amongst friends who would think that we were crazy. Is this the pressure on you? Is this why although you know who Jesus is, and what he is asking you to do, that you do nothing? To do nothing is not to be neutral, it is to deny. (persecution in parts of world)

\4. WAS HE TEMPTED AWAY?\ Was there something more subtle? it's not speculation to talk about those who have denied their Lord in order to pursue a relationship which they know to be wrong. Sometimes the standards of Jesus seem to be so high that it seems to be better not to be a Christian. That too leads us down the path of denial.

But of course there are no valid reasons, you can't justify the unjustifiable. I pose these ideas only to expose the futility of some of our thinking, or some of our actions. To deny Jesus is a dangerous action, for in the words of Jesus himself in Matthew 10:32 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my father in heaven."

In order to be saved then there needs to be some kind of public witness of faith. This idea that religion is meant to be personal, something you keep to yourself, is not what the scriptures teach nor what God expects. God wants us to stand up and be counted for him. To admit publically in some way that Jesus is both our Saviour and our Lord.

He is our Saviour because as The Son of God he died on the cross for our sins. Our sinful lives meant that we deserved to be punished by God, but Jesus took our punishment on the cross. The moment that we say to Jesus "Thank you for dieing for me, please cleanse me of my sins and forgive me" Jesus takes us to God the Father and says this man now belongs to me, I acknowledge him before you. To reject, or disown what Jesus has done for us means that salvation can not be ours.

But have you yet acknowledged this faith? Have you witnessed to it publically, in baptism because the scriptures teach you that once saved you ought to be baptised, but also verbally before men. Today if you have never stood up for Jesus, then I want you to change that.

But I don't want us to leave Peter there with this bad press of being the man who denied Jesus, because the gospels don't leave us with that impression at all. In John 21:15f Jesus comes to Peter a further time, only now Jesus is the resurrected Lord.

You know, there is no stage manager like the Son of God. He never seems to start the action rolling until the stage is perfectly set, and you will find that everything on the stage will be poignant in meaning. For example, Jesus meets with Peter here around a coal fire (v.9) - where did we last find Peter at a coal fire? Was it not beside a coal fire that he denied the Lord? (John 18:18). The Lord takes Peter back not just spiritually, but also physically to the point of failure so that he can restore him. And there is no doubt that Peter wouldn't have been allowed to move on until he conquered that point of failure.

The Lord will often take us back again and again to the same point and say to us "look you cannot move on until you have victory here." And just like he set the stage for Peter so he will set the stage for us - before us again and again will come reminders - people, places or whatever, and these people or places will twinge our conscience until we get right with God.

The re-instatement of Peter will depend on how he answers the Lord's question "do you truly love me?"

Yet there is a play in the Greek language here which you cannot see in the English. The first time Jesus asks Peter "do you truly love me" he uses the word\agape\ for love, and Peter replies "Lord you know that I love you" and uses the word\philia\for love. To put that together Jesus asks Peter "do you love me with the highest form of love, with great self-giving and sacrifice" to which Peter replies "Lord you know that I have great affection for you."

That, of course, is not really answering the question. So Jesus asks the same question again, and gets the same reply. The third time however Jesus uses the word\philia\and Peter replies using the same word." The significance of that we will work out when we look at the three questions in turn now:

1. The first question, "do you truly love me more than these?"

Jesus is asking Peter two things, firstly does he love him with the highest form of love, and secondly does he love him more than his fellow disciples do as he once claimed? This refers back to Mark 14 which read: "Then Jesus told them, this very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ' I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'" Peter replied, even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.""

Before he learned otherwise, Peter had been so sure of himself that he imagined himself to be the only disciple ultimately, on whom Jesus could rely. He believed this despite the fact that Jesus had just said that\all\would fall away. Peter must have thought that he knew better - even if that lot all fall you, I won't. What a proud boast, and how quickly Peter failed to live up to it. Now he must admit to Jesus that the answer to both these questions is "no", he can however answer in honesty that he has great affection for his Lord.

We all must like Peter honestly admit before the Lord that most haven't got this highest form of love for the Lord, but that like Peter there is a kind of love. And so Jesus asks Peter the second question:

2. The second question, "do you truly love me?"

Jesus drops the comparison of Peter's love with that of the other disciples, but he doesn't drop the word\agape.\ He simply drives home his main challenge, "do\you\truly love me?" The Saviour is asking Peter to have a second look into his heart, it can be easy to give a quick and slick response, to say "I love you Jesus" because you think that that is the right answer to give, rather than having it swell out of our heart. Peter replies again "Yes Lord, you know that I love you." Then comes the third question:

3. The third question, "do you love me?"

This time the word\agape\is dropped, and Jesus uses the word that Peter used\philia.\Jesus seems to be asking Peter, "OK I can see that asking you for agape love is impossible, but are you even sure that your philia love is real?" This as John tells us in v.17 hurts Peter, and he replies with a strength that was not there before "Lord you know all things, you know that I love you."

That is the point that I want you to think about today. The Lord knows all things about you, yet he loves you, he died for you and wishes to forgive you. Yet he wants to ask you the same question "do you love me." Not are you sentimentally attached to me like some kind of pet dog, but do you love me enough stand up for me, to let me be your Lord.

He comes to put things right in your life. If you have lived a pretence living under a false estimate of yourself then Jesus comes to tell you the truth, but even exposing us for what we are, Jesus still has a place for us. if we will own up, and own him.

If we have been scared of what he might do to us, or scared of speaking up then he comes with the same message of love as he did to Peter. If we have denied our faith because we didn't want to stand alone amongst those around us then he calls us to stand up now. If we have been tempted away by false relationships then you can sort that out by making your relationship with Jesus and with God right today.

The world awaits people who will stand up and be counted for Jesus. Jesus when he hung on that cross stood there and was counted for you. Today will you stand up for him, as soldiers of the Cross.

Today then is the day when Jesus comes to you with that same touch as he did to Peter, he comes to put things right with you, he comes with the same question "do\you\love me?" What then is your answer?

 

Sunday 1st August MARK 1:21 – 34 THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS

As I look out of my window some nights South Street becomes a race track between the chip shop and St Nicks as cars run their shuttle service. The air is filled with the sound of car hi-fi's as the Pioneers and Panasonics blast their way through the open windows and sunroofs - providing it's not raining of course. 

If I were to walk out onto South St and to try and stop this I would no doubt become another casulty as I was spread across the road. If however a white car with an orange stripe along the side should cruise along the road then everybody seems to slow down. Why? Because we know that the Policeman has authority. He has been given the power by the Government to stop crime, and speeding is a crime. We know that if he stops us, and if we get stopped enough times then we will be fined or lose our driving licence's. It is the Policeman's authority that makes the difference.

Today we are going to learn about the authority of Jesus. Jesus has been given authority, not by any human government, but by God himself. But unlike our policeman who only represented the government, Jesus not only represented God, but was also God himself. When he puts his hand out and says "stop, you're going the wrong way" he speaks with authority. The passage before us today shows us three ways in which Jesus used that authority:

\1. THE AUTHORITY OF HIS TEACHING MINISTRY (vv 21, 22).\

V.21 marks the beginning of the actual ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus had reacted to the signal of John the Baptist's ministry at the banks of the Jordan and had come forward for baptism. He had been driven out into the wilderness to face forty days of temptation. Jesus now knew everything that the human being had to face. John had been put in prison, so Jesus gathered around himself a band of followers and began his ministry in the town of Capernaum which was on the North West shore of the Sea of Galilee.

His ministry began with God's own people the Jews as they met in the synagogue, and so too it often seems that before a major work of God can be done with unbelievers God first of all deals with those who claim to believe. That only makes sense because in reality how can we encourage new converts to move on if we ourselves are slacking in our faith and commitment? Many of us are going to see at this time here in Portslade that God may call for our rededication first before we see the rest of our family or our friends being saved.

Jesus began with the people of God in the synagogue in Capernaum. You have to understand the difference between the Temple in Jerusalem and the local synagogue. Sacrifices only took place in the temple and all Jews were expected to make regular pilgrimages to the temple. For the rest of the time however they were called to attend their local synagogues which were only for prayer, the reading of scriptures and the exposition of the scripture. There was no singing, no music and no sacrifices - these belonged exclusively to the Temple.

Each local synagogue had leaders who had basic practical duties - to take up the collection and to distribute it to the poor, to put out the right roll of scripture, some taught the children and so on. You will learn more about these characters as you work your way through Mark's gospel.

What the synagogue did not have was a permanent preacher or teacher. When the synagogue met for worship it was the Ruler of the Synagogue's duty to call on any competent person to read the scripture and to explain it. That was why Jesus (and later the disciples) moved from synagogue to synagogue, they were known as people with a message, and so the pulpits of the synagogues were open to them, open that is until hositility towards Christ and the Christians hardened.

When Jesus taught, v.22 tells us that the people were amazed, amazed because his words carried an authority which the people recognised that their own teachers of the law did not have. The teachers of the law, or scribes, taught from the first five books of the Old Testament; i.e. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy the law or Torah from God.

However these teachers went further than the first five books of the bible and began to draw up all kinds of rules and regulations covering every aspect of life. They changed God's laws from being the great moral principles that they were to being an infinite list of petty rules and regulations. What began as a great religion ended as legalism. They recognised that their rules were not the same as the written laws of the scriptures, so they called them oral laws, but rather than seeing them as being of secondary importance to the scriptures they made them even more binding than the OT itself, so instead of hearing the word of God the people heard interpretations of it, and lists of rules.

Suddenly Jesus spoke, and he did not speak like the teachers of the law, he gave it to them straight. When he spoke he spoke the word of God, and although the people could not put their finger on it then, they began to realise that He was the word of God. The difference was not just in the preaching, the difference was in the preacher. Here was a man who knew God, here was a man who spoke for God. Here was a man of authority.

I hope and pray that you can normally trust what I say is from the scriptures, but I have to admit that you can not always trust everything that you hear from a minister. You get different preachers telling you completely different things from the same bible verse, and you wonder who you can trust. Let me give it to you straight - you can trust every word that Jesus tells you about God. If you would only take the time to read one of the four gospels and to look at everything that Jesus tells you then you could sense for yourself why these people were amazed - Jesus speaks with authority, he speaks with clarity. Take the time to find out what\he\has to say. You can trust him.

\2. HIS AUTHORITY OVER EVIL SPIRITS (vv 23 - 28).\

I wonder just how many synagogue services that man had attended without revealing that he was demonised. It took the presence of the Son of God not only to expose the demon, but also to command it to be quiet and to cast it out. Jesus told the demon to be quiet because at that time he did not need, nor did he want, the assistance of Satan and his evil army to reveal who he was.

The Jews at that time may not have known who Jesus was, but Satan and his evil army certainly did. He was Jesus of Nazereth - the Holy One of God! The demon was spot on, he acknowledged Jesus' humanity - that he was from Nazereth, and his divinity - that he was from God. He also knew that Jesus had the power of judgement, the power and authority to send the demon to the very pit of hell. The demon's theology an understanding of Christian truth was perfect and that just goes to show that you can know everything that you need to know about Jesus Christ and yet remain unsaved. There are some here today or watching on livestream who know who Jesus is. They know too that they are as yet unsaved. It is a terrible thing to know what you need to know, to be afraid in the presence of the saviour, and to remain unsaved.

How about demons - do they really exist? William Barclay in his commentary on Mark suggests that in Jesus' day before proper medical knowledge etc.. people believed that they had demons, the man thought that he had a demon, and so Jesus treated him as if he had one. Barclay is inclusive, he is also wide of the mark.

It is quite wrong to say that what the bible calls demonisation we would now call sickness or madness because the bible itself distinguishes between the two. Mt 4:24 reads "people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon possessed, those having seizures, and the paralysed and he healed them."

You get a similar verse in Mark 1:34 "and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons." The scriptures therefore differentiate between epilepsy, sickness, madness and demon possession. We are told quite clearly that human beings can fall foul to an evil much worse than any madness or sickness - they can fall foul of demons.

Having said that however, I believe that to be possessed by an evil spirit is not a normal event. Too much is made of demons, it is interesting to note that although there are many references to demons in the Gospels there are very few in the OT, in Acts and in the Pauline letters. It seems that there was a particularly large outburst of demonic activity around the time of Jesus, and that we should not read "demons" into every illness or accident that comes our way. It is certainly the case that born again believers can not be possessed by demons, for they are the Lord's possession, filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Believers can be oppressed by, depressed by, but not possessed by demons.

Yet I do not want you to think that I believe that demons do not exist. There are times in my ministry and counselling that I have recognised that I have been facing a great evil. I have seen demons, I have been involved in casting them out. I could reel of story after story, but I'm not going to because one way that Satan has interfered with us is in making us interested in evil, when the bible encourages us to resist it. What I will say is that the authority which Jesus used to cast demons out, he has given to us. The name of Jesus still casts out evil spirits - Luke 9:1, Luke 10:17, Mark 9:38f.

In this story however Jesus commands the demon to silence, and then casts him out with the simple command "Come out of him!" What a contrast that was to the ministry of exorcists in Jesus' own day where the removal of a demon involved a long process of incantations and prayers. In fact I remain suspicious of modern day ministry which involves special prayer, holy water and so on. One command from Jesus and the demon was gone. This was new! This was a new teaching! A new authority! This was the ministry of the word followed by signs and wonders.

\3. HIS AUTHORITY OVER SICKNESS (vv 29 - 34).\

Following the casting out of the demon Jesus left the synagogue to go to Peter and Andrew's house for the Sabbath meal. There in the house, Simon's mother in law was lying in bed with a fever and what takes place next is a private miracle. There is now no synagogue audience, nobody there but this sick woman with a burning fever and Jesus. One touch from the Saviour and this woman was made well. This is a reminder to us that the private ministries achieve as many results and see as many miracles as the great public events. You don't often hear about them in the same way, but whether it is in private, or in public, when the saviour is there, there is the power to change things, even the worst of sicknesses.

This story tells us that already the disciples were learning to take their troubles to Jesus. Peter's mother in law was ill, the home's routine was upset, they brought Jesus into it, told him all about it, and he dealt with it. This simple story reminds us that we too must take all our family's needs to the Lord in prayer as well. And I want to encourage you if you are visiting people who are sick to use the opportunity to have a simple prayer with the person. You don't need to be a minister, just a believer who cares.

What about this woman getting up to wait on Jesus? Some say that Jesus healed her in order to get a meal out of her. What a cynical thought. Instead, we're told that having been touched by the Saviour the woman's first thought was to serve him. These were her gifts, service and hospitality, and she put them to use for the saviour. This is a humble, yet an effective story. When there is a need take it to the one who has authority over the problem, take it to Jesus. Allow Jesus into the situation to touch it, and when he does just that, don't just say "thank you" - get up and serve him. So many of you have stories in your lives about how God has helped you, about how God has spared you. Many have even said "thank you?" But my question is are you now willing to serve him as He first served you?

The day was not yet over for Jesus, however. As soon as sunset came, the Sabbath was over, and the people brought to Jesus the sick and the demon possessed. The teachers of the law had forbidden the carrying of burdens on the sabbath, so the people were not able to carry to the sick to Jesus. At soon as the sabbath was over, however, they came, and they came in droves. They flocked to Jesus because they recognised that he had authority, that he could do things. There were plenty who could read the scriptures - but here was a man whose ministry was followed by signs and wonders. They came and they came and they came.

