Sermon Outlines

Sunday 8th May I shared with the leadership of the church my vision of how can we get back to the first ministry of a local church and multiply making disciples of Jesus Christ until the world is reached?

We have much to learn from the example of the disciples of the New Testament Church and the strategies they used.

After Jesus completed the task that only He could accomplish, He died to restore our relationship with God, Jesus commissioned His Church to make disciples and He provided the means for the Church to fulfill this commandment, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We still have many Biblical principles that we must learn from the life of the NT Church.

Remembering brothers/sisters, the disciples were gathered together in prayer for about 10 days, waiting for the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. They knew that the purpose of Jesus is to seek and save the lost, so they went back out to the unbelievers, to reach new people.So REACHING OUT TO NEW PEOPLE that should be our priority also in the Church today.

But the bigger question is what are we going to do with new people when we reach out to them?

What did the disciples do with the new people reached by the Gospel? Acts 2:42 And all stood firm, following the teachings of the apostles, living in Christian love, breaking bread together and gathered together in prayer.

Here we learned that the apostles were not just preoccupied with making converts, but they trained the new people they had reached in the practical principles for Christian life.

Training the BASICS of being a CHRISTIAN, Remember that the NT disciples still lacked the NT texts we have today, the way they received and practiced the teachings of Jesus serves as an example for us today. They were if you like LIVING BIBLES.

Acts 2:47 They praised God for everything and were cherished by all. And every day the Lord joined the people who were being saved. That is why brothers training these new people that we have reached should be taught the BASICS OF BEING A CHRISTIAN this is essential to establishing their new identity in Christ.

After training in the Basics of being a Christian, look at what the disciples did with these new people in Acts 8 and it is very clear and important to realize that the apostles and leaders of the Church were teaching much more than doctrines of religion to new converts, they were teaching and equipping the new believers to reproduce.So that should be our next step also being a biblical example. EQUIPPING THEM TO REPRODUCE

When we read of the first great persecution on the Church all but the apostles were scattered throughout the lands of Judea and Samaria announcing the word of God.

Acts 9:31 In all the region of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, the church was at peace. It grew stronger and stronger, growing in numbers with the help of the Holy Spirit and showing great respect for the Lord Jesus who was multiplying His Church.

As we multiply we REACH NEW PERSONS, train them in the BASICS of being a CHRISTIAN, and EQUIPPED THEM TO REPRODUCE.

Then surely we can understand that reaching new people, training them in the Christian basics and equipping to reproduce was the origin of the multiplication of the Church.

The early Christian was convinced as soon as people were trained the greater opportunity that the Church had was that these people will eventually train others.

 

Look at these circles and I believe that it is not difficult to put into practice these principals REACHING NEW PEOPLE, TRAINING IN THE BASICS of being a CHRISTIAN, and EQUIPPING them TO REPRODUCE.

Remembering this type of ministry and training is showing and qualifying future leadership of the Church because engaging people in this biblical strategy of making disciples to reproduce is the key to developing leaders for a church that reproduces and multiplies.

This is where the fourth circles enters. MOBILIZING THEM FOR AREAS SPECIFIC TO THE MINISTRY.

Pastors need to give direction and be a model to the people not only in prayer and in the ministry of the Word.But to keep the Church in steady growth, they must train and delegate responsibilities to others. That we will look at later on the other paper I gave you and explain better,

Do you know how the pastor can identify new leaders?

It is very easy if the Church has a strong ministry to REACH NEW PERSONS, to train in the BASICS OF BEING A CHRISTIAN, and EQUIPPED TO REPRODUCE. Because I believe that in this church working with these goals there are people bearing fruit, being filled with the Holy Spirit and Wisdom, being a model for all here in Portslade living a life dedicated to the central ministry that Jesus commissioned His Church.Acts 6 we have Stephen and Philip chosen to solve the problem of the Greek widows, reading  the text you soon learn that whatever the task or function of someone in the Church, this should NEVER become their priority, Stephen and Philip they never deviated from the biblical strategy of the Church's ministry TO REACH NEW PERSONS, to train in the BASICS OF BEING A  CHRISTIAN, and being EQUIPPED TO REPRODUCE.

Brethren, whatever the specific area of ​​the ministry that someone is serving, may be pastoring, church trustees, diaconate leadership group woman’s men’s children’s ministry, teching classes it may even be a ministry to clean the church, these people should function and be always directed and considered as facilitators that the Biblical Strategy of the Church's ministry is being fulfilled REACHING NEW PEOPLE, TRAINING IN THE BASICS OF BEING A CHRISTIAN, AND EQUIPPING THEM TO REPRODUCE.

I still want to show the church the mindset the Church needs for reproduction, our church needs to develop a reproductive mentality. Because new people need to pass through these levels for multiplication take place second paper that I gave you.

If I ask a question what attracts to our Church? a paper I have given you. EXPLAIN PAPER!

Experience shows me that the invitation shows that you are caring for this person and want their good. But it is good to remember that when you evaluate our church, you can see that each area of ​​the ministry has its own attraction level, some are highly attractive and another not so much, but by chance if it is not attractive what should do?Unfortunately some churches fall into the trap of having activities or areas to favor and please only themselves.

But what is the purpose of the Baptist Chuch in Portslade?

REACHING NEW PEOPLE, TRAINING IN BASIC CHRISTIANITY, AND EQUIPPING THEM TO REPORDUCE.

Attraction is very good but the Involvement and Relationship lead people to remain, the strengthening of these relationships and the essential key for people to stay, and the sooner we work to strengthen the relationships the person will feel accepted and part of the Church.

But this is not yet the key to the growth of the Church which is reproduction. Let's read 2 Timothy 2: 2 Take the teachings you have heard me give in the presence of many witnesses and give them to the care of trustworthy men who are able to teach others.

Teaching is training another person so that she or he can train another in exactly the same way, which in turn will also train another in exactly the same way.That is why Mark and others are starting the first course on Evangelism then we will go onto other subject people using their gifts to help the church grow.

With this type of reproduction the only possible result is Multiplication.

I taught Evandro my student pastor in Brazil and Evandro is teaching others the ministry continues to proceed.

Because if the pastor and the leaders are not models of reproduction the Church will not grow.

I am praying that when the time comes for me to finish my ministry here we will already have a pastor ready to take over someone from our own congregation who knows the churches vision and takes the church to its next level,, because this way the church will contine with this biblical vision and continue to grow

For years the other paper I have given you shows that the last two thousand years the Church has used an almost unique method to fulfill the Great Commission called Traditional.

In this method the pastor and church leaders are doing ministry work. Perhaps the pastor has the help of a small number of dedicated brothers who try to help the pastor n his ministry. Look at the trap of this kind of ministry in Exodus 18:18 What you are doing is not right. 18 That way you're going to be too tired, and so are the people. This is a lot of work for you to do alone.

That is why I have this vision that every member has a ministry and the power to fulfill it through teaching and example

This is our vision at present to our church perhaps amongst us we can write a new one?

Vision of Portslade Baptist Church (Our Future)

To be a true and victorious and relevant living Church that, based on the Word of God, exercises its ministry through its members, with  each one using the gift that they received from Christ, to make known the Name of Jesus throughout the Earth, starting in Portslade, making disciples in all nations.

Mission of the Portslade Baptist Church  (Our Purpose)
To transform people into true disciples of Jesus throughout the world, starting in Portslade.That the members live a life of Exaltation to our God being Exhorted and Edified with the Word of God and Equipped for Evangelization of the lost people in our town,

May those who enter our Church always find Peace, Love and Hope.

God's Promise for Portslade Baptist Church. Isaiah 54;2,3
 2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, f  stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. g  3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants h  will dispossess nations i  and settle in their desolate j  cities.

Sunday 1st May Genesis 3:14-19 Easter is over, already days old. In the Christian world Billions have been spent, mountains of food consumed, and all the emotion of the season expended on all the traditions of Easter.

How did it all begin, what does it all mean, what has it really to do with me? Since Easter is over do I shelve it for another year or is it a starting point, perhaps a springboard into a new resurrection a new way forward.

It began here in Genesis 3:15. Paradise lost and paradise regained. This verse is the interpretation of all that is happening in our world today. God made the world good and gave mankind the highest honour, we were made good, but we disobeyed God right from the beginning. We've been suffering the consequences ever since. Genesis helps us understand why the universe is so flagrantly lovely, and yet so tragic. The incarnation of Christ or Easter began here in the garden, the moment that Eve ate the forbidden fruit Christ began to come,

He was promised even before judgment was pronounced.

Neil Armstrong, Don’t marvel that a man walked on the moon, marvel that God walked on earth. If it were not for sin Christ would not have walked on the earth.

The curse of sin, the pain, suffering, the death and hell, the unfairness of it all is part of the universal curse, some get more suffering than others, it’s not fair or just or even, it’s unbalanced because it’s a curse. It’s not all darkness, women will give birth to children and that will bring in the Christ Child, the Messiah, It will be in pain but after the pain is blessing. Mankind can eat and live, yes by the sweat of his brow and against weeds and thorns, but he can and will eat.

The labour of childbirth and the labour on the land are a blessing giving us purpose, self worth and hope.

As man labours to till the soil he is reminded that one day he will die and return from where he came.

Why did the fall happen? What was Satan doing their?

Did God really allow all this to happen?

Satan fell without any external cause or temptation, he saw his own glory and that was not enough he wanted God’s glory. That makes him Satan.

It’s probable that man’s trial would have been the same without Satan to tempt him. He would see how good he was, how well made, how like God, how would he have reacted? However the presence of Satan and temptation gives man’s fall the single mitigating circumstance if that is possible or permitable to say. Self-origination sin would have made man himself a Satan?

Temptation in itself has no power to lead the soul astray; if the soul is holy, temptation will only confirm its virtue.

Adam and Eve were held responsible for their action; they could have and should have obeyed God.

Contrast their temptation with that of Christ.

Adam had a garden and provisions.

Christ had a wilderness and deprivation.

Adam had one visit from Satan.

Christ had forty days of oppression.

Adam had confidence in Satan

Christ had confidence in God.

Defeat and shame for Adam, Victory and glory for Christ

The motive for Adam was not appetite but ambition; he wanted to be like God. Christ was the opposite, Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, (Phil 2:6) His only ambition was to serve God.

 Although Satan is defeated and limited he is still active in the world today. Still spreading doubt. He unsettles the mind, fires a thought to confound the mind, to gnaw away at the soul and the inner confidence. Not a violent attack but often a subtle secret thing that saps your spirit.

If you let it get a hold of you if you accept the unworthy input then you are doing Satan’s work with him.

If you reject the unworthy thought then you stand holy in Christ. The poor unsaved wretch has no answer, but through the fall is a slave of Satan.

If you are open to Satanic schemes you can spend days, weeks, months, years in unsettled turmoil, you can easily involve others in your weakness giving them a season of clouded bewilderment and doubt with little peace.

To what purpose does Satan involve you in his wickedness, why did he involve Adam and Eve? Not your soul if you are saved, he knows that he can’t have that, and if you are not saved he already has it. No, any souls that end in damnation with Satan is a bonus, a means to an end, his real objective is to slander God, to attack His glory, to tarnish His name. Does Job fear God for nothing? As if God has to buy loyalty and friendship!!

There is a better spirit abroad, a gentle, tender, loving, kind, merciful and forgiving one, the Spirit of Christ that encourages us to overcome evil with good, forgive your enemies, pray for those who abuse you, love your neighbour, and make peace with all men.

If you are willing to live for Christ then evil and temptation while uncomfortable can educate us.

Teaching us that we need redeeming love, teaching us what we are and what we can become. 

Satan is limited, he is chained by an inflexible linkage, Oh, he roars like a lion but he is not one. Christ is the lion of the tribe of Judah and has overcome Satan.

God is announcing war with Satan; He is giving us a gift,

Enmity, we hate Satan, the war is between God and Satan and we are on one side or the other. We begin on Satan’s side, he won us in the garden and unless a change comes over us we will not come over to God’s side.

God is saying, promising to send a conqueror to pluck us out of Satan’s hand.

Enmity between two seeds, two races, Children of God and the children of Satan.

John 8:4 You are of your father the devil who was a murderer from the beginning.

Matt. 13:38 Good seeds are the sons of God the tares are the sons of the wicked one.

1John 3:8 he who sins is from the Devil, for the Devil sinned from the beginning.

1 John 3:12 Not of Cain who was of the wicked one, born of Eve, but in heart he was of the wicked one.

God’s champion will bring peace in the hearts of men. The Angels sang peace on earth and goodwill towards men. We have to defect and join the generations of God; Christ enables us to do this.

God promised another father figure, another Adam who we know to be Christ; he is the saviour, the deliverer, the conqueror of Satan.

Application

Can He resist temptation any better than Adam and Eve, and can we resist temptation with His help? He was tempted for 40 days and nights only the last three were recorded, He was and is victorious over all of Satan’s ploys, and he will make a way of escape for us when we are oppressed.

Can He remove our guilt and condemnation, God cannot turn a blind eye to sin, He has sworn that the penalty is death and only God can pay that penalty. Because He is God then in human form He can bear the penalty of sin. His death as a human equals an atonement for a multitude of sinners.

What security is there those who trust Him, will the devil not just steal them back again. Christ made it clear that none could pluck them out of His hand; nothing can separate us from His love.

Since the human race is not a bit interested, what is the point? The Son of Adam sends His Holy Spirit to change our heart and to create interest within us, then saves us and makes us safer than Adam ever was.

Jesus was never called the second Adam, he is the last Adam, there is no third Adam. Christ offers a second chance to regain paradise, there will be no third chance.

 At the sound of the crunch of the apple in the garden Christ began to come? He came to save and will come again to complete that salvation. Have you begun to come to him, don’t perish with Satan and his Angels.

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Sunday 24th Luke 23:32-49 Introduction. We need to be saved, we need to trust Christ as our Saviour. You can and must be saved from your sin. Best sermon that I could think of is a seven point sermon, the last sermon Jesus preached before his death.

Christ preaching the Gospel from the Cross. Seven deep outpouring, seven painful utterances of mercy and justice, seven cries from the heart that summarize, sum up, the whole Gospel which is powerful enough to change any sinner into a saint and any hell into heaven. This is how men can be saved, it is a lifeline strengthened and soaked in the blood of the saviour.  John Newton. Amazing Grace. Stretch out the hand of faith and grasp the lifeline and be saved.  Miss the lifeline and be lost forever.

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Lk 23:34).

"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Lk 23:43).

"Dear woman, here is your son," "Here is your mother." (Jn 19:26-27).

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt 27:46-47; Mk 15:34-36).

"I am thirsty." (Jn 19:28).

"It is finished." (Jn 19:30).

"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (Lk 23:46).

First point in this Gospel sermon was uttered when they nailed him to the cross. It was a prayer. 23:34 Father forgive them they know not what they do. In the midst of the horrific painful and cruel crucifixion is born the gospel message a message that offers mercy, pardon and forgiveness for all, even for those with the hammer in their hands, even for you. Now there is no sin that cannot be cleansed when brought to the blood. Only the unpardonable sin cannot be brought to the blood so cannot be forgiven.

Second point. He responds to a vile sinner who was reviling him then suddenly changes and believes and asks for help. What changed him, Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, he saw the writing above His head, he heard his first point and longed for that mercy and pardon. Christ did not reply and say yes I will remember you, He said Today you will be with me in paradise. JC Ryle calls this man the first immediate convert of the Gospel and pictures the angels in paradise saying who is this man that comes with Christ walking hand in hand approaching the throne of mercy, who is this that The Son introduces to His Father? The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day and there may you as vile as he was, wash all your sins away. All that Adam lost will be restored to you today.

Third point concerns his unique and sole office of saviour. Woman here is your son, God has no mother, she was a sanctified vessel used of God in the incarnation but had no place at the crucifixion, he would die alone and he alone saves. He distances himself from her as he had done before at the temple when he was 12, at Canna, what have I to do with you; my hour has not yet come, lonely hour. Simeon prophesied a sword would pierce her heart and here it is the sword of separation. Jesus puts Mary under the protection of beloved John where she will have security and peace.

Fourth point. He deals with his own demons. My god my God why hast thou forsaken me. From Psalm 22 which ends with another point, it is finished. In-between these two statements the full wrath of God fell on Him. What suffering what wrath was outpoured upon him, not just the sin of our days of iniquity but the sin of the days of our enlightenment which are the worst hell of all? Faithful and just to cleanse us from our sin, cleansing comes only from his blood. Why, no man can fathom the anguish of the cry, sunk to hell where his bear foot touched the blistering heated coals of that place of torment. Pain in his holy soul as the foulness of our sin and the fire of our judgement was fully laid on him.

Fifth point. I thirst, four times they tried to give him help and make him drink, but he had to carry the burden alone without help. My virtue has gone out of me as the woman touched him, it left its mark. He gave the total virtue of his life and blood and it marked him. Thirsty all through the crucifixion but he refused to drink until his work was done. There is a thirst in hell that will never be quenched. The rich man wanted just a drop, but there was none available, he was in a fire that burns the mouth dry. Trust in Christ and you will never thirst again.

Sixth point. Victory, It is finished, a great cry, after he had endured all he cried it is finished, only then did he bow his head, never before. At that very moment the divine hands of God reached down and seized the great curtain, the great veil in Herods temple and ripped it apart from top to bottom and a way was made for us to enter into the most holy place, to the throne of grace to the mercy seat. You can come there and say be merciful to me a sinner.

Seventh point is the Conclusion, into your hands I commend my spirit. You can say that now, and on your deathbed can repeat it with confidence. The spirit answers to the blood of Christ, accept Him and you will know that you are saved.

Pastor David M Meikle.

Micah 7:18 -20 Theologians use big words to describe God’s unique qualities. Micah marvelled even more over this: God’s Forgivness, unlike the angry God of other nations, ISRAEL.S God delighted to show mercy. 7:18. 18 Who is a God v  like you, who pardons sin w  and forgives x  the transgression of the remnant y  of his inheritance? z  You do not stay angry a  forever but delight to show mercy. b  19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities c  into the depths of the sea. d  20 You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, e  as you pledged on oath to our fathers f  in days long ago. g  

All the 4 major and 12 minor prophets in the bible asked this question even Moses asked in exodus 15:11who among the god’s is like you,o Lord? Psalm 89:8 O lord God almighty who is like you?

The Lord gives you choices in how you respond to the things of life!  I have no idea how some folks navigate life without faith in Jesus. 

How you respond is everything  Remember I said before “Never laugh at your wife’s choices, you are one of them.”  “I wish there was an autocorrect function for life’s choices.”  sadly “Some people don’t want to be fixed because being broken gets them attention!” 

In view of the many provocations and backslidings of the people, Micah is filled with wonder at the goodness and long suffering of God.

Exodus 15:11

Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?

Deuteronomy 33:26

There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.

1 Kings 8:23

And he said, LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart:

Its interesting because all surrounding gods demanded human sacrificies, casting living children into fire, with men inventing there own methods of religion. But God on the other hand demanded sacrifices but He supplied the sacrifice, he pardoned and punishment sin but he supplied the offering. His own son. God said you sin but I suffer.

What does God do with sin when confessed? Isaiah 38:17 says He puts it behind his back – out of sight. Micah says it is out of reach – in the depth of the sea Psalm 103:2 says it as far as the east is from the west Jeremiah 31:34 says I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more – out of mind and finally Acts 3:19 Repent then turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out – out of existance.

So if God says that our sins are out of existence and we remember them, where is that memory coming from?

Your memory of guilt and the taunting of satan. Satan does not mention specifics, he just opresses you and you supply the details as you remember your sins and failings. We remember were we came from but that memory is healed bt the Blood of Christ. Battle is of the mind so therefore we should have the mind of Christ..

This promise is addressed to the remnant of God’ people: remember not all Israel were saved. God judged the Northeren kingdom and a remnant escaped to Judah. God judged Judah and a remnant were preserved in captivity to eventually return and rebuld the temple.

The devil wants to put you back under the wrath of God, he wants you to do things to appease God. God has no anger towards those who are under the blood of Christ.

Why is God so good? Because he pardons not just dismiss. We dismiss our sins God deals with them, he settles all our sins, you may ask how, He became a man like us, lived the life we cant live, suffered the shame, guilt and wrath of God against sin. That is unique.

God’s faithfulness is not to a faithfull people, even the remnant were not faithful to God. They just were not so blatant in sin, that is why God is faithful to His Promise rather than his people. He promised Abraham and Jacob and he will keep and be faithful to His Word, even though His people are unfaithful, God will remain faithful to His Word.

Are you feeling weak, have you lost the face and presence of God and hearing the voice of God in your Life? Then remember He promised never to leave you or forsake you.

In Brazil it was easier to speak to people about backsliding as it was considered to be an absence from the Prayer Meeting.

God pardons unsubdued sin. Sin that constantly erupts to hurt you and those around you. Satan puts it on the shelf as useless, or make you a troublemaker. If you meet with Christ today as a christian can then subdue uour sin, because Jesus is interceding for you right right now, he keeps you in constant prayer, constant grace and constant forgiveness, that is why there is no other God like our God, my prayer is that you turn to Him.

Christ forgives and gives us the poweer to life a spirit filled life. What about those who have lived in habitual sin, unsubdued sin, never gaining lasting peace but forever moving between victory and defeat?

This person the devil accuses of not being a true christian. The non christian feels nothing of guilt but enjoys his godlessness. The true christian is troubled because the Spirit lives within him, he feels grieve and is disgusted with himself just like Jabez which we looked at in Open Fellowship He prays Lord keep me from sin that it might not grieve me 1 Cron 4:10

Therefore today my adivce is repent and recieve Christ, believe and confess, declare boldly, then begin to bear fruit and that fruit only manifests if you are part of the tree of life Jesus Christ.

Sunday 20th March

During this time we are all praying for Ukraine and the missionaries who are there, we haveother missionaries around the world, I have been praying for our local churches finances and their missionary support offerings, as some are perhaps struggling but we need to always remember that the Kingdom Of God is an ongoing process. Thank you for your generous offering for Ukraine appeal and our Friday breakfast support. God Bless each and everyone of you.

Here in Portslade we support: 6 missions which you know from our financial report.

 Philippians 4: 10 – 20 THE CONTENTED CHRISTIAN

Paul gives thanks for their gifts -

Paul uses the word content in v.11. He seems to be saying in this passage that whatever his circumstances, even when they were varied between extreme joy and  extreme sadness, or even when he was in the kind of in-between state which hits many of us when nothing much seems to be happening, he says that whatever the circumstances he has learned to be content.

CHRISTIAN GENEROSITY\ serving with the BMS was tremendous as we know that they are a faith mission, they always paid their missionaries and looked after us both financially and spiritually even when perhaps their general offerings were low. Thank God, for the BMS and other missionary societies that are serving the Kingdom of God. When their ministry in Brazil was over I decided to return as a independant missionary and was supported by:

CHURCHES, AND FRIENDS FAITHFULL FOR MAY YEARS IN GIVING SUPPORT FINANCIALLY AND IN PRAYER. When I went back to Brazil as a faith missionary I was supported by many faithfull people and churches.

But then I accepted a call to be pastor at Portslade Baptist Church here in England. I asked them to stop my personal financial support but to continue and redirect their blessings to others who were starting out on their missionary journey as I was now on a stipend here in Portslade, and their needs as missionaries on the field are great at these times

As far as practical matters go, Paul says that he had enough because other Christians contributed to his needs and in this passage, he admits his gratitude. Therefore, there is a principle here, which we would do well to learn and that is: that one Christian has enough because another Christian is generous.

So Christian generosity has a double effect. On the one hand, the body of Christ is blessed when members are generous one towards the other, on the other hand, generosity of this kind seems to store up treasure in heaven, for Paul says in v.17 "not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account." God looks upon our love and care for each other in heaven.

We as a church had a service of thanksgiving to raise funds for issues our church needs that are outwith our normal budget and as we were in lockdown and had no services at this that we prayed/considered and gave out a special appeal offering letter and Gods people responded. We thank all our people who responded with very generous gifts and are continuing to be faithful in their tithes and offerings and God has blessed us all through this pandemic lockdown, we have maintained our giving to missionary support and paid all our monthly bills.