But in these verses we get a hint of the tragedy that will eventually bring the ministry of Jesus to an end. The crowds came all right, but they only came because they wanted to get something out of Jesus, they did not come because they loved him. They did not come because they wanted to get right with God, they wanted a miracle to end their illnesses, they wanted to get relieve of their demons. It was misfortune that brought them to Jesus, not love.

There's a crowd here watching. Why are we here? Have we come to get something out of Jesus? We want a word, we've got a need. We're here because we always come and haven't thought much about it. Has anybody come here simply because they love Jesus? Because they want to tell him that they love him through the worship?

Salvation begins because Jesus has said to this world "I love you." Salvation can only happen in your life when you say to Jesus "I love you, because you first loved me." This the demons would never do, this you can do, and must do if you want to be saved.

So this is Jesus Christ - a man of authority, you hear it in his teaching, you see it in the way that he could cast out demons and heal the sick. Have you met him? Do you know him? Do you love him? If you don't know him then you can ask him into your heart today. If you do know him, then get out of your house get back to church to worship Him and serve him.


Sunday 18th July MARK 3:7 – 34 - JESUS - THE MAN WHO MAKES ALL THINGS NEW

The verses before us today reading from chapter 3:7 to the end of the chapter may look like a series of disconnected stories and events but I think that underlying them there is a common theme which will help us to understand them - all of these stories centre around Jesus Christ and reveal him as the man who makes all things new. Jesus is the man who has brought about a new church, a new kingdom and a new family.

\1. A NEW CHURCH (3:7 - 19).\

Reading the Bible and through Mark in particular this month I can see the hostility that was mounting between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, teachers of the law and the Pharisees. There hostility began in chapter 2 when Jesus claimed to forgive the sins of the paralysed man, when he ate with the tax collectors and the so called "sinners", but when he didn't follow the normal pattern of fasting this hostility climaxed with his breaking of the sabbath rules as they understood them.

In Jesus' own words it became increasingly obvious that the new wine of Jesus Christ could not fit into the old wineskin of the traditions and teachings of the scribes and Pharisees. The time had come to make a break and to establish a new church.

We find the break coming here in 3:7 with the expression "Jesus went with his disciples to the lake." He withdrew from the pressure, the hostility, and took steps to begin the work of establishing what was to become the Christian church.

In coming outside from the synagogues Jesus forced others to make up their minds about him. The crowds had to decide who they were going to follow, and the disciples had to see that following their master had consequences. In truth, Mark is describing in simple words what must have been one of the most dramatic and traumatic moments in the life of Jesus Christ and his followers as they made their break from the Jewish leaders who were hostile towards them.

Once more it seems that the crowds took little time to make up their minds. Hearing what Jesus was doing, his teaching, his healing of the sick and his casting out of the demon possessed they flocked to him. These crowds came not just from the local area but from hundreds of miles away from the regions across the Jordan and from Tyre and Sidon. It seems that God confirmed the decision to make the break by sending the crowds.

It is sad that in the midst of the healing, the casting out of demons, the teaching that a group of people who ought to have known better failed to understand what was going on. Of all people, the scribes and the Pharisees knew their Old Testament and the prophecies about the coming Messiah. Yet rather than see the hand of God in it all they accused Jesus of working under the power of Satan a point that we'll come back to later. Yet although the Pharisees failed to see who Jesus was Satan and his followers were perfectly aware of the threat they were under - the evil spirits were falling down all over the place crying out "You are the son of God" yet it was not they who needed to confess Christ, but men, and so Jesus silenced them.

And so having made his break with the Jewish church the time came for Jesus to constitute his own church. He retired from the crowds and from the lakeside ministry and went up on a mountainside (v.13) which was his usual place for prolonged prayer and communion alone with God. Luke 6:12 tells us that Jesus spent the whole night in prayer before he selected from amongst the disciples twelve men for special training for the apostolic ministry.

The choice of twelve men was of course very significant. Israel had in its history twelve founding fathers, so too the new Israel, the Christian church, would also have twelve founding leaders. Indeed there are strong parallels between the names chosen for both the Old and New had a Simeon, a Levi and a Judah. In the old there was the beloved tribe of Benjamin, in the new was the beloved disciple James. One significant difference however was that in the Old Israel the tribes were distinctly separated in their functions, there were the royal tribes from which the Kings came from and there were the priestly tribes of the Levites. But in the new Israel all are both kings and priests (Rev 1:6).

These twelve men were set aside to be continually in the company of their Lord and Master so that they could learn from him and spread the work. Their mission was to preach the word of God and to drive out demons. They were given the authority of Jesus Christ himself to expel the evil and dark forces out of men's lives.

And so in v.16f Mark names the twelve by using their nick-names, or by names. These by names tell us quite a bit about the people and give us some idea of the rough material that Jesus worked with. There was Simon, who was to become Peter or the "rock"; there were James and John who were the hot tempered pair of brothers that Jesus nick-named "sons of the thunder." Thaddeus means "big hearted"; there is Simon the Zealot or "enthusiast" and Judas Iscariot, Iscariot meaning "dagger man."

What a choice - why did Jesus choose this particular twelve? Is this simply predestination - that God only calls those whom he wants? Or is it the case that out of the large group following Jesus he chose 12 who had run the course and looked suitable for the special ministry of apostleship?

There is certainly a mystery here, and there is perhaps no greater mystery than the choice of Judas. The God who knows everything beforehand, chose Judas Iscariot. Perhaps Jesus saw that this man had a capacity to respond to the truth of God, perhaps Jesus knew that when he handed the food to Judas at the Last Supper that it could go either way - that Judas could either love him, or reject that love and be damned for ever for it was after Judas rejected the love of Christ that he took steps to destoy Jesus.

Whatever we make of this we realise that Jesus is still making his church and calling people into it today. We realise that Jesus can take the roughest material and use them greatly for there is hope for us all. Yet we must also realise the serious consequences of turning down that call of Christ when we hear it. It was rejecting that call that led to the end of Judas. Have you heard the call of Jesus upon your life? Calling you for your salvation. Calling you to baptism and discipleship? Calling you to service? Jesus is making a new church even now and he may be calling you to belong to it. Will you accept that call?

\2. A NEW KINGDOM (3:20 - 30).\

Right from the beginning of Jesus' ministry in Mark 1:15 Jesus made it plain that the central thrust of his teaching was to announce a new kingdom - "The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news." For too long another kingdom had had its way - that is the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of the evil one itself. The ministry of Jesus Christ was to bring that kingdom down, and to bring in a new kingdom.

Signs of that old Kingdom are to be seen clearly in this section about Jesus and Beelzebub. Jesus' own family in v.21 become convinced that Jesus was out of his mind. It has to be said that Jesus' own brothers did not recognise him as the Messiah during his earthly life and ministry (John 7:5) - but here it seems that their concern was well intentioned - Jesus was so busy with the crowds that he wasn't eating, they thought that they needed to save Jesus from the consequences of his own ministry. Their plan, I suppose, was to get rid of the crowds and to give him a meal. What they failed to see was that Jesus was on God's timetable and not their own. At that moment God was sending a crowd with needs, his duty was to be obedient to His father's will even if that looked unreasonable to his family.

And it seems to me that well motivated ideas from others are often used by the kingdom of darkness to distract us from the calling of Jesus Christ and the mission of the kingdom of God. How many of have held back from a spiritual commitment because others have thought that we are mad, that we're going too far, too fast, too soon.

How many of us have said no to God over some matter because of family pressure. Now of course there are times when we are wrong and family pressure is right, there are times when are to honour our parents, but this story teaches us that when God calls our calling is to obey and not to be distracted. So the kingdom of darkness rears its ugly head here as it seeks to work through well motivated people to distract Jesus from his mission. Beware in case it seeks to do the same in your life.

But then the Kingdom of darkness tries to play its trump card by speaking through the mouths of the teachers of the law who say in v.22 "He is possessed by Beelzebub. By the prince of demons he is driving out demons." Satan here exaggerates the fear of insanity to a direct accusation of Jesus being demon possessed himself. He tries to divert attention by making people think that Jesus is not against his evil kingdom but that instead Jesus is on his side.

Jesus makes it plain in no uncertain terms that he is not on the side of the devil. The name "Beelzebub" means "master of the house" and Jesus uses this term and tells a story around it about a strong man guarding a house. If you want to rob the house then you have to first of all tie up the strong man. If it was by the power of Satan that he was casting out the demons then that would mean that Satan was fighting against himself, that his kingdom was divided and was therefore on the verge of collapse.

But that is not the case for Satan guards those who are under his influence very carefully because he doesn't want to lose any of his territory. The bible makes it plain that before we become Christians we belong to Satan and to his power of darkness, but that Christ has overcome Satan on the cross, that the strong man is tied up, and so Jesus can invade out lives, our homes and rescue us from Satan. Our salvation is also our deliverance from the evil one's hands.

The kingdom of darkness and evil to which we belong can be replaced by the new kingdom of God as we give our lives to Christ.

Then comes one of the most wonderful yet also one of the most serious passages in the whole of scripture. We have the wonderful news in v.28 where Jesus says "I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them." There is therefore forgiveness from God for every wrong thing that we have done, and can possibly do - with one exception which we find in v.29 "but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin."

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to us, to reveal our sin and our need of him. To hear the truth about Jesus and to walk away from it saying "I have no sin, I have no need of Christ" is to deny Christ, is to deny and to blaspheme against the work of the Spirit. If a man says that he has no sin and no need of Christ then he can not be forgiven, because he does not believe that he needs to be forgiven, he can not be saved because he does not believe that he needs to be saved, he is guilty of an eternal sin. If you refuse the only way of forgiveness that God has on offer, then you blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and you can not be saved. God says in Gen 6:3 that His Spirit will not always strive with you. The thrust of the scriptures is that\now\is the day of salvation - you may find that in turning down the spirit now that there is no other chance. You have hardened your heart and a loving God must finish with you.

This is a most tragic position to be in. The teachers of the law and Pharisees ought to have known better. They knew their OT scriptures, they knew who Jesus was, they heard his claims and saw his miracles but they turned him down. They blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. Are you a modern day Pharisee? You know who Jesus Christ is. You have heard his call upon your life. Yet you remain uncommitted, unbaptised, unwilling to accept discipleship. I want you to realise that to know the truth, and to turn it down,\is\to harden your heart and to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. This is serious life and death stuff.

But there is good news. Whatever you have done Christ has died so that you can be forgiven. God the Holy Spirit reveals this truth to you. If however you turn this truth down and claim that you have no need of it, then you by your own action separate yourself from God forever. Jesus calls you. He offers you a place in his new kingdom where you can be released from sin and darkness for ever. You must choose for yourself whether or not you will accept it. If you refuse then you run the risk of being lost forever, if you accept then Jesus draws you into his new family.

\3. A NEW FAMILY (3:31 - 35).\

The picture is a simple, but a telling one. A crowd is sitting around Jesus listening to his teaching when news comes that Jesus' mother and brothers have arrived and are looking for him. The crowd assumes that his human family have a prior claim over them - but Jesus says no, his new family are the ones who make the claim upon him.

Now we are not to take from this story that Jesus is commending lack of respect for family needs. Jesus is not telling us to sacrifice our family lives for the sake of the church. What Jesus is telling us is that if you want to belong to His family, the church, then there is a condition for entry - you must be prepared to do the will of God.

Now we have to grasp this nettle tightly. You do not belong to God's family simply because you come to church. You do not belong to God's family because your parents are believers or because your name was written on a cradle roll. Your name on the cradle roll says that you belong to the family of Portslade Baptist Church and that we will take a prayerful interest in you, but if you want to belong to God's family then you personally have to be prepared to do the will of God.

Now knowing God's will does not mean that Jesus is asking you to know the bible inside out, he is saying that in order to know God's will you have to know God, you have to have a personal relationship with God himself. Now I know for sure that it is God's will that you turn to him and be saved. Jesus says in John 6:40 "for my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life." I also know that it is the will of Jesus Christ that all those who seek to follow him in discipleship be baptised - Jesus says in Mt 28:20 "baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." So to remain unsaved, to remain deliberately as an unbaptised believer is to remain outwith the will of God.

Do you belong to the family? In order to belong you don't need money, you don't need position, you don't need respectability, you need simply to be ready to do the will of God. "Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." It could not be simpler.

Has Jesus put a call upon your life? Is he calling you out of a kingdom where there was no place for God into his new kingdom, is he calling you to belong to him? You have a real choice at a moment like this - you can obey the will of God and belong to the family, or you can reject and blaspheme against the work of the spirit in your life and run the risk of being eternally lost.

Jesus wants to give you new life. He wants you to follow him through the waters of baptism and into discipleship. You have a real choice to make - to do the will of God or to turn him down. And the choice needs to be made now.

Sunday 11th July MARK 8:11 – 26 - THREE WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT

Today I want to deal with three stories from Mark's gospel. I want to look at the Pharisee's demand for a sign, at the disciple's concern about their lack of bread and the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida. As we look at these three stories I want to bring to you three words of encouragement, three words which are definitely from God for folks here today, and even for this fellowship as a whole, these three words spring directly out of the Bible so we can trust them, they are:

1. Don't go looking for signs. 2. Don't try and solve your problems by yourself. 3. Don't limit what Jesus can do.

THE DEMAND FOR A SIGN (vv 10 - 13). After feeding the 4,000 Jesus sent the people away and got into a boat to travel to the other side of the Lake. Again this encounter with the Pharisees is another story about faith. The Pharisees come to Jesus to question him, and in order to test him they demand a sign from heaven. This causes Jesus to sigh deeply, the word means to groan, he groans almost with impatience for these Pharisees were the very one who claimed to believe, and who ought to have believed. What he really finds in them is a lack of faith.

Perhaps we have to acknowledge that that is all too often our problem too. We've heard messages about Jesus, about salvation, about baptism, about holy living, and we know the facts, yet we will not accept them, we will not obey the truth that we know. Many of us are modern day Pharisees, knowing the truth about Jesus, but not accepting that truth personally.

But worse than that Jesus has given a sign, what is the sign of Jonah? It is first of all death, burial and resurrection. Jesus Christ has given the ultimate sign - he has risen from the dead, it is well documented, and if properly studied is undeniable.

The proof that Jesus is who he said he was is his death on the cross, his burial in the tomb and his rising from the dead three days later - that is what is of the first importance. Thomas had the privilege of seeing the risen Lord with his own eyes, and touching him with his own hands, but listen to what Jesus said to him in Jn 20:29 "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Today as we exercise faith in Jesus Christ in all things,we know that it makes all the difference:

1. DON'T GO LOOKING FOR SIGNS (vv 10 - 13).

As it stands these verses contain the account of one of the missions of Jesus, Jesus crosses over the Lake after feeding the 4,000 and enters Dalmanutha or the territory of Magadan. This mission bore no fruit, simply because it was met from the outset by a group of Pharisees who refused to believe because Jesus didn't fit into their theology.

In order to test him we're told that they demanded a sign from heaven, this request caused the Saviour to sigh deeply, probably with impatience and certainly with frustration at their unbelief. Luke records in 16:31 that Jesus said about the Pharisees "if they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets (in other words if they do not accept what they learn about me in the OT) then they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." The Pharisees knew the truth, their problem was that they were not prepared to accept the truth, they were delaying having to accept the truth about Jesus by demanding a sign. The fact that Jesus fulfilled OT prophecy was not enough, they needed a sign.

The trouble with signs is that they strike faith dead at its roots, the Pharisees wanted to see in order that they might believe, but to the Christian "believing is seeing" not "seeing is believing." Hebrews 11:1 says "faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." The eye of faith sees what is ahead of us, trusts in God and finds the strength to endure.

The saddest thing was that the Pharisees were blind to the greatest sign of all - God was right there in their midst in the presence of Jesus Christ, so much could have been done, but faced with their unbelief Jesus stepped back into the boat and crossed back to the other side. They had God himself standing right next to them, but they refused to see him, and yjey let him go. I wonder just how many times in our lives we've felt the Lord next to us, perhaps at a service or gospel invitation, and we've let him go.

It may well be that you're looking for some kind of a sign today, you've come to church with a problem and you're looking for some kind of word or sign that God still loves you and has an answer to your problems. It may well be that you still remain unconvinced about Jesus and his power to change lives, you'll believe when you see it.

Don't go looking for signs, because the proof of the love of God and the power of Jesus Christ is all around you. Firstly, Jesus is as present with us now as he was when he stood alongside the Pharisees in that story, Jesus has promised in Mt 28:20 "surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age." Believing that verse is seeing the truth of it, Christians ought to have faith in that promise, they don't need flashes of lightening, God's word says it, and we believe it. Jesus comes to us through the word.

The encouragement today is to live by faith by trusting his word - don't go looking for the proof of the life and love and Jesus in things, believe the Bible and what it tells you. Claim its promises, and even though you may feel no different faith believes what it can not see, Jesus says "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (Jn 20:29). Don't go looking for signs, faith trusts in God's word instead.

Let me illustrate this through one verse, 1 John 1:9 which says "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." That's how we become Christians, but some are misled into thinking that they're not saved because they felt no different after confessing their sins - they were looking for some kind of sign. Instead, they would have done better to believe this verse, to claim it, and to realise that our standing before God does not depend on how we feel but upon what he says in His Word. I hope that this makes sense to someone here today or if you are watching on livestream - if you have confessed your sins then you are saved, God says so, trust his word, don't listen to the lies of the flesh or the devil, don't go looking for proof in the wrong places, God says it here, have faith and believe.

2. DON'T TRY AND SOLVE YOUR PROBLEMS BY YOURSELF (vv 14-21).

The problem in this story was lack of bread, it doesn't appear to have concerned Jesus much but it was creating a serious debate amongst the disciples. It's a sad illustration of how much we fight about it and get het up about what is not on the Lord's agenda at all. Perhaps the disciples had a guilty conscience about their oversight, perhaps somebody had left it behind, certainly they had created the problem themselves for one of them had "forgotten" it (v.14). But the rebuke that they earn from the Saviour has nothing to do with forgetting the bread, it has everything to do with their lack of faith. What concerns Jesus is not so much our administrative abilities, our natural talents although they are of course useful to him and his church, what he looks for is faith in his disciples. So let's wipe out any notion that we're not of much use to the church because we can't do much, the Lord's looking for faith.

Jesus sees that there's a problem - lack of bread - he knows what the cause is - the forgetfulness of one or more of the disciples - he knows what the solution is - faith - but what he finds is lack of faith. So he warns them in v.15 "Be careful, watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod."

In using that word "yeast" or as other translations put it "leaven" Jesus was warning the disciples against a quality in their lives which would make then unfit for the service of God. In the OT yeast was a symbol of evil and sin, like the yeast in bread sin spreads its way through our lives until everything is affected. Before the Passover every Jew then and today cleared all the yeast from the house, symbolising the putting aside of evil in time for the great festival.

The danger facing the disciples was that the evil ways of the Pharisees might be imported into their lives and spoil the future of the Christian church. The sin of the Pharisees was hypocrisy, believing one thing but doing another, and the sin of the Herodians was that they saw that the way forward for the Jews was to support Herod and compromise with the Romans. They believed that the coming kingdom of God was following Herod and accepting a Roman way of life.

Today we might not be dealing with Pharisees and Herodians but the temptations and the dangers are the same, how many of us have fallen into the trap of believing one thing, but doing something different, we too can become all too easily hypocrites. How many of us have compromised Christ's call to discipleship with worldly living and accepting the status quo in society? Let's not fool ourselves here, many of our problems in our Christian lives, in our church, have nothing to do with God, they're of our own making because we do not live by faith, because we believe one thing but practice another and because we have compromised with the world.

The miracle in the midst of this is that Christ still loves us and has a plan for us. So what do we do when we have a problem in our lives or in our church which may or may not be of our own making?

Firstly we do not start as the disciples did by talking about it amongst themselves perhaps even in a blaming and accusing way (v.17). Unanswered problems should be taken directly to the Lord himself, rather than bandied about amongst the disciples. Once again faced with a problem the disciples had forgotten what Jesus had done for them in the past, they needed bread before and he had supplied it. They needed bread again and he had supplied it. Now although he had given them bread they'd forgotten it and as a result were in need again - but still they didn't understand, all they needed was to ask, to have faith, and surely the Lord would supply their needs once more.

They had forgotten the basic teaching that we find in the Sermon on the Mount in Mt 6:31 where Jesus says "So do not worry saying, 'what shall we eat?....for the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly father knows that you need them. But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

How are our problems answered as Christian individuals and as a church - by talking them over with the Lord and by making sure that our lives and our Church are busy seeking the things of the Kingdom, do this and the Lord promises to look after us and to help us with our problems.

So don't try and solve your problems by yourself. Admit the need and come to the Saviour with it, seek His kingdom and all these things shall be added unto you. If you're in trouble ask yourself "am I seeking the things of God? or am I going my own way?" The answer to that question ought to lead you to the one who is himself the answer.

Don't make the mistake of the disciples who forgot the way that the Lord had blessed them in the past. William Barclay says about this passage: "The odd fact is that we learn only half the lessons of experience. Too often experience fills us with pessimism, teaches us what we cannot do, teaches us to view life with a kind of resigned hopelessness. But there are other experiences. Sorrow came - and we came through it still erect. Temptation came - and somehow we did not fall. Illness took us - and somehow we recovered. A problem seemed insoluble - and somehow it was solved. We were at our wit's end - and somehow we went on. We reached the breaking point - and somehow we did not break. We too are blind. If we would only read the lessons of experience aright, it would teach us not the pessimism of the things that cannot be, but the hope which stands amazed that God has brought us thus far in safety and in certainty and the confidence that God can bring us through anything that might happen."

3. DON'T LIMIT WHAT JESUS CAN DO (vv 22 - 26).

It is quite appropriate that after a section which shows up the spiritual blindness of the disciples that we should encounter a man with physical blindness.

As with some of the other healing miracles this one begins with a group of concerned friends bringing the blind man to Jesus. This I fear is one of the ways that we do limit what Jesus can do - we know of someone with a need but do we pray for them, do we bring them to church so that they can hear and respond to the one who can help them? If you really care about someone then you'll want them to meet Jesus.

Jesus takes the blind man outside of the village, away from the crowds, away from being made a public spectacle, away from the frightening sight of a large crowd of people when his sight was restored. What comes next is unlike any other miracle in the NT where instead of the man getting his sight immediately, it comes in stages, vision is returned but it's indistinct, and so the Saviour touches the man a second time, this time his sight was restored and he began to see perfectly.

Nowhere else do the scriptures record the Saviour having to pray for a person twice, but the important theological point is not how hard the task was, or even any peculiar difficulties that the blind man may have had, but that the Lord did not give up until the task was completed. Paul writes about this in Phil 1:6 where he says "Jesus will bring to completion every good work that he has begun."

It strikes me then that another way that many of us limit Jesus is that we give up too soon, we assume that no immediate answer is no answer at all, whereas the Word of God is telling us that if the Saviour is asked to do something then he will see it through, that the right answer will come, but it will come in His time and in His way. As we wait for this answer we are called to persist in prayer and to live by faith. What we mustn't do is give up, or fake some answer of our own, Jesus will bring to completion every good work that he begins.

Don't limit him either by expecting him to do things the same way every time, here he performs a miracle in a different way to before, Jesus is pleased to work in a variety of ways, but the outcome is always the same.

William Barclay spiritualises this story and says that it shows us that there is always more to see, that you can not learn everything about God at once, that spiritual sight if you like comes in stages. The man might have been happy to stop at his first experience of sight, but the Lord had more for him, and if he had limited himself to his first experience of Jesus then he would have missed out on the more that the Lord had to give him.

It may well be that we set the same kind of limitations upon Jesus. I'm saved now I'm going no further. I'm baptised now I'm going no further. I'm a church memember now I'm going no further." Christianity is on going, ever deepening, don't limit Jesus and what he can do in your life by stopping and assuming that you've made it. There's always more to learn, always more to give, always more about Jesus to receive.

So three words of encouragement from the scriptures:

1. Don't go looking for signs 2. Don't try and solve your problems by yourself 3. Don't limit what Jesus can do

Live instead by faith, seek first His Kingdom and watch God add to your life in every way.

 

Sunday 4th July MARK 7:24 - 8:13 - FAITH IN ACTION

What I want to look at today is three miracles that Jesus performed - the casting out of an evil spirit, the healing of a deaf man and the feeding of 4,000 people. I want you to see today that what makes these three stories significant and special is not so much what happened, but where it happened - v.24 is our clue it says "Jesus left that place (in fact he left the whole area of Palestine) and went to the vicinity of Tyre" which was 40 miles North West of Capernaum where he had just been. This was not Jewish territory, it belonged to the Gentiles, so what Jesus is doing is demonstrating to his own disciples that His is not just a mission for the Jews, he intends to be a Saviour for all the people.

1. THE CASTING OUT OF A DEMON (7:24 - 30). It seems from v.24 that Jesus' whole reason for leaving Palestine and entering into Gentile territory was to get some privacy and some time alone with his disciples. He was so famous now that it was almost impossible for him to get peace and quiet and to instruct the disciples about things of the Kingdom. So he took refuge in a house in Tyre hoping to get peace - but as the bible says "he could not keep his presence secret." A woman whose daughter had been possessed by an evil spirit heard that he was there and came to him seeking help. We've got to be aware that she had to jump a number of hurdles or obstacles in order to get the Saviour's help, but she overcame them all through faith and got what she needed.

To begin with her nationality was against her, she was a Gentile, and she was a woman in a society dominated by men who had a very low view of the opposite sex, she was not to know that part of the mission of Jesus was to raise the role of women. We learn in Matthew's in Mt 15:21f account that she also faced the opposition of the disciples who begged Jesus to send her away. She also faced opposition on the spiritual level, for Satan himself was against her and had invaded her daughter with one of his evil spirits. It seemed too that even the Saviour was against her. Matthew recalls in his parallel account that Jesus' first response to the woman was to say "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel" and then both Matthew and Mark record Jesus telling her in v.27 "first let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."

Through this story we're going to learn something about real faith - real faith that can take the roughest strokes that life has to give us and to claim something good from God in the midst of it.  And it was a rough situation to be in, and it's all summed up in that word "dog" which is floating around this story, for the title "dog" was used by the Jews as a heavy insult towards the Gentiles, the word meaning not a pampered pet but a filthy disease carrying beast. But when Jesus used the word "dog" he used a different word which meant "puppy" - it's a warmer word, and in that word the woman saw a glimmer of hope.

She was given more hope in the image of the children's bread, for Jesus was not saying that there was nothing for those who weren't Jews, he was saying that the children had to be fed first, and after them the puppies. He was bringing the woman to a point of understanding, and she saw it, and she took it, for in those days people did not eat with cutlery but with their hands, and as they ate they threw the crumbs down for the dogs to eat. She began to see that Jesus was hinting that she might not have to wait until the meal was finished, but that there were crumbs to get even now. So she claims it - she says "Yes lord, but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." In other words, I don't have to wait until you have finished your mission to the Jews, you have something to give me now.

Her reply reveals that faith had triumphed, she did not deny the special place that the children (the Jews) had in God's plan, neither did she wish to assume it, all she wanted was a few crumbs of blessing from the table, so in saying no to the woman at first Jesus created faith in her, and demonstrated that he was a Saviour for all the people, and he cast out the demon from her daughter even from a distance.

So if you have prayed and have felt that you have as yet not been answered, it is only because the Saviour has more to give you than you are asking for, it is only because his plans and his ways are higher, persist in prayer, don't let go, for Jesus plans to be glorified at the right time, in the right way, in answer to your request.

2. THE HEALING OF THE DEAF MAN (7:31 - 37). While Jesus was in the region of the Decapolis or ten cities some concerned people brought their deaf and mute friend to Jesus for healing. Jesus took the man aside so that the healing would be private and so that the man himself would not become a public attraction. The man was deaf and could not hear the Lord's words, but he could feel his touch upon his ears and his tongue and that would have indicated to him what Jesus was about to do. This would have created faith and expectancy in the man.

Jesus looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said "Ephphatha!" which means "be opened, be released" and this was the last word which the man ever failed to hear for his ears were opened, and a further miracle ensued for although the man had never heard words properly he was now also able to speak perfectly.

Once more faith had triumphed, the faith of the friends who brought the deaf man, the faith of the man himself as Jesus touched him, and the result of faith was not just that the friends and the deaf man got what they needed but that the Lord Jesus was glorified through the excitement and amazement of the people (v.37).

3. THE FEEDING OF THE FOUR THOUSAND (8:1 - 9).

We need to be very clear in our own minds as we look at this story that this is not the feeding of the 5,000 which took place on the shores of Galilee in Mark 6:30f. The feeding of the 5,000 involved the Jews, the feeding of the 4,000 took place near the Decapolis and involved mainly Gentiles. In Mark 6 Jesus started with 5 loaves and 2 fish, here he has 7 loaves and a few small fish. The 5,000 were with him one day, the 4,000 had been with him three days. After the 5,000 had been fed there were 12 baskets left over, after the 4,000 there were only 7. There is enough detail deliberately kept by Mark to make it plain to us that these are two different events, which took place in different places and at different times.

However, this story of the feeding of the 4,000 begins with the compassion of the Saviour. Jesus called his disciples together and said in v.2 "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance."

Yet what comes next is a dark shadow which is all too true to life - we have the collapse of faith of the disciples. Now they had seen Jesus in exactly the same situation before, they had seen what Jesus could do, but instead of saying "do with this crowd what you did with the last one" they come up with in v.4 "but where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them."

It's tempting to be hard on them without realising that we all too often do the same thing. I wonder if there is anyone here today with a problem before them and you're wondering how it is going to be solved? Is the Saviour reminding you of the shortness of your memory even now, has he not helped you in the past? Will he not help you now if you will trust and rely on him once more?