That is why I am asking you and appeal to you and encourage every christian to remember in your prayers the BMS and other missionary agencies and our missionaries on the field also for our church members to continue to recieve the blessings that as we give our own offering as a church body to missions we will continue to be blessed by our God

I have a picture of a rainbow in my window and some churches sugested we paint or put a picture of a rainbow in our window to remind people there is hope in God. Today I want to thank all the Daisy’s in our lives, you perhaps go by other names but to me you remind me of Daisy.

Daisy was a spinster lady who loved the Lord and was a dedicated member of Springburn Baptist church where I was serving for a time. She was a dedicated caring Christian lady who loved the Lord and His church, and His People, she stayed around the corner from the manse, and in my moments of despair and troubles passing through some hard times she supported me and stuck by me as she had done for many others.

One day when things were really difficult which nobody knew about just me and God as I did not tell anyone what was happening, she sent me a small card with a Rainbow and reminded me of the promises of God in my life and ministry, inside she wrote David who can make Straight what God has made crooked, then she said God can make straight what Satan tried to make crooked and destroy in your life David.

I have not heard from Daisy since I left Springburn do not know if she is still alive but I will never forget her and still have this card tucked in my Bible and when going through difficult times which we all do especially now with this war and corona virus that is still affecting some and some are still  isolating. I remember Daisy and her message to me. The last I heard  of Daisy was that she had altzimers and was not well at all and in a care home. However, wherever she is, I know she is with her Lord.

Here in Portslade and in other churches I have served I thank God for the Daisy’s, they may have other names but to me they are Daisy’s.

People who care for others , here in Portslade we have many Daisy’s, we have a daisy that has started our Whatsapp group called  PBC support group, letting people share together, asking for prayer or support, we have other daisy’s phoning those who do not have whatsapp daily to pray and make sure they are ok, other daisy’s who visits the care homes of elderly through Brighton City Mission, and members of our church in similar situations, we have other daisy’s who give up their time to cook a Friday breakfast for people in our community, other daisys serving and cleaning up afterwards other daisys and church members using their time to clean the church, we have  other daisy’s who are doing tremendous ministries like Little Lights and our choir to mention only some we have all different types of ministries but God knows these Daisy’s and they will never be forgotten.

Why did this come to mind because during this difficult time many feeling isolated and alone and feel no one cares but God is sending many daisy’s to help them through this crises and we believe it will pass, just like the war in Ukcrain but it has shown once again the quality of Christian people who care enough to do something and bring a little relief and hope  into other peoples lives during this conflict.

Its the Lords day today with us our church doors open and the church is active we are seeing Gods people uniting and praying and many are closer to God than they ever where, they are using this time to meditate on His Word and Pray and care and think about others.

Another thought I had when you are out walking for some exercise,  pray for your street and for your neighbours give them a card put it though their door we have plenty at the back of the church, but if possible chat to them,  it may be the only contact they have that day, that week.

A neighbour passed by the other day James was working in the gareden he said it was beautiful, and he chatted away he was up in Scotland visiting his daughter so we had a good chat with him

We have come through this virus our church is stronger and a more united church  a family of believers who have shown that we care for each other and we will continue to produce Daisy’s to our lost world; God Bless you all 

Pastor David M Meikle

Sunday 13th March

2 CORINTHIANS 1:12 - 2:17 WHEN GOD BLOWS UP YOUR PLANS

Today I have tried to capture a feeling that we as believers in all honesty do experience from time to time, that God deliberately smashes down our plans, our hopes and dreams. I'm not trying to portray God as a vindictive terrorist in the sky, but if you spent time with broken people you will know that this is often a real and an angry reaction against God when things do not go our way.

God does intervene in our plans and our lives. The apostle Paul was on his way to Damascus planning to persecute Christians when God intervened, Jesus appeared to him and he was converted to Christ. God interrupted my life in Brazil in the past I had many hectic years there. But last two years there  I had lived a tranquil rural life, then God sending me a unanimous call to be the pastor here in Portslade. I had hopes and plans to retire in Brazil, I had painted the whole of my house, but I have learned that you have to hold loosely to the things of the world if you want to hold tightly to the Kingdom.

Many, if not all of you who are Christians may have had hopes or expectations of your life that will not now be fulfilled because God has changed your lives and sent you in a new way. I want to testify that God's way is better is better than any I could have planned for myself, but I also want to acknowledge that I have not always felt that way.

And so in our own lives that unexpected job move, that unexpected tragedy, that unexpected illness, that unexpected new friendship...the list goes on...can change everything. We can even have made plans which we believed were of the Lord, we can have a testimony of scripture readings, of being guided in prayer and even messages from the pulpit...and then it all worked out differently, and we can be left hurt, confused, some may even become bitter. We can have plans for our church, we can sense God's guidance in definite ways, and then God seems to pull the plug out and we wonder what it is all about. The way we have been going may not be the way that God will lead us much longer, are we ready to have our plans changed? Are we ready to let God have such a free hand that our lives may never be the same again? There may be changes round the corner in your family, in your career..how will you react if God blows up your plans?

This is all introduction, and is all in an attempt to get the feel of a long section which runs from 2 Corinthians 1:12 - 2:17  Paul is bruised, bruised because the Christians in Corinth are calling him names because he dared to change plans, and in so doing they believed that he broke promises that he made to them. There was also serious opposition to him in the Corinthian church - one of the members, possibly a leader in the church, had had to be disciplined and this had caused Paul a lot of personal pain. While this was going on Paul was in Asia facing such severe personal trials that he despaired even of his life (1:8). 1:1 tells us that Paul was an apostle by the will of God, the will of God was certainly very hard to follow at this time, especially as following God's will mean that Paul had to change his plans.

Originally in 1 Cor 16:2 - 8 Paul had promised to spend the winter in Corinth if the Lord so permitted. Paul wanted to come to Corinth to gather the offerings which the Corinthians had collected for the poor Jewish believers in Jerusalem, but much to Paul's embarrassment he was forced to change those plans. Instead, he planned to visit Corinth twice, once on his way to Macedonia, and once on his way back. He would then add the Corinthian collection to the one from Macedonia and take them both to Jerusalem.

But even that plan had to be scrapped. Paul says in 2:1 that he scrapped this second plan because he could not bear to make another painful visit to them. The previous visit had been painful because of the accusations laid against him for changing plans, in 1:12 Paul gets accused of following "worldy wisdom" and 1:17 of treating the things of God lightly. Later in 2:17 he gets accused of peddling the word of God for personal profit. In other words, his basic integrity and personal trustworthiness was coming under attack from the believers in Corinth - and all because following God's will had led him to change plans.

How do we keep ourselves in the Lord's will when things do not go to plan, and we find ourselves perhaps coming under criticism, even from other believers. Paul points out three things which kept him going:

1. A clear conscience  2. A forgiving heart 3. A triumphant faith

 1. A CLEAR CONSCIENCE (1:12 - 24). Paul says in v.12 that "our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God."

That word "conscience" the bible uses in the sense of discerning between what is right and wrong, but not what is right and wrong of our own choosing, but what is right with God and the scriptures, and what is wrong with God and the scriptures. The conscience can only be clear when you know that what you are doing is in line with the scriptures, and when you have a God given peace in your heart.

So when Paul had to change his plans his conscience was clear, he had done the right thing thus far, and when God sent him a new way he went that way too. But instead of seeing Paul as a man who followed the will of God the Corinthians were accusing him of being a waverer, who if he said "yes" you were left wondering if he meant "yes" or really meant "no." You know the type of person I mean who says "yes I'll help" but you're left wondering if they ever will get round to it. Remember at this time there were many false prophets doing the rounds who could not be trusted.

The Corinthians were therefore saying that Paul's change in plans made him untrustworthy, against this accusation Paul cites two evidences to defend his trustworthiness:

1. The message he proclaimed (vv 18 - 20): He reminds the Corinthians that the message that he, Silas and Timothy preached was about the Jesus Christ who said "yes" to all the OT prophecies and promises about the Messiah. He reminds the Corinthians that Jesus Christ reveals the promises, fulfils the promises and enables us to claim the promises of God. How could God reveal such a message through false or untrustworthy instruments? Will they not now remember how trustworthy they found him and his message then, and will they not consider him and his message to be trustworthy still?

2. The work of the Spirit in his life (vv 21 - 24): What Paul is saying in these verses is that God's work in his life guarantees the trustworthiness of what he says and does. God has placed the Holy Spirit in his life, and that Spirit makes him stand firm in Christ, commissions or anoints him as an apostle, puts Christ's ownership upon his life and guarantees his place in the eternal salvation which is to come.

What Paul is making clear here is that his integrity as an apostle or preacher does not lie in himself, in his background, in his education - but only in the evidence of what God is doing in his life. His claim is that when you meet a person who is truly following the Lord then you ought to trust that person, and if that God-filled and God-led person changes his plans then it is not through human fickleness, it is not because they are not right with God, but because they are right with God and God is leading in a different direction to that which was anticipated.

So Paul's change in plans were based on two things - firstly the direct leading of God, and secondly his desire to do what was best for the Corinthians, as he says in v.23 "it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth."

So if you find your life suddenly changed and turned around, if you find something suddenly working out differently to how you expected, if you find hopes and dreams disappearing - have you a clear conscience? If you have, if you believe that you have followed the will of God thus far, then you must rely on the fact that you are still in the will of God. God's will will not have changed, only your understanding of it.

If like Jonah you find your life changing, but do not have a clear conscience, then surely you must take the opportunity now to put yourself and your life right before God. Sometimes God does allow our plans to be blown up because they are the wrong plans for us, and we need to come to our senses. What I want us to see however, is that it is possible to follow the will of the Lord and for things to work out differently, it is possible to come under severe criticism - even from believers - and still be right before God.

2. A FORGIVING HEART (2:1 - 11).

There can be no doubt that there was a pastoral problem in the Corinthian church which had caused Paul a lot of grief and pain, and this pastoral problem had led to a change of direction in his ministry in Corinth. Every pastor knows that the church is about people, and that pastoral problems either caused by accident or by deliberate sinful action can change the direction of ministry for many months, even years, even forever.

It is possible that the person in trouble here was the same man that we encounter in 1 Cor 5 who was living in an immoral relationship with his father's wife. It may be a different situation, but whatever it was, it was challenging Paul's authority over the Church. Paul made a quick visit to deal with the problem (12:14) and wrote to them about it (13:1). The issue here is that other people's sinful actions caused him to change his plans and redirect his ministry. How did he react, and how do we react when other people's sinful actions blow up our plans?

1. Paul put others first (2:1 - 4): In these verses Paul's priority was not his own feelings, but the feelings of others. Yet that does not mean that he did nothing, rather he knew that he had to lead the church to the point of obeying the word and disciplining the offender. Paul knew that his words would wound, and this brought him pain and distress, even tears. But the bottom line is his love for the Corinthians - and that meant that other plans had to be put aside until they got this problem sorted out.

There are plans we might have made that need to be put aside until we can get some people's lives sorted out. We have to be prepared to shelve plans of our own so that people in pain can get help.

And so vv 5 and 6 make it plain that upon Paul's guidance the offender was disciplined, and punished. This is a subject worth study by itself, but it can only be noted now that Paul was not happy to sweep things under the carpet, he knew that ministry could not progress until certain things had been dealt with.

2.  Paul encouraged forgiveness (vv 7 - 11): Paul encouraged forgiveness for the offending person for three reasons:

1. For the offenders own sake (v.7 and 8): So that he would not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. There comes a time when discipline becomes demonic unless forgiveness comes in to heal and restore.

2. For the Lord's sake (vv 9 and 10): The offence was not so much between the offender and the church, but also between the offender and the Saviour. So the Lord commands two things of us - proper discipline and proper forgiveness.

3. For the church's sake (v.11): When there is an unforgiving spirit in the congregation then the devil can creep in and use it as a springboard to create havoc amongst the believers.

Thus when your plans are changed through the sinful actions of others God does not expect you to sweep it under the carpet, if there is sin then there has to be church discipline, but in time there has also to be church forgiveness. If your plans have been blown up by the actions of others then you must come to the point of forgiveness or you are opening the door to Satan creating havoc in the offenders life, in your life and the life of the church.

 3. A CONQUERING FAITH (2:12 - 17).

As we look at these verses it seems that Paul's plans had completely fallen apart. He went to Troas in Asia but Titus was not there. At the same time there was this havoc in Corinth. In Troas it looked like an open door to ministry could not be walked through because of the changing circumstances. Hopes and plans were being set back, Paul did not have peace in his heart or mind, it looked like Satan was getting a victory.

This again is real to us from time to time. Plans made become plans changed. There is trouble somewhere else and we find that we can not walk through a door of opportunity. We feel set back, we feel that satan is getting the upper hand. How do we react - we turn to 2 Cor 2:14 and we look at the song of triumph that Paul sings out in these verses to the end of the chapter, and we claim these things, and we believe these verses. They contain three great truths that we must not lose sight of:

1. The truth that it is God who leads us (v.14): The circumstances were not good, Paul could not explain all the detours, distractions and disappointments but he was sure that God was in control. We need to be reminded again of the truth that we find in Ecclesiastes 3:11 - God is making all things beautiful in his time.

2. The truth that God is leading us in triumph (v.14): The picture here is of the Roman Triumph, the special tribute which the city of Rome gave to its conquering generals when they returned home. The commander would ride at the head in a golden chariot surrounded by his officers, the parade would include a display of all the spoils of battle, and dragging up the rear would be the defeated enemy soldiers.

Paul takes this picture and he uses it to encourage believers who find their lives and their plans changed, who find themselves under similar pressures. He says that we follow Christ who has utterly and completely defeated an enemy - Satan himself, and that we walk like victorious sons behind him, what we're being told is that we follow behind Christ's triumph. In other words we do not have to struggle for victory in our lives, Christ has walked ahead of us, won a victory, and we walk in victory. Quite frankly the situation in Corinth and in Asia where Titus had failed to appear did not look like victories from a human point of view at all - but Paul believed God, and God turned defeat into victory.

And look at that word "always" in v.14 - it's a reminder that every circumstance is being used by God for victory, for the Christian, for the believing Church there are no set backs, everything is being used to lead us in triumph as we follow the victory that Christ has already won.

3. The truth that God uses us as he leads us (vv 14 - 17): As the Roman priests carried their insence it affected people in one of two ways. To the triumphant soldiers it meant life and victory, to the defeated enemy it meant defeat and death - they were on their way to be killed by the beasts.

This is Paul's picture of Christian ministry. Believers as they follow Christ emit a scent, to God they are the fragrance of Jesus Christ, to other believers they are the fragrance of life, but to unbelievers we are the fragrance of death. As we go through circumstances God uses it all - he uses everything he puts us through to emit the scent of Christ, reminding believers of victory, reminding unbelievers of death and their need of Christ.

It's a tremendous responsibility, and no wonder he cries out in v.16 "and who is equal for such a task?" and answers in 3:5 that our competence or sufficiency comes from God.

And there is where we are going to stop this morning. I have swept through a huge section picking out only one theme amongst many, I have skimmed over verses that we you need to go back to later and look at at greater detail. I believe that God wants me to finish by telling you this - that if you feel that God had blown up your plans, if you feel that your life has been changed through the actions of God, or even the sinful actions of others - then God is calling you to have faith. He promises you as an individual, and we together as a Church, that his changes in plan come only so that he can lead us in triumph behind Christ.

If you have a clear conscience, a forgiving heart, and a triumphant faith then God will use everything to spread the life and fragrance of Jesus through what you are going through even now. You may not understand it all, you may not even like it all, but be assured His way is the way of triumph and not of defeat.

Lift up your heads. Be encouraged, "thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphant procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him."

Sunday 6th March

I touched on this theme at the beginning of this pandemic but what are our thoughts in understanding today to shape tomorrow- Political –Scientists War with Russia etc.

John 13:7 Jesus replied: Now you do not understand what I am doing, but later you will understand!

I chronicle 12.32 When King David was fleeing from Saul; God sent thousands of people to help him. All that God put at the disposition of David were men experienced in battle. Some of these men were chosen according to their fighting spirit, others because of military skill and war experience. Others were chosen because of courage and loyalty.

However, among all these men, those who were perhaps the most important were the 200 men of Issachar. The characteristics of these men: they were tacticians. These men were responsible for drafting a battle plan because the skill of a planner allows them to see beyond what was before the eyes of all.

They possessed the ability to see details of the day-to-day events and with this ability; they could discern really important issues of their days and so draw a course a plan for victory.

Understand today and what can be done now depends on our strategy to design a future of happiness for our life, for our family and for our church and nation and this world which seems on the brink of war.

What are the challenges we have today to design and plan to have a happy and healthy future for tomorrow? Does anyone really  understand this corona virus and how its going to affect us tomorrow, can we ever get back to normal:

Does anyone understand why some in Scotland want independance? They should look at Ukraine, within that country there are separtists groups, now splitting the country in three, and it has led to the terrible threat of war with Russia

I. We need to understand the current moment do we trust in these scientists and politians world leaders: do they really understand the crisis we are in. Not only covid, peoples welfare heating electricity floods climate change, threats of war:

What gave the 200 men of Issachar the discernment to know and understand the moment they were passing? I pray for the same understanding for this government in this war that looks iminent and the scientists, doctors and care home staff, which have a real staff crisis.

The men of Issachar were the mentors of the people of Israel. They knew all things pertaining to time, astrology, history, knowledge of agriculture, season for planting; they knew other peoples, their cultures, characteristics, etc... In addition, they had the ability to discern the time and seasons of the year.

The same knowledge needed to have the reality that surrounds us. What is behind the things we see and those things that are happening to us today and how can we apply this knowledge to the context of our marriage, our family, the facts of the corona virus, this war that is imminent and even our Church etc...

This ability to make a survey of reality is to help us to take notice of all its extent. Moment/Time

II. We need to know what to do now, that is our struggle: To do what I know how to do or do what you know how to do about God's plans. The men of Issachar submitted to God all their knowledge. They believed that the knowledge they had was subordinate to God and so God acted.

In wartime, as was the case, they knew how to organize war strategy: defense and attack.

What do you need to do right now given the situation of your own life? Pray -Go to church; -Read the word; Forgive -Reconcile; to be faithful and confident with faith and perseverance.

When Jesus replied: Now you do not understand what I am doing, but later you will understand!

Come back to the Bible in 1 Chronicles 12.32 because we need to believe that God wants a better future for everyone of us. The people expected victory in battle as we pray that every endeavor not only by the government but also ourselves in our life’s choices  and ministry will result in success.

What do you believe in? -Your own ability; - or the action and the Will of God.

The best that you and I desire for our life, God desires even more. David and his men knew that God had planned for them the best. Our fears: Many think the government has got it wrong, and perhaps they did but we can say the same thing in any given situation with hindsight we can even say what is wrong with the church or our world.

Why does the church not grow why do people do not stay, but brothers my experience shows the problem is not in the church we are a good church, the problem is in the people they believe that going to church is a waste of time, being a believer will alienate me and I will become boring, this business of God will keep people away from me. What do you think this lockdown has produced: people still get awkward even afraid if others even get to close to them.

Well, Issachar and his 200 men believed that they would win the battle. They had the courage to believe in God and that He has for us is the best.

What the church needs today is to have perseverance and faithfulness Jesus replied: Now you do not understand what I am doing, but later you will understand!

God wants us to be people who understand our times, people who come to know what to do and how to do it, and still have the courage to make a Difference. This attitude or lack of it, is what will determine the future of your life, your family, this world and the church itself.

When we study the Bible, we observe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is totally focused on relationships.  That is why we missed each other our brothers/sisters on Sunday during this lockdown period because it is good to have fellowship with the family of God. We see people seeking separation even in our own country, but I believe that God wants unity not division.

But we live in days when relationships are distant, increasingly impersonal, more and more virtual – "social networks". Whatsapp is a real blessing, but also a drug the person who has an anniversary we leave "a message". Very difficult to communicate on  a personal level  and even worse with so many cell phones, before the cell phone people called and said how are you now its where are you, people it seems have no time to talk!

Mark 8:22 to 25 – Jesus asked him do  you see anything? What was the blind man's response? I see people as walking trees. Jesus prays the second time and the man comes to see people clearly as people – remember brother’s people have feelings, and dreams.

How do you see people? We often see them as trees: "Beggars, alcoholics, marginal, proud, meddling, etc." The worst is when you cannot even see them.

How many times have you talked, asked the name of the waiter, the attendant, the cleaning lady at the shops? The postman, bin man, the shop assistant. Often these people are invisible to us.

I pray that these politicians stop the mania of wanting to be the best, the greatest, the one who only wants to be in charge in Mark 9:33 to 35  They were arguing, disputing with each other, about who would be the greatest. We can see this happening now in the political realm but we cannot let politics interfere with people lives we are all in this together as one nation.

However, what was the teaching of Jesus? That in the Kingdom of God, what is great in the eyes of God is the one who serves, that gives the honour to his neighbour, whoever serves is not concerned to be the first, but to make sure that everyone is well.

Mark 11:15 "My house will be called ' House of Prayer ' for all peoples." But you have turned it into a den of thieves!

Mark 11:16 – What did Jesus not allow? People who are walking needlessly around the country and not paying attention to stay alert.

Mark 11:17: That is why God wants our church to be a house of prayer for all nations. House of Blessing, House of Refuge, House of Help to the needy.

1 Corinthians 6:19,20 – Our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit - So Jesus is saying, stop it. Stop bringing rubbish to God's temple. Let us pray today that God will heal our country our world and once again we see that we need to look at people as people and not as statistics.

The 200 men of Issachar had the discernment to know and understand the moment they were passing.  We need to still focus on praying for our goverment the NHS front line workers and for those children going to school, people getting back to work, sure it is not easy but  let us pray for those making dificult decisions for our nation and this world.

Now you do not understand what I am doing, but later you will understand!

Sunday 20th Psalm 51 Many types of Psalms, I see here a Psalm of Renewal. Revival. Redemption. I also like to apply each verse in my own life meditate on it and let God speak to me.

David is responding to Gods powerful word through Nathan. You are here to respond to Gods word,vs 8 says let me  hear  joy and gladness = not feel?

That is why a word from God settles the matter, hear the word and receive joy and gladness.

Psalm of Renewal. David’s darkest moment, face to face with his sin. Here we have a child of God who sinned in a particular way, his spirit has been broken. Many Christians have no place for such things. It’s not God’s will for a Christian to have an unclean heart.

Vs 1.He  Cries out, have mercy. But he knows he has no claim on the favour he begs.

That is why Steadfast unfailing love is covenant love and for all his unworthiness he still belongs.

Paradox of the Prodigal, father, I am not worthy to be called your son!

There is more to forgiveness than tender compassion of which God has abundance. The accusing record of sin remains, the pollution clings to the mind, soul, heart and will. David pleads for it to be wiped away, blotted out.

Those who work with computers, when asked how do you deal with problems,they wipe the hard drive clean and re boot it and reform it. God wipes clean, blots out our sin but only the Gospel reveals at what cost.

He forgave us all our sins having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:14

Vs 2. Wash and clean. I think about my mother doing the laundry washing clothes again and again until they are clean. The image of David on his knees praying again and again, prevailing, until he knows that he has dealt with everything. Deep cleansing.

Vs 3. His sin confronts him as treason against God. Murder and adultery surely is against people, yes, but the heart of sin is always against God. Our bodies are not our own, our neighbours are made in Gods image also.

Previously David was covering up his tracts, now he is saying how could I treat God so!

Vs 5. He sees that his crime was no freak event but an extreme expression of the warped deformed character he had always been and of the faulty stock that he came from. He is not against his mother or conception but realizes that he is a sinner; sin is the very element that he lives in.

Vs 7. Purge me with hyssop, leaper sprinkled seven times with sacrificial blood, hyssop being the sprinkler, to be declared clean. Purge is to de-sin (de-ice) whiter than snow, no half measures with God.

All this self knowledge could have led to despair but it led to a greater enlarged prayer. (Romans 8:14-18)  For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; f  but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, g  you will live, h   14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God i  are sons of God. j   15 For you did not receive a spirit k  that makes you a slave again to fear, l  but you received the Spirit of sonship. 35 And by him we cry, “Abba, 36Father.” m   16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit n  that we are God’s children. o   17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs p  —heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings q  in order that we may also share in his glory. r  

A prayer for a miracle.

Vs 10. Create is a term for what God alone can do. It can be like the first day of creation instant, or a process of seven days!