You might say but he did help me, but I let him down, and I feel that I have no right to ask again. Let this story about the feeding of the 4,000 and the story about the woman with the demon possessed daughter remind you that the Saviour wants you to come and ask, even if you have asked before, even if you have failed before, because his miracles rise out of our failures.

The story of the 4,000 may be different to the 5,000 but it carries with it the same message about how we come to faith. We find that first of all Jesus takes the loaves and fish (vv 6 and 7), and our salvation begins with our lives being taken by God just where we are - just in our ordinary lives, nothing special perhaps to offer God. Salvation begins when we recognise that we have nothing worthy in ourselves to offer God, that we are just bread and fish. But what we are we give to God and let him take.

The next thing that Jesus did was to look up to heaven and to give thanks and in so doing to bless the bread and fish. In blessing the bread and fish Jesus gave them possibilities that they never had in themselves, without him they were just bread and fish, with Christ they were a miracle. Jesus changes things and changes people, it is not possible to be in the hands of the Saviour and to remain the same.

To be in the Saviours hands can be a real strain some times, we battle with him crying out that we want to remain the same, but Jesus must break us if we are to be truly his, and if he is to use us as he wants. Thus the miracle finishes with the bread being given out, a reminder that we are not truly His until we are also prepared to be given out in witness and service.

How Satan likes to blind us with unbelief. He says to the woman "you're not a Jew, don't bother Jesus." He says to the deaf and dumb man "your problems are too big for Jesus to cope with," he says to the disciples "the crowd's too large and there's not enough food."

The answer each time is faith - but a directed faith, a faith that relies on Jesus Christ for all things, a faith which looks to him and to him alone. A faith which looks to Jesus, saviour not just of the Jews, but a Saviour for the world. A Saviour for you.

 

4. THE DEMAND FOR A SIGN (vv 10 - 13). Which we look at next week but After feeding the 4,000 Jesus sent the people away and got into a boat to travel to the other side of the Lake. Again this encounter with the Pharisees is another story about faith. The Pharisees come to Jesus to question him, and in order to test him they demand a sign from heaven. This causes Jesus to sigh deeply, the word means to groan, he groans almost with impatience for these Pharisees were the very one who claimed to believe, and who ought to have believed. What he really finds in them is a lack of faith.

The parallel accounts expand upon this incident, where in both Matthew and Luke Jesus bewails the fact that the Pharisees can read the weather signs and make accurate forecasts, but they can not read the signs of the times, that is the events surrounding Jesus, and see who he truly is. The problem lay not with the mind, for the mind knew the facts, the problem lay with the will - the will would not accept the facts.

Perhaps we have to acknowledge that that is all too often our problem too. We've heard messages about Jesus, about salvation, about baptism, about holy living, and we know the facts, yet we will not accept them, we will not obey the truth that we know. Many of us are modern day Pharisees, knowing the truth about Jesus, but not accepting that truth personally.

But the point is this - and remember that these are all stories about faith - to demand a sign is to try and bypass faith, because the nature of faith is belief even without the stone tablets and the flashing lights.

But worse than that Jesus has given a sign, a sign that can not be surpassed, and he points to it not in Mark's account, but in Matthew and Luke where he says that no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.

What is the sign of Jonah? It is first of all death, burial and resurrection. Jesus Christ has given the ultimate sign - he has risen from the dead, it is well documented, and if properly studied is undeniable.

But more than this - the sign of Jonah is preaching, for Jonah was sent to preach, and preaching the word about Jesus Christ brings the life of Jesus Christ to the very door of our lives. Many times you will have sensed the strange power of his presence as the gospel is preached, you can not go for greater signs that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and the proclamation of it through gospel preaching.

The proof that Jesus is who he said he was is his death on the cross, his burial in the tomb and his rising from the dead three days later - that is what is of the first importance. Thomas had the privilege of seeing the risen Lord with his own eyes, and touching him with his own hands, but listen to what Jesus said to him in Jn 20:29 "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

I have not seen the risen Lord with my own eyes, nor have I touched him with my own hands, but the day I trusted and put my faith in Him was the most blessed day of my life. That's what faith is - it is as Heb 11:1 says "to be sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see."

Today as we exercise faith in Jesus Christ in all things, we know that it makes all the difference:

Sunday 27th June 2 TIMOTHY 4:1 – 22 - PREACH THE GOSPEL!

During the week I was remembering my farewell from my ministry in Brazil and leaving Avare and Heliopolis and thankful to our God for Pr Evandro and Pr Osiel that they are continuing the work and not forgetting the  people that we left there, but mostly I thank God for the privelege preaching the Gospel in that great country.

But on my last Sunday there I found myself delivering my last sermon to them. I preached from 2 Timothy 4 and felt the sense of privilege to have been their pastor for many years.

2 Tim 4 contains the last surviving words which the Apostle Paul spoke or wrote. They were written to Timothy within weeks or even days of his execution, which by tradition was by being beheaded on the Ostian Way outside of Rome.

These words before us mark the end of 30 years of ministry by Paul, starting on the Damascus Road and ending on the Ostain Way. I can identify with Paul 30 years of being a missionary and an evangelist - at the end of which Paul could say in vv 7 and 8 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness."

I am privileged to have been called to Portslade and though my work and ministry has not ended for me just yet but my prayer is the same as Paul that I will finish the race, I will have kept the faith as we continue here in Portslade.

Pauls last words take the form of a charge - he says to Timothy in v.1 "in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:" - Words addressed to Timothy, but also to us as the solemn responsibility passed on to Timothy passes on in turn down to us.

1. PREACH THE WORD (v.2).\ "PREACH THE WORD; BE PREPARED IN SEASON AND OUT OF SEASON; CORRECT, REBUKE AND ENCOURAGE - WITH GREAT COURAGE AND CAREFUL INSTRUCTION."

What is this word - chapter 3 reveals it to us as all of Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." (3:16) It is the duty of the preacher not to invent messages of his own, but to preach the word of God. How is this gospel to be preached or proclaimed? Paul gives Timothy four words of advice:

1. Preach it with urgency: The NIV says "be prepared", the GNB says "insist upon proclaiming it" the RSV says "be urgent" and JB Phillips says "never lose your sense of urgency."  The preacher has a life or death message to give and it must sound urgent and important or people will ignore it.

Urgency is not just a quality however for preaching, it must also be a top quality when witnessing. When we share our faith do we make the gospel sound important, or urgent, or like an optional extra? We must carefully assess how we speak to people.

That does not mean that we speak with brashness, ramming our faith down their throats. When Paul says be prepared "in season and out of season" he is saying as the NEB gives it "press the gospel home on all occasions convenient and inconvenient." This does not give us as free licence to interrupt people's lives and meals to tell them the gospel. It is a command for us to speak whether or not we find it convenient.

2. Preach it with relevance: The word is to be applied in the right way to meet the needs of people - thus three ways of preaching are given - correcting (or using arguments) , rebuking and encouraging. Some people have doubts in their minds so it is up to the preacher to use arguments to convince them of the truth. Some people have fallen into sin and need to be rebuked. Some people are hurting and are haunted by fear, they need to be encouraged. All of this can be done from God's word if the scriptures are properly preached and applied relevantly.

3. Preach it with patience: Preach the word with great patience says Paul to Timothy. While we are to be urgent in our proclamation but we are to be patient in waiting for results. It is impatient preaching which fails to trust God and tries pressure techniques, it is impatient witnessing which tries to force people into a decision. Our responsibility is only to speak, and thereafter to be patient, to be prayerful, and to wait for God to work.

4. Preach it intelligently: Preach using careful instruction says Paul. The word instruction applies to Christians now. Paul is no longer speaking to Timothy about his duty in bringing the gospel to the unconverted, but is speaking about his responsibilities in teaching the saved about how they ought to live. This ministry is to be taught in a way that people can understand, and in a way that people can relate and apply to their own lives.

To go back to Timothy however, we must now remember that he was a quiet, shy, and timid person by nature, and the world in which he was living was hostile to the Christian message. He must have felt weak when he received these instructions from Paul - "how am I going to do it?" he must have asked himself. Paul then goes on to give Timothy three sources of encouragement:

\2. THREE SOURCES OF ENCOURAGEMENT (v1, vv 3 - 8).\

1. Look at Jesus, Paul says in v.1 that this charge is given "in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus." When we're discouraged, when we feel that we're not going to be able to do what God has asked of us we need to remember that we're not alone. The charge comes from God and from Jesus, it comes with their authority and approval, that God will give all the grace which is needed to make sure that the task is done.

We are servants of God  - we are working for Jesus  - we do so with His blessing and presence, when you feel down look up and remember just who it is that task is being done for. If you're doing something for yourself, for the minister, for the church, then you're likely to fail. Success will come when we remember that we do it for Jesus.

Yet the main point in v.1 is not so much the presence of God or Jesus but the coming of Christ. One day Jesus is going to personally return to Earth - v.1 makes it plain that Jesus will come, will judge and will establish his kingdom.

At that point every minister, and indeed every Christian will be asked to make an account. Now that can be taken as a threat, but we would do better this morning to take it as an encouragement, let's do our duty so that we can make a proper account to Jesus when he returns.

2. Look at the people (vv 3 - 5): Look at the people, says Paul to Timothy, they can not bear, they can not put up with sound doctrine. Indeed they find teachers who will tell them what they want to hear so that they can have the comfort of following them. Their criteria for many of what makes a good preacher is not "is he true to the word of God" but "does he tell me what I want to hear?" They do not first of all listen and then decide whether what they have heard is true; they first decide what they want to hear and select teachers who will toe the line.

How is Timothy to react to this? Knowing that when you open your mouth you're going to get opposition might lead us to think that we would do better by keeping quiet. But look at the people says Paul - they're lost, you Timothy have got to stand up and tell them the truth! Timothy then receives 4 bits of advice about how to speak to the people in v.5:

i)  Keep your head in all situations: When men and women get all caught up in all kinds of whims and fancies and speculative ideas it is the duty of the minister to keep calm and sane. The Greek language means "while that lot are getting drunk on their foolish ways, you Timothy are to keep sober." Panic is an easy trap to fall into, perhaps many have fallen into it many times, Now I know that to stand back, and not to react immediately is by far the better course.

ii)  Endure hardship: When some teachings are unpopular, both with the unsaved and the saved, it is the duty of the minister to preach the truth in love even if it causes offence and ultimately hardship.

iii) Do the work of an evangelist: Look at the people - they are ignorant of the truth - therefore we must tell them it.

(iv) Discharge all the duties of your ministry: Even if some leave to follow foolish teaching it is Timothy's duty to be faithful to those who remain. Timothy is to persevere in the Ephesian church until his task is finished and God calls him elsewhere.

In summary then, those difficult days in which it was hard to get people to hear the gospel, were not to be discouraged Timothy; was not to deter him from his ministry; not to induce himself to trim his message to suit his hearers; he was not meant to let them  silence him altogether - looking at the people might have encouraged him to give up - instead he was to look at them and be encouraged to preach all the more.

3. Look at Paul (vv 6 - 8): Paul encourages Timothy to get on with the task because Paul's own life was coming to an end and he needed to know that Timothy would get on with the work after he had gone. One life was coming to end - Paul was being poured out like a drink offering - and his eternal life was about to begin - Paul's work was finished, he looked back upon it without regret - the race was finished, the faith had been kept. Now he looked forward to Judgement, to meeting Christ and receiving his crown.

Now the time has come for Timothy to step bravely into Pauls place. Timothy could no longer rely on Paul, the time had come for him to stand on his own two feet as a Christian and as a leader. Sometimes I think this is why ministers must leave churches, especially where they have seen many conversions, because some people depend on their minister and need to learn to stand on their own feet and depend on Christ.

The chapter then moves on to its conclusion. Paul gives a sad list of those who deserted and failed him, of his experience of being tried and of constant danger. He asks for some personal objects to be sent to him. One gets a double impression from these verses - the first is that humans, even Christians, will let you down.

The second impression is that God never let him down. Paul never blamed God for his trials and troubles, he knew above all others that trials and troubles find their source in sin and human wickedness and not in God.

Instead we learn this about God in vv 17 and 18 "BUT THE LORD STOOD AT MY SIDE AND GAVE ME STRENGTH, SO THAT THROUGH ME THE MESSAGE MIGHT BE FULLY PROCLAIMED AND ALL THE GENTILES MIGHT HEAR IT. AND I WAS DELIVERED FROM THE LION'S MOUTH. THE LORD WILL RESCUE ME FROM EVERY EVIL ATTACK AND WILL BRING ME SAFELY TO HIS HEAVENLY KINGDOM. TO HIM BE GLORY FOR EVERY AND EVER. AMEN."

How then are we to conclude or summarise this letter? We must start by saying that underlying the whole of this letter is Paul's basic conviction that God has spoken through his prophets and apostles, and that this unique revelation - called in the letter "the faith" "the truth" "the word" "the gospel" "the sound teaching" has been committed to the church as a "treasure" or "deposit."

Now the apostle after 30 years of delivering this message to others finds himself on his deathbed. He is on his way to being sacrificed. He has a picture in his mind of his executioner's sword. He knows what is about to happen. So he writes to his young second-in-command, Timothy, and asks him to step into his shoes, to carry on from where he has had to stop, and to pass on the torch to others.

Yet when he asks Timothy to do this Paul is fully aware of the difficulties. he knows Timothy through and through. He knows that Timothy is weak, shy, inexperieced and timid. He knows that the world's opposition is strong. And behind all of these things stands the devil who is hell bent on taking and keeping people his prisoners.

For the devil hates the gospel and uses all his strength and cunning to obstruct its progress. He does it by perverting the mouths of the men who preach it, he does it by frightening preachers into silence, he does it by adding fanciful notions to the gospel. He does it best of all by getting people so caught up in defending the gospel that they find that they have no time to preach it.

Knowing all of this Paul gives Timothy these four commands that we have been looking at today. From chapter 1 comes the command GUARD THE GOSPEL - because it is a priceless treasure. From chapter 2 comes the command SUFFER FOR THE GOSPEL - because it is a stumbling block to the proud. From chapter 3 comes the command - CONTINUE IN THE GOSPEL, because it is the truth of God and from chapter 4 PREACH THE GOSPEL because it is the good news of salvation.

Timothy was called to be faithful to his generation.  v.22 "GRACE BE WITH YOU." These are the last recorded words of the apostle Paul. It is a prayer directed to the whole church, it is also for us today.

The prayer recognises that if you will go out and serve the Lord then God will give you all the grace that you need. This is my prayer for you "GRACE BE WITH YOU."

Lets finish with v.18 "TO HIM BE THE GLORY FOR EVER AND EVER, AMEN." It would be difficult to find a better summary of the apostle's life and ministry. First he received grace from God to do it. Then he gave the glory to Christ at the end of it.

Sunday 20th June 1 CHRONICLES 28:1 - 29:30 - THE GREAT UNCHANGEABLES

This year we have been open to many changes during this year. Change is something that we all have to go through in life, we change as we grow up, life changes as people come and go out of our lives. If you review the past 12 months of your life you will probably have gone through several changes.You will have had many such changes in your own life, some may have even experienced the greatest change of all recently - you've become Christians and your life is no longer the same.

Some changes are welcome in our lives, some changes are not, but welcome or not all changes affect our lives to greater or lesser degrees. Indeed in the midst of change our lives can feel very unstable, without direction and unhappy.

The Bible tells us this morning in the two chapters that we'll be looking at, namely 1 Chronicles 28 and 29 speaks to a people undergoing change - he tells a story about a great change in Israelite history when David died and the crown was handed over to Solomon, yet he also tells his story 400 or so years after the event when much has changed, when Israel has no temple nor no king.

The message from Scripture today is simple - he says much has changed on the surface, people and things have come and gone, but underneath the surface the great unchangeables remain, if you want to feel secure take your eyes off the surface events and look at the truth of what is happening underneath, there you will find strength, stability and security. This then is a message about  what is it that does not change when everything else changes?

Let's look at 5 great unchangeable from these two chapters:

THE ETERNAL GOD (28:2 - 8).\ By eternal God I mean the God who was there in the beginning, who is here now, and who always will be. In Chapter 28 David speaks to the assembly of Israel and says in v.2 that God had placed it in his heart to build a place of rest for the ark of the covenant. Now what we have to understand is that David only had this thought because God had given him the ark of the covenant in the first place. Before God called David to do anything he had given in the beginning the covenant and all that that meant.

In v.4 David also admits the prior activity of God - it was God who chose Judah out of Israel, it was God who then chose Jesse out of Judah, and then finally it was God who chose David out of all of Jesse's sons. In v.5 it was God who gave David his sons, and it was God who chose Solomon out of all his sons to succeed him. Thus God was there is the past in charge of events so that David would finally be the right king at the right time, God was there in the present helping David in his reign and giving him sons, God would be there in the future in the reign of Solomon guiding and prospering his reign (v.7). 

Therfore as time passes, there was, there is, there will be an eternal God whose hand is upon all events. This first great unchangeable that there is always an eternal God bringing stability to the present, makes sense of the past and gives hope and assurance for the future.

Whatever great events shook your life in the past - God was there. Whatever is shaking your life now - God is here. If you fear for the future - don't - for God will be there too. It is an unchangeable fact for he is an unchangeable God.

\2. THE PLAN OF GOD (28:9 - 21).\ So we can see there is an eternal God who oversees all things, but that does not mean that we as human beings have no part to play in shaping our lives and our history. God has made us to dream dreams, to make plans, and as his spirit searches us and guides us we find that our plans come into line with His will and become his plans, thus we read in 28:12 that David gave Solomon "the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind."

To go back to v.10 David tells Solomon  "the Lord has chosen\you\to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work." It was when Solomon realised that it was God who had called him to be the man of this moment, that he truly had God's calling upon his life, that he found the strength to get up and do the work.

At this point we would all do well to remember that we are all called by God to be here at this time. Paul begins nearly all his pastoral letters by reminding the churches both of his call to be an apostle, but also their calling to be the church of Christ is the place where they live (e.g. 1 Cor 1:1, 2).

At this time let's remind ourselves that it is we (and nobody else except those who might join us) who are called for this task. It's a tremendous task, first of all on the personal level to get our lives right and to walk in holiness, it's a tremendous task on the level of evangelism for there are so many unsaved around us, it's a tremendous task on the physical level as we consider our future. All of these tasks might divert us, or divide us, or fill us with despair unless we remember this basic principle - it is God's plan that we are working out, it is God who has called us to be the people for this moment in time - therefore we must be strong and do the work.

And what a plan it was that God had given to David to hand over to Solomon, a plan of extreme detail even down to the size and weight of the forks, sprinkling bowls and pitchers (v.17). God is not just concerned about the overall plan, but also the smaller details which make up the whole picture.

Yet we must be careful that we don't fall into the trap of thinking that God always has an exact plan in mind which if we deflect from it just an inch then we move from what is best into what is second best. God does allow us some freedom to use our own minds and imaginations, when it comes to God's plan for our lives we have freedom of choice within it, but we are not meant to be free to go outside of it.

How does God reveal his plan to us? In the same way as he did to David. Through the scriptures, through Christian people, through events, by sifting our ideas by the Holy Spirit and making them burn within us when they come in line with His will. While events in our lives bring great changes the plan underneath it all does not change, nor does the blessing of living within God's plan for our lives. David says to Solomon in v.20 "Be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you."

For you and me then God has a plan for our lives which does not change. We may opt out of it for a while, but if we are truly Christians God will bring us back into it. That is not to say that we are robots with no freedoms, for the plan allows us freedom to make our individual choices. The encouragement we are to take today is that while kingdoms rise and fall, while people come and go in our lives, while we succeed and fail, while there is change and decay - God's second great unchangeable, his plan for our lives remains unshaken.

3. GOD'S EXPECTATION OF US (29:1 - 9). In chapter 29 David addresses the whole assembly and tells them in v.1 "my son Solomon, the one whom God has chosen, is young and inexperienced, the task is great." It is comforting for us to know that the right man for the task is young and inexperienced for I am sure that we often feel that what we are called to do is beyond our abilities. Yet God does not leave us on our own, for before Solomon was asked to build the temple David had made much preparation, indeed v.2 says that he had surrendered all his resources for the temple.

But secondly, David makes it clear that the responsibility for the temple falls upon all the people and not just Solomon. The challenge is for all the people to provide from what they have, from material wealth as well as from their skills. I am not going to labour this point today, it is enough to say that throughout the scriptures God expects his people to provide for his temple - and that too is an unchangeable fact. God expects us to provide for the building, and for the people.

But are we ready for the kind of giving which we see in vv 7 - 9 where tons of gold, silver, bronze and precious stones were given by the leaders of the people? Where as v.9 puts it - the people gave freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord.

Let's return to v.5 which contains the real challenge where David says to the people "Now, who is willing to consecrate himself today to the Lord?" It was only consecrated people who were free to give. It was because they were dedicated to the Lord and the Lord's task that the were free to give. And so here is our third great unchangeable - it is consecrated people that the Lord wants, and one of the signs of consecration is freedom to give to the temple.

4. THE JOY OF KNOWING GOD (29:10 - 22). This was a great assembly - the people had gathered, had consecrated themselves and were now fully committed to the task of the temple, and in vv 10 - 19 we are given David's prayer at the climax of the ceremony, and it introduces us to the fourth great unchangeable - that if you know God and do what is right before him there is great joy in your life.

If you take the time to read the prayer you will see that it is really quite magnificent, David's heart just wells up and out from it pours this great psalm of praise and joy. On the surface what provoked the prayer was the bringing of the gifts, look at v.16 which says "all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple", but as we read on into the verse we see that the real source of joy was not the gifts, but the giver, and the real giver was not the people but God himself. Look at the end of v.16 "all this abundance...comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you." Look at the end of v.14 as well "everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand."

It is important that we realise that the source of Christian joy is God himself. If we make the source of joy singing, then as soon as there is a bad hymn we will lose that joy. If we make the source of joy hyped up foot-stomping hand clapping meetings then as soon as we leave the meeting we lose our joy. If we make the source of Christian joy people, then as soon as people let us down we lose our joy. Our joy changes with outward things, it will be unchangeable if it is rooted in God, and if we would come to learn that all that we have and all that we need is found in God.

The Bible tells us that joy and praise such as this is not a thing of the past, if you knew joy once but have no or little joy now, then you have switched the source of your joy away from God and onto people or things.

It is an unchangeable fact that if our hearts are loyal to God (v.18) then we can know joy.

\5. THERE IS A KING ON THE THRONE (29:22 - 30). The end of the teaching today from our text about the life of David is not the same as the one as we find in the Books of Kings where we read about David's failure in health and various plots against him. The writer here ignores the detail and just gives us the bottom line of the facts and so we read in v.28 "David died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honour. His son Solomon succeeded him as king."

The king is dead - but long live the King! There was a tremendous change for the people of Israel, but in one sense nothing changed, for even when David died there was still a king on the throne, but more than that even when the human king changed the Divine King still reigned, as v.11 put it "Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all." In other words when all the changes take place down here there is still an eternal king on an eternal throne and that is an unchangeable fact.

This was an important word for the Jews for as we know the writer wrote 400 years after David when there was no human king and when the people were under the rule of a foreign power - namely Persia. They needed to know that when the king was gone and there was a Persian governor that the divine royal throne still ruled and that that truth was unchangeable.

Who is on that divine throne now? Matthew 22:21 - 46 gives the answer. The King who rules now is Jesus Christ who is David's son - so the Davidic family line still rules, but Jesus is not just David's son, he is also David's lord.

The final thought then this morning is are we committed to this unchangeable fact - that the Lord Jesus Christ is on the throne of the events which affect our lives, and our church? Perhaps we've been in the church many years and seen half a dozen or more ministers come and go all bringing their changes some welcome, some unwelcome. Yet as these human leaders changed the Lordship of Jesus over this church never changed. What was really important remained rock steady and sure, and as we think about the future we need to be reminded that his hand is steady upon this church.

And in our personal lives as all sort of changes come sweeping our way, some welcome and some unwelcome we need to be reminded that nothing, not one thing that came our way changed the Lord's love for us, and his rule upon our lives. We can have disobeyed him, we could have got angry with him, we could have wandered, but he's still king.

Now I pray that you believe that and leave this temple and go forward this week with joy!

Sunday 12th June We have a great example in the book of Judges chapter 6 of a man used by God.  7 When the Israelites cried m  to the LORD because of Midian,  8 he sent them a prophet, n  who said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, o  out of the land of slavery. p   9 I snatched you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. q  I drove them from before you and gave you their land. r   10 I said to you, ‘I am the LORD your God; do not worship s  the gods of the Amorites, t  in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.” 12 When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, b  mighty warrior. c  ”  13 “But sir,” Gideon replied, “if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders d  that our fathers told e  us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned f  us and put us into the hand of Midian.”  14 The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have g  and save h  Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Gideon was reluctant, but the Lord revealed to him in powerful ways and promises a victory over the oppressor. Vs 11 "Then the angel of the Lord came and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah and his son Gideon was threshing wheat from the Midianites." 

Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house?" I. Why did God chose Gideon to guide him for sure but also because: 1. Gideon was brave: The text above shows a determined young man, despite being at a disadvantage before the enemy. During the night, he worked with a challenge to tend the harvest and to preserve it, so as not to let it fall into the hands of the Midianites. He was not sleeping like many others were at that time.

2. He was also a Working man. To be found at night, taking care of your wheat, prepared to fight watching for the enemy as they could appear at any time, he really was a man of struggles and work.

3. Humility. Judges 6:15 "And he said, Oh my Lord, how can I save Israel Behold my family is the weakest.

He feels very small. Before the great responsibility entrusted to him;  he thought he was unable to accomplish such a feat, this pleased the Lord, for the salvation of the people was not dependent on the man, but the Lord. 

Because it would give another lesson to his people, using the smallest, the poorest, the weakest, II Corinthians 12:9 God's power is made perfect in weakness. 

4. Gideon was sensible. Judges 6:17.  Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign l  that it is really you talking to me.  18 Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.” And the LORD said, “I will wait until you return.”  Gideon now asks for a confirmation of all the revelations that have been delivered, but the moment that he brought the offerings to present to God the Angel (The Lord Jesus) reveals this, With the tip of the staff q  that was in his hand, the angel of the LORD touched the meat and the unleavened bread. r  Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the LORD disappeared.

"In the moments of worship, the Lord reveals Himself to us wonderfully when we bring our offerings the moment we are at his feet to worship him for any reason, we receive the greatest blessing from God.


II. The preparation for the work begins. Destroy the altar of Baal Judges 6:25 - That same night the LORD said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. 30 Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole 31 y  beside it.  26 Then build a proper kind of 32 altar to the LORD your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second 33 bull as a burnt offering. z  ”

The Lord begins asking Gideon to remove the abomination which was among the people. The Lord is calling to first remove the detestable things of your life, then cover it with power; This first fight he faces because his father followed Baal, but here was the first victory, so we have decided to remove the events of oppression, and also the strange god, sometimes people fall because they love the strange gods, but here the Lord marks our first victory.


2. Build a new altar Judges 6:26 -.. "And build the Lord thy God, an altar on top of this stronghold ... and you shall offer a holocaust" The construction of the altar restores the worship service to the Lord when we come to Lord and leave the world. He demands that we re-establish this altar that is within us, that is continuous indwelling of the Holy Spirit, this also means new birth, new life in the presence of the Lord.

II. Once again God confirms the work of Gideon Judges 6:36 -. 40. Given the increased responsibility and fearful by his inexperience, of what could happen if he failed, he decides to ask God once again to confirm what the Lord had revealed.  “If you will save o  Israel by my hand as you have promised—  37 look, I will place a wool fleece p  on the threshing floor. q  If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know r  that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.”  38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.

This is a lesson of caution, here because Gideon wanted to perform the Work of the Lord in the way God had commanded, because he did not want to fail or miss something, because he knew that if he failed even in the minimum detail it could be fatal. The Lord teaches us to prepare and to be daring at that which He tells us to do, sometimes we need to pray more, fast more, get the details right, if we want to be sure that the victory is certain.

IV. Gideon dealing with the people The Lord dealt directly with Gideon, now comes another challenge: dealing with people. Judges 6:35 - He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, calling them to arms, and also into Asher, l  Zebulun and Naphtali, m  so that they too went up to meet them. n  

1. The call of the people.  The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength z  has saved her,  3 announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead. a  ’ ” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. 2. Presentation of the people: 4 But the LORD said to Gideon, “There are still too many b  men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.

Here the Lord would show Gideon with whom he could go into battle with. God would prove them to descend to the waters. And so it happened: three hundred men drank water leading a hand to mouth, and the Lord said, By the three hundred men I will give you the Midianites into thine hand.  The important detail of this proves that the Lord has examined the people, God shows that he wanted a vigilante army, and not distracted as those who went down to lick the waters.  But its a great revelation for us today, That is that the Lord tests His servants in the waters of the Spirit ie, those who search for the Lord in prayer, fasting, in the early mornings, and it is when we are approved, the Lord separates us to fight for this work. It is in this work we are involved in today, we cannot count on crowds, economic or financial powers, but with a faithful remnant, a small group, willing to do the Lord's will we will conquer Portslade.

V. Gideon fears facing the enemy. Gideon was afraid now, because even with 32,000 men the battle would be difficult., With 300 it would be impossible. But the victory was not with the men of Gideon but in the Lord. 

Man himself has nothing they can do against the enemy, but the blood of Jesus gives us the victory, but only if they obey the Lord.

VI. The courage of Gideon. Judges 7:9 "And it came to pass that night, the Lord said unto him, Arise and go down to the camp ..." The Lord gives a final confirmation when Gideon sends him down to the enemy's camp. On his return he  heard an account of a mans dream.

Judges 7:13-14 - "...  “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.” 14 His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, k  the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”

 

1.Knowing the dream, Gideon worshiped the LORD, and he understood that victory would not be his or his men, but the Lord.2. The certainty of victory had returned to him now he was certain that the Lord would give them the victory,

In our struggles we have nothing to fear, for the bread of barley, ie the Lord Jesus fights for us and destroys the enemy giving us victory. 3. Gideon then enters the battle secures the battle with  the following weapons:  16 Dividing the three hundred men n  into three companies, o  he placed trumpets p  and empty jars q  in the hands of all of them, with torches r  inside. 17 “Watch me,” he told them. “Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do.  18 When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, s  then from all around the camp blow yours and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.’ ”

Strange these weapons, how could he beat a powerful, well-armed, army skilful in battle, only with those apparently harmless weapons? It would be counterproductive, but the Lord had said so, and so Gideon obeyed.