Vs 12 Restore, renew and fill, the prayer of a backslider who has found repentance. The fear of being castaway comes from the example of Saul from whom the spirit of God departed.

Vs 13.The positive delight in God’s will is the antidote to temptation, David in his prosperity lost this delight. He was also silenced by his guilty conscience; a joyous faith is an infectious one. Peter, when you are turned again, strengthen your brothers.

A Psalm of Revival

2 Chr.7:14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

That’s a text for revival and psalm 51 shows you how to do it, it’s the natural sequence, it’s an explanation of revival, it’s the prayer book for revival.

Humble yourself, pray, see, turn from your wicked ways. If I look you in the eye and say you have wicked ways not just sinful ways but wicked way you would be resentful even offended.

How can you argue with scripture? Christians will admit to sinful ways but seldom to wicked ways.

Psalm 139, search me O God and see if there be any wicked way in me, save me from it.

Oh open your heart and let God examine it, This Psalm shows you how. God will hear, forgive and heal

Psalm of Redemption. The preacher tries to encourage people to get saved, he tries to explain how to go about getting saved. The ABC of salvation. But we shoud never complcate the Gospel.

If there is someone here today who wants to be saved, pray through this psalm get on your knees and pray right through this penitentiary psalm, go through it word for word, God cannot and will not deny anyone who prays such a prayer, wash me completely from my sin, God will do it you will get off your knees a saved person. You will feel renewed, you will have a clean heart and a clear conscience, you will be full of joy and gladness. You will be full of God’s free Spirit. He will uphold you with his Holy Spirit.

Conclusion.

For the backslider pray this prayer.

For the Church pray this prayer

For the sinner pray this prayer.

Sunday 13th February

Today I want us to START where we stopped last week at GOD’S PLAN OF SALVATION FOR ISRAEL (11:11 - 32).\

Has Israel stumbled beyond recovery? Not at all says Paul. When Israel stumbled over the Gospel, it went to the Gentiles, and this is good because when the Jews look at the Gentiles receiving the blessings that they ought to have had they become envious, and envy makes them fly to God and will in time help them to open up to the grace of God and receive their salvation through faith.

Indeed this is one of the great purposes of Paul's missionary work among the Gentiles (vv 13, 14), to bring salvation to the Gentiles so that he might arouse the envy of some of his fellow Jews to such an extent that they want what the Gentiles have and thus find salvation for themselves.

In v.15 the implication is that one of the great signs of the return of Jesus Christ and the final resurrection from the dead of all true believers is the conversion of the Jewish race to Jesus Christ - no wonder then it was so important to Paul that his fellow Israelites come to Christ.

Will great numbers of the Jews ever come to Christ? Paul believes it will be so and uses two little metaphors to make his point in (v.16). He says first of all that when one is making bread, if the first part is offered up properly as a sacrifice then the whole batch will be holy, and secondly if the root of a tree is good and holy then the branches which will eventually grow will also be holy.

To use another metaphor, if you have a holy acorn then you will have a mighty oak tree which is also holy. What Paul is teaching is that because there is this small group of Christian Jews now who are truly holy, in time their influence will spread to the whole of the Jewish race.

He carries on this thought in vv 17 to 21 with his illustration of the olive tree - this tree representing salvation. The unbelieving branches of the Jewish race have been broken off, and in their place has been grafted the wild olive shoot of the Jewish Christians and the Gentile believers.

But the Gentile Christian is not to boast, for he has found himself ingrafted not because he deserves it, but because of the grace of God. The Gentile can not say "God prefers me to a Jew", because the gentiles were not grafted in because they were superior in religion and morals but because they received the gospel through faith. The Jews lost their place in God's grace because they had become boastful and self-confident, should the Gentiles do the same then they too will find themselves outwith the grace of God (v.21).

Thus we ought to consider that God is both kind and stern (v.22), he is kind to the faithful, stern to those who fall away from following Him through faith. Paul doesn't mean that God is kind and stern in an aribitrary way, God is always God and is consistently kind when he finds faith, and consistently stern when he finds unbelief. God's kindness lasts as long as you live in Him through faith, if you become faithless and unrepentant then you will be cut off.

But it is the positive note in v.23 that is Paul's most important point - when unbelief comes to an end then God will immediately graft people back in and his severity swings back to his kindness. After all, if God can graft in a wild branch (the gentiles) then it is even easier for him to graft back in the natural branches (the Jews) v.24.

To try and sum this difficult part up, Paul offers us two pictures, one of a religious and the other of an irreligious man. The religious man lives in an atmosphere which should constantly remind him that God is in heaven and he upon earth, but tragically the religous man becomes comfortable and limits God into being the kind of God that he wants him to be. The irreligious man stumbles upon the gospel, sees his own unworthiness, and receives salvation not by merit but by faith. This leaves our religious man, a Pharisee for example, seeing what has happened to want the same in his own life and to trust no longer in his own righteousness, but to receive instead the righteousness of Christ.

Now Paul comes to his dramatic conclusion. In v.25 he reminds the Gentiles that they ought not to be proud of that fact that God has by passed the Jews and brought salvation to the Gentiles, for his plan is that once the maximum number of gentiles have come to faith, then all Israel will be saved (v.26). This is prophesied in Scripture, and how Israel will be saved is through the removal of sins (v.27), i.e. they will be saved in the same way as we are - by asking for God's forgiveness in Christ, repenting of our sins, and being cleansed of them.

For now, as the gospel is being preached (v.28) the Jews are God's enemies because they are rejecting the gospel, this is to the Gentiles' advantage because it means that salvation is coming to them instead. But even so, God still loves His Jewish people because of the special relationship that he had with the early Jewish Fathers, e.g. Abraham and Isaac. Despite the fact that they have proven faithless God still loves them, because God's love never depended on what the Israelites did, but solely upon his choice of them.

Thus we enter into a great paradox in v.29 - these people are God's enemies, yet they are still loved by Him because God does not go back on his acts of grace, or as the NIV puts it, God's gift and his call are irrevocable. Even though Israel is a disobedient people God still plans to be merciful to them - for the way to mercy often goes through disobedience. As v.32 puts it "for God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." That is God brings us to a point when we recognise that we deserve nothing but his mercy, yet when we cry out to him for mercy trusting in no way in ourselves we find it.

Here then in these verses is revealed Paul's teaching of "double predestination." God has predestined all men to wrath, yet he has also predestined all men to mercy (v.32). If men were not predestined to wrath then they could not be predestined to mercy. This verse then reveals that the bible does not teach that individual men are predestined to either wrath or mercy, but that all men are predestined to both - thus it is possible for all men to be saved if they prove believing and faithful, with the reverse also being true it is possible for all men to be lost should they prove disbelieving and unfaithful. God would want you to find his mercy, but if you reject it, then you must accept his wrath.

\3. THE HYMN OF PRAISE (11:33 - 36).\

What matters ultimately then is not what is in men's hearts, but what is in God's. Thus this section finishes with a great hymn of praise to God which is a kind of collage of OT scriptures. In summary they tell us - Who can know the mind of God - who would have thought that He would have used a people's disobedience to lead others to faith, and in so doing attract his disobedient people back to him? Who would have thought that God would would give to his people purely out of his love and grace rather than doling it out in proportion to our worth and merit?

Is there then a final message for us? God doesn't count out disobedience against us from the moment that we accept Christ through faith. What we have done in the past does not matter to him from the point of our conversions. Not only that our present salvation doesn't depend on what we do, on our worth or unworthiness, on our successes or failures, what does matter is that we have received God's gift of salvation, and to remind us of v.29 "God's gifts and His call are irrevocable." Our salvation will see us through to heaven, not because we will work hard at it, although we should, but because God has promised us and he will not break that promise.

God indeed is the source of all that we have, for from him and through him and to him are all things - including our salvation, it was a gift from him, it depends on His grace which flows through him, and it\will\take us to him. By turning to Him our tragic lives can have that same happy ending. Thus we finish like Paul with this remark - to Him be the glory for ever, Amen!

Revd. David M Meikle - Portslade Baptist Church.

Sunday 6h February 

Last week we looked at the way of salvation and saw that it depended on one thing only - a personal belief in the person of Jesus Christ, his work on the cross, his resurrection from the dead and his Lordship over all things. Or as Romans 10:9,10 puts its: "if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Now it follows from this that if all you need to be saved is belief - then all you need to be lost is unbelief.

What we have in Romans 10:14 - 11:36 is a tragic story of unbelief. It's a story of how a great nation, Israel, and God's own chosen people, the Jews failed to believe in Jesus Christ as their Messiah.

This to Paul, himself a Jew, was absolutely tragic, but to make things worse it was an unnecessary tragedy, for the Jews themselves are to blame for their unbelief, indeed their unbelief is inexcuseble.

\1. ISRAEL'S UNBELIEF IS INEXCUSEABLE (10:14 - 11: 10)\

1. INEXCUSEABLE - BECAUSE THEY WERE TOLD THE GOSPEL (10:14 - 21).

Chapter 10:13 announces "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" quoting from Joel 2:32. To the Jews this "lord" was God, Yahweh, himself. What they had failed to understand was that Jesus Christ was himself both Lord and God.

How one comes to believe that Jesus is Lord and God is outlined in vv 14, 15. In order to call Jesus "Lord" you have to believe in Him, in order to believe in Him you have to have heard about Him, in order to have heard about him somebody must have told you about Him, and that somebody must have been sent by God himself.

Did anybody tell the Jews about Jesus Christ? If the Jews hadn't heard about Jesus then they could not be blamed for their unbelief. Paul points out in v.15 that it was prophesied in Isaiah 52:7 that there would be messengers bringing "good news" about a Suffering Servant who would bring salvation, therefore he and the other apostles have fulfilled this prophesy in telling the nation of Israel about Jesus.

We find an example of it in Acts 2 and the Day of Pentecost when thousands of Jews heard Peter's dramatic announcement "therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:34)

The Jews therefore had heard the good news, what they hadn't done was to pay heed to it and believe it. Some did of course, but in general the nation rejected the message which is why Paul says in v.16 "but not all the Israelites accepted (or obeyed) the good news" fulfilling the prophecy of Is 53:1.

This was inexcusable on their part because the apostles had deliberately taken the Christian message to everywhere there were Jews. If you read through the book of Acts you will read of the great missionary journeys to take the gospel to the Jews, and how Paul and others always went first to the synagogues to speak to the Jews before they met the Gentiles. Although it may seem an exaggeration, it would be true to say that Paul and the apostles had made every effort to tell the Jews about Jesus - even to the ends of the world (v.18).

But it could be in v.19 that the problem was not that of failing to hear the message but of failure to understand it. Paul quotes from Moses (v.19) and from the prophets (v.20) to point out that what they preach was taught in the OT and prophesied by it - that the nation of Israel would be put to shame by the belief of the gentiles, with the paradox in v.21 that the obedience and belief of the gentiles will be matched by the disobedience and unbelief of Israel. God says that he has held out his hands to Israel and has met with nothing but rebuffs. For these reasons then the unbelief of the Jews is inexcuseable - messengers have been sent to them, they have heard the good news, the good news is within their understanding, and God has held his hands out to them. Despite all this they fail to believe.

I just wonder if this may be the tragedy of some of us today. We've heard, we know, we know that God is stretching out his hands to us. We have experienced again and again a touch of his grace calling us to believe in Christ and to accept all that he would want to give us. Yet still we have no belief. You may say I need faith to believe, well you can never generate enough faith of your own to believe in Jesus.

You have to receive faith as a gift from God when you trust Jesus Christ, that is what v.17 is all about "faith\comes\from hearing the message." Have you said "if only I could have faith to believe?" Don't make the mistake of looking for enough faith of your own for you will never find it. You must turn to Christ for faith. It is not faith first, Christ second, it is Christ first, faith second. Don't do as Israel did and turn Jesus down, ask Him to give you faith, and as he does, call on His name, and you shall be saved.

2. INEXCUSEABLE - BECAUSE THIS WAS PREDICTED IN THE OT (11: 1 - 10).

The second reason why the unbelief of the Jews was inexcuseable was because they were warned in the OT that God would reject them if they continued on the path of works rather than depending on God's grace.

Yet - did God reject the his people, the Jews? Paul says in v.1 "By no means!" "Certainly not!" - and gives as his reason that he himself was a Jew, a descendant of Abraham from the tribe of Benjamin. He was a Jew, yet God had saved, not rejected him. What Paul is saying is that God can not have cast off his people as a whole for he himself was both a Jew and a Christian, and the existence of Christian Jews proves in v.2 that God has not cast off his people whom he foreknew.

But all the same Christian Jews represent a mere minority of the Jewish world, you can not hold up a small section of the Jewish population who have been converted to Christ and state that the whole nation and race has been saved.

So what Paul does is to prove from the OT that it never was the case that the whole race has ever been saved, indeed it has always been the case that God has worked through the faithful few, or to put it another way, in the midst of the unbelief of the Jewish race there has always been a faithful remnant who have believed.

His example comes from the story of Elijah (vv 2 - 5), telling the story which we find in 1 Kings 19 and the surrounding chapters. Elijah complains to the Lord that Israel is filled with hostility and unbelief and that he is the only one left. God replies to him that he is not alone, but that there are indeed 7000 other people who have not bowed the knee to the pagan god Baal. The nation then had not totally succumbed to disbelief, there were 7001 true believers left, and it was through this faithful remant that God would work.

Paul then uses this historical story to apply it to the situation in his own day - in his day too there was a faithful remnant, the Jewish Christians are like these 7001 true worshippers in Elijah's day. The Jewish Christians in the desert of unbelief are an oasis of hope through which the gospel is spreading. What makes them special is not their own personal standing or worth, but the fact that God has chosen them, this faithful remnant is not "better" than the rest of Israel because they were not selected by their works, but by the grace of God (v.6).

So Israel in its quest for salvation and righteousness through works and rule keeping never attained it, instead those who pursued the way of personal faith, that is the elect faithful remnant, found it quite easily. Thus Israel, that is the whole nation less the faithful remnant, who refused to go the way of faith found themselves standing outside of the grace of God and found themselves hardened (vv 8 - 10), this too was predicted in the OT with Paul quoting from Deuteronomy, Isaiah and the Psalms.

Here we must understand that word "hardened" for you find in the Greek language a play on the grammar that you don't see easily in the English tranlations. Why were they hardened - because they were disobedient to the gospel.

Why were they disobedient to the gospel - because they were hardened. In the Greek language it is impossible to distinguish between "hardened because disobedient" and "disobedient because hardened." There are two sides to the coin that must be looked at simultaneously - God doesn't harden people without reason, but neither do people harden to the gospel unless God permits it to happen. The Jews became hardened in their unbelief because of their refusal to obey the gospel message, and\at the same time\God allowed them to drift away from Him.

Thus the Jews ought to have known from the OT that God would not work through the whole nation but through a faithful group, and they also ought to have known that should they reject the message of this group that they will find themselves outside of the grace of God. The whole purpose of the faithful group was to be a light to attract others to God through Jesus Christ, thus Israel was without excuse for their unbelief for in their very midst was a group preaching and living the way to God. What a dreadful thing unbelief is when it blinds you to seeing what is before your very eyes. Are you not a believer? Look at what is in front of your eyes - a worshipping community of believers, singing God's praises and proclaiming His word. Why is this happening - are we deluded - or may there be a God after all, who is calling us to himself. Our unbelief too is inexcuseable - we have heard and we know. We have the gospel, and we have witnessed its effects. Like Israel, we are a people without excuse.

So Paul presents us with a race of people, God's chosen people the Jews, who through rejecting the Gospel have found themselves outside of the grace of God. Is there a way back in for them - or will God now just simply abandon them and reject them for ever? Did they, as Paul puts it in v.11, stumble so badly that they fell beyond recovery? It is at this point, that the tragedy begins to unravel itself and point towards a happy ending.

Which we will look at next week God Willing.

Sunday 30th January

Let me begin where I left off last week vs 9-13 \3. BELIEVING AND CONFESSING (10:9 - 13)\

Romans 10:9 states that there are two things that a person must do if he is to have saving faith - he must believe in his heart that Jesus was raised from the dead and he must confess that Jesus is Lord.

And that is the order that we must do it in order to be saved. Romans 10:10 underlines this by saying that we must start by believing in our hearts, and then make the confession with our mouths. This order is very important - because our confession must be the right one based on the right experience. In fact you have nothing to confess unless you believe that Jesus has risen from the dead. We must have something to BELIEVE before we can confess it, and saving faith depends on believing the right things.

And yet believing is not enough to be saved, or at least to have a full assurance of our salvation. After belief there is something that we must do, and Paul describes this as "confessing." We must confess that Jesus is Lord. This leads us on to the question "is it really possible to believe in one's heart that Jesus has been raised from the dead and then\refuse\to confess him as lord.

Surely if you believe that Jesus is risen that is enough to make you a Christian?" Well, I can prove from the Bible that it is possible to believe in the resurrected Jesus and yet still not be a Christian.

There were guards around the tomb when Jesus rose from the dead. How much they actually saw is unknown, perhaps they saw the actual incident, perhaps not, but what we can be sure of is the fact that they knew that Jesus had been raised. They knew that Jesus' disciples had nothing to do with the tomb being empty. They knew this. They knew it in their hearts. They actually told this to the authorities at the time - the chief priests.

There is every reason to believe that the chief priests accepted every word that they had to say - for they had no other explanation, and they called a special meeting of the Sanhedrin about it. But did the Roman soldiers, and the chief priests, despite the fact that they knew about the resurrection, confess Jesus as Lord? NO!

The soldiers accepted a pay off, "hush money" to keep their mouths quiet about the incident, despite the fact that they knew it to be true. And so Matthew 28:12-15 tells us "When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers large sums of money, telling them, "You are to say,'his disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as instructed."

The same can also be said for Jesus' death on the cross. I can carefully explain to you why Jesus died. That he took our punishment and that it was for our sins that he died on the cross. You might believe me, but you might still not be saved. There have been many times when I have sat with people and told them the gospel, and they in their heads have believed what I said, yet have refused to confess Jesus as Lord. You can agree with every part of the gospel, but unless you confess him you will not be saved.

That is why Paul uses the word "if" in Romans 10:9. He made salvation dependent on two conditions, belief and confession must come together in order to be saved. There is no saving faith unless both are present. This is why I can say that Christ died for all - yet not all will be saved, or to put it another way all are invited yet not all will respond.

Those who respond will be saved, but those who do not will be lost, or will remain in their lostness.

Paul knew then that there would be a division. Some would believe in the teachings of Jesus, but would not at the end of the day accept Jesus into their hearts and call him Lord. There would also be some who would call Jesus Lord, yet would believe in their own Jesus and not the Jesus of the scriptures. That is why Paul said, "if you confess....and believe....you will be saved." Confession and belief in the heart, in our heart of hearts go together. One without the other renders it all invalid.

It is not enough to make a confession of faith even if it is in front of thousands. It is not enough to come forward or to walk up an aisle. It is not enough to be baptised. You must believe the scriptural truths about Jesus as well, otherwise you are making your confession about the wrong thing.

In Romans 10: 9,10 Paul mentions the word "mouth" twice. It is with our mouths that confession is made. Some people say that it is enough to let our lives speak about Jesus, but it is not enough. There is a command here for us to tell others about Jesus if we love the Lord. There is no such thing as a silent Christianity. Before we became Christians our whole lives spoke against God, the meaning of repentance is that our lives and our mouths should now speak for God. The importance of confession is stressed by Jesus himself in Matthew 10:32,33 - "Whoever confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my father in heaven." It seems that confessing ratifies our salvation. It validates it, it sets it into operation.

In the early church the very first, the most public, and the most dramatic way that a new Christian confessed Jesus was by being baptised as a believer. Thousands heard Peter preach on the day of Pentecost, they could all have gone away as secret and silent believers, but Peter told them that they must repent and be baptised (Acts 2:38), and what distinguished them, and made them no longer silent witnesses was that they were baptised.

Baptism sent a signal to Caesar, to their Jewish or pagan families, that they were not ashamed of Jesus and that Jesus was Lord. It involved great social stigma, it was done in front of witnesses and it meant that the Christian had come out of hiding and was now publicly confessing Jesus as his saviour. Baptism will not save you, but it is an essential part of the "salvation package" that we repent, be baptised, and receive the spirit.

Yet you may say to me with great justification, that Romans 10: 9,10 speaks about confessing with your mouth, and not about believer's baptism. Surely it is more important that we are Christians than that we are baptised as believers? Well, I want to say this to you very clearly that there are numerous scriptures which imply that the words confession and baptism are almost interchangeable. For example, Mark 16:16 "whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." Jesus says baptism, and not confession, yet from our understanding of the whole of the scriptures the two seem to interchange. Why? Almost certainly because it would be at their baptism that the new Christians would make their first public confession that Jesus is Lord. And if we were to be totally true to the scriptures today then the very first thing we would do is to baptise a person moments after their conversion, and if we asked them to confess their new faith at their baptism like the first Christians were asked, then we would see why the two words were interchangeable.

I am not saying that you need to be baptised in order to be saved. But I am saying that once you are saved the scriptures say that you need to be baptised. I know that the thief on the cross went to heaven without being baptised, but his was a death bed conversion, and was never meant to be an example for those of us who are alive and well.

The main thing is that once we are saved is that we are to\tell it.\ Tell it to at least one other person. Such a confession is much the same as baptism, yet baptism needs to be urged on us all, because Jesus urges it on all us. Baptism is a beautiful demonstration that one is truly not ashamed to be utterly identified with Jesus' death and resurrection.

What then are we to confess - it is that "Jesus is Lord." Phil 2: 9 - 11 tells us that one day all will confess that Jesus is Lord, but Christians have an opportunity to beat the rest of the world to the draw. We do it NOW whereas in the final day everybody will do it. You see it is not a question of whether or not men and women will confess Jesus as Lord it is a question of when. We will do it now voluntarily and be saved, or we will do it later when it is forced upon us, but those on whom it is forced will not be saved. Today God uses persuasion, later he will use force. Men may win battles against God, but God will win the war, "every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord."

Is salvation worth it if it all so easy? Yes it is. It is worth it because our salvation in the future will see us through judgement and into heaven, we will never be put to shame (v.11). In the present our Lord richly blesses those who call on him (v.12). Is salvation then for everbody? Yes it is "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Everyone, that is the white people, the black people, the good people and the bad people. What matters for salvation is that we have made that call - and then when the waters of strife, and final judgement begin to sweep around us, we will find that in Him we stand safe and secure on His rock.

Who then is Jesus Christ to you? Will he at the end prove to be a secure rock, or a stumbling stone upon whom at the end you will be dashed. Your salvation depends on how you answer that question.

"On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand."

Next week God willing I will come back to this part of ROMANS 10:14 - 11:36 Tells us of a tragic story with a happy ending. Israel's rejection of the gospel and her final salvation.

 

Sunday 23rd January

ROMANS 9:30 - 10:13 JESUS CHRIST - A SECURE ROCK OR A STUMBLING STONE?

Last few weeks I dealt with a very difficult chapter in which Paul began his explanation of why the Israelites rejected the Saviour, Jesus Christ. Chapter 9 gave one part of the reason being divine election, that is, the nation Israel rejected Jesus in fulfilment of God's plan and the scriptures. From v.30 however Paul gives another part of the reason and that is that Israel must take its share of the blame as well. What has happened is that the gospel of Jesus Christ with its joyful news that it is possible to be put right with God through faith in Jesus was preached first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles.

But it was the Gentiles who received it gratefully when the Jews carried on trying to pursue the path of being put right with God through law or rule keeping. The Jews have therefore failed to reach their goal of being put right with God because they are on the wrong path. It was a hard lesson for the Jews that despite all their privileges as a race under God that the divine righteousness which they were seeking was as open to complete outsiders as it was to them.

For centuries they had believed that they alone were the ones who had a special relationship with God, now they found that God wanted to have a special relationship with all men. And what they stumbled over was the way in which God now wanted to have this special relationship - not through following the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ.

 \1. THE STUMBLING STONE (9:30 - 33).\

It is important for us to see that what they stumbled over, the gospel of Jesus Christ, had been forseen in the OT scriptures. Paul quotes in v.33 two scriptures from Isaiah, Isaiah 8:14 and Isaiah 28:16, both sciptures speaking about a stone laid down by God in a time of disaster and judgement.

In Isaiah 8 the prophet spoke about how the Assyrian invasion would sweep over the land of Israel like a great flood, but there was to be one place of refuge from the overwhelming water - God himself would provide a sanctuary to all those who put their trust in him. God would provide a rock on which the people could stand safe and secure. But those who placed their trust elsewhere would find themselves swept away by the flood and rather than being saved by the rock they would be dashed against it. The rock for these people was not then a safe place, but an obstacle or a stumbling stone.

This passage from Isaiah is thus quoted by Paul here, and also in 1 Peter 2:8 where this stone of safety is now named as Jesus Christ - obey the gospel and come to him and you will be secure. But if you disobey the gospel, as the Israelites did, then when the floods of judgement come you will be dashed against this rock.

So in order to be saved you need a rock on which to stand, and this rock is our confession of Christ, our faith in him, for as v.11 tells us "the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame" - will never be dashed upon the rocks. On the last day, when the great judgement comes and people begin to be swept away we who believe will find that we stand on something secure and our faith in Christ will be proven to be the best decision that we ever made.

Now the point is this - Israel, and not God, is to blame for refusing to confess Christ as the Saviour. The gospel was preached in Israel first, but the Jews turned it down. So hand in hand comes two great truths - Israel rejected the Saviour both because it was part of God's plan, and secondly of her own free will.

It may be difficult to understand how these truths work together, but they are both there and we must accept that fact. Israel has rejected the saviour as part of God's plan and out of its own foolishness.

But despite all that, Paul goes on say in chapter 10:1 that he will not cease praying for Israel's salvation. They are a people who seek after God, but with a misplaced zeal. Their zeal is like Paul's was before his conversion - a zeal for their traditions, a zeal for their history, a zeal for their religious practices and a zeal for their law.

But if God could save Paul from all of this - then Paul knew that God could also save the whole of the Jewish race - therefore he kept on praying for their salvation. Paul had discovered that there was only one way to God - that is through Jesus Christ - yet the Israelites were trying to get to God by another way.

Paul then goes on to describe these two ways and shows one up to be false, and the other to be true.

\2. THE "TWO WAYS" TO GOD (10:1 - 8)\

1. The first way: The way of the law. Paul illustrates this way by quoting in v. 5 from the Law of Moses as it is found in Leviticus 18:5; "the man who does these things will live by them." The OT taught that it was possible to find righteousness, in the sense of being put right with God, through right living, and doing all things perfectly.

There is nothing wrong with right living, and doing good, says Paul, but the weakness is that no-one has ever succeeded in doing all things perfectly, therefore no-one has succeeded in being put right with God in this way. Men can live such good lives that they find themselves blameless before men, but in their own hearts they know that they are not blameless before God.

There is a second reason however why this way of the law is no good - and that is because it has been superceded by Jesus Christ, we are told in v.4 "Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes." He is the "end" in a double sense - firstly, Christ was the end of the law in the sense that he was the terminus, the goal of the law. The law always pointed to Christ, he is the one who fulfils the law (Mt 5:17). Thus when we become Christians we too fulfil the law (Rom 8:3f). But secondly, Christ put the law to its end, he did away with the old order to bring in a new one - life under the law is replaced by life in the Spirit. Salvation then can no longer be earned through works, it is a free gift from a loving God, to be received through faith in Christ. That then leads us onto the second way:

2. The second way: The way of faith.  To illustrate this way Paul again quotes in v.6 from Moses, but this time from his farewell speech in Deuteronomy 30:11 - 14; the full text reading "Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven so you have to ask 'who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?' Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, 'who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?' No the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it."

Paul then goes on to explain what these verses mean in terms of Jesus Christ. He says that God has brought salvation near to us in Christ. We don't have to go up into heaven to get it, for Christ has come down from heaven to give it to us. Nor do we need to cross the sea, which can also be translated as to plumb the depths, for it, because Christ has risen from the depths to secure it for us. Salvation is here, it is available, all that we are called to do is to accept it by faith - by believing in our hearts that God has raised Jesus from the dead, and by acknowledging him aloud as Lord.

Yet just as the gospel of Jesus Christ was a stumbling block to the Jews, it can also be a stumbling block to some today. There are some to want to be right with God, but they just can't believe that becoming a Christian is as simple as we make it out to be. They can't believe that all you have to do is what you find in Romans 10:9,10 : "THAT IF YOU CONFESS WITH YOUR MOUTH, 'JESUS IS LORD,' AND BELIEVE IN YOUR HEART THAT GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD, YOU WILL BE SAVED. FOR IT IS WITH YOUR HEART THAT YOU BELIEVE AND ARE JUSTIFIED, AND IT IS WITH YOUR MOUTH THAT YOU CONFESS AND ARE SAVED." That's all. But what does it mean? Is it really as simple as that? Yes it is, if you understand that becoming a Christian involves both believing and confessing.

I will finish there and God willing come back to vs 9-10 next week.

Sunday 9th January 

ROMANS 9:1 – 29 - THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD

While I was living in Brazil having returned for furlough and a holiday Johann decided to re-decorate her kitchen. At first I thought that it would be a simple job of stripping the old wall paper and putting on the new paper then fitting new wall units and base unit’s worktops etc. The first layer came off fairly straightforwardly, but underneath it had no less than 3 layers of vinyl one of which had been painted with white gloss and was like concrete. It took me three days to strip the paper off when I had allowed three hours, when I uncovered the difficult bits I wish that I had never started the job.

It is with that same feeling that I touch on Romans 9 this morning - for in Romans 9 we come to a passage of the scriptures as tough as that layer of vinyl covered with gloss. I found that reading this chapter it arouses in me confusion, and a challenge to do more;

Interpretations of this chapter have divided whole denominations from each other and within themselves.

It is not an easy chapter, and it is not possible to simplify it. So we need to get ready for God's word, for I am convinced that when we stretch ourselves and deal with the hard topics God really speaks to us and we grow in Grace.

It is generally accepted that Romans 8:39 closes off one section which finished with the theme of "Life in the Spirit" and that 9:1 begins another. But although the theme changes, we have to recognise that God does not. The generous powerful God who saves people through faith and fills them with his Spirit is still the same. The God that we find in Chapter 9 is still the giver and source of salvation both to the Jew and to the Gentile.

But in vv 1 - 5 Paul reveals his great personal sadness - his own people, the Jews have not believed the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that is where this chapter begins with the unbelief of the Jews:

We in Great Britain should have the same sadness, because many don’t believe in our own so called Christian land.

\1. THE UNBELIEF OF THE JEWS (vv 1 - 5).\

In the first three verses Paul makes a statement which had it been made by anyone else would have been melodramatic - he says that he would give up his own salvation, his own standing with Christ if that would lead to his own people, the Jews, being saved.

Of all the people who ought to be saved it is the Jews, says Paul, in v4f. They were a greatly privileged family - God had chosen them as His sons, they knew the glory of God, they had a covenant relationship with God, they were the ones who were given the Law at Mount Sinai in the time of Moses, they were the ones who worshipped God in the Temple and received his promises. Supremely it was from their race that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, had his line of descent.

If ever there were a privileged race it was the Jews. Yet the question must be asked how can it be that having all these privileges they ended up by rejecting the gospel? The clue is found in the repetition of the word\theirs\the Jews had begun to worship themselves rather than God.

To put it crudely, instead of valuing their relationship with God on a spiritual and vertical level, they were now valuing things on a human and horizontal level. What mattered to the Jews was now their rights as a nation, their temple which was once the seat of worship was now paraded before the world as a tribute to their own skills, they were especially pleased that the Messiah was to come from\their\race.

I hope that you get the point that I'm trying to make - that instead of saying "what a wonderful God we have" they were saying "what a wonderful people we are." "We are the ones who have the covenant, the glory." And of course Jesus didn't fit into this image of a wonderful people - this carpenter from Nazereth who lives, eats and sleeps with poor people and slaves - he can't be the Messiah. So they called for Barabbas and got rid of Jesus. Their pride in themselves had done what they considered to be impossible - it had cut them off from God. They thought that was impossible because they were God's chosen people - how can God cut himself off from the people of His choice?

This then is the theme of the second part of the chapter - God's choice of Israel.

\2. GOD'S CHOICE OF ISRAEL (vv 6 - 13).\

We know from our OT that God had chosen Israel and made a covenant with it, but now we find that Israel has rejected Christ, and in rejecting Christ has rejected God, because Christ is God over all. The question that rises is "has God broken his promise?" He promised to be Israel's God, yet that no longer seems to be the case. Has God's word failed - has this word of promise to Israel been proved false by the historical events of the cross?

Paul's answer to that in v.6 is quite plainly "NO", "it is not as though God's word has failed."

God has kept his promises to Israel, but Israel is not what you think it is, "for not all who are descended from Israel is Israel." God's promises are not to the land of Israel and to all who live in it, neither are God's promises simply for the human descendants of Abraham who make up the Jewish race.

Who then are God's promises for? Here now we have to pick up the theme of vv 7 to 9 which speak about two lines of children - one of simply human descent springing from Abraham's sexual union with his servant Hagar (the story is told in Genesis 16) the other being Abraham and Sarah's second child who was a gift of God's promise, born of supernatural means, namely Isaac (and that story is told in Genesis 21).

Paul is using these two children to illustrate his point - where is the true Israel? Is it simply those descended from Abraham, or is it the children of God's promise descended from Isaac? The answer is the true Israel is the seed or offspring of Isaac - God's children are not those by natural descent, but it is the children of promise who are regarded as the true Israel - as Abraham's offspring (v.8).

Here we have to take a theological leap - where now are the promises of God fulfilled? We know that it is not in Abraham, nor in Isaac, but in Christ. It is Christ who is the promised child, and the child of promise.

God's promises to his people have not been broken, they are still valid, but if you wish to receive them then it will not be because you live in a certain land, it will not be because you are descended from certain parents, but because you yourself have gone to Jesus Christ for salvation, and have received the promises in him.

Israel then is no longer a nation, nor is a line of natural descent; Israel is the collective noun for all those who have been justified by faith in Christ. God has kept his promises to Israel, to any person who has lived at any time, and in any place, who has been justified by faith.

In vv 10 - 13 we have a second illustration of this point. Again we have to deal with two brothers who have the same father, but in this case who also have the same mother. One again was a child of promise, and the other was not.

What made one a child of promise, and the other not, was not what happened at conception, was not dependent on the good or evil they did with their lives in the past, present or future, what determined things was not their works or actions, but a choice or a decision that God made. This is what is known as election (v.11) - God's call upon our lives which is not dependent on us, or what our lives are worth, or on what we may do with our lives, but upon God's choice.

Now we must go carefully for we start to tread on a theological minefield. A safe course for us is to start by asking why Paul uses this illustration. Paul is using it to enforce his earlier point with the two children of Abraham that salvation doesn't come about by living in the right land or having the right father, but through hearing the call of God and being justified by faith.

Who then hear this call and are justified by faith - the answer is the elect. Who are the elect? Is it the Calvinists? The Baptists? Scripture has one answer, the elect are those who are in Christ Jesus, as Gal 3:29 puts it "if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed (this was an expression for the elect or chosen people) according to the promise." Election is not found in our own worthiness, or in our own usefulness, election is a gift of God to be found in Christ.

You see there are two ways of looking at election. The first is in a very negative way - to see election as being some kind of trap door for the chosen to walk over and the non-Christian to fall through down into hell. This view makes people worry whether or not they really are saved, whether they are worthy of being called to salvation.

The second way is the biblical way - election is God's great positive for us. Because God has chosen us he will keep us safe. Election in the scriptures is not there to make us worry about unsaved relatives, but is there to make us rejoice that we are saved through God's personal invitation in Christ, and that once we are saved we are safe, our salvation and our safety not being dependent on our abilities to keep it up but upon God's decision to look after us.

Yet these verses 10 - 13 do raise an objection, an objection which is only properly understood when we accept the sovereignty of God.

Which we will look at next week God Willing.

Sunday 16th January . I come back to Romans and I start where I finished last week speaking about!

3. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD (vv 14 - 29).\

If we lose sight of the fact that Christ now represents the children of Abraham, and if we lose sight that election is found in Christ and not in ourselves then an objection arises.

The objection would go like this "for God to distinguish between unborn twin infants, for God to prefer one to the other is unjust, if this is so then God is unfair and not worth loving." Now this is the way that election is often preached - that God loves one lot and not another, and when it is preached this way then God does appear to be unjust.

Paul then asks in answer to this objection in v.14 "Is God unjust? - Not at all!" And he quotes from Exodus 33:19 in v.15 and shows that God's main emotion towards his creation is mercy and compassion. And so in v.16 the point is made that if God does anything at all for sinful man then it springs from his mercy, for sinful man deserves nothing from God - and so should God have decided to do nothing, then God would not have been unjust because sinful man deserves nothing.

And so the closing theme of this chapter begins to emerge - God is sovereign and merciful. It is because God is merciful that justification by faith is possible - and so his mercy is not dependent of a man's worth or usefulness, God is merciful not because of man, but because it is His nature to be merciful.

Paul then moves on in v.17 to illustrate how God's mercy operates. He quotes an incident from Israel's past - when they were in bondage to Pharaoh in Egypt. We are told that God raised Pharaoh up - which doesn't at first sound very merciful - for two purposes, so that God could manifest his power, and so that God's name could be spread throughout the earth. Pharaoh thought that he existed to further his own purposes; instead he existed to further the purposes of God. God knew that if there had been no Pharaoh, then there would have been no oppression, if there had been no oppression, then there would have been no exodus, no exodus no promised land, no promised land no pattern of salvation.

Paul quotes this story to point out to Israel, in the sense of the nation that they too like Pharaoh exist for a double purpose - to be the means of delivering men from the law and setting them free from sin, and also to be the means of spreading the gospel. Sadly, as we learned in v.1 Israel has rejected the message, but God has demonstrated his mercy by giving the gospel to the Gentiles.

V.18 is a summary verse of this point - God will be merciful, yet some others he will harden. This word does not mean utter rejection, but it does point out a way in which God will work to try and bring people round to their senses, but let's remember the point that we have already established - if God does harden at all then he does it out of mercy and love and not out of hate. Sometimes God has allowed a lot of dark in our lives so that we might by contrast see the light, but the purpose of the darkness is to highlight the good not to overwhelm us with the bad.

This teaching opens Paul up to a further criticism by the Jews pointed out in v.19 - if God has hardened the Israelites because they have turned their back on him, how can God dare blame them? If God has engineered all this from his control room in heaven how can he judge and blame people for doing the very thing that he has engineered? This is of course sin at its worst. It's sin putting the blame for its actions onto God saying "If you hadn't made me this way then I wouldn't have done it!"

Paul's answer is blunt, and is one we simply have to accept, that the creation, man, has no right to talk back to the Creator, God. Just as the potter has the right to make what he likes with his clay, then God is at liberty to make what he likes with our lives. Man of course is not a pot, he is a thinking being, and he is inclined to complain "why have you made me a kitchen pot and made him a fine vessel for the dining room?" It is the common complaint of those of us who are insecure "why am I not like the other person?"

God's word to us when we feel like that is what you are is my responsibility and not yours. I'm not worried what you're like now, but I have a vision of what you will become as you transform into the likeness of my son. Again you see election is meant to be liberating - God says I've chosen you to make you into something, let me work with your life as a potter works with the clay. God is acting in a responsible way fashioning us, his chosen people, into what is right.

That would be a good point to stop, but I want to draw a final point from the closing verses. Vv 22 - 24 these are complicated verses with three main points:

1. God has borne the foolish behaviour of his creation with great patience. It is a sign of his patience that God has not yet brought in the final judgement of the earth.

2. In this period while he is being patient God is revealing his wrath against sin and at the same time demonstrating his saving power to bring men to repentance.

3. Also in this period God is making his mercy known to both Jew and Gentile. Now this third fact that God also wants to be mericiful to the Gentile is something which would take the proud Jews that Paul introduced to us in the opening verses by surprise, so the chapter closes in vv 25 - 29 with a series of OT quotations proving that God means to call Gentiles, and that it was never God's plan to call to himself those who lived in the land of Israel, or those who had a human line of descent from Abraham, but that God's plan as v.27 reveals it is that only "the remnant will be saved."

And here are the important points - who are the remnant - for it is they who are the ones who will be saved; it is they who are elect, called by God. The remnants are those who are justified by faith. Let me now illustrate this think of a picture of a an egg timer on its side. At the far left God's plan was that all men should be saved (Adam and Eve.) But Adam and Eve sinned and so God started a plan of salvation that would come from Israel. But by the time of Jesus we are told that there was no-one righteous in all of Israel, and that Jesus Christ was the only righteous one. And so the narrowest point in our egg timer is Jesus and his cross. His cross opens up salvation once more, to the disciples, to the crowds at Pentecost, to Judea to Sarmaria, to the ends of the earth. Now the point is this - if you wish to be saved then you must pass through this narrow point, through this narrow door, there is no salvation outside of Jesus, there is no righteousness outside of Jesus, there is no election outside of Jesus, as Romans 8:1 puts it "there is no condemnation for those who are\in Christ Jesus.\

If you wish to receive the mercy of God you must come to him through Jesus. The Israelites made the appalling blunder of rejecting Jesus and why they did this we will look at next. We have learned that God is sovereign - no one will get into heaven unless He calls them. But in these closing verses we learn another truth which is the balance - no-one will be left out of heaven except by their own foolish rejection of the Saviour. So hand in hand come two great truths - the sovereignty of God, and man's free will, the greatest act of our free will being our acceptance of Christ and our surrender to the sovereignty of God. But remember this it would not be possible for us to freely surrender to God when we trust in Christ unless God had offered us the possibility in the first place, so salvation is from its beginning to its end the gift of a sovereign, and a merciful God who has given us everything at a time when we deserved nothing.

This then has been a difficult chapter, it has many depths, but these I feel have been the truths that God would want us to hear this morning. 

I will close there and next week God willing we will look at  ROMANS 9:30 - 10:13

Sunday 2nd January 2022

HEBREWS 4:14 - 5:10 JESUS - OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST.  If someone is in trouble and needs help and advice it is often said that he will either go to his doctor or his minister. Centuries ago when the letter to the Hebrews was written if you were a Jew and you needed help and advice you went to see a Jewish Priest, and if you lived in Jerusalem and had a very difficult problem you might even get to see the High Priest. This section in Hebrews is going to tell us that during 2022 tht  there is a Great High Priest to whom we can always turn for help, strength and encouragement.

A High Priest who is never too busy, a High Priest who knows how we feel and is thus able to help. The name of this High priest is the Lord Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 4:14 - 5:10 Today I would like for us to learn four things about the ministry or priesthood of Jesus Christ, begining with that it is Victorious, it is Compassionate, it is Submissive to God and that it is Effective.

\1. IT IS A VICTORIOUS PRIESTHOOD (4:14).\ V.14 says: "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess."

When did Jesus go through the heavens - the answer is, of course, when he ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of God following on from the Resurrection. Which we read in Acts 1. So what we are looking at is very much the ministry of Jesus Christ\now.\ Not his ministry when he walked on earth, not his ministry in the days between the resurrection and the ascension, but what Jesus has been doing, and is doing right now, since he ascended to heaven.

There are three things which we need to understand from this verse. The first thing is that Jesus is described as a Great High Priest. Not an ordinary High Priest of whom there were and are hundreds, but he is the one and only Great High Priest.

This leads us onto the second thing, that he must then be a unique High Priest, because he is the Son of God. Our Great High Priest in heaven is not weak and limited - he is God Himself.

But thirdly, our Jesus is not just God he is also a man. It was Jesus who passed through the heavens - and Jesus lived as a man on earth. Therefore there is a man in heaven who understands us and knows our trials. How many times have we gone to a minister, a doctor or a counsellor and felt that they didn't understand us, that they didn't know how we felt. And how many times have we left them finding them powerless to help us. Because Jesus is our great high priest, the human part of him does understand us, and the God-part is powerful enough to help us.

You see in order for Jesus to be our victorious priest he needs to be great, he needs to be divine and he needs to be human, because only the combination of the three of them is powerful enough to have the victory over sin and the devil. The fact that he ascended means that the work is finished, and that God has put his stamp of approval on all that Jesus has done for us. It is done! It is finished! Jesus our Great High Priest has won the victory for us!

This then is a rallying call for Christian people to stir up their faith during 2022. To pull themelves out of their despair and to hold on firmly to the faith which we profess. Jesus is Lord - let us then rise up and worship this Jesus! Jesus is what makes life worth living, so let us profess him and witness to our faith. We are on the victory side, there is no need for us to feel or act like losers.

\2. IT IS A COMPASSIONATE PRIESTHOOD (4:15 - 5:3)\ V.15 is the key verse here, it says: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin."

"Tempted in every way...." - what does this mean? To some it means that Jesus experienced as a human being every temptation that there can be. Doubt, despair, greed, lust and so on, yet he did not give in to these temptations and therefore did not sin. Yet I'm not quite so sure that that is really what this verse means. Did Jesus experience every temptation - did he experience some of the temptations which perhaps the unemployed man faces? Did he face the temptations which some married people face?

Is it not really the case that behind the vast array of different temptations that there are really just a few basic trials, and it was these basic trials which Jesus faced. In other words it's not just the specific temptation but what is behind the temptation, which is often much more sinister and powerful, that Jesus faced.

Jesus knew that temptations if left unconquered lead on to doubt, despair, disobedience towards God and selfishness. If you think of your chief sins then I suggest to you that they fit into one of these categories - that your sins lead to to doubt, to despair, to disobey or to be selfish. And Jesus knows what it is like to face such things, and has the victory over them. Therefore we cannot say, "Jesus cannot help me because he never had to live with my wife (or husband!)" Jesus can help, because although he may not have personally experienced the exact circumstances of your temptations, he has experienced the exact force of it, and knows how to deal with it.

How then can we experience his compassion and help for ourselves? The answer without doubt is prayer. V.16 says "let us then approach the throne of God with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

One Christian writer called P.T. Forsyth used to say that the root of all sin is prayerlessness. When we don't pray what we're saying is that we can get through this day, or that problem, without God. What is sin? It is living without God.

A prayerless Christian is a hypocrite for he is saying that on one hand he believes in God but on the other hand that he can do without him. Yet this letter invites us to pray, to come into the presence of the God who welcomes us and the Christ who understands us. Our Great High Priest is the compassionate one - he is able to deal gently with us in our ignorance, he leads us to himself when we don't know the way, and he brings us back when we go astray, when we deliberately wander away. Our God has a heart full of compassion for his weak and foolish children.

\3. IT IS A SUBMISSIVE PRIESTHOOD (5: 4 - 8)\ The key-note of the whole ministry of Jesus Christ is that it was always in submission to the will of God the Father. Jesus did everything which the Father asked, and Jesus did nothing which the Father did not ask of him.

It started with his call which you can read in Philippians 2: 6 - 8: "Jesus, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" Right from the beginning Jesus never tried to take over God, like Satan, but he submitted to God and was obedient.

Not that obedience was always easy. We are told in v.8 that he learned obedience through what he suffered. And v.7 tells us about the agony which he faced in the Garden of Gethsemane: "during the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission."

In Gethsemane his friends had let him down. He had asked them to remain awake and to watch with him, but they had gone to sleep. Jesus knew that the hour of his death was upon him and so he cast himself upon the God whom he knew was able to save him. Yet he was not saved! Did then his prayer go unanswered? Of course it was answered, but not by relieving him from the agony of the cross, but by giving him the strength and the peace to face it. 

This was perhaps the moment of the greatest crisis in his earthly life, he must have felt alone and desolate. It may well be the case that no human tragedy can ever cause the grief and the emotion which this experience stirred in the heart of our Lord Jesus. Therefore when we feel that we are at the outer limits of our ability to cope with anguish and strain - we need to remember that our Jesus knows how we feel and can lead us out. Yet the way out is not the way which many of us would choose. When we are the depths of our despair we feel much more like rejecting the God whom we feel has abandoned us than we feel like submitting to him. Yet submission is the answer. Jesus was heard because of his reverent submission - and although his submission did not deliver him from death, it delivered him from fear. The message here is that we must not resist the sovereign purposes of God, but submit to them, if we are to know deliverance. The human spirit is proud and arrogant and does not like submission, it sees submission as being a sign of weakness. The Christian on the other hand should be humble and should see submission as being a source of strength.