What are these weapons? The Horn – Glorification. Empty jars -. man stripped of all his vanity, pride, self esteem, etc.. Torches lit - power of the Spirit. Final victory. Division of men into three groups. Waiting for right time of the attack. Judges 7:19-20 -  Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars t  that were in their hands.  20 The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches u  in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword v  for the LORD and for Gideon!”  21 While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled. w  

When the pitchers that hid the torches, were broken, and there suddenly appeared a large number of torches, and the sound of the horns, the enemy panicked and was defeated.

Conclusion: The pitcher hid a lighted torch, which would only appear after being broken.The power of the Holy Spirit only appears when man is broken also, in the presence of the Lord he humbles himself so that the Lord's light may shine. It is this position that the Lord blesses us.

God wants these type of people in our day like the servants, like Gideon, to also face a big challenge: to continue the fight against the world, sin, the flesh, but the Lord will make us victorious also, not by our might, nor by our abilities, but by the blood the Lord Jesus. Amen

Portslade Belongs to Jesus Christ.

Sunday 6th June On Pentecost Sunday I was in the middle of a serires of messages on Ephesians but today taking part in the Lords Table I want to look at THE PENTECOSTAL POWER - At 1.8  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; o  and you will be my witnesses p  in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, q  and to the ends of the earth.” r  

In our church every time we meet we have a pentecost experience because we are in the presence of God but it would be good to remind ourselves about being led by the Holy Spirit.In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams.” Acts 2.17

The Character of this Power is that we recieve it from God and its the Power to witness and the Power to service.

The source of power. The Holy Spirit. Acts 1: 8. The very Spirit of God testifies of the Word.

The human position of power. The disciples were completely surrendered to Christ. They were obedient. Acts 1: 4;  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. j  

Chapter 2:1  When the day of Pentecost t  came, they were all together u  in one place, They recognized their need as a group. Acts 1:14 They all joined together constantly in prayer,

There was an intense desire among the disciples to seek Gods will. For ten days they focused their thinking and prayer on needing Jesus. They prayed fervently. Acts 1:14; Luke 11:13) We need to get back to being a people of prayer also if we want to see pentecostal revival in our land.

They prayed and waited. 1 John 5: 14-15 This is the confidence k  we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. l   15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know m  that we have what we asked of him. n  

The sign of power. They spoke in the power of the Spirit. (Acts 2: 4a) as the Spirit enabled them they abandon their own strength and wisdom and depend completly on God, They testified of God's wonderful working. Everything that was of self was abandoned the "I" was forgotten. Their focus was on God.

They preached Christ. Acts 2: 22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth q  was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, r  which God did among you through him, s  as you yourselves know.  23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; t  and you, with the help of wicked men, 9 put him to death by nailing him to the cross. u   24 But God raised him from the dead, v  freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

The Result. The crowd were amazed, even perplexed. Acts 2: 6-7,12 we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

2. Some scoffed. Acts 2:13 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.

“Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.  15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! i   16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. j  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, k your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

3. Many were affected. Acts 2:37  “Brothers, what shall we do?” that is why true conviction is needed today. Genuine conversion. Acts 2: 41-42 “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number w  that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching x  and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread y  and to prayer

You and I and Portslade Baptist Church can have the same power and the same results will happen, if we follow the same convictions. As Hebrews 13: 8; Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. x

The powerful advances of the primitive church: Acts 1.8 The church grew and advanced look and read each chapter of the book of Acts because it marks their advances being filled with the Holy Spirit and power.

We as a church will advance also, 2 Ch 7:14. if my people, who are called by my name, n  will humble o  themselves and pray and seek my face p  and turn q  from their wicked ways, then will I hear r  from heaven and will forgive s  their sin and will heal t  their land.  15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. u   16 I have chosen v  and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there

On the day of Pentecost: almost 3,000 were saved (Acts 2:41,42). After the lame man was healed at the door of the beautiful temple, the number grew to almost 5,000 (At 4.4). And the crowd multiplied and many who believed in the Lord men and women and grew more and more (Ac 5.14).

The number of disciples also grew ...; and the word of God grew and in Jerusalem the number of the disciples multiplied (Ac 6.1,7). The multiplication of the church in the geographical sense, Judea, Galilee, Samaria, the secret is going into the wole world (Ac 9.31). The multiplication of a local fellowship is to be steadfast in the teaching of the Bible and in prayer.

The church grew through persecution and even before this pandemic we have faced many forms of persecution, we have also been in another  type of persecution with this virus not being able to meet together, but Pentecost Power we see an example of genuine faith, here we see the change and growth that many churches desire, the more the church was persecuted the more it grew.  

Many believe that some christians today and even before the virus were accommodated in their faith. But learning through this coronavirus the world has been persecuted But (Acts 16: 5). Tells us that the churches were strengthened  in the faith and grew daily in numbers. z  

Here we have the promise of church growth and it will be fulfilled in our church and we are growing remember it is not the lack of power? We will grow through being united and being obedient then we will have growth.

I believe we are going to see our church grow as we have all been using this time of isolation to pray and are looking forward as the Body of Christ to being all together again as a Church.

30/04/2021 “ARE YOU DRIFTING?” During this lockdown and still with many churches closed someone asked me if I thought people were drifting away from the church, as many people even though they have had their injections are finding it difficult to come to church. We are aware some have ongoing health cares and others are frail but we are praying for you all.

I read a article about  “Two young men were fishing above a low dam on a river near where they lived.  As they were concentrating on catching fish, they were unaware that they had drifted until they were not far from the water flowing over the dam. When they realized their situation, the current near the dam had become too powerful for them to keep their boat from going over.  Below the dam the water was gushing with really strong force over great boulders and through crevices in the rocks. Caught by the swirling waters under the rocks, they never came to the surface.  After days of non stop searching, the divers finally found one body, and then, two or three days later, the other.”

 

2. Remember the danger of drifting is not limited to the physical realm... In Hebrews 2:1, we find a warning against drifting it says; We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 

Sadly, it is not uncommon for Christians to drift toward Destruction! I have to ask you, “Are You Drifting?” it’s a fair question but could I be so bold to ask, would you know it if you were drifting?

I hope that listening to my messge today we can become aware of the danger of drifting away from the Lord.

I. THINGS WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT DRIFTING

A. DRIFTING REQUIRES NO EFFORT...

Just stop rowing or batteling against the wind, and you will begin to drift. The same is true for the Christian, which is why we are told: We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”

B. DRIFTING IS A PROCESS WE MAY NOT BE AWARE OF.

1. It is possible to drift and be unaware. In a boat for example, the undercurrents are often unnoticeable from the surface, but you know when they have you in their grasp.

b. In a plane, the wind or gravitational forces move the plane without you realizing it, except when you are in turbulence.

2. The same is true in the spiritual realm. Many individual Christians have slowly drifted away from Christ and they do not know it. Many churches have gradually drifted into error and confusion only one day to find them selves far removed from the teaching of Holy Scriptures.

C. WE NEVER DRIFT UPSTREAM OR AGAINST THE TIDE...

1. Unfaithfulness to the Lord is like rowing upstream, The Bible tells us that we must constantly be “adding to your faith, goodness and knowledge;...” 2 Peter 1:5

You must continue to grow - 2 Pe 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever!

The moment you stop growing, you start going backward or downward.(Shrink with age)

D. WHEN DRIFTING THE SPEED DOWNSTREAM INCREASES...

1. The dangers increase with the speed by which we drift.

a. When we can hear the noise of the waterfall, it is already too late, perhaps it is too late for you?

b. Any sailor will tell you that when we lose sight of land, it is even more difficult to discern that we are drifting.

2. As we move farther and farther from the Lord, we care less and less about what we do or what we say.

E. DRIFTING IS DANGEROUS TO OTHERS...A ship, just drifting, is a hazard to all other vessels at sea

Parents who are just drifting, will soon loose possible every opportunities to teach their children - Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

3. Many are tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine. Which we looked at in Ephesians 4:14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.

F. DRIFTING ENDS IN SHIPWRECK...

1. A boat adrift will eventually crash on the rocks or go over the falls. For those who drift spiritually through their own neglect, there shall be no escape from a just punishment -

Hebrews 2:1-3 We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.

Friends the danger of drifting is real, or there would be no need for the Bible to warn you against it.  So again I ask, “Are You Drifting?”  To help answer the question, here are some

II. COMMON SIGNS OF DRIFTING

A. DIMINISHING DESIRE TO STUDY GOD’S WORD AND PRAY...

1. The Bible is a unique book - a source of information not found anywhere else

a. Without God’s revelation, how could we truly know our origin, our purpose, or destiny?

b. It tells us of sin’s dreadful consequences, and how God saves us from sin

c. It provides direction for living happy, useful lives Psalm 1:1-3 says that when one loses their desire to study God’s word, they are drifting!

2. Prayer is a wonderful blessing - a way that we have to communicate with our God! Jesus, who loved His Father, often prayed - Mk 1:35; 6:46

b. He expressed concern that His disciples not grow weary to pray - Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

When a Christian prays less and less, he is drifting more and more!

B. DIMINISHING DESIRE TO BE WITH GOD’S PEOPLE

1. This includes attending services to worship God. How many times have we heard its been so long since I hve been to church. One should always have the attitude of the Psalmist 122:1"I rejoiced with those who said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD." (But it does not say go only once! or when we want to!)

b. If we no longer rejoice in the worship of God in the presence of believers I believe that we are drifting!

2. Fellowship with God’s people remember extends beyond the services of the church

a. We are to be concerned with edifying one another - Ro 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.This edification should occur even daily - He 3:13

c. For the right kind of friendship strengthens us, while the wrong kind leads us to sin - 1 Co 15:33 Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."

When a Christian prefers the companionship of people of the world, rather than fellow Christians, he is drifting toward the rocks of spiritual destruction!

C. DIMINISHING DESIRE TO SHARE THE GOSPEL...

1. When one obeys the gospel, he knows God has blotted out his sins, made him a new creature in Christ, and he wants to tell the world about Jesus - cf. Ac 8:4; 1 Th 1:8. When a Christian no longer has the desire to take the message of salvation to others, he is drifting! How many churches have been drifting for years and do not know it

D. INCREASING DESIRE FOR THE THINGS OF THE WORLD...

Parents of one young man were excited beyond measure over a worldly honor he had received.

They had never demonstrated such emotion over spiritual matters NEVER EVEN WENT TO HIS BAPTISM.

With the passing time, the entire family had drifted beyond the point of no return. How many young people who were on fire for Jesus have left the church because they have no support or help during dificult times.

The apostle John warns us against the love of the world and the things in the world - 1 Jn 2:15-17

a. Paul described some who were “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God” - 2 Ti 3:4

b. If we reach the point when we find more pleasure in some worldly activity than meeting with others to worship God, we definitely are spiritually adrift!

For me these are some of the signs of drifting away from God.  If we are to remain close to God, it will not be easy. 

But let me share some:

III. REMEDIES AGAINST DRIFTING

A. KEEP ROWING...

1. Spiritually speaking, this involves diligence - 2 Pe 1:5,10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall,

2. It also means to keep abounding in our Christian graces - cf. 2 Pe 1:5-8 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. There is no place for “retirement” in living the life of a Christian! A sense of we have made it.

B. WATCH OUT FOR UNDERCURRENTS...

1. We must always be on guard for the undercurrent of temptation

2. For we have a fleshly nature which wages war against the soul. 1 Pe 2:11  Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 

C. EXPECT TO GO AGAINST THE TIDE...

1. There are many tides to sweep us away

a. Popularity, peer pressure, the praise of others

b. Modernism, scepticism, humanism

c. Denominationalism - false doctrines of all kinds

d. Liberalism and worldliness in the church - greatest enemies of the church in our lifetime we will never have the victory or go forward until we get the world out of our churches and the churches into the world.

D. WE MUST HAVE STRONG ANCHORAGE... Are we Rooted and grounded in Christ - Co 2:6-7 are our minds anchored to the truth - Ep 4:14-15 do we still posses an unshakable hope - cf. He 6:18-19. That is why we are rooted and grounded in the love of Christ - Ep 3:16-18 

CONCLUSION

1. Friends are you drifting?

a. The danger is real, we would be foolish to say otherwise

b. Many have drifted away from the Lord, and it would be arrogant to say it could not happen to us!

2. Are there signs of drifting in your life? As a pastor I would ask that you honestly ask yourself:

a. Is my desire to study God’s word and pray diminishing?

b. Is my desire to be with God’s people not what it has been in the past?

c. Have I lost my desire to save those who are lost?

d. Am I too much enamoured or involved by things of the world?

If we are in any way then we must confess that we are drifting, then may we encourage one another to give earnest heed as warned by the writer to the Hebrews in chapter 2 vs 1 “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him..”

Our Salvation in Christ is simply too great for us to neglect!

23/04/2021 I want to finish this months thinking about unity.We remember we all fly under the banner of BUGB  “Baptist Together” and even though we are an individual congregation we are as a Baptist Church all joined together, we are joined with the BMS in our World Mission Activates but today their is nowhere better to start thinking about unity than Ephesians 4:1-16 which talks about Unity in the Church.

 

Ephesians 4:1-16 Unity in the Church. ¶ As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why God says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men. What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service. So that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

 

The first three chapters consist of several important doctrinal truths. Which we have considered ut we remember chapter four, where we have the most weighty and serious exhortations that can be given.

Remember friends the Grace of God is necessary to keep the unity of the body. We saw how Paul explains these four areas that we need to work on to ensure this unity is effective, and true.

1.     Unity through our life. Vs 1-3.

2.     Unity through what we believe. Vs 4-6..

3.     Unity through our gifts. Vs 7-12 Which we looked at last time

4.     Unity through our growth. Vs 13-16 Today

Remember we saw that the Church of Jesus Christ grows as a unified body through its Life, its Beliefs and through His Gifts. To finish my thoughts on Unity I want us to look today at unity through our Growth.

If asked to summarize Ephesians 4. It has to be with the words.

·         IN Christ. Made alive IN Christ. One IN Christ. No barriers IN Christ

·         We should seek to be filled with the wisdom of God.

·         Our prayer is surely that we are filled with the fullness if God.

·         Its Paul’s plea for us today that we seek unity through our Life, our Belief, our gifts and our growth.

Vs 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.

·         Infants – Baby Believers – remember a baby contest - my mum entered me for one –beautiful baby - everybody loves a baby – I could not enter now though!

·         We grow up!

·         Mother here will tell you though that any problem with the growth of a child gives concern.

·         We worry that it grows correctly – everything is ok

·         The word used here is NEPIOS i.e. children not capable of eating solid food or speaking properly.

Paul's Definition of NEPIOS. Vs 14

Convictions are held very lightly. Tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching.

·         Easily swayed by new fads.

·         Like a child goes from one toy to another.

·         Children have a short attention span.