\4. IT IS AN EFFECTIVE PRIESTHOOD (5:9 - 10)\ V.9 tells us: "and once made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him."

To say that Jesus became perfect does not imply that there was once a time when he was imperfect. Rather what this word perfect means is to bring all things to completion. It means to finish the job. The job started with his becoming a human being through the virgin birth, living and ministering on earth, dying on the cross for our sins, being buried, on the third day rising from the dead, ascending to heaven and sending the Holy Spirit. Once all that was done, Jesus became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. A human priest can only point a man to the source of salvation, but our Great High Priest IS the source of eternal salvation. All his life and work, all his suffering, all his joys have not been wasted. God has accepted all that Jesus has done for us, his priesthood is effective - through him we can find salvation.

So this passage finishes with two challenges - the first is to those who don't know Jesus as their Saviour, and the second is to those who do. To those who are not Christians the message is clear - Just as Jesus had to obey the father, you have to obey Jesus if you want to be saved. Salvation is there for those who obey Jesus, for those who surrender their lives to him. The way to do this is simple. You must say in prayer that you have spent much of your life in disobedience to Jesus, that you have sinned. You must ask God to forgive you your sins. God will forgive you, because Jesus has won you that forgiveness on the cross. You don't deserve it, not one of us do. But salvation is there as a free gift for all of us. Having confessed your sins, you must ask Jesus to come into your heart to be your saviour and Lord, and you must promise to obey him.

I believe that there is also a word here for Christians. We live in an instant age now, instant coffee, instant credit, if a thing is to be had we expect to have it\now.\ Some Christians have written books about this, they say that the promises are there in the scriptures, all you have to do is claim them and they will be yours\now.\ You will see immediate results, instant healings and so on.

Of course this does sometimes happen - and praise God for that. But what can we say to those who do not get these immediate answers. Is there something lacking in their faith? I want to remind you that the way of Christ was one of persistent obedience and of humble submission, and that is as much the way of God as is the spectacular.

I want to say something now that some may find controversial, but others hopefully will find encouragement. That I believe that the quick answers, and all the spectacular things are more often, though not always, given to the immature, because God knows that without such signs these people would not persevere.

Yet to those who are mature, their way is often the way of persistance and submission, because God knows that we can bear it, and that his kingdom and our Christian lives will be much more enriched this way than through quick and spectacular signs. I know that there are exceptions to this, I only offer it is a general principle.

Christian people take heart - any difficulty is not necessarily a sign of your lack of faith, but is sent by God to strengthen it and to enrich your life. The victory side is not the life free from trouble but a life freed from the despair which troubles often bring, and fixed on the next life. And we find freedom from our despair in the strength and encouragement which comes only from our Great High Priest. He is our effective high priest - he is able not just to save us, but also to keep us.


We have been praying for OHAV – Our Choir - Open Hearts and Voices during this month and during Advent services, today I would like us to think coming up to Christmas that we think of Open Hearts and Minds’. Remember Love came down at Christmas. Perhaps you can restore lost love and think about what I am saying:

Hearts Wide Open (2 Cor 6:11-13) We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange--I speak as to my children--open wide your hearts also.

God has entered our hearts but also our minds to receive from Him the truth and blessing to open them both to receive from Him the Promises of His Love, and the love of our fellowship with others.

The apostle Paul was a man who loved the brethren. From reading 2 Timothy 1:2; we see that he loved his

Co-worker. He also loved the CONGREGATIONS that he worked with, Read 2 Cor 11:28 I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches .Because of his love, he was willing to give of himself and become close to them - 2 Co 12:14-15

The passage in 2 Co 12:15 indicates that sometimes Paul's affection was one-sided; he elaborated on this in 2 Co 6:11-13..in Vs 11 Paul's heart was "wide open" towards the Corinthians Vs 12 But their love for him was "restricted"

Vs 13 His exhortation, therefore, was "be open"!

Today, I would like to say... Why I believe we all need to have "Hearts Wide Open"

Perhaps I also need to explain why some people may have "restricted hearts" (Closed Hearts)

Or even be bold enough to suggest how we can be sure to have our "Hearts Wide Open"

WHY DO WE NEED "HEARTS WIDE OPEN" If we don’t love one another how can we expect others to join our church and be part of our loving family of Christians? We have a happy loving church here in Portslade. Remember!

BROTHERLY LOVE IS A MARK OF TRUE DISCIPLESHIP! Look what Jesus said about brethren loving one another in John 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Such love would be the visible sign by which the world would know Christ's true disciples. Look at Churches today - divided – many have even lost their first love. Is Jesus talking to you or about you:

Surely then people "restricted hearts" or closed hearts would have a difficult time displaying a visible and true love to others!

BROTHERLY LOVE IS ALSO AN INDICATION OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH!

Peter lists brotherly kindness (and love) among those graces involved in growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ - 2 Peter 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.

While having a "restricted heart" is an indication of: Spiritual immaturity - from our passage in 2 Co 6:13 he says: I speak as to my children--open wide your hearts also.

Having a "restricted heart" the Bible also tells us that it causes spiritual ailments such as short-sightedness or may even lead to blindness 2 Peter 1:9: 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. But if anyone does not have them, he is short-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

BROTHERLY LOVE IS AN ASSURANCE OF OUR SALVATION! It is one way that we know we have passed from death to live 1John 3:16-19 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

The one who truly loves is one who is born of God - 1 John 4:7-8

Having "restricted hearts" then would not be very reassuring in the light of such verses!

Notice 2 Peter 1:10-11... 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, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. If we want assurance, if we want to convince the world, we need to have "Hearts Wide Open"!

Now let us consider some reasons.  WHY SOME HAVE "RESTRICTED HEARTS"

IT MIGHT BE DUE TO "IGNORANCE"...

Some Christians may not have been given proper "follow-up" i.e. discipleship training.

Their follow-up may have been totally "unbalanced" one sided!

a. There may have been an emphasis put upon the externals. To the neglect of the internals

This though cannot be our excuse any longer. Look at 1 John 4:20 If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, he cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

OTHERS HAVE "RESTRICTED HEARTS" AND IT MIGHT BE THE RESULT OF "SPIRITUAL AMNESIA"...

As Peter indicated in 2 Peter 1:9 But if anyone does not have them, he is short sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

This spiritual amnesia occurs when we...

a. Forget God's love for us is cleansing us from our sins - 2 Peter 1:9

b. When we do not apply "all diligence" - 2 Peter 1:5,10

With the passing of time, we may have simply forgotten how important love is in the mind of our God - 1 Co 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

OTHERS HAVE "RESTRICTED HEARTS" AND IT MIGHT BE WE HAVE "SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET"...

Some people refuse to get close to others for fear, that some of their hidden secret may became known, if we have such "skeletons in the closet", we had better get rid of them! LET ME TELL YOU WHY?

Because the Bible tells us that they will eventually become known - Numbers 32:23 "But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the LORD; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.

It may be now or later, but they will come out - 1 Timothy 5:24 The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.

With skeletons removed, we won't mind how well people know us. besides, no one is perfect, and we can use the help all our Brothers and Sisters can give - Galatians 6:1-2 says, "Carry each others burdens".

But of course, this requires that brethren being trustworthy and not gossip! Because gossip is what kills Churches more than anything does.

OTHERS HAVE "RESTRICTED HEARTS" AND IT MIGHT BE THAT WE HAVE A "FEAR OF GETTING HURT"...

Loving remember does involve the "risk of rejection"

Paul experienced rejection, not only at Corinth, but also at Rome - 2 Timothy 4:16 At my first defense, no-one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.

But do you know the joy of true fellowship and love by the few can more than make up for the few times other people may reject us.

The apostle John had experienced both love and rejection - 3 John 1-4,9-11 The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Then look at Vs. 9-11 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.

But remember this, if he had never taken the risk of running into a "Diotrophes", he would have never found a "Gaius"!

OTHERS HAVE "RESTRICTED HEARTS" AND IT MIGHT EVEN BE THAT "TRUE CONVERSION HAS NOT TAKEN PLACE"... As I said before, brotherly love is an assurance of salvation; similarly, it is an indication of true conversion!   - 1 John 3:14-15

Unfortunately, some people simply go through the "form" of conversion - or to put it simple - conforming, yet not converted.

They are in Church out of convenience, not conviction. When this happens, there is no "life" to begin with!

Those with "restricted hearts" might need to examine themselves before God does.

Examination is a process that all Christians should undergo periodically - 2 Co 13:5 "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-- unless, of course, you fail the test"?

While there are reasons why true Christians may not love as they should which we have looked at, we can't discount the possibility that their personal problem may be more serious!

But whatever the reason, there is really no excuse for true Christians having "restricted hearts". Therefore what can be done to "open wide" our hearts?  Here are some.

SUGGESTIONS FOR HAVING "HEARTS WIDE OPEN"  LET GOD'S LOVE TEACH YOU...

1. This is what enabled the Thessalonians to excel in love - 1 Th 4:9 Now about brotherly love j  we do not need to write to you, k  for you yourselves have been taught by God l  to love each other

Contemplate upon God's love for you as an individual! Because! This love is manifested through the blessings He has bestowed upon you. Especially the blessing of being His child! - 1 John 3:1

B. NEVER BE CONTENT WITH THE PRESENT STATE OF YOUR LOVE...

Paul did not let the Thessalonians rest on their laurels - 1 Th 4:10  And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. n  Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. o  

The key idea is to "increase more and more"; or as Peter would say, "abound" - So we need to look out for more people to love and more ways to express our love.

C. LOVE TAKES TIME, SO TAKE TIME TO LOVE!

Take advantage of opportunities to be with brothers and Sisters ACCEPT invitations to people's homes, meals, church services, gospel meetings, etc.

But use commun sense as we are advised by the government at this time about being in confined places in large groups but this wont last forever get prepared for having parties. I also want to say with or without the covid jabs we can catch it but for sure evidence shows that with the jabs it will be safer, and milder that is why I got all my jabs.

Make every opportunity to be with brethren OFFER invitations, practice hospitality - 1 Peter 4:8-9 Above all, love each other deeply, g  because love covers over a multitude of sins. h   9 Offer hospitality i  to one another without grumbling. j   10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, k  faithfully l  administering God’s grace in its various forms.

To end lets consider:

What is the condition of our own hearts?

Are they "restricted", suffering from "spiritual hardening of the arteries"?

Is the love of God being hindered from flowing freely? By the "plaques" of ignorance, selfishness, hypocrisy?

Or are they "wide open"? Where God's love flows freely, nourishing not only our own lives, but also the lives of those around us!

It is my Prayer that we may all be "taught of God" to have "Hearts Wide Open"!

For those among us who may not yet be Christians...

Consider God's love for you, which is wide open in Jesus Christ John 3:16 tells us of Gods Love. (No one is perfect)

Why not open wide your love for God...by keeping His commandments? - 1 John 5:3; This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.

John 14:15 "If you love me, you will obey what I command. Love with all your heart. 

1 JOHN 1:1 – 4 - THE WORD OF LIFE

We start with a phrase which asserts the eternal pre-existence of Jesus, that is, that Jesus like God has always been, always is, and always will be. We start by looking at the person who is behind the gospel:

\1. THE PERSON BEHIND THE GOSPEL (v.1)\  Verse 1 breaks down into two very important phrases:

1. THAT WHICH WAS FROM THE BEGINNING:

1 John opens in much the same way as John's gospel with the assertion that Jesus was God, and was with God from before the beginning of time as we know it, Jesus is the eternal God. The term that John uses for Jesus both in this tract and in his gospel is "the Word" or the "Word of Life."

It's important that we understand the full meaning of "The Word" - which in the Greek language is "logos" - for it refers to two things which can not be seperated, it refers firstly to the person of Jesus himself; Jesus is the life giving word of God himself, the word made flesh; but secondly it also means the word which is preached about Jesus, Jesus gives life to us now through the preaching of his life giving word. What John is telling us here is that if Jesus had not been born into our world there would have been no gospel to preach, and that if Jesus had not existed before his birth he would not have been able to come in the first place. It really is a devastatingly simple piece of logic.

We're told further down that Jesus was "with the Father" (v.2). Now that means more than Jesus simply lived with God, in the sense that you might live in the same house as your husband, or parents or whoever, it means to be "at one with." If somebody says to you "are you with me?" and you reply "yes I'm with you" you don't necessarily mean that you're planning to live with them, it means that you agree with them, wherever they go, you'll go, you've become a partnership. Jesus is in partnership with God the Father - the two do not do anything without each other. Jesus didn't become God at his baptism, he was God before he was born, Jesus didn't cease to be God on the cross - it was God himself who died for us there, and it was a real body which rose from the dead for us. How do we know Jesus was real - John witnesses to the reality of Jesus in the next important phrase we find in v.1:

2. WHICH WE HAVE HEARD, WHICH WE HAVE SEEN WITH OUR EYES, WHICH WE HAVE LOOKED AT AND OUR HANDS HAVE TOUCHED. (v.1):

What John is telling us here is that the eternal God in the person of Jesus broke into our time and our world - that is of course the Christmas story - and lived amongst us. The word became flesh, and human beings were able to hear God, see God and touch God for themselves. Now in the past the Jews were able to hear God many times - God spoke to them through the prophets. In the past the Jews were able to see God many times - God makes many appearances in the OT storyline, but John declares something new here, the people were able to stand alongside God and touch him. The Greek word for "touch" here is very interesting, it doesn't mean to poke in an unsure way in the fear that it might explode or bite you, the word means to grope until you find something and then to grasp it. A blind man would do that if he got lost, he would grope about until his hands held something familiar, something which made him feel safe. John hadn't just seen Jesus, he had understood who Jesus was, he hadn't just touched Jesus, he'd grasped him, embraced him.

This is what conversion is all about isn't it - you can read the NT and see Jesus - but fail to understand who he really is. It is when you understand who he really is that salvation comes to you. You can touch Jesus, and indeed he might bless your life, but unless you embrace him as Saviour there is no real conversion. Is this your experience of Jesus - have you understood who he is - and have you embraced him as your Saviour? Now having understood, and having embraced, what do we as Christians do next? John gives good guidance - he says you proclaim the gospel.

2. THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL (vv 2 and 3).\

There is nothing more important to John than to proclaim to others what he knows about Jesus Christ - what a rebuke this is to our privatised religion. When these first apostles realised who Jesus was they didn't hold Him to themselves, the revelation which mas made to them in v.1 became a proclamation unto others in v.2.

Here I think is a key as to why some Christians are not confident about their conversion experience - because they have not witnessed about it to others. You might say to me, "surely it ought to be the other way round, surely I should only witness about Jesus when I know more and when I'm confident about him." But you know in your heart that's an excuse and not a reason. I remember learning to play golf if I only played golf when I could play like Tiger Woods, I would never play it. It's only when you start playing that you improve and get your confidence. It is much the same with witnessing, it is only when you open your mouth that the Holy Spirit gives you what you need, and the more you speak the more real and confident your faith becomes. Perhaps you have made a prayer of commitment but haven't told anybody - will you do it today or tomorrow? Will you unlock the Holy Spirit who now lives in you and speak for Jesus however humble and faltering the first words may be?

There are two key words in this verse - the first is testify and the second is proclaim. The Greek word behind "testify" is\marturia\from which we get the English word "martyr" which is a timely reminder that it is not always an easy thing to speak for Jesus, and that it is often a costly thing.

This word carries the sense of "to speak from personal experience" like a witness in court is called to share what he has seen and heard, no more and no less. This is what Jesus asks of you and me, to share with others what we have experienced of him, no more and no less. We hear other testimonies and we think "if only I had a story like that!" but we're wrong to think that way because what Jesus has done in our lives is just as important, and may be the very thing that somebody else needs to hear.

 

The second word is "proclaim" the Greek word behind that is\apangellia\which means to speak with the authority of another. Christ himself has commissioned us to speak up for him, we speak by his authority and not in our own. You find that commission and that authority given to us at the very end of Matthew's gospel. When we become Christians, like these first apostles, we are given a personal experience of Christ, that is our testimony, and we are also given the command to proclaim it to others, that is our calling or commission.

 

 If you have had an encounter with Jesus but have not as yet shared it, then you'll only be half a Christian until you do. The person behind the gospel, whom you have met if you are a Christian, calls you personally to proclaim the gospel. For what purpose - we find the purpose in vv 3 and 4:

 

\3. THE PURPOSE OF THE GOSPEL (vv 3 and 4):\ There are indeed two purposes brought out in these verses, the first is\fellowship\in v.3 and the second is\joy\in v.4:

 

1. FELLOWSHIP:

 

"We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may also have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ."

 

Now we might say that the purpose of sharing the gospel is so that others may be saved, here John says the immediate purpose of sharing the gospel is to bring people into fellowship with us. Of course properly understood there is no real difference, for there is no Christian fellowship without salvation. You and I can have a wonderful friendship, we can have the same interests, we can go to the same places and have a great time together, but unless we are both saved there can never be fellowship between us, for fellowship belongs only to those who have encountered Jesus. Fellowship is a Christian word meaning to share in the grace of God, in the salvation of God, to have the same Spirit of God living in us. Three teachings immediately spring to my mind from this verse:

 

1. About relationships with other churches: While I can have great friendships with all of the people that God has created, I can not have fellowship with those who preach a different gospel and who have a different understanding of salvation. Thus while baptists teach tolerance and understanding we recognise that we can not have fellowship with those who believe and preach a different gospel.

 

2. About church membership: Have you ever wondered why there is church membership, why it is by interview, and why it is restricted to baptised believers? I offer this to you today as part of the explanation - it is to show to the world that we have more than friendship here, we have fellowship one with each other. We can and will be friendly to all who come, but we can not have fellowship unless and until that person is a believer, and the way that we express that we are in fellowship with one another is through our membership. Thus when you join a Baptist Church we make sure that there has been an encounter with Christ, and a willingness to be obedient to his word - and that means baptism - and a willingness to be responsible to one another. There are many here and those watching, who ought to consider again membership of this church as a way of showing that you do not offer merely friendship, but also fellowship.

 

3. About personal relationships with non-believers:

 

Once again I must emphasise that it is possible for a Christian to have great personal friendships with non-believers, but it is impossible for a Christian to have fellowship with a non-believer. Here I must draw the attention of those who are believers but who are dating or seeing those who do not believe. Paul says very directly in 2 Cor 6:14f "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?"

 

Note that the word that Paul uses is\fellowship\and not\friendship.\Sure you can have great friendships with those who don't believe, if these friendships are of the opposite sex then one can understand how romance can begin, and perhaps the relationship might even develop to the point where the two of you want to get married. Marriage is dificult even among believers imagine a mariage between a believer to an unbeliever. Now people can say to me "I believe in God - I asked Jesus into my heart when I was 8" and I can not be their judge, but I have to ask what have you done since you were 8, where is God in your life now?

Young people don't go out with people who have no time or place for God, and don't marry them. However much you may argue with me that they are lovely, and that you are in love, and that other people have done it before you and have succeeded all of which I am sure is true, yet you're still disobeying the scriptures here, and since you can not have fellowship with your partner you can perhaps never have the Christian marriage that God would want you to have.

Now I put this challenge to you today - to be honest with each other. To tell each other what God or Jesus does or does not mean to you, and if you want the deepest form of relationship and you discover that one of you is not saved then arrange to see me or a Christian friend and bring Christ into your relationship as the third person and be saved and enjoy fellowship one with each other.

2. COMPLETE JOY (v.4): "We write this to make our (your) joy complete."

The immediate effect of the gospel is to bring us into fellowship with God, and with other believers, the long term effect of the gospel is that it brings us into an eternal salvation, it takes us to heaven, it brings us to a perfect and eternal relationship with God - that is what the bible means when it speaks about completed joy. Completed joy is not possible in this life when we are troubled by sin, so the gospel offers us the hope of an eternal life after death where sin is left in its grave and we rise to be free from it, filled with joy and free to live for God.

That then is the person of the Gospel proclaimed to you today. The pupose of that person and his gospel is to bring you into fellowship with himself, with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, to bring you into fellowship with the believers who are around you, and to offer you the hope of a completed joy in heaven. Have you embraced him? If you haven't will you do so now as we pray:

Sunday  28th November 2 CORINTHIANS 2:12 - 3:6 WHO IS EQUAL TO SUCH A TASK?

In the middle of our bible passage this morning a heartfelt cry comes from the mouth of the apostle Paul, you find it in 2:16 "who is equal to such a task?" These are the words of a man under pressure, and I believe that God's word this morning is partly geared to people under pressure, people with serious burdens upon their hearts and lives, and those who are wondering how they are going to make it through.

The pressure may be in your family, it may be in your work or in your health. It may even be spiritual, for it is a pressurised thing to be a Christian in the real world. Paul's words may be your words as you come to church this morning "who is equal to such a task - how am I going to make it?" The good news is that there is a way to make it - as the NIV title to passage indicates Christians are ministers of a new covenant, a new promise from God made to us in Christ. So let's listen to God's word and be open to what He has to say to us.

1. TROAS AND THE PRESSURE POINTS (2:12,13; 2:17 - 3:3).

Paul says in v.12 that when he went to Troas, an important sea port north of Ephesus on the Aegean sea, he found that the Lord had opened a door for him to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul had had such experiences before, in 1 Cor 16:9 he says that the Lord had opened a similar door for him in Ephesus and as a result churches were established in Ephesus itself and also in Colossae and Laodicea. The idea here is of potential, of finding people willing to listen and to respond to the gospel without much resistance and persecution.

But there was a problem, Paul had either arranged a meeting with Titus in Troas, or had expected him to be there, whichever it was Titus failed to show up, and as a result Paul had no peace of mind. His sense of unease about the situation is emphasised by the fact that Paul left such a hopeful situation to go on to Macedonia instead. Remember there were no telephones internet whats up he could call so he went in person.

Why was Paul so concerned about Titus?  We get the answer later in Chapter 7 when Paul shares that he had been worried about the reception Titus may have received when he took a letter written by Paul to the Corinthians. He was also concerned about how the Corinthians would respond to his letter as it was strongly worded and severe, he was uncertain whether his letter would bring the people to repentance or rebellion, thankfully chapter 7 reveals that Titus was well received and the letter brought tears of repentance and reconciliation to Paul's ministry.

This need for reconciliation is revealed as a further pressure in v.17 where Paul says that unlike others he did not peddle the word of God for profit. The word "peddle" is deliberately used, in the Greek it describes traders who watered down wine, or who used false weights, Paul probably had in mind the Jewish-Christians who came to Corinth and who took advantage of Paul's absences and his imprisonments to spread false teaching throughout the church. These preachers tampered with God's word, told people what they wanted to hear and made a profit out of it. They rode on a crest of popularity while Paul was unpopular with the Corinthians for telling them the truth about their immorality and their half hearted dealings with God. Apathy is rife in our churches even today.

What a real pressure this is - to speak the truth of God for the sake of Christ without worrying about your own popularity, it is assumed that believers want the truth, but Corinthians proves that this is not always the case, it is a pressure to compromise the gospel to retain a friendship, to keep yourself popular.

Paul in fact became so unpopular with some in the Church in Corinth that a group began to suggest that he was not a real apostle because he did not bring a letter of recommendation with him when he came. This accusation obviously hurt the apostle deeply and he makes the case in 3:1 - 3 that the proof of his ministry was not a letter written in ink, but the change in people's lives as the Spirit of God came into people's hearts after responding to the gospel he preached about Jesus Christ.

The people themselves were the letter of proof. Paul did not need a letter from man, Jesus himself had proven his ministry by giving him converts and by establishing the church in Corinth. Really it was an insult for anyone to demand a letter from him when he had established the church in Corinth in the first place.

So these were Paul's pressures - an opportunity for good ministry had to be given up, a further dangerous and probably unwelcome journey had to be made instead.

He had no peace of mind about his friend Titus, and about what was happening in Corinth. On top of this he has already revealed to us in chapters 1 and 2 the accusations being made against him, the criticisms of his integrity, the disappointments of the people he had newly led to Christ turning away from the gospel and going to back to some of their old ways. He was pressured by the very truth he spoke knowing that it made him unpopular, some within the very church he founded now doubted his right to minister to them, even his claim to be a Christian.

vs 14 "but thanks be to God." Why then does he say this?

2. THANKSGIVING - THE TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION (vv 14 - 16).

Paul says in v.14 that God is to be thanked because he always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ. Now we've got to pause over this expression because it is difficult language in the Greek grammar and various versions have translated it in different ways. In all there are 4 main ways of looking at this expression:

The first way to translate it is in the sense of causing someone to triumph.

The second way to translate it is in the sense of putting someone on a show or a display.

Most scholars favour the third way and take the Greek to mean to lead someone as a CAPTIVE in a triumphal procession." This is how the Good News Bible translates this verse, it says "for in union with Christ we are always led by God as prisoners in Christ's victory procession."

Jesus Christ has won a victory and we follow in triumphant procession behind him. The problem for some is that we follow as prisoners or captives, and in terms of the Roman Triumphal Procession that is a place of defeat and shame.

As a result of that some commentators reject this interpretation and favour a fourth which means to lead someone as a SOLDIER in a triumphal procession. This would then carry the notion of following on from behind in victory, but not in the position of a defeated enemy, but as part of a victorious enemy.

It's a key verse, one which we need to claim and to apply to our lives therefore we need to understand what it really means. The first truth that we need to grasp is that Christ has gone ahead of us and won a victory, and this victory is not just over sin and death, which is essential and important, but also a victory over those things which pressurise us, squeeze our lives and make us feel unhappy and uncomfortable.

Yet at the same time as I say this I must also say that it is because we follow the one who was himself criticised and abused and pressurised, the one who himself suffered that we get criticised, abused, pressuried and end up suffering alongside him.

Thus we follow him I believe both as a captive and as a soldier. We are captives and prisoners because we belong to Christ, and if that is a place of shame then we discover that it is at our points of greatest shame that God's greatest victories are won in our lives. Yes its painful to be shamed, yes it's painful to be exposed for what we really are, but Jesus is in the business of exchanging our shame for his glory. Yet we also follow as a soldier, recognising that it is a real battle that we're in as Christians, but unlike other soldiers who start a battle not knowing whether they will win or lose we know that Christ has already won the victory and that we are more than conquerors through him.

To bring that teaching into the context of vv 14 - 16 we learn that following Christ means that the way to victory is through the pathway of suffering and shame, yet the assurance comes that despite the disappointments, discouragements and set backs God promises are sure, are genuine, and are a permanent victory in Christ.

Thus God uses all our experiences in two ways at the same time - this is what Paul means when he says in v.15 that we are the "aroma of Christ" reflecting the insense which would have been burned during triumphal processions. For our experiences preach the gospel perfume of Jesus Christ, and this gospel aroma or perfume brings joy to those who believe, what Paul calls "the fragrance of life" to those who disbelieve we are the "smell of death."

So what we're being told here is that our very lives, and all our experiences are used by God to reveal Christ in us to the world, to reveal that we belong to his victory procession, so the challenge is that Christ is to be seen in us not just when things are going well, but that Christ is also to be seen in us when we're under pressure, when things don't go to plan, when people speak against us, when opportunities for ministry have to be given up, when we're worried and when we have no peace of mind. No wonder then Paul cries out "who is equal to such a task?"

Then at last comes the answer to people under pressure - God has made provision for us. In the closing verses we move from pressure to confidence through the provision of grace.

3. CONFIDENCE - THE PROVISION OF GRACE (3:4 - 6).

Paul is confident that he is going to make it through, but he is not confident in himself but in the belief that God himself makes his servants competent to carry out any tasks that he gives us, and he makes us competent by giving us the Holy Spirit.

One of the marks of the Holy Spirit is confidence or boldness. Let me share a few verses with you which make this point all the more clear: "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13)

"Now Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness" (Acts 4:29)

"After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." (Acts 4:31)

Confidence is one of the marks of the spirit-filled believer, it is the opposite of fear and timidity 2 Tim 1:7 says "for God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline." There comes in these verses a recognition that by ourselves in our own strength nothing much will ever be achieved, pressure will crush us, criticism will embitter us, accusations will silence us, disappointments will distract us, opposition will finish us.

In contrast to this there is the way of the new covenant, there is the way of the forgiveness of sins and the filling of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual work can be accomplished, and will only be accomplished by the power of God which can be released in us through the preaching of the gospel.

Thus Paul writes to the Romans in Romans 15:17 - 19: "Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done - by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit."

He writes to the Corinthians in much the same terms in 1 Cor 2:3 - 5: "I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuavive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."

Paul concludes that there are two ways of looking at God's word, the first is to look at it in Old Covenant terms as being letter or law, a list of rules to be obeyed in order to improve your life and to get you to heaven. The trouble with this way is that it creates additional pressure of its own as we find that in our own strength we can not keep the rules, and that we can not be good enough - thus the letter kills faith and we feel complete failures and totally inadequate.

The second way is to see that God has given us a new covenant, a term which Paul uses here in v.6 and only uses one other time in 1 Cor 11 when he speaks about the Lord's Supper. This term exposes Christianity as being not about following rules, but coming to God through Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, in genuinely having our sins forgiven and being remembered no more, and at the same time in being filled with the Holy Spirit from God and given the strength to do what we could not do on our own.

Thus there comes a two fold message to us this morning. The first part of the message is to those who are under pressure and who as yet do not know Jesus Christ. You need to see that God is interested in your life to such an extent that his one and only Son Jesus Christ came and lived in this world so that he might experience the pressure that you're under now and so that He can find a safe path through it for you. If you follow Jesus then He will lead you in triumph through your difficulty. Note that I said "through it" for the gospel does not mean that you will avoid it, but that with Christ alongside you you will come through it.

What you need to do is not to rebel against the difficulty but come to God through Christ in the midst of it, to ask his help and knowing his forgiveness, you will receive the Holy Spirit and you will look upon your life with new eyes and as a new person.

The second part of this message is to people who already know Jesus. Perhaps you are struggling with pressure, it may be enough for you to know that this is normal, and that God will use your struggle to bring glory not just to your life but also to his name.

Or the problem may be more serious than that, although a professing Christian your life today is a dry river bed to the Spirit of God. You have lost the sense of the Holy Spirit who brings life. It may be sin which has dammed up the river of the Spirit, or it may be circumstance. Which ever it is you need a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit of God today. The good news is that such a filling of the Holy Spirit is promised to you as part of the new covenant, not as a second blessing, but as someone else put it, as a blessing every second.

It may seem like a huge leap to you moving from a non-believer or as a dry Christian pressurised by life to being a believer filled with the Spirit of God and making it through. It may seem to you to be a huge gap between what you read about in the bible about power and boldness and what you find happening in your own life.

What the word of God is telling you this morning is that the experience of pressure is the very door between struggling by yourself and living in the power of God. Don't see that door as being a way for you to get out to God, see that door as being a way for God to get in to where you are, as a way for God to save you, to forgive you, to fill you for the first time or anew with the Holy Spirit.

Let's be Christians now of the new covenant, and pray together:

 

Sunday 21 st November 1 JOHN 5:6 – 21 THE THREE WITNESSES, ASSURANCES AND CONCLUSIONS

The passage before us today is full of good stuff for the believer - assurances about eternal life, about answered prayer and many other things, all of these assurances being gifts of God through Jesus Christ. But how can we know for sure that Jesus is the right person to go to for salvation? How can we know for sure that he is the Christ? You see there is no assurance of eternal life if we have gone to the wrong person for it, nor is there assurance of answered prayer if we are praying through the wrong person. How do we know that Jesus is the right person to trust as Saviour and Lord? John says that there are three witnesses prepared to stand up and testify that Jesus is who he claims to be. Now Jewish law required three witnesses to prove any fact, and so John calls his three witnesses in vv 6 - 12: The Water, The Blood and the Spirit.

1. THE THREE WITNESSES (vv 6 - 10.) 1. and 2.  The water and the blood (v.6):

John says that Jesus "is the one who came by water and blood." What then do these two terms refer to? Some have argued that they refer to the sacraments of baptism and communion, but this is hardly correct for in no way did Jesus come into the world in the past through the sacraments. Others see here a reference to when the soldier thrust the spear through the side of Jesus and out from the wound gushed water and blood (Jn 19:34, 35). But again this is hardly correct, it is much truer to say that the water and the blood came out of Jesus than it is to say that Jesus came by water and blood in this way.

What we are looking for is two incidents in Jesus' life which witness and testify to his claims to be the Son of God. Water therefore refers to his baptism when the Holy Spirit came upon him and empowered him for his ministry, and blood refers to the cross when that work was finished. What John is telling us here when he says that Jesus "did not come by water only, but by water and blood" is that Jesus did not cease being the Son of God when he died on the cross.

Some people in John's day as well as in our own believe that to be true. They can not believe that God himself could die for us, and while they believe that God was in Jesus during his earthly ministry they believe that God left Jesus before the cross. Some say that Jesus was just an ordinary man until his baptism when the Holy Spirit came upon him, but then left before the cross returning Jesus to his normal ordinary human status. Against this John declares the New Testament truth that this Jesus was God right from his birth, it was the Son of God who passed through baptism, it was the Son of God who passed through the blood of the cross.

Everything that we believe about salvation depends on our accepting the witness that Jesus was God himself. Unless Jesus was fully a man, unless Jesus was fully God then we are not reconciled to God. Unless Jesus was God himself on the cross then we are not forgiven, sin has not been dealt with. Without the blood of Jesus there is no cleansing from our sin (1:7). And so the baptism and death of Jesus bear witness that Jesus is who he claims to be.

3. The Spirit (v.6): "And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth." John moves on now from the outward historical witnesses about Jesus (the baptism and the cross) to the inward personal encounter that believers have which proves to us that the claims about Jesus are true - he has already told us in 3:24 "and this is how we know that he lives in us: we know it by the Spirit he gave us." And so in order to be a Christian we have to believe in the witness of the historical events of the gospel, the baptism and the cross, and we need to have the internal witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Vv 7 and 8 are repetitions of this theme and were probably added at a later date. As we move on to v.9 John tells us that the startling thing about the witness of these three is not that man is behind them but God himself. It is God who testified about his son at the baptism, it is God who testified about himself at the cross, it is God who bears witness to Jesus as he puts His Spirit in our hearts. When we listen to the gospel message then it is not man's word that we're asked to accept but God's word, and the purpose of the gospel is to give us the faith to believe in Jesus.

And that is the way that it works, when we take the leap of faith of believing that the gospel message is true and that Jesus died for our sins, it is then that God confirms it by giving us the witness of the Spirit to confirm that it was right to trust Christ. Following conversion we wonder how we ever doubted, but that is because we now have the Spirit whereas before we did not.

Sadly not all believe. Having heard the testimony about Jesus given through the baptism and the cross they reject God's word and they make it impossible to receive the further testimony of the Spirit. They make God out to be a liar because in turning down the gospel they're saying in effect "what you're telling me God is not true." Unbelief is not just a mistake, it is rebellion, it is to say to God "I don't believe this rubbish you're telling me about Jesus, it's all a pack of lies."

So God has sent Jesus and gives three witnesses to prove the gospel claims. The baptism of Jesus, the death of Jesus on the cross, and the sending of the Holy Spirit. These are summary terms of course for there are other witnesses about Jesus - the miracles, the resurrection and so on. What we have to decide about is whether we believe what God is telling us through these witnesses. If we do believe then we are saved and God sends the witness of the Spirit in confirmation. If we don't believe then it is not the witnesses, nor the preacher that we are calling liars, it God that we are calling a liar, and on judgement day we will have to tell him why.

Having told us about the three witnesses who confirm that Jesus is the Saviour John moves on to tell us the three assurances that the saved enjoy:

2. THE THREE ASSURANCES (vv 11 - 17).\

1. The assurance of eternal life (vv 11 - 13):

John says that "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his son." If you want to have eternal life then you need to know that eternal life is dependent on two things - firstly, that God has really given us his son - the witnesses have proved that, and secondly that you personally have the son - the witness of the Spirit should also prove that to you as well. If you have the son, then you have the promise of eternal life. Eternal life is in Jesus and is found nowhere else.

Three important truths about eternal life are found in these verses. Firstly, it is not a prize for good living, it is the undeserved gift of God to those who believe. Secondly, it is found only in Jesus Christ so in order to give us life God had to give us first of all his son. Thirdly, if you are a Christian then you already have eternal life, it is a present possession not just a future hope.

V.13 makes it plain that God wants all believers to have a full assurance that they have eternal life. Some say that it is presumptuous of us to believe that our salvation might be eternal and that we can not lose it. I tell you that it is presumptuous only to doubt God's word, if you are a believer then trust v.13 "that you may\know\that you have eternal life." The first assurance that God wants you to have as a believer is that you now have eternal life, when you die you will pass on to be with God forever. It is an unshakeable promise.

2. The assurance of answered prayer (vv 14 & 15):

There are two things that a believer ought to be confident about - he ought to be confident in approaching God in prayer, and he ought to be confident that God will hear and answer his prayers. We have to note that answered prayer does depend upon it being in the will of God, how then can we tell if we are praying in the will of God?

The first general guideline is - is it scriptural? To be praying that God will allow us to get away with things which are in total contradiction to His Word is to be praying out with the will of God. If we are praying in ways that God reveals to us in the bible then we can be confident.

The second general guideline is - are we walking in the will of God? If we are doing our best to lead the Christian life then more often than not God uses our common sense to guide us in prayer. There may be no scriptural verses which jump out at us, no blinding flashes of light, we just look at a need, or a situation and we use our common sense and we pray.

God wants us to pray, he wants us to know that it's all right to come before him in prayer with all our needs, joys, woes, successes and failures. He wants us to have the assurance that he hears our prayer, that he bends our wills into His, so that we can have the confidence of knowing that the right answer will come our way.

3. The assurance that God will deal with sin (vv 16 and 17):

VV 16 and 17 are complicated verses which can be interpeted in various ways. I want to tell you tonight how I think they should be interpreted, the key to the whole thing being the assurance that God deals with sin.

He deals first of all with sins that do not lead to death (v.16). In one sense all sin leads to death, for the wages of sin is death. But there are forgiven Christians who do sin and their sin does not threaten their eternal salvation. I think we are talking here about sin in the congregation - how do we deal with it? John says that we should pray and have the confidence that God will give life.

Now when we hear about sin in the congregation we all too often lobby the minister or deacons and insist that they do something about it. Instead we get guidance here that such situations call for prayer, to get our hands off, to get down on our knees and to petition and interceed until God has transformed the situation and forgiven the sin. We need to have the assurance, and we are given it here, that if our family, if our church, is troubled by sin that if we pray then God will deal with it.

God deals secondly with the sin that leads to death (v.16). What then is this sin that leads to death? Some say that it is apostasy, that is a saved person completely turning his back on God and renouncing Christ completely. But John has already argued that the save person has an assurance of eternal salvation and he is unlikely to contradict himself only three verses further down. No, what we are talking about here is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which Jesus mentions in Mt 7:28. This is to turn down the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah and the hope of the gospel, this is to call God a liar.

While we are not to give up hope on anyone, while we must keep on praying that those who have rejected the gospel will change their minds and accept Christ we are not to pray that those who have decided once and for all to reject Christ will all the same be saved. The believer has the assurance that those who die in their sin, die in their sin and are eternally separated from God. The believer has the assurance that he did the right thing to turn to Christ, that the life of holiness was worth it.

If you reject Christ, if you call God a liar, then you must know that such a sin leads to eternal death. If you accept Christ, if you believe the truth, then you must know that you have eternal life. If we as believers are troubled by sin then we have the assurance that sincere prayer will transform the situation and God will give life.

3. THREE CONCLUSIONS (vv 18 - 21).\

John now brings this first letter to an end with three conclusions which sum up much of his thinking.

1. We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin (v.18):

This does not mean that a Christian becomes a sinless person upon conversion, it means that it is an obligation placed upon saved believers to give up the life of sin and not to continue sinning. The new birth means new behaviour. Sin and the child of God are incompatible, they may occasionally meet, but they cannot live together in harmony.

There is further good news for the believer, John tells us "the one who was born of God keeps him safe" meaning that it is the work of Jesus to secure our salvation. That is good news for if it were up to me to keep my salvation going I would lose it every day. Instead it is Jesus who brings the good work to completion in us. As Christians we are not immune to temptation, there is an evil one who seeks to do us harm. So the devil does not touch the Christian because the Son keeps him, and because the son keeps us we are obliged not to deliberately sin.

2. We know that we are children of God (v.19):

We belong to one family, but the world belongs to another for it is under the control of the evil one. So everyone belongs to one of two camps with no middle ground, we are either Christians in the family of God, safe and secure with the assurances of eternal life and answered prayer, or we are unsaved and in the clutches of the evil one.

The good news is that if we believe that we still belong to the world and the evil one then Jesus came and died for the sins of the world. There is a way out for us, but if we choose to stay in the world then that is the sin which leads to death.

3. We know that the Son of God has come (v.20):

The concluding thought is that all that we have depends upon the fact that Jesus was the Son of God come into the world. Without him we have nothing, if we find ourselves in him as Christians then we have everything. It is Jesus who reveals God to us in all his truth and glory. If you want to know God then you have to first of all know Jesus Christ.

And then in v.21 John gives his final piece of advice "keep yourselves from idols." Don't believe in false gods with no hope in them. Believe instead in the one revealed to us by water, blood and the Spirit - that is Jesus Christ the Son of God and Saviour. The one who offers eternal life, answers prayer and deals with sin. The one who who keeps us safe, and who reveals God to us.

Have you done this? If you have then today you can go home with the fullest assurances of salvation and eternal life. If you haven't then God will still deal with you but it will not be to give you eternal life, but to send you to your well deserved eternal death. The choice is yours.

Sunday 31st October and 7th November 2 CORINTHIANS 3:7 – 18 = NEW MINISTRIES FOR NEW PEOPLE

This morning I want to speak to all of you who do your best to serve the Lord and live for him. Because after this pandemic which we all thought was coming to the end, but we still need to be careful. But also because we are coming to the end of the year it brings more pressure, I want to speak to those christians watching on livestrem but mostly I want to speak to those of you who have responsibilities within this church or the church that you attend, to our elder, deacons, future sunday school teachers, especially leaders of future organisations...

I speak to those of you who are busy sharing your faith in the streets, to those of you who see that your work is your ministry as you seek to serve the Lord as a real person in the real world. I speak to those who see that where the Lord has placed you in your house, your flat, your neighbourhood, your school as your ministry as you seek to share his love with those around you.

I speak to you knowing that at some point, perhaps it is even today, you have asked yourself questions like "why do I bother doing this..." "how can I keep this up...I feel so tired." We need to come back to God and His Word for the response.

How is it that Paul can say in 2 Cor 4:1 "Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart." What was this ministry that he speaks about...and how did he keep his courage?

This is our entry into 2 Cor 3:7 - 18 for in this passage Paul explains what the ministry was, and how he kept going even when at times he was placed under extraordinary pressure.Many churches will have this pressure coming back after such a long time absent during this pandemic.

The passage before us breaks into two clear sections both of which are mini sermons written by Paul from a passage in Exodus. So in order to understand what is in front of us in 2 Corinthians, we're going to have to look at Exodus.

1. A SERMON BASED ON EXODUS 34:29 - 32 (2 Cor 3:7 - 12)

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were all afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterwards all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.

In Exodus then we have the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses along with the radiant presence of the glory of God which literally left Moses' face glowing. But here in 2 Cor 3:7 - 18 Paul contrasts the ministry that God gave to Moses by the Law (what we call the Old Testament or Old Covenant) with the ministry that God gave Paul by the Spirit (what we call the New Testament or New Covenant.) And what Paul says is that the ministry which God has given him is better or more glorious in three ways.

1. The ministry of the Spirit is more glorious than the ministry of death (2 Cor 3: vv 7 and 8).

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters of stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?

In these two verses Paul begins by acknowledging that when Moses descended from Mount Sinai having met with God and having been given the 10 Commandments the glory of God was there in such a way that people could hardly bare to look at Moses' face because the glory of God just shone from it.

Yet although there was glory at that moment, the problem with the Old Testament, and the ministry of Moses was that it brought death. Now this needs to be understood in terms of Romans 7:10 where Paul says "I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death."

What he shares in that passage was that he barely thought about coveting until he saw the command "You shall not covet..." and the moment that he started to think about it, sin seized the opportunity and he found himself caught in the trap of coveting unable to get himself out of it.

This is exactly our problem too. Just as we never think about communication cords in trains until we're sitting there and we see the notice forbidding it except in cases of emergency and then are overcome by an overwhelming desire to pull it, just as we never think about going into debt until we see that wonderful word "sale..." we find that it is in our sinful nature to do the opposite of what our minds and our hearts tell us it is wrong to do. And simply being told not to do it is not enough.

How many of us here find ourselves this morning in the wrong job, in the wrong relationship, in the trap of a sin that we can not get out of, and we know that before we jumped in that we were told by others, and probably told ourselves, that it was wrong, but being told that it was wrong was not enough. We still ended up doing it anyway. Rules and laws are not enough, as we have seen all the way through this pandemic, unless there is inward power and new desires we are unable to say "no" and stop the sinning.

Thus the ministry of the Spirit which we receive when we become Christians is more glorious than OT Law because God now gives us the power inside of us to say no and to stop the sinning. Instead of just giving us a rule book and telling us to keep it, God still gives orders about how he wants us to live but at the same time He gives us his own Spirit to live inside of us so that we can keep these rules, not by our own strength but by His power. And if you want to know more about this take the time to read Romans 8.

2.  The ministry of righteousness is more glorious than the ministry of condemnation (v.9). "If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!"

Here Paul's point was that the OT ministry simply condemned men and made them feel bad. In OT law you realised that you had broken God's law and you felt condemned. The wonder of God's new covenant is that although we still break the law, although we still deserve to be condemned, although we are certainly guilty of our transgressions we are nevertheless declared righteous by God. In the new covenant, the grace of God is seen so much more clearly.

In the new covenant righteousness is no longer to be found by whether or not we are able to keep rules, but by whether or not we have personally put our faith in what God's Son Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross. Thus Paul says in Romans 3:22 "this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."

There are times in our lives when we feel very smug about ourselves. We think "you know I'm not doing too bad at this game of being a Christian. I'm not doing this, I'm not doing that. I'm certainly glad that I'm not doing the things that Joe Bloggs is doing." Who gets the glory for this - we give it to ourselves! We give ourselves a pat on the back!

Instead the NT is good news for those who know that they can not pat themselves on the back at all. For those who are honest enough to say that the partnership of sin and our own foolishness has made a mess of our lives. And do you know what God says "I know, but I have a Son who can help you and forgive you. I have a Son who can give you a righteous that you can never earn nor deserve through your own efforts. I have a Son who died for you. Put your faith in him."

Have you done this? If not you need to, and if you have then you'll know why Paul says that believing in Jesus is more glorious than trying to keep rules.

3. The permanent ministry is more glorious than the ministry which fades away (vv 10 and 12).

For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Therefore, since we have such a hope we are very bold.

Here Paul's point is that although the OT came with glory it has no glory now. The glory of the OT has faded away. It's important that we understand right now that the righteous requirements of the OT law still stand, Jesus himself made it plain when he came that his purpose was not to do away with OT law but to fufil it (Mt 5:17).

What has faded away was not the law itself, but the ministry of the law, to put this another way the Old Testament or Old Covenant has been superceded by the New Testament or New Covenant.

The New Covenant we're told here is permanent. This makes it superior to the OT in the sense that it was surpassed when the NT will not be. So what we have before us in the NT, what we know about Jesus Christ now. There are no further revelations, thus the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Divine Principle writings of Rev. Moon, the so called further revelations given to Jehovah's witnesses and other cults can not and do not come from God. The New Testament witness about Jesus Christ is permanent, not to be changed not to be superceded.

Some people hold back from buying things in the hope that somewhere around the corner will be something better, something cheaper. Don't hold back from Jesus Christ in the hope that around the corner will be something better, something easier. This is it. There is salvation in no other way, in no other name. It's a glorious and permanent truth - all those who call on the name of Jesus Christ will be saved.

Therefore because there is no other way, because we know that God has no other plans like Paul we need to be very bold and confident. The confidence of the minister, elder or deacon, the Sunday Scholl teacher and so on is that we really do have the truth, that we really do have the only message which is really worth sharing and that God is not going to pull the rug our from underneath us.