Look at the ease at which they can be deceived.

·         By the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.

·         Two Greek words here PLANE = Wandering and PLANOS meaning deceiver.

·         Two examples here and they are not aimed at people here.

·         In Brazil I was asked to preach at another church. A young new Christian came to me and pleaded with me Pastor please talk to this older mature Christian for me because this person has just finished pointing out all the bad points of our pastor, why is she telling me a new Christian these things?

·         In another Church in Scotland this woman came to me and was very complementary to my preaching and of me as a person. She later told me she only visited tonight because her own pastor was not preaching – she did not like him – she complained about his preaching – in fact she could not look at him and she came home from church always distressed.

·         Satan was deceiving her – Satan used her immaturity to look at the man and not look at Jesus. Do not let this happen here, look to Jesus.

Paul is saying here grow up! Come into the fullness of Christ.

·         Be childlike – not childish.

·         Remember Jesus appreciated the insight of children he quoted Psalm 8:2 From the lips of children, (NEPIOS) and infants you have ordained praise.

·         Through childlike faith, the simplest of Christians receive spiritual revelation, which are often missed by more complex minds.

·         Jesus praised his Father for hiding the truth from the wise but showing it to babes. (NEPIOS)

However Baby believers can have a negative side 1 Corinthians 3:1-7 (read)

·         Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe--as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

·         Today people have superficial tastes – they want milk not meat.

·         They are still attached to the world – In its Ways and practices.

·         Look at Temper – quarreling & jealously in some of our Churches today.

·         Its like Following the leader – The Figurehead rather than Christ.

·         Friends Be childlike not childish.

Paul says here. Grow up, grow into Christ, into His body the Church taking your place, doing your part, using your gifts.

Where is your place? What is your part? Brothers and Sisters Ask God HE will tell you!

Work for unity, don’t let Satan destroy Our Unity. Our Life, Our Beliefs, or Our Gifts, but let us use them for the growth of the church of Jesus Christ and for our own Spiritual Growth.

If Portslade Baptist Church is to survive another 5 year’s or 10 years or until the Lord's Return, then I believe that we need to let go and let God united us.

·         Remember United we stand divided we fall.

An old quotation that has helped me is from Mrs. CE Cowan from her Book of daily devotions "Streams in the Desert" she wrote:

Remember we may wait till Jesus explains, because we know that Jesus reigns.

May he Reign and Unite our hearts forever. Amen.

16/04/2021This month we are thinking about unity. BUGB has the banner “Baptist Together” and even though we are an individual congregation we are as a Baptist Church all joined together, we are joined with the BMS in our World Mission Activates but today their is nowhere better to start thinking about unity than Ephesians 4:1-16 which talks about Unity in the Church.

 Ephesians 4:1-16 Unity in the Church. ¶ As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why God says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men. What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service. So that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

The first three chapters we remember consist of several important doctrinal truths. Here in chapter four, we have the most weighty and serious exhortations that can be given to Christians to unite.

Remember the Grace of God is necessary to keep the unity of the body. We are looking at how Paul explains these four areas that God's people need to work on to ensure this unity is effective and true.

1.     Unity through our life. Vs 1-3.

2.     Unity through what we believe. Vs 4-6. Which we looked at last time. Lets look at now.

3.     Unity through our gifts. Vs 7-12

4.     Unity through our growth. Vs 13-16.

Ephesians 4:7-12. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service. So that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

From Scripture, we have three main passage concerning gifts.

In Romans 12:3-8 (Gifts of God)

·         We are all born with certain natural gifts – he we see that a Christian is born again with Spiritual Gifts.

·         What gifts do you have? ( read list)

(Read) For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11  (Gifts of the Spirit)

·         These gifts are available for the common good. But there are gifts we are encouraged to also seek.

(Read) There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.   All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.

Ephesians 4:7-13 (Gifts of the Spirit)

Gifted people are given to the church. I want us all to remember the gifts we have, both natural and spiritual. But also please remember the Gifts that we have to seek for, and then please realize the gifted people that normal Christians often become, because of the fact that we have been Born Again.

·         Gifts are recognized and developed through prayer and a spiritual life, but they also become aware through discernment of the Body i.e. His People know what gifts we have.

·         Gifted people in Church praying in tongues etc yet in the home they blaspheme God with the same tongue. They are soon found out.

 We should always seek to develop our Christian life. And its through this constant development that you and I will serve Christ through His Body the Local Church here in Portslade or wherever the Lord takes us.

 ·         Always remember seek the best spiritual gifts that will supplement and express the gifts that you already have.

 ·         I can think of nothing better as a Pastor, than to think of the potential of what a new Christian can become within the Body of Jesus.

·         The same can be said for older Christians who are still developing their gifts.

 ·         Remember God calls, He provides and He empowers the believer.

·         BUT. God also gives him to the Church to serve and maintain Unity.

 I would be lacking in my ministry if we did not look at what Practical examples we can have here to follow:

 Lets say for example that you as a believer discover that you have a gift from Romans 12, such as teaching or Stimulating, you would then need to seek from 1 Corinthians 12 Wisdom and Knowledge to compliment this gift. Then from Ephesians 4 we see that you can take your place in the Body the Church as a teacher.

 ·         Today we see from our passage in Ephesians 4 that God’s Gifts are to his church, for Unity/ Service/ and for growing in Maturity.

·         Apostle – Prophet – Pastor – Evangelist – Pastor – Teacher.

We need to understand here though the difference between – Office – and Gift.

·         An Apostle for example is one sent forth.

·         Christ was an Apostle, and his disciples were Apostles, Paul was an Apostle to the Gentiles. Remember we had 12 Apostles therefore our foundation is without question Christ and the Apostles teaching. Through Holy Scripture.

·         The Office – Gifts – Evidence. Anyone God sends out or the church sends out is today called an Apostle = Missionary.

·         A Prophet.

·         Originally inspired by the Holy Spirit.

·         For Encouragement, correction, foretelling the future.

·         Today it could be accepted as someone Forth telling of the Word of God. An example would be applying the Word of God in a given situation.

·         An Evangelist.

·         The ability to tell others and convince them of the truth of the Gospel.

·         Pastor.

·         Shepherd, to care, to protect, to support, to nurture, to feed and to flock.

·         Teacher.

·         To open up and explain the Scriptures, for the general well being of the body.

People of old saw that the Minister was all of these, Apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, and some quite possibly were, but not all.

But Friends in conclusion we can see that the Church of Jesus Christ grows as a unified body through its Life, its Beliefs and through His Gifts. Next time I want to look at Unity in Growth.

09/04/2021This month we are thinking about unity. BUGB has the banner “Baptist Together” and even though we are an individual congregation we are as a Baptist Church all joined together, we are joined with the BMS in our World Mission Activates but today their is nowhere better to start thinking about unity than Ephesians 4:1-16 which talks about Unity in the Church.

Ephesians 4:1-16 Unity in the Church. ¶ As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why God says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men. What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service. So that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

 The first three chapters consist of several important doctrinal truths. We enter now on chapter four, in which we have the most weighty and serious exhortations that can be given to us as the body of Christ.

 Remember friends the Grace of God is necessary to keep the unity of the body. We see how Paul explains of four areas that we need to work on to ensure this unity is effective, true and sincere.

 1.     Unity through our life. Vs 1-3. Which we looked at last time. Today lets look at,

2.     Unity through what we believe. Vs 4-6

3.     Unity through our gifts. Vs 7-12

4.     Unity through our growth. Vs 13-16

 Ephesians 4:4-6 says” There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

 I could speak on each of these points, but today I want to continue with my theme of unity.

 Unity is big business today. In Geneva World Council Churches keeping minutes and losing hours. Baptist Union Assembly in Blackpool. The BMS rally had invited Cardinal Hume to speak, and there had been terrible protests outside because of this catholic Bishop speaking at an Evangelical rally. It seemed that The Bishop had been asked to by the BMS to intervene in some crisis situation abroad and they asked him if he could intervene, if so it would help save these people and he did. He had a marvellous effect on the government and this was the BMS way of saying thank you. By addressing the Assembly.

 A Lecturer at the Faith Mission College (Ken Buchanan) said that any Doctrine that shackles you from winning souls should be thrown away.

I remember a brethren man and his Timothy, this man was so angry and so one sided in his thinking and theology, that it was causing a harmful situation to arise for the student, thankfully by the Grace of God Timothy came through it, but we need to be careful. (Nothing of self.)

Brother’s in Christ. We cannot have unity at any cost though. It may be politically correct to unite with others today BUT is it Spiritually correct.

In the Old Testament we had two enemies – murder – mixture – If we cannot kill them, then we will bread them out. 

The New Testament we have leaven and the New Wine. A little leaven spoils the whole loaf, and new wine in old wineskins.      

 Paul gives seven basic realities that unite every true believer. There is one Body and one Spirit, one Hope, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism; one God.

 I would like with the Lords permission to change these in order to help me and us picture these truths.

 One Father, One Lord, One Spirit, One Body, One faith, One Hope, One Baptism.

 The Trinity, Father - Son – Spirit.

 ·         One Father, not my father, He is more than a creator, he is a King, and Judge. He is also a loving Father. It is here we have Unity, the oneness of believers is that we are part of the family of God.

·         One Lord, The Lordship of Christ is the first step in unity. Can two believers claim to obey the same Lord and not walk in unity.

·         One Spirit, the same Holy Spirit indwells every believer. 1 Corinthians 12:13 says “ For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body”

·         The word used here is breath, and without breath the body is dead.

 The Church the body of Christ.

 ·         Christ is still alive and working on earth through his earthly Church.

·         With every believer having the responsibility to keep the unity of the body. By:

 One Hope, one Faith, one Baptism.

 ·         One Hope. The Second Coming of Christ is our hope and our certainty, we shall all see this Glory and perfection only in Christ.

·         We will have the same resurrection from the dead.

·         God will perfect what he has started in us.

·         God will finish what he has planned for us.

·         We know that we will be together for all eternity.

·         So we had better start practicing this unity here and now.

 ·         One Faith. The Body of fundamental truth which all Christians hold to.

·         To depart from this is to break the unity, to break the faith.

·         The faith is that we every one of us accept the Lordship of Christ Jesus.

 ·         One Baptism. A public confession of faith in Christ Jesus that unites us to this local Church.

·         Water baptism – I am a true Baptist – but remember we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

·         We are never commanded to be baptized.

·         Representatives of the Body the Church baptize with water, but only the Holy Spirit of God can baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

 We should express freely our feelings about. What Unity means to us as individuals and as a congregation.

 Speaks about Our Saviour. 

About God THE FATHER.

Our LORD Jesus Christ.

God’s  HOLY SPIRIT. 

His BODY OR CHURCH

Our HOPE our FAITH our BAPTISM

 5.     Next week lets look at Unity through our gifts. Vs 7-12

 This month I am thinking about unity. BUGB has the banner “Baptist Together” and even though we are an individual congregation we are as a Baptist Church all joined together, by faith in the same Lord,  we are joined with the BMS in our World Mission Activates but today their is nowhere better to start thinking about unity than Ephesians 4:1-16 which talks about Unity in the Church.

 The first three chapters consist of several important doctrinal truths, which as Baptist we hold dear, but I want us to look at chapter four, over my next few sermons. In which we will see that we have the weightiest and serious exhortations that can be given to us as Gods people to strive for Unity of the Body of Christ.

 ¶ As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why God says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men. What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service. So that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

 Vs 1-3 Says that we should walk in the wealth of our calling, which is a worthy life.

Vs 4-6 talks again about our walk with one Lord, one faith, and one baptism;

 Here we have a Principle to Practice, and a Doctrine to Live by.

·         God has made provision for us to live by obedience to His Word. He also shows us how we can work together in unity, and most importantly help us to grow in maturity and in Love.

 Unity we must remember depends on the Grace of God. Uniformity however is fitting a set of rules and practices.

 Ephesians 3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles. Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, Paul is a prisoner and here he brings every experience into subjection to Christ. He urges us through his example, his teaching, his letters and his prayers.

 He says live, a life worthy of your calling. It should be a planned life, not haphazard or careless. It should be a deliberate life, inside out not outside in, it should be a chosen life, remember he say’s: “ Choose this day whom you will serve”.

 Friends the Grace of God is necessary to keep the unity of the body. Paul explains four areas that we need to work on to ensure this unity is effective, and true. It is these thoughts that I want us to look at.

 1.     Unity through our life. Vs 1-3

2.     Unity through what we believe. Vs 4-6

3.     Unity through our gifts. Vs 7-12

4.     Unity through our growth. Vs 13-16

 First of all we have; Unity through our life.

 In Galatians 5:22 remember Paul mentions nine elements of the fruit of the Spirit.

·         But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Five fruits of the Spirit are used here to indicate the kind of life we need to live. (Apple illustration)

 ·         Humility:

·         I remember an old master said, When you know that you have it you have lost it.

·         God first, other’s second, self last is an old standard to life by.

·         Knowing and accepting and believing and being yourself for God.

·         Not thinking more highly of yourself than you ought.

 Do you know that in the Greek culture humility was not acceptable, it meant cowering, and cringing, being servile, shameful, yet we see that Christianity adopted humility as a necessary virtue.

·         Humility comes from comparing yourself to Christ.

·         Self-satisfaction comes from the standard with which we compare ourselves to others.

·         Comparing ourselves to Christ though we are without doubt humbled.  

·         Meekness:

Power under control.

·         Moses, remember was meek yet powerful. Numbers 12:3 Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.

·         Jesus meek and humble in heart. Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

·         Colt that had been broken, meek yet powerful.

·         Greek: virtue for example was between two extremes. Too angry or never angry, meekness is never angry at the wrong time, but always angry at the right time.

·         Longsuffering:

 Never gives up, but neither does it give in. Because it endures to the end it gains its reward. Longsuffering never retaliates, it has power to take revenge but never does. Poor analogy is the pup and the big dog. Young man old man.

 ·         A spirit that bears insult and injury without bitterness or complaint.

·         Suffers unpleasant people with graciousness and fools without irritation.

·         Romans 2:4 So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you towards repentance? Paul asks the sinner if he despises God’s longsuffering. Peter calls God’s longsuffering an opportunity for Salvation.

 ·         Love:

 ·         The Christian church invented this word. In the Greek we have Agape, Eros, Philia and Storge. Agape meant charity. Giving for the sake of giving.The Church has taken it further though to mean godly love.

 ·         Remember nothing a person can do will make us seek anything but their highest good. Not emotional love from the heart, but from the will.

·         1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says; Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

·        Loves the unlovable. It is of Gods Grace.

 Peace:

 ·         These four virtues together bring forth another. Peace.

·         Right with God and right with man = We will have Peace

·         I believe it all depends on the obliteration of self, of self-denial.

·         In a self-centered life, there is little unity and peace.

·         In a self-centered society there is a collection of individualistic opposing units.

·         When a person can not get on with God, how then can we expect them to get on with others. 

 To end we must remember that our lives must be Christ like with His Humility, His Meekness, His longsuffering, His Love and His Peace.

 This will allow each one of us to maintain the unity of the body the Church known as Portslade Baptist Church.

 Amen. Next time we come to this text we will look at unity through the Work of the Faithful


I want to remind the church and those watching that our Easter Celebrations have not ended, because every Sunday in our church we have an encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus and we Behold His Majesty todays reading in Matthew 17:1-24 – I want to begin by showing you the Historical outline of this text:

What a blessing it must have been, spending time with Christ during His earthly ministry. To hear His teaching, spoken with the voice of authority. Think about being there and able to witness His miracles and all that was going on.

Among those who were blessed to be with Jesus, were three men Peter, James and John. Here they accompanied Jesus on the mount of transfiguration where we read in Mt 17:1-2 Peter would later write of that experience on the mount - he said in 2 Peter 1:16-18 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

He says they were "eyewitnesses of His majesty" That Jesus received "honor and glory" from God the Father. What an experience this must have been for these three fishermen from Galilee!

What happened on the mount? Put Simply They Beheld His Majesty.

I. THEY BEHELD THE MAJESTY OF HIS PERSON

 A. WHICH WAS EVIDENCED BY HIS TRANSFIGURATION...

1. He was "transfigured" - Mt 17:2; Mk 9:2 the greek word used her, met-am-or-fo'-o. Meaning to change, transfigure, transform

B. THIS WAS EVIDENCED BY THE PRESENCE OF MOSES AND ELIJAH...

1. They were talking with Jesus - Mt 17:3; Mk 9:4

a. They also appeared in glory - Lk 9:31and the following verses tells us that!

b. They were discussing with Jesus about His coming death in Jerusalem - Lk 9:31b

c. Peter, James, and John had been sleeping, but awoke to  see Jesus in His glory, and talking with Moses and Elijah   

d. Moses and Elijah then began to depart - Lk 9:33

[But Peter was soon to learn that Jesus was above Moses and Elijah, especially in regards to His authority!  As we continue, to read, you will notice that...]

THEY BEHELD THE MAJESTY OF HIS COMING KINGDOM

 A. THIS WAS EVIDENCED BY THE VOICE FROM HEAVEN... "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, Hear Him!" - Mt 17:5; This terrified the disciples vs. 6 then vs. 7 Jesus then sought to comfort them.

The command, "Hear Him!" Implies that God would begin to speak through His Son, not the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). That is why we have these powerfull words in Hebrews 1:1-2 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

b. That means that the rule and reign of God would be exercised through His Son, as He would be given all authority in heaven and Earth.

B. EVIDENCED BY THE ABSENCE OF MOSES AND ELIJAH...

After hearing the voice, and lifting up their eyes, only Jesus was present - Mt 17:8;

Perhaps symbolizing what the voice clearly declared:  That Jesus was the one they were to hear, not Moses and Elijah who likely represented the Law and the Prophets.

What does God desire of us today? 

Not to build tabernacles or temples erected in the memory of His  Son

But for us to simply to obey what God said at the mount: "Hear Him!" the bible says, are you listening:

If we desire to add to the honor and glory that Jesus so richly deserves, and to one day behold His majesty in heaven, then let us be careful to take heed of what He himself said regarding His authority:

 "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." - Mt 28:18-20

That is the historical content but:Matthew 17 talks to me though of the Greatest Hindrances  to our faith.

Faith so important to us, faith in the future, faith in your government faith in your marriage, faith in your parents, faith in yourself. We all live by faith in some form or other, faith in God though is for us as Christians the most important faith we can have.  Look at the experience of your own soul. What would it gain man to win the world, and lose his soul.

Here I can see Three experiences, which are common to us all.

Mountain top experience = a type of faith where we loved it could have stayed there forever type of experience.

The Plain experience = our daily grind – places were we have found it hard to cope.

In the Valley experience = perhaps in our time of grief = This for many is an unacceptable burden.

The lesson for us is in the way these disciples felt about things.

They were ecstatic one moment, on the mount, then they were impotent  in the plain where they could do nothing, in the valley they were full of grief.

Their Faith was affected by what they felt.  Jesus though, through His Glory, and His power was steadfast. His feelings were always controlled by faith.

The Mountain top was always Christ’s ideal for us  – Look at the early Christian life, it was all experience they grew in their faith daily and it took over their lives.

What Mountain top experience can we have today in our – church – communion – worship – Remember we are the body of Christ His People.

We can have these Mountain Top experiences and therefore should always put ourselves in the way of blessing, but remember Christ must lead you and I to the mountain top, because there is a real danger when we go looking for it ourselves we will fail because we have no roots and our faith fails us.

That’s what many people want mountain experiences no plane and definitely no valley experience.But getting to the top of a mountain requires effort and discipline.

Have you seen his glory = if not then get to know Christ more.

Have you confirmed difficult teaching = then get to know his Word more.

Have you felt encouragement and  rest = then get to know yourself more.

The Experience in your soul doesn’t change does it?

We often confuse our spiritual condition with our feelings. We should have no different feelings either on the mountain top,  the plain or valley, however for some reason how we are feeling can hinder our faith. Don’t let your feelings destroy your confidence, and ultimately your Faith in God.

The Plain = Think about the day to day living. Here we have an Emergency - Man and his child, here was a need the disciples could not meet. Here was an Enemy they could not conquer, they needed help to deal with this. Their faith diminished as they came down the mountain top. Jesus said why do You have so little faith.

They needed help: Prayer of faith was needed = not feelings. Jesus did not feel good He said “ How long”

Rebuke the enemy = remember speaking out demonstrates your faith.

Someone once said to me don’t Sanctify a fast = only if necessary and only for prayer.

Speaking in faith = vs 20 say to this mountain move and it will. Great faith the size of a mustad seed.

Use the word of God as the authority that we all have = Jesus did this, and so must we.

Jesus did not run back up the mountain, for a mountain top experience to handle this = he acted in faith.

The Valley = Here the disciples were filled with grief, things were not going the way they wanted or what they had hoped for!

Feelings took over and there faith withered. Remember Faith comes from having deep roots:

Church Attendance = Hearing and reading and obeying  the Word of God = Being steadfast in Prayer.

Build up your faith and If we desire to add to the honor and glory that Jesus so richly deserves, and to one day behold His majesty in heaven, then lets be careful to heed what He himself said regarding regarding His authority:

"All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." - Mt 28:18-20

Is More faith needed by you? Remember then these words of Jesus:  " I am with you always, even to the end of the age. No matter what you are going through I am with you always, even to the end of the age". AMEN!

ECCLESIASTES 1:1 – 11  - THERE MUST BE MORE TO LIFE THAN THIS!

The book of Ecclesiastes is about facing life with all its obstacles.  As I read from the opening verses of Ecclesiastes you would probably have sensed for yourself that the writer, has a pretty pessimistic outlook on life. You may find it strange to find such a hopeless word in such a hopeful book as the bible. Frances Schaeffer a well-known Christian and writer said "There is a time, and ours is such a time, when a negative message is needed before anything positive can begin...

People often say to me, How do you evangelise as a christian and with so little time to speak to people today. If I am invited to share the gospel,  I would spend 45 or 50 minutes on the negative, to show him his real dilemma - to show him that he is more dead than even he thinks he is...Then I would take 10 to 15 minutes to tell him the gospel..

Because unless he understands what is wrong, he will not be ready to listen to or understand the positive." We need to make people understand the negative before they can embrace the positive - that is the thrust of Ecclesiastes.

I want to say of course that life, even for the non-Christian, is not all negatives. Life has many good moments in it, but what I am saying is that even if you add up all the good moments life by itself is meaningless and does not satisfy us.

1:1 tells us that these are "the words of the Teacher, son of David, King of Jerusalem." What we have before us in this strange book is his spiritual journal, a record of his spiritual pilgrimage. He was a man who had everything that he could want, but still he felt empty, so he started out on a journey to find satisfaction. I should tell you now that this journey left him deflated, depressed and disillusioned. His usual conclusion about life you find in v.2 "everything is meaningless" or "all is vanity" or "life is empty."

This is the way that Solomon felt before he began his journey, while he endured it and after it was over. Nothing satisfied him. He tried to drain life of all that it could give him and found that even after he had experienced everything he felt empty and hollow.

However, at the end of his journey Solomon made the following conclusions about life with which he begins his book:

1. Life is boring (v.3): "What does a man gain from all his labour at which he toils under the sun?" The idea here is that life is a grind, it is boring, it is as repetitive as the mouse in the wheel of its cage - an endless cycle going nowhere. Most people go through life on the treadwheel of the same routines.

Many of us are prisoners to our routines. We are all in routines and we often wonder "what's the point" and we have fantasies about breaking out of the routine, of going down to the Porsche showroom buying a fast car, I am not saying that all routines are bad, we could not survive without them, but I am sure that we all catch the sense of the writers  heartfelt cry - what is the point of this endless cycle of work and routine, what is it achieving, where's it leading to, what's the point, it's boring!

The bottom line is that work is not fulfilling by itself. You do not find perfect fulfilment in work.

2. Life is fragile (v.4): "Generations come, and generations go, but the earth remains forever." The writers negative conclusion about life is in fact an accurate one - people don't last. Think of all the months in preparation before a baby is born, think of all the years that our youngsters go through in preparing for adult life and responsibility, all those years at school, college, etc.. think of all the time spent in chasing after a marriage partner, planning for our homes and then think how easily it can all be swept away.

You can walk across a road, be hit by a car and that's the end of you. You can be sitting in a plane and then be sucked out as the terrorist's bomb explodes. You can be crossing the channel in a car ferry only to have it roll over on you. You can contract a virus, not one of us knows how soon life will end for us. You might even live a long life, ninety or more years but there will come a time when you too will be forgotten.

Human beings come and go. In terms of eternity we are like those flies who are born have a short buzz round the place and then die. We are but a blip on the radar screen, we are but dust only to return to dust. Life itself, wonderful gift though it may be, cannot satisfy by itself, there has to be more to life than simply existing.

3. Life is repetitive (vv 5 - 7): "The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again."

To Solomon the rising of the sun was only the start of another boring day. Do you ever feel like that - that your life is as monotonous as the swirling wind or the rolling river? Have you ever felt that your life is on a boring cycle like the sun and have you ever wondered why you feel like that? You feel like that because it is like that.

The sun, wind and water only mirror our own experience. Many people find their lives boringly repetitive and so they seek ways of escape. Some people try the way of novelty, they change their jobs, move their houses, buy the latest gadgets (today it is tablets and cellfones - who knows what it will be next.) Some give up on their marriages and swap their wives. Most marriages break down not because the partners are hostile towards each other but because they are bored with each other and the dull routine of their lives. Ordinary life is a dull reality which has to be faced, and God it seems has made it that way. It is not God's plan that we be fulfilled by life itself. Why? I will explain in a few minutes.

4. Life can not be satisfied (v.8): "All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing."

Life has an appetite which can never be satisfied. We get the thing that we've been seeking, whether it be that pay rise, that promotion, that new house, that gadget and yet we find that it does not satisfy us, we still want more. Our whole society is geared to make us want more, yesterday's gadgets must be replaced with new toys, but it will not satisfy you.

The worst thing about life is that by itself it leaves us unsatisfied. We get what we think we want only to find that it's not good enough and that we want something else. Who can make sense of all of this?

5. Life does not get better (vv 9 and 10): "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, 'Look this is something new!'? It was here already, long ago, it was here before our time." (Old clothes seem to come back into fashion)

We try and improve things in life only to find ourselves back with the same old problems. In glasgow we tried to improve the social problems of the tenements by building high rise flats to find that we have only created a new set of social problems.

They are now spending tens of millions pulling down high rise estates more than it cost less to put up in the sixties. We find the cure for one dreadful disease only to find this new variant sweeping humanity. We find that when peace breaks out between one contry another a new threat comes along and it starts all over again.

If you are hoping that life by itself will improve and get better then don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen because it's not going to happen. Human beings have proved that they do not learn from history, that by themselves they can not bring heaven on earth. Life by itself will not improve. If you are waiting for this new product to come along which will make life better you are in for a long wait. No wonder so many turn to drugs, alcohol, anything which blurrs out life.

6. Life is forgettable (v.11): "There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow."

Solomon in effect says "I'd like to forget about life, after all everybody who contributes to life will in time be forgotten." Have you ever felt that at the end of the day "I'd like to forget about this day." Have you ever felt at the end of school exams "I'd like to forget about all of this now." The truth is that at the end of the day most if not all of what we have struggled for can be easily forgotten and put aside. The bottom line is that people can live without us and our contribution, we can be forgotten. The bottom line here is "who cares?"

So this is life as it is. We know that it is for all of us who are right in the middle of it right now. God has allowed life to become like this so that life will not satisfy us by itself. If life satisfied we would not want more than life itself, so God has made life so that we are forced to cry out "There must be more to life than this!" Have you thought that thought? Is that your cry too?

Is there to more to life than this? The answer is "Yes, a thousand times yes, THERE IS MORE TO LIFE THAN THIS!"

The key to understanding Solomon's condition and our own is to note that phrase which appears twice in our reading in vv 3 and 9, the words "under the sun." Under the sun, that is in this life itself, all is meaningless, there is nothing new, nothing can satisfy.

As long as you look for satisfaction in things which are "under the sun" you will never be satisfied. If you want to make sense of life, if you want fulfilment in life, then you must stop looking horizontally at things of the world and look vertically beyond the sun, to God himself.

Life only makes sense, life only satisfies when God is brought into it. This is the conclusion that the writer will reach in 2:26 "to the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness." Life only makes sense when God is brought into it.

Life's problems go all the way back to the beginnings of man's history, to what the bible calls the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 1 and 2 God created man as a spiritual being, that is what the bible means when it says in Gen 1:27 that we were created in the "image of God." As spiritual beings we are meant to have a personal relationship with God, and it is this vertical relationship with God which makes the horizontal dimension of life make sense. Sadly the story is told in Gen 3 of how the first men and women disobeyed God and the disease of sin came into their lives which we have  all inherited and which has cut us off from God. That is why life is meaningless - because it IS meaningless without God.

So God has decided to change all of that. God has come to our world in the person of Jesus Christ and offers us the return of the full life if we will return to him. We read these exciting words in John 10:7 - 11 where Jesus says:

"I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them." [If you have listened to other voices before the voice of Jesus then these voices will have robbed you of your life. They will have made you do things that you did not really want to do. They will have driven you to waste your time, your money, your life on things that will not have satisfied you. They will have driven you to team up with people who were wrong for you. Have you been robbed of your life?] Jesus goes on to say "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief only comes to kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."

Jesus has laid down his life for you, so that the sin which has spoiled your life and separated you from God can be judged, cleansed and forgiven.

Jesus has come to forgive us for the fact that we have lived this life horizontally, without the vertical dimension of loving and worshipping the God who gave us life in the first place.

If you will come to God seeking to turn from your sins and be forgiven then God will restore that spiritual dimension to your life and give you life to the full and in abundance.

God wants you to be free from a meaningless life. He wants to give you life and give it to the full.

You will not get a full life by seeking the things of this world, you must look up and seek the things of God. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19f "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Life does not make sense when your heart is in this world and in worldly things alone. You need to place your heart in heaven in order to live fulfilled, knowing that your life is more than this life. If you want life like that, then you can receive it right now by praying and asking Jesus to give you life. Will you join me in prayer now:

Revd. David M Meikle