This is it folks, this is the message that God wants proclaimed by us, therefore we must get on with it and be bold and be strong. This point will come later, but even though it be placed in the clay jar your life you have a tremendous treasure to share. There's the story of the man who said to his wife "Honey, you're a treasure...someone should take you outside and bury you." God says don't bury the treasure of the gospel, display it boldly.

Sunday 7th November 2. A SERMON BASED ON EXODUS 34:33 - 35 (2 Cor 3:12 - 18).

When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord's presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.

In v.13 Paul comments on the veil that Moses placed over his face. It is fair to say that the OT does not indicate that the brightness ever left or faded from Moses' face, but the point seems to be that Paul deduced that the reason why Moses veiled his face was not so much to protect the Israelites from being dazzled by the brightness but to prevent them seeing the glory fading away.

Some argue that the veil which Moses placed over his face prevented the Israelites from seeing the glory of the Old Covenant in the first place, and that maybe in some way Moses hindered the Israelites, but Paul makes it plain in v.14 that the real veil which prevented the Jews from seeing and appreciating the glory of God was not the one over Moses' face but the one over their own minds which made them dull to the things of God. This dull mind, or hardened mind, depending upon your translation, prevented the Jews in Paul's day as well as in our own from seeing that in Jesus Christ the Messiah had come, the Old Covenant ministry had passed away and the New Covenant ministry had begun.

It is in coming to know Christ that the bible, what it contains, that God, that life itself begins to make sense. The whole point of the new ministry of the new covenant is to make new people, and so Paul finishes this section by pointing out four wonderful things that happen when a person becomes a Christian.

1. Vision (v.14): In Christ the veil is taken away. When you become a believer the veil of ignorance and unbelief in the things of God is taken away. Now we want it the other way round, we say that if we see then we will believe. God's way is that if we will believe then we will see. Now this is true to our experience, things which did not make sense in the bible, in our lives often come into focus after salvation. The bible says, and we boldly declare that if a person will believe in Christ then he will see, he will see God, he will see himself as he really is, and he will see for the first time what matters in life.

2. Conversion (v.16): I wonder if you have ever felt that there must be more to this life, more about God, more truth in the Bible but you haven't quite been able to see it. That is because like the Jew in Paul's day, and the man in Portslade in our day who doesn't yet know the Lord there is a veil over your heart. This veil is woven in the fabric of your sin, sin in your life prevents you from knowing God, yourself and your life as it ought to be known.

But look at the tremendous promise in v. 16 "but whenever anyone turns to the Lord the veil is taken away." That word "turn" in the Greek means to convert. It doesn't mean simply to turn around, it means to change into something different. It means that when you become a Christian you become a new person, and part of being a Christian is that the things you were blind to, whether it was your own sin, or the things of God suddenly become blindingly clear and you think to yourself "how come I never saw that before, how did I miss that?" The answer was because you were blind, but now you see.

In these verses we see Paul's emphasis that it is only in Christ that a person comes to God, that a person can see God. You can't come to God any other way than to allow Christ in to change you and make you new.

3. Liberation (v.17): Verses 16 and 17 need to be held together, and the point is clear that when a person becomes a Christian then the veil over their minds is removed and they realise that they can not come to God through the Old Covevant ministry of rule keeping, but only by accepting the righteousness of Christ, which is the ministry of the new covenant. The moment that you accept Christ the new covenant ministry of the Spirit begins in your life, and the Jesus that you come to know, and the God that you come to know, is the God and Jesus revealed in your heart as the Spirit works in your life.

So the sign of the spirit's presence in a believer's life is freedom. Freedom to do what? In this context it is freedom to do the will of God. Many people want to do the will of God, they want to live holy lives, but they are not free to do it because sin holds them back in chains. They want to keep the rules but they don't have the strength to do it. Letting Christ into our lives hacks these chains and we're free, and the spirit comes in to give us the power to do the will of God. And with this freedom comes freedom from the past when past sins are remembered no more (Rom 4:6 - 8). Freedom in the present knowing that you are truly a child of God (Rom 8:15, 16).

4. Transformation (v.18): And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect (or contemplate) the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

We learned in Exodus that although Moses veiled his face when he was in front of the Israelites he lifted the veil in the presence of God - the lifting of the veil being symbolic of the confidence and freedom that Moses felt when he stared God in the face.

What Paul is telling us here is that when we are Christians we too can look God in the face. The word "reflect" is a complicated Greek word and the fullest sense means that when we are Christians the Spirit works in us so that we become a two-way mirror, we look out in confidence to God and see his face, and in our lives people look in and see the Spirit working in us to reflect the glory of God.

Now we've got to finish by looking at the words "are being transformed into his likeness." The Greek word is metamorphism - you'll have seen the adverts for the new transformed Metro - metromorphis being the slogan. The caterpillar metamorphoses into the butterfly, and the important thing to see is that what is in mind here is a process of change.

So what we're told is that when we become Christians the Spirit begins a work of transformation in us, constantly changing us more and more into the image of Christ, constantly getting us ready for entering into that final glory. And if you are a believer it is happening, Paul says we are being transformed into his likeness.

Now we may sometimes feel that we are not making much progress, and sometimes in honesty that is true. But inside us in the spirit God's process of transformation goes on, making us ready and making us more like him. Now this is not to say that we can do what we like, but the measure of conversion is not what happens on the outside, what rules we keep, what rules we break, the measure of conversion is what is happening on the inside, and what this verse tells me is that however much I mess up my life on the outside, God does not mess me up on the inside. He is changing me...praise his wonderful name. Sure this change needs to be seen on the outside, for it is by our fruits that we will be made known, but Christian change comes from the inside out, and not meant to be merely superficial on the outside.

It's the greatest thing to be a Christian. To receive vision, conversion, liberation and transformation. I hope that you know Christ and can sing with the hymnwriter

Let us see Thy great salvation

Perfectly restored in Thee

Changed from glory into glory

Till in heaven we take our place

Till we cast our crowns before Thee

Lost in wonder, love and praise.

Sunday 24th October MARK 6:1 – 29 - THE DANGERS OF UNBELIEF

If you look at chapter 5 then you will see that a tremendous picture is given of Jesus Christ - Jesus drives out thousands of demons from one poor man, he heals a woman who has been sick for twelve years and he raises a young girl from the dead. As I said to you  may times, you would think that that would have convinced people about the claims of Jesus Christ to be the Saviour, The Messiah, to be God come to us in the flesh.

The hard facts of the case are however that after these tremendous signs and miracles in chapter 5 then in chapter 6 which is all about unbelief. There is the unbelief of the people in Jesus' own home town of Nazereth, there is the unbelief of Herod, there is the unbelief of his own disciples as they see Jesus feed five thousand people and walk on water.

Unbelief is one of the most dangerous things that a person can have in his heart, it can be a barrier to our personal salvation as we hold back from the claims of Christ upon our lives. Unbelief can be the hands of Satan around our spiritual necks choking the faith that we do have if we are already Christians. We're warned in Hebrews 3:12 "see to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God." Even we as Christian people, can be troubled by unbelief as they limit Christ and what he can do in our lives. So let's look at the first 29 verses today and open ourselves up to the Spirit of God and see if there is any unbelief in our own hearts.

1. UNBELIEF IN NAZERETH (vv 1 - 6).

In v.1 Jesus went to his own home town, Nazereth, where a year earlier the people had rejected him as he spoke in their synagogue. Which we looked at a couple of weeks ago. It's a picture of the grace of God that he comes once more to the people who have rejected him, yet this is not a second chance that we should always take for granted.

News of the miracles and wonders would have travelled ahead of him, and indeed the people of the town accepted him as a travelling Rabbi and allowed him to preach in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. Those who heard him were once more amazed at what he had to say.

You would have thought that with the evidence of the miracles and the clarity of his teaching that the people would have taken it all to heart and have begun to believe, but they didn't, what they wanted to know in v.2 was where the miracles and teaching came from. These people thought that they knew who Jesus was - v.3 gives this plainly, he was the carpenter, he was the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph (Jnr)., Judas (not the disciple) and Simon. His sisters were there too. They had him all worked out and the problem was that Jesus didn't fit their picture of him, their picture didn't allow for miracles and wonders, it didn't allow for teaching that might touch their lives - they wanted him at arms length as a simple carpenter.

It is worth noting at this point that v.3 seems to indicate that Joseph, Jesus' father had died. This perhaps best answers the question why there is a long gap in the scriptures in the life story of Jesus. We know a lot about him in his very early years but then the scriptures become quiet until he is about 30 years old when he was baptised by John in the Jordan. It would appear that Joseph died when Jesus was young and that he worked at home in Nazereth until his other brothers and sisters were old enough to take care of the family. For those of us like myself who have lost loved ones it is good to know that Jesus lost his own earhly father and understands the human emotion of bereavement.

To return to the point -  these people thought that they knew all that there was to know about Jesus, he was a carpenter, a commoner, a man like them, but in truth they didn't know him at all. What they believed about him, what they knew about him, they used as a barrier to believing the actual truth about him - "he can't be who he claims to be, he's only the carpenter's son."

It seems to me that the Lord wants me to say to some folks here today and those watching. that like these people in Nazereth you may think that you know who Jesus is but in fact you don't know him at all. You've heard stories, like the people in Nazereth you may have spent 30 or more years growing up with Jesus, but in truth you don't know him at all.

You don't know him as Son of God. You don't know him as the Saviour in your heart, changing you, making you new. What should have been these people's greatest strength ;became instead their greatest weakness. They had watched Jesus grow up, they knew the type of person that he was, they knew the quality of life that he had led. If anybody should have accepted the claims of Jesus of Nazereth they should, instead they took offence at him, the Greek language means that they stumbled over him - in the words of 1 Peter 2:8 the "stone" that the people should have believed in, became the stone that caused them to stumble and fall.

I put it to you that there are folks here today or watching, who have grown up with Jesus Christ but have stumbled over him. That Jesus Christ, here in his own house, in the words of v.4 is a prophet without honour, and that the very people who know about Jesus Christ and who should be following Jesus hold back the ministry in the church as the people in Nazereth held back the ministry then - the bible says that Jesus could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them, and he was amazed at their lack of faith.

Is Jesus amazed at you? You've grown up with him, you know that he can perform miracles and wonders, you've seen the change that he's brought to the lives of others. You know that his teaching is amazing because it has touched you, yet still you don't accept him and follow him. In truth you don't believe in him and his power because if you did you'd have been down that aisle, through the waters of baptism and you'd have been telling the world about Jesus long ago.There's a word here for somebody today. The Lord has just described you? See it as being a sign of his love, he's returned to you as he returned to Nazereth calling you one more time. Heed that call, believe in him, trust him, and follow him.

In the midst of this unbelief however the ministry of Jesus Christ moves on. The Lord doesn't waste time, he seems to work in an area, in a church, in an individual's life in special ways for a season, but if the work is resisted then he does not tarry, so Jesus left Nazareth and began travelling around the nearby villages preaching the gospel. The need was so great however that the time had come for Jesus to divide and multiply his ministry, so vv 7 - 13 deal with the sending out of the Twelve.

2. THE TWELVE ARE SENT OUT (vv 7 - 13).

Jesus called the twelve to himself in Mark 3 :13 - 15 and told them then that his purpose would be to send them out to preach and to have authority over the demons. The time had now come for this and so Jesus paired them off because it was always easier and safer for servants to travel and work together and because the Jewish law always required two witnesses to verify any matter and to attest to any miracles (Dt 17:6).

Of course in pairs they would also be able to help one another and offer companionship to each other on their travels. Before he sent them out Jesus gave them his authority to cast out evil or unclean spirits - this was not so much the beginning of their own ministries, but an extension of the ministry of Jesus Christ.

The instructions in v.8f about what they were to wear and what they were to take are not to be taken literally by us today, but the idea behind the instructions that the gospel message is so urgent so travel light and travel fast is to be taken seriously by us all. Indeed the gospel message is so urgent that time is also not to be wasted on those who refuse to welcome its messengers or its message.

Jesus tells the disciples in v.11 that the dust is to be shaken from their feet if a town or a person will not accept them. The Jew shook the dust from his feet when he left a Gentile town so that none of its influence remained upon him. There are therefore people and areas that we have just to let go of, it may well be that Jesus will send others to them, or it :may well be that they will lose their chance, but there definitely does come a time when the Spirit moves on and we have to shake the dust off our feet. It's a dreadful moment, but the gospel is not to be wasted on those who will not accept it.

In vv 12 and 13 we see the balance of Christian ministry - the preaching of the gospel and the performing of miracles and wonders. There is a place for a sermon on the place of signs and wonders but that will come at the end of our studies in Mark. For now we must note that the primary task of the disciples was to preach and to call the people to repentance, for it is through the preaching of the word that the power of God is made known, God uses the spoken word and turns men and women's lives around as they hear. But let me say this that the purpose of the gospel is to bring us to repentance, to turn our lives around so that we longer live for self, but live for God.

What is repentance? In the novel "Quo Vadis" there is the story of the Roman soldier who hears Peter preach, the writer says that "(the soldier) felt that if he wished to follow that teaching he would have to place on a burning pile all his thoughts, habits and character, his whole nature up that moment, burn them into ashes and then fill himself with a new life altogether different and an entirely new soul." That is repentance - without that giving up of self and that being filled with the new life of Christ there is no salvation. It's a tremendous gift that is on offer - a completely new life in Christ, a complete turning around. If you want Christ without giving up your sin then you can't have him. If you want to belong to the Christian church in the truest sense yet want to go on sinning and living an unchanged life then you can not belong. Christ will change you and turn you around.

And so the ministry of Jesus Christ spread, the gospel was proclaimed, demons were driven out and the sick were healed. The news travelled to King Herod and his court - you would have thought that they might have believed with all this evidence around them. But No the next stage in this chapter is the unbelief of Herod and his court.

3. THE UNBELIEF OF HEROD AND HIS COURT (vv 14 - 29).

V.14 tells us that news about Jesus reached Herod's ears along with various opinions about who Jesus was. Some were saying that he was John the Baptist raised from the dead, others were saying that he was Elijah, others that he was a prophet. Herod's opinion was that Jesus was the Baptist back from the dead (v.16), and he held this opinion because in in his own heart he felt guilty that he had been the one to order the Baptist's death.

The story is spelled out in v.17f. Herod belonged to a complicated family line where there had been many murders carried out by his own father the King Herod who was alive when Jesus was born, indeed there was a saying going round at the time that it was safer be one one of Herod's pigs than it was to be one of his sons. The Herod before us in v.14f was Herod Antipas one of Herod's sons who was not in fact a King in the same sense that his father was, but governor of only a quarter of the Kingdom. He persuaded his brother's wife Herodias to leave her husband and to marry him instead. This was forbidden in Jewish law and the Baptist preached against him, calling him to give up his sin, his sinful relationship, to repent in fact and to return to God.

Herod and Herodias reacted differently to the Baptist's message. Herodias nursed a grudge against him and plotted ways of getting rid of him. Herod however feared executing him and placed him in prison, while he was in prison Herod listened to John and found him to be a righteous and holy man.

He never quite saw the whole truth for v.20 tells us that the Baptist puzzled him, but all the same there is no doubt that he was seeking the truth. I am sure that had he been prepared to give up his sin then Herod would have believed, but there are sins that we cling to, and as long as we cling to them unbelief will blind us. The problem is not that God doesn't speak to us, the problem is that like Herod we're not prepared to give up our sin.

Herod and Herodias were two people then with guilty consciences. They knew that they had broken the Jewish law, and when confronted with their sin they dealt with it in different ways. Herodias wanted rid of her accuser in the hope that when the Baptist was out of the way then the sin might not matter any more, Herod seems to be seeking a different way out, perhaps even seeking to get himself right with God, yet he seems to have been seeking to get right with God and keep his sinful relationship - this is of course impossible.

There is no doubt that a gulf emerged between Herod and his illegal wife for she had to resort to a trick in order to get her husband to execute the Baptist. The trick was as low as she could get, she persuaded her own daughter (who history tells us was named Salome) to dance like a common prostitute before Herod and his guests, Herod obviously had a soft spot for her and offered her a great gift, she sought her mothers advice and her mother told her to ask for the head of the Baptist. He could have said "no" but he was more afraid of losing face before his dinner guests than he was of losing face before God so he had his executioner carry out the deed which was illegal as no charges had been brought against the Baptist. Herodias stands before us today as a reminder of the power of a bitter woman, who allowed her own bitterness to drag her own daughter down and to make her own husband look like a fool. She thought that when the Baptist was gone she could sin in peace, but she forgot that although she would no longer have to face up to the Baptist she would still have to face up to God.

There are a lot of parallels between the fate of the Baptist and that of Jesus Christ. Both were imprisoned because of their preaching, both were hated because the crowd preferred their sin to getting themselves right before God. Both were executed without proper trial. Both of them were buried by their followers. Yet there the similarities end and the differences begin. John's followers buried the Baptist and according to Mt 14:12 went and told Jesus and probably joined forces.

The baptist however remained buried and so all the ideas about Jesus going around at this time were wrong, Jesus was not John the Baptist back from the dead because he had been around long before the Baptist died, as we know Jesus was baptised by John in the first place. Neither was he Elijah back, neither was he simply a prophet - we will have to wait until Chapter 8:29 when Peter gets it right and exclaims "You are the Christ!" And unlike the Baptist Jesus did not remain in the grave but rose from the dead and appeared to the disciples and to countless other witnesses (1 Cor 15).

It is important for us to see that the problem in these stories is not that there was no belief, the people in Nazereth and Herod had beliefs all right - they believed that Jesus was the Carpenter, they believed that he was John back from the dead - what they did not have was the right belief in Christ.

The evidence was there, the preaching was there, the truth was before their very eyes, yet still they got it wrong. They can be partly excused for in that time Jesus was hiding who he was, the full revelation of the cross and the resurrection had not yet been made.

We today however have no such excuses to make. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who died on the cross for our sins, who was buried and who on the third day rose from the dead.

Have you then repented from your sins and turned to him in faith? In order to be saved you must confess your need of him and invite him into your life. Don't be satisfied with unbelief, don't hang onto wrong belief, believe the truth and be saved tonight. Perhaps there is somebody here to wants to do that even now - let's turn to Jesus in prayer:

MARK 6:30 – 56 - THE DANGERS OF UNBELIEF (Part 2)

The unbelief that we find in the second half of the chapter is of a different kind altogether. From v.30 to the end of the chapter the theme is still unbelief, but the people who don't believe are no longer Jesus' opposition but his own friends, his own disciples. Today if we're Christians we're going to have to have a hard look into our own hearts and ask ourselves if we haven't fallen into the same kind of trap - claiming to believe but in fact filled with unbelief at the same time. The section breaks down into two familiar miracle stories - the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on water.

\1. JESUS FEEDS THE FIVE THOUSAND (vv 30 - 44).\

The passage begins in v.30 with the disciples on a high note - in vv 7 - 12 Jesus had sent them out to teach, heal and to cast out evil spirits. Now in v.30 they return to him and report everything that they had done and taught. What they must have seen and experienced can only be left to our imagination, but there can be no doubt that they had ministered in the power and authority of Jesus and their hearts were full. It's worth noting then how quickly one can move from belief to unbelief - was there once a time when you trusted Jesus more than you do today? Was there once a time that you had more belief in your heart than you do now? The scene is very recognisable.

Jesus wanted to spend time with his disciples for he knew that they were drained after their experience of ministry and needed to come aside for some quietness and rest. This was impossible where they were for so many people were coming backwards and forwards asking for ministry that none of them had time even to eat. So they all got into a boat and crossed over to a solitary place. But people run along the shore line and came from other towns so by the time Jesus and the disciples had crossed the Lake of Galilee there was already a large crowd waiting for them. A lesser man would have groaned  but Jesus had compassion, saw that they had need of spiritual direction and began to teach them.

To Jesus the crowd was an opportunity, but to the disciples the crowd was a problem, it was late and everybody was getting hungry. The disciples had two suggestions for solving the problem - they could either send the people away to find their own food or they could try and raise enough money to buy a bit of bread for everybody. As far as the disciples were concerned they were all in the wrong place at the wrong time and nothing much could be done.

Somebody has pointed out that this story illustrates the worst thing about committees when the committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing and collectively decide that nothing can be done. The disciples saw the crowd and their needs as a problem that they could not solve which is a form of unbelief.

Jesus however looked at the same crowd and did not see a problem but saw potential, here was a situation for him to exercise faith in the Father and in which to believe. God had sent the crowds, God if you like had created the problem not Jesus and the disciples, so God had a plan and an answer. You see faced with the problem in v.37 the disciples had looked only at their own resources and complained that they didn't have enough money, but that's unbelief again, belief doesn't look at what we've got, belief looks at God's resources and discovers that God is not short of funds.

At first God's supply in v.38 doesn't look like much - there were only five loaves and two fish, but when Jesus took that little lunch and blessed it a miracle began in his hands. Whatever we have to giveHim, when he takes it he always blesses and multiplies it. (Mk 10:27 - 30). We can not manufacture God's blessing but we can distribute it like the disciples distributed the bread to the hungry crowd.

What we see in this story is the way that we come to faith, and the way that God uses people of faith. We find that first of all Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish. Salvation begins with our being taken by God just where we are - just in our ordinary lives, nothing special in ourselves, nothing special to offer to God. Salvation can only begin when we recognise that we have nothing worthy in ourselves to offer to God. Just bread. Just 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 he gave thanks and blessed the bread. In looking up to heaven and blessing the bread Jesus gave the bread and the fish possibilites that they never had in themselves.

Without Christ they were 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.

Yet we must note how the miracle was performed - it was performed by breaking the bread and dividing the fish. When Jesus touches our lives then he breaks us too. Now this word "broke" does not mean to "break up" - when Jesus comes into our lives he doesn't seek to break us up, to disrupt and to destroy, it means to "break open" he opens us up, like a surgeon opens up wounds so that we can be cleansed and healed, Jesus was broken so that we might be healed, so we will be broken so that He can use us, and like that bread and like that fish the more we are broken the more we will be used.

The miracle had one more stage, after the taking, the blessing and the breaking came the giving - Jesus gave and gave and gave until they all had eaten and were satisfied, he gave and gave until over 5,000 people were fed for v.44 tells us that only the men were counted and they added up to 5,000.

So the point needs to be made that we are not fully His until we are prepared to be given out for others. We want to be taken, we want to be sure that our names are written on that book in heaven, we want to be blessed, we might even want to be broken for we know that it's for our own good, but to give...to witness...to serve...to be his hands...that can be a different matter for some of us. Have you taken but not given as a Christian? Have you given back in love, worship and service what the Lord has given you?

Unbelief says I am only bread and fish Lord you can do nothing with me. Belief says I am only bread and fish Lord you can do miracles with me. Unbelief says this is a problem in my life, in our church, belief says this is an opportunity for you to do something wonderful Lord.

In finishing this part of the story it's worth considering why in v.43 the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of bread and fish. Twelve because there were twelve of them and this was to be their food for the next day. The disciples couldn't throw it away and expect the Lord to perform the same kind of miracle day after day. The Lord had given them what they needed - no more and no less.

\2. JESUS WALKS ON THE WATER (vv 45 - 56).\

There's a nice touch in v.45 where Jesus sends the disciples on ahead of him while he gets on with dismissing the crowds. They were tired and overtaxed and needed the break from the pressures, so Jesus dismissed the crowds alone and went up on a mountainside to be by himself and to pray.

Later on in the evening Jesus saw from his place of prayer on the hillside that his disciples were in the middle of the lake and that they were struggling against a wind. This story illustrates another Christian truth and that is that the normal Christian life consists of a pattern of being tested and then being delivered.

The disciples had not sinned, they had followed the Lord's commands yet they now found themselves in the middle of this great storm. God's path for them lay through that storm to the other side of the lake. This storm too was different to the one we encountered in Mk 4:35f where a sudden wind hit the boat in which Jesus and the disciples were travelling, this storm was a continuous head wind forcing the disciples into steady back breaking rowing.

Sometimes we feel that we're in a kind of storm, everything against us, making no headway, we might even reach the point where we think that we'd be better off if we stopped rowing and simply threw ourselves into the sea death being more welcome than the storm, but that's unbelief whispering in our ears again, belief says that the storm is an opportunity, He sent us the storm so he has a plan for getting us out of it.

In both of these storm stories it may have seemed that the Saviour was not much use. In the first he was asleep at the back of the boat, in this story he was somewhere else half way up a mountain. Didn't he care? Didn't he know?

Yes Jesus did care. He saw that once more the disciples were on a spiritual high, they had shared in the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 and sometimes being on a high can be dangerous. While it is good to be on the mountaintop you run the danger of stepping one step too far and falling off a cliff.

So spiritual blessings need to be balanced with burdens and battles if we are to become mature Christians. He was stretching their faith, he had tested them this way before but then he was in the boat with them, now in this test they were on their own. Yet they were not on their own in this sense - Jesus was on the mountain praying for them.

It's a picture of the situation in which believers find themselves today - we're in the midst of the storm of a world which is against us, sometimes it's a real struggle and we feel that we're going to sink, but Jesus is alive and is interceding, praying, for us and when the hour seems darkest he comes to rescue us. The disciples saw him walking on the water, at first it seems that he will pass them by, but when they cry out to him even in fear he responds and comes to their rescue. Jesus told them to take courage, he climbed into the boat with them and the wind died down.

Jesus wants us to live by faith and not in fear. Fear and unbelief says the Saviour is away, he's too busy, nothing can help me. Faith says that even in the storm the Saviour prays for me, and he's prepared to perform miracles to get to me, he'll come to me when I cry out to him, and he'll be in the boat with me when I need him.

But why were the disciples afraid in the first place? Mark says in v.52 that it was because they had not understood about the loaves and their hearts were hardened. Smallness of faith and hardness of heart are two constant sins of God's people - we forget so quickly what God has done for us in the past, we forget that just as he helped us then he can help us now. It's a terrible scene of unbelief creeping in just after belief - have you forgotten how the Saviour can help you?

The section then finishes with the Saviour still ministering, healing and performing miracles and wonders in the Gennesaret region, touching people in their need, healing souls. The unbelief of the disciples is to be contrasted with the belief of the crowds - all who touched him were healed.

Many of you will have noticed that Mark omits the part about Peter walking out into the water to meet Jesus. Matthew tells us in 14:22f that during this storm Peter questions whether or not it is actually Jesus who is walking towards them and asks "Lord if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water." Jesus says "Come" and Peter gets out of the boat and walks safely until he looks at the wind, loses faith and begins to sink. He cries out "Lord save me" and Jesus catches him and rebukes him with the question "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"

The point is that we have to choose between unbelief or belief, between fear or faith. Unbelief or fear would have kept Peter in that boat, unbelief and fear keeps us where we are too. Perhaps you have felt for a long time that you ought to become a Christian, perhaps you have felt for a long time that you ought to be baptised, but fear and unbelief has kept you where you are. You are afraid that you're not good enough for Jesus, that you don't know enough about Jesus or the bible, you're just bread, you're just fish. Then hear the word of God telling you that you are just the kind of person that Jesus is looking for today.

The voice of Jesus is calling you, saying "Come." "Come to me." "Come to me all of you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light." Come in faith and not in fear. I can do so much with you if you will only let me, you don't need to be perfect you need only be willing.

Don't let fear keep you stuck in that boat any longer. Make a decision based on faith today. Walk out, throw it all on Jesus Christ and trust him absolutely. If that undeniable inner voice is telling you to come, then you come.

Let us pray:

Sunday 17th October REVELATION 3:14 – 22  OPEN THE DOOR - The Letter to the Church at Laodicea is one of seven special messages given by the Lord Jesus in the opening chapters of the Book of Revelation. The Lord Jesus was distressed at things which were going wrong in the churches and revealed his feelings in a revelation which he gave to John. It would appear that Jesus reserved his strongest feelings for the last of the seven churches - the church at Laodicea.

Laodicea itself was a city in the Roman province of Asia in what is now modern Turkey. Under the Romans the city became an extremely prosperous commercial centre being well situated at the junction of main roads crossing Asia into Europe and Africa. It became an important banking town and was famous for its clothes made out of the local black wool. The city boasted a famous medical school, indeed it was one of the most important and prosperous centres of the Roman world. The gospel reached it early, and a church was founded in Laodicea not by Paul, but almost certainly through the preaching of a man called Epaphras.

Yet for all its prosperity the city did suffer a major disadvantage. The city was built to suit the road systems and was not built as other towns were near a water supply. The water had to be piped to the city from hot springs nearby, but by the time it arrived it was lukewarm. The city's water supply was not hot enough to be of benefit, nor cold enough to be refreshing. It was lukewarm and tasted of limestone and if drunk warm it induced vomiting.

It is against this background that the Lord gives to John a revelation about the church at Laodicea. Once there had been a strong church there, but now it had deteriorated sadly, perhaps not it numbers but certainly in spiritual commitment, and it received the severest condemnation of all the seven letters. But first before there is a revelation about the church, there is a revelation about Christ in v.14:

\1. A PICTURE OF CHRIST (v.14).\ "These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation."

Here in this verses Jesus is given two titles, the first being "the faithful and true witness" and the second being "the ruler of God's creation."

If we take the second one first "Jesus is the ruler of God's creation." This means that Christ has the supreme authority over all that God has made, which includes us. It means that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is Lord over all that is made, over our lives and over the Church. It is because He is Lord that he has the right to speak to the church in Laodicea. As we work our way through their story we will uncover that at the root of their problems lay in the fact that they had forgotten that Jesus was Lord.

The first title said that "Jesus was the faithful and true witness." What does that mean? That means that Jesus in himself is always faithful towards us and that you can trust him. Christ's reliability towards his church, towards us, stands in stark contast to the unreliability of the Laodiceans and probably ourselves. He is also a witness, and a witness is called to give testimony for or against another. Jesus came to tell us about God, he reveals God to us, for he is in himself God. You can trust everything that Jesus tells us about God.

But not only that, God trusts everything Jesus tells Him about us. On the Day of Judgement every person who ever lived will be called to bring account. The bible says in 2 Cor 5:10 "For we must all appear before the Judgement Seat...that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while still in the body, whether good or bad." God will be told what we have done (even though of course he already knows it.) And Jesus will be called as a witness. Jesus will confirm that it is true that we have sinned in all the ways that have been outlined, but what will matter is whether or not Jesus can testify that we came to him for forgiveness. If we have, then it is His witness that will see us into heaven, if we haven't then Jesus will still have to tell God the truth, even though that witness will banish us from the presence of God forever. What witness will Jesus give about us when we appear before him on that day? I trust that it will be a better reference than the one which he was forced to give about the Laodiceans.

\2. A PICTURE OF THE LAODICEANS (vv 15 - 16).\ "I know your deeds" says Jesus, but these deeds are not described. The church was probably very active, the people may well have been faithful in attendance, concerned about their community. The outward appearance of the church may have been very good - but what was troubling Jesus was that behind the outward facade there was a very serious inward spiritual problem. The people were lukewarm, like the water coming into the city, they were neither not nor cold.

Lukewarm towards what? We have to be clear about this - what is troubling Jesus is that the people are lukewarm towards Him. Jesus felt that his marriage to these people was tepid. They were married, there was a relationship, but there was no love. Neither was there hostility. What came to Jesus from these people was a great lack of interest, apathy and indifference. Just like today!

These people professed Christianity but in fact they were untouched by it - they knew nothing of its fire and its fullness. It would have better for them if they had known nothing of the Lord at all for Jesus could have made a start with them. It seems that there is no one further from the Lord than the one who makes an empty profession which has no real faith behind it.

Yet although the people are indifferent about Jesus He can not remain indifferent about them, so a severe warning comes "I am about to spit you out of my mouth." The Lord will not endure lukewarmness, in fact it makes him sick. What more terrible condemnation could there be of a church's condition than that the Lord would prefer even a cold Christianity to the kind that he finds there.

This is a disturbing word, but perhaps some of us need to be disturbed today. Are we lukewarm towards Jesus? We can be outwardly active, we can be regular in attendance, we can be impressing and fooling the whole world. But is there a real love for Jesus inside of us? A love which makes us sing the hymns to him with worship in our hearts, or a lukewarmness which leads us to stare at the hymnbook in apathy and whisper to our friends.

Do we have a lukewarm contentment in having made a profession in the past, or is love for the Lord making us move on to baptism and commitment to the fellowship? Or does the Lord find us today converted, baptised, in fellowship yet still with no warm love for Him in our hearts? We can pretend to others, but we can not pretend before the Lord. What is our spiritual condition today?

\3. THE CAUSE OF THEIR LUKEWARMNESS (v.17).\ The root cause of their being lukewarm was that the people had become self-reliant. They were a prosperous city, so prosperous that when an earthquake flattened the place in AD60 they were able to rebuild without outside aid, a thing almost unheard of in the ancient world. Now while there may be some good in being self reliant in material things it is a positive disaster if this is carried over into the spiritual realm. To be self-reliant, to be maintaining our personal and church lives through tradition and human activity rather than upon the living Lord is a terrible thing.

The people say "how can the Lord be about to spit us out of his mouth." We're important, we're rich, we've got everything. Sure the church was wealthy but it failed to discern its own poverty. Jesus says to them in v.17 "you are wretched" which means in the Greek language "you are the most wretched one of all." He's telling them that their church is the international leader of how a church ought not to be. What's wrong with it - the people depend on themselves and not on the Lord.

Laodicea was a rich banking town - yet Jesus says the people are poor. Laodicea had a medical school famous for its eye ointments - yet Jesus says the people are blind. The town was famous for its clothing industry - yet Jesus tells the people that they are naked. In other words, you can have everything in the world, but if you don't have the Lord then you have nothing. You can have nothing in the world, but if you have the Lord then you have everything.

If the people want to know real riches then they need to turn to Jesus for pure gold and not the city merchants. It is only his treasure in heaven which has any lasting value. If they want to wear decent clothes then it is robes of righteousness that the people need. Perhaps the Laodicean church was fashionable, what mattered to the Lord was not the people's expensive clothes on the outside but that inside they were righteous. The salve that they needed for their eyes was not a primitive ointment but the gospel of salvation. It is Jesus in your heart that gives you the sight to see what matters in life, and how life ought to be lived.

What had caused the Laodicean's lukewarmness was that they were storing up treasure on earth and not in heaven. They were concerned with outward appearance and not inward righteousness. They were blind and could not see the truth. Could the Lord be putting the finger on the same problem in our lives today? Could we be receiving the same rebuke as the Laodiceans. If we are, then we need to hear the word of encouragement that the Lord gives in v.19:

\4. A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT (v.19):\ "Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent."

All is not lost, despite what the Laodiceans have done and have become the Lord still loves them. If He didn't love them then he would give them up, because He loves them he rebukes them in the hope that they will be brought to their senses and repent.

What does this word "repent" mean? To repent means to turn away from something and to turn to something else instead. If you repent then you turn away from your sins AND turn to the Lord. One without the other will not save you. Some people are genuinely sorry for their sins and errors and do try and give them up - they clean up their act - but they fail at the same time to turn to the Lord for salvation. Some turn to the Lord, but they fail to give up their sin. This in many ways was the Laodicean church's problem - it had turned to the Lord but had gone back to sinful living.

Yet the threat of total rejection if the people will not repent is balanced by total acceptance and re-instatement if only she will repent. There may be a threat, but it is counterbalanced by the encouragement - I rebuke you because I love you, I want to reinstate you and not lose you. So the Lord leads us now to the moment of decision in v.20:

\5. THE MOMENT OF DECISION (v.20 - 22):\ "HERE I AM! I STAND AT THE DOOR AND KNOCK. IF ANYONE HEARS MY VOICE AND OPENS THE DOOR, I WILL COME IN AND EAT WITH HIM, AND HE WITH ME. TO HIM WHO OVERCOMES, I WILL GIVE THE RIGHT TO SIT WITH ME ON MY THRONE, JUST AS I OVERCOME AND SAT DOWN WITH MY FATHER ON HIS THRONE. HE WHO HAS AN EAR LET HIM HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT SAYS TO THE CHURCHES."

The Lord leads this church to a decisive moment. Here I am, he says, I am standing at the door and knocking, waiting to get in. This may have come as a surprise to the Laodiceans who thought Jesus was already in the church. But what they had welcomed over the thresh-hold was religion and had left the Lord outside.

This may be a word to us, especially to the young people of long established church families, as well as to others. What ought to be our strength, our religious tradition, generations within the church, may instead be our weakness. That for some, and I mean only some, what they have welcomed into their lives is religion and not the Lord himself.

Let's face up to this question now. All of us. It's a very important question. Is Jesus inside our lives, in our hearts, is His spirit breathing life into us, is He really our Saviour and our friend. Or is he outside - perhaps even deliberately kept outside - not really touching and changing our lives at all?

It's important to recognise that Jesus' invitation is personal. He's been speaking about the church as a whole, but in v.20 he's speaking to individuals. He's knocking at the door of the life of every individual, he's not just giving one tap and then running away, but he will constantly knock until he gets a response - whichever way it goes Jesus will keep on knocking until he gets that personal response from you.

It's a personal response. However wonderful or awful your family background is, however involved or uninvolved you have been in church life, Jesus is wanting to know how you feel about him. Are you cold, hot, or lukewarm? If you're cold or lukewarm - holding back in some way - will you have the courage and the conviction to break out of that pattern, out of that lifestyle, and will you let Him in? So that you can be close to Him, and He close to you.

This picture of "I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" is very important. It's a picture both of intimacy and activity. What the Lord wants from us is our love and friendship, He wants from us an active fellowship, an active relationship, an active church membership. Anything less is to go back to being lukewarm.

So the crux of the matter is this line "If anyone hears my voice and opens the door." Christ has done all that he can do, he has died for our sins, he has buried them and He is risen offering new life. He has sent the Holy Spirit to change us and fill us. Yet the question remains "will the church open the door?" "Will the individual open the door and let him in?" The only cure for a lukewarm Christian is to re-admit Christ. The only way to be saved is to open the door of your heart to let Him in.

What Jesus wants us to do is outlined for us in v.21. He wants us to\overcome.\He wants us to break out of a lukewarm apathetic Christianity. Christ himself has made this possible for us by overcoming on the cross, he has overcome our sin, our shame, our half-heartedness. So the only way that we can overcome is to go via that same cross. When we overcome we will receive royal honour "we are given the right to sit with Jesus on the royal throne."

"He who has an ear - let him hear what the Spirit is saying." Have you heard something from Jesus today? A call to salvation? A call to baptism? A call to commitment? A call to break away from a lukewarm faith? God will have spoken to each one of us in a personal way today. He is knocking at the door of our lives, looking for them to open and for us to respond. Will you let Him in? Let us pray:

 

Sunday 3rd October As a church we were aware that we needed as a church to start thinking of a new strategy as we face new challenges of outreach to our city our locality where we live. We have been busy with some new projects here in Portslade reaching out to people, and helping our more vulnerable elderly members becuase the young are the future of our church but our older members have been faithful for many years and we value each one of them.

Harvest I was reading that they will have to destroy some crops as there are no people to pick them or drivers to deliver them, seems such a waste God has blessed us with a great harvest, but have the farmers planted more than we need? Could they not invite people to come and pick them for free, or invite charities or projects the opportunities to pick them and distribute among the poor and needy? Surely be better than letting them going to rot?

Read LUKE 10 V 1-12 1 After this the Lord p  appointed seventy-two 40 others q  and sent them two by two r  ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. s   2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. t   3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. u   4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. 5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’  6 If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.  7 Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. v  Do not move around from house to house. 8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. w   9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God x  is near you.’  10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,  11 ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. y  Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ z   12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom a  than for that town. b  

 ‘GROUND-RULES FOR SERVICE IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

FIXING THE FIELD v1. Jesus was about to start His ministry in these places and He sent these people to Judaea to Samaria, Galilee and Perea. Like today local evangelism giving out tracts, speaking to people about the Kingdom of God. He was preparing the people to hear the message

FACING THE FACTS v2. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. It will be a Big Harvest, because there is a Big Need, but remember we have a Big God.

FINDING THE FOCUS v3 - 12. Its not going to be easy and it never was even before this pandemic or brexit hit our country we are still: Vulnerable v3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.

Insecure v4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

comfortable v5-8 Limited in time and opportunity.

Ministry v9-12. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God x  is near you.’ 

I sent out a letter last year as we were in lockdown at Harvest time to study it was from 1 Corinthians 3:1 – 17 FOR THE CHURCH TO BE BUILT UP TOGETHER - BECAUSE WE ARE GOD’S FIELD (vv 5 - 9).

Paul tells the Corinthian church that they are “God’s field” in v.9. This field was planted by Paul himself (v.6) - in other words he was the first person to preach the good news in Corinth and to see converts. He was followed by Apollos who watered the field (v.6), in other words the follow up of the first Christians and the work itself was continued by Apollos.

What we see here is that in order for a church to grow it needs different kinds of ministries, indeed different kinds of ministers at different times. This is a point about ministry which is worth labouring upon by itself, but the point from the text is twofold - the first point is that the purpose of ministry is so that the people of God will grow, and the second point is that the power for growth comes from God himself.

The whole point of calling a group of Christians “a field”, is that the field ought to grow into a harvest. A field here is not a Van Gogh or Monet picture to be hung on a wall and admired, the field here is industrial, it is the place where God works, planting, watering and harvesting.

The question now is what kind of harvest is God going to get from this field called Portslade Baptist Church?

This question must first of all come to us personally. For the bible tells us in 2 Cor 9:10 that there is a harvest of righteousness which ought to be found in our lives. It is interesting to see from Heb 12:11 how this harvest comes about - it comes as God disciplines us and brings our lives into line with his word. It seems painful at the time, says the writer to the Hebrews, but later on it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace. The challenge then is are we submitting to the discipline of God? Are we resisting sin, and are we prepared to bring our lives into line with the word whatever the cost, no matter how much it hurts?  Do we care whether God harvests righteousness from our lives or not?

But there is a second dimension to this harvest - and that is the harvest of souls. The challenge moves away from personal holiness to winning souls for Christ.

You really don’t need me to remind you of Mt 9:37, 38 where Jesus says “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

As we look yet again at this church we might be deluded into thinking that we’ve survived we have preserved and even at times been successful. I want to say in no uncertain terms with full biblical authority that as long as we see this as being a place where we expect people to come of their own willingness and fill up our pews and thus fail to see this church as being a place from which believers are sent into mission then we are not successful.

But I believe that God looks for a harvest of righteousness from the existing membership first of all, this church needs a work of holiness, renewal and revival - and hopefully it is out of that, that a genuine spiritual overflow will pour into the community and new fields will be planted.

WE ARE GOD’S BUILDING (vv 9 - 15). Paul’s point in these verses is that God’s building is not a physical building, but a building up of believers on a foundational experience - this foundation is Jesus Christ himself. The church is founded on the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross - you don’t belong to the church in its truest sense until you first of all believe on him.

Now I must pause and bring yet another challenge. I want to speak to those of you who have not yet been brought into the membership of any church. I want to ask you to ask yourself whether this is because you know that you have not yet had that necessary personal encounter with Christ.

You need to know in no uncertain terms that as long as that space is empty you are not saved, and that in the truest sense you do not belong to his church. I want to encourage you to take that decision you know that you should take and very simply to ask Jesus to forgive you your sins, your delaying, and to invite him into your heart as your Lord and Saviour.

Having said all of that Paul’s words are really directed towards believers who have already made their decision for Christ and his concern is that they may have built poorly. There are in fact two ways that a Christian can build poorly.

The first way is to tamper with the foundation - and having become a Christian to try and lay another basis for your life other than Christ. There are Christians here tonight who have made that mistake. People who have decided, perhaps even been baptised and even in membership who are building their lives now upon another foundation other than Christ. The foundation now is money, or business, or even more subtely its religion and the church rather than Christ himself. Let me tell you now that your building is going to collapse.

The second way to build poorly is to build upon a good foundation with shoddy materials. Recent devastating earthquakes in Russia and Eastern Europe have exposed poor designs and cheap and nasty construction so that when the tremors came however deep the foundation was the building above them just disintegrated.

So the challenge comes - what are you building with? Is it gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw? Paul says that if you put unworthy material into the construction that when the Master Builder comes to test the building he will see the shoddy construction for what it is and the builder will lose out on his reward or his pay. That’s a point worth dwelling upon tonight, but again we don’t have the time.

So again the challenge - what are we adding to the spiritual fabric of the church? You might be quite active, but loveless, criticial service is worthless service and it is but straw to be burned. When our children come to look back at the period in which we were responsible for the prayer life and leadership life of the church will they find a layer of gold or a dangerous layer of wood?

The question is personal, it’s also collective. Where are we today in the building up of God’s people together? Are we even in the building in the first place genuinely belonging to a foundational conversion experience of Christ, and if we are Christians what kind of materials are we offering up to God for him to use.

There is a story of the man who died, arrived at the gates of heaven and Peter showed him to the place prepared for him. He went past great mansions, and then through a heavenly equivalent of a council estate, and ended up in a row of shacks. The place prepared for him was a pile of hay, straw and rubble. “What happened to my mansion” he cried out. Peter replied “we can only build with what you send up.”

OK the story is fanciful. But it is not fanciful to ask “what are you sending up to heaven today?”

WE ARE GOD’S TEMPLE. (vv 16 and 17). Our final picture is that of the temple, and we need to remove from our minds any image that we may have of a building, and accept Paul’s definition that a temple is the place where God’s Spirit lives. Individual Christians are therefore temples of the Holy Spirit, and when they meet together for worship a local church is formed.

Yet Paul gives a warning - he says that the temple can be destroyed in v.17. Now we know that Jesus has stated explicitly in Mt 16:18 that the church can not be destroyed. Jesus says there “I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.” What we learn when we balance Mt 16:18 with 1 Cor 3:17 is that the great group of believers throughout the whole of history can not be overcome, the church of Jesus Christ as an institution can not be destroyed.

But it is clear that a local fellowship can be brought to an end. It happened to the 7 churches in Revelation, and it can happen to us. Ruling out the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, there are no guarantees that this Baptist Church will be here next year never mind in the next 150 years.

We need to ask then what is it that can destroy a church - and having defined that we need to make sure that we don’t fall into the trap.

Paul makes it plain that there are three things which can destroy the temple, one taken from the picture of the field the other two taken from the picture of the building.

The first thing is to exercise the wrong ministry at the wrong time. It is to plant when you ought to be watering, and to water when you ought to plant. If you try and plant a crop on ground which has not been irrigated and watered then that crop will die. If we move ahead and try and plant a church when it is the wrong time, or when the planting has not been bathed in the irrigation of prayer, sacrifice and commitment then the church plant will die.

But if we keep on watering the spot which ought to be moving out in a new sowing or planting then the watered spot will die. If you over water a plant you kill it. If you over feed a fish it dies. We have to be make sure that we don’t spend so much time and energy on ourselves that we fail to secure new growth for the future. Portslade Baptist Church will die unless it sows at the right time, and waters at the right time. God will guide us on this, our future is secure if we move in faith within God’s timing, for it is God who gives the growth.

The second way to kill off a local church is by tampering with the foundations. Paul was concerned that some of his churches were tampering with the foundation of the work of Christ on the cross and were going back to Jewish Legalism. We too have to make sure that we do not replace a love encounter with Christ as the essential foundation of the church with religion, or respectability, or rule keeping; that we do not replace loving Christ with cold-hearted service, or replace gospel truth with our twisted understandings of the scriptures.

And the third way to destroy the temple or kill off the local church is to build on the foundations with unworthy materials. It is tragic to see God’s people go back to their old ways, and it is a certainty that if a local church ruins its testimony then that local church runs the risk of disappearing. We may have been here for 3 years but I know that Satan works hard at trying to make sure that individuals and the church as a whole may be brought down by falling into one of these three traps.

How do we avoid them, how do we secure our future, and the future of our children should the Lord tarry? It is by being built up together. It is by taking a personal decision that we are going to give the Lord and his church the very best that we have to give, and it is by taking the collective decision that we are here to do the Lord’s business, and here for each other.

I call you then to embrace the highest calling that there is in life, to give yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord and to serve him through a local church. I call you to the great responsibility of the covenant of love towards God and towards each other. I ask you to work according to God’s timing and not your own, I ask you not to tamper with the foundation and not to build with unworthy materials. If we go by any other route then this fellowship will fall, if we go this way in the light of God’s word then the kingdom of God shall grow, and we shall be built up together!


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